Thursday, 21 February 2013

Music holds, heals and invigorates, gives Dignity

A cracking little project for the metropolis of Leeds recorded and produced in Hope & Social's studio The Crypt... Checkout the full song from the gifted Jasmine Kennedy, available for just one of your British pounds (or more!), a sensitive cover of Deacon Blue's 'Dignity' here:


Saturday, 16 February 2013

Is Somebody Singing...?

A fascinating collaboration between the International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield, the band Barenaked Ladies and the Canadian junior choir the Wexford Gleeks. Band lead singer Ed Robertson is a self confessed space geek, a common theme amongst many musicians ;-)

I watched the video a couple of days ago, thanks to my blogosphere chum Mike Todd (checkout his original post here) and found I kept returning to watch again. I find there is something deeply moving despite the simplicity of the piece. To me it exhibits the characteristics of a Secret Chord moment, where many elements combine to make it thus...


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Eat, Fast and Living so for 6 months...

About 20 years ago I had a random cholesterol test when the local surgery were carrying out tests with a new piece of equipment and I hit the jackpot! After a further test with an the overnight fast the GP said I should change my dietary habits and, as a result, 6 months later was in the higher end of the ok zone.

One of the outcomes of Dr Michael Mosley's own tests, comprehensively documented on BBC's Horizon programme where he utilised the 5.2 fast system, was a substantial reduction in his cholesterol levels as well as a reduction in Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) plus a healthier pancreas. The loss in his weight was almost a by-product benefit of this process, rather than the core mission. When this program was first transmitted back in August 2012 I was captivated by the notion of both the health and spiritual benefits of the fasting aspect of this scheme so decided to embark on it too.

I have now reached the six month mark (26 weeks) of consistent adherence and, whilst I have yet to have a current blood test to measure the cholesterol levels, I definitely feel better for it overall and I am now no longer in the BMI overweight category. I have to say the first few times I underwent fast days (I've now settled on Mondays and Thursdays) it was tough, particularly in the evening after eating the restricted calorie meal... I longed for some extra nibbles!

Using my weight as a guideline, it seems I have reached some sort of plateau now, although I can tell letting up on the regime would gradually restore the pounds. So, just for the record and in case you're thinking of trying it, here's the evidence:

If you missed the full programme, it is available on Dailymotion here and the book, co-authored with Mimi Spencer, which effectively covers what was in the program and also gives some suitable restricted calorie recipe ideas, is called The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting - Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer.

Of course, am now pondering timely Lent thoughts ;-)


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Dancing with the angels...

I was saddened to hear the news that author and founder of Wiconi International, Richard Twiss, died yesterday. I read his book 'One Church Many Tribes' last year, a real insight into the world of indigenous folk both in the United States and worldwide that, despite everything that history rained down on them in the name of God, have revealed the Divine in a significantly deeper way:
We seek to live and walk among all people in a good way, as we follow the ways of Jesus-- affirming, respecting and embracing the God-given cultural realities of Native American and Indigenous people, not rejecting or demonizing these sacred cultural ways.
I have already blogged about Richard, including a video of him in conversation. For a fuller tribute, checkout Shane Claiborne's Facebook entry which includes this:
One of my favorite emails was him teaching me the Lakota phrase “Ikce Wicasa” – which means “common man”. He put it like this:

“In Lakota tradition it is an anathema to becoming a bigshot - arrogant, boastful, proud, highminded, etc…. To be humble, simple, “one of the guys” is to be a common man, Ikce Wicasa -- it is a thing to be sought after… in my life, I strive to be ikce wicasa -- "common man."

So thank you Richard. May your courage and wisdom continue to inspire us to greatness, and may your humility and common-ness continue to inspire us to smallness.
Meanwhile I simultaneously finished the extraordinary novel 'Indian Horse' from Canadian author Richard Wagamese. The riveting narrative follows the life of Saul Indian Horse from native childhood through time spent in a church run 'corrective' schooling system and beyond. Despite serious abuse Saul finds redemption in ice hockey and commences to navigate a new journey whilst still subject to taunts and discrimination because of his heritage. Again this book provides a revealing insight, reading like an autobiography, or memoir, which prompts one to research more background to the text.

Online interviews with the author point out that some Canadians see this book as primarily about hockey and even suggest that it should have a title that reflects that. Wagamese is adamant that it is actually centred on the need to face up to the past rather than simply revelling in the fulfilling aspects of the national sport.

Reader beware, though, as some dark truths emerge in the final twists and turns, it is gut wrenchingly disturbing. So, be prepared to shed a tear but don't expect to be able to put it down once you start...


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Driving in My Car...

Info-graphic from research carried out by the Tesco Insurance Comparison website, click image to zoom in...
Tesco Compare users respond: UK’s most popular Driving Music

February 5th, 2013

What do Brits listen to most while driving? The results of a recent competition held by Tesco Compare showed that, from postcode to postcode, Queen are the champions – and by some distance, too.

In September 2012, the comparison website launched a competition that questioned motorists on their choice of in-car music. 30,000 responded to the question, "What is your favourite song to drive to?" The results are published today in the infographic Queen of the Road. Over 75% of the country’s postal districts returned a decisive Mercury as Motor Monarch vote, almost exactly 50% more than Adele, their nearest competitor. Queen’s Greatest Hits, originally released in 1981, was recently confirmed by the Official Chart Company as the UK’s biggest selling album, with sales approaching 6 million.

The London-based rockers did not top the charts in every district, however, and the pockets of resistance make for interesting analysis in themselves. The survey showed that Adele keeps the motorists on track in Bromley, Truro, Wigan, Crewe and Southall, while she shares equal stereo time with other artists in Ilford (with ABBA and Michael Jackson), Worcester (Coldplay and Take That) and Sunderland (George Michael).

Perhaps the most unusual findings showed a small outcrop of passionate Louis Armstrong supporters at the wheel in Slough, and a loose but significant scattering of Killers and Gerry Rafferty fans populating the roads around Llandrindod Wells.  
The Drivers’ UK Top 10 came in as follows:

1.        Queen
2.        Adele
3.        Madness
4.        Coldplay
5.        ABBA
6.        Take That
7.        The Beatles
8.        Meat Loaf
9.        Bon Jovi
10.      Rihanna

Individual songs that scored very highly included Don’t Stop Me Now and Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, Someone Like You by Adele and Driving in My Car by Madness.

“Despite the abundance of modern pop music, it turns out that Queen retain the audio affections of the UK’s road users,” said Gemma Whitton, spokesperson for Tesco Compare. “Personally, I find listening to music while driving is quite therapeutic and helps me concentrate on my journey. I remember that when I bought my first car, the most important feature was the stereo. These days, I have a playlist of Driving Music on my iPod." 
So we prefer the anthemic stuff then? Happy to reveal my in transit listening habits are a tad different ;-)


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Folk music tradition matters...

This last week I decided to watch the BBC red button transmission of the annual Radio 2 Folk Awards. I have learnt that there are more sub divisions in this genre of music than realised at first, with various factions trying to claim their particular style is more authentically orthodox than the rest. My sense is that this is a problem that tends to arise where there is a clearly defined sub-culture, which folk music surely is.

One of the issues that manifests itself is the 'big fish, small pond' syndrome. Some of the music was simply not that great! A bit like poor versions of mainstream equivalents, even prog. rock (to my prejudiced ear) got a look in. There were notable exceptions from the delightful Karine Polwart and the sublime rendition above from Lifetime (he prefers 'lunchtime') Award recipient, fiddler Aly Bain.

This piece is played with such amazing sensitivity and surpassed anything else that I heard during the evening. Of course, it may have been different actually being there, but from the audience reaction I reckon this was most likely a Secret Chord moment! Unashamed plug warning: read more in Jonathan Evens and my wee book, The Secret Chord!

There are those that have managed to 'crossover' (that dreadful description) to the mainstream, in the last few years Seth Lakeman and Bellowhead to name but two, both of whom have amazing talent and virtuosity. This year an 'outsider' was invited to cross back, as a guest, into the fold, from the big outside world, namely Billy Bragg, who also received a special award.

It was all a bit like going to church, those who knew what was going on were fine, to us on the fringe some aspects were a total mystery (church), lots of meaningless drivel (bad sermons), some inspiring speeches, (good sermons), plenty of average music (typical), a rousing hymn at the end (predictable) and the transcendent rendition from Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham (a rare and precious sacred moment which reminds us what it's all about).

There seems to be plenty of energy devoted to maintaining traditions (back to church again!), but those that choose a higher calling prefer rather to build on the traditions and land up producing something very special, long may that continue...


Friday, 1 February 2013

Big Bang Practice...

Bomb disposal visited this fair isle to destroy a hand grenade on the beach a bit West of Monkey Steps that was trawled up today. Yes, I did mean gaffa tape really...and it was VERY loud!