Blogwatch

As the title suggests, we do like to look at others’ blogs. Occasionally, we get bloggers to write something for us; at other times we go and look for ourselves. This issue features the blog of someone you just may have seen on TV. We’re impressed with this one and have put it on our sidebar over at Pink Triangle.

He’s gay. He’s an illusionist extraordinaire, a mentalist and a painter. And he’s a sceptic. You may well have seen him on British television (and possibly outside Britain, too).

He’s Derren Brown, and he has a blog, and it’s an interesting blog full of links to things any thinking atheist – or just thinking doubter, or just those who like to think and be challenged – would love.

Earthworms form herds and make group decisions is one recent headline, complete with a disgusting/interesting/fascinating/gross picture (delete as applicable, but we’ve reproduced it here).

Earthworms forming herds
Earthworms forming herds

Where do you stand on aliens? This post was at the top of the blog when we checked out for “Blogwatch”.

So what is your take? That they definitely exist somewhere in this vast universe? That they don’t? That they probably do but, if they were going to come to Earth, they’d be here by now, so we’ll never get ET visiting this planet (with or without young Earthly friend)?

I suspect Brown is sceptical about aliens. I’d like to think he keeps an open mind, although he doesn’t comment here, just points us to a Telegraph article, and quotes it as saying:

The poll questioned 23,000 adults in 22 countries and found that more than 40 per cent of people from India and China believe that alien life exists with a human façade on this planet.

European respondents in the survey were more sceptical with only eight per cent of people from Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands convinced that life from outer space exists on earth.

Men were more likely to believe in extra-terrestrial life than women with 22 per cent convinced compared to 17 per cent of women.

Still on the subject of matters “out there”, a more recent post points us to an Independent article looking at the conspiracy theories surrounding the Apollo moon landings. After 9/11 and the assassination of John F Kennedy, it’s perhaps the biggest generator of conspiracy theories.

The impression that comes over is that it’s a very useful blog for aggregating stuff, in that it brings together several elements (in Brown’s case interesting links to articles) to make the whole, but there seems to be no comment from the blogger himself (except in one section, dealt with below). He’s probably leaving it up to us to decide on the likely truth or otherwise of the stories he links to.

Near-death experiences

Take CO2 may cause near-death experiences, for instance. Many people have claimed to see lights at the ends of tunnels, to have left their bodies, to have seen dead loved ones, but it could be down to too much of one particular gas in the bloodstream.

We do come across some rather startling evidence that seems to support near-death experiences from time to time, but, short of doing an experiment oneself, it’s hard to say. Again, Brown is leaving it to us to read the article and make up our own minds.

His categories include “Amazing”, “Interesting People”, “Art”, “Funny Ha Ha”, “Interesting Theories” and “Misdirection, Deception and Magic” (which is something the talented Mr Brown is very good at).

He also has a category called “Religious Matters”, and the first post that caught our eye concerned the story of a talented artist aged just 10, called Jackson Potts II: A (very) young artist makes waves (as opposed to Jackson Pollock I, who made splatter).

Station 7 by Jackson Potts

The boy was tasked with representing one of the Stations of the Cross with photography, and his dad asked him whether he wanted to do a modern or more traditional interpretation. Modern, said the lad, and he staged a disturbing scene in a photo, titled Station 7. It shows a modern-day policeman beating a child in front of a crowd of onlookers, and is meant to depict the moment when Jesus falls for a second time and is beaten by soldiers. The boy represents the supposed innocence of Jesus.

But – wouldn’t you just know it? – some decided this wasn’t acceptable. The Ecclesia Church, described by the Wall Street Journal, which Brown is citing, as a “progressive Christian house of worship”. Progressive? Are you thinking what we’re thinking?

Well, they let him keep the picture up there only for the opening of the exhibition (which is due to close on 25 April), but then a substitute had to be mounted. Pity.

It’s been worth dwelling on that one. It’s just an illustration of the types of story Brown chooses to feature (and you can tell he’s been tipped off on many of them, because he offers due thanks where it’s needed).

Aye-aye

You might also like the story of the aye-aye, a small creature in Madagascar that weighs under 2 kilos (about 4 pounds) and is harmless. But it’s threatened by superstition, because the local population thinks it’s a harbinger of death.

If you want to hear from DB direct, you need to go to, well, “DB direct”, where Brown shares some of his personal experiences and chat. We learn that he likes a rather unusual martini. In a post about a sojourn in Sunderland, he says, “I sometimes like to request a chocolate martini, asking the barpersonage to make whatever he or she feels fits that term. Sometimes you get clear, subtle versions; sometimes thick gloopy brown lovelinesses.”

Wild Aye Aye
The aye-aye – believed to be a harbinger of death

Like any performer, he doesn’t like to see audience members disrupting the show by constantly getting out of their seats to go for a pee.

The audience [in Bradford] was definitely not a theatre-savvy one (plenty of getting up to go to the loo and so on), so I caught myself glaring uncharitably at some offenders who were shattering the atmosphere for the audience at the wrong moments by noisily getting up and squeezing past people in their row. Such things don’t affect me on stage, but it’s infuriating to put all the work into the show and then have a few people spoil it for large blocks of the audience by treating it like casual TV watching. You have my permission to throw your drinks at these people if they annoy you. Rant over.

Finally, his trusty assistant on the blog, known as Mr Coops, has re-edited a scene from the animated comic show Family Guy as an unashamed promotion for Brown himself. It’s under all these words. Enjoy!

And enjoy the blog, too. Lots of stuff of interest, some funny, some serious, some neither. Highly recommended.
 

Related links
Derren Brown (blog)
“DB direct”
Pink Triangle
Family Guy (Wikipedia entry)