And I was doing so well a few months ago! I guess it kind of comes and goes for me.
I’m sorry the Silmarillion project just stopped in its tracks so suddenly. I haven’t abandoned the idea (I’ve got the next post mostly written), but clearly I’m not doing it all at once now.
I should have two new book reviews up fairly soon – one up as soon as I’ve written it, the other one I’ve still got a hundred pages or so to read. I’ll also finally get the next tranche of TV show reviews up in short order.
In other news: the government continues to be insane about house prices. Even insaner, even. Cutting spending for the poor in order to give more money to rich people in a massive subsidy? The criticism that the scheme will just be a way of subsidising second homes seems to be missing the point, which is that if you subsidise 25% of the asking price for every house, the asking price for houses will simply increase – all it accomplishes is a transfer of money from taxpayers to housebuilders. I suppose the theory is that by increasing the profit they make on each house they incentivise housebuilding. That assumes, however, that a) there’s enough demand for more houses, b) planners actually allow more housebuilding, and c) that the suppliers of labour and materials to housebuilders don’t just increase their prices to match the increased demand from the housebuilders (and from the public at large, who will feel wealthier due to the house price inflation). Surely the concept of ‘inflation’ isn’t too hard to understand? Giving everybody in the country more money doesn’t make everyone richer! In fact, it makes poor people poorer in this case, because the subsidy is a percentage of house price, so the rich get more than the poor. In order to do this, cuts in spending elsewhere have to be made, further harming the economy (are world economies now being run by orders of zealous flagellants? It seems that people are so obsessed with saving money and avoiding debt that they’re willing to spend a lot of money and go into a lot of debt to meet these targets. It’s like a man who owes money and decides to pay it back by quitting his job because the rail fares are too high – if he (and we) aren’t making money, we’ll never pay debt back, no matter how much we ‘save’. That’s not to mention that in the case of the UK in particular we have historically high levels of demand for our debt, to the extent that we’re virtually being paid to borrow money. And for long terms! A decade from now, when every penny we borrow costs vastly more than it does today, we’ll be cursing the lunatic strategy of ‘paying off’ debt when interest is low and taking it out again when the interest returns to being high…). Anyway, in the long run, it still supports a schizophrenic policy attitude toward house prices, whereby more houses must be built to drive down prices to allow higher levels of homeownership, while at the same time house prices must be artificially inflated because if ever house prices actually DID decline we’d all go bust because so much of our ‘wealth’ is the number of zeros gradually accumulating on top of our chimneys. Bah humbug.
In other other news: well, Francis seems to be making a lot of good sounds, in style at least. We’ll have to wait and see on substance. A renewed emphasis on poverty can only be good (for the world and for the church). Some people are worried about his hardline stance on liberty issues… but this is missing the point a bit. The Church has been so hijacked by the last two popes that there was never any chance of sanity prevailing in that department. There are no Martinis anymore. But we don’t need there to be. “Victory” for the liberals with this pope needn’t mean the pope reversing existing policy… but simply not putting sex top of his list of priorities. Not coming down hard on anyone who mildly speculates about slightly adjusting emphasis. Not continuing trying to make his opinions ‘infallible’ through fallacious backdoors like the ridiculous wheeze JPII/Benedict pulled over women’s ordination [Short version: “There’s no biblical evidence supporting my position, nor evidence from the history of the church, and lots of people disagree with me. So I can’t declare it infallibly. But I can declare that the church has already been teaching it infallibly! And no, that declaration itself isn’t infallible… but I have sufficient authority to prohibit all discussion or consideration of the topic, even though my opinion isn’t infallible. I’m not infallible, i might be wrong, but you’re not allowed to think that I might be wrong. Absolutely agreeing with all my opinions in all matters regardless of the bible or church teaching or what the theologians say is the only way that you can exercise the primacy of your personal conscience!”]. And, most importantly of all, not blacklisting the more speculative candidates for cardinal. Cardinals decide the next pope. If popes were to select cardinals based on merit – on being holy and godly, or just on being good at administration for that matter – rather than for political-ideological reasons, enough liberals could slip through that they could select a more moderate pope next time, and so on.
(Why do I care? Four reasons. First, the positions of the Catholic Church affect the world greatly. Even just a change in emphasis that suggested that giving a fatal disease to your partner was a comparatively greater sin than putting a bit of plastic around your penis could make the world a better place. Second, despite not being religious myself, I’m not overly enamoured of secular materialist consumerism either – religious voices can be powerful counterbalances to popular nihilism, and I’d rather those voices actually be on my side, rather than it being a choice between nihilism and conservativism. Third, I was raised Catholic, and have a residual feeling of loyalty much as many people have toward the local football club where they grew up – I may not actually care too much about them as an organisation, but it’s still not nice to watch them getting thrashed. And, fourth, Catholic theology is one of humanity’s greatest philosophical edifices, and although I have some big problems with its assumptions, and hence with some of its conclusions (mostly in the areas concerning the significance of the genitals), on a great many issues it makes a lot of sense, and more importantly approaches questions in a very admirable way. [There are a lot of militant atheists whose skill with logic would be greatly enhanced by studying thomistic philosophy!]. So I approve of anything that allows sane people to use that theology for positive ends, and disapprove of it being hijacked by ad hoc rationalisations for evil policies.)
In additional news: I’m excited by the kickstarter campaigns for the new PS:T successor game and for the Veronica Mars reunion film (though I’m also a bit worried about that last one and not expecting too much).