Thursday, March 30, 2006
Monday, March 27, 2006
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Thursday, March 23, 2006
One does not have to be in agreement with all of Finney's theology (or taste in beards) to acknowledge the power of this quote! Many years ago I did as Finney suggested and sat down and wrote down every good thing I could think of that I had never thanked God for. What I thought might be a ten minute novelty turned into an afternoon of soul searching. As my sheet of paper filled up, I needed another, and another and another - and I realised that by nature I am a selfish brat. I take and take from God (who gives so generously) and allow countless blessings to be taken for granted with barely an acknowledgement - let alone heartfelt thanksgiving to my gracious creator. Sometimes I even have the audacity to complain about His provision.
If a grateful, thankful attitude is something that I need to cultivate in my children. It is something I first must nurture in myself.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Monday, March 20, 2006
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
World of the Strange
I have just finished reading Kurt Vonnegut's classic novel "Slaughterhouse Five". After having it highly recommended and it sitting on my Amazon wish-list for a few years, I have finally bought it and read it, thanks to some birthday money from my Grandma.
I have read several rather odd books in my life, and this is certainly one of them! If someone had told me that a 150-page novel could contain, autobiography, time-travel, alien abduction, war, sex, concentration camps, optometry conferences, authorial cameos, a theory of time being concurrent rather than linear, mental illness, the illusion of human free-will, and death (lots and lots of death, so it goes) all revolving around the firebombing of Dresden I would have thought them mad. Yet here it is.
In fact, madness might be exactly the point. The author appears it at times, the central character Billy Pilgrim is accused of it by his family and the narrative told without reference to the normal conventions of chronology is frequently chaotic. In fact this method of storytelling would drive anyone who delights in tidy narratives without loose ends, completely nuts! But aside from the author presenting us to himself as maybe mad, the central character likewise and the maddening effect on the uptight reader; the real madness only becomes apparent if the lense is pulled back from the individuals to see the madness of humanity - especially as demonstrated at Dresden.
Written as "rolling thunder" bombing raids flattened vast areas of North Vietnam; it was quickly seen as a powerful anti-war book, gained cult status and was made into a film in 1972. I can't imagine how any director could do justice to the constantly changing mental landscapes with which Vonnegut bombards the reader. I have heard that a remake is planned for the near future and would love to see it.
Among the many, many highlights in the book are the famous reverse-bombing raid in which Pilgrim travels through time backwards and watches Dresden being "un-bombed", with aeroplanes sucking the fire up into their bomb bays, compressing it into canisters to be safely dismantled in factories. There was also the savagely ironic moment which during the firestorm Billy and his German captor both spot some naked women in the showers - and for a brief moment all enmity between them is forgotten as they are united together in sheer lust. There is also the lovely take on the famous prayer of St Francis: "Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Among the things that Billy couldn't change were the past, the present and the future". The soldier executed for the theft of a teapot, while tens and tens of thousands lie all around torched by bombing is another key moment. Each death in the narrative is followed by the words "so it goes" and the inevitability of death and the lunacy of killing is mocked, whether it be murder or genocide.
Never was comedy so black and funny, or so deeply disturbing. I wonder if ebay have the 1972 DVD going cheap anywhere?
Monday, March 13, 2006
Thursday, March 09, 2006
I'm just back from the cinema, where my wife, myself and about ten other people, watched George Clooney's new film, "Good Night and Good Luck". It's the historical-biography of campaigning investigative reporter Edward R. Murrow, and his battle against McCarthyism in 1950s America. It is all dialogue, little 'action', and shot entirely in black and white.
The cultural atmosphere of the times is nicely built up, with oddities such as cigarette advertising, and company marriage policies thrown in; to compliment the obvious visual setting. The fear, suspicion, and danger of the 'witch-hunt' era is well done, as journalists battle with the military, with advertisers, media owners and most of all their own consciences as to what issues to cover. Not content to hide in the safe waters of celebrity interviews and gossip, Murrow and his team decide to tackle McCarthy through documentary TV program making.
The strain on the characters is well played, as they anticipate the reaction from the McCarthyites, in response to their challenge. David Strathairn is excellent at Murrow (above), Clooney good as his writing partner, and Frank Langella as CBS boss William Paley is brilliant. Murrow's furrow-browed monologues to camera are compelling, and are made all the more dramatic as his 'on-air' studied concentration gives way to nervous glances around the studio on completion of the pieces.
The film makes two incisive contemporary points:
The other major attack this film wages is against the idea that television and film can do no more than entertain, and ultimately numb and insulate the population (er, that's called dumbing-down today). The fact that the film starts and finishes with excerpts from Murrow's speech at an awards ceremony in which he rails against this, is significant. The writers clearly wanted to broaden the scope of the film's impact from the civil liberties issues, and into the realm of what television is for, and what standards of excellence it should persue.
Right, I'm off to watch "Today with Des and Mel".................
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Today I bought my 3rd-ever pair of walking boots. They were a present from the wife for my birthday, but being tight, I waited until the sale before going to the mountain shop! Once again I have gone for Raichle's - not because I am driven by brand names but because they seem to be the only ones that fit my feet. My last pair lasted 9 years and took an absolute kicking - if these perform even close to as well, I'll be happy.
Best of all though, if she has bought them for me - it would be illogical if she were to try and stop me going out to the hills to use them wouldn't it?
So the constraints of logic on human behaviour are about to be put to a scientific and irrefutable test! Watch this space for results during 2006.