Movie Friday: Louis CK

More standup for you today. This time it’s from perhaps my all-time favourite comedian, Louis CK. He’s been on Parks and Recreation, and was in The Invention of Lying as well (movie with a great concept but poor execution). Listening to him is like hearing my own brain talk to me, but it’s way funnier than I am.

Here’s Louis on white privilege:

On the difference between girls and women:

And one of his perhaps best-known bits, on why everything is amazing, but nobody is happy:

I’m pumped that he’s finally getting another shot at getting his own show on FX. He had one on HBO, which was amazing, but got canceled because HBO doesn’t really like laugh-track comedies. If you ever want to know what I think about something, but you want it to be much funnier than I could ever make it, ask Louis.

Update: Gay couple in Malawi pardoned

A couple weeks back I talked about a couple that was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for the shocking, deplorable act of… well, being in love with each other. However, ultra-religious Malawi doesn’t like it when you’re in love with someone who has similar genitalia (although to be 100% clear, it was a law that was brought in by the British).

However, it seems that what Malawi likes even less than ‘teh butt secks’ is getting their own ass pounded by the international community:

Mr (President Bingu wa) Mutharika, speaking as UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited his country, said he had ordered their immediate release.

We don’t get a lot of flashy victories in the fight against the forces of stupid, but this one is a bit of good news. Luckily, the voices of reason were able to shout down the voices of “that’s just how they do things in their culture” and get these two guys out of jail. Listen, folks: when my country trades with your country, when the health and well-being of your citizens affects my bottom line, and when you are violating their human rights (as I define them), then I absolutely have a right to speak up. When the suffering of your people inspires outrage and sympathy in my people, and they demand that I do something, you’d better believe that I’m going to speak up. If you want to practice barbarism, then you’ve got to deal with the consequences; one of which is the fact that the richest parts of the world have moved past your small-minded interpretation of scripture. You want our money? You’ve got to play by our rules. You want to keep your practices the same? Then you’ve got to convince me (and my people) that you’re justified in doing so. “This is the way we do things here” is not justification, it’s special pleading, and I’m not swayed by it.

Of course, there’s no happy ending to this story. Homosexuality is still illegal in Malawi, and bowing to legal pressure (and probably threats of physical violence), the couple has split up, and one man is now pretending to be heterosexual. It’s tragic that they’re unable and seemingly unwilling to stand up for gay rights in their country, but I can understand why. I can only hope that other gay people in Africa are more willing to stand up to the pressure and demand their human rights, despite the horrible cost.

The World Cup – South Africa struggles to modernize

I’m not a soccer fan. I’m not a sports fan in general, but I’d much rather watch hockey or basketball than soccer. When the Olympics came to Vancouver, I didn’t pay much attention except to the overall medal count. There is one thing about sport that I think is absolutely fantastic though – it’s the only thing the world seems to agree on. I watched the opening ceremonies with friends, and I was dumbstruck when during the entrance of the athletes, the Israeli team was immediately followed by the Iranian team. The leadership of the country of Iran thinks that Israel should be destroyed and swept into the sea. The leadership of Israel regularly kills Arabs, to the continued outrage of the Muslim world. And yet, the two teams were able to compete in friendly and spirited competition without letting politics and bullshit get in the way.

I feel the same way about the World Cup. Because soccer is such a low-tech sport (requiring only a kickable object and a designated goal area), it’s played all over the world. The United Nations is constantly fractures on important issues, but that doesn’t matter to FIFA – if you can play, you can compete. I think it’s a really powerful statement.

South Africa is the host of the 2010 World Cup. This country has probably the most fractured and storied history of racial violence, intolerance and systemic oppression out of any country in the world (including the USA). Even in 2010 there have been race-related murders and violence – South Africa has not grown out of its history. It’s a pretty powerful juxtaposition to have the entire world – people from all different cultures – come together in a place rife with violence and hatred, to put aside their differences in a way that isn’t possible under any other circumstance.

But you don’t have to take my word for it:

“It [the World Cup] will create an emotional bond among South Africans, but it will not end the divisions caused by more than three centuries of apartheid and colonialism,” [political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi] says.

The article provides a bit of colour and context to my description above. While the race divide in South Africa continues, there is more mobility as black South Africans begin to move into “white” sports like rugby. As I keep saying, the key to reducing racial division is to make race-identity secondary to more unifying identities, like secular national identity, or in this case team affiliation. It won’t simply happen by diffusion, or just existing side by side, there needs to be a force that unites formerly disparate groups into a larger sense of in-group. Sport has the power to do that.

Again, it’s not possible to talk about racial equality without disturbing the ground of women’s rights and gay rights, so this story about a lesbian soccer team made me smile ruefully:

To be poor, and black, and a lesbian in South Africa is to live in danger. “Corrective rapes”, beatings and murders are disturbingly common in conservative communities where homophobia remains deeply entrenched.

Don’t get it twisted, folks, South Africa is still a horrible place filled with violence, crippling poverty, ignorance and hate. Being on a lesbian football team, like the women in this article, is harnessing the same power of sport to unify people and take a stand against homophobia and violence. In a country where rape is seen as a way to “fix” gayness, it takes an enormous set of lady-balls to stand up and say “I’m here.” This is why we have a gay pride parade, incidentally, because we’re celebrating living in a country where people have the right to be openly gay and happy – it’s not about shoving it in people’s faces. And considering that there are still major problems even in so-called “modern” countries like Australia, we can’t ever relax our stance on ensuring equality for all people. I’m encouraged by things like the World Cup, and I hope you are too.

Of course, because I write these well before posting them, it’s easy to get scooped. If you liked this summary, you should read CLS’s much more informative article about this same issue.

Sometimes… some crimes… go slippin’ through the cracks

One of the frustrating things about doing this (blogging) is that there’s only 5 blogging days in the week (4 if you consider Movie Friday) and I don’t like inundating you with blog posts. Maybe once I am able to build a larger reader base I’ll be able to get away with it, but I think one post every day is probably enough. Because a lot of my content comes from articles in the news, there are a lot of stories that I’d like to write about but don’t make the cut for whatever miscellaneous reason. To illustrate what I’m talking about, here is the stuff that didn’t make it into its own post this week.

I’ve talked recently about the unbelievable stupidity of trying to pass religious-based “morality laws” that outlaw homosexuality. First of all it’s not even “immoral”, and second you can’t legislate the way people are born. Of course, nobody has told that to Zimbabwe, who is now arresting gay rights activists on drummed-up pornography charges and “insulting President Robert Mugabe”. Hey Mugabe – you’re a moronic pig-fucker who still breast feeds and wears Rainbow Brite pyjamas to bed. Maybe we should start an “Everybody insult Robert Mugabe” day. All this while the White House and the House of Representatives are trying to abolish “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Ever get the feeling some places are moving in opposite directions? Well have no fear, because we’ve still got homophobic assholes here in Canada. Let’s all join hands!

I was joking when I said women shouldn’t vote. Apparently Rabbi Elyakim Levanon reads my blog and doesn’t have a sense of sarcasm. He’s told the female members of his community that voting is a man’s job. He wants to prevent a circumstance wherein women would have different votes from their husbands. Good thing there’s still someone out there promoting “traditional family values”. Sheesh.

Yeah, it still sucks to be a woman in a theocratic country. An imam in Mali suggested that maybe women shouldn’t be religiously and legally required to obey their husbands, and the cry went up. Mali, which is Muslim, ought not to be confused with Malawi, which is Christian. They’re both asshole countries ruled by religious stupidity, but it’s a different kind of religious stupidity so the differences abound. The joke of course being that it doesn’t matter what god you believe in, you’re going to keep doing the same bigoted and abusive things to your women.

Gotta admit, it’s a step in the right direction. Zimbabwe is relaxing the tight grip that the government holds on newspaper publication. This is a good thing, as I talked about earlier this week. If you allow free media, you allow a robust opposition, which in turn allows tyrannical leaders (like Mugabe) to be cast down. Let’s hope this gains some steam. Maybe they’ll start writing about how Robert Mugabe likes to sniff the underpants of old ladies and dresses up as a Japanese school girl on weekends.

Ban internet porn? Two words: Good luck.

This is what I like to see. A school is not living up to its educational standards? Shut it down. So what if it’s a religious school? They have standards to maintain, and are staunchly refusing to adhere to provincial requirements. You don’t want to play by the rules? Great. Shut your doors.

I’m sure you think you know where I’m going with this story, but actually I’m all for it. A lot of good things have come out of the Islamic world, and those things are part of our shared history as human people. We should be aware of both the good and the bad that comes out of religion. We can take the good stuff (art, music, culture, mathematics) and leave behind the stupid parts (YahwAlladdha). Put it all in museums, and let people see all sides of Islam.

So yeah, that was all stuff from this week alone (and by this week, I mean the last week of May, because I write these things way before they go live). There are a few other things (the mosque bombing in Lahore, the rise in internet banking in the developing world, rugby becoming an integrated sport in South Africa) that I am saving and hope to write about in context with some other things. The take-home message is that there’s a lot going on out there. Lots of it negative, some of it actually wonderfully positive. I don’t have the time to write about it all, and I suspect you don’t have the patience to read my take on everything even if I did.

P.S. Bonus points about for anyone who recognizes where the title of today’s post comes from.

P.P.S. Robert Mugabe lost an arm-wrestling contest to a 6 year-old, and has Hanson posters all over his bedroom. C’mon, pig fucker! Arrest me!

Sodomy laws are sooooo gay!

You might remember last week when I talked about a Malaysian politician who has been charged with violating the country’s sodomy laws. For good measure, I mocked the ridiculous attitude of religious bigots in that week’s edition of Movie Friday. It seems that things aren’t getting any better for LGBT people around the world.

Oh Malawi, why do you insist on being such a stupid, backwards country? When you’re not busy protesting the striking down of polygamy laws, you’re prosecuting people for doing what comes naturally to them (under the excuse that it’s unnatural – there’s a head-spinner for you). What exactly constitutes an ‘unnatural’ act? Is driving a car ‘natural’? How about flossing? Am I at risk of being sentenced to 14 years in prison for eating processed cheese (because as you know, nothing could be less ‘natural’ than an individually packaged “cheese” slice that tastes like the wrapper it comes in)? No, it seems that the violation of ‘natural law’ is centred all on where you put your penis. Putting your penis in multiple women under the guise of “sheltering” them is completely natural, apparently, but as soon as it comes near another dude… WATCH OUT!

Of course this is being done for religious reasons, as the Bible likes to think it is very clear on what God thinks about gay people. Again, when religion is done in the privacy of one’s home, I suppose it can be tolerated. However, when people are being put in jail because of a religious prescript rather than because they’ve actually… oh I don’t know… harmed someone, you can’t pretend that religious belief is a good thing for society.

Of course… it could apparently be worse. I don’t know if you click on these links, but this one is a video link that talks about Uganda’s attitude towards homosexuals. It’s pretty frightening. My favourite part is when they talk to Pastor Martin Semper (sic). He gives us little gems of the love and tolerance of the teachings of Jesus like this one:

“Muslims are taking over your country! Your children stuff themselves! You laugh about it! I beg you, abandon sodomy!”

I love the reaction of the reporter, John Simpson who calls him out on it: “This is an act!” Apparently Pastor Marty weeps every time he talks about sodomy. Soooomebody’s been watching Glenn Beck.

Joking aside, Uganda is currently debating legislation that would make it a capital offense (that means state-sponsored execution) to be gay. It is, of course, religious – just like Malawi, Uganda is predominantly Christian. Wait a minute – isn’t Christianity supposed to be the tolerant religion? It’s almost as though any time you allow superstition and nonsense beliefs to dominate politics, you end up with brutal, evil totalitarian states! Weird how that happens…

Not wanting to be left out of the bigotry Olympics, Asia has thrown its hat into the ring. According to a UN report, 19 out of the 48 countries examined have laws against homosexuality ranging from imprisonment to corporal punishment (beatings, whippings) and death. Do you know what happens when you criminalize something? It still happens, just illicitly, and in a less safe manner. When you take away condoms and HIV education and counseling, you don’t stop HIV – you make it worse. How is it that we are unable to see that enforcing a narrow morality, often with its origin in a specific interpretation of religious text, only makes the problem worse? If we want to stop AIDS, making it illegal to be gay (because, as everyone knows, only gay guys get AIDS, and no “straight” men ever have sex with other men and then go home to their wives) is about the biggest backward step you can take.

Of course, we must protect the sanctity of marriage, like the Japanese have done. As everyone knows, marriage is a sacred contract between a man, a woman, and the Kokoro robotics corporation. I’m waiting for the Christians to start protesting this ‘unnatural’ abomination in the eyes of YahwAlladdha – but I’m not holding my breath. What’s hilarious, of course, is that while Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality, he had quite a bit to say about hypocrisy. But it’s probably too much to ask religious people to actually read their own scripture… right?

Movie Friday: God Hates Fred Phelps

Some things are so unbelievably over-the-top evil that you just have to laugh (DISCLAIMER: if you are easily offended by strident and hateful homophobia, you might not want to watch this):

For those of you who don’t know, Fred Phelps is the head of a ultra-right-wing hate group that calls itself the Westboro Baptist Church (link not safe for work). The group is famous for its slogan: “God Hates Fags”. As Freddie reveals here, God hates pretty much everyone and everything. Fred’s God is kind of a dick, actually – He wants them to picket military funerals and funerals for kids killed by homophobic hate crimes. Of course Fred’s God doesn’t exist any more than anyone else’s – he’s just using the idea of YahwAlladdha to push his own small-minded puritanical agenda. The sad thing is that children are brought up in this group, and taught to believe that hating people who you don’t like is a virtue. Fred’s no better than the Taliban or Al Qaeda leaders who seduce kids into suicide bombing

Fred is bent out of shape in this video because his group was denied entry into Canada under the auspices of the hate speech laws. As much as I disagree with them, they do have at least one useful upside: they kept the WBC out of my country. Fred is right to castigate Canada for not having completely free speech; however, that is entirely immaterial. Canada’s laws guarantee free speech to Canadians, not damn dirty foreigners. Keep your bigotry and your Dick God on your side of the 49th, Freddie baby!

Any country that a guy like Fred has such contempt for is one that I am proud to be a member of, and I will wear the title of “fag enabler” proudly. I also rather like Michael Moore’s response to this walking scum.

Sometimes the only thing you can do in the face of overwhelming evil is highlight how ridiculous and risible it is.

Sodomy – the ULTIMATE sin

For anyone who’s ever complained about the government needing to “get off our backs”, or complaints about legislation being “shoved down our throat”, you can stop whining. It could be way worse:

The trial of the Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, on charges of sodomy, has resumed after a long delay.

Unsurprisingly, sodomy is a crime in Malaysia. I say unsurprisingly because Malaysia, like Lebanon, has articles in its constitution that make it a requirement for holders of certain levels of political office to be of a certain religion, and can declare portions of its population Muslim by legislative fiat. Any place where there is a constitutional requirement to profess religion to hold high office is likely a place where bizarre Biblical (or, as the case may be, Qu’ranic) statutes are enforced by the power of the state. As CLS has noted before: “The church is pretty much a toothless dog when it doesn’t have access to state power.”

Luckily for the church in Malaysia, it’s a crime to have sex with another man, and they can drag the leader of the opposition through the mud whenever they see fit. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time these charges have been laid against him (pun fully intended).

What strikes me about this story isn’t that Malaysia is backwards because it’s a crime to be gay. Don’t get me wrong – trying to legislate sexuality is about as productive as passing a law requiring you to be at least 6′ tall, and all countries with ridiculous and untenable “morality” laws should be ashamed of themselves. What’s fascinating about these charges is that the people of Malaysia and the government seem to have no problem with Ibrahim having been convicted on corruption charges; they’re just interested in where his penis has been.

Movie Friday: Never been kissed

I’ve talked before about religion’s bizarre obsession with sex. This video made me laugh, but it’s not really funny.

It’s about the most thinly-veiled abstinence advocacy I’ve ever seen. It goes beyond sexual celibacy and says that even kissing is off limits. I’ve seen little kids smooch each other. It’s about as small a deal as can possibly be. Kissing is a expression of affection that seems to be universal. If you’re lucky enough to receive a kiss from someone you care about, it’s an amazing thing. Why anyone would want to deny people such a simple pleasure baffles the rational mind.

There’s also a very telling moment, where the dad says:

What kind of man do you want your husband to be? Do you want a man who saved all his love just for you? One who never even kissed another woman, so he could share that just with you?

Seems like you got some of the words wrong there, dad. Let me fix that for you:

What kind of man do you want your husband to be? Do you want a man who has no clue what the hell he’s doing? One who’s never even kissed another woman, so he has essentially zero shot of being able to gratify you sexually?

There, much more accurate. They of course don’t show the kiss between the husband and wife, since the sight of Johnny Haircut slobbering all over her face as he tries to wrap his lips around hers would be a bit too much to handle. I’ve seen bad kissers; I’ve been kissed by bad kissers. Some people need all the practice they can get.

The guy who asks Pamela out and tries to kiss her is right to smirk – she straight out runs away from him. And it wouldn’t be a heavy-handed awkward Christian morality play unless there was some girl who kissed her boyfriend… with disastrous consequences (note: consequences not shown, just vaguely alluded to). Let’s assume she had sex with her boyfriend out of a sense of obligation. The problem isn’t kissing in this case, it’s that her friend is a spineless moron. If you’re not ready to have sex, you’ve got to learn to say so. When we don’t have honest discussions about sex with our children, this is the kind of shit that happens. It’s not because we didn’t tie their chastity belts on tight enough; it’s because we didn’t give them the wherewithal to say “I’m in charge of my sexuality.”

Some guys I know are still wowie-zowie about virgins. I’m 25 years old – if I meet a girl my age who’s a virgin, I’m wondering what happened in her past to make her that way. There’s nothing inherently wrong with not having sex, but it’s definitely unusual. “Saving yourself” for marriage is basically condemning your would-be spouse to having to teach you how to fuck. Sex is fun, and when done properly, is safe. Fetishizing sex and constructing elaborate taboos about what is essentially a biological function only serves to make us more obsessed, and more likely to do something stupid and dangerous.

Almost as if on cue…

The day I post about religion, sex and hypocrisy, an anti-gay crusader gets busted for hiring a male prostitute to “carry his luggage” on an international trip. Again, they’re not even trying to make my job difficult.

I’d talk about it at length, but CLS over at Classically Liberal has done a great job already:

The young man to the left is looking for work: he is willing to trade value for value. Fair enough. His employment ad mentions his skills and sought after attributes. He offers “good times,” “escort for days” and is “uncut, versatile, nice ass.” He is “For a sensual meet or companionship” and promises to “do anything you say as long as you ask.” He says he is bisexual, has a “large” cock and has specialties: “Vanilla, Leather, Anal, Oral, Shaving, Spanking, Role Playing, Kissing, Toys, Feet.” He is also available for modeling, go-go dancing, stripping and massage. He is multi-talented clearly.

Apparently we are also supposed to believe his most sought after talent is carrying luggage.

Also be sure to check out CLS’s previous post on free speech and the religious double-standard. It’s good stuff.

Religion and sex

You might think it a bit strange that since I started blogging my anti-religious rage, I haven’t mentioned the huge sexual abuse scandal that’s rocking the Roman Catholic Church. You might think that I would be salivating at the chance to tear the RCC a new one, since it’s the most obvious and wide-spread target for my particular brand of smug, arrogant smack-down. Yet I have been strangely silent about the whole thing. Am I biased because I grew up Catholic? Am I picking on all religions except Christianity?

Hardly. The reason I haven’t mentioned anything about the abuse cases is because everyone is talking about them. You don’t need me throwing my opinion into the fray like a drop in the ocean. The RCC has the longest and worst track record of any religious organization. They have so infiltrated the world that it’s impossible to pull their roots of influence out of daily life. The reason Christianity is entrenched so many places in the world is because the political wing of the church partnered with the military arm of the Roman empire and spread the disease of blind religious faith all over an unprepared world. At every turn, we can see examples of the Church standing in between mankind and philosophical and technological progress, demanding that we plug our ears and shut our eyes to the evidence simply because they don’t want to lose their political influence. I stopped believing in the Church years before I stopped believing in God.

One of the purposes of this blog is to highlight the fact that all religion is evil. The only way to derive good from religious belief is to ignore most of its teachings, and pay lip-service to the neutral ones (fasting, holidays, saints, church services, prayer, etc.). This type of lukewarm religious practice one step away from secularism that people (myself formerly included) are for some reason terrified to take. Well of course the reason is obvious: it’s been drummed into us since our great-grandparents were in the womb.

Religion tells us to turn off our critical mind and simply accept assertions as truth because a “holy” person says so. It puts knowledge of YahwAlladdah in the hands of priests or rabbis or imams or gurus or other men (it’s usually men), which imbues them with some kind of sacred authority. It exhorts us to implicitly trust those people because they are somehow more virtuous and wise than we poor sinner laypeople.

And then they use that trust to fuck us, both figuratively and literally:

Nithyananda Swami, a Hindu holy man, stepped down last month as head of a religious organization based in the southern city of Bangalore. His announcement came after a video apparently showing him engaging in sexual acts with two women.

It’s not an isolated incident (as the RCC clearly shows us) or peculiar to one religion. As the famous saying, known as “Lord Acton’s dictum” states:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” (emphasis mine)

No person is holy simply by virtue of their specialness. Mother Theresa was a bigot. Gandhi was a religious zealot whose teachings would have bankrupted and destroyed India. Abraham Lincoln was a white supremacist. Christopher Hitchens is an alcoholic. Richard Dawkins probably has more than a couple of skeletons in his closet. We should not enshrine an individual person for their good ideas and then conveniently gloss over their bad ones. Ideas should be judged on their own merits, and the authors should not be equated with those ideas. We should no more accept the idea that the Pope is “holy” than we should suggest that Voltaire or Shakespeare or Mozart were “holy”.

Religion has a taboo about sex, which is famous all over the world. Sexual repression is a hallmark of any religion. So is sexual exploitation. The RCC’s crime isn’t that it raped and molested children (although that is absolutely a crime), it’s that it did so while preaching from a stance of superior morality. It told millions of Africans to keep it in their pants, whilst simultaneously covering the tracks of its own employees who failed to do so themselves. But as I’ve said and will continue to say: this is a problem of religion, not a problem of a religion. The things that are good about religion do not require religious faith of any kind, only the insightful actions of thoughtful people.