Monday, February 22, 2016

Refuge - a short film I'm working on

For some time I've been itching to work on a number of small projects that I've had going around in my head. It's been difficult to fit them around my work but finally, one of them is starting to happen. It's a low-budget short film based on a fairly topical subject, namely the refugee crisis, and we're starting filming this week.

I'm not going to give away too much, but I've written a script and we've got actors and crew lined up to make this happen.

For me, this is one of those ventures where I'm not too bothered about the final outcome. Yes, I want to have a completed (short) movie at the end of it where we will probably submit it to film festivals and competitions – as long as it's good enough – but actually the process is the thing I'm more interested in. I've never directed before, at least not a project like this, so it's a chance for me to 'have a go' without risking too much. Even if it all goes pear shaped, I will have had an experience to learn from going forward and won't have wasted tons of money or time in the process.

So, if you're interested, visit the 'Refuge' website, follow it on Twitter and Like on Facebook. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future I'll be able to post the final video up here in this blog.  

And that, I think, will be something of an achievement.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Horrible Bosses

Most of us have had horrible bosses at one time or another. It is amazing that, even in this enlightened day and age, people who are severely lacking in decent leadership skills are allowed authority over others in various aspects of life.

When I was in my twenties, I had a boss/leader who made my life – and many others lives – hell. For reasons of confidentiality and professionalism I wouldn't name the person obviously, but this is not the first time I've written about my experiences working for a Christian charity-cum-cult that did a fair amount of emotional damage to myself and many others.

For a couple of years I worked for a boss who, on the surface, appeared to be very wise and insightful. She had the ability to captivate you as she told stories, relating personal anecdotes and inspirational nuggets of wisdom. Her understanding of her work was pretty thorough and the way she handled herself in difficult and challenging situations was remarkable. Not only that, but she was tenacious and hard-working, always having numerous projects on the go (often working up until the small hours of morning to get stuff done).

The problem was, she was a terrible leader. She could give out orders easily enough, she could strategise and she could work out problems – but there was a dark side to her that tainted her brilliance. She had a way with people that meant they couldn't help but open up and confide in them, allowing her to offer her thoughtful advise and encouragement. She then used that ability to gain people's trust and manipulate them for her own, it seems, twisted enjoyment. Often irritable and cross (especially when she was tired), she would take it out on people with varying degrees of rage, whether or not they had made mistakes. This is the kind of boss who would do the 'hot and cold' treatment with staff: one minute she was friendly, kind and supportive – the next she was berating you for a minor issue in front of everyone.

Her control-freakishness hung over everything we did like a black cloud and woe betide anyone that didn't do things 'her way' (even though, often, 'her way' was hugely ambiguous and required a significant amount of telepathy to identify correctly). Gossip was routinely employed to sow seeds of doubt and mistrust while – officially at least – talking about other people behind their backs was considered wrong.

Staff appraisals were a time for putting us on trial for all the things we did wrong in the course of our work. To be fair, it wasn't like this every time, but if you were in the middle of a 'cold' phase, you would experience the full force of her wrath.

Whilst her behaviour towards others was bad enough, the fact that she wielded her diabolical talents all while holding the position of a 'spiritual leader' is deeply menacing. At one point she was in charge of our work (as our boss), our home (as our landlord) and our faith - a dangerous amount of power for such an individual. It's a lot easier to quit a job because your senior is a total headcase if the company you work for makes widgets, but when your vocation (or 'calling') is rooted in an earnestly-held spirituality and religion it's extremely difficult to walk away from a faith-based outfit. This is especially so when anyone who 'abandons' the cause is branded traitorous, selfish and not a 'true believer'.

My worst experience – which is still horribly vivid even to this day almost two decades later – involved being used as a scapegoat for a string of project catastrophes that were (after I'd analysed it afterwards) clearly down to poor management. A lack of training, supervision and planning had left me floundering in all sorts of ways and nobody noticed, they just left me to cause disaster after disaster. I know that I have to take responsibility for my actions, but it was never my intention to screw things up – there was no deliberate attempt to do wrong. I just didn't have the support that I needed and my superiors should have identified that.

I don't think she was really ever an evil, malicious person per se, having been responsible for some incredibly kind and selfless things which were sometimes at great cost to herself personally. I think the problem lay in the fact she was just so committed to her 'cause' that she seemed to forget human beings (with thoughts, feelings and free will) were involved.

Thinking back, there are numerous times when I wish I'd retaliated against all this kooky crap that was going on. When berating me in front of others I should have just lost it so she could see how it felt. When giving patronising criticism instead of encouraging feedback, I should have called her out for being unprofessional. But I didn't, because I didn't know any better and I didn't have a rebellious bone in my body.

Interestingly, if I had rejected things earlier, my life would have probably turned out very differently. There's a chance that me and wifey would never gotten married – so, I have at least something to be thankful for. And it has made me much more wary of control-freak types ... well, kind of. I actually found myself subsequently involved with two other individuals who possessed similar personalities later on in my life, and it took me a while to recognise that it was history repeating itself all over again.

Wifey and I eventually saw the light and withdrew from everything, basically going cold turkey from a cult which took years to move on from emotionally. We weren't the first to leave, but I think we were part of a 'mass exodus' of close allies who'd decided enough was enough. My hope was that this would jolt her into doing some introspection and self-analysis, leading her to realise the error of her ways and endeavour to change.

I've heard on the grapevine that she hasn't changed, however, and that's quite sad. I don't bear any ill-will towards this person, and I have consciously made the decision to forgive but I worry about the string of individuals who have come (or will come) across her path only to walk away damaged and hurt.

It bothers me that someone can have so little self-awareness or desire to improve and that they carry on the same as they always have. Isn't the whole point of leadership, after all, about continuous improvement and self-development?

I guess that's the thing about a horrible boss – they won't or can't change and will always be, well, horrible.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A sad reflection of the Western throwaway culture

My printer went on the blink recently. It required a new printer head apparently, so I asked around to see what I could do to get it up and running again. Turns out, it's not cost-effective to repair printers. When I spoke to a guy from PC World (where I originally bought it) he said they don't fix them – they just replace them if they're within warranty. I contacted a few random companies that appeared on a Google search and they either never got back to me or said they couldn't help.

It's not like I was trying to get a printer repaired that I'd had for several years which has finally croaked after a long and faithful service. This thing is two years old. It was new, state-of-the-art and had been used fairly lightly.

Printers, it seems, are highly disposable items. But they're not like plastic spoons or paper cups. These things are incredibly sophisticated machines consisting of hundreds of parts, and the only real purpose they serve is to help companies flog us overpriced ink.

Like smartphones or computers, they are a marvel of the technological age and can be found in most homes. These black or beige little boxes which sit in a corner of our homes (the 'home office' no less) have a capability only dreamed of a few decades ago: full colour, photo quality printing and photocopying at virtually no cost. And yet, these things fall apart in no time and get easily replaced by an equally wonderful marvel of technology for the same (if not less) price.

Whilst our local waste centre takes electronic goods, I doubt my Canon MG6350 will be separated into its constituent parts and recycled. I can't quite imagine some dude sitting in a factory unit somewhere, pulling the thing to pieces in order to recycle the wires, plastic and glass (even though that would be a good idea). It will most likely go into landfill or get shipped abroad to pollute some poor third world country.

I tried to recycle it (well, freecycle it if that's a genuine word) by offering it to friends, but given the fact that the cost of repairing it is probably the same as buying a brand new printer off the shelf, it isn't surprising no one took me up on the offer.

So there you have the dilemma. I really don't want to pollute the planet. I have a perfectly decent piece of technology that just needs a spare part to make it work again, but it's prohibitively expensive and impractical to do so.

What to do?

A friend on Facebook suggested I convert it into some kind of receptacle for growing plants and you know, I just might try that...

Monday, February 8, 2016

If bacteria's so fit, why evolve into Mozart? (cached article)

This article originally appeared on the God's Not Dead blog. I do not own it or have copyright but have preserved a copy for reference. This is the original URL, which is no longer functional:

If you are the original writer / owner, and wish to remove the article please contact me. 

If Bacteria are so Fit, Why Evolve into Mozart?

Bacteria are the Fittest: No Need to Evolve into Weak Large-mass Organisms

By Mike Robinson

Bacteria: Any of a group of microscopic single-celled organisms that live in enormous numbers in almost every environment on Earth, from deep-sea vents to deep below Earth’s surface to the digestive tracts of humans. [They are] the dominant living creatures on Earth, having been present for perhaps three-quarters of Earth history and having adapted to almost all available ecological habitats. As a group, they display exceedingly diverse metabolic capabilities and can use almost any organic compound (Encyclopedia Britannia).

For three billion years, more or less, the evolution of species proceeded ponderously along a hit-or-miss fashion, until... a sufficiently intelligent species evolved. Then the intelligence took a hand, and evolution was never the same again. The key to evolution is randomness. [1]

There is a constant need in our civilization to prefer illusions over reality, a need to deny our perceptions. [2]

I have never heard the scientific grounds for the need of a bacterium to evolve into a “higher” form. The bacteria appear to be some of the fittest creatures on the planet, only rivaled by cockroaches. These two types of organisms do not need to evolve. They survive quite nicely. Nothing is more tenacious, more resilient, more stout, and produces more functioning and self-procuring offspring than bacteria. Why would they need to evolve? Why would cockroaches need to evolve? They could survive a nuclear bomb.

The organisms that evolutionists claim as the “higher” creatures, die off easier and quicker, and produce far less offspring. The higher up the ladder, the more likely the organism is extinct or is put on the endangered species list. Look how fragile the whales and the great apes are as a species. Large body mass creatures are much less fit than the tenacious organisms like bacteria and cockroaches.

The evolutionists do not have to deal with just a missing link; the whole chain is gone. Only God and His revelation can give us a foundation for science.[3] The theory of survival of the fittest does not comport with the reality of ultra-resilient cockroaches because they do not need to evolve into higher forms. They do just fine without knowing Mickey Mouse or Plato. Bacteria would not become more stout and produce more survivable offspring if they could read poetry or applaud Tiger Woods. Bacteria do not have determination or conviction. Even if they did, how could that resolve give them the innate force to evolve? They would need purpose and the means to fulfill that purpose, a teleological reason. This can only come when there is intelligence and purpose.

A universe composed of only matter and motion cannot produce teleology, hence unguided evolution is a myth; it is fable for profligate adults. It not only does not gel with the facts; it is impossible for it to be true. Odds, Probability, and Certainty Hoyle, the Cambridge Astronomer, once said that the odds of life arising by chance have about the same probability of “a tornado blowing through a junk yard and forming a Boeing 747.”

That is devastating to those who submit to the blind faith of evolution. Yet it is much worse than that. There are no odds for the existence of God. There are no probabilities. It is impossible for the God of the Bible not to exist. Without God, one cannot discuss or argue about the theory of evolution. S.E.T.I., the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, scans the heavens for codes, information, language, and patterns. They base their work on the theory that finding a radio signal with a code would prove there are intelligent beings out there in the vast reaches of the universe. The premise is: a code presupposes a code-giver. A code-giver has intelligence.

Within the Christian worldview, this makes sense. The baffling thing is to watch the scientists, who study the DNA code, fail to make the same deduction. They would if an alien sent a simple code over the air waves. This type of fuzzy reasoning is the problem with the theory of unguided evolution.

A code presupposes an intelligence, yet this is often ignored by evolution.

Unbelieving men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. The Christian is not to battle in the trenches with our facts against the Darwinian materialist’s facts. We must demonstrate that without the true God, as the per-requirement of all our thought, we cannot make sense of anything in the abstract or in the biological.

My uncle is not a monkey, and my grand dad is not a polliwog. I am not a product of monkeydom; I am created in the image of God. Mozart, Milton, and moms are not the product of unguided animated star dust. Evolutionists want their father to be a muskrat and their mother to be an opossum. They delight in the fairy tale that their great aunt was a tadpole or snapping turtle. But if man evolved from an animal, then all humans are animals, and this gives them license to behave like animals. The funny thing is the doctrine of evolution presupposes God since this false notion employs the laws of logic[4] since only the immutable God has the capacity to ground such immutable laws. Science presupposes God. Induction presupposes God. So all their crazy theories require God. All true and false postulations need God and His revelation as the precondition of their intelligibility.

The Bible speaks of God as the Creator with absolute certainty. There is not a cosmic odds-giver crunching the probability of the existence of God Almighty. We are told that one cell is made up of 100,000 molecules; that 10,000 finely tuned, interrelated chemical reactions occur concurrently. That a cell contains, in its nucleus, a digitally coded database larger than thirty volumes of an encyclopedia. The apologists then explain that the odds of this happening by chance are overwhelming. They say the evidence is beyond a reasonable doubt, so it’s probably true.

The truth of the matter is; God’s existence is not a probability. The odds-giver should not give a thousand to one odds that this world was created by a Creator. There is absolute certainty that God lives, and that He created all things in the heavens and the earth, period. We must have God, as the pre-essential of creation, or nothing in the cosmos can make sense. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts. His ways are always prospering; Your judgments are far above, out of his sight; as for all his enemies, he sneers at them. He has said in his heart, “I shall not be moved; I shall never be in adversity” (Psalms 10:4-6)

1. Isaac Asimov, Science Past - Science Future (N.Y.: Ace Books, 1975), p. 207. 2. John Saul, Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West (NY: Random House, 1992), p. 11. 3. God furnishes all the a priori essentials; the necessary epistemic equipment utilized in all scientific pursuits. God has the ontic attributes of omniscience, immutability, and omnipotence (He has universal reign) thus enabling Him to be the ground for the universal and immutable laws of logic that are utilized in all thought and analysis. Any position that rejects the true God, as the epistemic (knowledge) base, not only leaves an unnerving fissure, but hopelessly fails too. Consequently, whatever evidence science discovers must be discerned and processed with the rational implements that arise from Christian theism and the worldview that emanates from God. The immaterial, transcendent, and immutable God supplies the indispensable pre-environment for the use of immaterial, transcendent, universal, and immutable laws of logic. Atheistic thought, because it rests upon mutable and non-universal ground, cannot furnish the necessary preconditions for the immutable universal laws of logic; therefore it results in futility because of its own internal weakness. Rational pre-commitments assist in directing one’s investigation and analysis of the data (as well as its interpretation and communication). This admission is often difficult to get from some atheistic inquirers to acknowledge. What worldview can furnish the a priori necessities and rational tools for science, analysis and research? Christian theism can deliver the epistemic ground for the a priori immutable universals utilized in rational enquiry; in principle, materialistic atheism cannot furnish the aforementioned ground. What is obligatory to account for scientific analysis is a first principle that has the ontological endowment to not only ground it, but to account for it and its preconditions—all the universal operational features of knowledge. The loss of the immovable point of reference, in principle, leaves the ungodly bereft of a resource necessary to construct the analytical enterprise. Without God, one cannot hoist the necessary a priori operation features of the intellectual examination of evidence. The Christian worldview supplies the fixed ontic platform as the sufficient truth condition that can justify induction, immutable universals, attributes, identity, and the uniformity of the physical world. But materialistic atheism lacks such a fixed ontic platform. Consequently, it fails to provide the sufficient ground required to justify enquiry and research. When anyone attempts to escape the truth that God exists, he falls in a trap he cannot escape. This point is well made in Van Til’s illustration of a man made of water, who is trying to climb out of the watery ocean by means of a ladder made of water. He cannot get out of the water for he has nothing to stand on. Without God, one cannot make sense of anything. The atheist has nothing to stand on (an ontic Archimedean locus of reference) and he lacks a rational apparatus to scale an epistemic ladder that would allow him to view reality with clarity. God and His revealed word supply men their only possible ground with the explanatory clout needed to account for critical and analytical pursuits. The ontological barrenness of atheistic materialism is just one reason the Christian should never grant the natural man the right to determine the criteria for testing truth claims—atheistic naturalism lacks an ontology with a shard of explanatory power. Christianity rests upon God and His Revelation as the ontic Archimedean locus of reference for science. 4. The Laws of Logic: Abstract, non-concrete laws of thought and reason that are immaterial, aspatial, universal, obligatory, necessary, immutable, and absolute. Some academics identify them as the laws of thought or the laws of reason. Selected scholars strongly prefer to name them the laws of logic because they are independent of human minds. All rational thinking (and science) presupposes and uses the laws of logic. The most well-known law is the Law of Non-contradiction: A cannot be A and Non-A at the same time in the same way. Consequently a man cannot be his own father. The laws of logic reflect the nature and mind of God; thus, they have ontological grounding—that is, they are grounded in the very nature of truth itself and cannot be reduced to human convention, opinion or psychology. Without these laws, knowledge and rational thinking are impossible. To deny the laws of logic, one must use these laws in one’s attempt to deny them. Those who deny the laws of logic are participating in a self-defeating endeavor.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Watching paint dry – a waste of time on so many levels

I've always thought censorship was something that happened in other countries, like Iran or China, but apparently this guy thinks Britain is some kind of police state where the general public are denied the right to watch anything and everything they please.

Charlie Lyne raised a load of cash via kickstarter to help him submit a ten-hour video of paint drying (in 4K no less) to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) so that he could get a certificate that would allow him to show the film in cinemas. This is his way of protesting at the whole process and the fact that it costs roughly £1000 to get certification for a feature film (which you need for public screenings).

What a plonker.

I get what he's doing. It's a protest against censorship and a clever way of gaining publicity, but I think he misses the point completely.

The BBFC is a non-profit organisation originally set up by the film industry itself. It's not literally controlled by the government, so no we don't have a state censor. Their job is mainly to protect children from watching unsuitable content and I can't but help thinking that is a good thing. Film classification serves to inform parents about what their kids should or shouldn't watch and it saves them having to vet every single film or TV programme.

What seems obvious to me is that if the BBFC do 'censorship' then it only applies to cinemas anyway. Anyone with an internet connection can watch pretty much anything they want and OK, GCHQ might be spying on them, but that's a separate issue.

These days I hardly ever watch anything that's an '18' and sometimes '15' rated films can be a bit full on. I'm happy for the BBFC to cut bits here and there if they deem them 'too much' (I mean, does cutting a few frames here and there make that much of a difference?), but doesn't Charlie realise that standards have changes enormously since the BBFC began in 1912? Back when I was a kid, '18' films were regarded as incredibly illicit containing all sorts of naughty stuff - I'm sure some of those films could pass as a '12' if rated today.

If Charlie really wants to make a movie with excessive gore, violence and sex (and can justify it from an artistic perspective – although I'm not sure one can) then he can still show his film in a cinema if he really wants, because local councils have the final say on what gets shown anyway (with or without a certificate).

So, this guy has just wasted almost six grand on making a point that didn't need making.

Nice one, chuck.