Sunday, 14 December 2008

As witnessed by millions

On the Sports Personality of the Year show tonight, the winner was trying to find a collective term to describe the child of his sister. So he had to turn the sentence around and describe him self as someone who had 'just become an uncle' which covers the relationship irrespective of the gender of the child (nephew or niece). Yes, he admitted eventually that his sister had given birth to a little girl, and that therefore she was his niece. And it would have still been his neice even if his sister-in-law had given birth. And, given the way some folks carry on these days, the actual wearing of a ring or ownership of a licence is immaterial.

But that's my point.

There is no accepted word for such offspring.
Consider the following options.
One's first Grandchild/Granddaughter/Grandson
One's first child/daughter/son
One's first nephew/niece BUT there isn't a generic term.

That's why I have been campaigning (okay, fairly quietly) for Sibskid as that term. My sibling's kid, geddit? It's friendly, easy to use, applies equally to boy or girl born of sister or of the seed of brother without argument, and is easy to remember (which is why it beats SibsSpring, which is harder to say, or NéeBoth, which is arguably more etymologically excusable).

Let me know what you think, unless you disagree.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008


Book Reviews:
Blink by Ted Dekker
Black by Ted Dekker

West Bow Books (a division of Thomas Nelson)

I’ve been reading a manuscript for a dear friend recently, and have had to apply some rules for this as she’s just learning the skills and techniques required. She has a good story and a good way of approaching it, but struggles a little with writing believeable dialogue, with maintaining the point of view and with developing character.

But it’s such a promising story idea that I’m prepared to point these weaknesses out in a gentle way. Indeed, in order to encourage in her the grace she shows in receiving my comments, I have asked
her to read my recent manuscripts, and I’ve been hugely enriched by the story ideas she’s suggested to improve them.

One of the key lessons I’ve learned about reading the Bible is the principle of approaching with Ontological Hermaneutic Presupposition (impressive, eh?). This simply means that we assume the Bible writers are correct, and that any weirdness or plot discrepancies are a function
of translation, inaccurate reading or a misunderstanding of God.

For example, where Luke mentions in 24:15 that Jesus approached
the two men making their way to Emmaus, we should not assume (as we might if it were not the Bible we were reading but the flawed manuscript of a storyteller) that the writer has forgotten that his character Jesus had died in the previous chapter, and therefore couldn’t be there.

In the case of Scripture (once we have ensured reliable translation), we read carefully and then bring faith to the party. This must mean that Jesus isn’t dead. So is this a flashback? No, not according to verse 1, which sets the incident in its timeframe: Easter Sunday. So what has happened?

Well, obviously, other scriptures back up the slow-dawning theory that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Eventually, we come to clear statements such as v34 and then v46, and it’s starting to make
a bit more sense: the problem is that we had too small a view of God, and failed to believe him when he promised to send his Son to die and be raised to life on the third day…

However, and it’s an huge however (practically an HOWEVER), Ted Dekker cannot hide behind this sort of approach. He’s a flawed human being (he won’t deny it) and has, despite what
they may tell him, a deeply flawed publishing editor.

Despite the claim that ‘Ted Dekker’s novels deliver big mind-blowing, plot-twisting page turners’, both of these books utterly disappointed me.

Blink is supposed to draw on breathlessly fabulous themes of science fiction, wrapped inside an enigma which unravels at breakneck pace… oh let the publisher gush: ‘An intoxicating tale set amidst the shifting sands of the Middle East, Blink touches on geopolitical conflicts as ancient as the earth itself. The page-turning plot follows a Saudi Arabian princess fleeing a wretched forced marriage for the promised land of America. A brilliant American graduate student discovers a mysterious power – giving him glimpses into the future. Thrown together, they become pawns in a struggle for power and must manipulate the very future in order to save themselves. In his most riveting novel to date, Dekker brings the story to a dramatic climax that will change the future of fiction in the blink of an eye.’

A pseudo-spiritual prophetic gift is the cheap (and over-used) deus ex machina plot device that helps the 2-dimensional good guy rescue the damsel in distress, and they both discover things about God that we knew years ago. If this were didactic fiction, it would fail as it’s not all that insightful. It’s not spectacularly evangelistic, and the pot-boiling story is predictable. The
poor quality of the writing left me annoyed, and the characterisation failed to happen. This book changes exactly nothing... the future of fiction is likely to be impoverished if this chap produces much more, unless someone is honest enough to tell him the truth.

Black describes itself as a novel, but actually it’s the throat-clearance of a trilogy.

Brace yourself: Blackness is symbolic of evil, which is the sort of racist issue
that I thought we’d eliminated in the fifties. Our ‘hero’ has a game-show Gladiator name (Thomas Hunter) but keeps falling asleep, which provides him with a gateway to the past (or is it the future?). This is the breath-taking science fiction, folks. What a crock! He gets confused between beautiful girls in each of the realities he visits, and has to battle insurmountable odds against the clock, which he does with impassive stolidity.

Once again, a fairly promising story idea gets mangled in the plot-driven action, as I failed utterly to engage with any of the characters.

And it's so not a novel. The last few pages fail utterly to resolve any of the plot threads or even deliver an anti-climax, so it's just a set-up for the sequel. Hugely irritating once I'd ploughed through so much grey text to get there, and still am left with our hero in trouble, our heroines pretty-much unkissed (despite the poor writing that suddenly made me believe one of them must be immaculately pregnant) and our enemies still in the ascendency. I know some people find this sort of stuff exciting and neeeeed to devour the next installment as soon as possible, but it left me deeply unimpressed and not really bothered.

This isn’t science fiction at all – not if Phillip K Dick or Kurt Vonnegut or Isaac Asimov or even Douglas Adams are to be considered in that genre. And it’s so sub-Christian it lacks any edge or worth in that field, as well. All you end up with is a religiously-tangential adventure yarn populated by people about whom you care not one whit. Reminded me a bit of The daVinci Code, which I hope is understood to be a serious put-down.

0.5 out of 5 leonandys

Saturday, 6 December 2008

And another thing...

Third in a series on noticing stuff when you should be concentrating

As I approached the CCK church building in good time for the early morning prayer time today, I noticed a small puddle of liquid on the pavement. Scattered around this was the remains of a glass bottle; an extra virgin olive oil bottle. The tell-tale aroma wafted mouthwateringly and I wondered if someone had dropped their shopping and lost this precious liquid.

Then my imagination kicked in and I started to see it as perhaps the detritus from a failed torching attack on the church building from some sexually abstinant macrobiotic-wholemeal/health/fairly-traded pressure group who had made a feeble sub-Molotov Cocktail... (Molot-olive Cocktoil?)

But in the end it seemed more likely it was the last remaining evidence of members of an highly over-spiritualised hit & run squad, who had been participants in some bizarre drive-by attempted healing service.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

No news is bad news

Mssrs Hurry, Up & Wait, solicitors

Dear Sir

our ref

Thank you for yours of the 12th ult.

Sign this at your earliest convenient return of post, enclose cheque for several hundred pounds and then we'll go really quiet again for a few weeks, until the next form with lots of small print has been prepared by our office Junior, who has been appointed chief executive of Squew-Whiff Photocopying & Uneven Folding.

We remain your humble and faithful servants

Yrs Faithfully
pp (illegible scibble)
Conv A Ensing
Senior Partner

Oh, it's not so bad. But I'm champing at the bit, learning lot about patience (good quality) which quicks leads to passivity (not so good), and the opposite dangers of proactive firmness (good quality) which can lead towards anger (not so good, especially if you sleep on it).

It's a right old balancing act, this obeying God malarkey.

The lovely comments, encouraging prayers and vivid prophecies keep on coming, and it's those which help me stay focussed. My moving day has come and gone and I'm still here. I'm praying for the glorious 12th (not to go gouse-shooting, but to remove my belongings to my new home), as it seems that further delay will find everyone taking their Chistmas break while I'm still living with boxes and uproar and 'maybe' and unsettled and not in the city and church God has been calling me to join since June.

That can't be right, can it?