Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Song - One of Mary



Peggy Seeger 'Be an Engineer'

This week is the week Christians remember Mary, mother to Jesus.   Some get rather pious and paint her as some angelical demi-god, others barely remember her. The reality is - like so many women in the world - she had a situation thrust upon her and and made the best of it.

Whatever one's view of Mary, no-one should forget the real role women play in society. From being involved in 70% of the world's agricultural practices, to baring the brunt of the cuts in the UK - the silent majority are neglected to only be seen as part-time cooks, cleaners and rearers!

So this sunday - light a candle and remember Mary.... then remember


  • All the women who 'suffer in silence' because of abuse in the home
  • All the women who are forced to change their life plans because of unplanned pregnancies
  • All the women left to carry the financial can when men desert them
  • All the women who take on menial or degrading jobs to pay the bills


then remember

  • All the women who fought to ensure women had the vote
  • All the women chain-makers who fought for workers rights
  • All the women in high-office, demonstrating that gender has no baring on ability to do a job


Then finish by remembering:

Nov 2nd marks the day (according to the Fawcett society) that women stop earning.  Although the UK has had the equal pay act for 40 years, there is a living pay gap of around 16.4%.

(For quality feminist writing I cannot help but recommend - The F Word - blog and accompanying book)

Take Care Y'All

John

Monday, November 29, 2010

WikiLeaks is Good For Us



Today The Guardian helped serve a great purpose for the nation.   It filtered and published a selection of papers from the WikiLeaks release of international cables. At least one of my friends is already spitting feathers and calling for the death penalty, me - well I'm rather pleased we had the release.

What I have seen so far seems to be little over a diplomatic version of 'Heat Magazine'.  While there could be some real problems caused by some of the papers - the overall impression created is the chance to listen in to what the neighbours really think of us.

I think this will only be good for all.  The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote a brilliant book (The Truce of God - Peacemaking in Troubled Times) looking at issues of peace and war - for him notions of national security are so-often built on insecurity therefore can't really lead to security.  Steps like this mass disclosure lead to greater openness and understanding and (ultimately) could lead to a world where matters of security and diplomacy are built on understanding not fear.

I'm already looking forward to tomorrow's paper which promises American views on our new Government......

Take Care Y'All

John

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Song - Something Inside So Strong



Today's Sunday Song is a stunning song.  Grab a cuppa, sit down, shut of the noise of the world and enjoy it. Enjoy it because it shows hope, potential and the fact there is a better world we can all reach.


People said South Africa would end in a bloodbath - instead it ended in a truth and reconciliation commission that enabled a nation to move forward by confronting the missjudged power of the past.   Violence breeds violence - both in words and deeds.

People said men, women, gays, blacks shouldn't have a vote, a say in society or the basic right to walk along the street.  Other said no - you cannot build your security upon someone else. That breeds insecurity.  It delivers a world in which you only feel secure by oppressing others - that isn't security.

Ultimately this Sunday Song is dedicated to all those willing to make a stand and make the world a better place. If you want to see me weep then it's fairly easy - sit me down with Bread and Roses, Milk, Land and Freedom...Sit me down with a film that shows people saying "No! We will not take this any more. These are our rights and we will stand firm until we get them".

Friday, November 19, 2010

Today in Parliament the Children Will Be Set Loose



Friday is a funny day in Parliamentary terms. For many Members of Parliament it's a chance for them to get on the train/bus/balloon and head for their constituencies, for some though it's a chance to raise (and debate) in Parliament an issue of great concern.

Private Members Bills should be a way for MPs to change the law.  Sometimes this does happen, abortion, vulture funds, abolition of the death penalty and more were all were pushed from the backbenches and onto the statue book. However, many more simply fail. 

Failure isn't because the bill isn't good. Failure occurs for one of two reasons - either not enough MPs turn out in support or because members opposed to the bill 'talk it out'.  That's right,within the strict bounds of the subject of the Bill those opposed talk and talk and talk until parliamentary time elapses.  This causes fustration all round and has been a recent hobbyhorse of Kerry McCarthy (Labour MP, ) who explained

Business starts at 9.30am, and continues until 2.30pm. If you don't like a bill you could take the conventional route of rallying opposition and voting it down, but that doesn't happen. Instead we have the usual suspects, loathed and feared by the Tory whips in equal measure but also damned useful to them on occasions like this, who basically come along to talk. And talk. And talk. The opposite rules to Just a Minute apply; the more hesitation, deviation and repetition they can work into their speeches without being pulled up by the Speaker, the better.
(For full details on this see her article here)



This is an incredibly undemocratic tactic.  It wastes parliamentary time and, more importantly, it also means that other Private Members Bills to be discussed that day are not heard.

These last two weeks in particular have seen a return to the principle of talking it out. Previous readers of the blog won't be surprised to hear Christopher Chope gives his two penneth worth and most recently Jacob Rees-Mogg decided that a bill about sustainable farming was just the place to reminiss about poems from his youth that adorned his crockery.    Also it was a place for fine theological debate as he asked the following:

Jacob Rees-Mogg: My hon. Friend is enormously generous in giving way. Is it not true to say that the glories of England are created by God and the farmer, and not the bureaucrat?

Thankfully though it begins to appear that the Speaker's patience is getting short.  Last week, after one of the more stretching interventions he said the following:

The hon. Gentleman, though a new Member, will be very well familiar with Standing Order No. 42 on the subject of tedious repetition and irrelevance, and I know that he will not wish to fall foul of that. In passing, although I know he is a man with an exceptional memory, I should perhaps just remind him and the House and others interested in our proceedings that on another private Member's Bill on 22 October this year, he developed his argument for one hour and 39 minutes in respect of a two-clause Bill. This Bill has five clauses, it is true, but he behaved in a slightly unsatisfactory way on that occasion, and I feel sure that he will not want to repeat the experience.

Therefore today the Mother of All Parliament ends up as a moody teenager and thousands of people around the country will see an issue of their concern wasted.   Friday's in Parliament are a disgrace - not because of the Private Members Bills, instead because some people will be prepared to 'talk out' a bill. Having lobbied MPs who are Whips what makes it worse is the acceptance of this manor of defeating them.

I would hope that today could provide a chance to make progress on Child Safety, Credit Regulation or Parliamentary Standards. Instead we are more than likely to give another MP the chance to ... well ... recite some poetry. It is painful to watch, yet somehow there is something quiet enchanting about watching an elected representative abuse the system to ensure another elected representative can't bring about their change.

(For those interested, beneath is the poem - reproduced from Hansard - in its original format which has (amusingly) been laid out like a poem!)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Olive be having that thank you very much

This morning's radio brought a rude reminder of injustice in the world.   If you click here you will find a short item on how the olive groves are a source of conflict in the 'occupied' territories of Palestine.  

I find it sad to find Israel's actions are defended by some.  It was a country born out of necessity, yet now appears to be handing out to others what it it'self is a reminder of.  Repression of people due to class, race or religion is a despicable thing.  Every political argument has it's extremists - yet when the organs of state enable that it is horrendous.  A perplexing part of the report - and one not fully explored by the Methodist blogs around this subject - is the concept of Israel being a land 'promised by God'.  How does anyone debate with that idea? How can you effectively tackle this in a way that doesn't appear like you are attacking someones faith.  The two are interlinked and on this occasion lead to injustice.   Israel, as a nation, has the right to exist. It doesn't have the right or legal backing to constantly expand beyond predetermined borders. It doesn't have the moral right to oppress another to claim it can then have it's own freedom. Yet, if you believe your state is gift from something grater than the laws of the earth, how can you be effectively engaged with?

I'm reminded of the Archbishop of Canterbury who  reflects and reminds us all that security built upon insecurity will never be lasting security.  South Africa is a lesson to us all - once those in power trust and hand over that power to others in region then all can coexist and the nation can flourish.  Until then violence will always occur because the root causes are never tackled.

(If you can't imagine what this may be like - I would suggest watching Lemon Tree- a stunning film bringing out the issues faced by both groups of people in the area)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Why I'm on the Organ Donation Register


It's surprising how one is reminded of ones mortality but today was one of those days. Respected blogger and minister Angela Shire-Jones outlines her concerns about Organ Donation. While overall it was diplomatic in tone, I believe she missed some key points.....

Firstly, I don't believe that we 'play God' when it comes to organ transplants. By utilising our bodies we ensure that each of us is able to make the most of our time on this planet. During this time though this can and do go wrong. If your car breaks, you go to the mechanic and get a new part. Why can't we do the same with humans? Thankfully we don't live in a horrendous Germany style system where body parts are removed from living individuals (without consent). Instead the majority of the items on the donor card cover 'when dead'. Therefore all we say is this – take my body and put it to use. We each have been given the gift of live therefore it is also up to us to share it.

Second, I don't believe that the world is just made up of individuals. Instead we are collectives (nations), continents and a global community. Through our interconnected networks we grow and flourish and potentially hit that gold standard of 'life in all its fullness'. Yet, just as we hope for love and support as times go well - we should also be willing to provide love and support when times are not so good. If we have a 'spare' organ then why shouldn't we donate it to someone more needy then us? Simply considering the self ultimately leads to unsustainable lifestyles modelled on nothing else but a dog eat dog world which benefits no-one and hurts everyone and everything in the process. Look around us at the economy and the environment. Two giant systems being destroyed by humanities selfishness, which have to hope for humanities selflessness to create a more just and equitable system.

Thirdly, science is one of the greatest skills that humanity can develop. Through trial, error, success and fudge, science generally advances lives. While there are some gross errors of judgement made, such as GM Crops and Nuclear Weapons, the majority of work carried out can only advance humanity. Within the context of Angela's argument was the idea that 'natural self selection' won't occur if we give transplants. I'm going to widen it slightly and say, to a lesser or greater extent every time we go to the doctor/nurse and end up under the knife, receiving treatment, we are playing God. We are admitting that our feeble frame is unable to cope with what it is receiving therefore we additional help.

This additional help isn't bad. I was born around 10 weeks early and I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the dedicated staff and surgeons at the hospital. That's it. Were they playing God when they put me under the knife 3 times? Were they playing God when I received blood transfusions? Were they playing God when my disabled Twin had his legs broken and re-set to enable him greater capacity for mobility?

Should I have died and should Mark have poor gate and very limited mobility? Or should we realise that medical judgements are as much about seeing the potential and wanting the best. It's as though the Quaker principle of 'seeing that of God in everyone' is laid bare on the operating table and in the hospital as it is through a mixture of hope, science and luck that humans live when things look grim.

During my lifetime I want to continue to live out the challenge of the Good Samaritan. I don't wish to be pious and keep on walking, I want to stop – get my hands dirty and ensure all have quality of life. These ethics come to me in a heartbeat therefore it only seems right that I continue to help others, even after my heart stops beating.

Go on – sign up today -click here

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Welcome to my wonderland

Earlier this week the clocks moved.  The nights are getting darker earlier and it is a time that many find their moods changed, and life can take on a driecher outlook. Don't dispair though, sit down with a cup of cocoa and enter my wonderland.

Wonderland is a wonderful stream of programmes on BBC2.  It sits in the social documentary strand and, while no doubt cleverly edited, has little or no narration and really just lets the people on screen tell their own story.  Some are sad, some are bad, some are dotty yet all someone leave me feeling that little bit warmer inside, and a wee bit more thankful for the bizarre, eccentric and wholesome british isles.

Picture a screenshot of launch page from BBC iplayer
Episode 1 of the series 'Boy Cheerleaders' transports us to Leeds to meet boys developing their talent for dancing.  Under the watchful eye of dance worker, and - as it transpires - wannabe parental advisor and general surrogate father/male role model, this rag-tag group of boys defy local sterotypes to train as cheerleaders and enter a national competition.
Through the eyes of various members of the group we find out how tough life at home and school is going, how a lack of male role models was causing confusion and how (regardless of background) all boys ever want to do on school trips is stay up very very late.  

This one really goes into its own with the un-spoken sections.  I 
spent most of my pre-university years envolved in community drama.  Finding out through this the incredible transformation that can occur and, as many shots within the programme testify, it's not always what is said but the looks on participants faces as they are the only male competitors in a national competition yet the strut out to bust-a-move and potentially raise the roof...

(EDIT - If you want to find out more about them go to their BEBO page - DAZL Dimonds)



Picture a screenshot of launch page from BBC iplayer
Episode 2 of the series 'High Society Brides' somersaults us into the world of, according to it's editor, a more 'sophisticated version of page 3'.  Page 3 is a chance for The Sun to display a scantily clad women in little or no clothes, often spouting a 'news in brief(s)' which bears an uncanny resemblance to Murdoch's veiew.  This programme - well it follows the featured women from 'country life' magazine who have a high quality portrait taken and are 'announced' as either single or engaged to someone in high society.

Once the height of high society - this was a flick through the pages and profiles of the women featured in CL to find out what their life was up-to and what happened to the relationships they featured.   If the last programme was about boys defying stereotypes, this one was about living it up - within the context of today's societal norms.  While two participants had quiet dated views (one being quiet clear that a women's place is in the home, but a man doesn't only have to commit to her) the rest lived relatively full lives and laughed off the fact that cousins and others would inherit their fathers wealth, leaving them with nothing, all because of the inherent sexism of the aristocracy.  While all were strong characters, a lasting impression was left on me of the loneliness of high society.  Many of those profiles appeared to have it all, yet someone still be very lonely.

Picture a screenshot of launch page from BBC iplayer
Episode 3 continued with the challenging profiles with the delightfully named 'Mad Cats and Englishwomen'.  Starting with startling statistics, including the fact that there are 1 cat of every 6 people who live in London (and half of those cats are homeless) it moved on to enable the experiences to tell the story of why a small group of women work hard to deliver a quality of life to cats who are lost, abandoned or neglected.

This was a challenging programme because the core participant in the programme couldn't talk. Instead we saw women take some clear decisions, based upon surroundings, and consider if the cats were safe or happy in their situation.  While the first programme made me consider about the need to lobby and ensure arts funding isn't cut, this one left a much deeper situation.  There is one distressing situation where a women goes to a mans house to find a situation more reminiscent of John Peel's documentary 'A life of grime'.  While this show focussed upon the re-homing of cats, I finished it realising and thinking that animals play a key part in anyones mental health.  People struggling to cope with an animal are as much in need of social support alongside any need they identify to get rid of the animal.

If this taster of wonderland has wet your appetite then don't worry - watch the next episode each Wednesday, BBC2,9pm....

Take Care Y'All

John



Monday, October 18, 2010

On Wednesday I Warn You

We are close to the results of the Spending Review.  Based upon the cavalier attitude the LIberal Democrats are displaying towards manifesto promises, mixed with the a basic amount of political knowledge - I'm reminded of Neil Kinnocks stunning speech from 1983*.

Already we have seen a government determinded to punish the poorest in society and one that is ready to dismantle basic principles of the welfare state.  We are not seeing economic sense, we are seeing political ideology given life and I for one am appalled by it.  

So please, read the following speech but I suggest you alter the opening line to read:
'After George Osbourne announces the results of the Spending Review, I warn you....'

If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as prime minister on Thursday, I warn you.
I warn you that you will have pain–when healing and relief depend upon payment.
I warn you that you will have ignorance–when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right.
I warn you that you will have poverty–when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay.
I warn you that you will be cold–when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.
I warn you that you must not expect work–when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies.
I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light.
I warn you that you will be quiet–when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient.
I warn you that you will have defence of a sort–with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding.
I warn you that you will be home-bound–when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up.
I warn you that you will borrow less–when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.
If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday:
  • I warn you not to be ordinary
  • I warn you not to be young
  • I warn you not to fall ill
  • I warn you not to get old. 

    Take Care Y'all

    John 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Song- Proud of the BBC



Today's Sunday Song comes courtesy of Radio 4 funny-man Mitch Benn.  By taking an amble through the myriad of programs that the corporation produces, it makes clear just why it is worth being proud of our national institution.

Why have it now? 

Well, partly because we're getting to autumn when lazy summer evenings out fail and we all scurry back indoors - just in time for the latest epic blockbuster ( I would recommend Mark 'Doctor Who & Sherlock Holmes' Gattiss's new programme 'The First Men in the Moon' this coming Tuesday on BBC 4).

Partly because the BBC Archive site has had some brilliant stuff on it recently, including The Egg Race (building stuff), CBBC Broom Cupboard and a fascinating series on the (sadly) unending Gay rights movement.  The highlight of which being a programme called 'The Lord's My Shepard and he Knows I'm Gay -featuring interviews with founding members of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement; 30 year old footage still causing some pause for thought.

Finally because the Beelzebub of the Broadcasting world, Rupert Murdoch, wants to rapidly increase his stake in Sky.  But never fear we can all rely on Buisness Secretary Vince Cable to defend the interests of the nation, that old communist....pscht!  Instead let's turn to people power and fill out the campaign (stating our objection to the plan) from e-xciting e-lobby group 38 Degrees!
  •  Take the action here
Take Care Y'All

John

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Happy Birthday & Happy Retirement



Today is a day the whole world can rejoice. Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrates his 79th Birthday and with that goes to collect his pension and retire.

I'm deeply sad at this because he is one of the biggest religious inspirations I have ever had and I've had the pleasure of meeting him once, and hearing him speak twice. Although he came back to many of the same messages (See video above) his still found new ways and means of phrasing things and, well, if you've ever heard him laugh you'd just want to bottle it!

Thank goodness he wrote down his wisdom while he was preaching, teaching and changing the world!

Happy Birthday Desmond! Enjoy your retirement, may it bring you much happiness



(To read my report on meeting him, re-read the article I wrote for Ekklesia )

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Abuse of Our Resources - Reflections on Suing the Church

Birmingham's 'Methodist Preacher' today fired the latest salvo in his continuing battle with whatever problems he has with the denomination of which he is a member.  While subtly written up on his blog, the fundamental truth is David Hallam is about to sue the British Methodist Church.

Ever since the Methodist Conference considered, then passed, a report titled 'Justice for Israel and Palestine' our friend up the road has been in a continual lather.  By having a major christian denomination responding to the Palestinian's cry for justice, the church has somehow become part of a large anti-semitic conspiracy...why....because the report calls for a boycott of goods produced on Israeli settlements in the occupied territories....that's it....territories in land which is mainly seen as illegal and which will ultimately return to the Palestinian people if a two state solution is reached (note - for more on the settlements see this article)

The irony of this is unmistakable.   He has spent the last few weeks blogging about the need for large sums to refurbish his own church.  Yet he then will waste money donated in care to the Connexion by forcing it to defend in the law-courts something that has been debated at all levels of the decision making church, and of course could potentially be overturned at the next Methodist Conference.

I give my collection to the church for a simple reason.  We use the gifts from God to further the kingdom of God.  For me that means defending principles of justice, truth and god's love for all.  In this current age this means listening to our Christian friends from Palestine,alongside other groups, and spending time and effort to highlight the injustices going on in the holy land.

The good samaritan makes clear - clerics and academics can always find a reason to walk by as someone suffers. It is the job of every Christian to make sure that no-one of any faith suffers and the churches focus on Palestine is just one way of doing this.

Monday, September 06, 2010

why the Feminist cry should still be heard

One reason the BBC works so well is because of it's archive.  By rehashing and reuniting material from the past it goes beyond repeats to creating fascinating and interesting programmes that deliver a space for historical reflection and reaction within the world we live today.  The Reunion is one such programme and this week proved to be more than just historical - instead it seemed current, cutting and inspiring.   

This week united key players in the 1970 Miss World pageant.  Held in the Royal Albert Hall, London, the event courted both racial and gender controversy and saw (as the video demonstrates) Bob Hope interrupted by protestors as he tried to mock and challenge the protestors who saw this event more as a show trial of male chauvinism than a showcase of 'fine women'.
  

What made the Radio 4 programme come alive was two different aspects.  The first was the mix of players around the table.  Uniting organisers, television hosts, protestors and Miss World entrants it really felt like all sides of the story was represented.  However, rather than a back slapping session, where all admit times have moved on the very real arguments began to come to the forefront as those involved in organising the event clashed with those presenting it. As verbal chaos begins to descend even the presenter sounds shocked and asks some pointed questions that really highlighted how, even thirty years on, some people view women as nothing more than objects.

The second reason the programme came alive was the mix of personal testimony and archive clips.  In the best vain of social and oral history we heard how the protestors were gearing up, what they were experiencing and thinking while also having these reflections counterbalanced by Miss World and Michael Aspel who was the TV presenter trying to present the whole show. The most defining moment within this was hearing the procession of protest, why and how it unfurled.   There is something deeply moving, almost moving me to tears, to hear these woman talk about the need for equal rights, recognition and acceptance.  Their fight was right and what emotions i feel every time I hear the audio of the first rattle going off I am not sure. All I know is it's the same one I feel when watching Milk or Bread and Roses.  It's that cry for Liberation and fulfilment. It's the knowledge that a group has found the power within, are facing authority and exercise it.  Through the rattles, flour bombs, banner drops and water pistols the women will be changed forever and through this will be changing the very world around them.

Listening to the episode what shocked me most was the unrepentant views of Peter Jolley who had helped organise the pageant.  To hear his views aired, and his general unapologetic stance was a positive reminder to everyone that the call for gender justice has yet to be heard throughout the land.   Men and woman should not be paraded as eye candy for others delight, instead we should be spending our time taking every step possible to ensure everyone is treated with respect, dignity and through this brought closer to fulfilling their real potential - rather than being judged on appearance first.  Mr Jolley's figleaf excuse that the 'Miss World' title was about more than looks, due to winners being required to carry out charity work was briskly, effectively and surprisingly parried by Michael Aspel.

So please, spare half and hour of your time today and really listen to the show.  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Song - Self Explanitory



One for preacher kids where-ever you are and whatever 'tasteful' manse paint jobs your still recovering from!

Take Care Y'All

John

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Economy - A shorter version

(For a fuller explanation see my post on Economic Cows)

Rags make Paper
Paper makes Money
Money makes Banks
Banks make Loans
Loans make Beggars
Beggars make Rags

Saw this in a kitsch wannabe second hand boutique.   It somehow stuck.  While written in the 17th Century as a satire on the early monetary system  (where paper was an accurate record of things deposited), it stands even true as the world continues to react to the recession of 2008/09.

Take Care Y'All

John

Sunday, August 08, 2010

in an English country garden...



A joy of my recent holiday was the chance to be at one with nature. Before questionable visions of fields of hay and/or nakedness appear I assure you that (for shame) no tree hugging occurred.  Instead,  I enjoyed the chance to sit, listen and observe nature as it went about it's daily business.


On the left you can see a blue flying beastie.   I had been to visit a beach and on the way out was captivated as it, and a partner flew up and down - flying beside each other and landing on different plants.   While their interaction looked platonic, there was a beauty to the moment that is difficult to capture and impossible to photo!

On the right you see a butterfly.   The butterfly was a definite star of the holiday.  Where-ever I turned I couldn't gaze for more than two minutes without spotting a butterfly.   Their delicate wings, in distinct contrast to their surroundings (often prickly or blustery) somehow survive and continue to protect and guide the creature as it gathers nectar for food.   One wonders if our trip to the supermarket will ever be viewed as something beautiful and worth viewing.... my thought would be not.  Why?

Supermarkets overall have ensured humanity has access to cheap food, 24-7.  However it has come at a substantial price - a centralised purchasing system has revolutionised farming so that now we see those who produce the food under the influence of those who sell it - rather than an older style of system that sees the power in the hand of the producer.  The impact of this cannot be understated, yet was made clear while on holiday.  I couldn't fail to cycle through a village without seeing a sign indicating eggs or courgettes for sale.  Besides wetting my appetite for home-grown courgettes (due any day now at home!) they survive as a reminder that localised food is available if you look and cheaper than most major supermarkets!

Unfortunately my re-communed self was rudely awoken upon my return. As the slideshow above illustrates, nature doesn't just look pretty.  It gets on with what it's good at, survival!  The purple sprouting broccoli that had been lovingly tendered and watered was savagely cleaned out by our resident caterpillar population.  With no need for posh middlemen/women (because that's all supermarkets are) they had found food, devoured it and moved on.   While distraut that our crop had been savaged, I couldn't help but marvel at their lovely colours and simple productive efficiency at clearing the garden.

Whatever you have for dinner tonight take some time and think - could I grow this or get it direct from the grower?

Take Care Y'all

john

Sunday Song - Youth Hostelling



Just spent a week in Lands End Youth Hostel.  While not technically a song- consider it a hymn to the YHA!

Warm Regards

John

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sunday Song - Holiday



Just sit and enjoy the song. I'm in wildest cornwall explore the bike, beer, books and coast.

See you soon.

John

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rev'ing up the engine




Did you hear the story about the well meaning vicar who was put in charge of a city centre church? Not a great start to a joke, but a brilliant premise for a new series blazing a trail on BBC Two at the moment.   Starring an eclectic mix of characters alongside enjoyably stereotypical (without being predictable) church workers this should be recommended viewing for all.

The central plot is simple.  The Reverend, played by Adam Smallbone, is a quasi innocent man trying to find his way in a central london parish.  Problems faced have included a popular CofE school swelling attendance (episode 1), a young 'n funky church filling the church but bringing attitude problems (episode 2), interfaith challenges as a local muslim group wishes to pray in the church building (episode 3) and most recently a wish for a media profile to outshine a compatriot from college (episode 4). Don't think though his innocence is all meek and mild. No no, he faces his problems via drink, smoking and a fascinating array of characters.  Instead, his innocence is more akin to someone who just wishes to do the right thing, share the gospel of Christ, and serve his fellow humans. 

The plot though wouldn't work without the other characters.  They are a wide mix including a geekish organist(?), overly amorous congregation member, an arch-deacon more like Peter Mandleson than anything human, a wife who is a high-powered lawyer and...well....

A fascinating list of regular outsiders.  A touching side of the vicar is his inability to say no and this is shown via a stream of people knocking on his door. Unlike the start of a simpsons cartoon - this isn't an ever changing gag - instead it is the same range of people all wishing to get money out of him for a more obvious fake reason than the last.  While sometimes the door is shut in the face of the hungry/tired/person needing the clue, if that is the case it sometimes comes back to haunt him as he goes back to basics of what his ministry is for - rather than 

Outside the comedy moments is one constant.  Prayer.  The rapid plot line is stopped by the Rev going to pray and asking for help and guidance.  Instead of being a twee, feeble attempt to forward the plot it comes over as a real example of how prayer truly, and naturally, flows.  This was certainly a surprising twist to the plot!

To finish though I would wish to quote from two people far better placed to pass comment than I...

" At last the BBC has moved beyond The Vicar of Dibley. She engaged millions with woolly jumpers and chocolate silliness, with a good humoured take on life, the Universe and everything. Rev. is engaging in a very different way, much closer to where many urban vicars are, in fact" Bishop Alan
I worked as a vicar in one of London's poorest parishes for 28 years. Many of the incidents in BBC2's Rev are true to life. We allowed a Muslim group to meet in our church. I do not remember cassock-chasers. I remember the knock at the door and someone asking for money. I remember the symbols for money or drugs. I remember parents wanting a good reference to get their children into the best school: I always gave them a good reference. There was even a Colin character (or two). One issue, however, is different from what I remember. I did not remove my clerical collar when I told someone to "fuck off".  Rev Michael Land (retired) (The Guardian, letters)
 While it may not fill the churches with converts, I think it definatly moves the church on from Vicar of Dibley to grappling with substantial issues with dignity, hope and nnnnnnnot a catchphrase in sight...well bar 'hello vicarage'

So go on, find yourself a drink, a cosy chair and load up BBC 2 at 10pm tonight and we'll see how the Rev cops with a new friend who (shock horror) has nothing to do with the church.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Toy Story 3 - The end of a new beginning?

I ain't afraid of no Ghosts
Today I visited a brave new future, joined by friends made when they were the future.  Donning a fine pair of spectacles (pictured) I ventured out and watched the latest instalment in the computer generated feast that is the Toy Story Trilogy.

The final film, imaginatively called Toy Story 3, is one about farewells, equality, workplace rights and the truth of happy ever after.  It's box office potential was clear from the start (5 out of the 8 adverts prior to the screening included T.Story characters endorsing products) but what I wanted to know was if this was the film that would launch 3D in the way it launched computer animation over a decade ago.

*PLOT SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED FROM HERE ONWARDS*

The plot of the film is relatively simple.   Andy, owner of the toys, has grown up and is now packing his bags ready for college.  In among the hustle and bustle of tidying he is faced with the question over what to do with his toys.

The film then switches to the perspective of the toys as they face repeated life or death questions, alongside wanting affirmation and love from 'their andy'.  Their exploits include discovering Barbie, finding out how 'flowery' Ken really is, realising that first impressions can deceive - and in that bosses can surpress the workforce - that expectations aren't always the same as reality and finally what happens when Buzz Lightyear is re-set for more than 5 seconds....

While an overall assessment would place the 2hr film as holding a snazzy pace, it drags at points. The drag is more from a re-hash of techniques and styles which the initial films (a decade ago) created but have become stock marks of CGI films.  We find human emotion in non-human objects, large CGI eyes looking sad and good becoming evil and throwing doubt and forgiveness up in the air.  
Toys old and new plot an escape

Highlight of the film would have to be the transformation that occurs with Buzz Lightyear when re-set for more than 5 seconds. His support of a new regime was a fascinating example of what happens when brains shut down or shut off memories, actions or just accept the new status quo.  In the week that Nick Griffin was excluded from the Queens Garden Party, I found the militaristic state the toys find themselves in, with supposed good guy Buzz as the new bad guy, a healthy reminded of all our capabilities for evil.

Overall though it is impossible to cover a 2hr film in a short blogpost. Do go and see it, but make sure you pre-load by watching an older film.  Stocked up with knowledge of a deep and meaningful story you'll be ready for this latest film which is less toy story, more top gear but overall still top class.

Sunday Song - Everybody's Changing

This week, I want to hand over and say read the blog of current Methodist Youth President Pete Brady who neatly sum's up a challenging few months for people interested in Youth Work provided through the Methodist Church.

Where next then? We'll I'm soon off on Holiday then helping shape the Methodist presence at the Greenbelt Festival over the (English!) August Bank holiday w/end.

The world keeps changing and we must all change with it. But change for changes sake is useless. Sometimes it's worth sitting back and thinking what is the one big thing you'd like to achieve then start taking step towards it .... one bite out of the elephant at a time.

Take Care Y'All

John

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sunday Song - Voting Systems



This week's Sunday Song is a pun-tastic tribute to next summer's potential referendum.

The voting system in place for seats in the House of Commons is a historical anomaly.   Since the announcement earlier this week of intent to change it to a more proportional - the parties have been quick out the blocks to denounce a move to more proportional votes.  Why? In part because behind this will sit a constituency boundary change (again!) which could disempower labour and empower the tories.

For readers yet to be convinced about the merits of a more proportional voting system - lets look at this chart from the BBC Election 2010 site outlining total number of votes cast v seats gained (for full chart click here )


PartySeatsGainLossNetVotes%+/-%
Conservative3071003+9710,726,61436.1+3.8
Labour258394-918,609,52729.0-6.2
Liberal Democrat57813-56,836,82423.0+1.0


Once you get over the fact that around 4 million people voted for other parties that didn't gain seats, here are some ratios*


  • For a Conservative seat an average of 34, 940 votes
  • For a Labour seat an average of 33,370 votes required
  • For a Liberal Democrat seat an average of 119, 994 votes required

This is clearly not fair and not representative.

Take Care Y'All

John


*Figures gained via dividing seats by votes- this is a simple tool and not a true reflection of seats as that would require going seat by seat etc)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Power of One

Power is one of life’s most challenging words.  Ask anyone what they consider it to mean - in one word - and you’ll get thirty different answers from twenty different people!  They range from military or peaceful connotations while others bring in concepts of oppression and liberation, leading to a point where all these meanings swirl and collide to create a star-burst of misunderstanding.  Today I’d like to consider the word cooperation as one linked to power.

The coalition government has sent Westminster media commentators into a tailspin. They can’t comprehend that two different political parties can work together to deliver a programme of government.  Instead of focussing their fire and ire upon the true impact of cutting benefits they focus upon highlighting the smallest misplaced comment or sneeze to suggest the coalition is splitting and - like the cracks in time (see Dr Who) - will lead only to implosion and fireball.  I don’t think this will be the case.  Why? Because when you have or wish power you find areas that you wish to cooperate on - because through that cooperation you can achieve more than just shouting loudly.

Cooperation is key to delivering real change.  This has to be seen from the start-point that we each hold an amazing amount of power ourselves.  From our resources of intelligence, friends, money, time and energy we can create a small firestorm that can bring change.  Yet we cannot achieve this on our own.  We can only create a suitable head of steam to which others will couple to create the express train bound for justice and freedom.

Whats great about the whole process , and self transformation delivered, is that you realise having done it once it can be done again.  For once we’ve each made that initial leap to create a better world we are ready to leap higher and higher and higher.  

Today I traveled up to Edinburgh where I met two different people who’ve really changed things.  The first is my twin.  His campaign, Barred, has been challenging politicians conceptions of disabled access.  Through utilising his own experience, he has held a mirror up-to the current state of disabled access in pubs and the end result is an amendment to the licensing act (Scotland) which has now amended the licecning act (2005). He has changed the law.  The second person, well I’ll return to them another day.

Whatever you do today don’t accept an injustice against yourself or against someone else.  Power is a drug, both liberator and oppressor, and as such all it takes is someone to hold a mirror up to that act and then change will slowly start coming.

“Oh Freedom, Freedom
Before I’ll be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave
And go on to my lord and be free”
(sung by Pete Seeger - but adapted from a song much older than he)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Methodist Conference 2.0

As hinted in my previous post, this year's Methodist Conference is completely wired....


This is before we even consider when the

This last tool has been a great way to share in the special year following thoughts and people that the president and vice-president meet.  Long may it continue

Take Care Y'All

John

Sunday Song - Methodist Conference #methconf




(With apologies to Jimmy Kennedy)



If you go down to Ports-mouth today
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go down to Ports-mouth today
You'd better go in disguise.

For Wesley's Folk, are gath-er-ing there
They'll talk and sing for certain, because
Today's the day that Metho-dists have their Con-frence!
Methodist Conference 2010 has gathered in Portsmouth.  Already the ministers have had their sessions and now, Sunday afternoon, new ministers and deacons are being ordained after being affirmed by standing vote at this morning's business session.


This years conference, unlike my adjusted lyrics, is a serious affair.  There are some weighty issues for discussion including "racism, nuclear weapons and Israel-Palestine".  Alongside this is a well anticipated 'away match' with the Archbishop of Canterbury coming to speak. To assure you this isn't a questionably cheap shot to appear 'down with the kids' on the day everyones thinking about a football match - earlier this year the President and Vice President of Conference spoke at the General Synod .... well .... ok ....hopefully his will provide a more positive outcome than the match and there are no winners in Christian conferring - only a better understanding....


If you are not able to attend the conference and are worrying about what you could be missing then rest easy! This year's conference is being streamed (both video and audio) via the web.  Readers of this blog will know this has been tried before but this years setup appears more stable than previous years and - interesting - involves an iplayer-esque 'watch again' option.  So if you want to know what Methodists are saying about a hot topic then head on over to  the Methodist Conference webstreaming page today!


Take Care Y'All

John



P.S. If you wish to see the official hymn that opens conference then head over to Richard Hall's blog and sing it to yourself as you got about your afternoon's business - or mull over another challenging half time and potentially negative England result