The Burke's Corner blogger, in his theological blog More than a Via Media, gives us his reflections on Jesus' last words from the Cross.
Nick Hillman, PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) for Cambridge, writes about a night spent with Cambridge Street Pastors.
And while we read about the various pronunciations of Ceotibus in Fr Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes...
...Richard Normington, who was lucky enough to attend a comprehensive school in the days when some were allowed to speak Latin, reflects upon a phrase from Tacitus in the imminent General Election.
Two for the price of one from Fr TF's The Hermeneutic of Continuity: click here to read about Richard Dawkins' hate-material about the Pope, comparing Dawkins to another villain who wished to eradicate another religion; quite disturbing given that the Pope will soon visit as a head of state. Alternatively, click the pic to read his blog about an article by an atheist who warns his peers against "Catholic-bashing".
Former British Ambassador Charles Crawford wonders if fans really want to feel like they're entering a boardroom when they go to watch the football...
While finally, on a slightly less urban note: a proposal for a city-farm in the south of Cambridge, from the Coleridge Conservative Action Team blog.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Sunday, March 28, 2010
If so, Earth Hour fell at the first hurdle. In the words of the Daily Telegraph:
Even if power stations are turned off, the upsurge in turning the lights back on one hour later will require power stations that can fire up quickly like oil and coal.Any chess player understands the principle of making an immediate sacrifice for a future gain, but if the WWF (World Wildlife Foundation) and its Green fellow-travellers were really into long-term thinking, they wouldn't have campaigned for decades against the cleanest proven source of large amounts of energy around: nuclear power. Because the protests of a tiny minority of vocal vested interests were heeded, Great Britain now has only 19 nuclear reactors, and the new generation, commissioned only last year, won't be ready to fire up until 2020, if there aren't yet more objections.
Energy experts said it could therefore result in an increase in carbon emissions "rendering all good intentions useless at a flick of a switch".
But WWF said the campaign was about raising awareness and saving energy in the long term, rather than a short-term fix.
I was interested to see a night-time satellite image of South Korea taken during Earth Hour on Anthony Watts' Watts up with That blog, showing the country's towns as lit up as on any other night, while on the north of the border a Communist dark age still exists.
I am concerned that in our still-free societies there are those who would like to lead us into such a dark age and, although little that justice-and-peace types say surprises me, I was shocked last year to be invited to "fast" from the lights in my house from Ash Wednesday so that I and my family would appreciate God's gift of light on Easter Sunday. Was it coincidence that this was also the time of the changeover from real lightbulbs that have served us well from Edison's time to the pathetically poor energy-saving bulbs that don't even light up when you switch them on?
Suite 101's Paula Stiles identifies the term Dark Ages as having originally been coined by the Italian Renaissance poet Petrarch, who "appears to have used the term to describe the 5th to 14th centuries in protest at the relentless denigration of ancient pagan religion by Christian writers during this period."
Bertrand Russell, in his A History of Western Philosophy, doesn't link Petrarch with the phrase, but places the conception of the modern era at the Renaissance (in a chapter entitled The eclipse of the Papacy), and vents his anger on the Fathers of the Church, with special bile reserved for St Augustine, whose death was roughly contemporaneous with the final decomposition of the Roman Empire:
It is strange that the last men of intellectual eminence before the dark ages were concerned, not with saving civilization or expelling the barbarians or reforming the abuses of the administration, but with preaching the merit of virginity and the damnation of unbaptized infants. Seeing that these were the preoccupations that the Church handed on to the converted barbarians, it is no wonder that the succeeding age surpassed almost all other fully historical periods in cruelty and superstition.(It should be said that Russell lets his prejudice - and western ethnocentrism - trump his erudition here: one could say that the rump Roman Empire, as the Byzantine civilisation centred on Constantinople, survived happily into mid-Renaissance times until destroyed by Sultan Mehmed's Ottoman army in 1453).
But how dark were the dark ages? If the past is another country, we would be ethnocentric ourselves to blame other civilisations for not undergoing the explosion of progress that has marked ours since, say, the invention of the steam locomotive by William Murdoch and James Watt in the late 18th century. But the early medieval period was not short of eureka moments in many fields.
In 1150, for example, the Knights Templar sowed the seeds of modern capitalism by inventing the "letter of credit" - which would evolve into the cheque - that allowed a pilgim to deposit funds in one place and redeem them in another far away.
Shortly afterwards, the arbitrary power of absolute monarchs was dealt a fatal blow by the Magna Carta, signed in England in 1215. Around the same time, Franciscan Friar Roger Bacon would initiate the scientific method by making a hypothesis, testing it and then refining it further if it passed the test; if not, moving on to another hypothesis - one of his experiments was on the ancient remedy of ground willow bark to treat fever and pain, which would be built on by French chemist Charles Frederic Gerhardt to synthesize Aspirin in 1853.
Underpinning both of these - and much else - was the novel addition of wheels to the plough in the 6th century (above), allowing it to increase in weight and till more and heavier soil, allowing populations to increase and create more pressure for innovation.
But now we have a movement of groups of activists, supposedly informed by science, to stifle any innovation that they do not approve of, and allow only research that saves the appearances of anthropogenic climate change/global warming, which is being shoved down the throats of our children and young people in education and leisure. Case in point: energy secretary Ed Milliband commissioned adverts promoting the theory of anthropogenic climate change as fact and using nursery-rhymes to do so, only (thank God) to have them banned by the Advertising Standards Authority on he grounds that the clear implications of the ads weren't supported by science. Milliband had obviously studied his Jesuit educational theory: "give me the child for his first seven years..."; but at least the lights are still on in the ASA.
The Telegraph's Murray Wardrop reports that earth is said to be entering a new period of geological time due to the acts of humankind having an indelible effect on old Gaia. Eugene F Stoermer of the University of Michigan's Center for Great Lakes and Aquatic Sciences places the handover from the present Holocene era to the putative Anthropocene at the end of the 18th century and "James Watt's invention of the steam engine" - William Murdoch obviously having gone the same way as Alfred Wallace, Friedrich Engels and woogie.
Last night I marked Earth Hour by having every light in the house switched on - except Maxima's room, as our cat Magus was curled up sleeping on her duvet. It was no mere excercise in contrarianism - we need a symbol of our desire to keep the lights on in science, and in our hard-won freedoms of conscience and expression.
To allow a Dark Age of fluffy earth-worship to be imposed would necessitate abuses of knowledge and wisdom that would have horrified the followers of the Old Religions whose torches were finally extinguished by the so-called Enlightenment's genteel patrician oppression; and the population control measures needed for proposed swingeing cuts in carbon dioxide (a gas necessary for all life on earth) would make the Holocaust look like a practice session. And guess what? It wouldn't be the lives of hand-wringing liberal intellectuals that were demanded.
Come next Earth Hour, my electricity meter will be working as hard as ever and for a good cause. When the time comes, I heartily commend Damian Thompson's advice to you: "Beat the 'Earth Hour' fascists and turn on your lights NOW!"
Monday, March 22, 2010
So it was good to be sent a photo-update of a charity I was made aware of soon after moving to the Draughty Old Fen: the Spring of Hope foundation (part of the Youth with a Mission group) which helps disabled children in Uganda - much are in their clinic in Wabwoko, which is in the Kayunga District of Uganda, shaded orange in the map to the left. I'd like to share some of these photos with you, with the original comments.
Emily (volunteer) and Victor (OT student ) on a home visit!! Feb 2010, we saw our first Uganda OT students come from Mulago training hospital!!
Our deaf children from both schools were able to visit the zoo in Entebbe thanks to Roxy fundraising!!
|We bought our 2nd bike, after a previous volunteer Melanie fundraised. Moses is now out and about in the community. Children in Wabwoko are at last receiving weekly home visits!! Bought Feb. 11th!!|
Carolyn(volunteer) and Moses counting medications at the end of a very busy clinic,. At this clinic in Wabwoko we received 96 epileptic patients!! Feb 12th!!
Children and parents at the clinic in Wabwoko. Feb 12th!!
The last pic really struck a chord with me because I remember the sense of wonder and getting bigger exuded by both my children when they started school, something I think one can see on the face of little Zachariah as he starts on his own incredible journey of education, thanks to Spring of Hope.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
The nomenclature of the feast of mothers leaves me confused. I'm not sure if the difference between Mothers' Day and Mothering Sunday is that one is American and the other British, or one secular and the other religious.
Anybody who has had the privilege of knowing members of the Filipino community in Cambridge (the city's St Philip Howard's church has been called Little Manila) will know that they celebrate Mother's Day as religiously as any Holiday of Obligation. It leaves you with a renewed appreciation of the feast; but it's a time of year that can bring as much upset as it can peace.
Mothers' Day at St Gallicus was a happy affair that saw the first reading subsequently dramatised preceded by the children, which ended up with the teenage daughter of a two-year-old Pharaoh rescuing a plastic Moses from a basket. At the close of ther service all the mothers in the congregation were presented with little potted primroses, with enough left over so that everybody was abe to leave with one.
At home, Minora had put a lamb joint in the oven, and Minima prepared the veg while I divested the table of a week's accretion of books, homework and other things we'd decided we needed to keep but couldn't quite remember why.
A sobering note came during dinner when we heard on the radio news of Children's Commissioner Dr Maggie Atkinson's cynically-timed announcement that murdered toddler Jamie Bulger's killers Jon Venables and Robert Thomson, both 10 at the time of the slaughter, would never have stood trial today under the change she wishes to implement to the minimum age of criminal responsibility, raising it from 10 to 12.
Calling Dr Atkinson's comments twisted and insensitive, Jamie's mother, Denise Fergus, called for an apology to be followed by her either jumping or being pushed from the post. Doubtlessly we'll hear more of the affair, as Mrs Fergus is due to meet Justice Secretary Jack Straw this week to discuss Venables' arrest, rumoured to be connected with child pornography.
Minima volunteered to wash up, while Maxima and I listened to Johnny Walker's Sounds of the 70s show on Radio 2, then we got the laptop out for something that, to be honest, I think we'd been avoiding.
Aled Jones came to fame as a choirboy singing most famously Walking in the Air from The Snowman, and now, as well as pursuing a singing career, presents Christian programmes on TV and radio. On this morning's Good Morning Sunday Mothers' Day special, he'd interviewed Kate McCann, whose daughter Madeleine was taken from the family's holiday apartment in Portugal.
At times her voice seemed on the verge of cracking - and we were close to tears - as Kate told how she thinks of Madeleine every day and prays for her captors: her Parish Priest has given her a key to the church. She said that "every day is the same without Madeleine", so Mothers' Day brings both comfort and pain. When Jones asked her if she could forgive the people who took her daughter, she paused then said "I don't know". It was, I think, the most searingly honest point in an excoriating interview.
I was pleasantly surprised that the programme emphasized the religious aspect of Mothers' Day - Jones played Taverner's Hymn to the Mother of God, performed by the Choir of St George's Chapel, and an unexpected treat: Hymn to Mary by Beth Nielsen Chapman. It was interesting that Taverner composed his hymn in remembrance of his mother: this was the motivation for Paul McCartney's Let it Be, with the meditation on a line of the Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes - priez pour ceux qui aiment et sont partis (pray for those who love and are parted) - in the middle two verses.
And the best prayer that I can send up to the mother of God on this day for Denise Fergus and Kate McCann and their families concerns the situation which many mothers have to face as regards their children, albeit hopefully in happier circumstances: pray for those who love and are parted.
Click the picture above to spend a "minute for Madeleine", or click here to listen to Good Morning Sunday featuring Kate McCann (until Saturday 20 March)
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Ten top tips this week, starting with Cambridge's Big Three Conservative bloggers!
The Coleridge Conservative Action Team, including City Councillor Chris Howell and candidate Andy Bower, looks at the police's success in closing down two brothels in the city's south-east area, then meditates on the injustice in doffenences in the BBC's coverage of the financial affairs of Conservative and Labour donors...
...Cambridge's Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Nick Hillman, blogs on Rwanda's President Kagame's speech to the Royal Commonwealth Society on his country's entry to the Commonwealth, focussing on young people in Africa and the world...
...and Richard Normington picks up on Iain Dale's question of why the next Budget hasn't been announced yet.
Alex Ferguson watch out: Lisa Zyga speculates on the US site physorg.com on whether the result of a football game can be predicted through maths.
Anybody who knows anything about mental illness or recovery from drugs misuse has heard of serotonin and dopamine - here Neuroskeptic summarises the case of a chap who was born with a brain unable to synthesize either.
The cartoonist Bones - aka Yaakov Kirschen - looks at a meeting of three modern dictators and compares in to events on the eve of the Second world War - click the pic to see the whole cartoon.
One for the photographers of both digital and analogue disposition: petapixel posts a link to an online application that calculates the "golden hours" - the time immediately after dawn or before sunset - for anywhere on the globe.
|The Seventeenth Century History blog ponders the decisions to sack Naomi Tadmor and David Ganz, respectively an early modern historian and Britain's only Professor of Paleography, in a polyglot post bemoaning the dumbing-down of our education.|
Father TF looks at That "Adam & Steve Apology in the wake of a deacon having been forced to make an apology over the prospect of same-sex marriage that, FrTF points out, may not have come from homosexual activists.
But I can make a cappuccino, asserts Linda from Don't Poke the Baby, meditating upon the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
I can understand the reasoning behind a certain amount of discretion about military matters in time of war - censorship imposed upon the newspapers by the wide-ranging 1914 Defence of the Realm Act was intended to maintain the morale of families, many of whose members would vote in an election that eventually came in 1918.
But nevertheless war journalism, from Winston Churchill's commission as a war reporter during the Boer war, through Leslie Illingworth's satirical cartoons for the Daily Mail to the embedding of journalists in military units today (which is going to be banned), has been essential in dispelling rumours about what might really be happening at the front.
But what's really happening at the front may be, for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the problem. For example, Snatch Land Rovers (left), nicknamed "mobile coffins" due to their vulnerability to mines, are to be phased out in favour of more robust Ridgbacks. But, after Gordon Brown's markedly uncensored visit to troops in Afghanistan on March 5 - after giving evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry on Britain's involvement in the Iraq War about his commitment to funding the Armed Forces that was immediately rebutted by senior military chiefs - Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox claimed that the procurement of 200 Ridgbacks (right) was at odds with the tender for 400 originally put out.
If this is the reason for the media blackout, it is a myopic repetition of history by those who appear to have forgotten it. When David Lloyd George took over as Prime Minister from Herbert Asquith after the latter's resignation in 1916, he had no choice but to relax reporting restrictions upon newspapers somewhat, because the tales of soldiers returning from the fighting were at odds with tales of victory planted by official sources.
Brown might again ban forces personnel in Afghanistan from using social media, as happened in February last year only to have the ban lifted that August, but is he going to cancel leave and Medivac during the period of "purdah" - a domestic political protocol intended to make government department communications equitable to all political parties once an election has been declared? If he wishes to put us all into a position where we don't talk about the war, he's on a hiding to nothing: if returning soldiers forced Lloyd George to loosen his government's stranglehold on the press, what will be the effect of full-on deployment of social media during [the] British election?
One thing's clear to me: if the Government thinks it can stage-manage information on a war that half the world's reporting on, we'd better keep an eye on the ballot boxes on election night.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
The store has recently had an application to sell alcohol turned down - see Cambridge resident (expected to stand as an Independent in the next election) Richard Taylor's helpful and exhaustive account - on account of its being in a cumulative alcohol impact zone, which creates an assumption against granting new licences to sell alcohol.
What got me thinking was how alcohol gets into the hands of people in Mill Road with problematic drinking patterns in the first place. So as soon I was able I went to the end of Mill Road nearest town and walked up the mile-odd length, paying attention to the shops that sell alcohol.
Like any other consumers of alcohol, street-drinkers are partial to their favourites - most commonly Carlsberg Special Brew or the other 9% lagers on sale. (The manufacturers observe the Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Health and the Alcohol Industry on putting sensible drinking reminders on their cans, despite the fact that the contents of a single 500ml can of 9% lager, containing 4.5 units of alcohol, put the drinker above the government's recommendation of 2-4 units daily). Strong ciders also appeal to their palate, so I think it's significant - thanks again to Richard Taylor for his report - that Mill Road Tesco had pledged to sell no beers or cider above 5.5% alcohol - the equivalent of 11º proof in US measurements.
So No Mill Road were being rather disingenuous in making a noise about the local Tesco store's admittedly presumptious display of posters offering cheap wine: one doesn't often hear of pinot grigio-fuelled disorder.
Which isn't to say that there hasn't been controversy with wine in Cambridge: in 2008, a wine-shop in the city's Victoria Road called Bacchanalia, which is opposite an Alcoholics Anonymous centre (and has a sister-store on Mill Road) displayed a sign proclaiming Rehab is for Quitters. Although one can appreciate the wordplay on one level, I think the fruit of the vine was more sinned against than sinning, not to mention people trying to piece their lives back together.
The first thing I noticed was that shops genuinely serving specific communities - eg Chinese, Afro-Carribean, Malaysian - sold little or even no alcohol. On the other hand, the cynically-named International Food Store was in reality a wallful of shelves stocked with wines and spirits facing a wall of beers and soft drinks, with two thin aisles of snacks in between, and in between those huge plastic bottles of strong cider on the floor. Another general store had not only three different brands of 9% lager but also a variety of strong, cheap ciders, of the chemically-derived sort that Conservative leader David Cameron once remarked had "never seen an apple".
In all, there were five small, independent stores of the kind, say No Mill Road Tesco, in need of protection against the supermarket giant which were selling drinks that specifically fuel the thoroughfare's alcohol problems. I say specifically advisedly - when's the last time you saw 9% syrup or paint-stripper cider at a dinner-party or while getting together to watch the football?
Capitalism is insensate and must needs be fenced in by legal frameworks to prevent abuses like, for example, the sale of alcohol to minors, directly or through adults. Both the Co-op and Tesco, as far as I'm aware, will not sell to adults who are known to pass on to underage street-drinkers; so why can't smaller stores be leant upon to refuse to sell to people who are drunk, or who are known to drink in the street? Many people buy drinks from stores because pubs are forced to keep their prices high - releasing the legislative garotte strangling them wouldn't stop street drinking, but it could prevent people taking drinks home in a habit that has the potential to spiral dangerously, and would widen the cadre of social drinkers in pubs in whose self-interest it is not to let each other get out of control.
And while I'm on my wish-list, how about doubling the price of superstrong lagers and ciders?
Thursday, March 4, 2010
I first became aware of Festa delle Donne (Women's Day) in the 1980s in Italy, which is quite appropriate as that is where it appears to have begun. At the end of the Second World War, it was decided to consolidate several days celebrating women in March, some with roots in antiquity, in March 8. I remember going to university and seeing just about all of the women wearing flowers on their coats - small, white flowers, I wish I could remember the name.
March 8 is still, of course, International Women's Day, but it has accrued a whole week around it, which this year lasts from Saturday 5 March to Saturday 12 March, with the day itself in the middle on the Tuesday. And, as a bonus, Women's World Day of Prayer on the inaugural day, Saturday March 5, focussing on Cameroon.
I'd been planning a Top Ten pertaining to women for some time, because I looked at my music collection and saw that there were few women fronting a band or singing solo there: Carole Fredericks, Ulanda McCulloch and Bonnie Tyler, for example, and, of course, Cambridge-born songstress EJ Norman (right - click to hear her music). Is collecting music by other blokes something men do when we graduate from stamps?
It's not an idle question: last night I had a bath, which among other things affords me the only opportunity I get to read for a prolonged time, and had BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on the shower radio. Having the germ of this blog in my head, it shocked me that well over an hour passed between hearing one female vocalist and the next, despite there certainly being no dearth of good music written and/or performed by women. If this phenomenon is threaded through the fabric of society, is it possible that, say, all-women shortlists to select Prospective Parliamentary Candidates - which I've always felt vaguely uncomfortable with but are supported by many including Ellee Seymour - are the way ahead?
On the other hand, the opposite situation doesn't pertain with Maxima: although she certainly listens to more female vocalists than me - like Diana Ross, Nancy Griffiths and Katie Melua - she also has in her collection The Jam and the Police (with their respective solo leaders Paul Weller and Sting), Madness and Planxty, as well as her family's favourites such as Guy Mitchell and Tommy Steele. (And Buddy Holly. Being a Buddy Holly fan makes life easier in our house.)
Making a list for this post, I found myself trying to identify only pieces sung by women but also composed by women, and wondered if I were unconsciously applying a sort of gender-apartheid? The thing is, if I am, I am therefore part of the problem and will be unable to appreciate it from the outside. I'm confused...
10 - what men think women think
I can only ever write this post from the outside, so here's Nick Lowe with Girls' Talk, showing how men can be paranoid about women when there aren't even any present.
9 - self-assurance
Beverley Knight released this recently with Chaka Khan, and these lines go right to the heart:
Where's the man to quantify
Everything I'm worth and who I am?
He should look me in the eye
Tell me where he figures in my plan...!
8 - remembrance and sorrow
Fannie Hurst's 1933 novel Imitation of Life was filmed twice, the 1934 version being eclipsed by the 1959 one - which I remember watching with my Mum in the late 1970s: here Mahalia Jackson sings at the funeral of the black woman who brought up a white girl who didn't quite appreciate the worth of her foster-mother until it was too late.
7 - remembrance and joy
6 - the girl he left behind
All around my Hat was originally written from the viewpoint of a minor English criminal sent to Australia for several years, but here legendary folk singer Sandy Denny fronts Steeleye Span in turning it round so that the girl he leaves behind will wear a ribbon in her hat for "a twelve-month and a day".
5 - sticking with it
French singer/songwriter Jean-Jacques Goldman (who wrote for Céline Dion before she started singing in English) found himself surfing TV channels one night and was suddenly faced with a documentary called "Far West", part of which dealt with a group of nuns in the delivery suite of a maternity hospital. He was amazed by the footage and wrote a song that he performed with the supergroup he formed with his chums Michael Jones and the late, great Carole Fredericks, to whom this video is dedicated.
4 - incertitude?
Nena (Gabriele Kerner) released 99 red balloons (or luftballone) in 1983, not long after a British TV survey of the concerns of schoolchildren revealed nuclear war to be their greatest fear. Towards the end of the video, set on an army assault course in Germany (the father of one of the band members was a NATO colonel), if the band look distressed, it's because they were: unscripted gasoline bombs were exploding around them. But it made for a good video.
3 - identity
Here Gali Atari, who won the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest for Israel singing Alleluia wih Milk and Honey, sings of the joy and the pain of belonging to a place one cannot separate oneself from.
2 - What have they done to the weather?
Originally released as Weather Song, writer Malvina Reynolds wanted to highlight the effects of nuclear testing, which - reports the Telegraph's Bonnie Malkin, is still bearing bad news to the Aboriginies of the Australian outback. For a while, this became the anthem of a generation sufficiently secure behind their countries' nuclear deterrents to call for said deterrents' dismantling. (See the passionate support of the recently demised Labour leader Michael Foot for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which he helped found.) Here it's sungby one of the most beautiful voices of all time, Judith Durham, with of course the Seekers.
When Minima asked to play this at the start of an Advent course and I heard the first few lines, I thought it was time to hide behind my hands; but I hadn't trusted her enough - just over halfway through the song by Nashville-based Christian band Zoegirl, the lyrics develop to completely change the meaning of the piece.
If you enjoyed this, click here for more Top ten songs about...