Blog Post · Film, TV and Literature · Spirituality and Philosophy

Dan Brown – Origin – A Guided Tour

I have been a big fan of Dan Brown’s books, all the way back to Digital Fortress and Deception Point. Origin, the latest book in the Robert Langdon series, is no exception. Even though the books follow a fairly predictable structure, i.e. “middle aged professor saves the world from a shadowy foe with attractive young woman against backdrop of old buildings and paintings”, I still enjoy them.

What I enjoy most is the way that a crucial real-world question of philosophy, science or religion is woven into what appears on the surface to be a low-reader-investment thriller. With this approach, I think Dan Brown has managed to reach an audience which would otherwise never pick up a book on the ethics of genetic engineering, comparative religious studies, ancient architecture or synthetic intelligence.

I won’t go into the plot here, you should go and read the book yourself. What I did find, was that I was stopping every 10 pages to look up a painting, building or religious cult on the internet. In order to save you some time, I have created a list of links to some of the key elements of the book. Some of them I had heard of before, others were entirely new to me. There are no real spoilers in the list, hopefully it will save you some googling.

One day I hope to make it to Spain to do an Origin tour, as I was able to do in Rome and Washington D.C. focused on the content of Angels & Demons and The Lost Symbol. Let me know what you thought of the book, and if you think I have missed anything.

(this post has no association with Dan Brown or Penguin/Bantam, links are all to external sites)

Works of Art

Yves Klein

Leap into the Void:

Monotone Silence (nudity):

Luis Boureois


Richard Serra

The Matter of Time:

Joan Miro

Signs and Meteors (not specifically mentioned, but Joan is referenced):

Pablo Picasso

El Guernica:

Antoni Gaudi

Parc Guell:

La Sopa Primordial:

Paul Gauguin

Where do we come from what are we doing where are we going?:

William Blake

Vala or the Four Zoas:,_or_The_Four_Zoas

The Ancient of Days:



Library –

Guggenheim – Bilbao

Dohany Synagogue in Budapest

360 internal:

Local photos, plus weeping willow sculpture:

Catedral de la Almundena

Royal Palace of Madrid

Palacio de la Zarzuela

Szechenyi Chain Bridge

Basilica of Palmar De Troya

(visit by former nun)

Casa Mila (by Gaudi)

video mentioned in book:

La Basilica De La Sagrada Familia

Must be seen to be believed:

Plan for completion by 2026:

El Escorial

Barcelona Supercomputing Center

Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen)

Organisations or People

Palmarian Catholic Church:

(totally real)

Spanish Royal Guard

Random Information

What is a Whiffenpoof?

Symbols of Franco

D-Wave (Quantum Computer)

Miller-Urey Experiment

Blog Post · Film, TV and Literature

Star Wars: The Last Misogynist

I have been watching the outrage and disappointment being voiced on social media and blogs regarding the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise and want to respond. As our family are long-time fans, since I first saw A New Hope way back in 1977, we all went to see the latest film, The Last Jedi, last week.

Warning: Spoilers there will be.

For me, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, it wasn’t too long, the cinematics were beautiful and it was so great to see Mark Hamill back on the screen with an actual speaking part, it was also bittersweet to see Carrie Fisher on the big screen for the last time. Our 8, 6 and 3 year old boys all made it through the whole film and stayed engaged. My 14 year old twins weren’t as impressed, but I put that down to hormones.

So why so much hate? This Vox article by Todd VanDerWerff provides an excellent summary and even references this petition for those hoping to remove Last Jedi from the Star Wars canon.  This Vanity Fair article by Joanna Robinson points to the notable disparity between the critic score, 93%, and the viewer score, 56%. Joanna also summarises what Todd says less clearly, that this negative viewer score is the result of ‘Make America Great Again’ white male misogynists who are angry at the films content.

In the context of the #MeToo phenomena and the spectacular recent fall from power of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Don Bourke (Australian TV), Matt Lauer (see the full list here) it feels like society is experiencing the re-awakening of female power. I can see how generations of men who have gotten away with, and even expected, their right to be in charge and treat women however they feel without consequence, might be feeling a little vulnerable.

The Last Jedi was full of recognition of the capabilities of women. From Rey as heroine, to both Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo as leaders and the addition of Rose Tico (a mechanic, Firefly anyone?). So many stereotypes toppled and paradigms shifted. I can see why this would make many men still living in a chauvinist bubble very uncomfortable.

Some specific elements include Leia and Holdo in their disapproval of young hotshot, Poe’s, aggressive approach to everything. The idea that rationality and wisdom, in the minds of women, is better at winning the day than macho action is repeated several times in the film. It is also shown that despite this tendency for rationality, women are equally capable of taking violent decisive action when the situation requires it.

In the scenes with Rose and Finn, it is Finn that is taking the path of a coward and Rose who surges ahead with confidence, integrity and dedication.

Luke has been sulking for many years over a mistake (a stereotypical male response) and it is Rey who draws him out and back into the fight. Without giving too much away about the final scenes, Luke’s means of defeating the enemy is the ultimate in passivity. Take this a little deeper and realise that throughout Luke’s island tantrum, Leia continued to fight the remnants of the Empire and the rise of the First Order.

I think that what Director, Rian Johnson, has done with Last Jedi is a beautiful addition to the Star Wars cannon, and is an excellent reading of the 2017 zeitgeist.

Slightly off the topic of rectifying the balance in the gender relations, Rian also slips in a bit of timely exposure for arms dealers. In my song Charlottesville, I tried to capture the reality that often in any fight between two parties, there is a third party profiting at no risk to themselves. I wonder who that third party is in the current gender war?

Star Wars related, but off the topic of the film, one of my 12 songs for Christmas this year has a Star Wars theme.

I can’t predict where #metoo is headed, if the views of these bizarre feminists, is anything to go by then nowhere, but I am hopeful, that it is the spark of resistance, that it will lead to balance and mutual respect. Long live the Rebel Alliance!

Blog Post · Poetry

The Tower

Standing silent and still,
Steel frame and wires,
A long-dead Christmas Tree,
Baubles of weathered fibreglass,

But your silence is a shroud,
You always speak, share, collect.
Staccato chirping, just beyond human ken.
Passing the fragments of sad existence,
Money, secret love, a family photo,
The blancmange of our lives.

Watching, listening,
Drip feeding the morphine of our stupor,
TV which long since broke with reality.
Carefully manicured data,
constructed for effect,
Twisting and torturing truth.

With a thousand friends,
you stand sentry,
like the guard towers in a
free-range prison.