G-ouch-o

At tonight’s Argentine Tango class we learnt a new move with an optional extra: the woman can hook her leg around the man’s waist as they go into a cool dippy turn thing1. My regular partner wasn’t there, so I was dancing with one of the teachers, who is about my age and brilliant at the AT, and she said she wouldn’t put me through this move. It involves the man supporting the woman’s entire bodyweight, she said, and she wasn’t going to make me do that, as she’s pretty heavy. Now, incidentally, this is completely untrue. But even if it weren’t, I wasn’t going to let it slip by. It doesn’t do to let people put themselves down like that. So I attempted to say something nice.

At this point regular readers will note the confluence of a dance class, a woman my own age, and my trying to say anything at all, and may be wincing. And, indeed, the result was me giving a surprised look and saying ‘you can’t be that heavy’.

Sigh.

Could have been worse, I guess, but still.

  1. there is probably a swish spanish name, but I have forgotten it []

See if you can spot where the logic goes wrong

BHA: Here is a billboard with pictures of some children. Its message is: there’s no such thing as a Christian child; or a Muslim child; or an atheist child. They’re all just children, and should be allowed to grow up and choose for themselves.

Times and Telegraph: HAHAHAHAHA those children are Christians! lol you lose.

BHA: …

Christian comebacks to the Atheist Bus Campaign

The Atheist Bus Campaign adverts are coming down in the next few days, after an amazingly successful month. They’ve been a remarkable talking-point1, similar adverts are going up all around the world, and they annoyed, then embarrassed, Christian Voice. All great results, but they’re also apparently the vanguard for a wave of god-related banners:

A trinity of Christian groups have created their own series of advertisements to run across London buses

Fair enough, let’s see what they’ve got. Here’s the first, from the Christian Party:

There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life.

Quite the non-sequitur. A double helping, in fact. Why would the existence of god mean I should join the Christian party? And are the last two clauses linked? Will joining the Christian Party2 help me enjoy my life? How? It’s easy to see why ‘stop worrying and enjoy your life’ would make sense, but this? It’s a little cultish. And pretty tacky: using ‘god exists’ to advertise your political party is just cheap. Next?

There IS a God, BELIEVE. Don’t worry and enjoy your life.

Reports differ on the wording and formatting: the Telegraph says it’s “There is God, believe! Don’t Worry. Enjoy your life!”. Whatever. As a comeback, it’s (ahem) godawful.

Really, that’s the best you could do? No kind of logical rebuttal? Admittedly this is only a bus poster, but the atheist campaign said a lot in the word ‘probably’ – that was really something to get your teeth into, as it led into the philosophical arguments and the nature of reasonable belief. This banner just says ‘no no no. we win’. And if the Guardian is to be believed, resorts to shouting like a street-corner evangelist. Weak. And the last one?

The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.

My irony meter. You has broken it.

Seriously? After all that complaining over the horrendously insulting “now stop worrying and enjoy your life” you’re calling atheists ‘fools’? And with a quote from your magical book, no less? That’s certainly authoritative. Well done. Maybe your follow-up campaign can be ‘I AM A REAL BOY’.  That’ll do it.

Overall, not impressive. And these are all marketing criticisms – don’t even start me on the philosophical objections. Elsewhere, the BHA’s response has a lovely air of amused we-have-better-things-to-do, and Nullifidian.net ponders whether the new banners will – hide your irony meters – break advertising rules. I think the best response is to point and laugh.

  1. sometimes a bit disappointing: did anyone see Adrian Childs on The One Show saying they promote amorality? wtf? []
  2. incidentally, their website weirdly says: “Christianity is not a religion as such, it is a dynamic relationship with God in Christ Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit.” Right then. []

Inexplicability at ceroc week 6

I am properly weird this week. Two extremes:

Yesterday I went into H&M and failed to find the Menswear department. Everything else had a sign, but Menswear? Nope. It was probably upstairs, but there was a big Womenswear sign pointing in that direction, and the assistants seemed to be watching, and I felt conspicuous and silly, so left. 

Then this evening I went to my sixth and final week of Ceroc dancing. It works on a six-week loop, so I knew that by the end of today I’d have learnt all the beginners’ steps. I’ve been determined to complete the six weeks, but by today my enthusiasm was waning. I can’t continue the classes beyond this week, plus it’s not like I know anyone else who can dance ceroc anyway. Learning had been fun, but it couldn’t go anywhere. I still wanted to complete my goal, but I figured I’d leave after the initial lessons. I hadn’t been practicing enough to hold my own during the freestyle practice sessions, and was fed up of sitting at the edge feeling like a tit.

Except I stayed the entire evening – which I’ve never done before – and danced with half the women in the room. Including really good people – I even asked Teacher Lady. I have no idea how this happened. Well, it was at least partly to do with a very nice lady called Karen telling me off and dragging me onto the dancefloor. But I hung about after that, inexplicably full of confidence, and had a great time. This is as far from H&M Andrew as you can get.

I’m worried about social awkwardness this weekend, and now I have no idea what to expect. I feel like S4 West Wing staffers, wondering which President Bartlet is going to turn up at the debate. 

Ho hum. Like I said: properly weird.

Charles on GM

I can’t get through it without laughing:

If they think this is the way to go, we will end up with millions of small farmers all over the world being driven off their land into unsustainable, unmanageable, degraded and dysfunctional conurbations of unmentionable awfulness

It’s ‘unmentionable awfulness’ that gets me.

More on The X-Files movie

I didn’t think the new X-Files film made sense. And not in an X-Filey everything-has-double-meanings way – it just didn’t hang together at any level. Here are some things that happened (spoilers ahead):

An FBI agent has been kidnapped, and a psychic dude claims he can locate her. Mulder, obviously, believes him, and demands they take a trip to the crime scene. They pull up to the house, but Psychic Dude knows they’re not in the right place. She wasn’t kidnapped here! And he trots over the road. To a house they’ve just driven past. A house covered in ‘crime scene’ tape. It turns out Mulder took him to the wrong place as a test, and look what happened! Everyone’s well impressed at this amazing display of psychic powers. This wasn’t an audience-knows-best thing either – I think they just arranged the scene badly.

They realise the kidnapper is choosing his victims based on blood type. Scully is on this like a shot – they’re clearly stealing organs to order. The FBI team should for some reason start by investigating local organ couriers. So they do, and they happen across Bad Guy immediately. And he has some tenuous link to Psychic Dude. Ra! Except, the plot turns out to have nothing to do with stealing organs. So Bad Guy was an organ courier by chance.

The worst FBI team in history raid Bad Guy’s office. Bad Guy wanders in, sees them, quickly hides, and leaves via the front door. But Mulder spots him, so Bad Guy runs off, in the process dropping Victim 1’s head, which he was carrying for no particular reason. Irrelevant shenanigans occur. Mulder then takes a trip to Psychic Dude, and asks him if Victim 1 is still alive. Psychic Dude says yes. Mulder = despondent, Scully = vindicated. Keep this in mind.

Mulder and Scully crack the case independently, and both do it using magical powers. After going on about animal tranquilisers for half the film, Mulder has the genius idea of asking the local animal supplies store whether they’ve sold any lately. But while he’s in there, he sees a truck pull up. Oh noes! A truck! Clearly, only he and the killer use said shop, so Mulder hides and follows him.

Meanwhile, Scully has announced to her hospital that she intends to treat a young boy with stem cell therapy. Being the amazing doctor that she is, the first thing she does is return to her office and google ‘stem cell therapy’. She finds lots, and prints it all off. Later, she comes back to her desk and her eyes are drawn to something she’s printed but apparently not read. It details a Crazy Russian Doctor who’s been transplanting the heads of dogs. ZOMG. Everything falls into place – clearly this Crazy Russian Doctor is now trying his Crazy Experiments on humans! This has nothing to do with stem cell therapy.

So Scully phones (by now in grave danger) Mulder and says, inexplicably, “she’s still alive!”. Referring to Victim 1, whose head was found in a bag. We then cut to an operating theatre, where we see a man’s head on a woman’s body. When Mulder and Scully later burst in on Crazy Russian Doctor, they find a head, sitting on a desk, still alive. Just a head.

I could go on for quite a while. The weirdest thing is, it was barely an X-File. Psychic Dude did very little, and the rest was just crazy medical bullshit. The first film wasn’t particularly coherent, but at least there was a dirty great alien spaceship.

Oh yeah, there’s one more scene that should be mentioned: at the beginning we see Mulder and Scully waiting outside an FBI office. The camera pans left to reveal a portrait of George W. Bush. And the main X-Files doo-dee-doo-doo riff plays. Not as part of the background, or anything subtle like that, just loudly. The camera then pans back, and everything carries on as normal. I like a bit of Bush-bashing as much as the next guy, but this was just crap.

But my main gripe is what they did to Scully. She’s gone from uber-cool Agent of Rationality to whiny religious housewife. She and Mulder had 25 identical conversations, all of which involved her telling Mulder to give up. At one point she complains they they have a home now, and she doesn’t want this kind of darkness in their home. She also ends up completely obsessed with Psychic Dude saying “don’t give up” to her. What could he mean? How can he have such insight into her life? How amazing! Scully now has the analytical reasoning skills of a badger, and has clearly never read a horoscope.

Scully is also suddenly very Catholic (was she always religious? I don’t remember) and spends lots of time having strops over Psychic Dude’s claims that God is speaking through him. How does he know it isn’t the Devil, she asks. And she eventually attributes the whole plot to God’s will. Sigh.

She does at least save Mulder, for possibly the first time ever.

The X-Files always had a great premise and great actors. But the series pretended it was unravelling some great plot, when actually they were making it up as they went along. And despite having six years to write a film script, they apparently couldn’t think of any storylines. Shame.

Seriously, I feel guilty about the feudal system

Paul McCartney is performing a free concert in Quebec this weekend. Some people aren’t happy about it:

…artists and politicians questioned his involvement in the 400th anniversary celebrations of French-speaking Quebec City.

They say his presence is inappropriate because of Britain’s conquest of New France – including Quebec – in 1760.

So, let’s get this straight. Paul McCartney shouldn’t be there because 250 years ago some Bad People were born on same patch of land as him. Despite Paul McCartney not being able to help where he was born, not sharing the opinions of Bad People and everybody alive at the time being very, very dead because it all happened 250 years ago, this is still important. Because the patch of land where you popped out has magical powers that transcend time.

Just so we’re clear. Anniversary celebrations are the perfect time to behave like chinese room zombies and demonstrate why nationalism is one of the most intellectually insulting concepts ever conceived. Good.

This solves the Fermi paradox, doesn’t it? There are no spacefaring races because there comes a point in history where all action becomes impossible without being a hypocrite or insensitive to history.

Crackers

Last week a student took a cracker from his local church, and the Internet exploded.

Some Catholics think the cracker is actually – literally – the body of Jesus, and say it’s a hate crime to hold it hostage. A hate crime! The US Catholic League has gone bananas, hurling fire and brimstone (and bizarrely coming out as anti-evolutionists, despite their church’s ‘official’ position) and suggesting the student should be expelled. Of course, if he’d taken the cracker and chewed it up, that would have been just fine. Their little world is really quite gross.

The insanity ensued after science/atheist blogger P.Z. Myers posted about it, in typically entertaining style. He asked for crackers to hold hostage on his blog, and he’s had to close various posts after literally thousands of comments threatened to take down his server. The Catholic League is in shock that anybody would want to hurt the baby Jesus, and so is telling people to email the head of P.Z’s university with their complaints. P.Z. has tenure, but I think he and everyone are somewhat shocked at the escalation of muppetry in just a few days.

One the one side you’ve got many many people taking advantage of an excellent opportunity to take the piss out of the Eucharist. I don’t blame them at all. The Eucharist is so conspicuously stupid that it’s almost a duty to bring it up whenever the opportunity arises.

It is a bit weird that the Eucharist is still around, if you ask me. Religions have been quite good at abstracting out all the fantastical stuff so it’s vulnerable to logical fallacy. Miracles conveniently happened thousands of years ago, because humans for whatever reason think old stuff = wise. God acts in mysterious ways = the ultimate argument winner. Jesus died for our sins makes no sense, but it’s mysterious, and humans for whatever reason equate mystery with virtue. All pretty obvious. But the Eucharist doesn’t bother. It just says ‘this here cracker literally becomes the body of Jesus Christ’, and that’s it. No equivocation. They’ve got as far as using fancy words to make it sound Big And Clever: a cracker = ‘The Host’, magic spells and voodoo = ‘The Eucharist’, doing something the Catholic Church doesn’t like = ‘Desecration’. But that’s it. No spin, just magic spells and cannibalism. Really, at some point it’s got to be phased out.

I guess I find it hard to believe that most Catholics, in their heart of hearts, really think it’s literally true. I mean, most religious nonsense I can empathise with. There are plenty of reasons people believe wrong things. But the Eucharist? Come on. The cognitive dissonance must be epic. The whole concept makes no sense – why do you want to eat Jesus? what part of his body does it become? Is he alive or dead? WHY DO YOU WANT TO EAT JESUS? – and I suspect most people just take it as highly symbolic.

Which is why the other side of the argument is probably just your standard mental minority. But they’re very very loud, totally paranoid, lack any kind of sense of humour, and have been sending death threats. At which point it stops being funny. Although, having said that, the average YouTube videographer gets death threats – “this video sucks, die in a fire” – so while it’s serious, I suspect that’s just the way things are on the Internets. You get the impression they’re quite new at this lark, and watching them try to take on creationist-hardened skeptics is almost painful.

Still. The Eucharist itself = pretty funny. I only know one Catholic – I must ask what she thinks…

This post was longer than intended. I really just wanted to point towards Ophelia, who made me laugh.

People of London

Here is the deal. Here is how it works. If you live in London, everybody does you a favour. We pretend like London isn’t where most interesting things happen, so you don’t have to feel embarrassed talking to people who live in Milton Keynes. This is how it is. We’re nice like that.

Here’s another thing. You live in London, where you’re surrounded by many interesting people. This makes you inherently liberal. We don’t nuke small-town we-hate-change-and-anyone-not-like-us Tories who infect the greener areas because we know that decent city-dwelling folk can appreciate the world’s eclectic nature without getting scared. Your votes cancel out the dumb ones. This is all part of the goodness that goes with living in the capital city.

People of London. If you were any part of this, the deal is off. I’d revoking your privileges. Get out. Seriously, this is not a drill. Once we find Charlie Brooker, and I don’t think it’ll be that hard, he’ll be round to pack your stuff.

Royal priorities

Plans are afoot to change the priorities of royal succession. Currently, if King William1 has a daughter, then a son, then falls off a horse, the son will become King because men = better. Some people think this needs to be changed, which seems reasonable. Having said that:

These are people who can arbitrarily pardon criminals, dismiss governments, command the army, and run out Established Christian church whose ministers get a free say in the running of the country on the basis that they were born into the right family, and you’re concerned that that might be sexist?!

Fair point.

  1. or whatever he decides to call himself – I suggest ‘Kong’ []