Sunday, 14 April 2013
WHAT AN INSULT TO CHRISTIANS! - The Daily Mail
We start off in auspicious fashion by looking at an absolute turd of a story from The Daily Mail. The basics are that (apparently) because crucifixes are now allowed to be worn at work the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has advised employers that vegans, pagans and environmentalists will also need to have their rights respected.
So... good? No! The Daily Mail shrieks this will allow "giving believers time off to go on pilgrimages, such as druids and pagans going to Stonehenge, while environmentalists should be free to lecture other staff about their car use". People talking about what car they drive? Unforgivable! And what about all those bloody Pagans? Well, looking at 2011 census data, Pagans make up approximately 0.0015% of the UK population. I have a feeling they chose Pagans over, say Sikhs, purely as that it adds to the "isn't this just bonkers?" tone of the article. Even though Pagans are as entitled to their beliefs as followers to any other religion.
Probably the most shocking quote from this article is this: "Even atheists should have their beliefs respected, according to the new guidance." Even atheists?! Even those disgusting creatures?! It beggars belief in this day and age that a mainstream newspaper could print such prejudice. Here's a fun game - swap out the word "atheist" with a racial pejorative. Yep, that quote sounds just like bigotry all right.
All of this begs the question: why does this insult Christians? Because employers will have to treat non-Christian beliefs as equally as Christian ones? That's only an insult if you don't respect other people's beliefs - which is what the crucifix-wearing saga was about in the first place.
MAGGIE DEAD IN BED AT RITZ - The Sun
I could have chosen The Daily Mail's "THE WOMAN WHO SAVED BRITAIN" but for sheer comedy value The Sun takes this one.
I probably don't need to tell you that The Sun isn't too popular in the north of England (she isn't too popular in Scotland either - that was where she chose to first try out the poll tax). Fans of Liverpool FC have boycotted the paper ever since The Sun's disgusting coverage of the Hillsborough disaster, and The Sun's support of Thatcher didn't go over too well either.
Maybe this played a part in that bizarre headline. They could have left it at "Maggie Dead". At least that would be factual - if grammatically incorrect. But they furnish us with another detail: "Maggie Dead in Bed". It sounds like a very grim episode of Blue's Clues. Is it important that she died in her bed? To answer that you have to look at the fact they put her location in the headline too. Why state that? They also could have just put "hotel" so "Ritz" was a conscious decision.
Are they allaying any fears we may have that she died in agony and in some run-down establishment? Are they taunting us with the fact that she even died surrounded by the kind of opulence most of us plebs could only dream of? Well I think those could be two factors but there is a third - to get a "bloody typical!" reaction from the readers, to make them feel she somehow wanted to go out in posh, fancy surroundings just to wind up the reader. It is clever as it means they can retain some appeal - even in the aforementioned Sun-unfriendly north - for those that liked and disliked Thatcher. You could read it two ways.
The same could be said for the by-line "Funeral like Diana's next week". Is that a fitting end for a great leader on an insult to the nation? You can read it both ways. Everyone knows The Sun is all about maximum appeal and it is stuff like this that keeps them as the nation's most bought newspaper.
THE £10 MILLION POUND GOODBYE - The Daily Mirror
Thatcher's death was inevitably going to grab all the headlines this week but The Daily Mirror went for a bold front page asking "Why is Britain's most divisive Prime Minister getting a ceremonial funeral fit for a Queen?" It is actually a very good point, we will have to wait to see what kind of funerals Blair, Brown and Cameron will get to really be able to say whether that is over the top.
A lot of other papers covered the "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" campaign, the street parties people had celebrating her passing and so on. Personally I didn't have a party. I didn't like her but I didn't have a party or whoop for joy on knowing of her passing. I had the reaction most people I know did: "Really? Wow. Well, she was getting on a bit." The campaign to get "Ding Dong" to number 1 in the UK charts isn't a disgrace. It is free expression, people are free to buy whatever they want. You can't ignore the fact that a lot of people hated Margaret Thatcher (although the establishment is trying bloody hard to do just that) and a lot of people will not be mourning her passing.
The £10 million pound figure is (apparently) how much security will cost at the event. This is probably to make sure nobody tries to disrupt the funeral by, say, playing the current number 1 single in the UK during the service. There was a good quote from Ken Loach on the service: "Let's privatise her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It's what she'd have wanted."
50,000 TONS OF EUROPEAN MEAT RECALLED IN FRAUD PROBE - The I
The I actually don't capitalise their headlines but I wanted this to fit in with the others. The story covers how Dutch authorities have (apparently) recalled over 50,000 tons of meat as "every single meat product sold by two Dutch suppliers as beef in more than two years was under suspicion." Just... wow. In exact terms this is a precautionary measure as the Dutch authorities could not trace the exact source of the meat. This is also a widespread issue, as "the meat was believed to have been sold on to more than 500 companies across 16 European countries including Britain."
For what it is worth I shove kebabs and all kinds of "food" of dubious nutritional quality and animal origin into my gob so the horse meat crisis doesn't concern me all that much.
BACK PAIN CURED BY SINGLE INJECTION - The Daily Express
Would you believe there is an entire blog devoted to The Daily Express putting miracle cures on their front page? Well there is. There really isn't much need for me to go over what is already covered in good detail by the blog post they did on this story. Their conclusion, however:
"CURE = Potential effective treatment to an unknown level of pain reduction in some unspecified cases."
On another note this kind of "copy and pasted from a press release" article
is becoming an all-too-common occurrence in the tabloids. Thankfully we have blogs like the one linked above, Bad PR, Bad Science, and the Churnalism website from the Media Standards Trust (which can be used to detect if a press release pasted into the website has been recycled as a news story by media outlets).
In case you are wondering "churnalism" is the official term for this kind of lazy "cut-and-paste" journalism.
DIANA FUND IS HIJACKED BY THE LEFT - The Daily Mail
This pile of crap story is regarding the Princess Diana Memorial Fund using some of its money to fund a campaign to change the British public's perceptions of immigration, which are massively out of step with reality - for more on that see here and here.
But that isn't really the point here - the point is that Diana's charity is being use to fund the Changing Minds charity, which is (apparently) a Lefty, pro-immigration propaganda campaign. Which is definitely a very bad thing as Diana was famously an immigrant-hating piece of shit.
That's the week in news, come back next week for reactionary bullshit, pretend outrage, outlandish claims and bold-faced lies.
Sunday, 6 May 2012
My main problem is just that I am a walking catastrophe of a human being. That's all. So, in the spirit of sharing, here is the first part of a list of my failures:
1. First Impressions
Have you ever met somebody and just instantly felt like they were a great person? Even though you've only known them for 4 and a half seconds you already want to go out for a beer with them, tell them your secrets and become the best of friends. Maybe even BFFs? Unsurprisingly I do not make a great first impression. That may have something to do with my intimidating intellect or it could be my cripplingly awful social skills. We'll never know.
I always thought that poor social skills was something all nerds just have to put up with. It comes with the territory - we can hack into the Pentagon but we can't order a drink at a bar without stumbling over our words like we are trying to describe quantum mechanics to a girl with a distractingly low-cut top. But when I started on my first contract 5 months I saw something that blew my mind.
(No, it wasn't Christina Hendricks naked.)
Real live nerds, who can talk to normal people. Normally! At first I thought there was some kind of magic at play but I soon realised that these people had adapted to their environment and learned to communicate effectively with ordinary people. I didn't even know that was possible. At first it seemed a little creepy to see guys and gals who should be communicating entirely over IRC having actual conversations. But then I realised we could be seeing the beginnings of... the super nerd.
The most noticeable thing they had picked up was creating a good first impression. I wanted to know how they managed this, so I did the nerdy thing. I analysed them. I brought the scientific method to good social interaction, which is either brilliant or indicative of my problem. I eventually realised it was the simplest thing. Smiling.
Perhaps I need to explain. I only smile when something that makes me happy is occuring. I laugh at things that are funny. I don't smile for no reason. I certainly noticed that whenever these people greeted anyone, they always smiled. This is something I almost never do.
And the thing is, if you aren't used to it, forcing yourself to smile when you talk to people is incredibly difficult. It feels forced (because it is), insincere (because it is) and weird (because it... could be). But other people do this all the time, and when they do it to me I like it! We all like to be around happy people, so it makes sense for us to be happy around each other - or at least act it. Don't get me wrong, people who smile too much will look strange. But the right amount is extremely pleasant.
So I tried it. Every time I greeted someone, from a co-worker to a shop assistant, I tried to force a smile. And it was tough. It was tough in the same way forcing youself to sing every greeting would be tough. It was embarassing and it felt unnatural. Sometimes I forgot to do it. Sometimes I remembered and the person on the receiving end of the greeting was so miserable it barely seemed worth it. Sometimes it felt like I was beginning a job interview. But I was definitely seeing results.
People are nicer to you if they think you are a nice person. If you start a conversation with a smile they will be more inclined to continue it. It was a magic wand to conjure up pleasant social interaction. How the fuck did I miss this?!
This might sound like a success story. And it would be, if I had used what I had learnt all of the time, correcting a flaw that I found in myself to become a better person. But... I just can't do it. This is something I have simply learnt too late to integrate into my social interactions. Oh sure, I'll occasionally remember. But a lot of the time I won't and a lot of the time I am too embarassed to do it. This lesson has passed me by, like tying my laces using the "one loop" method (I am a "bunny ears" guy).
I am irrecovably broken.
Sunday, 11 December 2011
So: this job of mine. I am an IT consultant / Linux Sysadmin for ARM (those of the 95% market share on smart phone microchip design). It's a pretty big deal and now I have to learn the ropes and get up to speed as quickly as possible. To that end, on the advice of a co-worker, I bought an RHCE study guide, so I can start thinking about taking the RHCE exam and get myself a well-recognised industry qualification. But that is quite boring for most people to read about so maybe some other things that have been playing on my mind.
I encountered a view a while ago that I had never heard before. There was a discussion on abortion and I was surprised to hear two rational, intelligent people saying that they disagreed with it (not in all cases, such as rape or incest - only the truly mad believe that). This surprised me but I was more surprised to their reason why. I had heard people argue that it was "murder" but they assured me this was not a concern of theirs. Their position was that if you have sex you should be ready for the responsibility of a baby - and if you get pregnant your "punishment" is to give birth and raise the child. I'm not saying that is a plainly wrong belief (although it is), but I had never heard that position before. It is something I must consider in future discussions.
I bought a Beach Boys compilation the other day. There is something quite funny about a group who's sexiest aspiration with a woman is "to meet her parents" but something charming and lovely about that. I suppose that was back in the day that pop groups had to appeal to young girls and their parents. I wonder if pop groups like that exist any more but they do, in a sense. The difference is that the Beach Boys were "proper" musicians where what we see today are musicians forged in record company pop factories. But that is probably just my inner moany old man speaking.
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
The key to an interesting blog are twofold: quality of content and frequency of updates. I am sorely lacking in both departments.
These are two anecdotes I recalled recently. I hope they will suffice. They're both about shitting in public.
First, a few thoughts. I am not one of those people who refuses to defecate in a public toilet. If I need to drop a stool, I'll drop one. I don't care where I am. Okay maybe that is not 100% correct - I would not go to the toilet in the frozen aisle of my local Asda, or off the side of a fishing boat but generally speaking most public toilets will suffice. I don't like toilets on trains or planes because they are too cramped, and generally speaking there is one door between you and everyone else you need to share the rest of your journey with. I don't want the woman sitting next to me on the train to hear my turds splash into bowl. In summary, I have no problem with shitting in public toilets.
One day, many moons ago, I was in a public toilet, sitting in a cubicle. I feel I don't need to describe exactly what I was doing - and if you feel I should then maybe you should re-read the above paragraph. There. Got it? I was having a dump. As I'm sitting there, I hear the door open and two people run in. I hear them laughing and shouting to each other, and it is clear that they are quite young children. The noise subsides and I can concentrate on the business to hand (so to speak). Then I hear something. Something strange. Something... slightly worrying.
"Tee hee hee!"
And then I hear it again.
"Tee hee hee!"
By now I am starting to become more than slightly worried. And then I heard it.
"Tee hee hee! I can see your bum-bum!"
By this point I was, naturally pretty freaked out. But it continued:
"Tee hee hee! I can see your bum-bum!"
By this point I was... shall we say "indignant". And, at the very least, furious.
I pull my trousers up as quickly as I possibly can and practically kick the cubicle door open. Someone is going to pay. That was an obvious exaggeration - I couldn't kick down the door to a doll's house - but you get the idea. I survey the restroom with anger rushing through my veins and my brain already planning a suitably bile-filled verbal tirade. And then I see it. A kid, maybe seven years old, at the urinal pointing at his younger brother, also at the urinal, who has his trousers and pants around his ankles and his shirt lifted above his stomach.
Of course it wasn't some kid spying on me. He was laughing at his brother. With a sigh of relief that should have come immediately after me pushing out that food baby, rather than outside the cubicle looking at some children having a piss, I washed my hands and left.
Another time I was in a cubicle, this time have a wee. It was one of those filthy public toilets that appear to never be cleaned, with piss all over the floor and graffiti all over the cubicle walls. Out of curiosity I started to read the graffiti. Most of it was the usual moronic rubbish, but one piece of scrawled text in particular caught my eye:
"Be in here at 7pm on a Saturday to get fucked hard by a big hairy bear cock."
I knew for sure it was a Saturday. I nervously raise my watch to my eye-line to check the time. The dial reads... 19:00.
Suffice to say I got out of there pretty quickly, pushing past a tall, bearded fellow in biker gear as I made my exit.
So there we have it, my adventures with public toilets. Coincidentally the latter half of the previous sentence will be the title of my autobiography. Working title.
Monday, 20 June 2011
"People Who Shouldn't Be Allowed to Enjoy Music Concerts
The piece ends abruptly with the following quote on the next page:
"I'm not trying to ban fun. Just tightly regulate it."
Well it made me laugh at any rate.
Saturday, 11 June 2011
The first is about banks, naturally.
"I am convinced nobody knows everything about economy and finance. How could they? There are too many variables. Representing economy and finance in terms of figures and graphs is like trying to represent the universe in felt.
It is ridiculously complicated to even open a bank account: which kind of account, which bank, what kind of card, etc. And there is no transparency at all. You have no idea where your money actually is. Can't someone make banking open source?
Surely all most people use bank accounts for are convenient transfer of funds, cash withdrawals and somewhere secure to store their money. But we appear to be paying a very high price for convenience."
This is a piece about religion. It probably reads a little more controversially than I intended.
"I do not like to believe religion deliberately oppresses its followers. Religion was a mechanism used in the past to assert authority or enforce morality. Now we have government, education, prisons, courts, etc. Religion no longer seems relevant. But alas, it prevails. As does its nonsensical beliefs. `Don't eat pork` made sense when food could not be safely stored and cooked, and medicine was in its infancy. This is no longer an issue.
However, as it should be obvious to anyone, that is the most minor of issues. Abortion is the issue that most accurately displays the disparity between religious edicts and modern wisdom. The woman's right to choose to have an abortion is fundamental for any civilised society. And yet religion calls it murder. This kind of backwards-thinking can only hold a progressive society back."
Those are the two least crazy-sounding one's. I will post more when I get the chance.
Sunday, 22 May 2011
So one day I was at home, no doubt doing something incredibly important and time consuming, something during which I could not be interrupted - for fear of my concentration being broken and all of my effort would be wasted. Whatever it was, it must have been urgent, and time consuming. Probably.
Just imagine those are a pair of male hands. And the hand cream is completely organic - and yet somehow man-made.
Unfortunately there was an interruption to my incredibly significant work - the doorbell. As I am sure you can appreciate by now - I did not want to be disturbed. However I had no choice but to run downstairs and answer the door. There I was greeted by two middle-aged women, one standing about a foot in front of the other. The woman closest to me then asked me the question that they had clearly said many times before: "have you discovered the glory of our Lord, Jesus Christ?"
"Well this may take a while."
At first I was tempted to say: "who?" Why is it that Christians seem to recruit people by asking about Jesus, as if there are some people in the Western world who legitimately would have no idea what a Jesus is? Don't get me wrong - I am not bashing Christianity. I have met Christians whose lives are better because of their religion. But the problem is that, when they come door-to-door, they do tend to... go on a bit. I stood there, trying to think of the quickest way to get them off the doorstep. You see if you just say you're an atheist they take that as an opportunity to convert you. It gives them a target to hit. I was racking by brain, desperately trying to come up with something when I had... an epiphany of sorts. It was so simple. Why had I never thought of it before? A pleasant smile spread across my face as I said the lie that would ensure they would quickly leave:
"I am Jewish."
It really would have helped if I had looked like this at the time.
I really thought this was a stroke of genius on my part. Jewish people do not embrace Jesus as the messiah - surely these Jehovah's Witnesses could not believe that they could reverse the beliefs handed down over thousands of years? Surely nobody is that insensitive? That misguided? The reactions to my statement from the two women were interesting. The woman furthest from me looked at me as if I had just said: "sorry, would you mind coming back a bit later? I'm feasting on the innards of infants at the moment."
Maybe I shouldn't have answered the door like this.
The woman closest to me took longer to formulate a response. She seemed to be turning things over in her mind, trying to decide if she should persist or just walk away. "Oh. Erm. Well... I suppose there are some similarities..." What?! I could not believe she was seriously going to try to convince me a (for all she knew) devoutly Jewish young man to get off the Jew train and ride on the Jesus Express. It is actually deeply offensive. Perhaps not as offensive as pretending to be Jewish just so you don't have to talk to Jehovah's Witnesses, but still pretty bad. I was about now that I realised how misguided my lie may have been. Not only am I not Jewish, I know very little about the religion - despite what I had seen on TV and in films. I was stuck. She then started to outline the Christian beliefs to me, and my sense of politeness forced me to just nod along and pretend to be interested. "You see, we believe that Jesus is the son of God and died for our sins." "Oh, sure."
"I'm sorry, could you please go over who exactly killed Christ? Thanks."
After a while she stopped and said to me: "You know it is so great to see a young man with faith. Can I ask you what you call God?" I still don't know what word Jewish people use for God. I had to cover. "Oh, I just say 'God', to make things easier for my non-Jewish friends." "Do you usually where a skull cap? It's just I notice you aren't wearing one now." "Err, well mine's in the wash. But I always where it to temple. I don't wear it all the time. It keeps slipping off." You might be able to tell by this time I was getting a bit desperate.
I guess I must have lost the clip? Or something like that.
"So are your whole family Jewish?" Now I started to think if they talk to anyone else in my family, and they figure out that they aren't Jewish they will know I was lying. "Um, no. It's just me. My family are not practising. Just me. We're all Jewish but I am the only one who visits the synagogue." "Which synagogue do you go to?" My answer requires a little explaining. For reasons too convoluted to get into, a friend of mine had pretended to be Jewish (so there is something of a track record when it comes to falsifying faith) and had also been asked to which he went synagogue. He just replied "the one in Romford" - having no idea if there was one. Apparently there is, not that I have ever seen it. So I just copied his answer. "Oh yes, I know the one." Good job she did, because I didn't. "There's a Jewish festival coming up soon, isn't there?" "Oh, yeah I think you're right. I'd completely forgotten about that, I had better start getting ready for... it." As unconvincing as my blagging seems now apparently she completely bought it.
I could make a joke about how Christians are quite easy to fool but that would just be mean.
Finally she gave me some pamphlets and left. Now let's follow this thought process through. Either she really did respect the fact that I was(n't) Jewish, and decided to have an earnest discussion about the differences about our faiths - or she thought that by explaining how great Christianity is she might be able to convert a young Jewish man to Christianity. Does that seem likely? I mean really, how many Jewish people are going to go back on everything they believe and suddenly say "actually, yeah, Christ is the messiah"?
To be fair that group is in the US. The parameters for 'crazy' are way more strictly defined over there.
So that's what happened to me. In the end it could have gone a lot worse - or possibly better - if I had gone with my original idea. To tell them I was a Satanist.