Thursday, January 13, 2005


One can, it now seems, be sacked for blogging. Waterstones have sacked one of their senior boosellers from his job in their Edinburgh store, after he made a few (not very many) references to his job, and referred to "Evil Boss" (presumably a reference to Dilbert's Pointy-Haired Boss). This is disturbing in so many ways. Can one be sacked for moaning down the pub, as well? Who doesn't have gripes at work?
What can we do? Well, I'd certainly recommend boycotting Waterstones until he's re-instated, and emailing them explaining your actions. After all, if they sack someone for expressing opinions online, it doesn't bode well for what books they will and won't stock, does it? Who knows what they'd refuse to sell...
Anyway, the blog in question can be seen at go check him out yourself.

Monday, January 03, 2005

New link

I've added a link to Oxfam's website over in the links section.

Shocking news - 2005 likely to be just as stupid as 2004

Having spent my last couple of days of non-work freedom doing as little as possible, other than reading, listening to music and watching telly, I discovered some shocking truths. From the television. That finest of all inventions. According to the advert for the Daily Mail, the "new planet" discovered last year (Sedna, I believe it was named) will have profound implications for astrology. Well, well, well. Does this mean that astrology was all wrong before then? (Clue - astrology was all wrong before then, but not because they hadn't taken into account of the planet...) Of course, I ignore the debate as to whether it is a true planet after all (most astronomers think not, but I'm not entirely sure I could fully differentiate between a planet, an orbiting comet and an escaped satellite, anyway, so I'll leave that for the professionals). And then it (the Mail, that is, getting back to the favoured paper of the BNP) continues its advert with the latest fad diet (is simply eating less pies and more vegetables, and exercising too easy for people?) No doubt it will finish off with a front-page splash about asylum seekers and a house-price crash, to complete its predictable, new-year's fare of pseudo-science and bigotry. The advert for the Express which followed shortly after seemed to want the same market, with more astrology, and, unadvertised, but doubtless there, more lies about refugees. To complete this unholy trinity, Sky TV have a few programmes of their own which seem particularly worth avoiding. On Sunday next week, the failed stage-magician turned self-proclaimed "psychic", Uri Gellar, is presenting a show entitled "Haunted Cities" or some such guff. How many times does Gellar need to be caught cheating before he's discredited? Even Noel Edmunds caught him out. Noel Fucking Edmunds - on one of his pointless shows before he was finally dropped, far too late to stop him killing people, Gellar was doing one of his tricks, and drawing a picture that was being drawn by someone else, hiding it from him. The camera caught him peering through his fingers to look. A basic trick that any professional conjuror can perform a damn site better, and this man wants to be taken seriously as having supernatural powers? Clearly he thinks we're all stupid. Given his success, many of us, it seems, are...
Also coming up on Sky - "Paranormal: Proof Positive". I want to suggest a programme - "Paranormal - Bollocks, or what?" I wonder if I can get a network to show it?
So why am I so concerned with what is just, ultimately, a bit of harmless fun? Well, as Gellar shows, along with the "astrologers" in the Mail and Express, unscrupulous people can become very rich exploiting superstitions and ignorance. More than this, though, a lack of critical thinking is bad for democracy - why should I think for myself and question what I've been told? Far better to accept uncritically, without studying the world, and what's really going on in it, eh? As an extreme example, I received a Christmas present - a book called "Himmler's Crusade", by the historian Christopher Hale. It tells of the pre-World War Two expedition organised by the Nazis into Tibet, searching for the the origins of the "Aryan Race" and connexions between mystical places there and Atlantis, amongst other things. Much of the theoretical underpinning of Nazism, their racial theories and so forth, was based not merely on bad biology, but on far-out occultism. It clearly isn't as bad as that at the moment, but I do think it illustrates a salutary lesson for us.
As a final message, I'd like to suggest that everyone reads the late, great Carl Sagan's marvellous book, "The Demon Haunted World". Make it your new year's resolution, or something. Oh, and happy new year!
Oh yeah, read Francis Wheen's "How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World", too. And I'd best stop there, before recommending everything going...