Showing posts from August, 2012

On Doing Romantic Shit

And here I go...Me, the failure at romance and life, discussing a subject everyone pretends to know about but I'd wager few have got right! Yes, that's it! You can love it, you can hate it, but you're force-fed it from birth...That old, tired concept we call romance, that goes hand in hand with another old and tired concept we call love.

I'd like to start by ranting a little bit about love and by saying this: If we as a society had never heard of love, I think that fewer of us would fall in love and those that did would be even more confused (I can't speak for everyone, but I tend to get confused as shit by things other people seem to do with ease and then not get that confused at all by things that other people shy away from). But I also think we'd have a lot less of people saying "this isn't real love", and who knows? Maybe if we weren't force-fed love and romance we'd have better relationships due to not having unrealistic expectations…

(trigger warning: suicide) On Suicide

This is a very big trigger warning for suicide. Now that I've warned you, read on at your own risk.

I really hate to do yet another suicide post, but it's come to my attention that people still need educating about it despite the amount of information out there. Hopefully this will just be short and sweet.

Suicide is selfish.Not true. People who kill themselves aren't selfish, they cannot bear life and have heavy burdens to carry (whether external or internal). I would argue that it's more selfish to try and keep them alive without respecting them and trying to help them.

Contemplating suicide is weak; people who kill themselves are weak. Untrue. Firstly, the claim that contemplating suicide is weak is the claim that thinking about a certain action shows weakness, and how does that make sense?! Not to mention taking your own life is much, much harder than it looks due to little things like self-preservation, and that people don't normally kill themselves without, you…

On Singing

Right, this is a subject I can actually talk about without looking like an idiot! At least, it's a subject I think I can talk about without looking like an idiot...did a bit of theory, I sing a bit (passed my Grade 7 with distinction not too long ago) and I listen to a lot of music.

Recently, while walking across Hampstead Heath, Linden Lea (an art song by Ralph Vaughan Williams) popped into my head and I haven't been able to get it out of there since. So, being me, I went to look for it on youtube...and promptly ran into Sturgeon's Law in action. I don't think I've found a single solo version that I liked. (Hell, I even tried to sing it myself to get the general gist, but my voice is absolutely horrible so that failed.) You see, Linden Lea is perhaps not the easiest of songs - finding a decent place to breathe is a bit difficult, for a start - but it's also not one that requires many fancy tricks or vocal shiny, which is what I see in a fair few of the recordi…

On Books

Not so long ago I went to Cecil Court with my mother and grandmother for a half-day trip (feeling a bit miserable and sick for various reasons, not least the stupidity and superficiality I see around me - I'm an oversensitive and profoundly whiny soul), having been told that it was a street full of books. Since I devour just about anything in print, I was rather looking forward to going there. Although I had some niggling reservations after looking it up - it seemed to be a street for people who collected books rather than people who read them, like me - and although as the day wore on I became less and less partial to staying in London, I went anyway and set off with a spring in my step, my relatives trailing behind me, to see books.

As things turned out, I was sorely disappointed. The shops were small and of no benefit to anyone save perhaps rich collectors; apart from maybe two or three shops, their collections of books weren't very good - there was little for someone like…

My views on Atheism Plus

So there's apparently been a bit of a flurry over Atheism Plus - which is, depending on how you want to define it, humanism, a new religion, a bit of idiocy, or atheism plus social justice/not being a dick. Some people are coming out in favour of it; some, including a fair few of the Twitter atheists I follow (though I could just be mistaking being vocal with actual numbers - I've not seriously tried to tot up any statistics, being a lazy shit), are opposed to it.

I suppose it wouldn't be fair of me to launch into my opinion without first trying to provide a definition of Atheism Plus, so here's Jen McCreight, who appears to have launched the whole thing, in her own words:
"We are…Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism." As some people have pointed out, this is humanism and just gen…

To Walk Alone at Night

Giant trigger warning for sexual harassment/stalking.

This world pisses me off most of the time, it really does. This is one of many reasons why.

Not so long ago I was making the journey to my local tube station that I regularly make, dressed in black sandals, a red cardigan, black leggings and a white sleeveless top. (Once you've stopped laughing at my total lack of fashion sense, please forgive me my description of my clothes. It does turn out to be vaguely relevant.) It was just after ten in the morning on a Monday, and to get there I had to pass through a wonderfully pretentious upper-middle-class area.

I'm not totally innocent; I've been sexually harassed before and I've been harassed on the street by men yelling at me about my smile. But what happened next - though it was mild and I know that it happens - did shock me, since it was my first experience with strangers doing this to me. (I've had people I know do the same, mostly to bully me.)

There was a white …

On Solzhenitsyn

Not so long ago, I popped out to Hampstead for half a day to get away from the confines of my house and get some peace and Hampstead Heath. I really don't know what I was thinking. (I did manage to spend two hours sitting quietly on a stump reading Plato and Chekhov, though.)

Before that, though, I had to walk down Hampstead High Street, studiously avoiding many an overpriced shop, and I still couldn't resist the temptation of turning into Flask Walk and having a look around Keith Fawkes, arguably one of my favourite shops. It's a bookshop, for a start, and I can't resist bookshops - I literally can't. Put me near a bookshop and I'm almost guaranteed to wander in, then come back out carrying armfuls of books and being very short of cash. It's also a second-hand bookshop - even better! As I write this, I have a copy of some of Chekhov's short stories sitting next to me from that same Keith Fawkes, and it has that charming smell of ageing pape…

Atheism and Happiness

So atheism and happiness seems to be bouncing around, as ever, around atheist circles on the internet as to who's happier: atheists or theists? (As far as I'm aware agnostics get marginalised at times; for reasons I'll go into later, the argument doesn't interest me that much.) People put forth study after study, shiny graph after shiny graph, hell, they even whip out some anecdotal evidence if they're feeling a bit lazy. And the flamewars, they burn...They very quickly seem to degenerate into personal attacks and essentially seem to run on stupid.

Call me an idealist, but I expected better from people. After seeing people fuck up so much, I still expected better from them.

I'm an idiot. But I digress.

All these arguments hinge on the idea that whether atheists or theists are happier actually matters to whether atheism or theism is right, which - as the quote in the picture helps to illustrate, and as common sense should show - simply isn't true. Happiness…


Why? One of the smallest, most dangerous and most irritating words in the English language, I find, it signals curiosity - no, more than that, it signals questioning. It signals not taking things at face value. It signals not wanting to accept things just because you've been told that's the way they are. It signals the desire to find out. And for that reason I'm coming to love the word "why?" even more than I did when I was a child first learning about things that made up the universe, even though we couldn't see them, and why the sky was blue.

It's also a very useful word to use when questioning people's beliefs, and one that tends to reveal a fair bit about the people and beliefs one's questioning. Maybe it's just my misanthropy or the circles I move in, but I tend to find that not very far into the questioning people stop being able to back up the notions they're propounding, instead resorting to circular reasoning, telling me I'm …

Feminism and Humour

So I've been thinking again...This is a dangerous thing, you know. It disturbs people. Then again, they don't have to read my thoughts, so they can go away in peace, I can rant in peace and thus conflict is avoided. And as you can quite obviously see, I've been thinking about feminism and humour - to be more precise, the stereotype of the humourless feminist. Other people have written about it before, and better and more eloquently than I could ever manage, being as I am just a young woman with little knowledge of feminist history or theory, but I intend to offer my own perspective on it.

I don't think feminists are inherently humourless - in fact, I know they're not. Fuck, I don't move in many feminist circles and the feminists I know are (for the most part) snarky, funny people who know how to laugh. Some are graver than others. That's fine by me - it's not a crime to be a serious person, especially when it comes to standing up against a kyriarchy th…

Dangerous Thinking

Apparently, ideas are dangerous.

In a way it sort of makes sense; an idea is, essentially, a plan or model for doing something. If that plan or model is developed and then carried out, it could...ahem...upset people, from the grey shades too frightened of change to even consider it to the people who have vested interests in resisting certain changes. And ideas are intangible, so (the line of reasoning goes) you can't kill them/evict them/whatever the slogan is at the moment.

Pardon my cynicism and my bad language, but bollocks to that. (Actually, that's probably an insult to bollocks.) Ideas can and will die; people are silenced or killed, or they simply change their minds. Books, pamphlets, newspapers, plays are burned, locked away, or forgotten; people, too, forget, as do ages. Music dies and disintegrates. Art fades. Maybe some future generations happen to chance upon those ideas, but few seriously revive them. They don't gain new life, they become zombies. When it come…

Is it possible to be happy?

I do wonder about whether it is possible to be happy sometimes; in fairness, I wonder about it much less than I used to, before I knew that I could actually be happy. (Even so, stick me in the middle of a despairing episode, one where I have trouble speaking or walking, and I'll still moan about whether I'll actually recover from it, despite clearly having done so in the past. Emotions are far too powerful for their own good.) These days, having actually been happy, I generally don't think about it as much - until someone else, someone in despair, brings it up.

This really is just the hand-wringing of the privileged and disgustingly aloof, but what the hell can I do for them? What can I tell them that isn't an outright lie? It doesn't get better, after all. You don't get happiness on a silver platter - if ever. Nobody's got one overarching answer to finding happiness, and anyone who says otherwise is lying or being stupid. That's not really something th…

On intellectual commodification

I suppose the title might have alienated some people already, or maybe they just don't know what I'm on about. It's not a frequently-used term, and I've only seen it referred to in the context of the commodification of education and ideas (fuck capitalism with a shovel). Here, I use it to refer to the view of intelligence itself as a commodity when separated from a person.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I think that smart people get a bit of a shitty deal. Unless you take great pains to downplay your intelligence to fit in and act as society expects you to act, you're bullied, ostracised, and feared, because smart people are different and have the potential to do great things if they're allowed to, which they're not, because smart people and systems not designed to allow people to reach their full potential don't mix. You're isolated, too; nobody will touch you with a ten-foot bargepole because you're so different, yet you can see just ho…

Goodness and Politeness

So I'm not a particularly polite person; I'm socially inept, awkward, and decidedly vulgar (when stressed or upset my every sentence is peppered with swears). Neither do I consider myself a particularly good person, for various reasons that I don't really want to go into here.

I will credit myself with this, though: I don't get the two mixed up. I don't call myself a bad person because I'm impolite, nor an impolite person because I also happen to be a bad one. That's more than most people seem to be able to do.

You see, there's this notion that politeness and goodness are the same thing, or at least intertwined. This justifies things like the use of the tone argument and people generally being stupid to each other about how we say things, rather than what we say. It's why I can get in more trouble for calling homophobes "silly" and "fucking idiots" than the homophobes themselves can for oppressing people. If I say it that starkly…

The Young Atheist's Handbook: A Review

I apologise for not having gotten around to this sooner - when the book arrived I was actually away and didn't come back until the 4th.

So Alom Shaha, a physics teacher at a comprehensive school in London who also works as a film-maker, writer, and science communicator, has written The Young Atheist's Handbook, which is essentially a personal account (at least, that's how I see it) of one man's journey towards atheism.

As I first opened the book, one of the things I noted is that it wasn't evangelistic in tone; it doesn't aim to convert people to atheism, and as such it flatly goes against the stereotype of atheists as a group of shouty evangelists. Shaha makes no bones about thinking atheism is better than religion, but his book encourages people to doubt and question rather than reject God unthinkingly, and it's all wrapped up in a richly detailed personal account. Opening with a vivid and funny account of tasting bacon for the first time while working as…

Life Isn't Fair you should get over it. That's the "logic" most people use. Life's not fair and never will be, so accept it and move on. That's what they say.

And I would normally say "that's rubbish". However, right now I am sick, spaced-out, having difficulty connecting to my emotions, and generally just being a sad, snappish, generally disagreeable sack of shit, so I think I'll pass on any attempts at mildness and civility and just say fuck that. With a shovel.

I'm not disputing that life is unfair - I know this for a fact. Everyone old enough to have been screwed over while complete bastards roll in the riches of life knows this for a fact, or they're lucky or deluding themselves. Or possibly both. What I am disputing is the notion that no-one should do anything to change this and that we should all just learn to live with it, not least because people who say that the world should be fair are whiners. And no-one likes a whiner, do they? Whiner…

Offence and Ridicule

There seems to be this great taboo against criticising the thoughts and beliefs of others lest others get offended. Someone can believe the moon is made of mouldy cake or that mathematics was invented by sentient jetpacks last Tuesday. Are you allowed to titter at their stupid beliefs behind their backs? Of course! How else do you think society works? Are you allowed to openly disagree with them? No, we can't have that - no matter if they're just plain fucking wrong or, worse, passing that wrongness on where people can't disagree with it, you can't rebut them because to do so would be offensive. And there's nothing worse in the world than offence, is there? Not paedophilia; not indoctrination; not even plain old stupidity. Offence is the worst of them all.

If you can't tell that that last sentence was sarcastic, you probably shouldn't be reading this blog.

As you can probably tell, I have some quibbles with this whole idea that not giving offence comes abo…