So Swizzels, the candy company that has been making Love Hearts for five decades, has brought out a new line of sweets.
Where Love Hearts bear cutesy-wutesy messages to make you feel good, Whatevers will bear new-fangled words like "Chav" and "Minger". In other words, insults. Not just any insults, but particularly ugly ones that reflect a new wave of snobbery and prejudice in the UK.
Maybe we could add "Paki" and "fag" to the line-up? Oh, the fun children could have swapping those in the playground with their friends.
I'm glad to see that I'm not alone in how I feel about that trash. I
too participated in a performance of this affront to decency and
I'd have to agree with him when he writes:
It does need to be stopped. I wish there was something to do about it.
I guess we can all do our bit simply by exposing these things if and when they come up. There are times to be quiet and let sleeping dogs lie, but Heaven's Gates, Hell's Flames is no sleeping dog. It's a blatantly abusive propaganda tool, and I see from the website that it is still alive and well, including in the UK.
I found Geoff Pullum's analysis of Dan Brown's writing style interesting - and amusing. Check it out here. He links to several of his previous pannings of Brown, the funniest of which was this gem. (Raises eyebrows.)
Make no bones about it, the Daily Mail is Britain's worst newspaper. And I say that as a bit of a lefty who still reads - and enjoys - The Telegraph. But there is good reason to buy the Mail for the next couple weeks. They're giving away a series of 12 great British films, beginning today with Kind Hearts and Coronets.
And on Monday (I think) they'll be giving away Billy Liar, my number one favourite film of all time. If you haven't seen it, don't miss it. The story was a book by Keith Waterhouse, and then a hit stage play co-authored with the late Willis Hall, but for me the defnitive incarnation was in this 1963 film starring Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie.
Other treats include several Ealing comedies: The Man in the White Suit, The Ladykillers and The Titfield Thunderbolt, among others.
Please welcome my old friend Richard "Gill" Gillingham to the blogosphere. Gill is a bit of a theological and philosophical boffin with Anabaptist sympathies. According to one of those "Which theologian are you?" tests, he's Neo-Orthodox in the vain of Barth. His recent entries deal with John Howard Yoder, Pentecostalism, pacifism and Elmer Gantry. He used to be in love with Meg Ryan, but I think she has been replaced in his affections by Reese Witherspoon. I think lots of you guys will like him.
Not often I get genuine hate mail, but this puzzling comment arrived from a certain Frederick Wierschke this evening, with the heading "Your Comments About Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames":
What makes you think you know anything? From reading your article it’s apparent that your own IQ is barely above a cucumber. You’re so legalistic in your line of theology that you’d blow your brains if you tried to sneeze and fart at the same time.
Do those of us who do not adhere to legalism a favor. Go blow your brains out.
The last few days have been quite exciting, as I've been researching for an article on "ex-gay" ministries in the UK. Talked to lots of fascinating people. I'll keep you posted on when and where it will appear.
Remember last year's Lent Bible study? I was just starting to overcome my anxiety disorder, and leading the meeting was a huge step for me - a triumph. A year on, the anxiety is more sporadic, and I am no longer depressed, but I was honestly not looking forward to leading the Lent meeting again last night. The negative association with last year's anxiety was itself a source of anxiety for me, so I was a little bit nervous, but I need not have been. It was a wonderful occasion, and I had chance to share my experience of reconciliation from last year's Lent course. I had to chuckle when I could see my old Methodist Sunday school teacher nodding and grinning in agreement as I shared how the Methodists had been my childhood church, how I had become arrogant in my teens and joined a "more spiritual" church, and how the last joint-Methodist-Anglican Lent class had been a time of reconciliation for me.
So after having a wonderful time amongst friends last night, the events of this morning knocked me for six. Having been stabbed in the back by my former colleagues at the local website I run, they are twisting the knife further with a very nasty-sounding letter to my other colleague making all kinds of outrageous demands and proving that they will stop at no lengths to undermine our hard work. The whole situation is most upsetting, not least because the whole basis of my work with them was simply good faith, and I believed they were friends.
At the moment I feel nothing more than contempt for the pair - this is where the ideal of forgiveness really hits the road, I suppose. I don't think I'm wondering whether to forgive so much as how to forgive - what does forgiveness mean in practical terms at the very moment that an erstwhile-friend is on your back plunging in a knife and trying his best to destroy everything you've put your heart into?
If forgiveness isn't back in vogue, at least it has been in the public eye a lot recently.
Gee Walker, mother of teenager Anthony Walker, who was murdered last summer not two or three miles from me, wore her Christian faith on her sleeve in the aftermath of her son's racist killing. She said she felt no bitterness towards his murderers, but forgave them - and the media praised her for it.
Jill Saward, the vicar's daughter raped in the most unimaginably brutal way twenty years ago, again reaffirmed her forgiveness towards her attackers this week.
Of course, not everyone can bring themselves to forgive - and I can't blame them. Forgiveness is an ideal, but not always a realistic one in a complex world. A vicar whose daughter was killed in last year's London bombings resigned this week because she could not forgive the terrorists.
Most interesting, in my opinion, has been the recent storyline in Coronation Street. I confess, in the last six months I have become utterly addicted to this show, which is still the one of the finest dramas on British television after forty-some years. In the latest plot turn, Emily Bishop - generally a tremendously dull character who hasn't had a good storyline to herself in eons - comes face-to-face with the now-genuinely repentant killer of her late husband, and sinks into a deep depression trying to reconcile her feelings of hatred with her devout Christian faith.
On last night's episode she forgave. I suppose some might find her turn-around hard to accept, even grossly unrealistic. All the same, I think Corrie was bold to tackle repentance and forgiveness head-on with this storyline, especially since the ambiguities of the situation defied easy answers.
Even the soap operas seem to be getting in with the forgiveness trend.
I've just realized the common thread linking these stories is that they are all about women. What's with that?
So much for Alistair Campbell claiming, "We don't do God." Apparently the Blair government now does do God, but only under great pressure. Last week on the Parkinson Show the Prime Minister revealed that he prayed before making the decision to go to Iraq, and continued by saying his decision would be judged by people, by history and - ultimately - by God.
But what's all the fuss? I'm the last person to defend Blair on anything, but I really couldn't construe from what he said that he was invoking God as justification for the Iraq War. On the contrary, it seemed to me he was simply taking responsibility for his actions. Given the political and religious climate, his momentary lapse may well have been unwise, but I think it would be a twisting of what he said to suppose he was claiming divine support. Journalist Rod Liddle was out-of-whack when he said on last night's Question Time that praying before making a decision was equivalent to claiming infallible authority from God.
I'm sure Tony wishes he'd never opened his mouth on the issue; but the fact he did does not make him a mad fundy on a mission from God. His madness is all his own, and I don't think he has claimed otherwise.