Thursday, September 18, 2014

Money down the drain

With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, every so often some parents get upset, perhaps understandably, because their children may have access to gambling apps. Some of these smartphone and tablet games are played using real money, deducted from the player's credit card. Some of them even allow the play to collect actual winnings. It's not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see how this could lead to them becoming problem gamblers later in life.

This is nothing new, however. In 1993 Nintendo released Vegas Stakes for their Super Nintendo console. The player visits Las Vegas casinos to play Craps, Blackjack, Roulette, Poker, and Seven Card Stud. I remember playing this game once in a department store demonstration area. I called it quits after two minutes. If more children played games like this, it would actually act as a gambling deterrent, showing it for the boring and pointless activity that it is.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lurking in the darkness

Several faith based organisations and non governmental organisations including the Bible Society, Micah Challenge, Salvation Army, Tear Fund, and World Evangelical Alliance have joined forces to highlight the issue of corruption.

They aim to collect 1 million signatures to present to world leaders attending the G20 Summit in Brisbane in November 2014.

Every year Transparency International releases its corruption perceptions index. In 2013, Denmark and New Zealand were deemed to be the world's least corrupt countries, and Aghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia judged as the most corrupt. That's hardly something to brag about, is it?

It is estimated that the cumulative cost of worldwide corruption is $1 trillion per year. This figure is comprised of the cost of corporate tax evasion and tax evasion by wealthy individuals. Think of the public goods that such a some of money could be used to provide, like healthcare, education, clean water, and food security, for example. This alone would save thousands of lives.

As well as being a justice issue, this is also a spiritual issue. It is a clear reminder, if any is needed, of a world under the curse of sin (Romans 8:22). It also gives the Old Testament warnings against those who acquire wealth through unjust means fresh resonance (Proverbs 16:8, 21:6, 22:16, 28:16, Jeremiah 17:11, 22:13, Ezekiel 22:13, Habakkuk 2:9).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

America's second oldest teenager

Whilst sorting through some donations today I came across this book called Making Choices. Author Lois W. Johnson gives advice on ethical decision making to teenage Christian girls.

It was published in 1988, but what amused me was the girl on the cover photograph.

She bares a strong resemblance to actress Gabrielle Carteris, who appeared as the studious Andrea Zuckerman in American drama series Beverly Hills, 90210, which aired from 1990 to 2000

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Pieces of eight

Film news site Dark Horizons reports that provided that federal government tax incentives are accepted, the next installment in Disney's blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean franchise may be shot in Australia.

We can only hope that the end result is more successful than the last pirate movie made in Australia, 1982's The Pirate Movie. It starred Christopher Atkins, fresh from his success in The Blue Lagoon, who has now retired from acting to become a businessman, and Kristy McNichol, a prolific actress who has never become a big star. This musical comedy parody version of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance was a critical and commercial failure upon release.

Since then it has inexplicably developed a loyal fan base through television, VHS and DVD releases. It used famous Victorian landmarks including the 19th century cargo ship, the Polly Woodside, Werribee Park Mansion, and the Loch Ard Gorge and Port Campbell on the Great Ocean Road.

Aside from Atkins and McNichol, most of the cast consisted of Australian actors, such as Bill Kerr, who died in August 2014, Rhonda Burchmore, Ted Hamilton, and Garry McDonald. The two American stars were given top billing in order to secure international finance and distribution, not that it did their careers or the box office haul of the movie much good.

Some movies are so bad as to be unwatchable, but The Pirate Movie is entertaining for its schlock value, and it's the sort of thing you'd watch to pass the time if the weather is bad outside, and if you want to understand why the Australian film industry is at times an embarrassment.

Pirate Movie.jpg
"Pirate Movie" by Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

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 (Matthew 11:27, John 3:18, 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 John 5:12).

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.

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


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?