Feb 112013
 

So, the Pope is to “resign” – not “retire”, note – the reasons for which are not yet explained. Is it too much to hope for his resignation note, and reasoning, to read along the lines of:

I’m really most awfully sorry that I spent decades as a malingering evil fucking cunt, covering up the systematic rape and torture of defenceless children, accumulating power and vast wealth, lying about condoms and encouraging the spread of a pernicious, cruel, avoidable disease like HIV, subjugating women – forcing them to give up control over the reproductive cycle and thus remain second class citizens, slandering gays and lesbians and treating them as barely human; I realise, suddenly, how evil I have been and what an absolutely horrific waste of life mine has been, and can’t continue in this disgusting manner”?

Probably.

What about: “sorry”?

Probably.

Ah well, I’m sure that this can continue the reflection of badness on the church. Yay.

Dec 032012
 

Ordinarily, I post these as they are … this time, I need to pass comment. For reasons which I understand, though with which I vehemently disagree, the editors of Gscene chose not to publish my article as originally submitted, even after having requested substantiation of my comments and claims. While they are understandably hesitant to invite legal challenge, I care not. Therefore, I present the original text I submitted, along with the actual published article, with particular attention being drawn to my paragraph relating to the “roman catholic church” – which I did not capitalise for a reason, the content of which has been diluted so far that it’s practically homeopathic and which offends me in its insipidness, and also to the paragraph regarding islam, again neutered like a bad dog, and this time edited so that it no longer even makes sense!

 

 

Canada Dry

And so man* created gods in his image. Unfortunately, that image is a jealous, violent, ill-educated, petty, belligerent, cruel and evil one. Not the better angels of our nature by any means.

Am I being unfair? Intemperate? I don’t think so … I can think of nothing that has caused more misery, suffering, hatred, distress, death or disfigurement in the whole of human history. Religion has – not just permitted, but – required; slavery, objectification of women, vilification of those of other or no religion, wars of aggression, loathing, ethnic cleansing, beating and murder of homosexuals, beating and subjugation of children, racism, cruel – nay criminal – mutilation of genitalia, xenophobia … the list is practically endless. No other aberration of reason and humanity can make such expansive and loathsome claims.

Born in the time of our utter ignorance of everything, offering facile (and fraudulent) claims to answer the difficult questions of existence, presenting false, shallow solace to those who are in pain, salving the pricked ego of those who’ve considered the possibility of “no more me”, religion has absolutely nothing going for it, save vague concepts of tradition, comfort and respect.

The leader of the roman catholic church is the criminal head of the world’s largest paedophile ring and protection racket; it’s only the mantle of religion, claiming as it does incomparable privilege and exemptions, which prevents this vile subhuman monster facing the punishment for his decades of crimes against humanity.

Those of the muslim faith, calling for the death of (admittedly rather bad) filmmakers and their supporters, stoning gays, throwing acid into the faces of women – nay, girls – “suspected” of looking at men in the “wrong” way, baying for the death of people who do nothing more than draw pictures, wallowing in their sheer pig-ignorance; were it not for the “shield of faith” which requires we respect their beliefs, they’d be viewed for what they are – barely more than animals.

In the USA, otherwise normal Americans who shoot and kill doctors in the name of the sanctity of life, previously loving parents who throw out their own children as being “better dead than gay”, a credible candidate for the Presidency who believes in magic underwear and that Native Americans are a lost tribe of Israel (while an atheist is nigh unelectable); these bizarre, illogical conditions couldn’t exist absent the entrenched, privileged position of religion!

The litany is near endless. Religion makes its hay by valuing and prizing ignorance, eschewing reason and the search for knowledge, refusing to acknowledge that it is a world view, and making pseudo-factual claims about, well, everything and that as such it should be subject to the same evaluation of the evidence as any other such world view. Those of us who adhere to the view that, actually, no, if you believe in the power of intercessory prayer, or that the mind is separate from the brain, or that there is a “part” of you which continues after death, or that evolution is inaccurate, or that the earth is about 6,000 years old, then such beliefs should be challengeable (and challenged!) and tested are told that we are being disrespectful.

Why, yes. Yes, yes we are. Utterly disrespectful. So … what? I suffer at the hands of the brainless being disrespectful towards me; I’m a gay atheist – while there are certainly groups who suffer more disrespect, nonetheless I receive more than sufficient denigration from the religious. Which is their right; I may – and of course do – disagree with their beliefs and attitudes, but their right to hold their pernicious, antediluvian views is something I hold nearly sacred. As is my right to challenge it. Why the road doesn’t run two ways, I do not understand.

Or, perhaps I do. My views stand up to scrutiny, and I am able to defend them using logic; the corollary being that I will change my views if the evidence requires it. The views of the religious are nothing more than wishes and hopes, will o’ the wisp fantasies, castles of credulity, precariously balanced upon foundations of faith. As such, there are no arguments which can reasonably be brought to bear. There is no logical recourse for faith, belief, religion.

Perhaps the greatest mind of recent time speaking on the issue of religion and its maleficent influence in and on the world was, now sadly the late, Christopher Hitchens. A couple of his quotes may serve in a few words to state what I’ve tried to say in many:

“I am absolutely convinced that the main source of hatred in the world is religion, and organised religion.”

“Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did.”

“Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.”

My own modest attempt at a pithy epithet: “Religion is the single greatest crime we have committed against ourselves.

 

So, to conclude, no, “jesus” most assuredly does not have a place in my heart, and religion can take a long walk of a non-existent pier; you can take “christmas” and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine; I’ll see my family around that time, because it’s nice to do so, and let’s face it, there’s nothing else to do anyway. But, religion?  Keep the fairy tales for the children, and let’s all grow the fuck up.

*Sexist pronoun excused on basis of poetic requirement.

 

 

 

 

 GScene - December 2012 - Canada Dry - Religion

 

Nov 182012
 

I highly recommend you pop over to “Inside Greg’s Brain” and have a read. It belongs to my friend Greg Cox, and he’s a lovely young chap; intelligent, educated – and striving to be more so – interested in the world in a variety of aspects and with a range of things to say on a variety of topics.

If that’s not enough, he’s also very cute, and soon to get braces . . .

Nov 102012
 

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day / Armistice Day / Veterans’ Day. In the UK at least it’s become expected that one will wear a Red Poppy, to show one’s support of our former and current armed forces, and the sacrifices they have and do make, including far too often their lives. So much an expectation that it attracts comment – and attack – if those in public life don’t wear one.

Imagine a chat show host, a newscaster, politician, sportsman … anybody in the public eye who dared not to wear one; the criticism and vitriol which would be brought to bear don’t even bear thinking about. In which light, I was hugely gratified to see Frankie Boyle on the Jonathan Ross show recently, wearing a white poppy. Someone who is already such a target has little to lose; I like to think also that he genuinely supports the goals to which it pertains.

Reason one . . .  loathing compulsion and in-group mentalitites. 

 

“The Glorious Dead” . . . what an horrific concept. Dead isn’t glorious; it’s dead. Gone, no more to participate in the world, nothing further to contribute, you’re rotting in the ground, or scattered to the wind, and everything you ever could have done has either been done, or left forever undone. That’s not glorious.

Neither, I’m afraid to say, is the manner of their deaths. Oh, the causes may be just, and laudable, but sitting for months in a rat-infested trench, watching your extremities rot off your still-living body, starving to death, taking occasional shots at people a hundred metres away who are far more your equal than opposite; that’s not glorious. Bombing civilians, and destroying centuries of history and beauty, whether in Dresden or Coventry; that’s not glorious.

Sending an entire generation of American youth off to fight a non-extistent enemy in Vietnam, burning villages alive, raping and pillaging as though it were the 11th Century in Europe; that’s not glorious.

Guiding bombs into Baghdad, twenty years apart, by laser; that’s not glorious.

The sooner we start to acknowledge that it’s not glorious, or wonderful, or admirable, to go to war, but rather that it’s a failure of the entire human species, and while it may grudgingly sometimes be necessary, it should be a last after last after oh-good-grief last resort, the better for us all. We shouldn’t idolise the victims of our going to war, whether the “enemy” or our own troops; we should pity them. Teaching (mainly boys) children to aspire to this monstrosity is one of the most vile, obscene, unconscionable acts perpetrated against our future.

Reason two . . . glorification of violence 

 

Personally, I purchase a packet of White Poppies every year from the Peace Pledge Union.

From their website:

“War is a crime against humanity. I renounce war, and am therefore determined not to support any kind of war. I am also determined to work for the removal of all causes of war.’ So why, in the 21st century, with all our skills, knowledge and resources, are we still waging war?”

I’ve been accused of supporting pie-in-the-sky idealism, told that conflict is an innate part of human nature, that war will always be with us, that “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”, etc. Well, I certainly won’t argue that conflict isn’t part of human nature – so are any number things which we choose to abhor in modern society. Surely we could add conflict to that list? We acknowledge but resist it? As for idealism, well so what? Whoever really achieved anything by aspiring to the obviously and easily achievable? I want the seemingly impossible; I’ll work for it. As for ”if you’re not with us, you’re against us”, see above re “in-group mentalities”.
Reason three . . . there IS an alternative
White Poppy Wreath
——————————————————–

Unabashed promotion – click if you like!

 

 

 

Nov 022012
 

First things first, let me state for the record, I have most assuredly drunk the Kool-Aid, and am that most reviled of things, an Apple Fanboy. I tried to resist, wouldn’t try, touch the water, for so long.

My first foray into Apple-land was my MacBook – oh, it was a strange beast, things didn’t work in that Windows way to which I’d become so accustomed. But I adjusted rapidly and, with only two minor tweaks, am now completely happy with Mac OSX. More than, in fact.

iPhone – oh, pride went before a fall on this one! I had a BlackBerry, then an Android ‘phone, always advocating the open nature of this system compared to Apple. What a mistake!! In a year of owning my Android handset, it wasn’t available to me for over a month, as it was away being repaired, leaving me with as good as nothing!

I love my iPhone. It’s an iPhone 4, and there are some things I’d change, but overall it’s absolutely brilliant. Doesn’t require hacks, or constantly reinstalling the OS just to make the handset work. It’s beautiful, design wise, inside and out. It does, as the saying goes, just work.

So why am I disappointed?

 

Recent history …

 

OSX – Mountain Lion

I was happy to pay for this upgrade, especially given the low price. Some of the features (this also applies to iOS 6) were useful, especially the Facebook integration, made it worth having. Until, that is, the awful problems with Mail. It became almost unusable. It took me, with my not-too-great understanding of the behind the scenes issues, and a very dear friend who can navigate OSX almost blindfold, to make the app useable again. That’s not good. That’s not Apple.

iOS 6

Again, integration with social media FTW, as I believe the kids will have it. Very much to be desired.

However, having updated it, strange thing happened. Like, contact pictures randomly being reassigned to people. None of them is right. I’ve tried everything I can imagine to make it better to no avail. Even *new* contacts added are pulling contact pics from other people . . . I’m not sure how to address this.

Also, text expansion/keyboard shortcuts – I make great use of these. Email addresses, telephone numbers, etc. These are all things I love(d). And it’s not that they don’t work now; neither is it that they do; it’s that you can’t tell from one moment to another whether or not they will. That’s fucking annoying.

So when I saw today’s update to iOS 6.0.1 I thought it might finally address some of these really annoying factors and was happy to sign up. More Kool-Aid? Yes please!!

 

No.

 

The “problems” which it sought to address were to me nonexistent, and even were they to exist, far less problematic than those to which I’ve already referred. Nonetheless, I proceeded.

 

Agony. A – GO – NY!!

 

Over two hours of waiting for the update to install – via iTunes, not OTA – and eventually I had to give up. When restarting it, it failed to restore properly. I’m now trying to get my ‘phone back to where it began 2 hours ago.

 

Apple

I love Apple, and Apple products. I really do. I just feel like recently things have been rushed out too quickly, without being tested sufficiently. They’re starting to make me feel like a Windows/Android user, and if that’s what they want, then they need to charge Windows/Android prices. I’m happy to pay for the premium; provide it!

 

Oct 232012
 

Yesterday was the first time in far too long that I went to the theatre. It was also utterly convincing that I should go more often – what an utterly brilliant way to reintroduce myself to “cultcha”.

Having been introduced to Fascinating Aïda some six months ago or so, I was naturally already enamoured of them. If you’re not yet au fait, I highly recommend you familiarise yourself with them. Nonetheless, I had never seen them live.

Led by the utterly magnificent Dillie Keane, whose near 30 years at the helm don’t show at all, drives the troupe and the audience as one with a force and exuberance which belie her age, and shows how very “down with the kids” she actually is, throughout the 2 hours or so of the performance. Given her age, oeuvre and style, it is perhaps an unavoidable comparison, but her style is highly reminiscent of Victoria Wood. A woman of a certain age, sitting at a piano, singing satirically? Yeah, that’s Victoria Wood. Add in a wonderfully broad, rich vocabulary and a wonderful assumption that her audience will follow and understand what’s being said (rather than dumbing down and speaking to the lowest common denominator, as is so often the case) and the comparison becomes more cemented.

Yet, this is *not* Victoria Wood, rather a completely different experience. Dillie Keane is utterly and unapologetically Dillie Keane, and nobody else could be her. Her linguistic and pianistic dexterity are of an ilk with the marvellous Tim Minchin, and the subtle world-weariness and cynicism are completely in keeping with his work; however, whereas Minchin has a definite agenda, and message to impart (which is not in an wise a bad thing!), Keane is more sardonically observing and commenting, pointing out the insanity and hilarity of existence, touching briefly on its pointlessness though never sinking to depressiveness. Further to this, the content is updated and added to regularly, with portions of the “Bulgarian Folk Songs” last night referring to both the Lance Armstrong fiasco and George Osborne’s encounter with the proles on the train! Wonderful!

Adèle Anderson, the second longest serving (is it a sentence?) member of the group, adds a wonderful counterpoint to Keane’s slightly more polished persona and performance; vocally not the strongest performer, there is yet something wonderfully engaging about the gravelly, harsher aspects to her singing.

The “rotating” member of the troupe, currently Liza (with a ‘zee’) Pulman, complements the two older ladies, with both a youthful exuberance and a truly wondrous soprano voice; were she to star on the stages of the West End, she would seem not one jot out of place. As with Keane, Pulman’s upper class voice, decorous deportment, and slight priggishness (presumably accentuated for the purposes of the persona) contrast deliciously with the sheer filth of the humour of many of the songs (I’m thinking of YOU, Dogging!) adding to the almost guilty-secret of laughing at some of the content.

Were the show to consist solely of satire, that alone would be a joy; yet two of the songs were not at all satirical, rather absolutely touching and moving songs. “Goodbye Old Friends” had genuine tears in my eyes, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more genuine song anywhere.

The group will be touring again next year, for their 30th anniversary, and if you can’t see them before, see them then. Utter joy!

 

Autographed CD cover

 

Oct 212012
 

Not that a huge number of comments are made yet, but I’ve had to turn on registration. Way too much spam, taking a long time to clear them all.

Oct 162012
 

The following was initially written in response to someone’s saying they didn’t know who these two were. Then I thought, actually, it kind of stands on its own as a very brief tribute to them both. So here it is …

Christopher Hitchens was probably the most eloquent, erudite and unapologetic opponent of organised religion ever. He was a genius, a genuine renaissance man and polymath, and your life is immeasurably impoverished by ignorance of him and his work. 

Richard Dawkins is an eminent evolutionary biologist and wildly published in both scientific and more general media. His ‘popular science’ works on evolution as incredibly accessible and information while his diatribe against organised religion “The God Delusion” is a deserved best seller.