‘No God’ campaign upsets Christians

January 8, 2009

Not really a a surprise there then. This is one of those delicious ironies that crop up from time to time where some idiot is completely unaware of just how ridiculous they sound. To give a bit of background, comedian Ariane Sherine in Britain dreamed up a campaign of bus ads proclaiming,


(Image from smh.com.au)

The campaign was backed by serial atheist Richard Dawkins and funds were required. Asking for 5,500 pounds sterling, they actually raised well over 100,000 and the campaign went into full swing. And then the Christians started moaning. The campaign organisers must be loving it – you can’t get better advertising than some religious body complaining about your work. In this case it’s Christian Voice, a plainly fundamentialist group of fools that think they speak for Christians by “analysing current events in the light of scripture”.

But the issue is not one of atheism or religiosity. It’s one of free speech. These Christians would fight for their right to advertise their ministry, but what’s good for them is not good for anyone else apparently. And that’s where the truly ridiculous comments start to come in.

Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said:

“There is plenty of evidence for God, from people’s personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world.

“But there is scant evidence on the other side, so I think the advertisers are really going to struggle to show their claim is not an exaggeration or inaccurate, as the ASA code puts it.”

Yes. He really said that. Apparently, there is ample evidence for God but “scant evidence” that there’s “probably no god”. Why are these people so fragile?

I think that Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, has a handle on it when he says:

“I am sure that Stephen Green really does think there is a great deal of evidence for a God (though presumably only the one that he believes in), but I pity the ASA if they are going to be expected to rule on the probability of God’s existence.”

I’ll be watching this story for more entertainment.


The future of the publishing industry and the book

January 4, 2009

Every once in a while the world seems to shrug, like a restless beast trying to dislodge parasites. Of course, the parasites of the world are you and I, dear Reader, the ever more destructive human being. And the world shrugs in different ways, usually with some measure of natural disaster like a tsunami or an earthquake.

But sometimes those shrugs are man-made and the current economic crisis appears to be one of them. So what does the economic downturn along with the nature of technological advancement mean to publishing? Well, it’s interesting you should ask. You did ask, right? (What do you mean “non sequitur”?)

As an ambassador of indie publishing I’m all about variety and daring in the selection of new books and the homogeneity of the big publishing houses bothers me. The same thing bothers me about the film and music industry. We’ve been through this stuff before.

Interestingly, Tom Engelhardt has written an interesting piece in The Nation addressing this very subject. He talks about the changes occurring in the world of publishing and it makes for interesting reading, especially for small and independent press. Here are a couple of key quotes:

Small independent publishers, which often have trouble surviving even in good times, are nonetheless more agile, more experimental, and closer to the Internet revolution than are the big houses. They are capable of turning on a dime, while the conglomerates–with their long lead times (often eight months to a year to put a book in the store)–probably can’t turn on anything, which leaves them losers in an Internet world in which yesterday’s news might as well be last year’s.

The book remains a techno-wonder that not even the Kindle has yet surpassed. But it’s a wonder in a very crowded entertainment universe in which habits, reading and otherwise, are changing fast. Add to that a world plunging into the worst of times and you have a combustible combination. The chain bookstore, the bloated publishing house and the specific corporate way of publishing that goes with them are indeed in peril. This may no longer be their time. As for the Time of the Book, add on another century if you want, but in our ever-restless universe it does seem to be shortening.

Viva la revolution!

Read the whole article here
– very worthwhile.


Holy Vigilante, real life superheroes

December 29, 2008

Truth is so often stranger than fiction. In America the number of people dressing up in spandex and rubber and going out into the streets as real life superheroes is fast growing.

In an article in the Times Online we learn that “There are, according to the recently launched World Superhero Registry, more than 200 men and a few women who are willing to dress up as comic book heroes and patrol the urban streets in search of, if not super-villains, then pickpockets and bullies.”

But this quote from the article pretty much summed up the whole concept for me:

Artemis of San Diego reported on his blog that he had heard a woman screaming outside his home but by the time he had dressed up in his costume the police were already there.

Especially when you couple the above quote with this one:

“I was out every night, 8pm until 2am, hanging about all the bad corners and nothing happened, nada, zip,” recalled Mr Invisible. “It was raining: even the drug dealers were at home. And often cops are just too good at their jobs.”

Life ain’t like the funny books, kids.

Hat tip to Dogmatic for pointing out the article.


Would You Like to Know the Truth?

December 17, 2008

It’s that time of year again. Because Christians hijacked a pagan festival all that time ago and turned it into a propoganda event for their belief system, they think they have some right to it. The fact is that most people have long since taken “Christmas” to mean “buy presents, get presents, eat too much, argue with family”. It’s a time of excess and stress and only the merchants in the marketplace really have any reason to celebrate. Yeah, I know, bah humbug.

But the Christians seem to think that they have some right to come and knock on people’s doors and remind them what Christmas is all about. In their minds it’s about the birth of their Christ hero, best described as some kind of cosmic zombie that was his own father and can make you live forever if you symbolically eat him and accept him as your master so that he can remove the evil that he put there in the first place. Or something. Yes, I’m being deliberately pertinacious, but there really are people out there that believe this as absolute fact.

Never mind that these same Christians that think they’re reclaiming the “real meaning” of Christmas have never heard of Saturnalia or Sol Invictus. Those fourth century Christians and their hijacking of pagan festivals have a lot to answer for.

But it gets worse than that. Those same god-botherers that have no idea what they’re really talking about, and who can’t seem to seperate allegory from fact and myth from history, came to my door yesterday. The woman even had the cheek to suggest that it was at this time of year that people’s thoughts turned to Jesus. How out of touch can she be? My wife insisted that I not be rude to her, so I simply sent her on her way. But she did leave me something.


The truth, eh? Sorry, the Truth. Capitalising it makes it all the more true. You expect this sort of thing, really, but I couldn’t help being particularly amused in this instance. They’ve really surpassed themselves in sophistry and hubris this time. Look closely at the two paragraphs at the bottom of the pamphlet:


Key points: you might look in books for answers to life’s big questions, but so often books become outdated or are revised or replaced.

And then we have:


The Bible? The book that isn’t outdated or revised is the Bible? I can’t think of a more outdated or revised book in the history of books. Now, I’m all for people believing in the supernatural and higher powers if they want, and seeking the answers to those deep and meaningful questions that keep us awake at night. But the Bible as a book of truth? Seriously, how do these people ever expect anyone to take them seriously. The Bible is a damn good mythology, especially the Old Testament when Yahweh was this tantrum throwing storm god that was all envious and murderous. That’s some good stuff in there. But truth?

You know the best bit? And this is the absolute truth: After I’d shut the door in the Christian woman’s, after showing her the contempt she deserved, she disappeared off with her bible-bashing mates. Shortly thereafter a large Red Bellied Black snake was basking on the flagstones exactly where she’d been standing. First snake I’ve seen this year. Make of that what you will.

Christmas? I’ll be glad when it’s all over. Bah humbug indeed.


The Company that offers Confusion

December 9, 2008

The modern corporate environment is ripe sowing ground for word abuse. Primarily, the use of weasel words is becoming more and more prevalent. Weasel words are “… typically used to create an illusion of clear, direct communication.”

Some people become experts at using many words but imparting very little information. For some people, it’s almost a sport. If it were a sport, the following culprit would be qualified at an Olympic level.

A Word reader that (not surprisingly) wants to remain anonymous sent me this email exchange as an example of horrific word abuse. This is a real email conversation, though I use the word ‘real’ loosely, but our anonymous submitter deleted all the names to protect the innocent (and the weasels, I suppose). I’ve chosen new names for them that best describe the situation.

The first email followed a phone call and appears to be offering… something:

From: Weasel Wordsmith
To: Bemused Business
Subject: Meeting with Weasel Words Inc.

Weasel Words Inc. is the human capital solutions arm of Super Weasels international. Weasel Words Inc. is a world leader in providing innovative strategic human resource and talent management solutions. With significant expertise in your business arena, Weasel Words Inc. would like to make a presentation to Bemused Business outlining Weasel Words Inc.’s achievements that have been accomplished both domestically and internationally and how these relate to a number of challenges specifically identified in your business arena.

As discussed, I would like to set up a meeting for the Managing Director of Weasel Words Inc. and myself to meet with the appropriate Bemused Business person for early next year.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Kind regards

Weasel Wordsmith

Naturally, the recipient of the email needed some more information. Well, let’s be honest, any information at all would be a bonus:

From: Bemused Business
To: Weasel Wordsmith
Subject: Re: Meeting with Weasel Words Inc.

Weasel Wordsmith

Thank you for your email.

Can you please provide a bit more information about what you think Weasel Words Inc. can do for Bemused Business? Many thanks.


Bemused Business

I’m sure that person greatly regretted asking when this reply came through:

From: Weasel Wordsmith
To: Bemused Business
Subject: RE: Meeting with Weasel Words Inc.

Bemused Business

I have provided the following white papers for your information. As discussed on the phone, Weasel Words Inc. can provide multiple human capital solutions depending on the specific challenges faced by an organisation. In summary Weasel Words Inc. has three main business practices:

1. Strategic global multi-sourcing recruitment and performance assessment within a number of industry specific areas;
2. Strategic human resources consulting including business design modification and extensive experience in merger and acquisition integration; and
3. Corporate structure advisory that includes analysis of benefits of centralisation and shared services models and evaluation of a range of human and recruitment outsourcing solutions.

I note that Weasel Words Inc. has identified numerous avenues within companies like yours to increase their return on investment and Weasel Words Inc. would like to have the opportunity to present these solutions along with actual case studies to Bemused Business senior management.

I hope that you find this email useful.

Kind regards

Weasel Wordsmith

Well, I suppose it could be a useful email if Bemused Business were to print it out and tack it to the wall of a toilet cubicle on the offchance that the toilet paper delivery was ever late. Otherwise, it’s not worth the virtual ink it’s typed with. Seems to me that the company in question plans to turn up, point out a load of problems that don’t exist and subsequently charge for “solutions”. In summary, what a load of bollocks. I don’t know how anyone survives the corporate world. Just reading those emails made my brain bleed.


Where was the Lord of the stampede?

September 30, 2008

This comes under the banner of the truly ironic. I read in the Sydney Morning Herald today that more than 140 people have been trampled to death in a stampede in Jodhpur in western India. The people were Hindus on a pilgrimage to the 15th-century Chamunda Devi temple. There was a long, narrow passage that became a death trap when the people were gripped by some kind of panic.

Now, you’d think that this would be the ideal opportunity for a bit of divine intervention, no? Or, if a god or gods were being honoured by the pilgrimage of thousands of faithful, you would think that said gods wouldn’t let something like this happen in the first place. Shouldn’t the people be gripped by a holy calm rather than a panic?

A senior state government official, Kiran Soni Gupta, said, “We have lost over 140 lives due to suffocation. This was a chance accident.”

And indeed it was, in one of those moments that are actually not that uncommon. This particular deadly stampede was the fourth in India this year. The annual Haj to Mecca has a body count that Arnie and Sly Stallone could never hope to top in their most brutal movies combined:

From wikipedia:

# On July 2, 1990, a stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel (Al-Ma’aisim tunnel) leading out from Mecca towards Mina and the Plains of Arafat led to the deaths of 1,426 pilgrims.
# On May 23, 1994, a stampede killed at least 270 pilgrims at the stoning of the Devil ritual.
# On April 9, 1998, at least 118 pilgrims were trampled to death and 180 injured in an incident on Jamarat Bridge.
# On March 5, 2001, 35 pilgrims were trampled to death in a stampede during the stoning of the Devil ritual.
# On February 11, 2003, the stoning of the Devil ritual claimed 14 pilgrims’ lives.
# On February 1, 2004, 251 pilgrims were killed and another 244 injured in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina.

Of course, hundreds, even thousands of deaths at a specifically religious event are considered a terrible accident; pure chance. One grilled cheese sandwich with the hazy image of a Messiah on it is a Divine Miracle. Let’s all look up Pareidolia for our homework.

In a slightly similar vein, I was greatly entertained today by Michael Fridman’s post at A Nadder!, where he equates books of the Bible with their very modern counterparts. Why are some mythologies still causing deaths by the thousand while others are considered nothing more than fairy stories? After all, a religion is nothing more than a myth that some people still believe to be the truth.


Homosexual wins 100m

July 1, 2008

Thanks to Michael over at a Nadder for putting me on to this little beauty. According to The Carpetbagger Report (commentary and analysis on politics in America), there are a number of far-right sites that subscribe to the Associated Press news feed but use an auto-correct feature to change certain words that they deem too left leaning. For example, they might auto-correct Democratic Party to Democrat Party. Idiots. And you thought everything on the interenet was pure and unblemished.

Anyway, what would often seem to be some fairly harmless editing and censoring can have repercussions that you might not expect. You might think it’s pretty irrelevant. After all, if you read websites that lean so far right as to edit words to suit their agenda then you get everything you deserve. So I suppose you’d be right in your assumption that it’s irrelevant. But nothing is irrelevant when it’s funny.

According to the Carpet Baggers, American Family Association’s OneNewsNow website replaces the word “gay” in AP articles with the word “homosexual.” Pretty pointless. I guess they don’t want to imply that people that are same sex attracted might be happy. Anyway, when you automate these things, hilarity can ensue. Like when a guy called Tyson Gay wins a 100m race. You’ve already guessed exactly where this is going, so let’s just reproduce the copy:

Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials

Tyson Homosexual easily won his semifinal for the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials and seemed to save something for the final later Sunday.

His wind-aided 9.85 seconds was a fairly cut-and-dry performance compared to what happened a day earlier. On Saturday, Homosexual misjudged the finish in his opening heat and had to scramble to finish fourth, then in his quarterfinal a couple of hours later, ran 9.77 to break the American record that had stood since 1999. […]

Homosexual didn’t get off to a particularly strong start in the first semifinal, but by the halfway mark he had established a comfortable lead. He slowed somewhat over the final 10 meters-nothing like the way-too-soon complete shutdown that almost cost him Saturday. Asked how he felt, Homosexual said: “A little fatigued.”

Brilliant. Idiots always manage to out themselves in the end. And the blogosphere is only too happy to make sure everyone knows about it. The site has since corrected its copy, but Right Wing Watch blog got the screen grab. Well done, guys.

Just another reason to cross check all your news. Trust no one. Except me, of course. You can trust me, cos I’m a speculative fiction author.


A Lesbian by any other name

June 10, 2008

There’s a lot of power in names. You don’t need to be a daemonologist to know that. We do have this seemingly inbuilt and unavoidable need to name and categorise everything. While a personal name is very important, group names become something of a murky area.

I’ve been entertained over the last few days with news from the Greek island of Lesbos. It seems that the people there, the Lesbians, have had enough of the global female gay community appropriating their name to identify their gender preference.

For example, as reported in The Register:

local activist Dimitris Lambrou states in his complaint that the “seizure” of the island’s name is responsible for the “psychological and moral rape” of true lesbians

Seriously, that’s a bit strong, isn’t it? Lambrou is actually bringing the case to an Athens court, as reported by the BBC:

for judges to decide whether to grant an injunction against the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece and to order it to change its name

The term lesbian, used to describe girls that dig other girls, stems from a famous Lesbian (native of Lesbos) that went by the name of Sappho. She was a lyrical poet that lived some time between 630 and 570 BCE and was famed for her poems about her love and infatuation with other people, many of whom were women. She often wrote of unrequited love but rarely wrote of any physical acts of love. Regardless, Sappho, born on Lesbos, indirectly and unwittingly coined the term lesbian for gay females.

Sappho (by Charles Mengin, 1877)
She’s a tortured looking lass if Mengin is to be believed.

Interestingly, the act of girl love has also been referred to as sapphic and gay girls have been called sapphists. This would seem to completely circumvent the whole problem between geographical lesbians and sexual lesbians, but so would simply calling them gay. Why do we have such a pathological need to name everything?

The use of collective nouns is extremely entertaining and descriptive, especially in the English language. After all, without collective nouns we wouldn’t have such pearlers as a Murder of Crows, a Parliament of Rooks or a Clamber of Assistant Professors (I’m not kidding, feel free to check). But do we really need to go so far as to categorise everything? Isn’t it enough to simply refer to men and women as either gay or straight if the need for a such a distinction ever arises?

Intrigued by these thoughts, I set out to do some serious research into the subject. By serious research I mean that I asked a good friend of mine that happens to be a girl that digs other girls. I asked her what she thought of the terminology and what her preferences were. She told me that it took her a long time to be comfortable with lesbian, but that she likes it now. She’s Australian and mentioned also that in Australia dyke is quite acceptable these days, but not really acceptable at all in the UK. I’m not entirely sure how it would be taken in other English-speaking countries. Otherwise she was happy enough with gay and said that there aren’t really any other nouns that she considers useful or acceptable.

However, she gets absolutely the last word on the subject with her own final comment to me: “Personally, I’d like not to be identified by the gender of the people I date. Maybe one day.”



Quote of the week

April 9, 2008

Every once in a while people say things that reverberate for days, weeks, months after they’re uttered. They’re often the sort of things that the person will, many time over, wish they could take back. But, as someone once said (I can’t remember who – my recall is not what it was), “Trying to take back a word once it’s spoken is like trying to hold back the tide with a broom.”

You never know, some people say things that any normal person would wish they hadn’t, yet they stand by them out of pure stubbornness or, more often, complete ignorance. Time will tell where this one falls. It’s doing the rounds of the blogosphere at the moment, so I might as well jump on the bandwagon. I’ll snatch my version from the Chicago Tribune blog:

Rep. Monique Davis, a Chicago Democrat and member of the Illinois legislature, stepped egregiously over the line when she verbally attacked atheist activist Rob Sherman for his religious unbelief during his testimony April 2nd to the House State Government Administration Committee, says the Council for Secular Humanism.

Sherman had been testifying before the committee that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s plan to donate one million tax dollars to Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago was unconstitutional when Davis launched into a diatribe against atheists, asserting that atheists did not have a right to present testimony to the legislature.

Rep. Monique Davis, Chicago Democrat.

A Democrat no less. Did she really attack him for his religious unbelief? Here’s the exchange in question:

Davis: I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy – it’s tragic – when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school.

I don’t see you [Sherman] fighting guns in school. You know?

I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous…

Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?

Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court…

Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

“The Land of Lincoln where people believe in God”? I thought it was called America. The Land of Lincoln where people believe in God in a bit of a mouthful. Perhaps Lincolnland would be easier. Or get right to the heart of the matter and call it Godworld.

“it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!”? Dangerous for children to be aware of a philosophy? “God forbid” that they should ever be exposed to a variety of ideas and then subsequently be allowed to formulate their own opinions on what they believe.

She must have been drunk. Either way, it’s a belter and the repurcussions are likely to go on for a while yet. Nice one, Monique Davis, you score the ever more infrequent Word Quote of the Week.

EDIT: As requested in the comments, here is the actual audio of the Great Davis Tirade: The Land of Lincoln where people believe in God.


Double entendres – juvenile British fun

March 14, 2008

If you’re a fan of language like me, you will be easily entertained by all forms of word play. A good quality pun, for example, can keep me chuckling for hours. Also, if you’re British like me, knob gags and double-entendres are a staple of your comedy diet.

Combine the two and you get some classic moments like these. Lucy, in London, sent these to me and I had to share. Twelve of the finest unintentional double-entendres from British television. Naturally enough, it’s sport coverage that usually supplies the most amusing:

1. Pat Glenn, weightlifting commentator – “And this is Gregoriava from Bulgaria. I saw her snatch this morning and it was amazing!”

2. New Zealand Rugby Commentator – “Andrew Mehrtens loves it when Daryl Gibson comes inside of him.”

3. Ted Walsh, Horse Racing Commentator – “This is really a lovely horse. I once rode her mother.”

4. Harry Carpenter, at the Oxford-Cambridge boat race 1977 – “Ah, isn’t that nice. The wife of the Cambridge President is kissing the cox of the Oxford crew.”

5. US PGA Commentator – “One of the reasons Arnie [Arnold Palmer] is playing so well is that, before each tee shot, his wife takes out his balls and kisses them….. Oh my god! What have I just said?”

6. Carenza Lewis, about finding food in the Middle Ages on ‘Time Team Live’ – “You’d eat beaver if you could get it.”

7. A female news anchor who, the day after it was supposed to have snowed and didn’t, turned to the weatherman and asked, “So Bob, where’s that eight inches you promised me last night?” (Not only did he have to leave the set, but half the crew did too, because they were laughing so hard.)

8. Steve Ryder covering the US Masters – “Ballesteros felt much better today after a 69 yesterday.”

9. Clair Frisby, talking about a jumbo hot dog on Look North – “There’s nothing like a big hot sausage inside you on a cold night like this.”

10. Mike Hallett, discussing missed snooker shots on Sky Sports – “Stephen Hendry jumps on Steve Davis’s misses every chance he gets.” (Say this out loud if you don’t get it right away).

11. Michael Buerk, on watching Phillipa Forrester cuddle up to a male astronomer for warmth during BBC1’s UK eclipse coverage – “They seem cold out there; they’re rubbing each other and he’s only come in his shorts.”

12. Ken Brown commentating on golfer Nick Faldo and his caddie Fanny Sunneson lining-up shots at the Scottish Open – “Some weeks Nick likes to use Fanny, other weeks he prefers to do it by himself.”

I have no idea if any of these are actually true and I can’t be bothered to confirm their authenticity. The British genes in me, and their love of puerile humour, made me want to share it anyway. Don’t you just love the English language?



The website of author Alan Baxter

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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