Monthly Archives: December 2011

December Loose Ends

First of all, I’d like to wish a merry Christmas to all my readers – all five of them. I said that when I got to ten posts I’d make this blog searchable and I’m nearly there now so we’ll see what that brings. I still don’t know how these regular bloggers find the time.

It’s now got to the stage where I’m thinking about the best acronym for this place. (HOTG? HBotG? HBG?) I think I’ll settle for HOTG. And what’s the best T-shirt design? Questions, questions. Continue reading



A few short words on Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011.

No doubt Hitchens will chiefly be remembered, fondly and not so fondly, depending on one’s perspective, for his services to atheism. The non-believers will declare him greatly-missed, and those of the opposite persuasion will either bask in his imagined fate or express regret at a life wasted. Indeed, in the FFF my current signature is a quote from him:

To be an unbeliever is not merely to be “open-minded”. It is, rather, a decisive admission of uncertainty that is dialectically connected to the repudiation of the totalitarian principle, in the mind as well as politics.

But these words spell out succinctly what Hitchens should mean to all of us, and why his lack of belief in itself was incidental to a much bigger project.

I recall from days gone by Hitchens regularly appearing on polemical TV shows, as his much less talented brother does these days. I don’t recall too much of his views then, but we’re told that he was out there well on the left. My first real encounter came much later with his book Regime Change, now titled A Long Short War. Considering his left-wing credentials this was a remarkably brave but characteristically honest effort, supporting the invasion of Iraq on the issue of human rights. This was basically my stance, too.

In fact it became pointless trying to pigeon-hole Hitchens within the usual political spectrum. He had no time for those that, as he saw it, perverted humanity for their own purposes. His attacks on Henry Kissinger and Ronald Reagan would please the left while his disdain for Michael Moore, George Galloway and Bill Clinton would gain support from the right. Both sides would be missing the point. Hitchens was a fighter for humanity and its potential and against those who would devalue it, from whence ever they came.

I didn’t agree with everything he wrote, and didn’t even think that he did himself justice all the time. But he had a precision, a power and an eloquence with his language that very few can match. I saw him in person at Hay during a recording for a TV programme and of course he didn’t disappoint. He rarely did.

Duncan’s Ditty of the Day

Number 2 in an occasional series.

Staying with the epiphany theme, it’s true that something can be around years, and either you don’t appreciate it at the time, or never got round to listening. An example of the former is Johnny Cash, always looked on as a figure of fun until one day I sat and listened to American Recordings and realised what I’d been missing.

An example of the latter is modern Jazz. I’d heard of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk and Charles Mingus but never took the time to find out more. This was a bit short-sighted from a self-confessed blues fan. Someone I worked with introduced me to Stanley Clarke and Rahsan Roland Kirk, and although I wasn’t mightily impressed it did encourage me to work backwards in time. I think that a lot of jazz is overly middle-of-the-road, and on the first audible sound of the vibes I’m out the door. But when I first heard John Coltrane I knew what it was about.

I would post A Love Supreme, but it’s a bit too long for the purpose of this exercise. Still, give it a listen when time permits.

Thoughts on Christianity. (Part 1)

Or. Why I am not a Christian. I suppose that Bertrand Russell is past caring by now.

I’m not sure who, if anyone, will ever read this. If someone does see this who isn’t familiar with the Fighting Fundamental Forum then the names and some of the arguments in this series of posts will be unfamiliar. My apologies in advance.

As I said in my introduction, I’ve spent the last five years in the enemy’s citadel, the place known as the Fighting Fundamental Forums (the FFF). I began there following an appeal in an atheist forum by a poster looking for a bit of help and stayed there for well over 4000 posts, although latterly – over the last two years – I’ve not posted as much. My last post was nearly five months ago. I suppose that the main reason for giving up were the cynical attempts by the new owner to make the forum monetising-friendly, and his clumsy efforts to do this resulted in my being unable to post using Firefox. Although it’s possible to get round this it’s hardly worth the bother, and the forum breakage merely pushed me into something I should have done anyway.

As anyone who’s debated William Lane Craig will testify, it takes one second to make an unsubstantiated claim and a hundred minutes to rebut it. I’m also the type that doesn’t make an argument in a hundred words where a thousand will do. Hence, my posts were getting to be so long that it was difficult to maintain any sort of interest –  they were boring even me. Although there are over a hundred posters with a higher post count, few have as much content. This wouldn’t have been so bad if anyone  – I make an exceptions for the unfairly-derided ALAYMAN and Stasis Point, although he couldn’t stay on topic to save his life and had a talent for addressing what I didn’t say.

This post will be a bit long and will barely mention the FFF. However, it is part of a series in which the forum will come more to the fore. I need to put my own actions there into some context. Continue reading

RIP Socrates

The greatest-ever philosopher? It can’t be Plato or Aristotle because they never played for Brazil.

It’s been a bad week for football, with the passing of ex-Evertonian Gary Speed. Now comes, if anything, even worse news.

The Brazil team of 1982 was, in my humble opinion, the best of all the sides from that country. Again, they never won anything, but took part in arguably the greatest-ever World Cup match in Spain that year, losing to an inspired Italy. That had some great players but none, not even Zico, as great as Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Sousa Vieira de Oliveira, known as Socrates for short.

He wasn’t your typical Brazilian footballer. He was as near to being an intellectual as any player, before or since. He delayed his professional career to qualify as a medical doctor, was at the forefront of democratic protest against the Brazilian junta at the time, was a well-known journalist and commentator and gained a Ph.D in philosophy.

On the field it showed. He is recorded as saying that he played to his weaknesses but you would never know. A towering yet elegant presence, few ever read the game as well as he did, few had his eye for a defence-splitting pass, and very few showed such leadership. He will be missed.

Socrates. 19 February 1954 – 4 December 2011