Friday, October 12, 2007

Shiny Beasts

I'm dizzy with excitement. I have just taken delivery of the most expensive CD I have ever owned. Yep, in a moment of madness, I paid £49.99 plus p&p for a single CD album. It's not especially a good album either. Mostly it got tepid reviews, but it brings back memories for me of lolling about in my buddy Carl's bedroom after school and listening to 'albums'.

Those were teh days when you we actually played LPs to death - quite literally wore out the grooves. I wish I still did that. Perhaps I've changed, perhaps music has changed, perhaps adulthood has brought with it the ability to just fork out a tenner for a new CD without the ceremony and ritual that went along with the internal debate on how to best dispose of pocket money.

Anyhow, spending a silly amount on one album has brought back so many of those giddy joys.

What is it? Well, it's a CD copy of Crosby, Stills & Nash's 'Allies'.

For some contractual reasons I can't fathom, it was only briefly released in Germany and Japan in the late 1980s and then deleted. Copies are like hens teeth. Believe it or not, fifty quid was a bargain. I've seen it going for over $200.

My friend David Toube thinks this is rather extreme behaviour. But he is not a fan of CSN - "maybe a bit of "Heart of Gold" and that stuff, he says. I suck in my breath. A copy of Allies was the missing album in my now complete CSN(Y) collection.

David Toube is Morrissey's #1 fan. I bet he'd pay through the nose for this!


Friday, March 23, 2007

The Man Trap

In South Africa, crime is a national obsession. It touches everyone. If you're not actually a criminal yourself, you're a victim of a criminal, and if per (slim)chance you're neither, it's a certainty that you know someone who is. No dinner with friends is complete without the customary audit of whose been robbed, burgled, mugged, assaulted, hijacked or murdered since you you last met. A strange noise outside interrupted dinner? You can bet that several of your guests will jump up from the table, weapons drawn, while your host fingers the 'panic button' that summons the Armed Response service - a service which South Africans subscribe to as routinely as satellite TV or the Sunday papers.

The South African imagination for dealing with criminal threats knows no bounds. I was particularly impressed with one invention - and flirted with the idea of getting it installed myself - which bolted to the chassis of the car and, when you hit a specially installed button with your foot, would trigger a flame-thrower, roasting anyone within a metre or two of your car. It sounds gruesome, but what other line of defence does one have when a gang of car-jackers thrusts an AK-47 through the driver's window at the 'robots' (traffic lights)?

But finally, I have seen an invention to top that. I can't decide how to feel about it, but it is regrettable that someone thought it necessary to invent.

It is essentially a latex 'femidom' (female condom) with fish hooks inside. It allows the insertion of a penis, but not it's extraction without surgery. It is marketed as an anti rape device. It's called Rapex.


The tragedy is that it has a ready market. In South Africa, there is a rape every 26 seconds - that's over 50 000 a year. Even babies are raped. and with some studies estimating that as much as 25% of the population is HIV+ a rape could be a death sentence.

Some critics have denounced the device as "medieval and barbaric". Perhaps it is, but frankly, I have no concern for the welfare of a rapist caught - or hooked, as it were - in the act. “A medieval device for a medieval deed!” says Sonet Ehlers, the inventor.

A concern that perhaps should be taken more seriously is that being painfully snared by the Rapex device might enrage the rapist and escalate his violence towards the woman. Still, he'll have some explaining to do when he goes to the ER to have it removed.

Promoters of Rapex point out that the difficulty of removing the device from the penis will help identify rapists. They dismiss the criticism of potentially escalating violence by saying that any attempt by a woman to defend herself could be similarly criticised.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Crude Christian anti-gay propaganda

A crude, insulting and factually false propoganda video has been produced to promote a Christian protest in Parliament Square at noon on Wednesday 21 March to protest the introduction of the Sexual Orientation Regulations.

The video claims that "the government is determined to pass a law that will, among other things, force shools to teach homosexual sex and relationships to children of all ages in schools".

In spite of having been exposed as liars, these Christian fundamentalists continue to push the idea that the Sexual Orientation Regulations apply to the content of school lessons. It is false! The SORs have nothing to do with school curricula. They are concerned only with the provision of goods and services. This means that a gay student cannot be denied admission or expelled because of their sexual orientation. That's all.

Bizarrely, since the video features a 'teacher' reading about 'homosexuality' to a group of primary schoolers, it comes with a warning that no one under 18 should view it. What did they do? Send the kids they'd used in the making of the video to re-education camps?

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New death threat against Taslima Nasreen

TaslimaNasreen.jpgTaslima Nasreen, the Bangladeshi feminist writer who spoke in London at an International Women's Day event a fornight ago has had a Rs 500,000 (£6000) bounty put on her head by an Indian Mulsim group, the All India Ibtehad Council.

According to the Daily Times in India, Taqi Raza Khan, the president of the council affered the reward to anyone carrying out the "extermination of this notorious woman", saying "Taslima has put Muslims to shame in her writing. She should be killed and beheaded and anyone who does this will get a reward from the council."

Taslima Nasreen fled Bangladesh in 1994 after Muslim fundamentalists declared her writings blasphemous and demanded her execution.

A website billed as "Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims" offers more background information on the death-fatwa againts Nasreen and others.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Keillor Savaged

And if I seem angry, you fucking motherfucker, it’s because I am. Angered and shocked. I’m used to being attacked by right-wingers obsessed with gay sex and fixated on anti-gay stereotypes. It’s a new and different sensation to be attacked so crudely by a man of the left—particularly when that man’s fat ass squats in a large glass house.

So says a very angry Dan Savage as he, as my friend Brian said, "basically rips the large intestine out of Garrison Keillor and strangles him with it".

What has made columnist and author Savage so angry?

Well, radio personality Garrison Keillor wrote in his regular Salon column thus:

"Under the old monogamous system, we didn’t have the problem of apportioning Thanksgiving and Christmas among your mother and stepdad, your dad and his third wife, your mother-in-law and her boyfriend Hal, and your father-in-law and his boyfriend Chuck. Today, serial monogamy has stretched the extended family to the breaking point. A child can now grow up with eight or nine or 10 grandparents—Gampa, Gammy, Goopa, Gumby, Papa, Poopsy, Goofy, Gaga and Chuck—and need a program to keep track of the actors...

... And now gay marriage will produce a whole new string of hyphenated relatives. In addition to the ex-stepson and ex-in-laws and your wife’s first husband’s second wife, there now will be Bruce and Kevin’s in-laws and Bruce’s ex, Mark, and Mark’s current partner, and I suppose we’ll get used to it. "

Trouble is, as Savage explains:

Keillor has been married THREE TIMES. He has children from two of his marriages, children who presumably need a computer program to keep track of their step-siblings, half-siblings, and sprawling extended families, children that have to be “apportioned out on Thanksgiving and Christmas.” Okay, fine, whatever. Keillor can recognize marriage, life-long commitment, and less complicated family structures as the ideal, even if he himself has failed—failed spectacularly—to live up to that ideal himself. It might have been nice, however, if the withered old hypocrite had admitted to Salon readers that he has failed to live up to the ideals he’s espousing. How about a little full disclosure, Garrison?

But not only has he married three times, he's also had long-term affairs. In fact, his second marriage failed because of his adultary.

Garrison Keilor is the author of books like Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America. The book opens:

"I AM A Democrat, which was nothing I decided for myself but simply the way I was brought up, starting with the idea of Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which is the basis of the simple social compact by which we live."


But there is nothing I can really add to the majesty of Dan Savage's full reply. Read it here.

And many gay Americans still think the party that gave America DOMA and DADT is a friend to the gay community. In broad strokes, the difference between the Left and the Right on gay issues is that the Right will tell you they hate fags to your face. That's about it. Vote Democrat to get rid of that idiot Bush by all means, but don't fool yourself that the Dems will do jackshit for gay folk.

And just to underscore this point. When Hillary Clinton was asked today by ABC News whether, in light of General Peter Pace's outburst, she though gay people were immoral, she managed to muster this:

"Well I'm going to leave that to others to conclude."

Keillor himself has advised the Democratic Party to "jettison" issues that the Republicans use to "divide" them. He said in a radio interview in Kansas recently:

“I think that gay marriage is also an issue that does no good for us and I want to see us divest ourselves of this,” Keillor says. “The symbolism of gay people marrying is terribly potent, terrible powerful, and we ignore this at our peril in our party."

With friends like these, as Brian - a former supporter of Howard Dean - says, as he looks elsewhere.

Still, as Savage says, it always is "a different sensation" when crude attacks come from the Left. Sadly, he'd better get used to it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Women's Rights, the Veil and Islamic and religious laws

GHQ-Multimedia Presents: The speeches from the seminar "Women's Right, the Veil and Islamic and Religious Laws" held at the University of London Union in London on 8 March 2007 to mark International Women's Day.

Listen online or download the speeches in MP3 format by Sohaila Sharifi, Taslima Nasreen, Maryam Namazie, Mina Ahadi, Sonja Eggerickx and Ann Harrison.

"This was a superb and exhilarating evening. I cannot say how much admiration I have for these courageous women. They sense that they are at the head of a growing movement and that the women of Iran are aching to be freed from the confines of the 'medieval rag' and all it represents," said Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society and the media spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association (which publishes GHQ).

The seminar was co-sponsored by the International Campaign in Defence of Women's Right in Iran - UK, the National Secular Society and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.

About the speakers:

Sohaila Sharifi is a member of the Campaign in Defence of Women's Right in Iran - UK, and chaired the meeting. She also translated for Mina Ahadi.

Taslima Nasreen is a physician, writer, radical feminist, human rights activist and a secular humanist. Her first book of poetry was published in 1986. Her second became a huge success in 1989. Next she started writing about women's oppression. In 1992 she received the prestigious literary award Ananda from West Bengal in India for her Selected Columns, the first writer from Bangladesh to earn that award. Islamic fundamentalists launched a campaign against her in 1990, staging street demonstrations and processions. In 1993, Soldiers of Islam issued a fatwa against her, a price was set on her head because of her criticism of Islam, and she was confined to her house. Taslima has been living in exile. She has written twenty eight books of poetry, essays, novels, and short stories in her native language of Bengali. Many have been translated into twenty different languages.

Maryam Namazie is a rights activist, commentator and broadcaster on Iran, the Middle East, women's rights, cultural relativism, secularism, Humanism, religion, Islam and political Islam. She is the National Secular Society's 2005 Secularist of the Year award winner and an NSS Honorary Associate; producer of TV International English; Director of the Worker-communist Party of Iran's International Relations Committee; co-editor of WPI Briefing and Vice President of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association. She is also involved in the Third Camp against US militarism and Islamic terrorism. She has been threatened by Islamists as a result of her defence of rights and freedoms.

Mina Ahadi was born in Iran in 1956. She started her political activities by setting up discussion clubs and performances when she was only 14. She was actively involved as a university student in the 1979 Iranian revolution. When the Islamic government gained power and Khomeini issued a fatwa for compulsory Islamic veiling, she organised meetings and demonstrations against the government. Mina is the founder and coordinator of the International Committees against Execution and Stoning. Mina Ahadi has lived in Europe since 1990. Recently she has founded the Central Council of Ex-Muslims to expose Islamic laws and its affects on people. She is currently under police protection for her activities.

Sonja Eggerickx was born in 1947 in Brussels. She studied Moral Sciences at the State University in Ghent (Belgium) and was active with the humanist youth, the feminist group and later the humanist union. She has been a teacher of what is called "non-confessional ethics" for 23 years, as well as a school inspector for the same subject. She is President of the Flemish Union of freethinkers/Humanists, co-president of the Belgian umbrella organisation Central Laïque committee and is currently the president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

Ann Harrison, currently a Researcher on Iran, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, has worked for Amnesty International in the Middle East and North Africa Programme for a total of about 10 years, first in the 1990s and most recently since June 2005. She has worked on a number of countries in the region, beginning with Israel and the Occupied Territories and Jordan, and later Lebanon and Syria. She has worked on human rights issues in Iran for almost four years.

Listen to the speeches.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Mugabe's mielie-mouthed media's moral maize

While Zimbabwe starves, Robert Mugabe's state-controlled media feeds the people a staple diet of bullshit.

According to Reuters, this weekend, Zimbabwean police arrested several opposition leaders, including Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and shot another man dead while breaking up a prayer meeting held "to address the deepening political and economic crisis".

Of course, normally I'd scoff at people praying to achieve anything, but of course, Mugabe has banned political gatherings. And, since all rational avenues to effect change in the country seem to have been explored, it is no wonder that people might request divine intervention - even if only as a means to discuss the national catastrophe inflicted upon the country by Mugabe. Imagine inflation at 1700% and over 80% unemployment.

However, state-controlled Zimbabwe Herald reported the story thus:

"ONE person was shot dead by police and three police officers severely injured during an attack by MDC thugs, while opposition faction leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara were arrested for inciting people to engage in violence."

For me, this is nothing new because I remember the State of Emergency in South Africa. In fact, I wonder if Mugabe didn't buy surplus BOSS and CCB textbooks at auction.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

SciFi GHQ now out!


The new print edition of GHQ is in the post to subscribers, but it is also available as a free PDF download from the GHQ website.

The cover story looks at how Science Fiction on television (like Star Trek, Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica) deals with themes of Humanism vs religion.

There are also stories about 'The Festival of Blight' (where religious fundamentalists protested outside the House of Lords in opposition to the inclusion of gay people in anti-discrimination legislation) and a report back from the recent Faith, Homophobia & Human Rights conference, including the text of a speech by Ali Hilli who details the latest atrocities against LGBTs in Iraq by Islamist militias.

Keith Porteous-Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society explains why secularism is good for everyone - even the religious. There is also an op-ed from Humanist author Barbara Smoker on free-speech, respect and religion.

There are also details about the GALHA Film Festival starting this weekend.

Download the new issue, enjoy, fume, etc...