WHAT'S THIS BLOG ABOUT?
(There may also be the odd film or book review along the way as well as stories from my life)
If you wish to use material from these posts, you may do so, but please respect the work of the writer. Proper attribution, and accurate quoting that is faithful to the context is appreciated.
Thursday, 28 November 2013
My journey of discovery into music was pretty much the same, it was mapped in part by some, in particular my older brother, who had gone before me. My brother introduced me to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull and many others of that same era, but there were some that left a lasting impact. And for very good reasons.
Neil Young's Harvest. Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. Yes, with Close to the Edge. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. These Albums perhaps had the greatest impact. The music was layered, authentic, it was the work of people that were willing to craft their work, rather than just pump it out. I was thinking today about some of the songs on Harvest; Old Man, Alabama, Words, A Man Needs a Maid to name a few. I can't tell you what it was about these songs, they were all different. But they all impacted me.
Tubular Bells is perhaps a bit obvious, or is it? Was it just an epic piece of work that quickly became the favourite go to piece for movie makers? Certainly the music has shifting moods and many big moments. Was it the astounding idea that one person wrote the music, played every instrument in that recording and did the recording himself? Possibly. There's nothing like a bit of (truthful) mythology to galvanise the attention of your audience. Or perhaps maybe, the music is just brilliant.
Yes, and their Close to the Edge Album. The Roger Dean artwork on many of their album covers is certainly a drawcard. But you don't listen to the artwork do you? No, the music must speak for itself.
Yes is not to everyone's liking, but they got my attention. Was it the music, again so layered and multi faceted? The dreamscape lyrics that took you into the fantastical artwork? Many of my contemporaries were less than tolerant of my love of this band, they dismissed the songs as too long, maybe the music was too complex. Yes' style was often described as, symphonic rock, playing "pieces" rather than songs. Their first three albums however had more of a Jazz-Fusion feel to them. Their first drummer Bill Bruford, like Charlie Watts, was a Jazz drummer. Their sound however changed and evolved. They survived a horrible period in the late 70's. Today they still play the music that marked them out from the mainstream crowd.
Pink Floyd need no explanation, they were more than ground breaking, they were earth shatteringly brilliant.
Back to the beginning. My musical ear was developing at just the right moment. Otherwise I might not have known how truly awful Disco really was, it was so in authentic, it was fast food pop. Driven by the gods of commercial wisdom and trend setting. Pop music for me, comes under the same umbrella. It's Mills and Boon with a tune.
The other night I was watching Les Mis',the one with Hugh Jackman. I had an epiphany, of sorts. I realised that truly magnificent music requires serious engagement, both from the listener as well as the writer. Isn't that true though of all writing? To write a song, or a musical score and then to perform it with some sort of justification requires a serious investment of yourself. At the time of the Beatles explosion on the music scene, the majority of popular music in America was written by just a handful of people. Imagine that, an entire market controlled by just a few people churning out the same diet of paint by numbers 3 minute 20 second pop gruel.
If you haven't made the investment, why should I buy it? You have to earn my audience. Pop music and it's current trend of performance criteria. Well see for yourself. Any live music performance that needs massive stage productions, bevies of dancers and performers, has just one purpose. To dazzle you beyond your ability to recognise a bad song. If the music itself is not enough to hold my attention, then it's not good enough. You know the saying about putting lipstick on a pig? Yeah, it's still a pig.
My firmest belief about music is this. There are two types of people. Those that put music on. Those that listen. Listening requires stillness, a willingness to shut out all else, to expose yourself to it, to absorb it into yourself, music must connect. Switchfoot front man John Foreman penned the lyrics. "If we're adding to the noise, turn off this song". A bold statement, if it doesn't connect? then leave it.
SO, where is my landscape today? Well it too has evolved. I still eschew mainstream pop. My choice of artists has evolved somewhat, I now include Many classical pieces to my playlists. But there is one group I have recently fallen in love with that pushes all the right buttons for me.
Future of Forestry. The name comes from a C.S. Lewis poem. The group had a previous incarnation as "Something Like Silas". What can I say about the music? Multifaceted? Layered? Innovative? Yes all of these, but there is more. Artistry, thematic, a shifting landscape. No one album hints at or echoes another. Front man Eric Owyoung refuses to be tied down to a style, constantly changing instrumental emphasis. But there is something more to it, the most important of all. It engages. Sometimes you want to dance, to cry to stand on the top of a mountain and shout to the heavens of its magnificence. It breathes as if a life of its own. This music is topographical, it is contoured and multi featured, it takes you places, places you want to visit time and again. When you go there, you're less likely to be seduced by the latest new sensation, you're content to stay.
Monday, 28 October 2013
Saturday, 31 August 2013
Isaiah 2 vs 22 reads. "Stop trusting in mere humans who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem." NIV 2011.
Some years ago I heard a story about Frank Herbert, author of the "Dune" series. He posited the idea that, of the many U.S. presidents, Nixon was one of the best, and JFK one of the worst. His reasoning was this. Through Nixon, the American people learned, that the highest authority in the land could be challenged, be exposed in their corruption, held accountable and removed from office. In John F Kennedy, the people exalted him to god like status, and when he was assassinated the people fell with him. This was the original premise of the "Dune" trilogy. What happens, when a man becomes a god, and then fails?
The problem lies in this, man is not created to recieve worship. We are not intended to worship anything other than our creator God. The things we place before us in veneration, are the things that shape us. We take on their characteristics. If we exalt money as our ideal, that is what we become, it takes the place of highest importance, and our day to day life is therefore ruled by the rising and falling value of the dollar, and how much of it we own. Our self image and sense of worth therefore, is attached to what we have. Not to who we are.
Which brings us to Miley Cyrus. While I'm not about to defend what happened at the VMA. I am going to query our reaction to it. Why was there such outcry?
Let's start with Will Smith, or more specifically the Smith family. We all saw the picture of their cringing reaction. Well first off, who made the Smith family the guardians of our moral compass. Oh yes the kids are young, but given some past performances at previous VMA's, what were you expecting? Oh that's right, Hannah Montana. But she's all grown up now, I'll get to that in a minute. Will Smith, lets look at his career. First a hit single called "Get jiggy with it" whatever the heck that means. Isn't that loaded verbally, with as much sexual inuendo as a bit of "twerking" whatever the heck that is? What about Will's movies, an early role was in "Six degrees" in which he plays a gay/bisexual scam artist, playing upon peoples attachment to racial sensitivities and personality cult status. Now I'm not getting down on Will, far from it. I like a lot of the stuff he's done. Just not that movie. No doubt Will might say it was just a role, he was acting out a character. Well that's fine, we are generally smart enough to know, that the character is not you.
Now we get to the part where it all gets twisted. Miley Cyrus, is NOT Hannah Montana. Shocked? Apparently half of America was. What about the performance? Micheal Jackson made a career of crotch grabbing, and everybody still loves him right? Is she trying to be the new Madonna? Well do we need another? What about Kylie Minogue? That sweet lovable girl from neighbours, didn't she go this same route with her stage shows and lingerie adds? Nikki Webster, the sweet girl from the 2000 Olympics, who at 18 started posing for mens magazines? Lets add two more to the mix. Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. Now we see the problem right? They came through Disney, Lindsay, Britney and now Miley. So we've been sold this image of sweet wholesomeness, a manufactured facade that these girls obviously want to break out from, and be themselves, except the pendulum swing is so violent.
But it's not confined to Disney, I'm not blaming them either. This happened in the world of Contemporary Christian Music as well. Amy Grant. A sweet wholesome girl that sang "El Shaddai" "Fathers Eyes" and more, then she grew up and got married. Then she changed, and I knew she was going to. Because she became a woman. She became a sexual being. Out went the conservative Amy and out came harder rock numbers and leopard print pants. For some this was just too much, she obviously was no longer a christian. For me this was when her music got better, much better. It had a real life edge to it. I loved it.
Back to Miley, wasn't her VMA performance just that? A persona, an act, it's what she's been doing for years. Wasn't it choreographed for her and rehearsed? None of her fellow performers were surprised by it. It wasn't a random brain explosion stage invasion. The real problem is this. It wasn't Hannah Montana.
Now, this is what Isaiah says to us. Why was our trust put in a fake persona? HANNAH MONTANA DOESN'T EXIST? Just the ideal that you worshipped. Well your idols have feet of clay. They are all too easily toppled. And when your idols topple. Or more accurately, when their true self and nature is revealed, so is ours. We don't like what we see. Someone once said. "Evil men do what good men dream about." Well on some levels that is true.
We don't like the truth when it is exposed in us. It's not Miley Cyrus that offends us, it is ourselves.
Wednesday, 31 July 2013
I've been thinking about this word a lot the last couple of days. What does it mean to be intentional. Early in July I had a conversation with a young guy from Queensland. We were at Hillsong Conference and I was asking him about his first experience of the conference. His reply was along the lines that, even though he knew the music etc and a lot else about it, he was now seeing first hand how it all worked. His comment stuck with me. "Everything is intentional." I can tell you from my numerous years at Hillsong Conference, most of them spent serving or volunteering in some capacity. That every thing is done with intent, it is thought out and planned beforehand. From the production values, crowd movement, everything, even something as mundane as putting a pamphlet or brochure on a seat. It is thought out first.
So thinking this week, about what it means to be intentional, actually caused me a few problems. So occupied with these thoughts, that I wasn't really focusing on my work. Which led to a few errors, predictable and avoidable. I was being un-intentional. Ironic huh!
So what does it mean to be intentional?
What does it mean for my writing. Do I write with intent or do I just write when the mood takes me? In the case of a novel I'm currently writing, (probably more of a novella). Do I just do as Stephen King does and just flog it out, let it flow, and then tidy it up in the edits? Reading a book on writing, it occured to me that I needed to write profiles for my major characters, and, because the world of the story is fictional, I had to write it's character as well. Why? Because I didn't know my characters, well I did sort of, but I need to know them, in order to tell their stories, it also helps me to tell you, the reader, who they are.
Actually, I realised, it's research. If I'm going to write something, I need to know who and what I'm writing about.
Now, I can begin to write intentionally.
A lot of people say "oh I'd love to write a book one day" well they have to start. They have to be intentional.
Just having a bit of a plan, that won't do it. Having a bit of a go, that doesn't cut it either. You have to commit to the process, see it through to completion, and make sure it's the best you're capable of.
It's the same with everything in life really, you don't try marriage, you don't just have a go, try it and see, run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it.
As a wise man once said "do, or do not, there is no try" (Mr Myagee, Karate Kid).
We can't live life without resolve, without commitment, unfocused, going where the mood or the breeze takes us. No, our course must be set. Our direction focussed. Yes there is a certain amount of adventure and discovery in life, but adventures should be planned, or they turn into rescues. Discovery should have a purpose attached to it. If it doesn't add something to us then it's just entertainment, we've discovered nothing.
So to live with intention, to have a sense of purpose and destiny, that's the key. Otherwise we're just doing things to fill the gaps and fight off boredom. I'd rather not write my bucket list just yet, I've got too much to do.
Monday, 22 July 2013
The importance of this was highlighted to me again just today. When friends started posting a horrendously erronious, online report, of the Wellington tremor on the weekend. That's Wellington New Zealand by the way.
The report appeared in an online publication, guardianlv.com it placed all the towns mentioned in Australia, and even quoted a source, a newspaper, that doesn't even exist. Very poor journalism.
After realising their woeful gaffe the publication issued an apology and correction, but decided to keep the article visible in the name of "journalistic integrity".
You can imagine the howls of derision that erupted, not just in the comments section, but also from myself, almost.
I was all ready to go on the attack. Especially after I read through some of their website, I was baying for blood. And it would be so easy to do, to pull someone down in my veil of smug superiority.
But then I took time to think about it, which is always a good idea.
Journalistic integrity. That's a big claim, in light of the inaccuracies that were posted as "news".
But they were right. They owned their mistake, not afraid to let it remain for the world to see, swallow a bit of humble pie and say "yep, we got this so wrong". That takes guts.
So good on you guardianlv.com you showed integrity.
And thank you for reminding me, that the research, is so important.
If you're interested here's a link to the article.
Why not add a word of encouragement to the comments section. At least they owned up to it, which is more than a lot of print journalists are willing to do.
Monday, 8 July 2013
When did bling become everything?
Have we developed an imbalanced approach to things that don't last?
The newest fad in a celebrity mag. Are they useful tools or toys that distract?
The latest consumer must haves, the need that misleads.
Like Bowerbirds and Jackdaws, littering our nests with the pretty and glittery.
They never satisfy because someone's always got a newer one, bigger one, better one.
Our unhealthy obsession with wood hay and stubble, It'll all stay behind, buried in the rubble.
Identity is lost in the last thing while we scrabble to buy the new.
To maintain our fleeting grasp on currency. Lost in the need to individualise, to stand out, we drown in the crowd.
Buying in to this corrupted, consumerist reimaging, we sell ourselves.
Celebrity status is a delusion of fame, no person more important than any other name.
Should never demand special exclusive treatment.
But still they do because we say it's so.
We build the pedestal lofty and high, pulling them down when they fail to fly.
They're human after all, did we really think they couldn't fall?
The sad side effect of the popularity drug, they cloak themselves in security.
Fanatical obsession pushes them into fearful sad isolation.
As the limelight fades, trying to fan the flame that burned bright.
But it's too late, we've moved on.
They once looked new.
Stay the same or change, it's a losing game.
And the church is not immune to this roundabout ride.
It's our broken nature a fault we can't hide.
Copy the world and play the game.
Put all your stock in the one's with fame.
We hurt the one that gave us His name.
It's not about me, are the words that set free.
Jesus told us "what to expect if you follow me"
It won' t be easy, it can get kind of rough.
Don't waste your time on all sorts of stuff.
Set someone else before yourself.
Not to lift them high, but to help them up.
Life's not about the things we collect, the things that don't last.
Their importance is fleeting, it happens so fast.
Eternity measures the things that add up.
Are they lasting and precious or just about us?
What did we count as important and real?
Mere riches on earth?
Well that's not the deal.
Saturday, 29 June 2013
I am going to attempt to disect this a little, try to shed a bit of light on it. I have no hard data for what I am about to write, just my own thoughts and observations. I may be wrong about a few things but possibly not. you may perceive them as wrong, maybe until you take the time to give it some serious thought. So I am going to start with the secular view, draw some analogies and then bring my conclusion.
So let's begin. I think the problem, or a large part of it, is found in language. The language that is written and spoken. What do I mean by that? Well not english or french obviously. I mean the secular terminology, where growth is expressed or thought of in terms of equity and assets. Some of the language used, is in words like; cap, limit, ceiling. Anything that is built by way of a facility, is according to space, population density and projected or prescribed need.
Think about building a Golf Course. How many members do you need? Well as many as can tee off in winter (because of the shorter days). Plus maybe 20% to allow for absences. Then there are weekday members, same limit rules apply. Now it is a matter of economy, what does it cost to administrate that number of members. So you can see, there is a limit, yet there will never be a shortage of people wanting to play. However, there is still a limit of how many people, in groups of four, can tee off and play 18 holes of golf, if they all play well and quickly.
Now think about the movies. The Cinema complex does this a bit better. Again they are limited by; size, space, available parking etc. They know, in times of high demand, how many sessions they can run, on multiple screens in one day. The movie could be running on 4 screens, with staggered start times to accomodate demand, and they can start earlier and finsh later if they need to. It all just depends on the season and length of the film.
Speaking of films, the secular approach is perhaps best described in the phrase "If you build it they will come". This approach is born out of creating a need, rather than responding to one.
Now we come to the church. Everything is now different, some of the rules will still apply, but some are the opposite. We are still restricted somewhat by space and logistics, but like the cinema, we can run to multiple sessions. When they no longer suffice, it's time to look for a new or extra facility.
The language of the church is shaped by an eternal mindset, numbers without limit. There is no membership cap. The approach is not if we build, but we have to build, because they are already coming.
So when the secular mind sees the church growing and expanding, they see the new buildings as assets and equity. Therefor they respond with, wait for it...."It's all about the money"
The truth is it's not. It's about people, (which the secular mind views as a customer base). It's about eternal principles, a soul that is either rescued or lost for eternity. We can't say come back next week, or session full. There is only the now, because who knows if they will ever have another now. The movie will run tomorrow, or wait for the DVD. the golf Course will be open all week for public play. But eternity may start after the next heartbeat.
When demand exceeds capacity, you have no choice, you have to build.
OK I will concede one point here. Yes, there are some, especially in America, who set themselves up in ministry as an income stream, and they teach (hammer) the prosperity doctrine for their own ends. And this is where a lot of the criticism is aimed. But that is not the true doctrine of the christian church.The story of Babel is a poignant reminder of what happens when humanity builds to promote and exalt itself. The true doctrine puts others ahead of self, even to the point of our own personal loss. It builds to serve the needs of humanity, not the needs of a few elite humans. And certainly not for personal monetary gain.
Thursday, 20 June 2013
My first and introductory blog.
What can you, the reader, expect to find in future blogs from me?
Well, just about anything really.
I will post on a wide variety of subjects; Film, Music, Sport, Politics, more Sport, Books, TV, Family, Life (don't talk to me about life)*. The list is wide and varied. But it will usually come from a Christian viewpoint, for which I don't apologise. I may offer a Film Review just because I like the film, or it may be because there is a strong underlying message that I see in the film, which I will share with you.
A brief warning though, due to my upbringing and my brain that seems to like firing on random thoughts at any moment, you can expect off the cuff (and off the wall) references from; Monty Python, The Goon Show, Douglas Adams (*above) and any other strange thought that enters my mind, (nothings entering my mind). See I did it again, this time from Back to the Future. Generally I blame my parents for this and the constant diet of British TV and Radio comedy I was fed in my formative years. I will just say I enjoyed every tasty morsel. I savour it still.
Sometimes on this site, which is the real reason I'm doing this, I will simply be writing. It may be in the form of a poem, maybe a mini sermon (because no-ones inviting me to come preach in their church) a bit of theology whatever. If you want to invite me to come and speak in your church that's cool also.
My opinions are my own. Not that of my church or anyone else. If you want to borrow or quote from me that's fine as long as you give me a bit of credit for it. If you use what I've written to develop a message that's cool, or you could just ask me to come speak in your church.
Feel free to leave a comment, you can agree or disagree, but this is not the forum for your own long winded opinion. If you want to do that you can start your own blog, it's free.
If you get abusive or leave unsavoury comments, you'll just get removed.