Notes and Comment Blog

As told by

Sep 27th, 2013 4:35 pm | By

Ok I had a mouthful of broken end of the bag Safeway house brand corn chips when I started reading this so I nearly choked myself laughing while keeping my mouth closed. Nobody likes soggy half-chewed generic corn chip bits sprayed all over her desk.

The Life of Virginia Woolf, Beloved Chinese Novelist, As Told By David Gilmour

Virginia Woolf was a famous Chinese novelist. She was born in China, as is so popular among the Chinese, where she was born. She came in third during the Boxer Uprising, after which she wrote The Good Earth, which was about China, while being a woman novelist.

It was “She came in third during the Boxer Uprising” that did me in.

Virginia Woolf was a Chinese novelist but she was not a wolf; nor was she from Virginia. This is a common mistake. She was eaten by wolves in 1942, shortly after finishing The Joy Luck Club, which she also wrote. Those wolves were not from Virginia either. There’s a Chinese guy — I think he’s Chinese — whose office is right down the hall from mine. I don’t know his name. I think maybe it’s Stan. I’m pretty sure he’s Chinese, but I don’t know if he’s ever written a book. I think you’re only allowed to write one novel per family over there. China: a land of contrasts and Virginia Woolf.

Have you ever been to China? They just love Virginia Woolf over there. Can’t get enough of Virginia Woolf. They even made a movie about it. Everybody Loves Virginia Woolf. Liz Taylor was in it. I don’t teach about it, though. I was never a big Liz Taylor fan, and you know what they say: Only teach what you love, even if it’s not Chinese. Some people, they only teach women Chinese novelists, but not me. I’m not afraid to go up against Big Chinese Women Novelists. They don’t scare me. I’m not afraid of Virginia Woolf. You ever been to China? You’re kinda quiet. You Chinese? It’s not offensive, it’s just a question. Have you ever written a novel?

There’s more. You have to read it there. It would be mean to put it all here. Read it there. You Chinese? It’s not offensive, it’s just a question.

H/t Al Dente.

Update: Forgot to say author. Mallory Ortberg.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Loosen up, secularists

Sep 27th, 2013 3:14 pm | By

Hamza Tzortzis explains why it’s ok for a man to fuck a nine-year-old-girl if all the right conditions are met, and how much better that is than the stupid secular way of just having a flat law that nobody can fuck a nine-year-old-girl, period, end of story, never mind if the right conditions are met. Even if her father and her tribe give her to the man, secular law would still say no! Would you believe it?!

That part starts at one hour 56 minutes. The audience applauds enthusiastically.

In case you don’t want to watch, Secular Party of Australia did a transcript of that section. (The debate was in Melbourne.) John Perkins represents Team Atheism.

John Perkins: Look, I’m afraid that your answer makes me feel – upsetting [disturbances from the audience] . . . Your answer . . . Your answer indicating that you condone the abuse of children . . . I just find it appalling . . . I’m sorry [Faraz interrupts, inaudible] Look I started this whole . . . I’ve tried to honestly say how I think Islam causes harm to people. And all I’m getting is denial, and now, and now you’re even endorsing something which seems to me quite abhorrent . . . [more interruption, from either Faraz or Hamza, “No, that’s not fair!”] . . . I find it quite upsetting.

Hamza Tzortzis: There’s other Islamic principles that you have to take into consideration, right. For example, it’s not just about. . . You see, I’ll ask you the question, what age should a woman get married at? [Pause.] You answer me, what age should she get married at? Give me an age!

John Perkins: When she’s old enough.

[Audience disturbance, laughter, Hamza crying out, “What does that mean?”]

Hamza Tzortzis: You give me a number! I want an answer.

John Perkins: The legal age here—

Hamza Tzortzis: [interrupts] Wait a second, what is the legal age? What is the legal age?

John Perkins: Eighteen.

Hamza Tzortzis: In England it’s sixteen. In Spain it’s twelve. In Greece it’s thirteen. In some places in America it’s twenty-one. This is the fallacy of secular law. It’s very arbitrary. This is our law: it’s nothing to do with age. Now listen to the principles. Number 1. Is she physically fit? Number 2. Is she emotionally ready? Number 3. Is she mentally ready? Number 4. Is this socially acceptable? Number 5. All these different kinds of principles that we apply. And it happened, that there was an outlier from the statistics that a nine-year-old was physically fit, was mentally ready . . . was . . . given by her own father and the tribe, so we have principles which makes our law far more typist, rather than putting a number, saying, you can do it when you’re sixteen. There are some sixteen-year-olds in this country that can’t even tie their shoelace. The point is: if that’s all you’ve got, a sexed-up view of sharia law, a Fox News narrative, if you study the situation properly it’s based on principles that you apply to different scenarios, and yes, if you apply them properly, the eight-year-old will not get married, because look you’ve damaged her, because the problem I have, is that there is no harming, so there should be no harm. So the point is this is really about sharia law on the basis of [inaudible] things and BBC News and Fox News and god knows what we have.

[Audience claps and cheers loudly.]

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Such men are dangerous

Sep 27th, 2013 12:46 pm | By

More on David Gilmour.

Gilmour seems to think enough of himself to believe that he’s somehow unique in his approach to teaching literature. The only female writer whose work he teaches is Virginia Woolf, and then only a single short story. So he’s proud of teaching a curriculum that’s limited to his own narrow viewpoint, which is apparently going unrepresented “down the hall,” in a class that is clearly beneath him.

It’s obvious to me, having read the full transcript, that Gilmour is an appalling misogynist. Not only does the transcript show him interrupting the female reporter several times, he also addresses her as “love” and describes a female author’s book as “sweet.” You can read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions to his comments on “serious heterosexual men,” and the fact that he doesn’t like any Chinese authors. The transcript was released by Hazlitt when Gilmour claimed the reporter quoted him out of context. As though the full context of his remarks would make them any less reprehensible.

I wouldn’t say misogynist, I would say sexist. He doesn’t express outright hatred, he expresses casual oblivious dismissive contempt. It’s friendly enough, in a patronizing way, but it’s utterly belittling.

Men like Gilmour are dangerous. They’re dangerous because they’re not your run-of-the-mill misogynist/racist/homophobe stereotype. He’s not a frat boy. He’s not a Klan member. He’s not toothless redneck swilling Budweiser and complaining about the gays. He is a man who is appears thoughtful and intelligent. He’s a college professor and a published author. It is assumed by the reader that his opinions have been shaped by his education, that he has a better understanding of the world than your average pleb.

That is exactly right. That’s why it was worth pointing out and disputing Shermer’s “It’s more of a guy thing.” It’s precisely because he is a man who is appears thoughtful and intelligent and it is assumed by the reader that his opinions have been shaped by his education, that he has a better understanding of the world than your average pleb. Both men have intellectual influence, so when they talk sexist nonsense in public, yes, that’s dangerous.

So when he says that he’s not interested in teaching anything but white male produced literature, he’s lending credibility to the pervasive belief that if there’s something a woman/person of color/LGBT identifying person has to say, a white man can probably explain it better. Because the only thoughts and experiences that matter are the thoughts and experiences of educated white men. The world must consume the material produced by these important figures, and anything written by anyone else is optional. And he’s teaching his students and readers to believe the same.

But at least tv and movies are doing a better job.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Imagine what the private schools must be like

Sep 27th, 2013 11:10 am | By

Zoe Williams writes on the privatization of state schools in Britain.

Many of the problems associated with free schools are related to the fact that they’re run by faith organisations. But faith schools have been around for decades without letting in the kind of injustice parents complain of now.

In Derby, a headteacher at a Muslim free school left, complaining, among other things, that girls were being asked to sit at the back of the class. Elsewhere there is talk of discrimination on the basis of caste; documented faith provision that doesn’t reflect the local demographic (a Jewish primary school in Wandsworth, a borough that only has 1,600 Jewish constituents in total)…

Girls were being asked to sit at the back of the class? Let’s take a look at that. It’s from the Derby Telegraph, about the Al-Madinah school in Derby.

A FORMER teacher at a school accused of ordering female staff to wear a hijab – an Islamic scarf – claims she quit over pressure to follow Muslim dress code.

The Derby Telegraph revealed exclusively on Friday claims that the city’s Al-Madinah School had imposed a strict dress code, made female pupils sit at the back of classes and told staff they could not take non-halal food into school or wear jewellery.

This is, remember, not a private school, it’s a state school, in the US known as a public school. (Notice also that Zoe Williams actually softened it – she said the girls were asked to sit in the back, but the linked article says they were made to sit in the back.)

The teacher wasn’t told ahead of time that she would be required to “cover her head”; that was sprung on her at an induction session just before the school opened. She reluctantly complied while in the classroom, but then was hassled for not wearing it outside the classroom. Then it got even more so.

The teacher, who does not want to be named, said she began to be “hassled” about the rest of her clothing  and, on one occasion, was sent a text from the school saying it “insisted on” a “modest dress code. Full length dress or skirt acceptable”.

She said she asked how her outfit – a business suit – was not modest. “The skirt was well below the knee and I wore thick black tights that covered my legs.”

She said she was offended   at the suggestion that she had dressed immodestly in the workplace.

The teacher said she was particularly angry after she was told to take instructions from two male teachers about what was considered “modest”. She said: “I wrote back to the head pointed out that ‘in nearly 20 years in teaching, I have always dressed in a professional manner’.

After starting at the school when it opened in September 2012, she claims it was October before the dress code was issued in a handbook to all staff, which indicated that they should only have their faces and hands uncovered when in the school.

Because every bit of the rest of them is pure genitalia. They really shouldn’t be allowed at all.

“I also objected to the school’s policy of sitting girls at the back of classrooms, to no avail. The reason given was that girls are allowed to look at boys but the boys are not allowed to look at the girls, but how can that be good for the children’s education?”

Yeah, that’s what the back of the bus has always been about – who gets to look at whom. Right.

The dress code is included:


AL-MADINAH is an Islamic Free school. Within the school we value and esteem our teachers and consider them to be strong role models for all of the students and representatives of the school with all external individuals and organisations. We wish to create an Islamic environment within the school for the sake of the students and to cater for the sensitivities of the community. Although some of the following points are not Islamically-binding upon all individuals except those who wish to adhere to the faith by choice, Al-Madinah School has adopted them as a code of dress for all teachers.

The code of dress for teachers has been adopted by the school and all teachers must adhere to it. By signing the contract of employment with Al-Madinah school all employees agree to adhere to this policy.

1. Clothing must cover the entire body, only the hands, face and feet may remain visible

2. The material must not be so thin that one can see through it.

3. The clothing must hang  loose so that the shape of the body is not apparent.

4. The design of the clothing must not display any symbols of other faiths.

5. All clothing must be full sleeved and all lower body  garments must be loose and covering to the ankles.

6. Skirts must be ankle length and must be loose and flowing.

7. Teachers should not wear overt jewellery or clothing accessories.

8. Wearing of the Niqab or Burqa during work hours is not permitted.

Allah has stated in the Quran that women must guard their modesty. “Say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof.” (Quran: 24.31)

“Say to the believing man that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty that will make for greater purity for them, and God is well acquainted with all they do.”   (Quran:24.30)

“To cater for the sensitivities of the community” bollocks. One doesn’t “cater” to “sensitivities” of that kind. People are “sensitive” about Other Races, about foreigners, about immigrants, about The Lower Orders, about untouchables, about The Gayz, about The Feminist Menace, about all sorts of stupid shit. Do not cater to such phobias.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

If you want women writers go down the hall, in full

Sep 26th, 2013 5:47 pm | By

When the silliness of David Gilmour hit the newspapers, Hazlitt magazine posted the full transcript of the interview. It changes nothing.

Keeler: So do you teach mostly, I guess classic lit, or Russian?

Gilmour: I teach modern short fiction to third-years and first. So I teach mostly Russian and American authors. Not much on the Canadian front.

Keeler: That’s too bad.

Gilmour: I know, it is, but I can only teach stuff I love. I can’t teach stuff that’s on that curriculum, and I just haven’t encountered any Canadian writers yet that I love enough to teach.

Gilmour: Come in!

[A student or colleague of Gilmour’s comes in. They speak to each other in French.]

Keeler: I notice that you don’t have many, like, books by women.

Gilmour: I’m not interested in teaching books by women. I’ve never found—Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one short story from Virginia Woolf. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would teach only the people that I truly, truly love. And, unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Um. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I try Virginia Woolf, I find she actually doesn’t work. She’s too sophisticated. She’s too sophisticated for even a third-year class. So you’re quite right, and usually at the beginning of the semester someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I’m good at is guys.

Keeler: And guys’ guys, too.

Gilmour: Yeah, very serious heterosexual guys. Elmore Leonard. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy guys. That’s a very good observation. Henry Miller. Uh. Philip Roth.

Being the kind of novelist Gilmour truly, truly loves is just more of a guy thing, that’s all.

That’s ok. If the University of Toronto wants a novelist teaching novels – which is not a crazy thing to want – then ok, he doesn’t have to measure up to normal academic standards which would require a considerably broader curriculum. That’s ok. But still the fact is that he’s very narrow, and apparently not even aware that he’s very narrow.

Mary Ellen Foley pointed out a satirical response from the woman down the hall.

I teach only the best. I don’t have low shelf-esteem, so I won’t tell you how many times I’ve read To the Lighthouse (100 times). What happens with great literature is that the shadows on the pages move around. The same thing happens with mediocre literature on a slow afternoon, but I digress. I teach only the best. I haven’t encountered any Russian writers yet that I love enough to teach. Once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Next semester I plan to offer a seminar on me.

[UPDATE:] Those remarks were totally off the cuff. At the time of the interview, I was Skyping with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to negotiate peace. Moreover, I was gestating a human child inside of my own body.

Someone’s knocking at the door, I gotta go.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Josh v Guido

Sep 26th, 2013 5:18 pm | By

Josh Spokesgay has a new blog which covers food and sarcasm.

In this one he has just a little fun with Guido Barilla, the heterosexual-pasta guy.

The comments are good, too.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

There was a French guy in the room, I tell you

Sep 26th, 2013 1:41 pm | By

Now David Gilmour is in the hot seat for saying such stupid things in that interview. He explains to the National Post why he didn’t really say it and he said it wrong and it was jokes and it’s the young woman’s fault. (Everything always is.)

This was an interview I gave sort of over the shoulder. I was having a conversation, in French, with a colleague while this young woman was doing this interview. So these were very much tossed-off remarks. They weren’t written down. It wasn’t a formal sit-down interview or anything like that.

Eh? So, what happened? He was having a conversation with a colleague, in a coffee shop or his office or the colleague’s office, and this mysterious young woman just came along and started firing questions at him? And he didn’t tell her to go away, he answered her? How odd. Except he calls it an interview himself, so that can’t be what happened. Maybe it’s that he scheduled an interview with Emily Keeler and then rudely talked to a colleague when he should have been doing the interview.

I can sell anything to anyone, but I have to be passionate about it. For example, I have a degree in French Literature, and I speak French fluently, but I don’t teach French Literature because I don’t feel it as deeply and as passionately as some of the other teachers here. So I actually send people down the hall to somebody who can teach it better. The same thing goes for German writers, for women writers, for gay writers, for Chinese writers. It’s got nothing to do with any nationality, or racism, or heterosexuality. Those were jokes by the way. I mean, I’m the only guy in North America who teaches Truman Capote, and Truman Capote was not what you’d exactly call a real heterosexual guy. So I really don’t know what this is about.

What? The same thing goes for German writers, for women writers, for gay writers, for Chinese writers and it’s got nothing to do with any nationality, or racism, or heterosexuality? Boy does that not make any sense. It could be used to illustrate what “a contradiction” is.

And this is a young woman who kind of wanted to make a little name for herself, or something, because when I said “real heterosexual guys” I’m talking about Scott Fitzgerald [and] Scott Fitzgerald was not what you’d call a real guy’s guy, a real heterosexual guy.

It’s all The Young Woman’s fault! All of it, I tell you!

Quite frankly, I was speaking to a Frenchman, so I was more concerned with my French than I was with what I was saying to this young woman.

Because…he was there in his own office, speaking to a Frenchman, minding his own business, when this young woman threw open the door and aimed an AK-47 at him and fired off a bunch of questions. Or something.

The interviewer asked if he was going to reassess.

No, I’m not, because you love what you love. As Woody Allen once said, “The heart goes where it goes.”

Hey, yeah, he did, and you know when and why he said that? He said it about secretly fucking his long-term partner’s adopted daughter, that’s what.

Q: You said you admire Chekhov because he believed in kindness and hated bullies. But these comments, if you read them the way I did, are not kind.

A: I’ve done thousands of interviews in the last five years, and I’m not exaggerating, and it’s not self-aggrandizing, because I did ten tours for The Film Club. And you get on an automatic pilot, and then you get careless. And then you start to just actually not govern your words very much, because you’re not running for office, it’s this small little thing, there’s a guy in the room talking to you in French, you’re more concerned about your French accent than you are in actuality what you’re saying to her, and what happens is you get careless with the interpretation the words might have.

Nicely put. You’re more concerned about your French accent than you are in actuality what you’re saying to her, to that young woman who kept yapping when there was this important French guy in the room.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Zero football team

Sep 26th, 2013 12:25 pm | By

Usually it’s the other way around. Usually the high school football team gets to do whatever it wants to, and everyone else has to put up with it. A coach at a high school in Utah decided not to have that.

Faced with reports that members of his team were cyber-bullying a fellow student, a Roosevelt, Utah high school football coach suspended the entire squad, not letting them reform until they agreed to an extensive set of conditions.

Good move.

The Deseret News reported on Tuesday that Labrum also met with the student who was targeted by the online harassment to apologize. Because the bullying took place on the chat website, which allows for anonymous usernames, the offending team members had not been identified at the time.

“We don’t want that represented in our program,” Labrum told the News. “Whoever it is (doing the bullying), we want to help get them back on the right path.”

Let’s hope that becomes a trend.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Sep 26th, 2013 12:01 pm | By

Two more of the people who were killed in the Nairobi attack: Elif Yavuz and Ross Langdon.

Elif Yavuz was a malaria specialist working in Tanzania. The Johns Hopkins News-Letter reports:

This evening, the Hopkins community learned that Elif Yavuz, an alumna of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), was killed in the terrorist attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall this week. More than 60 people, including Yavuz’s partner Ross Langdon, have been confirmed dead so far.

“The entire SAIS community mourns the loss of Elif, who committed her all-too-brief life to serving others around the world. We express our deepest condolences to Elif’s family and friends,” SAIS Dean Vali Nasr wrote in an email to the SAIS community.

Yavuz, a 33 year-old Dutch citizen of Turkish descent, was a malaria specialist working for the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Despite reports to the contrary, she was not employed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Yavuz received her M.A with a concentration in European Studies from SAIS in 2004, spending a year each at both the Bologna and Washington D.C. campuses. Yavuz worked for the World Bank after receiving her degree from Hopkins. Earlier this year, she received her ScD from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

Apparently a good and useful person with a good and useful education, destroyed by theocratic deathmongers.

Plamen Nikolov, one of Yavuz’s classmates at both SAIS and Harvard, reflected on Yavuz’s qualities.

“She was a wonderful human being, a very talented person with a lot of international experience. You know, she was always smiling,” Nikolov said. “So I am incredibly shocked to find out that she was one of the people who was in the mall at that time.”

Nikolov was able to connect with Yavuz in Africa when they both conducted fieldwork in Kenya and Tanzania in 2011 and 2012.

“Other than the fact that it’s a big personal loss, it’s also a huge global loss,” Nikolov said. “She was exactly the kind of person who makes the world a better place by putting a lot of her education into wonderful use, and so it is very, very tragic.”

People who actually are doing something to make the world a better place are a particular loss. Theocrats who murder people are making the world a worse place. Don’t make the world a worse place.

Yavuz’s partner, Ross Langdon, was an award-winning architect.

Langdon studied at the University of Tasmania and University of Sydney before setting up his own architecture firm and basing himself in London.

He had been working on the design of a HIV centre in Uganda before his death, while Dutch-born and Harvard-educated Yavuz was employed by the Clinton Foundation as a Tanzanian-based senior vaccines researcher.

Uncreation. Deletion. Erasure. A bad project.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“I’m not interested in teaching books by women”

Sep 25th, 2013 5:15 pm | By

Then via PZ a brilliantly transgressive and original Canadian guy who writes novels and got a gig teaching novels at the University of Toronto despite no PhD. He talked to Emily M Keeler for a series she does for a website at Random House, nicely titled Hazlitt.

I’ve just moved, so my library at home is unfortunately in storage. A thousand, maybe twelve hundred books are in storage. The books here, this tends to be what I teach. These are, of course, the treasured Proust, one of my great joys is not only having read Proust but having read him twice, and having listened to the audio CD twice. There’s two versions, one’s 50 hours and one’s 150 hours. They’re both dazzling. I like volume 4, Sodom and Gomorrah, it’s the most entertaining, it’s the funniest. It’s very, very funny about human vanity, particularly gay vanity.

But the photo under that shows the Random House edition of Proust, which of course is a translation. It’s a little odd to say you’ve “read Proust” just like that when you’ve read him only in translation. It’s not odd in casual conversation of course, but when you’re talking for publication and you teach at a university – well I would think you’d be aware that reading a translation isn’t just straightforwardly reading the author.

But that’s not the interesting bit.

I got this job six or seven years ago, usually the University of Toronto doesn’t allow people to become professors without a doctorate. You have to have a doctorate to teach here, but they asked if I would teach a course, and I said I would. I’m a natural teacher, I was trained in television for many years. I know how to talk to a camera, therefore I know how to talk to a room of students. It’s the same thing. And my book The Film Club is about teaching my son about life and the world through film.

I teach modern short fiction to third and first-year students. So I teach mostly Russian and American authors. Not much on the Canadian front. But I can only teach stuff I love. I can’t teach stuff that I don’t, and I haven’t encountered any Canadian writers yet that I love enough to teach.

I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.

So that’s who that is.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Dave gets mail

Sep 25th, 2013 3:52 pm | By

Creepy mail. Very, very creepy mail.

Twitter pic:

Embedded image permalink

Stalker baby Jesus.

But also – the usual “I made all the good things” crap which ignores all the bad things. “Today I gave someone cancer for you. In fact I gave thousands of people cancer. I caused thousands of spontaneous abortions. I broke backs, I watched while cars crashed into each other, I killed hundreds with that earthquake in Pakistan, I did nothing to stop those suicide bombers in Peshawar on Sunday or the shooters in Nairobi on Saturday, I give people malaria, and food poisoning, and Crohn’s disease, and mental illnesses. All because I luuuuuuuuuuuv you. Please call. Dad says hi.”

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Bed, breakfast and a tract

Sep 25th, 2013 3:35 pm | By

Remember the Christian couple who run a bed and breakfast in Cornwall and refused accommodation to a gay couple because their religion? They’re going out of business, but not because everything fell apart after they lost their case – no, it’s because their b&b is shit. It sounds like Fawlty Towers except dirtier and with extra added piety. Barry Duke at the Freethinker gives us the insalubrious details.

One Christian reviewer on Trip Advisor had this to say of Peter and Hazelmary Bull’s Chymorvah Hotel:

Awful! Simply Awful.

I am Christian but that’s not the reason I went there. But I felt the place had a terrible atmosphere. I am vegetarian and there was a very limited menu. I felt like I committed a crime when I mentioned I was vegetarian. The look I received from woman could kill you. The room was cramped, not particularly clean and smelled strange, it was also cold and damp.

I really don’t like the thought of religion being forced down my throat whilst on holiday/taking a short break. I wanted to enjoy my time but I felt like I was a burden to this hotel not a guest.

It’s a real shame because it could be a lot better if the rooms were cleaner/up to date and fresh and the people running the hotel more hospitable.

That’s a real trifecta – the hotel is cold, dirty, smelly, and damp, plus the people running it are grumpy, plus you get religion forced down your throat. Anything else? Broken glass in the muesli? A rabid pet Corgi?

There are some very enthusiastic reviews on Trip Advisor too, but there’s also this one:

We were particularly disappointed with this hotel – although the owners went to very considerable lengths indeed to attempt to persuade us to leave a favorable comment with Tripadvisor. Apparently numerous people who stayed earlier were dissatisfied and made their thoughts known and there appeared to be a genuine failure to comprehend most things in this small hotel are simply substandard. Unfortunately the whole establishment is quite old, shabby,‘tired’ and most disappointing of all it’s not particularly clean anywhere. The bathroom in our bedroom was probably at least thirty years old and everywhere looked as though it needed a through deep clean – we have the photos to prove this too! Numerous fire doors are propped open most of the time and I have serious doubts if the elderly owners are actually aware of the simple fact it’s now illegal not to be fully compliant with mandatory fire regulations applied to Hotels and guest Houses throughout England – we actually felt quite unsafe. The poultry and pet animals kept on the premises were also in need of attention and cleaning and animal odours seemed to permeate everywhere. The food served was of low quality and after the second day we even had breakfasts elsewhere. Unfortunately, the elderly owners are some sort of fundamentalist evangelical Christians, and although this normally would not be a problem one does not want to read numerous wholly inappropriate religious texts than are crudely and inaccurately reproduced everywhere. Without doubt this is the worst small hotel or guest house that I have ever had the misfortune to visit and would advise any discerning visitor to totally avoid.

  • Stayed June 2013, travelled as a couple

It’s pretty hilarious to think of cats and dogs and chickens running around all over the hotel, crapping on the religious magazines and pecking at the furniture.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

She stoops

Sep 25th, 2013 2:13 pm | By

I took a glance at the stats, as I do occasionally (mostly to see if there are spikes from the slyme pit), and saw a spike from AtheismPlus. So I looked at the page.* Ima go all #FTBulies/AtheismPlus whrblgrbl now.

Kidding! But it is pretty…dense.

*New improved link.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Stereotypes, Identity, & Belonging Lab

Sep 25th, 2013 12:23 pm | By

Meet the Stereotypes, Identity, & Belonging Lab (SIBL) at the University of Washington, headed by psychologist Sapna Cheryan.

In the Stereotypes, Identity, & Belonging Lab (SIBL) at the University of Washington, we are interested in understanding how people’s choices and behaviors are shaped by cultural factors, such as stereotypes and social identity. Our lab is primarily concerned with developing and empirically testing theories that inform current social problems, particularly inequality and prejudice, in the hopes of bringing attention to these problems and working towards feasible solutions.

The top item on their news page at the moment is a newspaper piece by Jennifer Walsh on the harm done by stereotypes about scientists, which cites Sapna Cheryan. It starts with Bill Nye on Dancing With the Stars.

Not all scientists wear glasses and bow-ties. Not all of them spend their entire day in the lab. Scientists aren’t all older white men like Nye.

Scientists are mothers and fathers, rockers and rock climbers, some of us have tattoos and pink-dyed hair.

Some scientists are even females and minorities. There is still a gender gap in the sciences, and by focusing on popularizing one white male example of a “scientist” and his beakers we are missing the true diversity of both the sciences and scientists.

In the media, we think of the characters on the “Big Bang Theory” when we think of scientists. These nerds, who are usually the butt of jokes that aren’t even funny, also reinforce these science stereotypes. A bone of contention in the nerd community, where many want to promote science to lay people, but hate that it’s always portrayed based on stereotypes.

A study just this year suggested that that stereotype is what’s holding women back from science, according to GeekWire:

New research out of the University of Washington, which found that women don’t choose careers in computer science because of the “nerd” stereotype in the media.

UW psychologist Sapna Cheryan ran two studies to find out if the lack of women in tech was due to their disinterest in the topic, or other reasons. First, she asked 254 non-computer science college students to describe CSE majors. They were perceived to be “incompatible with the female gender role, such as lacking interpersonal skills and being singularly focused on computers.”

After reading an article about a non-stereotypical computer science major, their interest in the topic increased significantly, as seen in the graph below:

computer science stereotypes and women

If we want to encourage diversity in the sciences we have to get rid of these old-white-man scientist stereotypes. The portrayal of the scientist as an older white man puts women and minorities at a disadvantage.

This is why “equity feminism” is bullshit. It claims that everything is already fixed, the playing field is already even, the opportunity is already equal. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Kofi Awoonor joins Gladys Wundowa on the list of the murdered

Sep 25th, 2013 10:41 am | By

God damn it.

From the Guardian on Monday:

A renowned Ghanaian poet was among the scores of casualties of the Westgate shopping mall attack in Kenya.

Prof Kofi Awoonor,  a former diplomat, was killed in the attack in Nairobi. He was in the city attending the Storymoja Hay literary festival, a celebration of pan-African writing and storytelling.

His fellow Ghanaian poet Nii Ayikewei Parkes said people attending the festival had realised something was wrong when Awoonor, known affectionately by many in Ghana as “Prof”, failed to turn up for a session at which poets from west Africa and east Africa were due to perform a reading.

“Professor Awoonor and I and two other poets were representing west Africa, and there were four poets from east Africa,” said Parkes, author of Tail of the Blue Bird, who is also Awoonor’s nephew.

Well good job, al-Shabaab. Thank you very much. Ghana thanks you. Poetry thanks you. Diplomacy thank you. Poetry-lovers and readers of Africa thank you. Making life worse with every step you take: what an amazing project.

“It was the first time I had met [Awoonor],” said Parkes. “He was very witty, wise and incredibly magnanimous. The Ghanaian high commissioner and several very successful Ghanaians in Nairobi dropped everything when they heard that he was speaking to come and hear him. Yet he was humble and warm,” Parkes said.

A memorial tribute has been organised at Nairobi’s national museum on Monday, where wellwishers have been invited to carry a candle in honour of the poet, and to sign a sympathy book for his family.

Awoonor, who is known for his experimental writing and poetry including the acclaimed novel This Earth, My Brother, was also a public figure in Ghana, with a particularly close relationship to the late president John Atta Mills.

“Professor Awoonor was a great African, a leading light whose footsteps leave big footprints,” the Storymoja Hay organisers said. “His legend must live on.”

Gladys Wundowa was a Ghanaian too. She too was murdered by Islamists. She was a cleaner at UCL, and she was on the 52 bus that blew up in Tavistock Square, on her way to school after working the night shift.

In a statement made to the police in 2006, Mr Wundowa said Gladys was a committed and loving wife and mother, and “a kind, hard-working and benevolent, very helpful Christian woman”.

Mr Wundowa told the BBC he and his wife had made plans to move back to Ghana and live in a house they were in the process of building.

“She never had a problem with anyone. She would give her last dime to make you comfortable. And cheerful, always smiling,” he said.

In the days after Gladys’s death, the Ghanaian president at the time, John Kufuor, visited the grieving Wundowa family and friends in Essex to offer his condolences. He had been on his way back to Ghana after an official visit to Jamaica.

Gladys Wundowa was buried in her home village in Ghana, where 2,000 mourners attended her funeral.

That’s just two of the many.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: “Equity feminism” explained

Sep 25th, 2013 9:59 am | By

By embertine in a comment on You say tomato I say mascarpone.

My preferred version of feminism is pretty fundamentally different from the equity flavour, and I don’t think that’s a minor squabble. The conversation generally goes something like this:

Equity Feminists (EFs): Equality of opportunity does not equal equality of outcome.

Me and Mine (Ms): Hard to say until we have equality of opportunity.

EFs: We DO have equality of opportunity!

Ms: I don’t think we do.

EFs: The law says we do.

Ms:  That’s a good start!  But the law can’t erase bias and harmful stereotypes.  Those still exist.

EFs:  No they don’t!  You see sexism everywhere because you have a victim mentality.  You’re the REAL misogynist.

Ms: *sigh*


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Dublin, last June

Sep 24th, 2013 5:15 pm | By

New from Atheist Ireland -

The Dublin Declaration on Secularism Empowering Women 2013

and the closing talk by Kate Smurthwaite, which I loved.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

You say tomato I say mascarpone

Sep 24th, 2013 4:13 pm | By

Marc David Barnhill suggests that “intersectionality” is relevant to this issue, and I replied that in a way that’s another way of talking about mattering and the mattering map.

Some intersections are relatively trivial. Some places on the mattering map are very small, or picked out in frivolous colors. It’s possible to be very passionate about Star Trek or Shakespeare or hip hop or Emmylou Harris while still being perfectly willing to make alliances with people who hate the cultural products you love and love the ones you hate. It’s not just possible, it’s easy. Lots of categories are like that. They may be important for friendships, but they’re not important for alliances.

But when the issue is about equality – it’s different. People aren’t differentially treated according to whether or not they like Breaking Bad or Project Runway or the golf channel. (Broadly speaking. There are issues about culture as class marker, but not the way there were when every gentleman knew his Homer and he didn’t mean Homer Simpson.) People are differentially treated according to what sex and race and sexual orientation and class they are, among other things. That fact makes it much harder to forge alliances with people who want to treat others with contempt and people who dislike being treated that way. (That’s an over-simple schematic. People can dislike being treated with contempt while still wanting to treat others with contempt.)

So that’s why there are deep rifts.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Quacks, free silver, and feminism

Sep 24th, 2013 3:16 pm | By

There’s a well-known bit from Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier – a bit which motivated Victor Gollancz to disown the book, if I remember correctly. It was written as a Left Book Club selection and Gollancz inserted a disclaimer because of remarks like this one:

One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

He prided himself on that kind of philistine “good old bluff Englishman” scorn – but at any rate it’s always struck me as significant that he lumped feminism in with sandal-wearing and fruit-juice drinking. Significant and also unpleasant. I’m not fond of that kind of unembarrassed contempt for the rights of other people.

Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? quotes US Senator John J Ingalls in 1890:

For a generation, Kansas has been the testing ground for every experiment in morals, politics, and social life. Doubt of all existing institutions has been respectable. Nothing has been venerable or revered merely because it exists or has endured. Prohibition, female suffrage, fiat money, free silver, every incoherent and fantastic dream of social improvement and reform, every economic delusion that has bewildered the foggy brains of fanatics, every political fallacy nurtured by misfortune, poverty and failure, rejected elsewhere, has here found tolerance and advocacy. [p 34]

Uh huh. Women voting – you can’t get much crazier than that.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Why is it so hard to say “ally”?

Sep 24th, 2013 12:53 pm | By

A follow-up to Not if but where from last week. Dave Silverman is doing a Twitter survey to find out how people define “ally.” This has nudged me into realizing that the minimal sense (at least) is working together for a specific goal or cause; in other words it doesn’t necessarily mean an ally in all things, it can mean an ally for just one thing.

And I find I choke on using it that way. It has overtones of more…and I’m wondering how legitimate that is, and whether we need another word that would avoid that problem.

I choke on thinking of [people whose views on most things I detest] as allies of any kind.

I’ve been choking on this especially, lately, with the categories of atheists and skeptics. Well lots of us have. Lots of us have been finding out lately that many atheists are not our allies – except on atheism itself, and that turns out to be not enough for the purpose. It feels like a bad fit. Atheists who call us cunts at the drop of a hat don’t feel like allies of any kind.

Now if a meteor were approaching the earth then we could all be allies in trying to figure out how to survive. If the Nazis came back and started building nuclear weapons, we could all be allies in stopping them. But in issues that are not quite so urgent…it’s much more difficult.

I’m just talking about priorities, I suppose; about salience; about mattering. Atheism’s spot on my mattering map can change size, depending on what’s going on.

Or, to boil it down even further, I can just quote @splendisaurus:

Alright, so racists say they don’t like Islam. I also don’t like Islam. Should I “ally” with racists on this?

That’s a good example, and the answer is no – should not and must not; must do the very opposite.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)