Sunday, May 31, 2009

Nigger - The Truth

I was listening to the radio recently and was amazed (although I should not have been) to learn that there is a problem with the production of Peter Jackson's remake of "The Dambusters." Well one might ask - is it a technical difficulty with CGI or is there a problem with the actors? Is Peter Jackson having doubts about the film, or has the money run out?
The issue is far more mundane than that - and silly. Guy Gibson's dog was affectionately called "Nigger". Guess what?.....the dog was black: now there's a surprise. Of course, in the making of the black and white original, this wasn't a problem as they were not weighed down with the detritus of out of control political correctness as we seem to be today. Stephen Fry, who is writing the script for the film is trying to come up with a solution so as not to offend anyone. It has come to light that Guy Gibson sometimes called the dog "Nigsie" as a nickname, but it seems that even using this compromise is causing objections in some quarters.
I think we have a potentially serious matter here and it is this: we cannot go changing the facts of history simply because some of it is uncomfortable in our nanny-state politically correct environment of today. OK, at the end of the day its only a dog's name, but once you start moving away from the facts of history you find yourself on a very sticky slope. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know is we will start denying the Holocaust or "Bloody Sunday" or whatever, because it makes someone, somewhere feel uncomfortable. The film should be made with all the facts, such as they are known, intact and accounted for, otherwise don't bother making the film at all.
One thing you can be sure, and that it is it is completely unlikely that Guy Gibson gave the dog the name in order to cause offense. At the time it would have seemed perfectly natural, just as it was perfectly natural for girls in the 1950's to play with black "nigger dolls", or to collect the Golliwogs off the Golden Shred jars. In a nutshell, if its part of history, it shouldn't be denied or covered up. Once you start tinkering with history, then you are on the slippery slope to losing your roots and identity. The lessons of the past will be lost, and we will find ourselves sleep-walking into future oblivion.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The weather suited my clothes

I've just returned from a short holiday in Florida. This was my first trip to the USA and I have to say that the country (albeit the tiny part of it I saw) and its people are wonderful. Everyone was so friendly, generous and big hearted. One thing which particularly struck me was the tremendous pride everyone seemed to have in their country as illustrated by the number of "Old Glory" flags I saw flying from houses, gardens, businesses etc......

It is clear that I would like to return to see more and experience more. This is just an intro posting, and I will be posting more soon on my experiences over the past few days.

Watch this space.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A New Trek

This evening I went with my eldest son to see the latest Star Trek movie, aptly named “Star Trek.”

I have little to say about it except that it is jaw droppingly fantastic. It puts the Star Trek franchise onto a whole new level, setting off in a new direction in an alternate reality.

The special effects are amazing and CGI or not, everything looks completely real. The action was ongoing with no chance of getting bored.

It occurred to me watching this film that I was watching something special and got a shiver up my spine.

The film is brilliant. Go and see it. I can't wait for the next one.

Live long and prosper!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Sent to Coventry

My wife and I took a day out to visit our youngest son and his girl friend who live in Coventry. I thought I'd better start by telling you why we went to Coventry because Coventry being Coventry you might have thought we had lost our marbles and gone insane.

My earliest memories of Coventry go back about 10 years. At that distant point in my life I travelled the country at weekends doing wedding photography for a company called National Weddings. They were based in Epping. They were later bought out by Kodak and then went bust and are thus no more, defunct, gone, dead, kaput! Of course, their demise happened after I had left the company, so I can only assume it was my fantastic photography which was keeping them afloat! Yes, I am very modest! Anyway, it was during this time that I kept getting wedding bookings in Coventry. Being as Coventry was a new city in my experience of life, I had hoped that there might be something about it to make it memorable in a positive sort of way. It was certainly memorable alright, but in a negative sort of way.

It is confusing. It appears to have no discernible structure to make it safely navigable. It has the most awful ring road upon which you take your life in your hands if you dare to try driving on it. It was either designed by a committee of spaghetti merchants, or someone on drugs with a deep seated hatred of humanity – particularly drivers.

It is more than anything, ugly. Apart from a few renovated buildings which survived the German bombing, it is bland, grey, concrete and just generally awful. Given that after the Second World War the town planners had a virtually clean sheet, the resulting architecture shows a complete lack of imagination, design, or flare. This is, of course, no reflection on the people of Coventry themselves. Their suffering in the War must have been terrible, as also was the suffering resulting from the mass bombing raids we inflicted upon Dresden, Cologne, Hamburg etc........

Anyway, on this occasion, we decided to have a look around Coventry Cathedral. Although I am about as far from being religious as it is possible to get, I have a certain fascination for Cathedrals and ruins. Being as Coventry's “new” cathedral was built immediately alongside the remnant shell of the old one, this gave me the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone , so to speak, although I have nothing against birds and I seldom throw stones! I did own a catapult once as a kid though.

We parked up in a car park so desolate that it gave a whole new meaning to the word “grim”. It was the kind of place you expected to come back to and find either a load of broken glass where your car once stood, or else your auto completely trashed. There was even a sign to complete the affect which taunted “Leave it on show, expect it to go.”

After a short walk amongst buildings which would not have looked out of place in North Korea, we arrived at the site of the cathedrals – old and new and began our explorations. The new cathedral was finished in 1962, six years after the foundation stone was laid in 1956; interestingly, taking about the same amount of time to rebuild as the duration of the war which destroyed it. Unfortunately, the external fa├žade is a big disappointment looking more like some kind of power station gone wrong, than the inspiring structure which it should have been. I paused to take some photographs of the entrance where there is a statue of St Michael standing in triumph over a defeated Lucifer. The original cathedral was actually named after St Michael, likewise the present one is also. There are a lot of concrete balls and small fountains in front of the entrance.

I made a bee line into the new cathedral and found it rather attractive inside, though it completely lacked anything of the grandeur and atmosphere of much more ancient structures. It really felt like a late 1950's structure, a time not exactly noted for its architectural creativity. Walking around, I spotted two features of interest. First, there was a display of a fascimile of the Turin Shroud. Now I have read a lot about the Shroud and seen many a documentary on the subject. It is an object of controversy. At the extreme of one side of the argument there are the religionists who view it as the actual death shroud of Christ. I was watching a documentary the other night on one of the religious channels (as you do) in which they were claiming that the image on the shroud is absolute proof of the resurrection. The reasoning is derived from a number of properties of the image itself, pollen deposited within the weave of the shroud, etc...etc. Okay, I don't deny there are some difficulties in accounting for some aspects of the shroud, but for it to be proof of the resurrection, you first have to prove the existence of God........I won't go on!!!!! On the other side of the argument it is claimed to be a medieval fake. Admittedly, the shroud is certainly enigmatic and there are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding it. Personally I do not believe it is the death shroud of Christ, nor any other poor victim of crucifixion. I am more inclined to think it is a fake, if only for one reason. The face of it does not look authentic to me. The eyes appear too close to the top of the head, unnaturally so. I think it is more likely the work of a not very artistic forger who lacks a sense of proportion particularly where the human face is concerned. One thing which surprised me about it is just how faint the image is on it – you really have to look hard to see it. I suppose some might claim this as a sign of its authenticity, but on balance I would say it is both a fake and an enigma all rolled into one.

The other thing which appealed to me was the baptistery window. This is made up of a lattice work of many small stained glass windows stretching the entire height of the wall on the right hand side as you look up the aisle towards the altar. It is truly beautiful and I found myself taking several photographs of it.

And that's that as far as the new cathedral goes. I found the rest of it completely underwhelming. I went and had a look around the remains of the old cathedral. This had a certain atmosphere and sadness about it. At one end is a cross composed of two burnt timbers with the message “Father Forgive” behind it. The tower still stands, but the rest is a shell, a memory of what once was - and a lasting memorial to the folly of war and the stupidity of Man.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

And another thing.......

I have just been having an on line discussion with a "born again" Christian - about Evolution. As you would expect, it was a meeting of two opposites, not just opposites, but billions of light-years apart and ne'er the twain will meet.

One of the "proofs" these people espouse for the existence of God is the sheer complexity of the fabric of life. I agree it is extremely impressive and at first sight looks to have been created rather than "evolved".

Answer - read up on chaos theory. Complexity and organisation is a perfectly natural result of the laws of nature. Its not rocket science. And there's the rub. Religionists take these matters and try to pretend they are rocket science in order to prove the existence of their own non-existent god. They also do not understand science. They do not try to understand science. They are blinded by ignorance. To them, ignorance of science is a virtue. Very sad.