Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A carpet of white dung

It says something about the clemency of our recent winters when we get a cold snap and a bit of snow in January and everyone seems surprised. Is it global warming? Perhaps. Whatever the root cause, winter has definitely changed in this country over the last ten years or so. I remember when a British winter meant freezing your tits off for a couple of months. Snow was guaranteed every year. Real snow, mind: deep enough that you couldn't see your cat when it was in the garden. Cold enough to freeze pipes and shut schools. Ah, them were the days. Nowadays we get half an inch of snowfall overnight that simply turns to grey sludge by 8am.

That suits me though, because I hate the stuff. Oh, it looks nice, but having to negotiate it is a massive pain in the backside. So let the milder winters continue. Climate change has its drawbacks, but at least there's less danger of slipping flat on your face on the way to work.

Update: The Onion, as ever, is also on the case.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Goody: bad and ugly

For the second year running, Celebrity Big Brother has become a major news story. Last year it was George Galloway wearing a leotard and showing everyone what a pussy he is. This year it’s about the alleged bullying (considered by many to be of a racist nature) of Indian contestant Shilpa Shetty by fellow ‘celebrity’ Jade Goody and her pack of baying bitches. It’s everywhere: it was the lead news item on the austere Radio 4, questions have been asked in the Commons, David Cameron has denounced the show, so too has Tony Blair. Meanwhile, Gordon Brown, currently in India, has found himself fielding questions on issues of race in modern Britain (Shetty is a huge film star in her home country). Cue much soul searching in the media : ‘is there a problem with racism in this country?’, ‘what does this say about our attitudes to race?’, etc, etc.

To which the answers are: (1) no, not especially, no more than anywhere else in the world anyway and (2) it says that most people are intolerant of victimising someone because of their racial origin, or being derogatory about their race/nationality . So if anything, the whole grisly affair confirms that we do not like racists or bullies. And racist bullies are a real no-no. We Brits are famous for supporting the underdog, and I would not be surprised if Shetty wins. It seems certain that Goody will be evicted tonight, most likely to a chorus of boos. The bully shall be banished. Then perhaps the guilty introspection can end and we can all get on with our lives again.

Actually, the astonishing backlash against Jade Goody over the last week has served as something of a collective national ablution. At long last, perhaps we can be rid of this woman once and for all. The manner in which she shot to fame and fortune was little short of depressing: let’s be frank, it was for nothing more than being a colossal ignoramus on national television. Now it seems she has reached the end of the line, sacrificed by the very programme that created her. It’s an ending worthy of Shakespeare.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fundamentalists on the march

It’s always heartening to see a group of religious warriors – walking testaments to their God’s message of love, peace and tolerance, remember – up in arms lest a law be passed that would forbid them from discriminating against anyone whose lifestyle might 'offend' their 'beliefs'. They feel that a new law designed to forbid businesses from discriminating against homosexuals forces them to compromise their deeply held religious convictions. Well, if your deeply held religious convictions are little more than a excuse for deep seated bigotry then good. Bollocks to your convictions, quite frankly. In reality, the people demonstrating outside Parliament were fighting for the right to uphold prejudices held together by the flimsy notion that their beliefs stipulate that they are entitled – nay, required - to do so. Bummery = badness. Because it says so in the Bible. Oh, the Bible. The fucking Bible.

{Sigh}. Do we really have to go through this conversation again? Do we? Really? Yes, I suppose we do.

'Back The Bible' said one of the placards held up at the march. "I’m concerned that the Biblical laws should be upheld," said Ralph Brockman, a Baptist from London. "Christians... cannot and must not be forced to actively condone and promote sexual practices which the Bible teaches are wrong," said Thomas Cordrey of the Lawyer's Christian Fellowship. You're not being asked to, Tom. The purpose of the law is to ensure equality for everyone, in much the same way that it is rightly illegal to put up a sign saying 'No Blacks' in a restaurant window. The law is upholding the right of everyone to be treated in the same way, regardless of their sexuality which, for the record, is none of your concern, whatever the Bible might tell you.

This idea of strict adherence to the teachings of the Bible is an interesting proposition though, considering the mass of contradictions, anachronisms and downright gibberish contained therein. The long-departed Realist covered some of this ground many moons ago with this piece about the deranged ramblings to be found in Leviticus and some of the surreal commandments it contains. I was reminded recently of this classic viral email that did the rounds several years ago, wherein an anonymous correspondent wrote an open letter to 'Doctor' Laura Schlessinger, a conservative talk radio host in the USA, famous for dispensing 'no nonsense' advice to her callers. An outspoken critic of all of society's ills such as sex outside of marriage, contraception and (gasp) homosexuality, she has been known to invoke the Old Testament as a common sense guide for living.

I reproduce here the letter in its entirety. It's very funny. Even if you've seen it before, it is well worth reading again and could just as pertinently be posed to those marching religious fundamentalists who would have us live our lives according to the values of the stone age.
Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.

Genius. Right, I'm off to continue reading Richard Dawkins' brilliant treatise on atheism The God Delusion. It should be made compulsory reading in every school in the land.

And we're back!

So, back to crushing reality then. Once more, we land headfirst in the cold, dark, featureless barren wasteland that is January. It's just awful. But you've got to laugh, haven't you?

The review of 2006 isn't going to happen now. It's too daunting a task, and I've forgotten everything that happened last year anyway. Let us press onwards.

P.S. For those who've been itching to know, The Liberal Elite Twat Of The Year Award for 2006 goes to..... George Galloway. Again. Who else was it ever going to be? For those of a betting nature, he's already looking a dead cert for 2007 too. Not that he's been in the news yet, but he will be. He will be.