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.