I found Geoff Pullum's analysis of Dan Brown's writing style interesting - and amusing. Check it out here. He links to several of his previous pannings of Brown, the funniest of which was this gem. (Raises eyebrows.)
And don't forget to keep visiting my new blog, RIP: A Blog for Dead Stars. I'm updating it about once a week now with obits of the rich, famous, struggling and not-so-famous, mainly from film and the arts. There'll be an update later today, with several interesting characters to add to the roll of the dear departed.
I'm pretty busy these days, and I'm totally lacking in inspiration. I've always said that thinking time is a luxury, and I just haven't had the time (perhaps the inclination) to sit down and think deeply on the religious issues I used to blog about.
Part of the problem is that this blog has lost its focus. When I started it almost two years ago, the focus was spiritual abuse and fundamentalism. I said a lot about those issues, and I got out of my system a lot of the things I hadn't yet expressed about my journey out of fundamentalism. Now the blog doesn't have that focus and, more to the point, doesn't seem to have any focus. That makes it difficult to attract and hold readers, and ultimately difficult to motivate myself into writing regularly
And yet I really miss blogging. So I've decided to create a blog with a very clear focus, something that will require a little bit of research each day, and that will entertain myself and my readers. I have created RIP: A Blog for Dead Stars. It will be a round-up of obits and news stories about people - mainly in film and the arts - who've died.
Lest you think I just have a morbid obsession with death, it is not death itself that fascinates me, but the personalities themselves who are moving out of this world every day. RIP is about their lives, not the grisly details of their deaths.
I think it will be a fun project for me to undertake (oops, bad choice of words), and has the potential to get a regular audience, which I've missed as Grace Pages has faded slowly away. The Grace Pages remains, although I still struggle to find a focus for it. For now it will contain assorted ramblings for anyone who happens to be listening in. And if anyone has any thoughts on direction - let's hear them!
I'll be writing a feature article for a British Christian magazine about homosexual (but not pro-gay) and 'ex-gay' ministries in the UK. I'd love to talk to anyone who has had any experience of this kind of thing in the UK, whether positive or negative. I'm trying to get a broad overview of conservative ministries to gays in the UK, especially in comparison to ex-gay ministries in the US.
If you can help, or know of anyone who can help, drop a comment underneath or email me.
There's a certain stereotype of the gay man that is almost superfluous to describe: effeminate, outrageously camp, with a particular taste in fashion and music, and an obsession with sex; probably promiscuous, too. It is a stereotype reinforced by both gay and straight people. It is an image of the gay man representative of one particular subculture, perhaps, but a subculture that is in fact just one aspect of the gay "community".
I was amused by the irony when a straight friend the other week explained his reasons for thinking that "all" gay men were of a certain type. His first piece of evidence was that all the gay men he'd met were the same; but where had he met these men? On a night out in a gay club with his gay brother. Most gay men I know rarely do "the scene", and many are put off by it. The second piece of evidence was the image put forth by well-known gay celebrities such as Graham Norton and Julian Clary (both camp as t*ts). I pointed out that in fact there were hundreds more gay celebrities that have little in common with Norton and Clary; the irony is that they were ruled out of his equation simply because their gayness was so incidental to their public image, and manifest in such a non-stereotypical way, that they had slipped under his radar. Or should that be gaydar?
The media often does little to help the situation. Programmes like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy further entrench the stereotype. The gay media, too, at least in the UK, is dominated by a particular type of "queer". I enjoy my monthly read of Gay Times,
but find it bizarre that a serious, well-written feature about politics
or the arts can be followed by a full-page ad for hardcore porn videos.
Reading another gay magazine, Attitude, I found no less than
three articles in a row, all opening with a cliche along the lines of
"We gay men love to..." followed by some fashion supposedly followed by
all gay men, ranging from being "obsessive" to having a fetish for men in uniform.
I am full of praise for The Advocate, a US magazine which apparently doesn't suffer from the same blinkered view of gay life as its UK counterparts. And I have discovered pockets of people trying to do something to balance things out: The Independent Gay Forum discusses gay issues from a broadly conservative perspective; and Out Everywhere is a thriving online and offline community making a conscious attempt to challenge the ghettoization of gays into a monolithic subculture.
I hope to add my own voice soon with In Perspective, a quarterly online periodical of gay perspectives on just about anything. Look out for the launch later this year.
Some urban myths are merely funny, like the one about the guy who developed his holiday photos and found a picture of his toothbrush up the butt of some burglar or prankster. Others are plainly irresponsible, warning of fictitious bomb threats or contaminated products.
Another category of myths informs a person's outlook on a whole group of people, often a minority. 'All the Jews stayed home from work on 9/11' is one such legend. It was this past weekend that I realized just how powerful urban myths are in determining a worldview, and how fundamental urban myths can be to shaping a person's prejudices. A friend of mine made a passing comment about how "the Americans" are always suing for crazy reasons. I asked what he meant by that; in other words, I asked for evidence. His evidence was a story that was "in the news" a few weeks ago.
"There was a woman in the USA who sued the company who made her microwave. She won, like, thousands of dollars or something, because her dog died when she microwaved it -- and there was no label on the product warning her not to microwave her dog."
It was a classic urban legend. To believe it actually happened is about on the same level as actually trying to microwave a dog in the first place. Yet this was an intelligent, educated man, a teacher. I immediately challenged the story, and he informed me that a trusted colleague had told him the story.
This bizarre legend had become yet another pillar in his view of Americans as a certain type. I wondered how many of the other disturbing opinions he had expressed during that weekend -- that ethnic communities contribute very little to Britain, for example -- were based on the same principle, a network of urban myths, each of which functioned as verification for the others. It wouldn't be the first time an otherwise intelligent person swallowed hook, line and sinker a blatant urban legend that happened to confirm a prejudice.
We would all do well to familiarize ourselves with the Urban Myth. Some are simply amusing -- at least if you haven't had the same story in your inbox a hundred times -- in reality they can be the insidious tools of prejudice and intolerance.
I thought I'd do the (Liverpool) Daily Post a favour earlier this week by phoning them to let them know of an error I spotted online. Surely that's what good citizens do all the time? Well, maybe not. I was very polite and not at all condescending, but the chap on the other end of the phone evidently didn't take me very seriously, and responded without much more than a grunt.
So I thought I'd drop the newsdesk an email, just to say that I didn't get much of a response on the phone, but I wanted to let them know about the mistake, purely as a member of the public being helpful to a local paper. However, I didn't bank on the editor being in a rather touchy mood that day. He denied it was an error (and fair enough, I could have been mistaken myself) and promptly turned it into a peeing contest by pointing out a minor slip I had made in my email, which "I'm sure you will appreciate was also factually wrong".
The response was classic passive-aggressive. And very defensive. Both responses were also very unprofessional. Are all editors like this? Eegad.
I'm looking forward to Radio Four's Word 4 Word tonight. Tonight's programme will be the first of six examining dialects across Britain. I'm hopeful it will be founded on good linguistics rather than the shenannigans of the 'proper English' school. You can listen to it live online at 9:30pm. Unfortunately, I think it's only accessible in the UK.