Category Archives: Psychogeography

Tucson, Arizona

Here in the UK, the dreadful shooting in Tucson, though powerfully tragic, is a distant atrocity, far away in cultural as well as geographical terms. We look on horrified through that odd hue all American TV footage shares and in particular, however sad we feel, I think sometimes the distance wrongly allows us to accept our lack of understanding. Even the accents on local reporters accentuates that gap. It has similar resonance to the murder of Salmaan Taseer in Pakistan – although rendered bigger news by the dramatic dominance of the USA over our culture (and by how awfully commonplace ideological murder is in Pakistan).

Reeling today, like everyone, I’m convinced it is far too easy for us to sigh and dismiss Tucson, Arizona as some near-alien place of hate-fuelled violence, to fall once again into the heartbreaking pajorative British trap of believing this is ‘normalcy’, that “Americans are stupid and/or dangerous”. You can smell hints of it in even the most sympathetic or liberal of UK newscasting today. Especially when even America itself, hurt and trying to gather perspective, is describing Arizona in such generalised, very negative terms.

This is so damn wrong. Today I need to write this: I’m a middle-class lefty Brit and (at least until the Coalition this year was catalyst for a protest rennaissance) I have long found far more opportunity to talk politics, ideology and social issues in measured terms in the USA than here in the UK, especially with younger people. Whatever their background (though I accept I come into contact with more white, privileged people than other kinds), in my experience it is a complete fallacy to write off yanks – including those away from the two coasts – as dumb or disinterested or isolationist. It is a sceptical (and stupid) mis-reading of sincerity, ambition and indeed cultural language.

And I need to write this: Tucson, Arizona is one of the most beautiful, welcoming cities I’ve ever visited. I haven’t been a lot, just passed through all-too-briefly, in the usual way as touring musician type. Yet for me it is the city of the Airplane Graveyard; beautiful little underground collective-run party shows; of Calexico; being driven up into incredible local desert by publisher Dan; of servers in Mexican cafés who hug spirit into you like a big sister when you leave their diner (in an Amma sort of way, not a Milf sort of way). In San Francisco I gigged with lush, clever prog-folk band Seashell Radio from Tucson – who immediately, unhesitatingly offered strangers a place to stay the second they found out we were coming to town. Albeit in a remote Internet-nurtured way, these are people and places I love and miss.

But I won’t also forget one aftershow conversation in Tucson with three young punk guys, last year – especially vivid and uncomfortable reflected in the light of this tragedy. They were atheist, anti-war, anti-racist and at their core socially progressive. Not trots/commies as we’d understand it – not so tax friendly, much closer to a Libertarian viewpoint – but they had no time for (no interest in) the GOP, religious extremism, FoxNews, big business or any of the reactionary mush. Yet at the same time, a key issue of liberty for them was the Second Amendment: the entire crew each owned guns, could use them comfortably and passionately believed in their right to carry one for self defence. This wasn’t boasting to the Limey – just one part of a broader conversation – what did make them boast excitedly was the bands they’d seen and roadtrips they’d done. The gun stuff was matter-of-fact, an attempt to explain. It was the single clearest social difference I saw between these Tucson guys and, say, southern Californian stoner kids of similar attitude and taste, who’ve (dickheads aside) never seen a gun in real life except on the belt of a cop or school guard.

I don’t claim any generalised presumptions about this, it was just one conversation at one gathering. And I remember being shocked and even, to a certain extent at the time, persuaded – if not of the rightness of it then at least of their sincerity and belief in the ‘right’ without ill intent.

But, no.

Tucson is not ‘to blame’. Deep down I know Palin, Beck, Limbaugh and O’Reilly aren’t ‘to blame’ either, although the cumulative effect of FoxNews’ relentless rabble-rousing rhetoric and persistent repetition of violent metaphor while encouraging direct action needs urgently addressing. No, it is the availability of, love for and culturally endemic pervasiveness of guns that is ‘to blame’, in as much as it is the major fulcrum that turns anger and murderous intent in disturbed and alienated people into actual murder.


what augmented reality can do for real reality

In a conversation with Anth Melton a couple of months ago about augmented reality, Anth said something that turned my view of the technology on its head. It’s stuck with me, got to be shared and he won’t be bothered, so here goes.

We tend to come at augmented reality from the point of view of the benefits ‘within’ it, ie. what it does for you once you’ve got your Google Goggles or iSpecs on and you’re wandering around a world you’ve programmed, seeing a range of content and adverts picked out and filtered for you. But Anth suggested we should regard the development of AR from the other direction, from a town planning / eco-improvement perspective. Perhaps it offers an incredibly powerful tool (or at least impetus) to sort out the real physical world. I honestly haven’t heard this perspective on AR anywhere else and it amazes me, the more I think about it, it’s almost Mayer Hillman counter-intuitive.

You know the way that sometimes urban spaces look suddenly, unexpectedly beautiful if you look up above the ground floor? The truism that if you’re walking around a shoddy town centre, overcrowded with consumers, full of advert hoardings and with every building covered in shop signage, that the buildings themselves are actually gorgeous? You just have to look slightly upwards – to the first floor and above – to get smacked in the face by how lush these streets of varied historic architecture are, especially at a quieter time of day. For me Oxford Street and in particular Charing Cross Road are like that early morning, when there aren’t the usual bucketloads of numpties. Brighton is like that too because we have ramshackle, alleyway architecture which fades into the background when the town is rammed brimful of tourists and shoppers.

So what we do is migrate all extraneous commercial and social signage onto augmented reality, provide everyone with the means to view it when needed, then enjoy an improved real world that we can drop in and out of as suits. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past two months, imagining the extent to which the exodus online of commercial industries could go hand-in-hand with renewal of (both urban and rural) spaces. Someone needs to get the ball rolling with a trial space.

Pick an area, such as a small progressively-minded town. Then digitise as much commercial traffic and transaction as possible, not simply to improve its efficiency or make the same advances everywhere else is trying to make, but with a conscious aim of ‘cleaning up’ the physical world. Trial this small town free of any advert hoardings or roadsigns, which are all in a town-planned augmented reality space. It becomes illegal to drive a car without your council-supplied AR iSpecs on.

Go nuts. Hoodied yoof gets hold of special AR spraypaint apps to graff up the ARscape. Gig promoters and theatre managers flypost and billboard their shows in the same ARscape as newspaper sellers posting up their headlines. The only dogs you’re allowed to walk around town exist in AR, so the shit is deletable. Political campaigns and letterbox junkmail are in that space too. Parents can limit what their kids’ glasses pick out, so that they’re not exposed to the more adult-oriented promotional material, while similarly filtering the childrens’ adventure games out of their own AR.

Meanwhile we can switch civilisation off and opt out, temporarily or permanently as we feel, choosing to breathe in an uncivilised alternative.

Just for a start, out a little challenge to all the hi-tech digital conventions (that may be inevitable anyway): run your events with no physical invasion of the space you’ve descended upon, other than the people themselves. Imagine South By Southwest 2012, not a single leaflest, nor goodie bag, nor poster. Just hundreds of geeks in shades, knowing slightly more (and deliciously slightly less) than the rest of us.

Anyway, I liked it. Only downer is, it reminds me of the paperless office that never happened. But never mind, it has staved off post-tour blues for half a day.

the right kind of tired.

It’s left me queasy in the stomach and cut-up and physically very knackered but I had a brilliant, totally different day today: up on the steep-sloped Sussex downs, clearing back brush and cutting it down to the roots for the Sussex Wildlife Trust. The company for whom I write charidee fundraising guff organises a staff volunteer day and invited me to get in on some rural hard labour action. Couldn’t resist. The SWT also has more seasoned volunteers who work every week on clearing miles of the valley. So far it’s taken four years. But they regularly chuck groups of slack-handed city corporate types and students up there as well for much needed fresh air. Voluntary? If Michael Caine is going to bang on about national service (pay your taxes mate, contribute properly yourself before you start barking opinions on sorting the kids out) then what about making this kind of environmentally sound contribution a compulsory part of the curriculum? Or the whole curriculum? But, in the words of Ronnie Corbett, I digress. Apparently the staff at Brighton Amex went along with a huge Waitrose picnic hamper, packed beer instead of water, were totally fucked up by lunchtime.

Anyway, the work involved chopping and sawing brush away from its roots, creating huge thorny balls of unhooked plant, roughly the size of a small cottage, then rolling them down to the bottom of the slope like a giant snowball, where they were chucked onto a big bonfire. Basically, since the war and mixymatosis in the 50s, no animals have grazed the southern downs properly. Now the whole thing is becoming a National Park, they’re trying to recapture what downland should be like. First get rid of the overgrown nonsense, then bring the animals back to graze. SWT have their own sheep and cattle already on the job – however apparently regular farmers can get paid to allow their livestock to graze on the downs.

If you know Sussex, we were up behind the white cliffs of Lewes.

While I was there, sawing away, the details of next year’s single, album and tour all got remarkably smoothly ironed out and fell into place during an email conversation between the guys at ITB and Xtra Mile. It was weird because the normal music industry organisational discussions all took place with me joining in on email while actually rolling around in sheep shit and getting thorns in places thorns should never ever go. I even got the iPhone covered in rabbit droppings at one point. Although it was tempting just to stop and concentrate on music things, I would’ve looked a right dick sitting on this gorgeous piece of empty downland tapping away at my phone.

Now, I’m the right kind of tired. Don’t get it very much, certainly not at home. 95% of my life, my brain gets tired by the end of the day but I haven’t really exerted myself. Even on tour, when we’re carrying gear around or performing or what not, it’s not truly heavy exercise – and comes in small doses. But spend a day doing reasonable (not even particularly extreme if I’m honest) physical labour and the kind of tired I feel at the end is so much better, so much healthier and more balanced, it’s a stark reminder the depth of the koyaanisqatsi we find ourselves in most of our days. I don’t watch Hugh Fearnley-Wotsit very often because of how much he loves to eat everything alive. But I hadn’t realised he was behind the land-share project, where people who have spare land let other people make positive use of it. Genius. Let’s connect younger, hipper companies and collectives either to the kind of volunteer projects I sweated on today or, even better, get them involved in sharing land and putting it to good use.

A campfire micro-tour circuit. Create a series of spaces across the country where small gatherings take place through summer to share unamplified music, like tiny miniature folk festivals. Keep them responsible, fewer than 50 people, nothing like an actual festival, and base the whole thing around a campfire. Make it a “between ‘proper’ festival” tour circuit. Include stand-up and storytelling and non-stage theatre… but make it tread lightly, take its litter home and don’t fuck up the land. Could be epic.

So anyway, I got home as inspired as I was cream crackered.

Foundation & Empire

In Isaac Asimov‘s seminal ‘Foundation’ series of sci-fi novels, he postulates the fictional science of ‘psychohistory‘ by which the close observation of mass groups of people – and how they respond to circumstances – can allow you to predict and even manipulate major societal events. The galactic empire is nearing collapse, so a group of visionary scientists set up a Foundation, aiming to manipulate people using their pioneering science, to ultimately reduce the length of the ‘period of chaos’ between the empire collapsing and the rise of the next civilisation.

For a couple of months, it’s kept popping into my head that Google reminds me of the Foundation. Yep, it’s sci-fi, sorry, but think about the overwhelming complexities and depths of data-mining being done at Google right now, as we’re simultaneously on the cusp of monumental shifts in civilisation worldwide. They can track how a disease spreads for example way faster than government medical strategists. You can be damn sure Google are tracking societal trends and responses to major events faster and in more nuanced ways than we can imagine as outsiders. I wonder if they’re getting close to psychohistory.

Also, we’re going to need something to help the survivors rebuild some form of global network, however formal or anarchic.

Anyway, I’d been thinking about this stuff then unnervingly last week I read in a Wired piece that Hal Varian, one of the Google top boffs, is a huge fan of Asimov’s Foundation series, so there’s even consciousness to the connection. Cripes.

Then on Friday I went to the launch in Oxford of the Dark Mountain project. I’ll write about it in detail for the Morning Star column this week [updated – link] but basically it’s a new post-eco manifesto and ongoing arts project called ‘Uncivilisation’. It seems to be aiming to connect the culture we make to a post-civilisation reality, instead of tying it to the current structures and heirachies we seem to be obsessed with protecting, despite their desperate lack of worth. So far, so comfortably chiming with my views.

It’s curated by environmental writer, activist and former deputy editor of the Ecologist Paul Kingsnorth and blogger and former BBC journalist Dougald Hine, who I mistakenly called ‘Dougal’ in all my tweets. The launch was an understated affair involving me and Sam Get Cape in the garden round the back of the Isis Tavern. They’d made a limited initial pamphlet run of their Uncivilisation manifesto, which is beautifully presented. The garden was lush in the dusk and the people were bookish and folksy. Oxford folkscene doyenne Tim Healey read poetry, which was all well chosen and thought-provoking.

Oh my fucking god, even as I type this, I’ve smacked into a massive conspiracy theory wall that neatly ties in: Tim Healey is Denis Healey’s son and Denis is a founder member of the Bilderberg Group, the secretive annual global gathering of super-powerful investors and government financial types who are, they say, aiming to improve the world by pooling their expertise. Conspiracy theorists the world over tie them to the Skull & Bones and Illuminati conspiracies. How extraordinarily lame that I didn’t make the connection at the time. And fuck me for not thinking to ask Tim A) what he thought about the Bilderberg Group and B) whether he saw a connection of intention between their efforts and Dark Mountain. Christ on a bike! I’m laughing but I’ve really scared myself. Gotta get on that…

Anyway, (I’d already written this bit, feels a bit passé now…) as Paul and Dougald explained their ideas for the proposed movement, it jolted me back to the Google / Foundation thing and then another image from sci-fi: the artilleryman in War Of The Worlds. The Martians have almost defeated humankind and an artilleryman claims to be building a new civilisation underground. Of course, really he’s just dug a 12 foot hole to hide in. So you’ve got a hopeful and a sceptical response, both from sci-fi. I described these onstage, trying to encourage people to actually do something with the Dark Mountain ideas – but I’m not sure a single person in the room took it in. They seemed to enjoy my songs but nobody particularly connected with anything I said. It felt like literary book-launch schmooze rather than a gathering storm, though that’s no bad thing because people can’t begin to wrap themselves in a manifesto til they’ve actually read it.

Halfway through Get Cape’s excellent set, I clocked I had almost no chance of getting home. It was 11.15pm and I was miles from the centre of Oxford. I walked back alone along the banks of the Isis, past the barges, where there are no lights and bats flew all around me. I couldn’t hurry, despite having no hotel room booked, because I felt spaced out by the event. I love that shit, especially fantasising about the collapse to come – easy when one can’t actually imagine the human suffering involved.

And somehow the first cab that drove by stopped; took me to the Oxford Tube; the bus got diverted along the Bayswater Road in a way that actually made it quicker; I got to Victoria with 2 minutes to spare and made it breathless onto the Brighton train. There’s even another story from that train journey home but that’ll have to wait.


The Moz-pot

I’ve had an unusually strong response this week – in both directions – to the Morning Star column about Morrissey and David Walliams. Funny, because I was expecting a much bigger response to the violently angry blog entry, which never came. I guess if you write about a galvanising figure (La Moz more than La Wally), your readership will be ambivalent. 

One of the column’s keenest critics is Jim Bob’s manager and acetastic Englishman-in-LA blogger Marc. But I find his emailed responses so fascinating, enjoyable and amusing that I must be careful not to deliberately write columns just to catch his attention – I’m ashamed to say I focused on Morrissey at least partly inspired by knowing Marc was listening to his new album (in at number 11 in the USA no less!) and would react strongly to my opinion. Anyway, we’ve spent a lot of time together and love arguing about things.

This morning, Rifa and me walked around Preston Park and it was lovely in the sunshine, hardly anyone there except a few pooch-draggers. Reminded me for the first time in ages why I love Brighton so much, contrasting with regular thoughts recently of moving on somewhere else. If only California weren’t bust. 

Hmm, I think I’ll write about Battlestar Galactica and the BBC’s coverage of the U2 album next.

euro tour diary #3 – gone tits

ST GALLEN (calm before the storm)
I forgot to tell you how boss our dinner was, back in Lucerne, in the Fuckhaus, where I had breaded aubergine and polenta – discovering against expectations that I love polenta. Here in St Gallen it’s also delicious: potato-cake things with a rich sauce and vegetables, plus incongruous unsauced pasta on the side, which I ignore. No more pasta til Italy. Switzerland has provided some of the best posh veggie food I’ve tried. 

The hotel is also nice but the shower is in the corner of the bedroom with not even a curtain, so we take turns to sit outside the room while the other jumps in the shower. Would be fun for lovers but a bit annoying today.

Grabenhalle is ace fun. A slightly older, folkier crowd. During the time it takes for Frank and me play our sets, standing in front of a big circular window (hence tonight’s ‘Porthole Concert’ event name), almost two feet of snow falls, totally burying the town. I’ve got lush footage of the sets with fat flakes falling behind us.

The night unfolds messily. Half the audience sticks around and Frank jams tipsy NoFX covers sat on the edge of the stage. We’re alternating appenzeller with whisky thanks to a(nother) forthright bar manager who won’t see us empty-glassed and at the very end I do three uberdrunk extra songs, including a Swiss-German-ised Hedgehog Song. Then we all pile outside, build a massive snowman called Steve in the carpark and have a vicious snowball fight. Frank falls down and cuts his elbow quite badly. That night he’ll leave a disturbing amount of blood on his bedsheets, leading to an embarrassed check-out.

In the morning, covered in snow, St Gallen is an opulent Catholic town but bits of the old town were ruined when a bank bought it all, tore it down and build a ‘red square’ precinct, painting several streets bright red and commissioning a former socialist artist to sell her soul, building massive red-painted installations. It’s gross.

We’ve had a fantastic morning. Then we drive four hours through driving rain and heavy traffic to Geneva and at some point during the journey our karma goes to shit…


The airport straddles France and Switzerland. We need to drop the car off at Avis on the French side of the border, to avoid a massive international surcharge. It’s only half a mile away from the main Swiss airport but somehow SatNav can’t find it and Avis have no address for it. We drive around a bit getting frustrated, then go to the Swiss branch of Avis to ask for help and they kindly give us a hand-drawn map. It’s getting late so we phone the promoter, who will come to the French side to drive us to the venue.

But the Swiss map proves to be utter shit. We drive around Geneva Airport 11 times (I shit you not) adding an hour and 70km to our journey. Meanwhile our promoter Luc got there just by walking through the airport.

We finally find it. At which point Avis stick us for an extra day because apparently we should’ve dropped the car off by 11am. First I’ve heard of it. Also, we slipped over the mileage limit driving round in circles. After a fight, they relent on the mileage and fuel at least. Here’s the beef: according to French staff, the Swiss map we were given is deliberately inaccurate, because the two Avis branches hate each-other and the Swiss side loses money when punters drop cars off on the French side. Or something like that. Anyway, utter smackable fucktards in my book.

So finally shot of the car, we head across town to the venue, at which point we discover we left Frank’s laptop in the hire car. Aaargh! Luc, who is a prince, drives back to the airport while we soundcheck. Tiki’s is a sexy Hawaiian-themed retro bar run by hardcore punkers. It’s fantastic but we’re super-late (and knackered as shit) so just check and play. Luckily it doesn’t affect either show but afterwards I feel so self-consciously stinky and tired, it’s hard to talk to anyone properly.

And then, the worst conclusion to the day possible. Because we’re up at 5am, Luc has just put us up in a Youthhostel and – fuckfuckfuck – we’re in a shared room with strangers! If I’d known even an hour earlier I would’ve happily paid the difference for a private room. We walk into a space the size of my own bedroom at home, but it’s crammed with bunkbeds full of smelly, drunk, snoring and farting Eurofucks. Utterly dismayed but tiredness defeats disgust and I collapse fully-clothed onto an odourous bottom bunk. 

Four hours later, we’re up, unshowered, legging it through dark frozen streets to catch the 6.30am train from Geneva to Vienna, via Zurich: 3 hours to Zurich, 12 minutes to change trains, 8-9 hours to Vienna. Croissant and coffee. Guardian.

What follows, despite kinked circumstance, is the most jaw-droppingly beautiful journey I’ve ever taken. We sleep at first. Then after leaving Zurich we head high into the Alps and cross above a series of snowbound, forested valleys like nothing I’ve ever seen.

We’re in an old-fashioned private compartment of six seats. We have our laptops linked via Bluetooth, so we can talk shit about the various people who come into ‘our’ compartment during the journey. Eventually we get rumbled by two haughty women from Liechtenstein who were offensively blasé about the scenery and don’t react well to being mocked by two scruffy English musicians.

There’s even a reasonable restaurant car, although we have to take turns to go eat because all our luggage is in the compartment. 


We get to Vienna four minutes late, after eight hours traveling, and other passengers are moaning. I wish them all a long British train ride for healthy perspective.

Flying Pig bar owner Paul picks us up. Paul and me lived together for a year at college in the mid-90s but I haven’t seen him since and we’ve only had contact on Myspace. He’s different from how I remember: a quirky bar owner, complete with full-on Austrian accent, married to a Korean action movie star. The bar and gig and whole night are eccentric. The sound is almost impossibly quiet because the speakers are spread through the Flying Pig and there’s no monitoring. Sounds like a truly unplugged show. It’s also very busy with a heavy hardcore contingent but the crowd is weird and can’t decide whether to talk through us or get into it. We both win them over and I begin to think Vienna might have a happy ending.

…btw at this point I realise I accidentally smuggled a (very small) helping of something naughty through seven countries. Moron! Was forgotten in a coat pocket – must be a really common thing to do and I’m just lucky it wasn’t the kind of stuff that a sniffer dog might notice. I’ll leave it behind in Vienna – there were too many armed cops on the train and at the Swiss border… nasty thoughts…

The most interesting people in Vienna are two Stoke guys and an Australian girl living in Budapest offering open house to anyone who strays by (and through, making their living by online gambling. They are scarily young, only just out of teens, yet like something out of a hip movie and their leader is one of the brightest, almost eerily composed guys I’ve ever met. I suggest they watch Grifters because they’d make a stunning scam team and they’re currently locked out of half the gambling sites. We would love to party late with these dudes but we’re just too flaked. Pause to add Budapest to the next EU tour city list. 

We stay in Paul’s flat, while he sleeps in the backroom of his bar. Oddly, his flat has a shower in the kitchen. He says he’ll pick us up at 7am the next morning from the flat, to get his keys back and pay us.

We wake up at 6.30am. A second day operating on 4 hours’ sleep. 

At 7.15am there’s no sign of Paul. We phone him and leave messages. At 7.30 we phone again and pack our gear in a panic. By 7.40am we’re wandering the streets desperately seeking a taxi. Forty minutes and €50 later, we’re at the airport. More phone messages: we still have Paul’s keys and he still has all our money! Come on, where are you man!? Fuck! 

We check in and just make the flight, mainly because it’s been delayed by 30 minutes. It’s a tiny prop plane with 20 other people onboard. Coffee and croissant. Financial Times. Flying low over more Alps and across the Adriatic, south-west into Italy, towards Bologna Airport. And as the Italian booker’s assistant Laura meets us at Bologna, Paul is waking up and leaving messages. But we’ll leave him to our agent now to get our money and I’ll tell you about the last three days in Italy when I’m safely home.  

teaching creationism

Isn’t it funny how creationists always seem so… unevolved?
Bill Hicks

I feel quite sorry for the Royal Society’s director of education, Michael Reiss, for the heat he’s taken over the last few days, after his daft suggestion that, to appease a small minority of UK kids (still fewer than 10%) who have an in-built opposition to evolutionary theory (thanks to their upbringing), discussion of creationism should be included in science class.

He’s dead wrong of course. Strategically, morally and historically. And there’s a slight chance, I guess, that he’s deliberately stirring the pudding with Satan’s wooden spoon to cause problems for his fellow scientists. 

But let’s face it, he’s an old fella, it’s much more likely he’s just weary of the insanity, tired of allowing the subject to become the elephant in the room, and trying to plot a tidy, less stressful route through the mess.

One could almost begin to suspect that those stoking up the storm around his comments are trying to encourage creationist/unintelligent design elements to fight harder. It concerns me that the BBC and other media outlets (especially the liberal ones) gave the story such heady prominence, when Reiss’ original comments were just one bloke, and came couched in such careful terms.

Forget the inflammatory subject matter for a sec and look at this in general terms: since when did what kids believe when they show up at school have an effect on what teachers impart in class!? That’s right, they’re also adding Second Life to geography, pot-smoking to art class, emo studies to the RE curriculum and setting up a GCSE in Facebook apps.  

The subtext that really needs facing is this: kids with an inbuilt ‘disbelief’ in the overwhelming, extraordinarily compelling amount of evidence that backs up evolutionary theory have been brainwashed to a degree that comes close to child abuse by fanatically religious nutsack parents. They don’t need convincing, they need rescuing. End of.

I just discovered Poe’s Law, which relates originally to creationism but is now expanded to take in wider fundamentalism. First described by Nathan Poe in observation of debates on a religious website, the law states:

Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humour, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.

Poe’s Law leads inevitably to Poe’s Paradox, which infects almost all fundamentalist organisations of any size online:

In any fundamentalist group where Poe’s Law applies, a paradox exists where any new person (or idea) sufficiently fundamentalist to be accepted by the group, is likely to be so ridiculous that they risk being rejected as a parodist (or parody).

Beautiful. You really can’t argue with fundamentalists but you can snigger like mad as you walk the fuck away.

Let’s come at it from the other end. Instead of demanding the god botherers shut the fuck up about what ludicrous inanities they think should be taught, let’s add some of our own ‘truths’ into the mix.

The Norse or Greek creation myths, for example. Let’s teach Sherlock Holmes as historical fact – lots of kids turn up at school believing in Sherlock Holmes. And of course we need to teach the Presidency of Josiah Bartlett as historical truth – there’s as much real evidence for it as there is for the 8,000 year-old planet. It was on TV, for a start.