Sunday 26 April 2015

Bucharest is changing

Davin Ellicson a brilliant young American photographer wrote this to me today, which is worth sharing.

I went to the night of the galleries last night and it was as if the Bucharest I knew is long gone. It was a shock. Bucharest is unrecognizable these days. Romanians have transformed themselves in every way. Since around 2011, Bucharest hit a new period. Romanians look different now, they carry themselves differently, they've traded BMWs for bikes. The city looks different with new streets, no wires, no dogs, bike lanes, all sorts of hip cafes and bars (even no smoking ones). Everyone has cameras and wears the latest fashions, many have the iPhone 6 and Apple laptops. There's an altogether different spirit about the place as if Bucharestians are finally reclaiming the city that Ceausescu took away from them for so long. At the route level it's about economics it seems to me. Money doesn't just buy new cars, it can buy a new found confidence. Many have traveled widely and globalization seems to finally be hitting up Bucharest, albeit in a sophisticated way. Bucharest is transforming itself in a way and at a speed you never witness in the West.

Calea Victoriei was also shut down for the light show and I had never seen so many Romanians in the streets except for the Rosia Montana protests. Romanians are taking back the urban environment that for so long was stolen from them. It's becoming their city again.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Freedom of speech in England

Freedom of speech means the right to offend. The freedom to say inoffensive things isn't freedom at all. Far too few people are being offended these days. 

As Kingsley Amis said: 

If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing.

And this is the motto for this blog. 

I think it's very sad that Labour in the British election have promised to bring in more restrictions on freedom of speech, this time to prevent 'islamophobia'. 

How recently England was a famously free country. Now Romania is much freer. You can say most things here, though if you are very unlucky you might get done for slander, which is a crime. People even smoke in restaurants here.

Why does Africa look away when Africans are drowned?

Why does Africa look away when Africans are drowned in the Mediterranean? Why do the Arab states look away when ISIS are killing Muslims Christians Yezidis? Are the Muslim countries less philanthropic than the (vaguely) Christian ones?

The United Nations predict 24 million will disembark from North Africa for Europe within the next ten years.This is not a humanitarian question or even a political one but an invasion.

Thursday 23 April 2015

Hillary won't win

Hillary Clinton won't win the US presidential election, simply because the dynamics of journalism require her to lose. Her winning would be such a boring story and America loves exciting serials: OJ; hanging chads; September 11; Lewinsky etc. Also she is too old, too physically unattractive, clearly an egoist and not really a politician, but a wife.

I read that the Taliban would have sold Osama to the USA in the 1990s and she told her husband that it would be wrong to give money to a country that oppressed women.

Saturday 18 April 2015

The Mar Mattai monastery five years later: Christianity is being extinguished in the Middle East

I was in the beautiful Assyrian monastery of Saint Matthew's (Mar Mattai in Syriac) in 2010, overlooking the plain of Nineveh. In those days Kurdish Iraq was the place along with Syria where Christians were safe.

Mar Mattai dates from 363 and was founded by a hermit fleeing from Julian the Apostate. Some parts of the nave of the church are very old indeed, though what you can see is late 19th century. The monk I spoke to there, of course, said that Saddam was a good friend to Christians. How could he not? The monk also told me that one of the departing Jews in the 1970s told him 'It is the turn of the Saturday people now but it will be the Sunday people later.' 

When we arrived there were three large coaches parked in the forecourt and I feared we were not the only foreign tourists, but I found that the coaches had brought pilgrims from Erbil. Now no pilgrims dare visit and only six monks are left. Jane Corbin has been there for the BBC and wrote this very depressing report. Her broadcast can be watched in the UK on the net.

Damn Mr Bush and Mr Blair. (Damn Mr. Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy too for overthrowing Colonel Gaddafi.) Swearing relieves my feelings but now we have to do what we can against IS. 

Exorcism and Christianity

Jesus was an itinerant exorcist. If you don't believe in exorcism, you don't believe in Christianity. Modern man prefers, understandably, to ignore this.

However, Pope Francis talks a lot about the devil and exorcisms are becoming more frequent, according to this interesting article in The Independent, by a writer I don't like, Peter Stanford.
It all comes down to our modern tendency to cherry pick the bits of Christianity that we like. Thumbs up to quoting Jesus, in the gospels, when he calls for a fairer, more loving society, but close your eyes when, in exorcist mode, he drives out evil spirits from the sick and afflicted. One is deemed real, the other, at best, symbolic. Yet for centuries the Devil was anything but a symbol. Priests would routinely deal with all manner of problems in their congregations by pronouncing the rite of exorcism, summoning out the terrifying reality of the Devil, confronting him with the crucifix, and applying holy water, salt and clouds of incense lavishly.
Modern man, and this includes bishops, likes Jesus when, in the gospels, he calls for a fairer society, but did he call for a fairer society? Not fairer in the sense modern politicians understand. 

Jesus also speaks often of hell and damnation. In the words of Henri De Montherlant,
Many are called but few are chosen, but devout Christians think this is the rhetoric of Jesus Christ.

Friday 17 April 2015

Five wonderful quotations

"Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits."
Robert Louis Stevenson

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back—
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Begin it now."

“The Church says: the body is a sin.
Science says: the body is a machine.
Advertising says: The body is a business.
The Body says: I am a fiesta.”
Eduardo Galeano, who has died.

"In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves... self-discipline with all of them came first." 

Harry S.Truman

“Only one offence is now vigorously punished,—an accurate observance of our fathers’ traditions."
St. Basil on the Arian schism

Sunday 5 April 2015

Genius and childhood

"Genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will, childhood equipped now with man’s physical means to express itself, and with the analytical mind that enables it to bring order into the sum of experience, involuntarily amassed." 

Charles Baudelaire

"Creativity represents a miraculous coming together of the uninhibited energy of the child with its apparent opposite and enemy, the sense of order imposed on the disciplined adult intelligence."
Norman Podhoretz

"Happy is he who still loves something he loved in the nursery: He has not been broken in two by time; he is not two men, but one, and he has saved not only his soul but his life." G.K. Chesterton

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." 
Pablo Picasso

"One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste." 
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"A little boy sees and hears birds with delight.

Then his “good father” comes along and feels he should “share” the experience and help his son “develop.” He says: “That’s a jay, and this is a sparrow.”

The moment the little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing. He has to see and hear them the way that his father wants him to.

Father has good reasons on his side, since few people can afford to go through life listening to the birds sing, and the sooner the little boy starts his “education” the better. Maybe he will be an ornithologist when he grows up.

A few people, however, can still see and hear in the old way. But most of the members of the human race have lost the capacity to be painters, poets, or musicians, and are not left the option of seeing and hearing directly even if they can afford to; they must get it secondhand.

The recovery of this ability is called “awareness.”

Eric Berne

Time management advice by Jung

If you always do the next thing that needs to be done, you will go most safely and sure-footedly along the path prescribed by your unconscious. Then it is naturally no help at all to speculate about how you ought to live. … you cannot know it, but quietly do the next and most necessary thing. 
Carl Jung