Sunday, November 28, 2010

Shutter Island

I would count myself as a Scorcese admirer rather than fan - I greatly enjoy his films, but I haven't seen all of them (eg The Aviator). This, however, seems to me to be his best yet, principally because I found it so orthodox - thanks to the last line of dialogue, which raises it from 4/5 to 5/5. Grim, but wonderful, and with some profound lessons for our culture. Highly recommended.

Wake Up!!

"This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." (Romans 13.11 NLT)

Inspired by reading this before taking a service this morning.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Film notes

Triangle - 5/5 and I bet you've never heard of it! Not a horror, more of a mystery-thriller like 'Memento', very clever script, highly recommended.
Red - 4/5 - Helen Mirren with a Gatling gun, oh yes.
Harry Potter 7.1 - 4/5 - satisfying
Legion - 3/5 - entertaining hokum
The Book of Eli - 4/5 - visually interesting, plot solid without being great
Edge of Darkness - 3/5 - Mel being Mel
Into the Wild - ?/5 - I turned it off after 15 minutes as I wasn't in the mood to watch some adolescent being obnoxious and stupid for the next two hours - might go back to it one day
Holes - 4/5 - satisfying family film with a good message (older children)
Invictus - 3/5 - OK
The Box - 4/5 - I'd like to rewatch this at a later date, the rating might rise to 5/5; the trouble with movies like that is that they are too clever for the mainstream audience at which they are pitched (says the very low-brow Rector!!)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Some brief thoughts about episcopal kerfuffles and covenants

1. Poor +Pete.
2. It is perfectly legitimate to take the oath of allegiance whilst maintaining Republican views - at least, that was my belief when I took them, even though I wouldn't describe myself as anything like a republican (in the UK sense) these days.
3. The problem with +Pete's remarks, as compared to, say, spouting rampant heresy or nonsense, is that they were immediately and directly hurtful to the couple concerned. I don't think it is wrong to have a higher standard with regard to pastoral care than doctrine (even though, in the long run, maintaining right doctrine is the foremost pastoral task of a Bishop). 1 Timothy 3.2 is also relevant.
4. The Daily Hate-mail is an odious and obnoxious organ, which faithful Christians need to ignore, for the sake of their spiritual health (even if I take great interest in reading some of their columnists, like Peter Hitchens).
5. Rowan called on the new Synod to have a grown up conversation theologically. He also talked about the 'realities' of the situation. One reality of the situation that he did not address is that the US church and the GAFCON churches will not enter into a meaningful covenant together. It is therefore disingenuous of him to plead that we acknowledge a reality whilst not being real himself. Either he takes the high road of calling for more Christian behaviour from everyone (which would carry authority from him), or he takes the pragmatic path of saying 'this is our bed and we have to lie in it'. Straddling the fence in the way that he does is uncomfortable for him and catastrophic for us.
6. The pragmatic choice facing the church is not, therefore, between 'division' and 'no division' but rather 'where shall the division fall?'. Having an honest and direct conversation on that subject would be much more helpful than the frankly abstract and legalistic semi-theological ramblings that we've endured so far.
7. There was a distinct whiff of fear being stoked to drive the conversation forwards - if we don't do this then terrible things will happen (vaguely defined). Fear is the opposite of faith and therefore a good indicator of what it would be a mistake to do.
8. Much of what Rowan said amounted to a plea to trust him. Sorry, no. I revere him and consider him a holy man in all sorts of ways, but on this issue I do not trust his priorities, so the appeal fails.

All of which makes me a little sad this morning.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Go read Tim, and, a thought on the Anglican Covenant

Tim has started a really interesting series on 'The Anglican Way of Following Jesus', kicking off here, which looks to be really good (not least as Tim is so heavily tempted by/ influenced by the Anabaptist tradition).

However... (you knew that was coming) I wanted to pick up on something that Tim wrote: "We agreed that we were both heartily sick of hearing about the Anglican covenant (from both its supporters and its detractors)". I can understand that, it's not as interesting or as soul-feeding as all the things that Tim will be writing about, but I want to argue that it is something important to consider - or, perhaps better, I want to describe the way in which it is important to consider it.

Consider the small print:
This is for aspirin - that all-round miraculous wonder-drug. For the vast majority of people in the vast majority of cases, all you need to know is to take one or two three or four times a day, and your pain will be eased.

In the same way, when it comes to the faith, all you need to know in the vast majority of cases is 'Jesus is Lord', and then 'take the pill', ie apply it in your own life - and then your pain will be eased.

The small print is there to give much fuller and much more specific guidance; it sets out what the aspirin is for, and it outlines how it is possible to abuse the aspirin, possibly in life-threatening ways. It is not intended to cover 'normal use' - it is designed for those who have some understanding of the drug (and to cover the company's back in case of a lawsuit of course!) and need to know more specific details about how and when to use aspirin.

I think the Anglican Covenant is like the small print (I think the Creed is, too). It is not for 'normal' time, it is for the exceptions, the times at the margins, it is precisely an 'in-house' conversation. And yet, for all that, this is why it is important. If you get the small print on drugs wrong, it is likely that people will die. If you get the small print on the Covenant wrong, it is also likely that people will die - spiritually (and, actually, sometimes physically too).

That's why we argue about it, and that is the nature of its importance.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Absolutely superb, and I was thinking about it for ages afterwards in order to come to my own conclusions about the question at hand! 5/5

(In that alternate universe where they were making a film of my life, PSH would be the one playing me...)

Dark Caves and Dark Waters

I've updated one of my other blogs - the one that has the Courier articles - so my recent sequence of 3 on general spiritual questions is now available there.

Struggling with Satan

Fifteen songs meme

1) Turn on your MP3 player or music player on your computer.
2) Go to SHUFFLE songs mode.
3) Write down the first 15 songs that come up–song title and artist–NO editing/cheating, please.

1. Must I paint you a picture - Billy Bragg
2. Way Down - Elvis Presley
3. Pater Noster - Gesange Aus Taize
4. Exsultate Deo - Westminster Cathedral Choir
5. Beethoven symphony #2, 1st Movement - Berlin Phil (I think - conducted by von Karajan anyway)
6. See now he sleepeth - from Mendelssohn's Elijah
7. Track 20 from Carmina Burana
8. Smackwater Jack - Carole King
9. What you never know - Sarah Brightman
10. Tahi Nei Taru Kano (Maori Folk Song) - Kiri te Kanawa
11. Glory to Thee, my God this night - King's College Choir
12. Pumpkin and Honey Bunny/Misirlou - Pulp Fiction Soundtrack a particularly entertaining jump in mood ;)
13. You can't lose what you ain't never had - Muddy Waters
14. What is love? - Haddaway
15. Space Walking (demo) - After The Fire

No tags.

Monday, November 15, 2010


As it's been a while since I put one up...

One link today - go and have a listen to the track(s) at MadPriest's place, which is a long time favourite of mine - I even referenced it in conversation last week.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My head hurts

I've put a couple of recent sermons up on my other blog (link to the left) - a short funeral address, and today's Remembrance Day sermon, which seemed to be well received.

Life is incredibly busy at the moment (with lots of good things as well as work!), but I can see a glimmer of space in the middle of this week coming up when I should be able to engage with various questions that I've left hanging. Believe it when you see it though...

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Short thoughts 2 - responding to Orlov's pessimism on Peak Oil

Dmitri Orlov has written an excellent article here, which I'd recommend reading, the gist of which is that the 'descent' of oil production will be much steeper than the standard Peak Oil analysis expects. I have no dispute with his analysis, so far as it goes. I agree that reserves are overstated (and we have front-loaded the extraction); that the Export-Land problem is very serious; that EROEI will exponentially reduce the available of energy as such oil as is extracted; and that there will be systemic break-downs of the infrastructure needed to extract oil. All of which makes me think that, taken together, we (average Westerners) are looking at severe oil scarcity within about ten years (possibly sooner) and that, if we haven't as a society shifted away from oil-dependency, then our future is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

So why do I think his pessimism is overdone? Two principal reasons, one specific, one (flowing from the first) more abstract.

The specific reason why I believe the pessimism is overdone is that our culture is massively wasteful of energy. Take transportation: most cars in most morning commutes carry a single occupant, when they were designed to take four. Setting up car-sharing agreements is technologically straightforward and would have all sorts of wider social benefits in addition to the reduction in petrol consumption. In other words, this is an 'easy win' - and it is an easy win that can be adopted rapidly, which means that it buys time to deal with the more fundamental issues, which is the most crucial point. There are other easy wins (like home insulation, CHP) along with some other not-so-easy-but-very-likely-to-happen 'wins' like: we'll be colder in the winter and have to wear more jumpers rather than turning up the thermostat. My 'wild-assed-guess' is that we (the UK) could face a 50% reduction in the availability of oil and just about keep the show on the road - not without a great deal of hardship, and not without having to rely on a very great deal of social solidarity and rationing etc - but I think we could do it.

Now this is just a temporary fix - it will give us, I would guess, ten to fifteen years of time 'coping' with Peak Oil - which leads to my more abstract grounds for optimism, which is that the Western way of life is dynamic, not static. The greatest problems facing our civilisation are not technical, they are social, political and spiritual, and the biggest problem of all is a refusal to face up to the reality of our predicament. If my first point is anywhere near true, then the one certain thing that will flow from it is that people will realise the nature of our crisis and, in typical human fashion, respond rapidly and adaptably. When motivated, we are able to do all sorts of ingenious things, the best example of which is probably the retooling of our factories in order to fight WW2.

To my mind, the issue is not whether the world as we know it is coming to an end (it is, we will see [DV] the end of a society based around the assumption of perpetual economic growth), nor whether civilisation of some sort will continue on afterwards (I have no doubt that it will). What I ponder is what sort of civilisation will there be to succeed our present one, what values and achievements will we be able to salvage from the wreck of Modern Industrial Civilisation? I am optimistic that we will be able to save a lot - but that is undoubtedly a moot point.

Short thoughts 1 - on the Tea Party

Partly by way of a response to Graham

So far as I can tell, whilst it has its fair share of nutters and cranks, the Tea Party is motivated by fiscal conservatism & a desire for small government - which is pretty mainstream in US politics (some 17% of tea partiers are registered Democrats; only 57% are registered Republicans). They can be as antagonistic to establishment Republicanism (eg the CBC) as to Obama, and seem to mainly want to get the US government to rein back on spending. Which is also pretty reasonable.

The only question might be a prudential one - is now the right time to cut back on state spending, in the midst of recession etc (same question as in UK politics)? My perspective is that this question assumes that the recession is temporary, and relies on the return of growth to escape the consequences of more indebtedness. If you don't believe that we will ever go back to having growth in the same way again - as I don't - then continuing to build up huge debt is a really really bad idea. We can still debate about where and how to cut the spending, but that spending does need to be cut, and cut significantly, that seems straightforward to me.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Some links

I've had a bit of a hectic first week back at work, and my brain is melting down a bit (so Deanery Synod tonight might not be the best idea...) Anyhow, I've been reading a few things - here are some items of interest:

How to cope with your mid-life crisis

Strongly disagreed with this article - I suspect mandatory paternity testing is a good idea...

Third Nolan Batman film will be in 2D (hooray! I hate 3D)

Peak Oil is history - and why it'll be worse than expected (good article, at some point I might write a response explaining why he's too pessimistic)

Catholicism, Conservatism and Capital Punishment. Hmmm.

The crisis of the humanities (read part 2 as well)
and related - so you want to do a humanities PhD? and pushing back on mediocre professors

Giving up football - something I think about a fair deal as well, I've given up Sky football as a start

"liberalism cannot defend corporate religious freedom"

Peter Hacker (one of my fave philosophers) on neuroscience

Overconfidence in the IPCC

Homophobia is itself an abomination