Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy Christmas 2.

Well, the holiday season is over. Three days of celebrating Joshua ben Joseph’s birthday whatever your religion if any, by partying, singing, praying, eating and drinking, wishing everyone happiness, and completely forgetting the poor, the homeless, the lonely, the desperately ill, the starving, the bereaved, especially those who lost a child in a school shootout, a child who will never celebrate Christmas again, the world’s refugees from natural and man made disasters, the tortured and those living in fear and dread in the shadow of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab or any other vicious vipers’ nest of crazed fanatics..
 the Coptic Christians in Egypt, the Christians in Pakistan, the fighting in Syria, or Iraq, Iran, Saudi; countries dominated by clerics, religious police, law courts only too happy to dish out death sentences and lashings beyond belief for what in the civilised world would be considered trivial. Raef Badawi, a Blogger who is one of the establishers of the "Liberal Saudi Network", which angered Ultra-orthodox clerics of Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to seven ears in prison and 600 lashes. Think about that for a moment. Are you actually meant to survive 600 lashes or is that simply a way of applying a dreadful death sentence without actually passing one? But it could be worse. It would appear seven years in prison and 600 lashes is not enough to satisfy the crazy clerics. He could be beheaded soon for a claimed "apostasy".
There has evidently been a great deal of news in Arabic about this issue but in English it has not had much attention till now. However this piece has now been published:
“A Saudi court on Monday referred a rights activist to a higher court for alleged apostasy, a charge that could lead to the death penalty in the ultra-conservative kingdom, activists said.”
A judge at a lower court referred Raef Badawi to a higher court, declaring that he "could not give a verdict in a case of apostasy." Badawi, who was arrested in June in the Red Sea city of Jeddah for unknown reasons (?) is a co-founder of the Saudi Liberal Network with female rights activist Saud al-Shammari and others.” And let us not forget the treatment of women and girls abused (acid attacks? Beatings? Rape?) at the hands of their men folk in the lands of the mad mullahs.
Great celebrations huh? Well…why dwell on all the injustices in the world at such a joyous time? You have a warm, snug, happy household, you’re surrounded hopefully by people you love and who love you. There’s a crackling fire in the hearth, cards on the mantelpiece, music, decorations, a tree with presents stacked around it and Christmas lights, a table well laden with food and various delicacies seen only on this special occasion, and plenty to drink.  After lunch if you haven’t over-indulged, you may play boisterous games with merry laughter or, replete, sit back and watch telly, doze off and think of the imminent sales in which, having possibly queued all night outside a large department store, for a few short hours, the doors open and all sense of decorum is consequently thrown to the winds and you can behave like a snatching snaring snarling hooligan grabbing for things you don’t really want and certainly don’t need. I’ve never understood why otherwise ostensibly sane people do it. The answer could be the demon greed. It reminds one of the behaviour of the Gadarene swine inhabited by demons throwing themselves off the cliffs. Poor piggies. Joshua could have got rid of the demons with a click of his mystical fingers instead of which he sent them howling into the bodies of the pigs causing this mass suicide. Evidently this event didn’t actually take place on Jewish soil which answers one question but who in those days could own a herd of 2000 pigs and, more importantly lose them? And was Jesus sued for the loss of these valuable animals?

Well, 2013 is almost over. Soon it will be Christmas time once more, Church bells will ring merrily on high, carols will be sung, greetings sent, and God bless us every one Tiny Tim will say yet again.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Christmas

Had the most bizarre dream the other night. I often wonder how the brain in sleep comes up with these inventions that are pure fantasy, especially when they have absolutely nothing to do with your every day life. Naturally certain incidents during the day can be the touch paper as was the case here. Friends lent us two DVDs of “Startrek” and of course we had to watch them both; that is the others watched them both but I found, possibly because they were stretched into full length movies instead of filling a mere half hour usually with a simple straightforward story, I kept dozing off so obviously missed some of the plot. I really wasn’t taken in by them at all.* Plots involving time travels are often suspect. When we went all those year ago in London to the very first “Star Wars” I was riveted to it, so much so that the very next evening at supper I suggested we went to see it again, which we did; the only film that has ever received the two nights in a row treatment. Since then I’ve also sat through it a few times on DVD. I think “Startrek” was being too clever by half though the others seemed to enjoy it. It moved at such a rate the dialogue became almost unintelligible, so fast in fact the sub-titles couldn’t keep up with it. I disliked the boy playing Kirk but I have a feeling it was not his fault but the fault of the direction. Having been told to play it big and bold and brash and possibly egged on he went over the top and became objectionable, a lout: witness the apple eating scene. This of course is only my reaction and arguable.
But what all this is leading up to is the dream. Naturally, as with most if not all dreams, I don’t remember it exactly and if I hadn’t woken up to go to the loo I most probably wouldn’t remember as much as I have done which was this: the original crew of the “Enterprise,” that is from the original series; William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei etcetera were now crewing a double decker bus! I ask you, from a spacecraft going to where no man had been before, to the streets of (I presume as it was red double decker) London. Kirk was the driver (that’s logical) and Spock was the conductor. He had one of those old-fashioned metal ticket dispensers filled with a roll of paper and a handle to wind out the necessary ticket. Now this is the truly weird part. It turned out that Spock was Roman Catholic and his tickets were indulgences so if there were any passengers he didn’t like they didn’t get a ticket and went straight off to purgatory. Sulu eventually told him he was being a bit too judgmental so when a pretty girl boarded the bus and Spock fell for her that was the end of withholding any passenger’s ticket. So love speaks not only in the language of flowers but in London Transport bus tickets.
A billion pixels for a billion stars.The Gaia satellite, launched by the European Space Agency, is aiming to map the precise positions and distances to Earth of more than a billion stars. It is one of the most ambitious space missions ever to be launched and should give the first realistic picture of how our Milky Way galaxy is constructed.
Gaia's remarkable sensitivity will lead also to the detection of many thousands of previously unseen objects, including new planets and asteroids. The intention is to put it on path to an observing station some 1.5 million km from the Earth on its nightside - a journey that will take about a month.
Gaia has been in development for more than 20 years.
It will be engaged in what is termed astrometry - the science of mapping the locations and movements of celestial objects.
To do this, it carries two telescopes that throw light on to a huge, one-billion-pixel camera detector connected to a trio of instruments.
Gaia will use this ultra-stable and supersensitive optical equipment to pinpoint its sample of one billion stars,1% of the Milky Way's total, with extraordinary confidence; Their physical properties catalogued - details such as brightness, temperature, and composition. It should even be possible then to determine their ages.  
And for about 150 million of these stars, Gaia will measure their velocity either towards or away from us.
But the quality of the new survey promises a raft of discoveries beyond just the stars themselves: new asteroids, failed stars, and its map of the sky will be a reference frame to guide the investigations of future telescopes
And because Gaia will track anything that passes across its camera detector, it is likely also to see a colossal number of objects that have hitherto gone unrecorded - such as comets, asteroids, planets beyond our Solar System, cold dead stars, and even tepid stars that never quite fired into life.  Maybe even Heaven!
By the end of the decade, the Gaia archive of processed data is expected to exceed 1 Petabyte (1 million Gigabytes), equivalent to about 200,000 DVDs of information.

*All I can say is I had better get into a “Startrek” mood as we have been given
the full DVD set for Christmas and that’ a whole lot of viewing. A happy Christmas to you all and a bright 2014.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Sex Life of Jesus

Jesus was a rent boy! What? What? What!!! Now I have heard everything and, if this is true, it turns the whole world, especially for Christians and Muslims on its head
“In a stunning discovery that archaeologists hope might shed light on the little-known years between Jesus Christ’s childhood and his ministry, the Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered what they believe to be the site where, in the years before he began his itinerant preaching, a desperate, cash-strapped Christ briefly turned to tricks for money. Excavators working in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of Jerusalem unveiled fragments of several earthenware vessels, a public latrine hewn from stone and terra cotta piping dating to Jesus’ era, along with a curbed Roman road that served as a main artery of ancient Judea, where the fledgling, hard-up prophet is believed to have cruised for johns passing by. “It’s an incredible find, and one that confirms many of our long-held theories about Christ’s so-called lost years,” said the dig’s head archaeologist, Aviram Oshri, who went on to note that while Christ’s hooking is not referenced in the New Testament, suggestions that he resorted to the flesh trade abound in historical records of the period.” (Abounds? Where? Where?) “This intersection is an exact match for the area described in ancient texts, where Jesus is said to have flagged down lonely men traveling from Yafa and offered his services, this was before he had many followers, of course,” Oshri added. “Some of his earliest followers were clients, actually.” (Now how on earth would he know that?)
The young Christ, like many Hebrew males adrift, is believed to have turned to sex work around 19 A.D. helping to cope during a bout of homelessness. There is noting new under the sun, Though implicitly prohibited by Jewish law, prostitution was prevalent in ancient Judea, with sex workers trading their services for cloth, fowl, wine, and small coins, a transaction that Christ is believed to have executed hundreds of times during a short period of time in his 20s.
Christians never think of Jesus having sexual needs, I am not referring to what is written above, but as the man he was meant to be, he must have had a normal man’s urges.
In the sixties there was a lady by the name of Mary Whitehouse who had no time for “the Permissive Society” and formed what was called “The Viewers and Listeners Association” whose complaining members would endeavor to keep British broadcasting pure. Of course, as always, sex was at the bottom of it and when a Swedish film came out about Christ’s possible sexuality she hit the Richter scale at about 6.5. But that was as nothing compared to “The Romans In Britain” in which there was a certain amount of supposed sodomy or anal rape on stage which sent the scale up another couple of degrees and for which she sued The National Theatre, but withdrew her case seemingly happy with the waves she had made.
Anyway, I decided to write a satire about Mrs. Whitehouse in which though reference is made to Christ’s sexuality it would never have occurred to me in a thousand years to go so far as to suggest he was for a short period of his life a boy on the game.
The play is called “Twilight of Aunt Edna” an obvious pun on “Twilight of the Gods” and the destruction of Valhalla, and Edna being a character invented by the playwright Terrance Rattigan, a lady from the Home Counties who writes letters to the newspapers about plays she find objectionable. Well I reckon there would have been a hundred letters or more over “Twilight of Aunt Edna” which is why I suppose that it got very close to production a number of times and was then chickened out.
So here is an extract – Edna’s son Geoffrey who has a sexual hang-up over plastic macs, the more colourful the better, is smitten by Edna’s new secretary, a Pentecostal young lady who arrived wearing one and which he has stuffed beneath pillows on the couch, and this is the first opportunity he gets of being alone with her. Father, with a stack of porn and lengths of rope is tying himself into knots in the garden shed despite “being allergic to geraniums and turpentine.” And in answer to Hillary’s enquiry re Edna…

GEOFFREY:   No, she'll be ages too. She's at the police station.

HILARY opens her mouth but nothing comes out.

Malcolm's been a naughty boy.

HILARY:         Malcolm?

GEOFFREY:   Not that I'm surprised. That man's so false even his wig has dandruff.

HILARY:         Who is Malcolm?

GEOFFREY:   Secretary of the Holier Than Thou Society. He's gone and got himself sodomised in a sauna and he's up for it. She's gone to see what can be done to pull his chestnuts out of the fire. I know what his defense will be, the usual one about having too much to drink and not knowing what he was doing. Anyway, if they can get up to all these little pranks, why can't we? It's only a question of not being found out. Jesus got away with it.

HILARY:         Got away with what?

GEOFFREY:   His sex-life. Nobody knows anything about that.

HILARY:         That's because he never had one.

GEOFFREY:   Of course he had one.

HILARY:         That's blasphemy! Jesus was pure.

GEOFFREY:   On the contrary, if you deny Jesus had a sex life do you know what you are doing?

HILARY:         What?

GEOFFREY:   You're denying the Christian religion, that's what.

HILARY:         Never. He was God. What would God want with a sex-life?

GEOFFREY:   Ah, but the point is, he was God come to earth as Man. That is the whole point. When he died on the cross his suffering was supposed to wash away our sins. Now, if he didn't have a sex-life, who's to say he suffered at all? The trouble with you airy-fairy hymn-singing lot is that everything, including Jesus’ arse is up in the clouds. It's all gentle, meek, and mild. You forget that if  Joshua ben Joseph bled like us then, like us, he also had to shit, piss, burp and fart. But you don't like the idea of Jesus doing all that do you? He did it all the same. Does that somehow make him much more of a man and something less of a god? Gods somehow don't seem the same if they have jammy toes, right? And, if you deny his sex-life, you destroy the very cornerstone on which the whole Christian church is built, that God came to earth as one of us. It doesn't matter if his sex-life was simply wet dreams and water-stiffs first thing in the morning the fact remains, he had one. I mean, we know he had the equipment because we know about his circumcision. That's in the Bible. You can't have a penis and not have a sex-life, not unless you're completely impotent and completely innocent, a highly unlikely combination. But, if true, very unfair and a bit of a heavenly con-trick wouldn't you say?

HILARY:         You are the most awful person I have ever met.

GEOFFREY:   Oh? Why?

HILARY:         You have absolutely no respect for anything or anybody.

GEOFFREY:   I have every respect.

HILARY:         No you don't. You should consider feelings, other people's feelings. How do you suppose they feel when they hear you talking like that? And besides, you're supposed to worship and adore. There's no need to dwell on... other matters.

GEOFFREY:   You mean, if you thought Jesus had smelly feet that would automatically stop you worshiping and adoring? Is that how you treat your friends? You love them only when they smell of scented soap? Some love that is.

HILARY:         I don't want to talk about it anymore. It's wicked. And you can't hide from God. He is everywhere. He sees everything.

GEOFFREY:   He also understands everything. He'll know why you're doing it.

HILARY:         Yes he will. He sees right into your heart. He knows your true motives even when you try to hide them from yourself.

GEOFFREY:   That means you really want to.

HILARY:         Yes. No! Yes! But I can't!

GEOFFREY:   Yes but you can! (He produces her mac.) Put it on put it on!

HILARY:         Well... all right... Just for a moment and you're only to look at me.

He is helping her into the mac.

HILARY:         You are not to lose control, whatever…

But he already has. He grabs her and pushes her down behind the couch.

Oh, Geoffrey!

For a few moments nothing can be seen or heard from them then…

Extract from Twilight of Aunt Edna © Glyn Jones 2011.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Corrupt clergy

To continue my dissertation on corrupt clergy, corrupt in more ways than one but what the hell they are only human after all even if God has singled them out to enjoy his special favours. We’ve mentioned greed now let’s go a bit further on that subject before we chat about sexual peccadilloes, 99% of human sexuality in the eyes of the religious is spelt s-i-n though why the Almighty with a whole universe and more in which to occupy Himself should be in the least interested as to who I’ve been to bed with or whether I masturbate or not is beyond me.
But back to money money money.  Ron.L.hubbard, the founder of Scientology said if you want to make money you won’t get very far writing science-fiction; you should start a new religion (which of course he did.) Capitalising on a religion that already exists amounts to the same thing I suppose. Let us take as just one example, the Televangelist couple, Paul and Jan Crouch and remember when you read these figures churches do not pay tax.
Their Christian television station TBN is said to be the third largest in America and around the world TBN is carried by stations and cable systems to millions of homes: 5000 television stations, 33 satellites, the Internet and cable systems around the world. What Goebbels wouldn’t have given to have all that for propaganda purposes?
TBN’s Annual income, the latest figures available being for 2006 was $200.7 million – Expenditure $141.1. stashing away the extra $59.6 million. Assets evidently are close to a billion.
In 1998 the Crouch’s combined income was $400000.
In 2008 it had risen (including Paul F. Crouch Jun. as Vice President) to $994637.
What it runs at currently I hate to think.
Apart from their own luxury house at Newport Beach the Crouches have the use of 30 TBN owned residences in California, Tennessee, and Ohio. In fact this good Christian family are worthy of a dozen blogs just to show how affluent they are and how the money goes. Mind you Joel Osteen has just had a mansion built at a cost over $71 million. He says it is a gift from the Lord.
But now let’s move on to sin. Catholic priests and choirboys is old hat. It’s been going on for centuries but it is only in the last few years that it has become a cause célèbre. A number of televangelists in America famous from coast to coast have tearfully admitted their sins to the world via their favourite medium, sometimes with brave little wife gazing at her man adoringly and inwardly humiliated and seething no doubt, as he asks the world for forgiveness, which isn’t always forthcoming (Judge not lest ye yourselves be judged.)Witness Jim Bakker after bedding a church secretary by the name of Jessica Hahn, Mind you he also went to jail for five years having been convicted of fraud. Jimmy Swaggart, preaching to more than a hundred nations around the world tearfully admitted in front of 70000 that he had sinned with a prostitute. Charles Fox Parham, the ‘Father of the Pentecostal Movement’ was indicted in Texas on a charge of sodomy. There are more of course including one whose name escapes me. This one was rabidly homophobic until it was revealed he was having it off with rent boys in seedy hotels. Could it have been the anti-gay Baptist George Rekers who it was discovered hired a rent- boy to go holiday with him for ten days? He said it was to carry his luggage. Do me a favour, pu-lease!
But all that is leading up to the main story which involves both money and sin and does not take place n America but in good old Blighty. This is the story of the Rev. Paul Flowers. He was Chairman of the Co-op Bank on a salary of £132000, not exactly a fortune but not too bad at over two grand a week, especially as there was another £60000 for acting as vice chairman.
 At various  times he was Trustee of investment funds and property of the Methodist church, Superintendant at Methodist church, Member of Labour’s Financial and Advisory Board, Chairman of the Lifeline Project, a charity which helps drug uses, Member of the board at Advertising Standards Authority.
He has been accused of claiming £75000 in false expenses which he denies maintaining they were all legitimate. Because of lack of evidence no action will be taken until there is a full investigation. No doubt, being ever so contrite and offering to pay back a percentage he would have received a mild slap on the wrist but he hasn’t waited for the outcome. It is believed he has fled to Thailand “since sordid revelations about his private life emerged last Sunday.” Yes, once more it was evidently rent boys so both greed and sin walked hand in hand to ensure his downfall. The first might elicit a certain sympathy by the faithful, the second never.

A Brazilian pastor has been arrested for convincing his followers his penis contained holy milk. Can you believe that? Sadly sadly yes I can.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Religious Charlatans

There is something truly crazy, perverse, and dangerous about people handicapped by religious beliefs. They seem to make up their own rules as the fancy takes them and of course, it is all down to instructions given to them by God. I think of parents who under religious instruction instead of getting medical help allow their children to die while they pray. Prayers proving to be ineffectual this is tantamount to murder.
Pastors at some Pentecostal churches in Kenya are conducting prayer services to “cure” patients infected with HIV, confiscating their anti-retroviral drugs and charging a fee for their healing prayers.
.“I believe people can be healed of all kinds of sickness, including HIV, through prayers,” said Pastor Joseph Maina of Agmo Prayer Mountain, a Pentecostal church on the outskirts of Nairobi. “We usually guide them. We don’t ask for money, but we ask them to leave some seed money that they please.”
INERELA an international interfaith network reports that 10 people a month on average undergo pastors’ “miracle cures” in Nairobi. They have documented 2,000 such cases throughout Kenya.
Victims say that desperation and fear of being stigmatized and rejected by family make the pastors’ offers of cure by prayer seem appealing. It also seems easier than sticking to a lifelong drug regimen.
“We were very desperate after realizing we had been infected as young women,” said Margaret Lavonga, who almost died after attending a healing prayer service several years ago.
She and other subjects were taken to a clinic for a “test” that declared them HIV-free, after their drugs were burned and they paid a $36 fee. Lavonga crusaded with the pastors throughout Nairobi’s slums, talking up the miracle prayer cure.
“I was upbeat, but after two weeks I started falling sick,” Lavonga said. “When I was tested, the virus was still in me and had multiplied since I was not taking the drugs.”
The Kenyan Daily Post reported on an incident this August in which a pastor paraded an emaciated HIV-positive boy on Kiss TV, a Kenyan television channel, asking for viewer donations of 310 Kenyan shillings, or $3.58, before he would pray for the boy. Kenyans were outraged, accusing the pastor and TV channel of “exploitation” and the “filthiest injustice of human dignity” in their online comments.
Sheer greed seems to be at the bottom of so many charlatan pastors’ directives from the almighty and they get away with it to the tune of billions proving Barnum’s quip about a sucker born every minute. Unfortunately, as the ministers line their pockets, build their mansions, fly their executive jets,  so many of the suckers forking out what little they've got are people in genuine pain who need genuine help, not being fed and believing in a load of codswallop about heaven and hell. I was always under the impression that these beliefs went out centuries ago but obviously not. Neither has the primitive belief in witches, I have just watched a gut-churning video of half a dozen Kenyan men and women accused of witchcraft being beaten, kicked, stomped on and forced into a ditch where they ware covered with brush and burnt alive. When they tried to crawl out they were kicked back in. I have never witnessed anything so brutal and there was quite a crowd standing by watching. Are we really living in the twenty-first century?
And the murderous bastards doing the killing call themselves Christians.
Mention of the word heaven and I am going to go off at a tangent with something that’s always intrigued me. ‘Heaven’ is a proper noun, it is a place, a place has to be situated somewhere, so where exactly is heaven? According to scripture Jesus came out of the tomb (surprising after three days his body hadn’t started to decompose but that’s all part of the magic I suppose) mooches about for forty days and then ascends bodily into heaven. Later mater would follow his example. Now it was not a spirit but a flesh and blood body that, defying the law of gravity ‘ascended’ into heaven, but where in the great blue yonder up there did it actually go to? Apart from gravity it had to suffer extreme cold and lack of oxygen. Since those far off days man has been exploring that selfsame blue yonder in close-up as it were and there has been no sign of heaven. It could still be discovered somewhere in the universe I suppose but somehow I doubt it.
For the religious greed can also lead to greater things. It could lay a whole country at your doorstep. The Reverend Doctor William Tolbert, a Baptist minister from Charleston ended up president of Liberia. Exchange the word president for dictator and the Reverend and the whole Tolbert family had nine years in which to have their way and bury their snouts in the trough before being executed by firing squad. At the urging of both Christian and Muslims a court in India has reinstated the law against homosexuality making it a criminal offence with possible sentence of ten years.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Milipede

The invasion of the millipedes. Every year at this time they appear, seemingly out of nowhere and really with nowhere to go as they cross a wide open space of floor that to a human being would be any number of miles. The Greeks call them forty-legs (sarandapotharousa) but however many legs they might have every time I see one I have been fascinated to know more about them, in particular what they eat. So finally, my curiosity getting the better of me, I looked them up on the internet. According to BBC Nature millipedes are a common class of anthropoids with over 10000 named species! Wot! Ten thousand? Wikipedia says 12000! Millipedes, centipedes, sow bugs and pillbugs tend to move into houses during brief periods in the spring or fall. By the way, if you’ve never seen what a sow bug looks like, look  ‘em up. You have never in your life seen such a weird nightmarish looking creature. No science fiction writer has ever described one I shouldn’t think and one (giant and menacing of course) has never as far as I know appeared on “Doctor Who.”
Millipedes eat decaying leaves and dead matter which again raises the question why do they come into the house where they are hardly likely to find any dead leaves or decaying matter? Millipedes are slow moving and can be easily distinguished from the somewhat similar and related centipedes which move rapidly, are carnivorous, and have a single pair of legs for each body segment. The scientific study of millipedes is known as diplopodology, and a scientist who studies them is called a diplopodologist. Imagine you’re at a swish cocktail party and someone asks what you do for a living and you tell them you’re a diplopodologist. That would bring the conversation to a sudden stop.
Some millipedes are considered household pests, including some which infest thatched roofs in India. Other species exhibit periodical swarming behaviour which can result in home invasions; crop damage, train delays, or even train crashes and derailments. Millipedes also appear in folklore and traditional medicine around the world. Many cultures ascribe millipede activity with coming rains. In the Yoruba culture of Nigeria, millipedes are used in pregnancy and business rituals, and crushed millipedes are used to treat fever, whitlow, and convulsions in children. In Zambia smashed millipede pulp is used to treat wounds, and in the Cameroon millipede juice is used to treat earache. In Malaysia millipede secretions are used to poison arrow tips.
With certain Himalayan tribes, dry millipede smoke is used to treat haemorrhoids. Now there is something to make the mind boggle. Don’t lose your balance whilst squatting over the fire or the results could be painful. Baked balls, barbecued scrotums are not to be laughed at. So there you are; a short essay on the millipede and its manifold uses.
These last few evenings we’ve been having a delightful time watching one of our very favourite soaps, “The Golden Girls.” Just as funny, warm, and true as it was when we first saw it, how many years ago? 1985. With quite an amount of sexual references not all that usual for the time, I wonder how it went down in the Bible belt back then. I have to admit I’m not a great one for soaps or half hour comedies. I probably watched four or five “Eastenders” not with much enthusiasm, a number of “Emmerdale” but that was because, living in Yorkshire, I was hoping to write for it: a forlorn hope. Loved “Steptoe and Son,” have never seen a single episode of "Coronation Street," programmes like "The Army Game" were simply appalling and more up to date we really enjoy“Ugly Betty” and “Two and a Half Men,” though it tended to go off the boil slightly when Sheen left and the beautiful Ashton Kutcher took his place. Absolutely loved Jon Cryer’s performance and there was real chemistry between them all in the original cast.
How about someone producing a soap based on the WestBoro Baptist church? It could be titled “Gays the cause of every calamity,” or "Friendly Faggot."

On a New York street a woman dressed in a frock of rainbow colours stands holding up a large placard reading “Gay marriage killed the dinosaurs.” Are people really this crazy?

Thursday, December 5, 2013


The question of homosexuality, except for those unfortunately still suffering, even facing death, for being who they are, must be becoming rather boring but, as the western world, with Christian exceptions,  becomes more enlightened, more tolerant, less superstitious, so in the Middle East it would seem the exact opposite is happening. As the West takes one step forward the Muslim world takes two steps back. By Christian exceptions I think of the American Bible Belt, the Russian Orthodox church, and now the Greeks who once upon a time before the advent of Christianity knew exactly what it was all about both in myth and reality, have entered the fray with dire threats of excommunication!
In the West some parents are learning that if they have a gay child it isn’t because they have done something wrong and should feel guilt in some way, and there is simply nothing to be done about it except accept and continue to love and cherish.
Recently a boy gave as his Bar Mitzvah speech a defense of same sex marriage. What? A thirteen year old? And in the synagogue of all places?
In Muslim countries women buried from head to toe in black simply do not exist outside the home. In the West women (for the most part though here is still a way to go) are treated for what they are worth. The Church of England has 29 women bishops and number 30 to be ordained in Ireland. What happened to the Biblical injunction that women should know their place, stay in it, subject to their husband’s will and keep their mouths shut?
During Macy’s Thanksgiving parade a number was performed by the cast of the award winning musical “Kinky Boots” which caused an immediate outcry from conservatives.
“Kinky Boots disgusting and wrong.”
“Kinky Boots is what’s wrong with America.”
“Kinky Boots is a disgrace”
“After watching the Kinky Boots” show from the parade I have a little less hope for humanity.”
And the answers are quite illuminating. Here are only two.
“Dear World: if you are personally outraged (or, even if you're miffed...I'll accept miffed) by this specific performance at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, I truly don't want to know or associate with you. I will never understand your POV. That's my problem. I accept full responsibility. Let's just not associate with each other. Ok? Thanks.”
 “All of these outraged people should lighten up and get over it. Teacher for 37 years, parent, and grandparent. Kids can handle life. Parents sometimes...... Not so much. Life is too short to get upset over silly things. Too many serious things to worry about.” 

Lebanon's capital, Beirut, comes alive under darkness. Its narrow alleyways meander into streets full of bars.
The locals, many dressed in designer clothes, sit on the verandas drinking cocktails till dawn. The city's liberal demeanour really does make it like no other place in a deeply conservative region.
But Beirut has another side to it that highlights this difference - it has an underground scene that is private yet very much alive with discreet gay bars and clubs.
However, recent events are said to have challenged Lebanon's relatively tolerant reputation.
Last year, a Beirut cinema was raided by police who arrested more than 30 people believed to be homosexual. They were each subjected to anal examinations by a doctor at a police station to ascertain whether they had been having "unnatural" intercourse. The raid evidently sparked a public outcry but then psychiatrist Nabil Khoury went on prime-time television and told the nation that homosexuality was "a disease that needs to be treated". (Still? Will they never learn?)
Four months later, censors blocked a screening at the Beirut International Film Festival of a French film that features a gay love story. The interior ministry cited a news report which attributed the decision to "obscene scenes of kissing between gay men, philandering, naked men and sexual intercourse between men
In an empty bar on the outskirts of Beirut, a man in his 20s told how he had recently been arrested for being gay. The man revealed that he had been subjected to an anal examination that was painful and incredibly humiliating.
"Obviously it was really demeaning. It made me feel like I had no body rights, like the government had access to my body," he said.
"I wasn't stable psychologically. I was really depressed for a really long time. I was feeling so resentful, and was just staying by myself all the time."
Even though the government strongly condemned and banned anal tests after the cinema raid, the BBC has spoken to dozens of gay people in the country who strongly believe it is still going on.
"These tests have been banned by the ministry of justice and the syndicate of physicians," says Ahmad Saleh, from the Lebanese LGBT rights group Helem.
"However, we have reports from people who have been arrested, who told us that police officers had threatened them by saying that they would be subjected to these tests unless they confessed to whatever charge they were facing."
Anal testing is widely discredited as a method of determining sexuality. Some gay people avoid anal sex and people with other conditions can be wrongly identified as gay. The Lebanese Psychiatric Society has now publicly stated that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not require treatment, but campaigners think that is not enough.
."The way gay and lesbian people are treated by wider society, the serious abuse, the torture and ill treatment to which they're subjected to in police cells and detention is wrong," says David Mepham, UK Director of Human Rights Watch, which published a report in June on the abuse of LGBT people in police custody.
"We've documented very serious patterns of abuse. That abuse needs to end, and this culture of impunity needs to end."
In countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, being homosexual can lead to the death penalty.
The World Health Organisation and many countries in the West stopped considering homosexuality disease years ago, and Lebanon became the first Arab country to do so. Even so, there are many in the country whose views are in line with the teachings of Islam and Christianity, which are traditionally opposed to homosexuality.
Some gays are optimistic about the future. They say the media is devoting more time and attention to the topic of homosexuality, and hope that this will help break down prejudices and stereotypes.
But the fear is palpable and illustrates the long journey they have yet to travel in order to be accepted in this "liberal city".

Monday, December 2, 2013

Nelson Mandela

So, one of the greatest and most generous of spirit yet seemingly modest of men has finally gone to that Bourne from which no traveller returns and (with the exception perhaps of a minority whose lives have been turned upside down) it is not only South Africa that will mourn him but the whole world has lost something precious. It is a great pity there are not more like him. I refer of course to Nelson Mandela and it seems fitting that at 94 he had a number of years to enjoy after his long incarceration of eighteen years on Robin Island. I never knew him, I only knew of him, yet the news of his passing has brought me to tears. Is there any other world figure whose death would do that? Offhand I can think of no one. Mandela was not unique. There have been others like him throughout history, Ghandi for example, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Joyce Banda, Jose Mujica, the very opposite of the Mugabes and Zumas of this world but oh, they are so few and so far between and the world needs men and women of their stature so very badly.
Nelson Mandela evidently died back in June but whatever the reason the South African government and the family for some reason have kept it a secret.
R.I.P. Madiba.