The Intelligence² group hosted a debate in the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, in October, considering whether the Catholic church is a force for good in the world. Speaking for the motion were Archbishop John Onaiyekan, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, and the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe, Conservative MP and Catholic convert. Speaking against were Christopher Hitchens, writer, broadcaster and polemicist, author of the bestselling book “God is not Great”, and Stephen Fry, actor, comedian and television presenter. The debate was presented by Zeinab Badawi.
Since the new Intelligence² website appears to have done away with transcriptions, I’m publishing this one here. Please note that this is an entirely unofficial transcription, so any mistakes are my own. The full video can be found on the official site, as well as on YouTube.
Ireland may have been the land that saved western civilization, and certainly enjoyed a period of setting priests alongside agricultural products as the major export, but that’s not to say that nothing good came out of the experience. Their perhaps unique relationship with the Catholic church has put Irish comedians in a wonderful position, and combined with a deep love/hate relationship with the English, provides a rich source of material for us all to enjoy. Republicans, Catholics, Patriots, Atheists: here are some of my favourites of Ireland’s sons.
A confused Paxman
Another blunder on the prestigious UK quiz show University Challenge yesterday, as Birmingham took on Magdalen College, Oxford in a very close contest. The question went something like this:
Jeremy Paxman: “Which hydrated ferrous salt used to be known as green vitriol?”
Answer: “Iron sulphate.”
Jeremy Paxman: “No, just sulphate.”
That’s akin to asking who composed Eine kleine Nachtmusik, and rejecting the answer “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart” because the card read “Just Mozart.” Of course, everyone makes mistakes, and it should be no surprise that the question master makes a few given the breadth of subjects on display, but Paxman’s general manner makes it difficult to forgive him on this account. Paxman quite happily berates students for not knowing things in his particular field, or indeed for having any knowledge of popular culture, God forbid. In addition, as most people know, the show is filmed and edited in one continuous performance, and might last an hour rather than the televised half an hour. Plenty of time for someone to prevent such rediculous answers from being aired. As someone has already commented, this isn’t the first time such a poor mistake has been made, and no doubt neither will it be the last, until someone finally stands up for themselves or Paxman is brought down a peg.
Feeding the dolphins
There are some pretty banal programmes on television at times, such is the role it plays, but Animal Park – Wild on the West Coast really caught my eye today. It served up the job of a nature programme from California, but it was a real eye opener to some of the ludicrous crap that gets spewed out, and of course funded, in the name of environmentalism. One segment showed how they looked after a sealion with some neurological disease, to the extent of giving the animal an MRI scan, ascertaining it wasn’t going to survive, and then putting it down. If anyone could explain the point of all that to me, I’d be impressed.
Yet the clip which really boiled my noodle was the one which showed how they were exercising bottlenosed dolphins in captivity, in order to measure their heart rates, and ultimately determine how many calories they needed whilst at rest and whilst active. They were then going to use this information to work out how many fish the animals required, and then pass this important information on to the fisheries in the region, essentially intimating that fisheries would be restricted or closed based on the feeding requirements of the dolphins. It really is amazing at times how random ‘research’ can become. It would seem that as long as those cute little dolphins get enough to eat, no one particularly gives a rat’s arse about whether the ecosystem at large is suffering as a result of fishing policies. Plus, you can bet a pretty penny that with all the statistical horse shit they would have to utilise to make any sense out of those pretty useless collections of figures, there will be little correlation between what they would have to tell the fisheries and reality!
The Boys from Brazil
I recently caught a TV screening of The Boys from Brazil, a film adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel, concerning the nefarious actions of Dr. Josef Mengele in South America, and his pursuit by a Nazi-hunter presumably modelled on Simon Wiesenthal. Certainly a rather motley cast, with Laurence Olivier showing why he is so often cited as amongst the highest echelons of English-speaking acting, whilst James Mason poorly attempts to cover up his stiff accent. Still not entirely sure what to make of Peck’s performance.
Regardless, the film is entertaining, even if you’ve heard the twist previously as I had. Produced slightly before Mengele’s actual death in Brazil in 1979, it reminded me of a German film I’d read about entitled Nichts als die Wahrheit, which portrays the fictitious events of Dr. Mengele’s trial as he returns to German, a sick, old man. Sadly, I was unable to track the film down on the Internet, and at least according to this website the film is currently only available on VHS. Hopefully that situation will be rectified before too long, but if anyone knows where or when it might be published on DVD, please leave a comment.