Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pride Festival 2010


This was my first Pride Festival in the UK, it was quite a contrast from the Washington DC Pride which was heavily political with many people protesting against Proposition 8 and The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policies in the US Army.

Manchester Pride seemed a lot more fun, and gay and straight people from around the country were all involved just having a party! There seemed to be more straight people than gays in some areas.

This didn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy Washington DC’s. I enjoyed being in America and at a more serious Pride and being involved fighting and protesting for the rights which sadly many Americans still don’t have like we are lucky to have here across the UK. Plus the Washington DC Pride finished with a rock concert in front of the Capital Building, which you can’t argue with. That is just pure awesome.

The Manchester parade was fantastic. Sir Ian Mckellen fronted it, one of the most famous gay actors in the world, and is from Manchester! This followed by the cast of Coronation Street, drag queens and others entertaining floats!

On the Sunday I decided to go along to the markets along Canal Street. It seemed strange having to need a wrist band to walk somewhere I walk through so regularly for free. I was speaking to one lady who lives on Canal Street, who said it took her an hour and a half to get a residents pass to get into her own house! Once I was in I grabbed some lunch and meandered along the stalls; from jewelry to dildos; they had it all.

The afternoon was spent watching the bands and having some beers in the lovely sun (which in Manchester is a rarity which needs to be appreciated before it goes away for another year). The bands were all local and absolutely fantastic. They had an interpreter for the deaf on stage; correct me if I’m wrong but I wondered what deaf people were turning up and watching lyrics? How very strange. Maybe everyone in the audience were signing and not dancing?

In between bands there was a live DJ playing all different types of music from dance to Motown to rock and roll. Everyone was dancing and people were so friendly, a real community. It was unlike gay clubs and bars; you didn’t feel like people were coming onto you, it just felt friendly and comfortable and just wanted to enjoy the day, the sun and the people. The beer went down well too!

I’d encourage anyone to go to the day events. Many people I knew were just going for the nightclubs, which to be honest you can do any weekend, and it’s a lot cheaper when its not Pride. I went for the bands and the events and had a terrific day!

Today (August 25th) is Michael Jackson’s birthday, and would have been his 52nd. I wore my MJ t-shirt to the festival, and it was so wonderful how many people came up to me to high-five me or just talk about Michael and how much they loved his music. He still lives on despite being gone. Long Live MJ!

‘Born to amuse. Born to inspire. To Delight. Here one day. Gone one night. Gone too soon.’ – Michael Jackson, (1958-2009)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Dawkins Delusion



Whether you watched the Raoul Moat Tapes on Channel 4, or the Richard Dawkins Faith School documentary on More 4, you were pretty much watching the same thing, two deluded nutters talking gobbledygook.

I’d like to begin this blog by confirming with everyone that I am NOT religious. I think this is important to my argument for my problems with Dawkins and most of his views.

Last night Dawkins tried to argue across that religious schools should be banned. His main arguments were that it indoctrinates children into believing in religion and that children shouldn’t be forced into their parents beliefs. It divides society and doesn’t allow children to mix. That they teach children incorrect information, that they should be taught about evolution and not about creationism.

I went to two faith schools and my experience was a positive one. We were supposed to sing and pray in assemblies, but to be honest if anything it gave us structure, discipline and thought. Science lessons were taught as science lessons according to the national curriculum and RE taught all religions, beliefs and faiths. The religion actually came into school in assemblies, where we did hear bible stories, sing hymns and pray; there was also optional communion once a week. Did I feel indoctrinated? No. Not at all. My peers around me were of different races and faiths, but mostly had already decided they were atheist. When in a Christian primary school, most pupils had made up their mind by the time they were seven years old that they didn’t believe in god, so clearly the ‘indoctrinating ‘ as Dawkins believes isn’t working.

But what is most interesting that most of my peers who turned out atheist in primary school went onto CHOOSE a religious high school, and it was the same for my jewish, catholic, muslim and hindu friends. Why?

Lets face it. The clientele and the grades. My high school was in the top 10 high schools in the England. It had a strict entry system that you had to be a member of a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other, and had to have a minimum number of weeks attendance at that school. From my point of view, it was about dedication. You really want to be in this school? Go to church. Prove you really want to go. Most of these people came from Christian upbringings or equivalent and brought a well behaved group of people to the school. The behavior compared to other schools in the area was spectacular, and the grades were brilliant. At no point do I believe God caused all this; but its religious structure and the clientele and background of the pupils along with of course the teachers. One year the school opened its doors to anyone, and after the behavior of that year was despicable and probably one of the worst years the school had ever had, they reverted back to the original, selective system.

Dawkins argued about mixing and childrens choice? Should the children be liberated and allowed their own choice? Or is it not the right of the parent to be able to raise their child in the religion of their choice. My parents chose to bring me up as a Christian. Are they evil for that? Have they indoctrinated me? Well as an unreligious gay 22 year old, I don’t think they were too successful if they had.

If it is about liberating our children to choice, then should churches, temples and mosques be closed to all under 16s? Allow them to go in at 16 and then make their own choice as anything before then would clearly indoctrinating?

And if its about mixing, should we close all single sex schools as it stops boys and girls mixing? Should we close independent schools because it broadens the divide between middle and working class people? No. Because those parents have the right to choose how their children are taught and who they are surrounded by. Just like my parents wanted me to be in a Christian environment.

I agree with Dawkins that religious schools should be heavily monitored to make sure they are teaching science correctly and that RE lessons are balanced and informs them of everything they need to know along with the national curriculum. But if they choose to have religious assemblies, prayer and hymns then who are they really hurting?

It wasn’t really just the program subject which got me last night. I put some of my thoughts on Twitter and some of the abusive replies I got from atheists and Richard Dawkins fanatics was unbelievable. It was as if I had insulted the Catholics or Muslims the reaction I had received, for putting up a couple of thoughts. It seems Dawkins is turning atheism into a religion in itself.

I’ve read Dawkins book and various programs, and it seems he cannot rest until everyone is atheist. Religion can be a beautiful thing, it gives hope, purpose and structure to so many people’s lives. Don’t like it? Don’t get involved.
Last night we saw him actually tell a Muslim man that he should be like Christians have, and change his faith and beliefs on creationism. The Muslim man looked like he was about to laugh out loud at the suggestion.

Lets face it, if we see a Christian preaching in the middle of a city centre, shouting Leviticus passages or the Revelations; we walk past and think ‘what a nutter’ and get annoyed at them for forcing their views onto us. And yet Dawkins is doing exactly the same thing?

To be honest, his shows and books are pretty pointless. Those who read or watch them have often made up their own mind already. I haven’t heard of any nuns or priests reading it and going ‘’yeh your right Dawkins, fuck it’’, or Our Ladies Catholic School Headteacher suddenly scrapping the religion in the school after hearing Dawkins views. Anyone watching the show was pretty much for or against, and those who hadn’t made up their mind most likely didn’t bother to tune it, because they weren’t bothered. Richard Dawkins like that ‘nutter’ in the street is only being listened to by those who already see his point of view or wish to argue against him.

But these are just a few thoughts and opinions of mine and I know others disagree; I’m not saying I’m right or your wrong. I’m just asking at least, please, formulate a more sophisticated argument than that cringe-worthy Richard Dawkins does, who in my opinion is just like his view of believers; deluded.

Next week a more sophisticated debate. Who should win big brother???

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Michael Mcintyre at Blackpool Tower


Sunday 1st August 2010

When I saw the price of a ticket to see Michael Mcintyre I couldn't believe how cheap it was to see someone who sells out arenas around the country; along with the fact that it was at Blackpool Tower, I had to be there.

Mcintyre who after years of fame became well known to the world after his performance on 'Live At the Apollo' with his observational comedy, hilarious anecdotes and energetic performances is now a household name and now has his own show 'Michael Mcintyre's Comedy Roadshow'. He has built up a reputation of which he is loved or loathed; but I, like many, love him.

As soon as we arrived at Blackpool Tower we were instantly pleased with the intimate venue which he had chosen to perform his 'Working Progress' gig. We felt so close to the stage and gave the audience a much more personal performance than the arena tours allow. There were no grand entrances or exits, and it took us back to the days when he was still working the comedy circuit as an amateur.

He instantly explained the cheap ticket as soon as he got on stage that this was a warm-up gig ready for his television Comedy Roadshow gig in Blackpool later this week. He wanted to try his jokes of his observations of Blackpool on us before he did the live show later in the week. He had even brought on his notes which later (after realising he had run out of material after 35 minutes) referred to and tried different stories out on the audience. Some got huge laughs, others left the audience in silence. But Mcintyre, professional as ever kept the show incredibly entertaining and much of it was made up on the spot. He even began one joke with ''This might be funny'', before going into it and getting the audience to imagine he had just talked about something related earlier.

It was an interesting insight into how professional comedians put together jokes and how they decide if they will work on large audiences. I cannot wait to see how he fits the jokes that did work into his show when it airs in the next series of Comedy Roadshow.

From stories from him dealing with fame and a family, to scoring blow jobs from his wife, it was every bit of fantastic comedy.

It was a short but sweet gig, and the mixture of the small venue along with the warm up style performance made it feel incredibly personal and seemed like we were a few of his mates in the pub.

It has opened my eyes to these warm up performances, and in future will be tempted to go to these type of gigs rather than pay the £35-£50 for an arena tour and still get a fantastically funny show.

The good news for Mcintyre fans as he certainly hasn't lost it and wont be going away anytime soon.

(photo taken from: http://www.solarchitecture.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=85)