Sunday, July 29, 2007

Big Red A ramble

I popped over to Atheist In a MiniVan as is my wont, and noticed an intriguing big red A on her site. On following its link, I discovered the Out campaign and its connection to Richard and how you can buy T-shirts with the big red A on it. As you may know or have guessed by now, it's about "coming out" as an atheist.

Now, living in the UK, I do not have the feeling of being in a persecuted minority. I am aware, however, that my response to this movement is likely cultural, because the UK is a relatively secular society where religion does not often intrude itself into my daily going-about-my-own-business. In the US, it does appear to be different, with their "In God we trust"s on their money* et al, and their ex-president Bush senior allegedly having said he doesn't consider atheists patriots or citizens, and so on.

Of course, I am actually in a minority. Most people in the UK believe in some sort of deity or spiritual/supernatural thingy, (as is the case pretty much world-over, I think, atheists and sceptics tending to be smaller in number than believers). The UK is a predominantly Christian country, although most of its self-described Christians probably don't bother with their religion that much. Still, we have a state religion: CofE. And there are interesting foibles like, my child's non-church school has promoted Christianity and her next school (also state) proposes to do the same according to their bumpf, it was believed Tony Blair wanted to go RC but he couldn't while PM, and our national anthem is all about institutions I don't believe in saving other institutions that really don't need an awful lot of saving. As Eddie Izzard said, that's one fucking saved Queen!

Anyway, I have wandered a little, and not actually said anything about what I think about big red A's.

Well, it doesn't feel relevant to me. "Coming out" as an atheist is very easy here, ever since I figured out I was, I've been open about it. It's not really a topic that comes up a lot anyway in day-to-day interaction. I mention it more online than I would in real life: online I can spend more time with the abstract than the immediate, as online equals leisure-time for me. For me, the very notion of "coming out" is irrelevant, because being an atheist here isn't an issue usually. I also associate it with a struggle that has been and still is much more real, for the gay and lesbian community to become more accepted within society. In other countries/cultures, it may be that there is a similar stigma to being an atheist, but it's not something I've experienced. Not that everything has to be relevant to me, me mememememe, of course! It's probably very relevant to some other atheists.

The connotation bothers me a little as well: the scarlet letter, the A: it says Hawthorne to me. It meant adulterer in its time, and probably gives cheap ammunition to those who argue atheists cannot have any moral code. I shall go and kill someone forthwith, cos I've no reason not to, right? [/sarcasm]

I'm also not convinced a big red A will denote atheism effectively. Is someone who sees such a T-shirt immediately going to think "there goes an atheist" or is it more likely to pass them by? I think the latter, for the most part. I am not persuaded that it's even memorable enough a symbol to intrigue people to find out what it signifies. Although I suppose it worked on me! But then again, I was playing on the internet at the time, so it was just a click of immediate curiosity; would that have lasted long enough if I'd been out somewhere and saw a T-shirt and had no means of clicking at the time? You can't really click someone's T-shirt. I suppose you could tweak their nipple, but that might be getting slightly too familiar with someone too soon. You could even ask them what it meant, I suppose, but it's probably not something I would do, far too simple and obvious a solution!

The web-link on the T-shirt to the will give a big clue, but much as I often agree with Dawkins, he doesn't come without baggage. His reputation as the Rottweiler may turn some off right away and give a whole load of preconceptions that may not be accurate. Not to mention, the commercial aspect is off-putting to me too. Let's promote this website, and pay for the privilege, yeah!

I think chatting about the weather and all that is sadly under-rated and denigrated. Hehe. Religion or lack of it ought to be a private thing and shouldn't intrude into public life, like what you do with consenting adults in private ought to be. If you're desperate to talk about it in public, then ok, but expect to be looked at a bit askance: "how uncouth!". If you come to my door wanting to sell me a pamphlett about how great your god is or how performance-enhancing a particular device is, after I've said I'm not interested politely, I'll be shutting that door quick-smart. I won't be knocking on your door any time soon asking you to change your mind about anything, so I'd prefer the same sort of disinterest in return.

I'm not entirely comfortable with the displaying of personal belief/lack thereof upon the person: it seems a bit much and an invitation to get pigeon-holed before you even start to know someone. It's horses for courses without doubt, and if you want to do that, go ahead (in your own time). I wouldn't want to stop anyone or "ban" it, ~sniggers to self~. That'd be shades of the BA cross and hijab rows. Or the schoolgirl who was fighting a school for her "right" to wear a ring (symbolising her decision to stay celibate), against uniform code.

It's not her decision I take issue with, it's the self-aggrandising and attention-seeking that goes with it. "Look at me, look at me, aren't I great, aren't I righteous?!" (It's probably fair, however, to say that she was being used as a pawn to create publicity and promote the organisation, when it comes to the court case). You can make that sort of choice privately without making a song or dance about it. You don't need to wear a ring to stop you having sex, unless it's a wedding ring: ba-boom, tish, every one a Maserati!

That said, I do think it's a bit silly to place all that significance on virginity, one aspect of herself, and a physical one at that.

I wonder if the organisation she is part of is connected with the father-daughter prom-giving organisation? It is probably a completely different US organisation; I hope we don't get them exporting to us a chapter of that, as well. Yikes. It makes me feel a bit queasy, because it seems so intrusive, controlling and a bit, er, incestuous to have the dads as their prom dates. It also smacks of women as possessions, chattels: first of their fathers, then given in marriage to their husbands. All hailing back to times when virginity was the easiest and most detectable way of ensuring that at least your first-born was most likely to be yours, if you were a monied man with need for heirs. I don't think morality actually entered into it, it was all money, all business: the morality & religion just tacked on to make it authoritative and pretty it up a bit.

I think that's it for this particular ramble...

* It's a funny thing that, god on money. What about rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's and camels through eyes of needles and all that? Most peculiar, (if a little facetious on my part).

I have a British tenner sitting in front of me, and it simply promises to pay the bearer ten pounds. Her Maj, head of the church, on the front and Darwin on the back. Hurrah (I have a tenner!)


I'm quite excited because I've booked tickets for my first gig in ages, the pretext being M's birthday. Neither his birthday nor the gig are for ages, and there's quite a big gap between the two, in fact it's closer to my birthday than his. I'll have to get him something else as well and there's a risk that this will seem like a present for me. (Which of course it is as well, because I like her voice too and I've bought tickets for two. But he liked her first and converted me, so surely that makes it count as mostly a present for him? Does it? Please say it does?) It's for Amy Winehouse, if cirrhosis of the liver hasn't killed her by then.

I was thinking about booking a hotel for the night as well, but the ones I fancy are expensive and I'm pretty sure M would say "what's the point?" if we'll be spending the evening at a gig and then heading home in the morning. I expect it's unlikely that we can hang around for long enough to partake of swimming pools and such-like, and booking one like that would definitely turn it into a present for me, me, me, mememememe. The M in my head is no doubt right that it would be a bit wasted on us on an occasion like this, and a simpler & cheaper b&b would do.

On the other hand, I have a hankering for luxury, mini-bars and swimming pools! Perhaps we could turn it into a combination birthday present for us both?

But I still think he'd poo-poo the luxury hotel. I'll leave deciding until a bit later, I think, no need to go mad and get everything arranged right now. I can book in somewhere once I've thought on it a bit longer. And possibly we could have a luxury break another time.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Barry Norman I am not

I have watched quite a few films in the last week or two, The Craft, which I ranted about a little, being of highly irritable nature at the time. How could you tell the difference, you may wonder? I did enjoy it on some levels, but not enough.

Of movies that are out on DVD, we watched GhostRider, Hot Fuzz, Pan's Labyrinth and Smokin' Aces.

Taking last first, as we watched it last night, Smokin' Aces was surprisingly slow and talky to begin with, to the point I was nearly asleep, with some violent set-pieces towards the end which woke me up a bit, and back into rather dull territory to finish. I saw the twist in the tale a mile off in the very early stages of the film, and so that just made me yawn a bit in the denouement. A criticism that's often levelled at action flicks is that there is no character development or introduction, but this film did take the time to introduce the characters. Unfortunately it didn't really work for me, just slowed it down and made it yap-yap-yap at the beginning. There were perhaps too many characters and I didn't give a hoot about any of them. It was quite gory and quite pants, not very intelligent and not very much fun.

Talking of fun, Hot Fuzz was that. It wasn't as amazingly funny as some reviews promise, but it was chuckle-worthy (and not the Brothers) and enjoyable.

Pan's Labyrinth was very good, I have nothing more to say about it.

Ghostrider did feature Nicholas Cage, which is always a plus. I didn't like his hair much, though. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I remain firmly of the belief that a ghost-horse is far cooler than a ghost-motorbike. I'm not sure what Sam Elliot's character was there for really, the mentoring didn't seem essential and when they rode together, once Cage arrived where he needed to be, Elliot was simply gone. Seemed mighty weak, although should there be a sequel, it would allow Elliot to come back. If he had been at the show-down, I suppose he would have to be disposed of somehow in order to have the conventional mano a mano climax, so would probably sacrifice himself. Hmm. Still, to have him escort Cage to the scene and then just vanish out of the story seemed a bit pants.

Cheap shot

But it amused me.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Find yourself a big laydeee

I'm not sure how I feel about Mika. On the one hand, his music is very catchy and cheerful and I will sing along, much to the consternation of anyone within earshot that I hadn't realised could hear me. On the other, it's rather cheesy. Not that cheesy is always a bad thing, I suppose.

I'm also not sure how to take his latest single "Big Girl (You are beautiful)": whether it is a celebration of the more Rubenesque among us or whether it's a trifle patronising. You wouldn't get a single about over-weight blokes going "Lardy-boy, you are attractive too (in the right light)". Not that it scans particularly well, but you know what I mean!

Cooking with small people

We baked cookies, which for four days running S has been asking to do, endlessly. I don't know why I put it off so long ...

Oh yes I do, because of the floury hand-prints and the pushing & arguing and wielding of wooden spoons at a hundred paces.

Both children were extremely eager to participate, hence the above. T caused a deviation from the recipe and method when his enthusiasm on hearing the word "egg", led him to get one out of the fridge and crack it into the mixture while our backs were turned: S was getting a bowl out and I was chopping chocolate. He dropped the shell in as well. As you can imagine, this went down extremely well with S. She didn't cry at all. Doing the recipe had been something she'd been looking forward to for days, remember. I was able to fish out the shell alright, but the whole beating-the-egg plan was abandoned, and it meant that our cookies ended up more bun-like, as they rose when they shouldn't really have.

But that wasn't the end of cookie-related excitement: T had an allergic reaction. Which was quite dramatic and unexpected since all the ingredients were supposed to be suitable for him as well, but on checking the packaging of one, I found the wily culprit, dagnamit. It was a bit of dark chocolate that had slipped past my radar, and the annoying thing was I could have just used T's non-dairy chocolate and I did for the most part (argh!) but there was this odd bit of dark chocolate left over and I thought I'd use it up (argh again!). I thought it was one of the safe ones, but didn't take the time to read the ingredients, stupidly. But to share some blame, bloody stop putting milk products into everything willy-nilly, you bastards (I mean food manufacturers, not blog-readers, unless you happen to be food-manufacturing blog-readers. In which case, pack it in! Not the blog-reading, the adding milk products to food for bulking-up and eking-out purposes). His eye swelled up, his lips developed a trout pout worthy of Leslie Ash and he had a bright red rash.

It wasn't a good look.

So Piriton and a visit to the quack later, we can admire & even eat, if we feel daring, our rather pathetic attempts at cookies. Lumpy, bumpy and slightly charcoaled as they are.

While T, of course, can view them from a safe distance and be placated by a Hobnob. You know where you are with a Hobnob.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Boconnoc Steam Rally

This weekend was rather nice. I took the children to another pete on Saturday, a bigger one. S managed to win a coconut and they rode a miniature train. They also had a ride in a donkey cart and they liked that a lot too. It rained a little, but we adjourned to the tea tent and it didn't last. We saw a pipe band tootle away in the main ring and later a Tae-Kwondo performance, with children breaking bits of wood with their bare hands. I have a daughter who now wants to learn this martial art, and I'm quite in favour of that. As long as she sticks to designated bits of wood. There was a demonstration of wife-beating by Mr Punch, which the children enjoyed mightily, and quite a few adults in the crowd were loving it too. Including me. That's entertainment!

Today we went to Boconnoc Steam Rally, which was excellent. I was a bit eek at the entry price (£6 for an adult, £4 for a child) as that took out half my spending money. It's these cheap petes that are 20p here and there that have spoiled me and given me an unrealistically rosy outlook on how much a day out should cost, so it was a gasp and recoil moment, and I was relieved that T didn't count as a person. It was fortunate that I'd taken drinks with us and the children had gorged upon strawberries on the journey, as the food stalls prices were not comparable with a good old tea tent.

But was the rally worth the entry fee, I imagine you ask? Indupitably. There were some huge traction engines and some cute dinky ones. There were vintage tractors, cars and motor bikes. All of which appealed to T, as he is a stereotypically vehicle-loving boy, and S was pleased to point out the ones that could be Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang or were MGs, as Granddad has one. I'm not usually a big fan of machines that chug and parp and chuff, but I did enjoy the spectacle. There were a number of steamies taking trailer-loads of people around the grounds, so we took a ride on one (and that was free). S wasn't so keen after a while, as it was quite noisy and bumpy, but she brightened up when she spotted some fairground rides. So as soon as we were let off the trailer, we had to march to the funfair where she went on a ride and then won a toy blue elephant on a hooking-the-turtle game. T was in his pushchair and seemed quite happy with watching, thankfully.

We went to look around the model tent and I realised that was a bit of an error when T wanted to touch all the models and probably take some of the toy cars home, and on being refused, set up a roar. But he was contented by looking at the model railway and a 1:12 scale traction engine. I was impressed by how much detail and effort evidently goes into these hobbies. While we were in there, it happened to rain, but by the time we came out it had stopped again, so that was good timing on the cloud's part!

There was also the opportunity to take a helicopter ride, which I would have loved to do, but it was £25 each and T counted as a person this time. Instead we watched for a while and savoured the blasting wind the chopper set up as it landed and took off.

It was a really good day out, I'd definitely go again next year.

The Craft

There is nothing redeeming about the character of the jock, potential boyfriend (Chris Hooker?) of the protagonist (Sarah Bailey - Robin Tunney) of this film. He is an utter asshole, who boasts about his sexual conquests to his mates, even if there are none. He's not a good person in that respect - or any other shown respect. Perhaps his redeeming quality is good looks? (In the eyes of the beholder, meh...)

But she likes him. Inexplicably.

Even after his spell-induced love/stalking of her results in an attempted rape, she still "sort of" likes him.

WTF? What the blue-pencilled fuck?

Powerful women turn men into rapists, that's what this film says.

It does. I am rolling my eyes at you. Yes, I am.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


It tickles me when during the advert for Ocean finance after lots of swimming pool splashing, the final guy dives into the sea. I immediately wondered where Jaws was. Probably not an association the loan company wants me to be making.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Domestic appliance abuse

Today has mostly been moving white goods about and out of the house, since our chest freezer decided to stop working. I discovered this only when everything had thawed, unfortunately. A month's worth of food!

There was much swearing. Then, to add injury to insult, the arsing thing would refuse to stay open while I attempted to get things out of it, like some sort of deranged (but fortunately toothless) white-box-shaped, land-dwelling shark, trying to gum me to death with its lid. So dear reader, I kicked it. A few times. And called it some very rude words and kicked it some more.

Violence against domestic appliances is childish, and doesn't solve anything, (although it did actually start to hum and freeze again after I booted it a bit, so maybe it does solve things) but I felt a bit too John Cleesey in the aftermath.

It's the second time this had happened, but the previous time we had thought the power to the garage where it was kept at the time might have tripped. It seems, however, that this freezer is simply a temperamental bastard. It's going away, (damn its eyes) never to darken my doors again, via the pub which M now runs (which I did write a post about, but never pressed "publish") and which had a Comet-worthy cellar full of freezers. (This caused its new manager some discontent as he likes to think of pub cellars as being places full of beer rather than white goods). Thus, lo and behold, he is having someone take away these surplus-to-requirements fridges and freezers, and ours is going too (damn its eyes again). We swapped our temperamental bastard for a slightly bigger and hopefully better behaved one from there.

I may keep a branch beside it, just so it knows what it'll get...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

If I was a newspaper

If I was a newspaper (well, rather journalist) writing about what I am about to blog, I would report it as "PC gorn mad (again)" (and then I would have to go and shoot myself through the head).

My child's school has decided that all the children in her year will do the Maypole dance instead of just a selected few at this year's country dancing event. It wouldn't be very accurate of a newspaper to report it in such a way, and they only really like PC-gorn-mad stories that are schools, councils or other official bodies imposing their PC-gorn-madness on poor innocent Joan Public. But I've no doubt that it would be spun as "school's PC diktat!" if it were reported. (Newspapers often seem to neglect concerns such as accuracy and reflecting reality in favour of fearmongering and outraged-of-Tunbridge-Wells-speke, as amply demonstrated by many of Five Chinese Crackers' dissections of articles).

In this case, as probably with many others, it's the petty pusillanimous mewling brats (other parents!) that have caused the change. Just because their children didn't make the team, they have the audacity to moan, whinge, complain and gurn officially. Maybe young Billy has two left feet, face up to it, you rose-coloured-spectacle wearer!

Of course, my daughter did make it onto the team, which may account for my reaction.

It must be rotten running a school: if you listen to parents and abandon the minor competitive element that may cause disappointment (mostly to the parents!) you run the risk of being accused of insanity by politically correctness. If you don't listen to parents, you'll likely get the LEA looking into you!

This post was not altogether serious.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

On going to Pete

I have seen signs about the place with Pete inscribed in the middle. Who is Pete and why would I wish to know about him? And what does this Pete need signs about him for?

Turns out he is an outdoor arrangement of stalls and games, with a bouncy castle. From which S won some sweeties at Hoopla and I came away with a rather nice top and a linen dress for £1.50. Both fit and I declare myself the newly crowned bargain bucket queen.

The other major activity of the day was to clean our skip-on-wheels. The advice I would give to anyone is
a. never ever allow children to eat in cars.
b. or have crayons. Crayons are made from wax, you see. Cars get hot. Which is plainly a marvellous combination (if you like multi-coloured puddles on your dashboard, and who wouldn't?) and one I should have foreseen.
c. never dig round in the recesses of a child-seat unless you have a strong stomach. "No, no, you can't. It's impossible, I swear it. I've looked into it. Listen to me, listen to me. There are things in there, there's a tea-bag growing." [/Withnail and I]

Still the car looks nice now and in a spirit of hope, I have put a small bin between their seats.

Pre-eminently peerless stinker

A sunny day - I may buy a lawnmower! That'd cure it.

I am reading Dawkins' The God Delusion at the moment, and I'm enjoying it so far. I had thought I might find it to be rather too strident, given the Rottweiler's reputation, (but I suppose give it time!)

It has made me laugh, which was unexpected - I'd been expecting to nod along at best, or to find it dry, but reading it is just speeding along. I particularly enjoyed a passage where he talks about Aquinas's argument from degree where god is an external standard of perfection to which we compare ourselves, and he responds that "You might as well say, people vary in smelliness but we can make the comparison only by reference to a perfect maximum of conceivable smelliness. Therefore there must exist a pre-eminently peerless stinker, and we call him god." Oh, it tickled me, that.

In fact it's the paragraph that keeps on giving, making me snort to myself when I think about it. It's that darned "pre-eminently peerless stinker" phrase.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Flip flop

In a sudden change of plans, I've decided to send T to a different pre-school than the one I was looking at in my last post. I tootled past one in the village and it said on its hoarding that you could just drop in, so we did. We ended up staying all morning and I liked the woman running it, came away happier than I had from the other and that's where he's going to go.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A short burst of blogging energy that suddenly tails off.

There was a big old traffic jam this evening as I tried to get to a meeting at my son's potential nursery. Apparently a motor home was burning at a roundabout, and the area had to be closed as the vehicle was carrying a gas cylinder. For non-nefarious purposes, such as cooking, I assume. This caused traffic to be diverted here there and everywhere, much of it ending up in my way. Don't they know who I am?!

If they listened to my children in the back of the car, who crow triumphantly "We made it!" during journeys, they might want to reconsider getting in my way. I'm hoping that it's more about passing other vehicles in an imaginary racing game than comment on my skills, although when I missed a gear this afternoon, T announced "Crash!" in delighted tones. No, just a jerk, thankfully! I always apologise to my car when I do that. Which is a bit strange really, now I come to think about it.

Which traffic nonsense meant I entered the room late and everyone noticed, sadly. Start as I mean to go on, eh?

I'm really not sure about T starting nursery, even if it is only five half-days a week. He just seems so little. I didn't have this problem with S; as I recall, I was quite heartless about sending her off. (Although my memory isn't that great at times, maybe I was angst-ridden then too.) So why the difference (assuming there is one)? I guess she was closer to four when she went, while T will only just be three.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


This morning the children and I went to see Shrek the Third. We got into our seats fairly early, and I was amused and somewhat raised-eyebrowed at the music they played initially as we waited: an excitable rock band with a social conscience pounding out some views on immigration and prostitution. Happily it was replaced by more mainstream music that wasn't going to raise any interesting questions from small listeners.

Not that they were listening: there was popcorn.

The film was good fun and I can see ourselves getting it on DVD eventually. It didn't really engross S, tho: she must have gone to the toilet four times, which seems an awful lot even if she did drink a big fizzy drink. T was very good for a small boy; he did get restless towards the end, but he didn't kick up a stink.

In other news, I hate Boots because of their advert for getting ready for the beach (which may well be moot in the absence of any sunshine). On a hectically busy beach everyone turns and stares at a new arrival until she reveals herself to be "beach-gorgeous". Blah. I know advertising uses fears of its target audience (or even attempts to create fears), but that's just far too blatant. It makes me want to grab advertising executives by the shoulders and shout into their faces until they have to wipe off the spittle.

I know women who claim to be too self-conscious to take their kids to the swimming pool, forblimeyguvnorluvvaduck's sake, (I occasionally suspect they may just not want to take their children to the pool. Which is fine, but own up to it!) While I would wish to kick their buttocks and tell them to get over themselves, it makes me mad when we're presented with this appearance-is-everything drivel in advertising. When people apparently buy into it.

Another one that annoys me is the one about being self-conscious about having cracked heels.

Oh no, I may have a few small but visible flaws! Save me, aieeeee! To anyone who does worry unduly about cracked heels, I'm sorry, but you have way too much time on your hands.