Makes Me Smile

•October 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Hello there. So, I’m off school sick today, and I have NOTHING to do. So, I think, I’ll post to my blog!

And today, I’ll let you in on a little something that makes me happy…

 The cute little pop-ting-poppity-ting noise as the little kernels pop against the glass lid of the pot. The sizzle of the vegetable oil as you remove the lid, hoping to all hell there isn’t one little kernel waiting to pop when you open the pot and scatter all the other popped corns across the hob. The amazing little “whoooosh!” noise as the steam escapes, and the almost-burnt smell. Then, once you’ve covered it in what is probably an unhealthy amount of salt, the soft-yet-crunchy taste.

I love popcorn!

Losing My Religion?

•September 10, 2009 • Leave a Comment

 All of my religious experiences have seen me weaving in and out of faith.

But what about a religion that didn’t need faith? Is it still a religion, or just a way of life? What about a religion for atheists?

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 I’ve built my own… well, no, what shall we call it? Dictionary.com describes religion as, among other things:

a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Mm, no. This doesn’t fit what I’m going for. Lifestyle?

the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, economic level, etc., that together constitute the mode of living of an individual or group.

Yeah, that’ll do (EDIT: It has since occurred to me that ‘philosophy’ would have been a fine description… bah, you say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to).

 

So, what are the main ideas of this new lifestyle I’m trying on?

  • respect: for yourself, for others, and for the natural world
  • nothing here requires any sort of leap of faith
  • the mind is a powerful thing
  • we can make positive changes in our own lives and the lives of others by changing the ways we think and act
  • helping those around you, making an impact, learning and teaching – they are some of the most important things a human being can do
  • educate yourself, whether it’s on religion or comic books. knowledge is a good thing, and you can never have too much of a good thing

 This post has perhaps been rambling: I apologise for that! I was basically trying to throw all my ideas about this out there, and hopefully when I try to describe putting that into practice, it will become clearer.

Mm…

You Are What You Eat

•September 10, 2009 • Leave a Comment

 Last Christmas, my friend and I went in to town for presents and such, y’know. Every Christmas we get a German market in Southampton, selling German things, and this particular year they had a pig on a spit. As we walked past, I glanced over, then continued walking. I’m a vegetarian and this bothered me not a bit. I’m not endorsing it, I’m not eating it, it doesn’t offend me. My friend, however, totally flipped out, raving about how “they shouldn’t be able to show that in public!”.

NEWSFLASH, your sandwich used to look like this:

You give people money for this offense to your eyes. You put it in your mouth. You digest it. You’re happy to take full advantage of a pig’s life, but you’re mentally scarred by seeing its corpse? The hypocrisy is… truly astounding, really. Now, okay. I have no problem with people who eat animals. That in itself would make me a hypocrite myself, as I’m not a vegan and thus still pay for products that come from animals who’ve been farmed in conditions I’ll never be sure of. However, people should at least educate themselves.

Oddly, I find I have the same stance on vegetarianism and religion. And the same ignorance frustrates me.

 I don’t mind what you eat or worship, but at least know what you’re talking about and don’t try and bug me over it.

Because I was vegetarian, a man once said “if it’s okay for lions, why isn’t it alright for you?”.
I suppose this man hunts and kills wild ungulates with his own bare hands, eats them raw, then sleeps outside naked and licks himself clean.

 What an inspiration to us all.

Make War (Films), Not History

•September 3, 2009 • 2 Comments

 While his newest cheerful skip through the land of bloody Nazis and baseball bats is arguably one of his best in recent years, Inglourious Basterds is not as ground-breaking as James Cameron’s upcoming Avatar promises to be. However, that’s not to say Quentin Tarantino hasn’t totally fucked with the course of history, it’s just that he’s looking back rather than forwards.

 I won’t spoil it, but anyone who’s learnt about World War 2 should be able to pick out the inconstancies (“those shoes in France in the early forties?! oh no, I shouldn’t think so, how preposterous!”). However, that doesn’t seem to matter. IB is not a film made to educate people about modern history. It’s a film made to make you feel things. The rather graphic torture isn’t thrown in to turn you into a homicidal psychopath, it’s added to make you squirm. It’s all the stomach-churning horrors of war with the added badass of a Tarantino picture.

 Fans of Tarantino will find that this is more than enough to apologize for Death Proof, and cinema-goers who aren’t easily offended by glaring inaccuracies and occasional bloody violence will appreciate the vivid world, snappy dialogue and characters that you hate to love – Joseph Goebbels, I’m looking at you.

 If I could ask for anything else, I’d make it so that it was a little easier for me to sneak in (being a short, youthful 15-year-old makes seeing Tarantino films on the big screen a bit of an issue) and I’d delve a little more into the characters. Aldo was perfect, but the rest were glossed over a little, and I would have liked to have known more about ‘Little Man’ (for example I completely forget his real name and remember only his quiet upset at his pitiful nickname).

 I think I’ll agree with Empire this time (you’ll never be forgiven for Funny Peoples’ bizarrely high rating) and give it a glourious ****/5!

‘An It Harm None, Do What Ye Will’

•August 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment

  Being an atheist can actually be a little difficult for some people. When somebody you love dies and everyone’s telling you they’re in a better place, you can only grimace and shrug. When everyone else in your Religious Studies class is discussing their religious feelings, you can only sit and stare at the wall and occasionally throw your opinion into a poorly asked question (so many times I was asked whether x, y or z was proof of the existence of god, and why (not)? my answer was usually “I don’t believe in a god, so no it isn’t. there’s probably a better explanation.” Because honestly, what sort of god makes a man bleed every day from wounds that won’t heal just to prove his existence?) Some of the religions we discussed did interest me, though. Buddhism had some nice ideas. And Native Americans just blew me away. I loved the ancient worship of the earth, the fantastical mystery. I fell into a period of researching every small religion I could find, and one of them happened to be Wicca.

 

 

 I’m fairly sure that I’d heard of Wicca before I stumbled upon it in greater depth. For whatever reason, it hadn’t really captured me the first few times around, but when I scratched beneath the surface, it was beautiful. Choose the deities you feel most comfortable with, surround yourself with curiosities like tarot cards, incense and gems and, most of all, feel a connection to the natural world around you and draw inspiration from it. I still have all of the books, and all of the incense and candles, and the tarot and oracle cards, and even the pentacle jewelry – my favourite of which is the pendant with the stag’s head on the front. Gosh, sometimes I still do a little something to recognize the holidays – I burn a Yule log, take part in Halloween/Samhain, etc.

 However, the same logical reasoning kept creeping up on me. These spells I’m supposedly casting – the spiritual energy doesn’t really exist, does it? I know all the kinds of energy – kinetic, potential, gravitational, thermal, sound, light. electromagnetic and elastic (and yes I did have to Google them – I perhaps should pay more attention in my physics lessons, but biology’s where it’s at, yo) – and this mystical ‘life energy’ or whatever just isn’t one of those. And the deities. For a while I contented myself with recognizing them as ‘facets of human nature given names and faces’, but soon that started to sound like twaddle and I was forced – by my own demand to understand everything with evidence – to abandon the idea of a spirituality that required any amount of faith and revert to good ol’ atheism.

 Only recently has religion cropped up in my life again.

Thoughts On Religion

•August 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’m an atheist. I feel I should make that clear first and foremost. If it can’t be proven, I just can’t believe in it. While I feel that deities, New Age magick and religious holidays can be beneficial and beautifully symbolic, I don’t think that there are external forces or energies controlling me or the world around me. Now, that is not to say that I’m some sort of superior, raving atheist, and the second thing I feel I should make clear is that while I do disagree with young children being taught religion as fact, I don’t disagree with people who follow a religion – as long as they aren’t blowing things up and telling me I’m going to burn for all eternity. All experiences with various religions are my own, and of course, I am going to be biased. When I say that I was terrified by the idea of the Christian God, I’m not saying that the Christian God is terrifying and evil and that those who follow him are just the same. I’m saying that I was terrified by the idea of the Christian God. From what was presented to me, I saw him as a negative influence, but that’s just me. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I do want to tell my story and I want to share my thoughts (because who isn’t narcissistic on the internet?). So, here we go.

 I went to a Church of England primary school and was taught Christianity as a fact. However, between the end of primary school and the beginning of secondary school, various things got in the way of these beliefs.

 Firstly, God. And Jesus. And the Holy Ghost. And all that jazz, you know. It felt like something I should love and cherish, but it just became something that I should accept, like a mathematical equation or a rule of grammar. I never felt a strong pull to Christianity and, in truth, the deities that were portrayed seemed like characters that I disliked. God was demanding, illogical and distant. Jesus was egotistical, vain and critical. I’m sure there are many, many Christians today who don’t agree with that. But religion is in the eye of the beholder, surely, and a young version of myself felt more spiritual and alive in a dimly lit forest surrounded by wildlife than in an uncomfortable church where I was forced to sing and read and take part in things that made little sense to me.

 Secondly, the facts. The cold, hard evidence. I had been taught that God created the world in seven days and I believed it, just the same as I believed in Santa and Hogwarts. When I started to learn about evolution, it made sense. It made sense that there had been dinosaurs. It made sense that the world didn’t begin with just two people. It all clicked, and it was real, and it was a beautiful, violent, unplanned, chaotic process. However, this conflicted with what I’d previously known. The lie of Creation, ineffectual prayers and a simple discomfort with the entire thing slowly allowed religion to crumble around me.

 I was no longer read Biblical stories, I no longer had to sing Hallelujah and I was no longer made to sit with my eyes closed while somebody read a prayer, prompting me to murmur “amen” in a drawn out, solemn voice. 

 For a time, I was an atheist.

 And the next religion I found was Wicca.

Characters From The UK: Part 1 {Introduction}

•August 2, 2009 • Leave a Comment

If, like me, you’re a fairly active roleplayer, you’ll probably know the joys of creating and perfecting characters. However, as time goes on, you’ll most likely grow away from characters that are clichéd and much like yourself and start to branch out to a more varied collection of characters. Sometimes, this doesn’t go well. I’m here to address those who slip up when deciding to make their characters varied by giving them a different nationality – specifically, one from the UK. Through this guide I plan to cover places, attitudes, accent, slang and culture in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Basic Geography

The UK – or United Kingdom – is made up of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. While the official language is English, other regional languages are recognised. These are: Cornish, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, Ulster Scots and Welsh. Here is a handy map of the UK:

uk map 

GB – or Great Britain, or Britain – is simply England, Scotland and Wales. You’ll hopefully have noticed that Northern Ireland – only part of the UK, not Britain, remember – is there instead of just Ireland, the Republic of Ireland (ROI), Eire, etc. This is because Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are both parts of Ireland, but different parts. Northern Ireland is in the North East of Ireland. Here’s another handy map:

Don’t worry – both Northern Ireland and the ROI will be covered in greater detail later in the guide.

Capitals and Counties

The format for this section is boring, but is meant more as a reference than anything else.

England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all have capital cities. These are, respectively, London, Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff.

The English capital, London, is situated in the county of London. The other counties in England are: Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leicester, Lincolnshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Westmoorland, Wiltshire, Worcestershire and Yorkshire.

The Northern Irish capital, Belfast, is situated in both County Antrim and County Down. The other counties in Northern Ireland are: Armagh, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone. (Note – All of Ireland is also divided into four provinces. Northern Ireland, as well as Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, are part of Ulster.)

Scottish counties were abandoned in 1975 in favour of other systems of classification.

The Welsh capital, Cardiff, is in Glamorgan. The other Welsh counties are: Anglesey, Brecknockshire, Caernarfornshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Merioneth, Monmouthshire, Montgomeryshire, Pembrokeshire and Radnorshire.

A note on the way to pronounce the -shire suffix: It is not pronounced “shy-er”, but more like “sheer”. For example, Leicestershire is pronounced “less-ter-sheer”.

 

 

next time: ENGLAND