Boobs cause Earthquakes, Abortions cause Oil Spills?

I don’t know how she does it, but Jen McCreight always seems to find the wackiest of the wack-jobs, the nuttiest of the nut-jobs. You might remember her as the unwitting instigator and spokesperson for Boobquake, where she proved that wearing “immodest” clothing doesn’t actually cause earthquakes. Because that was the theory being suggested by Iranian Friday Prayer Leader Kazem Seddiqi: that “women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray … which increases earthquakes”. And last week she found another moron, but this time from the good ole’ USA: preacher Joseph Herrin.

In his latest abomination blog post, Herrin manages to link hurricanes with Old Testament bible stories before claiming that the BP Horizon oil spill happened because Louisiana is “peppered” with abortion clinics. At least I think that’s what he says. I only got about half way through before my eyes began to bleed. It never ceases to amaze me how stupid people can be. But Herrin’s post wasn’t just random ramblings of a nutter – he had “evidence” to back up his “theories”. Take this image, for example, which shows Hurricane Ike shortly before it hit land in September 2008. Clearly, obviously, Hurricane Ike represents birth:

Surprisingly, though, this is the only photo that has this, erm, “resemblance”. It’s amazing that none of the other 217,000 Google Images results don’t feature a fetus-shaped hurricane.

Sigh. This is the sort of irresponsible, stupid and senseless crap that doesn’t just drive people away from religion, it corrupts the minds of those who believe it. But Jospeh Herrin’s over-active imagination has, thankfully, done one good thing. He has reminded me to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while: join the Australian Skeptics and the James Randi Educational Foundation. JREF and Australian Skeptics are non-profit organisations that aim to promote skepticism and critical thinking, so that people don’t start believing hurricanes look like fetuses. In fact JREF has a US$1,000,000 prize (donated by Rick Adams, founder of the first ever internet service provider) on offer to the first person who can provide objective proof of the paranormal.

James Randi, founder of the JREF, started out as a magician, but when he retired at 60 he started investigating paranormal, occult and supernatural claims. He’s become the poster child for skeptics, atheists, scientists and freethinkers. And he’ll be speaking in Sydney in November at the Amazing Meeting, a conference with a number of very very interesting speakers. I’ve decided I’m going to go up and attend, especially since Julian Morrow (co-founder of the Chaser) and  Dr Karl Kruszelnicki will be speaking there, as well as a bunch of other very smart people.
So thankyou, Joseph Herrin, for being so stupid you reminded me to support smart people.

When Social Media Stops You Getting a Job

Is your online life putting your job – or potential future jobs – in jeopardy? Social commentator Mia Freedman wrote on her blog last week how she used Facebook and Twitter accounts to help sift through potential new employees. Having sorted through the pile of resumes and leaving five possible candidates, she looked online and quickly wrote off three of them.

“One had a constant stream of Facebook updates bitching indiscreetly about her current job. Another evidently spent much of her time getting drunk and a third had some very strident views I disagreed with. Stridently.” – Mia Freedman

Her post sparked a lot of debate in the comments, with the majority of people seemingly alarmed or appalled at her actions. Someone called N/L said: “I don’t think I would be happy to be working for someone who thinks it is appropriate to snoop into my private life before interviewing me,” and OhEmGee said “There is this thing called a life OUTSIDE of work. It is my OWN time. If I knew that I could be working for someone who felt that it is ok to use Facebook as a tool to determine the person I am…well I probably wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.” I found those sorts of comments fascinating. Why should people insist that publicly available information be kept out of the selection process?
The more information an employer has about job-seekers, the better they are able to decide if the person will be a good fit in their organisation. Surely that’s obvious? If you’re doing something in your private life that makes you unsuited to a job then perhaps you should either stop doing it, or get a different job. The claim that “it is my OWN time” and therefore has no bearing on your job suitability seems naive to me. What you do in your own time is a reflection of your personality. And much as we’d like to believe that jobs are always awarded based on merit we have to be aware that personality plays a huge part in our work lives. Particularly in a small business, where an individual can have a dramatic influence on the culture of the workplace.
As I’ve said before, I’m a very open person. The only part of my Facebook account that is private are my status updates and posts, which is largely in case I update my status from Work and The Boss wonders why I’m not working. And I’m perfectly happy with my current employers (many of whom are “Friends” on Facebook) or potential new employers looking around my public profile. In fact the most incriminating thing on my Facebook profile is probably that I’m bisexual, I don’t like Andrew Bolt very much and I watch a lot of TV. And I don’t really want to work for any employer who has a problem with that. I’m a person, not a collection of qualifications. Anyone who employs me gets the whole package, not just my skill set.
What do you think? Should people get jobs based solely on their merit and qualifications? Or is there room for personality as well? Do you lock your social media profiles so potential employers can’t see them?

Mystical Experiences are a Load of Crap!

49% of Americans need a strong dose Wake The Fuck Up. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 49% of Americans say they have had a religious or mystical experience. And by that, we’re talking a “moment of sudden religious insight or awakening”.

Really?

Come on. Unless you’ve had a near death experience, discovered a plague of locusts in your living room or seen a bush on the side of the road spontaneously combust, you haven’t had a mystical experience. What you have had, probably, is a straightforward epiphany. You suddenly realised something that your subconcious had been working on for a while. Either that, or you had a piece of toast with a burn mark vaguely resembling one of the Bee Gees.

Why do so many people have a malfunctioning Bullshit Detector? The Pew survey notes that 30% of these ‘experiences’ occured among people not affiliated with any religion. So what mystical events were they experiencing? Seeing ghosts? I call shenanigans on that crap. They were either tripping, or they’re making it up to try and sound cool.

I ain’t buying it.

Anyone here had a ‘religious or mystical’ experience?

Why are we so scared of nudity?

Early last week, tabloid newspapers were given a late Christmas present. Nothing makes a tabloid happier than naked photos of an unwilling B-Grade celeb. So when Womens Day obtained a photo of bikini model Lara Bingle in the shower, it was like receiving a giant smut-cake on a silver platter. And that grubby photo was milked for every penny possible, speculating on who took the photo (AFL wanker Brendon Fevola), who gave the photo to the Womens Day (former Channel 7 journo Dylan Howard) and most commonly: how Lara felt about it all.

Lara is so distressed by the photo she is suing Fevola on shaky legal grounds. Actual distress, or opportunistic money-making, I wonder?

Now to be clear – I’m not saying this issue has come about from Lara looking to make money. It could very well be that she is surprised and hurt by the exposure. But I do get a little bit suspicious when this all emerges a week after she gets a new PR manager (and four years after the photo was taken), and I have to wonder whether a bikini model who has dozens of nude or topless photos circulating around the internet is really all that upset that people will see her boobies.

Because quite frankly, I don’t see the big deal. So Lara has breasts. Wow. That’s so… unsurprising, and uninteresting really. I mean hell, even I have breasts. If someone wants to take a photo of them they’re welcome to, although I’d have to question your taste a little. But that’s my point, really – who cares what someone looks like naked? Why should someone be embarrassed or offended by other people seeing their “private” parts?

When I asked that question of a few work colleagues, the responses were all much the same. “I have no problem with nudity,” said one co-worker, “I don’t mind if other people are nude or anything like that. But I’m not comfortable about my OWN nudity.” When questioned further as to why they’re uncomfortable, people couldn’t really give me a concrete answer. “It’s just something I think should be kept private,” some said. “I don’t know, I just don’t feel right about it,” said others. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest “ickiness” feeling came from the thought of parents and family members seeing nude photos. “I wouldn’t want my Dad to feel uncomfortable, and he would be if he saw those photos” said one woman.

We are taught from an early age to hide our nakedness. We’re taught the only time we can be nude is in the bath. The only reason I can think of for this is that, over time, we’ve linked nudity with sex. And sex has a whole smorgasbord of shame and guilt associated with it (thanks for that, religion). Why else would we get so hysterical when an photographic artist makes an exhibition featuring naked children? Surely the fear is that the photos – even if not sexual in nature – are sexually objectifying our children? But the unclothed human body isn’t, in and of itself, smutty or dirty. The sexualisation of it comes from it’s actions or the imagination of the viewer. The nude body has been a subject of art for thousands of years, and many of the masterpieces on display in galleries aren’t suggestive or pornographic.

Did anyone else notice that 5,000 people can sprawl around the Sydney Opera House to pose nude for Spencer Tunick and nobody has an issue with it? But an underwear model has a shower and everyone’s in uproar? Sure, in one case the participants chose to have their photo taken and in the other case the photo was taken without consent. I realise there’s a difference there, and in fact it was one of the reasons a coworker gave for why she wouldn’t want to have a photo taken of her naked. “It’s something for me to choose to show someone,” she said. I don’t understand that though. What’s so special about it? Interestingly, the same coworker said she had body image issues, and didn’t like her body – so why is it something to show a special someone? “Honey, I love you so much I’m going to let you look at my hideous ugly body” doesn’t sound too romantic to me.

But what about privacy? Surely she has a right to privacy, people have said to me. And when they say that, I first of all point them to George Carlin’s thoughts on the concept of “rights” (ie, that you have none anyway). And then I argue that if you start down that road, you eventually end up with the right to not pay tax and the right to sleep with your cousin. It’s easy to say you have a right to something, is my point. I will say, however, that you have a right to take certain steps to protect your privacy, such as locking the bathroom door and not sleeping with footballers, for example. But as I’ve argued here before, we shouldn’t get too hung up on privacy. So much of what we do is online and publicly accessible, and that’s not really a problem. The internet – and digital cameras – have changed society dramatically in this regard, and society needs to adjust its attitude to accommodate that. There’s no shame in being naked, or having sex, or having flaws and weaknesses – all things people rush to pretend don’t happen. But they DO happen, and we need to stop being neurotic about it. As Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said recently “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” I try to be open and honest about all aspects of my life, because I don’t feel I have anything I should be ashamed about or need to hide. And that honesty (and the knowledge that I’m not good at lying anyway) is central to who I am and keeps me from doing things I shouldn’t. I don’t lie or cheat or steal, because – well, because it’s wrong, mainly – but also because I can’t cover that up. If I do something dodgy, someone will find out eventually and then the lying about it will end up causing more trouble. Transparency and openness are key to a better, more trustworthy and safer society.

And again, I’d like to point out that these comments do not pertain specifically to the Lara Bingle case. There’s other, bigger issues there to do with trust and consent (for a well written look at those issues, I recommend Bronwen Kiely’s post on The Drum). I simply think that as a society we need to stop being afraid of nudity, and loosen up about our own nudity.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m weird (no argument there, actually), but I simply can’t understand society’s attitude to nudity. When I see people in bathers at the beach, there’s usually very little left to the imagination. Whether they’re wearing bikinis, one-piece bathers, board shorts or budgie smugglers, it’s still all there for everyone to see.  I see that the women have breasts, that many of them remove the hair from (at least) their armpits and legs. Unless you’re wearing a burqa, people have a pretty good idea what you look like naked. Sure, they might not know the details – they might not know if you have a third nipple, or a piercing, your style of pubic hair or your ‘size’ – but they know enough to build a mental wank bank. Get over it! It’s just a body. Just bits held together by skin, nothing groundbreaking.

I’m reminded of an old joke among nudists that observes: if two men are walking down the street, and one is naked and the other wearing a black trenchcoat and carrying a machine gun, several grenades and a rocket launcher the police will get 50 phone calls about the nude guy and maybe 3 about the gun-nut. Our society loves to fear nakedness. Councils are always receiving complaints or threatening to close down nude beaches. Again this is mostly because of a perceived link between nudity and sex, which is ludicrous. If anything, it’s the opposite – the nudist community actively forbids sexual activity. Go to a nude beach and start masturbating, I guarantee you’ll get thrown out immediately. Nudists have long ago realised that the unclothed human body is only a sexual object if you make it one in your mind. Imagine someone pouring a cup of coffee. Now imagine them pouring the same cup of coffee, only this time they’re naked. Neither image was sexy or pornographic, was it? Same goes for just about everything we do in life – except things we do for sexual reasons. The naked human body simply isn’t worth the significance placed on it by today’s society. Isn’t it time we all grew up and stopped worrying for the sake of worrying?

Has anyone seen you naked when you weren’t expecting it? Were you embarrassed or upset? Why? Let us know in the comments!

Marriage and Me

Guest post by Seamus Magee

As I mentioned recently one of the most interesting facts about me at the moment is that in under 1 month I am getting married. So I started to ruminate on it and figured it might make a blog post topic.

Given my background I thought I might turn to the ancient Greeks to get their take on the whole marriage thing first… But sadly Aristophanes, the comic playwright I do the most work with, does not say that much about marriage at all. In Lysistrata, the title character describes her domestic situation as quite miserable. She refers to a insipid, dull and boorish husband who threatens her with abuse all the time, and won’t take any advice. And that’s about the extent of it.
In fact the ancient Greeks don’t mention marriage in general…. It gets mentioned a bit, but not a lot. Most of the material is made up of the occasional snide remark about how wives are horrible and marriage is “character-building”.

There’s one quote I like, it’s actually from a wedding song by the poet Sappho:
Χαίροισα νύμφα, χαιρέτω δ’ ὀ γάμβρος.
If you read it it sounds something like this:
‘Chairoisa numpha, chairetO d’ho gambros’.
And now in English:
‘The bride rejoicing, the groom should also rejoice’ (that’s the only bit of this particular wedding song that remains, it’s a fragment. No context, no dedication, no nothing, so take it for what it’s worth).

So moving along, what is marriage? And why does it matter? To me, it’s the establishment of new social entity – the family. Your spouse is the only relative in your life that you actually choose. I guess that’s what makes it important to me. That fact above all others. In marrying someone, you are forming a family. With all that entails. They’re also the only family member in your life that you can chose to sever the familial relationship with. So both the event and the maintenance of marriage really do imply a heavy commitment.

Me being me, I also see the sense and the point of having a ceremony and a ritual to it. A social ritual requires 2 things: participants and witnesses (sometimes the same group of people fulfil both these roles). A social ritual involves the participants making some kind of statement (doesn’t have to be verbal, but with a wedding clearly it is!) to the witnesses, and the witnesses acknowledging, and accepting that statement. In the wedding Chris and I will state, in no uncertain terms, that we are now a family. The witnesses will acknowledge and accept that statement, and treat us as a family from now on. Of course on the ground it won’t change a thing. We already have joint bank accounts and credit cards, co-own pets and live together. But the ceremony acts like a marker in your life where the two of you officially say “Well we’re married now” to your friends and families. Ceremonies are important. Rituals are important. I can’t enunciate why exactly, but they resonate to me…. Maybe its because they order our lives the same way humans try to order everything around them.

So that’s what I think about it in a nutshell… And that’s why I’m looking forward to forming a new family with Chris.