Saturday, June 7, 2008

Skepchick Contest "Take the Fairy Out of the Fairy Tale" Entry


I entered this tale in the May Skepchick Contest. They have some fun contests. You should all enter them.

Beauty And The Beast

Once upon a time, a beautiful young woman named Arugula lived with her father, Fettucine, in a small village in the countryside. Arugula and her father were both polymath scientists and researchers who had made many exciting discoveries in several fields. Their home was filled with books, lab equipment of all types, and prototypes of various inventions they were working on.

One day, Arugula’s father decided to travel out into the countryside to find a mineral he had read about in an ancient text, and which was said to be common in ore form nearby.

Unfortunately, being so interested in the many fine examples of evolution by natural selection which were exhibited in the area, he lost track of time and night fell. Not expecting to be so late, he had neglected to include in his pack Arugula’s latest invention: a device which would display the best route to any given point. Fettucine was lost!

Fettucine saw lights ahead of him and began walking toward them. He soon arrived at a castle he recognized as that of the nominal “ruler” of their area, who had never been seen in public. Knocking on the door, Fettucine was surprised to find the door opened by a mechanical butler, who ushered him in. After a brief wait, the sitting room door opened and a figure entered the room whose visage filled Fettucine with horror and dismay!

“Who are you and why do you disturb me?” boomed the voice of the creature.

In a shrinking voice, Fettucine answered, “Uh, hi, I’m Fettucine. I forgot to bring my locator and got lost down the road a bit while I was investigating a mineral I want to do some experiments with. Thought you might have some way to let my daughter know where I am so she can come get me.”

“Locator?!” the creature roared, “Experiments?! You are a scientist!”

“Yeah,” Fettucine said, producing what he hoped was a self-deprecatory grin and a shrug, “Except I’d forget my head if it weren’t screwed on. Thus, here I am!”

“You will stay here,” said his host menacingly, “You will work in my laboratory to discover a way to remove the curse which was placed upon me when I was born. I wish to be a man like other men!”

“Curse? But I am more expert in the non-organic sciences,” said Fettucine, backing away slowly toward toward the door, “Now, my daughter, Arugula, is great with biology and organic things. If you’ll let me go, I can bring her here to take a look.”

Of course, Fettucine had no intention of bringing his lovely Arugula to be enslaved by this, uh, person.

“You will go nowhere,” said the creature, “ALFRED!”

The mechanical butler appeared from behind a door and came forward, bowing jerkily and obsequiously.

“Send two of my tin soldiers into town to bring this woman, Arugula, back to me. Be sure it is done quietly,” instructed his liege lord. Alfred bowed again and left, creaking a bit as he moved away.

Horrified, Fettucine tried to run to the door himself, but the castle’s owner was faster and grabbed Fettucine, tossing him unceremoniously into a corner.

“You will stay right there until your daughter arrives. I will have Alfred bring food and drink for you as soon as he has dispatched my soldiers to fetch her. You may sleep on the couch. I suggest you get some rest. Good night.”
The creature swept from the room.


As the sun began to peek into the tall windows of the castle, a huge ruckus could be heard outside the castle. Fettucine sat up, sore from sleeping on the too-small couch, stretched, and rubbed his tired eyes. He saw Alfred in the corner and asked, “What’s going on? What time is it? Is Arugula here?”

Alfred creaked over toward him and made a movement that might have been a shrug, but was impeded by his obviously corroded and unmaintained joints.

“Oh, you poor thing!” exclaimed Fettucine, “I must fix you!”

As he spoke, the doors were flung open. The cursed man rushed in, followed by two mechanical men struggling to carry a wrapped bundle. The struggle was made more difficult by the fact that one man was missing an arm and half of a leg while the other had no head to speak of. Apparently, Arugula’s martial arts classes had been a good investment.

As the bundle was untied, a very angry, spitting woman came flying out, instantly assuming a threatening pose. As soon as she saw Fettucine, however, she ran to his side, keeping a squinted eye on the room’s other inhabitants.

“Dad! What the hell?” she said, “These freaks came in while I was sleeping and grabbed me before I could defend myself. I had left the door unlocked ‘cause I saw you had left your key on the hook, and I thought you’d be back soon.”

“Oh, sweetie, I’m such a dork. I didn’t know I’d left my key,” Fettucine said with slouched shoulders, “Anyway, this guy needs you to help him get rid of a curse. I would help, but you know I’m better with the physics and the engineering stuff. You can do everything!”

Arugula replied, still tense and prepared to respond with violence to any attempt to get near, “Curse? Please come closer so I can take a better look at you. I suspect it is something else entirely! What kind of idiot believes in curses? Who are you, anyway? We thought the tales of someone really living here were just legends. We’ve been running things ourselves for quite a while.”

She planned to subdue her captor as soon as he got within reach, grab her father, and get the heck out of there as fast as they could run.

“My name is Bob,” said the creature. “My mom and dad ruled this area during their lifetimes, but when they saw that they had cursed me with the curse that has plagued our families for generations, they shut up our palace to hide me from the world. I have been served by the automatons commissioned from their artificers many years ago by my parents before their deaths.”

“I would like to meet these artificers,” said Fettucine. “They have done fine work if your butler is any example.”

“CAN WE FOCUS ON MY PROBLEM?” shrieked Bob, coming suddenly into the light.

“AAAAAH!” Fettucine recoiled, throwing his hand up over his face. Looking through his fingers a second later, he lowered his hand to see Arugula looking intently at Bob, whose entire body was covered with wiry, light-brown hair.

“Wait a minute! It is as I suspected!” she exclaimed excitedly, “You have not been cursed, only inbred! You say this ‘curse’ has plagued your family?”

“Yes,” said Bob, “but there was hope that it had been overcome, since no hideous children had been born since my great-grandfathers’ generations.”

“Generations, you say,” mused Arugula.

“Yes,” Bob answered, “when no more like me had been born in two generations, the families of my parents decided the curse was destroyed and began again to exclusively intermarry. You know, to keep our royal blood from being tainted.”

“Yes, well, hmmmm, tainted, hmmm,” hmmmed Arugula with distaste. “Let me tell you a little story, Bob, if that’s your real name, about something called hypertrichosis and then you can decide what it means to be ‘tainted’.”


A few hours later, deep in the night, the three sat close to the dying fire. Bob was sobbing in a chair, his face buried in his hands. Arugula and Fettucine watched him closely. Arugula still wanted to get away, but with the remaining unharmed tin soldiers blocking the only way out, she knew she stood little chance of escape, especially with her father in tow.

Eventually, Bob took a deep breath and sat up, wiping his face with a lacy hankie he had drawn from his sleeve.

“So, you say my family cursed themselves through interbreeding,” he sighed, “Is there anything to be done? Can these things you call ‘genes’ be changed?”

Arugula looked at her father, who was always hurting for money to fund his experiments and his inventions. She thought of the decrepit lab equipment they used at home and her plans for future research.

“Well…..” she began…


Five years later…

Work was proceeding apace at Fettucine’s March to the Future Physics and Engineering Project headquarters. The castle swarmed with employees and well-maintained mechanical lab assistants, led by Alfred, who no longer clanked and squeaked. Inventions to save labor and time were distributed to the public regularly. Fettucine had never been happier.

Meanwhile, at Bob’s Biotech, Arugula supervised dozens of teams of investigators, experimenting with various methods of gene manipulation and stem cell therapy to help individuals who were adversely affected by genetic anomalies.

Bob had long since accepted his hypertrichosis, with the help of Arugula and Fettucine and lots of therapy. As he became more and more involved in the local community, helping to set up farmer’s markets and coops all over the county, as well as moderating arguments regarding the best uses for Fettucine’s inventions, he was honored for his even-handedness and became more and more loved by the local populace. His castle was given to the public and was constantly buzzing with people bringing suggestions and ideas for improving the lives of everyone in the community. Life was good!

Bob’s only failure, in his opinion, was his lack of love. Oh, Fettucine and Arugula loved him, but after Arugula had laughed hysterically a couple of years earlier when he had proposed marriage, saying she planned never to marry, he despaired of finding a life-companion. Arugula said she was too wrapped up in her research to be a decent mate and that, besides, she was perfectly satisfied with her relationship with Pokeweed, her co-researcher and a beautiful and intelligent woman in her own right.

One day, though, at a meeting of the local weavers and clothing manufacturers, Bob met Frieda. When they first saw each other, they couldn’t stop staring: she, because she found his hair beautiful and fantastic; he, because there was not a single hair to prevent his admiration of her dark and shining skin. Her family had a gene for alopecia. It was truly one of those rare cases of love at first sight. Still, they dated for several years before deciding to marry, with Fettucine as best man and Arugula giving the bride away.

Eventually, but sadly not in their lifetimes, scientists at Bob’s Biotech and Fettucine’s March to the Future developed methods to adjust for genetic “defects” such as hypertrichosis and alopecia. But because of the love between Bob and Frieda and the love of the community for them, neither extreme hairiness nor complete baldness were considered strange or ugly ever again. That is the legacy of Beauty and the Beast.

The End

How to Help Iraqi Women's Rights Activists Escape

Previously, I posted about the double tragedies of Rand Abdel-Qader and her mother, Leila Hussein.

Today, I found out that Jezebel's Moe contacted the Guardian reporter who has been working on these stories and put it upon herself to allow the public to contribute to a fund to get threatened women's rights activists out of danger.

Just in from Skepchick, specific instructions to donate. From this post:
If you’d like to help, and I hope you do, you can use PayPal to send a donation in any amount to Moe, who will collect and then wire the money to the Guardian journalist, who is currently in Iraq and able to deliver the money to the women. The info you need to donate is Moe’s full name: Maureen Tkacik, and her e-mail:

Be sure to put a note that the funds are for this purpose.

$1700.00 has been collected as of today. Let's make it much more!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Senator Obama

I had an opportunity this morning to watch/listen to Barack Obama's speech last night in St. Paul at youtube and by golly, it's just fantastic. You can skip past the first 12 minutes (just a bunch of thank you's and platitudes), but then he starts to talk about McCain, and policies, and things that need fixin', and it just gets more beautiful as he goes on. Too bad about Sen. Clinton, but Sen. Obama looks pretty damned good to me.

I also saw that he recently said that "one of the first things he wants to do is ensure the constitutionality of all the laws and executive orders passed while Republican President George W. Bush has been in office." (From Alternet)


So, I hadn't come out in support of any particular candidate until now, but I'm throwing my Maleficent staff in behind Senator Obama as of right now.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Helping Those Who Tried to Help Leila Hussein

In THIS post, I wrote about the murder of Leila Hussein, the mother of Rand Abdel-Qader, who was beaten to death recently by her father with the help of her brothers.

There is a call going around the intertubes for a way to contribute funds to help the women's rights activists who were trying to help Leila escape Iraq because of threats against her life to escape Iraq themselves because of threats to their lives.

So far, nothing has been established, however, by monitoring THIS post at the Skepchick blog, hopefully we will soon find a way to help these people get to somewhere safe. Let's get 'em out! Let's get 'em ALL out!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

When Religion Makes the Rules Update

This post about the tragic murder of 17-year-old Rand Abdel-Qader now has a tragic update.

Rand's mother, Leila Hussein, has been shot and killed by unknown murderers as she walked with two women to get a taxi and leave Iraq.

The linked article quotes police as saying that this murder is not linked to Leila's former husband or her sons because they were out of town. Mmmm hmmm.

One of the two women accompanying Leila to her escape route says:
I could hear people talking on the corridors and the only thing that they had to say was that Leila was wrong for defending her daughter's mistakes and that her death was God's punishment.

I cry to think how close Leila was to her escape. I cry to think how hard it must have been to live, having seen her daughter beaten to death by her husband. I cry to think how many people accept that what has happened to Rand and Leila is a good thing.

But then I get angry. Since I first read Rand's story in The Guardian, there has been a storm of blog posts, a couple of references on various forums, some repeats of the original article on non-U.S. news sites, but NOTHING in the news most Americans watch or read.

Is this what American soldiers are in Iraq to defend? Are these the people Americans have chosen to fill the power vacuum left by Saddam Hussein?

Perhaps when our troops are finally brought out of Iraq, we should bring the women with us.