Dear Readers

By , 28 May 2010 5:10 pm

It’s half term and I have just finished teaching and frankly I’m shattered. I also really want to try to get started on a new book. Actually ‘not get started’; I have already done that. What I feel about writing books is that they are rather like getting a plane into the air. You have to belt along the runway for an awful long time before the thing will actually take off and fly. At the moment I am accelerating along the runway (three maybe four chapters done) but I’m not convinced that I have reached takeoff speed yet. So what I want to do is stand back from the blog for a couple of weeks or so while I try and get the thing off the ground!

But you are not forgotten

every blessing

Chris

Welcome Kindle, goodbye Facebook

By , 20 May 2010 8:29 pm

I suppose I have come to terms with both arrivals and departures in technology this week. In case you hadn’t noticed, the first volume of the Lamb among the Stars series is available free on Kindle for another week and has done very well. It is currently hovering around ten in the charts and if you haven’t downloaded it, please do. If you’re British you will be asked to pay VAT. How you pay VAT on an invisible object is somewhat beyond me but never mind. Actually not only do I not have a Kindle but I’ve never actually seen one; people apparently do import them over to the UK but they have not been officially released here yet. Rumour has it a European version of the Kindle reader will be released sometime in the autumn but at the moment I don’t really have a feel for how it will work. Anyway I have tried the book both on my iPhone and on the PC and it looks very fine indeed. I have to say that if we could put all of our books on something like a Kindle we would probably have the equivalent of an extra spare room. But I suspect the hundred terabyte Kindle is someway away and I like the tactile feel of books.

I realise that it’s over 10 years ago that someone first started to talk with me about electronic books but it now seems as if they are reality. One interesting implication that I have found mentioned on the web is whether or not we ought to write now primarily for e-publishing. The idea is that as you write you should add – presumably in some form of hypertext – references, quotation sources and possible expanded sections. Producing this sort of thing has vaguely crossed my mind as I am starting working through a new book, but I’m going to duck it just at the moment. I’ve no doubt though, that someone somewhere is preparing a work of fiction that will be first and foremost an e-book and only secondarily a paper book.

And I have also decided to say goodbye to Facebook. It’s a combination of things. I rarely use it, there are growing security concerns about it and the bizarre artificiality of having people as ‘friends’ who you have never met has increasingly irritated me as my ‘friends’ have got more numerous. It has also been pointed out that for a teacher to allow students to become his ‘friends’ is to risk reducing that already perilously narrow gulf between learner and teacher. So if you suddenly don’t find me on Facebook, don’t worry, it’s nothing personal. Anyway you can always with get me through my website. [One downside I have just found is that all my comments on the Lamb Among The Stars Facebook page have been removed. Oh dear!]

It strikes me that this complicated process of accepting and rejecting is something that we ought to continuously do with all these gifts that technology bestows upon us. The fact is as I labour on with the new book I occasionally wonder whether I wouldn’t be much better off without the Internet at all. In fact sometimes I wonder whether a pad of paper and a good fountain pen is all you really need.

Have a good week

What you believe does matter

By , 14 May 2010 6:28 pm

First of all a quick alert or ‘heads up’, as the Americans say. Tyndale are planning to let the digital version (for Kindle ) of Shadow and Night be a free download for a short period (Monday the 17th to May 31). It should be on Amazon.com. This is a fantastic opportunity to get the series kickstarted by alerting your friends, neighbours, etc. If you could get a Kindle in the UK I would almost be tempted to buy one just to get my free download.

And now back to politics. As most of the world probably knows by now the UK has a coalition government. The bulk of it – and the Prime Minister David Cameron – comes from the Conservatives; the remainder – and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg – comes from the Liberal Democrats. The authors and supporters of such an unlikely deal claim that a blended government is what we want in Britain and my limited soundings suggest that they are probably right.

On balance I am in favour of coalitions. I tend to agree with the theory that the natural tendency to excess within one party is balanced by the restraint of the other party and vice versa. Certainly Dave and Nick seem to get on very well and the fact that the chill economic winds continue to blow very strongly outside is a strong discouragement to either party to storm out into the night. And has been widely pointed out, much of Europe operates on a coalition basis.

Well I wish our coalition well and its make-up is close to what I had vaguely hoped for. Nevertheless, despite enjoying a national politics in which peace seems to have broken out, deep down I find myself uneasy about coalitions. It seems to me that there is something slightly troubling about the effortlessness with which modern politicians find themselves in coalitions. We have all seen the pattern. First we get an election campaign marked by politicians uttering loud proclamations of the unshakeable principled rightness of their own policies and angry denunciations of the vacuous folly of their opponent’s. Then, after the election, they suddenly kiss and make up and serve together in the same cabinet. Is it that the desire for peace has overridden animosity? Or is it possible that, in this postmodern world, principles aren’t quite as eternal and inflexible as they used to be? After all, if there is no ultimate truth, sharing a ministry with your enemy is hardly the worst of crimes. You cannot be damned for compromise; if there is no damnation. If this is at all true it is yet another reminder of the great principle that what you believe really does make a difference how you live.

On a second European point, my attention was drawn this week to the existence of a group of countries termed by economists PIIGS. This is Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. Some people attempt to link the UK with the PIIGS but I understand there is the recognition that we are slightly different; we may be financial sinners too but our sin is of a different nature. The PIIGS are increasingly worrying leading economists who they think are in danger of triggering a collapse within the Eurozone due to their poor fiscal policies, endemic financial disarray and – say it not too loudly – culture of dishonesty, at least as regards paying taxes. Now in the definition of the PIIGS no one can fail to notice the fascinating resurgence of the old Catholic-Protestant faultline that goes back at least 500 years to the Reformation. Cultures run deep, history matters and, let me repeat, what you believe does make a difference.

Interesting times

By , 7 May 2010 6:49 pm

It is difficult to avoid talking about the election at the moment so I may as well go with the flow. As it stands, as I write this on Friday, 7th May the Conservatives have by far and away the largest percentage of the vote but do not have not enough seats to give them an absolute majority. The result is that they are currently seeking the collaboration of the Liberal Democrats in ensuring a working majority in the House of Commons.

Let me make several observations which may or may be new to you.

  1. This really isn’t a stunning victory for David Cameron. After the monumental financial disasters and bunglings of the Labour government you would have thought that the Conservatives should have been able to utterly dominate an election and have something like a 100-seat overall majority. But Cameron comes over as aloof and privileged and has surrounded himself with some ‘advisers’ of dubious merit and morality. Actually, it’s hard to find even a Conservative who doesn’t end up apologising for him. Assuming Cameron does take power, he’s either going to have to shape up very quickly or they will have to find a replacement.
  2. Although you can read the voting various ways it does seem as though it was largely negative and the votes were cast more against than for. A lot of people voted for any candidate that could block Brown’s Labour. Many others voted for Labour simply to avoid the triumph of Cameron’s Conservatives. And most people who voted for the Liberal Democrats voted for them because they were neither Conservative nor Labour. Curiously enough all this doesn’t bother me. Why not? I am becoming very distrustful of political messiahs; it seems to be an inescapable law that the greater you are voted in with enthusiasm, the more rapidly you will be viewed with disillusion. So for any new Prime Minister to start at the bottom is probably not a bad thing.
  3. Although the terms of any political deal between parties would normally be something that was thrashed out over many days the current financial crisis is speeding things up. I suspect no politician wants to risk being held to blame by the public for a slide in the already weak pound. My guess is that by the end of this weekend we will probably have some sort of agreement. It’s an ill wind …
  4. Finally, let’s hear a small round of applause and praise for the Queen whose status as monarch acts as some degree of solidity at this time of fluidity. Since her accession to the throne in 1953 she seen some 12 Prime Ministers and Americans can tell me how many presidents she has outlasted. I was fascinated to read how she played a major role in a particular political crisis when ‘in the absence of a formal mechanism within the Conservative Party for choosing a leader it fell to the Queen to decide whom to commission to form a government’. Which she duly did. When was this? 1956! I am not a strong monarchist but in a democracy a sane and sensible king or queen has a use. Especially in ‘interesting times’.

Have a good week.

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