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A good God is hard to find

A PRAYER JOURNAL by Flannery O’Connor (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2013)

flanneryMy favorite joke about praying is by the surreal American comic Emo Philips (although it’s also been attributed to Al Pacino) and goes: “I asked God for a bike but I realized it doesn’t work that way, so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness”.

I think the Southern Gothic novelist Flannery O’Connor would have appreciated this witticism. She was a staunch Catholic but she also had an eagle eye for life’s absurdities.

As an atheist I am biased, but surely even believers can recognise that praying ought to consist of more that than reeling off a wish list to some kind of celestial Santa.  View full article »

amour“Death is no different whined about than withstood” wrote Philip Larkin in his desolate poem Aubade. In other words, whether we live paralysed by fear or accept it, the grim reaper will get us one day.

For obvious reasons many prefer not to think too much about this and regard those who broach the D-word without good cause as morbid (“Can’t we talk about something more cheerful?”).

In movies the topic is widely viewed as box office poison. People go to the cinema to be entertained not to be reminded of their mortality.

This is why many will studiously avoid Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’ like the plague. Haneke is known for turning a unflinching eye on ‘difficult’ subjects. In Funny Games we are forced to watch two sadistic psychopaths on a murderous mission, in Caché he exposes the guilty secrets that tear apart a well-heeled couple.

In ‘Amour’, the Austrian director presents the story of a woman who suffers a stroke which partially paralyses her and then another which takes away her ability to move or speak. Despite this trauma, it could be construed as a love story, hence the title, because of the way the stricken woman’s husband cares for her and tries to comfort her. View full article »

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Mark Fisher – 11th July 1968 – 13th January 2017

Today is Blue Monday according to the depression experts. Apparently, if you’re going to feel low any time this year, today’s the day.

I never set great store by such notions, more often than not such stories amount to nothing more than clickbait.

But the post festive gloom descended heavily upon me this morning when I woke to the sad and shocking news that music critic and modern culture guru Mark Fisher has passed at the ridiculously young age of 48. View full article »

mellonBoardwalk Empire may have been set in the 1920s but what it has to say about megalomania and wheeler-dealing has  strong resonances in today’s squalid political climate.

One of my favorite quotes (in Season 3) is when industrialist, banker and US ambassador Andrew W. Mellon (James Cromwell) takes the stand at a Senate hearing and is asked whether it’s gross incompetence or widespread corruption that’s making prohibition a legal joke. Mellon replies deadpan: “It is my experience that human nature leaves ample room for both.”

FORKS OVER KNIVES documentary film directed by Lee Fulkerson (USA, 2011)
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There are three main reasons why I am a vegan :
1. I oppose the unnecessary and unjustifiable maltreatment and slaughter of animals.
2. I believe that the intense factory farming is slowly but surely destroying the planet.
3. I have personal experience of the health benefits which far outweigh the minor inconveniences and small sacrifices needed to maintain this diet.

I gain sustenance for my position from some excellent documentaries that make the case for veganism.

For the animal welfare issues, Earthlings (2005) sets out the arguments powerfully and compassionately.

The environmental effects are efficiently outlined in Cowspiracy (2014).

Forks Over Knives focuses on the health question centering primarily on persuasive views of two eminent doctors – Caldwell Esselstyn and Colin Campbell. The former is a physician and heart surgeon while the latter is a nutritional biochemist. Both have spent a large part of their professional lives researching the links between diet and wellbeing. View full article »

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