24.3.11

Why reading comments on online articles isn't always a good idea - a rant

[This is a rant, written in a hurry and not proofread. If you're offended by the contents... meh]

I’ve been reading comments on articles about the ‘religion’ box on the UK census. Time and time again I see the following arguments:

  1. Humanists/atheists have no morals

  1. Humanists/atheists are more fundamentalist in nature than any far out Christians/muslims/whatever.

  1. Richard Dawkins is smug.

  1. Humanists/atheists can’t have beliefs.

  1. Humanists/atheists should just shut up.

Of course, none of these are really arguments that hold water. For a start there is a difference between humanists and atheists. Using the idea that Stalin and Hitler ran non-religious regimes that committed great evil therefore atheists are evil is utter bollocks. The regimes of Hitler and Stalin represent the views of Hitler and Stalin. It wasn’t as if Adolf woke up one morning and thought, “hmmm, I’m running a religion-free state, I better kill millions of innocent people.”

The idea that there is a fundamentalist church of atheism/humanism is equally flawed. The nature of humanism and the reality of atheism (even from the mouth of Richard Dawkins) is that a belief in something can and should be effected by evidence. Most theistic religions require a belief in the impossible (or miraculous) as a test of faith. Rationalists are usually ready to admit they’re wrong about something and adapt their views. This doesn’t equate to fundamentalism, which just marches on, regardless of the evidence.

Richard Dawkins is perceived by many to be smug and fundamentalist, but if you’ve ever read any of his books you’ll know that’s not true. Many people also wish humanists and atheists would just shut up and Dawkins is brave enough to stand up against that. Despite the scare story tone of articles that say secularism is taking over our societies, it is often hard to be as upfront as religious types without suffering for it.

And to say that a humanist/atheist can’t start a sentence with “I believe…” is drivel of the highest order. I believe we should treat each other with kindness. There. What was wrong with that?

15.3.11

Tribal Basics

On my way to the bass guitar show in London I felt a sense that this might be the place where I find my tribe. I am, to all intents, a tribeless person. I’m a middle class white man, which doesn’t help. My mum and dad’s families come from two very different places, neither of which are the places where I was brought up, or where I live now. I’m happiest in a multi-cultural environment but live in a village where everyone looks and dresses the same (not exactly the same – that would be weird – but you get my point). My paternal family, and hence my name, is from Kent. Although I feel at home when I visit Kent I don’t feel a massive urge to move there. Not now, at least. My parents made our immediate family more important than our roots so I wasn’t brought up feeling I had anywhere to connect with.

So, in a half-arsed way, I look out for tribes to belong to. This may sound trivial, but bass players are people I identify with, because playing the bass is the most consistent thing in my life (other than being someone’s son). I picked the instrument up in my teens and can’t imagine not wanting to play it, or learn more about it.

So, I was full of bass playerness when I got to the show at Olympia. When I finally arrived in the space where it was held though it dawned on me that:

  1. I’m not part of a bass player tribe. The sense of individualism felt stronger than the bond.
  2. Being predominantly a fretless bass player meant I’d have to think about belong to a tribe within a tribe – that was just too needlessly complicated and narrow.
  3. There really is such a thing as too much bass. The combined mush of sound when thirty or more people are playing basses is just overwhelming. I needed to hear someone playing the flute to balance things out.

As it was, on the journey home I bumped into the Chapman Stick player, Bucky the Busker. While talking to this interested, engaged and passionate musician I knew who my tribe was.

12.3.11

Gary Willis

ary Willis by WJCruttenden
ary Willis a photo by WJCruttenden on Flickr.

I had a chance to go to the London Bass Guitar show today and see my favourite bassist, gary Willis. This was the highlight of the show for me, especially as I got to meet others who not only knew who Mr Willis was, but liked his work too.

Gary Willis's signature bass is my all time favourite bass guitar and so, even if he hadn't recorded a host of fabulous albums, I would be a fan.

Having spent a day surrounded by bassists I now have even more of a performing itch to scratch. Watch this space.

7.3.11

Pictures

I'm going to use this post to share a few pictures with you. The first picture is of my mum's mum, who we all knew as Nan. She is sitting with her younger sister, Florence. I knew Flo as an older lady and my Nan as a cheeky and forthright presence in our house. One of Nan's other sisters was a nanny to a maharajah and was friends with the opera singer, Kathleen Ferrier and several other well known musicians. Her brothers (my great uncles) included a few professional musicians. I'm only just discovering things about my mum's side of the family and most of it is, to me at least, fascinating.

The other pictures are from Saturday. One is me with my son the other is the new picture in out front room. My sister-in-law bought me an album frame and I looked through the remains of my vinyl collection and picked 'Black Market' by Weather Report.

A proper post with news, opinions and some silliness will appear soon.

4.3.11

Young Freya In Old Sarum

In Old Sarum by WJCruttenden
In Old Sarum a photo by WJCruttenden on Flickr.
While we were away last week we got to visit Old Sarum, the site of a settlement that predated Salisbury. All the time we were there I could here a deep booming sound. I thought I might have been demolition or building work going on down the hill but, as I reached the high point of the old castle and my ears popped, I identified it as the sound of artillery. Although I knew the army's testing ground of Salisbury Plain was close by, it still freaks me out slightly to here gun fire.

This picture is of Freya in the old castle, just before she declared me king and began her invasion of the outer buildings. It was a great day.