Wednesday, November 30, 2005

He should have watched Ferris Bueller

Probe after £32,000 Lotus wrecked

The sanctimonious Narcissism of the NewAge

I love this site:
mystic bourgeoisie: tupak okra rides again

Robert Winston’s ‘The Story of God’


Robert Winston is a very engaging and likeable man. With his bushy moustache and gently sonorous voice he is a distinct and reassuring presence – an ideal guide for television to use when trying to teach us about developments in science – an area in which he is most impressively qualified, and for which he is a most humane and impressive advocate. At the behest of those same television authorities, however, he is now guiding the viewer into ‘The Story of God’ – and this is a review of the book written to accompany the series. His results in the sphere of religion fall short of the standards he has achieved in the realm of science.

It is proclaimed as a more personal work than previous publications (eg “The human mind and how to make the most of it”) and there are indeed intriguing snippets of his own upbringing to provide interest for the reader. Winston is – at least culturally – an Orthodox Jew, although his sense of God seems lukewarm at best (“I am not an atheist… I am prepared to accept that God may exist” he writes in chapter one) and the book as a whole is compromised by an acceptance of conventional opinion in most of the areas he covers, not least Christianity.

In particular Winston perpetuates the false teaching that Paul was more responsible for the shape of the Christian religion than was Jesus Himself, writing (pp152-153) “In Paul’s letters Jesus was turned into a divine figure, because this would have been more appealing to his Greek audience, who had no pre-existing ideas about what a Messiah was” – one can hear the voice of AN Wilson at this point, whose work on Paul was the most recent transmitter of this mistake. To succeed in writing a book like this, Winston should have become acquainted with some proper New Testament scholarship, rather than the second hand (and rather neurotic) conventional thinking which still so characterises what passes for ‘educated’ discourse in our present society. Bishop Tom Wright’s ‘What St Paul really said’ would have been a good place to start. Winston does make some legitimate strikes against Christianity – not difficult, for clearly there is much in Christian history for which all Christians should repent in dust and ashes – but I suspect that his reliance on dubious sources has obscured for him just how Jewish a faith Christianity is.

In contrast to this, Winston seems to bend over backward to praise Islam, perpetuating the nonsense that Islam has historically been more benign than Christianity. He writes on p193 ‘[Islam] has also, since its earliest days, been a highly tolerant faith’ and later (p227) remarks that the Cathars who fled to the Balkans in the Middle Ages ‘became absorbed into the more tolerant Islam of the area’. Again it would seem that a reliance on conventional thinking has compromised his perspective; to have been effective, Winston should have at least addressed some alternative views on Islam, eg those of Robert Spencer (‘The Politically Incorrect guide to Islam’).

Whilst I enjoyed reading this book, and, indeed, learned many interesting details from it, I couldn’t recommend it from either a Christian point of view, or from a general reading point of view. For a neutral reader there are better overviews of the history available (Karen Armstrong’s ‘The Story of God’ being perhaps the best, and one of the main sources for Winston), whereas for a Christian there are too many errors, omissions and misinterpretations for it to be worth investing time and treasure in. It is disappointing to think that, on the back of Winston’s fame and not inconsiderable charm, this book is likely to sell well, thereby perpetuating various damaging distortions and conventional misrepresentations about Christianity in our society, and inhibiting the spread of the gospel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

BP to spend $8bn on green energy

Natural resources, oil news, mining news, Times Online: "BP to spend $8bn on green energy"

One of the key persuaders for me about PeakOil was the fact that oil companies are not investing in increased production (eg through more refineries etc). They know that there isn't going to be enough oil to make it worth their while - even at these higher prices. So they are diversifying into other energy sources. Which is a very hopeful phenomenon, especially as it applies to developing energy storage systems. That seems to be the one thing that would make a big difference on the other side of the great dislocation.

Compare two maps



The red areas are where the Shia population is dominant.



And compare it to this one, which shows where the oil is in Saudi Arabia (I couldn't get one at the right scale - this is a 'close up' - to get a proper sense of the size, focus on Bahrain).

The point of which is simply that most oil is concentrated in Shia-dominant areas, and Iran is a) in a very strong position, and b) is controlled by a more assertive leadership.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Armed and Fabulous


OK, I confess, I have a thing for Sandra Bullock.

(My better half is aware and understanding).

OK film, quite fun, but probably for devotees and lovers of mental chewing gum only.

Team America: World Police


An excellent 15 minute sketch stretched into 90 minutes of movie. Fun, but not great.

Feed reading

Since discovering the blogosphere I've been using Awasu to follow things. But I hate it - it must win a prize for the most annoying piece of software. So I finally took the plunge and I've spent the past half hour shifting my feeds (forty or so) onto the Sage plug-in (for Firefox, and if you're not using Firefox... er, why not? If somebody gave you a ten pound note and said 'here's a tenner, you're life will be better' would you say no? even after exhausting all potential paranoia?)

Anyhow. Sage is really good. I've only been using it for ten minutes, but the best thing about it is that I can now read the feeds as they are written and displayed on the blog page, not just the text. Which definitely makes a difference for some.

I also downloaded the 'just blog it' add-on, which I'm about to start experimenting with.....

Generosity (2)


The family were taken - a couple of weeks ago - to Le Touquet by a friend. The first time on Le Shuttle for all of us; first trip abroad for the children; all very exciting; and all very much appreciated. Thank you my friend.


When did you say the lights were going out Daddy?



Friday, November 25, 2005

A weekend

Off with family to a B&B for a weekend. Omigosh. "Clergyman has weekend" shock....

Seeya Monday.

Tax, fourth turning, and uncoupling the Anglosphere

Had a quick review of The Fourth Turning last night - it is still one of the main over view pictures shaping my thinking. Yet I was musing on one aspect of it: the link between the US and the UK. It seems to me that Peak Oil will have very different effects on the two economies, and that the effect of this may be to push the UK much more into the European sphere, rather than the Atlantic.

If oil trebles in price, then, by and large, the price paid in the US trebles, as there is very little tax on it. In contrast, in the UK, there is a very high level of tax. That means two things - a rise in price is much smaller in the UK, and the government has the option of reducing tax (and raising revenue elsewhere) to avoid severe distortions in the economy. So the UK is in a much better state to cope with any price rises from an oil shock, compared to the US.

It also has a more extensive public transport system, especially rail, which will come in useful.

It is also solvent. The US is not. The US is, in fact, in a tremendously weak position financially, and a systemic shock like Peak Oil could cause hyperinflation there, without too much stretching of the imagination (part of the argument of the Leeb book - and I think Leeb was too optimistic).

Hyperinflation destroys the middle classes and provokes extreme government response.
That is very scary.

Twilight in the desert

Read Matthew Simmons' book 'Twilight in the Desert'. Very interesting, although also very technical, and I must confess to skipping some of the middle chapters when he goes through the different oil fields in Saudi Arabia. Unless you're a geologist I think you can get the gist from reading just one...

But his main point is sobering. The Saudi oil reserves are nothing like as extensive as generally believed, and given the production from the existing oil fields that has taken place, especially over the last twenty years, it is plausible to think that Saudi oil production will begin to decline within the next few years, possibly quite suddenly. Well if that happens, that will be the oil shock to end all oil shocks.

Other links for Simmons work (he's the lead Investment Banker for the oil industry) are here.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

G Wiz

An electric car that I'm thinking about here. Would be perfect for pottering about the parishes, or into Colchester. But the big downside is having to take it to Southall in London to be serviced. What's the point of going without petrol if you have to use petrol to take it 100 miles away to be serviced.

Still might get one though. Would pay for itself in a few years.

The parable of the talents

A couple of weeks ago we had this parable in the Matthew version for Sunday, and in the Luke version for the following Wednesday. Doing a bit of background reading made me wonder about the right way to interpret it.

My favourite lectionary site had a link to a remarkable paper that persuaded me that the references to a 'king' in Matthew's parables were not necessarily - or even usually - references to Jesus or God, but in fact had specific political and contemporary resonances for those listening to Jesus teach. And I recall - though I cannot track down quite where - a reference to (I think) one of the Herods going to Rome to receive approval to become King ruling over the land of Israel. So I think there is this contemporary resonance to the parable of the talents - and that it isn't, in the first place, a question of encouraging Calvinistic prudence.

So what is it about? Well, let's run with the idea that Jesus is referring to a specific king (first) and that he is criticising a particular attitude, probably of the Pharisees (second) - given that this is where the parable fits in Matthew, in the context of the woes etc. Clearly the Pharisees, and even the general population, would have identified with the third servant, who didn't provide the wicked king with a return on the investment made. And it is this attitude that Jesus is criticising.

Might it be that in fact Jesus is criticising the attitude of militant resistance? In other words, that where there is a usurper on the throne, the point need not be to overthrow or resist such a king - that reaps where they do not sow - but to get on with the business of life, thereby possibly achieving authority locally (over the 'ten cities' - presumably the area of the Decapolis?) leading to greater wealth for all? So an emphasis on prudence - not because the king is God, but because the king is wicked and exploitative, and that it doesn't matter about whether the king gets more from you if you do more, what matters is ensuring that there is sufficient wealth to go round. The militant resistance of the third servant is held up as destructive; the cooperation is held up as fruitful.

This seems to chime with the idea that God rains upon the just and the unjust etc. We shouldn't get caught up with, if you like, resisting capitalist exploitation. We should concern ourselves with God prospering the work of our hands.

I'm not entirely happy with this reading, but I prefer it to seeing the king as God, ready to damn us for being afraid.

In the pipe

When I was a kid I used to really enjoy reading war comics, like Victor and Battle Action. There was one story that appeared in a collection (possibly a 'Commando' half size) called 'In the Pipe'.

The story went like this...

Our brave tommy hero is with his fellow soldiers pinned down by gunfire from an advancing German troop. They are on one side of a clearing in a wood; our boys are on the other. The trouble is that our boys are running out of ammo. Fortunately, the leader of the german troop is a complete coward. He keeps ordering some of his men to attack, who are then cut down by the British guns. But eventually the Brits run out of ammunition.

Our boys are close enough to be able to hear what is going on on the German side, and they pick up the idea that the German leader is unpleasant and unpopular. Then our brave tommy hero has the idea - maybe one of his comrades was shot when he still had a bullet 'in the pipe' - so he searches through the guns of his fellow soldiers until he finds a bullet - the last bullet that the Brits have.

Meanwhile, the German troop leader sees that the Brits have stopped firing, and thinks that they have run out of ammunition - giving him the 'courage' to lead an attack himself. So he strides out into the clearing at the head of his troops - and our brave tommy hero shoots him dead with the last bullet.

The German second-in-command (a corporal I guess) says to the rest of his troop 'that's enough fighting for one day' - and so our brave tommy hero lives to fight another day.

~~~

I wasn't planning to say much about the story. It's just that it's been on my mind a bit recently, because after the great dislocation, there will be an awful lot of 'inventory' lying around waiting to be used. So those communities that remain will have sufficient resources to keep elements of civilisation - like blogging - going for quite a while. We won't be able to build lots of new computers. But there will be lots of old computers lying around waiting to be cannibalised for spare parts....

The Long Goodbye


Watched this classic 70's movie a couple of weeks ago, but forgot to write it up. I really enjoyed it, particularly the pacing, so much less frenetic than contemporary films, but I had a strong sense that there was a lot that I was missing, in terms of context, reference and background. I'll have to do some more research on Chandler and film noir, and then watch it again.

Daredevil (Director's Cut)


I always thought Matt Murdock was blond? Anyhow, Ben Affleck isn't too bad as the man without fear. Quite a fun film, and Jennifer Garner is always great. Didn't quite achieve what it might have done though. For comic book fans only I guess.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Concrete grounds for hoping

Good research on solar power here, and lots more available from Googling.

The issue is not the long term possibilities, the issue is the transition from one to the other.

Control, trust, hope

I wonder if you are familiar with the Enneagram?

My previous spiritual director was well acquainted with it - used to teach it for the church in various locations - and we came to the conclusion that I was an 'eight' - there are nine types, signified by numbers, but with more interesting 'descriptions' as well.

The principal issues for an eight revolve around fear, control and trust. Eights interpret their earliest experiences in terms of being bullied, which provoke various strategies to achieve safety - in their extreme, they are strategies to pursue invulnerability. The first questions that an eight will ask are about who is in control - and should they be in control? Eights are happy under a strong authority, but if there isn't a clear authority, then they will move forward to take control themselves.

So: fear moves towards control, but the path of spiritual growth for the eight is to move from that control to trusting. For the truth is that God is in control, and there can never be a time when we do not surrender to God, and God's will. God is in charge, and that is the spiritual issue for the eight.

Which is why the issue of peak oil has been on my mind so much. I do have some relevant background experience on the issue, partly from understanding economics, but also from my time in the Civil Service working on the nuclear industry. Until a month or so ago, I accepted Bjorn Lomborg's analysis of the energy situation, viz that oil supplies have increased and are increasing, and that the rise in oil prices will of themselves enforce the gradual transition from oil to alternative energy sources.

What understanding Peak Oil has done is knock away that confidence - in other words, here is the prospect of havoc in our society, and for someone who values control, ie things being under control, that is profoundly disconcerting. It has brought into the open various assumptions that I had made about the pattern of my life and the path that it might reasonably be expected to take. I now think that my working life - ie the next thirty years - will be very different. (How do you make God laugh? - tell him your long term plans.)

In the Daily Office at the moment we use the language of 'the darkness of this age that is passing away'. I take comfort from that; from the knowledge that the church has abided through crises similar to the one we are now facing; and that God will not leave himself without witnesses.

Yet an abiding hope for the future is not the same as a confidence that I will see it; or that my family will see it; or even that our local society (Mersea, Essex, England, the West) will see it.

For the other central concerns of an eight revolve around justice. Our society - globalised and oil dependent - is profoundly unjust. And unjust societies are unsustainable - it was part of the genius of the prophets to recognise that; think of Amos and the plumb line.

I remember reading this article a few years ago. It's relevance increases the more time goes on. We should tremble more when we consider that God is just.

And yet.

"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust— there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It's not paranoia

"The world has never faced a problem like this. Without massive mitigation more than a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and long-lasting. Previous energy transitions (wood to coal and coal to oil) were gradual and evolutionary; oil peaking will be abrupt and discontinuous."

Summary of formal report prepared for the US government by Robert Hirsch and others, Spring 2005, available here.

The issue is not the theoretical viability of human society and civilisation in the absence of fossil fuels. That is possible with existing technology - by and large.

The issue is the transition from one state to another state - the phase transition. I can't see anyway in which that transition can be accomplished without a significant loss of utilised energy in the system as a whole.

Let me translate that into something less obscure: the system using abundant and cheap energy supports a certain population; the system using scarce and expensive energy will support a much lower population. The transition is going to be painful, and we need to begin planning for that transition now.

Which makes me think about small scale power stations for Mersea Island - a tidal barrage?

Actually, what I think most necessary is the strengthening and building up of community. People working together provides much more than the agglomeration of individuals. That also has the benefit of not being futile endeavour should all these fears prove misplaced...

Monday, November 21, 2005

EROEI

Sounds like a Celtic wail, but in fact it stands for 'Energy Return on Energy Invested'. It's one of the key concepts in understanding PeakOil.

Oil is two things: a very dense source of energy, and one which is easily fungible.

The energy needed to get a barrel of oil (light crude) out of the ground in the Middle East is pretty minimal, and that barrel of oil returns some thirty times as much energy as it took to gain it. So the Energy Return on Energy Invested is 30:1.

That's a great ratio. That means that energy is plentiful, we can do lots of things with it. And oil has certain properties - like being a liquid at normal temperatures - which make it ideal for use in transportation. The energy involved in pushing two tons of metal in a particular direction is rather large - think how many people it would take to push a car one mile, and you get some sense of how much energy is bound up in that gallon of petrol.

Peakoil is basically a recognition that this wonderful source of energy is finite. And several consequences flow from it.

1. As the oil (and possibly the coal that can be turned into oil) runs out, energy as such will become much more expensive. Some energy sources being touted, eg oil shales etc, have an EROEI of about 1.5:1 - in other words the benefit of extracting the oil becomes much more marginal. Given the tremendous complexity of extracting such oil, and the high degree of capital investment to carry out such a project, it seems dubious to me whether it would ever be economically viable on any but the simplest scale.

2. Oil as a resource for transportation cannot easily be replaced. It is possible that electricity could cover some elements - eg electric cars - but this again simply pushes the problem back to a) the power stations that may produce the electricity, and b) the creation and maintenance of such cars in the first place. Without oil, ie without plentiful and convenient energy, these things become much more difficult. So - things will become much more local.

3. Our system of food distribution depends on this easy energy. Without that easy energy a) there will be less food available (no cheap fertiliser); b) it won't be transported anywhere. There still will be transport around, but it will resemble much more a 19th century system, not a twentieth century system. There won't be refrigeration. So enjoy those bananas while you can! Food will return to being locally produced and dominated. The principal source of wealth will again be agricultural land.

4. This means that where there is no oil (and barring the miraculous invention of a new energy source) that over the coming decade(s) access to food is going to be a pressing issue. There will not be enough food to go round. The UK experience in the Second World War is worth pondering - everyone grew their own vegetables, and on the whole, there was enough to go around, in fact, people were much healthier on the whole. So - although we do have 15-20m more mouths to feed - we might be able to make enough food to keep most of our local population alive. But worldwide? I don't think so.

5. The situation will be most acute in cities. Cities cannot provide their own food source - most of the land is now asphalt. Cities will not be good places to be in the coming decades. That is where most of the 'die off' will occur. I think there will be a horrible spasm of violence, but it won't be maintained, simply because the maintenance of violence is itself a very energetic pursuit.

6. At the international level, governments will act to try to secure the oil supply for their own countries, to ensure that their own populations do not starve. This has already started, of course, but it could get much worse - US invades Canada anyone? (unlikely, extremely so, but not, I suggest, impossible).

7. The clash of civilisations: pretty soon we pass the point when 50% of the remaining oil is in 5 countries on the Persian gulf. That gives those five countries a huge amount of political power, at least temporarily. Add to this the <Islamists who want to see western civilisation destroyed (they will get their wish granted) and the increasing tensions being seen in Western countries already - the potential for an extremely nasty scapegoating process is very strong.

8. I'm not persuaded that the financial system will completely break down, although I'm quite persuaded that elements within it (eg the dollar) will be destroyed, either through hyperinflation or the direct destruction of capital. I've seen it argued several times that modern capitalism is built upon the assumption of future growth; that seems to me to be both historically inaccurate and conceptually skewed. Capitalism as it has been practiced has been structured on growth; but capitalism as such - eg the lending of money at interest - does not, logically speaking, depend upon growth in the same way. Clearly, if we move to a 'steady state' economy - which is the only future available - then the financial structure will have to reflect that. But I see capitalism as being based upon the intellectual structures like the rule of law and right to private property. I don't see those being vulnerable (necessarily) to the oil crash. Could be wrong of course.

9. The good news is that, if you're one of those who survive through the great dislocation, life on the other side will be, in most respects, much better, especially if you have a spiritual orientation. You just wouldn't want to break too many limbs.

10. Electricity and the grid. This is the one I'm still mulling over. The electricity grid itself requires energy to be maintained, but keeping the grid alive will be one of the highest priorities of all governments. I suspect that - especially with the decision to go nuclear - there will be enough energy to maintain the electricity grid for a good forty or fifty years, even if at much lower levels than today. (Which means that - for as long as you have replacement parts - the internet, and blogging(!) is going to still be around).

But I could be wrong on all of that.

The things to do now are: think locally; hope for the best, prepare for the worst, accept what comes. It is those who endure to the end who shall be saved.

Late addition: good article here - good in the sense that it is a perfect expression of the conventional thinking on energy resources, looking with an economist's eye, not a geo-physicists - and therefore ignoring the question of EROEI.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

After the oil crash

Probably the best overall site on peak oil here.

Raising awareness done best from here.

The Swedish government has committed itself to going 'off oil' from 2020. I wish them luck.

There are possibilities available now. Yet - despite a full knowledge of the issue - the politicians are either doing nothing, or, worse, planning wars on a 'last man standing' philosophy.

If we rely on human nature to get us through then we are truly *&£$ed.

I'd say something optimistic about relying on the grace of God, but I'm thinking more about Jeremiah.

"Your own conduct and actions
have brought this upon you.
This is your punishment.
How bitter it is!
How it pierces to the heart!"

Oh, my anguish, my anguish!
I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
My heart pounds within me,
I cannot keep silent.
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet;
I have heard the battle cry.

Disaster follows disaster;
the whole land lies in ruins.
In an instant my tents are destroyed,
my shelter in a moment.

How long must I see the battle standard
and hear the sound of the trumpet?

"My people are fools;
they do not know me.
They are senseless children;
they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil;
they know not how to do good."

I looked at the earth,
and it was formless and empty;
and at the heavens,
and their light was gone.

I looked at the mountains,
and they were quaking;
all the hills were swaying.

I looked, and there were no people;
every bird in the sky had flown away.

I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert;
all its towns lay in ruins
before the LORD, before his fierce anger.

Top geek novels

A list of geek novels on the Guardian's site here.

I'm familiar with seven of the top ten - a rather better ratio than the the spiritual films. Must be more of a geek than a guru I guess....

Generosity (1)

Was taken by my best man to a sumptuous supper. I don't suppose I will experience this sort of thing very often in my life:

Bollinger 1996 en Magnum (fine)
~
Fresh Foie Gras Terrine with a Sauternes Jelly and Toasted Brioche (possibly the only time I've ever had Foie Gras; the jelly was remarkable)
~
Meursault 1er Cru Rougeots 2002 Verget (this was gorgeous; tremendously long finish)
~
Pithivier of Scallops and Truffle with a Langoustine Froth (very tasty, worked well)
~
1989 Chateau Mouton Rothschild (fine but fell away quickly)
1989 Chateau Lafite Rothschild (warm, farmyardy at first, personality)
1989 Chateau Haut Brion (gorgeous, elegant, best of evening)
1989 Chateau Margaux (weighty, intense, got some time before peak)
1989 Chateau Latour (quite closed but clearly will be fabulous in about a decade)
~
Roast Loin of Venison with a Blueberry Sauce served with Dauphine Potatoes and Vegetable Puree (perfect match to the claret)
~
Twice Baked Cheese Souffle (worked well after the venison, when we still had claret to drink!)
~
Chateau Rayne Vigneau 1986 (lovely, not too unctuous)
~
Jasmine Tea and Lime Tian served with a Citrus Compote, finished with a Chocolate Shard (great, but didn't blend with the dessert wine)
~
Fonseca 1970 (I love vintage port, didn't disappoint, tho' I prefer the Grahams '70)
~
Cheese, filter coffee (I had tea), Petit Fours

We had a Master of Wine talking us through the different wines in the evening, which was very helpful. Was pleased that my initial impression about the Haut Brion being the best on the night was confirmed by the man in the know.

What an evening.

Thank you my friend.

Terrified and depressed

Had a very strange, diverse and interesting week, benefiting hugely from the generosity of friends, but with little time for blogging. I hope to catch up this week. But the main thing on my mind has been the impact of peak-oil, which I have continued to research and ponder.

The End is Nigh, and we're all going to die. Mostly horribly.

More posts, once I've got my optimism back.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The most spiritual films

Hmmm. Jeffrey Overstreet links to a list of the top 100 spiritual films which makes for an interesting 'to be seen' list. I've seen two of the top ten, and nine of the top twenty (assisted by being married to a Tarkovsky fan). Lots that I'm missing out on, clearly.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Generous Orthodoxy

Brian McLaren's personal manifesto. Very good, though it all seemed non-controversial from where I stand. But the thing that is clearest to me now is that there IS scope for my book, because he is so geared towards the Xn/nearly Xn approach. (he might deny that). Whereas I am absolutely aiming for the non-Xn. Good main points: need to think about – praxis (where I think he is a little misled – almost a liberal!!) and leadership, which is the key thing I need to ponder in my own right.

Serenity


I’ve been wanting to watch this for a while, and as I had to go into the centre of London for another purpose I took advantage of it still being around. I was most impressed. The opening sequence was remarkably strong, and it did a good job – I guess – of orienting newcomers, although I’m sure those familiar with Firefly got much more from it. Which I did. Disappointed that Shepherd didn’t get more of a role, but at least he was in it (from watching the trailer I wasn’t sure). And I loved the climactic moments too, particularly River’s battle (largely unseen - which made it work all the better). Cool. I searched for an image of her with the axe dripping blood, but couldn't find one - have to wait for the DVD release I guess!

And now I know who ‘the operative’ is – which is the character I most resemble, according to one of those little quizzes. Hmmmm.

But the film was great. Definitely in my top five of the year, for enjoyment primarily.

But I wondered about the politics of it – bit of a redneck/McVeigh slant it seemed to me – but I’m a foreigner, so what do I know?

"You can't stop the signal" - hope that's true, what with PeakOil and all that.

Wallace and Gromit

Great fun. The penguins at Christmas were good as well.

Cheese!

The Manchurian candidate




Good entertainment; not particularly subtle, but good performances and competently directed. Some remarkable images – one in particular stuck in my mind, of Liev Schreiber taking a phone call in his hotel room, and the picture on the wall showed an image of his own room – with the recursive depth you would get from putting two mirrors together - which was then displayed as he walked through to the wardrobe / entryway to the other world. There's a literary term that describes this - objective correlative? Anyhow, I enjoyed it.

Sleep

Sleep is a beautiful thing. It took me a while to unwind properly on retreat, but then, on the Wednesday night/Thursday morning I manage a whole twelve hours of sleep. I haven't done that in years and years and years....

Sleep is beautiful. Dreams were interesting too. Lots of posts about to come your way.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Off on retreat

Off on retreat here until Friday. It's a place I knew when I was doing my curacy here.

I feel like I'm staggering over the finish line at the end of a marathon. I haven't had a retreat since 2000 - although, to be fair, I did have a sabbatical year (grin) - but the last few months have been quite intense. It will be good to just sit in silence for a while. Although, me being me, I'm taking a bit of work - Learning Church session on the Gospel of Mark as soon as I get back, so I'm going to be spending time with the first evangelist.

Plus McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy. Plus Peterson's Christ plays - which I bought ages ago and wanted to read when I could concentrate on it - plus a few other books... and a couple of films....

Friday, November 04, 2005

Love the machine

Just finished watching series one of Battlestar Galactica. I'm impressed. Much more going on than I was expecting, particuarly in the sphere of theology. I'm intrigued to see where they go with the 'love of god' theme, which seems to be playing a great part in the plot.

It is reminding me of two things. The first is the Matrix trilogy, and the peace made between the matrix and humanity. The second is Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - that the Buddha is found in the pistons of an engine just as easily as in the flowers of a lotus petal.

In other words, I think there is a message here, coming through the collective unconscious, prompted by the Holy Spirit, about a reconciliation between humanity and technology, in order to move forward.



Having also finished book three of my 'Peak Oil' collection (full discussion tomorrow) the future survivability of human civilisation is on my mind.

"We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another - doubtless very different - St Benedict"

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou


Second 'Mersea Island Moving Images' night last night - we watched (all six of us) the Steve Zissou experience.

Hmm. Maybe I've missed something, but it seemed like a lot of artifice in search of a good editor. It had plot - a good plot - but it seemed to get distracted with exploring characterisation when the characterisation (despite great actors) was not enough to sustain interest. In other words I didn't actually care about the people involved.

It was as if it hadn't made up it's mind whether to be a whimsical piece of fantasy, or an engagement with real humanity. Either one of those would have been a great film. But this wasn't.

The pastoral is trumps

Recently had to take a very sad funeral, and the request came in for Henry Scott-Holland.

I have problems with the Scott-Holland reading. In the context in which it was used it was specifically describing a non-Christian attitude, and it is non-Christian because it is non-true. Death is not nothing at all, death is horrible and maiming, particularly in a context like this.

I suggested a reading from Lamentations instead, but this caused great distress to one member of the family. So what to do? Insist on something Christian, or accept the heresy being read in church?

The pastoral is always trumps for me. It leaves me with an unquiet conscience, but rather that than increasing the already great distress amongst those grieving.

If only I knew of something "secular" that wasn't so wrong. Anyone have suggestions?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

OK, I can live with this

Desiderius Erasmus
You are Desiderius Erasmus, the Catholic humanist
who offered biting satires of the Church but
refused to join the Reformation cause.


Which 16th century theologian are you?
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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Fear and trembling is the first order of the day

Came across this excellent article, written before the invasion of Iraq, describing our present situation, and what is at stake. I am greatly taken by his analysis.

"We must take a hard look at every idea we hold dear and ask, Does this idea even fit any more? And does it any longer make sense to speak of conservatives in a world in which a catastrophic change of some kind looms, or liberals when it is the core liberal values of all of us - even the most conservative - that are being threatened?

Once the world-historical magnitude of the risk is understood, it is possible for men of good will to differ profoundly over the wisdom of this or that particular response - and not only possible, but necessary. But this must be done in a climate free of pettiness and personalities: the cult of naïve cynicism - that oxymoron that characterizes so much of what passes today for intellectual sophistication - must be dismantled and as soon as possible if we are to make our response as intelligent and as creative as it must and can be. To call prudence appeasement is wrong. But to call the United States' response a bid for empire is simply silly.

No one's crystal ball is in such good shape that they can afford to be too vehement in denouncing those who disagree with them. Fear and trembling is the first order of the day, both on the part of those who counsel action and those who do not."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005