24 July 2008

Choosing My Religion

Not much I can say about the Some Grey Bloke animations. Brilliant. Enjoy! Would appreciate it if you could share your views.

23 July 2008

The Belief in Astrology

Why do people who don't believe in god or gods choose to state their 'astrological sign' and 'zodiac year'? "Oh, I'm a true Capricorn' or 'I was born in the year of the rat'. 

These systems are so discredited as bogus it is just not funny. Yet people believe them. There's a whole industry out there raking in shed-loads of money on a daily basis and what are they actually giving people? Fabricated rubbish. And still people believe it.

If you want evidence of where we are going with this then read this article from the Telegraph newspaper (a UK daily high-end newspaper):

Can astrology really help predict the direction of financial markets? Danny Penman talks to two business people who believe the answer is yes.
Christeen Skinner blinks at the screen of her computer and takes another slurp of coffee. It is half past seven in the morning and she's preparing for a crucial meeting with the chief executive of the High and Mighty fashion chain.  
Apart from the black cat dozing on her lap, the only clue to Skinner's occupation as an astrologer is a copy of an ephemeris - a table of the predicted positions of celestial bodies - that lies open at a page marked "Mercury March 25th".
"The financial crisis has ensured that I'm busier than ever," says Skinner. "People in the City need to know what is just around the corner. I can help with that."
Skinner is one of a growing, albeit secretive, network of astrologers who work for seemingly conservative British institutions such as high street banks, City investment funds and retailers. Desperate to avoid financial meltdown and to spot fashions and consumer trends before they start, these institutions have turned to the planets to divine the future.
[Read the complete article here]

Okay, you are entitled to believe what you want and spend your money how you choose, but do you really believe it? Are you happy that financial institutions are playing the money markets with your money based on these bogus ideas?

I had a friend who was a hard-core non-believer, he dropped out of his degree course, focused on being an artist, spent time reading, watching lots of television, being a free agent with multiple partners (who all knew his philosophy on monogamy - not for him) and was a general sharp-thinking, deep, truly funny man. We hadn't seen each other for a while and after meeting up again he came to spend the weekend with myself and my partner at the time. 

The first morning he trotted off the the local shops for his newspaper the Daily Mail.  He returned and the first thing he did was read his horoscope for the day - three times - out loud. We had a discussion about horoscopes and he revealed that he cannot do anything major for the day without reading his horoscopes. Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather!  I sort of stumbled and stuttered into a conversation as if I had just been told he was a serial murderer. I suddenly saw him through different eyes. My friend was confident and bold and didn't care what people thought about how he lived his life or his dress sense, yet couldn't do anything meaningful with his day until he had read his horoscopes. 

Being a frank person and him being a true friend I just had to try and understand what was going on with him that he felt the need to cling onto his horoscopes. The Daily Mail?- Jonathan Cainer? Awful, nasty tabloid junk with horoscopes thrown in. I didn't labour my thoughts too much as we still had a great weekend but it certainly caught me off guard. 

Do you believe in them and if so why? Are you like my friend and have to read them each day before you start your day? Do you take their 'advice' and alter the decisions you make based on their predictions? I know some people who get them sent via text to their mobile phones and actually pay money, hard-cash, for the service.

I suppose you can be atheist and still believe in astrology and such like but it just doesn't fit well with me somehow....

18 July 2008

The American Way Photograph

I saw this image and suddenly ceased being distracted by the multiple windows I tend to have open on my computer, darting from one interest to another - emails, blog, entrecard, word, etc.

This caught my eye.

So many questions ran through my mind. Who were these people? What were they queueing for? What year was it? I could hazard a guess at the decade, probably. It seems post-war. If you click on the image, really look at each and every person, their expressions. The woman with the basket held my attention. The bitter irony of their experiences and hopes contrasting with the happy-jolly billboard. 

Do you know who took this photograph, why and when? What are these people waiting for?

17 July 2008

What's the Point of Tattoos?

This is going to be short. Tattoos. Why? 

Dark-skinned black people and tattoos. Some designs you can hardly see. What's the point?

What happens to your tattooed skin as you reach say, 85?

Maybe it's just me...I'm just asking!!!

13 July 2008

The Politics of Black Hair

Have you ever visited a hair salon for your appointment at 9am and left after 10pm? I have.There are so many black women who will understand and have direct experience of the long delays sometimes encountered at the hands of hairdressers.
It got me thinking about the amount of money and effort we put into getting our hair styles just so. Is black hair political? Does the number of entertainers pushed into view at every occasion with weaves, wigs, straightened hair, blonde/blond hair and anything else which doesn't 'look black' mean that we have lost our way? Is there a reason, some sinister reason why these role models are propped up for us to emulate? Or are they just a sign that people want to try different styles and enjoy playing around with their hair?
The so-called 'Afro' hairstyle was used as a symbol of African-Americans and some other oppressed black people utilising, some would say reclaiming, the right to wear their hair without being ashamed of the texture and look of natural hair.
This is interesting to me as I have been one of those people who have gone through various stages with my hair: natural hair, perms (or jheri curls), hair straightening creams, hot comb pressing and dreadlocks. I haven't had a weave added to my head as I somehow didn't like the idea of bits of hair being sewn onto mine and I have never been blonde. I have seen examples of all, except natural hair, causing severe and lasting damage to black women's scalps. Why do we do this?
I think women, not just black women, spend far too much time fussing about hair. You could go to an upmarket hairdressing salon and walk away with a new hairstyle and your purse $400.00 lighter. Crazy!
Pick up your average women's magazine at random and note how many hair products are for sale. Note the number of 'paid-per-post' type articles included in the publication which focus on hair. Hair is money. Hair is big money! From the few cents women in poverty stricken countries will receive from selling their waist-length hair to Beyonce shaking her thang in her new $6,000 wig at some glittery award ceremony. Think Cher. Think Hollywood - they are all buying some.
Plus there is the fact that it does take up some of your time to keep your hair looking pristine and polished. Not being a pristine and polished person it boils down very much for me that I cannot be bothered! I want to find the style that is the easiest and quickest to deal with. No plaiting it up into small plaits for 2 hours each evening, no spending 1/2 hour in the bathroom stuck in front of the mirror styling it just so. No rollers, or curlers, or hot combs, or super-cleansing-deep-cleaning-steamroller business. Frankly, I don't care to make the time!
I actually love natural black hair. I am always pleased when I see someone sporting styles which have not been whipped into submission by the current trends. (It's a bit like how I feel when I see a woman who doesn't shave her armpits or her legs.) But why should hair be such a big thing? Has the idea of black hair being ugly permeated so deeply into the psyche of the children raised by parents who lived through systems designed and committed to the denigration of certain sections of society - them? Is it better to power-bleach your hair into a straw-like texture, damage it beyond recognition and ensure you spend hours with your (obviously) beloved hairdresser, just to enable you to conform and minimise your natural features? I'm straying into other areas here, but do you get my point?
I read recently that in corporate America it is not the done thing to wear your hair natural. Somehow it is seen as a threat. Why? Why would how someone wears their hair cause friction in the workplace? If a competent, hard-working man wore dreadlocks, why would he be seen in a more negative light than if he had a crew cut and fade? - regardless of his race!??
Hair is political but it shouldn't be. Maybe because humans feel the need to conform and anyone who steps outside of the rules set by a particular group is seen to threaten the stability of the group as a whole. What are your thoughts about natural black hair?

11 July 2008


Forgiving someone can be the hardest thing. How do you forgive someone who has caused permanent harm to yourself or others you care about? This is a question I am mulling over at the moment. It is too easy to shout and scream and plan all forms of retaliatory action against the perpetrators of your pain, but it is much harder and the wisest course of action to try and analyse why someone has behaved the way they have. 

You may know someone who deserves severe punishment for what they have done. The pain and harm they have inflicted on you or your loved ones - but my question is: How does that change things? So we inject them with lethal, toxic doses, hang them, pulse thousands of volts of electricity through their bodies, arrange for a vigilante group to sneak into their homes at night and violently assault them until they are almost dead...

Then what? The next person who commits a heinous crime, we then do the same thing to them. And then what? What has actually changed? Not much, if anything, would be my guess. 

It is easy to be angry at a person for their misdeeds but much more difficult to critically analyse our most basic structures, environments, social settings, etc. and attempt to understand how these conditions could have arisen.

If I consider which is truly the best route for me it would have to be the forgiveness route. A route which has longer term benefits for all and enables me to move forward with my life without being engulfed by someone else's behaviour. I want to be free to enable my heart to make space for all the wonderful experiences ahead. A space which could be filled be poison from pain, fear and loathing.

I am not a theist and so do not cling to a belief system which states 'they will be dealt with on judgement day' or some such. As a scientific naturalist my focus is on trying to understand why circumstances arise and what can we, as parts of our various societies and groups, do to understand and proactively make this world a better place.

I choose to free my mind - even when the chips are down. If I fall or falter in this goal I try my hardest to rise, dust myself off and try again. So true. So my choice is to forgive as I would like people to forgive me. In any case, in the whole scheme of things, when looking at the pale blue dot called earth we really are nothing special at all - so why waste time plotting and planning to inflict pain and suffering on others when our time here is fleeting?

What do you think?

08 July 2008

The Worst Way to Monetize Your Blog

I enjoy blogging. I think the blog medium is a great way to share views across the globe. Since I started on this adventure I have learnt so much about other people and myself. Yet there is one thing that really bugs me.

Reading a really interesting post and then it slowly dawns on you that someone, in the middle of telling you about their experiences, is flogging a product. 'Pay-Per-Post', 'Sponsored Post' or any other name for the same thing. Usually the story they are trying to wrap around and tie into this product just doesn't ring true. 

I think it is disingenuous and quite insulting to your readers to have those sponsored posts slap bang in the midst of some excellent writing and it does you the blog host no favours. I find myself drifting slowly away from those who do that. Of course, it makes money - but at what cost? Is it worth it? I have no objections about monetizing blogs as blogging is not always easy and time is money but there are so many other ways to monetize. 

I know that overall the financial outlook means one has to get smart and look for new avenues to earn money but is this really the best way?

Maybe it's just me but does it bug you? Maybe you do write them and have increased your readership and revenue so significantly that you write them regularly? 

05 July 2008

'Church Going'

Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence,
Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new-
Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
"Here endeth" much more loudly than I'd meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognizable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation ?marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these ?for whom was built
This special shell? For, though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

Philip Larkin (b.1922 - d.1985)

03 July 2008

Women and Religion

I recently had a conversation with a friend and at the root of the discussion was the question: Why are women so susceptible to supernatural dogma?

The answer may lie in the fact that so many women feel disempowered in societies where religion and other forms of the supernatural are promoted.

Women are usually at the bottom of the 'pecking order': white men, black men, white women, black women/'women of colour' (as a crude example), in that order. Professional religious promoters usually target women who, naturally and usually, have the responsibility of bearing and raising children from birth. 'If you educate a woman you educate a nation' is a saying which illustrates just how important it is to capture the minds and hearts of women as the social and moral constructs of the society encourage women to indoctrinate their own offspring. Women teach at the breast, sing religious lullabies, pray, read religious texts.

I travelled on the bus the other day and a young child, no more than three years old, sat on his mothers lap behind me and started singing a beautiful tune in my ear. I was mesmerised as his sweet voice softly wafted around me. I really enjoy hearing young children singing - it signifies happiness for me. I suddenly caught the actual words:
''Jesus is my love, my light and my Saviour, and I know he loves me...'' sung over and over again.
Whilst he continued singing the same refrain it made me think about where and how he learned this song. Was this through the church his family attended? His parents, grandparents? What else did they teach him about 'god' and 'Jesus'? Why not share fun songs, play/learn fun songs which are appropriate for a child of this age?
I suddenly felt a swathe of despair hit me as I considered the plight of young children around the world who were being abused and indoctrinated in this way.
As he finished his tune he clapped his hands and his mother kissed him audibly and spoke some loving words to him. She was praising him. She then began singing the same song back to him.
Women are being used to continue traditions which are detrimental to humans. In the black churches the norm is to have clear hierarchical structures with women knowing their place. They clean the churches, arrange flowers, cook food, serve the congregations and ensure the children are behaving themselves. In some of the 'jump-up' churches women swoon and throw themselves on the floor, getting 'in spirit', speaking and screaming 'in tongues' - visibly devout Christians.
Women coerce their children to pray before meals and kneel and pray at bedtime to 'god'. Women buy and read children's' bibles to their young. Women are a necessary, essential part of the promotion of dogma. Women pass on the distorted, damaged baton to their children. And the cycle continues.
Islam is in the same bag. I'm actually talking about all religions, (including the as deluded Rastafarians) - they all operate on passing on a virus. That's how they have grown and evolved. Unfortunately along with ignorance of our world we have inherited a fear of women, fear of ourselves. Women are taught to be considered unclean whilst menstruating and some animists, voodoo believers see that as a time when a women has 'strong powers'. All total crap to somehow differentiate themselves from the other supernaturalists. You will notice that they all try and seperate themselves from each other, except when they have rational, freethinking people in their midst? Watch. They cling together like limpets.
In all of that the role of women hasn't changed much. Same old, same old.