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Hate crimes are a stain on an entire community. When some ignorant thug threw a rock through a window of an Iraqi restaurant in Lowell, Massachusetts, the local veterans stepped in and held an eat-in at the restaurant to show solidarity with the owners and opposition to hate. Watch below.

They are my "Bricks of the Day" (shamelessly copied from MadPriest).
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One might think that this link refers to Her Majesty's visit to the Irish Stud (no, this is NOT Graham Norton). It does not. It refers to the man who was in a great hurry to get to Holyhead in Wales from Wrexham. He had a companion who wasn't allowed on the train. There are pictures!
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In the United States, the day after Thanksgiving is called "Black Friday", in reference to the onslaught of the Christmas buying season. There have been many words written over the last 50 years about the increasing commercialisation of Christmas, originally only the commemmoration of the birth of Christ, with the gifts coming on Epiphany (when the Three Kings brought some for the infant Jesus). I could not count the number of sermons I've heard over the last 50 years which try to get us to "put Christ back in Christmas". And then, you see what consumerism and the frenzied search for a bargain has wrought in Lond Island. I am nearly physically ill after hearing of this.

I know that none of my (very few) readers are the kind of person who would trample over a defenseless person to save $20 on a vacuum cleaner. I know that. And yet, when a crowd gathers, with one purpose, sometimes courtesy, common sense, and even humanity seem to be absent.

The final paragraph of that NY Daily News story is: "I look at these people's faces and I keep thinking one of them could have stepped on him," said one employee. "How could you take a man's life to save $20 on a TV?"

The simple pleasure of buying something for your kids or your spouse or your friends to signify the great gift that God has given to us, his only Son, has turned into a stampede to buy as much as you can in the hope that you'll get things before everyone else can get them.

I am ill.

Wake up, everyone! Christmas has turned into something that has nothing to do with the birth and the gifts that inspired the holiday. Time to stop. Think!
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When I was a kid I was not very popular, and I was often not invited to parties and after school events. But I didn't go crying to the teacher about it, and I certainly didn't think I was being discriminated against. No one thought in those terms in the 1950's. Well, a school in Sweden thinks in those terms now...
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This morning's radio brought the news that the EU has given up on insisting that the United Kingdom give up Imperial measures. Previously, the EU had required that all measures in the UK should be metricised by 2010. Now, the industry commissioner has said that the "great British pint, of milk or beer or cider" as well as the mile and the pound and ounce, will no longer have to be jettisoned, and all decisions about their future will be left up to the British government.

Two-edged sword here. Already British industries that export are likely to use metric measures predominantly, as their principal markets use them. However, there have been "metric martyrs" here, who have been prosecuted for selling bananas by the pound rather than the kilo. If the British government relaxes the rules put forth so far, it will seen as though it is caving in to the anti-Europeans among us. If it does not, then the great unwashed here will say that the government is not taking advantage of the opportunity to emphasize our Britishness.

Make hay by the pound or kilo while the sun shines (as it is doing right at this moment here in London).

Dame Anita Roddick has died of a massive stroke; she was the founder of The Body Shop, a mecca for non-animal-tested cosmetics for many years. I admired her courage in the face of having contracted hepatitis C through a blood transfusion, and think that the Body Shop products that I use (deodorant, in a pump-aerosol bottle, and after-shave balm) are first-rate, and the fact that they are ethically produced without being tested on animals is a plus.

Thought for the Day this morning was not on 9/11; it was on the Madeleine McCann continuing story, and my bishop, Tom Butler, gave it. Unfortunately, the announcer introduced him as "the Reverend Tom Butler" rather than as "the Right Reverend", and this, for some unknown reason, galls me. I get very exercised over news reporters and announcers who do not get such minutiae correct. If they can't get the small things right, what about the great ones? Bishop Butler told a story that was told to him by a vicar when Butler was a curate years ago. The vicar had taken his parish on an outing to the ocean, and a little girl was lost while on the outing and the coach had to return without her. The girl was never found. He compared this with the Madeleine McCann story, and prepares us for the eventuality that Madeleine's fate may never be known.
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It seems that Senator Larry Craig, Idaho (R), has pleaded guilty to some dodgy conduct in a restroom Minneapolis St. Paul's airport. You can guess what that conduct might be. Craig, who is 62 years old and married with children, is on holiday and not commenting. Who knew that the first gay senator would be a Republican?
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The Cutty Sark being torched is a great loss. I was quite sad to wake up to the news. I was even sadder that BBC News 24 was showing sport when I turned it on rather than perhaps the biggest UK story today. Of course, since I have no interest in sport perhaps that coloured my reaction. The latest stories say that it's probably not a total loss, but of course it will take more cash to repair and restore it.

I went to Victoria Place for lunch today, thinking that I'd just go to the bagel shop and get a filled bagel. However, when I got there, I decided to try this place instead. Eating a baked potato (US)/jacket potato (UK) with stuff like coleslaw in it might sound a bit bizarre, but it was curiously filling and, more important, there was no queue at the stand. It was quite tasty, probably good roughage too (I ate the skin along with everything else), and not messy. Unfortunately, their website is a tip: they really need some help. They don't seem to have much of a clue about how to navigate, and I got to a place where I couldn't click on anything and had to use the backspace key to go backward. All the links had disappeared. I shall eat there again. I shall avoid being anti-social in the office by not having it with a baked-bean filling. I am avoiding cheese as well. So we shall see what wonders await tomorrow. I would remark that they offered me lots of side dishes and cheese on top. It is kind of like going to a candy store and being offered all sorts of forbidden goodies with the malted milk balls you bought. It is sad that I have to forego almost everything that's tasty, sweet, or in the middle of two pieces of white bread. As my mother said the week before she died, "You wouldn't want to eat here anymore." in reference to the diet the doctor warned her to go on before he would refer her to a cardiologist.

According to the message that just boomed over the tannoy, there is a security alert on two sides of the building. I do hope we won't be blown up and that it will turn out to be someone's discarded lunch in a bag.
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I read the News of the Weird each week. This week, we have the following:

Ms. Pan Alying, a school teacher in China's Shandong province, had her purse snatched in January (containing her mobile phone, bank cards, and cash) and decided to try pleading with the thief by sending text messages to her stolen phone. According to Xinhua news agency, she patiently sent 21 sympathetic notes to the man, with no answer, but the day after the last one, she found a package at her door containing her purse and all its contents intact, with a note, "I'm sorry. . . . I'll correct my ways and be an upright person." [Reuters, 1-22-07]

Happy endings are good. I don't imagine this would happen very often in London.
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Not a URL, but a quote from the News of the Weird:

In December in Jerusalem, Israel's Green Leaf Party organized the first joint Israeli-Arab conference promoting the legalization of marijuana, which a party spokesman said would create a "common [cultural] identity" that could lead to peace.

I see. This explains a lot.
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"Judge: Preserve Anna Nicole's body"

I have two disturbing mental images. One is of a cabinet in which Anna Nicole, stuffed with straw, sits, a la Jeremy Bentham at University College London.

The other is of Mother Cabrini underneath the altar, enclosed in glass.

I shall lie awake nights worrying about this for a while.

And we won't even mention Lenin.
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You may remember that two weeks ago I preached a sermon on the text "Give us this day our daily bread", starting it with the old joke about the food tycoon who persuades the pope to change that phrase in the Lord's Prayer for a fee.

The tycoon I used was Bernard Matthews, who wanted to jazz up his advertising by changing that phrase to "Give us this day our daily turkey".

The news has been full of the stories about Bernard Matthews's farm in Suffolk, which has been hit in the past week and a half with bird flu from Hungary and has been forced to cull almost 150,000 turkeys. Sales of turkey and poultry are down.

I believe that I should be ennobled as a prophet. I'm sure that Bernard is getting ready to visit the pope chequebook in hand.
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Having suffered a heart attack back in September, Allen had asked prison authorities to let him die if he went into cardiac arrest before his execution, a request prison officials said they would not honor.

"At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life," said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon. "We would resuscitate him," then execute him.

The world has gone mad. People often ask me why I don't go back to live in the United States. Just read the above quotation will be my answer.
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I'm watching FBI Files right now instead of BBC 10'o clock news. George Best died today and all the news outlets have been full of it. He's said to be the best football player ever (=US soccer, of course), but his last years have been marred by his alcoholism, his liver transplant, and his subsequent return to drinking. There won't be much on this in the US (although it was on CNN online). He's been dying by degrees for the past month, and last night he was supposed to be imminently dying. It took a while. The satellite trucks and commentators were hovering around the hospital. So I presume that the first 10-15 minutes of the news tonight, like the first 10 minutes of the BBC4 6 o'clock news, will be devoted to him. I already know enough about him.

So while I'm sad he's gone, and gone in that particularly unfortunate way, I just want to avoid the news until he's been planted.
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Here is his official website, with pictures. He is in good shape, but the pictures are, of course, not prurient, but probably not safe for work, as they include his fellow walker, Melanie. The pictures are behind another link on the website.

All the kerfuffle about Steve's walk, and the jail time he's spent because he refuses to cover up while walking, is terribly overblown. If you don't like a young, good-looking, naked man walking through your village, just look away and, poof! he'll be gone shortly.

Oh, and if you're so minded and in Scotland, you can join him on his walk, clothed or not.
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Heard this on the news this morning and could see the funny side of it. I've even taken up "mate" for various friends, as I'm often around Australians and others who use it (hi, Win!)

One of the great defining characteristics of an Australian is informality to everyone, great and small. I recall that a former Prime Minister (was it Bob Hawke?) put his arm around the Queen's back to steer her toward a receiving line or something. There was a furore here, as it's well known that the only part of the Queen you touch is her gloved hand.

Unless you're the Duke of Edinburgh, in which case it's your duty.
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according to BBC News. I liked her, as did many others, including Labour activists. She was convinced that the 2-minute standing ovation she received when the Prime Minister mentioned her in a conference speech turned him against her.

She's been ill for a while, and apparently she fell in her home and hit her head, thus losing consciousness, never regaining it.

It'll be interesting to see whether Our Tone will interrupt his holiday for her funeral (assuming it is held before he and the family return from wherever they are at the moment). I suspect not, as it would be an even greater slap-in-the-face for Robin Cook's family if he attended hers after not attending Cook's. The newspapers and tabloids (I separate them intentionally, as I don't believe that tabloids are newspapers within the meaning of the Act) of course, will crucify him whatever he does. If he stays away, they'll just say that he's again proved his callousness and vindictiveness toward former colleagues, even after death. If he goes, they'll contrast this with his non-attendance at Cook's funeral. Perhaps the family will spare his blushes by holding a private funeral with a memorial service to be held later. Then again, maybe they'll maximise his embarrassment by holding a very public funeral and asking him to attend.
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The Brasilian man who was shot 4 weeks ago at Stockwell Station seems to have been the victim of a series of missed opportunities worthy of the Keystone Kops. This is one of the saddest stories around at the moment. de Menezes did not run from the police, he did not vault the gates, he did not run into the train. He walked into the station, picked up a Metro newspaper, strolled down the escalators, and sat down on the train. An officer subdued him, only to have another officer or officers pump de Menezes full of bullets. Leaks from the independent investigation have been occurring regularly. To top it all off, the police tried to get the independent investigation postponed, thus giving rise to suspicions that evidence was tampered with or lost (accidentally or deliberately). The family's lawyer meets with the investigators tomorrow. I do hope they hold out for lots of money. Some faint calls for Sir Ian Blair (Metropolitan Police Commissioner) to resign are beginning. This one will roll on and on.

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