Thursday, 25 September 2008
Here are a few images of earthships. One in Brighton, and then an idea of how the construction happens.
Great column in the New York Times.
"Now that he’s finally fired up on the soup-line economy, Barack Obama knows he can’t fade out again. He was eager to talk privately to a Democratic ex-president who could offer more fatherly wisdom — not to mention a surreptitious smoke — and less fraternal rivalry. I called the “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin (yes, truly) to get a read-out of the meeting. This is what he wrote:
BARACK OBAMA knocks on the front door of a 300-year-old New Hampshire farmhouse while his Secret Service detail waits in the driveway. The door opens and OBAMA is standing face to face with former President JED BARTLET."
The best bit is this.
"Obama The problem is we can’t appear angry. Bush called us the angry left. Did you see anyone in Denver who was angry?
Bartlet Well ... let me think. ...We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family’s less safe than it was eight years ago, we’ve lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know ... I’m a little angry.
Obama What would you do?
Bartlet GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!"
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
"So at the head of the five orchestras we have a solid "Middle-European", two Russians of very different character and style, a composer-conductor Finn with a taste for new music, and an Italian. You could hardly have planned it better."Surely it would be good to have a British conductor in there too. It's nice to have conductors from these different European traditions, but we shouldn't play down the importance of our own. With the death of Vernon Handley last week we saw a champion of British music who was never given one of the big London jobs. Hopefully some of the younger British conductors can make it over the next few years, but at the moment we'll have to be content with watching Runnicles and Elder in Glasgow and Manchester.
Thursday, 11 September 2008
As everyone knows by now, we were trying out a completely new debate format this year. There has been lots of discussion as to whether debate was an appropriate word to use for these, but for me the important element to them was still having discussion and getting young people's opinions. Ok, we weren't getting people to produce a formal deliverance at the end of each one, but it was still a debate. I had the privilege of being free to wander round the different sessions which were happening. It undoubtedly took a while for people (both staff and delegates) to get the hang of what was going on, but on the whole I thought that by the third and fourth sessions people were really engaging with the issues and starting to come out with some really great stuff. It was interesting to see how each of the groups did this differently as well, from the speakers in the Sustainable Living, to the Cool Wall in the Future Church. I didn't hear anyone complain about this new structure though, people seemed really positive, and glad to be able to get into things in detail. The best comment I heard was from Mr Kimmitt, who said how it was great to be going from the whole assembly, into four big groups, into small groups, and then you end up talking to your neighbour. That was what the structure was trying to achieve and if someone in the process could discern that then I think for a first attempt we did a really good job.
In terms of the large debates on Monday, I again thought it generally went really well. Certainly people seemed more engaged with the issues than previous years, and seemed to be taking ownership of the deliverances in a way they haven't previously. I know there have been complaints about it getting bogged down in semantics but there were really very few occasions where this happened and it was much better than previous years. I also thought with the way things were structured there was much more sense of occasion about the final debates. With everything coming at the end of the weekend, and having all the officials from councils there it really made people feel they were doing something important. Now that we're enjoying the wonders of Web 2.0 we should be able to keep people up to date with how these results make any difference. I will certainly try and keep people up to date when it comes round to presenting the report to the General Assembly, and hopefully the youth delegates there will be able to use the final statements to be able to challenge any relevant councils. I think we will also have some reports from the debate leaders to go along with the four deliverances, and when you put those together we will have a fantastic outcome from the debates. There has been a suggestion that our deliverances should go in the middle of Mission and Discipleship, or be split amongst relevent council's reports but anyone who has ever attended the General Assembly will know what an impact having this seperate report makes.
When I was being interviewed for the film which was being made during the weekend, I said that this event is about empowering ordinary people within the church, and allowing them to have their say on important issues. I genuinely think that if you look beyond the lengthy speakers, semantic debates and twitter interruptions that that is what happened this weekend.
I've still got lots more to say, and when I've rethought things I may even come back and completely disagree with everything I've just said.
Here's a link to Dan Heymann's website which has lots more information about the song and it's background and here are the lyrics. I've also posted a video of Josh Groban singing it at the Nelson Mandela borthday concert below that. My favourite version is still the one by the Soweto String Quartet but I couldn't find that anywhere. Do go to their website though as there are lots of audio and video clips.
I knew a man who lived in fear
It was huge, it was angry, it was drawing near
Behind his house, a secret place
Was the shadow of the demon he could never face
He built a wall of steel and flame
And men with guns, to keep it tame
Then standing back, he made it plain
That the nightmare would never ever rise again
But the fear and the fire and the guns remain
It doesn’t matter now
It’s over anyhow
He tells the world that it’s sleeping
But as the night came round
I heard its lonely sound
It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping
And then one day the neighbors came
They were curious to know about the smoke and flame
They stood around outside the wall
But of course there was nothing to be heard at all
"My friends," he said, "We’ve reached our goal
The threat is under firm control
As long as peace and order reign
I’ll be damned if I can see a reason to explain
Why the fear and the fire and the guns remain"
Charlotte Higgins at the Guardian
Rafael Behr at the Guardian
Sue Perkins, Roger Norrington and Charles Mutter at the Guardian
And here are videos of my two favourite moments from the series.
Firstly, Sue Perkins conducting the Simpsons, she has no pattern but it caught the character of the music, and it's changes, better than any other performance.
And secondly, the classic moment in the first episode where Bradley Walsh thanks Charles Mutter for saving him and calls him Charlie and Chaz (1:03).