Posted by That Other Mike on 19/10/2008
Gary tagged me with the sets of questions which John at Homo economicus’s weblog tagged him with, which he was tagged with by Splendid Elles… And that’s when I decided that following the chain back to its beginning might well drive me bugshit insane, and started writing the answers.
Can You Remember The Day That You Officially Became An Atheist?
I don’t think I ever officially did; I don’t think there was ever that kind of marker or milestone. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been an Atheist.
I suppose that one particular incident could be seen as relevant or similar; I remember being told off by a teacher at the age of seven or so for blasphemy. Aside from that, though, I’ve never had any kind of official coming out or anything. It’s always been something that I’ve been open and clear about with people, if it happens to come up.
I was forced into going to church services and so on by school and family, but I always refused to participate, which landed me in trouble a few times.
Do you remember the day you officially became an agnostic?
Technically, I suppose, in the sense of not being able to fully rule out any deity that might possibly ever exist at all anywhere, I might be classified as agnostic… But I honestly don’t have much truck with that kind of thing. Every god which has been put in front of me for consideration has been incoherent or impossible or illogical; given that none of them made any sense or were in any way believable, I don’t see much of an issue with being skeptical about them from the get-go. I tend to find myself drawing from all varieties of Atheism: I would call myself a weak Atheist, because I simply don’t believe in gods, full stop; but I also have legitimately ruled out various specific gods, so in that sense, I’m a strong Atheist; and finally, I think that given the incoherency and lack of meaning within the question, I would also consider myself a theological noncognitivist.
How about the last time you spoke or prayed to God with actual thought that someone was listening?Never have, to my knowledge.
Did anger towards God or religion help cause you to be an atheist or agnostic?This doesn’t really apply to me, given that I never believed in the first place.
Here is a good one: Were you agnostic towards ghosts, even after you became an atheist?While being atheist technically doesn’t rule out a belief in ghosts, it’s always struck me as rather silly. If you can’t show any reason to believe in a soul in the first place, what would be the reason to believe in ghosts?
Do you want to be wrong?No. I’m happy enough as I am, and I don’t think that I or the world in general would be a better or happier place, were the existence of gods to be proven. I think they make fantastic story and novel fodder, but otherwise…
Posted in Politics | Tagged: Atheism, gary murning, homo economicus, meme, questions, splendid elles | Leave a Comment »
Posted by That Other Mike on 01/07/2008
Before I get into my shtick about fiction, I’d just like to thank everyone who has decided to take part in our readers’ and writers’ group by joining Idiosyncratica. I’m sure we’ll all find it enjoyable and useful.
The topic we chose was “My fiction and me”, which I think is a nice and gentle opener. It may get more complex later on as we get into the swing of things and grow more confident as a group; then again, it might become easier for us to handle. We’ll see, anyway.
I’d like to start by talking about what I read. Ever since I was a young child, I’ve been an avid reader. Mainly, I think, because I am by nature quite shy; I have learned to overcome it and be more outgoing, but it is an act of will rather than nature.
My reading runs a wide range, although I am very much a fan of the 20th century in terms of what I read, probably because the 20th was the first century in which reading was not a pursuit only of the wealthy who had leisure time: it saw a huge variety of different genres explode onto the scene in a very short time, from the hardboiled noir of Chandler to the elegant visionary themes of Alfred Bester to the psychological mastery of Patricia Highsmith. The sheer volume of different books about different themes and by such different people are enough to make the 20th century my favourite.
On my bookshelf, Vernon God Little sits next to The Left Hand of Darkness and The Wasp Factory:I will read almost any genre, although I do have my limits and my favourites. I am always drawn to science fiction, perhaps because it so often offers a vision of better future, and to horror and the supernatural, my affection for which I’m almost scared to analyse! I tend to stay away from romance fiction and I often find myself turned off by modern literary fiction, which too often takes pretence and obfuscation and confuses them with profundity.
I also adore certain writers beyond all measure and will remain for ever loyal to them: Margaret Atwood, Patricia Highsmith, Ursula K. Le Guin, Iain Banks (M. or not!), for example. They have created utterly believable characters in backwoods America, apocalyptic futures or utopian worlds of wonder; they tell incredibly human stories set among grand vistas in space or among the claustrophobic nightmare of the 1950s small town.
That’s who I like to read. My writing is a different story. I write with hesitation and I really dislike the actual process of writing. It doesn’t come easily to me, and I’m never sure if anything I do is actually worth reading.
It’s not that I have trouble with story or plot – they arrive whole into my brain, with beginnings and endings and every event, all sketched in faint lines. What I have to do is fill in the colour and block out the shapes, which is what I find difficult.
As far as what I write goes, it mirrors my reading habits – I feel drawn to the supernatural and technologically magical, as well as the darker side of human habits and personalities. This makes me a little wary of showing stuff to people sometimes, and also a little disturbed about it: if I can come up with the most horrific things to happen to my characters, what does that say about me as an individual? I sometimes need to be reassured that it isn’t the mark of a psychopath to write psychopaths, but Lottie and Gary both assure me that isn’t the case. I am thus reassured 😀
Anyway, those are my reading and writing habits: my fiction and me.
Posted in Politics | Tagged: alfred bester, books, characters, feminist writing, fiction, gary murning, harry harrison, iain banks, Idiosyncratica, lottie rambleson, margaret atwood, my fiction and me, Patricia Highsmith, plot, reading, science fiction, stories, story, the culture, the stars my destination, ursula k. leguin, writing | 4 Comments »
Posted by That Other Mike on 13/06/2008
After Dunar’s recent unreasonable behaviour, which included throwing lightning bolts around like a mad bastard, this week’s round up is dedicated to the goddess Frige, who is much more reasonable and sweet-tempered than Dunar.
Lottie has a question or two about Clinton supporters who’ve said they’ll vote for McCain… The general idea is “What the hell are you thinking?!”, and it’s one that I can get behind; McCain promises to be not more of the same, but more and worse. Thought the Iraq war was bad now? Wait till your great grandkids have to go and fight under the McCain plan!
Kalliope over at Missing Mojo has a deconstruction of the flak being thrown around over the Sex and the City movie. It’s pretty clever and insightful.
Gary takes celebrities who whine about privacy to task, especially those who do so in public interviews. If you want to be private, try going away and leading a private life! He also adds the most recent update for Idiosyncratica.
MichelleObamaWatch.com is keeping an eye on the media for the inevitable racism and misogyny directed towards Michelle Obama that will follow Barack Obama’s (presumptive) nomination (via Ms Andrist).
This discussion on feminist sex at Feministe has turned pretty interesting; while it was initially of mild interest, the comments have made it worth a read.
And finally, congratulations to Anxious Mofo, who’s been linked to by Conservapedia. I’m sure he’s honoured and inspired by their linkage; he shows his appreciation by deconstructing their feeble article on Atheism. Well worth a read.
Posted in Atheism, Odds and Sods, Politics | Tagged: anxious mofo, carrie bradshaw, celebrities, conservapedia, creativity, democrats, feminism, feministe, gary murning, george bush, Idiosyncratica, Kalliope, lottie rambleson, mccain, michelle obama, ms andrist, obama, Politics, privacy, republicans, sarah jessica parker, sex, sex and the city, thong, writing | Leave a Comment »
Posted by That Other Mike on 07/06/2008
Thor is angry because I failed to do a round up in his honour on Thor’s-Day last. Ordinarily, I would’ve posted a late one on Friday, but I was busy putting out the fires caused by Thor throwing lightning bolts at my house.
First on the weekly round up is Part 3 of Lottie’s Getting to Know You series, in which she talks about a couple of things about long distance relationships which might sound funny or superficial in isolation but which are nonetheless legitimate concerns: What if the other person has personal hygiene problems, or you’re not sexually compatible?
Idiosyncratica, the readers’ and writers’ blog ring which Gary came up with, and of which I am now a member, is still high on the agenda. We’re still developing it, but we hope that aspiring writers of fiction will drop by and get involved; there’s hopefully going to be a certain amount of material for dedicated readers in search of new and interesting fiction.
Anxious Mofo has come up with a rather genius idea, which he has modestly entitled the Anxious Mofo Index. I think it’s probably going to come in handy; someone needs to invent some kind of algorithm or measurement for it (along the lines of the Hovind Scale).
Jill at Feministe details how reading fundie pro-life blogs rots your brain. I don’t pretend to be entirely comfortable with abortion, and I would, on an expanded definition which I get to define, call myself “pro-life” in one sense, but I’m also not so hide-bound as to think my uncomfortable feelings should constitute law.
Over at EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse reviews Dawkins’s latest book, which goes by the name of The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, an edited anthology of science essays by professional scientists. I stress the “professional scientists” part, because that is what makes it interesting; too many times in recent years, the Anxious Mofo Index in science has dipped towards 0, often as the result of ignorant journalists.
The Filthiest Show in Town, by My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult
Ten Summoner’s Tales, by Sting.
Coming soon – a new meme, zombie flicks and some other stuff.
Posted in Atheism, books, Odds and Sods, science | Tagged: abortion, anxious mofo, dating, dawkins, evolution, fiction, gary murning, getting to know you, hovind scale, Idiosyncratica, index, jason rosenhouse, lightning, lottie rambleson, my life with the thrill kill kult, online relationships, oxford book of modern science writing, personal hygiene, pro-life, reading, sexual compatibility, sting, ten summoner's tales, the filthiest show in town, thor, writing | 3 Comments »
Posted by That Other Mike on 03/06/2008
OK, while I’m getting mad levels of hits (thanks for the HT, Jill), I thought I might as well use the opportunity to promote the new project that Gary is starting. It’s going to be a fiction-based webring, aimed at bringing largely unseen writers and talent to an audience wanting new and interesting fiction.
The ring, which is still somewhat in the planning stages, will be aimed at promoting the work of new and emerging writers to the legion of readers out there who want quality fiction. The idea is to build an online community wherein the writers can gain a receptive audience, promote themselves and get informed criticism and help in becoming better at their craft. Hopefully, it will also provide a spur for those interested in writing who have never taken the plunge, or those, like myself, who do it far too infrequently and with too little motivation. There is also, as Gary says, the very useful goal of having some fun with like-minded people.
The ring will hopefully end up large and successful, but to do that, we need interested people to join. If you’d like to take part, please go and post a comment on the relevant thread at his blog.
Posted in Odds and Sods | Tagged: community, criticism, feministe, fiction, gary murning, online fiction, quality, reader, readership, reading, ring, web ring, writing | 15 Comments »
Posted by That Other Mike on 29/05/2008
Over the weekend, I developed some pain in my lower back. I was rather mystified, as I hadn’t done anything to injure it that I knew of, and it seemed to go away on Monday.
Tuesday saw it come back and be quite painful, and yesterday I was off work all day. It wasn’t a constant pain, but it would twinge and be excruciating, and it seemed to have extended into my right hip, as well. I managed to get up and get dressed, but I couldn’t make it even to the end of the street before it got too bad for me to handle, and so I spent the day at home, saying “Ow…” every so often and feeling self-pitying.
Luckily as it happens, on Tuesday I’d made an appointment with the doctor for today, and I managed to hobble up there this morning to see him.
Apparently the problem is in the Sacroiliac joint, and it is called Sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Basically, it’s a problem of movement where the spine joins the pelvis; it’s very common, usually remedies itself through movement and often comes from simply sleeping in a funny position.
There’s not much to be done about it in the short term except to swallow painkillers and attempt to maintain a normal range of movement. If it remains a persistent problem, I can visit a chiropractor (I would only ever visit a McTimoney’s practitioner, of which there is a school locally). For now, I just have to wait and hope it’ll work itself out.
He also gave me a huge prescription for cocodamol; while I can usually buy it over the counter, it’s also relatively expensive to do so. This way, I get my 200(!) pills for just the cost of a prescription charge, which is cool.
So, nothing to worry too hard about. On the negative side, I did forget to ask about getting a refill on my sleeping pills, even though I don’t use them that often. Oh, well. I can manage without. I have a few left.
* * *
In other news, today is the last day for you to nominate douchebags and arseholes for the anti-carnival; I have a large number, which I will be whittling down to a small core of evil shitheadery for Friday.
Please feel free to nominate anyone who’s annoyed you lately.
* * *
On the opposite end of the spectrum, here are your weekly recommendations in honour of Thor.
Cosmodaddy has an interesting and well thought-out piece on his blog at the moment regarding the intersection of various conflicting rights and freedoms under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations) Regulations 2007. Well worth a read.
Despite being a massive jerk most of the time, Robert over at Expat Yank has a legitimate criticism piece up about the rise of sensationalist public service messages by the UK government.
The ever-clever Greg Laden has a guest blogger doing a statistical experiment about the levels of science present in science blogs.
Lottie has A Question of Ethics, in which she discusses the ethics of blogging about personal issues and problems in a truthful manner while using a pseudonym.
Gary talks about Hollywood woo and stupidity, illustrating exactly why Sharon Stone’s opinion on anything besides acting should not be taken seriously.
Helen at Bird of Paradox wrote a little while ago about gender neutral pronouns and the attempt to bring in artificial GNPs.
That’s all for now, folks.
Edit: Ampersand has a good post about the minimum wage over at Alas, A Blog, relating to Krueger and Card’s well-known studies. Definitely worth reading.
Posted in news, Odds and Sods | Tagged: a question of ethics, albert einstein, Atheism, atheist, bad back, bird of paradox, Camilla Cavendish, chiropractor, Christian, Civil Partnership Act 2004, civil partnerships, codeine, cosmodaddy, doctor, drugs, Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 20, Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, ethics, expat yank, feminism, fundamentalist, gary murning, gay, gay marriage, gender, gender neutral pronouns, greg laden, hollywood, homophobia, homosexual, Human rights, Human Rights Act, Human Rights Act 1998, Islington council, karma, Lilian Ladele, lottie rambleson, pain, popular culture, religion, science, secular, secularism, theist, thor, woo | 4 Comments »
Posted by That Other Mike on 15/05/2008
I’ve decided to start using old-style Saxon god names for the days of the week now; Monday would be Mani‘s Day, Tuesday will become Tiw’s Day, Wednesday is Wodin’s day as we know, Dunar’s Day will stand in for Thursday, and Friday will be Frige‘s Day. Saturday will change to Sun’s Eve, and Sunday stays the same.
Well, I say I’ve decided. What I actually meant was that I won’t do that, I just wanted to have a rationale for using Dunar’s Day in the title.
Anyway, handpicked by the gods of my ancestors, here are your selected links.
Lottie has an excellent post over at Rambling On about online romantic involvements. As you may know, this is something which has particular relevance to us. It’s called Getting to Know You (if you’re like me, you’ll soon start humming bits of The King and I), and she starts with the biggest question that couples who have met online usually face: How can you fall in love with someone you don’t even know?
Gary has a post highlighting the ridiculous, moronic behaviour some right-wing Christians recently embarrassed themselves with. The object of their misguided idiocy? Petrol.
Caitlin May has a post positing the Wizard of Oz as an Atheist film, which is certainly an interesting and overlooked perspective.
PZ spears Michael Medved for a ludicrous jamming together of pseudoscience and right-wing politics. Eugh. It’s one step away from advocating forced eugenics…
Mother Jones has Alyssa Quart analysing the new trend for fertility movies coming out of Hollywood. I have to say I don’t 100% agree with every syllable, mainly because I liked Juno rather a lot. Other than that, good article.(HT – Feministing)
And finally, in some good news, the California Supreme Court has ruled that the State’s Constitution requires equal treatment for homosexual couples in regards to marriage laws. Well done, California (HT – Alas, A Blog).
Edit to fix link.
Posted in Politics | Tagged: california, civil rights, conservative, equal rights, eugenics, feminism, gary murning, gas, gasoline, gay, getting to know you, homosexuality, juno, lesbian, liberal, lottie rambleson, michael medved, mother jones, online, online relationships, petrol, pharyngula, Politics, PZ Myers, sex, wizard of oz | 1 Comment »