Friday, November 30, 2007

International silliness.

No doubt you will have heard that an English teacher in Khartoum has been jailed for naming a teddy bear 'Mohammed'. She didn't name the bear, the children did. She intended no offence, but was jailed anyway and is to be deported. Crowds are now calling for her death.

If I was in that country I know what I'd be doing. Packing.

The anti-Muslim sentiment in this country is at boiling point over this. There are cries of 'Barbarian' and 'It would never happen here'.

Wouldn't it? Is our government more sensible? Really?

Then why has a man just been charged with racial abuse because, in an argument, he called a Welsh woman English? He's been sentenced to 10 weeks imprisonment, suspended, even though the woman he argued with was the same race as him.

They are both caucasian. He's from Northern Ireland, she's from Wales. He called her a name - 'English' - and was arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced to a longer spell in jail than the woman in Sudan. For essentially the same offence - misusing a name and causing someone to get a bit miffed.

Both cases are extremely silly. The woman has been branded as an 'Islam-insulter', the man as 'Racist'. For what, really? For a single word, in each case. For nothing that should have been regarded as insulting, in each case. The man's case just goes to show that idiocy is not restricted to other parts of the world. Our own legal system can make itself look just as stupid as any other.

This sort of ruling just panders to the lunatic fringe. It's like rewarding toddlers for tantrums.

Isn't it time we all just grew up?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Ghostly Finger of Pain.

That’s overdramatic, but I couldn’t think of a better title. The question it relates to is – if ghosts have no solid form, can they hurt us?

There are several answers. The easy way out is ‘Ghosts don’t exist’, but that’s no better than sticking your fingers in your ears and singing some tuneless babble. I’ve said often that science can’t prove the non-existence of anything. Unfortunately, there are many things, seen and experienced by many people, that science still can’t explain or even prove the existence of. You have to have been there, at the right time, with the right recording equipment, and we don’t even know what that equipment is yet. So much for the easy answer.

What follows is, as is the case with almost all discussion of the paranormal, based on 10% experience and 90% opinion. I can’t produce proof, and nor can anyone else. Much of what I say below is my own theory of how the spirit world works. There is, at the moment, only one way to know for sure, and I’m not ready to take such a drastic step.

Whether you believe ghosts are dead people or some other form of spirit, incorporeal demon, whatever you want to call them, the key aspect of any definition is that they have no solid form. They can walk through solid objects, including the human body. So they can’t slap you across the face, kick you up the backside or beat you to death with a wet fish. They can do no direct harm.

This does not mean they are harmless. Poltergeist-induced fires are often reported, although it is rare for anyone to die, or even be seriously injured as a result. Thrown objects are very common. Knives can fly about, but I find no record of anyone being hit by such an object. So, although ghosts sometimes have the means to move things, including sharp things, and at speed, they are unable to attack anyone using those objects.

Why? Well, perhaps there are rules. Perhaps not. Perhaps these malicious phantoms really do mean to stick that knife into someone, but can’t. The reason, I suspect, is that we have a spirit within each of us. At an unconscious level (for most) we interact with the shadowy spirits, and can deflect their attacks without conscious action. Such a defence takes energy, as does the attack. Within a body, a spirit can draw on the energy of that body – and the body’s energy can be topped up with something as simple as a chocolate bar. Where the spirit draws its energy from, nobody knows for sure, but without the ready availability of a solid body, full of energy, the discorporate are always less powerful than the corporeal. By, I think, a very wide margin indeed.

So they can’t hurt us. Not directly. There’s no need to worry about phantom axemen. We all know this, and so do they.

Where the direct attack fails, the malicious ghost has to resort to subterfuge. He can’t hit you with a knife so he’ll try to get you to hurt yourself.

Now, those of us who have even an ounce of self-confidence will chorus ‘Ridiculous. I’m not going to hurt myself just because some ghost whispers in my ear’. Of course not. Nobody would. Well, almost nobody. There are some highly suggestible people out there. Besides, it rarely works like that.

If a ghost moves against or through your body, you won’t feel much more than a cold sensation. Unless the ghost has learned how to interfere with your nervous system. A twitch, a sudden contraction of muscle, and you feel as though someone’s hit you, pushed you, pinched you. If the spasm is expertly done, you might even stumble. It’s not likely to be strong enough to knock you over, but a stumble on stairs can be unpleasant.

If you feel a pinch, your mind and body can react by raising a welt or bruise on the affected area. The ghost didn’t do that. You did. It’s psychosomatic. People are perfectly capable of producing physical symptoms without any real cause. That part is certain. The trigger, in this case the muscle-spasm induced by a talented spirit, is theory.

If your skin itched, would you scratch it? Who can resist? If the itch persists, you scratch harder. What if it happened in the dark? A suggestion, a whisper too low to consciously hear, says ‘maggots’. You can‘t see anything, but that itching is increasing. So is your heart rate. You run your hand over the affected area, and feel little bumps. Of course you feel bumps. You’ve been scratching. Still you can’t see, it’s too dark. What does your imagination do with all those little bumps and the subconsciously-heard word ‘maggots’? How hard are you scratching now? Drawn blood yet?

You don’t have to be physical to terrify people. You don’t need a body to make someone feel pain. Ghosts can’t physically hurt us, but they are not harmless. Especially in the dark.

Tricks like this fail when you know how they work. If you’ve ever seen Penn and Teller’s early shows, they revealed the secrets of some amazing magic tricks. Once you know how it’s done, you shrug it off. The same idea holds in politics: learn how the manipulators pull your strings, and they become easy to cut.

So it is with the tricks of the malicious spirit. They can’t do any physical harm, but they will try to trick you into hurting yourself. Recognise the tricks, and the illusion is broken.

Cynicism is good for you.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

He's Behind You!

Ah, that staple of the Christmas panto. Soon you won’t be able to shout that out in case it’s derogatory to gays or something.

Not as far-fetched as it seems. The Politically Correct (another name for ‘intellectually crippled’) are having a go at pantomime now. Many can’t be done any more – Robinson Crusoe can’t have ‘natives’. Aladdin can’t have an Arab bad guy, which is odd since all the characters in Aladdin are Arabic.

The use of dwarves in Snow White causes furious reactions from those who spend their days looking for something to be offended about. My only consolation is that, with their constant state of agitation, they increase their chances of premature death. The sooner the better.

Really, the whole point of pantomime has been diluted to the extent it’s just not worth bothering any more. It’s time to replace it with a new entertainment.

I suggest ‘Pin the Burning Torch to the PC Oaf’ as a new Christmas game. You don’t have to be blindfolded, and the PC oaf is tied to a tank of petrol.

Well, if they take away our entertainments, they have to expect us to come up with new ones. They can’t claim this is racist or derogatory to any minorities. PC oafs are definitely not a minority.

This game might help them become one.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wanna Buy A Ghost?

I'm sure everyone's wondered how a paranormal investigator makes any money. Well, there are grants, there are sources of funding.

But here's a new way.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fiddling with gadgets.

I've just changed ISP's, and it was a much less irritating experience than last time. Now I have double the speed, despite the previous ISP insisting it wasn't possible.

Hopefully this will mean an end to spontaneous disconnects and dead-slow running. We'll see.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Red rags and bulls.

Sometimes it only takes a few words to set off a rant. A seemingly random comment can start that fury a-bubbling…

Anonymous said...
the Santa=Satan bit has been around for a loooooong time. some groups - like jehovah wtnesses I think - don't allow any observance of things like Santa or Halloween, etc

Ah, the commenter that dare not speak its name. Posts under the title 'Anonymous' are always fair game here.

You'd have to ask Tom Sheepandgoats about the specifics of why JW's don't observe Christmas. I suspect it's because it's actually a pagan sun-festival rather than any issue about name anagrams. The sun is at its lowest on the winter solstice, the 22nd, and doesn't appear to start rising in the sky again for three days. The 25th is the 'sun’s rebirth' to many ancient religions. I had a link to a documentary on that from Southern Writer, but can’t find it now.

Halloween is frowned upon by many religious groups. Many Christians, and other religions, refuse to get involved because of the supposed link to witchcraft and demons (in fact, it's the Celtic New Year and has nothing to do with either Satan or Santa), although most religions ignore it because it's simply of no interest to them.

Easter is a Pagan fertility rite, still practised as such in some parts of the UK. Again, Christians and others who refuse to get involved in chocolate eggs, rabbit costumes and dancing around maypoles are perfectly within their rights. It's not part of their religion.

However, none of the groups above are attempting to ban these festivals totally. None of them are trying to stop the rest of us having as much fun as we like. JW's don't observe Christmas but they've never knocked on my door and threatened to have me arrested if I deck a tree with tinsel, or nail a reindeer to my fence.

No Muslim has ever threatened me for buying a chocolate egg. No Hindu has ever tried to kill me for buying Halloween trinkets. No Sikh has ever kicked me while Christmas shopping. Most of these people are in fact quite happy to sell me these things, even though they won't make use of them themselves. They are not offended by them. They ignore them.

I have received a Christmas card from a Muslim ex-student who now lives in Syria. It’s not part of her religion, nor is it part of mine, but it was a very nice gesture. It was a gesture that doesn’t quite tally with the ‘Muslims are offended by Christmas’ rubbish that spouts from trembling politically correct lips these days.

I have no idea what Diwali means to a Hindu, but it evidently means a lot so I support their right to celebrate it. Likewise Hanukah, Ramadan, Easter, whatever festival anyone wants to have, let them have it. None are of interest to me. I won’t attend or take part. I will never, ever, support a ban on any of them unless they involve ritual human sacrifice. Banning one religion’s festivals while actively encouraging others is nothing more than bigotry. I defy you to prove me wrong, PC-bigots.

You, Anonymous, appear to have missed the point, and centred instead on my repeat of a very old joke.

The point is that all these bannings are done by the politically correct, not by the religious or other groups that get blamed for them. Banning 'Ho ho ho' is just another example of how ridiculous these people are. Offensive to women? Why, then, has no woman ever slapped a Santa for saying 'Ho ho ho' to her? Perhaps because the 'offense' exists only in the deranged imagination of halfwitted poltroons with the cognitive capacity of a sea-cucumber. This ban is one of the more extreme forms of insanity so far, but I’ll bet they’ll surpass it soon.

I'm not a member of any religion, nor of any group. If I was, I would feel demeaned and patronised to hear that a bunch of pompous morons have decided I need 'protecting' from something that 'might cause offence', without asking me or any member of the religion or group whether that was true.

Last Easter, in Aberdeen, the local health service decided not to let the staff observe Easter in case it offended the Muslims. The most vocal condemnation of this decision came from the local Muslim groups. They had never asked for this, they had no interest in suppressing the rest of the population. They said it was the most ridiculous idea they had ever heard. They were right. It insulted Christians and patronised Muslims, with the result that both were furious.

Naturally, the Muslims were blamed by the general public for the Easter ban. Unfair, but the faceless, anonymous politically-correct once more kept their heads below the parapet, their names out of public view. The public blame who they can see. They need a visible target because they’re not, on the whole, very bright.

Political correctness, and the control-freaks who use it, is causing more and deeper divisions between communities than any political party could ever manage on their own. These ridiculous rules make one side feel angry, the other feel patronised and used.

In the middle are the politically-correct, who might as well be lizard beings from the planet Zog, since they never have the courage to reveal their names or faces. Why is that? If they are, as they claim, the guardians of all public morals, why are they hiding? What is it? Three arms each? Severe facial unpleasantness? Or could it be that, deep down, they know they are worthless idiots and if anyone notices them, they’ll be out of work? Possibly tarred and feathered too.

I have observed (but never participated in) the flame-forums on Yahoo UK. The weapons of the politically correct are used to the full there. Principal among these weapons is deflection. Pick out a random, irrelevant point and make it the focus of discussion, so the original point is lost. Common, and easily spotted.

Those who make a comment such as ‘Immigration to the UK is out of control’ are shouted down and branded racist, bigot, Nazi. Yet recently we hear that something like five thousand illegal immigrants (illegal, mind) are working in sensitive security jobs. When you go through airport security, the guy checking you, and deciding whether you can get on the plane, might have no legal right to even be in the country. I expect I’ll be called Racist or some such for stating this, even though the news comes from the government itself and does not specify any race at all. It doesn’t matter any more. The words have no power now. They’ve been misused and overused to the point where they affect nobody. Soon, real racists will have the time of their lives because when they're denounced as Racist, everyone will shrug and say 'So what? Everyone gets called that.'

I will continue to ridicule the politically correct wherever I find them. To their faces, should they ever be found to have any. I will not be deflected, shouted down, sidetracked with irrelevancies or bow to lunatic claims of ‘racism’ because I have no interest in race.

I am interested only in intelligence. The colour of your skin, your accent, your gender, your origins are of no importance to me. You can be a green-skinned five-legged hermaphrodite from the bottom of the sea, who worships the Eyeballs in the Sky. I don’t care. If you’re intelligent, that’s all that matters.

On the other hand, if you’re an idiot, don’t expect me to keep quiet about it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An early Christmas Idiot Award.

You are not going to believe this one.

A recruitment firm has told Australian Santas that 'Ho ho ho' is offensive to women, and might corrupt children.

I'd have posted it sooner but I've only just stopped laughing. Apparently, because the USA uses 'ho' as a slang term for 'whore', the word must be banned in Australia. Which is a different country. On the other side of the planet. This recruitment agency (which is US-owned) apparently now believes Santa's traditional merry chortle has always translated to 'Slut slut slut.'

Oh, I am so going to use that. The next woman who pisses me off is going to get a cheery Santa greeting.

I wonder what's next? If Santa changes to 'Hee hee hee', is that sexist? Will he have to say 'Hee Shee Hee Shee' just to keep it fair? Will we have raging feminists insisting it's 'Shee Hee' not 'Hee Shee'?

I'm not sure whether I should be disturbed by the fact that I fully expect that to happen and will not be in the least bit surprised when it does. The world has far exceeded its quota of idiots. We're going to need someone with ten times Einstein's genius to redress the balance, and they'd better be born soon.

Christmas routinely brings the idiots from their boxes. Perhaps it's because we've cut down all the trees they were busy hugging. I'll be watching for more as the Loony Season approaches. There are already reports of 'Christmas banned so as to avoid offending minorities who have never expressed any concern at all on the subject'. These are now annual events.

Here's one for the Politically Correct to chew on.

Santa wears red, comes out at night, does his work in secret, keeps a host of non-human, supernatural workers and has an affinity for fireplaces. So does someone whose name is an anagram of Santa.

That's right, PC morons. Santa is really Satan! Go and have a meeting about that one.

I do love to bait the brainless. Well, everyone needs a hobby.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Valentown Ghost Footage

If you go looking for ghost videos on YouTube, here's a tip.

Pause the video as soon as it starts. Read the comments. If it's one of those idiotic 'jump-out-at-you' spoofs, move on.

This is not. This is one of the best I've found. If it was faked, I can't see how it was done.

Ghost Jumper? in Okinawa

Anonymous sent this one through the comments, a couple of posts back.

There's nothing to say it's a ghost though. If it's a real person, they're dressed head to toe in black - a wetsuit maybe? People do strange things for fun, and stranger things under the influence of depression.

The cliff is very tall, so someone in the surf below would be very hard to see. People disappear from the Scottish coast all the time. Fishermen who take that one risk too far in bad weather, on slippery rocks, can be washed out of sight in seconds.

It might be a ghost. At the moment, I see nothing to say it's not a real person doing something very silly.

I don't think it's a deliberate fake. It's too subtle for that. I'm not convinced it's supernatural though.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Christmas Shopping

Christmas comes but once a year, so the old saying goes. That old saying never mentioned it would take three months or more to get through it all.

Well, those of you who have to buy Christmas crap for all your friends and relatives might do well to heed the British way of doing things.

Watch out for those Belgian presents!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Seeing the wood in the trees.

I like to browse second-hand shops. You find all kinds of things that just aren't available any more.

Today I found a DVD of a documentary series called 'Ghost Hunters'. Well, I have a few such DVD's and videos and I'm usually disappointed to find they cover the same, worn-out, sensationalist stories of hauntings and poltergeists everyone's heard about. Still, it was very cheap and the cover spoke of Roman soldiers and of Marston Moor, the biggest battle of the English civil war, and possibly the biggest loss of life on English soil ever. So I bought it.

I had not previously heard of the Roman soldiers seen in the cellars at York. It was worth buying just for that story. York is built on an old Roman fort, the remains of which are now some twelve feet below ground. In the cellars, Roman soldiers sometimes 'replay' their actions.

That, and the descriptions of the Marston Moor hauntings, sound more like 'replay' apparitions than actual spirits. They don't interact with the living. They're just records. Images imprinted on the surroundings that can rerun under the right conditions. I'll try to visit Marston Moor in the summer. It's not pleasant in winter.

What made me shout at the screen was the attitude of some of the scientists on the show. Yes, they accepted that these events were real, even though they were divided as to the cause. However, they all need a slap.

None of them could understand how sound and images can be recorded on inanimate objects. They are videoed while saying this. Their faces, and their voices, are recorded on a strip of plastic tape coated with rust. Under the right circumstances--in this case, in the right machine--everything they said and did is replayed with perfect accuracy for anyone to see. Recorded for posterity on an inanimate object.

Yet they can't see how it could happen. Videotape is made of the minerals found in abundance in the Earth, but they can't see it.

Sometimes words are no use. Sometimes you just have to use a bat.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The atheist religion.

First of all, here are my cards on the table as far as religion goes.

I don't know whether there's a god. The more I see of the world, the less I can accept that anyone sensible is running it. I am unconvinced.

Equally, I can see no evidence at all to say there isn't a god. Evolution doesn't disprove God. Scientists creating microscopic life forms in the laboratory don't disprove God. They're working with what's already there. Life. Where that originally came from remains an unknown. Copying is not the same as creation.

There might be a god, there might not. I used to refer to myself as a non-committed atheist. That's my position. Now, on with the rant.

I won't use that description now. There are atheist groups! They have meetings! They sit around and discuss not-God and don't sing hymns or pray. They ridicule the religious who meet equally regularly and do the opposite. Atheism is the trendy new religion.

To me, that's like having a non-knitting circle. Meet once a week and don't knit.

There is a point to a knitting circle. People meet and share in an activity. There is a point to a religious meeting (I might not agree with it, but then I don't knit either). People of shared belief meet and enjoy the experience.

What's the point of a regular meeting where you turn up and collectively refuse to do something? How can that achieve anything at all? There are far more enjoyable ways to waste your time.

Almost all these groups specifically deny the Christian God. They never mention Allah, or Pan, or the whole range of Norse, Hindu, Roman, Greek, Celtic etc gods. Why? Does it take so much effort to not-believe that they can only deal with one at a time? How many gods can one person not-believe in? Is there a limit? Are they going to have public burnings of non-heretics at some point? It certainly seems to be heading that way.

I can think of nothing more ridiculous than an organisation dedicated to not believing in something. Why do such groups even exist? If you don't want to join that knitting circle, don't join. It's not complicated. Why set up your own non-knitting circle where non-knitters congregate, sans wool? I really don't care if someone else knits or not. Let them knit. I'll wear it (that's a conditional promise. I want to see it first) but I won't knit it. Maybe the knitters have something. Come nuclear Armageddon, those who can make clothes might well be the only survivors. Maybe the religious are right. Maybe they're not. I'm on the fence.

The thing is, if the atheists are right, then it really doesn't matter if people go to church. If the religious are right, then it does. To my mind, those who follow a god might be onto something, so it's safest not to dismiss their beliefs out of hand. Maybe all those gods are real. Maybe none of them are. Why do those who don't believe in gods feel the need to get militant about it? Are they destined to form right-wing non-religious terrorist cells?

I don't ride a motorcycle, but I've never joined a non-motorcycle club. I've never owned a gun but I'm not a member of a non-gun club. Yet those things should exist, if the Church of Atheism exists.

Why stop there? Let's form a club where we sit in closed cinemas and don't watch a film every week. What about non-insurance for your car? If you crash, you pay them. What about an unfriendly society? Wait, I might join that one.

Where is it going to end? I see atheists dropping out of the Church of Atheism. One by one, they'll declare they don't believe there's not a god, and we'll come full circle.

I've watched documentaries where smug professors declare there can't be any ghosts. Their arguments are always circular and start from the premise there are no ghosts. They boil down to 'I'm right because I say I am'. Is that better or worse than saying 'This is right because the Bible/Q'ran/whatever says so'? It's worse. These professors are setting themselves up as the High Priests of Science. Science shouldn't work like that. It won't work, as long as these High priests reign. But that's a different rant.

Still, these scientists are pronouncing their beliefs as conclusive proof of the non-existence of something. Science cannot prove the non-existence of anything. They are speaking from personal belief, and using their positions to decry someone else's personal belief. That's nothing short of disgusting. It's also pointless. Why declare yourself an expert in something you don't believe exists? Why even pretend to study something you don't believe exists?

Atheists are those who are convinced there is no god, and no afterlife. I have no problem with that. The religious are equally convinced there is a god (or gods) and that there is something after death. I have no problem with that either. Believe whatever you want. It doesn't change my life one jot.

I can see why the religious group together. I can't see why the atheists bother. Are their lives really that empty that they need to band together to waste their time (and remember, they believe this is all the time they'll have) in putting down another group of people?

Atheist organisations are the most idiotic idea anyone's had since the inventor of administration. If you're in one, get out now. Join a train-ignoring group or something. At least you'll get some fresh, if slightly diesel-tainted, air.

Rant over. My position remains unchanged. My answer to 'Is there a God' is still 'Maybe, and that's final'.

I'm not calling myself an atheist any more. It's a religion now, and it's not one of the better ones.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

How To Eat

Some have intimated an intention to visit the UK in the next year.

I thought I'd post occasional informative videos on how things are done over here.

First, how to adapt to UK food etiquette.

Sometimes you actually get to eat.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The end of the world is less nigh than I thought.

The Most Haunted pentagram-construction game did not result in the opening of the gates of Hell, nor did the UK get sucked into spiritual oblivion. They didn't complete the figure, they didn't return to their starting point. Maybe it wouldn't have done anything anyway, but it was a bit of a risk in my book.

The show found a couple of interesting things. I'm assuming there's no TV-style jiggery-pokery going on, but I have to always consider that as more than just a possibility. Assuming TV people are honest (no sniggering at the back, please), there were one or two good showings. A table moving with some violence (easily faked) and a few things thrown (also easily faked). That's the trouble with TV. Everything can be faked. A real event can be very hard to prove, when everyone knows TV can make anything convincing. Still, they did come up with some interesting bits.

If there's one lesson to take from that programme, it's this:

If you're going to ask a spirit to 'throw something', don't be in the kitchen. Nobody was hurt, but the knife looked very sharp. I don't know if that was genuine but I do have to consider that a faker might choose something less deadly to throw into a group of people in the dark. It might have been a plastic knife, of course, but then they'd have to synchronise a real-knife sound effect when it landed. Difficult to do on live TV.

So that might well have been genuine, if only because the item thrown was so dangerous.

I'm just happy they didn't finish the pentagram. I hope nobody else tries it.