Official blarney

Ireland has a priceless Government of Ireland website. On it, there’s a link to the aptly named “Central Decentralisation Policy Unit “. Is that a mistake or a joke? Sadly, it is neither. The DECENTRALISATION IMPLEMENTAION GROUP (DIG) run the decentralisation programme – for moving civil servants out of Dublin and into the rest of the country. Is this a “dig”-out or are they hinting at the large hole they are digging with this decentalisation malarky?

Interestingly, they refer to: “a purpose-built, interim office situated on O’Brien Road, Carlow” in a report about the move to Carlow of the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment and follow that with a description of the building of permanent offices. How can you purpose build an interim office?

There is also a link to that other fine joke being played out on the Irish public: The National Spatial Strategy. And, no, this is not Ireland’s answer to the Chinese moon programme. It is, rather, a lame attempt to develop Ireland in a more sane and rational manner. Which would be fine in theory, were it not for the fact that the strategy, such as it is, has been completely ignored by the very government that sponsored it.

Looking at the map of the spatial strategy makes it almost sound like a poster campaign for a new Power Rangers movie. Every area has a keyword: Revitalising!, Strengthening!, Reinforcing!, Consolidating!!!, Co-Operating!!!!! These are words to stir the heart of any proud Irishman or Irishwoman, alongside the poetry of Pearse and the rolling rhetoric of Dev.

Maybe I wouldn’t be so nonplussed if I wasn’t living in the promised “Consolidating” area. It sounds like a doctor talking about a terminally-ill patient being in a “stable condition”. Or a reply to the question, how are your stools?

Thankfully, the NSS bears no resemblance to reality. Indeed, it bears no resemblance to the towns selected for the government’s own decentralisation programme. You would have thought that the least they could have done was to match them, in some kind of mutually-supportive embrace.

Muppets. All of them. The most highly-paid muppets in the world. Jeez.

Ireland’s new football manager

When Ireland played Cyprus recently, myself and the brother were sitting in €70 seats that we hadn’t paid for – they were freebies. I wouldn’t have paid to go. I even resented going for free in the end, it was that bad!

16,000 people did just that and failed to turn up for the game – many were people who’d already stumpted up the cash for tickets. But next time around, they just won’t put up the cash at all, if they feel they’ll have to watch some pathetic display.

In the World Cup campaign coming up, the potential loss to the FAI in terms of revenue would be the 16,000 vacant seats (conservatively) multiplied by the average €70 per ticket, by 5 games, making close to €5.6m in lost revenue. (Okay, that estimate is a guess…it could be worse!) 

My point is: it is worth it for them to pay for a big-time manager. With Croke Park available, it is essential that they fill it to capacity. And to do that, they need a credible manager with a track record. 

It won’t be O’Leary, because no matter what you think about his managerial qualities (and they are mixed) he would be too much his own man for the FAI to control him. Brady never showed any great qualities when he managed Celtic, and he would be too close to Dunphy and Giles too. Omar Troussier is too outlandish and unpredictable. Hiddinck would be too expensive and has a lucrative job with Russia (or Chelsea, if it happens).

Paul Jewell would fit the bill – he has experience, respect within the football community, and knows the Irish players. I wouldn’t say he’s my favourite for the job – but he’d be closest to ticking all the right boxes.

The latest news on this farce is that the FAI will appoint an expert committee to do the appointment for them. My problem with this is, who is selecting the “experts”? Of course: the same old muppets as usual, Delaney et al. It is a merry go round again. 

Jared Diamond and Easter Island

I am in the middle of reading Jared Diamond’s superb book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive. I have always been a fan of his, ever since I read through his brilliant The Third Chimpanzee, and then the ground-breaking Guns, Germs, and Steel. He has a way of picking ideas from history and analysing them forensically, adding in biology, geography, biodiversity, environmentalism, and other interconnected ideas, and adding them up to a cogent and persuasive story.

The story of Easter Island, the second section of the book, is chilling. It is a perfect environmental “experiment” – isolated, small enough in scale, and accessible to archeology. And the results of this “experiment” in human environmental destruction, deforestation, and collapse, is a warning to us: war, cannibalism, population loss, abandonment of high-culture, and eventually, almost total destruction.

Here’s a video on YouTube featuring Jared talking about Easter Island, it gives some sense of the argument in the book. But the book goes into the story in much greater detail and is rigorous and academic.

The video – of course – sensationalises the potential for disaster. It might give the impression that Jared Diamond is some kind of fringe looney. But he most definitely isn’t. He is a remarkably insightful and careful academic with a very detailed and compelling argument. All the more reason why we should sit up and listen. I’d highly recommend anybody to start by reading the book.

The tragedy and farce of the CPA

The Coalition Provisional Authority, that suitably-Orwellian institution, led by Paul Bremer, formally handed over power to Iraqis on June 30th, 2004. It built up its own slice of history, which they’ve decided to leave online for posterity, of press releases, documents, and other paraphenalia.

Looking through the press releases, speech transcripts, and odd-ball announcements, it is hard to know whether to laugh or cry. The overriding sense is of a loose collection of idealists, diplomats, the military, and naive officials struggling with the creation of a new country from the shattered remains of the old one. They bore all the weight of the lack of planning and Utopian visions coming from Washington, without the benefit of knowing how it would all soon develop into a grotesque nightmare.

Hindsight endows near-perfect clarity on us as we peer back into recent history. So it would be unfair to judge the CPA too harshly, knowing what we do today about Iraq. But it does seem appropriate to me to review just exactly how cock-eyed and half-witted the whole reconstruction effort really was, through this one small prism.

One thing that struck me repeatedly is the similarity between the CPA’s press releases and those of a typical communist country, such as North Korea’s wonderfully inept news service. There are the same inane positive news stories about footballs for children, and concerts, and ribbon-cutting for new power stations. And the same tone of rosy-tinted optimism fuels their endeavours. The veneer they both attempt to put on the morass they preside, or presided, over is tragic and quite painful to watch.

First, there were the definitive announcements, the high-moral tones, and proud boasts:

Torture is now illegal, under any circumstances. There are no “special police” and no mukhabbarat. There are no “special prisons” and no “special courts”.
Paul Bremer, July 2003

Quite what Mr. Bremer thought Abu Ghraib was is beyond me. Of course, once the insurgency cranked up, the “under any circumstances” meant “unless they are insurgents”. And are not the hundreds of rag-tag militias roaming central Bagdhad not “special police” forces? Indeed, General David Petraeus right now is actively encouraging citizen militias in Sunni areas all over Iraq, to tackle Al Qaeda. Mr. Bremer’s statement seems more like an opportunistic swipe at Saddam Hussein than an honest assessment of the situation in Iraq in 2003. But, worse, it has left a hostage to fortune. What the Iraqi’s were promised was not delivered.

Knowing what we know today about the missing billions of dollars, the misspent reconstruction funds, and the other fiscally irresponsible activities, it is quite sobering to see a press release from October 2003 called Iraq Releases Fiscally Responsible 2004 Budget:

Consistent with responsible fiscal policy this budget does not rely on increased borrowing, printing money, or foreign assistance.

When you review the North Korean’s official press releases, you get the endless announcements about art displays and concerts. It is impossible to parody the format: it is so excruciatingly cloying and inappropriate. But the CPA attempted their own version: Iraq National Symphony Orchestra Performs in Washington.

“What you are about to hear,” Powell told the audience, “is the music of hope, the sweet, sweet sound of freedom.”

My eyes water when I read this. This is cringe-worthy, at the best of times. Let’s compare it to the North Korean agency’s press release for October 7th, in praise of an art exhibition in Britain:

On display in the venue of the exhibition were Korean paintings, oil paintings, everlasting jewel paintings and panoramas and other art works and handicrafts showing the undying feats and noble traits of President Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the ever-victorious history of the WPK, the struggle of the army and people of the DPRK for the building of a great prosperous powerful nation and the true picture of Songun Korea.

This is more than a coincidence. When politics gets mixed up with cultural expression, the results are comical at best. At worst, they are propoganda attempting to draw a veil over the real reality of life on the ground. Powell should have resisted the temptation to lax lyrical over the “sweet, sweet sound of freedom”.

Back in Iraq, we had endless stories of firemen receiving boots, children warmed by new clothes, and free footballs, and the opening of new power stations. But on the scale of inappropriateness, the Beautiful Baghdad story tops the list. Quite what the residents of Baghdad thought about the 1st Armored Division painting murals or cleaning up parks, when that same division came back months later to bomb it to pieces, I presume they were suitably shocked.

If there is a lesson to learn about all of this, it is that democracies should stay out of the business of issuing communist-like press releases. It makes them look foolish, incompetent, and out-of-touch. Worse, it looks like they didn’t know what they were doing and that would be criminal, wouldn’t it?

Group D of Death

Ireland – far from qualifying from this group – could now finish SIXTH. My brother pointed this out to me last night and I laughed at first. But now I am not so sure.

Here’s the table right now:
group-d-table.GIF
Group D European Championship Qualifying Group

Ireland have played a game more than the three teams immediately below them, and only lie two ahead of Cyprus and three ahead of Wales and Slovakia.

If we lose away to Wales in November by 2-0 or 2-1 (this is plausible) then they end the group on equal points with us and are ranked ahead because of the method UEFA have chosen to separate teams finishing on the same points. Indeed, if they beat us and also pick up a point against Germany in their last game, they end the group ahead of us on points.

We are also in position to be overtaken by Cyprus and Slovakia too, thus ending bottom of the group. Cyprus play Germany away and then the Czechs at home. Two points or more from those two games and they pip us. Slovakia are away to San Marino in their last game, but also need a point away to the Czechs to finish ahead of us (because we beat them at home). All of these scenarios are not only possible – they seem quite plausible.

The idea of finishing sixth in this group, behind Germany, Czech Republic, Wales, Cyprus, and Slovakia, is too much to bear.

Ireland vs. Cyprus

My brother managed to get two free tickets for the Ireland vs. Cyprus game at Croke Park tonight, so we went along in hope to see some positive soccer. It was a rare opportunity to see the boys in green and you know what they say about looking gift horses in the mouth…

But, oh God.

Oh God.

I thought a 5-2 hammering away was enough embarrassment. But to watch, live, in the stadium, a 1-1 draw, and only because we squeezed out a totally jammy goal in injury time…simply terrible.

Cyprus deserved to be 2-0 up by early in the second half. They looked composed and controlled on the ball. They made the best chances and prevented us from testing their goalkeeper for most of the game. We looked good for the first 20 to 25 minutes of the second half, but after that…nothing. They took their goal really well and should have won. How we managed to score at all is a mystery. The 1-1 score is a travesty.

But I’m not one of those people who booed Staunton at the end. It is miserable enough for this proud man – with his fantastic service in an Ireland shirt over the years – to watch his team humbled again. But to have little shitheads and gurriers shouting abuse at him, that is too much. What have these 12 and 13 year old little morons ever done in their lives, aside from stealing bags of crisps at their local Aldi? It is disgraceful and unhealthy when they think they have the right to ask for the sacking of a hardworking and decent man like Steve Staunton. Most of them would be too stupid and lazy to clean that man’s boots.

Having said that…I do think the time has come for him to resign. He is in way above his head and has lost the plot. The young players in the team need to feel part of something worthwhile. We need to start afresh. He needs this job like a hole in the head. He is better off out of it and hopefully he can redeem some of his reputation somewhere else. But it is painful to watch him and his team now.

Global warming melts brains

The New York Times has a great little feature today on the Presidential candidates and their attitudes to global warming. This is a critical debate for non-residents of the United States as well, because American Presidential opinion on this global issue will probably be more relevant to how the problem is tackled than almost any other individual’s opinion in the world. Shutting off light-bulbs and using your car less often won’t make much difference – but official policies from the World’s Biggest Polluter-in-chief will.

Which is why it is particularly scary to compare the Democrat’s opinions to the Republican’s opinions. Almost without fail, all the Democratic candidates accept that global warming is real and that it is man-made. They make a variety of different suggestions about what can be done, but none deny the basic facts.

Among Republican’s, only John McCain seems to accept the full reality, without equivocation. “I believe climate change is real. I think it’s devastating. I think we have to act and I agree with most experts that we may at some point reach a tipping point where we cannot save our climate. I don’t think we’re there yet, but the overwhelming evidence is that greenhouse gases are contributing to warming of our earth and we have an obligation to take action to fix it.” John McCain.

What is scary and disappointing to me, is the official reaction of most of the other Republican candidates. Of course, we know why. Republicans are the party of the beer-swilling, beef-eating, gun-toting, hunting, oil-drilling, SUV-driving, macho Americans. More or less. And they hate being told by some namby-pamby, pinko, effete, tree-hugging, cheese-eating, environ-mentalist that they should change their behaviour.

Here’s wacky, China-bashing rhetoric at its worst: “Whatever your scientific conclusion about global warming, whether it’s manmade or it isn’t or whatever, the reality is … if you don’t have restrictions on China, if you don’t have restrictions on India, our contribution, ultimately, is going to be minor. “ Rudy Giuliani. This strikes me as about as intelligent as a child being caught stealing sweets from a sweet-shop and turning around to say, “But, he stole more!”. Frankly Rudy, if the world’s biggest user of CO2 cannot change, then you can hardly expect India or China to change.

But I leave my quota of dumb-founded amazement and jaw-dropping shock to Ron Paul and Fred Thompson. These guys sound like Neanderthals. Here’s Ron’s succinct argument: “I don’t think everybody knows everything about global warming, because you have reputable scientists on both sides of that argument. … [If the government were to play a role] then you have to deal with the volcanoes and you have to deal with the pollution of China. So, do you want to invade China to make sure they don’t pollute? And what are you going to do about the volcanoes? They are all contributing factors to global warming. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do what we can to slow up the emissions and stop subsidizing big oil companies.” Ron Paul

Wow, hold on their Ron! What’s this about invading China? And those damn volcanoes, now what can be done about them! Seriously, I wouldn’t let this man run for leader of the boy scouts, never mind leader of a large country.

But the single greatest and most hilarious argument comes from Fred Thompson, actor (where have we heard that before…). Ah, Fred. Where to start? I won’t bother trying to disentangle the twisted logic, the false premises, the wacky science fiction, or the inept humour. I will simply give you his quote, in full:

“Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto. NASA says that the Martian South Pole’s ice cap has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter’s caught the same cold, because it’s warming up too, like Pluto. This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle. Silly, I know, but I wonder what all those planets, dwarf planets and moons in our solar system have in common. Hmmmm. Solar system. Hmmmm. Solar? I wonder. Nah, I guess we shouldn’t even be talking about this. The science is absolutely decided. There’s a consensus. Ask Galileo.” Fred Thompson

Money madness

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As seen on Yahoo Finance today…apparently, 10^55 euros have been traded for dollars today. Oh, that’s quite a lot of dosh actually. A lot!

An idea for an Irish Fast Show

The Fast Show was my favourite comedy show for years. It shouldn’t have been. I mean: it was moronically repetitive and stupid, when you thought about it. But funny. And that’s all that matters when it is meant to be, well…., funny!

So I’ve decided to do my personal homage to the Fast Show, with my own idea for an Irish Fast Show, shamelessly ripping off the format from the original.

Key idea: Identifiable Irish stereotypes, but with odd quirks. One single catchphrase that ends every sketch. Repetition of the basic plotline is key, but the humour lies in the situation. The Irish element is essentially derived from our national characteristics, of avoiding taboo subjects, like sex and cancer and who owns the field down the road. Where the English comedy relied on English vices, like the hen-pecked husband, the repressed homosexual toff, and the boasting car salesman, the Irish show has to foster a separate identifiably Irish character. However, some of the best Irish characters are already taken by the original show, such as the quietly-spoken Irish poet, who whispers in a barely audible voice. Or the Irish labourer, the counterpart to the landowner.

Incidentally, a related show, Father Ted, has also laid claim to vast swathes of Irish life. Indeed, it’s the same insane genuises who put Father Ted together and the best scenes from the Fast Show (Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews). In any case, there are plenty left for me to play around with.

(Note to my American Readers: Father Ted is the greatest comedy ever to come out of Ireland. If you can, see the series from episode one on, without reading about it. Honestly, you won’t regret the investment…)

So, everything is based on characters, put in different situations every week, but who basically act out the same sequence of basic acts and then utter the punchline phrase.
Characters:
Uncle Bob, with the weird, unidentifiable odour and the fetish for salmon. Catchphrase: “Do I smell salmon?”. Comic situation: Standing on Ireland’s highest mountain, breathing the fresh air and at least 50 miles from the sea, he utters the catchphrase…

Father Billy, with a penchant for fondling rosary beads and giving overly zealous pats on the heads to children, and for stammering, who smells sightly musty, and always has a runny nose: His catchphrase is: “When did you last go to mass?”. As in: Very serious interview panel of the board of trustees of a large secondary school. Interviewing the latest candidate for role of school principal, (ie. Billy) and are on the verge of finishing the interview when the senior interviewer asks the candidate if he has any questions for the board of trustees. Billy pipes up…

Jenny, the shop owner, who always thinks the world was better 10 years ago, has pictures of Pope John Paul I on her wall (the first one, not the long-lasting second one) and who secretly prefers a good ham sandwich to sex: Catchphrase: “Fancy a boiled sweet?”. Jenny is confronted by a large gang of hardened criminals at the bank who demand that everyone hand over their money immediately. She smiles and says…

Frank, the hunting man, wears green or camoflage all the time, drives an SUV, wears wellingtons, smokes a pipe, and thinks Mary Harney is actually rather sexy. He thinks foxes are the root of all evil: His catchphrase is “Vermin!”. As in, a large gathering of well-dressed people are sipping champagne and quaffing those party nibbles they hand out, when suddenly our hero spots two poodles in the corner. Mistaking them for foxes, he produces a shotgun and fires, shouting…

Sonny, the little drunken plumber’s apprentice who always ends up breaking his hand whenever he gets into a needless fight: “I had the bastard, I did”. Example:  Sonny is walking in the park with a mate of his when some kids, aged seven or eight, innocently kick a ball towards him and shout: “Hey mister, kick us back our ball.” Sonny tries to hit the ball with his fist, misses and breaks his hand. He turns to his friend and says…

Malcom, the ex-priest from Sligo who can solve a rubiks cube in under twenty seconds but who thinks Father Ted is blasphemous: Catchphrase “Let me show you this”, said as he slides out his lad for the shock reaction. Riding home on the bus from a particularly rivetting and spiritually uplifting visit to Knock, Malcolm engages a reluctant stranger in conversation. The stranger, feeling taken in by this lovely priest, starts to unburden his inner thoughts…until Malcolm, seeing his opportunity, pulls out his wee tool and utters his catchphrase…

Johnny, the farmer, who is convinced people are stealing his fields, sod by sod, at night. Catchphrase: “Is that yours?” before taking whatever it is they say isn’t theres (as they invariably do). Obsessed with grass. As in, in his first visit to Croke Park, he does the grand tour. Sensing an opportunity, he sidles up to the guide and points to some grass and then whispers, …

Susie, the city girl, works in Kafe Mocha, and acts as if every conversation is to buy a cup of coffee. Her catchphrase is different every time, but always relies on the basic premise that the person talking to her really does want a cup of coffee, As in: Gardai are investigating a series of break-ins to local houses when they knock on Susie’s door. They ask her a series of simple questions, to which Susie always replies…”One lump or two?” or “Skinny or latte?” or “Napkins are on the counter behind you” to general bafflement.

Phil, the off-duty Guard, with incredibly bad eye sight, who keeps jaywalking and takes two papers when only paying for one, or who otherwise endlessly gets arrested for minor offences. Catchphrase: “Shite!”. As in: he carefully parks his car into a very tight spot, double-checks everything, before slowly opening his door and knocking over a cyclist. “Shite”…

Patrick, the sexless bachelor with a four-bedroom house in Mayo, who rents it out to foreign students in the mistaken apprehension that he’ll get laid by lots of foreign totty. Catchphrase: “Why don’t you try yourself?”, always with some lewd or lascivious intention. Example: Patrick is engaged in conversation by a rather beautiful Lithuanian woman at the check-out at his local Aldi. Needing to find some change to finish paying, he fidgets for loose coins in his jeans, whereupon the attractive girl says “Can you not find the money?” and our hero utters the immortal catchphrase…

Damien, a little man with oodles of cash buried away in a foreign bank account, but who spends his life acting like he has nothing to avoid the taxman, and the rest of the time wondering why he has money if he cannot use it. Catchphrase: “I can’t afford that…”. Enters Jenny’s shop (see above) and then she says her line and he replies…etc

And then there’s Gerry the Green candidate who cannot walk more than five paces without bending down to pick up litter; or Mary the immaculately dressed, who secretly eats tons of beans and asparagus, just so she can walk into Brown Thomas and fart everywhere; or Michael the estate agent who is homeless; or TJ the DJ; or PJ the …. aaargh….now the whole world seems like one vast Fast Show. I wish I hadn’t started this…

Cosmic Wonder

I was watching The Planets DVD last night, which came free with the Sunday Times, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sputnik launch. It is a tremendous BBC documentary on the solar system, with a mixture of personal accounts of the scientists involved in its exploration, imaginative renderings of the planets themselves, and original footage from various probes and satellites.

Inevitably, when you think about the solar system, you are drawn into philosophical ponderings about the origin of life, the uniqueness of the earth, and the possibility for space exploration into the future. The DVD gathers together all of the best images and reconstructions and makes a very good job at explaining the passion of the scientists and the sense of elation and excitement generated. But the material alone, even without commentary, should be enough to stir the soul. What scientists have uncovered of the planets over the past 30 to 40 years alone is incredible. It surpasses every known fact about the planets prior to 1957 1,000-fold.

They even showed the best-available images of Neptune taken from earth-based telescopes. They were nothing more than crude bumps of light – no detail, no possibility of even seeing a discernable feature on the planet’s surface. But by the time Voyager 2 arrived in 1989, the pictures taken of Neptune were simply stunning.
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Neptune

The resolution was enough to discern patterns on the surface, including the famous Great Dark Spot.
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Neptune’s Great Dark Spot

In a dramatic example of just how recent some of these discoveries are, there is an account given of the graduate student, Linda A. Morabito, who in 1979 discovered the first evidence of an active volcano on another solar system object, Io, a moon of Jupiter, by studying images from Voyager I.

At first, I was struck forcibly by the intense beauty of these worlds. Modern abstract art has produced nothing as crazy or stunning. Only look at Jupiter’s swirling clouds of gas and dust; or Saturn’s rings with their incredible complexity; or the Jovian moons of Europa and Io, or Saturn’s Titan. Each moon and planet is utterly unique: there hardly seems to be a common pattern emerging. It ranges from the rocky Titan, with its bizarre half and half appearance, like two moons squashed incongrously together; to the pizza-like appearance of Io, with dashes of red, purple, yellow, and blue across its surface, or Europa with its smooth billard-ball appearance, punctuated by endless cracks and tracks criss-crossing its icy surface.

Then I became awed by the sheer audacity of the human scientists who constructed the probes sent out to explore these worlds: from the Voyager I and II missions, to the Venuvian landings made by the Russians in the 1960s. Venera 9 sent eery pictures back from the surface of Venus. The temperature was 500C on the surface, so the probe melted within a few minutes of landing. But the pictures sent back are the first from any planet outside of earth. An historic first that happened 37 years ago.
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Venus, from Venera 9

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that these discoveries should change the way we think about humanity and its role in the universe. First, while we appear to be alone in the solar system, in terms of intelligent life, the mere existence of so many different worlds forces us to ponder the real possibility that the universe is teeming with similar solar systems with vast arrays of intelligent life forms on them. It is estimated that there are 100,000 million stars in our local galaxy alone, and that there are 100,000 million galaxies in the universe. At that rate, the potential for life is simply too great to dismiss. So, we’re not unique. This vast, vast space was not created for mankind, either. (And I mean VAST: as Douglas Adams famously says in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe: “Space is big, mind-bogglingly big. I mean, you think it’s a long way to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”) So, let’s drop the human-centric navel gazing and the bizarre idea that God, if He exists, created this world for our benefit. He doesn’t; and if He does, He didn’t.

On an individual level, it produces an intense spiritual calm in me. I can’t explain why exactly: it just raises my consciousness a notch or two, it expands my mind. I get calm because I consider just how trivial our day-to-day concerns really are. Of course, it doesn’t pay the rent. But without that feeling of awe and wonder, we have lost our souls. I will watch these documentaries again soon, perhaps when I’m really drunk. Now that should be some trip.

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