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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

So ends a mildly rebellious November. I hope that you enjoyed at least some of it. Up next: Winter is Coming!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Less than half of England and Wales population Christian, Census 2021 shows 

[From By Rachel Russell for BBC News] 

Fewer than half of people in England and Wales describe themselves as Christian for the first time, the 2021 census has revealed. The proportion of people who said they were Christian was 46.2%, down from 59.3% in the last census in 2011. Meanwhile the number who said they had no religion increased to 37.2% of the population, up from a quarter. And people identifying as Muslim rose from 4.9% in 2011 to 6.5% last year. 

The census is carried out every 10 years by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS said the census question broadly asked "what is your religion" - referring to people's affiliation, rather than their beliefs or active religious practices. Professor Linda Woodhead, head of theology and religious studies at King's College London, said ticking "no religion" could still indicate a number of different beliefs. Some will be atheist, a lot will be agnostic - they just say, 'I don't really know' - and some will be spiritual and be doing spiritual things," she told BBC News. 

Meanwhile, London is the most religiously diverse region of England, with just over 25.3% of people reporting a religion other than Christianity. And south-west England is shown to be the least religiously diverse region, with 3.2% selecting a religion other than Christian. The figures also showed differences in nations - in England alone, 37.2% of people said they had no religion, while in Wales this rose to 46.5% from 32.1% in 2011. 

[Interesting! This has been a very long-running trend which will probably continue for decades to come. I wonder how low the religious numbers will go? 25%? Less? I think it’s HIGHLY unlikely it’ll get anywhere near zero. I’m guessing – with zero information to back it up – that somewhere in the region of 25-30% sounds reasonable. I guess we’ll see in the upcoming ONS results.]  

Monday, November 28, 2022

Just Finished Reading: Small Acts of Resistance – How Courage, Tenacity, and Ingenuity Can Change the World by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson (FP: 2010) [210pp] 

Directly opposing Authoritarian regimes has never exactly been easy. Usually it is difficult at best and, all too often, fatal at worst to stand against it. But what about more indirect approaches? Such opposition is, by its very nature, secretive. The problem for the opposition groups is they can never accurately assess their level of support in the general, largely fearful, population. But if you could make your opposition public without (hopefully!) engaging the hostility of the regime, what then? 

The authors have collected numerous examples of this more subtle opposition and, more importantly, shown that this sort of thing can win. Not in direct confrontation but by undermining and eventually fatally weakening what little legitimacy the authoritarians have. Some of the examples outlined are bizarre and often very, very clever. In one regime people were increasingly getting tired of crude propaganda on their nightly TV news so, individually simply decided to go for a walk during the 7pm news slot. Some would leave their TV’s visibly on the balcony, unplugged and unloved. Others, with a sense of the surreal, would take their TV’s on a walk with them in prams or in wheelbarrows. In response the regime started enforcing a curfew from 7pm. The public response? They shifted their ‘walks’ to the 5pm news slot. In other cases, it was something more simple, more subtle – like wearing an item in the colour of the opposition party like a simple white T-shirt or, in one case I really liked, of behaving in a totally over the top hyper patriotic style which mocked the pronouncements of those in power. In a particularly funny example, the singing of the national anthem at football matches was turned into an act of opposition where a line about tyranny was sung particularly loudly. The government could hardly ban or modify their own national anthem to remove this act of defiance, nor could they ban football matches. They just had to grin and fume in silence. Then, of course, there is the classic response which goes back at least to the ancient Greeks – the sex strike. One African nation began healing the wounds of its civil war after women on both sides of the divide refused their partners sex until they started talking to the opposition. Talks were set up and a settlement was produced in a matter of weeks. 

Although rather thin on the details and context this was an interesting look at examples of (largely) non-confrontational ways of opposing and, eventually, toppling authoritarian regimes across the globe. I was impressed both by the subtilty and cleverness of the ideas tried out against a host of regimes. It takes courage in far too many places to wear a certain colour, to not take part in an approved (AKA compulsory) activity or to stand in a public space holding a photograph of your missing (disappeared) child. But such people and such ‘simple’ actions do bring down tyrants. More power to them. A recommended read for everyone interested in change, freedom and the human spirit to resist.   

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Book2Screen – The Pre-Blog Files (Part 4)    

Apart from books themselves, I’ve long found both movies and TV shows as a prompt to know more. When I see an interesting person portrayed on the screen – fictional or real – or a place or situation (ditto) I all too often want to know more about it or them. If the small, or large screen, is portraying a real (often historical) situation it’d be off to the library or Amazon to see if there were any books on the subject. If fictional I’d want to read the novel (if such a thing existed – I was often annoyed that a screenplay wasn’t based on a previous novel or play). So it was that I picked up and read the following: 

The Godfather by Mario Puzo 

Carrie by Stephen King 

Harry’s Game by Gerald Seymour 

On the Beach by Nevil Shute 

Make Room, Make Room! By Harry Harrison 

First Blood by David Morrell 

Sphere by Michael Crichton 

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain 

Point Blank by Richard Stark 

The Abyss by Orson Scott Card 

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney 

A Very British Coup by Chris Mullin 

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis 

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch 

Empire of the Sun by J G Ballard 

The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis 

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux 

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris 

Red Dwarf by Grant Naylor 

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy 

Patriot Games by Tom Clancy 

A Sense of Guilt by Andrea Newman 

The Drowning Pool by Ross Macdonald 

A Bouquet of Barbed Wire by Andrea Newman 

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton 

House of Cards by Michael Dobbs 

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow 

The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley 

Rising Sun by Michael Crichton 

Run Silent, Run Deep by Edward L Beach 

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice 

Congo by Michael Crichton 

Enigma by Robert Harris 

The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice 

The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice 

Kiss the Girls by James Patterson 

Well, I wanted to finish this at Part 4, but that’s a MUCH longer list than I expected! A nice, varied mix, I think as my brain is normally firing in all directions to chase down wherever my curiosity takes it.  

Friday, November 25, 2022

"A bookshop is not like a railway booking-office which one approaches knowing what one wants. One should enter it vaguely, almost in a dream, and allow what is there freely to attract and influence the eye. To walk the rounds of the bookshops, dipping in as curiosity dictates, should be an afternoon's entertainment."

John Maynard Keynes.

Yes..... It's REAL.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Just Finished Reading: The Goodbye Look by Ross Macdonald (FP: 1969) [192pp] 

PI Lew Archer knew that the case didn’t feel right from the start. For one thing he’d been hired by the family lawyer rather than the family themselves. The husband didn’t even know he’d been called in to investigate things and the wife lied about why he was there. It wasn’t exactly the best way to build any kind of case. Then there was the ‘crime’ itself. A gold jewelry box had been ‘stolen’ while they were out of town. No break in and the safe had been opened with a key. The box had, according to the wife, purely sentimental value, despite being both old and gold. So, why all the fuss? Anyway, he was being paid to do a job and do it he would. But when almost everyone he talked to started lying to him he knew he’d have his work cut out. The most obvious ‘thief’ was the family's wayward son who had all too recently disappeared with an older woman, much to the annoyance of his girlfriend who just happened to be the lawyer's daughter. With those kinds of tangles right from the get-go Lew would need a sharp mind to cut through the lies and piles of BS coming his way. 

I’ve read a few Archer novels over the years, and they’ve always been fun. This was no exception. The writing style was very reminiscent of Raymond Chandler with sparse prose, a laconic detective who has seen it all and is only just on the right side of burn out. The situation he finds himself in is complex to say the least. There are around 6-8 main players he’s having to deal with as well as two separate mysteries from the past. All but one, as far as I can remember, of these players are lying to him to one extent or another mostly to hide their past. Uncovering these lies is how Lew opens the case interview by interview. As with the Chandler case style, Lew drives all over southern California tracking down leads and interviewing those involved whilst weighing up their stories against each other. It was interesting, to say the least, to watch Archer fit the case together. You could tell that something was ‘off’ but it wasn’t exactly easy to put your finger on what exactly that was. The suspect was almost revealed from minute one, but the mystery that drove the plot was WHY the box was stolen, who wanted it (and why) and what exactly was in it. Following that line (or lines) of inquiry is where the clues, red herrings, lies and revelations kept me guessing exactly what was going on right up to the final few pages. A mystery to savour for all detective fiction fans. Recommended if you can find a copy.