(Late) Friday Frivolity with Terry & Jed

I’m sitting on a beach earning twenty percent so I’ve been lax in my duties (as if anyone’s actually noticed yet but hey, I only blog so I don’t bore the sweet chocolate-coated christ out of my friends with my rambling diatribal bollocks).

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World Youth Day protest

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Condoms will be handed out to pilgrims en route to a papal Mass at Randwick Racecourse on World Youth Day as part of a protest against the Catholic Church’s attitude to homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

A coalition of religious, atheist, gay and lesbian groups will stage the rally in Taylor Square from midday on Saturday July 19 before marching to the main event of the week-long World Youth Day celebrations.

Awesome. Especially the part where religious, heathen and gay people are all out there together, sending a message to the Nu-Roman Emperor.

“We will say to them, ‘Take up the campaign within the Catholic Church to promote condoms.’ We’re not planning to get into any trouble. We don’t want to condemn Catholic youth for being Catholics. We want to condemn the Pope for being homophobic and anti-condom.”

Good and double-good. The last thing we need is more religious paranoia about the evil atheist/gay conspiracy trying to destroy them. I truly think most Catholics (in the modern, educated world anyway) do not agree with the ridiculous anti-contraception stance of the Vatican and would welcome this protest. However, sadly, I think quite a few would only do it secretly, such is the grip the Empire has on peoples’ minds.

Apart from being an inherently misogynistic and homophobic organisation, the Catholic Empire’s continuing stance against contraception condemns countless numbers of people every year to death or illness from preventable diseases (especially in parts of the third world where the Vatican knows it can always count on peoples’ susceptibility to superstition and faith-based authority) and removes from every person of the faith the choice of whether to conceive during sex. To me, this is a gross violation of the most basic human right! Why should a group of elderly robed virgin bachelors be telling millions of people how to manage their own bodies? You wouldn’t take dietary advice from someone who weighed 200kg and ate creme brulee for breakfast, would you?

So, do the mafiosi of Jesus really get their authority to make these peculiar demands on their following from the bible? Where in the book does it say “you must only have sex to make babies”? Sure, Genesis says “be fruitful and multiply” and Judah’s son Onan was killed by God for spilling his seed (it would seem that God does indeed get quite irate when a sperm is wasted). But it seems to require quite a bit of interpretation to make these few passages imlpy a strict ban on contraception or sex for fun. Christian opposition to contraception does have a long history (it was associated, along with abortion, with heretics such as the Gnostic or Cathars) but it would seem the ban is only really supported papal encyclicals (I guess it’s a fancy way of saying “orders”) and not explicitly commanded by scripture.

Whatever the actual source for this claimed authority to tell people, it just seems like yet another example of the church seeming happy to remain stuck in ancient times, not recognising that the world has changed considerably since the period leading up to the Renaissance, when the Vatican held most of the kings and princes of Europe in its palm (until Henry VIII decided he wanted a divorce and started his own church which had much more relaxed rules, which really just goes to show the worth of organised religion in general). It’s still one of the richest landowners in the world (the Inquisition was quite a successful land-grab), but without tenants to pay the rent you’ll be in a bit of a hole. Hence, I’m happy to assume, the need for fruitful multiplication.

Every so often, though, the Vatican makes some small concession to reality. After 400 or so years, Galileo was eventually pardoned for his “crime” of disagreeing with the Vatican and subscribing to (and basically proving) the Copernican theory that the Earth is not the centre of the universe. Eventually, they also recognised, long, long after the rest of the world, things like gravity, germ theory, atomic theory, the possibility of extra-terrestrial life and even that great faith-killer, the theory of evolution. Every so often, they magnanimously admit to having noticed certain aspects of the real world and the gaps in scientific knowledge that their god used to fill in all his grandeur become slightly smaller. Given this slow but sure lapping away by reality at the shores of their superstition, it’s little wonder that they cling so tightly to subjective things which reality doesn’t have much of a say in, like sexual morality & practice. Homosexuality, abortion, contraception and so forth, these are things that the Vatican can quite happily still claim moral authority on. As long as they stay on the course of issuing behavioural edicts and telling people what they should think and do and how they should make love, science won’t be able to disprove any of it. It’ll be up to the Catholics themselves to eventually cast off the centuries-old shackles of papal despotism and say “Enough!”

One thing about this article has me a bit suss though. I’m not sure I welcome every group on this list with open arms…

Other groups in the NoToPope Coalition are the Socialist Alliance, Resistance, Atheists Sydney and the Raelians, a religious sect that has claimed to have cloned the world’s first human being.

Raelian members Eden Bates and Gerry Texeira said it was unfair that their leader, Claude Vorilhon, known as Rael, was denied a visa upon application while the Pope was being feted by Australian governments.

I don’t actually know anything the first three listed there. But the Raelians? Come on, this is giving any Papist mush-heads a golden ticket to discredit the entire protest as the usual “aw, poor old picked-on Catholics” paranois! Couldn’t the various gay/atheist groups have said a polite “thanks but no thanks”? The last thing any pro-rights movement needs is to be associated with a cult of self-proclaimed (but unproven) human-cloners, especially given the touchiness surrounding topics such as stem cells and embryonic cloning.

However, there is some semblance of a point there. Rael, obvious wacko cult leader, is denied entry to the country because he’s obviously the leader of a wacko cult. The pope, however, gets a red carpet all the way to his holy bidet. One cult leader is denied because he’s the new kid and clearly a bit nutso, but the leader of a more popular cult with better robes which is built on centuries of murder, torture and enriched to an unholy extent by outright theft, that continues to cover for paedophiles, that believes wafers turn into Jewish zombie flesh at the incantation of a magic spell and continues to exert unreasonable moral influence in what should be the private lives of its millions of followers gets more attention & honour than Led Zeppelin.

Well, perhaps in a thousand years, once they’ve managed to gain considerable influence over several million people through missionary work, inquisitions, crusades and centuries of sexual oppression (and gross sexual misconduct, all swept under the rug until you can’t cross the room without a step-ladder, of course), that generation’s Rael-clone may be invited to The Lodge to have a cup of tea with the cybernetically-preserved head of Kevin Rudd.

Watch this space!

How to use a call centre in three easy steps

A slight deviation from my normal content. Be advised this is going to be a thinly-disguised bitch on the topic of call centres, but not the usual kind, i.e. a blogwhine/standup routine/sitcom dialogue regarding often subcontinentally located call centres with incompetent, apathetic or incoherent staff who have no idea what to do if a caller gets them off-script. No, this is a whine about people who call call centres and have no goddam idea what they’re doing and some suggestions about how to make everybody’s lives easier. Because it’s the interblarg and people have either very short attention spans or very short windows of opportunity to read time-wasting shit like this before they have to frantically start bosspamming again, I shall make a list in no particular order.

1. Be realistic.

The person who answers your call is most likely not intimate with every aspect of the company they work for!

There’s a reason there are so many people working in so many call centres: usually, such jobs are entry level, relatively easy and often require no prior experience. Because of that, they’re great for a first-time worker, someone returning to work after a long absence, part-time/casual workers or someone whose real job is playing keyboards and they’re just waiting for the right person to hear their demo. Expecting the first person you talk to to be able to give you deep insight into the company’s every operation or address your every query in detail is somewhat unrealistic. Of course, you have every right to expect the operator to be helpful! Just don’t expect that the first person you speak to can answer your every question. Don’t start with a huge spiel/complaint/query/suggestion and then get huffy when they’re flustered and have no idea how to respond to you and want to refer your call on. A good first step to avoid this kind of frustration is to ask if the operator if they’re the right person to ask about your specific issue – you don’t go to the doctor’s office and ask their receptionist about your itchy genitals, do you? You do? Well, perhaps you should be on some kind of government watch-list … ok, moving on!

2. Don’t hold the operator personally for the company’s mistake (perceived or otherwise).

So, the bank/phone company/charity/whatever has screwed up in a massive way. You’ve been overcharged/double-charged/charged for the wrong thing/charged for something you didn’t get and you’re shat. You want blood. Fair enough! Noone likes being shafted so you have every right to be on a Spartan-style warpath. But give the operator a break: it’s very unlikely that they’re personally responsible for whatever mistake has given you the royal shits. Also, you’re more than likely not the only customer who’s experienced a mistake at the hands of the company. Abusing the operator isn’t going to earn you any respect and won’t inspire them to help you. The worse you treat them, the more likely they’re just going to fob you off, handball the call to someone else who won’t give a shit, or kick your call upstairs to a manager who they know is on holidays so you get their voicemail. On the other hand, if you’re at least calm about it (noone said you had to be all peaches n’ cream), they’ll sympathise with you (and possibly empathise – we all have to deal with large companies who inevitably screw shit up) and will be more than happy to assist you or at least steer you in the direction of someone they know will help.

3. Get organised!

You might not be pressed for time, but you can almost guarantee your operator is – and so are the other callers waiting to speak to them.

So, you’re calling to have a query answered or a complaint addressed, just looking for some vague, general information. Is it too much to ask that you have a pen handy? Or your last correspondence from the company so the operator can find your record quickly? Your operator might not be timed like some outbound callers are but they’ll still have things to do, even if it’s just answering other calls. Not to mention the fact that the other callers sitting in the queue listening to shitty hold music have better things to do than sit in phone queues listening to shitty hold music while operators wait for yet other callers to get organised. Sure, it might only take thirty seconds to grab a pen or your last statement/letter … so why not sort that out before you even dial? If not for the hapless operator, do it for all the other people like you who want answers.

Sure, you might have had some bad experiences with call centre operators. They might have been apathetic, unhelpful or even downright rude in some cases. If that’s the case then sure, maybe they should be working elsewhere. But it’s pure common sense to realise that that’s no reason to hold the next operator or the entire company responsible.

And maybe, just maybe, you just caught the nicest person in the world on the worst day of their life. This person might have just got off the phone from talking to the rudest, most offensive person they’d ever spoken to in their whole lives and not had any time to process their annoyance and take a break before talking to you. Hell, if nothing else, treat that person on the other end of the line with decency and respect because they’re another human being! If you’re so glad to be released from the queue or to have navigated through the menu maze and finally talk to a human, act like it and treat them as such.

So, in closing: you’ve got a question? Great! I want to answer it but if I can’t, please understand when I try to find someone who can – and please make sure you have something to record the answer ahead of time. If not for me, for the others waiting in the damn phone queue and being told that their call is important by a recorded message every two minutes. You’ve got a legitimate whinge and you want the company to pay up? Fine – just make sure you’re whinging to the right person. But hey, don’t hold me responsible – if I was in any position of responsibility do you really think I’d be front-line in a bloody call centre and not upstairs somewhere, sitting on my nice chair and thanking Dionysius that I don’t work front-line in a bloody call centre?

R I P George Carlin

Everyone’s favourite heathen comedian, George Carlin, has passed away, aged 71. In place of me crapping on I’ll just link you to this obituary, containing a great Youtube collection of George’s rants. It’s both a beginner’s guide to George and a bit of a greatest hits compilation as well. Enjoy!

If George was wrong and he’s facing either a white-robed (presumably enraged) grampa or a cackling, cloven-hoofed miscreant, you can bet your godless arse he’d be giving them a righteous earful and not taking any shit. Hell, he probably would’ve talked himself into Hendrix’s penthouse by now.

Goodnight George.

*sigh* gay marriage – it’s the 21st century, but still …

A post over at Chez Greta got me thinking (and got me formulating this post in the comments section). Yes, thinking! That thing where you say things, but only with your brain and only to yourself.

Specifically, it got me thinking about my own marriage, which is now two and a half years old, and marriage rights for gay people. You may have noticed that there was a recent decision in the state of California which finally dragged the state into the 21st century, legalising gay marriage and conferring upon gay couples all the rights everyone else takes for granted. Of course, it’s now facing stiff opposition, more than likely, I’ll wager, from the usual gang of conservative/religious/”Family” groups who always seem to be pushing against the tide of progress while most reasonable people are going “sure, why not?” or “about freaking time” (by the way: why does any group containing “Family” in the name automatically seem to mean “white middle class straight married Christian people with some sort of perverted interest in telling other people what they should be doing in the privacy of their own bodies and minds” instead of people actually concerned for peoples’ welfare regardless of their orientation, beliefs or particular combination of ages, genders or degree of genetic similarity?).

So, who exactly takes these rights for granted? Well, just about everybody. Dear Mrs M and I included. Obviously, anyone can plan a wedding. Anyone can arrange flowers, suits, dresses, food, entertainment for a single day of the year. Anyone can arrange their own personal “Love Day” and invite anyone they want. Anyone can get drunk and break a heel or lose a new Italian shoe, requiring them to pad around barefoot all evening (and not caring because it’s 30 degrees Celsius in February here in Australia). But, unfortunately, not everyone can get legally married and in turn enjoy the benefits of being legally linked to the one they love. Not everyone can be recognised as a spouse and make crucial decisions affecting their shared life, the lives of any children in the relationship, the fate of their loved one’s assets should the unthinkable yet inevitable happen, be legally protected from implicating their partner in a crime (if it should come to that, Dionysius forfend) and any number of other facets of married life we hetero types don’t even think about because they’re conferred on us from birth and last until death (provided we don’t “catch the gay” at any point before we die).

But I always think to myself, baffled “why?” Apart from referring to some passage in Leviticus (or is it Deuteronomy? I can’t remember, they’re both pretty retarded when it comes to questions of morality and I confuse them easily) I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard a proper, coherent, even partially convincing argument why a gay couple shouldn’t get married like any man & woman can, as easily as signing a form in an office, if that’s what they wish. Sure, in some parts of our post space-age world, Bibles, Qurans and other ancient stories still seem to take precedence over actual, rationally-based laws. Leaving aside the obvious examples of various Muslim countries, either theocracies like Saudi Arabia or Iran or supposedly secular nations like Turkey who still expect people to behave according to Mohammed’s dictates, the United States seems to be experiencing a sort of Christian Fundamentalist renaissance at the moment. There are creationist Biblical literalists being installed at all levels of government. As members county or state school boards, they push for the inclusion of Intelligent Design/creationism in science classes (Louisiana, Florida, Texas and many other states are currently or have been battling initiatives launched by such people). As state representatives, they push for or instigate laughable “abstinence-only” sex education programs in high schools (which amount to “well, if you don’t do it you won’t need to know how to do it or what happens when you do do it, so just don’t do it, now shut yer yap”. The Pentagon, invites (ashamedly Australian) creationist Ken Ham in for a prayer breakfast. The US armed forces seems to be littered with evangelists who see no problem in discriminating against non-religious soldiers. The Whitehouse itself is led by a born-again fundamentalist (who seemingly swapped his alcohol DT’s for a Jesus jones) who’s been reported as saying God told him to strike at Iraq! Hmmm, God told him to break every applicable international and domestic law and kill a million people for a massive pile of bullshit. Sure. But that’s another thread. Suffice it to say, given America’s long history of unfortunately being the home of particularly vicious forms of religious extremists from Benny Hinn to the *ugh* Westboro Baptist Church, it’s no real surprise to me that gay people are still getting a raw deal at the hands of the white Protestant majority.

But this is Australia and we still treat gay people like shit. We don’t have nearly the amount of religious whackos that seem to fill every possible niche in the States. We have our share (the Exclusive Brethren, various Pentecostal sects of which a beloved cousin of mine is one, much to my dismay and of course we have Mormons and the Jehovahs‘ Witless, a.k.a. “The Bloody Johos“). This is Australia and I bloody well expect better. I at least expect a bit more than the usual shit like “it threatens the sanctity of marriage”; “marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman [insert optional phrase about being for the purpose of procreation]”; “we are founded on Christian values” and yada yada, I don’t want to finish that sentence. We are, mostly, progressive when it comes to civil rights. We never participated in the slave trade (we didn’t buy and import Africans but convict labourers and captured Aborigines could easily have met the definition of a slave). My home state of South Australia, as just one example, blazed a mighty trail and gave women the right to vote in 1894, long before many other parts of the former Empire. Out of half a dozen disconnected colonies we became a properly Federated Nation in 1901 – through a vote, not through violence. Why, then, must this still be an issue? Can someone tell me why two men or two women getting married is going to, for example, threaten the sanctity of my own marriage? If anything, allowing gay people to marry will make the act of marriage more sacred and more honourable and more beautiful, by no longer excluding a large proportion of our society from this tradition for no good goddamned reason.

When my wife and I were planning our wedding, it often occurred to me that our gay friends had less rights than your average convicted criminal. Even multiple rapists and murderers doing life without parole can get married! But not your average, decent, tax-paying, law-abiding person of homosexual orientation. And while in some states or territories (as in the US) gay people can enter into “civil unions”, it isn’t the same thing. They can sign a legal document, sure, but they only get some shared rights. They can have a big shindig with their family & friends, but it just isn’t getting married. How can you possibly enjoy the pure, silly, romantic joy of a huge, public love-party without feeling a pang of “this is nice, but it’s only 90% perfect”.

Sad thing is, I don’t see and end to it any time soon. We may have finally rid ourselves of God-bothering Bush-buddy John Howard, but his replacement Kevin Rudd seems almost as pious if not more. And I’ve noticed if there’s one thing that pretty much guarantees discrimination against gay people, it’s a “close personal realtionship” with the Prince of Peace.