Thursday, 29 November 2018

John Chau and religious stupidity

John Chau was an American Christian missionary who was killed on remote island in the Bay of Bengal in mid November. 

The circumstances are tragic. His family and friends must be devastated. But there's a twist here that, if you're unaware of the details, may come as a surprise: John Chau's death was completely his own fault. 

For reason's that will never be fully understood, John decided to travel to the remote North Sentinel Island, in the Bay of Bengal, to spread the word of 'Jesus' to the primitive tribe for whom the island is home. 

North Sentinel Island is protected from outsiders by the Indian government. There is an exclusion zone of 4.8 kms/3 miles (or 5 nautical miles, which is 5.7 miles or 9.1kms according to some sources). The Indian navy patrols the area to prevent unauthorised people from gaining access to the island. 

The Sentinelese people have not advanced past stone age practices. They have little to no metalwork, or agriculture and it's not even confirmed that they can make fire. The scavenge metal to make tools and in 1974 they accepted aluminium cookware delivered by the National Geographic Society. 

Their remoteness and isolation leads to one extremely significant issue regarding intrusion from outsiders...the Sentinelese have no immunity to common diseases. Exposure to something such as influenza or measles would likely wipe out the Sentinelese people. A person from the 'outside' could be carrying an number of pathogens, any of which would be devastating to them, and would probably end with their extinction. 

John Chau knew this, but chose to infiltrate the island anyway. Reports show that he was aware landing on the island was illegal and that he attempted to gain access to the island more than once, before reaching the shore, where he was killed and buried. 

Some are saying that Chau was murdered. That he is a victim and that saying that his actions caused his death is 'victim blaming'. 

John Chau is not the victim here, he was the perpetrator. He was an illegal invader into someone else's home, and they defended their home. He was shot at on his previous attempts to land on the island, and chose to return anyway. John Chau was an invader. An unwelcome, uninvited, intruder who was warned not to go there. 

John's family, via Instagram, released a statement saying they forgive those 'reportedly responsible for his death.' I think John is responsible for his death, but I understand where the family is coming from and I'm glad they understand the reality of the situation. 

The reality here is John died because he was deluded. He believed in religious nonsense, was convinced he needed to spread this nonsense, and ignored all warnings and common sense in his effort to get this nonsense to people who didn't want it. He applied no critical thinking, no scepticism, and no common sense to what he believed and as a result pursed a course of action that cost him is life. 

He wanted to infect the locals with his superstitious beliefs and change the way they live. He had no right to do so, and not only that, it was illegal for him to do so. 

My initial reaction when my friend Courtney (Godless Mom) asked for thoughts was the he got what he deserved. Upon reflection, that's probably a bit harsh. But he got what was expected. It was the only likely outcome. There was almost other possible outcome. Everyone associated knew this was going to happen. 

If John is a victim here, he's not a victim of the Sentinelese people. THEY are the victims of his illegal invasion. They are not murderers. They are not guilty by reason of self-defence. 

No, if John is a victim, he's a victim of religion. Another needless death as a result of religious stupidity. Another person who lost their life because they believed ancient superstitious nonsense was true. John believed Jesus was the answer. He believed Jesus would save the Sentinelese. But Jesus not only didn't save them, Jesus didn't save John either. A little bit of rational thinking would have, though. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

A Tiny Thing That Bugs Me A Lot

I listen to Melbourne breakfast radio every morning. Each day at work is a different station, but as my partner and I are waking up, having our morning coffee, breakfast, and getting dressed we listen to the Triple M radio show 'Triple M's Hot Breakfast With Eddie McGuire'. 

Eddie is a very smart, very successful man. He grew up in one of Melbourne's poorer suburbs but now has an estimated net worth of about $55 million. Not too shabby. 

Eddie also happens to be president of the football club I support, Collingwood. I think he's fantastic. Someone to aspire to. Someone who's done wonderful work for the community. He's also a Catholic. Well, at least, he was raised one. I'm not sure how committed he still is to the ancient religion. 

But that's not what bugs me. I know a lot of Catholics and most of them share my surname. (or at least they or their mother's once did). 

No, what bugs me is that each spring Eddie says something along the lines of 'It's like it gets to the last week of September and God flicks a switch and the weather improves'. 

Now if you're reading this from the northern hemisphere, keep in mind that September, October, and November are spring in the southern hemisphere. Things do start to improve a little at the start of September but it's really towards the end where winter is truly gone and spring is truly with us. 

'God flicks a switch'. It bugs me for a couple of reasons. First of all, there's a VERY reasonable and understandable reason for why the weather improves (providing you think sunny skies and warmer temperatures are an improvement) in spring. (I'm not going to go into details, because if you're reading this, I'm going to go ahead and assume you're fully aware of the axial tilt of Earth and the implications that has on the weather). 

Second of all there's this absoluteness about it that suggests god is real. The analogy is about god flicking a switch - IE there's an almost sudden change in the weather. The 'God' flicking a switch isn't part of the analogy. It's an assumed fact. 

So on one hand it's completely disregarding the science behind climate and how it works and on the other it's making the unfounded assumption that god is real. Neither of these things are good for critical thinking and learning about the world, the universe, and how it works. 

As I said, it's a tiny thing, but for some reason, it really gets under my skin! 

Saturday, 4 August 2018

A Positive Message from an Atheist for Kids

Commenting on an article about Richard Dawkins writing two new atheism books, one for younger kids, one for teenagers, Ken Ham had this to say: 

"What positive message would an atheist have for kids? Something like:  "Kids, you're just an animal, there's no God, when you die you won't know you existed, decide your own rules for life, treat others to benefit you. Life's ultimately meaningless""
You can see his tweet here.

The article Ken is responding to is an atrocious piece written by someone called Laura Perrins, and it first appears on a website called The Conservative Woman. I'll be writing a response to the article itself shortly. But for now I'm sticking with Ken's comment. 

Ken is a Young Earth Creationist and biblical literalist. This means he believes earth is about six thousand years old and that Noah's Ark really happened. Yes, he's *that* stupid. 

It also means his message for kids is that they're flawed. That they're sinners and they, in their default state, deserve to be punished in 'hell'...forever. How's that for a positive message for kids?

Of course he'll tell you that the positive message is that they can avoid hell by accepting Jesus as their saviour. "Kids, follow this one man exactly as I tell you to, never deviate, never think for yourself, never question what I tell you, and if you can stick to that, then you avoid eternal torture." 

Hell is terrifying. I've known atheists who still have remnants of fear of hell even after they've stopped believing the rest of the nonsense. There's no way this can be considered a positive message for kids. It's horrific. 

But what I really want to address is Ken's question about what positive message an atheist could have for kids. He asks the question, and then makes up the answer himself. Without bothering to have an atheist answer the question. So I thought I'd give it a go...

Kids, you're not "just an animal" you're part of an incredible species. One whose ability to create technology is beyond what could have been imagined even just a few generations ago. Including the ability to communicate, practically instantly, with people all over the world. You're part of a species that strives to look after each other, and care for each other, not to be rewarded after we die, but because we recognise the reward is NOW. The reward isn't eternal bliss, the reward is a healthier happier society, and a healthier, happier life for you. 

Your life...the one you get. This life. When it's over, you won't know you existed, there's no 'god' to go to afterwards...but that's not reason to be unhappy, that's reason to celebrate! You...YOU get this one life! This life that is an amazing result of literally billions of years of natural phenomena that resulted on YOU! A unique individual amongst BILLIONS. What an opportunity to have! Forget that religion is all about reminding you that you'll die one day, celebrate that fact that you're alive now! Look at the world in which you live with wonder and excitement. Be curious. Find out how you got here. Find out what makes your life possible. Find out what went on all those billions of years ago to set in progress the processes and made you, you! Revel in learning, be entertained by knowing things. Use your life to enjoy being alive. 

Your life isn't meaningless, it means whatever you want it to! Take that responsibility and own it. You only get the one chance, make the most of it! If you want to see change in the world, be that change. You don't need an eternal reward for being kind and helping people, you'll see the reward on the faces of those you are kind and helpful to. Go to bed each night thinking 'you know what, I'm happy about what I did today.' 

Sure, there's a chance you'll be kind or helpful to someone who doesn't appreciate it...but that's okay, because YOU know you did it. There'll be times you want to find out how something works, but you won't be able to...but that's okay, because you'll know you tried, you'll know you gave it your best shot. And there's be times when people are unkind and hateful towards you, and that'll be hard to deal with, but I'll give you a quote that I try to live by "No matter how low somebody else sinks, joining them there will not make things better." Ignore the haters, ignore the mean people. I know that can be hard, but trust me, it's worth the effort. Let them wallow in their misery and won't make your life any better if you join them there. Trust me, I know. 

Sometimes it'll be hard. Sometimes you'll feel like you can't get through things on your own. That's okay, because there are people who want to help. People who have decided to focus their lives on helping people when times are tough. There's no shame in asking for help when things are tough. Life is wonderful, but it can be hard sometimes, and when that happens, asking for help is the first step in getting back to the wonderful. 

Surround yourself with those who make you happy. Surround yourself with those who share your values and ideas. Ditch the people who are negatives. Reject people who just want to bring your down. Life is short, don't fill it with people who cause you to not enjoy it! 

If you do your best. If you focus on happiness and positivity and kindness you'll live the best and happiest life you can. And when it ends, which is hopefully many decades from now, enjoy the idea that the atoms that you borrowed, to make you, YOU, will be passed back to the universe and even though you as you will be gone, the effect your life had will be felt through the universe forever. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Why I admire Godless Mom

If you've spent any time around vocal atheism on twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or blogs, you've no doubt come across Godless Mom aka Courtney (I'll be referring to her as Godless Mom, GM, and Courtney) 

I was aware of her a long time before I connected with her. It was all likes and retweets until I saw she was trying to raise awareness of Mubarak Bala. Mubarak is a Nigerian man who was beaten, drugged, and unlawfully imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital by his father and uncles...because he's an atheist. You can read the full story, written by Courtney, here

I had a bit of profile on twitter and this seemed like something I could really help with, so I emailed Courtney offering my assistance. What GM did was simply amazing. She rallied people, organised people, contacted people. She did everything she could to free Mubarak from his hospital prison. It was my first real glimpse of the person behind the memes, the person behind the tweets. And I was impressed. 

Sometime later Courtney approached me asking me to write a guest spot for her blog. I couldn't believe it. GODLESS MOM wanted *me* to write something for her. Did I have a fanboy moment? I sure did! 

From here we started talking more and more, becoming super close friends and I got to know more and more about this wonderful person. 

We spoke a lot about high-level things: favourite bands, favourite movies, favourite books and the like. But also more in-depth things like our experiences with our kids, tough situations we'd been through and how we're both socialists. One thing we discussed was Courtney's friend Ashleigh Aston-Moore. Ashleigh was a young actress who, we discovered, played my favourite character in the film Now & Then. Ashleigh had a troubled life, which, sadly, came to an end in 2007. Courtney told me about her friendship with Ashleigh, and then what she went through went Ashleigh became ill and had trouble with drugs. Courtney recently wrote about the experience. You can read that story here. The lengths Courtney went to for her friend highlight was kind of person she is. So kind, so compassionate. It still brings a tear to my eye knowing this actually happened. 

If there is one thing I admire GM for, above all else, it's her kindness. She is a beautiful, kind, soul (I'm sure you know I don't mean soul in the religious sense). She just wants everyone to be happy. She's written about holding grudges (she's against) and being kind to people and wanting the best for everyone and is always supporting causes that mean people are treated equally and fairly. 

She seems to *always* be looking out for other people. Always putting her own life on hold to help others. I don't think I've known anyone to be so giving of themselves. She's raised money for a Youth Centre, she's spent hundreds of hours working on wrongful convictions, and she's recently written a serious about atheists on death row. She's also raising a son, who, from this distance at least, seems really cool (he's into Star Wars) and seems like a great kid, and a step-daughter that I know Courtney loves as though the 'step-' isn't there. I talk to GM pretty much every day and she's forever mentioning what she's down with the kids recently and what they're up to. She's an incredibly devoted and loving mother or 'mum' (I can't get on board this 'mom' stuff). 

If there's a close second to her kindness that I admire, it's her writing. I've never read a blog post of hers I didn't like. She's always thoughtful, and absolutely hilarious. Some of the phrases she uses just make me laugh out loud. 

The best thing she's ever written, and *by far* the best blog or blog series I've ever read is her series on the death penalty. I used to be in favour of the death penalty, but changed my mind many years ago. But I know that if I were still in favour, I wouldn't be after reading this series.  The link is to the final part of the series, Part 6, called 'The Ultimate Punishment'. It has links to all the previous parts. (I didn't link to the first part because that doesn't have links to the other parts!). It's an amazing piece of writing. It doesn't rely on emotion, but isn't just cold hard facts, either. If you come away from this series still in favour of the death penalty, then you have serious deficiencies in logic, reason, and compassion. 

Although GM is far more optimistic about this happening than I am, as previously mentioned, we are both strong socialists. I recognise that socialism fails (to a degree) because people are greedy and people are lazy. This is also why capitalism fails. However I strongly believe that if everyone was in it for everyone, socialism would be far better than capitalism. The countries that rate highest in population happiness and health and well-being, have strong socialist tendencies. Particularly socialised medicine, including universal healthcare. Courtney actually thinks this will one day be the world standard. She envisages a 'Star Trek' like world. That's how she describes it. I not only admire that this is her perfect view of the world, I admire her optimism in thinking it's going to happen. It may...but not in my lifetime. 

Getting to known Godless Mom has opened up a whole new world for me, not the least of which is being her colleague and co-host on our Podcast "Common Heathens" (Common, because we're both in the Commonwealth, and heathens, know why). It's hard because of timezone differences. We really do have maybe a few hours each week in which we can get together to do it. If one of us happens to be busy, it can be two or more weeks before we can arrange another time. But I tell you...the wait is *always* worth it. We say it often, but it's just a highlight to be able to talk to my friend across the world. That people are interested in what we have to say is just an added bonus. It really is one of the things that makes my life better. 

I can't end this post about what I admire about Godless Mom without mentioning our friendship. To this day I still get a buzz when she sends me a message or mentions me on twitter or emails me or includes me in a post. I honestly still think 'Godless Mom talks to ME!'. It's a genuine thrill. 

There's no situation I can go to her with that she won't give me advice and offer a helping hand. From dealing with teenage girls, to setting up my photography business, to what kind of car to buy, to dealing with twitter trolls (her best advice ever: 'Don't let that cunt ruin twitter for you'). Sometimes it feels like she exists just to help me out. She also laughs at my jokes, likes what I have to say when I write blogs, and likes me enough to have me as a cohost on her podcast! She's happy when my football team wins and comforts me when they lose. And she LOVES my photos. She's always telling me that she loves my work and is asking me to come to her home town to take photos. It's a wonderful feeling to have someone you admire love your work so much. 

Despite all the above, I really don't have the words to describe properly why I admire Courtney so much. Without living in my head and knowing how having her in my life makes me feel, you'll just never understand. 

She is not only the best friend, by far, I've made thanks to being Mr Oz Atheist, she's simply the best thing to happen to me thanks to being Mr Oz Atheist. 

And that's why I admire Godless Mom. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Why I Admire Matt Dillahunty

Right at the beginning of becoming more outspoken as an atheist I happened across YouTube videos of a public access TV show out of Austin, Texas. It was called 'The Atheist Experience'. It's a call-in show where the hosts take calls, usually from theists, and answer them. If you're reading my blog, it's likely because you follow me on twitter. If you follow me on twitter, you've almost undoubtedly already hear of The Atheist Experience! 

In case you haven't, there's a bunch of hosts, with two on each episode, on a rotating basis. The host who immediately stuck out for me was Matt Dillahunty. 

I immediately liked how he went about it. He was relentless and so forthright. I admired how he'd stop callers at the very first fallacy, even if it were only halfway through their sentence. And he knew his stuff. He could reference the bible without having to look up passages. He had a counter for everything theists would call up with. 

I've since seen him do various debates and he always brings that same relentless logic when sharing the stage with a theist. He didn't drop any confidence or self-assured attitude. But he never appears arrogant. 

In 2010 I was lucky enough to not only meet Matt, but spend 10 days with him when he, AronRa and Seth Andrews came to Australia for the 'Unholy Trinity' tour. They did presentations in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne. He was a pleasure to be with and I suffered none of that 'don't meet your heroes' fallout. 

I met him at Sydney airport, when I flew in from New Zealand, landing about an hour after I flew in from Melbourne. We were picked up by a guy named Tim. I introduced myself as Donovan (you know, given that's my name!) we shook hands and then Tim drove us to our accommodation. I knew Matt followed me on twitter, but I didn't know if he'd paid much attention. The next day he said 'Donovan, if you'd told me you were Mr Oz Atheist I'd have known you!'. I'm surprised when anyone outside twitter knowns me by my twitter handled, but to have Matt Dillahunty - the person who, more than anyone else, is the reason Mr Oz Atheist is even a thing - say that was quite a moment. 

The 10 days I got to spend with Matt were great. We drank tequila, checked out stars, went to a casino, went to Australia zoo walked around Brisbane, walked around Sydney, and walked around my home city of Melbourne, which Matt said was his favourite Australian city. He liked the 'vibe'. I should add there was a whole bunch of people who did these things too! Including my partner for the Melbourne stuff. It wasn't like it was just Matt and me! :D

I liked that despite being in Australia as a 'celebrity' he was so down to earth. We were talking one night and I'd told him about his influence on me being a vocal atheist and how I was excited to meet him. He thanked me and said 'but I hope now you just think I'm just someone who's good to hangout with' (he may not have said 'hangout'). And I did. I enjoyed spending time with 'Matt' not necessarily 'Matt Dillahunty off The Atheist Experience'. 

He has, more than once, invited me to his house (should I ever be able to get to Austin), even saying he'd pick me up from the airport. I'd love to have him show me around his hometown as I was show him around mine. 

And that is why I admire Matt Dillahunty. 

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Why I Admire Stephen King

It would have been early 1988, when I was 14, going on 15, that we received a pamphlet from Doubleday book club in our letterbox. I had a look and I was promised two extremely discounted books (maybe 80% off?) for simply saying 'I'd like two books'. 

Well that was the large print. The fine print said I had to then pay full price for some books. I think it was a selected book each month and you had to opt out, rather than in, if you didn't want it. Anyway, that's not really the point of this story. 

I don't know which was the second book I chose, but I will always remember the first. 

Stephen King's The Tommyknockers. I did the thing you're always told not to do...I judged a book by its cover. I think I'd heard of Stephen by then but I wasn't much of a reader at that point. But the cover of The Tommyknockers piqued my interest and I could have my own copy for just a couple of dollars. So I bought it, read it...and was hooked for life. 

I've since collected every Stephen King book I can afford. Many I have two copies of because the US version and the UK version usually have different covers. 

King had humble beginnings, being raised, with his brother, by his mother alone, after their father left when Stephen was just two years old. His father said he was going to buy a pack of cigarettes, but never returned. 

Jump a few decades and Stephen King has now sold over 350 million books, putting him in the top 4 english language writers of all time. 

I admire his determination and persistence. He would supplement his income by selling short stories to men's magazine, whilst working/trying to find work as a teacher. He was once fined $250 for driving over a traffic cone, paying the fine with a $250 cheque he received for his story 'The Raft'. (Originally called The Float'). 

When he did find teaching work, he would get home and write late into the night. He's a wonderful example of working hard to achieve your goals. 

He abandoned his manuscript for Carrie, before being encouraged by his wife, Tabitha, to complete it. He sold it for $2,500. Later selling the paperback rights for $400,000. It was his first of over 50 published novels. Stories have it that he gave Tabitha the news by buying her a much needed hair dryer. She told him they couldn't afford it. He smiled, and told her they could. I hope this story is true! 

He still writes every day. Telling an interviewer once that he didn't write on Christmas or Thanks Giving, just so he didn't seem too weird. 

I admire his willingness to 'give back'. He has toured the US visiting only small, independent book stores, to help them with sales. He conducts writing seminars to teach people to be better writers, he's a long time supporter of various charities, including Heifer International, an organisation that teaches sustainable farming, helps those farmers to gain access to markets, and helps empower women by teaching them leadership skills. 

With his wife they have set up the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. Since 1986 they have been giving grants to help address the causes and consequences of social and environmental problems. (Interestingly they won't provide grants for, among other things, "renovations to churches or other religious properties or institutions"). 

It's clear that his charitable focus is on sustainability and addressing the root cause of problems, which is, I think, how it should be done. 

Finally, I admire his politics. He's clearly a left leaning person and has not been at all shy in his condemnation of Donald Trump and Trump's embarrassing presidency. A brief scroll through Stephen's twitter time line will show you all you need to know there. 

In summary, I admire Stephen's determination and persistence, his willingness to give back to his community, and his resistance to bad politicians. 

And I'm a bloody huge fan on his books! 

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Why I admire Ricky Gervais

It's no secret I'm a fan of the work of Ricky Gervais. I loved The Office since I first saw it in around 2003 or '04 (I'm not sure when it first aired in Australia.)

Since then I've followed Gervais's work closely and I always get a kick out of it. I'd say he's probably my favourite comedian ever. 

But his fame is only why I've heard of him. It's not why I admire him. There are plenty of famous people and not all of them are admirable. 

We don't really 'know' celebrities, aside from their work, unless we know them personally. In the past we got to know a little bit about them through interviews, but that was about it, and not always trustworthy. It's well known that certain magazines and newspapers simply make stuff up. 

These days it's a little different because we have for more insight into people we don't know through their social media account. 

Ricky is quite active on Twitter and it's through this and his stand up comedy that people can find out where he stands on a lot of issues. 

If you know anything about Ricky you'll know he's an atheist. I like this about him, but I'm not sure I'd say I admire it, as such. It's more an 'icing on the cake' type of thing. EG... *and* he's an atheist! 

What I admire is that he's vocal about it and *how* he's vocal about it. It shows he cares about the impact religion has. It shows he cares about science, about logic, and about reason. He likes to have a laugh with it and doesn't take any aspect of it too seriously.

This is something else I admire...he's so down to earth. As I said, I don't 'know' him, he doesn't 'know' me. We're not friends or any such thing. We're one small step from being complete fucking strangers. Despite this he's always kind and polite to me. I talk to him like he's a 'normal person' and not weirdly because he's 'off the telly' and, I'm guessing, he appreciates that.  He talks to me in DM occasionally (it's usually me commenting on his latest piece of work and him saying 'cheers mate'). When you admire someone's work it's good to be able to tell them so. Even better when it's acknowledged. 

Back in 2013 Tweeter, Blogger, Podcast host Stephen Knight (who was just tweeter GodlessSpellchecker back then) and I were asked to be on a podcast together. I suggested that we ask Ricky to join us, since Ricky had supported, publicly, both our twitter accounts. Stephen said I was welcome to try if I wanted to. I tried. Ricky agreed. Something he simply had no obligation to do, at all. I'll always remember this. Simply a lovely thing to do.

What I first admired about Ricky outside The Office was his take on fame. He made headlines for answering the question 'What would you say to someone who wants to be famous' Ricky answered 'I'd tell them to go out and kill a prostitute'. A clever answer, that went over the heads of a lot of people. He clearly dislikes fame for the sake of fame. "Celebrity" used to mean someone who was "celebrated" as in someone who's talent, whatever that may be, was acknowledged and they were revered for it. 

Today's 'celebrities' are contestants on shows such as Big Brother, before appearing on a different show with 'celebrity' in the title. They don't have the words of Shakespeare, the musical ability of Mozart, or the voice of Dame Nellie Melba (I know these are all top of the list examples) but they're famous nonetheless. 

I admire that Ricky sees this isn't a good thing. I admire that he sees his success as something he worked hard for. As he's said 'the harder I work, the luckier I seem to get'. I admire his work ethic. He's always planning something, writing something, or filming something. He works hard and is successful at what he does. I wouldn't presume to say what he doesn't or doesn't think, but it doesn't come across that he thinks he's 'better' than anyone else because of it. 

The biggest passion Ricky seems to have is his support for animals. He denounces the horrific Yulen Dog Festival - the barbaric event in China where they cook and skin dogs alive. It's truly appalling. He continually shames trophy hunters killing lions, elephants, giraffes etc.. And he clearly loves his pet cat, Ollie.

"The greatest privilege that comes with free speech is the right to use your voice for those who don't have one."
He uses his voice to raise awareness for the millions of animals that suffer at the hands of humans. 

Ricky Gervais has used his profile to raise millions of dollars in charity. He's raised money for cancer research and treatment, as well as the RSPCA and other animal welfare charities. 

For his recent stand-up tour 'Humanity' some of the proceeds from platinum seats were donated to charity. Ricky said: 
“This scheme is taking back the thousands of pounds ticket touts make every year by giving this money to good causes instead, including great charities like the RSPCA and Macmillan Cancer Support here in the UK. It’s such a privilege that people will pay money to come and watch me perform stand-up, and I hope that fans across the world continue to recognise the positive impact that buying Platinum Tickets has on worthwhile causes.”  
Ricky Gervais works and works and works, and gives and gives and gives. He's a bit of a nutter (take a look as some behind the scenes footage filmed by Robin Ince during some of Ricky's stand up tours) but he's a good nutter. Clearly a kind and caring man who loves life and enjoys living it. 

And this is why I admire Ricky Gervais. 

PS: The major issue I have with Mr Gervais is that he's never brought a stand up tour to Australia. I told him I'd buy him a scotch if he ever found his way to Melbourne. But you know, I've spent enough money on his catalogue of work, so I think if he ever makes his way to Melbourne, he should buy me one. 

Friday, 22 June 2018

Why I admire @CherryEleven

For those of you who aren't aware, Cherry Eleven is my partner in life. As of writing we've been together for nearly seven years, and have known each other just over eight. 

We met via twitter all those years ago, thanks to our common love for the Australian football team, Collingwood.

On a side note, for those who are sports fans, but not Australian Football League fans, Collingwood is 'that' team. The one the others love to hate most. The one with the most fans, biggest crowds. Often called the most famous sporting club in the country. 

Anyway, we were both new(ish) to twitter and through Collingwood we found each other. We became friends almost instantly and just over a year later, we were a couple. 

CherryEleven is an incredibly positive person. She has an almost unfailing need to see the best of everyone. She'll often tell me that people are good, highlighting any news story where a person has put themselves as risk, or gone the 'extra mile' to help someone else. It's really uplifting to be around her. She continually 'lifts my spirits' as it were. 

That's not to say she likes everyone, always. Her love of the positive means she has no time for the negative. She often talks about removing toxic people from your life. If there's someone who's not making your life better, stop having them around. Life's too short, she says, to spend it with negative people. 

This attitude is best exampled when she said to me once, 'even if you used to like them, if someone's a negative influence, you're best off getting rid of them. You don't need that negativity in your life.' Good call. I later adapted this for a tweet. (with a bit more crassness!) 

If I had to describe CherryEleven in a single word, it would be 'fun'. Fun is her goal, fun is her objective, fun is her default state. I'm sure that when she reaches the end of what is a long, long, long, life, she'll be thinking 'I had fun.' And really, what more could you want? 

CherryEleven is a 'people pleaser'. She wants everyone around her to be happy always. This is admirable, but can also lead to a bit of indecision when she doesn't know how to get to what's best for everyone! But it means she's caring. She cares for me, she cares for my children, and she cares for those around us. She never wishes anyone any harm, she is loving and peaceful. She doesn't want to cause harm, and doesn't want harm done to her. 

She had some tough times growing up as a kid. Including being bullied and made fun of by other kids at school. To her credit though, she hasn't let this get her down. She hasn't retreated into her shell. I could completely understand if she never trusted anyone again, if she kept her fun side to herself and was quiet and shy. But she hasn't. Her happiness is too important, the fun is too important, life is too important. 

I admire her love for art. Painting, writing, acting. She has shelves and shelves of books, artwork wherever she can find a spot for it and is constantly wanting to know what movie to watch next, what concert to go to or what play to see. 

I admire her love for the Collingwood football club. I admire her love for me, I'm sure I drive her mad sometimes! I admire her love for my children.

My partner doesn't waste time on hate, isn't vindictive, isn't petty, isn't malicious. 

She is kind hearted, caring, compassionate, and passionate. She a truly wonderful human being and I love her. 

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Why I admire...

I really enjoy writing my blog but I struggle to come up with ideas. Most of what I can think of has already been done to death and about 50% of what I do start doesn't get finished because I lose track of where it was going. 

So I had an idea...writing posts about people I admire and highlighting what I admire about them. I shared this idea with my friend Godless Mom and she said it was great. So I'm doing it. The first will be out soon and from there I plan to post them regularly. 

Hope you enjoy them. :) 

Eurydice Dixon, Jill Meagher, and our savage species.

If we can ignore, for a moment, what happened in the places they found, the voyages of James Cook, and Christopher Columbus were, for their time, two of the greatest adventures humankind have ever been on. More recently it was Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. 

Emilia Earhart flew solo across the Atlanic. In 2010 - 2011 Laura Dekker sailed solo around the world. She was 15.

Joining Armstrong and Aldrin, a further 10 people have walked on the moon. About 5,500 years ago people invented the wheel. Probably the single greatest invention of all time. In 1928 Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa, United States, invented the first loaf-at-a-time bread-slicing machine. It was the best thing since...well, for a while. 

We've mapped the humane genome, we've grown a human ear on the back of a rat. We have technology that allows me to type into a computer and have you read it, wherever you are in the world, on a computer of your own. A computer that might be the small enough to fit in your hand and carry in your pocket. 

The point is we've achieved a lot as a species. The above doesn't really begin the scratch the surface of the truly amazing things humans have achieved. 

The problem is, it leads to some confusion and misunderstandings and a sense of us being far superior to what we are. 

In Tanzania in 2014, seven people were burned to death. According to this report, they were attacked by local villagers and burned to death for engaging in witchcraft. In the first four months of 2018, Saudi Arabia, the Guardian reports, executed 48 people. Half of them on non-violent drugs charges. They are beheaded using a sword. 

In the USA, a former beacon of freedom, a former 'land of opportunity', in June 2018, White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, defending the separation of children from their parents, claimed it was 'very biblical to enforce the law.' CNN reporter Brian Karem pushed Sanders on the issue of forcibly separating children from their parents.  

In what was almost an emotional plea, Karem said, to Sanders "You're a parent, don't you have any empathy? Come on, Sarah, you're a parent. Don't you have any empathy for what these people are going through? They have less than you do. Seriously, Sarah, seriously, these people have nothing.'

Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to answer the questions and, instead, claimed that Karem was simply after more TV time. 

Hundreds of boys in south Sudan are kidnapped from their villages and forced to become child soldiers. 

Despite our amazing achievements, it's clear we are a savage and cruel species. 

In the early hours of Wednesday June 13th in Melbourne, the body of 22 year old Eurydice Dixon was found in a park by a passerby. She had been raped and murdered. She was 900 metres from her front door. 

Eurydice was an up and coming comedian. She'd finished a gig at a nearby hotel, had said goodbye to her boyfriend, and walked towards home. 

Her walk home that night brought her across the path of 19 year old Jaymes Todd. The exact details of what happened are not yet known. But Todd handed himself into the police. The Melbourne comedy community, the friends and family of Eurydice, and Melbourne as a whole, are in shock and saddened at what happened. 

On September 22nd 2012 Jill Meagher was walking home from a pub. Her walk home that night brought across the path of Adrian Bayley. He raped her, then strangled her until she died. He's not eligible for parole until 2055. 

As long as the list of achievements is, I can't help but feel the list of atrocities is longer. 

It's odd and disturbing to think the same species that can land a rover on Mars is capable of these acts of terror. The same species that can operate on an unborn baby can cause so much harm and damage to its fellow people.  

The road to ending this savagery is long, but I think it can be achieved. It's going to take a lot of time, and a lot of patience, but mostly, it's going to take a lot of eduction in things that we wouldn't expect to still be teaching in this day and age. 

In the aftermath of the Jill Meagher story and now, again, in the aftermath of the Eurydice Dixon murder, Victoria Police urged people to 'be aware of their surroundings.' 

Some think this pragmatic advice. Others see it as victim blaming. 

The problem is there's a gap between what ought to be, and what is. 

Boys ought to be able to live without being forced to become child soldiers. Families ought to be able to seek a new life and not be separated at the border of a country that prides itself on 'freedom'. 

The topic I want to focus on is this: Should women, or anyone, be able to walk home from a pub and not only not fear being raped or murdered, but actually NOT be raped and murdered? Of course. Is it always going to be safe to do that? The reality is, no, it's not. 

People will say we shouldn't have to be telling women they need to walk home with a friend, just to make sure they get home at all. And they're right, shouldn't have to. The reality, however, is that it's sometimes not safe and women walking home on their own, despite the possible danger, isn't going to make it safe. It's not going to keep the women safe. 

Had Eurydice had a friend with her, she would quite likely be alive today. 

Had Jaymes Todd not decided to rape and murder Eurydice, Eurydice would most definitely be alive today. 

I'd suggest that Jaymes Todd knew that raping and murdering someone was wrong. Had the police tweeted that morning 'don't rape and murder anyone tonight' I suspect Jaymes Todd would still have raped and murdered Eurydice Dixon that night. He handed himself into police. He knew he'd committed a crime. 

So I'm not convinced telling 'men' not to rape and murder is the answer either. Those who do it know it's wrong already. Harsher punishment isn't the answer either. As this report  finds, there's no evidence to suggest that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. 

Where does that leave us? Well, from what I've found out, education, and shame. 

Firstly, the shame part. THIS is where men come in. Let me sidebar for a moment...

When I was a 17 year old (still a child, technically) I was working full time at a local factory. One of the 'men' (I would guess 30 years old) was talking to me about his wife. There were just the two of us in the conversation. He mentioned that sometimes when his wife gets out of line, he gives her a backhander, and then he chuckled. It made me feel horrible to hear that. But I wasn't brave enough to say anything. I said hmmm, and walked away. 

If a 30 year old man told me that now, I'd call him a fucking criminal, tell him that he's a coward and tell him to never talk to me again. I'd then research how best to deal with that situation. I'd be wary of making the situation worse. Around one woman per week is killed by their current or former partner in Australia. I wouldn't want to make that more likely to happen. 

But the point is, it's up to men to shame and denounce other men who brag about violence towards women. It's up to men to have discussions with other men about what's acceptable and what's not. And it's not just the rape and murder we have to denounce. We need to talk to our female friends and find out what it is men are doing on a consistent basis that they don't like. Then when we hear men talking about doing that kind of thing or we SEE other men doing that kind of thing, we stand up to them. We demand they stop and denounce and shame them for doing it. We make them aware that it's 100% not acceptable. It's not acceptable if it's their partner. It's not acceptable if it's a stranger. And what we also need to do is NOT tell women that it's meaningless, or it's harmless, or it's just a bit of fun. If they don't feel that it's harmless, it's not harmless. 

There are also things we can do to make women feel safer. If you're a man getting off a train and walking to your car in the station carpark and it's the middle of peak hour, and you are, coincidentally, following a woman walking to her's probably not much of a big deal. 

If you're getting off a train late at night and there's no one else around and you're coincidentally following a woman who's walking to her car...she's likely to be wary of you, if not outright frightened. You can help out here by slowing down. Tie your shoelace, walk a slightly different path, don't continually watch her, get on your phone and talk to someone. Make it clear you're NOT following here. (For the record these tips were given to me by my partner). 

The best thing men can do to ensure women are not raped and murdered is to not rape and murder them, of course. But if ANY TIME a man hears or sees another man talking about being violent towards a woman or BEING violent towards a woman, stop him and SHAME him for it. 

The other thing that needs to be done is eduction, and it needs to start early. It needs to come with sex education. Boys (AKA 'future men') need to be taught about consent, and about bodily integrity. It feels sad and unfortunate that this needs to be 'taught' and isn't just inherent knowledge, but as I pointed out, we're a savage species. On the scale of time, we're really not that far from being 'wild animals'. 

I feel we get fooled into thinking we're better than we are because of what we've achieved. It's like we get tricked into thinking our 'exceptional best' is actually our 'standard'. But we need a reality check. We NEED to understand that humankind is a species that rapes and murders. It happens in the most violent societies, and it happens in the happiest and 'safest' societies. It's kind of like the alcoholic who needs to admit they have a problem, before they can get sober. 

So we not only have to teach our young about not raping, not murdering, and about the things that make other people fearful and uncomfortable, we need to consistently reinforce these ideas and lessons, and not just in school, but as adults. We need to do it whether it's a stranger (hard) or a friend (even harder). 

For this post I searched and read about ideas to prevent rape, or reduce the instances of rape. The best article I found was this one, written in 2014 by Jessica Reed for The Guardian. It contains very good advice, and a good overall view of the situation. It points to a site called ScarleTeen as a good resource for teens to learn about sexuality. I've not yet had the chance to check that out, but I highly recommend reading the article by Jessica. 

Another site I found was HealthyPlace. It has an article titled: Rape Prevention - How to Prevent Rape. It has three tips. I won't list them here, you can read it if you wish. But I know that each of the tips is aimed at women. I had hoped tip number one was aimed at men and said 'don't rape'. (I know not all rapes are men on women, but it's the vast majority). The same article does have advice for if you are being raped. On the surface the advice seems good, but I'm no expert so I highly recommend reading it in conjunction with other sources. The Healthy Place website does have a page that lists all its references, which you can find here. It seems very thorough. 

It's a dangerous world. Maybe not as dangerous as some would have us believe, but certainly more dangerous than we'd like it to be. We can work towards getting it closer to what we want it to be, but maybe...until we get there, until the changes we need to make are showing an impact, maybe the advice from Victoria Police isn't too bad. 

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Anthony Bourdain, David Leavitt, and depression

As you've probably heard by now, much loved television chef/traveller Anthony Bourdain passed away. Sadly, he took his own life. Something that I now refer to as 'dying from Depression.' I first heard this term in the aftermath of the death of Robin Williams.

The death of Anthony Bourdain has hit many people hard. I've heard several people say he had 'the best life.' My good friend @godless_mom is a big fan of Anthony and was devastated by the news. You can read her post about it here.
There has been an outpouring of grief, as is expected when a celebrity dies. Had he been in his 80s and died of a heart attack, I'm sure the sadness would still exist, but it would different. The thing here is Anthony was a man 'on top of his game' as it were. He was successful, he was liked, and he was about to film another episode of his much loved television program.

It's a shock when this kind of news breaks.It's sad news, but not angry news. I've seen some anger directed at Anthony from a man I'd never previously heard of, called David Leavitt.

Upon the news of Bourdain's death, Leavitt posted this:
There's so much wrong with this post. But first, I want to share what Anthony was responding too. It was David Leavitt tweeting the below after news of the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester:

I'm sure most of you will concur with Anthony's opinion of Leavitt upon learning this. Teenagers had just died. Families had just been devastated and here was some cretin making a joke about it. Simply no class.
But back to Leavitt's tweet about Anthony.First, and to me, the most obvious issue, Leavitt is tweeting to a man who has died. Is he expecting a response from Bourdain? I honestly couldn't tell you.
he next part is the truly serious part. "Selfishly taking your own life and hurting your family and friends..." Leavitt then goes on to repeat the insult Anthony had used on Leavitt.
Here's the thing...suicide is carried out, more often than not, by people suffering major depression. Anthony Bourdain had spoken about his personal battle with it. It is clear, as it was with Robin Williams, that Anthony Bourdain died from depression. He died from a medical condition. Would David Leavitt had called Anthony 'Selfish' and a 'Steaming, gaping asshole' had Anthony died from a heart attack, from complications following surgery, or from cancer? I very much doubt it. Just one as doesn't choose to have cancer, one does not choose to have depression.
I'm sure here David would say something along the lines of 'Having depression isn't a choice, but killing yourself because of it is..." And he'd be correct. But what he'd fail to consider is this: Depression is mental ILLNESS, not mental okay-ness. Depression causes your mind to act abnormally. You convince yourself you're a failure, that everything is your fault, that life is not worth living, and the big one, that people would be better off without you. Even loved ones.
What this ignoramus, David Levitt, fails to understand is that when suicide is the result of depression, it's desperation. It's a person who is at the end of their ability to handle what's happening in their head. It's what they see is the only way to end their suffering, and, in turn, the suffering they imagine they're causing those around them.
Depression requires treatment, not condemnation. Sufferers need understanding and help, not abuse and name calling.
I know, because I'm in 'the club' and it's shit. I've briefly had what might be described as suicidal thoughts. It was fleeting, and I never put serious consideration into it, but thankfully that was 20 years ago and I sought and received help. I still suffer depression, but thoughts of suicide are banished to history. When I most recently sought help, I tweeted the following:
I would guess that David Leavitt is of the school of thought that if you're depressed, you should just get happy. Just smile, and get over it. I too thought like that once. When I was a kid. It was rooted in a complete lack of understanding of what depression is, what causes it, and how to address it. Sadly, the things we know work, don't always work.
The other issue is that Leavitt is forcing his opinion and his ideals onto those who are battling something he clearly doesn't understand, I liked the way my twitter friend @StaunchA responded to this aspect of what Leavitt said...

It's an interesting take on it and I'm not sure one I'd have thought of without the input from StaunchA. Not that I'd advocate for suicide, obviously, but I'm also a supporter of euthanasia for people suffering a terminal illness. There's something that doesn't sit will with me about demanding that people must live in suffering and distress, as long as they're living. I'd never thought of extending this to depression. I'd always want people to seek help and persist with trying to get better, but I know enough about it to know it's not 'selfish.'
In the end, it doesn't matter to Anthony Bourdain how insensitive, cruel, and ignorant Leavitt was to him. Anthony is no longer with us. But it matters to people who are battling 'The Black Dog'. The last thing we need to be doing to people with depression, whether or not they're having suicidal thoughts, is belittling them and calling them names, and making them feel even worse about themselves. There's enough misery in the world without adding to it like this.
On this note, I'd like to highlight a tweet from another twitter friend, @girlnamedBoston
Remember, if YOU choose to be kind to people, the world will be a better place for it, and as Boston says, you may save their life.
If you or someone you know is suffering depression and/or having suicidal thoughts, help is available. There are many resources online. The Wikipedia list of international suicide crisis help lines can be found here.