Saturday, 27 September 2008

Paul Newman 1925 - 2008

Very sad news that Paul Newman has died after a battle with cancer. A brilliant actor who became almost as famous in later life for his Newman's Own salad dressings. What is not perhaps known is that all the proceeds from his salad dressing company went to charity and so far has raised $250 million. Newman's Hole In The Wall charity (named after the gang in Butch Cassidy) for children with life threatening conditions has enabled over 135,000 children to go on its holiday camps. Here is my top 5 Newman films in no particular order:
  1. Cool Hand Luke - he really looked like he had eaten 50 boiled eggs.
  2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - one of the best endings in cinema history.
  3. The Hustler - Tom Cruise eat your heart out.
  4. Road to Perdition - cold, hard, calculating and chilling.
  5. Cat on a hot tin roof - sizzles with Liz.
Any other offers?

Thursday, 25 September 2008

that's why I love football - the Carling Cup

I trust my Manchester City mates were up Brighton early this morning. In one of those astonishing nights that the Carling Cup frequently throws up, Man City the richest football club in the world (probably as Carling would say) were dumped out of the tournament by humble Brighton of the first division after extra time and penalties. 'Middle Eastlands' as City's ground is now known, because of their wealthy new owners the Abu Dhabi United Group, will be a quiet place this morning.

I do feel a touch of sympathy as Sparky (Mark Hughes) City's manager was a great servant of Manchester Utd but then I remember this quote from Noel Gallagher (Oasis):
'It'll be nice to know that every gallon of petrol a Manchester Utd fan buys is going into our transfer kitty.'

Brighton 2 Manchester City 2, Brighton win 5 -3 on penalties.
That's why I love football!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

God created me

Thanks to John Richardson who recently posted First they came for the Creationists.. in response to the controversy raging at The Royal Society over Professor Michael Reiss. This was the comment I posted in response.
Spot on John. For me there are two issues running alongside each other.

1. The deliberate or ignorant confusion in the media and amongst commentators between ‘creationism’, a belief that the world was literally created in six days and should be taught as a scientific explanation, and the ‘creationist’ belief in a creator God who purposed the creation of the world. The commentators use their ridicule of the former to attack the position of the latter and suggest that both are claiming the same thing. This is backed up by much selective and partial quoting, as in the case of Palin and Reiss. There is a clear dishonesty in much of this debate which betrays the prejudices and presuppositions of many so called liberal commentators.

2. The second issue is the determination by some to remove people of faith, including Christians, from influence in public life arguing that we should not even be allowed a voice. This isn’t liberalism, it is fascism and needs to be named as such. (I am defining fascism here as a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control). Hence my dismay when Ekklesia signed up to Accord and its agenda to attack faith schools posted here. How ironic that some of those who are so quick to wrap themselves in the cloak of liberalism act in the most illiberal of ways i.e. denying a voice to those who do not agree with them.
Lesley Newbigin flagged up these concerns some twenty years ago in his book ‘The Gospel In a Pluralist Society’ and it still speaks very powerfully to our present context.

However, the more I think about this the more I believe we are being distracted from the real issue. When I say I believe in a God who created me and the universe I am not primarily making a statement about the origins of the world and how it came about, I am making a statement of commitment about how I will live. I am saying I believe that God is Lord of my life and the world around me and that I want to live in the light of that truth. This means I recognise I am accountable to him for the way I live, the way I treat others and the way I care for the world he has entrusted to us.

So the question I have to face up to is this: do people see that I believe God created me by the way I live? Is one of the reasons so many people have a go at those of us who believe in a creator God because they just don't see the evidence that we believe it to be true?

U.S. Election (1)

Just come across this brilliant video for the U.S. elections called time for some campaignin. With thanks to sojourner2915 for the link.
Happened to be listening to Gram Parsons' Grievous Angel when I found the link. What a tragedy he died so young but perhaps if he hadn't Emmylou Harris wouldn't have emerged from under his shadow and embarked on her solo career when she did.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

send a cow

With Harvest Festivals approaching many churches are involved with organisations like Send A Cow which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year. This is also the time when the airwaves and newspapers are full of 'experts' telling us how these projects are no good for the countries they are intended to help. Paul Heiney has written an excellent article in The Times called 'Can sending a cow feed a country?' focusing on the value of the work of charities like Send A Cow in transforming the lives of individuals and communities. Heiney writes about one of the women who received a cow back in the mid nineties. Betty Kiwanuka is now on her third cow and she has called it Kirabo: Gift of God.

At Great Leighs Church on Sunday 28th September we will be celebrating our Harvest Festival and the guest preacher will be Martin Reed from Send A Cow.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

how come? (3) - Pullman

One of my weekly lunchtime haunts is Waterstone’s bookshop in Chelmsford High Street. I like to look at the books laid out on the tables to see what is new and what people are reading at the moment. (O.K. I admit it is also to see what’s on offer). Yesterday I was fascinated to see a table laid out with books chosen by Philip Pullman author of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Waterstone’s had invited Pullman to select books that had influenced his writing as part of their The Writer’s Table series. You can see the list of books Pullman chose here.

It is an interesting selection. However, as I looked at the books laid out on the table I found myself asking ‘How come he hasn’t chosen Milton, Blake, C.S. Lewis and most notably The Bible?’ All of these have clearly influenced his writing and he draws heavily on them as sources, including Lewis' writing which he so despises, and Pullman even references them as influences in interviews like the one with Amazon here.

There is a previous post on His Dark Materials on my old blogsite here.

Monday, 8 September 2008

how come ? (2) - footy

Scanned the TV schedule on Saturday evening to find the highlights of the England v Andorra match only to discover it wasn’t being shown. The FA has sold the rights to England’s away fixtures to Setanta subscription channel and they couldn’t agree a fee to sell the highlights to the BBC or ITV.

How come you can’t watch the national team without forking out to a pay per view channel? Why didn’t the FA make it a condition of their rights sale that highlights had to be shown on terrestrial TV? Footy is heading the way of cricket and boxing with fewer people able to watch unless they stump up the dosh. Not good for the punter and not good for the sport. If you stick it on a channel that no one watches then gradually people will lose interest. Still I ought to be grateful because it did mean I was spared watching John Terry hoofing the ball aimlessly into touch, Wayne Rooney running around looking for a booking and the inevitable series of misses against a bunch of cloggers who wouldn’t grace League Division 2. Scraped a 2-0 win for goodness sake!

Still Andy Murray did us proud in the tennis; edge of the bed stuff last night as I listened to his triumph over Nadal. Playing Federer tonight for the U.S. Open title – come on!!!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Accord out of tune

A new coalition called Accord, which was launched officially on Monday 1 September 2008, is calling on Children, Schools and Families Secretary of State Ed Balls to stop publicly-funded faith schools from discriminating against students and teachers on the grounds of their beliefs.

Accord has been established by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, the British Humanist Association (BHA) and a range of other organisations and individuals - including clergy, academics and public figures - to seek to build a new consensus for fairness and equality in schooling and schools policy.

The coalition has received the support of Polly Toynbee in her latest rant against faith schools published by The Guardian. Her piece is either knowingly dishonest or wilfully ignorant. For example, she completely ignores the role that the church and other religious institutions have played in the development of education provision over the centuries in Britain and the presence of church schools serving communities abandoned by just about every other institution. Toynbee also refers to Ed Balls' attack on faith schools in April this year but fails to mention that he was unable to stand up many of his original accusations upon further investigation. Some have suggested Balls’ accusations were a cynical appeal to part of the Labour Party to strengthen his political base.

Toynbee suggests that the support of faith schools has been one of Tony Blair’s most damaging legacies. Personally I believe it was just one of a number of policies for which he has never been given sufficient credit by those (including some of our own bishops) who are always claiming that the government fails to involve the church in public policy.

Why does Toynbee's undoubted intelligence and capacity for reasoned argument seem to disappear whenever she gets anywhere near an issue of faith, making her appear the most irrational of fundamentalists?

Here is a response to Toynbee by Henry Grunwald also published in The Guardian.

Anyway, back to Accord. I have been a chair or vice chair of governors of a wide range of both church and state schools for nearly twenty years. None of these schools operated a discriminatory selection process and they reflected a real desire to give the best to the children and communities where they were based. I was saddened to see Ekklesia had signed up to Accord alongside The British Humanist Association, of which Toynbee is the Chair. Accord would better serve the children of our communities by addressing the very challenging problems facing many of our failing schools, rather than by attacking those schools which have been part of the solution.

I am not in favour of discrimination in admission to schools or employment in schools and it should be challenged where it occurs. However, the idea that faith schools are the root of all the evils in our education system is just pernicious nonsense based on prejudice and ignorance.

Update 8/9/08: Here is an excellent comment piece by Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian entitled Faith schools can best generate the common purpose that pupils need.
Bunting's article is a balanced reflection on the contribution of faith schools prompted by the setting up of six academies by Steve Chalke's Oasis Trust.

how come? (1) jam

When on holiday in the Dordogne we noticed that several supermarkets had an English section selling a range of products and I was surprised to find a whole range of Tiptree jams / conserves alongside the HP Sauce and Marmite. My wife has pointed out that our local Tesco store at Gt Notley only stocks Tiptree strawberry jam and our favourite victoria plum along with the rest of the range is not available (they produce 37 different types). Trivial I know but how come our supermarket is incapable of supplying locally sourced jam that we can get at supermarkets in France!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

that's why I love football - transfer deadline day

Yesterday was one of the best transfer deadline days ever. Things started quietly with a few minor movements and then the news began to filter through that Man City had been sold to a wealthy Middle Eastern set up. Then the shocks began to come thick and fast with rumours that City had put in transfer bids for all sorts of players and most worrying was the news they were after Man Utd’s target Dimitri Berbatov. It soon became clear that things were serious and I spent a nervous few hours watching the blogs and waiting for news about Berbatov. Then the incredible happened; Man City had snatched Robinho from under Chelski’s nose by outbidding them with a Premiership transfer record! Finally the news filtered through, after reports of Berbatov being seen at Old Trafford despite Tottenham trying to sell him to City, Sir Alex had got his man and Berbatov would be pulling on the red shirt of Manchester Utd.

The implications of the day cannot be overstated. The emergence of Manchester City as a serious player in the Premiership will be a real threat to the big four. I think Liverpool and Arsenal fans should be worried as its clear they just haven’t got the finances to compete and one of them could be pushed out of a regular Champions League berth. That means less money and more difficulty in attracting top players looking for European football.

And just when things seemed to be settling down the news is coming through that Newcastle Utd have parted company with their manager Kevin Keegan. Sad news as I remember watching Keegan playing for Newcastle in the mid 1980s when I was at Durham Uni. Keegan demonstrated skill, passion and commitment for the game even on miserably wet Saturday afternoons and I witnessed the affection in which he was held by the fans. As a manager he always went with an attacking philosophy believing his side would score more than the opposition. O.K. so he had a run in with Sir Alex in the mid 90s, when Newcastle were vying for the title with Man Utd, but I can’t help feeling Newcastle and football in general are the poorer for not having Keegan involved. (update - seems to be alot of confusion over whether Keegan has actually gone).

Transfer deadline day – that’s why I love football.