Things I’m discovering/remembering watching ‘It was Alright in the ’80s’ on Channel 4.

12 09 2015

Boy George was on the A Team.
Oh won ate double one ate oh five five.
“You and Me” had the puppets stroke the corpse of a guinea pig.
Boy George was on the A Team.
Steve Strange performed Visage on Crackerjack.  They segued straight to Keith Harris and Orville.
Depeche Mode’s paean to S&M, “Master and Servant,” was on the Wide Awake Club at 9 a.m. on a Saturday. Google it.
The Two Ronnies stoned a giant rabbi to death.
Ludovic Kennedy bemoaned the fact that there were programmes for blacks.  Programmes for homosexuals.  And programmes for spastics.
The Eighties were truly, truly awful.
(A Team).


Happy Sapphire Anniversary , Mum and Dad.

20 04 2015

So. 45 years ago today, Mardee McCullough married Jack Morby. Jack had some problems. Mardee had too, but Jack’s were largely incompatible with being married. Or happy.  Or sober.  Still, they made it over 16 years together, had two children, fought a great deal, ignored each other a fair bit, but hopefully had some happiness and some love in those years and left the kids with some happy memories among the other kind.

The year after they finally split up, Mardee was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She fought, and she fought. She made it through a lot of her kids’ lives, saw them grown, saw one married, and one with the woman he would marry.  Sadly, she never met her six astonishing grandchildren, who would also have loved her.  10 days before her pearl wedding anniversary, exhausted from fighting and cancer and pain and cancer, she went home to rest.

Jack had almost no contact with the kids, and none with Mardee. He missed her illness, missed her death and her funeral, was not there for his kids through any of it. It’s possible he simply didn’t know how to be there for anyone – he had, as I have mentioned, many issues. He ravaged his body, and in the year of his ruby anniversary, he also lost a fight with cancer, and left his troubled life on earth behind.

A few short years before his death, Jack had got back in touch with his kids. He had not overcome his demons in the years between, and the few meetings in his last years were bitter-sweet. But, for all that, there was a reunion of sorts. There may even have been forgiveness. Certainly the anger was less sharp than it had been for many of the years between.

So, to the two people who knew what it was to hurt, and hopefully now know nothing but what it is to love and be loved, Happy Sapphire Anniversary from someone who is who he is today, for better or worse, richer or poorer, because you both said “I do” 45 years ago today.

Slip sliding away

6 04 2015

It’s been a long time since I last posted anything here. When I was posting, it wasn’t much. But one thing the blog has given me is my bedtime song for my youngest, referred to in earlier posts as Bump and Vito/Vita.

Well, it turned out that he was Vito. The working title came about because my eldest, Vincent, is the third Corleone Godfather. Michael is my middle child, and the second Godfather. So what better name for a third son than the original Don Corleone?

Well, unless we were actually Sicilian, virtually any name. So he is Aaron Jack Franklin.

And ever since Don Aaron’s first night with his awe-filled daddy, he has been lulled to sleep by me singing the inappropriate words of Slip Sliding Away. Seriously, if you don’t know the song, go find the lyrics. I hope he isn’t warped already. The third verse is personal for me, and usually has me thinking of my own daddy and wondering what went on in his head as he thought of his kids and if he ever longed to tell me all the reasons. And I wonder if he sang me to sleep – he had a beautiful baritone voice, the same register as my own, which is one of the tools God has especially equipped dads with, to compensate for our many deficits in other areas. Kids love a deep voice at bedtime.

Anyway, having done the same with the other boys, each with their own special songs, I am approaching the end of a (seven year) era. Aaron is coming of age. Soon he’ll no longer tolerate, much less appreciate, a lullaby – already many nights he prefers to recap his bedtime story with me instead – and I am going to miss that phase of my daddyhood.

I love the little boys that my babies are becoming, love even the parts that make me want to scream sometimes, and I’m excited to see what comes next. But.

But. I am going to miss the utterly peaceful and trusting look as I sing his safe place just before the dreams begin, as I already miss cradling him and his brothers in my arms; having their little gums soothed by being able to chew Daddy’s pinkie; having their fragile wee fingers and thumbs wrap around my great ugly but strong ones; and all the other tiny perfections that my Father had the genius to conceive in order to fill up his children’s hearts with a joy so profound it quite literally hurts.

Some day, those bedtime songs will be consigned to my private daddy history, as will the magical ability to kiss harm away from injuries, and most hugs when they reach a certain age of faux manhood

Let that be not too soon, please God. I hope they then grow through it to real manhood, so I can get on with the part of my job that is, and always will be, to hold my babies in my arms as tightly as I can without smothering them, even when they are old enough to have babies of their own.

Ever wondered what your man is worth?

17 02 2013

I’ve kindly calculated it for you. The figures are based on Northern Ireland where I could get them (easily in the first page of a google search), UK or even USA if that proved to save me time looking. The average man with a full-time job and kids is worth £360,878. Calculations and references are below. I may have missed some items, but then I’m just being lazily satirical, so I don’t care all that much.

He plays football once a week. The average professional footballer (all divisions) earns £247,300 p.a. (1). This is usually for one game per week. Therefore your man’s work is equivalent.
He drinks beer. Beer tester salaries average $35,000 or £22,500 p.a. (2). Assuming he spends 8 hours a week drinking, this equates to about one day’s work, or £4,500.
He plays games on the consoles. The average professional gamer makes around $21,000 or £13,500 p.a. (3). If he plays for 3 hours a day, this is 21 hours per week, or around £6750.
He probably chauffeurs the kids approximately 10 hours per week – preferably not during his beer testing work. Professional chauffeurs earn upwards of $50,000 or £32,000 (4). His ten hours are therefore worth £8,000 p.a.
He checks the facts of things he reads online and in the papers, and will get quite exercised if they are incorrect. A professional fact checker earns $25,000-$45,000, or an average of £22,500 p.a (5). Again, assuming an hour a day of getting worked up about how the news is wrong, he is worth £4,500.
He will also hold forth on the things that are wrong with the country. MLAs earn £43,101 (6). While he only pontificates on what’s wrong some of the time, he is constantly working on issues in his head, so is entitled to a full salary. As he works from home, I have decided not to allow for expenses and allowance, which could more than double his income.
There is also the time spent on housework and childcare. According to Legal and General, this is worth £23,296 p.a. for the 53 hours (7) if it was to be done by professionals.
If you are exceptionally lucky, he may also have a full time job OUTSIDE the home. The average salary was £23,431.


How did materialists get ownership of ‘rational’ thought?

6 05 2012

How often do you hear, in relation to something a bit out of everyday experience, ‘There must be a rational explanation.’  What this usually means is that there must be a materialist explanation.  I’ve been reading Stephen King, and even he – master of horror and in many cases the supernatural as he is – uses the phrase in this way.

Rational merely means consistent with logical principles.  Now, a very basic intro to philosophy – skip it if you’ve done philosophy 101 or read any philosophy at all.  Testing an argument generally consists of two parts.  One – the axioms, presuppositions or items which are not to be proven as they are considered self-evident.  Two – the argument itself, the set of rules arguing from those axioms/premises.  What isn’t well known is that an argument can be valid even if it’s blatantly rubbish.  Valid merely means internally consistent – that given the initial conditions, the result follows.

Example on request, but you can find this anywhere on t’Interweb.

However, here’s the rub for those who call themselves rationalists – in fact, more frequently they should accurately be called materialists, i.e. believing that matter/energy (it’s the same thing in a different form – see Einstein) is all there is.  Many valid arguments can be made on both sides of the God debate, but unfortunately, there is no basis for the axioms on one.

First assume there is something beyond materialism.  Call it God, god, the other, the great architect, whatever you like.  Assume he/she/it is a logical entity – logic is a part of his/her/its makeup.  Then assume it created the universe, and endowed it with logical principles.  This is consistent.  Not necessarily true, but internally consistent.

Now, assume that all that exists is matter/energy – a zero sum universe which when added up totals zero (cf The Big Bang Theory, not the one with Sheldon Cooper).  Where does logic come from?  Why is the assumption that logic (or, for that matter, the laws of physics, or love, or a concept of beauty, or music) can come from matter a valid one?  And even if it is, what is there in the material universe that proves that logic is fixed – that what is true in this part of the multiverse is also true elsewhere?  I don’t mean scientifically true, I mean the basics of philosophy.  For example, we understand that something can’t be simultaneously true and untrue.  That seems to hold here and now.  Is there any argument that this must always have been the case, or is now the case everywhere?

So rationalism is irrational.  Its very foundation (supposedly) is unprovable within its own system – claiming something else is irrational has no basis in one’s own system and must be smuggled in from another worldview.

Anyway, time to go walk the dog, so apologies for the lack of redraft.  Hope you enjoy.


Chico McCullough R.I.P.

6 05 2012

On Thursday, my dog of five years (who was a rescue dog, and we believe was a little over 10) died.  Or to be more accurate, I had her killed.  She has never been a well dog – when we got her, she had an ear infection and had trouble with her ears and skin throughout the five years.  She also suffered from horrendous separation anxiety, continuing to howl the house down if we were late coming downstairs in the morning, and sitting by the door waiting for us if we were out.

A few months ago, she developed a disc problem.  She suddenly was barely able to walk.  Luckily, we had an expensive insurance plan, and we took them for the full four grand we could, first for an operation, then for physiotherapy, adding some of our own cash which was getting increasingly scarce.  Sadly, she never really recovered, and recently, she began to lose control of her toilet functions, the details of which I will not share, but which made life very unpleasant for her.

So, after a lot of soul searching, and considering that our new baby will arrive in a very short time and eat up the little spare time we did have, we came to the awful decision that she would be better off going gently to sleep and not waking up, rather than a slow decline even beyond the state she was in.

Now, I am a huge lover of dogs.  As those who know me will probably be aware, I prefer them to most people.  But I also understand that they are only dogs.  Chico was a member of the family, but she was a canine, not a human, member.  I have lost my mum and my dad, and both hit me hard, in different ways.  Chico’s death was difficult, and big boys DO cry.  I felt I had to be with her at the end, as I couldn’t countenance the idea of her dying without someone she loved nearby, considering her anxiety especially.  I believe her last day was one of the best she’s had in some time, she got cuddles, special food, even a little chocolate just before the vet – I mean, I know it’s bad for dogs but, given the circumstances, what the hell.  We had a little late night walk for which the boys were allowed to stay up (though they had no idea why, not at that point) and in the morning, Ms. Chico and I drove to the vet.

Clare/Abbey vets on the Doagh Road were, as always, excellent.  They get that their patients are more than animals, that they are part of the family, and they’ve known Chico since we got her – unfortunately, she’s spent far too much time there.  The vet and the receptionist were both very gentle, and both were clearly sad themselves.  When it came time, I held Chico and was amazed at how quickly she fell asleep – because that’s exactly what it felt like.  When I was young, our family dog Lucky had to be put to sleep, and I was the one who had to hand her over, but I still remember her little eyes as she looked over the shoulder of the person taking her away, so I’m glad I was there to see that dogs don’t suffer.

We didn’t tell Vinnie and Michael (our three and a half and two year old) immediately. Not long before bedtime, Vinnie asked (not for the first time) when Chico would be back from the vets, and I had to explain.  Rach (my wife) and I had discussed what we should tell them and, unlike Santa and the Tooth Fairy, decided this had to be the truth – and as much as he could handle.  So I told them their Chico had died, and that she wouldn’t be coming back.  Michael didn’t understand – he still looks for Chico a little, but seems generally fine.  Vinnie immediately began to sob – at first, he said we would have to get another dog, which is his response if a thing is broken, then he seemed to realise, and began to ask questions.  Is she in Heaven?  He knows my Mummy is there and, as we have no intention of broaching Hell for a long time, that’ll be where any dead person is for now.  But I don’t believe that dogs have souls, and I don’t believe individual dogs will be in heaven and I think that much is important not to lie about.  I still discover myself believing things my mum told me when I was tiny, and only now realising they’re not true, but they’re deeply ingrained.  So we told him she was now part of the trees and the flowers.  That seemed to help, though as you may imagine, he doesn’t fully understand and won’t for some time to come.

Today, as we set off for our walk, it nearly broke my heart when Rachel told him we were all going (i.e. Coco would come too, the dogs don’t always), and his response was that not all of us were, as Chico wasn’t.  He wanted to know if someone would walk her where she was.

I’m with C.S. Lewis on the idea that heaven will have some form of essential dogginess – after all, it will contain all goodness, and dogs at their best are an essential good, I would say one of the better ideas man has had (and one of the better designs of God). I am also with C.S. Lewis when he says, “Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.”

If I was a Christian because I wanted consolation, I would want some very different doctrines.  I would insist that All Dogs Go To Heaven.  I would also probably want to insist that all people do too, though that’s a complex issue beyond this post – suffice to say I’m also with Lewis there (I do disagree with him on a number of things, by the way) – that God cannot give us goodness other than himself, as all goodness originates with him; and that we get to choose whether to live in a way that we can enjoy his goodness – i.e. by submission to Him – or to live as our own rulers apart from Him.  As I therefore believe in the possibility of eternal separation from God, I also believe that some people I have loved have apparently chosen it.  This is NOT consoling.  But I can’t accept that God could allow us free will and simultaneously allow everyone into Heaven, whether they allow him to change them or not.  That doesn’t limit God, it is mutually exclusive and therefore a nonsense – if selfishness or arrogance or murder or hatred are in Heaven, it isn’t Heaven.  If God lets everyone in but restrains them by force from doing anything wrong, they are not people, they are automatons running God’s program.

Anyway.  To my point, insofar as I have one beyond just wanting to share something about Chico…

Coco – our other dog who we believe is Chico’s son – began to look for her as soon as I got home, and I’m certain he knew she wasn’t coming home.  When Chico first had the back problem, she was away for several weeks for treatment, and Coco never reacted the way he did on Thursday.  Thursday night, and last night, he howled the house down – again, nothing like the last time.  Externally, there was no difference.  Both times, we left the house with Chico early in the morning, returning shortly afterwards without her.  Both times, she didn’t materialise before bedtime.  Both times, we were sad.  But this time, he knew.  Whether he read it in us, or there is something else, I don’t know.

And finally, my point.  While I’m not stupid enough to think that dogs feel love in the way humans do, there is clearly a pain occurring in my small poodle which has no physical cause or symptoms.  He is hurting because his mother and lifetime companion has gone forever.  While dogs are somewhat humanised by their contact with humans (I believe they either inherit or mimic our emotions to some extent) this reaction occurs in the wild too.  Wolves who lose young, primates who lose partners, many creatures who lose those important to them feel loss in a way that is, I would say without doubt, painful for them.

To my atheist friends, I say in this, you have no issue.  Of course animals have primitive emotional reactions, the higher the less primitive – because humans are just highly evolved animals.

It is to my Christian friends who believe that science has proven that the world is billions of years old and that death and decay (a necessary part of natural selection) were part of the original design, that I pose the question:- Do you honestly believe in a God who made pain – not only physical but emotional – deliberately, not as the result of our fall, but as his good and perfect plan, unthwarted at that point by anyone?  When the creation is ‘restored,’ and there are lions and lambs lying down together, will they still be losing their mates to death and disease, or predation?  Does God look at Coco’s howls, and declare them ‘very good’, rather than a result of the fall, the pride and sin which Adam started, but which we all continue, and which the Bible says brought about the corruption of all creation?  And if animal suffering and death is part of God’s good and perfect plan, if it was ‘very good’ when they got cancers and ate each other, why do we care about cruelty to animals now?  If God designed the world to be that way, and called it very good, shouldn’t the exhortation to be like God have us all becoming vivisectionists, bullfighters, joining the local hunt, kicking dogs in the street and so on?  If that sort of pain is not an evil, surely that’s what logic dictates?

Anyway, I will probably be joining my friend Claire in losing friends as I type this, but then I’ve been declared anti-science, anti-intellect, idiotic and many other things for believing what I do believe (i.e. what Genesis literally teaches, and what much of the rest of scripture seems to accept), so hopefully I can at least hear from someone who’s thought these issues through and can explain them to me in their version of God’s creation.

Christian Humanism. Really?

15 02 2012

Recently heard about ‘Christian Humanism’ and found a website which says they follow Jesus’ teachings, just don’t believe in God or the supernatural.

A quick survey of Matthew shows that, of 130 separate sections, well over 100 mention God, heaven and/or the miraculous.

Of the 21 remaining, 9 contain no words or significant actions of Jesus; 6 are basically bigging himself up (telling people to leave everything and follow him, that he is greater than King David, and that the poor are less important than his preparation for death); 2 basically insult the current leaders (his rivals).

This leaves 4 out of 130ish for moral teaching or example divorced from God and Heaven and the supernatural.

So, basically, Christian Humanism (from Matthew) is based on:- If you divorce someone and they have sex, they’re committing adultery and it’s your fault too (probably not a popular teaching in humanist circles).  Turn the other cheek.  Don’t judge or you will be judged (though the implication is ‘by God’, it’s not explicit, so I’m including it).  It’s OK to eat with ‘sinners’ like prostitutes and tax collectors (again, it actually says that they’re the ones who need salvation, the meaning of which is unclear if God/the supernatural is removed, but it COULD mean something else).

While this was a very quick scan through, so the figures could be out by one or two, it really does raise the question of whether Christian Humanism is a serious proposition.

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