Curse All Automated Telephone Answering Systems

Last Friday, my broadband connection suddenly stopped working. Since I was out partying the whole weekend, I did not get a chance to report the problem to my service provider. When I did eventually try on Monday afternoon, I became embroiled in a battle of raw perseverance with my service provider who shall remain nameless.

After following the voice prompt process of keying in what seemed like interminable choices, I waited on the line for about 25 minutes, listening to crappy music interspersed with some guy with the most irritating voice droning “You are currently holding for a (name of service provider) Broadband Consultant, please stay on the line; we will be with you shortly,” and then gave up. After trying to re-configure my router and a few other things, I decided to call it quits for the night.

I tried again on Tuesday night, this time determined to outlast that droning voice and the boring music. I settled into a more or less comfortable position, with the receiver cradled between my left ear (for some reason, I tend to hear better with my left ear) and my shoulder, and I started to read Christopher Hitchens’ book “The Portable Atheist.” After an hour and twenty minutes of bad music and “You are currently holding for a (name of service provider) Broadband Consultant, please stay on the line; we will be with you shortly,”  I decided to put an end to this torture by telephone. By this time my neck was sore as hell and I finally realised that the reason I was waiting so long for this elusive Broadband Consultant, was probably because my service provider had not hired him or her yet.

Anyway, I tried another tact the following day; I got onto my service provider’s website at work, and bombarded them with nasty, nearly threatening mails and complaints about their poor service. This seemed to do the trick and my broadband link was restored on Friday afternoon.

So there you have it, don’t put up with poor service, get nasty…

The Silly Season Has Started

You just know the silly season is upon us, when there is an announcement that Public Office Bearers (POB’s) are to receive an 11% salary increase. Of this lot, there are arguably a few public departments that deserve their increases, such as the South African Revenue Services (SARS) who are doing an excellent job.

However, those POB’s who are better known as politicians surely do not deserve another cent, because their performance in all areas (except maybe the Minister of Finance), has been nothing short of atrocious. Since hardly any of these lazy, incompetent bunch of freeloaders have put in a decent days work, they should actually be asked to pay back some the fat salaries they have already drawn (notice I don’t say earned).

South African politicians have grown fat (literally) from the excessive perks they have awarded themselves, but their track records for service delivery makes for shameful reading. And to cap it all, such have they become enamoured to the trappings of luxury, that in order to maintain it, corruption and fraud has become the norm. Almost on a daily basis, incidents of fraud and corruption in public office are exposed, only to be met with glib denials by the perpetrators and their cohorts. If South Africa is not among the top ten most corrupt countries in the world today, I’d be most surprised.

So how about it Santa; this Christmas, could you please put in a good word for South Africa to be blessed with more honest politicians, the kind that earns their salaries and makes us feel proud, not disgusted to grant increases.

The T D Jakes Circus is Coming to Town

Yes folks, pastor T D Jakes, the notorious American evangelist, is blowing into Johannesburg this weekend, bringing with him his “annual” family oriented, conference and revival known as MegaFest. I’m not exactly sure what families do at such an event, but grovelling on hands and knees, submitting enthusiastically to brainwashing, and parting with cash, springs readily to mind.

And why exactly is the pastor coming to South Africa only now? It seems that since the inception of the MegaFest concept in 2004 in Atlanta, attendance figures has consistently dropped from around 500 000 to 100 000 or less in 2006. This alarming trend (to Jake’s that is, who had grown used to the good life, while defending his ostentatious collection of wealth) resulted in the event being cancelled altogether last year. It’s reasonable to surmise that Jake’s is running low on his reserves and needs an urgent cash injection. You know how tough it is maintaining all those houses, cars and the $45million Church called the Potter’s House. So, the resourceful pastor looked up to the heavens and when he got no answer from there, he looked down, South actually, and realized that if a potato farmer can sucker 60 000 odd people into attending a Mighty Man conference, he could surely do better.

When interviewed on MSNBC, T D Jakes said “I think that Jesus is the product” and “when the product is excellent it doesn’t require a big sales pitch.” Since he is now leaving a potentially much bigger target audience to scam from, to come out to South Africa, one can only wonder why the “product” is not selling so well any more. Could it be that Americans are wising-up to religious scam artists? Or maybe it’s just the current economic crises in the USA? Attendance figures for his MegaFest event had already started declining from 2005, so I tend to favour the former argument.

You know what’s even scarier than T D Jakes coming to town this weekend? Nope? Angus Buchan, the potato farmer and upstart evangelist, is also scheduled to host his Mighty Men conference this very weekend in Heidelberg, not too far from where Jakes is hosting his MegaFest. How about that? I don’t for one minute believe that they could have got their schedules mixed up. I am of the opinion that Angus Buchan deliberately scheduled his event on the same weekend to flex his muscles and see how big a (arguably deluded) crowd he can draw, with a big gun like TD in town. It would be interesting to read the attendance statistics after this weekends celebration of gullibility.

Viva la Vida – What does it all mean?

Aside

There has been much speculation recently on the “hidden” meaning in the lyrics of Coldplay’s hit new song, Viva La Vida. Penned by Chris Martin, lead singer, pianist and husband to actress Gwyneth Paltrow, the song has become Coldplay’s biggest hit.

Although some people listen to a song without actually thinking or caring about what the lyrics mean, others like myself, tend to appreciate good lyrics as one does good poetry, and we also wonder what the artist means by his words. I tend to believe that all songwriters write with great meaning, often hidden, which makes music all the more interesting. According to Wikipedia, the title Viva la Vida translates from Spanish into “long live life.”

When asked by Q magazine about what he meant by the line “I know Saint Peter won’t call my name” Chris Martin replied: “It’s about… You’re not on the list. I was a naughty boy. It’s always fascinated me that idea of finishing your life and then being analyzed on it. And this idea runs throughout most religions. That’s why people blow up buildings. Because they think they’re going to get lots of virgins. I always feel like saying, just join a band. That is the most frightening thing you could possibly say to somebody. Eternal damnation. I know about this stuff because I studied it. I was into it all. I know it. It’s still mildly terrifying to me. And this is serious.”

At some point Chris has stated that he is not sure about the existence of God and has also been quoted as saying “I’m always trying to work out what ‘He’ or ‘She’ is,” also saying “I don’t know if it’s Allah or Jesus or Mohammed or Zeus. But I’d go for Zeus.” In effect Chris has been cagey about his religious affiliation, or lack thereof. However, with this album, I think he has finally revealed his lack of belief n God, or at the very least, strong reservations about God’s existence. Arguably, the lyrics on other songs in the album such as Cemeteries of London and 42, hint at his religious doubts. So, with this I come to the crux of my essay: I think I may have cracked the real meaning behind the lyrics of Viva la Vida.

Let’s take the first verse:

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sweep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own
I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
“Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!”
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of sand, pillars of sand

With this first verse (and subsequent verses), Chris assumes the position of the (imaginary, non-existent) God and laments the loss of power he once had (only in the minds of believers). “Now in the morning I sweep alone, Sweep the streets I used to own” is a reference to rational people abandoning religion in droves and realizing that religious claims (scripture etc.) are not real, hence the line “And I discovered that my castles stand, Upon pillars of sand.”

The second verse:

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
Once you know there was never, never an honest word
That was when I ruled the world
(Ohhh)

These lines refer to the evangelists who spread fear and used religious rhetoric in order to convert and keep ordinary people in subservience, and enforce a blind faith in a God. The lines “Be my mirror my sword and shield, My missionaries in a foreign field” speaks of how these evangelists are no longer revered, or trusted. The lines “Once you know there was never, never an honest word, That was when I ruled the world” just confirms how lies were told to con the people, and how it kept (the idea of) God in power.

The third verse:

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People could not believe what I’d become
Revolutionaries Wait For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

The first three lines of this verse is a confession of the “wicked and wild” manner in which the idea of God (and religion) was spread. It goes on to acknowledge that people had started to realize how God was just a power mad, megalomaniac (in reality just a manifestation of ordinary people’s own lust for power). “Revolutionaries Wait For my head on a silver plate” is a reference to non-believers (anti-theists and Atheists) who are waiting for the downfall of religion. “Just a puppet on a lonely string” is clear acknowledgement that ordinary men used religion (and the idea of God) to stake their claims for power, and that they were really pulling the strings all along (and still are). “Oh who would ever want to be king?” is off course the lament of an imaginary God who has been placed in an imaginary, untenable position.

The fourth verse:

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
I know Saint Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world
(Ohhhhh Ohhh Ohhh)

The conviction evidenced by “I know Saint Peter won’t call my name” is the final admission that that there is no Saint Peter, never was, and never will be.

The last verse:

Hear Jerusalem bells are ringings
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
I know Saint Peter will call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world
Oooooh Oooooh Oooooh”

“I know Saint Peter will call my name” appears to be a contradiction of the lines in the 4Th verse. However, since this is the closing verse of the song and, in the context of religion, it very cleverly pronounces the final death knell of (the idea of) God, as in being called to rest.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am of the opinion that this song is perhaps the most brilliant piece of anti-religion, without actually explicitly saying so.

Maybe Censorship Should be Banned

I recently came across a link to a site where Philip Pullman, author of Northern Lights, better known as The Golden Compass (adapted into a film of the same name starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig), discusses how his book was challenged by various, mainly religious bodies, who demanded it be banned from the public library. Apparently, this bunch of ignorant theists deemed the book to be anti-religious.

Phillip goes on to recount how a group called the Catholic League objected to the release of the film which did result in bad box office takings, but sales of his book went up quite significantly. Even a bishop from La Crosse County, Jerome Listecki, warned Catholics not to see the film, ludicrously claiming that the movie was just “the first part of a trilogy that expresses hatred of Christianity and that portrays God, the church and religion as evil and oppressive, and urges children to join fallen angels in a rebellion against God.”

The Golden Compass is not the first book to attract such a vicious and absurd backlash from the religious hate-mongers, nor will it be the last. The successful Harry Potter series of novels has attracted disdain from the lunatic religious fringe in recent times, and don’t forget the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini calling for the killing of Salman Rushdie, author of Midnight’s Children and the Satanic Verses. This kind of dark ages mentality is indicative of the lengths that the religious wing nuts are prepared to resort to, in defense of a severely discredited and hate-filled dogma known mundanely as religion.

Phillip Pullman quite correctly points out that the “inevitable result of trying to ban something – book, film, play, pop song, whatever – is that far more people want to get hold of it than would ever have done if it were left alone.” This simple fact however will not stop the lunatics from trying. Although all progressive (mostly democratic) countries propagate free speech, religions in these countries, enjoys unwarranted protection from being criticised. And it gets worse. These same self-appointed “keepers of morality” demand the right to decide what should be published, what should be censored, even what is taught in schools. In reality, even statistics show that those who proclaim to be the most religious are invariably the most corrupt and immoral.

Phillip sums it up quite nicely as follows:

“In fact, when it comes to banning books, religion is the worst reason of the lot. Religion, uncontaminated by power, can be the source of a great deal of private solace, artistic inspiration, and moral wisdom. But when it gets its hands on the levers of political or social authority, it goes rotten very quickly indeed. The rank stench of oppression wafts from every authoritarian church, chapel, temple, mosque, or synagogue – from every place of worship where the priests have the power to meddle in the social and intellectual lives of their flocks, from every presidential palace or prime ministerial office where civil leaders have to pander to religious ones.”

“My basic objection to religion is not that it isn’t true; I like plenty of things that aren’t true. It’s that religion grants its adherents malign, intoxicating and morally corrosive sensations. Destroying intellectual freedom is always evil, but only religion makes doing evil feel quite so good.”

Gunning for Glory

The Gunners have been to “Hull” and back, and after last night’s Champions League performance against FC Porto (Arsenal 4 – 0), it seems they are ready to face all their demons, and not just the Red Devils. There is serious talent in this squad, and I can’t wait for them to “Leave-a-pool” of tears in their wake from Chelsea, United, Barcelona, Real Madrid and the rest…