Remembering Christmas

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I’m in Invercargill for Christmas.  It’s my usual practice.  There are family reasons to be down here.  My mother is in her eighties and is the last of her generation.  It will be my practice to share Christmas with her for a while yet.

I travelled down with my friend Southern Dave.  On the way we passed a couple of signs admonishing us to Remember Christ At Christmas.  Thank you, I will.  I’m happy to honour the Nativity of Christ as part of my religious practice.  I will also exchange gifts, enjoy family, and indulge in the catering that is also part of Christmas celebrations.  These acts are not a religious obligation.  They are part of the fun.  Remembering Christ is one voice among many in the Christmas season.

It must be because Christ is part of the name that we are expected to Remember Christ At Christmas.  There is no admonition to Remember Christ At Easter.  If the Christian movement begins with the death and resurrection then this observance is more important than remembering the entrance of the Christ Child.  Likewise no one puts up signs to Remember Christ At Pentecost, or on Anzac Day, or Remembrance Sunday.  The observance of commemorating our ancestor spirits who died in war is observed with the trappings of Christian liturgy if not the substance.  Should we Remember Christ at Yule-tide?  It loses the assonance.

Never mind.  It is Christmas, a festival of light in mid-summer, celebrated with the symbols of winter in our upside down southern hemisphere observance, complete with the winter father figure who is our gift-giver.  Have you been good?  Merry Eczemas!  May the probabilities favour you.

Comics update

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Having not collected any comics for several months they arrived in a parcel a couple of weeks ago.  This is a quick summary of what I’ve been reading.

Dial H Four comics arrived in this series written by China Miéville.  It’s a continuous story.  Each issue is its own title.  Having defeated the Nullomancer and her ally the Abyss in the first arc Nelson and Roxie are venturing to the Exchange, the heart of Dial Technology.  I see that DC Comics have cancelled this series and it will finish with the next issue.

Doctor Who Two stories.  The first includes Amy and Rory with the Doctor and Lady Christina De Souza aboard a luxury starship orbiting a would-be nova star.  We may have been here before.  The second story has the Doctor aboard a cosmonaut capsule in 1965.  The Vashta Nerada are outside and the capsule is about to go into the dark side of the Earth.

Willow A miniseries as part of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 arc.  As a consequence of Season 8 magic has left the world.  Willow is on a quest to restore it.  Her adventure takes her to the witch goddesses’ version of the Garden of Earthly Delights, and she duels with an old enemy.

Angel and Faith  One of the two titles for the BTVS Season 9 arc.  Another of the consequences of Season 8 was Giles was killed in the final battle with the Big Bad, a brilliant, shoking and savage action.  Angel’s quest has been to find the parts of Giles’ soul and resurrect Giles.  He and Faith have been based in London, in Giles’ flat, with Giles’ immortal and narcissic aunts Lavinia and Sophronia.

At the end of the arc it is revealed Giles’ soul was sold to a major demon and they have to get it back.  They are successful, and one of the results of the resurrection spell is Giles is restored as a 12 year old boy.  There’s some hilariously funny dialogue involved.  It’s like Anthony Head has been replaced by a child actor.  I like it!

The final story is a face-off with the season’s villains in London.  The team breaks up.  It looks like Angel will remain in London for Season 10, which is now full of fantastic creatures.  If he remains in London then maybe the story can cross over the Irish Sea and find out more of Angel’s former life in Ireland before he was turned into a vampire.  I also want to see more of Baby Giles.  Lil Ripper has already been suggested as a comic book title for this character.

The final issue of Buffy Season 9 wasn’t in the parcel.  I’ll save it for a later summary.  The story is picked up nicely and I wait to see its conclusion.

Marvel’s The Avengers

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I’ve been watching The Avengers.  A friend loaned it to me.  Somebody leaves the swing door open and someone breaks in the house.  Oh, it’s Tom Hiddleston.  My, he is pretty!

I want to see the property damage report for this movie.  There must have been millions of tax payers’ dollars wasted when that underground base was destroyed.  I hope there will be an enquiry.  Planet America is under attack, especially on the New York front.  Although the number of deaths is kept offscreen, except for the alien Jitari soldiers.  They’re evil goons so heroes are allowed to kill them.  Despite the number of civilians in the middle of an alien invasion no New Yorkers seem to die in the cross-fire.  There is a human death in the movie.  It is a crucial plot development.

Heroes always team up to fight super-villains, except when their egos get in the way.  Super-villains are stuck with minions to do their dirty work.  They don’t have loyal friends who say things like “Sure I’ll help you conquer the Earth, then we can catch that game on t.v. after we’re done”.  Actually I thought Hawkeye was more interesting as Loki’s minion than an Avenger.  Loki needs to learn that following someone else’s orders is no excuse.

Most interesting character: Dr Banner and the Other Guy. (Puny god!)

Marvel's The Avengers

The march

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The Conductor by Sarah Quigley 2011Shostakovich was about to tell Boris to get back to the only work for which he was fit, grubbing around in the dirt.  As Boris’s voice hammered on, a tinny tune emerged from the insults.  Just as he grasped it (a mindlessly repetitive tune, but there was something there) and was trying to memorise it, annoyingly Boris stopped.

“You were saying?” Shostakovich gazed away in a casual manner. “Something about my worthless opera, its neurotic quality, its excessive number of notes?  But surely you’re simply quoting the famous Pravda editorial, Comrade.  Have you no views of your own?”

The ploy worked.  Instantly Boris started up again, his voice chipping away like the pickaxes behind them.  “Your conceited nature obstructs your music . . . Your ego is larger than what you write . . .”  Once more Shostakovich heard the tune.

Pizzicato, that was it! A pizzicato refrain rising  from a melancholic E flat melody like a puppet rising from a heap of toys.  Unseen hands pulled on the strings (slowly, relentlessly) until the puppet was marching repetitively against the snare drums.  “Idiotic,” said Boris’s voice from amid the growing dim.  “Arrogant. Imatative.”

“Exactly!” The words burst out of Shostakovich.  “You’re right! The themes of fascism.  It will be a fascist march.”

“What did you say? Did you call me a fascist?”

“Not at all, my dear Boris!  To tell the truth, I’ve never felt more kindly towards you than now.  Do you have a pen?  I seem to have dropped mine.”

Boris stuck his hand into his shapeless trousers and drew out the tiny stub of a pencil.  “Here. But be sure to give it back.  It still has some wear in it.”

“Certainly, my good fellow.  In such uncertain times, you’re wise to take care of your belongings.  One never knows where the next pencil will come from.  Perhaps the pencils of the entire nation will be sequestered for fortifications.”

Boris, looking nonplussed, trailed away.  Furtively, Shostakovich scribbled a few lines. True the pencil was as blunt as Boris’s wit and it wrote as badly as Boris played the piano — but it was enough.  He’d captured it!  As soon as he got home, he would begin writing.

The Conductor, by Sarah Quigley, 2011

Doctorsday: The Adventures of Grandpa, Sandshoe and Dickybow

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I’ve seen the Doctor Who Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor; and the web episode, The Night of the Doctor.  If you haven’t seen the Night of the Doctor here is the link below.  It is worth watching.

The Sisterhood of Karn are keepers of the flame of immortality.  The Time Lords rejected immortality as a dead-end development, choosing regeneration.  Potentially members of the sisterhood have lived for billions of years.  Karn is one of only two worlds known in the Doctor Who Cosmology where an immortal flame exists.  The other is Sarn.  Who thinks up these names?

The Sisterhood can use meta-concerted telekinesis to make Karn a graveyard in space and discourage explorers.  It is entirely possible they brought down Cass’s ship to draw out the Doctor.

We now know that the Eightth Doctor took no role in the Time War.  He wasn’t the Doctor who ended Gallifrey.  We still haven’t seen what the Time Lords did to become as terrifying throughout time and space as the Daleks.  We are told that time and space was on the knife edge.  I can think of three home-worlds that were destroyed in the Time War: the Nestenes, the Gelf, and the Zygons.  The General mentions that they have used nearly all of the forbidden weapons, the last being the Moment.  Considering what has been revealed has been available to the Time Lords in the past: star-killers, time scoops, prison worlds, and disintegration weapons, what they have done is terrifying to speculate.  There has been mention of the Nightmare Child, the Would-be King and the Never-Weres.  Did the Time Lords raid the multiverse and the Howling for their mercenaries?

It was still not enough to stop the Daleks who barricaded Gallifrey and broke through its defences.  The Fall of Arcadia did not look like that a concerted defence was possible.  It is a broken firefight.  I doubt if the civilians have anywhere realistic to which to retreat.  The Master said he fled the battle when the Emperor Dalek entered the Panopticon.  He hid among the Last Men at the end of the stellaferous age.  It is possible from the Panopticon the Daleks could seize control of the Matrix and the Eye of Harmony.

Other thoughts:  I want to see Paul McGann return and do more as the Doctor, and the chemistry that John Hurt brought to his role as the War Doctor was enjoyable to watch.  The UNIT subplot disappointed me.  I don’t mind that they are soldiers and they make stupid mistakes.  I do mind that they have no character or humanity.  They are faceless.  This is not the role that UNIT played when it was first introduced.  They are the first line in protecting us against the monsters.  For all their stodginess give them some personality.  Even Kate Lethbridge-Stewart is someone for the Doctor to lecture because he is the Smartest Man In The Room, and bore me to sleep.

Final thought: Gallifrey is coming back.  It is simple as that.  It always had to.  Its return will be a story that always had to be done after it was destroyed.  The Doctor saved Gallifrey in a way that was artistic and wonderful, the way the Time Lords failed to wage the Time War.  However there are two factions on Gallifrey now, there’s the rub.  There’s the High Council revealed in The Last of the Time Lords under mad Lord Rassilon trapped in the time-loop of eternal struggle, and there’s Gallifrey hidden in a moment of time where two billion, seven hundred and forty thousand children did not burn!  Game on! Which will it be?

How the Blood of Christ causes salvation in Thomas Aquinas

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I caught this title for an open lecture from the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the last moment when I checked my gmail account this morning.  A visiting lecture gave the opportunity for an open lecture at the last moment.  I’m glad I caught the lecture.  I think it includes ideas that I will find formative.

Professor Eugene Rogers went looking for the role of the Blood of Christ in the theological writings of Thomas Aquinas.  It led him to a study of the eucharist in Dr. Aquinas’s theology.

The sacraments descent from god to effect our salvation.  God joins us to god in the divine metabolism of becoming human.  The spirit rests on matter.  The passion and the pneuma are in the blood, the fire in the wine.

Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day say again the words: This is my Body.

And over every death-force which waits in readiness to corrode, to wither, to cut down, speak again your commanding words which express the supreme mystery of faith: This is my Blood.

I see I shall be meditating on The Mass on the World by Teilhard de Chardin again.

Christ is incarnate in the eucharist.  He makes it an instrument of his agency, divine things done with bread and vineously.  His flesh gives life because of the word it is united.  We are uniting in drawing together into god, stretched out into god as god offers contact.

In the squares of white bread and shot-glasses of anemic grape-juice it is not the digestion that nourishes us; it is the act of eating and drinking that regenerates us.  God requires us to willingly act and receive.  I find this idea helpful.  The ingestion is not the communion; the participation in the act is.

And afterwards the disciples gather up the remains, the noa from the tapu.

Burt 2013: Offerings to the God of Speed

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Burt Munro Challenge 2013I’m back from the Burt Munro Challenge.  Since Invercargill is my ancestral town, travelling down on the back of my brother’s bike makes this a good opportunity for a family gathering.  We are more likely to have my brother visiting from Wellington than for Christmas.  I still make the effort to be there for Christmas.

Of course in a global sense my family town is more likely to be in Aberdeenshire or on the Merseyside.  That’s another story.  I’m not likely to see these places.  I’m not global traveller.

Since the movie The World’s Fastest Indian the Burt Munro Challenge has been a success.  It’s more than just a rally, it’s motorbike racing and competition on show.  This year it was over four days with a hill climb up Bluff hill, races on the sand at Oreti Beach, speedway at Teretonga, and street races in Wyndham.  The locals get in behind it and support it.  This makes it successful.

The beach race was memorable, a circuit half a mile long and back done fifty times to memorialise Burt’s achievement.  When the checkered flag went down to signal the first bike across the finish line, then the wind picked up.  Within half a minute it was blowing so strongly it was raising the sand on the beach.  Everyone fled.  We were sitting in the marrow grass on the sand dunes.  It was no protection.  We made our way down onto the beach and joined the procession.  With the sand in my face I could not see.  The best protection was to put my bike helmet on.  With the helmet on I had to swallow the sand in my mouth because the helmet obscured my mouth.  The road from Oreti Beach back to Invercargill is between the sand dunes.  At the bikes on the sealed road I looked back.  About 10 metres back toward the beach the vehicles leaving the beach were no longer visible.  They emerged out of the cloud of the sand storm.

The capricious weather only makes such an occasion stick in the mind.  It is something for people say ‘do you remember’.

The other memory of the Burt Munro Challenge of 2013 will be Alan Kempster, The Biker of the Year for the Challenge.  Also known as Bone-aparte and Arfer Racing and the Left-Side Story.  An accident 20 years ago left his right leg a stump and his right arm ripped off at the shoulder.  He lived because the rider behind him had one of the original brick-like cellphones and physically held him together until the called ambulance arrived.  He returned in later years to bike-riding and competes under the number ½.  While his handicap meant he struggled against the elements in the beach race, he was in his element at the street races and was doing better than some two-legged riders.  He is Australian and his bike was provided by Honda Southland.  It had to be specially re-wired so the controls could be operated from the left handlebar.  Between the races at Oreti Beach and Wyndham over two days he drove up to Balclutha where he been invited to address a school assembly.  This is someone who I would like to see coming back to compete at Burt in future years.