Monday, April 30, 2007

Swedish experts talk about their lives

Here are more things you need to know about Section 59 repeal.

The child beaters have made much of Sweden. They claimed that the experience of 'banning smacking' in Sweden had disastrous consequences. Save the Children have done some research. Sweden abolished this form of child abuse fifty years ago and it has not led to riots in the streets by rebellious schoolchildren.

But who cares about the Swedes with their social democracy, their welfare state and their high quality wooden furniture in stylish modern designs? Beating up your kids must be OK, because a former All Black says so. Bull Allen, described as "iconic," has given his support to the Family Values campaign run by "Bishop" Brian Tamaki, Pastor Peter Mortlock and the Reverend Mike Weitenberg. I know almost nothing about Bull Allen, so I cannot comment, but I suspect he knows almost nothing about the issue.

Bishop Tamaki and friends will be having a peaceful mass-gathering on Wednesday 2nd May at Parliament: 'You are invited to join with thousands of other ordinary kiwi’s that want to send a clear message to government – leave our families alone' and who don't care about mangling grammar in the process. Please Note: This is not a pro-smacking event, in case you were wondering.You should go; after all, you are helping pay for it - the Bishop and his pals enjoy generous tax breaks for their churches. We can only hope that the Bishop's intervention will do for the child abusers' cause what it did for the campaign against Civil Unions. An alternative Christian response will be made at the Anglican Cathedral.

Webweaver has a list of the organisations supporting repeal.

The list does not include the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc). One would have thought that our leading Atheist organisation would have something to say about a campaign led by Christian fundamentalists. In fact, they held a very useful debate between Craig Smith of Family Integrity and Ian Hassell, former Children's Commissioner. Then they asked their membership for opinions about the matter. Some members, we don't know how many, were against change, so the Council decided to ignore the issue. Once again, the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc) has done sod all.

John Key favours compromise but, as Span points out, the compromise has been made already. Experts have suggested that John Key would not recognise a principle if he found one in his breakfast cereal and observe that he was quite happy to hang out with the Exclusive Brethren for as long as the public didn't know about it.

Not given lightly

So far, I have not made much of a contribution to the child-battering debate. I think you can take it as read that I do not think there should be a keep-out-of-jail card in the Crimes Act for people who assault their children with weapons. If you assume that I have a particular animus against those who claim the authority of the Holy Bible for their attacks on their children, you assume rightly. It is one thing to beat up your kids but to claim that Yahweh made you do it is another matter and not a pleasant one. It troubles me that really creepy, weird people who have ideas about child-rearing which chill the blood (you see, children are born evil and you have to beat that evil out of them) should be representing themselves as ordinary New Zealanders, concerned parents, good citizens.

It concerns me that this debate has been framed by these people. The very fact that it is called the anti-smacking bill shows that this issue has been captured by the opponents of reform. Why not call it the spanking debate? I'll tell you why; because the word spanking has connotations of eroticism, of ritualistic beating for sexual pleasure. For the proponents of child-beating, the world of kinky sex is uncomfortably close.

When one reads the guides to disciplining children produced by the churches and pastors who advocate child abuse as a way of life, you see how close their worldview is to those of de Sade and Sacher-Masoch. The ritual is crucially important. The child must be told the nature of her sin; she must be shown the weapon of her punishment; some advocate having the weapon on permanent display in the family living room, as a constant reminder of the dangers of transgression. This weapon will have been chosen carefully, to provide just the right amount of flexibility and to avoid bruising (for if the punishment left scars, they might be discovered by the Others: the schoolteachers, social workers, the authorities, the World). The punishment must be administered without anger; this is a ritual, not a release. When it is complete, parent and child should pray together.

It is not easy for the Christian Right to defend their practices. There was a time when beating your children was quite acceptable; but this was also a time when it was acceptable to beat up homosexuals just for being what they were. It was a time when violence was seen as a solution to many problems. We have moved on, most of us, and the fundies find themselves like the White Rhodesians: left behind, struggling to defend what was normalcy so little time ago but is now unacceptable; struggling, as well, to comprehend what happened.

Faced with the obvious peculiarity of their beliefs and the threat from outside to their way of life, the fundies are looking for secular support. Family First, a coalition of various strains of intolerance, has found it in Robert E. Larzelere, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Oklahoma. Professor Larzelere is well known for his defence of corporal punishment. It is not as if he or his university are particularly distinguished; but a little secular, academic, support goes a long way in the world of the fundies. They might claim the sole authority of the Bible in all matters, but the support of a real, live Psychologist from the USofA is worth much more than a host of pleading pastors.

Family First have brought Professor Larzelere to New Zealand; is it just me, or is there a huge cultural cringe reflected in the way these organisations always have to go overseas for their support and in the way that local media gives the visitors such credence? Family First have given him a whirlwind tour of the local media. You might have heard him on Leighton Smith's show (I did not: Leighton's broadcasts for the dead make me want to vomit) or with John Tamihere (likewise). You can see him tonight debating the Children's Commissioner on Campbell Live.

In case you do not have time to catch up with the professor, this is what he advocates for children from 2 to 6 years: 2 open-handed swats to the buttocks, leaving no bruise. It will be interesting to see if he advocates the sort of punishment recommended for children by Craig Smith of Family Integrity in his pamphlet, The Christian Foundations of the Institution of Corporal Correction:
Go to a private place, collect the smacking rod, then fully discuss the crime...child. Their admission of guilt, their agreement that a smack is necessary and the need to master selfdiscipline together make it important that the child voluntarily submits to the discipline of smacking.
Notice that this punishment is for children from the age of 18 months. Think about that. Craig Smith does not have the sort of learning that the Professor will doubtless bring to this debate. So why does he do it? He doesn't know:
I freely admit that I do not understand the connection between a physical smack on the bottom and a rebellious spiritual condition of the heart, nor how the first drives out the latter. But the Scripture declares it is so, therefore I am obliged to believe and practice it.
I am sure that having a real life American academic to support their cause will hearten Family First. Before they get too excited, let's burst their balloon. Here is a media release from the American Psychological Association. It is fair and balanced, giving space both to Larzelere and to more mainstream opinion. It is worth reading, especially the quotation with which it ends:
Until researchers, clinicians, and parents can definitively demonstrate the presence of positive effects of corporal punishment, including effectiveness in halting future misbehaviour, not just the absence of negative effects, we as psychologists can not responsibly recommend its use
Enough. To end, I found this extraordinary footage in the course of my research:

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Some links

There is no link between abortion and breast cancer.

Lesbians can cause boys to have sleepless nights.

Another surprise: porn movies have scriptwriters.

This is not a porn movie: Cheerleaders go wild.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the bees are disappearing.

Penguins, however, are just confusing.

American children are getting fat and Mother Jones discovers why.

The future is grim, according to the British Ministry of Defence.

David Halberstam is dead.

C4: an Enquiry into Morals

I am sorry I have not been blogging recently but I have been watching television. Last night on C4, after the Daily Show, they did one of their top ten lists. This one was "top ten most shocking videos" At Number Ten was Robbie Williams' Rock DJ.
At number nine was Tatu's All the Things She Said .

So, let me get this right. A video showing two schoolgirls snogging in the rain is more shocking than a video in which a man rips off his own flesh. Am I missing something here?

I would have continued this study of the mores of pop culture by watching more filthy videos but Number 7, which featured 50 Cent and some pneumatically enhanced women, was too much for my flatmate. It was nearly time for Letterman anyway, which has much better Top Ten lists.

To mix up this ethical stew further, immediately before the C4 show, they broadcast the video for Dizzee Rascal's Sirens, which is shocking in a quite different way, and brilliant.

Here is something from my mispent youth which I hope is suitable for the office: Not the Nine O'Clock News:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Landscape with Exclusive Brethren

In the interests of fairness and accuracy, the Fundy Post wants you to know that the seven men without ties who appeared to be representing the Exclusive Brethren at the last General Election were acting on their own behalf. They were merely a group of concerned businessmen, family men, taxpayers. I am sure none of you will have any difficulty believing this fact, unlike that curmudgeonly David Farrar.

In the interests of Art, I must plead with Mr Farrar not to call this bunch the Group of Seven. Apart from being the name given to some meeting of world leaders, the Group of Seven was a circle of Canadian artists, rather good ones at that; Please, David, these things matter to me.

Pictured above is A Y Jackson's The Red Maple, which is much prettier than the Exclusive Brethren

Guns don't kill people; Darwin kills people

It is difficult to keep up with all the contemptible nonsense being spoken about Virginia Tech. However, one commentator stands out - Ken Ham:
We live in an era when public high schools and colleges have all but banned God from science classes. In these classrooms, students are taught that the whole universe, including plants and animals—and humans—arose by natural processes. Naturalism (in essence, atheism) has become the religion of the day and has become the foundation of the education system (and Western culture as a whole). The more such a philosophy permeates the culture, the more we would expect to see a sense of purposelessness and hopelessness that pervades people’s thinking. In fact, the more a culture allows the killing of the unborn, the more we will see people treating life in general as “cheap.”

I’m not at all saying that the person who committed these murders at Virginia Tech was driven by a belief in millions of years or evolution. I don’t know why this person did what he did, except the obvious: that it was a result of sin. However, when we see such death and violence, it is a reminder to us that without God’s Word (and the literal history in Genesis 1–11), people will not understand why such things happen

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars

Salem's loss

Why, oh why did I mention cat blogs? There I was, trying to write a witty, satirical blog about religious politics, Art and Sophie Ellis Bextor but my fellow bloggers want to talk about their cats. Pamziewamzie wants us all to know that she has a cat blog. Unfortunately, she no longer has a cat. She does, however have a lot of libertarians telling her about property rights. Meanwhile, Span now has a sheep blog.

If there is one blog that managed to seamlessly integrate politics and cats, it was Shakespeare's Sister. For reasons of its own, the blog has been renamed Shakesville but the cats stay. Of course, it now ineligible for the Blogs Named After Songs By The Smiths blogroll.

While you are grazing at Shakesville, you really must read this tirade by Bill Maher about graduates of Pat Robertson's Regent University, 150 of whom work for the Bush Administration, "most of them young women with very little knowledge of the law, but a very strong sense of doing what they’re told. Like the Manson family, but with cleaner hair." Suddenly, Regent University is no longer proud of its achievement.

As it happens, Research shows that nine out of ten cats prefer the Smiths to any other band.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Political corrections gone mad

News from the Auld Country: The Scottish Christian Party wants to send medium security prisoners to Third-World countries to do their time, leaving the high security prisoners at home.

Is it just me, or is the most stupid idea ever? Hardened crims will be forced to endure tatties and neeps, while mediocre crooks will get holidays in the sun. Or, to put it another way, middling crims will be thrown into hell-holes in distant countries of which we know almost nothing, while vicious murderers will enjoy the holiday camp that is the modern high security prison. Will petty criminals commit worse crimes in order to get away from it all? Will menaces to society moderate their crime-committing to enjoy a foreign holiday? Who knows, but didn't this sort of thinking lead to Australia?

Guns don't kill people; Socialists kill people.

The inevitable response of many rightist blogs to the Virginia Tech killings has been to propose Chuck Norris solutions: lecturers with concealed handguns taking down the perp (which of course they could not do because of those pinko leftie restrictions on good honest citizens having guns). Somebody really ought to tell them that movies are not real.

I would say more, but I was rendered speechless by this comment from Tim Barclay:
The shooter is a socialist going on about rich kids. This is not the first time that despicable philosophy has been acted out at the barrel of a gun.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Word of the day - BoKlok

Some reading for you:

Date With IKEA
Having seized the market for affordable home furnishings in the past decade, the Swedish retail giant is now planning to provide the homes themselves. They've already built some 3,500 BoKlok dwellings across Scandinavia - and now they're coming to the UK.

Horse sense
"If we could sniff or swallow something that would, for five or six hours each day, abolish our solitude as individuals, atone us with our fellows in a glowing exaltation of affection and make life in all its aspects seem not only worth living, but divinely beautiful and significant, and if this heavenly, world-transfiguring drug were of such a kind that we could wake up next morning with a clear head and an undamaged constitution - then, it seems to me, all our problems (and not merely the one small problem of discovering a novel pleasure) would be wholly solved and earth would become paradise."

My old school
It certainly has all the credentials to make us suspicious. The institute used to be hidden away in Portland Place, where it was run for much of its postwar history by Anthony Blunt. His first appointment, to be his deputy, was Johannes Wilde, a one-time Marxist who, according to the Courtauld's history, 'had been involved in the abortive Bela Kun coup d'etat in Hungary in 1919.'

Wim Wenders takes back Europe
All right, I might be exaggerating,but the heart of the matter remains pretty much true: our own myths don't belong to us anymore. Nothing forms our contemporary imagination so intensely,so specifically and permanently as cinema. But we are no longer in control.It doesn't belong to us anymore. Our very own and precious invention has slipped away from us.

Weiss trash
The poor of today watch television for half the day. These days, television producers even refer to what they call "Underclass TV." The new proletariat eats a lot of fatty foods and he enjoys smoking and drinking -- a lot. About 8 percent of Germans consume 40 percent of all the alcohol sold in the country. While he may be a family man, his families are often broken. And on Election Day, he casts a protest vote for the extreme left or right wing party, sometimes switching quickly from one to the other.

The selfless gene
Exhortations to extreme selflessness are easy to parody, as not only unrealistic but also paradoxically self-serving insofar as the exhorter is likely to benefit at the expense of the one exhorted. Yet the more we learn about biology, the more sensible becomes the basic thrust of social ethics, precisely because nearly everyone, left to his or her devices, is likely to be selfish, probably more than is good for the rest of us.

Michael Frayn, philosopher
So the news that Frayn had done a whole book on philosophy was a cause of anticipatory glee. What’s more fun, after all, than seeing one’s colleagues skewered? But the skies darkened when a copy actually turned up in the mail. For one thing, it’s clear at a glance that this is no joke; it’s a book of philosophy, not a book on philosophy, and I can’t imagine an author who is more in earnest.

Robert Hughes, elitist
Hughes is, by his own rather defiant declaration, "completely an elitist, in the cultural but emphatically not the social sense." He is, "after all, a cultural critic, and my main job is to distinguish the good from the second-rate, pretentious, sentimental, and boring stuff that saturates culture today."

Hannah and Emma
Are Dead (and Occasionally Read) White Males sentenced to such reductionism? Of course. Just not as much. And the tradition of both discovery and revival, from the resurrection of Melville by 20th-century critics to the recovery of Nietzsche by Walter Kaufmann from proto-Nazi caricature, falls into a longer, more zealous tradition of male scholars' expressing enthusiasms through historical rescue work, of spurring sufficient secondary-book tribute that some corner of a campus library ends up forever consecrated to one's "guy."

Friday, April 13, 2007


From a comment by Greg Bourke about a post on NZ Conservative.
Catholicism gave the following to Western Civilization: The music notation system, double entry book keeping, champagne, Mendelian genetics, Copernican astronomy, the printing press, the hospital, and the university.
Readers are invited to take issue with any of the above. For a start, the musical notation system is dreadful, as anyone who has ever had to deal with all those notes above and below the stave will attest. Double entry book-keeping was invented by merchants in 14th Century Florence, who may have been Catholics but then so was everybody. The Church had more than a few issues with the heliocentric model, particularly when Galileo got hold of it. Whatever involvement the Church had with the invention of the printing press they probably regretted: it led to Protestants and the Enlightenment. The university caused similar woes.

Readers are also welcome to add their own favourite Catholic innovations to the list. I will start the list with Fascism. Anyone who has ever wondered why Fascism was strongest in the Catholic parts of Europe is invited to read Isaiah Berlin's Joseph de Maistre and the Origins of Fascism from The Crooked Timber of Humanity.

Lucyna at NZ Conservative has a different interpretation. She blames the Third Reich on the gays, having read a book called The Pink Swastika.

Word of the day: caverage

It is just a typographical error in this revealing piece in Scoop on the Psychology behind George W Bush's decision-making, but "caverage" could be a useful neologism to describe genteel failure.

By the way, whatever happened to starkish? Apparently it is an adjective which was defined as "to exhibit a sense of proportion and good taste"; that sounds like verb definition to me, but then I don't work in PR. According to its promoters, it is synonymous with Bling, Maxamalistic and Paris Hilton. The word was created to promote some ghastly RTD enjoyed by the sort of people who use words like Bling, Maxamalistic and Paris Hilton. Despite the best efforts of Pead PR, it has not caught on. I wonder what happened to the drink.

Anyway, back on topic, the Pope has been ruminating about Science. Apparently His Holiness has written "Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection was not finally provable because mutations over millennia could never be replicated in a laboratory." Perhaps that is because we have not had laboratories for millennia. In any case how would one go about replicating a mutation? Perhaps His Holiness should look at the work of Gregor Mendel, who was, after all, one of the Pope's gang.

Meanwhile, while we are on the subject of curious beliefs, blogger Andrew Falloon clings to the notion that it was not the Exclusive Brethren who financed National's campaign but just seven members.

Elsewhere, No God Zone has a video of theological debate in a typical American home. Kids say the darndest things.

Finally, I note that a certain well-known media commentator has linked to a You Tube video at the end of his post for today. I wonder where he got that idea. I shall not be making accusations of plagiarism, since I stole the idea of this relaxed Friday round-up from him; in any case, not so many days ago Russell sent my readership stats skywards by linking here twice in one of his posts.

Here's something a bit more to my taste: the Only Ones performing Another Girl, Another Planet, which you may recognise from a Vodafone advert that is currently showing.

With thanks to Craig and to Edwin

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fiscal prudence gone mad

Richard Prebble is holding a user-pays book launch. According to Gooner at Sir Humphreys:
It's at 2.30pm, Sunday 15 April at Mecca Cafe, corner Nuffield St and Remuera Rd, Newmarket. It costs $16.00 which includes non alcoholic beverage, light sandwiches and cake.
Cake, I welcome; somebody will have to explain to me what is meant by light sandwiches; non-alcoholic beverage: not for sixteen bucks.

Who is doing the catering - The Mothers' Union? Does Mr Prebble not understand that we go to these events - book launches, gallery viewings, preview screenings - not just for the scintillating conversation, but mostly for the free booze and exquisitely catered food?

The return of the Magnificent Seven

Oh dear, the Exclusive Brethren are angry again. The Government is working on plans to reform election spending and of course it is Political Correctness Gone Mad. The Brethren have wheeled out their seven spokesmen, who have made a statement to the Herald saying the plans are "designed to further defraud the democratic rights from the political process by effectively banning third-party campaigning while leaving the door open for Clark's allies to fill her election chests".

Quite how the Government can defraud the democratic rights from the political process is a mystery to political scientists and grammarians alike. But then, the Brethren are not voting folks, nor are they varsity types. What has them rattled is the following:
Negative third-party campaigning would be counted against a party even if it did not endorse it. Any third-party campaigning would be limited to a cost of $60,000 nationally, and would require the permission of the party it endorsed. Organisations such as unions or companies would be exempt if their messages were deemed to be communicating with members.
A mere sixty grand; no wonder they are annoyed. At least they had the permission of the party they endorsed.

The Bash Street kids

Over at No Right Turn, Idiot/Savant discusses Tyndale Park Christian School, which has been breaking the law for the last fifteen years. The law says corporal punishment is banned in schools. The school says it obeys a higher law. Whatever happened to that old "render unto Caesar" thing, or does that just apply to taxation?

I could go on. Instead, I will note this from the school's Statement of Philosophy and Purpose:
Tyndale Park Christian School encourages the development of Christian character and attributes in the life of the children as they learn to relate to the world in which they live. Children will be equipped with a basis of evaluating right and wrong based on the teaching of the Bible.
Clearly, this means "we will do what we want and find some passage of Scripture to justify our actions."

Elsewhere in the news, it seems the campaign against the "anti-smacking bill" is doomed: Brian is joining it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

This is not a cat blog

Span has a cat blog. So has Eric. Idiot/Savant does not do cat blogs but has no problem with a cook blog.

Meanwhile, Rachel in Arkansas blogs about Godly guys. Nixie's got a cult. Newtown Ghetto Anger refutes evolution, while Bible Study for Atheists answers the Big Questions. Everything is Pointless blogs about everything while The Psychobunny Ranteth. The Pagan Prattle discovers the Swiss secret weapon.

In another part of the forest, NZ Conservative (yes, really) readers get worked up about Peter Cresswell's views on Christianity and Tony Milne's views on smacking.

Since this is the 101st (Airborne) Fundy Post, here are the 101ers. Yes, that is Joe Strummer singing and no, it is not a video but a slideshow; we didn't have videos back then. Ask your parents.

Bikini girls with machine guns

This is my 100th post; so indulge me for a moment, as if you don't already.

The Age has a story about a deaf lesbian in South Dakota who is on trial for murdering another woman and dismembering her with a chainsaw. For some reason, the headline Chainsaw lesbian faces trial, reminds me of the greatest music video ever made:

Monday, April 09, 2007

Some news

In Melbourne, Pentelcostalism is cool. In Bennelong, the Exclusive Brethren consider their options, while in Christchurch, blogger Dumamark experiences a night out for the ex-Exclusive Brethren. In Rome the media are criticised for talking about sex rather than charity. In Poland, the word on the street is lustration. In Sweden, a Princess is stalked by the Phelps family. Meanwhile, in Wellington, they are destroying sculptures.

With thanks to Craig

Sunday, April 08, 2007

After browsing at Borders

Having nothing to do on this God-forsaken day, I wandered into Borders. It is not a bookstore of which I approve. It is not really a bookstore at all; it is more of a vast reading library which keeps really long hours and gives you the option of buying books and magazines if you want to take them home. Of course, it should not be open today, because we should be in Church, but Borders has no borders.

Anyway, it was an opportunity to make observations about the state of the publishing industry. I thought these things might be clues:

1. Books have been published from contributions to Postsecret and Engrish. What is the point? These books cost money and, although it does not say so on their covers, are not updated regularly. Who are they for - people who do not use Internet for recreational purposes at work; people who have never found any interesting sites and use Internet just for banking and bus timetables; people who don't like computers? At least these books give those of us who have been visiting these sites for years the satisfaction of knowing that we were ahead of the curve.

2. The Second World War will never end, although it is now being fought by historians and veterans.

3. You can judge a book by its cover. Books with embossed lettering on their covers are very bad books. This is helpful for blind customers buying books for their sighted friends. Novels with pink covers are written for women. Men don't read.

4. About sixty per cent of new books are set in Tuscany. They are either: anecdotes of over-stressed advertising executives who gave it all up for the simple life among comical and colourful peasants; or: novels written by the same over-stressed advertising executives about their thinly-veiled autobiographical selves.

5. It is a shame that so many people have a novel inside them. It is usually a very bad novel.

6. The political is the personal. Every politician of note has to write a book; it always explains the politician's politics in terms of his or her "personal journey."

7. John Grisham wants to be Harper Lee, over and over again.

I could go on. Instead here is a song about 19th Century English literature by the Jefferson Airplane, which I post here to remind us all how unutterably gorgeous Grace Slick once was.

An anecdote of a jar (or two)

You might have noticed that Harvest Bird and I have been indulging in a Wallace Stevens poetry jam, lobbing back and forth lines and poems written by the Vice President of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. The most recent contribution by Harvest Bird was Six Significant Landscapes, which ends:
Rationalists, wearing square hats,
Think, in square rooms,
Looking at the floor,
Looking at the ceiling.
They confine themselves
To right-angled triangles.
If they tried rhomboids,
Cones, waving lines, ellipses --
As, for example, the ellipse of the half-moon --
Rationalists would wear sombreros.
Strangely enough, the story I promised to tell you in my last but one post - about how the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc) served me a Trespass Order - begins with a Rationalist in a sombrero.

Said Rationalist was Mr Malcolm English, Barrister, Solicitor and member of the NZARH Council. He was wearing a sombrero because he was (a) at a Mexican-themed party and (b) pissed out of his brain. I was also at the party, which was held at a large house in Brighton Road, Auckland. Mr English and I exchanged some words. His were "fuck off" and mine were a little more considered. This, you see, was my first meeting with Mr English or any other member of the Council since the Council had expelled me from the NZARH at the Annual General Meeting in June of last year. We had our differences.

At this point, I am sure you want to know why I was expelled from the NZARH. I will explain that in later posts, for reasons of brevity. I am afraid this narrative must proceed backwards over several episodes. I am sure we are all sufficiently post-modernist round here to deal with that.

I didn't waste much time talking to Mr English, because I preferred to talk to a very nice Goth girl about 19th Century English novels (a classical education sometimes has its benefits). However, two of my friends took over the onerous task and gave him rather a hard time about the Council's actions towards me. I last saw him staring into nothingness, wearing an inane grin and the sombrero.

I thought nothing more of the matter. However, it seems Mr English did, as you shall read. I was surprised he remembered it at all. He and I used to be best buddies and go out drinking most weekends. He invariably got very drunk and forgot most of what happened. On one memorable occasion (for me, at least) he phoned me from a hospital to ask me whether I had been out with him the night before; I hadn't but he been drinking socially and had sustained an injury while under the influence, waking up the next morning in a hospital bed with no memory of the night's events. On another night, I was making the acquaintance of a new friend at Murphy's Irish Bar, when a barman asked me to remove Mr English, who was slumped in a corner and vomiting over himself. After the Brighton Road party, Mr English at least remembered he had met me.

Some time after the party, Princes Street Labour booked the Rationalist House meeting room (which is rectangular but has a floor and ceiling to look at) for a fund-raising evening to support the locked-out workers of Progressive Enterprises, on 16th September. I am a member of Princes Street Labour, as the NZARH Council know. In fact, one of the organisers was asked by Judith de Leeuwe, the NZARH Office Manager, whether I would be attending.

The day before the event, I received a phone call from Ms de Leeuwe. She told me that the NZARH Council would be obtaining a Trespass Order to prevent me entering Rationalist House. The reason for this was that Mr English had told the Council that I had threatened to cause damage to Rationalist House when I met him at the Brighton Road party. This is untrue; I said no such thing. Mr English either imagined my supposed remarks or invented them.

As it happened, I received no trespass order. The event proceeded and raised over $200 for the workers. Rationalist House stands to this day.

On the Tuesday after the event, I was relaxing at home in Absurdist House when I was interrupted by a knock on the door. There, skulking in the shadows was Mr David Ross, then NZARH Treasurer (whom I once named Igor, for his tireless efforts doing Dr Bill Cooke's dirty work). He handed me a Trespass Order, which prevents me from entering Rationalist House for two years, on pain of a fine not exceeding $1000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months. I was a little alarmed that they had managed to find me, since I had not told them my new address and had no wish to have the Council know where I live.

The trouble with a Trespass Order is that there is no appeal against it: although the Council did not think it an urgent matter and although my two friends witnessed the conversation in which I did not make the threat against the building that formed the grounds for the Order, there is nothing I can do about it.

The Trespass Order was dated the previous Thursday, but obviously the NZARH Council did not think that Rationalist House was in such peril that it had to be served before the event. Nor had any member of the Council thought it necessary to go to Rationalist House during the event to ensure that I was not damaging the property. Obviously they did not think I posed any clear and present danger to Rationalist House, so why did they go to the trouble of serving me this order?

The NZARH Council moves in mysterious ways, their wonders to perform, but let me tell you why I think they did it. The NZARH Constitution says that any member who is expelled from the Association has the right to appeal to the next General Meeting of the Association and will be re-admitted to the NZARH if two-thirds of the members at the meeting agree. The Council carefully timed my expulsion to occur at the Annual General Meeting on Sunday 25th June 2006. This meant that I could not appeal to that AGM and would have to wait until the next one, in June this year. The Trespass Order means that, if I go to the AGM this year or next, the Council could have me removed from the building by the Police and I would face a hefty fine or a prison sentence.

And why, you might ask, are the NZARH Council so determined to stop me appealing to the membership? Because I have a few things to tell the membership that the Council do not want them to hear. Since I cannot tell the membership, I will tell you.

Watch this space.

Push, push, struggle

Tonight on K Road somebody was holding a Kurt Cobain tribute event.

I hate Nirvana.

Nirvana had one good riff, on Come as You Are.

They stole it from Killing Joke.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Crazy: yes. Dumb: no.

Since I had nothing to do last night (see previous post) I tuned in for Close Up at Seven on TV One, because it had an Easter special examining whether we are a Christian country. And who did I find on the multi-faith panel of pundits postulating on this question? None other than Dr Bill Cooke of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (Inc), that's who, preaching the gospel of Humanism. Which reminds me, I must tell you the story of how I was trespassed from Rationalist House. Soon.

In the meantime, I have been looking at the poll which TVNZ commissioned for the Easter special and wondering why they wasted our money on this crap. The main question asked was "Do you think New Zealand is still predominantly a Christian society?" 51.3% agreed; 45.6% disagreed. Fair enough, but that doesn't mean much. During the later years of the Cold War, polls found that a majority of young people thought they would die in a nuclear holocaust. Although some commentators at the time took this to mean that said holocaust was inevitable, polls are not lethal.

What the poll failed to discover was anything about how much religious observance was conducted by those polled or what were their attitudes to their religions. Previous research has shown that about ten to twenty percent of the population regularly attend religious services. Unfortunately, these pollsters did not think that a question worth asking. Which is a shame because that answer and the proportion of the non-observant who shape their lives according to their religious beliefs would give a much more clear indication of how religious is our society.

One question the survey did ask was "if we are not a Christian society, what are we?" The pollsters' interpretation of the results says a lot about the poll, none of it good. Here are some excerpts:
* Atheist and undecided. Many people who call themselves Christians call themselves that because it's easier than saying that they don't believe in, and because that's how they were brought up - not because it accurately reflects the beliefs that they act on a day to day basis
* If we aren't atheists for certain, we are on the brink of being non-believers in God. Science has made us think more deeply about 'the great explosion' and why would a God allow such a belligerent society continue to exist. Why the religious wars throughout the ages if we believe in the same God? What is the difference between a Roman Catholic God and a Christian one. Why are Iraqui people so divided when basically they are members of the same religion?
Has science made you think more deeply about the Great Explosion? Are you concerned about the standards of thinking and grammar in polling firms? Does this make any sense whatsoever?

It is even worse for the agnostics:
* Mainly agnostic and uninterested and use the excuse we are too busy
* Agnostic, consumer driven society following generally the values espoused by the major religions (e.g. respect, family based etc)
As TH Huxley once said, we are all consumers now.

Meanwhile Iain Middleton of the Humanist Society of New Zealand (yes, in this little country of ours we have a Humanist Society of New Zealand and a New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists) talks about the big questions to Salient .

And here, making much more sense than any of the above, is The Mint Chicks:

Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday on my mind

To Morningside, for life. I went to the Craccum party last night; I'm in with the in crowd. We swayed to the gentle sounds of the Body Corporate and the Dilettantes, playing live in Simon's sitting room. We talked (Derrida, the Pre-Socratics, robots, that sort of thing), we danced, we drank. And then we ran out of drink. And then came the dread realisation that it was past midnight and today was Good Friday, the day on which everything closes. There was no drink to be had.

Why does this happen? Yes I know, it's because Jesus died, for our Sins. Then he took a weekend off from being alive. Then he stopped being dead on Monday. Then he went away again, to be with his Father and his Ghost, or something like that. For this we get two holidays; but we are not allowed to do anything that involves buying things. Thanks Jesus.

Any anyway, this is not necessarily the day he died, because Easter is a Moveable Feast and it does a lot of moving. The Book of Common Prayer includes a useful guide to calculating when it will happen each year. A minority of us will be going to church to mourn the death of Jesus, knowing all the time that he came back later; so, although he really died, he didn't really, really die.

For this, the majority of us are condemned to the slowest day of the year. We can go to dairies and petrol stations and buy some of the stuff we would normally buy in a supermarket, but at inflated prices. Apart from that, we can buy souvenirs and not much else. If you own a shop, you can open it, if it is in Parnell, but not up the road in Newmarket. If you are a retail magnate, you can open your shops in Queenstown and Taupo but not those in Rotorua, Mt Maunganui and Wanaka. If you are a Labour Department inspector, you will be prowling the streets looking for transgressors.

Oh well, at least I got a chocolate egg.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

News from God

This news came as a surprise to me, considering the number of God's advocates who seem to be quite obsessed with gays and what they get up to.

The news offended one A Miller, who complained to the Advertising Standards Authority on the grounds that the advertisement "was likely to cause serious and widespread offence in the light of generally prevailing community standards." The ASA disagreed

What I want to know is whether it is gays or God to whom A Miller objects. Which community standards does A Miller have in mind?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Kierkegaard, Krazy Kat, and some other Existentialists

As well as Jedi, the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Discordians in this sermon from one of those wacky Unitarian Universalists. My fellow Absurdists, our time has come.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The tyranny of lentils

In case you are thinking of inviting me to dinner (and I am sure you will) I think you should know that I have specialist dietary requirements. I am a freegetarian. That is, I do not buy dead animal (apart from pies, which have a strange hold on me), but I will eat it when it is offered to me. Given the choice, I prefer dead animals which have been farmed rather than harvested: I am not that keen on eating fish, because we are running out of the stuff very fast; although part of me says I can do nothing and I may as well enjoy fishes whilst I can.

I do have vegetarian sympathies and have been a genuine vegetarian at several times in my life. Sometimes I wish I had the moral character and the metabolism to be a vegan. So I become rather irked when I read an article about vegetarians which makes this sort of sweeping statement:
This is vegetarianism’s lure and vegetarianism’s trap. Along with its heightened awareness of the value of life, it brings a heightened desire to bring a new world into existence. And the greater the ambition, the higher the cost; the greater the purity, the stronger the purge.
So, there you have it: vegetarians are just fascists in flowery dresses. In these politically correct times, it is inconvenient to voice one's prejudices against anyone, but people who don't eat meat are fair game. Professional cooks, on television and radio, seem to make a point of sneering at vegetarians at every opportunity. Sometimes I wonder why the choice of what one eats should matter so much to some other people. But then I remember that dietary restrictions are fundamental to most religions. Perhaps we get it from there.

Meanwhile, PETA would like you to vote for the cutest vegetarian alive