Evolution of Christianity

(hat tip: FSTDT)

Occams Razor - The Evolution of Christianity

Occams Razor - The Evolution of Christianity

Although the pedants might whine, I found this pretty funny.

Fame and Fortune


Well, actually maybe neither fame or fortune, but I have just realised I am a “featured photographer” on Flickr now! (Check out the Strangford pages, you may have to scroll down a bit though…). I am sure this is of little interest to any one who is not in my immediate family, but I couldn’t resist 🙂 [edited to add Newtonabbey pages as well! Wow!]

At last, a use for Javascript

spEak You’re bRanes has a Twat-o-Tron. (It generates random comments, plucked from Have Your Say section of the BBC’s website.) *

This site is so brilliant that you’ll want to wave your arms in circular stirring movements and punch an invisible ceiling and shout “You go, girl!” and other demonstrative American talk-show things. But it’s very British, so I will have to restrain myself to a “Jolly good job, that chap.”

All the comments quoted were found on the BBC “Have Your Say” site. Yes, people really have written them. On purpose as far as I can tell. (from spEak You’re bRanes)

The twat-o-tron will give you the distilled flavour before you dip into categories like “Armchair Warriors” on the whole site.

This blog is dedicated to the dribble-spattered lunacy of BBC “Have Your Say” discussions. Part of me thinks that the right-wing “blogosphere” of America is encouraging its slow readers to get over to the BBC and add their ill-informed opinions… but another part of me fears that the sample is actually more representative… perhaps the majority of people in the world really are this awful and stupid. (From the about page of spEak You’re bRanes )

I tend to assume that most of the BBC comments that cause apoplectic rage fits are spoofs. (It’s wishful thinking, I know, but leave me some illusions.) However, if even 1 in 10 of these comments are legit, it makes you wonder how people can be that stupid and still manage to operate an email account.

[hat tip: Alun Salt]

* (Don’t use Internet Explorer 6 though. It works but its hard to read.)

Wowee science week

Wow number 1
A cursory check hasn’t turned up any other blogs that deal with this one. So, here’s a link to BBC post about a fossil fish that presents evidence of live birth.

The 380 million-year-old specimen has been preserved with an embryo still attached by its umbilical cord.
The find, reported in Nature, pushes back the emergence of this reproductive strategy by some 200 million years.

In your faces, yet again, young earth creationists. Though I suppose it’s another of those incomprehensible god-tests where he sticks evidence that contradicts the book of genesis just to sort out those people who prefer evidence to myth so he can put their names in the “go straight to hell for doubting the magic words” book

Wow number 2

Monkeys have been able to control robot arms to feed themselves, using the power of thought alone.

I’m not the world’s greatest fan of messing about with the bodies and brains of animals but the implications of this research are pretty amazing.

Does this mean that we can finally carry out the 100 monkeys with typewriters experiment?

Wow number 3

Mars. How great that it looks like an abandoned farm planet.

Small whines.. I have to moan a bit about the false colouring, which makes the enterprise seem a little spurious. Why didn’t they use colour cameras? (Yes, space bandwidth, and so on. I don’t care. I want full-colour images.)

And I could have done with fewer pictures of the lander. It’s a bit like taking a holiday in Angkor Wat and then putting yourself in the foreground of every photo.

Aside from these tiny gripes about the presentation, seeing the surface of Mars is fantastic.

Announcing Planet Humanism

For those of you haven’t yet been to Nullifidian’s blog today, he has announced the creation of “Planet Humanism.” This looks like an excellent addition to the Blogosphere, although because I am lazy I will save effort here by repeating what Null has written in his announcement post: (Not to mention the fact Null has written it better than I could re-word it!)

After the runaway success of Planet Atheism, I thought that it might be appropriate to see if we could do for humanism what Pedro of Way Of The Mind has done for atheism.

So, without further ado, I introduce you to the Planet Humanism blog aggregator.

Unlike Planet Atheism, Planet Humanism is for blogs that have a generic humanist focus or element, regardless if they are atheistic or not. Of course, I appreciate that some (most?) humanists are likely to come from an atheist perspective, but not all will, and hopefully this will be somewhere that our commonality of humanism can allow some conversation on common ground.

If you’re interested in adding your blog to Planet Humanism, and if it has some kind of humanist element, drop me an email at planethumanism@nullifidian.net and let me know your blog’s:

  • title;
  • URL; and
  • feed URL

Even if you’re not interested in humanism yourself, if you have humanist readers, please help to make them aware of this new aggregator. Thanks.

So, what are you waiting for? If you have a suitable blog, sign up, and if you dont just go and bookmark it to read the latest and greatest posts.

[tags]Planet Humanism, Humanism, Atheism, Rave, Nullifidian, Society, Culture, Blogs[/tags]

Half of Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won the Orange prize last week.
This blog is usually at the back of the queue when it comes to reading admired modern novels. That’s why you won’t find much in the way of book reviews here. But, through a happy accident (someone lent it to me for a train journey), I read this about a month ago. And it is a really good book. There is an interview with the author in the Guardian today.
I thought the setting – the Biafran War -would be make it too depressing to read but it isn’t. The story is so well told and so engaging that, although the war is the central issue, the characters are what engage you. It is a very moving story, all the same. I would have to admit to being in tears when I read the final few pages on the return journey, but I laughed out loud a good few times before that.

Dr Who – Alien meets 24

Another pretty good Dr Who episode tonight.

Visually, Dr Who is getting better and better. There was better rendering (a good space ship and a bubbling sun) and more interesting lighting (red and blue on the face close-ups) than we’d expect from normally cash-short British tv.

Altogether, it had the look and feel of “proper” sci-fi. Racing headlong into the sun is par for the course. (Solaris, and the film where Bruce Willis has to destroy an asteroid.) So is being trapped on a space ship with an unknown evil entity. (Alien, 2001.) As well as being stalked by a mechanical humanoid figure. (Predator, Terminator, Judge Dredd.) The computer female voice that keeps giving out unemotional messages of the pressure of time (can’t think of a reference sorry, but it seems standard…)

The main visual influence seemed to be the Alien movies (with a nod to Das Boot, but maybe that’s just me.) Both male and female technicians looked like the crew of Alien (vests, combat suits, artfully arranged sweat) . The ship also had the same sort of look and there was an intense claustrophobic feel to the plot, as well as to the sets.

This episode was called “42”, with a nod to Douglas Adams (the “answer to the universe”) and to “24” (the episode was supposed to be in real-time and there was a 42 minute timer countdown providing constant pressure).

So, a bit of an art-house-for-nerds episode. This series is shaping up to be the best one ever. Although this is from someone who loves sci-fi clich̩s. And who thinks that the very first Dr Who series Рwith that weird Quatermassy feel and the old man with long white hair Рand the mainly-played for laughs Tom Baker Dr Who were the only really good bits, out of what was often dire.

[tags]42, dr-who, episode, rave, sci-fi, sci-fi-cliches, television, tv, BBC, Douglas Adams[/tags]

So this really is Dickens for 21st century

In an old Wire-ophile post here, I called the Wire Dickens for the 21st century.

In case that wasn’t clear enough, this was supposed to be a compliment…. I was referring to Dickens’ passionate awareness of social injustice, the huge cast of wierd characters and his plots that took in every section of society. (Obviously, I’m alive in the 21st century, so I think the Wire outshines Dickens, but that’s just me.)

I have carefully failed to rave endlessly about Wire series 4 because I blatantly can’t do it justice. Plus, I have to see it a few more times to even begin to tie together the plot strands and understand the subtle ironies and get all the references. yada. yada.

But wow, there is actually going to be a Dickens for the 21st century and its name is Dickens World.

No, really. A faked Victorian London is being created as we speak. According to the BBC:

The overall effect is rather like Disney painted brown and plunged into twilight.

“Highlights” will allegedly include a Great Expectations boat ride, a Haunted House of Ebenezer Scrooge, Newgate Debtor’s Prison and a Dotheboys Hall Victorian classroom.

I must admit to being baffled as to who this is going to appeal to. I thought of myself, aged about 8, an obsessive reader who was lucky enough to live next door to a public library. I vacuumed up all of Dickens’ books, although even I recoiled at the mawkish bits. I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed Dickens World at all.

Kids who don’t enjoy reading Dickens are not going to have any idea what any of the set pieces are about. So I imagine it will be a depressing experience to visit a downbeat version of Disney World for them.

Even in the event that a non-reading-obsessed child becomes interested by it and picks up a copy of Great Expectations or David Copperfield…. Bloody Hell, these are A Level English Literature set books. That will put off the average kid from reading for life.

This park was thought up by the creator of Santa’s World and (Hans Christian) Andersen World. Theme parks based round a Christmas myth and a collection of only moderately disturbing fairy tales. ( Not a Brothers Grimm Theme Park, you might note.)

Somehow a theme park based on child labour, workhouses, disease, debtor’s prisons, homeless orphans and child thieves’ gangs doesn’t seem like very much in the way of fun.

No, what am I thinking? I am putting in my patent claim now for the concept of a Wire theme park. (I have already drawn up the specs. I’m not wasting an investment opportunity by putting the details here.)

No, forget that. It’s in the USA, it may not be harrowing enough. What about a theme park that shows what life is like in parts of the cities of the developing world. Do you see the entertainment potential in child labour, orphans, child thieves’ gangs, ruin, disease, homeless kids raising each other in the streets? Blimey. What fun.

Great Dr Who & Shakespeare episode

Granted it was still set in London, and granted the no-longer-new Dr Who still has an annoying face, this episode was a blinder.

THe plotline was a bit Shakespeare in love meets Charmed. There are witches, who turn out to be evil aliens, using their witch skills to turn the the Globe Theatre into a conduit for more evil aliens. To do this, they remote control Shakespeare (who falls for the Dr’s new assistant) and hypnotise him into inserting a spell with planetary co-ordinates into the end of his new play “Love’s labours won”.

It was obviously made with at least one eye on global sales. So it was streets ahead of most British tv in looks. Beautiful lighting, beautiful sets, more beautiful people than you would ever expect to see on home-grown British tv and some quite fearsomely effective – if simple -special effects. Shakspeare, the Globe, medieval London, Elizabeth I – you can hear the English Tourist Board’s tills ringing in joyful anticipation.

In case the adults got bored, it threw in lots of Shakespeare quotations. and in-jokes. All the obvious ones but still satisfyingly erudite for mass tv. (Maybe it will make some schoolkid get interested in Shakespeare, it’s always possible.)

It even tied together the flirtation between Shakespeare and the new Dr Who assistant at the end, with Shakespeare planning to write a sonnet to his Dark Lady.