Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Year Without Sex....(the movie!)

Having seen and enjoyed writer/director Sarah Watt's intriguing Look Both Ways, I was looking forward to her next, just released film My Year Without Sex. It's had rave reviews, and stars the brilliant Sascha Horler, whom I've always liked. She's an actress without a trace of method, straight up and down honest. What you see is what you get. Matt Day was also in it, he of the ill-cut, page-boy, hairdo.

What a disappointment. The film is easily the the most boring thing I've seen in years. What drama there was was totally contrived - 'what suburban episode can we shove in now to move the story along another month? - a car crash, a dead pet, a win on the pokies, a bit of anxiety at work, xmas presents (isn't there always some cheap drama in there), a dumb priest at the local church, a kid's birthday party, the easter bunny - god, the cliches keep coming.

Thus it never lifted off. The comedy bits were tiresomely unfunny, and the serious bits lacked anything remotely engaging.

I think Watts was trying to convey the stress entailed in being plain and ordinary in our pressured, consumer society, with its endlessly seductive, false god charms. But the parts never amounted to a whole conveying much meaning at all.

See the indigenous production Samson and Delilah instead. This simple movie is a classic. A film about Aboriginal desperation, written and directed by Michael Thornton, which utterly avoids blaming the white man. Powerful.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Terry Eagleton's Reason, Faith and Revolution.

Ever since I was a very young and innocent man I've read Terry Eagleton. He came to my notice in the late 60's during the Vietnam war. He was a young academic from Cambridge who described himself as a Marxist and co-founded a UK magazine called Slant, which became a fierce, articulate and passionate voice of criticism of Western political and cultural 'decadence'. These were the days of student uprisings and incipient revolutions across the spectrum - political, social, sexual, cultural. It was the counter-culture in full swing. It was a heady and exciting time to be a young student, to say the least.

Over the years Eagleton went on to become an important voice in literary and cultural criticism in Britain, but never lost his taste for radicalism. He also never lost his extraordinary talent for writing. He has written numerous, well-regarded books, and is currently Professor of English Literature at the University of Lancaster and Professor of Cultural Theory at the National University of Ireland in Galway (where he lives).

All this by way of introducing his latest work Reason, Faith and Revolution, which I've been unable to put down for the last three days. I've barely eaten or slept. It's just utterly absorbing. The subtitle is 'Reflections on the God Debate', which is exactly what it is. He takes aim at the anti-God brigade: Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens in particular, authors of The God Delusion and God is Not Great respectively.

It is witty, polemical and wise, full of marvellous literary and philosophical allusions, and wonderfully provocative, with full-frontal attacks on all sorts of juicy targets. And it's such a joy to read. The prose is lively, at times poetic. He is a master of the telling and accurate simile.

If you have a penchant for theology, philosophy, literature and politics - and what civilised person doesn't? - then you will love this book.

Here is a taste:

Astonishingly, we are saved not by a special apparatus known as religion, but by the quality of our everyday relations with one another. It was Christianity, not the French intelligentsia, which invented the concept of everyday life....There is nothing heroic about the New Testament at all. Jesus is a sick joke of a saviour. Messiahs are not born in stables.

It ever there was a pious myth and piece of credulous superstition, it is the liberal-rationalist belief that, few hiccups apart, we are all steadily en route to a finer world.

Science has its high priests, sacred cows, revered scriptures, ideological exclusions, and rituals for suppressing dissent. To this extent, it is ridiculous to see it as the polar opposite of religion.

The sky's the limit, never say never, you can crack it if you try, you can be anything you want: such are the delusions of the American dream. For some in the USA, the C-word is 'can't'. Negativity is often looked upon there as a thought crime. Not since the advent of socialist realism has the world witnessed such pathological upbeatness.

Neoconservatism is a species of fideism, untroubled in its ideological ardour by anything as trifling as reality.

Buy and read this book. As for me, I'm about to read it again!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Debate Over??...

Here is a climate alarmist story from today's Sunday Age:

Here is the credible science:

Professor Bob Carter (pictured) is an Australian research scientist at the University of Adelaide, and was formerly head of the School of Earth Sciences at James Cook University in Queensland. His article is a superb summary of the more rational view.

Debate over, my arse!

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Global Warming update...

I ordered these two books from Amazon having become fascinated with the scientific side of the climate change debate after reading Ian Plimer's wonderfully invigorating Heaven+Earth.

Amazon is so good because of its readers' reviews which guide selections from the hundreds of competing tomes on a particular subject. These two books universally got five stars, and I can see why.

The Solomon book is simply outstanding, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who, like me, is getting quite fed up with the repetitive, apocalyptic, 'we'll all be rooned' visions of doomsayers who simply accept the orthodox, consensus, scientific view absolutely uncritically. (Here's what I want on my gravestone: 'He never accepted the party line'!)

There are far more rational perspectives from far more credible scientists around the world, and they are refreshing, optimistic and sane. Solomon reviews the writings and opinions of thirty of them.

For instance, the world renowned Russian scientist Dr Habibullo Abdussamatov says this: 'If the temperature of the ocean rises even a little [due to increased solar activity], gigantic amounts of CO2 are released into the atmosphere through the evaporation of water. It is no secret that increased solar irradiance warms Earth's oceans, which then triggers the emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So the common view that man's industrial activity is a deciding factor in global warming has emerged from a misinterpretation of cause and effect relations'.

'Furthermore....this recent global warming will be short-lived and we are actually on the brink of a global cooling, likely a severe one....The Earth has hit its temperature ceiling, demonstrated by cooling that is occurring on the upper levels of the world's oceans. Solar irradiance has begun to fall, ushering in a protracted cooling period beginning in 2012-2015. The depth of the decline...will occur around 2041...and will inevitably lead to a deep freeze around 2055-60, lasting some 50 years, after which temperatures will go up again. We continue to bask in the remains of heat that the planet accumulated over the 20th century'.

Great stuff eh?

Antonio Zichichi is Italy's most renowned scientist and an outspoken critic of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He argues 'that models used by the IPCC are incoherent and invalid from a scientific point of view....On the basis of actual scientific fact it is not possible to exclude the idea that climate changes can be due to natural causes, and that it is plausible that man is not to blame'.

The problem is that scientists with these sorts of views get very quickly ostracised from the mainstream scientific community whose members universally believe the 'science is settled'. Here's how Al Gore described the sceptics: 'they get together on a Saturday night and party with people who believe the earth is flat and that the moon landing was staged on a movie lot'!

Funny, but sadly, tragically,wrong.

The big question for me is why is there this divide? What psychological and group dynamics are at play? Are we seeing just another example of groupthink, the well documented process of individuals identifying with a group being captured by its leadership and authority and seemingly losing any ability to think independently and critically?


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Two great books!

Of all the marvellous literature I've read this year the following two novels absolutely stand out: The Book Thief by young Australian author Marcus Zusak, and Revolutionary Road by American author Richard Yates.

The Book Thief is an absorbing story of a young German girl coming to terms with life in Nazi Germany in the 30's. It's a book of enormous power and is immensely emotionally satisfying. It was published in 2005 and has been an international bestseller, and no wonder. I highly recommend it.

I missed the recent film, Revolutionary Road, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, which from all accounts was excellent, so decided to read the novel, first published in 1961. I was absolutely blown away by it. It's magnificent.

And this raises a question. Where has this novel been? Why hadn't I heard of it? Why does Jane Austen and her ilk dominate our secondary and tertiary curricula but not powerful, compelling, challenging, complex, very unsettling stuff like this?

Buy these two and read them. Your soul will grow larger and warmer, and you will become a far better person.