SOPA and PIPA are stupid, Oatmeal nails why

January 19, 2012

I’m very much in support of sites like Wikipedia, which are blacking out in protest of SOPA and PIPA. If you don’t know what they are, there’s this (the only Wikipedia page NOT blacked out) and this handy infographic. This is something that affects all of us, and it’s very important. Don’t think it’s only those crazy Americans and it doesn’t affect us – this affects everyone and is the start of a slippery slope.

My books are pirated all the time. I see them on fileshare sites and there’s nothing I can do about it. And yes, it pisses me off. But it’s a part of the modern world. As the old saying goes, the only thing worse than piracy is obscurity. Sure, I’d like to see stricter controls in place to protect film and music piracy, and, of course, ebook piracy. It’s in my interests – it affects my ability to make a living. But I do not agree with SOPA or PIPA as anything like valid ways to deal with the problem. It needs to be crushed for the fucking idiocy it is.

Of course, my little corner of the web here won’t make much of a dent if I black out. Ironically, the only thing likely to happen is that I might lose a couple of books sales. But I will speak out against the bills. And I can’t think of a better way to do it than with this animated gif from The Oatmeal. It’s simply perfect:


Christians upset about Muslim billboard

June 28, 2011

I know, those crazy Christians are always upset about something. For that matter, so are the Muslims. Let’s be honest, the religious of any persuasion have always got something to moan about. But it’s been a while since I lampooned a bit of religious idoicy here on The Word and when I saw this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, I knew I had to comment.

In a nutshell, an awareness campaign by Islamic group MyPeace has resulted in some billboards going up to try to point out that Muslims really aren’t so different to Christians, or anyone else for that matter. Of course, they’re just people like all of us. The religious, regardless of persuasion, are all far more alike than many of them will ever be comfortable admitting. If nothing else, they share a large portion of willfull ignorance. And, that one foible aside, they’re no different to anyone else. But I digress.

One of these awareness billboards says: JESUS: A PROPHET OF ISLAM. And there’s a number and a website.

Some Christians are upset because it demotes Jesus from the son of god to a mere prophet and thereby injures their delicate religious sensibilities. And here’s where the relevance to this blog comes in – I can turn anything I find interesting into a debate on words, language and storytelling after all. The Muslims in question are trying to point out that they revere Jesus too, just not in the same way. Meanwhile, the Christians are upset that the status of Jesus is not being recognised. What we have here are two fantasy epics warring about who has the better angle on truth, when, in fact, neither of them have anything even vaguely resembling proof. Ah, religious tolerance – what’s that then? Some of the quotes really made me laugh.

One complainant said that Jesus “must not be associated with such [an] aggressive religion”. Oh, the irony! She burns!

Here’s my favourite:

“What [my child] knows of Islam she has learnt from watching mainstream news broadcasts and to have her saviour identified as being part of this malicious cult was very traumatic!”

Your child told you that, did she? After a considered exploration of available religions and a decision to be Christian? Or did you just tell your kid that’s what she thought?

Anyway, a complaint was lodged with the Advertising Standards Bureau and, thankfully, common sense prevailed:

”such a statement does not, of itself, discriminate against or vilify people who hold different beliefs… The board acknowledged that the Islam faith does consider that Jesus is a prophet of Mohammed… and that it is not unreasonable for children to be exposed to a variety of information in their daily lives, some of which may conflict with the views with which they are raised”.

No shit, Sherlock. We can be thankful for that decision, at least.

MyPeace founder Diaa Mohamed said, ”[The advertisement] conveys the message that, like Christians, we the Muslims also regard Jesus with extreme reverence. The idea being that the people will see beyond the words in the advertisements and recognise that Islam and Muslims are not much different from any other ordinary Australian.”

Which you’d think was quite fair enough. I wonder if he would be equally magnaminous if the Christians put up billboards all over town saying, “Mohammad is not a prophet of god and the only way to heaven is through Jesus.” The Muslims would be fine with that, right?

These kind of things give me so much fuel for characterisation and plot in fiction. People really are fascinating creatures. Or, to put it another way, as my old Grandad used to say, “There’s nought so strange as folk.”


Well, fuck me with a Koran while I read Harry Potter

September 30, 2010

Did I get your attention? I hope so. It’s International Blasphemy Day today and it’s also currently Banned Books Week.

International Blasphemy Day was the concept of the Centre For Inquiry in response to the outrage over the Mohammed cartoons controversy. The Day is designed to commemorate the controversy and to celebrate free expression and everyone’s right to mock, ridicule and blaspheme religions. It’s also important in the face of increasing censorship of free speech, with things like blasphemy laws being passed in Ireland last year, among other places. The problem with this kind of ridiculous law-making is that it makes opinions illegal. Anyone is free to believe what they want, therefore anyone is free to believe that someone else’s beliefs are complete and utter bollocks. This is not a place for law.

The argument is that religious ridicule leads to the incitement of violence. Which is rubbish. Religious belief leads to the incitement of violence in many clearly recorded cases. Ridiculing said religions usually only leads to members of that religion calling for violence against the intolerant. Oh, the crushing irony.

It’s perfectly reasonable to hold any opinion you like. If you go online and tell people to attack any religious group then you are certainly inciting violence and should be brought to justice for that. Just like when the religious call for the heads of the infidels. In the same way that you should be dealt with harshly by the law if you actually do violence against anyone, for any reason. But if you go online and say that you think any given belief is a load of rubbish and that its adherents are a bunch of willfully ignorant losers, then that’s actually fine. You’re perfectly entitled to that opinion. Just like the religious are entitled to their opinion that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, or that a fella that liked nine year old girls was the conduit for god, or whatever.

Would you expect to be jailed for saying that anyone who voted for Tony Abbott in the recent general election is an idiot and should be ridiculed?

Of course not. What makes religion so special that it has to be treated differently?

This crosses well with Banned Books Week, because it’s usually religious wowsers that crap on about banning books. I mentioned Harry Potter in the title to this post as so many Christians in the US called for the book to be banned because it celebrated witchcraft. That still astounds me. It’s okay for them to tell children that a Jewish zombie that was his own father is the saviour of the world AND MEAN IT while it’s not okay for a work of fiction to celebrate a young man rising above adversity and defeating a powerful evil.

Have a look at that Banned Books page (linked above) and prepare to be astounded at some of the books that people have called out. According to the site, “People challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and they protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups–or positive portrayals of homosexuals.”

Oh no! Don’t let on that the gays are actually, you know, human or something.

The most confronting things in human nature need to be discussed. Taboos are things that cause division and ignorance. Fictional representations of real human issues are often the best way to generate debate of this kind of thing. Unless a book is a direct work of hate, deliberately targeting a given person or group, then there is no reasonable excuse to ban it. Some things might be considered too intense for kids but that’s a whole different debate. You might remember my post about the Taboo panel at Worldcon where classification of books was mentioned. And soundly shouted down. When it comes to kids being exposed to questionable material, that’s a matter of parenting. Know should what your kids are reading and vet anything that might disturb them. (Incidentally, if you’re an especially religious person, I would suggest that your indoctrination of your kids is doing way more harm than any book they’re likely to read.)

Reading and triggering thought and debate is essential. Banning books is just endorsing ignorance. I should declare a certain bias – my own books would certainly be considered blaphemous by pretty much every religious group. But I held this opinion long before I wrote those books. In fact, I’d love a religious group to call for my books to be banned – you can’t buy publicity like that. Come on, you fuckers – come and have a go!


Obscenity ruling

May 6, 2010

This is a bit of nonsense, but it’s quality nonsense. The Onion is an awesome site and did a great skit today on a free speech ruling. Read the whole thing here, or check the image below for the nutshell version.

Dude, that is some quality swearing.


No censorship in Australia

January 26, 2010

Go and read Kay Smoljak’s piece about ISP filtering, game ratings and so on. It’s a good read. Get behind her ideas and let’s try to stop censorship in this country.

Read it here.


Blasphemy laws in 2010? Oh yes

January 2, 2010

This is astounding, especially from a developed country in the year 2010 CE. I picked this up from the Metamagician blog. I’m basically just reposting the information verbatim as Russell did, because it speaks for itself.

The short version is this:

From 1 January 2010, the new Irish blasphemy law becomes operational. Blasphemy is now a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine. The new law defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted.

Apart from the obvious contradiction, where any religion claiming to be the only truth while all other religions are hocus pocus is blaspemy in itself, this is a very dangerous step towards the throttling of free speech. In response, Atheist Ireland has published a list of 25 blasphemous quotes along with a demand for the repeal of this law. It’s this that I’m reposting in full below. Whether you’re a religious person or an atheist or somewhere in between, this is a law that is no good for anyone. It’s the start of something terrible that will catch up with your particular group in the end, one way or another. Here’s the full text from blasphemy.ie:

From today, 1 January 2010, the new Irish blasphemy law becomes operational, and we begin our campaign to have it repealed. Blasphemy is now a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine. The new law defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted.

This new law is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentives religious outrage, and because Islamic States led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level.

We believe in the golden rule: that we have a right to be treated justly, and that we have a responsibility to treat other people justly. Blasphemy laws are unjust: they silence people in order to protect ideas. In a civilised society, people have a right to to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be outrageous.

Publication of 25 blasphemous quotes

In this context we now publish a list of 25 blasphemous quotes, which have previously been published by or uttered by or attributed to Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Mark Twain, Tom Lehrer, Randy Newman, James Kirkup, Monty Python, Rev Ian Paisley, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Frank Zappa, Salman Rushdie, Bjork, Amanda Donohoe, George Carlin, Paul Woodfull, Jerry Springer the Opera, Tim Minchin, Richard Dawkins, Pope Benedict XVI, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers, Ian O’Doherty, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Dermot Ahern.

Despite these quotes being abusive and insulting in relation to matters held sacred by various religions, we unreservedly support the right of these people to have published or uttered them, and we unreservedly support the right of any Irish citizen to make comparable statements about matters held sacred by any religion without fear of being criminalised, and without having to prove to a court that a reasonable person would find any particular value in the statement.

Campaign begins to repeal the Irish blasphemy law

We ask Fianna Fail and the Green Party to repeal their anachronistic blasphemy law, as part of the revision of the Defamation Act that is included within the Act. We ask them to hold a referendum to remove the reference to blasphemy from the Irish Constitution.

We also ask all TDs and Senators to support a referendum to remove references to God from the Irish Constitution, including the clauses that prevent atheists from being appointed as President of Ireland or as a Judge without swearing a religious oath asking God to direct them in their work.

If you run a website, blog or other media publication, please feel free to republish this statement and the list of quotes yourself, in order to show your support for the campaign to repeal the Irish blasphemy law and to promote a rational, ethical, secular Ireland.

List of 25 Blasphemous Quotes Published by Atheist Ireland

1. Jesus Christ, when asked if he was the son of God, in Matthew 26:64: “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” According to the Christian Bible, the Jewish chief priests and elders and council deemed this statement by Jesus to be blasphemous, and they sentenced Jesus to death for saying it.

2. Jesus Christ, talking to Jews about their God, in John 8:44: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” This is one of several chapters in the Christian Bible that can give a scriptural foundation to Christian anti-Semitism. The first part of John 8, the story of “whoever is without sin cast the first stone”, was not in the original version, but was added centuries later. The original John 8 is a debate between Jesus and some Jews. In brief, Jesus calls the Jews who disbelieve him sons of the Devil, the Jews try to stone him, and Jesus runs away and hides.

3. Muhammad, quoted in Hadith of Bukhari, Vol 1 Book 8 Hadith 427: “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their prophets.” This quote is attributed to Muhammad on his death-bed as a warning to Muslims not to copy this practice of the Jews and Christians. It is one of several passages in the Koran and in Hadith that can give a scriptural foundation to Islamic anti-Semitism, including the assertion in Sura 5:60 that Allah cursed Jews and turned some of them into apes and swine.

4. Mark Twain, describing the Christian Bible in Letters from the Earth, 1909: “Also it has another name – The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God. It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies… But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy – he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered. He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty… What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.” Twain’s book was published posthumously in 1939. His daughter, Clara Clemens, at first objected to it being published, but later changed her mind in 1960 when she believed that public opinion had grown more tolerant of the expression of such ideas. That was half a century before Fianna Fail and the Green Party imposed a new blasphemy law on the people of Ireland.

5. Tom Lehrer, The Vatican Rag, 1963: “Get in line in that processional, step into that small confessional. There, the guy who’s got religion’ll tell you if your sin’s original. If it is, try playing it safer, drink the wine and chew the wafer. Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate!”

6. Randy Newman, God’s Song, 1972: “And the Lord said: I burn down your cities – how blind you must be. I take from you your children, and you say how blessed are we. You all must be crazy to put your faith in me. That’s why I love mankind.”

7. James Kirkup, The Love That Dares to Speak its Name, 1976: “While they prepared the tomb I kept guard over him. His mother and the Magdalen had gone to fetch clean linen to shroud his nakedness. I was alone with him… I laid my lips around the tip of that great cock, the instrument of our salvation, our eternal joy. The shaft, still throbbed, anointed with death’s final ejaculation.” This extract is from a poem that led to the last successful blasphemy prosecution in Britain, when Denis Lemon was given a suspended prison sentence after he published it in the now-defunct magazine Gay News. In 2002, a public reading of the poem, on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, failed to lead to any prosecution. In 2008, the British Parliament abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel.

8. Matthias, son of Deuteronomy of Gath, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979: “Look, I had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was that piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.”

9. Rev Ian Paisley MEP to the Pope in the European Parliament, 1988: “I denounce you as the Antichrist.” Paisley’s website describes the Antichrist as being “a liar, the true son of the father of lies, the original liar from the beginning… he will imitate Christ, a diabolical imitation, Satan transformed into an angel of light, which will deceive the world.”

10. Conor Cruise O’Brien, 1989: “In the last century the Arab thinker Jamal al-Afghani wrote: ‘Every Muslim is sick and his only remedy is in the Koran.’ Unfortunately the sickness gets worse the more the remedy is taken.”

11. Frank Zappa, 1989: “If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine – but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good – and cares about any of it – to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.”

12. Salman Rushdie, 1990: “The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas – uncertainty, progress, change – into crimes.” In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because of blasphemous passages in Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.

13. Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”

14. Amanda Donohoe on her role in the Ken Russell movie Lair of the White Worm, 1995: “Spitting on Christ was a great deal of fun. I can’t embrace a male god who has persecuted female sexuality throughout the ages, and that persecution still goes on today all over the world.”

15. George Carlin, 1999: “Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!”

16. Paul Woodfull as Ding Dong Denny O’Reilly, The Ballad of Jaysus Christ, 2000: “He said me ma’s a virgin and sure no one disagreed, Cause they knew a lad who walks on water’s handy with his feet… Jaysus oh Jaysus, as cool as bleedin’ ice, With all the scrubbers in Israel he could not be enticed, Jaysus oh Jaysus, it’s funny you never rode, Cause it’s you I do be shoutin’ for each time I shoot me load.”

17. Jesus Christ, in Jerry Springer The Opera, 2003: “Actually, I’m a bit gay.” In 2005, the Christian Institute tried to bring a prosecution against the BBC for screening Jerry Springer the Opera, but the UK courts refused to issue a summons.

18. Tim Minchin, Ten-foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins, 2005: “So you’re gonna live in paradise, With a ten-foot cock and a few hundred virgins, So you’re gonna sacrifice your life, For a shot at the greener grass, And when the Lord comes down with his shiny rod of judgment, He’s gonna kick my heathen ass.”

19. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, 2006: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” In 2007 Turkish publisher Erol Karaaslan was charged with the crime of insulting believers for publishing a Turkish translation of The God Delusion. He was acquitted in 2008, but another charge was brought in 2009. Karaaslan told the court that “it is a right to criticise religions and beliefs as part of the freedom of thought and expression.”

20. Pope Benedict XVI quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor, 2006: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” This statement has already led to both outrage and condemnation of the outrage. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world’s largest Muslim body, said it was a “character assassination of the prophet Muhammad”. The Malaysian Prime Minister said that “the Pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created.” Pakistan’s foreign Ministry spokesperson said that “anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence”. The European Commission said that “reactions which are disproportionate and which are tantamount to rejecting freedom of speech are unacceptable.”

21. Christopher Hitchens in God is not Great, 2007: “There is some question as to whether Islam is a separate religion at all… Islam when examined is not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require… It makes immense claims for itself, invokes prostrate submission or ‘surrender’ as a maxim to its adherents, and demands deference and respect from nonbelievers into the bargain. There is nothing-absolutely nothing-in its teachings that can even begin to justify such arrogance and presumption.”

22. PZ Myers, on the Roman Catholic communion host, 2008: “You would not believe how many people are writing to me, insisting that these horrible little crackers (they look like flattened bits of styrofoam) are literally pieces of their god, and that this omnipotent being who created the universe can actually be seriously harmed by some third-rate liberal intellectual at a third-rate university… However, inspired by an old woodcut of Jews stabbing the host, I thought of a simple, quick thing to do: I pierced it with a rusty nail (I hope Jesus’s tetanus shots are up to date). And then I simply threw it in the trash, followed by the classic, decorative items of trash cans everywhere, old coffeegrounds and a banana peel.”

23. Ian O’Doherty, 2009: “(If defamation of religion was illegal) it would be a crime for me to say that the notion of transubstantiation is so ridiculous that even a small child should be able to see the insanity and utter physical impossibility of a piece of bread and some wine somehow taking on corporeal form. It would be a crime for me to say that Islam is a backward desert superstition that has no place in modern, enlightened Europe and it would be a crime to point out that Jewish settlers in Israel who believe they have a God given right to take the land are, frankly, mad. All the above assertions will, no doubt, offend someone or other.”

24. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, 2009: “Whether a person is atheist or any other, there is in fact in my view something not totally human if they leave out the transcendent… we call it God… I think that if you leave that out you are not fully human.” Because atheism is not a religion, the Irish blasphemy law does not protect atheists from abusive and insulting statements about their fundamental beliefs. While atheists are not seeking such protection, we include the statement here to point out that it is discriminatory that this law does not hold all citizens equal.

25. Dermot Ahern, Irish Minister for Justice, introducing his blasphemy law at an Oireachtas Justice Committee meeting, 2009, and referring to comments made about him personally: “They are blasphemous.” Deputy Pat Rabbitte replied: “Given the Minister’s self-image, it could very well be that we are blaspheming,” and Minister Ahern replied: “Deputy Rabbitte says that I am close to the baby Jesus, I am so pure.” So here we have an Irish Justice Minister joking about himself being blasphemed, at a parliamentary Justice Committee discussing his own blasphemy law, that could make his own jokes illegal.

Finally, as a bonus, Micheal Martin, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, opposing attempts by Islamic States to make defamation of religion a crime at UN level, 2009: “We believe that the concept of defamation of religion is not consistent with the promotion and protection of human rights. It can be used to justify arbitrary limitations on, or the denial of, freedom of expression. Indeed, Ireland considers that freedom of expression is a key and inherent element in the manifestation of freedom of thought and conscience and as such is complementary to freedom of religion or belief.” Just months after Minister Martin made this comment, his colleague Dermot Ahern introduced Ireland’s new blasphemy law.

Pass it on.


The masters of double standards strike again

December 16, 2009

Those faithful believers in the best selling epic fantasy of all time, the Bible, are at it again. At what, you ask? Promoting amazing levels of hypocrisy and double standards, that’s what. According to today’s Sydney Morning Herald, the Catholic Church has been accused of derailing the second and third movie of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

The novels are fundamentally about the struggles of young Lyra against an institution called The Magisterium. The Magisterium is clearly based on the institution of the church, most closely the Catholic church. And so what? Allegory, analogy and appropriation are basic tools of storytelling.

The first film in the series, The Golden Compass, already had the role of The Magisterium toned down to appease religious thinskins, which is irritating enough in itself. According to actor Sam Elliot, who plays aeronaut Lee Scoresby in the film, the campaign by Bill Donohoe of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has successfully scared New Line Cinema away from making the remaining films. Donohoe reckons the films would prompt kids to buy Pullman’s novels which he describes as “atheism for kids”. No, don’t let the children buy novels! He also said, “The reason I protested was the deceitful attempt to introduce Christian children to atheism in a backdoor fashion at Christmas time.” He seems to assume that all children are Christian by default or something.

Seriously, what a tool. He would be the first to campaign for the inclusion of prayers in school assemblies. He would be the first to insist that Christianity is an integral part of the school curriculum. He would be happy to see movies like The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, with their “deceitful attempt to introduce normal children to Christianity” (to appropriate his own quote) released at Christmas. He also complains that each volume in the trilogy becomes increasingly anti-Catholic. In fact, each volume becomes increasingly anti-Magisterium. The fact that the Magisterium is based on the church doesn’t matter. It’s a story. People will take from the story whatever allegory they see and that’s the prerogative of the storytellers and the people that go to see the films. Let them decide what they think. Is the church really so fragile?

Once again, the religious cry foul at something that might make people think. Critical thinking is, after all, the greatest enemy of organised religion of any kind. So what if the films espouse an idea of atheism? Does free speech only apply when you’re talking about Christianity, Mr Donohoe?

The thing that pisses me off the most, however, is not that people like Donohoe strut around with their attitude of self-importance and sense of Christian entitlement. After all, Donohoe is entitled to think and say whatever he likes. What grinds me is that New Line would cave in to this kind of bollocks and scurry away from the movies, whimpering with their tail between their legs.

After Donohoe’s campaign against the first movie, a campaign designed to affect box office takings, The Golden Compass took a “modest” US$85 million in the United States. What the fuck is modest about eighty five million? Besides that, the movie made US$360 million worldwide. For a movie that might take even US$100 million to make, that’s a pretty solid return.

Author of the books, Philip Pullman, says that the chances of the trilogy being completed in film are fading. Warner Bros, which absorbed New Line last year, have not been in contact with him. And according to the Herald, New Line declined to comment.

I read the trilogy long before the movies were touted and I really enjoyed it. It’s a great series of books. Let’s give a big fuck you to Bill Donohoe and New Line and buy the trilogy for all the young people we know this Christmas. The books are always better than the films anyway and we’ll get young people reading more, thinking more and enjoying a good story. It’s a far more coherent and engaging fantasy than the Bible anyway.

dark materials


No Clean Feed – stop the ISP filter in Australia

December 15, 2009

I normally try to avoid political issues on my blog here. Obviously, I’ll rip into politicians, religious leaders and so on as the mood takes me, but they bring that on themselves. But I usually try to avoid getting involved in campaigns or anything like that. This blog is all about words and stories, after all.

However, this is something that I think is really important and it does carry the possibility of affecting the words and stories available to us.

Basically, the Australian government is planning to implement a “clean feed” that would filter all internet content in every home and school in Australia. Except that it wouldn’t. It would just filter blacklisted websites. Badly. From clever starfish:

The Rudd gov­ern­ment claims that the aim of the fil­ter is to pro­tect chil­dren from inap­pro­pri­ate mater­ial. How­ever, their own report from the fil­ter tri­als reports that while the the filter’s accur­acy in block­ing inap­pro­pri­ate sites is 100% with the ini­tial list of 2000 sites, it falls to as low as 78.8% with an expan­ded black­list – how inef­fect­ive will it be with a list of 10,000 sites or more? Fur­ther­more, the fil­ter only tar­gets web traffic, leav­ing the chan­nels where most child porn exchanges take place (FTP, Bit Tor­rent, email etc) unblocked. Rely­ing on such an inef­fec­tual tool will lead par­ents to be less vigil­ant in mon­it­or­ing their children’s inter­net usage – a false sense of secur­ity that will cause more harm than good.

Not only is the fil­ter largely inef­fect­ive, it brings with it ser­i­ous per­form­ance issues that can­not be ignored. The government’s report con­cludes that the per­form­ance impact for end users is “neg­li­gible” – but the actual num­bers repor­ted vary from an actual speed increase, in one case, to decreases ran­ging from 9% up to 44%. Given how far Aus­tralia lags behind the rest of the first world in terms of net­work speeds, in our opin­ion any decrease in per­form­ance is abso­lutely unacceptable.

Not to mention that a policy of blacklisting websites is the beginning of a very slippery slope into censorship issues that have terrifying implications for freedom of speech. Click the badge below to learn more about the subject and for options on how to have your say. Don’t sit back and let them get away with this – it’s lip service and bullshit that will not do a thing to solve the problems it purports to address.

No Clean Feed - Stop Internet Censorship in Australia
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Friday guest post – Our Saucy Medieval Heritage by Michael Fridman

July 30, 2009

For the ever more infrequent Friday Guest Post, here’s something very entertaining from Michael Fridman, fellow Blade Red Press author and all-round interesting fellow. In this post he explores the legacy of language derived from our less than prudish past and some stories that are worth checking out for some olden days racy fun. There are loads of very cool links throughout this piece, so be sure to check them out.

Our Saucy Medieval Heritage

Guest Post by Michael of a Nadder Good writing is often harsh. It avoids euphemisms and lays out the bare truth behind a character or storyline. Say, in Alan’s Realmshift when Samuel Harrigan first s…oh never mind, just read it if you haven’t. Or in Catch 22 when Yossarian unexpectedly shows up not wearing any clothes (because he doesn’t want to). Sometimes the best way to make a point is with some crudity or ridiculousness.

Where does this tradition come from? I think the roots are partly in classic medieval literature. Now, we sometimes have strange ideas about the past. Probably because the past itself is strange. Being Spawn of the Satanic Sexual Revolution, we often associate “medieval” with sexual prudishness and the stranglehold of the Church (at least in Europe). There’s an element of truth to it. But it’s not the whole story.

Though official chronicles and epic romances can be quite pompous, the ordinary people weren’t much different from us. For example: as you might know the medieval European town often segregated people by profession — and named the street accordingly. Miller and Baker Street are examples that have survived unto today. Interestingly, prostitution was no different, with female prostitutes often congregating in a single street in a typical English town. Its common name? Gropecunt Lane (by now these streets have evolved to something more tame, like Grape Lane). The medievals were quite direct with their words and images.

But of course this goes beyond Street Naming Conventions in Britain in the 14th Century (now there’s a niche!) — because we probably owe a great deal in the sharpness of our “cutting edge” literature to works from the period:

The Canterbury Tales This is a very wide collection of stories which includes things like the Parson’s Tale — an indubitably boring sermon which is also the longest tale in the book. But there are also stories that will give American Pie a run for its money. For instance, The Miller’s Tale which rests on spinning religious bullshit to cuckold an absent-minded husband, presenting an arse out the window when being asked for a kiss and other acts of High Courtly Love.

Gargantua and Pantagruel Forget Douglas Adams, this is the original Trilogy in Five Parts. A great satirical classic, it has in my opinion much more hidden meaning and allegory than any religious text. Rabelais makes fun of every aspect of his society, including a graphic description of Gargantua’s diarrhea which drowns most of Paris, a list of about 250 items you can append before “fool” when insulting someone and a climax where the characters go into battle with an army of fried pig intestines. Go figure.

The Decameron This was the partial inspiration of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and shows that the Italians were also open to glorious crudeness. More so than Chaucer, this collection is known for every saucy combination imaginable. Of particular note are tales of the sexual adventures of monks and nuns — probably a more accurate reflection of reality than the celibacy “ideal” promoted by official sources. My personal favourite is the First Tale of the Third Day. The author gave each tale a quick one-line summary. The translated summary for this one is “Masetto da Lamporecchio pretends to be deaf and dumb in order to become gardener to a convent of nuns, where all the women eagerly lie with him.” Believe it or not, Castle Anthrax in Monty Python and the Holy Grail wasn’t 100% original…

But That’s Not All. Of course crudity is not specific to medieval Europe. It can happen:

  • Before — the first recorded British joke from the 10th Century isn’t half bad: “What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before? A key.” Better than the Sumerian one, that’s for sure.
  • After — the classic Tristram Shandy can be considered as a 500p dick joke. But no spoilers here.
  • Outside Europe — if you read the proper Arabian Nights (not the abridged versions with familiar “family-friendly” tripe like Sinbad the Sailor) you’ll find that some stories will make a reader of Playboy blush.

And thus, I recommend reading some of these wonderfully-risqué works, or at least appreciating the great debt we probably owe them today.

To see more rants by Michael check out his blog at a Nadder.


ASA squashes “No God” complainants

January 21, 2009

Well, sadly they didn’t squash the actual complainants, but in a win for free speech and common sense they did squash the complaint. If you remember I was talking about this ad campaign in the UK that has banners on buses declaring:


Of course, those funny old hypocritical religious folk leapt up in alarm and declared it offensive. Thankfully, according to the BBC, the Advertising Standards Authority said it had assessed 326 complaints, some claiming that the wording was offensive to people who followed a religion, and concluded the adverts were unlikely to mislead or cause widespread offence. They closed the case. Bravo.

In some ways it’s sad that the ASA didn’t investigate further, as it would have been highly entertaining to see how they tackled the claim that the advertiser would not be able to substantiate its claim that God “probably” did not exist. That would have been fun.



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Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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