Saturday, August 11, 2007

Criticism of Richard Dawkins

Dominic Lawson pens an amazingly literate piece on Richard Dawkins called "Why Richard Dawkins is right on alternative medicine - but not when it comes to religion" for the Independent.

[Eighteenth-century Scottish atheist David]Hume was perhaps the first to make the point that we cannot derive "ought" from "is". That is to say, we cannot know how the world ought to be, simply from describing how it is - no matter how knowledgeable we are. Hume's point was later defined with more brutal simplicity by men such as Professor A J "Freddie" Ayer: all statements of ethics are factually meaningless, being no more than the expression of the view that we either like or dislike something.

Freddie (my late stepfather, as it happens) was the Richard Dawkins of his day, at least in the sense that he became this country's most celebrated anti-religious proselytiser; but his impeccable Humean logic is now the impenetrable shield that the churches can use to deflect the ideological bullets of his successor. After all, if religion has been forced to become little other than an assembly of ethical opinions - however passionately adhered to and however elegantly housed-- then it cannot actually be depicted as "wrong".

For the entire article, click on the heading.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tony Wilson Dead

From The Guardian:
Anthony Wilson, the Manchester music impresario who founded Factory Records and the Hacienda nightclub, died last night, aged 57, after a heart attack on Thursday. A leading light in the "Madchester" popular culture boom of the late 1980s and early 90s, he had been battling kidney cancer since early 2006.

The Salford-born journalist brought bands including Joy Division, New Order, the Happy Mondays and James to a wider audience. His record label's pioneering approach to design and architecture also helped kick-start Manchester's transformation into a European cultural centre.

From NME
[Creation Record's Alan McGee]'Factory Records was the template for every indie label with its 50-50 deals [between artist and label] and I can honestly say without Factory there would have been no Creation. In fact if it wasn't for his talk to us in 1985 I might have quit music all together.'

Good books on Wilson and what he did:
Mick Middles,From Joy Division to New Order: The True Story of Anthony H. Wilson and Factory Records, (London: Virgin Books, 2002).

Chris Ott, Unknown Pleasures, (New York: Continuum, 2004).

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Creakings from a Cranky Old Man

American Joe Queenan, who writes for a number of publications including the Guardian, penned an interestingly cranky piece about the Clash, London Calling (song and single), and the emotional hold it has on a generation. In short, he thinks we've been had just like the Boomers before us were, and all of the Clash's anthemic calls to arms were just a marketing ploy.

Ok, it's funny and well put. And in my more cynical "who gives a rat's ass" moods (which occur more and more these days) I would concede. Except he played the Hitler card:
The Clash, including the now deceased Strummer, allowed "London Calling" to be used in a Jaguar TV commercial in 2002. Jaguar is owned by the Ford Motor Company, which was founded by a ferocious anti-semite who invented the assembly line and was admired by Adolf Hitler. Ironically, top-quality airplanes built by the Jew-loathing Henry Ford helped defeat the Nazis and his zombies of death. War was declared. Battle came down. After all this, won't you give me a smile?

For fuck's sake, most popular technology has evil militaristic origins. Did you have to lose us there? I thought you were smarter than that.

Missing the Bus

The province of Ontario proposes to spend $15 million dollars to create green licence plates for environmentally friendly, low-emission cars and trucks. This means that Smart cars, hybrids and the like could park for free and use the carpool lane.

Isn't that missing the point? Leave the trendy car at home and take the bus. Premier Dalton McGuinty ought to dump that money into making the public transit system more efficient. Who told him that free parking will make an SUV driver see the light (through the smog) and switch to a Prius? If said driver was so aware, they wouldn't be spending $1.00/litre every to fill a gas hog.

Throw a toll on the Gardiner and the DVP. London has. It's just as much of a "step" as meaningless special plates.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Radio That Doesn't Suck

Just in case you're online, and you need something to listen to, try BBC Radio 1's Huw Stephens. The Welshman presents fresh new music. Tonight I heard Emmy the Great: Sandy Denny meets Mia Doi Todd.

Failing that, you can always haunt my alma mater: CKCU FM, the mighty 93.1

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Third Pint?

Sssh. The secret's getting out. Women don't eat like freakin' birds, and we don't all like fruity drinks either.

Nope. According to this article in theGuardian, real women drink ale. But the thing is the bright guys at the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) reckon we want cute little girly glasses. Thing is, this fancy stemware only holds a third of a pint. (Kind of like our wages being 75 cents to a man's dollar.)

Huh. That's just crazy talk.

Now, if someone had asked me, not only would I have set them straight about how I like my ale/stout/lager/cider/pilsner, but I would have insisted they buy me dinner, preferably a steak (medium, please, with chips, thanks). And I'm not alone in my appetites. The New Times reports that we ladies have gone off rabbit food and like a big ol' plate of protein with our carbs.
Red meat sent a message that she was “unpretentious and down to earth and unneurotic,” she said, “that I’m not obsessed with my weight even though I’m thin, and I don’t have any food issues.” She added, “In terms of the burgers, it said I’m a cheap date, low maintenance.”

So eating properly and drinking heartily are in. About bloody time, too.

Man-Booker Long List

From The Guardian:
The longlist in full

Darkmans by Nicola Barker (Fourth Estate)

Self Help
by Edward Docx (Picador)

The Gift Of Rain
by Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon)

The Gathering by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton)

The Welsh Girl
by Peter Ho Davies (Sceptre)

Mister Pip
by Lloyd Jones (John Murray)

by Nikita Lalwani (Viking)

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, (Jonathan Cape)

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn (Tindal Street)

Consolation by Michael Redhill (William Heinemann)

Animal's People by Indra Sinha (Simon & Schuster)

Winnie & Wolf by AN Wilson (Hutchinson)

All available at a local independent book shop near you.

Left of the Dial

Just when you were about to give up on radio, that every station blew chunks, sucked ass, and was a big, shiny corporate shill, you swing 'round and 'round, up and down the dial to hear this siren song: "You're listening to KUNT in Wailuku, Maui."

From the Honolulu Star Bulletin:
Alarmingly similar to a word the dictionary says is obscene, the call letters were among a 15-page list of new call letters issued by the Federal Communications Commission and released this week.

However, assignment of call letters actually is an automated process, according to Mary Diamond of the FCC's Office of Media Relations. Broadcasters use the FCC Web site to request and receive call letters with no oversight from Beavis, his partner, or any FCC regulator.

The Code of Federal Regulations allows applicants to request call letters of their choice as long as the combination is available. Further, "objections to the assignment of requested call signs will not be entertained at the FCC," it states.

Other beacons of on-air righteousness include KWTF in Arizona and KCUF in Colorado.

Sigh. It gives one hope, don't it?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bad Brains Baggins

This is just wierd:

This is just boss:

via WFMU

Online Dating Can Make You [sic]

I'm at the age where I can count my single female friends one hand, and we have all tried online dating. One meticulous friend has just launched herself into the cyber-abyss and often seeks my war-weary advice. She has written, revised, spell-checked, and double-checked her profile to include her interests and passions: each word carefully chosen, each comma properly placed. And yet she receives emails that show no evidence of having read said profile...or of even knowing how to spell "profile." Are we picky? Are we alone? Apparently not, thank goodness. From Jaime Epstein's "Sentence Sensibility" in the New York Times:
I didn’t realize, however, what a huge boulder I would be rolling uphill — what with my being a “literary person,” a sometime editor of this column, someone whose ear is as tuned to the pitch of language as a cellist’s is to music — until the misplaced modifiers, dyslexic spellings and grievous abuses of syntax started pouring in. One seeker of a woman to call his own allowed that the last book he had read was “Atonement,” which was about to earn him a gold star, Ian McEwan having his own section on my bookshelves, except that he didn’t quit while he was ahead — he had to add that it was written by . . . Ian McGregor! O.K., no big deal, you say, they’re both Brits, it’s hard to keep all the Ians (or, um, Ewans!) straight, you know what/whom he meant and at least he reads something besides Gawker. Well, yeah, but couldn’t he have malapropriated a lesser writer’s name, one whose first and last aren’t tattooed on my forehead, one not sitting on a pedestal in front of my computer? Couldn’t he have checked his sources?

Hold the Phone

Who knew that lack of home-based Internet would make a girl crazy? After exactly a full month of daily chats with the painfully polite tech support in Mumbai, I have given up the phone-line ghost. As of today, I'm all about cable modems. Big thanks to the poor bugger who had to drop a new coaxial cable in the 30+ C heat. And I could do was offer him a glass of water and a spanner.