Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Homosexual Agenda

I just saw this over at Pam's Houseblend. David Pakman, of whom I had never heard, here offers a compilation of moments from interviews with the nuttiest of the faggot-hating nuts. Here are some of your fervent anti-gay faves, Shirley Phelps-Roper and Paul Cameron, along with up-and-coming humourless hate-filled whack-job Pastor Terry Jones of the handlebar moustache, he who threatened to burn copies of the Quran on the eleventh of September, cuz obviously that wudda solved a whole bunch o' problems straight off, right?

Closer to home, in reply to a comment of mine on his blog, a young whippersnapper who followed mine replied today:

No person is born homosexual, just like no one is born a thief, a liar or
murderer. People acquire these evil habits due to a lack of proper guidance and
education. It is a main cause of one of the most harmful and fatal diseases. It
is disgraceful for both men and women. It degrades a person. Homosexuality
deprives a man of his manhood and a woman of her womanhood. It is the most
un-natural way of life. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of family life.
The young man in question is normally unable to produce a coherent sentence or spell more than three consecutive words accurately, so as an ace plagiarism detector, I googled the paragraph and was not surprised to find it reproduced more than forty times by Muslims, Catholics and Jews, now an all-purpose, multi-faith meme for the righteous, originally the words of Dr Muzzamil Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America. Few people will fail to note that there's enough that is morally and logically objectionable in that paragraph and the above video to keep us occupied until way past bed-time, but for all these people who just do not get it, let's spell it out once again:

There is no such thing as the 'homosexual agenda'. Attempting to get people to see that you deserve respect and equality does not (necessarily) imply that you wish to convert everybody else, subvert religion, destroy the family, or make bench-presses and pedophilia compulsory.

The phrase 'gay lifestyle' is deeply irritating. I assume it is used to refer to the social lives of that minority of young gay men in the developed world who frequent gay clubs and saunas in large cities, as if the visible gay members of the population were the only gay members. It excludes from consideration those who might just occasionally visit such places, those who are too poor to get in or too old to fit in, and those thousands of people that are simply not interested in clubs, bars and saunas. It excludes those who fit into any of the above categories and do not live in the developed world.

If you think human sexuality is disgusting, seek professional advice. If you think certain practices are disgusting, recognise that your tastes and aversions are your tastes and aversions and nobody else is required to share them.

Define 'manhood' and 'womanhood' and state exactly how these concepts can be degraded by same-sex desire, but WITHOUT reference to your favoured holy book.

AIDS is caused by a virus, and viruses don't give a stuff if you are male or female, gay or straight. We had all the 'Judgement from God' routine with syphilis five hundred years ago, and eventually decided it was just a bug and we'd better get on with fighting it.

If your God is exercised about who sleeps with whom on this spinning mote of dust, question His priorities or your concept of the deity. He/She/It has at least one vast universe to maintain, and in all probability is not especially interested in you.


"When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes" From a lesser hadith. You bet it does!

Here are my rules about sexual practice:

1) All participants shall have attained the Age of Consent as prescribed in the country where the rumpy-pump takes place.

2) All participants shall be willing participants.

3) Persons shall not knowingly spread diseases, and shall take every precaution to avoid so doing.

4) Persons shall not cause unwanted pregnancy.

5) Persons shall not poke other persons with sharp sticks, save where consent be explicitly given to such poking.

6) The number and combination of gender of persons engaged in any sexual act, so the above strictures be obeyed, shall be nobody else's fucking business.

7) Persons may follow the dictates of their own conscience governing their own participation or non-participation in erotic acts, but shall not assume that others must follow those same dictates.

8) Adulterers and bigamists shall sort themselves out, or go on Jeremy Kyle. I'm not interested.

9) So there.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Deadlines, Schmedlines

The pre-sessional finished on Friday. This is a five-week course, the final one of the academic year, which prepares overseas students for study at a British university. Some five hundred students attended it. To pass, they didn’t need to do an awful lot beyond making sure their bum was on a seat for 80% of the course and meeting the deadlines for the essay and report. They needed to be present for the end-of-course tests, but were not called upon to actually pass them. Thus theoretically you could start the course, sleep through every session, balls up the listening, muff your presentation, dive-bomb on the reading, hand in a toilet roll just before the essay deadline, and emerge at the other end with a certificate. Of course nobody did that, and had anyone done so, they would have found a diplomatically understated comment on their certificate to the effect that this student is perhaps not quite ready for a university course yet. Even so, it was hard not to pass. For the five weeks I had a group of twenty-two students, most of them Chinese, and of the twenty-two, twenty-one were bright, hard-working, self-starting young people who got on well with one another and were a pleasure to teach. Then, of course, there was Sanjay.

Sanjay was from India and he arrived late, which automatically granted him an extension on the essay deadline. He was hardly ever seen in class, never on time when he did show up, and when physically present, very much in the class but not of it. Three days after his graciously extended essay deadline, he turned up at the mid-morning break to hand me the finished chef d’oeuvre, his deep thoughts on the institution of marriage. I told him I could not accept it. He was dismayed. He assumed a posture of supplication. He had attended the previous year's pre-sessional, he said, and not been allowed to proceed to his department, and could not wait another year, so please, please, please, would I accept his essay? Deadline’s past, mate, I gave him to understand. Can’t mark it, sunshine. But he had had so many problems in the UK, he said. He had had to move several times. His present landlord was a drunk who abused him. Before he could tell me that he had suffered an acute case of death but recovered just in time to finish his essay, I told him to go and see the course director. That’s how you deal with anyone who is being a pain in the butt and hogging your coffee break - let him hog hers instead.

I got to the course director before Sanjay did, to warn her of his impending visit, and that he had more sob stories prepared than Mills and Boon. She was already dealing with queues of Saudis who all needed to leave the course early due to the urgent problems of family members, usually involving their indisposition or impending or actual demise. Our Saudi students have more dead or moribund relatives, sick children and GP appointments per head than any other nationality. They are really quite extraordinarily prone to misfortune, especially towards the final week of any given course. Mam'selle la Directrice dealt firmly with them: they must bring in doctor’s notes, letters from their embassy, sputum samples or death certificates, and she’d think about it.

I thought how maddeningly obstructive and heartless we must appear to so many of these people. Deadlines especially appear ridiculous to many nationalities. Greek trainee teachers had great difficulty getting their heads round the idea. Why couldn’t we just mark their assignments as and when they decided they were ready? In a country where students drag out their degree courses for years, it seemed absurdly officious and inhumane of us to allow them only two weeks per assignment. On one occasion, the number of complaints from those who met deadlines about those who ignored them led us to ask the whole group to take time in part of the input session to thrash it out between them, no tutors to interfere. The deadline observers complained that the deadline ignorers were taking unfair advantage, spending three weeks or more on their essays when the observers were only taking the specified two. The deadline ignorers agreed, and so more fool the observers. The argument was never resolved, and given that Cambridge ESOL, (quondam UCLES) who moderated the course were such a bunch of pussies, we had absolutely no way to enforce compliance.

Eventually I did read and mark Sanjay’s essay, and it took me five minutes - two to ascertain that it was 100% plagiarised, two to satisfy my curiosity as to the source (Times Online - impeccable) and one to wonder yet again if he really thought I could be fooled so easily.

The five hundred students have now gone. Tomorrow the place will be silent, except for our handful of Algerian pilots. As from Tuesday I get a week off, and for the coming term I have only two days teaching a week so far, which isn’t enough to live on. I’m off to Athens for a week training teachers in October and another in November, two stints planned originally as busman’s holidays but now a real necessity. I might spend a month or so there in the new year if things don’t pick up at the university, although I’m pretty sure they will. I ought to be worried, I suppose, but I’m not. There’s a whole lot of goofing-off time ahead, and I’m not complaining.

Dawkins has a Go

Now that His Popeship has gone home to get on with his popage, we can breathe a relieved sigh that we will not have to listen to any more hymn singing and gush from those who inexplicably revere the old buffer. Here is Richard Dawkins putting the case for the opposition. While I was irritated at the moronic all-mates-together whooping that greets every other statement, I did mutter the odd 'hear, hear' as I listened.

Friday, 10 September 2010

I said I wouldn't...

...but I couldn't resist this one. Happy Eid.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Geek Required

If any passing geek has a moment, I’d be grateful. I have a Sony Vaio laptop, which the patronising acned twink in Dixons said had Triple-X Bipolar Troglodytes and an 8/11 N.B.G. compurgation boscage, so we’re looking at a winnowing capacity in excess of sixty hours per half-life, representing great value for money. Your cheaper models, they can’t give you that.

‘Goodness!’ I said, ‘I’ll take it, and here’s a pound, get yourself some deodorant.’

My Sony is approaching five years old now, by no means past it but reaching that time of life when you might want to be taking it that bit easier. Where once it sprinted, it tends to mosey, and although I shouldn’t, I do get to blasphemous screeching point with it almost every day. The wind-up goes like this:

I rouse it from hibernation, and although the little icon thingy in the bottom right hand corner says the broadband is connected and the signal excellent, the browser will not connect to the internet. So I restart.

The restart takes an age. This is usually about 5.30 in the morning, and I sit watching that bloody egg-timer with the World Service on the radio, as the shipping forecast, the news bulletin and Prayer for Today burble on while nothing happens. I could crochet a new toilet-roll cosy or read an improving book, I suppose, but not at that hour of the morning, for Christ’s sake. Just as Farming Today comes on, the egg-timer vanishes and I get in there quick and open Firefox, which takes another five minutes. Once Firefox is open, I try to look at this blog page, which takes another four or five minutes to load. At some point, the CPU usage hits 100%. NOW I can see that there’s a svchost.exe hogging all the computer juice. I click ‘end process’, which I am advised not to do, but it feels satisfying, like thwacking a cockroach with a rolled-up newspaper. A brief pandemonium ensues; the screen goes blank, toolbars alter their hue, distant howling is heard and circumambient objects are borne aloft, then everything settles down and the laptop goes like the clappers for the rest of my browsing session.

So, from switching on to getting down to browsing is often taking a good twenty-five minutes, from the shipping forecast to the start of the ‘Today’ programme. If anyone knows how this pointless interregnum may be reduced, I would be grateful for suggestions.


For some decades now, the Japanese have been fond of t-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets embellished with slogans in scrambled English. The fashion seems to have become popular in many far eastern countries. Most of my students at the moment are from China. Today, as the students were engaged on some task for which they didn’t need me, I spent a while reading one young lady’s jacket. It said, over and over:

‘Beybey the Frinfrin’

‘And the and the octorworld of heanococter coctordoctor’

‘Bummer food careers furniture’

The quality of nonsense is not what it was, I reflected. None of this came near my favourite Japanese t-shirt slogan, ‘I love everybody, and you’re next’.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Nearly Break Fast Time

Indulge me, will you? One more anti-religious rant, and then I’ll lay off for a while, OK?

Ramadan ends tomorrow, or maybe Friday, I don’t think we know yet. Not that it impinged on me much. My Algerian students have had classes starting at nine instead of ten for the duration, and since they cannot have lunch and I usually skip it anyway, we do four hours straight through and I’m on the 13.17 back home twice a week. It has more lasting effect on them, of course. The fasting is exhausting, especially towards the end of the month. My Monday class was possibly the worst lesson I have ever taught, the five students somnolent and uninvolved. Nothing I did could raise a bat-squeak of interest, and getting rid of them at midday was like removing stones from my shoes.

You never bloody learn, do you, I chuntered to myself as I reviewed the mornings proceedings, or lack of. I had tried to make it interesting, and that often doesn’t go down well. If I had photocopied a stack of grammar exercises, they would have sat there and ploughed through them in silence and called on me whenever necessary, and I might just have been useful now and then. However, I had found a reading passage about possible advances in medicine in the near future, and the sort of moral dilemmas these might give rise to, completely forgetting that this lot don’t do dilemmas, they just know.

The lead-in consisted of a series of possible medical break-throughs such as:

A vaccination against AIDS.
An average life expectancy of over 100 years.
The cloning of human beings.

against which the students had to write a number, 1, 2, or 3, meaning:

1. I think this happens already.
2. I think this will happen in the future.
3. I don’t think this will ever happen.

Then the reactions were discussed.

‘No vaccination against AIDS, ever,’ Sa'ad said with finality.

‘Why not?’ I asked, patiently. As if I didn't know. It’s my job, you see, to make people talk. It’s also part of my job to get them to think a bit too, if I can. Today, I had some students rank a series of factors that contributed to their quality of life from most to least important. Most put ‘health’ first.

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘Because it’s the most important.’ Cédric said. Right... but this is a university, mate, and lowly as it may be in the league tables, we do expect you to go a bit beyond that sort of tautology. You’ll get used to us. Anyway, back to Sa'ad and his certainty about the AIDS vaccination.

‘Because AIDS is not an illness,’ he said. ‘It’s a curse on bad people who do bad things.’

Allah will not allow the discovery of a vaccine, obviously, as it would interfere with his tormenting of the libidinous. Sa'ad had at least unfolded his arms and stopped staring pointedly out of the window, in order to formulate a well-phrased reason for his opinion, but I wanted to wring his neck nevertheless.

‘God is OK with syphilis and gonorrhea, then?’ I asked, less politely than I might have.

He shrugged, meaning, no point your debating it, infidel.

The godly seem so attached to pain and suffering, do they not? Anaesthetics were opposed by the devout when they were new, on the grounds that administering them was interfering with God’s will: likewise vaccines and antibiotics. When lightning rods were a novelty, they too were held by some to be impious, since they deprived The Lord of one of his favourite means of zapping the unrighteous. Odd that those who defended The Lord’s will in this way didn’t stop to reflect that an omnipotent God could by definition zap whomsoever He would, yea, with most grievous zappings, and wouldn’t let some bit of man-made gimcrackery interfere with His target practice. If he decided to, he could inflict all the boils and chancres and vile suppurations he chose. Why the hell does he fart-arse about with viruses, then, knowing modern man can alleviate, if not always cure, the afflictions they cause? We never got onto that.

The Algerians also dismissed the possibility that the average human life expectancy would ever reach 150 years, on the not unpredictable grounds that God might not permit this either. Like an irritating six-year old, I asked why again. Had not life expectancy in the west doubled in the last 500 years or so? Why shouldn’t it go on increasing? Nobody seemed impressed.

‘God does what he wants,’ said Amer, employing the usual jade's trick of the devout. A long silence ensued. I looked at my mobile, saw it was twenty to one, and decided to put the lesson out of its misery. OK, everybody fuck off.

I hope after a weekend of resting and feeding up, they will return next Monday in a more positive frame of mind, but remind me not to get onto subjects such as... well, I dunno. If God decides everything, what's left to talk about?

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Praise Indeed

If someone from Algeria describes you as ‘a doctor’, even though you are in fact a teacher or a lawyer or a marriage guidance counsellor, you should take this as high praise. When one of my Algerian classes told the course leader that I was ‘a doctor’, I thought they meant I gave them unpleasant tasks as a doctor might administer nasty drugs or painful procedures, but no, they meant I knew what I was about, and understood instinctively what they needed to know and how best to impart that knowledge. I assumed a posture of becoming modesty in the face of this shower of praise, knowing pretty well what sort of teacher they were used to back home – self-important gas-bags, mostly, with no sense of audience. Still, no point doing myself down; I’m better than any self-important gas-bag and I know it.

Being called a doctor is one thing, but my Saudi students tell me that for them, a teacher is a prophet. What if he talks out of his arse, I wanted to ask, but... well, yes. I thought better of it. This came up when a group of young Saudi men were complaining to me that another teacher’s lessons were not profiting them as much as they might. I asked why they had not told her what they would prefer to do, so that she could accommodate their wishes. This is adult education, I said, in which students are deemed to be in charge of their own learning. Teachers are not trained in telepathy, so talk to us. This was when Sami told me that for them, a teacher was a prophet, and theirs was not to question, but to submit. Then bitch about her to a third party.

If comparisons must be drawn, I’d rather my function were compared to that of doctor than prophet, but it was suggested today that perhaps, by the grace of God, I am called to both. One of my Algerian students had been very pleased with a task sheet I had given the group and by the way I had exploited it, as he felt it had been just what he needed at that time. He called me over.

‘Steve,’ he said, holding up the sheet of A3, ‘Your shit is medicine!’


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