Friday, June 30, 2006

Fishers of Men

A while ago I bought 'The authentic Gospel of Jesus' by Geza Vermes. Vermes attempts in this book to state which statements of Jesus he thinks are true. At first I really wasn't convinced, I thought it might be some kind of 'Da Vinci' type book but Vermes makes interesting reading even though I have just started the first few pages.

One thing that struck me was the command of Jesus 'Come with me and I will make you fishers of men'. This has always made sense to me, I never questioned the metaphor or the idea behind it until Vermes with his objective analysis stated that this metaphor is totally barmy. How can you save a fish by catching it or removing it from the water? In the same way how can you save a man by removing him from where he is living. I have now been keeping tropical fish for about six months and it is very difficult keeping them happy, never mind trying to catch them - I want them to stay where they are!

Vermes concludes that this saying is not authentic and has been added through tradition in the early church. I think he makes a good point.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Future echoes in the dark - Review

Although it pains me to say it, I have to be critical of ‘Future echoes in the dark’. I haven’t been able to finish the book, the writing style is quite poor and I am spoilt by having such ease of reading for most books, useful, unuseful trash or treasure.

It’s unfair I know but most of the literary establishment is unfair. Reviews in mainstream papers are usually based on number of pages, other reviews and when the author last bought the reviewer a pint.

Rob I don’t want to be too harsh but I want to be as honest and hopefully try not to make this as painful as it already is for me. The story is good, inventive, creative but there are some basic errors. Too often the writer is telling us what is happening rather than showing us. This creates the effect that the author is boasting about how brilliant or how evil someone or thing is and I don’t want to be told. In the end I had to stop reading. To be honest most of the books I read I don’t finish them, I have a short attention span and I am a ruthless critic.

To be sure, I haven’t written or tried to write a book. To be sure, I am not a fantasy fan so I don’t really know how you can expect any other reaction from me. I don’t want to patronise you anymore. I appreciate that you sent me a free copy of your book, if there is anything I can do to make up for this dreadful review please tell me. I would be happy to send you a bottle of something. Perhaps you think I am just another reviewer with a lack of patience and a negative attitude, I can assure you I am trying to be fair, I try to write well but sometimes I don’t. I readily confess that I am a hypocrite, that I am lazy, depraved and lacking in taste. I wish you well with this book.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Combat Stress

I remember reading a long time ago a very interesting article about combat stress in The New Yorker. The problem we have is that the act of combat is inherently unnatural, no matter how hard a soldier is trained natural instinct reacts strongly against it and this is the cause of combat stress. It is so natural that anyone who doesn't experience it could almost be considered psychotic. One military pastor was advancing a very strong argument that if soldiers were prepared mentally and ethically as well as physically they could be prepared for combat and this could actually reduce the stress that they experience. In the Bible there is a clear distinction made between murder and between killing your enemy. If this distinction could be made it would help soldiers to do a better job and help to reduce combat stress.

No matter how you feel about combat and war, and I'm not sure that I completely agree with it, as a soldier you have to be involved in combat and there is no doubt that Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is a growing problem. Today reading another article in The New Yorker it seems that the military haven't taken much notice of the ethics of combat and that combat stress is still a very real problem. I'm not really surprised that the military isn't interested in teaching ethics but I am surprised that they haven't gone full out to try to stop this problem. I was quite moved by the following passage, a letter home from Iraq by a clinical psychologist based in Qatar:

"At home I ask people if they have ever experienced or witnessed a traumatic event or abuse. But out here I ask, 'Have you ever been in combat?'. Apparently this is a question with the power to unglue, because all four of these troops burst into tears at the mention of the word 'combat'.

And when I say burst, I mean splatter - tears running, snot flowing, and I literally have to mop the floor after on two-hour session. In other words, I mean sobbing for minutes on end, unable to speak, flat-out grief by an otherwise healthy, strong, manly guy who watches football on the weekends and never puts the seat down.

Each time I sit there with not a clue what to say ... offering tissues ... saying I'm sorry ... trying to normalise ... trying to say 'It was not your fault that so-and-so died' and 'if you could have done differently you would have' and 'you have a right to be scared' and even worse 'you had to shoot back' and 'yes you killed someone, and you still deserve to go back to your family and live your life."

Monday, June 12, 2006

You are living in a fool's paradise!

For all the craziness and zany behaviour of Thurber sometimes he really hits hard and all of a sudden I start to wonder 'who is the fool?' Has Thurber become a fool to show us how incredibly perverse and strange we really are? The following cartoon really sums up how we see things that we want to see and not what they really are(like in 'the emperors new clothes') and sometimes no matter how hard we want something to be true, it just isn't and it takes someone to scream out 'YOU'RE ALL CRAZY!!'

(You may need to click on this to read it properly - it is worth it.)

And another one because I can't help it and this one is just as ridiculous, perhaps not as insightful but very silly!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Mr Durning

Turning through my drawers at work yesterday I found a collection of stories by James Thurber - 'Thurber Country' and I found a collection of letters which had me laughing almost hysterically. It is true that the funniest letters are often the real ones, especially concerning beaurocracy.

In 'Mr Durning' there is a series of letters concerning the fact that some friends in France have sent Thurber a bottle of Cointreau for Christmas. They did not realise that due to Prohibition this bottle was seized by the government prior to being destroyed. Thurber is made of stronger stuff and attempts to wade through the beaurocracy applying for a licquor license and writing about 10 letters over three months trying to get this bottle of alcohol.

In the end he triumphantly recieves the bottle and it was very very amusing.

Thurber likes to draw his own cartoons and whilst this dog isn't associated with the above story, I love this mild mannered simple dog, it seems to represent Thurber, mild mannered, bumbling simple but still pleasant and appealing.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Who chases you?

Found this delightful little quote today in 'The Passionate Shepherd' by Virgil, part of his 'Eclogues'. The Shepherd has fallen in love with Alexis and everyone tells him she is beyond his reach:

"The wild-eyed lioness pursues the wolf; the wolf pursues the kid; the kid herself goes gambolling in search of flowering clover. And I chase you. Each is drawn on by what delights him most."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Future echoes in the dark

On Saturday I got a random email, it looked like spam and the text intrigued me because it was a recommendation to read 'Future echoes in the dark' by Robert Turner. I had a brief look and initially I wasn't impressed but I emailed Robert and he explained that he thought I might be interested in reading the book. I will admit that it is a fantasy book, one genre that I am not really too keen on but you have to give him credit - no publisher was interested in it, he is obviously passionate enough to self-publish.

At first glance I can see why the publishers are a little shy. The book is a mixture of modern life and a fantasy land, although the fantasy has been given a definite time in history when Christianity is referred to as the 'Catholic church' but there are still adherents to older religions. Add to this mix characters of different races such as the equivalent of elves and a girl who has heat vision and you create a hearty mix.

I would prefer a definite location, in a way when you start to mention historic events it places the book at a specific time and this mucks up the reader - but I could be proved wrong.

I am also intrigued by the parallel with greek literature. There you have mythical characters, gods and goddesses all playing their part.

Then you this made up 'religion of thieves'. Led by a goddess that like her adherents to steal. Interestingly I just bought a secondhand book on the thuggee cult of India. I think Rob would find this era of history fascinating especially a book written by a police detective investigating and getting a confession from a thuggee cult member (see 'The Temple of Doom'). I personally prefer my books to have that sort of basis in reality.

One aspect of the fantasy genre that does interest me is the idea of 'hidden or elite knowledge'. The idea that it is only computer hackers who are aware of the end of the world or one department of astronomers who see a comet coming. This is elaborated into entire hidden races such as vampires or individuals such as Spiderman or Superman.

Rob has generously offered to send me a free copy of the book in return for a review from me. Here are the details below if anyone wants to look it up on Amazon:

Future echoes in the dark by Robert Turner

Product Details:

  • Paperback 232 pages (June 30, 2006)
  • Publisher: Darksight Publishing
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0955263107