book scully

TV/film recommendations

All my current favourite TV shows are finished or on hiatus, has anyone got recommendations? Film recommendations also welcome.

To give you a sense of my taste:
I have recently enjoyed: Elementary, Line of Duty, Sherlock, Doctor Who, Agents of SHIELD, The Newsroom, How I Met Your Mother, Pitch Slapped.

I definitely don't like: Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Mad Men. Things without much sense of hope, or which are deliberately morally 'grey'.

Thank you!

Miserando atque eligendo

Three independent sources today pointing me at Peter's denial of and reconciliation with Christ. Here is where I got to with imaginative contemplation...

Oh, Peter. Bless you. In the first Last Supper chapter of John's gospel (Jn 13:37-38, for those who are counting),* Peter is all: "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Aww, sweet. But then Jesus says "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times." Whoa, where did that come from?

This is Peter, who abandons his fishing business to follow an itinerant rabbi (Lk 5), who is all 'You are the Christ, the son of the Living God' (Mt 16:16) and who is so happy just to see Jesus that he walks across the water to him (Mt 14). He was even one of the three disciples at the Transfiguration (Mt 17) where God actually came right out and said 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.' With all those really really obvious God-signals, there's no way, absolutely no way that Peter would ever deny Christ.

Except this is Peter, lovable menacely Peter, who freaks out about walking on water the minute he starts focusing on himself (Mt 14), who tells Christ he Must Not Die (Mk 8), and is so generally confused and befuddled that when he does have an insight, Christ remarks that it must have been revealed to him by 'my Father in heaven' (Mt 15), charitably omitting 'because there's no way you'd have figured that out yourself'.

So God is right (who guessed?), and Peter will indeed disown Christ three times. And the incarnate God, who might reasonably be regretting the whole 'free will' thing right about now, since this is the second of his disciples to go a bit wobbly in this chapter**, lets him. Sits there, and loves him, and lets him, and forgives him. It's reasonably heartbreaking to be disowned three times by the same person, and I imagine it's even more irritating when you know (because you're God) that it's a bad bad plan. In the moment when every teaching instinct in my soul screams to just tell Peter not to do it, to save him from his own mistake, Jesus lets him learn for himself, even bearing the cost of that betrayal.

And there the tale might have ended. But Christ is not only reconciled with him, he chooses Peter to be head of his church, and gives him the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Jn 21, Mt 16).*** As a certain Jesuit mentioned in a homily today, Peter's reconciled love for Christ is intertwined with his call to service for Christ: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Love leads us to service, or it is no love.

This week the latest successor of Peter has chosen as his motto 'miserando atque eligendo' which means "because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him." It's a Bede commentary on the calling of Matthew the tax collector as a disciple (Mt 9): "Jesus saw Matthew, not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of men." He saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: 'Follow me.' This following meant imitating the pattern of his life - not just walking after him. St. John tells us: 'Whoever says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.'" Miserando atque eligendo - Peter, Matthew, Pope Francis, and each one of us, called and loved not for our strength and our surety, but in our weakness. As a dear colloquial theology might have parsed it, 'because I am a menace'.

*John's Gospel is a director's cut in which the Last Supper is essentially a framing device for most of the stuff that Jesus said, and covers five whole chapters. Aaron Sorkin or How I Met Your Mother would have had lots of it as flashbacks, but I'm not sure that was a narrative technique at the time.
**Judas being the first.
***Many centuries later, King Cnut will return from Rome and excitedly tell all his courtiers that this Pope guy they have been ignoring is actually incredibly important because he holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven. But he will still scold the Pope for charging too much for archbishop vestments. Bless his mercenary Viking socks.
book scully

Devotion by Design

Tonight I went to see Devotion by Design, an exhibition of Italian altarpieces at the National Gallery. They've tried to reduce the sense of being in an art gallery by using dimmer lighting, and creating in one room a high altar complete with cross, candles, and Gregorian chant. The illusion was sufficiently good that I was disappointed by the absence of the tabernacle, and thus the real presence of the Body of Christ. It reminded me of Hagia Sophia in conjuring a very specific sense of place and time and culture that was still seamlessly part of the universal church. In this case, that specific time and place and culture of medieval Italy owed a lot to what Andrew Greeley calls the 'Catholic imagination' - a Catholicism inherited primarily through stories and pictures and poetry, and a sense of God's immanent and omnipresent grace working through the whole of creation. This outpouring of artistic devotion in the service of God renewed my sorrow over the stripping of the altars, and my gratitude that many churches are flourishing again in their use of paintings and icons.

(Sidebar on vocational choices: The exhibition film explored the investigations needed to match different parts of an altarpiece back together, and the conservation techniques used to restore the paintings, which I found fascinating, and almost started pondering as a missed career, before something in my head snapped and I started feeling that the whole enterprise of matching and restoration was a self-indulgent intellectual exercise that I couldn't possibly allow to distract me from helping people in a practical manner. That last statement might be an exaggeration of what I actually felt, but it does reflect a recurring internal battle about what is worthwhile in life, and what God most wants of people in general, and me in particular. I'm fairly sure I'm not mad at Tolkien for writing Lord of the Rings rather than, say, becoming a medical doctor, and I do genuinely appreciate the art that has resulted from all this painstaking work, yet I seem to insist on making my own vocational decisions based on things I rationally believe are the most important for me to do rather than the things I am most drawn to. This conflict is something that's been building for a few years now, and I'm intrigued to see where it's headed, though I'm rather scared that it ends up with me abandoning all my principles in some sort of hedonistic frenzy.)

Here are my thoughts on my three favourite pictures from the exhibition:

Collapse )

On a practical note, the exhibition closes this weekend, so if you're London-based and going anywhere near Trafalgar Square, I thoroughly recommend a visit. : )
book scully


If I had all the money, then once I had fixed educational disadvantage and various other problems** I would hire Neil Patrick Harris to engage in musical theatre duels with all other awesome men. In suits.

Will I use this an excuse to gratuitously link to the Matthew Morrison/NPH 'Dream On' duel? Yes.

**which maybe would not be solvable within this scenario where giant inequalities in wealth are considered OK, but let's go with it
book scully


Is it just me, or has journalism been especially snarky and hilarious in the last 24 hours?

(1) Evening Standard on how Cameron was inspired by his wife on supporting business start-ups "It certainly persuaded me. If the fabulously wealthy, well-connected wife of the most powerful man in the country can do it, then so can we all."

(2), on voluntourism vs. teacher training overseas (especially fun as I considered the latter last year): "Voluntourists jump at the chance to make a lasting difference in the lives of cute underprivileged youths. But the thing is, they really want pictures of those malnourished children swarming about their knees in gratitude -- that's the picture that gets you laid back home at the pub. But the most lasting good is done to the community by training other local teachers to teach English, and nobody wants to sleep with the guy who brings home pictures of himself surrounded by competent adults looking at books together."

(3) This Telegraph Headline: Apple iPad craze might not last, say Microsoft and Dell
I adore this wording, I imagine Microsoft and Dell getting drunk and watching rom-coms on a giant sofa, crying 'Apple doesn't love you like we do!!!! It won't last!!'

Oh, I am flying to Florida tomorrow morning for a conference. Since I have been not-at-all organised I am quite surprised about this, and don't entirely believe it's true. Surely if I were going I'd (a) have written my paper (b) have ordered some currency (c) have figured out how to get from the airport to my hotel, etc.
book scully

(no subject)

An anonymous gift has arrived on my desk at work. A brilliant and amazing thing, an awesome and thoughtful thing, but right now I'm freaking out about whether it's a mistake and who sent it and things. And there are several possibilities (including one with an appropriate DW name), but I'm not sure how many people have been privy to my expressions of yearning on this subject.

So yes. If you have sent me something at work recently, could you please comment (anonymously if you prefer) to say so. It is very cool, and I would like to stop stressing and enjoy the gift, but only if I can be sure it's for me. :)

ETA:Figured it out. Should really remember when I give someone my address so they can send a 'thank you' gift. Am keeping gift secret for the moment so that I can send other people cool things in the future.
book scully

Taste Card Free 3-month Trial

If you are UK-based and are likely to eat out in a restaurant in the next 3 months, you may want to get a Taste Card Free 3-month Trial. This gives discounts on many many restaurants (usually 2for1 or 50% off all food). At the end of the 3 months it just expires, so you don't have to remember to cancel to avoid being charged.

Click here for the free trial.
Expires on Friday.
book scully

Wisdom of LJ

So, someone I know has been having a rough couple of months, consisting of trying to fix things after a car accident for which the other party admitted liability. Anyone know anything about whether there is compensation available for the time and/or emotional kerfuffle caused by running around sorting out hire cars and parking permits and other such things which are a direct result of the accident?

Pointing legal-minded people at this post is very helpful. :)
book scully

Bring it on

Today at 9.48am I started work (officially) for Teach First.

In 2008, one in five 11-year-olds did not reach the expected level in their English tests.
Pupils who are eligible for Free School Meals (the key indicator of poverty in schools) have roughly half the chance of getting 5 A*-C GCSE than those not eligible for Free School Meals.
In 2007, all 19-year-old pupils with professional parents were twice as likely to be in further education, higher education or training, than their peers’ parents who were unemployed or working in routine occupations. (DCSF, 2008)

That's not OK, and we're not packing up until we've fixed it. Right now, over 600 outstanding graduates are up at the University of Warwick, learning to become the newest cohort of excellent teachers and leaders who will help us address this problem. It's great to be back here full-time. :)