Tricks of the mind

TV. I spend a lot of time giving out about it. That soul-eating suckbox sitting in the corner, dominating all your senses. Slowly eating your life. Hours where you could be making, creating, living, loving. Or even depleting the long list of depressing chores, to live a more clutter-free life. Not just ridding the pile of unironed clothes but the cobwebs in your head. A night on the sofa, wasted life-hours, ending with a fat gut, laden with guilt, like the soiled sock hidden under the bed of a teenage boy.

Woah. I’d just intended to post that I read Derren Brown’s book recently and I’m looking foward to his Trick or Treat show again tonight and all that bile just spilled out. What I’d intended to say is that while I do loath the tellybox at times and would love to see it in the bin, I do love good TV, rarity that it is. I’ve a few heroes I love to watch on the box; David Attenborough, Roy Mears, Richard Dawkins, Armandi Ianucci, Charlie Brooker, Stephen Fry. And I love a good film, or a good quiz (not to be confused with a gameshow).

I just hate when we end up sitting in front of the stupid thing watching crap as if its some kind of domestically social event. And I hate that late night plastic soap plaguing the screens; neither serious nor funny. Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Plastic Polly, Fucking Funty. They’re all the same shallow numbeties. And I despise the kind of TV programming designed to reel you in and suck on your very soul, either for the rest of the night (Top 100s) or the rest of your robotic life week after week (soaps). And Fridays are the worst, just when you’re too tired to do anything else, they lay on the thickest excrement from the bottom of the barrel.

Woah. Let’s try again. Derren Brown’s Trick or Treat is on tonight. I like Derren Brown and I find his work intriguing. He could so easily be dismissed as an annoying magician, and he often is. But he doesn’t do magic. Psychological tricks, amazing memory feats, and general head fucking but no magic. And he’ll be the first to admit, nay shout from the rooftops, that anyone who claims to read your mind or predict the future is nothing but a shyster.


I read his book, Tricks of the Mind recently and it’s highly entertaining. Actually it starts off a little bit puerile, with the kind of bad jokes and puns, that people new to writing haven’t learned to resist yet. Like people dabbling with electronic music using too much reverb, or budding design enthusiasts using too much drop-shadow. Resist! But the silly puns are gone by the end, as are the silly tricks, from the start of the book. There are fascinating insights into lie detection, cold reading, hypnosis, NLP and memory. Not that showing you the tricks of his trade makes it easy, or possible, to do likewise. Could you fly a plane after reading the manual? The second half of the book is a scathing attack on all forms of mumbo jumbo, from fortune tellers and psychics to healers and religion, which puts him into hero ranks for me.

I’m suddenly reminded of an otherwise clever young guy who constantly regurgitates a line that I reckon some lecturer told him and he thought it was clever. He reckons that Irish Atheist are just rebelling against the Irish Church and it doesn’t reach any further than that, which is the biggest load of cock I’ve ever heard repeated. Like most Atheists, I despise all forms of superstition: fortune tellers, mind readers, lucky black cats, unlucky magpies, psychics, mediums, the number 13, prayer, heaven, hell, god, afterlife, auras, amber beads, luck, souls, ghosts. It’s all the same mumbo jumbo to me. Catholic or Muslim, Jew or Gentile.

Woah. Let’s try again. Derren Brown’s Trick or Treat is on tonight. It’s an entertaining little show. Last week was a ‘Treat’, a guy was shown how to add facts from hundreds of books to his short-term memory and kicked ass in one of the biggest pub quizzes in the UK. In tonight’s episode, a girl picks the ‘Trick’ card and has to wrestle with her conscience over the torture of a cat. I’m guessing that it’s Brown’s version of that famous obedience to authority experiment carried out by psychologist Stanley Milgram.

Trick or Treat

10.00pm. Channel 4.

Then turn it off and play some scrabble, or bake a cake, or see what fun you can have with some facepaint and a sleeping child. Or… maybe… just watch Peep show on straight after Derren Brown. Then if you’ve had a few cans, Balls of Steel might seem like a good idea. And then before you know it, it’s 2AM and you’re woken by the stale beer spilling onto your lap in a cloud of self-loathing on another wasted night.

7 Mortal Sins

I’ve decided to release a list of seven mortal sins.

  • State interference
  • Child rape
  • Blind faith
  • Stupidity
  • Superstition
  • Gullibility
  • Hypocrisy

Watch this space for the 10 Commandments.

p.s. Have you seen Catholic.ie yet?

Get your rosaries off my ovaries

I had to walk past this prolife march in San Francisco last Saturday. It went on and on and on. Its bad enough walking by the few no lifers outside the GPO but there were thousands of people in this march. *Scary*. Sickening. They mostly sang hymns and looked a bit blank. I walked by giving them the thumbs down. Thought I was alone at first but then crowds of the opposition came along the side on a path but very much in the minority… appropriately enough seeing as they were mostly lesbians, punks and Athiests. Saw a couple of banners for www.eastbayatheists.org. Not a great site unfortunately.

Incidentally I’ve been reading Graham Linehan’s blog lately. Pretty good. Fairly amusing, random web stuff and other bits and pieces, and he seems to be a flaming Atheist too. Cool!

A real Chuck Norris fact

Voting is now open for the New Humanist’s bad faith awards. I think Chuck Norris is a clear winner. He said if he was a president he would tattoo an American flag with the words ‘In God we trust’ on the forehead of every atheist. What a cock. Though you’d be tempted to dismiss him as a looney and give it to that other cock who thought the summer’s floods were God’s punishment for Britain’s liberal attitude to homosexuality.

Paddy’s Day on April Fools

St Patrick wears a dunces hat

So you’ve heard about this dilemma that the Catholic church are facing? It’s a clash of dates between between an early Easter bunny day and Paddy’s day (2008). The next available day for Pat was April 1st, but they’ve decided that isn’t suitable either. If you ask me, April Fools day is spot on. I don’t know why we celebrate a man who was one of the first missionaries to come over to us fine pagans, and infect us with such heavy-handed Christianity. He was one of the first bishops in a church that continues to interfere with our lives in these seemingly dark dark ages.

I know I hold some unpopular views, and this collection of thoughts is right up there; I’ve never been very patriotic, it’s all just random birth. The weight that some people give to that random event is beyond me but the more I think about Paddy’s day, the more I think how much of a farce the whole thing is. There’s such an anti-English attitude in this country because the ruling classes of England invaded our country many moons ago, yet when an Englishman comes over and tells us what to believe, what do we do? We make it our official day to celebrate being Irish!

I’ll take my day off work thank’s very much, but personally I won’t be celebrating Patrick’s day. I’m sure junior will get to enjoy the parade. Just like he’ll get an Easter egg and Christmas presents. Until he’s old enough to decide for himself, I won’t be spoiling the better things that come with all this religious mumbo jumbo, by forcing my beliefs on him, unlike the children of the brainwashed who continue to brainwash their own, in billions all over the world.

The God Delusion

I’ve pretty much given up novels in recent years. I’m a bit tired of fiction but I’ve recently got a great hunger for learning and information, not too uncommon in your thirties apparently. So I’ve been reading a lot of non fiction. Lots of art and design books. I just finished Leonardo Da Vinci: The Flights of the Mind. There’s a lot of Leonardo pap out there but this is a pretty thorough account of DaVinci’s life. But it was a bit too historical for me. I don’t really care where or when his mother was born or what she did – just get to the flying machines already! So, I did enjoy a lot of it but I found a lot of it pretty dry and it but it didn’t really hold my attention throughout.

But then I got a The God Delusion, another well chosen present, thanks missus! and in comparison it was a really enjoyable and fascinating read. Iwasn’t really that bothered about getting it- I’m a strong Athiest so I didn’t really need the spiel. I also got the impression Richard Dawkins might be a bit of a tough read, but he’s a really down-to-earth, fascinating, funny, and entertaining writer. He expressed a lot of my thoughts on the subject with far greater lucidity than I. There’s also some really fascinating stuff about why people ‘do’ religion, some really primal psyche stuff. On top of all that it’s just pretty re-assuring, I didn’t need to be assured about my beliefs but sometimes I feel like I’m in invasion of the body snatchers or something and everyone I know has been taken over by alien beings which make them believe in the most ridiculous of things. So it’s re-assuring to be in such good company.

Although I’ve a lot of strong personal politics, I’m pretty apolitical when it comes to professional party politics, but I feel more than ever now that I’d like to be a more active Atheist. Its one thing that I feel very strongly about. If there’s one thing I’d mention when politicians knock on my door its the separation of church from state. There’s a list of Atheist organisations at the back of Dawkin’s book but nothing for Ireland. How shit is that?

Which reminds me, I came across a really good blog a while ago called pharyngula. I was searching for something completely unrelated and stumbled across it and ended up reading loads. It’s not a strictly atheist blog but definitely leans that way. So, considering I came upon it by chance I was amused to see Dawkins give it a few mentions. I really want to read a lot more Dawkin’s books now, maybe the Selfish Gene. Any recommendations? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?