Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Should insult Islam teacher be freed?


Should the Liverpool teacher Gillian Gibbons be freed? The same Gillian Gibbons, 54, a primary school teacher arrested in Sudan for "insulting Islam".

The answer? Yes.

Gibbon's class of kids, six and seven years olds, voted to call a teddy bear Mohammed. Parents in turn (or some at least) later (months later) got upset, and she got arrested by the cops. And then threatened with 40 lashes.

Now even my Muslim contemporaries here think that's a bit harsh (to put it mildly). The religion itself may be fine: it's the people behind it that aren't.

Let's have more people drag Islam into the 21st and not 7th century: a perfect belief should be able to shoulder criticism or ignorance, and explain and educate to the rest of us "why" (why can't a teddy bear be named Mohammed) without resorting to feudal punishments and barbarism.

The sad thing is that the divorcee, a well-respected former deputy head, went to the African country to start a new life and learn about the culture. The desire for punishment may fit with irate men. However, it does far greater harm to a chronically-weak and dependent state overseas. Hardly the best way to attract future investment and interest in the country.

The BBC has printed an explanation of what can and can't be named after Muslim prophets.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Janet & John return, and with them 1950s nostalgia


That's right: the grim old 1950s is back in vogue once more. At least according to gift publishers, who are churning out "new" volumes of old books faster than you can say "Dickson of Dock Green".

Travel and gift book publisher Summersdale has relaunched the famous reading aids, "Janet & John" in the run-up to Christmas (think: staid, slightly un-PC nuclear family post-war), whilst there are other examples of the trend highlighted by many more launches in the trade.

Seems folks love looking backwards as we hurtle into the arms of the future. Still, better these than the extremist hate-filled Christian I once met selling traditional children's books from the Victorian era ... and correctional beating sticks to go with them!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

[Fantasy] Once Upon A Time In Azeroth

A continuation of some of my fictional fantasy writings, which I do "on the side" from my regular journalism and non-fiction work. This concerns the death of an infamous slaver and smuggler known as Opathu Two-Smile.

***

The sands of time.

They fell loose.

He coughed. Blood. His lungs were filling.

The last day of his life.

-

The hard sun of the early morning was yet to lift. Cobwebs and shadow lay over the settlement. If his nose was still there, he'd expect to smell the cooking fires. Small children running through the teepees. Calflings and braves bringing back the morning's hunt.

Instead, the fires of conquest.

-

How foolish he'd been. Lazy. Letting the goblins run his business interests. Betrayed by those once close.

He coughed again. Fluid bubbled between his cracked, smashed tusks. The gold of his filed teeth did him little help now.

A massive, muscled body, carved and twisted in a lace of foreign battles, tattoos a chart to a life fought from the gutter up.

He laughed, a wet, sickening sound. His bowels had emptied. He had no control. There was none to save a crimelord gone down. His enemies - those that were left - would no doubt be gathering like the hard-eyed vultures he could hear overhead.

-

How had it come to this?

He couldn't remember.

Something about a young orc, a psychopath who ate the flesh of his victims. Dwarves? Or was it elves? Didn't matter now. A call to arms. Your smuggling operation being smashed by an Alliance raid - a tip off someone said. Someone working on the inside. One of his men.

Charging in, the red mist. A whirlwind; the orgy of violence Two-Smile danced so well.

He panted. Air was getting hard.

-

Convenient. Oh, it had been oh so convenient! He was a fool. A fool gone soft. The lessons of the internment camps, of knife fights and killings in the gutters off the Drag now lost.

What did it matter. Some new fool would take his place. A new Opathu. Gutter kids with feral grins and thin stomachs, and a hunger for power to match. Just as he'd once been.

He wondered which one had betrayed him. Or if it was one of those fops in the Theatre. Didn't matter now. The gang was split. Senjin Bob found hanging from his own entrails. Harrkan One-Eye garrotted in Ratchet. Ten-Pole the Tauren mysteriously found floating in Booty Bay.

The old crew. The 'ard bastards. All gone.

-

And with that, the giant orc slaver, more corpse now than man, smiled.

A terrible sight for the small orcling watching from behind the smoking ruin of the inn.

The child whimpered. Nearby the corpse of its mother lay. Her body was racked into a rictus grin of terror. The silvered fiends had dragged her outside, him watching from the shadows, after they kicked and beat the orc boss to the ground. He hadn't understood their words, but they had lain on top of his mother, and she had shrieked.

Oh how she had howled ...

The boss orc stirred. He motioned weakly to the child, who scampered further into the brush. He looked again. The boss was scrabbling in the dirt, trying to pull himself up. What should he do?

-

An ambush, then. Aye an ambush. A fitting way to end. As good as any.
Two-Smile against 20 of them. Twenty humans, some of whom would not make it back to their boy-slaves and man-lovers. That at least was worth the pain.

He chuckled, grimaced, bit down hard then black blood jetted from his mouth. A carpet of gore was seeping into the sandy earth.

Bit by bit, the life of Opathu Two-Smile, Azeroth's most notorious crime lord, slaver, assassin, pit fighter, smuggler and defiler of Vol'jin's daughter, was returning to whence it came. Dying on a foreign world. Dying so that others might live.

He cursed and laughed at the cruel irony, the black stink of the Abyss approaching.

-

... time short now ...

... a body lying at the Crossroads ...

... flames and murder glittering in the last light of its eyes ...

... pupils flickering to the final dance ...

... any time now ...

... no rescue, no escape ...

... a single tear, of blood, rolled down his cheek.


The child watched him die. And wept.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The most amazing loos in the world


Check out this little story to see the diamond-encrusted washrooms where you can enjoy your moment on the porcelain god ...

God hates Westboro?


Fred Phelps saddo little community of haters (God Hates Fags) has got itself into the headlines again: this time not its usual media whoredom (a myriad of international media have, as usual, treated the weirdo cult as a cause celebre and bumped it up through mass coverage) but for a $10.9m damages case.

God Hates Fags loves to claim that the world is going to ruin, through all our various sins, and their nutty little outfit seems to have picked on celebrities, the liberal, gays and just about everyone else as the reason why. Even the US military, where it pickets funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq (wait for it...) because the Armed forces allow gays. Not only that, but Uncle Sam's tolerance of homosexuals is the reason the country is going to ruin...

Phelps, who looks like that bizarre old ghost preacher in 'Poltergeist', says that he is a preacher who believes that homosexuality and its acceptance have doomed most of the world to eternal damnation. The church at Westboro which he leads has 71 confirmed members, 60 of whom are related to Phelps through blood or marriage or both.

Now a federal jury in Baltimore, Maryland, Wednesday awarded $10.9 million to a father of a Marine whose funeral was picketed by members of the "church". The family of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder -- who was killed in a vehicle accident in Iraq's Anbar province in 2006 -- sued the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, and its leaders for defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Church members showed up at Snyder's funeral chanting derogatory slogans and holding picket signs with messages including "God Hates Fags." Sounds like they would go well with some angry young men I have met the world over, espousing religious beliefs 'set in stone' to justify pathetic hatred.

And where people harp on about gays (always gay men, note), methinks it is the usual "no smoke without fire". Why protest so much ... unless you have your own secret to hide. Should we be removing religion from men's hearts? Makes you wonder.