I have decided to give up television for lent, which is ironic seeing as I am trying to make a career in the media (which just made me think: I hope that one day, far in the future when I'm some bigshot media mogul, someone doesn't dig this up and shame me in the Daily Sport as some kind of TV-hating puritan.). What is even more ironic is that last night - before I had fully committed to the notion of denying myself episodes of Peep Show, QI and Doctor Who - I turned on the telly and it just went 'fzzzrkkkkk' and died.
I think God is trying to tell me something.
So why am I doing this? Well, I've kinda done that whole giving up chocolate / booze / cigarettes thing. It's time to move on and really show the big man upstairs what's important. TV can easily be a substitute for spending time with God and I am guilty of it as much as the next guy. Hopefully, the next 40 days (eek! 40 days without telly?!?!) will help me to reflect on how I structure my life and free my mind a bit from the constant post-modern brain-slop that permeates the schedules.
One condition me and Wifey agreed on, though, was that we were allowed to watch films on our TV.
Films are OK - they're, you know...cultural and stuff.
This is an old church on Churchill Way in the centre of Cardiff. I think it has been lying dormant for years. It is an imposing, solid yet beautiful building that has probably not seen worshippers for a decade, if not more.
Someone had the bright idea of turning it into flats:
While I'm not against the conversion of architecturally significant buildings in order to provide homes for families per se, I am against the prolific construction of 'luxury' flats. They are everywhere and have, I believe, played their part in fueling the global debt crisis.
Hence my amusement upon seeing this little bit of subversive graffiti:
I've seen this slogan in all sorts of places and like the simple blend of sarcasm and scorn they communicate - brilliant!
As anyone who has read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will know, towels are an essential piece of kit for when traveling the cosmos. We have quite a few in the JC residence and I had a bit of a revelation the other day about how they are stored in the airing cupboard.
They've always looked a bit messy, all thrown in with no real sense of order, until I realised that if I folded them square with the fold facing outward, and packed them on top of each other (preferably with the larger ones at the bottom) they looked rather neat. It may seem odd, but it never occurred to me before to do things this way. Deeeeply satisfying (and incredibly sad).
Although some scientists reckon there are anything between 361 and 38,000 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy, I was intrigued to learn about Fermi's Paradox.
It's a notion put forward by a guy called Enrico Fermi who asked - 'If there's intelligent life out there, where is everybody?'. Assuming the universe is four billion years old, he reckoned that the galaxy should be teeming with life by now, and that surely we would have heard about it - either intentionally or by accident. The reality is, no one has heard anything no matter what the conspiracists have said. The universe, it appears, is very very big and very very quiet. Read more about Fermi's Paradox here.
In light of this, there seems to be two ways of looking at it. Either:
a) there ARE aliens out there, they are just keeping very quiet, leaving us alone, and occasionally kidnapping one or two of us for bizarre experiments OR
b) humans are one of the first (or only) forms of intelligent life in the universe.
For me, I'm inclined to go for the second scenario, mainly because it kind of affirms my Christian faith. My view is that God created the planet Earth with humans on it in a unique act of love. By creating us - infinitely small compared to the vastness of the universe - our very existence indicates that we are special. We are not a cosmic accident and our planet is not some galactic backwater - which gives me some comfort when I contemplate how ridiculously huge the universe is.
My views may change if an alien spaceship shows up at the White House, but until then I will be grateful for Enrico Fermi's wise ponderings....
In case you hadn't noticed, I have changed my tagline.
It used to read: 'Random mumblings from an aspiring writer, filmmaker and paranoid geek.', but I have changed the last bit to 'bewildered dad' only because paranoid geek sounded a bit, you know, negative. Maybe bewildered dad is a bit negative, but I think it is quite apt as I try and muddle my way through this whole parenting thing without messing up my kids too much...
It wasn't that long ago that we were at the funeral of a friend. Yesterday, we attended the second funeral in as many months. This time, for Wifey's mum.
I hope that's my quota fulfilled for the time being and I don't need to go to any more funerals for a good few years.
It couldn't have taken place in a more idyllic location: in a small church just beside the river Tees, in Wycliffe, County Durham. What made it a particularly special day (despite the sad occasion) was the heavy snowfall that was carpeting the countryside with a magical layer of snow. It made the church setting like something out of Thomas Hardy or Dickens - which Wifey's mum would have loved.
It was a very moving and emotionally-charged day. I nearly lost it when the vicar mentioned JKY's birth and how it made my mother-in-law so proud to be a granny - it's just such a shame that she won't be around to see him grow up.
Anyway, one funny story to come out of the day (there has to be at least one - you can't be overly melancholic and miserable at these occasions) is about JKY chatting up a little girl back at the hotel. She was about a month older than him and was with a group of ladies in the lounge unconnected with the wake. The two of them were babbling away in baby speak and seemed to know exactly what each other was saying, which was hilarious. They then proceeded to clean up the whole place with baby wipes, yakking away and being too cute for their own good. The little girl's grandma was so impressed with my lad that she wanted to exchange phone numbers and hook them up in 20 years time (er, I live in Cardiff. Might make things a little tricky!).
That's my boy. A little heartbreaker and he's only 17 months - watch out, ladies!
It suddenly occurred to me the other day that there are no orange buses in Cardiff anymore. They used to be an iconic image for the city, I thought. London had its red buses, Cardiff had its orange ones. Now they are either an uninteresting green (Cardiff Bus) or bright red (Veolia), and plastooned* with hideous advertising.
Maybe orange is a more expensive colour to paint vehicles with?
Bit of a shame, really.
*plastooned. From JC's dictionary. Meaning plastered, covered or smeared over excessively.
I am dismayed at how Sir David Attenborough has been treated by so-called Christians. In recent interviews he has told of the regular hate-mail he gets from them, telling him how much he's going to hell, and that his attitude toward creationism will earn him special time in the 'ironic punishment department' that satan has set aside for him (where he is forced to categorise every living creature that ever existed using only a blunt pencil and a scrap of the Sun newspaper). OK, I made that last bit up, but you get what I mean...
Anyway, it's somewhat embarrassing. As a Christian, I consider my faith to be centered around such concepts as love, mutual respect, tolerance, forgiveness and humility. I wouldn't dream of attacking someone in that way. I'd like to think that most of my fellow believers wouldn't either. But, as always, all it takes is for one or two fruitcakes to do something stupid and we're all lumped together by people who don't understand that every belief has it's nutters.
Why do they hate Sir David so much? And why do they think telling him that he's pure evil will make him change his mind. 'If I don't attribute creation to God, I'm going to hell, you say? Oh, alright then. If you put it like that, I must be wrong. Point me in the direction of the nearest church - now!!'
As followers of Christ, I think it's right that we uphold our views - but not by alienating and insulting those that don't agree. By all means, we should engage with non-believers. Talk to them, listen to them, show them respect and kindness. And even when they scream at the top of their voices 'THERE IS NO GOD!' we should let them do so -it is a free country, after all. Besides, God can handle it. He's way bigger than any of us.
Anyway, I'm going to continue to pray for those unbelievers - the Atheists, the Anti-Religious, the God-hating scientists ... they need to know God's love just as much as anyone.
Read more about how we as Christians should respond to the likes of Sir David here.
Wifey's mum sadly died last weekend after what was a surprisingly short battle with cancer. We are still coming to terms with the loss of a wife, mother and grandmother who had only just turned a relatively young sixty.
I had the privilege of being there for her final moments. I hadn't expected to be, but we had been called to the hospice early in the morning when her health started to deteriorate rapidly. It was a profound moment that was horrifically sad, only made better by the fact that it was a truly dignified way to conclude her life - in a comfortable, elegant room surrounded by loved ones and caring staff.
What struck me was that, in our society, death is very much sanitized and kept behind closed doors. We see death a thousand times in films, TV or the newspaper, but it doesn't compare to the real thing. Watching someone die before your very eyes is by no means a pleasant experience, but the power of such an event truly opens your eyes to your own mortality and, more importantly, how precious and fragile life really is.
The little girl - not much older than 3 - was trying to climb up the slide in the soft play centre we had brought JKY to. Every time she tried to climb up, she got about half way before giving up and sliding back down again. Her mother would then ridicule her, saying 'You're rubbish!'
What a classic example of bad parenting. How is that poor little girl going to grow up, with the knowledge that her loving mother thinks of her in such a way? I'm sure her mum didn't mean any harm but, honestly, it isn't difficult to come up with an alternative phrase. Something a bit more, you know, positive. Like, 'Good try, Sally! Have another go!'
I'm dead against mollycoddling our children but that doesn't mean we have to resort to a mild form of verbal abuse every time junior makes a mistake. People often use words wantonly without any regard for the impact they have on children. When you say to child that they are 'rubbish' or 'stupid' or 'pathetic' they actually believe that they are those things, because an adult - a trusted person of supposed authority, wisdom and knowledge - told them so. Such labels sink in deeper than a knifeblade and stay there, slowly shaping the child's self-esteem and confidence in readiness for the angst-ridden adult years. No wonder Britain's parents have been criticised for being lousy.
Now, I'm no perfect parent but I think I'm pretty good at the basics. Surely it's far better to give a few words of affirmation than a tirade of well-intentioned put-downs?