Movie Night

It’s always interesting to see how the TV schedules shift around over Christmas and the New Year. All of the ongoing series have finished before the break, and the new season starts in January. Over the period there is usually a mix of seasonal specials, or as we got last night on BBC1, an evening of movies.

First up was AI: Artificial Intelligence. The film has a very long history. Stanley Kubrick had been working on the film since buying the rights to a Brian Aldiss’s short story “Super Toys Last All Summer Long” in 1982. After Kubrick’s death the film then passed on to his friend Steven Spielberg who made the film, and it was released in 2001.

The plot, set in the future, follows a couple whose only child is seriously ill and has been cryogenically suspended. They are selected to test a new child robot, designed to be the perfect child. The problems start when the couples real child recovers, and ultimately they decide to get rid of the robot. The child robot, (and Brian Aldiss apparently really didn’t like this bit of additional plot) having heard the story of Pinocchio, tries to find the Blue Fairy to turn him into a real boy.

The film got particularly mixed reviews, and gets very strange by the third section, when the robot boy is reactivated in the far future when the human race has long since died, and the world is entirely populated by the robots they have left behind. This third section I found very reminiscent of the final section of 2001.

As a whole the film, as with a lot of good sci-fi throws up a lot of big ideas, but as a big budget crowd pleaser I can understand why it didn’t go down overly well. The other question that will always hang over the film is whether it would have been any different if Kubrick had finished the film.

The second film of the night was somewhat different. Serendipity is a romantic comedy, also released in 2001, starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale who meet when Christmas shopping for their respective partners in Bloomingdales. They spend the day together without revealing names, and then he puts his name and number on a $5 bill, and she puts her name and number in a book, and they decide to let fate take it’s course. Years later both are about to get married, but they are both still obsessed by their meeting years before.

The plot of the film is entirely predictable, you know where it is going pretty well right from the start, however what lifts it is the acting, especially from John Cusack. Whilst it quietly slipped by in 2001, to some extent the predictability and all round niceness made it a much more enjoyable movie than AI with all it’s big ideas and deep meaning!

It is worth mentioning that we didn’t watch the third movie of the night – Are You Being Served: The Movie which from the five minutes we saw before we switched it off was even more painful than the series. Beth’s comment on it was “I think this needs a laugh track…”, my thought is that it probably needs more than that…

Speeding Up Firefox

I just came across a useful tip for increasing the speed of the Firefox browser if you’re using a broadband connection.

Firefox is frequently suggested as an alternative to using Internet Explorer, due to the ongoing security holes and spyware problems that are being found in Internet Explorer. I also keep it alongside Safari on the Mac, primarily because of the very nice RSS bookmarks which keep me up to date with blogs and news sites.

The tip which I found on the Ryan. Connect blog is as follows:

  1. Type “about:config� into the address bar and hit return.
  2. In the filter box type “network.http.p�.
  3. Double-click “network.http.pipelining� to set it to true.
  4. Double-click “network.http.proxy.pipelining� to set it to true.
  5. Double-click “network.http.pipelining.maxrequests� and change its value to 30.
  6. In the white area right click and click on New > Integer.
  7. Name it “nglayout.initialpaint.delay� and set its value to 0.
  8. Exit and re-open FireFox.
  9. You should now load pages much faster than before.

A Few More Christmas Pictures

Below are a few more shots from Christmas Eve. The first is a shot through the vestry door shortly before the first of our three Christingle services. During the course of Christmas Eve, with those services, and the Midnight service we had almost 850 people through the doors – we had over three hundred at the Midnight service alone. The 4pm service appeared to be the most popular, with even the Wokingham MP, John Redwood turing up (and apparently slipping out the back door at the end!).

When considering the numbers, it is worth bearing in mind that the Church realistically seats only 150 people comfortably, so all of the services had at least some people standing.

I took the other shots when I climbed the tower to fly the flag for Christmas. As the weather forecast was for wind and rain overnight, I took advantage of a dry, and relatively wind-less period between the 2pm and 4pm Christingles to climb the tower in the light. Not strictly correct, but it beat trying to do it in high winds and driving rain, plus I could take the pictures.

The first two shots are of the bells, which the bell ringers had rung into the up position ready for the peal before the midnight service. However it does give you a chance to see them before they get taken out next month for restoration.

The other shots are a couple from the top of the tower, one looking north towards Warren Lodge, now an old peoples home. The other looking south over Finchampstead village.

Church of Fools Reopens (Sort Of)

You may have noticed the link on the sidebar to Church of Fools. This is the site of a project undertaken by the Methodist Church in colaboration with the Ship Of Fools website to create a virtual church.

Whilst other high profile projects such as I-Church have taken an online church as primarily being a faith community, Church of Fools took the more commonly accepted meaning of the word, and literally created a virtual Church. The site ran very successfully for several months during last summer, even recieving national news coverage, however with the massive resources needed to keep the virtual church running, the experiment came to an end in the autumn. Since then there have been discussion forums, plus a campaign to raise resources to allow the multi-user environment to be reopened.

Whilst Church of Fools Mark 2 is still to come, the site has reopened the original Church as a single user environment, so people can explore the church, sing a hymn or ring the bells. There are also videos, and the text from the sermons of some of the well known people who preached at the church during the experiment.

Church of Fools

Who Wrote The Bible?

As would be expected of Channel 4, they chose primetime on Christmas Day to show a documentary, that to some parts of the Church would be regarded as particularly controversial, with Dr Robert Beckford, a Christian, and also Director of the Centre of Black Theology at the University of Birmingham. The topic of the two hour film, was to explore who actually wrote the Bible and why.

Alongside trying to answer the question, you also saw Beckford, brought up as a Christian, trying to relate what he discusses in his film to his own Christian beliefs. From the point of view of a Christian this is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects, how in the face of much of the evidence in the film, he is still a Christian.

As with any film that is attempting to cover a subject as broad as this, it is very much a high speed summary of many aspects of research. He begins at the beginning of Genesis, with the first of the obvious issues, that there are two creation stories, one in chapter one, then again in chapter two. The film uses this as a lead in to a discussion on the hypothesis that the first five books of the Bible are drawn from four distinct sources. He then goes through other aspects of the old testament, including how archeology has disproved parts of the old testament – the irony being that the original aims of some of the archeology was to prove the Jewish claim on the Holy Land.

The film moves on to look at how the Gospels came to be written, also highlighting that there were many Gospels, over and above the four that we have now in the New Testament. Rather than focusing on Thomas, which is perhaps the best known of the additional gospels, the programme looks at the Gospel of Mary, perhaps because the authorship and content of Mary, and how it was excluded is more interesting in the context of the current debates in churches over the role of women.

The final section of the film looks at how we recieved an English Bible, examining how the Bible was translated first into Latin, then from Latin into English, and then at Tyndale who translated the Bible from the original languages into English in exile in Germany, and was ultimately executed for doing so.

As I have said, by attempting to squeeze so much into only two hours, the film could only scratch the surface, for example the sections which covered areas that I have come across and read about before seemed fairly shallow, but that is purely because all of the areas in the film are each so complex in their own right. Looking at translation, the problems of multiple differing source manuscripts were not even mentioned. The difficulty in translating ideas and expressions into ways that can be understood today (and one of the reasons behind some of the more radical translations available today) was skipped over quickly. As mentioned above, only one of the additional Gospels was discussed, Thomas only recieves a mention in a list of gospel authors without any particular explanation.

At the end of the film Beckford still regards himself as Christian, despite his statements during the film of how some of the discoveries affect faith. His conclusion is that if we accept that the Bible is messy and human, and was written for faith communities with specific needs in mind, then we will discover it to be a book that will feed our own faith in God. Says Beckford: ‘If we can find God in the imperfections of our lives, then maybe we can find him in the messiness of the text.’ The key message of the film is that the answer to the question posed is not black or white. Whilst the evidence points to the Bible having been written, and rewritten, at it’s heart is still the truth of the many authors and their communities relationships with God.

In conclusion the film is well worth watching. If you missed it on Christmas Day, Channel 4 are showing it again in the early hours of Wednesday morning, between 1.25am and 3.25am on 29th December, so something to set your video for!