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Archive for November, 2010

Good things don’t require religion

November 29, 2010 Comments off

If you’ve been reading this blog since about this time last year, you’ll know that one of my personal heroes is Tim Minchin and that I love his Christmas song, White Wine in the Sun. It is my favourite Christmas song, bar none.

This year it’s been freely given to an Australian Christmas compilation CD, with proceeds due to go to the Salvation Army. Whatever your opinion of the homophobic proselytising paramilitary religious organisation, they have stunned most observers by complaining publicly that the song does not meet with their ideals. Apparently they’ve chosen to put their proselytising above their charity work. It beggars belief, if you’ll excuse the pun.

Here’s an excerpt from an interview that Tim gave recently on the matter that I thought worth sharing:

Your song “White Wine in the Sun”, which includes lyrics critical of Christianity, caused controversy last week in Australia when it was used on an album of Christmas songs sold to raise money for the Salvation Army. What’s your take on the fuss?

I think the Salvos are idiots. I didn’t know they would benefit from the CD, but by the time I found out I didn’t want to make too much of a fuss. So I gave my song free, then they turn around and say that they don’t agree with the sentiment of the song. Obviously, they are talking about how I think Jesus is not magic. Part of me is hugely outraged by what imbeciles they are, to bite the hand that feeds them and put their proselytising above charity.

It’s a terrible paradox that most charities are driven by religious belief. I believe very strongly in giving only to secular charities, because I don’t think there should be a back end to altruism. I won’t make this mistake again. I tweeted that if people want to buy my version of the song independently, I’ll give the proceeds away, as I did last year, to the Autism Trust, a non-proselytising charity.

Christmas means much to billions of people who don’t believe in Jesus, and if you think that Christmas without Jesus is not Christmas, then you’re out of touch, and if you think altruism without Jesus is not altruism, then you’re a dick.

Full article: Tim Minchin: ‘I’m hugely outraged by proselytising charities’

This is the version that will be on the CD, sung by Kate Miller-Heidke:

A beautiful version, isn’t it?

Here is the tweet that Tim talks about in the interview above. From 21-Nov to 1-Jan you can buy the song from iTunes for the princely sum of 79p (or equivalent) and proceeds will go to the National Autistic Society, following this recent update.

The world’s gone mad… I Am Spartacus edition

November 15, 2010 Comments off

Flickr CC-BY-NC johnlinwood

Many people are familiar with the ‘Twitter joke trial’ here in the UK, where a chap discovered that his nearby airport was closed due to snow, so was not going to be able to spend the weekend with his girlfriend, and sent the following humorously frustrated tweet in January this year:

Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!!

I knew it was a joke, he knew it was a joke, we all knew it was a joke, but someone at the airport decided not to see it as a joke after having searched social networks for references to themselves. Possibly in the same way that some celebrities, companies and cults trawl through Internet archives looking for people to sue.

Not only was he arrested on one charge and later convicted of something completely different (the “arrest him now and find something that’ll stick while he’s in custody” approach), he’s had his appeal overturned — despite the able assistance of David Allen Green (also known as @jackofkent), the lawyer who successfully assisted Simon Singh in his libel defence with the British Chiropractic Association.

In response to the appeal being overturned, many people who had been following the case’s progress used Twitter to show solidarity by re-tweeting his original tweet using the #IAmSpartacus hashtag (original reference). And as I write this post I can still see people re-tweeting it. Humanity can be fantastic, especially in the face of what many of us consider to be a travesty of justice.

Whatever your thoughts on the wisdom of the tweet ‘in this day and age’ (if ever there was an Appeal to Happy Days fallacy, that is one), the reaction of the airport management, or the subsequent arrest, conviction and appeal failure, Charlie Brooker has — I’m sure some of you will be shocked to discover — something to say about it:

The moment I’ve finished typing this, I’m going to walk out the door and set about strangling every single person on the planet. Starting with you, dear reader. I’m sorry, but it has to be done, for reasons that will become clear in a moment.

And for the sake of transparency, in case the powers-that-be are reading: this is categorically not a joke. I am 100% serious. Even though I don’t know who you are or where you live, I am going to strangle you, your family, your pets, your friends, your imaginary friends, and any lifelike human dummies with haunted stares and wipe-clean vinyl orifices you’ve got knocking around, perhaps in a secret compartment under the stairs. The only people who might escape my wrath are the staff and passengers at Nottingham’s Robin Hood airport, because they’ve been granted immunity by the state.

Read the rest of the article here: The words you read next will be your last

Categories: media Tags: , ,

George Takei calls out Clint McCance

November 5, 2010 Comments off

George Takei has a few words to say to Clint McCance:

I just love the “lady doth protest too much, methinks” suggestion near the end.

Some background on this issue, if you’re unaware:

  • George Takei is best known as Mr Sulu from the original series of Star Trek and is a man who fights for human rights, and he just happens to be gay.
  • Clint McCance was a school-board member, an elected official, at the Midland School District in Arkansas who recently said the following — among other things — on his Facebook profile:

    Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I can’t believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin.

  • The reference to wearing purple and the It Gets Better tune relates to the It Gets Better Project (also see The Trevor Project), designed to show young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people that life won’t always suck as much as it seems to right now, and that with adulthood comes reduction of peer pressure and acceptance of who they are.

McCance has now been forced to resign his position, so he can’t do any more damage while in office. It’s hard enough growing up as it is, so I can barely imagine how much harder it would be growing up gay, especially in a culturally intolerant and heavily religious environment.

People suck, particularly when they cherry-pick from religious myths to justify their bigotry.

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal

Categories: misc Tags: , , ,

Excellent essay series on Stoicism

November 2, 2010 Comments off

Flickr CC-BY euthman

For many years I’ve internally identified with many of the central tenets of the ancient Stoic philosophy, mostly after reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations (Amazon|UK), but it’s not something I’ve seen much about so haven’t really considered it beyond the “Yes, I identify with that” concept that many of us do whenever we encounter a whole or partial philosophy.

I’ve written previously about my exploration of some philosophies and religions, but Stoicism is something I’ve not really spoken about with anyone. It, along with my examination of Buddhism have, largely unconsciously, informed much of my mental wiring with regards to topics such as reactions, drives, ambitions and wants. It affects and informs my interactions with family and friends, my view on possessions and consumerism, many aspects of my personal and working life, and even how I behave in the inevitable British traffic queues.

Imagine my surprise to discover recently on BoingBoing, one of my daily reads, an excellent series of essays on the subject of Stoicism by William B. Irvine, Professor of Philosophy at Wright State University, entitled Twenty-First Century Stoic:

  1. From Zen to Zeno: How I Became a Stoic
  2. Insult Pacifism
  3. Stoic Transformation

They are an excellent introduction to the philosophy, and the comparison to certain aspects of Buddhism resonates with my own experiences. I can’t pretend to agree with everything in these essays, nor do I think the philosophy is without its faults, but by the same measure I don’t completely agree with everything written by atheists or humanists — also worldviews with which I strongly identify.

Even if you are not particularly interested in adopting such a philosophy on life, I recommend looking into what Stoicism is really about. It may surprise you to learn that it’s not really all about emotional passivity and the stiff upper lip. You could read a modern work on the topic, such as Irvine’s own A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (Amazon|UK) — or you could go directly to the ancient writings of Marcus Aurelius (Meditations), Seneca (Letters from a Stoic / Epistulae morales ad Lucilium),  Epictetus, and the logician Chrysippus. Their works aren’t covered by copyright, so are available in many places online, including Project Gutenberg.