Saturday, October 31, 2009

Another apple-related comment from Elaine, although this time real apples

It's Hallowe'en and Elaine invited us to a Hallowe'en party, where we would do traditional Hallowe'en things like apple bobbing and turnip carving (okay, maybe not that last one).

"Have you got a bowl big enough for apple bobbing?" I asked.

"Hmm, good point," said Elaine. There was a pause. "I suppose we could use the bath."

There was another pause. "When did you last clean it?"

"Er... recently."

"Yeah, I don't know if I really want to go bobbing for apples in someone else's bath..."

Friday, October 30, 2009

I guess that would be rather a limited range of products

I've been giving my friend Elaine a lift in the mornings recently, as she has been volunteering at the place I work. I also give her lifts home.

The other day we were heading home, and comparing notes about how crap and soulless the new much-hyped Cardiff Cathedral to Mammon has turned out to be.

"It's got an Apple shop, though," I said.

"An apple shop?"

"Yeah, you know, computers and iPods and stuff."

"Oh, an Apple shop. I thought you meant a shop that just sold - never mind!"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No, you're going to drown, little girl. Sorry.

Don't know if you've seen the latest adverts to try and persuade us all to stop producing CO2, where there's a dad reading a bedtime story about the 'evil CO2 monsters' living up in the sky and how we're all going to get washed away when the ice caps melt. It ends with the kid asking "Is there a happy ending?"

I am truthfully a bit worried about global warming as my house that's oh so convenient for the Bay is only about six feet above sea level. Unlike friends of mine who live on top of hills, or far enough inland to not worry so much, I've got an elevation of six feet and about quarter of a mile until the seawater gets me.

And the thing is I think global warming is going to get worse. I base this assumption on some simple observed phenomena.
1) There are several people in this world who are easily distracted idiots who are incapable of turning off X Factor and turning on the news.
2) People are selfish and want to buy cheap crap made in China, regardless of how many emissions there are in production or transportation.
3) Stopping global warming will be expensive and no one wants to pay for it.
4) Cars are convenient and often cheaper to run than relying on public transport.
5) Burgers aren't going out of fashion any time soon.

So, I think the only solution is to take this personally, and abuse people who abuse the planet. After all their actions are effectively going to flood my house, the selfish gits. Be warned if you drive a 4x4 in my city.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Song lyric of the week: Muse, Knights of Cydonia

"Don't waste your time,
Or time will waste you."

That got me thinking, especially as I heard it on the radio after seeing Up, the new Disney/Pixar movie. Up is all about putting off your dreams until one day it's too late. It's made me think about a few of my personal dreams/ambitions. Some are doable. Some are dependent on getting the right breaks. But all mean I should stop wasting time.

Incidentally my Dad has raved about Up since he saw it last week. he thinks it should be required viewing for retired people. I found it very moving - as Disney/Pixar films have a habit of being - without being overly sentimental. There were also a couple of laugh out loud moments when Cathy had to 'shush' me because I was so noisy.

And I loved Doug the Dog. He was great. ("I do not like the cone of shame.")

Jongudmund's rating: 8/10 (well worth seeing)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Probably not the result they were hoping for

Okay, fair play to the people who co-ordinate the Alpha Course intro to Christianity thing, putting a poll on their home page asking people whether there was a God or not probably seemed like a good idea.

At the time of writing though the results (After over 87,000 votes) are Yes: 3%, No: 96% and Don't know: 1%. See it here (click on 'show results')

I wonder how long they will leave the poll up.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A genuine "before they were famous" moment

The X Factor is all the rage at the moment, and there's a Welsh girl on there called Lucie Jones. I was talking to my mentoree Connor the other day and he said "You know that Welsh girl on the X Factor? She used to go to my College."

And suddenly I had a realisation. Back in March, we were persuaded by musical-loving friends (Bryan and Elaine) to go and see a college production of Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim. And one of the main characters - the Witch, if you know the musical - was played by... Lucy Jones.

Now, of course, she's a big TV star (at least until her X Factor run runs out), but I saw her in a half-full community theatre when she was still a kid, although with some obvious star potential. I remember she got a big cheer when her character changed from being a hideous crone to a glamorous 'sexy witch' in a sheer red slinky outfit. She was obviously meant to be the star, although I remember at the time I thought the girl who played the Baker's Wife was very good too, if not better.

So there you go, a genuine 'I saw them before they were famous' moment. (And now she's so famous, she's changed her name to Lucie.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Even so, I'm not watching your vampire porn

My friend Elaine was very disappointed that I didn't watch the first terrestrial airing of Deep South vampire series True Blood. ("Mm gunna bite y'alls nayk!")

My main reason for avoiding it was Elaine and another friend describing it as "vampire porn". I said as much to Elaine, prompting this reply:

"Oh, it's not really that bad. The sex is very tongue-in-cheek."


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sometimes a marketing claim could do with a little bit of self-analysis

At the venue for the Ben Taylor gig on Tuesday night there were posters for 'Nearly Dan', a tribute act to Steely Dan, playing soon.

Their tagline was "The UK's number 1 Steely Dan tribute act!"

To which my response was "Really? There's more than one Steely Dan tribute act?"

And why are they only number 1 in the UK? Are there European Steely Dan tribute acts that outshine them? I don't really know any Steely Dan songs and they may well be HUGE in Albania, or Leichtenstein or somewhere, but I doubt there's a massive industry of Steely Dan tribute acts in some overlooked back-of-beyond part of the continent.

And who gives out that award anyway? Is there a Grand Jury of Tribute Acts that passes judgement on them and enforces rankings? Thinking about it, that's the kind of thing there should be.

It just seems a very odd (and unverifiable) claim.

(And, no, I won't be going to see them...)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Gig review: Benjamin Taylor @ the Globe, Cardiff

We hadn't been to the Globe on Albany Road before. I was pleasantly surprised at its aesthetic and its intimate feel. I was also surprised that they'd have such a big name as Ben Taylor playing at such a small venue.

The support was good. Karl Morgan, a Swansea boy with plenty of family in the house, kicked the night off. He sounded very good, and with the right breaks he will go far, I think. His cover of Stevie Wonder's 'Superstitious' was excellent. I think it's harder to sound good playing a track people know than playing your own stuff, so he acquitted himself well - well enough for Cathy to buy a copy of his EP from his mum who was in charge of the money.

The second support act was Roddy Hart, again good, but I actually thought Karl Morgan was more engaging. Some of the songs were good enough to persuade me to buy his album for a fiver. But I don't think I'd go to a gig he was headlining.

And, then, finally, Benjamin Taylor (rebranding himself after being known as Ben on his first release) took the stage, accompanied for the main part of the show by David Saw. For someone known as a fairly serious singer-songwriter, he was very funny, telling stories and chatting to the audience with consummate ease. Some of his funnier songs you won't hear on his records but 'Your boyfriend is a really nice guy' and 'Dirty' both caused a lot of laughter in the crowd. I'd like to see him do a comedy album, although I can't see that happening.

Lyrically, there's plenty to digest. 'America', a recent composition, kept me transfixed as I tried to listen to what he was singing. He only played three songs off his first album, and after he told us that 'Nothing I can do' was written for his mum made it seem more meaningful. Meanwhile, if you want to hear folk that's allegedly been inspired by Outkast, you need to listen to 'Wicked Way'.

As I sat there, just relaxing into the music, it struck me that there are occasions when you just know you are in the presence of genius. I felt very lucky and very blessed to listen to him sing. We were so close to the stage it felt like it was a private gig just for us. Given his parentage (James Taylor and Carly Simon), he could be forgiven for going the commercial route. But he's doing it his own way - his own record label, his own style of music. I felt we got a glimpse into a magical soul; what used to be called the numinous.

As he signed a CD for us afterwards, I thanked him for the show. "At the risk of sounding sycophantic," I said, and then told him that we had been through some tough stuff recently and that the evening had been spiritually refreshing. He was surprised as he said they felt it had been a tough night on stage. I said 'Well, I felt blessed' and thanked him again. Music, as they say, restoreth the soul, and I felt genuinely better when I left than when I had walked in.

Not every gig is special, but this one was.

Monday, October 05, 2009

With a little help from Ian, freelance theology gets noticed

My web-savvy compadre, Ian, suggested I do a post on freelance theology about the lyrics to the new Robbie Williams song. So, slightly sceptically, I did. (If you haven't read it yet, check it out here.) It turns out it's the most popular post on freelance theology ever, and my stats have spiked from less than 10 visitors a day to over 100. Big news for me, on no budget and hardly any time.

As I wrote the article I thought this is the kind of thing that people I kind of know in the (Christian) media might be interested in, so I sent out an old-school style press release last week. It got picked up on the Inspire website, and on Christian Today, plus I have an interview on UCB tomorrow and Premier Radio (the big guns in UK Christian radio) have expressed an interest too.

But also the article has been picked up on at least three Robbie Williams fan sites - Pure Robbie (complete with discussion thread - scroll down), (that's a German site in case you didn't know), and an Italian fanblog (complete with translation into Italian!).

These sites have directed significant traffic to freelance theology. Over 100 from Inspire, 60 from - possibly because they only put on a link - and 43 from PureRobbie, even though the whole article was cut and pasted on there. And then a few bits and pieces from a few other odd sites that have mentioned it too.

The conclusion I've drawn is that to get freelance theology 'noticed' I have to react to very current stuff, preferably with wider application than just the small Christian circle. I guess what I really need are the questions to be asked, as that's the point of freelance theology. But I do want them to be genuine questions. What to do?