Thursday, 17 December 2009

TV on trial

In August we got rid of our TV licence.

My friend Phil is currently conducting an experiment to see how life is without a TV.

I summed up the first month or so of TV-lessness here, but now I might discuss it in a bit more detail...

Well, I don't want to be confusing, but we still have a TV. In fact we have two. We don't watch television on them though, we watch DVDs and videos, and I play old video games. I see several bonuses (or should that be boni? Boneces?) in this approach.

Apart from the obvious not having to pay the licence fee, you actually get more freedom without television. That is, you don't feel the pressure of having to keep up with a particular show, or the tension when two "essential viewing" programmes clash. You don't have the risk of accidentally watching something that turns out to be appaling. You get more time do to other things.

The most interesting thing that I've noticed is that I don't miss television at all. I never got any withdrawal symptoms, I didn't crave a certain show or feel like I was missing out on anything. There is absolutely no benefit from television that I can't find from another source. All my entertainment, information and cultural needs are met elsewhere, so it wasn't even a sacrifice to give it up. I think it would take a lot to make me want TV back.

Reading Phil's reasons why his TV is on trial, I've realised that the only thing that has disappeared from my life is a constant stream of unfiltered and often negative messages. I agree that TV disciples the viewer, subtly coercing us to think in certain ways. Being a passive watcher is a deadly thing - you will soak up an awful lot of toxic substances.

I don't think it's wrong to watch TV, but it is essential to be aware of the sermon that each programme and advert is preaching to you. These are the sermons you are likely to hear if you watch an hour of TV...

"Your life will be better with this product."

"You are only attractive if you look like him/her."

"Life is all about being good to yourself."

"Gossiping is ok."

"Disrespecting your parents is ok."

"God plays no significant part in modern life."

If you ever get fed up of them you know what to do.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Adrian Beard on Advertising

I'm reading a unit on "using English to persuade" at the moment. The writer, Mr. Beard, has this to say about advertising:

"Advertising depends upon the emotional idea that our lives are in some way imperfect; we lack something, we need something, we have the wrong view or belief. If we buy 'x', do 'x', think 'x' then our lives will be better."

I am reminded the incredible song that went, "If you buy this record your life will be better, your life will be better, your life will be better. If you buy this record your life will be better, if you buy, if you buy, if you buy..."

The problem is that making our lives "better" doesn't make them any less imperfect (or, if you're not into double negatives, any more perfect). Five minutes after buying 'x' we realise that we still need something else.

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

(Emphasis mine)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Worst Christmas present ever...

I was in town today and I saw a miniature air guitar for sale. It was a plastic package in the shape of a guitar, with nothing inside. It came with a free "air pick" too, and cost £2.95.

If anyone gets me one of those I will not be happy.

I couldn't find a picture or anything online but I did stumble upon another alternative gift for a similar £3.95...

It's not even a joke.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Ultimate Twister Destiny Duels #3

I think it's about time for another showdown!

This time, broaden your horizons as we imagine a high-stakes Twister battle between...

MR. BEAN and MR. BLOBBY!!!

Mr. Bean... the epitome of clumsiness, takes to the mat. What will his strategy be? Well, having done lots of research last time I was sick I have a good idea of how his mind works. Mr. Bean is a master of the underhanded trick, whether it be shunting a Reliant Robin out of a parking space or tipping a vase of water into a kids lap to distract him and steal his Batman comic. How will this work out in the Twister arena? I would not be surprised to see various lubricative fluids mysteriously finding their way onto the playing field.

Mr. Blobby... the epitome of blobbiness, plays a psychological game. Let's face it, he is neither svelte nor lithe, and will struggle to manage a full stretch. He starts with a distinct disadvantage. However, the gelatinous giant employs several tactics designed to weaken the opponent's constitution. Firstly, Mr. Blobby's very appearance is, to be blunt, sickening. Stare too long at that pink and yellow polka-dot pattern and anyone would come over all giddy. Secondly, there's those big ol' eyes, capable of freaking out the most stable competitor. Lastly, he utilises a terrifying war-cry to totally unnerve his enemy. Who would not shudder at the hideous wail of BLOBBY BLOBBY BLOBBY!

It looks like Mr. Bean has met his match. What else does he have up his sleeve? Hopefully a pair of sunglasses and some earmuffs. With these reliable tools he might just be able to withstand the mental onslaught from his pink adversary. With two very tactical duellers, the loser may well be the one who makes the first mistake. Although mistakes are usually Mr. Bean's forte, I don't think he should be underestimated.

My prediction: Victory to the Bean.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Delirious? History Makers

I don't really know where to start. Last night was amazing. I was already in high spirits having enjoyed a Romano Padana in Pizza Express before the gig, and was only slightly deflated by arriving at the Hammersmith Apollo to find a looooong queue waiting for us to join. Kindly, a woman behind us offered bin-bags to use as temporary waterproofs. She was either a girl-guide leader, or had done a lot of outdoor queueing in her life.

When we got inside the support act was already mid-way through their set. It must be tough to support Delirious? but the Cutting Edge band did a good job. Sporting early 90s clothing and a wig or two, this young band performed some classic worship tunes to an eager crowd. One of my song predictions - "Open up the doors" made an appearance here, as did fifteen or so excitable children; the offspring of Delirious?, who lead us in a good old knees-up.

[I am beginning to annoy myself by always including the ? in Delirious?, but it is their name... The Apollo left it off on their board outside. They also made another small blunder, in that they played "always look on the bright side of life" when the gig had finished*. Hmm.]

Anyway, after a lot of anticipation Delirious? walked onto the stage to perform for the last time (officially, at least). They rocked, and this is why:

1) Lasers! Ok, so that's not to do with the band, but the lighting was cool, and it helped create the atmosphere. I'll get on to the better stuff now...

2) Stu G! One of the best guitarists I've ever seen, and yet previously I'd never witnessed a real guitar solo from this king of Christian rock. This time was different; he let rip on a couple of occassions. Go Stu G! He also performed solo, treating us to a blues version of King of Fools, played on a guitar as old as his mum.

3) Stew Smith! Stew left the band two years ago, but last night he made one last appearance as a second drummer for Investigate. I would suggest that his facial expressions while playing surpass those of even Alan Rose.

4) Deeper! Yay! I really wanted to hear them play Deeper, as I've never heard it live and it's one of their best songs IMHO. When they kicked in with the intro the crowd went wild. A man towards the front of the stage stood on his friends' shoulders and lead us in singing. He was repremanded by stewards, but later Martin Smith (lead singer) presented him with his ubiquitous red and white megaphone as a gift.

5) Videos! At various points (between encores) they showed humorous and poignant videos of the band on a big screen. One fan remarked, "Yeah, Delirious, they're a pretty good as a band, I like them. I haven't seen them or anything," which was funnier than it sounds.

6) Historical moments! Wives being presented with bouqets, thank-yous to managers, friends and saviour... It was very, er, special. It was good to be a part of it, I'll keep my ticket for as long as I can. Maybe one day I'll tell my grandchildren, "yes, I remember seeing the great Delirious play for the very last time..."

*[Update: I emailed the Apollo about this and they replied saying that the song was chosen by the band/promoters so I might take it up with them. Confusing though.]

Friday, 27 November 2009

Delirious?

Only three more gigs to go until Delirious? - the most successful Christian band ever, end their long and influential reign. I heard that they're more popular than Oasis in America, but that might not really be such an achievement.

Anyway, I'm heading down to London tomorrow with tickets to see their very last performance! I'm anticipating that it will be quite a performance. I'm trying to guess what songs they'll be playing... Almost certainly History Maker, Majesty and Rain Down, and I suspect they'll revive a few oldies like Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble and What a Friend.

I will be happy if they play Deeper, which I've never heard live.

I've been making my girlfriend listen to Delirious? albums for the last few weeks... Hope she's not got bored of them...

Monday, 23 November 2009

Adrian Holloway on Evolution

As I recently admitted, I love video games but they can be a big time-waster. So I discovered this great tactic - downloading talks from the net and listening to them while I play games on my PC. As you don't need to use your brain to play games, you can focus on listening to the talk. Genius!

So, I've just finished playing Worms World Party whilst listening to a talk from Adrian Holloway on evolution, which is available for download here. He gave the talk at Newday last summer, so it is aimed towards 11-18 year olds, and it's not very technical.

It is convincing, however. Adrian presents a clear and persuasive argument as to why macro-evolution is not a fact, indeed far from it. I haven't made up my mind about evolution, I think I should read more books before I do, but it's hard to find truly unbiased scientific material that laymen can understand. As Adrian points out, many Darwinian arguments are formed because of a prior need to push God out of the picture, rather than examination of evidence.

If I do any reading, I'll blog about it so you can see how my opinion changes.

At the moment I guess I'm undecided, leaning towards old earth creationism.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Christian goals

I am trying to be more like Christ, as I believe that is the calling of every Christian. However, I am not very good at imitating Jesus, and I have found that wearing a WWJD wristband does not, in itself, help a great deal. Targets are more helpful, but I find that if I stop to think for too long I come up with a whopping list of Christian goals I need to aim for. Like;

Be more patient
Be more caring
Give more money away
Care less about my image
Care less about possessions
Care more about the poor
Have more time for people
Appreciate children more
Be less sarcastic
Pray more
Waste less time
and it goes on...

So, sometimes I get a bit discouraged when I think about how little progress I am making, and whether I can invent a strategy that will help me achieve all these (and before you say "it's all down to the Holy Spirit", I have found that the Holy Spirit will show me how to be like Jesus, but He will not make me like Jesus without first having my co-operation).

But then I realise that I already know the strategy, and it goes like this:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

The way that I am most likely to achieve all my goals is if I make goal #1 to love God more.

I must love God more.

Simple really.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Moral Systems in Video Games

Interestingly, I came across this article today that discusses how some game developers are trying to create a richer experience for the user by giving them moral decisions to make.

It cites can example from COD MW 2 where the protagonist has infiltrated a terrorist group, who attack and kill civilians at an airport. The player has to choose whether to join in, or abstain from killing the civilians and risk their cover being blown. WWJD?

Game designer Emil Pagliarulo says, "I think players simply get tired of experiencing the same things over and over and over in games. Frankly, it gets boring. When morality’s involved, the simple act of shooting a bad guy isn’t so simple anymore. You’ve got to ask yourself, 'Well, is he really the bad guy? Was he maybe just trying to defend himself? Should I really be doing this?' So just the act of questioning what you’ve done a thousand times before instantly makes it different, and more interesting, and therefore, in a lot of cases, more fun."

Monday, 16 November 2009

COD MW 2!!! (2)

After blogging about the latest Call of Duty release I was presented with the opportunity to play the game at a friend's house on Friday. So I did.

Now, I didn't spend enough hours playing it to write a whole review or critique or anything but here are some of the things that struck me:

1) Not as violent as I expected - for all the furore and controversy I was bracing myself for dismembered limbs etc but it was actually just slightly more graphic than other 15+ rated shooter games I've played. (Mainly that when you get hurt you see blood splatter on the screen, and if you get attacked by a dog you can snap its neck). Granted, I only saw a small portion of the game though.

2) Amazing graphics - I was playing it on an HD TV and it looked stunning.

3) It was really fun - I enjoyed fighting my way across a suspension bridge whilst avoiding grenades, planting explosives on vehicles and ducking for cover. These are things I will hopefully never do in real life and would find utterly terrifying. That could be why it's so entertaining.

4) You're a good guy - personally, it is the morals of a game that bothers me more than the content. I can cope with shooting games where your enemies are terrorists (COD MW 2 is one of these), but find games like Unreal Tournament more disturbing because, even though it is clearly fictional (whereas COD tries hard to be realistic) the premise is like futuristic gladiatorial games - killing for entertainment.

I'm interested in the values that a game promotes, and I haven't really explored the values of COD MW 2 in great detail. But at least you are a good guy.

The values of MarioKart, on the other hand are appalling! The game can be summed up like this; "do anything you can in order to win, cheating and bullying opponenets is encouraged." Scandalous*.

And don't get me started on Pokemon.

*It's not that bad really**

**Or is it???***

***No.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

COD MW 2!!! (It's not about fish)

I was torn today between the two blogging threads of video games and English language. I had just come up with a rather intriguing method of relating non-standard verb forms to sin when I saw another ad for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and thought I'd blog about that instead.

The Call of Duty line of games has been immensely successful and got millions of people all over the world blowing each other up over broadband. Basically, you play the role of a soldier, and you can either complete set missions on your own, or play multiplayer modes that involve achieving certain goals. There is always some upgrowl (like uproar, only quieter) when games that are explicitly violent are released (COD MW 2 is an 18+ certificate, but many kids will get their mums to buy it for them), and a few games have been banned, notably "Manhunt".

There is an oft-repeated arguement that goes a bit like this:

"Violent games are a bad influence on people, especially children."

"Well, I've been playing COD for years and I've never killed anyone."

"Yes, but other people are influence by games to commit violent crime!"

"Those people are just nutters who make up a miniscule fraction of the gaming community. Any sane person can distinguish between fantasy entertainment and real life."

The argument from the gamers is that its ok to enjoy fantasy violence as long as you don't go out killing people. I can't help thinking, however, that it's not an impossible transition from enjoying fantasy violence to enjoying real-life violence. You don't have to be a murderer to have been negatively influenced.

Some people are just baffled at the idea that kids would want to take a horrific thing like war, and get pleasure out of acting it out. But haven't kids been playing soldiers for hundreds of years? I don't think the pleasure comes from the act of killing an imaginary person, but from the situation - the action, the danger, the high stakes, the technology, the noise and the victory.

"Scoring a kill" is just the way of racking up points in this game (and it's worth noting that the most despised online gamers are those that "teamkill" - shoot the people on their side). The question is; is it easier for those who play war-based games to devalue the lives that are lost in real-life wars to the same status as those insentient figures that they just killed in the game?

I've also been wondering about the future of video games, when the tendency is to go more and more extreme. Now you can play as the morally bankrupt villain and commit unspeakable crimes as entertainment. It's entertaining because you are totally free from the laws and constraints of society. In a world where you could do whatever you want and no one would actually get hurt, what would be more fun... driving around in your real-life car? Or stealing a new car every time you get bored?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Prescriptivism

I've just finished a module on my English language course that talks about the "prescriptive approach" to language use, which is basically the view that one variety of language is by nature better than the others, e.g. an RP accent is the proper way to talk and everyone should aspire to speak like that, innit.

Where there is diversity in accent and grammar some people will argue for a "correct" and an "incorrect" way of speaking.

This made me think about church denominations. There is a truckload of diversity (if diversity can be measured in truckloads) of theology, ritual, decor and cuisine among denominations. Cuisine is potentially the most divisive (how's your post-service coffee???).

As well as having different practices, we also have different views as to how significant these differences are. There are undoubtedly denominational prescriptivists, who wish that every church was "proper" like theirs. The opposite view to this is descriptivism, which is much more post-modern and less likely to cause conflict - "do your own thing" philosophy.

I have a tendency towards prescriptivism, especially regarding theology, but I have to constantly assess whether my opinions are based on holy conviction or selfish pride. I'm one of those people that enjoys being right far too much.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

iGoogle

Just set iGoogle as my homepage. I think widgets are a good idea, I can now see my email, time and date, to do list, daily quotes, news and daily Bible verse all on one screen. I'm now wondering whether this will actually save time, or whether I'll be more distracted. According to researchers from Stanford University media multitasking doesn't work - it gives the impression of efficiency whilst not being remotely efficient. Clever.

I managed to resist the powerful temptation to add the "joke of the day" widget. Just.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Thirsty Philosophy

Every Monday night I play football, and occassionally I remember to take a bottle of water with me. When I don't, the first thing I do when I get back is drink a cold glass of Ribena. Mmm.

I've got into the habit of having short philosophical discussions in my head as I drink. It goes like this:

I'm really thirsty gulp this is good I love Ribena gulp how come it feels so good? gulp there can't be many more experiences gulp as pleasurable as this gulp having a drink when you're really thirsty gulp what is pleasure? gulp where does it come from? shlurrrrp

And then I have a second glass, which is never as satisfying as the first.

Maybe it's not so much a philosophical question as a biological one, but I'm no good at biology.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Video Games

Went out for a curry on Friday night at the Ramna, Shrewsbury, and had a very pleasant chicken Rogan Josh.

Despite having little stomach room left even for drinks, our group of heavily spiced gentlemen descended on a nearby pub, wherein I engaged in a conversation about video games. I love video games. Personally, I think that Final Fantasy VII is the best game ever, but that is open to debate.

Some people are viciously critical of them, (notably Cruella DeVille in the real-life film version of 101 dalmations - bear that in mind. If you hate Nintendo now, you'll be killing puppies for their fur one day) and they have a number or reasons; games sap your brain, they promote violence, they waste time etc. In fact I have felt guilty about my love of games for a while, as one might feel guilty about killing ants in the garden just for fun.

Now, I am not going to come up with a list of reasons why video games are, in fact, the most amazing invention ever and supremely beneficial to mankind, because that is just not true. However, there are a number of reasons why video games can and should be appreciated:

1) They are fun (it's ok to do things that are fun, yeah?)
2) They can be social (I had great fun beating Dave at Fifa)
3) There is some great art in games (Prince of Persia, Just Cause, Titan Quest, come on...)
4) They are educational! Ok, so, most of them aren't, but there has been a dramatic rise in the number of "edutainment" based games available - Brain Training et al.
5) They are part of our culture (the video games industry is about to surpass the music industry in terms of spending)

But, at the end of the day, they are not really useful. There is potential for a huge amount of time wastage. So enjoy responsibly, I guess.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Basic Human Rights

Human rights are interesting, mainly because a "right" is something that you assume is universally applicable and mandatory, yet the declaration of human rights was only invented by humans relatively recently. Unless we have God-given rights that humans merely discovered. That's another discussion.

Either way, it is good that we have some kind of notion of "rights" because there are so many people who have a standard of life that is unnacceptable, and we need to encourage ourselves and each other to not tolerate poverty. We can do this by refering to the "human rights" that are not being met.

However, in our western consumer society we have developed our own set of "rights" that we feel are mandatory for us; the right to watch television, for example, the right to pudding, the right to get drunk and not be told it is a bad idea, and now (as asserted by MSN) - the right to own a pair of matching shoes for every outfit! A basic human right, allegedly.

Whilst the MSN article is written with tongue and cheek in very close proximity, I'm sure there are people who would genuinely be offended if you recommended that they don't buy any more shoes until their old ones break (although cobblers do still exist! You know, cobblers. The people that mend shoes!) What is most infuriating about these unwritten rights of consumerism is that they take our attention away from the people whose basic rights (the right to eat, the right to not get shot etc.) are not being met.

We are more concerned about our freedom of entertainment to worry about other peoples' freedom.

Monday, 12 October 2009

New Poll

The poll on the right was inspired by this YouTube clip.

I love it when Dawkins says, "You mean true for you is different from true for everybody else? [can't catch this bit] Something's either got to be true or not."

I also enjoy it when O'Reilly says, "If people follow Jesus then the country's gonna be better."

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Music

I spent some time today working on tracks for an instrumental/electronic album and got in quite a musical mood. So much so, that I felt compelled to buy some tunes off Amazon that I'd wanted for a while. An eclectic mix... Christina Aguilera, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Cannonball Adderley.

Music must be some kind of special blessing from God. It's just sound structured in a certain way, but it can convey so much and sound so good. I'm listening to Free Bird at the moment, and resisting the urge to crank the speakers up.

So I searched for references to music in the Bible and got 106 results. This one stood out for me; "Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I will sing to the LORD, I will sing; I will make music to the LORD, the God of Israel." - Judges 5:3. Is that the equivalent of Brian May playing on the roof of Buckingham Palace?

There is power in music, but even more power in music that is created expressly to worship God. I'd like to see a bit more diversity in this - jazz worship, dance worship (for a massive urban worship tune check out the Kingdom Skank) or maybe metal worship? Hear this, you politicians! I will shred to the LORD, I will wail; I will unleash a squealing, facemelting guitar solo to the LORD, the God of music!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

British Cheese Week!

Did you know it was British Cheese Week???

I bet you didn't. Neither did I. Well it is, and will continue to be until tomorrow.

Well, to mark this celebration of Britain's most loved dairy product the BBC have uploaded a cheese-map of the UK! (Original published by Dorling Kindersley in "The World Cheese Book" by Juliet Harbutt - this may well be on my Christmas list.) Hooray.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Quotes

I like quotes.

Here's a good one from Mere Christianity - which I have just started reading.

"If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth - only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair." - C.S.Lewis

This reminded me of an article I read on the dubious Ship of Fools website on the "ten worst verses in the Bible" the closing statement of which read as follows:

"It's an unedifying list, but we think the Bible can survive bringing these shadowy verses into the spotlight. It's not the all-or-nothing book that fundamentalists (atheist and Christian) say that we must either accept wholesale or burn. We need a view of the Bible that is nuanced enough to treasure its comforts and challenges, its classic stories and groundbreaking ethical wisdom, while facing the plain fact that some of it is unacceptable."

Some parts of the Bible are hard to deal with, but at the end of the day the Bible is not there for our comfort, it is there to reveal truth.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

What happens if you don't back labour...

I love this video.

Not because I am strongly pro-labour.

I am just anti-Sun.

Friday, 18 September 2009

The Significance of the Cross



Forget propitiation, adoption and all that boring stuff. What you really need to experience the wonder of the cross is your own cross-shaped item of jewelry! This "spiritual accessory" is guaranteed to bring you closer to God. Not convinced? But it's got AUSTRIAN CRYSTAL!!! And after only saying the Lord's prayer several hundred times it's easy to forget it, so it'd be really useful to have it written in tiny letters on a big bling cross for you to wear round your neck. And it's in the traditional "thy" form so it's extra holy.

Aaargh. And what was up with that music?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Friday, 4 September 2009

Wedding!

When I was a lad, I was in a youth group called JCY2K (a name that I take credit/blame for, either way it stuck for 6 years) or, as I nostalgically refer to it; "good ol' JCY2K".

It was your average church youth group. Mostly nutters. Much fun was had - wild sleepover parties, rambunctious residential trips to Wales, failed attempts to start a band. Them were the days.

Well, tomorrow, at about two o'clock, founder member Mathew "Buff" Sheffield will officially be the first one of us to get married. The times they are a-slipping into something more comfortable. It will be quite an epic day for a few reasons, such as:

1) This is the first wedding of a close friend.

2) Ali, the lovely bride, is walking down the aisle to the theme from Back to the Future (so I am lead to believe - I'll let you know if it happens).

3) We're having the wedding dinner ON A TRAIN!

4) We're going to celebrate the amazing blessing that marriage is.

5) I will be using the word "rambunctious" to describe everything.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Ultimate Twister Destiny Duels #2

Today I shall be casting my personal speculations on the result of an imaginary game of Twister between...

PINOCCHIO and MR. TICKLE

Now, it might at first seem a very unfair combination. Mr. Tickle, of course, has the extraordinary ability to stretch his arms to incredible lengths (usually at the expense of an unwary Mr. Uppity or some small child holding an ill-fated icecream). What we must remember is that most Mr. Men have very very short stumpy legs - making for a rather unbalanced overall figure.

Pinocchio, on the other hand, is proportioned much more like a human, although he appears fairly top-heavy and in a long match would struggle to support his considerably large head. Pinocchio in his wooden state is not the most flexible of competitors either. And then there's the nose. One exaggoratory slip of the tongue and the young puppet could find himself being thrown off balance by his protuding snoz.

I wouldn't put it past Mr. Tickle (the mischievous orange blob that he is) to bombard his rival with personal questions throughout the match. Oh, and to tickle him. Although I hear that people made of wood aren't very sensitive to tickling I'm afraid...

All Pinocchio really has to do is stay silent and wait for the right combination of colours - once the legs get far apart Mr. Tickle won't stand a chance.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Cause for Celebration

Big Brother is ending. AT LAST!!!
Goodbye and good riddance. Let's just hope it gets replaced with something meaningful, interesting and worthy of being watched by millions of people. Although I doubt that the chances are high.

If TV really was rubbish then people would stop talking about how rubbish TV was and just get rid of their licence.

Which is, incidentally, what we did last week. Who needs television when you've got YouTube and a playstation??? The only things I'll miss are the Olympics, World Cup and catching the second half of that Simpson's episode with Pinchy the lobster.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Newday 2009

Wow. I have almost recovered from Newday - the annual Newfrontiers youth bible week - which has grown to around 7000 attenders. It doesn't help that today was the first day of our (Shrewsbury Youth for Christ's) summer activities week (today involved hockey, an egg-throwing competition and discussion on "stepping out of the boat" among much else). I'm not getting much chance to recuperate.

Anyway, Newday was amazing. By which I mean God used Newday to do amazing stuff. To be fair, if Newday wasn't even anything to do with Jesus it would still be a fun, appealing, well-organised and entertaining event. If the team behind Newday organised a youth goose-appreciation conference I'm sure it would be a really top-notch affair, but what makes Newday so great is that every year God shows up and impacts the lives of so many people on a huge scale.

IMO Jesus deserves a phenomenally long round of applause, and a much greater level of my daily attention. A much smaller (but significant) display of gratitude should also be presented to Mike Pilavachi, who spoke really very well on two nights and facilitated a great time of meeting with the Holy Spirit.

I am waiting impatiently for the talks to be available to download from the website.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

7 Reasons Why I'm Against Euthanasia

So, euthanasia has come up in the news again. Whilst it is a sensitive issue, and each case will bring up different issues, I would almost always be opposed to any manner of euthanasia, and here's why:

1) I don't think any human has the right to purposefully end the life of another human being.

2) If we allow people to choose to end their lives when they think suitable then we are devaluing life to a mere commodity. Once we start down the lines of "if my quality of life is too low I may as well die" then we're on a slippery slope with a terrifying maw waiting at the bottom.

3) There is always a chance that a person may change their mind after stating/confirming the desire to be "terminated" (a hideous word), potentially after they have lost the ability to communicate. A very scary, if unlikely scenario.

4) People may come under pressure to end their lives if they feel they are a financial burden, or they may be persuaded that it would be the "right thing to do" and actually be killed against their wishes, though with their official consent. There have been cases abroad where very sick patients have been informed by the authorities that funding for their medication is not available - however the government would be willing to pay for their assisted suicide. This is horrible.

5) God can still work in the life of a suffering person. There is still an opportunity for salvation, sanctification and possibly healing for the patient.

6) In most cases there are ways of relieving suffering to a large extent.

7) I don't believe that true compassion can be demonstrated by killing a person, regardless of their circumstances. Compassion could be demonstrated by staying alongside and caring for a dying person.

I am not in any way suggesting that coping with a terminal illness is an easy thing to do, nor that those who are considering euthanasia should be branded as evil people. Nor do I believe that God wants us to suffer or causes suffering. I do think, however, that it is not up to us to decide when our lives should end.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Windfarms

Found a group on Facebook called "Put a windfarm in my backyard if you like, because I'm not an idiot." Now, I don't agree with calling people idiots for being concerned about the view from their bungalow, but if one must be concerned about something, I would consider the future of the planet to be a slightly better option.

Here's a quote from the group's description: "It's proven that global warming is happening, the icecaps are melting and sea levels are rising, so why are people opposed to buidling something which (at a very small personal cost) can help to essentially save life as we know it? Then there are arguements that "oh but the blades kill birds!" You know what else kills birds? The complete destruction of their environment because you want to watch coronation street in every room of your house and have the heating on full-blast 365 days a year without the views being slightly altered."

Call me a weirdo, but I actually think wind turbines look cool.

If you want to join the group click here.

If, on the other hand, you hate windfarms and want to see them all destroyed you might enjoy this video...



Monday, 27 July 2009

Top 5 Voices

I was having a conversation with my girlfriend the other day about whose voices we like best across all types of music. It's quite hard trying not to let the songs influence your decision. I think my top 5 was something like this:

1. Eva Cassidy
2. Freddie Mercury
3. Bono
4. James Brown
5. Chali 2Na (Jurrasic 5)

With Elvis Presley and Mac Powell (Third Day) as close runners up.

We did guitarists as well but that'd be far too controversial to publish. Instead, why not vote yourself on the new poll!!!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Fighting the Flab? Don't drink Coke!

My friend Dave is on a diet, and bravely blogging about his progress. Reading his latest post reminded me of a scary statistic I picked up yesterday. I was reading the nutritional information on the side of a bottle of Coca-Cola (as I often like to do) and noticed that the amount of sugar content was 29% of your Recommended Daily Allowance.

That's nearly a third of all the sugar you need for one day consumed in one sitting.

And that's if you only drink half the bottle.

Sneakily, they've printed the information for a 250ml serving. So if you drink the whole bottle, you're imbibing 58% of your RDA of sugar in one go.

If you're a fully grown adult.

10 year-old child? 500ml of Coke? OMGoodness.

Dave makes a good point that responsibility for our health extends far beyond deciding not to smoke or drink excessively. I really need to think about whether my eating habits are God-glorifying...

Smoke Feathers

Saw this band live last month - they are really good. If you're into folky, post-rocky ballads then you should definitely check them out. If not then you still might like them.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Choon!

I bought my sister the Tim Hughes "Happy Day" live album for her birthday. It was #1 in Illuminate's CD chart, and I think it deserves it's place.

I'm just listening to Jesus Saves now in preparation to sing it during worship at our youth event tonight (which, incidentally, is the last one of term and therefor a summer party with cowboys and indians fancy dress! Should be a hoot). Anyway - check out the Jesus Saves song, it's ace.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Moving House Part 5

We finally got on the internet! Yay! Now I can resume my blogging!

This is weird. Having lived in one place for aboot 16 1/2 years (more than 3/4 of my life) it's very strange to have to call somewhere else "home". I heard that moving house was the third most difficult situation to deal with in life. I'm not sure about that, but it certainly is pretty hard.

An Englishman's house is his castle, so I guess it's quite easy to react to the upheaval by building a metaphorical wall, moat and drawbridge around your house and make sure no one can invade. Personal space is very important. I can isolate myself from the new estate quite easily and create my own world with my computer and guitars (or I can now I've got curtains, at least) wherein I will feel safe and secure again.

Or I can make an effort to embrace the new community which I have invaded - say hello to people at the bus stop, smile at passers-by and keep the curtains open so I can see the street, thereby encouraging myself to adopt this place, not just this building, as my home.

Dead chuffed I managed to get "wherein" and "thereby" in the same post.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Ultimate Twister Destiny Duels!!!

Last night some friends were round helping clean out the house - somehow we got onto the subject of twister, and came up with this incredible idea.

Basically, Ultimate Twister Destiny Duels involve pitting two famous film characters/fictional heroes/celebrities against each other in a fantasy twister battle and working out who would win. Hopefull we'll get a game of it developed for the wii.

Here's an example to get started. An Ultimate Twister Destiny Duel between...

YODA and GOLLUM

Well, Yoda's definitely got the psychological edge - he's always calm and collected and knows what he's doing. Gollum tends to be a bit more rash and impulsive, which could lead to some over-ambitious stretching. Yoda's probably going to be a bit more patient, and during those long games will maintain concentration.

Yoda's most obvious weakness, however, is his limited reach. Although he could probably use the force to help with balancing, it won't help him land a right-hand-green that's just too far away. Gollum, on the other hand is the epitome of gangliness, and, although not exactly lanky, could easily out-stretch the green jedi master.

Although it would always be a close one, I think I'd put my money on Gollum. (If you'll excuse the expression. Gambling is bad. Don't gamble. I only ever gamble in the proverbial sense).

Moving House part 4

Well, I'm in the middle of moving house (the van with all our stuff drove off about half an hour ago) and waiting for the keys to become available, so I thought I'd pop into the office to do a spot of blogging. We're not going to have internet access for 10 days so it'll be office-blogging or none at all for now.

So far it's going well except for a broken pot and three smashed tiles on our doorstep.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Moving House Part 3

I've just finished packing up the majority of my stuff, and it comes to...

9 cardboard boxes of stuff
3 bags of things
1 wardrobe full of clothes
and a TV, a lamp and a stereo which aren't packed yet
and various items of furniture.
plus...
3 guitars, a violin, a mandolin, a saxophone and a bike

Bearing in mind that I don't count any household appliances or equipment as mine, that's quite a lot of stuff. Too much stuff? That is the question.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

At last

So I had a hectic weekend, and now I've just finished writing an essay! Which means I actually can relax now, *sigh*. What's even better is that I don't have to write any more essays at all from now on... unless I sign up for another course. Which isn't going to happen this year.

Oh, and there's a new poll so don't forget to vote!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Soul Purpose

I just had a brilliant bank holiday weekend. For the last three days I've been involved in Soul Purpose; a townwide event which gathers young people to worship together and serve communities in Shrewsbury. Every year (SP09 is the fifth time it's happened) we undertake a number of social action projects - including the quintessential litter-pick!

This year I just about managed to avoid litter-picking.

I did, however, do a lot of branch-carrying and sumo-lifting, among other things, in all of which I was assisted by a fantastic team of young people! Who were all great. Except that they decided that I looked like Mr. Tumnus and decided to call our team Team Tumnus.

I could go on and (I don't doubt) on and (probably) on about the weekend. But instead, here's just a few highlights in no particular order:

1) Coming back to base after a hard afternoon's work to be greeted by hot chocolate with squirty cream and marshmallows.

2) Winning two sumo fights and losing one (after a hard struggle).

3) Talking to a lad from the area whose name I remembered from last year, and discovering that he had remembered mine.

4) Leading worship on the last morning and really enjoying it. It's fantastic to see 100+ young people from a wide range of backgrounds and churches worshipping together.

5) Watching Phil eat the mushy remains of a black banana.

6) Seeing lots of people having lots of fun. And none of them getting injured.

7) Knowing that God will be planning exciting things for the future.

What I did not enjoy so much, however, was being compared to a Narnia character who is half goat. I would have objected profusely, but I reckon about five or six people who haven't ever met have all likened me to Mr. Tumnus in the last two years. So there must be something in it...


Thursday, 21 May 2009

New Catholic Archbishop

Recent question on BBC "Have Your Say" message board:

"What challenges does new Catholic Archbishop face?"

Top rated response:

"The same challenge that any religion faces. People thinking!"

Ian Walker, Wakefield

Lightning-wit Walker strikes again. Oh my.

Maybe next time he'll remember to use a semi-colon.



Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The Pringle Conspiracies

Once you pop, you just can't stop.

Pringles advertise the fact that their product contains an addictive substance. By stating it openly, they expect us to think that it's no big deal. We'll see what the government has to say when they're asked to fund Pringleholics Anonymous groups across the country.

This is the first conspiracy, which I've been aware of for some time. However, I have just discovered the true extent of their evil, via the BBC, of course.

The above article contains these shocking quotes...

"Potatoes make up 42% of the Pringles' ingredients."

"Pringles are more like a cake or a biscuit, it claimed, because they are manufactured from dough."

"Procter & Gamble insisted that their best-selling product was not similar to potato crisps, because of their "mouth melt" taste, "uniform colour" and "regular shape" which "is not found in nature."

I always knew that Pringles were unnatural.

Ouch

How often does this happen to you...?

You're sitting at your PC/laptop thinking, "ah, what shall I blog about now... gender? Evolution? Eschatology? Evangelism?" when a greasy pigeon suddenly ploughs into your window with a horrendous thud that brings you uncomfortably close to wetting yourself.

The bird hit the glass with such force that it will probably not survive. Or at the least it will have a splitting headache.

Is God sad when a pigeon dies?

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Hot Chocolate Conspiracy

Is it a coincidence that conspiracy is an amalgamation of the words "con" and "piracy"? I think not! For it is exactly these things that makers of hot chocolate aim to do.

Of this I am fairly sure.

Here's my reasoning...
It can't be too hard to make something more concentrated. Persil did it with their "small and mighty" product, and Robinson's did it with fruit juice. Most squashes use a concentrate to water ratio of 1:5 or similar, although some (notably elderflower cordial) use a ratio that's more like 1:10. I think this is fairly reasonable.

What I find unreasonable is that it takes FOUR HEAPED teaspoons of powder to make a mug of hot chocolate. HEAPED!

How much to make a cup of coffee? One rounded teaspoon?

It seems clear to me that Cadbury's etc are deliberately creating a very weak form of chocolate powder. This means that your average tub will last for about 4 1/2 mugs before you need to replenish your supplies, at great expense to you and great profit to the manufacturers!

I would suggest a boycott if it wasn't so darned delicious.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Lip Balm Conspiracy

So, I haven't posted in a while. And with good reason! I am finding myself more occupied these days. It's the usual balance between work, studying, serving, time out and dueling my nemesis. Also, I've just found out how to use some recording software I got free, which happens to be really useful and a lot of fun. I might actually record some songs.

Anyway, Lip Balm!

Yeah, so I never really needed lip balm until last autumn. Sure, I would slap on some vaseline if things got bad during winter, but it was a very occasional thing. Last autumn though, I was suffering major chapage so I bought my first stick of Lipsyl. Having never needed the stuff before, I thought I'd only need a couple of applications and my lips would be sorted.

But hang on, it's now May, the weather is good, and I still find myself making sure that there's a stick of balm in my manbag before I leave the house in the morning.

I could even go so far as to declare myself lip balm dependent.

Since this has only happened since I've started using said treatment, I suspect a sizeable amount of jiggery-pokery.

Is it possible that Lipsyl, Nivea and (heaven forbid) E45 all contain some kind of dependency-generating ingredient, whereby your lips will only ever recover temporarily before declining into chapsville again, thus securing future custom?

If so, then these cosmetic companies are just as bad as those evil cigarette manufacturers, if not worse!

If not, then I must just have really sensitive lips.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Grisi Siknis

Just read this article on the good old BBC news site.

Western doctors are apparently stumped by outbreaks of "Grisi Siknis" or Crazy Sickness affecting teenagers in Nicaragua.

They clearly haven't read the bible much.

When people claim to have been possessed, you'll naturally want to find a more logical explanation that doesn't involve nasty spirits and such. However, when medical experts study it for years and come up short you've got to start wondering.

UN Shenanigans

So I watched this video today of lots of Western diplomats walking out as the Iranian president was giving his speech at the UN anti-racism conference.

I'm torn between two trains of thought:
1) They were right to walk out as a demonstration that racist attitudes will not be tolerated.

2) They were wrong to walk out because everyone deserves to be listened to, no matter what their point of view is.

I think I lean more towards the second option because I'm more naturally inclined to defend the underdog. Also, I didn't hear the president say anything that actually discriminated against Jews, he was just slating the Israeli government, but then I didn't hear the whole speech.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Moving House Part 2

Yesterday I found all my cuddly toys.

I selected about a third of them that could go to a charity shop. This was hard.

It's nice to think that someone else might really enjoy them though. At a car boot sale in the summer I sold all my Thomas the Tank Engine books to a woman whose son really loved said train, which made me feel good. At the same sale, a man was eyeing up a train of wooden soldiers I had played with for many a year. I was surprised (they had fought a few wars) and disappointed when he asked how much we wanted for them. It was fantastic, however, to hear him say, "I think they're quite cute," and see his young son nod in approval as he inspected my portable army.

It's still hard though.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Moving House Part 1

Well, we're planning to move house in about a month or so, the date still hasn't been decided. Still, we've made a start packing things into boxes. I haven't really started on my own belongings yet, and when I do I will undoubtedly realise that I own a huge amount of stuff. So I guess now would be the ideal time to sell off some of my possessions.

I think this would be hard for me, mainly for two reasons;

1 - I get quite attached to the things I've had for a while. It's very hard to give away anything that I've owned for years, even if I don't use it. Sentimental value, I guess.

2 - If I get rid of an item, it's almost a confession that I bought something I didn't need, so I feel like I should keep things to justify the fact that I bought them in the first place. It seems like a waste of money to give away the hat I bought for £10 and wore twice, but actually it was a waste of money to buy a hat I would only wear twice.

If I don't give it away though, I might wear it more in the future!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Cheese

So, the latest poll shows that most people prefer Stilton.

How did that happen?

Edam should clearly have won. At least it wasn't cheddar at the top of the list - a pleasant, but wildly overrated fromage.

I think I'd get more accurate results with a bigger sample. With this in mind - check out the next poll and remember to vote!

Friday, 6 March 2009

What does God do? Part 2

On re-reading, the last post does sound pretty cynical so I want to redress the balance with a few more points.

God works in mysterious ways.

I've got to realise that if I ever actually understand how God works then it will no longer be a mystery, and God would no longer be God.
Whilst the mysteriousness often confuses and sometimes frustrates me, I'm glad that it's like that.

God's unfathomable nature is another reason why I worship Him.

Also, I absolutely wholeheartedly trust God. When I can't see what's going on, then I am even more willing to just be dependent on Him. I know that God is not just another part of the situation, but He is above every situation.

It's also exciting to think that God might be doing things in my life that I can't see, but that a few years down the line I might suddenly notice. Things that seem unimportant, or things that go hideously wrong, can all be used by God to do other things.

I'm imagining a machine where all the stuff from my life goes in at the top, God presses a few buttons, and something amazing pops out at the bottom. (It's a primitive example, I know). I'd really like to see exactly what happens inside the machine, but am content to just let it happen and anticipate the exciting product.

Also, the church is called the body of Christ. So a lot of the time God works directly through the things we do. Instead of sitting around thinking "where's Jesus in the world today?" we can actually go and do the things that Jesus would. With some help, of course.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

What does God do?

I've been thinking about this a lot recently. As an Evangelical Christian, I believe that God is at work in the world today. I believe that God works in the lives of human beings to bring about his sovereign will. I'm just not sure about how.

This could be a heavy one, so I'm going to break it down into a few examples.

1. "God made me like this."
People sometimes say things like, "I'm really shy, but that's how God's made me so there must be a reason." I would say that shyness is usually a result of a web of experiences, often at childhood, and is generally not a good thing. I wouldn't say it's bad to be shy, but it's well worth trying to break out of it.

The problem is, if you're going to say that God created your personality then what about the aspects of your character that aren't God-glorifying?

2. "What a blessing."
Last year our church had a gift day to raise money to pay off our mortgage. The result was staggering, with over £100,000 being offered (after gift-aid, I think). This money was earned by members of the church for doing their jobs, and then generously given away.

We thanked God for blessing us with such a huge amount, knowing that it had come from our own pockets. I don't want to sound cynical - I'm just trying to put forward the most challenging facet of my thought process.

3. "God put me here."
We often give credit to God for providing us with various things, especially jobs. As a Christian youth worker, lots of people tend to assume that I heard God's voice calling me to youth work, and then was assigned the position because the trustees recognised that calling.

Actually I applied because I needed a job and it sounded interesting. I was accepted because the trustees thought I was the best candidate.

4. "God formed me in the womb."
Crunch time. How was I formed? Through a natural biological process. How was God involved? I don't know. God is obviously quite discreet.

I believe that God is in control. However, "in control" is a passive state. The question is; how much does God actively control?

Of the events that happen in my life, how many are planned out by God?
A: All of them - the good, bad and seemingly irrelevant.
B: Just the good ones.
C: Specific ones that God uses to acheive a specific goal.
D: God only acts in response to prayer.
E: Only events that can be deemed miraculous are the direct work of God.
F: God is not actively involved now, but He is the master of the "butterfly effect", and so probably factored all the events of my life into His original creation plan.
G: None.

Votes please?

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

NEXT are muppets

I buy some clothes from NEXT, and they tend to be pretty good as far as quality, durability and comfort go. So, the other day, having decided to invest in a manbag, NEXT was my first stop.

Now, I'm one of those people that likes to read things that have been written on stuff. For example, I like to read graffiti and see whether it makes sense. I like to read people's tee-shirts (mostly men's of course). I like to read packaging.

Whilst I was perusing the selection of bags in NEXT I noticed a label with fashionable, barely legible writing scrawled on it. So I read it, and it said:

"every so often you will see something that changes your view on life. Take a good look at this bag and think. Ask yourself... why haven't I got one. You will want this."

What the fl*p? Apparently, there are people who are so shallow that their view of life can change by looking at a bag. It wasn't anything special in my opinion. Absolute r*bb*sh. (I'm using the asterisks to add more drama without actually using expletives - interesting effect, I think.)

I took my custom elsewhere.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Coldplay

Christians seem to like Coldplay. I'm not entirely sure why, but they do sound quite similar to a lot of worship music.

Again, I'm not sure of the reasons, but Chris Martin (the frontman) seems to get a lot of stick.

I don't hold any particularly strong views on Chris or his band, but I found this quote from the BBC hilarious:

"Radio 1 also apologised on-air immediately after Bono used an expletive to describe Coldplay's lead singer Chris Martin.

The BBC said it had received no complaints about it."

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Suspicious of Tim Keller...

Ok, I've got to be honest, I don't actually know that much about Tim Keller. In fact, I'm pretty sure I had never heard his name until a few weeks ago. Since then, I've noticed a few allusions to him in various blogs.

But, is it just coincidence that so-called Mr. Keller, looks exactly like Mike Novick from 24???

I think not! It seems to me that something sinister is afoot...

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

"Marginalisation of Christianity" - have your say...

I often read the BBC's Have Your Say message board, and have a good old growl at most of the comments that get put up. They pretty much follow the formula of; "More PC madness! When will this government learn to stop meddling and let us get on with our lives! Complete nanny state! We need a return to common sense, not this blame culture Britain. Alan B. - Sussex." Which is annoying when you have to read the same thing 15 times and the question was actually about a famine in Kenya.

Anyway, I thought I'd post my responses to recent comments over this issue:

Faith Diary: Your comments

In this week's Faith Diary the BBC's religious Affairs correspondent Robert Piggott addresses the growing alarm among church leaders at what they regard as "aggressive secularism", resulting in a marginalisation of Christianity.

Send us your comments in reaction to Robert's diary.

1. Secularism isn't aggressive. Faith is and has been for centuries. The more church leaders complain, the better.

[paulcjm], Netherlands

What? Nonsense. Faith is aggressive? Do you mean that religious groups sometimes act in a violent way? Because I think that non-religious groups do that quite often as well. And actually, the heart of Christianity is love. Who defines the heart of secularism?

Maybe the current recession is an opportunity for all faiths to work together to lead by example - if they can get along, then so can the rest of us.

[soupdragon10], Liskeard, United Kingdom

The point of faith is not to help people through recession, it is to help people discover God. I'm not prepared to work with a humanist (for example) to help people discover God. I would work with a humanist to bring aid to starving humans, but I would do that regardless of Britian's economic situation.


Christianity is indeed being marginalised as people ask questions that it can't answer and see through the implausible tales and hoodwinking that previously kept the uneducated masses under its thumb.

[Ambriel], Kinlochbervie, United Kingdom

I went to school, and I still believe in God. Seriously, how else can you account for the universe? There isn't a more plausible explanation.

It amazes me that people often see Christians as not just deluded, but malicious and selfish, as if they have manipulated people for their own personal (probably financial) gain. The only way you can believe that is if you don't know anything about Christianity. People make so many huge assumptions because secular culture has given them permission to.


Saturday, 21 February 2009

Genuine witness

It seems like a lot of people struggle with the idea of witnessing in the workplace. I'm not sure whether I should admit that I do, since I'm a Christian youth worker.

My job got me thinking a lot about how we evangelise, and I've got a lot of reservations about the some of tactics discussed here by Dave.

There are a load of people out there who don't care about Jesus, which isn't really fair, as they've never met Him. So as Christians, we're trying to introduce people to Jesus, cos we're confident that once you meet the guy you realise what all the fuss is about, right?

And what is all the fuss about? Well; eternal life, relationship with God, adoption as a child of God and the Spirit of God living inside us, among other things.

If this is true, then why don't we just tell people?

For examplage: when I went to Romania I found Fanta Grape, which is very very nice, but not distributed to the UK. You can, however, find some purveyors of imported goods that sell it at about 150% of the cost of a normal can of Fanta. It is worth it. A South African shop recently opened in Shrewsbury, where I live, which offers Fanta Grape among many other things. If I think my friends should try Grape Fanta (one of the best drinks on the planet) what should I do?

A. Invite them to a succession of mildly competitive sporting events, and then perhaps after a year or so they might be interested in coming for a tour of the Fanta factory.

B. Every time I see them with a can of regular orange Fanta, shout at them.

C. Occasionally make passing remarks like, "There's only two things in the world that should be purple - Cadbury's wrappers and the E4 logo - everything else looks bad in purple. Although Fanta Grape is purple and it's not bad."

D. Give them some Fanta Grape.

I guess the big question is how do you give someone Jesus?

Last observation: Christians try hard not to look crazy so that they can engage with society in a non-threatening way. This is not good. Just about everything Jesus did was completely crazy. Craziness is not always attractive, but if someone was telling me they just won the lottery I'd be much more likely to believe them if they actually looked ecstatic about it.

Apparently the gospel isn't as fun, exciting or rewarding as winning the lottery.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Menly men and all that stuff...

I don't think I've blogged about gender yet, but it's a fairly unavoidable issue, and this post in particular got me thinking.

I don't want to make this all about Mark Driscoll, but he often becomes the focus of a lot of critisicm because of his rants about the church needing to be more masculine, and how this should involve the slaying of many beasts and the pressing of many benches, or something like that.

Basically, Mark is a macho kind of guy, and expresses his macho-Christianity with statements like: We are deadly serious about the great commission and loading all guns to storm hell with the gospel of grace.

I can see that people object to this kind of talk because it can seem to promote violence. Violence against people is bad - I agree. However, there are lots of guys who like the idea of blowin' up stuff and setting fire to things and wreaking havoc with a sledgehammer etc. One of the highlights of my gap year, when I worked for my church, was getting to destroy an unwanted (and very sturdy) high-chair with my bare hands.

I had to act in a violent way towards the high-chair, and I enjoyed it. Was this wrong? (There was no child in it at the time)

If I came across a shrine to Baal in my garden (a tad unlikely) I would destroy it, and most probably enjoy it. Surely this is not wrong.

Even when pacifists agree that Mark Driscoll's violent language is metaphorical, they still don't seem to understand that it's not actually condoning physical violence against people. What it is condoning is a violent attitude towards sin.

For example;
Mark sees apathy
Mark wants to destroy apathy
Mark decides to attack apathy with an enormous mace (metaphor)
i.e. Mark sets his alarm clock for 6am so he can get up and pray

I have no problem with violent metaphors as long as the outworking is the destruction of strongholds etc. However, I don't think men should need violent metphors to incite them, they should rely on the Holy Spirit. And why not let women enjoy a little violence as well?

Apart from that last bit there wasn't actually much about gender there...

Monday, 9 February 2009

Super powers

I keep forgetting to publish these results:

It turns out that most people would prefer to have the power of flight!
Invisibility came second, and Laser/X-ray vision third.

No one wants to be super-strong, it seems.

Snow

I was thinking about snow the other day; specifically that it actually is just about the whitest thing you can get. I can see why Christian songwriters like to use phrases like, "washed white as the snow", because snow is incredibly white.

This is beneficial to manufacturers of Christmas cards, because they don't have to spend much on ink, I suppose.
Many cards will have a snowman of a very similar hue.

However, the average colour of a real snowman leans more in the direction of brown.

Once you have a brown snowman, there is no way of making him white again, because snow is quite hard to clean. I guess you'd have to melt it, filter it carefully and re-freeze it in a special way.

So there's quite a good analogy here for salvation....

I can imagine an emotional preacher saying, "you have to be prepared to let God melt, filter and re-freeze you in His own wonderful way, and then receive the lemon annointing of the Holy Sorbet, to be transfigured into a snow-cone of glory, ready to serve all the tastebuds of the world......"

Monday, 2 February 2009

Sorry, I'm too busy

I don't like having to turn things down all the time, but I'm learning that I have to if I don't want my prior commitments to suffer. Last week was a particularly busy one, what with my birthday and everything, and I had to cut study time from my schedule, which means that this week I've got to work hard to get my assignment done.

I am not totally opposed to hard work, but I don't like having the pressure of always having things that need to be done. I would much rather spend my time finding things to do, coming up with my own creative ideas, instead of just working through a pre-defined to-do list. The trouble is, when I have free time, I'm much more likely to want to chillax with a guitar or DS to escape from everything else that's going on.

What really annoys me is that even the fun things aren't as fun because I'm thinking of other things I should be doing instead. In effect, I feel busy all the time even when I'm not. Especially during holidays.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I think the Sabbath was one of God's best ideas. It's a shame we don't really seem to do Sabbathing any more. I think I need someone to explain the theology behind it, cos I'm pretty confused about how it's supposed to work for us gentiles.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

I am now 21 years of age.

Yeah. 21. Good stuff. Today, in fact. :P

My friend Dave just turned 30, and posted his highlights and lowlights from the first 30 years. I was thinking about doing something similar, but I haven't actually thought about it yet. If you have any ideas let me know. How about:

The most defining moments of my life so far?
Or a facial hair line-graph?
Or maybe I should go back in time and take a photo of me every day from the day I was born, turn it into a video and post it online?

Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Pope is on YouTube

So, I noticed on the news yesterday that the Pope has set up his own channel on YouTube, so I had a brief look. It seems that The Vatican are really moving with the times now, they've uploaded twelve videos already but I only watched one. You can witness such delights as "Benedict XVI blesses lambs for the feast S. Agnes" among others. According to the channel, "This video-news presents the Catholic Churchs position regarding the principal issues of the world today."

I didn't realise that the blessing of lambs for the feast St. Agnes was a principal issue in the world today.

To be honest, I'm just waiting for something controversial to come out of it, like "secret videos of Benedict XVI doing the macarena leaked onto internet." Currently, I'm finding all the roman numerals a bit of a turn off.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Responding to the evolution debate

As far as evolution is concerned, I'm not certain about much. However, I am more or less convinced of one thing: if we find proof one way or another it will result in a huge amount of people looking more silly than any group of people have ever looked.

It worries me slightly to think that some people might actually choose which side of the debate to side with based on how silly they think they will look if they are later found to be wrong. That's no way to decide your opinions, even if you might end up looking very, very silly indeed.

However, will we ever find evidence that is conclusive enough for both parties? Would either group accept their silly-lookingness and move on, or would they stand defiantly until the end?

High stakes such as these amount to very exciting debates, I find. So, I am preparing to be excited by Honest to Darwin - the case for intelligent design! It'll probably be a key event in determining how my opinions will evolve.

Oh dear. LOL.

[Update: totally got a deja vu when I posted this... wierd.]

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Critiquing Newton Faulkner

I decided to write this so I could complain, but then thought that I shouldn't be moaning all the time, so let's start with the positives!

Netwon Faulkner is one of the best mainstream singer-songwriters I've heard. Not just currently, but in my life so far I have heard few artists with such dexterity on the guitar who also manage to write a variety of catchy, melodic, interesting songs. In my opinion, Mr. Faulkner strikes a perfect balance between the niche lap-tapping stars of the internet and the more traditional, mainstream pop ballad artist.

It is also good that he tries to make songs more lyrically interesting than, "oh, in my heart I feeeeel, a love that is so reeeeal..." etc. However, it's his lyrics that disappointed me recently. Specifically, this line in People Should Smile More (an otherwise brilliant song):

"I can't change the world, cos trying to make a difference makes it worse." Talk about a defeatist attitude. It might be understandable to hold the point of view that one person cannot make much of a difference, but where did he get the idea that if he did put in the effort it would make things worse? That's just nonsense. Not your Edward Lear kind of nonsense though, this is nonsense that people might actually believe, and apply to their lives. Grrr.

But he does make exceedingly good music. Gone in the Morning, for instance.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

YouTube

Firstly, I must state that this post is in no way an attempt to advertise my own Youtube videos, which can be found here.

No, instead I've decided to have a quick rant about the culture of YouTube, and similar "online communities". Basically, I think it's shocking how much abuse people dish out when they can conceal themselves behind a screen. I don't get many "haterz" commenting on my videos but that could be because they don't get watched very often.

Nevertheless, I don't have to look far to come across two angry YouTubers having a no-holds-barred comment fight. It might go something like this:

pwnnoob911 says:
is tht a fender strat or a squire hes plying?

1337K1ng says:
it's a freaking telicaster u retard

pwnnoob911 says:
at least i can spel telecaster dumbass

1337K1ng says:
i hope your mom gets run down by an ice cream truck

etc. etc. etc.

Now, you also get a lot of positive comments, and you can flag any as spam if you don't like them. However, that doesn't resolve the issue that you have a bunch of 14 year-old kids sitting at their PCs being incredibly malicious. I think they need to hear about unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness. And probably a good lesson in humility. Honestly, young people these days...

They're nothing like this chap here.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Highlights from YFC staff conference

This Friday signalled the end of another Youth for Christ staff conference, which brought hundreds of youth workers from all over Britain to Bodelwyddan castle hotel to celebrate, and get motivated for 2009. All in all it was a fantastic week, but here's eight things that made it particuarly enjoyable for me (in no particluar order):

1) YFriday
Undoubtedly the best Geordie Christian rock band in the world, YFriday joined us for the week and lead our times of worship. This was brilliant throughout, especially on the final night, which saw a collaboration between the band, DJ Hoolio and a couple of MCs. Bangin' beats, phat bass and the presence of God. Mmm.

2) Breakfast
The only reason I was able to get up each morning was the hot full english buffet that awaited me downstairs. Having said that, one morning my alarm failed me and we only arrived in time for toast.

3) The Bible as Apple, Orange and Ostrich Egg
The keynote speaker was a guy called Leonard Sweet. I believe his middle name is Freekin. Apparently he writes two books a year, and I'd recommend getting hold of some, on the basis that his talks were all awesome. Without going into too much detail, he was saying that we need to treat the bible holistically, like biting into an apple, instead of disecting it like a orange and isolating each part. Part of the challenge is to replace memorising bible verses with memorising bible stories. The ostrich egg reminds us to keep our eyes fixed on Christ in everything we read.

4) Clapclapclapclapclapclapclapwooooclapclapclapclap...
Roy Crowne, national director of YFC is stepping down this year, after decades of leadership. As such, this was his last conference, and he was presented with gifts, before receiving a standing ovation that went on longer than Lord of the Rings. It was quite a special moment (despite the fact I'd never heard of him til 2007).

5) Coincidences
I met a bloke called James from somewhere and it turned out we were both at a friend's wedding in the summer. That was not all however, as it was also revealed that we entered the same Christmas film competition, which I blogged about here. His film actually came 3rd overall, fortunately it was one of the really good ones so I wasn't too jealous. However, it really made my day that he thought my film should have been in the top ten and his youth group were "outraged" that it wasn't! I felt vindicated.

6) Sex with Elaine Storkey
One of the guest speakers, Mrs. Storkey, delivered a seminar on the above topic. I didn't actually go, so it only made the highlights list because of the lol factor (which Roy Crowne capitalized on, having previously given a talk to students that was advertised as "Maximum sex with Roy Crowne").

7) Celebration with Michelle Guiness
Another superb talk, this time on the theme of partying. It really is crazy that having been saved from death into eternal life, we don't have many parties. "Isn't it splendid to be a child of God? Shall we break out the cucumber sandwiches? Jesus really is rather lovely, isn't he?"

8) Beating Texans at Boggle
Yeah. Having played "scramble" on Facebook and lost more than I won, I was wondering whether I was losing my touch. As it happens, I absolutely pwned their faces. I'm sure they still enjoyed it though.



Saturday, 3 January 2009

Poll Results

Here's a confession... I voted twice on two PCs to bias the results of my American comedy ballot in favour of Scrubs: the best American sitcom ever, IMHO.

With jiggery-pokery accounted for, it was a tie between Friends and The Simpsons for first place, ammassing a grand total of TWO VOTES EACH!!! A veritable clash of the titans.

Watch out for the next survey.

Friday, 2 January 2009

When a vicar's head revolves...

In my first ever post I mentioned a comedian called Tim Vine, whose latest DVD I have just bought. For me, this was probably the highlight of his act...

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy new year!

As I was heralding the coming of 2009 last night, I was thinking about the reasons why people celebrate new year's. Since most people don't seem to enjoy being reminded that they are ageing, why do we mark the passage of another year with a special event?

Is new year's eve just an excuse for wild partying, or is there something significant about fresh starts and an "out with the old, in with the new" mentality? Basically, I'd like to know why people are so excited about it.

For me, I guess it's an opportunity to look to the future, which is exciting because I have most of my life ahead of me (hopefully) and I know that God has plans for the years to come.

I'd like to waffle on for ages about resolutions and auld lang syne and stuff but I'm absolutely shattered so I'm not sure how coherent it would be. Have a good year guys.