Archive: atheism

I’ve been thinking about getting involved in podcasting for a while now. So when I saw a favourite blogger of mine asking for contributors to a new podcast he was setting up, I thought it was the ideal opportunity to dip my toe in the water.

The podcast is the idea of James O’Malley, a fine chap with a jolly good blog. His thinking is to have a number of contributors chipping in to a weekly podcast which will be around 15–20 minutes long. The podcast will be along the lefty / liberal / atheist / skeptical / rationalist lines. Read James O’Malley’s explanation for more.

What was missing was a name for the podcast. A bit difficult to come up with a name for something that only exists in your brain. But with the vague template in mind, I set to work, along with the other contributors, to think of a suitable name.

Suddenly, it came to me. After I had been lying in bed literally unable to sleep for hours, it suddenly came to me: The Pod Delusion. Yes, I know. I’m a genius. Not quite a living legend like James O’Malley though. Nonetheless, the fact that I came up with the excellent name means that The Pod Delusion is definitely my podcast. The fact that I put no effort whatsoever into creating it, producing it or commissioning pieces for it is frankly neither here nor there.

Anyway, I am quite excited about The Pod Delusion. With the stellar line-up of contributors, it seems like it’s going to be ace. If everything goes to plan and this week’s pilot goes down well, you can expect a new episode every Friday. My plan is to publish all transcripts of my contributions, or an accompanying article, on this website as and when each podcast is published.

Here is the first episode of The Pod Delusion. I have just listened to it myself. Since it’s the first ever attempt, it is a tad ramshackular, but that will get better over time. All-in-all, I think it’s a fine listen.

Hopefully sometime soon it will be available over iTunes too. You can follow @poddelusion on Twitter.

My first little piece for The Pod Delusion is about product placement. When I first set about doing it, my intention was to try and make it serious. I had actually been planning to write here about the product placement hoo-ha, but then decided I could kill two birds with one stone by making it my Pod Delusion contribution too.

Unfortunately, I got a little bit carried away with the fact that I was working in an exciting new audio medium. I inserted a few audio jokes which won’t work in writing. From then on, the whole thing became just a collection of bad jokes about product placement, strung together by the flimsiest of wafer-thin serious points.

So, bearing that in mind, here is my contribution to this week’s Pod Delusion.

It was announced last week by Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw that product placement will soon be allowed on commercial channels. I suppose there was an inevitability in this. After all, commercial broadcasters finding it harder to sustain themselves through traditional advertising in a multichannel world. Plus, we are living in an era where so many people use PVRs to fast-forward through the adverts anyway.

There has to be some way to fund commercial television. After all, what would we do without ITV? Okay, that’s a bad example. But what would we do without Channel Five? Well okay, but you get my point.

Many worry about the effects that product placement will have on the viewing experience. With product placement, there will be a question mark over the purity of the programmes we watch. Will our programmes be peppered with subliminal advertising that attempt to brainwash us into changing the brand of soap powder that we use?

I’m not so sure that will be such an issue. After all, we are well used to product placements in major films. Television programmes from other countries are filled with product placements already. I am sure that most people are savvy enough to tell what’s going on.

For instance, it can be disconcerting to watch an episode on Neighbours when one of the characters decides to open the fridge. Inexplicably, the fridge is filled from wall to wall with nothing but cans of Sprite! That is obviously a nonsensical scenario. It would have been far more realistic if the fridge was filled from wall to wall with cans of tasty Dr Pepper — “what’s the worst that can happen?”

The odd thing about imported programmes is that due to the stricter laws in the UK, our broadcasters have to blur such product placements out. But this only brings attention to the fact that there is an alien blob floating around on the screen.

Focusing on the blobs on American Idol, for instance, you can clearly see that the judges have large cups on their desk. These cups are predominantly red but with a distinctive white swirl that can only be associated with Coke. Mmm… fresh, ice cold Coke.

The new product placement rules do not affect the BBC. But it would be interesting to consider what it might be like if one day the rules were relaxed for the BBC too. After all, is there anything more ridiculous than the slightly awkward attempts to avoid using brand names during makes on Blue Peter? Referring to “sticky back plastic” may be quaint and traditional, but it is also distracting and sets off a klaxon in your brain that sounds something like: “SELLOTAPE! SELLOTAPE!

I once saw a Blue Peter make where you had to use a “crisp tube”. What on earth is a crisp tube? Crisps come in packets don’t they? What they were talking about was a pack of Pringles. Given that Pringles are the only make of crisps to be sold in that style of tub, you can more or less guarantee that sales of Pringles went through the roof anyway — all because of the BBC’s massive abuse of power.

Well I think I have said all there is to say about product placement. I think what I will do now is take off my Specsavers glasses and shut down my Asus Eee PC. Then I think I will listen to my Apple iPod, while eating a fresh sandwich from Subway.

Or perhaps I will just go for a piss in my Armitage Shanks toilet.

In my previous post I wondered if Nick Clegg would do much to enthuse me. Well, in my view he’s got off to a good start.

He revealed on the radio that he doesn’t believe in God. What’s more, he seems to have a thoroughly sensible, tolerant approach to the whole religion issue.

What a refreshing thing to hear from a politician. It does often seem as though atheism or even agnosticism is one of the worst things a politician can be associated with among some circles. Tony Blair even seemed to think it was a liability to be the wrong type of Christian. C of E while PM, since resigning he has mysteriously become a Roman Catholic.

Paul Linford, for instance has said that Clegg’s non-belief is “certainly concerning for me as a Christian” (via Bob Piper). Never mind the millions of non-Christians in this country who have never seen a non-Christian PM! I wonder if he ever found Margaret Thatcher’s sex as concerning for him as a male.

In this supposedly tolerant society, I sometimes think we’d sooner see a three-legged Prime Minister than a non-church-goer — never mind a black or openly gay PM. I wonder how many leaders of the major parties historically have publicly stated that they don’t believe in God. I assume Nick Clegg must be among the first. Full credit to him for speaking the truth.

The second thing that has impressed me is the fact that he has enlisted Brian Eno to “reach out beyond the London beltway”. In particular, Eno is to advise the Lib Dems on how to appeal to young people.

This is good in two senses. Firstly, appealing to young people is good. One of the biggest crimes in the country today is to be a yoof, as you can see with the vilification of the hoodie, a convenient item of clothing.

Appealing to young people is a typical politician’s cliché. But this comes across to me as quite a serious attempt. Brian Eno is not some greasy pole-climbing politician looking to get good headlines in the Daily Mail.

The second sense in which is this good is… Brian Eno, man!

Brian Eno is 59, which has led some people to wonder if he is really the right person to appeal to youth. I’m 21, which is pretty young, although I guess I am not like most yoofs. But I think Brian Eno is great. The person who (as legend has it) invented ambient music has got to be awesome, right?

He has created some of the greatest pieces of music of the past thirty or forty years. A lot of young people respect this. I know I certainly do. Okay, there are various U2-related crimes, but that’s a tough gig. I mean, talk about polishing a turd!

Brian Eno should be respected for actually engaging his brain (one). He is the only pop musician I can think of who doesn’t just dribble out ignorance every time he opines about a topic other than music. In a world teeming with preening pricks like Bob Geldof and Bono, Brian Eno is a real breath of fresh air.

And, unlike Bob Geldof’s sojourn with the Conservatives (presumably David Cameron has some really nice biscuits and a good belly-rubbing technique), Eno’s association with the Lib Dems is principled. Remember Eno’s website from a couple of years back, Lib Dem This Time (rather broken-looking now)? Eno is also a long-standing supporter of electoral reform.

One other thing, and it’s related to what I said yesterday. It looks as though Nick Clegg has raised a few eyebrows by saying that he hasn’t heard of ‘Fairytale of New York’ and by citing a non-existent album (‘Changes’ by David Bowie) as his favourite.

It does seem a bit odd. But what if the poor guy just doesn’t like pop music? I have written before that I don’t understand why we expect politicians to know these things. Sure, most people keep tabs on pop music. But we are all different, and we all have different interests. Maybe Clegg’s “gaffes” are just down to the fact that he doesn’t waste time on trivia.

I’m glad I have ruled out becoming a politician in the future. If I did, I would no doubt be asked what my favourite film was. I’d have to answer, “I dunno, I don’t really watch films,” because I don’t really watch films. Then I’d be crucified by a media (and society?) that wants mine to be a mirror image of the median voter’s leisure tastes.