It’s Nothing Personal

I am not mourning the death of Michael Jackson. It’s nothing personal. And by that, I mean that’s the reason I’m not mourning. I didn’t know Mr Jackson. I don’t even know anyone who did know him.

It’s like the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The world wailed and cried. I was sorry that she had left two young sons without a mother. Likewise, I am sorry that Michael Jackson’s young children will be without their father. I am also sorry for the thousands each day throughout the world who become orphans and feel the same loss as Prince, Paris, and Blanket (otherwise known by their real names: Michael, Paris, and Prince). But grief and mourning are based upon a personal loss.

He was a significant contributor to popular culture, though I can’t say that’s necessarily a particularly laudable thing, either. I don’t know that we are better off for the moonwalk, the crotch grab, or faux militaria and the single glove. Like I said, it’s nothing personal.

I am also sad for the thousands of people who appear to be beside themselves at his death. They seem lost for meaning or purpose and shocked that he is no longer “with us”. Why it should be remarkable that a 50-year-old man who constantly abused his body with surgery and drugs has died, I don’t know.  It speaks volumes about state of world.  Those volumes make up a very sad story (again, about the world, not about Jackson).

When it comes to people I know, with whom I have a relationship as family, friend, or even acquaintance, when they mourn, I mourn, for I participate in a small way in their loss. This is why as Orthodox Christians we have panikhida services in our parishes. We share each others’ love and temporary loss in hope of the Resurrection of the Dead and the life of the world to come. We light our own candle for a loved one now beyond the veil, but we light our candles from each other and they shine together. Together we sing, “Memory eternal!”

The wall-to-wall coverage of the death of Michael Jackson cheapens death itself. It shares something with the constant images of violence and death that are the substantance of so many films and video games. We no longer see it as our common end, a pointer to our own mortality. It is a spectator sport.

Let Michael Jackson’s family and friends grieve and mourn his loss. He has secured his place in history. Let it be for us to remember that as he has become, so shall we all one day be, awaiting the Final Judgement.

Money for Nothing Becomes Nothing for Money

Regular readers may have noticed that whilst I am very conservative about many things, I am somewhat progressive on the issue of digital intellectual property rights. And I practice what I preach.

For example, there are television programmes that have been scattered electromagnetically into the atmosphere for everyone with a television to enjoy for free. While the technology is there for those waves of son et lumière to go anywhere in the world, they have been limited to certain geographical regions, so they can be sold and resold and resold in different markets to make already obscenely rich people even more obscenely rich. I only use the word “obscenely” twice in the same sentence because my megre vocabulary is insufficient to appropriately modify the word rich.

The Internet has created a giant ocean of ones and zeros drifting in and out of the millions of connections within it. It has eliminated the borders and the broadcast restrictions, even if there are companies out there trying as hard as they can to claim part of these high seas as their own. Or you might say they are trying to dam the ones and zeros within their territorial waters. You might say they are trying to limit fishing in their territorial waters by trying to keep hold of the fish. But that’s the problem: you can keep boats out, but you can’t keep fish in.

The fact of the Internet Ocean is that 90% of the music fish are swimming freely. In other words, even given all of the “legal” download sites and services, 90% of music is downloaded without the express written consent of the music industry.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) is the face of the record industry cartel in the UK, the British equivalent of the RIAA.  They claim that file sharing has cost the industry £1.1 billion a year. What they mean is that they have identified £1.1 billion that they could have accrued and didn’t. It didn’t actually cost them anything. It didn’t cost anyone another yacht in the Med or a twelfth sprawling estate in another exotic and exclusive location. It didn’t take any money out of a tax-protected off-shore account.

The BPI have bullied the British Government and the major ISPs in this country into forcing the ISPs into sending letters to customers based on the BPIs spying. If the BPI thinks a particular IP address is uploading an illegal file, they contact the ISP, which is then obliged to send a letter to the account belonging to the IP address giving details of the alleged file-sharing incident. I got such a letter the other day.

Was it about television programmes or films or even various albums (most of which don’t even get copied to CD and end up in the recycle bin)? No, it was about a single Britney Spears track that no one in our household has ever uploaded, downloaded, or otherwise loaded. You would think with all of the billions of pounds the BPI’s member labels have made, they could afford to get the information even somewhere near correct.

Legal threats aside, in reality what has happened is that the revenue stream is concentrating more and more on live music. That is the one thing that is not copyable. But this means that musicians have to work harder and maybe make less money. Perhaps some of you will pity them for this. I don’t.

It used to be that musical acts had to invest huge sums of money in studios and technology to produce records. Now top selling CDs have been produce in bedrooms with digital recording equipment. Making records has become easier and cheaper, thus increasing the profit margins. Now these recordings are going to have to be adverts for concerts where real music will have to be played in real time for real people.

I have been saying for a long time that the developments in technology mean concepts about intellectual property law will have to be dramatically reformulated. Those who are profiting the most, those piggybacking on the actual creators of ideas, are trying to formulate new revenue streams so they can continue to make money for nothing (sound anything like the bankers who have precipitated the world economic collapse?) but music cartels will eventualy have to realise that music is only worth what people are willing to pay for it and increasingly (if you can keep increasing from 90%) they aren’t.

Joe Klein, Rick Warren, and Heaven

Time magazine political columnist Joe Klein doesn’t like Rick Warren. Why? Because Rick Warren thinks he’s going to hell.

Warren didn’t pick out Klein specifically. No, he just had the audacity to say that Jews are going to hell. He wasn’t preaching a sermon entitled, “All Jews are going to hell” or writing a book called “The Hell Driven Jewish Life”. Someone just asked him point-blank whether Jews are going to hell and he gave an honest answer. It’s not like he thinks Jews are especially going to hell. He just thinks that the only way to heaven is through Jesus.

Klein even gets silly, assuming that also sort of people fit into this category:

Indeed, if Jews–and all other non born-again Christians–homosexuals, feminists, and anyone who has either had an abortion, performed an abortion or reluctantly agrees that it’s none of our business who has abortions…if all those people are going to hell, then heaven’s got to be about as interesting as linoleum.

In fact, neither Rick Warren nor most evangelicals say homosexuals, feminists, or the variety of people Klein characterises in relationship to abortion, are going to hell. But what Klein wants to do is take the focus off of Jesus. That’s the real issue.

Regardless of sexuality, or sexual politics, no one gets in except through Jesus. It’s so basic to the Gospel that all these peripheral issues aren’t even mentioned by Jesus. It’s that whole the way, the truth, the life thing.

Even Jews are welcome, Joe. Jesus first disciples were Jews. Jesus Himself was a Jew. It’s just Jewishness itself is meaningless when it comes to getting into heaven, even if it is believing in that One Jew that makes the difference.

It is also interesting that Klein thinks heaven will need homosexuals, feminists, and people who have had, performed, or politically approved of abortions to avoid being boring. It seems Klein thinks heaven is about entertainment – some sort of extension of Hollywood. I suppose I can see where with that presupposition, and the prominence of homosexuals and feminist in the entertainment industry, he doesn’t see how the Big Heavenly Show can keep everyone’s attention for eternity.

There will be a Big Heavenly Show, with one Big (Bright Morning) Star. We’ve even see previews, and frankly I don’t think God cares that Klein would not be impressed. He would probably find it as interesting as linoleum:

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:

“ Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“ Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

A Film I’m Destined to See

I don’t know how this one slipped under my radar, but a book I read a number of years ago has been made into a film. Stone of Destiny is current showing in Scotland and will be released across England on Friday.

It is the true story of the Scottish students who stole – or perhaps re-appropriated – the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Eve, 1950. The Stone had been used for the coronation of every Scottish monarch  since at least Kenneth MacAlpin in the mid ninth century (it may have been used as early as 574 when Aedan was anointed and crowned King of Dalriada by St Columba) until it was stolen by Edward I in 1296. It had been fixed under the St Edward’s Chair (the coronation throne) since that time.

This incident prompted the only ever closing of the border between Scotland and England, as police searched for the 336 lb rock. The cops were unsuccessful and the Stone was only recovered in April 1951 after the students chose to leave it at Arbroath Abbey.

I’ve seen the Stone three times, twice in Westminster Abbey and once in Edinburgh Castle, where it sits since it was sent back to Scotland by the last Conservative Government in 1996. It stays there with the understanding that it will be returned to London for future coronations.

The film has received a number of favourable reviews. I doubt that I will get a chance to see it before we leave for Christmas. I hope it is still in cinemas when we get back. It is not often that I specifically want to see something on the big screen, but this is one of those times.

UPDATE: There is a good article in the Daily Telegraph about Ian Hamilton, QC, who was the ringleader of the students. It was his book that inspired the film.

Enjoying Research

When it came out, many of my friends Stateside raved about Gods and Generals, the prequel to Gettysburg. Being on the wrong side of the Atlantic, I was a bit out of the loop. The film went to DVD and I went on to other things and it drifted from my mind.

As I was doing work on my own Civil War novel that I hope will one day be picked up by a big Hollywood studio (or Ted Turner, as was the case with those two), I though about it again and thought it might be helpful in working on my mid-19th century dialogue. One of the online discount DVD stores had both in a boxed set for £5.99 with free shipping. No-brainer.

So late to the party, here’s my review of Gods and Generals: it’s a pretty good film, even if they left Sharpsburg on the cutting room floor. I would have watched the as of yet never released director’s cut of over 6 hours. The film is really about Stonewall Jackson, and I don’t mind that at all.

The film certainly gives justifiable attention to Jackson’s Christianity. While very serious about his religion, the general is not portrayed as dour as he is often thought to have been. His was not a miserable faith.

The only glaring problem I saw with the film was when a bunch of Confederate officers sang “Silent Night” around Christmas of 1862. While the music was composed in 1818, the English lyrics were not written until 1863. They certainly would not have been available in the hymn book handed to Stonewall’s adjutant by his soon-to-be fiancée.

I’m sure there were other liberties taken with history, but they didn’t jump out at me. The thing to remember is that it is the adaptation of a novel, not a documentary.

Swiftly to the Top

I got the new Taylor Swift record a few days ago. Like her first album, it knocked my socks off and it hasn’t been out of my CD player, other than to give it brief relief while I listen to her Christmas EP. It replaced my copy of the latest Kellie Pickler CD at the top of the stack.

I am at the top end of the Taylor Swift listener demographic and her lyrics do not reflect my level of life experience. Part of the appeal of her music, beyond drawing out the false nostalgia of high school and young adult experiences I always wished I had, is the relief from the overly sexualised themes that seem unavoidable in most music today.

The rumour recently raced through the Internet that Taylor was pregnant. Not only that – she was reported to pregnant by Joe Jonas. There was dripping salivation at these stories, because Swift and Jonas are both Christians and both virgins. This was almost as good a story as Jamie Lynn Spears’ second teen pregnancy. The world is desperate for good people to turn bad.

I’m glad that Taylor doesn’t do “Christian” music. There are probably still those out there that live in the same sort of musical bubble I did, where there is Christian music and secular music and if you are a Christian and a musician, it is assumed that you to the former because if you do the latter, there is something spiritually wrong with you. On top of that, if you do Christian music, you are expected to have a music ministry. If you aren’t out there to evangelise or worship, you need to have some sort of spiritual goal for your listeners.

Unlike a number of successful artists who have started a music career at her age, she does not presume (or presumably even desire) to have a ministry. She just writes good music on the themes of her life, most of which involve a revolving door of innocent relationships.

To review Fearless itself, it is satisfying because it goes where it wants to go and gets there. In constrast, while I like the Kellie Pickler CD, it doesn’t do this. It appears that Kellie is trying to do a country-pop cross-over thing, even including a re-recorded or re-mixed song from her last album.  I never heard her on American Idol, but she has a voice made for country. Taylor’s voice isn’t as intrinsically country, and her style is less distinctly country, but it isn’t all over the place.

The songs are as good as the first album, which is difficult for a sophomore project. Even though she isn’t a sophomore herself, as when she record the debut, she also doesn’t have a catalog to draw from that dates from the 6th grade. (Who else is so talented that they have a song written in elementary school on a multi-platinum record? Or début with a smash single written in freshman math class? There are some old unsuccessful songwriters out there that find this very irritating.) I can hear at least four or five radio singles.  It sold over 200,000 copies on the first day it was released and was certified gold by the end of the week. It had over 129,000 legal downloads in the first week.

I’m glad she (or her record company) has stuck with Nathan Chapman as her producer. He’s clearly got what it takes to tap Taylor’s talent onto tape.

The Price of Profanity

While Americans are focused on the run-up to the General Election, Brits are in a frenzy over a late night prank on BBC Radio 2. Now you might think that put in perspective, the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross scandal is insignificant. Perhaps it is. But in and of itself, it is quite significant.

There are a significant number of people who think it is much ado about nothing. They argue that only two people complained when the broadcast went out and that it was only the national media outlets that have churned up the froth. Listeners to the more youth-oriented Radio 1 appear to be mostly in support of Brand and Ross. It says a lot about Radio 1 listeners that they have found the abusive and obscene phone calls to 78-year-old Andrew Sachs amusing.

For those blissfully unaware, Brand and Ross placed four telephone calls to the actor whose most famous role was as Manuel on Fawlty Towers. Using the crudest language, they describe how Brand had slept with Sach’s granddaughter. They also joked that Sachs might kill himself. That’s the bit that made the pre-recorded broadcast. Senior producers who signed off on it, actually cut fouteen lines of the dialogue. Sensitive readers might not want to click here for a transcript of what was said.

To draw an American analogy, it was basically like a Howard Stern routine with all of the obscenity explicit rather than implied. The other difference is that it was funded by license payers – in other words, everyone who owns a television. Television viewer pay for all of BBC Radio, with our forced £139.50 per year charged by the government (or fines of up to £1000 for failure to pay, and roaming enforcement vans with electronic spying equipment to catch offenders). If you had to pay $240 a year for other people to listen to Howard Stern say things for which he would be fined by the FCC, you might have something to say as well.

Jonathan Ross is the highest paid performer at the BBC, getting £6 million per year for crude and juvenile humour. When over 2,000 job cuts were announced at BBC News soon after he sealed his £18 million three-year deal, Ross openy boasted that he was worth more than 1,000 journalists. Russell Brand was on a mere £200,000 for an act that is entirey based on graphic details of his sexual exploits and proclivities.

Those who support Ross and Brand believe that entertainment, and particularly language, should have no boundaries – that there is nothing actually indecent. Well, you can’t say anything about Muslims, but other than that, everything is fair game. (And the whole Muslim thing is driven by fear rather than decency.)  Worse than that, it is a philosophy that anything that gets a laugh is acceptable regardless of who is hurts or offends.

Will the resignation of Russell Brand and the £1 million discipline of Jonathan Ross change the face of entertainment? No. Willing the BBC become a more decent place? Perhaps for a time, while everyone holds their breath waiting for the furore to settle. Sadly, I think that the values that underpin the glorfication of profanity are well entrenched, particularly amongst the young, and this creates a vicious cycle. The media panders to the profane and the profane become evermore acceptable, creating a greater appetite for it in entertainment.

At Least They Admit It

The BBC admits that they treat Islam different than Christianity. The Director General of Britain’s public broacaster says that it is because they are a religious minority. What he means is that it is because if you were to make jokes about imams like the Beeb makes jokes about vicars, every one of the corporations executives and public figures would have to live in fear of their lives.

Can you imagine what would happen if they allowed a production about Muhammad like the live broadcast on BBC2 of Jerry Springer – the Opera, in which Jesus is part of a dysfunctional family, dresses as a baby and poos himself? The BBC Television Centre would be levelled.  The 2001 IRA bombing of the building would look completely amateur in comparison. This eggshell approach just another example of how terrorism is effective.

Mark Thompson has said that programmes criticising Islam would be broadcast if they of a good enough quality. It’s a shame the same standard doesn’t apply to Christianity.

Little Monkeys

Today I went with the Unnamed Woman and the Unnamed Children to Dudley Zoo.

We were offered an annual pass for the price of two visits, but wisely chose the option to see it first on regular admission before having the single visit price refunded in exchange for the annual price. We decided not to take out the annual subscription.

It’s not a bad afternoon out, but not necessarily one that needs to be repeated. They have some of the requisite animals, though the lions and tiger were all asleep, as were pretty much all the cats. Come to think of it, so were the sea lions and the tapirs and the solitary capybara. The meerkats were awake, unless there were more than three of them.

Some enclosures appeared to be entirely empty. For example, we saw nary a prairie dog. Many of the enclosures, whether occupied or not, and other areas are a bit run down.

The petting zoo area had three little goats and a bunny. Oh, and a plastic cow with plastic udders filled with water and a bucket underneath. The younger unnamed child had a natural knack for milking.

If you like little monkeys, then you will get your money’s worth. The place is full of little monkeys. Especially squirrel monkeys. Every area of the park seems to have enclosures for little monkeys. One of them is a walk-through area and the keepers have to shoo the little monkeys away from prams, as they want to jump in the baskets underneath and take anything they can grab.

In other places they are behind wire or behind glass. Behind glass there were some pigmy marmosets. One of them saw a little stuffed puppy that the older unnamed child carries with him. It ignored us and fixated on the puppy, which is about the size of the marmoset. We noticed this and moved the puppy up and down and all around on the glass. When we cocked the head of the puppy, the tiny little monkey did the same. It was hilarious.

The only monkeys that disappointed were the chimps. This was because they were apparently on Prozac. They just sat bored in the middle of their enclosure. It was a very big enclosure with lots of things to climb on and lots of open area to run, but they couldn’t be bothered.

If you want to eat while you are there, I would recommend taking a picnic. The food in the cafeteria leaves a bit to be desired. My jacket potato was okay, but the salad was terrible. I only ate it because I was really hungry. The Unnamed Woman had to wait for her food, because they didn’t have any more potatoes cooked. (I would have waited instead, but she ordered mine first and then found out they only had one.) The older unnamed child also had to wait because they also didn’t have the healthy option children’s selection cooked and ready.

The thing that convinced us to avoid the annual pass was the play area. There were slides and climbing frames and swings, but they were surrounded by dirty sand with cigarette butts scattered throughout. It was typical of the general upkeep.

Sharing Another Difference Between the US and UK

Another contrast between the US and UK has become apparent today when the FCC ruled against Comcast hampering file sharing. In the UK, people have been getting warning letters from their ISPs if they have been suspected of file sharing.

The British Government want to cut file sharing by 80% by 2011. British Phonographic Industry – the trade cartel for the UK record industry – has cut a deal with six of the UK’s biggest ISPs. The ISPs have agreed a three-strikes policy against customers who are suspected by the BPI of file sharing.

And just because the ISPs are agreeing to boot offenders, this doesn’t mean the cartel won’t take people to court for damages. They have and they will again. That’s not to say the equivalent US cartel, the Record Industry Association of America won’t sue people. They also have and will again.

The difference is the approach by Government. The BPI have Whitehall in their pocket. You’re thinking those must be very big pockets to fit Whitehall in them, but trust me, the BPI and its members have big pockets. Much bigger pockets than the private individuals they like to pick off and litigate into financial oblivion.

I’m not suggesting the record industry isn’t hurting from the downturn in CD sales. But they’re not losing money. Let’s be straight about this. You can’t lose someting you don’t have. Unless you have either pocketed someone’s money and it gets taken out of your pocket or you have invested money and end up with less than you’ve invested, you haven’t lost money. But they are hurting because it must be emotionally painful to be used to wallowing in billions and billions of pounds and to now have fewer billions in which to wallow. Think of what it must be like to be filthy rich and after a huge slump in sales to be, well, filthy rich.

Let me say this again: when you are making huge profits and then you are making less huge profits, you are not losing money.

In the US, the RIAA has had to face accusations of the obvious – they are an antitrust violating monopoly. It appears from my brief look at existing litigation that the RIAA are in retreat. Most recently it seems they have tried to drop cases in such a way as to punish the defendants by forcing them to pay their own legal fees, which, when fighting giant corporations and their lawyers, can be enormous. They have now been losing at that tactic.

In the UK, the courts have not been so enlightened. it is strange to think that in a very capitalist country like the US, the courts and even Congress can see through attempts at creating illegal monopolies and bullying the consumer, while in the socialist UK, big business wins.

So once again in the UK we have to deal with a heavy-handed totalitarian-aspiring Government and their collusion with industry cartels that are determined to maintain their profit levels. I haven’t even touched on the Government supporting the energy utilities putting up their prices by 35% in a single hike to maintain or even increase their profit levels in the face of rising energy costs.

Summer Reading Progress

It is only two weeks into the summer holidays and I have finished half of my reading list.

Thanks to a mention by Elizabeth over a year and a half ago, I finally read The Sign of the Cross: The Gesture, the Mystery, the History by Andreas Andrepoulos. I recommend it highly. It is very readable.

The anecdotal and historical parts of the book only take up the first 42 pages. The rest of it focused on the general needs for signs and symbols, the idea of the sign of the Cross as a prayer in and of itself, and some speculative ideas – in particular, juxtaposing the spiritual power of the sign with New Age ideas.

I finished Bernard Cornwell’s The Pale Horseman in the wee hours of this morning. It is the second of four books in his Saxon Stories series, set in the reign of Alfred the Great. It was a situation where I could hardly stay awake, but I couldn’t put it down. Even though Cornwell shows Alfred (and Christianity generally) in a not-so-favourable light, and downplays his contribution to literature and law, it is clear at this point why Alfred is called “the Great”.

Cornwell always tells a great story with interesting characters. As with the Starbuck Chronicles set nearly 1000 years later during the War Between the States, his principle characters are fictional but play a key roles in otherwise historical battles. For those unfamiliar with the period, he provides a helpful historical note at the end of each book to help the reader distinguish the fact from the fiction.

The history of this period is fascinating enough that I’m added a couple of books to my reading list,
Alfred the Great: Asser’s Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources and The Anglo-Saxons edited by Campbell, John and Wormald.

Huffin and Puffin

I watched Gordon Ramsey last night as he was sky fishing for puffin in Iceland and cooking the freshly netted birds. I was quite impressed with the whole sky fishing idea, not to mention eating a bird with breast meat the colour of venison.

As you might expect, Channel 4 received complaints from viewers, including accusation of “puffin murder”. Yep, this is where the animal rights folks lose touch with reality.  Murder has always been an intentional homicide – that is the killing of a human being.

Now I’ve always said if you can kill it, I will eat it. However I know there are those folks how don’t like the killing of animals, live on granola, ride bicycles, and wear comfortable shoes. I’m happy for them. But killing an animal is killing an animal and murder is killing a human. You can call it fraterculacide or aukicide, but not murder.

I thought this comment was particularly telling: “A very bad move on Gordon’s part to be seen to condone practices in another country that would definitely not be tolerated here.” Ah yes, Brits are so culturally superior to those savage Icelanders!

Then there was “Are there no depths he won’t sink to in his quest for the latest gastronomic fad? I don’t care if islanders have eaten them in the past, or if they are considered a delicacy… these birds are adorable, and surely an endangered species?” Hmm… Icelanders have been eating them from time immemorial and still eat them, so is this really a fad?  Oh, and they are not an endangered species. Cute≠endangered. They are a protected species in the UK, but not in Iceland.

Country Music Goes PC

As I have mentioned before, I’m a big fan of country music artist Taylor Swift. I may not fit her target demographic, but clearly she has a broad enough fan base to be the only female artist in the history of the Billboard country charts to have five consecutive Top 10 singles from a debut album.

I was pleased to learn that she got her high school diploma through a Christian homeschooling organisation. Families have to agree with Aaron Academy’s statement of faith. I’m guessing that means Taylor and her family are Christians.

I acquired a copy of the available-only-at-Wal-mart EP Beautiful Eyes. Since we have no Country radio in this country, I had never heard the radio mix of “Picture to Burn”. I was disappointed that the PC lobby apparently got to her record company. The lyrics originally said:

So go and tell your friends
That I’m obsessive and crazy,
That’s fine
I’ll tell mine
You’re gay,
And by the way,

Now the last part says:

That’s fine,
you won’t mind
if I say

The thing is that the original lyrics weren’t even offensive gay listeners, if the 90 comments on the 9513 blog are any indication. It’s only politically correct straight people who couldn’t get the context and the usage. The original lyric is about retaliation and fighting fire with fire. (Not exactly turn the other cheek stuff, but when have you ever known an offended young woman to thinkabout that when it comes to lying ex-boyfriends?) The new lyric makes no sense.

A perfectly good lyric has been sacrificed for the sake of a group who don’t even care.

WALL-E is a Waste of Wealth

Until today, the last time I went to the cinema with my children was see Chicken Little. After such a disappointment, I have been leery of spending the money to have more than one adult present. Today I took a chance on WALL-E, the latest Pixar film.

I didn’t think any film could be worse than Chicken Little. Man, was I wrong. WALL-E is awful. Really bad. The first big chunk of the film has no dialogue whatsoever. Later on, after Wall-E hitches a ride on a space ship and see all the morbidly obese people that make up the remnant of humanity, they say a few things. About 2/3 of the way through, I started falling asleep. The Unnamed Woman kept poking me awake, alleging that I was snoring.

How she heard me snoring with all the racket being made by a bunch of 10-year-olds across the aisle, I’ll never know. They saw much less of the film than I did, because most of the time, they were either turned around talking to each other in loud voices or up and running back and forth the concession area.

And an afternoon’s entertainment like this only cost me £7.

I Believe in Time Travel

The Unnamed Woman and I just finished watching the entire six series of the British sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart that ran from 1993-99. It was being shown on ITV3 and the Woman decided she wanted the DVDs. We both enjoyed the show during its original run (though I had never seen the final series), as it was shown by the local PBS affiliate.

For those Stateside who may have never seen the show, it involves a Londoner from the 1990s who accidentally stumbles upon a time portal to the 1940s. It transports him back exactly 53 years. Thus on the 1940s side, the show starts with the Blitz and ends with VE-Day.  He travels back and forth and has a wife on either side of the portal. He’s also a nobody in the 90s and creates himself into a bit of a somebody in the 40s, pretending to be a member of the secret service and a songwriter (having composed various hits from the future).

Watching the show made me think about the nature of time. I believe that time travel is possible. Well, sort of. If Someone exists outside of time and space, then it is possible to exist anywhere in time and space. It would seem that it would even be possible to exist everywhere in time and space simutaneously, given that neither is a constraint.

I was thinking of this in terms of the Eucharist. Not only is there no problem with Christ being truly present in every Divine Liturgy being served at any one given time on Earth, nor with the Holy Spirit transforming the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood, but it need not be happening merely simultaneously in time or space. As far as the spiritual realm is concerned, when we are joining with the rest of the Church in prayer, we are with all of the Church throughout time at the same time.

Or at least it seems plausible in my fledgling study of theophysics.

It does give an interesting twist or amplification to the meaning of the words of Jesus at the end of the Great Commission, “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Disconnected from Reality

Last night’s series finale of Doctor Who featured the Doctor’s mobile telephone number, used by various other characters in the episode to contact him in the TARDIS while they are all in the process of saving the world. (If you haven’t seen the episode, don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler – every Doctor Who finale involves saving the world.)

The Mail on Sunday has revealed that there are a lot of angry fans out there. When the number (07700 900461, if you are curious) was shown records show more than 2,500 tried to call the Doctor. In the TARDIS. After all, reasoned (if it can be called that) one angry fan on the BBC website, “Grrr – I phoned the Doctor’s phone number but there was just an annoying network message. What’s the point in showing a phone number if you’re not gonna use it?!”

Never mind that phone numbers beginning with 077009 are the equivalent of the 555 numbers used when films and TV shows are set in the US. There are just some people who have a complete disconnect from reality.

These same people are going to be very disappointed when they make a teleport vest like the one worn by Martha Jones and can’t get it to work, even with the base code oscillating between 4 and 9.

Leaving Day

Well, the Year 11s are officially gone. Only officially, because their first exam is tomorrow and it is mine. If my timetable will permit it, I hope to be outside the exam room as they leave to get exit poll reaction before I collect up the question papers for my future use.

At the request of some of them, I brought my guitar into school and played a 30-minute set for a modest crowd of them at lunch outside on the playing fields in the marvellous sunshine.

Missing the End of the Season

I had planned to be watching football right now. The elder child and I went to the football ground about 30 minutes before the match. Normally this is plenty of time to get a ticket at the turnstile and get seated during the player warm-up.

Today’s match does even have anything riding on it. However, last week our club went and got itself promoted to the next league. Now everyone has ex post facto promotion fever. There should normally be between 3,000 and 4,000 spectators. Today the 8,000-odd capacity has been reached. The seats were all taken and the standing areas full.

I considered – and even stood in the queue for – the last of the standing ends. However, I realised that two hours of standing on one leg while pressed on all sides and the swearing in the football chants right next to the child were not worth the price of admission.

Instead the child and I sat across the street on the pavement and waited for the Unnamed Woman to come pick us up. At six years old and not from a football mad family, he’s still working out the distinction between teams that play for countries and those that play for clubs. I also tried to explain the whole promotion thing, but he’s still getting his head around it.

The elder child was disappointed to miss the last game of the season, but I assured him that we will go again next season, which begins in just a few weeks.

Court of Appeal Rules Man Can Carry a Stick

It is a stark contrast between the right-to-carry laws in the US and the stripping of weapons in the UK and at the same time a demonstration of taxpayer money wasted in the pursuit of a political agenda.

Stuart Kennedy is a stripper who uses a police uniform as the set up for his act. He was stopped out the Paramount Bar by two real cops. They weren’t so worried about the uniform – though they did follow him to the pub to make sure he was telling the truth. There’s no indication as to whether either constables Amanda Lawson and Fiona Duncan enjoyed the show. Of course they needed to watch the whole thing to be sure. That’s right, two police women watched him on taxpayer time, just to be sure he was a real stripper. PC Lawson told the trial court, “We had never been in a situation like that before. We needed proof he was a stripper.”

But that wasn’t the issue. No, it was his truncheon that bothered them. Stuart used a real police truncheon, not a floppy imitation. The policewomen arrested him after the show. He was charged with carrying of an offensive weapon. There is an provision in the law for a “reasonable excuse” but neither the police nor the Crown Office (the prosecutor in Scotland) thought Stuart had a reasonable excuse. The sheriff (trial judge) disagreed and threw the case out of court. Both he and the general public thought it was a waste of time and money.

Not to be put off by a judge or the overwhelming common sense of the Scottish people, the Crown appealed. This time three judges told them the same thing. The full written opinion will be released at a later date, but the Court of Appeal decided not to waste anyone’s time and let it be known that the Crown’s case had failed.

There is probably no way to tally the total costs of this overblown exercise in comic jurisprudence. All of this over who can carry a stick with a handle.

Another Country Queen

Being on the wrong side of the ocean for any radio exposure to country music, it takes a while for me to pick up on what’s hot. First I discovered Carrie Underwood,  and more recently Taylor Swift. Now with Kellie Pickler, I have completed my collection of the current triumvirate Queens of Nashville.

Once again, I have found an album that knocks my socks off. What distinguishes Kellie and her songs are the reality of them. Country music tends to have a real-life feel about it generally, but Carrie and Taylor have fairly conventional happy family backgrounds. Nothing wrong with that and I’m not denying that conventional or happy is just as real-life as any other. Kellie was deserted by her mother at age two. Her father has been in and out of prison and she was raised by her grandparents, until her grandmother died when Kellie was in high school. Not surprisingly, there’s a little more pain in Kellie’s songwriting.

I’m sure that there are male country artists who are worth a listen. It’s just a matter of finding a way to squeeze them into my playlist amongst the three beautiful blondes.

Discoveries

I’ve written a few bad songs I’d like to forget. Yesterday I discovered that I had written some bad songs that I had forgotten.

The last time I was at my parents’ house I was rummaging through some boxes of my old cassettes. I found some of my old music and brought it back to the UK. Even though it has been over a year, I hadn’t listened to some of it.

I pulled out what sounds like a tape for recording snippets of ideas and new songs. There was some real crap on it. Then at the end there is a zippy little worship chorus that I had forgotten.

Oh Lord you are my God
I wil exalt and praise Your name
(x2)

For in perfect faithfulness He has done great things
We waited on the Lord, and He saved
Let us rejoice and be glad, and be glad.

It’s taken from Isaiah 25:1,9. I’m pretty sure I wrote it – the music, I mean. I can’t think of any other reason it would be on the tape. I remember playing it frequently for a time in church.

Last night I was looking for the Texas tapes and found another on the CD rack. Many boyfriends used to make compliation tapes of various artists for their girlfriend. Instead, many years ago I sent the Unnamed Woman a compilation of my music. I don’t know whether she ever really listened to it. Fortunately, she didn’t record over it.

The little felt pad under the middle of the cassette track where the head reads the tape is broken. The tape player kept wanting to shut it off, but I held down the play button until it stayed down. I discovered the best archive of my acoustic music in existence. I also discovered that I had completely forgotten a really good song. In fact, I was surprised how good it is.

Because the tape is so fragile, I’m not listening to it again until I transfer it to CD on Wednesday or Thursday.

The Doctor is in the House

Dr Who is back on British television screens for a fourth series under the guiding hand of Russell Davies, the third with David Tennant as the Doctor. Sadly for American fans, it will be available sometime in the future. Despite my best efforts, I cannot find out when this might be, or if it will be available for viewing on the BBC iPlayer.

With a new series will also come a new line of toys. After tonight’s episode I can expect that we will have at least one Adipose in the house. If we don’t buy it, I’m sure a well-meaning close relative will. As anyone who has seen the first episode with know, these new creatures will be the cheapest to manufacture in everything from hard plastic to soft stuffed toys. I could pretty much make one.

The BBC Version of the Bible

They made up their own version of the Passion, so now the BBC has decided they will re-write the Bible.

Well, not the whole Bible. They are going to dramatise what they consider to be the most important stories. According to reports in the Daily Mail, these will include Cain and Abel, Noah, Joseph’s coat of many colours, Samson and Delilah and David and Goliath. Other that those, I’m not sure what other stories the BBC considers important. It’s going to be a six-hour mini-series.

And if they can exonerate Pilate and Judas, how will they re-cast the Old Testament? It wasn’t Cain’s fault for killing Abel. It was his upbringing. And Delilah was an empowered woman – a proto-feminist. And Goliath was only upset because people made fun of his size. We need to understand the causes of bullying. And that whole war? The Philistines were only seeking a two-state solution, after all.

I only hope it isn’t a boring as the The Passion, so I can stand to watch how badly they’ve handled it.

The Acts of the Apostle Code

I’ve been watching a ridiculous piece of Easter television, The Secrets of the Twelve Disciples.

It starts with how Jesus’ family really ran the early Church, but that later this was all washed away. Apparently nobody knows that James was bishop of Jerusalem. You have to “decode” the Book of Acts to figure this out! (I’ve known all along and it is plainly mentioned in Acts 15.) This was all done to remove the Jewish connections to Christianity.

St Paul has his own version of Christianity. As theologian Robert Beckford narrates, “It was his version of Christianity that triumphed. It was his later followers that created and used the stories of the 12 disciples to fit their own purpose.” Of course Paul is as much a Jew as James or any of Jesus cousins were. Beckwith doesn’t explain how this fits in.

Beckford has apparently spent way, way too much time reading Dan Brown novels. It’s the Pauline Conspiracy. Paul created Peter as the Pope, because he needed a link back to the Twelve. But it’s all based on “legendary” materials – Christian inventions. Apparently, nothing written by Christian sources can be trusted as historical. With everything, there are scholars who dispute. For Beckwith it is all about vested interests.

I never did catch what Paul’s vested interests were. They certainly aren’t clear from his writings or the things written about him in the Book of Acts. But then, according to Beckwith it has to be decoded. And the only thing certain is that it isn’t reliable. The only thing that is reliable is Beckwith’s conjecture. After all, scholars dispute.

According to Beckwith, whoever wrote the Revelation “most scholars” agree that it wasn’t the Apostle John. I take that to mean most liberal scholars who have started with the presupposition that whatever the Church has always believed must not only not be true, but must also not be what the Church has always believed. After all, it is the Church who is telling us what it has always believed, and the guiding First Principle is that the Church cannot be believed. Convoluted? Just a bit.

The further along the programme went, the more predictable it got. The men running the Church removed all the women from the story. (Huh? What about the fact that at both the Crucifixion and just after the Resurrection, it was women who were present? Nevermind.) I don’t think he said Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, but that could have been when I went to make a cup of tea.

Most of Beckwith’s accusation and theories are aimed at the Big Bad Catholic Church. Conspiracies and dubious activities abound. See what I mean about Dan Brown? Apparently no one knows about the Thomas Christians in India and this is once again because of the Catholics. (I would have suggested it is because few people in this country know anything of world Christianity, other than caricatures of American evangelicalism.) I couldn’t figure out if he believed the claims of the Mar Thoma tradition, even though the records were destroyed by Portuguese Catholics under orders of the Pope in 1599, or if he disbelieved the claims anyway.

And what re-assessment of the Twelve would be complete without rehabilitating Judas Iscariot? Judas goes from betrayer to hero. I kid you not. He was just getting bad press because of a wrongly translated Greek word and the imagery used in paintings of the Last Supper. Anything else bad about him in the Bible was added later. Conspiracy.

That’s the thing about conspiracy theories: if you go looking for one assuming it is there in the first place, it’s not going to be a surprise when you find one.

No Passion for the Passion

We started watching the first part of the BBC’s The Passion.  They start off with playing fast and loose with the historical record.  Jesus doesn’t send anyone to get the donkey for Him to ride into Jerusales.  Jesus buys it from travellers along the road.

Then he send some disciples ahead to drum up a crowd. They walk through the streets telling everyone to go over to the east gate. Then Jesus enters Jerusalem, and instead of the people spreading clothes and tree branches, a few of them waved a few palms. Well, it was really more like shaking.

We got bored. The woman turned the channel back to repeat of CSI we had already seen.