Thursday, August 28, 2014

People with self respect and respect for others need not apply

Years ago when I first inflicted this blog on a largely indifferent populace, my very first post was on the lowbrow reality television program, Big Brother Australia. Now we come full circle, and with the imminent premiere of its 2014 season, it would seem it's time for me to write about it again.

As a Christian, I'm offended by the latest Big Brother promo. It opens with a shot of Earth from space. The camera then zooms to an aerial shot of the Sydney skyline. To the strains of a reworked version of The Animals Went in Two by Two, we then cut to a shots of the various housemates, including a couple in semi-formal attire, some country types wearing Akubra hats, an Indian woman in traditional dress, some hipster type with a beard and the top button of his shirt done up, and a dread locked surfie dude, all walking along a footbridge to a ship modelled on Noah's Ark.

Some of them smile at each other flirtatiously and hold hands. If previous seasons of the show are anything to go by, this hints at things becoming hot and spicy in the Big Brother house. One of them has a digitally inserted snake's tongue. Is this inspired by the serpent in the garden of Eden?

Then we cut to a shot of host Sonia Kruger. She's standing on top of the ark, wearing a white dress and carrying a wooden staff, with which she strikes the ground. Then a voice from the heavens speaks to her. The clouds part, and she sees a giant eye. This is the Big Brother logo. Ms Kruger speaks directly to camera telling the viewer that this year things will be "stormy, very stormy..."

Cue the cheap looking visual effects, thunder, lightning, and torrential rain. The housemates hurry, pushing and shoving each other to get inside the ark, then the storm suddenly stops, the ark rumbles, and a rainbow appears above it. She continues with a knowing look in her eyes, "...on the inside." Then the Channel 9 voiceover man says words to the effect of "Big Brother; the eye of the storm is coming to Nine."

I surmise that the idea for this came from the recent Hollywood Noah movie. Am I alone here in finding this offensive and blasphemous? The flood narrative of Genesis 6 to 9 is one of the most confronting stories in the Bible, and not something to treat irreverently. All in the name of ratings, Big Brother shows human nature at its worst. They try to dress it up as a sociological experiment, but contestants lie, manipulate and use each other to play the game, and are encouraged to be sexually promiscuous to titillate voyeuristic viewers.

God flooded the earth as judgement against humanity because of the depth of its depravity and sin. Only Noah, his family, and two of every kind of animal were spared. After the flood, God covenanted with humanity never to flood the earth again, as symbolised by the rainbow, but the problem of sin remains. The only solution to this problem is reconciliation with God through Jesus (Acts 4:12).

If Big Brother Australia is any indication, reality television has sunk to new lows. This promo unashamedly mocks God and the flood, and that show celebrates all that He abhors. It thumbs its nose at the virtues of decency, respect for others, integrity, and fidelity. Jesus died for everyone involved with this show. I hope they understand that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmhrjiQvJW8


Monday, August 25, 2014

Vale Richard Attenborough

Lord Richard Attenborough, elder statesman of the British film industry, has died aged 90 after a long illness.

Attenborough had a long and illustrious career, appearing as an actor in such films as In Which We Serve (1942), The Great Escape (1963), and Jurassic Park (1993), among many others.

He was also the director of such acclaimed films as the Academy Award winning Gandhi (1982), Cry Freedom (1987), Chaplin (1992), and Shadowlands (1993).

By all accounts he was a kind and generous man, too. He wasn't religious, but I don't know if he was an atheist like his brother, eminent naturalist Sir David Attenborough. He strikes me as the sort of person I would have liked to have met and talked to if I had the opportunity. Vale Richard Attenborough.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Snubbed

The Guardian has compiled a list of the 10 most beautiful libraries in Australia. Of those on this list, I've visited the State Libraries of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and Victoria. Alas, the National Library of Australia has been omitted. What libraries would you add to this list?

http://www.theguardian.com/books/australia-culture-blog/gallery/2014/aug/20/10-beautiful-australian-libraries-in-pictures

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Not anymore

Leonard Maltin
Generations of film buffs have loyally read film critic Leonard Maltin's annual Movie Guide. Yesterday America's answer to Bill Collins announced that due to dwindling readership and declining sales, the 2015 edition of this essential reference work will be the last.

Maltin is known to Australian audiences from his appearances on Entertainment Tonight, and also from his three part interview with George Lucas on the 1995 VHS release of the Star Wars trilogy.

Mr Maltin didn't review every movie in the guide himself, but oversaw a team editors and contributors. Part of the fun of reading this guide was the four point rating system, and at times irreverent writing style, which gave films scores from BOMB to four stars. 

The poorly reviewed If Lucy Fell (1996) was slammed as a vanity project for its director, writer, and star Eric Schaeffer, but the guide marked it up because Schaeffer wrote himself a scene in which he got to kiss his co-star, Elle Macpherson. 

While I'm no Luddite, it increasingly seems that the market for printed reference works aimed at a popular readership is disappearing. The print media is going through a transition phase, and this is another casualty.

Of all people, I hope that Christians are still in the habit of consulting reference books, Christian and otherwise.  


Thursday, July 31, 2014

A hellish nightmare of death and destruction

The Enola Gay in 1945

Theodore Van Kirk, the last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima towards the end of the Second World War, has died aged 93. In an interview, Van Kirk defended the use of the bomb against Japan.

Whether or not using the bomb was necessary has long been debated by historians. Some argue that by July 1945, Japan's navy and air force had been nobbled, and it had little chance of victory. It was probably ready to surrender anyway. For this reason, using the atomic bomb was unnecessary. Having defeated Germany, the Soviet Union was planning to invade Japan, and started an offensive in August. It was overwhelmed. Fanaticism was keeping Japan at war, as was the hope that it could negotiate favourable surrender terms with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. This was a false hope.

Even so, this is the argument that I favour. Japan was still holding out, and the Allies were preparing to invade the Japanese mainland. Such an operation would have resulted in massive military and civilian casualties. Japan surrendered soon after the atomic bombs were dropped, firstly on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki.

As bad as the death toll and destruction from the bombings was, the alternative would have been much worse. This would probably have meant many more months of bloody combat. This course of action saved more lives than it cost. It also arguably curtailed the prospect of greater Soviet influence in Japan and Asia.

Yes, there have been some close shaves, such as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, but it's a miracle that nuclear weapons haven't been used in war since 1945, and I pray that day never comes.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-30/last-member-of-enola-gay-crew-theodore-van-kirk-dies-aged-93/5635944

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/05/29/the_bomb_didnt_beat_japan_nuclear_world_war_ii?page=0,5

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/08/14/historians-soviet-offensive-key-japans-wwii-surrender-eclipsed-bombs/

http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/5-cold-war-close-calls

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The first lady's man strikes again

Bill Clinton
There's no doubt that sex sells in marketing. Former US President Bill Clinton, whose private life has always been somewhat colourful, with more twists and turns than the roads through the Scottish highlands, is believed to have a secret mistress. That's one of the allegations in Ronald Kessler's forthcoming book, The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Live of Presidents. 

Before a new biography or autobiography is published, its marketers often release salacious tidbits to the media to create pre-release buzz around it. Clearly that's what is happening here, and the public is probably thinking, "So, Bill's up to his old tricks, is he?"

The reader of this blog will never see it turned into a trashy supermarket tabloid or gossip column. I abhor gossip and rumours. The only reason I'm writing about it is because I wonder what impact this story will have on Hillary Clinton's ambitions to make a second run for the Presidency in 2016. Could an allegation like this stall her campaign at the traffic lights? Should she be a candidate, once again she'll have to deal with rumours and innuendo about her marriage, much like her husband did during his 1992 candidacy and entire tenure of office as President.

Bill Clinton's infidelities and his character issues were arguably one of the reasons why Vice President Al Gore lost the 2000 election to George W. Bush. Perhaps he's now dashed his wife's Presidential ambitions as well. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why not?

Without a doubt it is one of the most horrible books ever written. It is the rantings of a deranged maniac. I feel repulsed even looking at it. Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf has been banned from publication in Germany since 1945. In 2015 its copyright and ban will expire. German politicians are debating whether or not its publication should be permitted from 2016.

Munich's Centre for Contemporary History plans to publish an annotated critical edition of the book. While this is understandably a very sensitive issue for victims of the Nazi regime, their descendants, and the German people in general, a critical edition seems to me to be a great idea.

Mein Kampf is a historical document that should inform part of the collective memory of Germany's past, and needs to be studied, engaged with, and shown for the work of evil that it is.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/mein-kampf-returns-german-ministers-prepare-to-lift-ban-on-publication-of-adolf-hitlers-controversial-manifesto-9562903.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/opinion/should-germans-read-mein-kampf.html?_r=0