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Archive for December, 2006

Mr Bean


r. Bean was a British comedy television series of 14 half-hour episodes starring Rowan Atkinson as the eponymous title character. It was written by Rowan Atkinson, Robin Driscoll, Richard Curtis and Ben Elton. The self-titled first episode was broadcast on 1 January 1990, with the final episode, "Goodnight, Mr. Bean", on 31 October 1995. The series followed the exploits of Mr. Bean, described by Atkinson as "a child in a grown man's body", in solving various problems presented by everyday tasks and often causing disruption in the process. During its five-year run the series gained large UK audience figures, including 18.74 million for the 1992 episode, "The Trouble With Mr Bean", and was the recipient of a number of international awards, including the Rose d'Or. The show has been sold in over 200 territories worldwide, as well as inspiring two feature films and an animated cartoon spin-off.

Python Eats Pregnant Sheep

Python Eats Pregnant Sheep
 

fresh lamb dinner might sound like a manageable meal for an 18-foot-long (5.5-meter-long) python. But maybe the hungry snake should have waited for the lamb to be born. Last week firefighters in the Malaysian village of Kampung Jabor were called in to remove the bloated snake (pictured) from a roadway. The reptile had swallowed an entire pregnant sheep and was too full to slither away and digest its supersize meal. But the stress of being captured likely triggered the python to purge—it eventually regurgitated the dead ewe. Pythons are constrictors, meaning they rely on strength, not venom, to kill their prey. About once a week the large snakes ambush a likely meal, grab hold with backward-curving teeth, and wrap around the victim, suffocating it to death. Pythons then open their hinged jaws wide to swallow their prey whole. Sometimes, though, it seems like the voracious reptiles don’t think before they snack. This particular snake isn’t the first python to get a tough lesson in the dangers of swallowing oversize prey. In July a pet Burmese python in Idaho required life-saving surgery to remove a queen-size electric blanket from its digestive tract (see photo). And last October a python in the Florida Everglades apparently busted a gut when it tried to make a meal of a 6-foot-long (2-meter-long) American alligator .

Taj Mahal


aj Mahal, a mausoleum in Agra, India, regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had it built in memory of his wife, Arjumand Banu Bagam, known as Mumtaz Mahal (Persian for �Elect of the Palace�), who died in 1631. Building commenced about 1632. The mausoleum was complete by about 1643 and the surrounding complex of buildings and gardens was complete by about 1653. Situated on the southern bank of the Yamuna River, the white marble mausoleum is composed of four identical facades, each containing a large central arch 33 m (108 ft) high. A large bulb-shaped dome, over 73 m (240 ft) tall, rises over the center, with four smaller domes surrounding it. The building is raised on a square podium with a minaret (tower) at each corner. It is flanked by two red sandstone buildings�a mosque and its replica, the Jawab (Answer), a building of which the main function is visual balance. Visitors approach the Taj Mahal through an imposing red sandstone gate, decorated with inscriptions from the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an (Koran). The gate and accompanying walls also contain a vast, geometrically laid out garden, 305 m (1,002 ft) on each side. The enclosed garden, itself a Muslim symbol of paradise, is centered on a large, raised pool. Canals divide it into four equal parts, each containing flower beds, fountains, and cypress trees (symbols of death). Inside the Taj Mahal, the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal stands at the center of an octagonal hall, while the slightly larger tomb of Shah Jahan, who died in 1666, is off to one side. Both are elaborately carved and inlaid with semiprecious stones, illuminated by sunlight filtering through an elaborately carved marble screen that is also studded with jewels.

Christmas Unwrapped

Christmas Unwrapped: The History of Christmas



Origins of Christmas



very December 25, Christians throughout the world join together in celebration of Christ's birth. But where do these various Christmas traditions come from? Why, for instance, is the holiday marked by the giving and receiving of gifts? And who came up with the idea of a Christmas tree? In this special presentation take an enchanting journey through the past of one of the world's most recognized holidays. Trace the emergence of the modern-day Christmas celebration from pagan festivals such as the Roman Saturnalia, and learn how British settlers in the New World transformed the patron saint of children into the enduring figure of Santa Claus. People all over the world celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th. But why is the Nativity marked by gift giving, and was He really born on that day? And just where did the Christmas tree come from? Take an enchanting tour through the history of this beloved holiday and trace the origins of its enduring traditions. Journey back to the earliest celebrations when the infant religion embraced pagan solstice festivals like the Roman Saturnalia and turned them into a commemoration of Jesus’ birth. Learn how Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to the English-speaking world in 1841, and discover how British settlers in the New World transformed the patron saint of children into jolly old St. Nick. Christmas Unwrapped: The History of Christmas would be useful for classes on Culture, European History, American History, Religion, Economics and Folklore. It is appropriate for middle school and high school.

The Lost Gospels


On the picture Giotto�s fresco "Judas Kiss" from the Scrovegni chapel in Padua, northern Italy, showing Jesus Christ kissing his treacherous apostle Judas (AP)


nglican priest Pete Owen Jones explores the huge number of ancient Christian texts that didn't make it into the New Testament. Shocking and challenging, these were works in which Jesus didn't die, took revenge on his enemies and kissed Mary Magdalene on the mouth. Pete travels through Egypt and the former Roman Empire looking at the evidence of a Christian world very different to the one we know, and finds over seventy gospels, acts, letters and apocalypses all circulating in the early Church.

An ancient manuscript written in Egypt in 300AD purports to show that Judas Iscariot was not the betrayer who sold Jesus to his enemies for 30 pieces of silver, as the bible says. The apocryphal account of the last days of Jesus's life portrays Judas as a loyal disciple, who followed Jesus's orders in handing him over to the authorities and thus allowed him to fulfil the biblical prophecies of saving mankind. The fragile 31-page document, which has had a chequered history since it was discovered near Beni Masar in Egypt in the 1970s, was put on show for the first time this afternoon at the National Geographic Society in Washington, along with an English translation. It is believed to be a copy of a still earlier Gospel of Judas, which may have been written about 150 years after Jesus's death by Coptic scholars.

The first known reference to a Gospel of Judas was around 180AD, when the influential early Christian bishop Irenaeus denounced it as heretical. By then there were many accounts of Jesus� life and times, written by various early Christians in the 150 years after his death, in more than 30 gospels. Bishop Irenaeus helped to clarify the Christian message by arguing that there should be just four approved Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. All others, including the Gospel of Judas, were collectively known as apocrypha and branded as off-limits by early Church fathers. The story it tells is strongly at variance with the Church's official line on the death of Christ, making Judas Jesus's closest friend. "The Gospel of Judas turns Judas� act of betrayal into an act of obedience," said Craig Evans, the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. "The sacrifice of Jesus� body of flesh in fact becomes saving. And so for that reason, Judas emerges as the champion and he ends up being envied and even cursed and resented by the other disciples."

Elaine Pagels, the Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University, commented: "Whether or not one agrees with it, or finds it interesting or reprehensible, it�s an enormously interesting perspective on it that some follower of Jesus in the early Christian movement obviously thought was significant." A detailed account of what has happened to the document since it was found, and the scholarly efforts to track down its provenance, feature in a two hour documentary due to be screened on the National Geographic cable and satellite television channel on Sunday at 9pm. It will argue that the original Gospel of Judas was probably written by the Gnostics - members of a 2nd Century AD breakaway Christian sect, who became rivals to the early Church. They thought that Judas was in fact the most enlightened of the apostles, acting in order that mankind might be redeemed by the death of Christ. The manuscript is in poor condition, after being sold twice and stolen once. Scientists have been racing against time to conserve it from further deterioration, and to discover how, when and by whom it was written, using modern forensic techniques to analyse the ink, papyrus, handwriting and the choice of words. The process has been described in a book called The Lost Gospel which is published tomorrow.

Meanwhile, pages from the document will be exhibited at the National Geographic Museum at Explorers Hall in Washington. Once the conservation process is complete, the document will be delivered to its country of origin, Egypt, and housed in Cairo�s Coptic Museum. Dr Simon Gathercole, a New Testament expert from The University of Aberdeen, said: "The so-called "Gospel of Judas" is certainly an ancient text, but not ancient enough to tell us anything new about the real Judas or Jesus. "It contains a number of religious themes which are completely alien to the first-century world of Jesus and Judas, but which did become popular later, in the second century AD. An analogy would be finding a speech claiming to be written by Queen Victoria, in which she talked about The Lord of the Rings and her CD collection." James Catford, Chief Executive of Bible Society, stated: "It really would be a miracle if Judas was the author of this document, because he died at least 100 years before it was written. It may yield some interesting insights, but there�s nothing here to undermine what Christians have believed throughout the centuries."

Pete owen Jones
elevision presenting is just the latest challenge for the Reverend Peter Owen-Jones - in a varied career ranging from advertising executive to priest. The Battle for Britain's Soul (BBC TWO) was Peter's first role as a presenter, and he has recently finished filming a second series. He was spotted by BBC producers when he made a brief appearance in the BBC FOUR documentary series, Church of England: The Power and the Glory, earlier in the year. Pete entered the priesthood just over ten years ago and has balanced his filming commitments with his work as a parish priest in Cambridgeshire. Pete was born in South London in 1957 and grew up in Kent. After leaving school, he worked as a farm labourer for about eight years, as well as running a mobile disco on the side. He then began work as a messenger in advertising agency Wight Collins Rutherford Scott and worked his way up through the ranks. As Creative Director at Toys in the Attic, he was responsible for high-profile campaigns for clients such as the Green Party, Swiss Air and Ryvita. In 1991, Pete left the world of advertising to train for the priesthood. He spent two years at Ridley Hall Theological College before becoming a curate in a parish near Wisbech on The Fens. But he maintained an interest in advertising, working with the Church's Advertising Network on campaigns including the controversial Che Guevara poster of Jesus for Easter 1999. Pete is currently a non-stipendiary priest in Sussex. He has written several books including Bed of Nails (1998); Small Boat, Big Sea (2000) and Psalm (2005), and is founder of the Arbory Trust - the first Christian charity to offer woodland burials. He spends his spare time with his four children and pursuing country pursuits including mountain scrambling, fishing and vegetable gardening.

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