Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Venn Diagram of Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas. I love everything about it, apart perhaps from the predictable fundamental Christians bleating on about the so called War on Christmas and their irksome ill-informed insistence that Jesus is the reason for the season.

A few years back at my local church, I sat through the vicar’s ranting sermon shoehorned into the school carol concert. It was blatantly aimed at heathen parents like me that no longer routinely grace his ever-dwindling flock. I felt honour-bound to boo him for his pious absolute claim on Christmas. The dig in my ribs from my wife however reminded me that it’s still generally considered bad form to boo the vicar – even if he is clearly talking out of his arse. But despite the dodgy sermons proclaiming Jesus to be at the centre of Christmas, I still think it’s a great time of the year.

In fact the very reason why Christmas is so great is precisely because it is a non-discriminatory celebration, far wider and more encompassing than the mere strategically relocated anniversary of the alleged saviour of one particular faith group.

That’s not to say that the baby Jesus lying in a manger surrounded by adorable toilet-trained livestock isn’t a vital and welcome part of the imagery and tradition of the season. It’s just that he’s not at the centre of it any more so than a barefooted John McClane in the Nakatomi Plaza or grumpy TV executive Frank Cross being violently punched in the face by the angelic Ghost of Christmas Present.

The modern Christmas traditions we’re all familiar with (at least in the western world) have drawn from Christian, Pagan and Secular sources, and they all add value. If we map them onto a Venn diagram there’s quite clearly someone else at the centre of our Christmas traditions and, thankfully, he does not concern himself with our arbitrary faith boundaries.

With the obvious exceptions of Cliff Richard and eggnog, I like everything on this diagram. Those who claim that Christmas is under attack from the politically correct forces of secularism and consumerism are merely trying to purge the season of its equally worthy non-Christian elements.

So, beware of any one set on this diagram who try to claim sole ownership of the winterval. The true spirit of Christmas is not about hijacking the seasonal festivities for the exclusive celebration of one particular ideology. Christmas is for everyone, Christians, Pagans, Atheists, Agnostics and adherents of any other conceivable faith group who would care to come and pull a cracker with me.

Merry Christmas everyone
Christmas 2013

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Nobody expects the Monty Python Reunion

A quick transcript of me reading the BBC News website during my lunch-break today...

BBC Website
Trouble at Co-op. 
Oh no. What sort of trouble?
BBC Website
Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of "unjustified smears" over claims about Labour's links to disgraced ex-Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers.
BBC Website
Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of "unjustified smears" over claims about Labour's links to disgraced ex-Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers.
I don't understand what you're saying
BBC Website
(slightly irritated and with exaggeratedly clear accent) Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of "unjustified smears" over claims about Labour's links to disgraced ex-Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers.
Well what on earth does that mean? 
BBC Website
I don't know. I’ve been told to display the news that Mr. Miliband has accused David Cameron of “smears” over Co-op. - I didn't expect the Monty Python reunion.

Jarring chord. The link is clicked and the web page displays the news that Monty Python are to reunite for a one-off show in London.
Nobody expects the Monty Python Reunion! Our chief weapon is satire...satire and surrealism...surrealism and satire.... our two weapons are surrealism and satire...and collage stop motion animations.... Our three weapons are surrealism, satire, and collage stop motion animations....and an almost fanatical devotion to a dead parrot.... Our amongst our weapons.... amongst our weaponry...are such elements as surrealism, satire.... I'll refresh the web page. (exit and exeunt)
BBC Website
I didn't expect a kind of Monty Python reunion. 

The link is clicked again. Jarring chord.
Nobody expects the Monty Python reunion! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as surrealism, satire, collage stop motion animations and an almost fanatical devotion to a dead parrot, and silly walks - oh damn! (to Gilliam) I can't say it; you'll have to say it. 
You'll have to say the bit about 'Our chief weapons are ...' 
I couldn't do that... 

Palin bundles the Pythons outside.
BBC Website
I didn't expect a kind of Monty Python reunion. 

They all enter.
Expects... Nobody expects 
I know...I know! Nobody expects the Monty Python reunion. In fact, those who do expect... 
Our chief weapons are... 
Our chief weapons 
Satire and... 
Stop. Stop there! Stop there. Whew! Our chief weapon is satire, blah, blah, blah, blah. Terry, read the leak
The reunion will be a one-off live show in London next July. Brian, come and clean your room out...


Monday, 21 October 2013

Give Piss-Taking A Chance

It’s 45 years since John and Yoko suggested that we “Give Peace a Chance”. A laudable suggestion and a very handy sound bite for the budding Beauty Queen.

For many however such commendable desires for world peace are often tempered with their own indoctrinated ideologies. Many falsely believe the path to peace and harmony lies exclusively within their own particular faith. Increasingly we seem to be witnessing examples where those ideologies appear to be so entrenched and perverted that those captivated under their spell abandon reason and humanity in violent and bloody pursuit of their own deluded notions of Nirvana.

Imagine if John was still with us today, it’s easy if you try. The rolling news coverage on any given day may well lead him to conclude that his admirable 1968 proposal is not going as well as he had hoped. We tried staying in bed. We tried painting our naked bodies in psychedelic patterns and flouncing around to Jefferson Airplane whilst shoving flowers down the barrels of rifles, but it didn’t really work. More recently we tried retaliating against terror with well financed “Shock and Awe”. But that didn't seem to work out too well either.

Now what?  Are we all out of ideas? Do we just cower behind our enhanced airport security and knee jerk anti-terrorism policies and wait for it to go away? Do we redefine our goals for peace to be a little more localised?

I think not. I think we’ve just been retaliating with the wrong weapons. I propose a fresh assault on terror. Not with guns and bombs but with satire, sarcasm and ridicule.

Let’s rip their ideology apart with cutting satirical warfare; let’s rain down cogent and piercing ridicule on their fragile dogmas. Let us unleash the weapons of mass derision. Put down your swords, pick up your pens and let’s make the fundamentalists of all faiths into morons rather than martyrs. And let’s indiscriminately deploy the same sardonic sortie on our own more familiar ideological claptrap.

NB: Extracting urine from deeply held yet completely ridiculous ideologies does not contravene your diversity training

Monday, 10 June 2013

50 Years of Progress

It may seem awfully unfair to compare scientific and religious progress over the last 50 years. I suspect we all had an inkling of which methodology would have yielded the most progress and the most good for society.

Indeed when plotted side by side the comparison is pretty stark.

However, most of today’s established religions were, I imagine, fairly progressive at their outset. They emerged in more brutal times and mandated moral and liberal attitudes that represented great progress from the status quo of the time. However by attributing those laudable human ideals to an infallible divine origin, the limits of those ideologies were capped.

We thankfully live in a time when generic humanitarian values have, in most societies, overtaken those once progressive religious ideologies. As a result the progress achieved by religion in recent times looks rather pitiful when compared to the recent progress achieved by a methodology that actively embraces new ideas and contains a mechanism for evaluation, unbiased review and self-correction.

As a direct result of the inbuilt progress limitations inherent in religion, what religious progress we have seen over the last 50 years broadly falls into 2 camps.

Firstly there is the recognition that mainstream religion needs to catch up with modern views on items such as the equality of women and homosexuals. Despite lagging behind the rest of society, many progressive people within mainstream religious organisations recognise the need for equality beyond that originally foreseen by their religions’ founders and the need to upgrade their religion accordingly.

Alas, the second type of religious progress highlighted by the diagram above shows an ugly form of religious progress that is becoming more and more familiar. When modern society is seen at odds with religious teachings many look to progress their faith towards a more literal interpretation of their scripture. Many faiths have regrettably progressed over recent years by branching out at the fringes to a more fundamentalist stance. Hence the chart below is littered with progress in the form of new creation museums, opposition to life saving medical procedures and numerous landmark cases of bigotry and discrimination. Not the sort of progress to be proud of.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

Today (20th May), is Everybody DrawMohammed Day – so here are my pathetic attempts:

Now then, now then

Moses, Christ and Mohammed on a bike

If you fear your faith, and the faith you wish to impose on others, may not necessarily stand up to unpalatable criticism, then a popular option is to censor any ideas that you suspect might challenge that faith. Of course this doesn’t just apply to Islam.

When it could, and where it still can in some parts of the world, faith happily propagated itself with unquestionable brutality. Where the religious grip has loosened, it seeks alternative methods.

This may take on many forms. Religious parents may stop their children reading certain books, or listening to certain music. They may send notes to their children’s teachers to excuse them from eye-opening multicultural school visits to places of worship alien to their own particular faith. In short, religious fundamentalist desire to blind others to ideas, thoughts and opinions that look at their faith from a different perspective.

Such censorship can be easily applied within the family unit, but where it cannot be applied directly, faiths will resort to either claiming offence and oppression or in extreme cases, use threats and violence to try and impose their illegitimate censorships on the wide community.

Unreasonable faith survives under the protection of ignorance and censorship. We should not kowtow to the whining false claims of oppression or the heinous threats of violence.

Help breakdown the acceptance of this illiberal censorship by refusing to comply with nonsensical religious dogmas. Blaspheme, lie in on a Sunday morning, eat a bacon sandwich and draw a picture of Mohammed and stick it on your Facebook wall..

NB. If you would like a weekly fix of only slightly better drawn, but far more profound, Mohammed cartoons, I highly recommend a visit to Jesus & Mo. (on which I have shamelessly based my attempts).

Here's the other Mohammed's I have been sent so far today...

My attempt #everybodydrawmohammed QT @Crispian_Jago: Everybody Draw Mohammed Day…

Am I doing #EverybodyDrawMohammed right? (cc @Crispian_Jago)

@Crispian_Jago I really cannot draw so this is the best I can do. Sorry!


.@Crispian_Jago Here we go -… - I have made him all smiley and nice so that no-one could possibly take offence.

@Crispian_Jago DMD day!

@Crispian_Jago As I can only draw one thing, here's my attempt.

I've decided to join in with Everybody Draw Mohammed Day as @Crispian_Jago has mentioned it once or twice.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Where's Bigfoot: A Beginners Guide to Cryptozoology

Cryptozoology is a tricky old skill to master. Formal training in taxonomy, biology, natural history and even zoology is of no use whatsoever to the budding young cryptozoologist. Indeed, even watching a complete box set of David Attenborough DVD's will not help hone the more peculiar talents needed for this fascinating discipline.

In order to discover creatures hitherto rejected by pedantic conventional science, a whole new skill-set is required. Key aptitudes include the amateur misidentification of dead animals in an unfamiliar state of decay and the uncanny ability to be easily be hoaxed by enterprising moron baiters.

Therefore for any younger readers wishing to embark on a credulous career in cryptid spotting I would highly recommend scanning the the following images I have prepared to help you get your eye in.

Where's Bigfoot?

Where's Nessie?

Where's Chupacabra?

Where's Montauk Monster?

Well done if you managed to spot them all, you're well on your way to becoming a leading cryptozoologist.

And of course, remember the cryptozoologist primary maxim: "If it looks like a man in a monkey suit, and walks like a man in a monkey suit, it probably is a new species of hominid previously unknown to science."