About lennymaysay

Atheist, non-conformist, anti-authority

Write For Rights – Free Raif Badawi

Saudi Arabia may have lots of oil and sand, but is seriously lacking in humanity.

Life is fleeting and precious, so it should be an imperative for humans to look out for each other. But religious madness more often than not demands that the poorly interpreted decrees of an invisible deity be held in higher reverence than human well-being and life itself. Such is life under Saudi Sharia law.

Raif Badawi, A Saudi national was sentenced in May to 10 years in prison and a thousand lashes. His crime – “daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression.” And according to the authorities, he is guilty of one other crime, one that is considered – no declared – an act of terrorism in Saudi Arabia; he is an atheist.

Badawi started a website writing blogs that called for religious tolerance and women’s rights. However the kingdom, no doubt spurred on by demented fundamentalist religious leaders hell-bent on perpetuating the inhuman Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam, declared this act (one all rational people would call noble) to be insulting to Islam.

As part of a campaign to raise awareness about the gross human rights violations perpetrated by despotic rulers (no doubt religion is a very useful tool), which includes a petition to free Badawi, Amnesty International released this moving clip of his daughter writing to him in prison.

For further reading on the despicable system of justice in Saudi Arabia, look no further than Wikipedia.

About the other night…

I went to a party the other night… Wait! That sounds like the opening line of a song I remember from back in high school*.

Oh yeah, about that party. It was wicked. Rocky Horror theme; lot’s of alcohol and make-up and wild costumes and awesome music and wild dancing and more alcohol.

The girls insisted I dress up off course; not that I was gonna go naked. But I might as well have been. And what about that get-up they coaxed me into – yeah, literally. Lacy bra and tank top, lacy black stockings. And tons of make-up. Eye shadow, mascara, ruby-red lipstick with gloss and sparkles. I’ve always imagined make-up to be like a plaster caste, but it felt very normal.

That brassiere though was a tad tight. And my stomach didn’t flatter that tank top in any way. But hey, I was not about to lose weight for just one party, especially after working so hard to get it back up to my normal level after that gall bladder operation. Otherwise, everything felt very comfortable. Too comfortable according to the girls. But…. we live just once.

And there were some interesting props scattered around. Like this. Those hands are real, but no, they did not stay attached to the poster the whole night.

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And some bizarre naughty like this. Yes, it had batteries, but just for the flashing lights inside. The guy who brought it,  a Nederlander, partied with us till late and went on to ride a 94 kilometer cycle race the next day.

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And some interesting people. Like this guy here. Oh wait, that’s just me. That’s not a wig by the way.

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Who’d have guessed putting on make-up and dressing in women’s clothes could be so exhilirating and liberating. Definitely gotta do it again some time. Maybe with not so much alcohol.

* Harari Party by an African band called Harari with Sipho Hotstix Mabuse. Have a listen.

Melograno in blossom

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The pomegranate tree in the garden is starting to bloom. It’s actually been sprouting little buds for a few weeks already, but I keep forgetting to take a photograph. Finally got it last week.

Pomegranate just sounds so weird for the name of a fruit; I think I much prefer the Italian name melograno which rolls more sweetly of the tongue. The name derives from medieval Latin - pōmum which is “apple” and grānātum or “seeded”.

The pomegranate is thought to have originated in the region between Egypt and The Himalayas. It is now grown in most parts of the world. Kandahar in Afghanistan which has latterly become infamous for the death and destruction wreaked by the Taliban, is famous for its high quality pomegranate crop (also infamous for the opium poppy).

Pomegranate seeds have a variety of uses, but I’ve used them occasionally to make my Tequila shots more pleasant ala Jamie Oliver style.

Cheers.

Love and life in black and white

No words necessary. My Monday music gift to all you beautiful people…

The Martian by Andy Weir

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Andy Weir’s first published novel is simply awesome. I can’t believe that he couldn’t find a publisher, resorting to posting the book for free consumption on his website before being noticed and published. And now there’s even a film in the works, scheduled for release later next year.

The plot centres around astronaut Mark Watney who has been stranded on Mars after a NASA mission. He has to use all his training, mechanical engineering and botany qualifications and sheer human ingenuity to survive, until he is rescued. However, in the beginning he didn’t know he would be rescued, so it was just the sheer will to live for as long as possible. Back on Earth, everyone thought he was long dead.

I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last 31 days.

If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m fucked.

Yes, that he was, until an observant NASA employee on earth noticed a few anomalies on some satellite surveillance photographs, and realised that he may just well have survived.

While NASA went about in earnest trying to attempt a rescue mission, Watney was left to fend for himself on a barren planet hell-bent on killing him at every turn. The science that Watney uses to survive (manufacturing air, water and growing potatoes in Martian soil) is all real. As Watney logs his daily struggles to survive with great wit in a journal, one can’t help rooting for the guy and cheering him on.

Being incommunicado did not help much, until he finds an abandoned Mars Rover whose equipment he modifies to set up a two-way communication link with NASA back on Earth. That was fun for a while, until he destroys the equipment in a freak accident. It was then back to writing Morse Code with rocks laid out on the ground, and our intrepid NASA employee photographing them with satellites. Slow, one way, but effective enough.

It takes on average about nine months to make the trip to Mars from Earth, and that is only if the two planets are lined up favourably in orbit around the sun in relation to each other. This favourable alignment occurs once every 26 months, so the lauch window is very tight. Therefore NASA can not just fire off a spaceship whenever they want to get to Mars. So if you’re stranded on Mars, it’s a long wait for help.

I’m not going to give away anything else; you’ll just have to read the book. Did I mention it’s awesome?

A virus that boggles the mind

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It seems just about everyone’s going batshit crazy over Ebola right now, but a more sinister virus is the mind virus. Otherwise known as faith.

But faith can move mountains…

Er, no it can’t. Never has, never will. But it can move you to hold strange beliefs. Strange and dangerous beliefs that CAN blow up mountains (or centuries-old statues carved into mountains, at least).

Enough about mountains; here’s where I’m really going with this:

In September I wrote about the Prophet of Death, T.B. Joshua and the collapse of a structure on the site of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, in which more than a 100 people lost their lives. Nearly two months later, the remains of the South Africans who perished in that disaster, have not been repatriated back home.

Yesterday, TB (like the infectious disease) failed to show up at a coroner’s inquest into the cause of the building collapse, but his supporters see nothing wrong with this. One had the gall to say “Bringing The Man of God down to this court is not very comfortable for me.” Many others think that even questioning him is an insult, such is their faith in this fraud.

However there are scores more who still refuse to accept that TB should be held accountable, despite preliminary findings that the structure did not meet construction regulations and was not approved by authorities. They prefer to believe instead in conspiracy theories.

One idiot faithful follower by the name of Moses Onyegu who heads up an organization known as Group of Concerned Students, believes that a C-130 Hercules jet flying over the building dropped explosives onto it, or something similar. Another, Oloja Olanrewaju, who is the secretary-general (yes another one of those militaristic sounding titles so enamoured of despots) of a group called the National Association of Nigerian Students, believes that (wait for it) “shadow stakeholders who benefit indirectly from any crisis,” may be involved.

Yet another, Nasir Lawal, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, and who is the leader of a youth group in southwestern Ondo state, believes that the rag-tag bunch of Islamist degenerates known as Boko Haram have the capability of sending a plane from the jungles thousands of kilometers away, to bomb the building. Their runway in the jungles must apparently be so well hidden, that the Nigerian army has failed to spot it all these years.

The striking thing about the three people mentioned above, is that they all lead youth organizations. If they hold such idiotic beliefs, who knows what bullshit they’re cramming into the heads of their young followers.

People will always have strange beliefs. But when those beliefs are supported by religious conviction, it gets pretty hairy.

Cartoon credit: Skeptics Guide To The Universe.

Thinking about home

For whatever reason, I got to thinking about home today. I’ve realised I don’t actually have one since I sold my house. But I count myself as extremely fortunate in that I’ve never NOT had a place to stay. In fact I’m pretty darned fortunate (and grateful, mind you) that everyone I know, has always welcomed me and made me feel at home.

I dug out some old tunes to commemorate this wonderful feeling.

And so, I could actually claim that wherever I lay my hat (and I do indeed wear hats quite often), that’s my home. Paul Young.

I can’t really ask anyone to bring it on home to me just yet, but I will, some day. Paul Carrack featuring B.B King.

I hope this never happens to me, or anyone else for that matter. Steve Winwood & Eric Clapton.

There’s just no feeling like going back home. Dire Straits.

Please, by all means. Boston.

It’s always nice to know someone’s waiting for you to come home. Shawn Colvin.

The journey home is just as enjoyable as finally getting there. Simon & Garfunkel.

I should think most people have a favorite location they call home. For me it’s Durban, South Africa. Lynyrd Skynrd.

Off course, there’s one home many would rather not be, but sometimes have no choice. Pink Floyd.

And yes, almost everyone’s dream. The Cinematic Orchestra.

Sweet dreams…

Rolling blackouts

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Yesterday turned out to be quite a frustrating day. I had meant to watch some soccer and post a review of The Martian by Andy Weir, but our national electricity supplier decided to implement phased blackouts across the country to compensate for their gross incompetence negligence maintaining the grid.

So there I was all settled to stream the early afternoon Manchester Derby on my computer, fresh whiskey and soda poured, pretzels and chips neatly laid out by my side… when the bastards at Eskom decided to throw the switch. I wouldn’t have minded so much had it been earlier in the day as I had slept in late, but why the fuck at two ‘o clock in the afternoon?

When the power did come back on some six hours later, I was far too deep into the bottle and all interest in writing had dissipated… and Manchester United were probably either well into the post-mortem of their latest defeat at the hands of Manchester City, or into bottles of their own. Can’t say I feel too sorry for them; never did like that team much.

They say that the rolling blackouts, or load shedding as Eskom like to call it, will continue well into the week, maybe longer. I have all my fuck you’s nicely bottled up inside for when they do happen. Off course, the wankers at Eskom can hardly take all the blame; the fucking politicians have had a major role to play in the demise of the power utility. Yeah, I’m talking to you, you ANC half-wits.

Oh well, on to better things…

A fellow blogger who follows my posts regularly mentioned in an earlier post that he had nothing to fill the silly box segment of his daily blog, so I thought I would help him out. Now this really put a smile on my face and brightened up (fuck you Eskom) what would have been an otherwise gloomy Monday.

A Malawian diplomat who had once described dictator President Robert Mugabe as an idiot, refused to take up the post of envoy to Zimbabwe. He was quoted by Germany’s The Foreigner magazine in 2006 as saying:

Zimbabwe has an idiot — I am sorry, I know you are recording — but they have an idiot for president.

This guy Robert Mugabe, I hope that he lives a long time, so that one day he can go before an international tribunal. He is a horrible man.

Well done Thoko Banda, you have made my day. You earn a noddy badge; the only one I’m likely to hand out to a politician this year, or ever.

Now where’s the rest of that whiskey?