Tuesday, December 26, 2006


That Post-Christmas, Post-Who Satisfied Feeling

A happy Christmas Day saw a fabulous dinner with Richard’s parents, a visit to mine, and of course lots of Doctor Who. Not just The Runaway Bride – enormous fun, if without quite the edge of last year’s, with a splendid spider (shame it didn’t move about more) and the most thrillingly hilarious chase of the year – but a special on the music, and a free concert looping round on the red button. Should you have missed it, it’s back tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Today Programme reports that Labour loses a member every twenty minutes. Coo. Is it Paul Marsden?

I hope you had as enjoyable a Christmas, and are sinking into your armchairs this morning with plenty of chocolate to hand. A very replete Boxing Day to you.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Thought For the Day

The BBC’s morning God-slot has inspired me. Yes, I know, words never before uttered in the English language. That, and the proximity of a very festive date…

Previously when I’d not blogged for a while, I put off getting going again because the habit’s been broken and it’s taken time to get back into the mindset. There’s a bit of that, but it’s mainly that I’ve had a distraction. Yes, it’s that old story: a handsome young man takes an interest in my body, and soon causes me a great deal of pain – but I keep going back.

Well, that’s what physiotherapy appointments are all about, isn't it?

Anyway, following all the prodding and pressing and resultant little (very butch) squeaks of agony, the neck and shoulder exercises are having an effect. He doesn’t yet know what to do about the hand and wrist tendons, though. Oh, and for those who do too much typing: apparently right angles are the right thing. Knees to thighs, thighs to torso, and elbows, back straight. Still doesn’t enable me to keep my hands flat when typing, though, so while my shoulder’s improving, my hand and wrist are still giving me a lot of pain when I type for longer than a couple of minutes at a stretch. Bah!

But anyway, Thought For the Day. Regular readers (should you be able to remember that far back) may recall that I’m not the biggest fan of the brainless guff spewed across the airwaves at ten to eight every morning, and that I’m sure it could be improved by setting an interviewer straight on each speaker to see if their oily platitudes stand up to the faintest scrutiny – you know, like every other tendentious and opinionated guest on Today.

This week, though, has been special. Were you listening this morning? Difficult, wasn’t it? Richard and I were listening to the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster in separate rooms, but instead of subjecting him to our usual critical analysis, each of us confessed to having had to just tune out as he droned on soporifically about his hols in Bethlehem. Still have no idea what his point was meant to be. We had to rely on the idiocy of the ‘discussion’ about the curiously-familiar-to-Lib-Dems ‘Christmas Repeal’. Forgive me, but when the show’s editor was heard to rule out repeal of the ID Cards bill because it was a ‘manifesto commitment’… Does she think the Today Programme’s bound by Parliamentary procedure, or has she just bunged Tony a few grand and started limbering up for her peerage? Surely the whole point is that you can throw out any piece of rubbish legislation you like, without having to sign up for or against any party line? Or is the BBC, and Today in particular, still utterly cowed by the power the current government used to thrash it for telling the truth about their lies? It seems the answer to Mark Pack’s question of ‘Is the Today Programme setting up its own political party?’ is ‘Possibly, but they won’t dare to stand against Labour’.

Earlier in the week, though, Lack of Thought For the Day came up with a couple of real doozies. If you were listening a few days ago, you’ll have heard the return to the airwaves of a now significantly more famous media figure, though his actual three-minute preach was rather overshadowed by his also giving a very ill-tempered interview (for which he had to get up an hour early). He’s the Bishop of Southwark. It’s the other thing he does.

Yesterday, however, featured Platitude For the Day’s most loathsome regular, acceptable voice of hate-filled bigotry Anne Atkins. Perhaps the season of goodwill to all men (unless they fall in love with other men) had even had a fluttering fairy effect on her, as she was relatively restrained – but no less than usually barking. To put it briefly, her argument was that the Bible must be true because it doesn’t have a happy ending.

Hold onto that especially silly thought, I’m coming back to it.

Apparently she got this notion from CS Lewis – incredibly, she wasn’t even stupid enough to come up with it on her own – who she said had studied all the big myths and come to this revelation. All the others were crowd-pleasers, it seems, but Christianity’s story leaves you weeping and must therefore be the real deal. Hmm. Mr Lewis, you may know, wrote a series of very lucrative fantasy novels which illustrate his wide reading of mythological tropes (most of them, including Christianity, are swirled together in it), but did you know he also wrote a sci-fi trilogy, the first of which as luck would have it began a serialisation on BBC7 just last night? In the middle volume, our hero (on a divine mission) debates with the (satanically possessed) villain in front of another planet’s equivalent of Adam and Eve. Sadly, our upstanding Christian example finds that the Devil has all the best lines and just keeps beating his arguments, imperilling the souls in a new Eden. But God comes to the rescue! He speaks to our hero, telling him what to do. Is it a killer line to persuade them in favour of God, I hear you ask? Well, it’s funny you should say ‘killer’, because God’s miracle solution is that, having lost the argument, the hero should murder the villain – hey, presto! He won’t be able to answer back then, will he? Yes, says Mr Lewis, those pesky anti-religious types have better arguments, you won’t be able to defeat them with reason, so just kill them. Seriously, I’m not making this up, however much it seems like a satire on theocrats written by my beloved. Or his elephant.

Well, I hate to rain on Ms Atkins’ parade (oh, who am I trying to kid, hand me a hosepipe), but as far as arguments for Christ go, the ‘unhappy ending’ is one of the daftest. The whole point of the Resurrection story is not Jesus’ death, but his resurrection (clue in the way it’s usually referred to, there). Never mind that every story worth its salt screws up the tension with a moment where everything seems lost before it all comes right again, to make you appreciate the happy climax all the more, but rather a lot of myths have death followed by new life. Christians won’t have heard of the pagan festival of Easter, but… I’m assuming that she meant the Resurrection, by the way, as if you’re looking at the Book of Revelation as the end of the story, that’s still a happy ending – at least for those saved – and it can’t be too tasteless to say it’s the forerunner of what’s now a tradition of big-budget TV series, the apocalyptic ‘season finale’ (it can’t be tasteless, after all, because so many loopy American evangelicals buy gung-ho books and on-screen stories expanding on the Rapture, as if God’s own literally apocalyptic season finale wasn’t thrilling enough for them). The biggest argument against Ms Atkins justifying her religion through this curiously nihilistic worldview, though, has to be that there are stories with much less happy endings than that of Jesus.

At this time of year, many true believers celebrate important dates, and though not everyone has time for such stories, you can find TV and radio programmes delving into the reality of it all. I refer, of course, not to the 25th but the 21st of December (sorry, I’m typing so slowly these days I couldn’t finish on the day), when providence declared that Terry Nation’s great gifts to British TV would both begin and end. Ms Atkins chose not just the anniversary of the day on which the Daleks first appeared, but also the twenty-fifth anniversary of Blake, the last ever episode of Blake’s 7. This sci-fi thriller finished after four years with all its heroes brutally gunned down and a boot stamping on the galaxy forever; its author still calls himself ‘the man who killed Christmas’. Yet people still believe: last week BBC4 showed a new documentary about it, yesterday Radio 4 did the same, and, in a ‘new life’ twist, the lovely Mr Simon Guerrier reveals it’s to be remade for the 21st Century and the wireless pod. If you’re not familiar with the series, think of it as Robin Hood meets 1984, but with more frocks (incidentally, to warm you up for the penultimate episode of the BBC’s alternately thrilling and idiotic Robin Hood series tomorrow evening, ITV3 are showing a full day of the 1980s uncannily-like-Blake’s-7-in-Sherwood Robin of Sherwood, which is well worth a look; it ultimately petered out horribly instead of coming to Blake’s brutal full stop, but among the many features in common, the second series closes with a stunning episode that writes out the eponymous leading man with violence. It’s called The Greatest Enemy, and you can see it at 11.25 tomorrow).

So, that Anne Atkins rule in full: Blake’s 7 must be more true than the Bible, because it turns out unhappily for everyone. Maximum faith! I bet she dresses like Servalan, too.

Anyway, we’re off on our fairy sleigh to the North Pole – well, Stockport – at crack of dawn tomorrow, so a Merry Christmas to all of you at home!

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