Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Atheist Objection to Harry Potter

I'm sure we've all come across Christians of various stripes who object to the Harry Potter books, but I was amused to see that prominent atheist Richard Dawkins also finds them objectionable:
Outspoken atheist Professor Richard Dawkins is to warn children of the dangers in believing "anti-scientific" fairytales such as Harry Potter.
Prof Dawkins will write a book aimed at youngsters where he will discuss whether stories like the successful JK Rowling series have a "pernicious" effect on children.
The 67-year-old, who recently resigned from his position at Oxford University, says he intends to look at the effects of "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards".
'I think it is anti-scientific – whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know,' he told More4 News.
'Looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research.'
However, the outspoken atheist said he hadn't even read Harry Potter and admitted he "didn't know what to think about magic and fairytales".
Now, in fairness to Professor Dawkins, it does seem as though the journalist is exaggerating his objections to Harry Potter and fairy stories and so on... However, it's interesting that Dawkins seems to be entertaining the suspicion that the stories he heard as a child might have had a negative effect on his rationality.

Friday, October 24, 2008

More Mafia News...

Via the Telegraph:
A small-time mafia gang have been branded "idiots" after sending a donkey's head to a shopkeeper in an ill-conceived stunt apparently lifted from The Godfather.
The gang's target, a local bread shop owner who had refused to pay protection money, was so puzzled by the confused threat that he presumed it was a practical joke.
In Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 film, mafia boss Don Corleone uses the "gift" of a severed horse's head to intimate film producer Jack Woltz into giving his godson a part.
Woltz woke up one morning to find the bloody head lying next to him in his bed, and immediately consented to the request made by the Don, played by Marlon Brando.
But while that threat made sense – the head was of Woltz's prized thoroughbred stallion - there was no such context for the donkey.
"The man didn't know the donkey, he didn't own the donkey, he doesn't care about donkeys. It didn't make sense. It was the work of idiots," a police spokesman in Villafranca Padovana, northern Italy, said.

Monday, October 20, 2008

QE1 Portrait Discovered...

Via the Telegraph:
A lost portrait of a young Elizabeth I that was discovered in the attic of a country house has intrigued historians after X-rays revealed that it was painted over an earlier picture of the monarch.
The painting, which had lain unnoticed in the dirty loft for more than a century, depicts the Queen as a pale, pious and austere young woman, and is one of the few pictures to show the 16th century royal in the early years of her reign.
Elizabeth, who is dressed in simple black clothes and clutches a Bible, was believed to have been around 26 when the portrait was painted.
But X-ray scans of the canvas have uncovered an earlier portrait of the monarch, in which she was drawn without the Bible and with a more ostentatious ruff.
"The assumption is that the artist – and we do not know who he is - did an intitial portrait, and either he or the Queen did not like it," said Philip Mould, the London art dealer who owns the work.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Roman nun votes - aged 106

I don't normally do American politics on this 'blog, but this caught my eye:
The last time Mother Cecelia Gaudette voted, Dwight Eisenhower won the race for the White House.
Now, 56 years after she cast her last presidential ballot, the 106-year-old nun has decided this election is too monumental to miss.
"I think it's very important," she said. Mother Cecelia, who resides in Rome, may be the oldest voter to cast an absentee ballot this election. She reads the paper daily and watches the evening news to keep up with current events.
She asked fellow nun 78-year-old Mother Mary to help her get an overseas ballot. The problem was that on the U.S. election Web site the birth years for potential voters only goes back to 1905 — three years after Mother Cecelia was born.
And her political opinions?
And while the last time she voted Mother Cecelia sided with the Republican candidate, this year she decided to go with the Democrat.
"[Barack] Obama. I think he's the man, really. I think so," she said.