Thursday, 30 December 2010

That fifteen films meme...

Unfashionably late, as usual!

The rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen films you’ve seen that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen films you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.

Not in order of preference.

Do go tag thyself!

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Friday, 24 December 2010

In the words of the rebel Jesus...

Re-post from last year - still listening and admiring Jackson Browne nailing it...

This amazing song from Jackson Browne is one of my fave Christmas pieces with so much truth and depth compared to other commercial stuff and what we sing in church. Verse two is really hard hitting linking 'Temple Trading' to both the church and environmental issues way back in the early nineties:
Ah, they call Him by the "Prince Of Peace"
And they call Him by "The Saviour"
And they pray to Him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill His churches with their pride and gold
As their faith in Him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus
In the last verse he apologises for appearing to be judgemental (which I wonder if that's another sideswipe at the established church!) before closing the song with the fantastic proclamation:
So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus


Thursday, 23 December 2010

We Might As Well Be Strangers...

Last night's episode of the BBC mini series Nativity where the tension betwixt Mary and Joseph is both at breaking point and breaking down as the awareness that Mary's innocence is true grows.

Despite the literary license used to flesh out the narrative, which Biblical purists find uncomfortable, I find it totally riveting, beautifully artistic, sensitively produced and, at times, intensely moving...


Monday, 20 December 2010


On Friday evening there was an excellent BBC4 documentary following the vibrant soprano Danielle de Niese as she worked towards a performance in a leading role as Susanna in the Marriage of Figaro by Mozart. Part of the ritual of staging an opera is having distinct rehearsal types in sequence:
  1. Music
  2. Staging
  3. Technical
  4. Sitzprobe
  5. Orchestra staging
  6. Full dress rehearsal
Yes, Sitzprobe also struck me as the most fascinating rehearsal, as well as the most unusual word, derived from the German: sitzen (to sit) and proben (to rehearse). The film showed the full cast sitting and listening to the orchestra as all the sections were played, both instrumental and accompaniment. And that's all the cast did, just listen...

In my early days as a musician I noticed more experienced players would stop and listen all the way through as a piece was introduced rather than start playing along as I was prone to do. This gave time to detect extra nuances and other important elements that I was missing by my 'keen to impress' musically immature participation.

Sitzprobe is an important and often overlooked discipline in many aspects of our hectic lives...

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Sunday, 19 December 2010

Stand up, stand up for Emmanuel Jal...

An Advent meditation from 'ethical rap' artist Emmanuel Jal, endorsed by the peacemaking initiative The Elders, in support of We Want Peace. Emmanuel has appeared at the Greenbelt Festival twice plus the stunning biographical film about his life 'War Child' was previewed there. That turned out to be one of those Greenbelt 'moments', as, when the film show became very delayed, a member of the audience, Shaz Brown, volunteered to perform some of her stunning and earthy urban poetry while we were waiting, everybody there will remember how amazing that was...
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me... he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.
Isaiah 61:1


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The ONE artist meme...


Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, answer these questions. Be as clever as you can. You can't use the band I used. Try not to repeat a song title. It's a lot harder than you think...

Pick your Artist: Peter Gabriel

Describe yourself: Across the River
How do you feel: Down To Earth
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Mercy Street
Your favourite form of transportation: On The Air
Your best friend is a: Kiss Of Life
You and your best friends are: Heroes
If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: Shock The Monkey
What is life to you: The Book Of Love
Your current relationship: The Power of The Heart
Your fear: Here Comes The Flood
What is the best advice you have to give: Love To Be Loved
I would like to die... Home Sweet Home
Time of day: Big Time
My motto: Don't Give Up

h/t Rev Sam and tagged by Canon Phil

I tag: Pastor John, The Artist and Tartist, Jon Evens, Tim Abbott and RJ (when love comes to town)

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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Brandon Flowers - a divine spark...

A breathtaking video by The Killers' front man Brandon Flowers beautiful song 'Only The Young':
Mother its cold here. Father Thy will be done.
Thunder and lightening are crashing down.
They got me on the run, direct me to the sun.
Redemption keeps my covers clean tonight.
Baby we can start again.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

When the roll is called up yonder...

... So singer Caleb Followill of the excellent Kings of Leon proclaims in the first line of the band's single 'Radioactive', the words taken directly from the well known Gospel hymn. The inspirational video also demonstrates an acknowledgement of their church roots, featuring an excellent young choir, perfect music for a joyful Gaudete Sunday!

Recently ITV recently carried a documentary which followed the band around for 48 hours entitled 'Excess All Areas' (Explicit!). Despite the title and the presenter's efforts to talk sex drugs and rock and roll, the band came across very much as the family that they are genetically, very different to most bands with similar status.

And to make an important join - check out Martyn Joseph's brilliant song 'Brother's in Exile'...


Sunday, 5 December 2010

Jónsi - Totally Transcendent Tunes

Advent Two

Every so often an musician emerges who is clearly a prodigious talent. Jónsi hails from Iceland and clearly draws on his cultural roots to season his incredibly atmospheric music. His live shows feature stunning background graphics which appear to both surround and integrate with the band's contribution. Wonderful stuff!

h/t Tim Abbott's recent blog review


Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Farmer's Prayer...

A distraught farmer finds all his cows frozen in the snow. He prays to God for help. A woman appears, puts her arms over his icy cows. They immediately defrost and start walking again. "Thank you so much", said the farmer, "you must be an angel sent by God?". "No", she said, "I'm Thora Hird"...

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Sunday, 28 November 2010

Awesome Advent from Sufjan Stevens

A stunning version of my fave Advent hymn, love both the apparently haphazard and over the top production! This piece is on an amazing five CD collection Songs for Christmas. The enigmatic Sufjan also produced an incredible CD by another Greenbelt Festival favourite band who played there in 2009, The Welcome Wagon.

Welcome to Advent 2010!


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The shuffling first fifteen meme...

1) Turn on your MP3 player or music player on your computer.
2) Go to SHUFFLE songs mode.
3) Write down the first 15 songs that come up–song title and artist–NO editing/cheating, please.
  1. The boy with no name – Travis
  2. Are we alright? - Show of Hands
  3. Bring 'em all in - Mike Scott
  4. He never said - Martyn Joseph
  5. Blood red sky - Seth Lakeman
  6. Why does my heart feel so bad? - Moby
  7. Superhuman touch - Athlete
  8. I grieve - Peter Gabriel
  9. Black swan song - Athlete
  10. Also Sprach Zarathustra - 2001 Space Odyssey
  11. Chasing cars - Snow Patrol
  12. You (Live 2008) - After The Fire
  13. Somebody told me - The Killers
  14. '40' - U2
  15. Walking into battle with the Lord - Chumbawamba
I supposed I am slightly puzzled this list is relatively contemporary yet my overall library is substantially more varied Intriguing that over 50% are bands that have played at the Greenbelt Festival over the years...

Thanks for the tag Phil, if you haven't been tagged yet, go for it anyway (that's you, that is!).

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Sunday, 7 November 2010

Creative Covenant Conclusions...

Richard Twiss (above) of Wiconi International was one of the speakers at the recent Emergent Village Theological Conversation which evoked an incredible blog post from Julie Clawson. This paragraph jumped out at, giving me a gentle sense of joy with its resonance to my concerns for the church, particularly all the turmoil over the Anglican Covenant:
The speakers had led us to see how the Bible is used as a colonizing text and how the rituals and trapping of the Western church have colonized the minds of indigenous peoples. Their dream is to find ways to do distinctly indigenous theology and develop spiritual practices that are native to who they are. They pleaded with us to stop seeing Western theology, philosophy, academia, and liturgy as the norm that all others must aspire to or at least subjugate their spiritual language to. And above all to not just allow native peoples space to pursue those paths, but to join in with them valuing their voices just as much as we value Western voices.
Let's face it, The Anglican Covenant is simply an ecclesiastical straight-jacket, therefore I support and endorse the #nocovenant campaign.

It will be interesting to see what 'action' comes out of the Emergent Village Theological Conversation... At Greenbelt 2100 Richard Rohr said 'The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better'.


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Hymns and Spiritual Songs...

One of the joys of being in the Blogosphere is making international virtual friends who lift your spirits with their thoughts and encouragement. Posting the video above was a direct result of reading this on the When Love Comes to Town blog, one that I have on my Blogroll and is clearly a fellow pilgrim on the 'Redeeming Culture' trail.

Over the last couple of days I have been wrestling with what to write about the version of 'In Christ Alone' that appeared as a just for fun 'cover song' on stellar musician Adam Young's Owl City Blog... so I am grateful for Mike Todd's excellent piece today, A Mild Rant on Sacredness, Owl City and The Jesus Station, which says so well what I wished I had thought of...

Cheers me dears!


Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Fruits of Greed...

Colchester Mercury Theatre's stunning production of Steinbeck's classic 'Grapes of Wrath' could not be better timed as a counterfoil to today's spending review. I was completely blown away by this production, even having read the book. Of course, readers will know the story is dark and yet redemptive through the sacrifices of some of the key characters.

I confess I am not a regular theatre goer, however this sensitive and highly creative interpretation really hooked me in. In fact I remember failing to watch the movie version all the way through as it seemed to contradict the images my imagination had drawn in my mind's eye. The combination of the physical boundaries of the theatre and the gentle pace meant this play still allowed me to both keep intact those images and to add to them. In fact that conclusion made me realise why film versions of previously read books don't come up to the mark with their literal, photo realistic interpretations which tend to restrict our own imagination so much as we are, actually, watching someone else's imagination instead.

I cannot stress enough if you are in the area do make the effort to go, it is so fantastic in every respect. Brilliant acting, production and staging plus special mention of the musicians who doubled up as actors too. The music was totally live featuring a brilliant fiddle player, multi instrumentalist guitar / banjo / mandolin / slide guitar player, double bass and some occasional percussion. The style was quoted as Bluegrass yet also included a vibrant Hoe Down sequence and incredibly haunting and moving instrumentals.

The closing sequence was breathtaking - simple, redemptive, challenging - not a dry eye in the house! It's on until the 30th October, make the time!


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

So Human, so divine...

For the next couple of days the painstaking task of bringing the Chilean miners to the surface goes on... it is impossible not to be deeply moved by the sight of the rescue capsule 'Fenix' appearing out of the top of the metal encased shaft with its precious cargo on board.

How cool is it that the Chilean Navy torpedo experts went to work to design and build the capsules? How special is it to see rescue teams using lifelong manual skills working in conjunction with some basic Newtonian Mechanics restoring families and stimulating prayers of thanks and joy?

May the process continue in safety and reach the conclusion that everyone longs for.

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Friday, 8 October 2010

Africa United lifts the World Cup

Felt really privileged to see a pre-preview version of this wonderful film at Greenbelt 2010. At the time I thought this film delivers everything that Slumdog Millionaire failed to and then discovered it was from the same stable... oooops! Truly moving and redemptive it epitomises how a 'feel good' film should be.


Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Greenbelt Festival 1974-2010 re-United...

Every so often a little bit of self promotion is unavoidable...! So here goes:

Saturday week 16th October 2010 After The Fire are delighted to have been asked to be part of this event to help raise funds and awareness the plight of the Dalit people of India via Life Association, a charity headed up by the noble Simon Hawthorne. The main attraction of the evening will be the re-union of the Bill Mason Band with the aforementioned Simon on guitar. Along with ourselves (After The Fire) and 70s legends The Movement Family Band the lovely songstress Hannah Atkins will be performing bringing the Greenbelt Festival connection right up to date after her stonking set in the Performance Café this year at #GB10.

For details of how to get tickets (via a PayPal donation) for this special one off event follow the Life Association link.

See you there?!

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Monday, 4 October 2010

The first cut is the deepest...

One of my fave blogs, Lesley's Blog, recently carried a much discussed post on male circumcision... seeing this video on Brian McLaren's blog prompted me to re-post it! Great punchline ;-)


Friday, 1 October 2010

The Deadly Diarrhoea Song...

Nope, this is not just blokey toilet humour, it is a serious campaign creatively tackled by WaterAid with the byline: Dig Toilets Not Graves...

Something to donate this weekend?


Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Story of Stuff...

From the excellent Story of Stuff website:
From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Music is A Voice of God...

The late Billy Preston giving a transcendent performance at possibly the very first major fund raising concert in 1971 organised by The Beatles guitarist George Harrison for the folk of Bangladesh. I was reminded of this song when a compilation program celebrating 250 great performances from 'Later... with Jools Holland' was shown recently.

On the same program DJ Trevor Nelson, when talking about Mary J Blige, used the expression 'Took it to church' to describe a particularly brilliant performance where artist and song become one entity, a special moment which transcends personal taste and totally captivates the whole audience. I immediately thought 'Took it to church' as an expression to describe something so special by linking it to 'church' was both challenging and something to always aspire to...


Thursday, 2 September 2010

Greenbelt Festival 2010 perspectives

Greenbelt is always a sea of surprises and stimulating encounters... 2010 was another great year and re-inforces my determination to never miss it!

Here are my initial responses:

1) Fr. Richard Rohr on the church
2) Watching the preview of the film 'Africa United'
3) Revd. Dr John Smith's talks which emphatically restated Greenbelt's original vision(s)
4) Shlomo's mainstage mini-set
5) The start and end of the communion service (i.e. unaccompanied singing with no band)

1) Giles Fraser on The English Civil War and the future of the Church of England
2) Martyn Atkins on Methodism and discipleship
3) Foy Vance bumped up to a mainstage set
4) How many talks I managed to attend!
5) Bumping into Clare Short and having a good chinwag

1) The weather prior to the festival during set-up and the cold in the evenings!
2) Rock band style music in parts of the communion service
3) Many of the mainstage music acts
4) Confetti cannon during the communion service
5) Sensing 'beer and hymns' becoming more organised

Despite being involved as a contributor this year I did manage to attend a couple of Tweetups and was delighted to commune with some of my virtual 'friends' yet missed others altogether. Otherwise it was great to bump into friends from across the years and actually meet, for the first time, folk that I knew about and that knew me too, but until now...!

However, I do think Greenbelt needs to look carefully to ensure that aspects of the original vision that are still valid and distinctly 'Greenbelt' as some of this is in danger of being sidelined. I don't doubt the Greenbelt 'powers' will already be aware of this so I am not going to witter on here!

Greenbelt is for everybody... unless they're not keen on a bit of heaven?

Here's a perspective from a first time visitor: Do Christian Music Festivals Make You Want to Switch Religions?

And on the Greenbelt Blog today a gorgeous poem: 'If heaven (2)' by Rosie Miles

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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Sola Scriptura - Biblical Marriage...

America's Best Christian, Mrs Betty Bowers, takes time to explain to less informed Christians (i.e. Fundamentalists) the curious details of the Biblical approach to marriage.... h/t Zach Lind


Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Priests just wanna have fun!

Filmed in Hungary and set to the very fine music of Blink 182 (explicit lyrics warning!) whose songs were featured in one of my fave TV series 'All the Small Things' as imaginative choral arrangements... h/t Andy Piercy


Thursday, 5 August 2010

Cigarette Vicarage? Rev mini review...

Well, have to confess I really enjoyed the recent BBC series, Rev, and yet to find anyone other than 'vicarage' types that didn't which, in turn, adds to the amusement value! Of course the ending was really special and each episode had a bit more momentum as the series progressed. bearing in mind that blog discussions earlier in the year seemed to bring the sermon out as the best element of a service this was also reality check time, generally sermons are dire too, so a score of -1 would be high praise indeed!

In the last episode there was a classic representation of the church carrying on with all its frippery whilst effectively shunning the young guns cavorting around the war memorial. What an opportunity to join things up by linking the current conflicts our soldiers endure with some war history thereby making the act of commemoration meaningful for everyone rather than just themselves? That's just one example of where the series was hard hitting and justifiably so.

Anyway, a great series, lots of profound and challenging moments...


Friday, 30 July 2010

Lord save us from Your followers...

Author of the excellent 'Blue Like Jazz', Don Miller, has posted a challenging story today. Don is one of the speakers at the Echo Conference (A media and mech conference for creative church leaders) and, along with other speakers, has been given a seriously luxury hotel suite to stay in. Don's immediate thought was to gather up the 'brains' to blue sky together to change the world. The next day the conversation with the organiser went like this:
Scott McLellan, the big man who runs the conference and I started talking and I told him thanks for all the square footage because I like to run wind sprints. He said when Dan Merchant walked into the room, the first thing he thought was that he should go gather up a group of homeless guys to stay there for the night. That made me feel like crap.
Dan Merchant is the guy responsible for the film above...


Thursday, 22 July 2010

We all fall short of glory...

The 7 Link Challenge
  1. Your first post - Seeing a No Entry sign and chain right across the entrance to a local church cracks me up (and saddens me) everytime I drive past. Managing to finally have photographic evidence was the incentive to start blogging! Next post showed how the pub approached it
  2. A post you enjoyed writing the most - Having listened to the Podcast called GodPod #53 I saw an opportunity to respond and release my thoughts about art, music and have another pop at modern worship music.
  3. A post which had a great discussion - My heartfelt post about struggling to understand Anglican obsessions Let me Through I'm an Anglican provoked comments with concern and resonance. The picture is not about voting with feet and more about our when offering resource(s) is turned away by attitudes of the 'shouty loudest' minorities.
  4. A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written - This has to be an articulate outburst by musician Steve Lawson taking the greedy record companies apart as a result of the threat of the Digital Economy Bill. Steve's post also includes his favourite post of 2009.
  5. Your most helpful post - Slightly tricky to determine so probably embedding the very clever World Cup Planner I tracked down, lots of return visits to check updates and results.
  6. A post with a title that you are proud of - It's got to be Spinal Tap meets Chequebook Worship.
  7. A post that you wish more people had read - It was one of those Memes that I pondered over muchly: I need(ed) some Time to Think...!

From: ProBlogger h/t The Church Mouse

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Friday, 16 July 2010

Where two or three are gathered...

Have been musing on this picture that did the rounds shortly after the recent soccer World Cup final. Of course it is most likely a mock up, some clever image manipulation to convey a message that is still true. However, this picture can convey additional messages...

Have you also been told that in the same way you can't be a true football / soccer fan unless you actually attend matches you have to attend church to receive fullness as a Christian? I have always found that analogy uncomfortable (despite loving going to football matches!), so I am grateful this picture helped unfold an extra layer of interpretation...


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Remembering Live Aid...

Sometimes seems like yesterday! The 13th July 1985 was an extraordinary day and everyone who watched Live Aid was blown away by Queen's transcendent performance, re-launching them to a new audience and Freddie Mercury giving all the other bands a serious lesson in stagecraft!

Did I ever tell you about the honour of working with his Freddieship? Oh yes, so I did!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Jeff Buckley - BBC Soul Music Take 2

Sadly music mega-corp Sony has removed the YouTube video of Jeff Buckley I had included on my earlier post about the BBC Radio 4 series Soul Music. Checking the visitor stats for this Blog it is clear the post that featured anecdotes about Dido's Lament, including the legendary performance by Jeff Buckley, still has plenty of visits.

However, the really great news is the BBC has increased the duration of the archived pieces from Soul Music and have included this edition along with many others, link above.


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Gospel of Cognitive Surplus...

Clay Shirky has just become a bit of a UK Blog Buzz after an article about him was published in the Guardian last Monday, one in the usual round of interviews when an author's latest book is published. He has been using the phrase 'Cognitive Surplus' for a while in his talks including drawing the analogy to the recovery from drowning sorrows in gin when trying to cope with the trauma of transformation from rural to urban life early in the last century.

In a 2008 talk he makes this point:
If I had to pick the critical technology for the 20th century, the bit of social lubricant without which the wheels would've come off the whole enterprise, I'd say it was the sitcom. Starting with the Second World War a whole series of things happened--rising GDP per capita, rising educational attainment, rising life expectancy and, critically, a rising number of people who were working five-day work weeks. For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before - free time.

And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it watching TV.

And it's only now, as we're waking up from that collective bender, that we're starting to see the cognitive surplus as an asset rather than as a crisis. We're seeing things being designed to take advantage of that surplus, to deploy it in ways more engaging than just having a TV in everybody's basement.
We have a positive way of making a difference, by not wasting more of the precious resource of time. It is clear how this applies to charities as well as businesses and particularly to the church. It is interesting to see that Mr Shirky is not so active online himself and along with David Keen's 'final' blog entry today issues a further challenge to be considered...


Friday, 2 July 2010

Seven Deadly Social Sins...

The image of the Gandhi quotation poster above arrived in my Sojourners mailing as a 'free bonus' for signing up for a subscription. Although the quotation was familiar I still decided to follow my instinct to Google for a bit more background and was impressed by this analysis from Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Dr. Steven is one of the world's leading management consultants and author of the best selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The section I found most interesting was on Religion Without Sacrifice (which on the poster is quoted as 'Worship without Sacrifice', revealing?!):
Without sacrifice we may become active in a church but remain inactive in its gospel. In other words, we go for the social facade of religion and the piety of religious practices. There is no real walking with people or going the second mile or trying to deal with our social problems that may eventually undo our economic system. It takes sacrifice to serve the needs of other people - the sacrifice of our own pride and prejudice, among other things.

If a church or religion is seen as just another hierarchical system, its members won't have a sense of service or inner workship. Instead they will be into outward observances and all the visible accoutrements of religion. But they are neither God-centered nor principle-centered.

The principles of three of the Seven Habits pertain to how we deal with other people, how we serve them, how we sacrifice for them, how we contribute. Habits 4, 5 and 6 - win-win interdependency, empathy, and synergy - require tremendous sacrifice. I've come to believe that they require a broken heart and a contrite spirit - and that, for some, is the ultimate sacrifice. For example, I once observed a marriage where there were frequent arguments. One thought came to me : "These two people must have a broken heart and a contrite spirit toward each other or this union will never last." You can't have a oneness, a unity, without humility. Pride and selfishness will destroy the union between man and god, between man and woman, between man and man, between self and self.

The great servant leaders have that humility, the hallmark of inner religion. I know a few CEOs who are humble servant leaders - who sacrifice their pride and share their power - and I can say that their influence both inside and outside their companies is multiplied because of it. Sadly, many people want "religion," or at least the appearance of it, without any sacrifice. They want more spirituality but would never miss a meal in meaningful fasting or do one act of anonymous service to achieve it.
Read the full article here.


Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Voice Project with Peter Gabriel

Using music as a tool for social change is one description of this brilliant video of Peter Gabriel covering Tom Waits song 'In the Neigbourhood' for The Voice Project, a strategic alliance with Oxfam America:
The Voice Project is a song-driven movement inspired by the women of Uganda who are using their voices as vehicles for change in the war-ravaged region of Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, and Eastern Congo, an area that has been marred by violence for the last 24 years. The Voice Project is an attempt to support these incredible women and the peace movement in the region, and an effort to see how far a voice can carry.
It transpires, on reading more about this project on the Gabriel website, that one of the The Voice Project's founders is Peter's daughter Anna:
"Music has always been a part of my life and I believe it's one of the most powerful and effective tools to bring about change. My father has inspired me with his humanitarian work and has always been supportive of my work as a film maker so shooting this video bought together all aspects of my life in an amazing way."
P h/t @martinwroe

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Redemptive Rock and Spiritual Songs...

The announcement that this band, 30 Seconds To Mars, are going to be visiting these shores again this Autumn I thought I would post some thoughts I have been mulling over for a wee while. Part of this is a reaction to the support I've had when I've stuck my head above the parapet and slagged off the dreadful Worship Music scene and genre. I hope this post gives some supporting evidence to explain why my views are more about substance than just taste driven opinions...

I have a relatively broad taste in music ranging from not too high brow classical, through ethnic / indigenous music to pop and stadium rock. I like pieces which have spirit, integrity, passion and believability regardless of whether it is technically impressive or flawed. I love hearing a song that makes you want to learn more about it, glean what's behind the lyrics and the artist.

Now this song is not particularly original and could be criticised for being derivative of other bands' earlier work. However, there is a certain comfort in a bit of familiarity when hearing something for the first time. This song, combined with the video, is such a great piece of art that issues challenges and hope! If anything it is the optimism musically and lyrically that I find so enthralling... and the depth of what the storyline covers is not lost on the band's followers, check out some of the comments on Youtube:
Can we all get the message? Eternal inspiration (song). No stupid fashion or trends (clothing). No damn pollution (bikes). No hate (car accident). Continuous miracles (white horse and resurrection). The good and true path (all going in the same direction because they know thats The way). True life (no death and no impossibilities).
unfortunatelly i don´t know if will have learned our lesson either, with all these things hapenning a lot of people are still destroying the nature, only thinking about money.
This song would be best suited to the part where someone makes a massive life-changing decision or turning point in their life.
We are born into a world at war for our hearts, and we are desperate for God. He wants us to become the "Kings and Queens" we were mean't to be. This can only be done by not making ourselves the focus of everything, and becomeing the "lesser god" that the song says.
and prompted this joined-up response:
This really does make me think of the oil spill in the Gulf. If honestly makes me what to cry. How much more are we going to punish the earth? I ask myself when will it be enough, to satisfy us selfish humans. It makes me so angry, but also at myself because I can't really do anything about it.
Here's one that suggests corporate singing still moves peeps:
i love this entire song, but especially the chanting "oh oh ohhhh" part! there's something about chants that always makes me go wow. it just sounds so cool when there's hundreds of voices blending together. =)
I love the shots in the video of the basic band, the flight cases, backs of guitar amps, it depicts the tools of the trade of a rockin' band, that's what it really looks like! That moves into images of redemption, the shining cross in the cityscape, the white horse...

Some will also be cynical of this band's rise to fame as singer Jared Leto was already a successful actor. Yet they have cemented relationships with their fanbase by inviting them to be part of the video as above and to take part in the recordings. Wikipedia quotes the band:
'How great would it be to invite the world to come and be a part of the next 30 Seconds to Mars album? There were some things [we tried] that were left-field sound experiments — using the group, the collective, as a musical instrument. We did everything from percussive expression to whispering to things that were a little bit more familiar, like inviting the 1,000 people that were there to sing the chorus of a song. And those people who were a part of it all will be a part of the next 30 Seconds to Mars album. It was quite simply one of the best things we've done as a band.'
So the chants are already congregational and not simply multi-tracked backing vocals!

This aptly demonstrates Seth Godin's notion of Tribes, where there are leaders but collaboration and inspiration are key. Obviously this band has a totally commercial purpose but their passionate and committed approach is definitely working... real music, heartfelt lyrics that listeners relate too, wonderful!

For the connoisseurs of amazing recording detail, check out the vocals only version here (starts 30s).


Life's a game of football...

Taken from the After The Fire Forum, a timely piece written by author and diamond geezer Roderick Williamson whose cracking first novel 'England Expects Yet Again' was published last year:

Latest team news announced for potential ATF giantkillers drawn away to Manchester later this year.

Peter 'I remember Gordon' Banks (player/coach) - known for all the clever little jinks and shuffles out on the right wing, creating all the chances for the front man to score. Known for his vision on the pitch, although rumours that this is not as sharp as previous seasons. Can be sensitive if the crowd gets on his back if there is no early sign of a breakthrough. Like Russell considered veteran status and now operating in the lower leagues but he has plied his trade at the highest levels. Has got the silky skills to waltz round any disrespectful Mancunians. Question on supporters lips - does he still retain the nippy factor?

John Russell 'athletic' - controls the middle of the park, known for hitting in a few screamers from left field. Big enough and ugly enough to be pushed forward to cause damage at set pieces. Now like his long standing team mate Banks, he plays at semi-pro level, opinionated likes getting up on his soapbox. Contributions in the past have been the difference between winning and losing.

Robert 'Bobby' Halligan - Young ball of energy up front, prepared to chase seemingly lost balls. Thrives off the support of the two experienced players around him. Offers another dimension with his own special moves. Fast enough to set the house on fire if he receives the right level of service. Can he last the full 90 minutes at this pace has been aired among the ATF camp followers.

Ian 'the grey ghost' Niblo - the Franz Beckanbauer of the team. Stays deeps, rarely seen in the opposition half. Quietly and efficiently playing the sweeping role and making sure that the man between the sticks is not under too much pressure. The quiet man that makes the team tick.

Tim 'Tiny' Turner - By all accounts likes to belt out 'Nutbush City Limits' in the shower after the match. Like Bobby and Nibs another graduate of the ATF youth development programme. Shows command of the 18 yard box. Early days so far but looks to be a safe pair of hands, press critics worrried that he may be susceptible to the high ball.

Subs - Faith, Hope & Charity. First two expected on early if the pre-match tactics fail to deliver.

The vocal contributions of the travelling faithful could be the sixth man at this fixture.

Cheers Rod!

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Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Vuvuzela Virtually Yours...

Now you can use up more battery on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad with the brilliantly annoying virtual vuvuzela app... so if you don't agree with the sermon ;-)

h/t Newsfeed
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Monday, 14 June 2010

Bastions of Boredom

Was reminded of this Video recently from 'Work of the People' and so post it to respond to Lesley's post earlier today: 'What do you think of Jesus and the church'. Also, in some way, to give some background to another reason why people land up leaving church, when they just give up on attempting to contribute. This adds to Suem's post a little while ago on the 'Leaving Church' topic.

It seems the world of blogging which ordained folk have so taken to heart is populated by alarming entries wondering what the church can do to arrest the problem of declining numbers and also delusions that sermons are actually good because a survey revealed they were the least unpopular moments in a service!

Whilst it is always easier to suggest solutions rather than fully defining what the problems are, it is becoming increasingly obvious that letting go of traditions, rituals and preferences (and all the etcs.) that, in the main, are held onto by clergy, is actually both the problem and the solution.

So many of the issues with church come down to the 'what' and 'how' we do things rather than the real meaning contained in the 'Why'. A key lies in re-developing a sense of curiosity and imagination in all of us that longs to share Why?


Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Something Welsh this way comes...

The other day I was rabbiting on about the importance of looking for things we don't always see at first... this fence is right opposite the house and directly in my line of sight from my desk for the last 8 years...

However my main revelation over the last decade, as a musician, has been to comprehend the 'art' of lyric writing. I am very aware writing is not my gift despite my new found outlet of this blog, however, the joy of discovering subtlety and beauty in a well crafted song has become a deeper joy than simply savouring the musical elements.

I know nothing about golf. Yesterday I followed a link on Martyn Joseph's e-mailshot to a special song he has composed about the forthcoming Ryder Cup in Wales... Now as a hardened music business person (joke!) I would normally make between 15 to 30 seconds of a piece and move on (true!). However this is an all the way through listen and, in my opinionated view, is exceptionally brilliant on many levels.

I love the poetry, the 'not stating the bl***ing obvious' approach, the joining of iconic and descriptive 'images' in verse all set to a flowing chord structure and strong melody. Whilst this piece doesn't 'convert' me to a golf lover the music and the lyrical clarity using a language that I understand as a non-golfer means I can lean back, close my eyes and simply enjoy! Nice...

Give yourself a treat, free download/listen here: Martyn Joseph - On This Celtic Morning
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Saturday, 5 June 2010

The Beautiful Game - World Cup Planner

Loving this amazing, dynamic wall chart for the World Cup 2010. This is a brilliant combination of gorgeous web graphic design and clever programming, a work of art! It will be even more impressive if it is updated as the tournament progresses...
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Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A year in the Sphere...

I started this blog in June last year (2009) and included code to record statistics 6 months ago. It has been an interesting journey, have learnt a great deal and would have chosen my categories differently if I knew then what I know now! I have found it immensely cathartic to record my thoughts before recursive brain whirr destroys my grey matter, that has been a personal and tangible benefit. I have to confess writing does not come easy to me so the discipline has been good. It is clear that the posts where I have been as original as possible and made the effort to knuckle down and get on with writing without letting 'it' take over have yielded the most response.
So here goes, a double statistic celebration, my first year on Blogspot:

And some of my sub top 20 favourites:

Top referring blogs excluding Google, Facebook and Twitter

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Friday, 28 May 2010

Sometimes it makes you wonder...

The latest campaign by the infamous anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church is to picket singer Ronnie James Dio's funeral with another potentially offensive protest. This has come to light in the NME, MOG and on the AV Club news pages. Looking at one of the most distasteful Westboro Baptist Church websites, godhatesfags, they list the funerals and locations they will be 'protesting' at...

Let there be love shared among us?


Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Anglican Matrix

Some of the things I'm beginning to learn about the Church of England with help from various sages:

clergy jews
laity gentiles
choirmaster god
choir trying
robes robes
flower guild see above
psalter rare book
book of common prayer red book
common worship read book
hymn book new book
sunday school lambs
baptised (C of E only) sheep
the rest of us goats
administrator donkey
treasurer bankrupt
PCC deluded
eastenders never watch it
cleaners angels
wardens heroes

With respect to the lamented Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley


Monday, 17 May 2010

The Village People rule OK

Sometimes I'm really glad I do actually say what I think! For a while I have been commenting on how wonderful the in-house honey and mustard salad dressing tastes at the very best eating place on Mersea, The Art Café. I've been calling it 'Jungle Juice' and they've kindly been giving me extra helpings! Then on Friday, at our staff training lunch, the proprietors, the lovely Maggie and James presented me with my very own bottle of their delicious nectar!

A very chuffed and smiley BanksyBoy!
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Friday, 14 May 2010

The Apple of Discord

For many years our small (yet beautiful) company has encouraged our clients to steer away from using FLASH (Cue Queen: 'Ah Ah') on their websites on the basis it yields a 'form above function' solution. Websites built using Flash are usually extremely 'pretty', in fact, some of them do look sensational, however, customers that heeded our advice will now be rewarded bigtime.

By Friday 28th May all pre-orders for the Apple iPad will have been fulfilled and this long awaited and highly desirable gizmo becomes available in the UK. That's when every website developed with Flash will look like the iPhone screen capture above on the iPad (also affects the iPod Touch). As the iPad will probably become the bit of technology that every management and decision maker will acquire then a lot of work will need to be done to provide alternative versions soonest so the typical market sector viewer of these 'glamorous' websites is not lost! Our longer term hunches were realised completely last month when Apple's charismatic 'front man' Steve Jobs posted this open letter to Adobe about Flash.

(The example shown above is a genuine screen grab on the iPhone with the title and web address changed to protect our uninformed competitor!)
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Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Back to Pub Sunday...

I have to confess to a bit of shyness when it comes to walking into places I am not already familiar with. It is always a joy to be made welcome and last Sunday, visiting a new Parish, I noticed I wasn't the only one who was warmly welcomed. The small team of 'Welcomers' made sure everyone was comfortable, understood what was going to happen, where the facilities were and where to get refreshments.

Throughout the evening the joy of all the key people involved in this new 'Outreach' venture was impressive and reassuring at every level even from the top. During the collection, as the bucket went round, it was made absolutely clear that donations were an extra voluntary contribution which would all go to Christian Aid along with an extra contribution from those taking part.

I was uncomfortable, though. I had a knawing sense of guilt and discomfort that actually this is exactly how churches should 'feel'? However, this wasn't even a church initiative put on in the very splendid new music venue 'The Farncombe Cavern' but one run by the Freeholder's Pub team in Surrey who chose to make their opening night a flag to indicate the start of Christian Aid Week...

The Lord be with you... and make mine a pint

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