Saturday, 30 April 2011

Now's the Day (well, Thursday will be)

'Anybody I speak to up in Scotland says that he’s done a great job and sometimes I watch him on Scottish TV in Parliament and he wipes the floor with everybody. He’s great on his feet.

Jack Vettriano

Can't say I'm a big fan of his painting but I think he's right. Alan Cumming also made an interesting endorsement, based on Salmond's vision for Scotland. A gay thespian might not seem the most self-evident figure to support a patriotic candidate, yet I think social liberalism is never going to be as screechy and narcissistic as it is in England. We are proud to be a nation and proud to be a tolerant nation.

I notice that few of Alex's celeb fans seem to be especially political, and I would say that as a political talent, speaker and brain, Salmond towers above the shower of his opponents.

His primary opponents in terms of sheer demographics are Labour, mainly in the industrial lowlands. Whilst I have some sympathy for the Labour party, they are a pernicious presence in Scotland: sending Blairites to deprived Glaswegian areas and then boasting that their being elected is a sign of Blair/Mandelson genius. In the general elections, I think this area will still be a Labour stronghold, but when travelling through Scottish cities, St Andrews Cross flags and Stuart Lions are omnipresent: on Thursday, I think this region will probably back SNP.

In more direct competition there are the Lib Dems in the north. Beaker comes from not a million miles away from my constituency, but you're more likely to see a 1930s Soviet photo of Trotsky driking to bruderschaft with Lenin than you are to see Beaker in any local lib dem leaflets. The Dems are pegging all their hopes that voters will be mightily furious with the SNP for making administrative changes to to the running of the northern Scottish police force. Sadly, I think that taking Blighty into a double dip recession will be a more pressing concern, along with the small matter of the Dems knifing their voters in the back. The Lib Dems have always depended on their not being Tories and not being Labour for their popularity. I guess this is correct, given that they don't have the spine of the Tories nor the spine of Labour. Which means anything could happen and the same lack of spine that's led to their supporting Tory cuts could see Clegg telling the population he would vote for everyone to have a microchip implanted in their head if he formed a coalition with John Reid.

Lastly there are the Tories. What to say? Annabel Goldie looking at her prospective demesne like a plantation owner's wife looking at the 'natives' and a message that is utterly out of step with the vast majority of Scots. 'Right Wing' in the sense of wanting to lick American and Israeli arse and believing that John Galt will pull some jobs out of the ground when the state withers away, I don't think the Tories can really compete with the genuine patriotism of the SNP and their understanding that market fanaticism is not beneficial to the Middle Class. Subsequently they will probably get a good hiding in the South/Central Scotland where they were owned by the SNP in the general election.

As for independence, I don't have a clue. As for the Donald Trump golf course, I'm with these guys. But in a day when politics is ruled by various insipid flavours of spineless nonentities, I'm definitely backing Salmond for First Minister.

Oh, and if the celeb endorsements so far aren't enough, Brian Cox has joined the line. This is a clip of him in one of my favourite films, Steven Seagal's demented masterpiece The Glimmer Man (I take the Borgesian view that meaning is a dialogue between viewer and auteur so readily praise the American action movie as one of the most superb schools of satire, no matter what they were trying to do). Say what you like about Seagal's acting talents, Cox is brilliant here. Also a way better Hannibal Lector than Anthony Hopkins.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Prometheus Unbound(ed self congratulation)

A while back I think I made the same point, but I increasingly find that my disagreement with the mainstream vociferous atheists is not so much about faith (except they don't seem to understand the term), or reason (which they often equate with 'the most likely answer') or even history (about which many of them are astoundingly ignorant) but their absolute lack of irony. Seems the case with the Prometheus Publishing House.

For those not acquainted with Aeschylos, Prometheus was a titan chained to a rock for stealing fire and giving it to humanity. At the end of the play a creepy little guy comes up to him and gloats that as punishment Prometheus will have his liver pecked by an eagle every day. To which Prometheus replies 'Know clearly I would not exchange my misfortune for your subservience'.

Pretty powerful stuff. Though I'd guess the nobility of Prometheus might make him one of my favourite characters, but certainly not someone I'd really want to compare myself to, given that I've never had my liver pecked out for the good of mankind and if I'd been told I would, I probably wouldn't be in the mood to feel chuffed that at least I wasn't a snivelling little sycophant. OK, I'd love to think that if I was told I'd have my liver pecked out for the good of mankind I'd feel chuffed with myself for not being a snivelling little sycophant. But the thing is, I might suffer from chronic self-esteem or something but I tend to ask to be judged on how I've actually acted, rather on how I'd love to think I'd act.

Such quibbles are of no interest to Prometheus Books who have 'spread free thought world wide'. No kidding? Presumably they have publishing houses in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan? Or does that just mean they holler to secular/lapsed Prods about the evils of religion and then make out they are freedom loving titans for doing so? Let's have it in their own words:

'It came into being to fulfil what we viewed as a critical need, namely, publishers willing to produce and distribute dissenting books on religion and the paranormal... We selected Prometheus as the name of the press by reference to the mythological Hellenic Titan, because he was the symbol of achievement: he stole fire from the gods and he bequeathed fire and the arts and sciences to humankind, challenging the gods on high. He did so, according to legend, because he loved humankind, and felt that without the arts and sciences, humans would huddle in their caves in fear and ignorance.'

My goodness, dissenting books on the paranormal? Do you mean you could be shot for criticising Yuri Gellar or something? Were people broken on the wheel for saying the spoons weren't really bent? My goodness, we'd be living in caves if we didn't have such dissidents. Anyway, I don't think you've congratulated yourselves enough, Surely there's more?

'were an advocacy press fulfilling a mission: to cultivate reason, science, humanistic values, and free inquiry in all areas of human interest. Some of the first books we published were on Humanism, Atheism, and Biblical criticism – all challenging the reigning ‘sacred cows’ and all going against the grain.'

Going against the grain and the reign of sacred cows must have been awful. But guys, surely you haven't finished congratulating yourselves yet, have you? Oh, you've not finished starting.

'We were like Prometheans, challenging the powers that be and resolving to publish books that we thought ought to appear. I am proud of the dedicated professional staff that we have since developed. I doubt that such a venture would succeed today, as we are confronted with fierce competition from huge publishing and marketing conglomerates.'

You know what I think guys? I think you're being to kind to Prometheus in claiming to be his disciples. After all, what's having your liver pecked out compared to the raw courage of 'challenging the powers that be': in taking on the beardy lay line enthusiasts, the UFO specialists, the prince of spoons and all the other armies of irrational darkness that were enveloping the Anglo-Saxon world. But guys, hrmhrm, whilst the compliments are flying so thick and so fast, any words of praise for the sophisticated geniuses that buy your books?
'Our effort throughout has been to try to bring to the educated public books of high quality on themes not generally covered by the large conglomerates. Our readers are for the most part seriously interested in controversial books, and they are educated and knowledgeable.'

Obviously. If they weren't educated and knowledgeable they would have been looking for the Loch Ness Monster or reading about the Philadelphia Project or something. But anyway, you've spent enough time complimenting other people, surely you should get back to praising yourselves:

'We are gratified that we remain the leading rationalist, humanist, freethought, and sceptical press in the world, offering provocative and controversial viewpoints.'

Leading in the world? And 'offering provocative and controversial viewpoints'. Offering these throughout the world, surely, not still banging on to secular prods about how awful religion is?

'Since we founded Prometheus, the entire publishing industry has been radically transformed. First, most of the finest independent houses ceased operations or have been absorbed by large conglomerates, which now dominate well over three-quarters of the total books published in the United States. Second, the independent bookstores have largely given way to chains, and books are now marketed primarily through wholesalers. Third, with the advent of the worldwide web, books are now sold over the Internet, and there are alternative sources of information beyond traditional book publishing. The fact that we manage to survive in the light of these factors is, in one sense, a publishing ‘miracle’.

We hope, as we move beyond our first third of a century, that readers will continue to welcome our books for themselves, their children, their friends, and their colleagues. For, in the last analysis, satisfying the insatiable interests of educated readers is the best guarantee of our viability. The invention of books, a truly remarkable creation, in our view, still provides the most enduring thought of ages to the public.'


Perhaps the irony is that whilst attacking myths they see a dichotomy in choosing an ancient Greek myth as a metaphor. And yet, whilst I don't see faith as a metaphor, I do think that such tales as Prometheus do give a kind of faith and come from the Ancient Mediterranean that provided the intellectual and verbal tools for discussing Christianity. Whilst the vociferous 'rationalists' like to criticise faith in a confrontational manner, it does seem to me that our classical civilisation is also under threat in a more insidious way. Just look at the barely literate Melanie Phillips being given a Sappho award and Spectator era Boris Johnson raving that he is inspired by Pericles... presumably because 'freedom' means being a surveillance state liberal interventionist tax bore.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Ceci n'est pas une spoof

Well, I'm with Johann Hari: I'm up on my high horse with self-righteous indignation at the Royal Wedding. And at the religious. What a wonderful country Britain would be with no religion and none of the royals. I love my country, sniff, we're such wonderful people, and it just hurts me so much that my compatriots could be so sick as to want to celebrate a young couple being married.

Of course you could say this is really sick and no matter how indifferent you are to a German-Danish bloke who's no right to any throne getting married, you feel that it's not Blighty's no.1 problem. But that wouldn't be hip. And unless you make out that this is just another sign of how bad men are (cause lets face it guys, this is the sort of thing we'd buy our daughters, isn't it? Uh, isn't it?) then you could get into hot water for questioning the PC status quo.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Moving Homepage

Of course, Britain is an advanced country, held back from a golden age of art and technology by religion.

Had yahoo as my home page, but think it's time to move.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

700,000,000 Screaming Chinese

Red Dawn: one of my favourite films. Maybe some day I will immeasurably enrich the culture of our world by writing an essay on the Nietzschian and Platonic conflicts in that 1980s masterpiece.

But today is not the day. I'd just like to link to this article. For quite some time the Hollywood vultures have been circling John Milius's 1980s work of genius, with plans of remaking. Certainly, of all the films you could remake, at least Red Dawn is one with lots of shooting. And (though it lacerates my soul to admit it) it wasn't exactly perfect.

But then there's the name. I'm sure they'd love nothing more than a bit of Russophobia and have a despotic Russian tyrant, but the Russian Federation doesn't have a red flag. Luckily for the film makers, or so they thought, there's still China. With the world's largest population, 2nd largest GDP and 3rd largest landmass, China was the one to go for. Quite why they would invade America is open to question: they'd be at risk of damaging their own assets and the effect on the American economy could stop them from getting back all the dosh they're owed.

How the film makers answered these questions, however, we'll never know. They've now digitally altered their fillum so that America will be invaded by North Korea. This sliver of the Korean Peninsula might have the 154th highest per capita GDP, a population of 24 million and a landmass that's smaller than the state of Mississippi, but- uh, well that's the point actually: China has too big and too rich a population. Seems these days Hollywood can only be smug and self-righteous about nations that are too poor to make much of an impact on the overseas box office. Don't know how it will go down at home: America being owned by one of the puniest nations on earth. Maybe they just take it for granted the average American is too thick to know how small and poor North Korea is.

I feel a bit sad reading about the entire thing. I'm no great fan of Hollywood, but the American film industry I suppose was an icon of Modern Western civilisation, and films such as the original Red Dawn demonstrated a potential to make challenging and interesting works. Now it seems as well as being intellectually bankrupt, Hollywood will also crumble in its defence of principles (which I don't entirely share or not share) just to benefit at the box office.

Gone are the days when a possible Stalinist sympathiser could be 'run out of town'. In future it could be the democrats.

Words from 'the religious'

'In the last two years, Christians have been burned alive by Muslims in Gorja, Pakistan, and by Hindu extremists in Orissa, India. Christian churches have been torched and scores of the faithful massacred on holy days in Iraq and Egypt. Few of these atrocities have received the media attention of the Rev. Jones’ stupid stunt or the Danish cartoonist’s irreverent scribbles.

Before America sends more of her sons to die for the freedom of Arabs and Muslims, perhaps we ought to have a better idea of what these folks intend to do with that freedom. For across that Muslim world, the faith that created our world, Christianity, is being persecuted and in some sectors annihilated.

To and liberal interventionists, the goal of U.S. foreign policy should be to use our wealth and power to advance freedom until the whole world is democratic. Only then can we be secure.

But if democracy means rule by the people, ought we not to inquire a little more closely what it is these people, down deep, really want, before we bleed and bankrupt ourselves to win it for them?'

So writes Pat Buchanan. The kind of thing our PC atheist bigmouths would have trouble saying. I generally suspect that in future Christians in the Apostolic Tradition will increasingly become the spokespeople for secularism. Between the CJ Grayling school of self-help and the English Defence League, it seems to me that mainstream atheism is becoming increasingly irrelevant from the debate.

Dissidence and Conformity

Reading Te Graun's as-per-usual stupid coverage of East European politics, it got me wondering what's happened to Luke Harding. Seems he was given the bum's rush for his disgraceful journalism. By the Russian Government that is, not his employers. Of course this (in some ways justly) was criticised, but I find it quite difficult to get too smug about Ivan's lot given that Harding's journalism was so pathetic. In fact he was as much a propagandist as any statist hack. It seems to me that the Russian Federation did what Te Graun's editors should have done a long time ago, but didn't. See also how principled te Graun were regarding free speech when Anatoly Karlin wrote a fairly objective take on things.

Perhaps its curious that for all the eye-rolling contempt with which right-wingers treat The Guardian that The Exile was the only publication to really stick it to Harding. I suppose the left and right were both equally willing to give up the utopianism that powered Soviet era dissidence. Now I doubt if anyone in the modern left or right would treat Alexander Solzhenitsyn with anything but embarrassment. Yet it seems to me this writer, Orthodox Christian and maths teacher summed up both the spirituality and analytical mind that could have helped to guide Russian in a more pleasant direction and offered a REAL alternative to the populist capitalism of the United Russia party.

Still, whilst the mainstream western media might once have insincerely praised people like Solzhenitsyn, in some ways I think they will not fall into that trap again. Their main problem is that they have to fight a perpetual war against people who think that Western atomised plutocratic consumerism is vulgar, nihilistic and undesirable. They'll have a hard time running out of people who think that.

Monday, 4 April 2011

In the Bad Books

Te Graun has a corker of an interview with CJ Grayling. CJ provides a veritable trainwreck of logic, which he no doubt thinks is a razor sharp and ice cold analysis of the situation that is facing us:

'It's only in the past decade that these three strands of thought have developed into a public campaign against faith – but it wasn't the atheists, according to Grayling, who provoked the confrontation. "The reason why it's become a big issue is that religions have turned the volume up, because they're on the back foot. The hold of religion is weakening, definitely, and diminishing in numbers. The reason why there's such a furore about it is that the cornered animal, the loser, starts making a big noise."

Well, call me a cornered animal CJ and it really is a red rag to a bull. But who is the 'cornered animal'? It seems to me that the C of E is too much of a poodle to really be much of a cornered animal to have you quaking in your boots CJ. Or is it the Islamists, who seem to be going strong and increasing in numbers? Or is it the unmuzzled rabid dogs of the American Evangelical right who are getting increasing power and seem to have slipped their leashes that are making this thunderous noise so beloved of losers?
He continues:

Well, firstly, I think the charges of militancy and fundamentalism of course come from our opponents, the theists. My rejoinder is to say when the boot was on their foot they burned us at the stake. All we're doing is speaking very frankly and bluntly and they don't like it," he laughs. "So we speak frankly and bluntly, and the respect agenda is now gone, they can no longer float behind the diaphanous veil – 'Ooh, I have faith so you mustn't offend me'. So they don't like the blunt talking. But we're not burning them at the stake. They've got to remember that when it was the other way around it was a much more serious matter.

Well, that's it CJ. Never again will I be able to float behind a diaphanous veil. In fact I think I'd plummet like a lead balloon if I tried. I've heard tell that you can still float behind a diaphanous veil in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia... but can I take it you're not going to set up office there to bring them down to earth with a thud?

Still, I suppose we 'theists' who have never burnt anyone alive at the stake, or stoned people, or thrown acid in faces, or murdered Ossetian schoolkids should be very grateful that you have chosen to make your priority the Census methodology which will really free us from the manacles of the Inquisition and has no doubt saved countless people from being burnt at the stake. But... what's all this about 'they' and 'them' and 'us'? Its like a right libertarian talking about 'government': some bizarre abstract entity that justifies their persecution complex. Except I actually find right libertarians a bit less scary (not to mention a bit more rational given that the world really does have some horrific theocratic regimes, but the Humanist Society's heroic assault on 'Thought for the Day' will do b***er all for the victims).

Still, all is not doom and gloom so let's lighten up. Cj has a very original line in side-splitting humour, which will leave you with aching sides:

'The little jokes and kindly bearing can make Grayling sound quite benignly jovial about religion at times, as he chuckles away about "men in dresses" and "believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden"

I feel poleaxed by these utterly original aphorisms. They are a hammer blow to my faith and make me want to run like greased lightning to embrace atheism.