"And sometimes he's so nameless"

Join DADD! (Dawkinites Against Dungeons and Dragons!)

Posted in Dreadful attempts at humour, Games by Chris Jensen Romer on March 6, 2010

Tired of religious nuts having all the censorious fun! Join my new campaign!

I hereby propose a new organisation, DADD, short for Dawkinites Against Dungeons And Dragons. It has long been troubling my conscience that one of the industries in which I work, role playing games design, encourages theism, supernaturalism and belief in the occult and magical thinking.

In the “roleplaying game” Dungeons & Dragons (originally 1974 by TSR, today published by Wizards of the Coast) players, often young teens at a very vulnerable and impressionable age, take on the role of “wizards” and “clerics” (!!!) who perform magical acts by casting spells (despite the fact that no one has ever claimed Randi’s millions and anyone who has ever read a book knows all parapsychology is bunk and part of an evil conspiracy of Jesuit controlled pseudo-scientists). The book positive encourages “worship” of these deities – many of which are actually based upon REAL deities whose followers have oppressed and persecuted atheists in the past! The infamous Deities & Demigods book contains for example stats for Zeus and Odin, and detailed description of polytheism, pantheism, and other religious practices. Players are expected to “roleplay” dedicated service to and worship of these deities, which in the game is actually OBJECTIVELY TRUE! and rewards the players character with experience points.

This seemingly fantastic and innocuous hobby has repeatedly been used in the past too attract teenagers from their natural interests in sex, drugs and rock n roll to a study of occultism as a way to rot their minds and lead them to magical thinking, and from there it is a short step to reading a well known Evangelical tract and being convinced of ones sinfulness and becoming a Theist! Church groups often encourage these roleplaying games, and there are even a number of explicitly Christian and Christian themed games out there.

Even such seemingly innocent entertainment’s as White Wolf’s Vampire, in which one plays a tragically hip angst ridden teenage vampire who gets “to kill people and take their blood” – all clearly harmless enough – has actually hidden within deep Christian overtones, with concepts of damnation, salvation (here cunningly disguised as Golconda) and objective morality. Even this most, on the surface, acceptable game has a hidden theistic/magical agenda – the Disciplines are clearly supernatural powers, irreconcilable with any logical naturalistic paradigm.

So what can the sensible atheist parent due to protect their child from this hideous threat? Firstly, take your copy of The God Delusion, and read it loudly to build the confidence to confront your child. Secondly, arm yourself with a big stick – teenagers CAN bite when roused. Thirdly, search their bedroom, and take and burn all this supernaturalist mind rotting theistic trojan horse stuff, in a big bonfire. And call all the other freethinking parents, and encourage them to do just the same.

Topics not directly associated with roleplaying games and often associated with roleplayers but possibly worthy of destruction are dice, drugs, drug paraphenalia, occult books, the works of Stephen J Gould, the Journal of European Parapsychology, BDSM gear, girls, hot water bottles, cats and Telly Tubby merchandise. Destroy it all! You may also want to ban your child from internet access to prevent them from going to such well known spawning sites of fundamentalist, Catholic and liberal theology as http://www.rpg.net !

If atheism is to survive, we must protect our children’s minds from this terrible threat! Say no to God and the Supernatural today, and organise a Freethinkers bonfire for your neighbourhood!

ACT NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

This warning was brought to you (mainly as a parody of the Religious Right)
by CJ x

Act on CO2? Why?

Posted in Dreadful attempts at humour by Chris Jensen Romer on January 26, 2010

What’s with “People Acting On CO2″? Wouldn’t it just make the poor actors drowsy??? Theatre on N2O (Nitrous Oxide) – now that might be entertaining?

Tagged with:

It Snowed A Little… Pictures of Cheltenham (but they could be anywhere!) In The Snow

OK, so it snowed, and for a few days now people have seemed to think the world is ending. It might be, but a few inches of snow hardly constitutes a cause for alarm and widespread panic!

carpark in snow

Here is the view from my bedroom window yesterday - least interesting photo ever?

OK, so my photo is dull, but by now you have seen a million dramatic photos of people in the snow doing heroic or exciting things. I am to photography what Pooter was to diaries. :)

shot from my bedroom window

Another not enthralling shot from my bedroom window!

OK, look it’s probably more interesting than anything that happens INSIDE my bedroom, ok? Unless you find people reading Ars Magica 5th Edition arousing, in which case seek help (or join the Berkllist, the Ars Magica mailing list.)  Actually I could tell a couple of amusing stories about that, but I won’t…

Cheltenham High Street in the snow

Cheltenham High Street, 3pm today: snow. I bet you predicted this one would have snow in didn't you?

Does not look at all bad in this photo; actually it was pretty unpleasant, the roads were a mushy mess, and the pavements treacherous. Gets better as you get in to the Town centre. Drivers get roads gritted, but pedestrians are left to die in droves*, Hugh says possibly because if they salt the pavements and mess up you get more injury claims?

(* OK, a slight exaggeration. Cheltenham High Street was devoid of corpses when I walked down it: no carnage ensued, and only two people fell over  while I was in town. It was hardly Massacre-on-Ice — but with everyone over excited about a sprinkling of snow I thought I could be a bit dramatic. )

How fare the brave inhabitants of Normal Terrace in this icy wilderness? Well none of the cats in the street seem keen on going out, but otherwise business as usual…

The Abominable Postman (Ben?) leaves his track sinb the not so pristine wilderness!

Yeah, we did not get any post for one day, and the bins were not emptied, but bravely we struggle on, displaying that British stiff upper life (and in my case Anglo-Danish sagging belly)

Normal Terrace in the Snow

Er, yeah, you guessed it - more snow.

Are you still reading this? Google returns 3,290 hits for “hot babes in bikinis” and you are still reading this? Oh I see – well 6,170,000 hits for hot men in underwear? Or even 531,000 hits for for improving sermons.?

OK you like pictures of snow. I get it..

Sunny day in Cheltenham - with snow!

Well it was sunny today. But yes, there is some snow for you too

Shame I have no talent as  a photographer. Or as an ice sculptor come to that. I felt snowmen were sexist,and snow women sound  bit dodgy, so I made a snow cat…

cat made of snow - very badly

Yes, it's a cat, honest! Well more interesting than a snowman. CJ made this, and was quite proud of it!

OK, even I can stand this little longer. Another shot of Normal Terrace…

Normal Terrace in the Snow

Chris my neighbour has lived in the street all her life,a nd even she would be bored by yet another photo of our road in the snow

Hey it beats Google Earth! Who wants to look at satellite pictures when you can see Cheltenham back street s in the snow? Well pretty much every one I guess.  Let’s go nocturnal…

Normal Terrace at night, with snow

A bin in the snow. Cheltenham as you never saw it, and never wanted to!

I had a stalker once, many, many years ago, but even she gave up on me because I was so dull. Shame really, she should have just read my blog rather than standing around in the chemist shop doorway across the road from my old flat.

snow in Normal Terrace at night

Googling "goats in leather underwear" only gives one hit, and that is my blog. This fact is possibly slightly more interesting than my photo.

Yes, I know you are bored with photos of Normal Terrace in the snow. Here is the next street over, St. Paul’s Street South. It’s not any more interesting though…

St Pauls Street South

St. Paul's open air ice skating rink, brought to you courtesy so fthe weather and Cheltenham Borough Council, featuring lovely lollards - sorry bollards...

And finally a shoggoth eating a car. Oh sorry, not Lovecraft’s horrors from the  Mountains of Madness: it’s a bush in Normal Terrace! (You guessed it – in the snow!)

car in the snow

Tekeli-li! Tekeli- li! (and if you get that you are... erudite?)

Well there you go. It’s probably not MUCH more boring than many of my other blog posts, but hey, I think it may possibly be of use to insomniacs, masochists with a taste for people’s holiday photos, and people who like to laugh at the British overreaction to snow.  If you read this far, please do comment, if only so I know to turn the lights off and lie on the floor when you come round, as clearly you are dangerously deranged.  Anyway, keep warm, keep safe, and  enjoy the snow while it lasts!

cj x

A Day in the Life of a Paranormal Investigator

I just wrote this on the UK Skeptic’s forum, in response to this article by Chris Sherwood here on the same subject. I think mine is closer to the truth :) And before you panic, it’s not autobiographical – these days!  :)

A Day in the Life of a Paranormal Investigator

A Paranormal Investigator is someone who can’t get a real job or any PhD funding. They wake up in the morning to a stack of unpaid bills, and then sweet talk the lovely bailiffs at the door. After a discussion with said gentlemen they pay some cash and mentally cross out their food budget for the next two weeks. They also note the recording they need to finish their lecture review for deadline today has still not arrived. Huzzah!

A paranormal investigator picks up the clothes they wore last night off the floor, hurls a book on Attachment Theory at the cat and wonder if SPR journals burn nicely once the gas has been shut off. They then dedicate four hours to grounded analysis of carefully collected accounts of spontaneous cases – or reading peoples ghost anecdotes to you and me. They code, construct categories by hand because they can’t afford QSR software, and after a hard mornings work with black coffee cos they have no milk they decide they have not made any advances over what Sidgwick and co had in 1894.

So they pop on the JREF for a morning of playful abuse, and after lunch (noodles, with noodle sauce, 12p a bag from oriental supermarket) they wonder why MAcDonalds, Wilkinsons and WH Smiths rejected them. So they spend couple of hours filling in application forms so they can be anything but a paranormal investigator.

The afternoon is busy, busy, busy! Reading the EJP in the bath as the nice shiny paper is not effected by splashes, they realise they are still after all these years useless at the level of stats required to check the articles validity. They wish they could afford a netbook so they could consult SPSS in the bath, but they would only drop it.

After a refreshing bath they set out to track down someone who reported a spontaneous case to them to verify certain questions arising from their account. The email will be ignored, they nearly always are. Wishing they had chosen a better paid career, like say leaflet distributor, professional philosopher or non-affiliated theologian who sells 5 books a year, they start work on a piece on the development of fairy lore in the early modern period, because they have nothing better to do. Then it hits them – they have no food for tea!

But huzzah! they have a call – and the phone is currently connected because their girlfriend paid the bill. And for once it’s not a debt collector! Nope, they are invited to give a talk to a local group. They start drafting it, becoming more and more depressed as they realise no one is actually interested in theoretical work or the parapsychological literature, so it end up as “adventures in ghosthunting”, a comic tale of sitting around in the dark in rooms filled with other hopefuls, while absolutely nothing happens. The difference in being a pro is you don’t have to pay for the privilege.

Suddenly they decide to reach for their handy EMF meter. They can’t hear the washing machine from the basement but long experience shows this device can pick it up – have they washed their pants, as girlfriend coming tomorrow? They dream of the day they can afford a second pair.

Afternoon brings email: another studentship rejection, disturbed family members wondering how you became so unemployable, and a coffee break dedicated to the lesbian mediumship of Eva C – less exciting than it sounds – from an old PSPR. They decide to kill Cousins, Braithwaite, Luke etc for being so much better looking and better funded than them; but then reject the notion, and return to the Spud-U-Like application.

Wasting an hour on wondering why no one seems to be participating Alex Tsaris’ Jaytee the Psychic Dog replication the earnest paranormal investigator returns to their grounded analysis, struggling with methodological issues.

Evening: a bitter ex-wife accusing you of leaving her in poverty, hungry cats yowling for food, and your mother sadly asking how work went? You set out to meet a veteran investigator of mediumship who will buy you lunch,and an enjoyable hour of salacious gossip about the misdeeds of contemporary physical mediums later, well fed, you feel the strength to once again face writing up a study you performed eight months ago. Finally even you are bored with it, so you start work on looking at the geological maps of Gloucestershire, and a water table plan of Cheltenham from Severn Trent, trying to work out if GW Lambert really was on to something.

You get another call – there is a vigil in a haunted house, a local tourist spot, can you attend only £30? Muttering to yourself a Noel Coward lyric

The Stately Homes of England,
Though rather in the lurch,
Provide a lot of chances
For psychical research-

You politely enquire who experienced what and when? It seems a tourist thought they saw something in 1982 in the East Wing, and a the under gardener swears he saw the dead master in 1963. On and a cleaner heard a voice call her name last Wednesday but six.

So you suggest that rather than taking 50 people to sit in the dark all night, festooned with electronic gizmos, while a lovely lady reconts the sad tale of the spirit girl who starved to death on Christmas Eve, it might be worth actually just interviewing and recording what the witnesses said, and having a look at that? The person trying to sell you the ghost night hangs up.

You sigh and stare out the window, and regret ever becoming a paranormal investigator. And then you wake up the next day and post this on UK Skeptics. :)

I think this is a bit closer to the truth actually :

cj x

Christmas Shopping, CJ Style

Bah Humbug! OK, I have to accept that now it’s December people are going to talk about Christmas. Unlike Lisa I love Christmas – and as her birthday is three days before and no one is ever available to go out or do anything for that reason, I can see why she is not keen on it. I have favourite Christmas Songs – I think Greg Lake’s I Believe In Father Christmas (Youtube: contains sound) is my favourite, which will surprise nobody.  Still having to listen to them every time I leave the house is enough to kill anyone. If I had the money buy a copy of Lou Reed’s album Berlin and Pink Floyd’s The Wall just to cheer myself up. (Incidentally if you don’t know those records, don’t try this at home. I mean it folks!)

So we are back to that time of year when I have to listen to all the bollocks about the pagan origins of Christmas from people who think QI is a reputable source on second and third century Roman Festivals – yes I like Stephen Fry, but he dislikes Christianity intensely and lets his prejudices show occasionally. I will blog on this later, I can’t be bothered today, but anyone mentioning the word Mithras round me may end up brutally slain, unless they can actually come uo with some hard evidence, or indeed any evidence, other than the generations of pseuds who misread Cumont. OK, rant over.

Yet I still like Christmas. Admittedly, and Greg Lake excepted, because he did it with wry humour, I can’t stand to be told again “Christmas is too commercial”.  In the first case, sure, I agree, but what are you going to do about it? Live a life of monastic austerity through the whole season and refuse to step outside the door? Stop sending cards? (or perhaps in my case, start?) Become a Jehovah’s Witness? Or if already one, avoid every shop in town? I admire the JW’s courage in avoiding Christmas sometimes, even if  think their reason – that Christmas has pagan origins- is a complete nonsense historically.  I know! I know – take a flame thrower to Marks & Spencers and blow up Tesco?! I guess my problem with people who think Christmas is too commercialized is that they lack courage in their convictions – we can all resent it maybe, and yearn for something simpler, but have you actually tried it?

The Simple Non-Commercial Christmas As It Really Is

Flashback a few years: on the way back to Suffolk for Christmas, Christmas Eve. Hugh driving, and Lisa has decided to come with us, but Liz (now Jake) remained behind.  It’s in the days when we lived at Pete’s. About twelve miles out of town Lisa gets really ill – she had been feeling bad before we left – so we turn back, and Hugh drops us off. We wander in, to find the freezer has broken down sometime in days before I presume, and in the hour or so we have been gone it has leaked all over the floor. Not that we actually had any food, we were planning to go to my family for Christmas. Hugh got back safely to Exning, and  at about eleven on Christmas Eve I went out in search of food. I somehow talked a pizza shop manager who was juts closing up in to giving me a big discount, opening up, and cooking. Given my sob story his heart must have melted – anyway we got a lot of pizza. And we ate it that night, and as I recall Christmas Day, sitting around a house with just an electric fire for heat while Lisa lay in bed ill, watching the rain hit the window. I even overslept and I missed church. On Boxing Day I braved the couple of miles walk to Sainsburys-on-the-edge-of-forever as they were open, bought a load of shopping, and in the absence of buses trekked back. It sleeted and rained, freezing me, and I became really ill and was miserably unwell over New Year, as was Lisa. We did not have any presents (they we gave were in the back of Hugh”s car and Hugh dropped them off) we had precious little money, no decorations, no heating and almost no food as most shops closed.  So I have done the simple noncommercial Christmas, and I would not wish it on a banker. It’s a romantic ideal – so is dying young of tuberculosis, which to be fair may well feature in this Christmas plan. Seriously, forget it.  Campaign to get a bylaw passed banning Christmas window displays before December 1st by all means, and feel free to moan at Christmas shoppers, but unless you are going to start blowing up Santa’s Grottoes or holding hunger strikes against it, I’m just going to out whinge you. Because I can… you think you can do bleak and cynical? Hell I’m like the lovechild of Leonard Cohen and Charlie Brooker. Oh no, sorry, that’s Lisa…

What Christmas is Really About

Anyhow where was I? Oh yes, full of festive jollity! Actually one more whinge – people who say “people forget what Christmas is really about”. Usually this is followed by “it’s for the kids” or “it’s a time for sharing” or sightly more accurate “it’s remembering the birth of Jesus”. Actually Christmas is about whatever you want it to be about. Ronald Hutton’s superb Stations of the Sun will give you a good overview of the last few centuries of history of the festival in England, and it’s a fascinating story. There may well be other books which deal even better with the pre-Reformation Christmas — if anyone has one, I’d like to read it. Obviously it’s a religious festival, with a clear Christian context – but that does not mean that people should not celebrate it however they want, and indeed many folk of other faiths which acknowledge Jesus in some role do mark it, but even devout atheists should have a good and enjoyable Christmas season, even if they must call it Winterval or Festimas or whatever. Hey, just, eat drink and be merry, I doubt the Archbishop’s secret police are going to kick your door in for sacrilegious consumption and exchange of gifts without proper theological license. Though if Rowan Williams does I want to be there to see it! I know some atheists seems to believe the CofE wants nothing more than the godless roasting on an open fire but it’s a bit nippy for open air barbecues and would you really want a slice of Dawkins with Cranberry sauce? I’ll stick to the turkey.

Rowan Williams

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams - not Santa Claus, us Anglicans don't ask children to sit on our knees.

Anyway, woke up this morning to a rejection letter – always a good start to the day, only two weeks after the interview, a triumph of good administration that – actually pretty typical of the wretched state of British universities, but hey anyway – so I decided to go out and as the rent has gone out and I have paid the bills I thought I’d take the little  I had left and get my chicken kebab.

It is NOT the Thought That Counts

Except then as I stood on the High Street under the Christmas Lights a wonderful thought hit me, and it came as a stunning revelation – “it’s almost Christmas!” Somehow I had sort of failed to take this on board, so I realised I must do shopping.   OK I’m lousy at cards, if anyone has ever received one from me frame it, it might be worth a lot of money, but I do usually buy my family and friends little presents. And boy are they little – my shopping budget is rather sparse. Still I try, even if not really convinced it is the thought that counts. I know when presented with a pullover which does not fit or something which doe not work I say that, but I’m not sure if I actually mean it or not? I think I may do.

So with that in mind, to any of my friends and family, let it be known that this year I have Thought long and hard about all the wonderful presents I want to buy you. As I no longer have any money left that is all I am going to do though. I hope you appreciate my Thought,and it counts, and if you don’t like it parcel it up, send it back, and i’ll send a replacement Thought ( –like “what an ungrateful bastard.” :))

Oh and just in case anyone was thinking that I might like to count on a Thought myself for Christmas this year – actually, I am rather overrun with thoughts right now. I have so much thought I am often lost in it -please don’t send me any more. Just money would be nice, or better still non-fiction books on almost anything, or roleplaying game products (Sartar Kingdom of Heroes anyone?), from http://www.leisuregames.com, or blondes in Christmas stockings tied up with a nice ribbon.  But please, please, please — no more thoughts — I have plenty!

So What Went Wrong With CJ’s Christmas Shopping?

So I was standing there on Cheltenham High Street, suddenly struck by the Christmas lights (not literally or I would sue Cheltenham Borough Council and be a lot richer), with a tenner in my pocket, thinking I needed to buy Christmas presents.  OK, a tenner might have not gone far, but still – what happened? Er, I spent it. On myself. Yeah I know.

I went in to Banardo’s charity shop to get out of the cold, and inevitably I bought books.  Erasmus wrote “When I get a little money I buy books; if any is left I buy food and clothes”. Oh too true, too true! Still at least Tiny Tim will benefit – it is hard not to think of the orphans at Christmas, yes? For a tenner I got a copoy of The Book of Common Prayer, The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories, Trolley Wars: The Battle of the Supermarkets, Chorley & Smart’s Leading Cases in the Law of Banking and finally NASA’s Selected Documents in the History of the US Civil Space Program, Volume III: Using Space – hence covering a number fo my interests. I’m sure i’ll still scrape around to buy my parents and friends something but if you planned to buy me something, then previous jokes aside, please don’t!

Christmas Shopping for CJ

Instead go to a charity shop, and spend that money buying yourself something you really want, so that the charity benefits, and you benefit, and I’m happy that I did not leave you out, even though I could not afford to buy you anything. Christmas is a hard time when you have  little, and I really can’t afford to buy people much this year, there are so many of you, so I hope you understand. This is the best solution. :)

So I wish you a Merry Christmas, and will sign off with the lyrics of Greg Lake - do buy a download of  his song if you can –

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah! Noel! Be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas you get you deserve.

cj x

The Reverse Robin Hood: or I Fought the Beast and the Beast Won

I’m not sure exactly when it happened that the British public decided that Bankers were agents of the devil, but it certainly seems to be the case judging by headlines this week. Well, maybe the press is on to something…

And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

Revelations 13: 16-17 (King James Version)

A sad day today: in the case of The Office of Fair Trading versus The Minions of Satan (aka the High Street Banks) a decision was found in favour of the banks, ending several years of legal uncertainty. Well, for now…

Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley, who declared himself the Great Beast. I'd prefer to have a cup of tea with him than sign a credit agreement with a high street bank any day!

Of course I do not literally think the British High Street Banks are the Beast prophesied in the final book of the Bible ; do they look like a lamb while speaking like a dragon? Um, well, now you mention it… That they are anti-christ seems quite clear: I mean usury (the lending of money at interest) is a mortal sin anyway isn’t it? So I like the term  “minions of Satan”, and encourage people to treat them just as you would if Old Nick appeared and asked you to sign a paper in exchange for a pile of  hot gold – if you must sign, sign in blood. This usually gets you chucked out of the bank before proceedings get nasty. Trust me, I know. :)

Faust deals with the Devil

CJ applies for an overdraft facility.

Better you get chucked out or an ambulance or the police called than you lose your soul by dealing with the Devil.

What profiteth a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose his own soul?

Luke 9: 23

Yes I’m joking – I’m just mightily sore at this decision, and yet I can’t argue with the legal logic. It was the correct legal decision – but there are wider issues at stake…

The Reverse Robin Hood

So what is the Reverse Robin Hood? Something I found in the Anne Summers Guide to Improbably Acrobatic Acts? Not quite!It’s actually a memorable line from the Supreme Court ruling today

though Mr Sumption QC (for the banks) vigorously disputed Lord Mance’s suggestion that his clients were engaged in a sort of “reverse Robin Hood
exercise”

The phrase amused me, and lies at the heart of the controversy.

Banks exist to make their shareholders a profit. This is actually the responsibility of any publicly floated company, and therefore one can not blame banks for trying to make profits, no matter how many billion that may be. What is actually at stake here is not if bank fees are appropriate – I think it entirely appropriate I pay for the service provided; the question is how that payment should be taken.

At the moment we have ‘free banking’ in the UK – well 80% of people do.  The remaining 20%, the villains, in fact subsidize the free banking by paying these charges, which make up 30% of the revenues gained by the banks from their Current Accounts.

The villains who go overdrawn without proper authorisation pay many times the actual cost incurred to the banks by their indiscretion – and as a result, the 80% of good folks pay nothing. Fair enough?

Except — those 20% are the poorest members of society on the whole. People with enough money to live rarely go in to these unauthorised overdrafts simply for fun. OK a few do, because they have failed to watch their spending, or because a £25 fee is no big deal to them, so they would rather pay it than delay gratification. Unfortunately, for those who are actually in the bread line, an emergency like sickness means one often has to make the decision between going over and paying £25 fee to get the seven pounds fifty  for a prescription charge, or  not getting the pills. And trust me I know -I have a drawer full of prescriptions I have never collected.  A job interview? Same problem. I have lost all my savings I had amassed and bunt through my disposable income and had to borrow heavily just to get to an interview for a position I really wanted – the train fare alone was two weeks income for me. And I did not get the job, again…

Now to be fair, much of this is NOT a problem if you are on the dole, Income Support or similar. I know it’s hard, but I honestly miss the luxury of knowing I would get my bi-weekly giro. And free prescriptions! Unfortunately the only  state benefit I receive does not give on exemption from that or Council Tax for example, and a helluva lot of other people are in the same boat. It’s really mainly a problem for the working poor – those who actually do work, but are on low incomes. No amount of financial planning or savings can protect you against some of life’s disasters when you have £17.50 a week after rent & council tax to live off, and these people make up that villainous 20%.

And they pay everyone’s bank costs, covering the 80% who actually are never going to need to worry about having to go suddenly overdrawn. Hence “reverse Robin Hood” – not a sex position, but actually the way UK banking works - “robbing from the poor to pay for the rich” :)

Alan Rickman looks great as the Sheriff of Nottingham

The Sheriff of Nottingham ponders the size of his bonus as he prepares another Credit Card launch - so much easier than the olde methods of oppression!

This was NOT the issue at stake in the court case. In fact the Court Ruling goes some way to making clear that in fact the ruling was on the appropriateness of the tool used by the Office of Fair Trading to pursue the demonic horde – er sorry, I mean High Street banks – and that the tool in question, an EU directive, was incorrect. The OFT has gone off to lick it’s wounds, and I expect an announcement shortly – there are still plenty of legal options if they have the will to continue the fight. There is actually a FAR more dangerous legal threat to the banks lurking in the wings, but I shall ignore that for now as it has nothing to do with bank charges.

My Situation

I have just been hit for £100 by my bank for bank charges – puzzling, given that I have only one direct debit or other agreement, no standing orders, only one payment goes out – my phone bill – which I had funds to cover and have not gone over my agreed overdraft as far as I can see – until the charges came in last month, pushing me over.  Now i have been charged for being in debt cos I could not clear the last charge before this month.  That charge was equal to 10 days disposable income for me – the new charges represent six weeks disposable income. I am now locked in what will rapidly become a spiral of charges, which will eventually result in my ending up with a huge debt to my bank – all from one £25 charge, the cause of which I am still not aware of.

I have written to my bank, and had some correspondence – and was interested by what was said. I noted that I had signed up for a current account on the understanding that I could not actually go overdrawn, and that my solo card prevented me spending money I did not have. I was informed that in fact I can now go overdrawn, the contracts T&C’s* having been subject to change, and that they as a bank can in fact not stop me doing this, and can not allow me to put some block on my account so I can’t spend what I don’t have. I can NOT have a limit by which I can not go outside my overdraft. I asked why, and my understanding is this “service” is provided by a third party company. I need to look in to this, as it could have quite serious ramifications in terms of the legality of my original contract, subsequent variation,and Data Protection regarding sharing of my personal data with subsidiary or affiliated groups.

The End of Free Banking?

And here is the big bogeyman – the fear that like America, most of Europe, in fact most of the World we might have to pay a small charge for our banking.  The righteous 80% are positively frothing when you suggest that actually everyone paying the ACTUAL cost of their banking services would not really be unreasonable, rather than the poorest subsidizing everyone else.   The fact such an arrangement would be in agreement with principles of natural justice does not seem to bother them – they are terrified the bank might take their money.  Yet to the poorest the current arrangement is crippling, little more than loansharking. Why do I say this?

As you may have gathered I resent paying bank charges beyond my usual debit interest and the odd small fee, like the £9 which I used to be charged when I actually signed up to my contract if I did something dumb. That is today £25.  So when I needed money last month  (and I have just been scraping around to get change off the floor to buy a loo roll  – I get my money on Saturday) I decided that I would be a good responsible citizen, and extend my overdraft by fifty quid. It’s £200. I did not think £250 would break them. I had not been overdrawn beyond my limit in three years. I have no CCJ’s against me, and a small but regular income. So applied online for a one month £50 extension.

And they said it would cost me £25 for arranging the overdraft. Er what? It costs me £25 to go “informally overdrawn” – and £25 if I do it properly too? SO I phoned up, they confirmed the charge, and refused to extend my overdraft anyway. I ended up borrowing off friends, who ar every long suffering but realise my situation. Thanks to everyone who has helped so often!

Now the bank’s defence on their practices is that if you make an arrangement with them you will not incur the charges. I tried to make an arrangement – and the charges were still there? No less – exactly the same fee. So if i actually went overdrawn illegitimately, or legitimately, it would cost sthe same. And what is worse, they refused me anyway. So the bank has clearly decided I’m a bad credit risk – yet when I put my card in to try and get my last fiver out, it asked me if I wanted to pay £25 for the privilege of an “informal overdraft arrangement”.

I declined, and added another prescription to my collection.

So if Free Banking is threatened, I won’t cry too much. I’ll still pay, but you can be certain that te 80% will make sure that they are not ripped off, as they have the voices and power, and I don’t think it will happen anyway. Why? People are getting used to shopping around for the best bank account deals. They are realising that when a bank changes the rates or charges, they can move their money elsewhere. Credit Cards (which I don’t have) taught people the esoteric joys of balance tranfers. We are not like our parents who stayed with the bank down the road for life. Competition would reduce bank charges immediately once they are moved from those who can';t afford them to those who can.

Furthermore, the government is the biggest stake holder in many of the High Street banks now. The bail out, what was it £62 billion or whatever, saved the economy. From my reading Gordon Brown actually did save the world, well at least the global economy while the Americans dillied and dallied. Good on him! I’m no fan of New Labour, but it was a beautiful bit of political intervention.  So maybe the political will exists to actually stop this nonsense, and stop the increasing gap between rich and poor in our society?

There is something pathetic about an administration legislating to end Child Poverty, yet not looking at the causes of that poverty, of which ruinous bank charges on the parents of said kids must come high in the causes. The government controls the banks – and can promise free banking on the banks they are major stakeholders in.

And the banks: the banks can stop this now. All they have to do is cap unauthorised spending – stop people taking money they have not got out of the cash machine, and charge what it actually costs to bounce a direct debit or whatever, not some exorbitant fee.  Sure people would suffer, as I do, because they can’t lay their hands on cash at the end of the month – but if you put them in a cycle of bank charges like this they will soon have no money by the middle, then the start of the month. So stop selling debt to third party companies banks, and make your limits stick. And get rid of the ludicrous charge on AGREED overdrafts.

Yes, profits might fall a little. Yes shareholders in the banks might get slightly lower dividends. But how many bank shareholders actually have kids in poverty? And aren’t we all shareholders when we pay tax since the bail out? Are we not entitled to join the party?

I fought the Beast – and the Beast won – for now. Yet it will not continue forever…

cj x

* and before anyone says – bet you did not read the Terms and Conditions carefully – oh, how wrong you are! I actually read them and understood them fully, and in fact far better in light of the relevant legislation than my bank appears to have.  I wonder why they do not hire solicitors to read their own T&C’s, rather than apparently just copy them from each other and earlier agreements? One day very soon this could cost them so much that a lot of banks might go under…  I find it incredible that many Banks seem unaware of the statutory requirements of the Consumer Credit Acts…

The Second Sermon of the Rev. Jerome

Posted in Dreadful attempts at humour, Religion, Social commentary desecrated by Chris Jensen Romer on November 24, 2009

More silliness from the Dawkins forum, from my series of sermons. This one was much misunderstood at the time!

In this, the second of my Sunday sermons, I would like to take a moment to thank you all for the stunned silence which met my first sermon. At least I would like to think it was stunned silence — I suspect in reality it was either utter indifference, or an unwillingness to sit through a lengthy exposition. With these thoughts in mind I will now ask Mr Grimble on organ to play “Anarchy in the UK“, and for us to reflect deeply on the moving sentiments of that 20th century divine, the Rev. J. Rotten.

Thank you, especially to the choristers whose enthusiastic moshing brought a tear to my eye, especially that low aimed kick from Scrubbage minor. Let us proceed…

This evening, as we have all just witnessed, I received a right kick in the balls. And as I reeled around clutching my testes (and let us not forget testament derives from the same root, from the Roman custom of swearing veracity upon the testicles: still I know many of you know this for i have frequently heard you refer to the New Testament as “bollocks”, a knowledge fo ancient linguistics I find surprising in this remote village, but which assures me of your intellectual fervour and that my sermonizing has some effect… anyway, I was moved to think by Scrubbages attack on my manhood, “how often in life do we need a sharp metaphorical kick in the nads; and how often do we receive it without asking.”

Now it is fashionable these days to decry old fashioned notion of good and evil, and to pretend that evil and sin simply do not exist. How can such nonsense persist in a culture filled with learned scientists, dedicated to truth and rationality? Empirically i can assure you that sin and evil exist – for evil even now dwells within my nads, a nagging ferocious pain, and the look of ferocious malice and delight on Scrubbages face as he kicked me left me no doubt that he has a black sadistic soul, and a sadistic streak which would put the divine Marquis to shame: in short that he is exactly of the normal character of choir boys everywhere. If there is one error popularly ascribed to Rome I can have no understanding of, it is the often claimed propensity of their priests for choir boys. I doubt it can be more than a myth, as would anyone with even passing acquaintance with the breed who sing here.

Now does any here doubt the existence of evil? Scrubbage will deliver empirical evidence to your satisfaction, if you would care to come forward? He has a most excellent right boot? No? Why are my altar calls so unpopular these days? Very well, let us proceeed…

It would be easy for me to administer my wrath upon the unfortunate Scrubbage, were it not that I too was once a boy, and know that the urge to aim a kick a pompous old balding jackass in a cassock in the balls is one not lightly resisted. This is part of that burden of sin we all face — the urge to do what comes naturally, but what one really should not, for the benefit of others. I don’t care much if you want to spend an evening with the entire Welsh Rugby team high on drugs in a San Francisco bathhouse: what you do in the privacy of your own head is none of my business. Despite rumours about me climbing a ladder to stare in to the voluptuous Edna Nibbins bedroom window, I can assure you what you do in your bed rooms is no concern of mine. Looking at the size of most of you reared on a diet of MacDonalds and super-sized choco milkshakes, oozing out of your Sunday best, buttons straining against cheap polyester even imagining your sex lives renders me nauseous. I’d prefer to develop a mental lens cap when it comes to your vices – solitary, communal, or with the goat, the fetters, and the lard.

What bothers me is when you do not act in a spirit of love, charity and forgiveness. Note I say ACT. You can mentally act like a James Bond Villain for all I care, torturing unfortunates, sleeping with a bevy of beautiful women and winning the Church Bingo four weeks running. If however your actions bring misery upon others, then we have a problem. To think about such things – well it’s none of my business, and who am I to know? Yet to act with malice, to bring about deliberate evil, that is to engage in sin. And the problem with dwelling on evil thoughts is one tends to get rather caught up in them, like a girl trying to work out where her boyfriend was on Tuesday night after the pub, after Chastity Entwhistle gave him a lift home. She thinks and thinks and thinks: Chastity is a slapper, as many here can attest (nods to Chastity), and Brian a Dork – but Fiona’s mind dwells upon it till she calls Chastity a slag in public. Oh how easy it is to sin! See, I just did!

Now we often sin quite inadvertently. and cause misery to others. We should be sincerely repentant, and do our best to make amends – Chastity, did i forget to mention the Miss Joyful Prize for Raffia Work you won this has had the five pound prize replaced with a mini-break to Disneyland? – and we should sincerely ask for forgiveness, which looking at the surly pout on Chastity’s prize haddock face may be some time in coming. Damn! I did it again! Er, Chastity, see me after the sermon…

So why does evil come, when all we desire is good?

SEX.

Yes, you heard me, it’s all down to SEX. And I am deadly serious. For in the act of sexual reproduction, we take on Original Sin, the base mammalian traits and survival characteristics encoded in our Selfish Genes. In short, we act with animal instincts, because we are biological beasties, born through sexual reproduction. And let us never forget the stirring final chapter of the Book of our Prof, in which RD tells us a great truth – that we are by nature, naughty, wicked and inclined to act like irritating little shits, like in fact, choir boys. Yet RD reminds us that we have a true Grace, a chance of Redemption, for we alone of the greater primates (excluding possibly choir boys – I understand one once acted altruistically, a little angel in South Park Colorado called Eric Cartman, though others have expressed doubts) are capable of making moral choices, seeing ahead, and acting for the good of others – in short repudiating our selfish genes, and embracing loving kindness through imaginative sympathy with our neighbour.

Miss Jones! Mr Louder! Not that kind of embracing and loving! there is a place for that sort of thing – its the vestry cupboard, through that little door over there! And yes the flying helmet and the wet stick of celery is imaginative, but not that imaginative – I watched ‘Allo ‘Allo too!

Anyway, lest I drone on till the older members need funerals and someone decides to try and get a discount rate, yes, I can see you yawn. Yes, this is an awful lot like Christianity, and the teachings of Jesus and Paul. Yet if CS Lewis can get a Hollywood blockbuster deal, and so can JRR with his trilogy, well there has to be a place for crypto-Christian messages in todays society. And unlike those gentleman, I’m here and happy to be called a boring old fart and answer back.

Now if we can all sing Hymn no. 23 I fell in Love with a Starship Trooper – I trust you all brought your torches??? – I will just take Chastity outside for some much needed personal catechism.

May Your Mods be With You…

j x

PM’s Pledge To Flood Devastated Cumbria

Posted in Dreadful attempts at humour by Chris Jensen Romer on November 21, 2009

“PM’s Pledge To Flood Devastated Cumbria” is a headline today on Sky News. I thought it unfortunate, and wondered how he plans to get the waters to rise above the level of the local mountains. Presumably his plan involves damning the lakes, levelling Scafell Pike, etc etc, and building a huge dyke around the county before letting the North Atlantic rush in?  Flooding the county further seems a little unnecessary, given the “Act of God” (though one has to ask which one is intended by that phrase?) which has already done a pretty good job.  Still if you are in Cumberland or Westmoreland might I suggest starting to build an ark, and voting Tory? (I can’t believe I suggested the latter…)

My friend DC comes from Seaton near Cockermouth — I can’t see him being impressed by this latest government initiative. Or maybe Sky News intended to say “PM’s Pledge to Assist Cumbria, Devastated by Floods?” I assume the latter, but my reading was more interesting!

Best wishes to all Cumbrians struggling with the flood, and all News Editors struggling with the English language. :)

cj x

PS They have now an hour later changed the headline to “PM’s £1m Pledge To Help Flood-Hit Cumbria”

Shame the former version was more interesting, while significantly less accurate!

A Haunting in Normal Terrace

Posted in Dreadful attempts at humour by Chris Jensen Romer on November 15, 2009

OK I was watching A Haunting last night as Liz is off back home to Bicester and wanted to chat and watch TV. In the course of it i decided to tell the story of how my house came to be haunted…

Long long ago in the late 19th century the area where my house stands today was a muddy field. One day a builder came along and started to dig foundations. Now it just happened at that time a brand new Indian restaurant (Cheltenham’s first) opened down on the High Street. People flocked form far and wide to taste the exotic cuisine.

Now I am sure many of you are aware that Cheltenham’s reputation for being posh originated with the spa, but it was perpetuated when the town became a fashionable place of retirement for retired colonial administrators and military folk back from service in India.

So when the restaurant opened it was an instant hit. There was only one problem.

The family who ran the restaurant came from Kerala and the cuisine was flavoured extensively with coconut milk,  and dessicated coconut. The aging colonels were on the whole more used to Northern Indian cuisine – and so as they hurried home with their takeaways, and en route excitedly tasted the food. Disgusted, many simply hurled the cartons repulsed to one side – and mainly in to the foundations of what became my house.

The restaurant soon closed – it was just too alien to British tastes of the time –even ex-colonial ones– but my house was built on those foundations.

And that is why today my home is haunted - it is built on the site of an ancient Indian burial ground. :)

(And if you believe that you will believe anything!)

cj x

My birthday cake

I sometimes  think my family don’t take my interest in parapsychology too seriously… :)

My birthday cake

My birthday cake

It was delicious though!

cj x

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