Archive for the 'General' Category

Pakistan in floods of tears

August 17th, 2010

Before the floods, what images came to mind when you thought of Pakistan?

None of us is immune to prejudice. Our views are often coloured by the sensationalist broad-strokes that the mainstream media tend to make. I am not immune to unconscious prejudice, even though my own prejudices offend me when I drag them out into the light.

I have noticed, particularly on Facebook, a deafening silence when it came to collecting donations to aid Pakistan, compared to the calls that were made for Haiti. Why is nobody (or so it seems) interested in helping Pakistan?

Perhaps the answer lies in why I was slow to make a donation, and slow I was, compared to how quickly I responded to Haiti’s need. I asked myself why and these were the uncomfortable answers I got:

  • Pakistan chooses to maintain a nuclear arsenal, so why the hell do they need my money to help their own people? – Discomfort scale: 3/10
  • Pakistan’s need seemed less because of the relatively few numbers killed in the initial flooding (compared with an earthquake) – Discomfort scale: 5/10
  • Pakistanis: aren’t they the ones who send their sisters and daughters back to the “old country” on a family holiday, only to force them into marriage and virtual imprisonment? – Discomfort scale: 8/10
  • Pakistanis: aren’t they the ones who train people to commit acts of terrorism in Britain (my former home)? – Discomfort scale 9/10
  • Pakistanis… aren’t they the ones who murder their sisters and daughters for daring to choose their own boyfriends? – Discomfort scale 10/10

Notice that the more unreasonable and ignorant the stereotype, the more uncomfortable I was with the fact that part of me was thinking that way.

My first bullet point might be considered a valid and reasonable point, but the fact remains that millions of ordinary people in Pakistan desperately need help. I believe that charity begins at home, but I also believe that the whole world is our home and that someone else’s problem on the other side of the world is not just their problem.

I also believe that it is better to teach someone to fish, but there are times when someone is starving right now and needs a fish right now.

While my unconscious prejudices did not long survive the glare of conscious scrutiny, I am ashamed I had them at all, and that they delayed my helping the people of Pakistan, and I apologise to the friends I have who are of Pakistani origin.

I have made a donation to the International Red Cross.

These people need our help.

Fly, be free!

August 13th, 2010

When “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” came out, I was mad keen to see it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it was such a long film that my left buttock went to sleep.

Unfortunately, other than walking funny for  a while, I ignored it. What a terrible mistake! Had I realised the consequences that lay in store for me, I would have made every effort to revive it. But I ignored it, and later that night, while I slept, my left buttock slipped into a coma.

When I woke up the next morning, I could hardly walk, so I staggered off to the hospital, but it was too late. Despite repeated attempts at CPR and the generous application of high voltage, half of my arse was declared legally dead at 11.34 am.

The next stage was to remove the dead flesh and I spent the next three days lying face down while a colony of maggots went to work. On the second day, one of them got lost and wandered up near my face. At first I tried to shoo him away, but he was so cute the way he looked up at me with his little face that I had to adopt him.

After I was released from hospital, I would take him for walks and throw sticks for him. We had such good times together. He was my joy and my light during those dark days of recovery. But one day, he slipped the leash and tore off down the road after a meat delivery truck. I was too feeble to give chase and I never saw him again. Curse my mono-cheekedness!

I miss him to this day, and whenever a fly buzzes past, I  gently call out:

“Nigel?”

… It nearly bleedin’ killed him!

August 9th, 2010

I don’t know if you have ever been kicked right up the hole, but it hurts.

It happened to me forty years ago and I can feel it now. It happened after school one day. I was standing there chatting to a couple of my friends before facing the two-mile walk home when a little snot of about five decided he wanted to fight me. I think he wanted to establish himself at the top of the food chain within his peer group by taking on an older boy. I was a fairly unaggressive child, so instead of picking the smaller boy up and throwing him over the school wall, I simply informed him that I did not want to fight, and I turned to walk away.

That’s when it happened – and my Weltanschauung changed forever.

Gone were the innocent days when my rectum was simply for shitting out of. In the blink of an eye, its whole purpose changed. Now, its only design was to cause me the kind of gut-wrenching pain that was so intense, I could not even collapse to the ground in agony. All the muscles in my back spasmed, making me standing erect and walk about like a Charlie Chaplin parody who had been, well, booted right up the hole.

I turned only to see the little bollix half-way up Emmet Terrace laughing his own hole off. “Top of the food chain, here I come!” I could almost hear him chuckle. I put a brave face on it and shuffled home. I swear I have not been able to pass solids the same way since.

So if your mate is ever kicked in the ‘nads and he is double-over in misery, do him a favour and boot him up the hole. It will straighten him right up and I promise you he will forget all about that mere tickling sensation in his goolies.

Oh, and if a five-year-old ever wants a fight, do yourself a favour and feck him over the school wall.

Thierry Henry out of the World Cup?

June 9th, 2010

Rumours abound that Thierry Henry has been declared unfit to play in the World Cup finals due to a hand injury.

In an exclusive interview with Load o’ Ballog, the cheating Frenchman explained that he had been going through his morning routines of hand exercises when the injury occurred.

“I ‘ad been going sru my routine of morning ‘and exercises when ze injury occurred,” he said, “Every morning I must ‘andle my balls.”

When LoB pointed out that his sport is called ‘football'” and that his hands were not needed, Henry laughed pseudo-good-naturedly, as if patronising a small child. LoB went on to point out that using his hands might even contravene the rules, Henry suddenly turned serious.

“France did not get to ze world cup finals by playing according to ze rules,” he said, leaning forward and with a hint of menace.

“‘owever,” he continued, “a true asslete rises above adversity and I can always use my right ‘and.”

When asked how his injury might affect his sponsorship deal with Gillette, the Frenchman, known for being a cheetah on the pitch, shrugged philosophically: “Do I look like I need ze monnai?

Thierry Henry reveals his plan for winning the World Cup for France, while French supporters belt out a rendition of the Tom Jones classic "With These Hands"

Thierry Henry reveals his plan for winning the World Cup for France, while French supporters belt out a rendition of the Tom Jones classic "With These Hands"

You wouldn’t steal a car

April 23rd, 2010

So I’m in the departure area of the airport and I’m browsing around, waiting for the boarding time. I wander in to a digital entertainment store (no, I am not going to give free advertising by saying “HMV”) and I peruse the DVDs.

It takes me half an hour, but I eventually find three to make up my “3 for €20″ selection and I make my way to the cashier and I pay. Before he hands me my purchase (which is now legally mine), holding it teasingly just out of my reach, he says with a smile that makes me want to set fire to his dog:

“You wouldn’t steal a car, would you?”

“What?” I reply.

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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

April 15th, 2010

Misdirection.

It is the tool of illusionists, confidence tricksters and those in power.

Illusionists are not always confidence tricksters, but confidence tricksters are always illusionists to some extent.

Confidence tricksters are not always in power, but those in power are always confidence tricksters to some extent. They have to be because those who seek positions of authority want to keep those positions. Of course they do, they are human. Very few people who take, or are given, power have the strength of character of Cincinnatus.

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Death Star Plans on YouTube

February 26th, 2010

I was thinking about Star Wars last night and it occurred to me that although they were able to invent hyper-space travel, light-sabers and battle stations that could blow up an entire planet, they did not invent the internet.

Imagine how different it would have been if instead of many Bothans dying to get the Death Star plans to Princess Leia, one Bothan had simply uploaded the plans to YouTube.

The plans would instantly have been made available to the Rebel Alliance, Darth Vader would not have had to hunt down Princess Leia. Obi Wan Kenobi would not have been the Alliance’s only hope. Princess Leia would not have needed to send him the droids (thus avoiding the inconsistency of his not recognising them, despite their key roles in Episodes I to III). Luke Skywalker would have remained on Tatooine, living the tedious life of a moisture farmer and having unfulfilled dreams of becoming a star pilot. Han Solo and Chewbacca would have continued their lives as smugglers, probably dying in a brawl in some seedy cantina somewhere.

Once the secret weakness of the Death Star became public, the Emperor would have sold it to an entertainment consortium as a theme park (and Alderaan would have been spared), and would have recouped the cost of building it tenfold, thus having the money to build up a conventional fleet with which to defeat the Rebel Alliance, which would have remained on Yavin until its merciless crushing and not have moved to either Hoth (thus depriving us of the excellent Episode V) or the forest moon of Endor (thus depriving us of the ridiculous Ewoks).

Although none of this would have spared us from Episodes I to III.

I don’t have to believe in evolution

January 18th, 2010

It seems someone on Facebook has set up a group called “We can find 1,000,000 people who DO believe [sic] in Evolution before June”.

The group was set up in response to a group called “we [sic] can find 1,000,000 people who don’t believe [sic] in Evolution befor [sic] June”.  What happens in June if they do not get a million members? Will they give up being creationists?

I considered joining the former group, because that genetic material changes  (evolves) from one generation to the next is a scientific fact. However, I wanted to give some thought to it (as a rational person should do) before adding my name to those of a group of strangers before I really know what they are about.

Roughly 30% of Facebook users live within the USA (ref. 1). According to Gallup polls, in 2008, 44% of those polled in the USA believed that God created humans in their present form (about the same percentage as in 1982).

I know you cannot get an accurate result from simply performing arithmetic with statistics, but for my purposes, I do not need a very accurate result.

The population of the USA is about 300 million, which means roughly (very roughly) 132 million Americans are creationists.

Facebook claims to have over 350 million active users, but that is probably just propaganda, so let’s be conservative and say 200 million active users. That means there are roughly 60 million active Facebook users in the USA.

I would be very surprised if the 132 million American creationists and the 60 million American Facebookers did not overlap to the tune of several million. According to my crude calculations, it should be somewhere in the region of 26 million. Let’s be conservative again and say it is only a quarter of that, roughly 6 million.

I think, therefore, the creationists on Facebook are being highly unambitious with the title of their group.

But why are they bothering in the first place? Probably for the same reason that human beings have always tried to gather like-minded people about them: safety in numbers when they feel threatened or weak.

That’s the one thing both groups have in common. Someone posted on the creationist group’s page that the creation (excuse the pun) of the evolutionary group’s page was because:

“they feel threatened by our group so lets show them we CAN CRUSH THEM!”

Such fervour!

The creationists are right, of course. Well, they are right about someone on Facebook feeling threatened. But, of course, fear and insecurity are why the creationist group was set up in the first place. The fear that ‘there just aren’t enough people out there who think the way I do’.

The evolutionary group was set up in haste, as a knee-jerk reaction to the creationist group. How do I know? Because of the title. Nobody “believes” in evolution. Evolution is not a god, or a fairy, or a troll who lives in the woods.

That changes in genetic material (evolution) take place is a fact proven by scientific studies.

Natural selection, on the other hand, as an explanation of that fact, is a theory. However, it happens to be a very plausible theory with compelling evidence.

Still, you cannot “believe” in a scientific theory. You cannot even believe in a scientific fact. Gravity is neither more nor less because of anyone’s beliefs.

The founder of the evolutionary group acknowledged this mistake with the following statement:

“Apologies for the name of the group, it has been pointed out numerous times that ‘believe’ is really the wrong word word when talking about a scientific theory…
I didn’t really think about it at the time of creating, I just copied and pasted the opposing group’s name, and there’s no way of changing it now. If you feel that strongly then you are free to create another group with a more appropriate title, but please don’t complain about it on this group wall as there is nothing more I can do about it, other than apologise.”

However, that does not change the fact that the group was set up as a knee-jerk reaction.

So what is the point of a Facebook group that shows support for  evolution?

One could argue that creationism should be battled on every front because it promotes ignorance and blind faith in the face of knowledge and evidence. Certainly, that is a noble cause. In that case, however, the group should have had a simpler name and the purpose of the group should have been to provide links to reliable resources where people can inform themselves about evolution.

I do not think there would be much benefit in debate within such a group because nodding heads do not seek out truth. Even if there were contention, it would hardly be constructive. It would consist merely of discord, poor grammar and even worse spelling.

In any case, I think there is about as much value in debating creationism as there is in debating whether Athena was born out of Zeus’s head.

So I decided it would be more constructive to write this blog post than to join “We can find 1,000,000 people who DO believe in Evolution before June”.

I will not be joining this evolutionary group because I do not subscribe to knee-jerk reactions and because I believe that gathering together in numbers for its own sake is futile (unless you are being stalked by lions).

A challenge

January 15th, 2010

There’s a thing doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment where people use a photo of themselves when they were much younger.

When you have only known someone from a certain point in their life, it is amazing and charming to see them when they were younger. It is so easy to slip into treating a forty, fifty, sixty year old as if they were always that age. But they were not. They were once idealistic, had a first kiss, had a first love and listened to music their parents hated. They once threw sticks at chestnut trees, jumped into puddles and played with frog spawn.

Someone once said that it’s important to keep in touch with friends from our teens and twenties so that we will always have someone who still remembers us at that age. Imagine what it must be like for an old person who has no friends from their youth. Imagine what it must be like to be surrounded by people who only see you as old.

So the challenge is this: whenever you meet a person you consider “old”, try to imagine them young, jumping into puddles and having their first kiss. Deep down, that is who they really are.

Our bodies will grow old but we do not have to.

What are friends for?

January 11th, 2010

When a friend appears to be doing something inappropriate, it behoves one to give the friend the benefit of the doubt and just assume there is a reasonable explanation.

Assume it so much, that one does not even ask for the explanation.

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