Tuesday 30 November 2010

Saturday and Stuff

Spent Saturday in London with friends from Root Hill.  Despite having been to RH itself 5 times, this was the first time I'd been to any reunion thing.  Partly because I'm not a great traveller, and because it's expensive (although, to be fair, Sam's train ticket was a lot pricier than mine), and because I'm not always in the loop with these things, and so on and so forth.  But it was a good day.  It was good just being around other people instead of staying in the same house all the time.  Not sure how good my presence was for the other people, mind you, but it was good from my POV.

Started the day with a scenic tour of some of London's train stations while we waited for people to turn up, and as soon as we'd got the group together we went to Leicester Square and split up again for lunch - I say 'split up', although most of us ended up at the same table in KFC.  KFC was, as usual, KFC, so the food wasn't anything out of the ordinary.  (Random aside: my first introduction to KFC was in Hong Kong, where there was at outlet in the shopping centre that we lived on top of.  We spent a lot more time at the McDonalds though.)

Then came Harrods.

I don't like Harrods.

I think I went once before, years and years ago, but I didn't really remember much.  But it only took me about two minutes after walking in the door this time around before I decided that the shop really wasn't my scene.  The whole building seems to be a labyrinth of small spaces, filled with far too much stuff and far too many people, with nothing to indicate where the exits are.  We got split up and a bit lost somewhere around the second room, and out of the original fifteen/twenty-ish-strong crowd, I ended up touring the building with a splinter group of just 3 or 4 other people.  I think I kept mumbling something about the exit most of the way around the building.

There were two bits that sort of appealed: the Lego area within the toy department (whatever some people might say, you're never really too old for Lego), and the audio-visual department.  The AV area was showing a looped clip of Avatar on most of the screens, but I think they'd set up the TVs' colour balance wrong - yes, it's a very colourful film, but I'm sure the blues and greens weren't that overblown in the cinema.

The photo frame upstairs was unforgivable.  They had this 5 x 7 inch photo frame (not a digital one, just a bog-standard photo frame) made of metal settings and crystals, that looked just like some average piece of aluminium and cheap-coloured-glass tat from a downmarket gift shop, but apparently this one was made of rare and expensive metals and gemstones instead… so they had the nerve to ask £35,000 for it!  I kid you not.  A photo frame with an asking price of thirty-five grand.  I just stood there and stared in shock, and mumbled things about broadcast-quality 1080p HD cameras, very nice cars, and employing a full-time servant for a year, any of which would cost about the same amount of money.

Enough about that.

We relocated to the science museum for the rest of the afternoon, which was much better.  Last time we were there, I didn't get to see the 'Birth of Hi-Tech Britain' gallery, and had a nagging sense of 'should have done that' at the back of my mind ever since, so I took the opportunity to make up for the omission.

Dinner happened in the basement of a Pizza Hut in Piccadilly.  A lot of the pre-dinner conversation involved talking to Hannah about Doctor Who and the relative merits of Steven Moffat - it's nice to be able to talk to someone about DW without having to stop every two minutes to straighten out the chronology or explain what an Ood is.  My younger brother and sister have some sort of working knowledge of the show, but they can't always remember what happened in what order, and they'd probably draw a complete blank if I mentioned 'Hartnell' or 'Pertwee' or something like that.

The pizza, surprisingly, turned out to be an avocado-scented sock instead... uh... no, actually, it was pizza, just like it said on the tin.  I won't bore you with a long description of the pizza.  You already know how it goes - dough, sauce, cheese, etc etc.  (Speaking of avocado though, are you reading Fort Paradox, and if so how is your brain coping?)

So now it's over, and I'm back to the usual set of other stuff.  I'm nearly finished editing the Root Hill video (just 2 or 3 months in the cutting room this time, instead of 5 ish!), and I'm starting to think it would be a good time to cut together the aforementioned trailer.  Watch this space.

And finally: I'd like to say thank you to everyone who responded to my 'How much have I told you?' research exercise last week.  I'll post the 'answers' - i.e. a list of who/what all those things are, and where they come from - later this week, so you can find out what those names are all about.  8]

- The Colclough

Wednesday 24 November 2010

How much have I told you?

A lot of my life could be summed up as 'a history of obsessive scribbling' - I've been dabbling in various fictional worlds of my own invention since the year dot.  Some have been bigger, better and/or longer-lived than others, and while some have been shared, others have been kept private.  Some are co-created with other people, while the rest are mine all mine.

Now, I've thought up a little research project which I'd like to conduct, but it'll need some help from outside - specifically, from you, if you can spare a minute (you're obviously not that busy, judging by the fact you're reading this blog right now, right?): it's basically a scientific(ish) attempt to work out mathematically how much of my creative output I've shared with people.  The 'test' is very simple: I’ve compiled a list of fifty names from my various films, comic strips, artwork etc (arranged alphabetically, because I like alphabetic-ness), and you can score up to two points per name – one for recognising it, the other for knowing who or what it refers to.  (If you only knew a character by the short version of their name, you still get the points – the longer versions in brackets are for clarification only.)  After you’ve counted your way to the end of the list, stick a % sign after your number, and report it back to me.  That’s all I need you to do.

There's a bit of a special exception for name #40, because a lot more people will know what a Rhugestian Swamp Dog looks like compared to how many will know what it's called.

There aren't any categories for you to fall into - this isn't about classifying some people as good friends and others as not-so-good.  It's about how talkative I've been, more than anything else.  If your score is low, that doesn’t mean I don’t like you; more likely, I either haven’t known you for very long and/or just haven’t spent very long rambling on at you about the bizarre stuff inside my head, and/or you haven’t spent much time watching my YouTube channel and reading the other weird stuff I put on the internet.  I'll just say that if you score 80% or higher, there's a decent chance that your name is Tim; if you score 99%, you win a packet of Maltesers; and nobody will score 100%, because there are at least a couple of trick questions in the list, i.e. things that have never been published, and nobody knows about yet except for me.

So, having got the explanation off my chest, here's the list:
  1. Acid Gulps
  2. Albert S. Broccoli (not to be confused with James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli)
  3. Alex Lanning
  4. Arthur the Pensioner
  5. The Blue Danube, with Walnuts
  6. The Binary Triumvirate
  7. Black Antarctic Cryogenics
  8. Bradley Stanton Park
  9. Cylinder the Cylinder
  10. Distant Prayer – Fragment III
  11. Deep Glass
  12. Doctor Murkum
  13. Dyngaria
  14. Edwin (full name Edwin Leonard Hall)
  15. The Essence of Fandom
  16. Emily Arkley
  17. Empire Theatre, Mars City
  18. Establisher II
  19. The Fifty-Seven Meme
  20. First Dabox
  21. Forkley
  22. Fort Paradox
  23. Gastropo Thrush
  24. Gavin the Head
  25. Greenchester
  26. Harry Dixon
  27. Hooper (full name James Richard Boris Montgomery Hooper)
  28. The iKon Cinema
  29. I See the Light at the End
  30. Jason Meddings
  31. Lost in Minehead 2006
  32. Mark Coleridge
  33. Matilda Ferguson
  34. Metaphysical Violation Drive
  35. Mike Half-Left
  36. Pascal Davis
  37. The Prayers of Thousands
  38. Quantum Shampoo
  39. Redwood 257
  40. Rhugestian Swamp Dog (if you don't recognise this name, you can still score one point for recognising the critter in this drawing)
  41. Ron Haggard
  42. The Square
  43. The Suitcase
  44. Tarberford
  45. Tasmin (full name Anna-Beth Tasmin Linden)
  46. Tharryk
  47. Tom (full name Tom Thomason)
  48. Turbo Gran
  49. TW-A42
  50. West Spottlington
I shall look forward to hearing your answers, and for the sake of not leaving you in the dark, I shall post an explanation later of where some of these things come from.

Thanks in advance for your help =]

- The Colclough

Monday 22 November 2010

There's hamsters and there's hamsters

I mentioned a few posts back that my sister Sophie's hamster Coco had died.  Well, a new one turned up about a week ago - this time it's small, female and vicious.

In three and a half years, we got through five different hamsters (four and a half, if you make allowance for the fact that Scribbles is still alive), and none of them ever bit me.  Five hamsters, average lifespan more than a year each, and no bites at all.  Scribbles often goes to the toilet behind my monitor, but that's not the same thing.

I held Taffy for the first time last night, and she chowed down on my finger, without the slightest provocation, within the first minute.  Blood was fetched, and Taffy quickly earned Hamster Non Grata status.  Apparently I'm not the only one to have found her bad side, either.

Now, one does wonder: why is Taffy so much more aggressive than all her predecessors?  Clearly not all hamsters are created equal.

I shall leave you to chew on that question.

- The Colclough

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Notice is Hereby Served

...of my intention to quit Facebook.

Because I can, is why.  If I can live without Facebook, I can live without it.  If I can't, then there's a problem, and I need to fix it - by the cold turkey route if necessary.

TBH, I think I can live without it quite easily.  I did for years and years, and I only got roped in to having an account because people at FCOT wanted to use it for coordinating college-related meetings and stuff.  So, now that FCOT is over, I've decided that for the sake of maintaining my individuality, free will and principles (yes, those), I shall deactivate my account.  The aforementioned principles are mostly to do with the fact that FB is a massive time-waster.  The vast majority of what goes on FB is a load of *beep*.

I've got a two-week timeframe.  There's a Root Hill reunion a week on Saturday, which is being coordinated via FB, but once that's over I shall quit.

If you want a more philosophical-sounding reason, then how about this: because your life should be more than the sum of your websites.  If you find yourself at the point where you couldn't survive without any given site, then that site has become too dominant over you, and you need to get rid of it.  I'm not ditching FB because I think it has come to that, but to prove that it hasn't.

I've just shut down my account on another site too.  That was Tailcast, past tense.

It began life as a social-networking-esque thing with an artistic slant.  The focus was on writing, drawing, painting, photography and music, as opposed to the "here's a pointless update on the banal stuff I did today" ethos of most Facebook posts.  A search through my old emails tells me that I joined on the 24th of May, 2008 – nearly two and a half years ago.  That sounds about right.  It feels like a long time.

While I was there, I uploaded 81 visual pieces, and 27 written.  In total, over 100 expressions of myself, including some of the most personal and intimate things I have ever published.  The written pieces included my first blog (A White Horizon is my second).

But something went wrong – the seeds of it snuck in by the back door a long time ago, like so: “wouldn’t it be cool if we had a ‘shop’ feature, where you could buy cards and wall art and stuff featuring the artwork uploaded to TC?”  Well, fair enough.  But as time went by, and the site kept getting more and more polished, there was a gradual but definite shift in emphasis, away from the community spirit that made Tailcast what it was in the old days, and towards commercialisation.  At the beginning of September, I got an email telling me that any artwork which did not meet the minimum resolution for creating products would be forcibly set to ‘private’, effectively removing it from my profile unless I put in the effort to re-upload newer, higher-resolution versions.  Well, out of my 81 visual uploads, a mere 7 were deemed high-res enough to stay online, and the other 74 have vanished from my profile without a trace (unless I log in and click ‘manage profile’ – then I can see them, but they’re greyed out).

Now, having the option to make cards and wall art and stuff is all very well and good, but most of the time that’s not what people want to do.  Mostly, people just want to look at stuff.  I, for one, just wanted to look at stuff, not stick it on a mug.  And for the webmasters to make the unilateral decision that “low-res artwork is unworthy to stay online, even just for looking at” seems to me like shooting themselves in the foot.

I had been gradually (and unintentionally) drifting away from Tailcast anyhow, but that bizarre and unfriendly decision was the final nail in the coffin for my membership.   As of a couple of weeks ago, I have gone through all of my written material on the site and copied it all to my hard disk for posterity – didn’t need to do so for the visual stuff, as that was all on my HDD already – and about half an hour ago, I finally shut down my account.

Strange thing is, the whole website went HTTP 404 on me when I was about three-quarters of the way through copying everything.  It’s almost like the servers could sense my intention, and were making a last-ditch effort to stop me leaving.  But it didn’t work.  The site came back from the ashes, and I continued my exit procedure.

So, that's over.  And soon, FB will be too.  Not that I'm completely parting company with the internet, mind you - I've still got email, this blog, and my YouTube channel, among other things.  I'm just pruning off the sites that aren't contributing anything worthwhile to my life.
And who knows what else I'll come across later.  Watch this space!

- The Colclough

Monday 15 November 2010

Find Chapel, Apply Crowbar, Remove Digger


My church is inconveniently situated on the wrong end of a dirt track running through common land, and the track is constantly getting potholed.  So we've had some contractors in to rearrange the surface of our 'car park', to try and make it less lumpy.  We're not allowed to use concrete or anything, but we can at least level out the unintentional scale replicas of the Alps which keep growing outside our front door.

Unless someone steals the digger, that is.

The contractors parked their mini-digger inside the church's front porch overnight, and sometime on Wednesday night, someone smashed the doors in and nicked it.  As you do - y'know, stealing large machinery from chapels.  Apparently it turned up again somewhere else on the common, probably having run out of diesel, but that doesn't change the fact that our doors are bashed in.

I didn't see the damage until yesterday, and it didn't look as dramatic as I'd expected... until we unscrewed the doors from the emergency framework which is holding them in place.  Then one of them fell right off its hinges.  So until we can get new doors made and fitted, we're going to have to come in a few minutes early for each service, get in by the back door, and take the front doors down so we've got an emergency escape route at the front of the building.

It's all covered by insurance (I'm told), but it's still going to be a lot of hassle.  We'd all love to express a <sarcasm>huge debt of thanks</sarcasm> to whoever decided that it would be a nice idea to pinch some heavy plant from inside a place of worship and take it for a joyride.  Clever you.

Well, it's all going to make for a very interesting interpretation of that line about forgiving your enemies, and all that...

But the good news is that the car park is a lot flatter than it used to be, so at least we won't have to traverse so many mini-Himalayas every Sunday.

Okay, rant over.

- The Colclough

PS. totally unrelated paragraph: I've just made the new (widescreen!) 2010 version of the Root Hill Films logo, which will go on the front of the video.  One more thing off the checklist 8]

Thursday 11 November 2010

Two down, one to go... and then, redrafting

Finished a couple of things today.

One was writing the first draft of Megastropulodon! Series 1 Episode 5, Eggs of Devastation.  At the final count, the draft comes to 29 pages, 65 scenes, 6400-and-something words.  Obviously, it's far from being ready to shoot, and it'll take a lot more drafts before it's good to go, but I've got it past the first hurdle: the bones of the story are out there on the paper.  (Word-processor, actually, but never mind.)

So now, I can get started on Episode 6.  And once that's done, it'll be back to Episode 1 to start on Second Drafts.  And so on, and so forth...

My other achievement today has been to finish reading this paper on 'the Distant Starlight Problem' - an objection sometimes raised against Biblical creationism.  In short, the author does some clever stuff with Relativity theory, and eliminates the problem.  But it's taken me nearly three days to read, because it's one of the two most confusing things I've ever tried reading, and I had to keep stopping for long breaks to prevent my brain melting.

I should point out that it's not really Dr. Lisle's fault that it's confusing.  The confusing-ness is down to the Relativity-Theory-based nature of the article, so it can largely be blamed on Einstein and/or on the fabric of the universe itself.

The other most confusing thing I've ever tried reading was Donna Haraway's 'Cyborg Manifesto'.  If you've never read it, don't bother.  If you'd never even heard of it until you read this paragraph, be very grateful.  It got inflicted on me during the second year of my media degree, but I never finished reading it, because it was making no sense at all, and I was getting the melting-brain feeling without any worthwhile payback.  It was a prime example of mere human philosophy (possibly drug-induced, judging by the psychedelic pseudo-logic involved) setting up frameworks and theories that had no practical bearing at all on the real world, despite an impressive-sounding claim to be able to explain basically everything.

The big difference between that, and Dr. Lisle's paper, was that Lisle is talking about the real world and his arguments are built on established scientific principles (mostly Einstein).  So despite the sensation of molten neurons starting to trickle out of my earholes as I read, I felt that I was getting something worthwhile out of the exercise.  Namely, an answer to the 'distant starlight problem'.  I don't think I could really summarise what he said without confusing you, but if it's an issue you've ever worried about then I'd recommend taking a look at the paper - just make sure you pack your head in ice first to stop it going up in smoke.
Be ye warned: the rest of this post consists of a couple of thematic left turns...

Yesterday, my best amigo Tim posted the 86th and final episode of Sidewards, his bizarre but rather enjoyable spin-off from my main webcomic, Cylinder and Miserable.  The ending caught me by surprise, as I didn't know how many strips he'd actually written.  But it's been great fun reading the comic.  I mean, it's about squabbling, half-psychotic bacon sandwiches committing industrial sabotage... what more do you want?

Speaking of webcomics, have you been reading Fort Paradox, and if so what's your reaction?  Has your grey matter survived so far?

And finally, on another not-really-related note, a quick update for the RH crowd: I went through the various segments of the video the other day (I'm editing it in 4 different parts to stop Vegas crashing) and added up the runtimes - and the total came out at 33 minutes 19 seconds, which is within 4 minutes of the 30-minute target runtime.  So the good news is, the video might actually be closer to completion than I'd realised!  The next step will be to watch through the segments, check for boring bits, and trim accordingly.  Once that's done, I should hopefully have got the runtime down to 30 minutes by natural wastage, and then it'll be time for my Workflow Pudding - designing and making the nice shiny chapter-heading graphics and things.  If you thought the 2008 video was good, you ain't seen nothing yet!

- The Colclough

Thursday 4 November 2010

Verbosity for a Good Cause

I've ended up taking an unplanned break from the Root Hill video edit over the last couple of days.  I was away from home yesterday (as per the blog post about demolishing Godalming), and today I ended up writing my monster movie script instead.

If you've been reading this here blog for any length of time, you'll have come across my ramblings about Megastropulodon Attacks! - and some of you might also have gotten wind of my plans to write a TV mini-series using a hugely expanded version of the same story.  By 'hugely expanded', I mean that the events shown in the existing short film will be stretched out across the whole 6-part series, to become the ongoing narrative arc which ties the different episodes together, rather than being condensed into a single lump as per the current form.  The existing characters all appear, with a few new additions - some who stick around for the whole series, others who only appear in one or two episodes.

I've got the basic ideas planned out for what will happen in each episode, and I'm currently working on first drafts for three of them.  I'm hoping to rope in other writers to do some of the mid-series episodes, but I'm doing at least the first one and the last two myself.  So I've completed the first draft of Episode 1 (29 pages, 6700-and-something words), and I'm currently beavering away on Episode 5.  For several days, if not weeks, it got stuck around page 11, and I thought I'd written myself into a cul-de-sac, and would have to scrap half of what I'd got and write something different.  But yesterday, I suddenly had a few minor epiphanies, and added together they pretty much got the storyline back on track.  After having one more spark of inspiration shortly after breakfast this morning, I spent a lot of today writing, and came up with over 2000 words - 8 or so script pages, or more than quarter of an episode.

The evening has gone downhill a bit, and the successful-writing-spree euphoria is already wearing off, but at least now that I've blogged about it I'll be able to look back later and bask in the retroactive smugness of having made so much progress before the day soured.

And if you're one of the Root Hill crowd, don't worry - I'm sure I'll get back to the digital scissors soon.

- The Colclough

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Please evacuate Godalming...

...because I plan to destroy it, just as soon as I take over the universe and have all the planet's bulldozers at my command.

Mum decided this morning that we should go to Winkworth Arboretum, which from our point of view is on the far side of Guildford.  I drove, and she navigated, while the younger siblings sat in the back seat, and for once in their lives made relatively few annoying noises.  It was all going so very nicely - until we came to a really stupid junction on the Hog's Back, where the 'straight on' bit looks like a right turn, and the bit that looks like it goes straight on is in fact an exit, from which you get fed onto a random dual carriageway of doom, which cuts through the middle of Guildford, and then disappears on the other side - without any exits!

Well, by now we were heading north-east of Guildford, when we'd planned to turn right in the town centre and head out southwards, and we ended up doing a huge loop around the country lanes outside the city (at one point, we went through Chilworth, and I was very unhappy to find myself there, because in my universe Chilworth counts as very far away from home), until we found ourselves re-joining our planned route at Godalming.

Plain sailing from there on?  Yeah, right.  Godalming seemed to be just a huge mass of badly-signposted roundabouts, mostly surrounded by traffic jams.  And one of them was partly shut because it was half-way through being re-turfed - by 7 or 8 workmen, who were just standing around eyeballing the stack of turf as if they expected it to lay itself.  Needless to say, it did nothing of the sort.  The whole town was the last thing I needed after our ridiculously huge detour.  Hence my decision to bulldoze it someday.

Well... the arboretum was very nice, once we got there - I have photos, which I might get around to showing you sometime - but I've decided that next time anyone proposes a day-trip, I'm going to glue myself into my chair to make sure I don't have to go.  Because I've had enough of a road trip today to last me for years.

Speaking of photos, I have graduation ones: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=303702&id=729711216&l=6994d1b393.  Me in a funny hat and a superhero cape B]

So, rant over.

Hopefully I'll write something a bit more positive next time... 8p

- The Colclough

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Prepare to be Addled...

I'd like, if I may, to introduce you to my latest bizarre and impractical invention.

It's a webcomic.

Depending how much of my previous output you've read, you might not think 'another comic strip' sounds like that big a deal - what with me having already written Grace and Caffeine, Cylinder and Miserable, and others.

Well... my friend Tim also writes webcomics, primarily Brothers in Shells, which is getting close to its first anniversary.  And besides all the cartoons, we and Tim's sister Sarah have also made various short films, and have another private fictional universe called Universe XGT, the contents of which are almost entirely unpublished.  So the three of us decided over the summer to start a new cross-continuity webcomic, in which we would throw together various characters from our different fictions in a shiny new environment, and see what happens.  We've written 25 strips so far, and we've already used representative characters from six completely unrelated narratives, with more probably joining soon.

We named it Fort Paradox, for reasons which will hopefully become clear as the story goes along.

I should warn you up front: the sanity levels are dangerously low sometimes, and if you venture into the Fort, you may well find your grey matter getting a bit overworked.  But in return, readers who persevere shall be rewarded with ninja snails and avocado-flavoured catastrophes, among other things.

- The Colclough

Monday 1 November 2010

The Watchmaker

After several weeks in the reading, I finally finished Who Made God? by Professor Edgar Andrews yesterday.

It's a fair enough question.  We live in a universe where every effect has a cause, and we struggle to imagine what an Ultimate Cause might look like.  Some people refuse point blank to admit that such a thing is even possible (although the alternative, infinite regression, is even less helpful in the long run).  So, who - if anyone - made God?

One of the big problems in today's world is that there is no solid intellectual framework any more.  The postmodern philosophy of "each person makes their own truth" leads to a huge void, littered with wishy-washy touchy-feely relativistic notions, none of which ever base their claims on anything more substantial than "what feels right for you".  And then on the other hand, you get Dawkins-esque militant atheism, which tries to reduce the entire universe - even non-physical things such as love and hate, and people's sense of the spiritual - to mere chemical interactions.  The point of the book Who Made God? is to show that these worldviews are ultimately hollow, and to demonstrate that belief in the one God of the Bible is in fact a much more intellectually satisfying position, as it explains phenomena which atheism cannot approach, and answers questions which materialism can never hope to deal with.

It must be said: for a book dealing with such complex ideas, it's incredibly readable.  Andrews' choice of illustrations and use of humour make his arguments very easy to follow.  I would recommend it to anybody, Christian or otherwise.

Among other things, Andrews deals with the origins debate, and the problem of pain, two of the favourite themes of anti-Christian argument, and shows that a consistent Biblical worldview can in fact deal with them.  And while I was reading, I realised something:

Many people (e.g. David Attenborough) argue that because the world is damaged (parasites exist, etc), God cannot have created it as Genesis claims he did - but in making that argument, they miss out the fact that Genesis also says God gave us humans the planet, and we went and broke it.  While reading the book and pondering this issue, I came up with this analogy: suppose you go to the Louvre, Paris, to see the Mona Lisa.  You get there, and you find a big rip down the middle of the canvas.  The curator has pulled the two sides of the rip back together and run some gaffer tape along the back to hold it in place, so you can still get a pretty good impression of what the painting used to be like, but it is still quite clearly torn.  Now, you look at the damaged painting, and you say "Wait up... The Complete History of Painting claims that Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa on a non-torn canvas, but this canvas definitely *is* torn.  Therefore, clearly, Da Vinci never really existed!"

Clever you.  The fact that the canvas is torn doesn't disprove The Complete History of Painting's claim that Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, or the fact that the canvas was originally whole.  What it proves is that somebody has come along since then, and vandalised the painting.

So it goes with the world around us.  Yes, granted, the 'canvas' of life on earth is quite clearly ripped down the middle, and suffering and death are a day-to-day part of existence in the present.  But that doesn't mean that it was always like that.  A consistent reading of the Bible - as Andrews advocates - perfectly explains the dichotomy between original perfection and present imperfection.  And despite the gaffer-taped rip in the picture, many of the painting's intricacies still shine through - from the unparalleled sophistication of the DNA data-processing systems inside our own cells, out to the majestic clockwork of the galaxies in the sky.

For my own part, I have never been able to accept that complexity can arise from chance processes.  I have done some computer programming, and I am all too painfully aware that a single misplaced piece of punctuation in your source code can send the whole program up in smoke.  Writing even the simplest program takes effort, intelligence, and an understanding of the programming syntax.  Sitting down and randomly mashing your fists into a keyboard will never produce working software.  Having studied both biology (with an option module in genetics) and computing (the serious one, with binary and stuff, not to be confused with mere ICT) at A-Level, I see a strong analogy between computer codes and the genetic code.  Although they are carried on different media and serve different functions, the two systems are essentially variations on the same information-handling principles.  And if it's that hard to write even a tiny little game program for Windows, then as a programmer I am absolutely convinced that it must require an unimaginably vast - infinite, even - intelligence to 'program' the genomes of the countless living organisms we see around us.  Evolution claims to be driven by mutations - and a mutation is basically a genetic typo.  Typos don't write software, they create bugs, and any programmer worth his salt will make sure that he removes any bugs that arise in his work, before shipping the software to his customer.  Equally, mutations do not create life.  They create cancer, haemophilia and cystic fibrosis, among countless other horrible diseases.

In the age-old 'watchmaker' analogy, lots of people have seen fit to deny the intelligence (or even the existence) of the watchmaker, preferring to believe that the 'watch' (i.e. sophisticated functional systems) of the cosmos somehow 'just happened' on their own, as though a keyboard somewhere randomly mashed some disembodied fists into itself and 'just happened' to write Windows 7, OSX Snow Leopard or Ubuntu 10.10 by sheer fluke, through an impossibly lucky string of random keystrokes.

But I find it infinitely more plausible, and much more satisfying, to give credit where credit is due and to recognise both the intelligence which originally created the painting, back in the days when the canvas was whole, and the forces of arrogance and stupidity which have subsequently torn it - and my response: to worship the watchmaker.

Don't believe me?  Go and read the book.

- The Colclough