January 30, 2010

“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.”

Flannery O’Connor

Dark Passage

January 27, 2010

For those of you who enjoy a glimpse of the darker side of things, I provide this link HERE. The site is called Dark Passage and…well, take a look for yourself.

Jojo in the Stars

January 26, 2010

Elephants Dream

January 26, 2010


Something to read?

January 25, 2010

Fancy a book at bedtime?

Nice review HERE.

”cut the two zombies with 
savage yet dignified movements. He then made quick work of beheading the slaughtered staff, upon which 
 Mr. Bingley politely vomited into his hands.”

Sounds just the thing for Granny.

One fine day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight,
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other,

One was blind and the other couldn’t, see
So they chose a dummy for a referee.
A blind man went to see fair play,
A dumb man went to shout “hooray!”

A paralysed donkey passing by,
Kicked the blind man in the eye,
Knocked him through a nine inch wall,
Into a dry ditch and drowned them all,

A deaf policeman heard the noise,
And came to arrest the two dead boys,
If you don’t believe this story’s true,
Ask the blind man he saw it too!

End of the World News

January 25, 2010

Oh, dear, more confusion on the “climate” front:

“More mistakes about Himalayan glaciers seem to have been uncovered in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report, further threatening its credibility and undermining the position of its chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri” (see HERE)

This article HERE explains:

“I can report a further dramatic twist to what has inevitably been dubbed “Glaciergate” – the international row surrounding the revelation that the latest report on global warming by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contained a wildly alarmist, unfounded claim about the melting of Himalayan glaciers. Last week, the IPCC, led by its increasingly controversial chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, was forced to issue an unprecedented admission: the statement in its 2007 report that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035 had no scientific basis, and its inclusion in the report reflected a “poor application” of IPCC procedures.

“What has now come to light, however, is that the scientist from whom this claim originated, Dr Syed Hasnain, has for the past two years been working as a senior employee of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the Delhi-based company of which Dr Pachauri is director-general. Furthermore, the claim – now disowned by Dr Pachauri as chairman of the IPCC – has helped TERI to win a substantial share of a $500,000 grant from one of America’s leading charities, along with a share in a three million euro research study funded by the EU.”

Surely there can be no connection between the $500,000 grant and the “mistakes” in the IPCC report on global warming?

But then there’s this HERE:

“The United Nations’ climate science panel is facing further embarrassment after claims it incorrectly linked global warming to a rise in natural disasters.”

Oh, dear me. Some more little mistakes.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claimed in 2007 that the world had “suffered rapidly rising costs due to extreme weather related events since the 1970s”, suggesting that part of the increase was down to global warming.”

But it wasn’t!

“The claim formed a central argument at the climate change conference, where African nations demanded £62 billion in compensation from rich nations responsible for the highest amount of carbon emissions.”

Tut tut tut.

Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at Colorado University, says: “All the literature published before and since the IPCC report shows that rising disaster losses can be explained entirely by social change. People have looked hard for evidence that global warming plays a part but can’t find it. The idea that catastrophes are rising in cost because of climate change is completely misleading.”

No what?

January 20, 2010

Let me make it clear to begin with that I’ve never needed the prop of a primitive Hebrew sky God to get me through life – never needed the support of any desert derivatives of that God, either! No praying; no rituals; no icons or relics of varying degrees of religiosity.

Even as a little boy at school with morning assembly and prayers every day, I didn’t “believe” (couldn’t “believe”!) in this “personal God” (of the Jews and of the Christians) who listened in to everyone’s prayers, occasionally answering them, more often not bothering; this God who was interested in my daily transgressions, regardless of how big or small they may have been; this God whose power and actions appeared totally arbitrary to me then (and now); and whose “outlook” and “expectations” seemed more those of an ill educated desert patriarch than a “God”! I saw him (her? It?) as some sort of Jewish, Christian, Muslim Zeus! And equally as mythic!

However, I did like some of the hymns, and I absolutely loved the Christmas carols!

So, you see, I have no particular axe to grind over organised religion: orthodox Jews who wish to practice three thousand year old rituals today, well, good luck to them. Christians who hijacked the Hebrew sky God two thousand years ago, and gave him a Son made flesh, good luck to them too. And to the followers of Islam, the religion of submission, that flowered into existence in north-west Africa in the seventh century, if it provides the necessary crutch for them to face each fresh day, well so be it, and best of luck to them, also. May they all live in peace and harmony with each other and their God (Gods?).

After all each of these religions are primarily about guilt, it’s only the holidays (Holy days?) that differ.

So, what’s my point? Well, yesterday someone mentioned my blog to me: in particular they happened to mention my comments on the European Court’s ruling on the crucifix; they were “puzzled” (and I quote) by my response. It took me a moment to understand exactly what they were referring to: it’s this HERE, harmless enough on the surface, but apparently it was my subsequent comments that caused concern and confusion.

I am of an age where I’m able to create confusion wherever I go (or so it frequently seems to me and to others?). There’s no defense against this. It’s a totally natural phenomenon with which I find myself gifted (a gift bestowed, perhaps, by the smile of Vishnu; or there again, the subtlest hint of early onset Alzheimer’s? I can’t be certain which). Anyway, I digress. Confusion has arisen. So I dedicate this blog entry to clarification of what for me is a particularly difficult subject:

Democracy, the rights of the child, and the crucifix – for crucifix you could, if you wished, substitute any religious iconography: the crescent, for example; the Star of David; the depiction of Mary with little Jesus. It really doesn’t matter. For according to the European Court, Italy, by displaying crucifixes in the classrooms of state schools, is breaching the rights of the attending children.

One question I would ask at the outset: exactly what “rights” does a child have in reality? I thinks this is important: not theoretical “rights”, but actual “rights”? Do they, for instance, have the “right” to choose whether to attend school or not? Can they decline participation in any or all of the various activities found in the average school, assuming they wish to attend in the first place? And are the child’s “rights” the same regardless of the age of the child?

I would suggest that the answer to my first question is NO! Within Europe school attendance is mandatory for children. So, there is an element of compulsion involved in school attendance. A child, possibly against his or her will, is forced into school. But what of his or her “rights”? A child may have the “right” to an education, but if he or she doesn’t wish to attend school – what then? Isn’t compulsion a breach of that child’s human “rights”?

Apparently not. It seems there’s a universal desire on the part of European governments / societies to say “BOG OFF! You go to school and that’s it! End of story!” Children have no real say in the matter; no “right”, in fact, to object.

At this point I will introduce a personal anecdote from my own school days. I hated…no! I HATED geometry and Latin. Learning by heart all those bloody theorems and then having to stand up in class and recite them – without really understanding what the hell they meant – caused me more psychological damage than any morning assembly with its twee prayers and motivational sermon.

Often at night I’d lay awake and imagine my Geometry master being burned at the stake as a witch or idolater; or by mistake, instead of the straw-filled Guy on the fifth of November. His pain as those flames licked about his feet and legs was as nothing in comparison to mine struggling with all those theorems!

And the Latin? The Latin was hell, too!

“O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster.”

My Latin master was a Frenchman (this gets better: my French master was a lovely gentleman from northern India! Consequently, all over France when I speak to people for the first time, they frown, puzzled, and they ask: ‘Excuse-moi. Êtes-vous sur les Indiens?’ Apparently it’s my French accent that’s the problem). Our Latin master was also mentally unstable. Any error in Latin translation by one of his pupils would be rewarded by an hysterical outburst where he’d jabber away in French, and literally froth at the mouth!

On such occasions where were my “rights”? Where were the “rights” of children then?

Answer: Off to hell in a hand cart! We didn’t have any!

However, this digression aside, the European Court has decided that a Child does have “rights” which by its ruling seem confined to a “child’s right to freedom of religion.”

The Strasbourg court found that: “The compulsory display of a symbol of a given confession in premises used by the public authorities… restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions.”

Ummm, I see.

It also restricted the “right of children to believe or not to believe”, the seven judges ruling on the case said in a statement quoted by AFP news agency.

The “right of children to believe or not to believe” – so, what about all those children who have to attend church, synagogue, mosque on a daily, weekly basis in company with parents or guardians? Especially when they don’t want to be there. What about them?

What about those children “forced” into a faith school?

Oh, wait, I see. A parent has the “right” to inflict their convictions on a child; but not the state. Is that it? Is that what this nonsense is about? The child has the “right” to be subjugated to the religious convictions of parents/guardians, and all the religious iconography that may entail. Oh, WOW, that’s quite a “right” to have, isn’t it? Bet all the children across Europe are sleeping happily in their beds with that knowledge to comfort them.

But the more one studies the ruling of the seven Strasbourg judges all dressed in their Bible black gowns, the more absurd it seems!

The case was brought by Soile Lautsi, a mother of two who claimed public schools in her northern Italian town refused eight years ago to remove the Roman Catholic symbols from classrooms. She had maintained that the crucifix violates the secular principles the public schools are supposed to uphold, and the right to offer her children a secular education.

The court’s final decision created uproar in Italy – understandably so. Because 55.8 million (96%) of the population of Italy (57.6m) is Roman Catholic! But worse still, believer or unbeliever, they see this as an imposition from OUTSIDE of their country; and from OUTSIDE of their culture!

And that, too, is what I have a problem with! This solution is being imposed from the OUTSIDE without due consideration of the majority of people living in Italy.

The court said the crucifix: “could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign and they would feel that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion”.

No kidding? They wouldn’t have realised this from the thousands of Churches all over the country, or from the 50,000 Roman Catholic Priests working in the country, or from the situation of the Pope in the Vatican in Rome? No? Or from the many Priests teaching in the state schools which they attend?

Like it or not, even without the crucifixes, Children will still feel they are being educated in a “school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion”. Unless they’re plain stupid? How could it be otherwise?

The Italian government launched an immediate appeal against the court decision.

The EU Parliament decided in December to postpone its vote on a resolution concerning the judgment of the European Court. MEPs held a heated debate on the issue but decided to check the admissibility of the vote and the resolution!

It gets better and better!

Meanwhile, the Italian Constitutional Court have quietly ruled that where conflict exists between Italian legislation and rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, only the Italian legislation will be seen as legitimate and enforceable:

“where rulings by the European Court of Human Rights conflict with provisions of the Italian Constitution, such rulings lack legitimacy”.

In most areas of the country, local officials have acquired dozens more crucifixes to display in public schools; in Montegrotto Terme, the digital billboards normally used for public information are now displaying the crucifix with the phrase, “We will not take it down.” And according to the Italian daily “Avvenire,” the mayor of Sezzadio, Pier Luigi Arnera, has leveled a fine of 500 euros against anyone who removes a crucifix from a public place!

Oh, well, that’s one piece of legislation that worked! Bless the European experiment! It’s united Italians almost unanimously behind the Roman Catholic Church and the crucifix.

On a personal note this situation has introduced an element of déjà vu into my life. There have been a number of confrontations in the past between Catholic Italy and the European Court. None of them have been particularly uplifting experiences.

The Court has made a number of sweeping pronouncements over the years; it is present, like God, in every aspect of its “creations” and, unlike God, it makes mistakes; upholding the ban of female headscarves in Turkey. The new Turkish government simply shrugged (metaphorically speaking) and ignored the ruling. Even more controversial has been the Court’s support of France in suppressing or removing religious iconography and dress in public places. Unfortunately, some of these rulings, while well meant, cause cultural dislocation. These decisions do not take into consideration the desires of the majority of the population concerned. They are undemocratic, if you will.

Put simply, all this is yet another example of “one size does not fit all”.

For a child it may seem they exist in a monstrously unjust society. All is compulsion and coercion. In an ideal world crucifixes or religious symbols would not be on school walls – any school walls. But change will only come through increased consciousness not compulsion.

The European Court’s decision is stupid. Logically, if their concern is the child, then wouldn’t it be more consistent to ban children under the age of eighteen from attending ANY church, synagogue, mosque, whatever, when they will be of an age to make up their own mind about religion?

Instead we have this peculiar, semi-logical elastoplast of a ruling which has pissed off a whole country and done nothing, absolutely NOTHING for the “rights” of children in Italy or anywhere else come to that!

Does this clarify my comments in the earlier blog entry? I’m not sure.

My final suggestion would be for the passing of “constitutional” laws making it impossible for anyone who believes in an intelligent God, bearded or otherwise, to be elected to any important position in government in the UK, the EU and the USA. Will it happen? No, it won’t. Nor will they take the crucifixes down in Italian schools within my lifetime. No matter what the wise and the good of Strasbourg may have to say about it.

Fear of the Inexplicable

January 16, 2010

But fear of the inexplicable has not alone impoverished
the existence of the individual; the relationship between
one human being and another has also been cramped by it,
as though it had been lifted out of the riverbed of
endless possibilities and set down in a fallow spot on the
bank, to which nothing happens. For it is not inertia alone
that is responsible for human relationships repeating
themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and
unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable
experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope.

But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes
nothing, not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation
to another as something alive and will himself draw exhaustively
from his own existence. For if we think of this existence of
the individual as a larger or smaller room, it appears evident
that most people learn to know only a corner of their room, a
place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and
down. Thus they have a certain security. And yet that dangerous
insecurity is so much more human which drives the prisoners in
Poe’s stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons
and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their abode.

We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about
us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us.
We are set down in life as in the element to which we best
correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of
years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we
hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be
distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to
mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors,
they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us;
are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we
arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us
that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now
still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust
and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those
ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into
princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses
who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps
everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless
that wants help from us.

Rainer Maria Rilke