Saturday, 30 January 2010

Computer destiny post iPad domination...

A use for all the old PCs after Apple iPads take over the armchair world... as long as it's Fairtrade coffee, of course!

Coffee much needed today at the half way point on After The Fire's wee Help for Haiti tour of Essex and Sussex, last night centre of the lesser known universe, Mersea Island, tonight down in Burgess Hill.


Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Monday, 25 January 2010

Art and Christianity Part Five - Poem

This my final post on the Art and Christianity meme commenced by Jonathan Evens.

Artwork: Antony Gormley - 'Field for the British Isles'
Drama: Film 'Chariots of Fire' (1981)
Music: J S Bach - St Matthew Passion
Novel: Victoria Hislop - The Island
Poem: Wilfred Owen - The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

I remember hearing this poem for the first time in an English Literature lesson. Although initially I didn't fully understand the depth of the text I could clearly tell the link to Abraham and Isaac from the Bible narrative. Then the teacher went on to explain that Owen's technique was to use both the biblical text as an analogy and also, significantly, as a subversive weapon to get his message across about the massive loss of life in the first world war. Then last year at Greenbelt 2009  Maggi Dawn, during her talk on Lent, quoted the last two lines which triggered the memory banks...

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb, for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,
A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

I find this deeply moving in both the way Owen adopts the language and meaning of Scripture as well as having the courage to speak out so challengingly in an era when it would have been shunned...

Text copied from here.
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Saturday, 23 January 2010

This is how the world will end...

... and this video from The Elms was shot and edited BEFORE the earthquake and gives an idea of the scale of poverty in Haiti... we can send money, we can help raise money... we MUST cancel the debt.


Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Putting money where mouths are... for Haiti

Delighted us old rockers, After The Fire, (or ATF) have been approached to play not one, nay, two fundraisers next weekend to raise money for the needs of the folk in Haiti:

Jan 29th 2010 - Haiti Fundraiser - ATF plus two Bands £5 min donation
Essex Youth Camp - Mersea - CO5 8SX - Doors Open 7:30pm

Jan 30th 2010 - Haiti Fundraiser - Touchstone, The Puritans and ATF £5 min donation
St Paul's Catholic College - Burgess Hill - RH15 8WA - Doors Open 6:30pm

Spread the word!


The Word was made into...

These guys are shipping Audio Bibles out with relief teams... not sure about the company name: Faith Comes by Hearing? What I am sure about is that engraving Bible references on guns is unbelievable.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Not on my watch... please?

Although I have commented on a couple of blogs I have been uncomfortable about many of the things that have been written this week concerning the devastating tragedy in Haiti. And, of course, it has been surprising to see the extent of the reaction to right wing evangelist Pat Robertson's insensitive statement concerning Haiti. As a result 'pat robertson' has overtaken the word 'haiti' to become the top 'trend' in Twitter.

Singer songwriter Martyn Joseph rebuked Mr Robertson's previous ludicrous 'political' suggestions in a witty ditty he performed at the Greenbelt Festival in 2006 (warning: expletives NOT deleted!). However, in the context of the extreme reactions to Robertson's claims about the Haitian people, Martyn's piece could now be seen as judgemental and, despite its pithy, prophetic brilliance, by posting it I fear I may be seen to be demeaning the seriousness of the Haiti situation.

From our distance we naturally respond with a mixture of horror and abject helplessness. Giving money and fundraising are tangible, it is certainly uplifting to hear how the donations are mounting up after fears of compassion fatigue. There is a small yet positive step we can all take that just might make a huge difference by signing the petition to drop the debt Haiti has with us of $890,000,000:


If the debt was dropped this would make a long term difference to the poverty in Haiti. Whilst the debt remains in place Haiti will always be kept at arm's length and effectively their people will be held in poverty by 'us'. This will mean the potential for suffering and a casualty toll on a massive scale all over again at a later date. Whatever faith or belief we have can we allow that to happen? We could try blaming God, Satan or someone else (again), but we are the ones with the keys to implement prevention rather than catastrophe...

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Art and Christianity Part Four - Novel

This my fourth post on the Art and Christianity meme commenced by Jonathan Evens.

Artwork: Antony Gormley - 'Field for the British Isles'
Drama: Film 'Chariots of Fire' (1981)
Music: J S Bach - St Matthew Passion
Novel: Victoria Hislop - The Island
Poem: Wilfred Owen - The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

Novel: The Island - The 2005 work by Victoria Hislop is based around a quest by the main character to discover their heritage. This opens up to fascinating revelations of the mysterious island called Spinalonga where lepers are despatched once their symptoms have been discovered. On Spinalonga a microcosm of society emerges, then later everything changes with the advent of WW2 and subsequent advances in medicine. However, the island of Spinalonga does actually exist on which there is now a museum of the former leper village. Victoria's thorough research means the blur twixt fact and fiction is only maintained by the storyline and the evocatively described characters that play it all out in your imagination.

This wonderful book has many deeply touching themes which align it with the importance of sacrifice, devotion, committment and discipleship.
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Thursday, 14 January 2010

Social media working to raise funds...

Image of iPhone courtesy who report how the Red Cross have now received over $1,000,000 from this text campaign to raise funds for urgently needed support in earthquake torn Haiti. In the UK a number of websites now offer direct links to the charities offering a means of making a credit card donation online.


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Social media working to help ...

The speed at which information and images can be propagated has increased significantly over the last couple of years. Is this where Social Media can mature?

Early disaster updates were posted on Gleaning information from Haiti

A Posterous instant blog is set-up to carry updates from aid workers and journalists in Haiti

The disaster become a top trend in Twitter

Christian Aid, Tear Fund, Oxfam commence donation programs immediately using their Twitter accounts (@decappeal @oxfamgb @christian_aid) to post more information - please act


Social media working...

Came across this in my research for a course I'm creating on another blog.



Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Mumford and Sons - Music to mend...

Sometimes I hear something that can change me forever:
It seems that all my bridges have been burnt,
But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart
From the song 'Roll away your stone' 4th track on the amazing album 'Sigh no more' from Mumford & Sons. Passionate songs to restore the spirit - vitally energetic, acoustic, anthemic, imaginative, intelligent, poetic genius...

From the title track 'Sigh no more':
Love that will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you and will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be.
There is a design an alignment to cry,
of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be
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Sunday, 10 January 2010

Art and Christianity Part Three - Music

This my third post on the Art and Christianity meme commenced by Jonathan Evens.

Artwork: Antony Gormley - 'Field for the British Isles'
Drama: Film 'Chariots of Fire' (1981)
Music: J S Bach - St Matthew Passion
Novel: Victoria Hislop - The Island
Poem: Wilfred Owen - The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

Music: J S Bach - St Matthew Passion. I remember filing in the Royal Festival Hall at 10:00am on a Good Friday to experience Bach's epic Passion and wondering what to expect having been told by my hosts that we would not be leaving until 3:00pm! On advice I had managed to obtain a choir score from Upminster library to help me navigate my way through Bach's interpretation of Matthew chapters 26 and 27. Now whilst I still don't read music I would say it was pretty essential to peruse the score to be able to greater appreciate the composer's genius in using motifs and phrasing to highlight activity and mood.

I was familiar with the beautiful hymn, 'O, Sacred Head! Sore wounded', (also known as the Passion Chorale) yet as soon as the double choir launched into their opening chorale I was transported heavenwards by the breathtaking and all enveloping wall of sound undergirded by the massive double orchestra and pipe organ. There appeared to be around 10 soloist parts and I came across the word Recitative for the first time... had already heard of Arias!

However, it is not an easy piece to listen to in its entirety and despite the sublime chorales the tension Bach creates musically is tangible. Nowadays we are so used to a high solo violin scraping away to semaphore impending doom in a film or tv drama but this would have been very early examples of this sort of technique. Whenever Jesus has narrative or 'speaks' there is a 'sound' Bach has scored a special full violin section sound to emphasise what we can consider to be Jesus' 'Spirit', the pre-Pentecost Holy Ghost. This musical effect, which is referred to as Jesus' 'halo', is conspicuously absent as Christ utters 'Eli, eli, lama sabachthani' and I found this deeply moving.

Here is the moment of utter desolation (and multiple Recitative performances) that narrates 'Now the Lord is brought to rest'. Then in the finale chorale, as per the youtube example above, the choirs can be heard 'answering' one another and the stereo effect of the double orchestra can clearly be heard... as the final chord resolved and faded I do not recall whether there was applause or not as I made my way out, I had been transported to another place, I do remember tactfully averting eye contact so folk around me would not spy my wet cheeks.

It took me until Sunday to recover physically. I ached from feeling the palpable tension, from concentrating on the passage, the sense of loss as the Passion unfolded (such a vital part of the Easter weekend) and I will never, ever forget...


Saturday, 9 January 2010

After The Fire - International Rescue!

On my chum Peter Dixon's Facebook status today
:...lost the mobile phone in the middle of a snowy field....fortunately it wasn't on silent - I've never been so pleased to hear "Der Kommissar" (12inch version!) blasting out in my life!
Saved by the riff...
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Friday, 8 January 2010

Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

Some live recordings from songs that former Talking Heads mainman David Byrne and world renown producer and artist Brian Eno worked on together, collaborating across the internet...

David says:
Some time ago Amnesty International asked if I might do "something" for that organization this year- (in previous years I had done one of my tour dates as a benefit for them). Amnesty has such an amazing and consistent track record of speaking out and helping to illuminate courageous people who might otherwise not be heard from so the answer was "yes." It was decided to record some songs from my current tour for them to be sold as a download with the proceeds going to Amnesty. As there are no physical costs with digital distribution this means more of the sales percentage actually goes to where it's supposed to. So, thank you for supporting a great organization and I hope you like these recordings too.

Read more here....
Well groovy!

h/t Martin Wroe


Thursday, 7 January 2010

Art and Christianity Part Two - Drama

This my second post on the Art and Christianity meme commenced by Jonathan Evens.

Artwork: Antony Gormley - 'Field for the British Isles'
Drama: Film 'Chariots of Fire' (1981)
Music: J S Bach - St Matthew Passion
Novel: Victoria Hislop - The Island
Poem: Wilfred Owen - The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

Drama: I have chosen the film Chariots of Fire - Pleased to say I saw it way before the Oscar nominations and other plaudits poured in, so I was an early 'adopter' of this great period piece set around the 1924 Olympics (so expect to see it on the box a few times over the next couple of years!).

There are many issues tackled in the film which revolves around the counterbalance of ambitious Englishman Harold Abrahams, who is Jewish, and Eric Liddell, an instinctive Scottish sprinter who, as a devout Christian, makes the wonderful statement 'I believe that God made me for a purpose (i.e. supporting his mission work) but He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.'

The story doesn't end with the film, Eric went on to become a respected missionary in China and despite his athletic physique still died at a young age during incarceration in the Japanese Weihsien Internment (read concentration) Camp from a brain tumour. However, it was the film that nudged my interest to read more about him and Sally Magnusson's excellent book, The Flying Scotsman, was where I turned first in those pre-web days.

This film has so many resonances for me and refreshed me when the church simply didn't or couldn't. Athletics was the sport I was best at plus I had a relatively strict upbringing which meant we kept the Sabbath (Sunday!) holy. Creatively I love the daring combination of a period drama with the symphonic and quirky synthesiser music soundtrack composed by Vangelis on devices I know my way around. However, it is the example of Jesus that Eric clearly was that is so moving and challenging that gets to me everytime.

He did not get out of China when he could because it would desert friends and family. For example he was able to support his exhausted brother in a rural mission station. He was also fiercly anti-class and to demonstrate the importance of equality shared out some extra food with everyone that had been bought by oil company inmates who'd bribed their guards.

His example was remarkable and sacrificial, despite much personal hardship he never stopped putting others first and whilst passionate about his faith he led by example rather than proselytisation or seeking any glory for himself. This was highlighted in a recent revelation that when he was offered, as a former high profile athlete, an opportunity to take part in a prisoner exchange he gave his place to a pregnant woman. During his time in the camp he even took part, as referee, in a football match on a Sunday to prevent the teams from fighting because he was trusted to be completely impartial...

Today I award the Tag to: MadPriest
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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Art and Christianity Part One - Artwork

I have been troubled that I had not responded to a couple of Meme requests back in 2009 so am now trying to catch up and Epiphany is a good day to give this post.

This Meme was started by Jonathan Evens and his proposal is here:
To list an artwork, drama, piece of music, novel, and poem that you think each express something of the essence of Christianity and for each one explain why. Then tag five other people.
Artwork: Antony Gormley 'Field for the British Isles'

I have actually been working on it for a while, it took a lot longer than I imagined when I first saw I had been tagged. Therefore I have decided to split the sections across five posts in this order:

Artwork: Antony Gormley - 'Field for the British Isles'
Drama: Film 'Chariots of Fire' (1981)
Music: J S Bach - St Matthew Passion
Novel: Victoria Hislop - The Island
Poem: Wilfred Owen - The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

I was privileged to stumble across Antony Gormley's 'Field for the British Isles' installation at The British Museum when my son was in theatre undergoing major surgery at Great Ormond Street hospital 7 years ago in 2002. Was just wandering around in a daze and landed up in the museum... was horrified at the vandalism our imperial nation had casued to many locations in the name of archaeology, what wicked crimes? Then there in the central Great Court was Gormley's 'Fields'... totally amazing!

I will never forget it, the sea of faces that so reflected humanity looking up at me and with the emotion of the day it all caught up with me. It felt like I was God! There I could see 'all people that on earth do dwell' and had abundant compassion and love for all of them, light clay, dark clay, large, small, friendly, angry, happy, sad, quirky, whatever. I had no favourites, in my strange mental state it was as though each were my son and not inamimate objects. Part of this was each piece was unique, individually created by a volunteer from a starting point of simply being given a ball of clay and basic instructions.

I am so grateful this moment happened, I might have steered clear of potential crowds had I known beforehand. It helped to ease the agony of wondering how my boy was at that very time, a spiritual distraction!

Read more about the 'Fields' project here.

Despite the risk he has already been nobbled I tag: Mike Todd


Weirdos and outcasts unite...

Today we celebrate Epiphany when the 'wise men' arrived to give the baby Jesus some gifts, a combination of the valuable and scary. Checking around the various knowledgeable bloggers it's emerging these guys were pretty quirky and not the sort of folk made very welcome in the established church. Ok, they arrived late, initially nearly screwed up everything by going to the wrong place and yet they are significant. The early church re-branded them as kings because they wouldn't fit the mould of power and respectability as astrologers and possibly trans-gender eunuchs....

Weirdos that mess up and arrive late? Sounds like musicians to me!
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Monday, 4 January 2010

Nativity! The film exposed...

Thoroughly enjoyed this gem of a British made film directed by Debbie Isitt. Martin Freeman is excellent as the weary primary teacher, Mr Maddens, who gets landed with producing this year's Nativity play for his underachieving school. His regular routines are completely disrupted by the arrival of an over exuberant teaching assistant, Mr Poppy, who unwittingly challenges the staus quo. Meanwhile in the 'posh' school down the road Mr Maddens' former drama school colleague always gets top reviews for his near perfect, yet clinical, productions.

As the story unfolds humour and pathos run hand in hand yielding tears of laughter and heartbreak in equal measure. Despite slipping into some of the ghastly music that Hollywood has shoehorned into Christmas there is an amazing scene towards the end which I felt had deep theological significance alongside the film's overall themes of restoring creativity, self-esteem, inspiration, grace, redemption and forgiveness. How institutions need a Mr Poppy!

Heartily recommended - 4 stars out of 5.
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