Thursday, 30 July 2009

Atheist Camp

The Atheist movement seems to be really picking up recently what with the bus campaign, a plethora of anti-religion books and now a summer camp for children which offers a 'godless' alternative to the usual camps where the kids sing hymns and discuss God.
As an atheist myself, i should be cheering and backing the way that God is being pushed back to the fringes but aren't we becoming just as bad as the religious people we condemn in the way we try and shove our beliefs, or lack of them, down the throat of everyone?
The biggest complaint i hear about the religious is the way they 'brainwash' their kids into their way of thinking but to me this is exactly what these Atheist summer camps are designed to do.
Why should it be about religion at all? Why not just have camps that let the kids climb trees and sleep in tents without making it about forcing them into deciding about whether there is a God or not.
You can't expect a pre-teen to take in arguments for or against religion. All they want to do is run around in a big field, yelling, getting muddy and having fun.
That's the sort of camp kids want, not being browbeaten into thinking about things kids have no place even considering until they are mature enough to decide these things for themselves without a parent or camp leader trying to decide it for them.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Britains 'London' Olympics

The starting pistol has sounded and the very long countdown to the 2012 Olympics is on.
'Exactly three years to the day' blathered the excited Olympic committee member at the site of where the equestrian arena will one day stand.
Everyone outside of London sighed, mumbled something about not giving a monkeys and switched the television over.
The truth is, it is the London Olympics and outside of the capital you won't find many people wetting themselves in excitement and crossing off the days as the London based media are.
In a subtle change of tact, they are now calling it the British Olympics to try and drum up some enthusiasm and to stop the growing rumblings as the money dried up and our taxes and lottery funding is diverted away from projects in other cities and handed over to London.
The absolute guarantee that we could do it for £2bn has become £9bn but i'm sure that the youth club that had to close down through lack of funding in Grimsby can be proud to know that instead they will be building a posh new weight lifting arena in Stratford.
The Government have said that they want the London Olympics to be a totally inclusive experience for the people of Britain. Particularly when it comes to paying for it.
Maybe my enthusiasm will grow as the time draws nearer but as i don't live in London and my city is not going to benefit from the 2012 Olympics, i don't really care at the moment.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Happy Birthday Slash

Throughout musical history there have been musicians who either look the part but have the talent of a door handle or look like a geography teacher but have the ability to astound with their genius.
The likes of Sid Vicious and Cyndi Lauper fall into the former grouping with people like Eric Clapton and Karen Carpenter in the latter camp.
There is also a cluster of musicians with no talent and an image so uncool that they should wear asbestos underpants. Take a bow Rod Stewart and Phil Collins and then take a hike.
Like vampire slayers, in every generation there is one who will stand against the evil forces of Mariah Carey and Justin Timberlake. Our generation, we have the guitarist Slash who is 45 today and scientifically proven to be the coolest man in music. Probably.
The hat. The shirtless torso. The tight trousers. The ever-present cigarette dangling out from between that mop of hair in that way that always made you wonder how he didn't set himself on fire.
As for his guitar playing, anyone who has ever picked up a guitar, real or air, will have pretended to be him. It is impossible to watch him playing guitar outside the chapel in the video to November Rain and not feel the urge to stick a Bensons in your mouth, jump onto the coffee table clutching a tennis racquet and scream 'waaanng waaaang wannnnnnnng' as you pluck the strings. Maybe that's just me though.
Best guitarist ever? Arguably. Coolest man in music? Undoubtedly. Dead before he's 50? More than likely.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Is The Honeymoon Over For Obama?

A set of polls by the Associated Press-GfK, ABC News and the Washington Post appear to show that a growing number of Americans are unsatisfied with the Presidency of Barack Obama.
His approval rating has fallen below 60% for the first time although his 55% approval rating is better than Bill Clinton and just below that of George W Bush six months into their presidencies.
An obvious reason would be the economy which is tanking and showing no signs of picking up.
What internal policies he has bought in i am not aware of enough to comment but the Universal Health System he is pushing seems to split opinion.
As for us over here, his pre-election stand on Israel was where people i know began to question him and his decision to escalate the Afghanistan War and take it to Pakistan was a horrific blunder that is in danger of exploding in his face.
The real problem for Obama was the hysterical over-reaction and hype his election victory bought. The expectations of not just Americans, but the whole World, after the disaster of George W Bush, was unsustainable and the bar was placed far too high.
We have the recent example of Tony Blair who came to the post with the highest approval rating ever after the 1997 election on the back of a widely loathed former Government. The fresh faced Blair promised much but delivered very little and was finally removed prematurely from the post with his approval rating bottoming out at 26%, making him the most unpopular Labour Prime Minister ever and the third lowest ever from any party since records began.
Six months is a desperately short time in which to assess anyone in power but at the moment Obama is on the same trajectory although it remains to be seen if he turns out to be the silver tongued incompetent that Tony Blair was exposed as or if he can turn things around.
I just hope that he doesn't follow the tried and trusted formula of many world leaders of provoking a war to boost his standing. Hopefully that painful lesson has been well and truly heeded.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Jermaine Insulting Everyone

After the initial shock of the death of Michael Jackson, i have happily ignored the nonsense that came afterwards such as the laughably bad memorial and rubbish written about him which attempted to elevate him above the decent, but washed up, performer that he was.
One thing did catch my eye today though on the front page of a few of the newspapers.
A quote by Jermaine Jackson requesting that his brother isn't 'sharing the ground with other people who are not good human beings'. He explains that 'at those places they bury people who have done bad things in their life'.
Who are these bad people that Jermaine doesn't want his brother mixing with in death? The general public apparently.
Now i don't know what sort of people get interned at the Forest Lawn public cemetery in Los Angeles but they would have to be real bad guys to out do a man who not once, but twice, faced charges of child abuse and paid a $23m out of court settlement to one to drop the charges. The 2005 court case also revealed another child who received $2.4m hush money in 1990 from Jackson.
If i am being charitable i could make excuses about Jermaine's judgement being clouded by grief and put this insulting quote down to that but i think that he really does think that the public is bad and his brother was a saint. I seem to remember that the Jackson family had no problem taking the money from these 'bad people' when he was alive but shudder at the thought of them actually sharing space with him now that he's dead.
The question should be do the relatives of those buried at Forest Lawn want such a bad man buried with them.

Viva La Vesta Factory Protest

We have many things to admire about the French. Hmmm, let me try that again.
There are some things we have to admire the French for. One more go.
The one thing we have to admire the French for is their workers willingness to raise blue murder if they think they are being shafted.
News of redundancies have seen them occupying their places of work, kidnapping their bosses and in one case placing gas cylinders about the building and threatening to blow the place up if bosses didn't reconsider their plans. You have to admire that level of passion and it is good to see that the idea has caught on and these ideas have circulated to other workers who are doing the same thing.
Workers at the Vesta factory on the sleepy isle of Wight have tonight occupied their wind turbine factory amid demands that the Government intervene and nationalise if necessary, to save the 600 jobs which are to be moved out of the country.
Danish company Vestas is the world's biggest wind turbines maker, posting a 51% rise in 2008 operating profit and riding a surge in demand for renewable energy that saw an operating profit of £68m for the last quarter.
The workers want Gordon Brown to step in as if it was a troubled bank and save the jobs and keep making wind turbine blades. He handed the bankers hundreds of billions and threw billions more at the car industry so it will be interesting to see how keen he is to save these 600 on a island already facing above average unemployment.
Hope the protesters have plenty of food and water as they could be there for some time. Viva la IOW.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Booing Beckham

To mangle an old joke, what has LA Galaxy and Victoria Beckham got in common? They have both been screwed by David Beckham.
Now Mr Beckham is not the sharpest knife in the kitchen drawer, although by all accounts he is a very nice and decent person, but even he must have realised that what he did to LA Galaxy with his extended stint with Italian's AC Milan, would not go down well with the Galaxy supporters.
He has been booed and banners calling him Judas and telling him to go home (as if we want him, he's past it)have been waved at him by his own fans in his first few games back and that's perfectly understandable.
The infrequent goal scorer, Emmanuel Adebayor, at my team suffered the same fate for just thinking of moving elsewhere last season and the treatment handed out to any player who returns to his former club is unforgiving.
Just shows that football fans are the same the World over and Beckham making comments about how Milan is the ideal place to be a footballer and how hard he would find it to go back to LA Galaxy must have really pleased the fans of the team he signed a five-year deal worth £128m in 2007.
I don't know what the fans in the stand were shouting at him during the friendly with AC Milan yesterday, he said that they went beyond football so a fair guess would be that they somehow involved his wife, but to attempt to climb the fence to confront the morons has pretty much sealed his fate.
Most Europeans football fans do have a patronising view of American football but the yanks know when they have been conned and Beckham took them for fools and he must be the only person in the world who is surprised by the fans reaction.
I expect he will be searching a return to Europe now and will be looking for a team willing to pay crazy amounts for an overrated player of limited ability. As Manchester City just paid Arsenal £25m for Adebayor, they seem the obvious candidate and their fans obviously don't know when they are being conned.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Happy Birthday Brian May

Britain has span out a few of the Worlds top music makers throughout the years and we do seem to have a special talent for churning out excellent guitarists such as Slash, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton and Matthew Bellamy of Muse. Must be something in our water.
I have yet to hear anyone who can top Slash when it comes to bashing out a solo but Brian May came mighty close on the likes of Killer Queen and Don't stop me now.
Not that either claim the Lucy prize of best guitar solo in the history of the World, ever. I give that to Berton Averre of The Knack for the solo in My Sharona. If you have only ever heard the short edited version i recommend you go here, press play and move it onto around 2.35 and see what you have been missing.
Not that you expect to hear many thumpingly good guitar solos in Carpenters songs but i have always loved the ending of Goodbye to Love where the guitarist rips it up with a solo worthy of mention.
Anyway, Brian May. Great guitarist, not as good as Slash (whose birthday it is on the 23rd and i fully expect to eulogise here) but terrible hair.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Who Won?

With the 40th anniversary of the historic moon landings, there has been a considerable number of programmes concerning this and other achievements in space that us humans have performed.
Especially interesting is the notion of a 'space race' between the USA and the USSR.
Piecing together information from the many programmes the question begging to be asked is did America actually win the space race?
Sure they were the first country to put a man on the moon but prior to that magnificent achievement, it seems that it was the USSR that made the greatest strides.
First artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, first animal sent into orbit, first human in space, first woman in space, first spacewalk, first craft to reach the surface of the Moon, first to land a craft on Venus and Mars and the first space station.
If it was a race to the moon then obviously America takes the plaudits. If it was a race to push the boundaries of space exploration then the Soviets win hands down.
So, who really won the Space Race?

A Solution To Renewable Energy Question

It seems that most people are keen on renewable energy but the problem is nobody wants one of those big, ugly wind turbines in their back yard or solar panels fastened to their roofs. I can understand that and would probably kick up a fuss if i woke up to find one churning away just outside my kitchen window. At the moment the turbines are situated out of town in fields which doesn't go down too well with the country folk.
I have a solution which seems a bit too easy and there must be drawbacks i haven't considered because someone else must have thought of it before and decided against it for some reason.
Deserts cover almost a quarter of the earths land surface. Thousands and thousands of miles of nothing but sand and more sand just sitting there getting blown about.
This space isn't being used for anything and by nature a desert receives plenty of sunshine so why are we not building large scale solar panel farms there?
I'm sure that if we make a deal with the North African countries that the Sahara straddles, we could easily set up enough wind turbines and solar panels to satisfy Europe's power needs.
The Middle East is virtually all desert, more than enough redundant space there just begging to be filled by the means to create renewable energy.
Every continent has access to a vast desert so why are we bothering trying to shoehorn wind and solar farms into congested areas when we have a quarter of the planet, bathed in more sunshine than you could shake a stick at, just left empty?
The host countries get a cut, we get renewable energy that doesn't destroy the environment and the the only people who won't be happy will be the Nuclear bods, the OPEC countries and the bosses of the likes of Exxon and BP and they have been destroying the planet for decades.
All that available space that we are not doing anything with and it isn't as if we have it earmarked for anything else.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

2009 Predictions Revisited

As we are halfway through the year (sort of), time to look in at how our psychic pals at One World Psychics are performing with their predictions for 2009.
They said:

Kate Winslett to win best actress Oscar

An assassination attempt on Barack Obama X
Gordon Brown forced out of office and early election called X
A large number of C of E bishops convert to Catholicism X
Dam burst in Far East – maybe China X
Victoria Beckham pregnant X
Knife attack on a top celebrity X
Tsunami in Asia/earthquake in Malaysia X
Funerals for Bill Cosby & Robbie Williams and close call for Nicole Kidman X
Serious terrorist attack in UK and Germany X
Obama's wife in financial scandal X

They got Kate Winslett winning the best actress Oscar spot on but as far as i know Bill Cosby is still kicking around and Gordon Brown's ample rump is sitting in number 10 but we still have 5 months to go so they may be proved right yet.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Psychologists Give Red Light To Swear

As i have mentioned many times before here, i was a massive fan of the programme Buffy the Vampire Slayer and would happily argue with anyone that it was the best thing ever to appear on television. In the show were several British characters such as Spike and Wesley (actually both American but both spoke with perfect English accents), Drusilla (another American but her accent didn't fool anybody) and Giles and occasionally, to reinforce their Britishness they would swear like Brits using words that probably didn't raise any eyebrows in America but led to many 'he can't say that..' exclamations in our living room. The shows musical score composer, Thomas Wanker, also bought a few giggles from those of us with less mature senses of humour.
Now that the psychologists at Keele University have discovered that swearing is a form of pain relief, we have been given the red light to eff and jeff all we like as long as we say that it was in the act of relieving the agony of stubbing a toe, walking into a lamppost or tripping over the legs of a former Estate Agent laying destitute on the street.
It isn't very often that i pull out the big guns of swearing, preferring to stick to their softer and more acceptable cousins such as git and bugger although i do find a well timed 'bad' swearword to be very effective and in some circumstances, and from certain comedians, very funny.
There are some people who manage to cram in more swearwords than regular words into their sentences which isn't very pleasing to the ear but maybe they are constantly in pain, like having a Mariah Carey earworm because that has to be painful. I'd be swearing like a Trojan also if i got her warbling 'Without You' in my brain on a loop.
Now if only psychologists can find some way to excuse some of society's other shady areas such as men who wear their shirts outside their trousers. My hypothesis is that they are just being Thomas's.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

184 Flag Draped Coffins

It has been a deadly fortnight for British troops in Afghanistan with eight soldiers having died yesterday, taking the number killed in the region since 2001 to 184, surpassing the number of lives lost in the war in Iraq.
Rightly, albeit 8 years too late for my liking, people are starting to question just what are our boys and girls dying for?
We of course callously ignore the Afghan civilan casualties because their deaths are down the pecking order of who matters when the graves are being dug. Our 184 in 8 years is much more important it seems than the 2,118 innocent Afghans who died last year alone.
Gordon Brown has said that despite the losses and an "extraordinarily difficult" 10 days, we were succeeding in our objectives. Maybe we should start with what our objectives actually are.
Perhaps if we go back to the start we can get a clue.
Bin Laden's group, Al Qeauda, masterminded the Twin Tower attacks in 2001 and as he was being sheltered by the Afghan rulers, the Taliban, American sights turned in that direction. George W Bush gave them an ultimatum to hand him over or face the wrath of the US military. They refused, Bush invoked the NATO charter and in October 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom was launched. As of July 2009, it is still going.
So it seems that the entire adventure was to be back up for Americas removal of the Taliban as punishment for not handing over Osama Bin Laden. If they had 'coughed him up' as George W Bush said at the time, then America would step back and leave the Taliban in Government. We can assume that also meant turning a blind eye to the terrorist training camps, lack of human rights and poppy fields which became a justificiation afterwards.
So our objective was to engage upon a war of choice with Afghanistan in order to remove the Taliban from power and catch Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice.
The Taliban are out of power but still causing havoc in the country but as Iraq showed, we have no problem with leaving the citizens of the country we invaded to it's fate in the face of murderous terrorists, almost 350 Iraqi civilians died at the hands of Al Queada last month but we seem happy to call that a success.
So, we still have no answer to why exactly we are there and why, despite the evidence that it is spreading and destabilising neighbouring countries and actually increasing hatred against the West, we continue with this unwinnable debacle.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Finding A New Role For Men

Things used to be so simple for men. Their primary role in life was to parallel park the car for us, open jars, reach for things on high shelves and dispense sperm at the convenient time.
At a squeeze, us ladies could do most of these things for ourselves but the access to sperm was always going to be tricky. Until now.
A team of British scientists have created human sperm using embryonic stem cells, which means that the main role of men has now been made redundant.
Before the male of the species get all depressed and question the point of their existence, we need to find a role that is exclusively male. Something that women or machines can't do although i am struggling to think of when a need to pee standing up will be of any use to society.
Their greater strength does come in handy to carry those bags when we have bought more than we can manage and their ability to reverse into parking spaces without having to visit a panel beater afterwards is very useful.
I'm sure that if we think hard enough and long enough we could come up with something only a man can do but while we do that, would you mind stirring my coffee for me.
Hang about...i think i've cracked it.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Михаил Горбачёв aka Gorby

The Obama roadshow rolls into Russia and it's good to see Mikhail Gorbachev back on the scene because i always had a bit of a soft spot for the last ever Soviet leader.
It always seemed to me that the whole Soviet Union break up thing was a situation that kind of got away from him and before he realised what was happening, it had snowballed and he had done himself out of a job.
He has to take the credit of meeting up with the acrimonious Ronald Reagan and his equally odious sidekick Margaret Thatcher at summit conferences and playing a major part in ending the Cold War as well as introducing the policies of Perestroika and Glasnost to the Soviet Union.
These new freedoms in Russia quickly led to a string of revolutions within the Soviet republics and Eastern Europe throughout 1989 as the Soviet grip over Eastern Europe loosened and effectively ended the Cold War.
It may have earned Gorbachev the Nobel Peace Prize but as the USSR crumbled, his powers were transferred to Russian President Boris Yeltsin and he had little choice but to dissolve the Soviet Union.
I guess history will show that it was his plan all along but i'm not so sure it was. I was always left with the impression as he tried unsuccessfully to scramble around to keep the imploding USSR together, events just overtook him and as he cleared his desk that final day in 1991, he would have looked around and thought 'How the hell did this happen?'

Ronnie Biggs Was Doing Time, Until He Done A Bunk

Every couple of years a Ronald Biggs health scare prompts calls for the train robbers release from Prison and although i feel that i should support it, i really don't.
Yes he is an old man of 79 with failing health but he isn't some innocent citizen wronged by the justice system.
He, along with other gang members, stole £2.6 million from a mail train. After being convicted and sentenced to 30 years, he escaped from HM Prison Wandsworth after a year of his sentence and fled to Spain, Australia and then Brazil.
As Biggs could not be sent back home because the UK had no extradition agreement with Brazil, he was able to brazenly live it up with his ill gotten gains for the next three decades, sticking two finger's up at us from the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
It was only 36 years later,when the money ran out and he could no longer afford his health care in Brazil that he announced that he would be willing to return to the UK and suffer the consequences.
Sent back to prison in 2001, he immediately petitioned for an early release on compassionate grounds based on his poor health and to be released into his sons care for his remaining days. It was denied.
In 2005 his lawyers again sought his release on grounds of compassion, saying that their client's death was imminent. Again it was denied.
He was still hanging around in 2007 when he asked to be released to die with his family pleading that 'I am an old man and often wonder if I truly deserve the extent of my punishment. After all, I only stole 2.6 million pounds and watched while an innocent man was beaten to pulp with an iron bar - not that serious'.
Now he has pneumonia and his son has sent pictures of a frail looking Biggs in a hospital bed to every member of Parliament with a note stating that Biggs is not much longer for this World yet again and should be released.
My feeling is that if he had not run out of money then he would still be in Brazil flicking us the finger and laughing it up how he had escaped justice so i'm siding with Justice Secretary Jack Straw who rejected a parole board recommendation that Biggs be released. Leave him in there.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Buzzing For Jesus, Buddha And The Rest

There are not many game shows i would like to participate in but the one being made in Turkey sounds like something i would love to be part of.
The idea behind the show is for 10 atheists to be set upon by a Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a Jewish rabbi and a Buddhist monk who will try and convert them with the prize for converts a pilgrimage to a holy site of their chosen religion.
Now i consider myself an Atheist and nonconvertible by whichever religious group decide to bend my ear about being the one true religion and as much as i enjoy hearing them try, i have not yet heard that killer answer to my questions that makes me want to take religion seriously.
Not that i am one of those Atheist's that berate people for their beliefs, despite my thoughts on God, it does bring comfort to many and who am i to try and deny them that.
Back at the game show, the winner is whichever Atheist is converted first and depending upon which denomination succeeds, they win a trip to Mecca, the Vatican, Jerusalem or Tibet.
I don't know about any of these religions but Saudi Arabia and Israel don't appeal, China i might consider but i would suffer Catholicism for an all expenses trip to Italy. I'd even listen to the bloke with the funny hat mumbling from his balcony for a hour or so as long as i didn't have to actually meet the horrid little man.
If they ever make the show in the UK, i would love to be a contestant but they would need to find some more religions from better countries. Hasn't any religious headliners ever come from Canada?

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Aye Eye Tony

We all know that Tony Blair was one of the most disliked men to ever live in number 10 and it is understandable that during his time in office he ticked off a lot of people but who would want to give him a black eye? I would suggest forming an orderly queue but it would be quicker to ask who didn't want to give him a black eye.
The official answer to the question about Blair's shiner is that he 'did it in the gym' but whacking himself in the face with the handle of the bull worker is just too easy.
Just for a change, let's believe what the former PM is saying and take him at his word that he is just a clumsy bugger who shouldn't be allowed around gym equipment without adult supervision. Then let's hope that he turned up at a NHS hospital for treatment, one that had been forced to close wards, cut staff or cancel operations due to underfunding.
"Mr Blair is in Room 4 Stan. Better call a surgeon to remove my boot from where i just put it".
The man briefed with the task of bringing peace to the middle east after doing so much to bring war to it, was at an award ceremony receiving a medal for his contribution to British relations with India. Maybe not his parties contribution to the passport office on behalf of the dodgy arms trading billionaire Hinduja brothers especially but it will look good on his CV, just below the deleted details of the medal he received from George W Bush for being his staunch and steadfast ally.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Michael Jackson Conspiracy Theory

Marilyn Monroe was killed by the CIA, John Lennon was shot by Stephen King, Elvis is alive and well and Princess Diana was murdered by Prince Philip. You just have to love a conspiracy theory and Michael Jackson joins the list of celebrities whose death is maybe not all it seems.
The general thinking among the people who generally think along these lines, is that the singer faked his death due to legal and financial worries and to escape his celebrity.
Evidence is the video of his body being taken by helicopter to the Coroners Office where the body is supposedly seen to move.
Another theory is that he actually died years ago and what we have seen ever since was a Jackson impersonator.
It's a shame that we can't just let him rest and remember all the good times that Michael Jackson brought us.
Admittedly, there hasn't been any since 1983 and his Thriller Album and to anyone under 25 he was the weird and creepy guy who paid off the family of one of the children he was accused of sexually abusing and dangled his own child over a balcony but there was much more to him than that. He gave us the moonwalk, hung around with a chimpanzee called Bubbles and was a walking advert for not having plastic surgery.
Still, he made zombies cool again.