I used to be a compulsive reader. That is - if I started a book I had to finish it. I have to see what happens, it might get better.
Whether I'm losing concentration or becoming aware of my mortality, I feel like I don't have time to waste anymore.
So a book gets three skips and then it's out.
If I skip a passage (a paragraph or a page) three times (or so), then I will stop reading it. What would make me skip a part?
Smut I often skip a paragraph or a passage because of smut. I just don't need sex scenes in books. It's just not why I read, and I find it unhelpful personally, so I'll skip it. If, otherwise, it's a good book, I may white out the bits as I go or stick white labels on them. This way I can come back and read the passage later without having to skip. Most times it makes no difference. One of my favourite books The War for Eternity starts with a sex slave scene that I just don't need banging around in my head. So my copy is self-censored. And now I can read the book and reflect on the ideas of life, meaning, eternal life, humanity etc etc etc without having my mind taken to a dirty cinema with popcorn and stains all over the seats.
(Interesting aside - a friend tells the story of a girl who grew up loving pretty woman, the Julia Roberts movie. watched it all the time raved about it. It was her princess story. It took a long time for her to realise that her dad had taped it and cut out all the smut and filth and generally tidied it up. She was quite embarrassed about how naive she had been. Incidentally it's amazing how well a movie or book goes without the smut. It contributes so little to the movie.)
Boring I will skip a paragraph or page or chapter if it gets boring.
Condescending I will skip a bit if it gets preachy or is obviously pushing a bandwagon (although I'm more tolerant of bandwagons I also push, but it still has to be well written). This is why I have put down Time Enough for Love. I gave it a good long run, but there's no story there. Just the self important ravings of an egocentric old man (of course I'm talking about the character in the book - who did you think I was talking about?)
Badly Written I will skip a passage if it is jarringly nonfactual, or so clumsily written that it gives you a headache trying to keep up, all the other personal taste reasons I will skip a passage. Emptiness, pomposity, slavish repetition of the current sacred cows, excessive exaggeration of the environmental emergency, etc etc etc.
Now I just have to find enough good books to keep me busy after I skip all the bodgy ones.
In the last Briefing Peter Bolt asked whether western society was able to make ethical decisions anymore. It certainly seems that some law courts are unable to deal with ethical crimes.
In Wisconsin three men attempted to dig up a week old body in order to have sex with it. Sydney Morning Herald The state of Wisconsin finds itself in the tricky situation where everyone finds it icky and gross and wants to prosecute but the law doesn't allow the prosecutors to just simply say it's wrong.
The men are being charged for 'attempted sexual assault' because the victim did not given consent. I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald article.
"In today's 5-2 decision, the high court said Wisconsin law makes sex acts with dead people illegal because they are unable to give consent."
This is a fairly convoluted and uncertain way to get a conviction on a crime that most of the population instinctively know to be wrong. It reminds me of the stories of the middle ages where a pig or chicken would be put on trial.
I think it's ridiculous that the only way the legal system can prosecute these guys is by asserting that the corpse didn't give consent. I can see the fingerprints of moral relativism all over this farce. In the wake of the alternative gender revolution we have lost the ability to apply discernment and common sense to moral questions. Consent has become the only measure of morality, but it is inadequate. Destructive sexual patterns are OK if the people consent.
What if a deceased person leaves a written consent for their partner to have sex with their corpse. What does the law do then. It's obviously OK?
I've been reading Robert J Sawyer's Far-Seer. A sci fi novel set in a dinosaur world. And I've decided that even if your main characters are aliens, they still need to be human. The reader still needs to relate to them.
Villains and monsters can be monstrous and inhuman as well as inhumane, but your protagonists must be human-ish. The reader must be able to relate to them at some level.
You may wish to distort or add or remove features, characteristics to make a species alien. But there must be something I can relate to. If I cannot relate to the characters, I may not want to read the book.
I guess Sawyer has managed to quite cleverly invent new characteristics for a territorial, carnivorous intelligent creatures. But I feel he hasn't done such a good job of painting emotions reactions and motivations I can relate too. The main character doesn't work for me. To be honest he feels more like a puppet to get the discoveries and revelations that Sawyer wants to discuss. AS a result, for me, it's an interesting book but not compelling.
A copy of a letter to the editor for The Briefing Magazine, July 2008
I have a more radical application of economic theory to the coffee problem posed by Tony Payne in Up Front. (The Briefing July-August' 2008) Everybody give up coffee. If nobody consumes coffee then nobody will grow coffee. The farmers might be forced into some last ditch enterprise like growing food crops to feed their families.
I can joke about that because I don't drink coffee, or tea. But having been to CMS Summer School, I can't see this scheme working. So, instead, let me suggest why I disagree with Tony and why I think Fairtrade is worth a try.
Tony suggests (implicitly) that naïve consumers see the coffee market as nasty because it is a free market. The Fairtrade proponents have started up precisely because they believe rather the opposite. They argue that the price of coffee is kept artificially low by oppressive tactics of the big companies. If this can be established to be true, then Tony's economic theory arguments do not apply. Fairtrade may, in fact, restore the market to free trade.
Furthermore I would argue that Fairtrade coffee does not artificially prop up the price of coffee. I suggest Fairtrade adds a new quality, a new range to coffee buying - clear conscience. Not everybody will want this coffee variety. But those who do may be prepared to pay a premium. These buyers would not pay this premium, however, for ordinary coffee. So the possibility that this development will disrupt the whole market is, in my opinion, slim. If every coffee addict in the world however, came to prefer this coffee, then, the market would change, but it would still be a free market.
Finally however, my main disagreement with Tony is over his assertion early on that shopping choices are unlikely to have any effect on the problems on the other side of the world. My choices may seem unlikely to have any effect. But it's actually the only thing I can do. Sometimes self regulating industry bodies seem to do nothing, governments are all hands off these days (or hand in the till in some places). Global regulation has not even tried to keep up with globalisation. What else can I do but refuse to buy a shoe that was made in a sweat shop, prefer a coffee that doesn't grind workers into the dirt.
Lately, it has been asserted that Cote d'Ivore, the biggest producer of cocoa in the world has a significant proportion of it's cocoa grown on plantations using slave labour. Actual child slaves stolen from other countries. The industry is apparently going slow on efforts to prohibit this practice. It's just too complicated, you see. If this is true, then I do not want to be a part of it. The government seems unwilling or unable to take adequate steps to prohibit the practice. The chocolate industry seems unwilling to self regulate and develop a certification system. So what can I do? Only this. I will research this issue. And if I can be convinced that children are stolen, locked up, beaten and starved to make my chocolate I will pluck it out and throw it away. And if enough people do that and sales slump, then maybe the producers will take enough notice to begin the regulation process.
Rather than a feeble response, consumer choice is the only power I have in the market. In fact, it is what drives the market, especially when exerted collectively. I think ethical considerations should always be part of economic choices. As Charles Colson quotes Michael Novak, "Free, democratic capitalism is like a three-legged stool, supported by economic freedom, political freedom, and moral restraint." But I would go so far as to suggest that making ethical choices as a consumer is not only the only means I have to influence the producers on the other side of the world, it's also the right thing to do.
The great thing about organisations like Fairtrade is that they make it easy for me to do the right thing. They do the research, they have made it easy for me to buy coffee without oppressing the poor. That takes the uncertainty and time out of working out what to do in the supermarket aisle and poring over the internet. They give me more time to get on with what I want to do, Glorify God by proclaiming our saviour Jesus Christ.
Michael Hutton Ariah Park Baptist Church Ariah Park, NSW 2665
I dreamt I was in a restaurant. The fanciest restaurant in town.
The service was impeccable from the valet parking to the genteel waiters. The setting was fantastic, the atmosphere was warm and actually exciting. It was buzzing. It was the most well appointed place I had ever been in. Everything was top of the range and shiny and smart.
It was a thrill to be in the most talked about restaurant in town.
I was made to feel welcome, I was fussed over, I was entertained, I was in heaven.
And then they served the meal.
A waiter, handsome and tall, came in brandishing a covered platter. And how elegantly he presented it with flourishes and smiles. And then he lifted the lid...
Grass on a platter.
To be sure it was dipped in sugar, and artfully decorated, but it was grass.
I didn't understand. I tried to get up. I was stuck to my chair. I looked around. I hadn't noticed it before. Grass. The fat lady was forking grass. The family sharing a bowl of grass.
Everyone in the place was eating grass. And they were loving it.
I moaned, "No." and tried to escape but I was stuck.
I shook my head and kicked the floor but I was still stuck.
I screamed and woke up.
I was in a church.
A beautiful church, large and new and modern.
Everything was state of the art, from the sound system to the projection to the cappuccino machine.
I had been made to feel welcome as I came in. Even the seats were comfortable.
I had enjoyed the music and been entertained by the band.
And now the preacher had stepped up to the platform. Tall and handsome and full of smiles. Oh, he was easy to listen to, polished without seeming it, professional yet personal.
But he was feeding us grass.
I looked at my Bible on my knee and prayed he would use the passage we had just read. Just dip into it once without sounding just like Andy Robbins. I stared at my Bible and I willed him to say what it meant. Hoped he would explain how it called on our lives.
But he kept feeding us grass. Oh, it was sugar coated and artfully arranged, but it was grass.
I looked around and everyone was eating it up. The message tickled their ears, the presentation slid past their eyes, and they gorged themselves on its sweetness, its abundance, but they were never full.
I wanted to leave, I squirmed in my chair, I prayed again.