January 18: What’s happening, Melbourne?

Tickets for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival event ‘Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show On Earth’ (5 March 2010) were supposed go on sale today, except the event has sold out during prelease sales. Sneaky. However, I have managed to nab some tickets during the last buying frenzy. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Richard Dawkins is an evolutionist and a hardcore atheist who has written titles such as The God Delusion, and The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design. He rants a lot, but The God Delusion was a helpful resource when I started questioning my agnosticism: it verbalised much of my frustration towards religion. In particular, I remember reading an example of how religion permits all sorts of intolerance:

The Los Angeles Times (10 April 2006) reported that numerous Christian groups on campuses around the United States were suing their universities for enforcing anti-discrimination rules, including prohibitions against harassing or abusing homosexuals. As a typical example, in 2004 James Nixon, a twelve-year-old boy in Ohio, won the right in court to wear a T-shirt to school bearing the words ‘Homosexuality is a sin, Islam is a lie, abortion is murder. Some issues are just black and white!’ The school told him not to wear the T-shirt–and the boy’s parents sued the school. The parents might have had a conscionable case if they had based it on the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. But they didn’t: indeed, they couldn’t because free speech is deemed not to include ‘hate speech’. But hate only has to prove it is religious, and it no longer counts as hate. So, instead of freedom of speech, the Nixons’ lawyers appealed to the constitutional right to freedom of religion. Their victorious lawsuit was supported by the Alliance Defense Fund of Arizona, whose business it is to ‘press the legal battle for religious freedom’. (Dawkins 2006, p 23)

Suffice to say, after reading The God Delusion and a couple of other texts, I felt more at ease with my lack of faith. I have yet to read The Greatest Show on Earth but I hope I shall get round to it before Dawkins’ Melbourne appearance.

March is still more than a month away though. What’s on now?

For all you Brow fans, the sixth issue of The Lifted Brow (aka ‘Atlas’) has already hit the shelves, and the Melbourne launch is happening this Friday at Bella Union Bar. Performers include Clue to Kalo, Guy Blackman, Rat vs. Possum, and Absolute Boys. It’s going to be a big night with some cultural action. Check out the Facebook Event page for more details.

Speaking of cultural, Lunar New Year (Tet) falls on Valentine’s Day this year. Melbourne’s Vietnamese diaspora isn’t as centralised as the Chinese one, so there will be a Tet street festival held in various Vietnamese locales each weekend over the next few weeks.This Sunday (24 Jan), I’ll be going to the Victoria Street event for some much needed hawker food.

And finalement, my favourite philosopher of the bedroom variety, Justin Heazlewood, has released the erotically charged ‘Tram Inspector’ on iTunes and now he’s on repeat in my head:

…baby, I’m a tram inspector,
my heart is a lie detector,
bad ticket I will respect you,
fare evade and I will eject you…(loop)

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