Final of the Circle


Tonight is the live TV final of the Circle. I will be watching.

The Circle was an attempt to have a new type of reality show on the TV. Whereas previous shows have attempted to see what would happen when strangers met each other and are thrown together, on an island (castaways, bear grylls the island), in a house (real world, big brother, wife swap), they have recently focused on the expert bringing there expertise in a time limited fashion (business or self improvement shows), or finding love for the participants (the undateables, love island, first dates, married at first sight).

In the Circle the contestants live in a block of flats, isolated from each other and outside life, contestants are only able to chat and form relationships over a social media network called the circle (think a Facebook style social media facility). The drama comes from, one having the show as straight popularity contest among the contestants themselves, evaluating each other from their interactions on The Circle network, and two, enabling people to be who ever they want to be on the social media network. So we have a male who is pretending to be a female, we have a gay man pretending to be straight, we had a young female pretending to be an elderly gentlemen.

I like the element of identity creation that social network allows, and think that this element is one of the strong cards of the programme. As viewers we can see what is happening, who “real” and who is pretending to be someone else, even as viewers we can see what the “real truth” is. This is also one of the largest weaknesses of the programme, the premise that you can be who you want online. Can any person be real on a TV programme, how much are you showing yourself, and especially when you are in a edited TV programme which employs a full time editor.

I am also aware of how much I differentiate between the different social media networks. FB and Twitter usage and how I think of the relationships. I can only imagine whom usage of social media would change if I used Instagram or Snapchat. The TV programme only gives the contestants access to one type of social network, I wonder how the specific design and features of the Cicrle social network are affecting what we see.

He twist on the final is that everyone votes for popularity, then will meet on TV live before finding out who has won the £50,000 prize. In many ways this isn’t on. I would prefer if they left people without face to face meeting. I also think the introduction of a £25,000 viewers prize is also a bit annoying.

Even so I have found it addictive viewing. And I liked it. So I will be watching tonight on the live final.

Categories: Uncategorized

I can only imagine


I got the opportunity to see the film called “I can only imagine” in a the cinema this week. I can only imagine is a faith film, its entire reason for existing it build up the faith of the viewer. I hadn’t seen many faith films but I was open to see what it was about. It was sold to me as the movie about why the guy had written a famous song. I have watched a number of documentaries which deal with one song or one artistic life, (Glen Campbell: The Rhinestone Cowboy comes to mind), but for this movie I didn’t know the song the film was dealing with.

Watching the movie, the acting was solid, and the story was reasonable. The film felt coherent with moments of comedy and moments of darkness beings solidly balanced. I felt the film was enjoyable without living with me afterwords. It showed relations in families are not easy, and that living without success is a hard slog. As I watched I wondered who is this film for? People who knew the song, was the answer, but this is a limited audience not including me. But it should be me. I knew christian music of the Era. I am inside Christianity and know a wee bit about Christian music of the Era contained in the film, but the film didn’t really affect me.

The problem with a faith film is if I am not asking the question the film answers (why was a song written?), how does the film build up my faith. Any type of testimony speaks of God’s reconciliation, the message that Christianity carries, humans can be reconciled to God, is a good one. The problem was the film wasn’t content with this message. As a bio pic of very successful band detailing a song which sold millions of copies, the film ended with the story of reconciliation with God of the father, the father mending his relationship with his son and then reconciled, his son was successful (writing a song and selling millions of records). That story of sucess does not build up my faith, nor does it speak of how I think of God.

There was a moment in the movie where the father, played by Dennis Quaid, says

“Dreams don’t pay the bills. Nothing good comes from them. All it does is keeping you from knowing what is real”

What is real is being honest about our experience and film details real life well, but it says that worship music is space where we can be real. The film hints at the moment that Contemporary Christian Music stopped being about music which was similar to normal music but had christian lyrics, music as entertainment, (perhaps best exampled in the history of Tooth & Nail Records) to becoming music as worship. The moment where DC Talk, Newsboys and PFR were having records simultaneously released in “normal” shops and also in the “christian music” shops to the moment were the Newsboys were issuing worship records to christian shops only. There is a story to be told around that time, but this film only hints at this issue.

As I watched the movie I wanted it speak more and to explore the story more. Like a trailer I had seen for a small film that mixes up real life, intermingles it with religious life, it seems to say something about faith and real life that was missing. “Parallel Love“.

I was thinking of what it means to struggle outwith the Christian world as a christian artist, the movie that tells the story of Daniel Smith and the Danielson Famile from a while ago.

Danielson: a Family Movie from JL Aronson on Vimeo.
In many ways the faith based film sector does not speak outside of itself. This was this a story well told and solidly acted. But did its target market go outside of faith community, did it even go outside of American Christianity, that is debatable.

So I left the cinema thinking. The film was ok, and if you like the song, the film is something that is decent and tells a story you may be interested in.

How long is enough?

Two recent stories have caused me to consider how long is enough?

1 – “Three years after a sex scandal involving Billy Graham’s grandson Tullian Tchividjian, Fortress Press is bringing his book Jesus + Nothing = Everything back to print.

2 One of Nicola Sturgeon’s new ministers has lost her job before even being confirmed by Parliament over blog posts deemed “offensive and inappropriate”. Gillian Martin, named as a junior education minister on Wednesday, wrote about “hairy knuckled, lipstick-wearing transgender laydees” in a 2007 post.

The forgiveness being given in one story after 3 years contradicts the outcry to the second story. I am not involved with their situation so it is easy for me to forgive, or conversely it is easy to condemn their past action and hold their views as stationary. But I find myself thinking…
How long is long enough to hold people to account?
Can people really change?
Are Christians more likely to give forgiveness?
Is forgiveness given to easily within the Christian community?

Apologies requires two parts, the first person to say “I am sorry” the second person to say “I accept”.
Being the first person to apologise is tough. I do not like that I am human and this means I am changeable and fallible (often). Life changes. I have changed. But I am constantly here. I am not a journey, as that implies my views are always changing and if I do not change then I am not journeying. I am here and have experienced life as best I can. I wondered what I would do in each situation, would I apologise and mean the apology.

It also needs the other, the second person. The other includes whoever was directly affected by these actions. The politician was talking about others in her blog, and the Bookman convinced others that what he was doing was correct. You cannot apologise if you do not know what you are apologising for. Perhaps an apology will make things ok with who they were wronging. Perhaps this represents an acknowledgement that what they did was wrong and a commitment to do the future differently. I don’t know an apology would demonstrate a changed belief, at a basic level by not having affairs or not writing blogs they would demonstrate a change. It is challenging to forgive but it is what I am called to do.

So how long is enough? What do people have to do to be forgiven? Perhaps the third person the in the situation needs thought about. The third person is wider society. We ask both people to hold office (in church and in parliament), we then hold both to an additional standard of behaviour. Where there is abuse of power or the possibility of this behaviour we say “NO” to appointment. We judge the situation and the person as we see fit. We are comfortable with the operation of a public court system where people are tried publicly, although the public most times were not offended against. But the legal system is not as important as social media and the court of public opinion. The both are guilty. Apologies may have been said, but still I judge them. I am uncomfortable with the three years in case one, as I do not think it is long enough. I am also uncomfortable with 11-year-old blogs being used as an example of the politicians views. But this doesn’t tell me anything about the people; it doesn’t tell me whether they have changed, or whether they have unrepentant carried on. I judge them based on the worst part of their existence that we know about. I was criticising Donald Trump recently, when an American youth worker told his story of asking the Trump organisation for help to make a good night for a group of young people. He was asked to Trump tower in New York and surprisingly, ended up meeting with Donald Trump. Come the night and the Trump organisation really did a great job in making the night awesome, going above and beyond for the young people. While I am not a supporter of President Trumps policies or presidential reign, neither was the American youth worker, I am aware that the picture is more complex than I see. Humans act as humans, frustratingly inconsistent.

Doubting my voice

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One the literal side effects of the stroke is that I speak with a different voice. I know what I am trying to say, I almost hear myself in my brain say it, but I go to speak it out loud and the voice I say it in is not one I automatically recognise. I prepare by thinking what I am going to say in my normal voice, I have conversations in my brain which are normal, but when I open my mouth it isn’t the voice I imagine.

This has several effects like I cannot phone in a foreign food takeaway as I sound as if I am not taking the take away staff seriously. Do I doubt myself? Yes. I often try to put something over as best I can put it verbally. But afterwards I find doubt creeping in. I do not know if the children do not understand what I am saying or whether they are being children and listening “creatively”, (was it the stroke or my children just being that age?)

I was in a situation today where I had cause to phone an ambulance. I dialled 999 without thinking. The operator put me through, I gave the details as clearly as I could. The wind was pretty bad, I took shelter behind a parked minibus and the signal dropped. It came back and I continued to talk to the dispatcher. Soon the call was over and the ambulance was on its way. I waited at the bottom of an adjoining street in order to guide the ambulance the right way, also as not to crowd the person on the ground. As I stood there I doubted myself.

Had I made myself clear? Yes, they had said an ambulance was on the way.
Had I remembered the address of the street properly? Yes, I think so. I checked the address on my phone and I had addressed it properly.
Had they taken me seriously? I didn’t know.

I was suddenly very conscious of not being able to speak in my own voice. I thought back over the conversations where people had heard me, then my mind turned to the conversations where people hadn’t heard me, the times when I had said something and not got the responses I expected or perhaps, any responses at all. I thought of times where I was quiet. Was this being quiet a sign that I was comfortable, conscious of how when I am nervous I fill silences, or was this quiet because I didn’t know what to say or how to say it because I was scared of using my current voice and looking like a fool.

Perhaps this was summed up by two men as I waited for the ambulance. One man asked what had happened. I told him that a man was on the ground and they were looking after him. He said “What?’ meaning can you repeat it again please? I did and he said “Right” and walked off. Later a man walked passed me and said “Hello”, I said “Hello” back and he made a comment about the weather before continuing on. They’re understanding was deeper than my ability to communicate.

The speech therapist has said there is nothing medically wrong with my talking, I can make all the sounds necessary, that meeting and having conversation will help bring back my own voice. When I am not thinking about the voice or what I am going to say the old voice can come back for a few minutes. Perhaps I am too nervous around what I have to say and how I will say it. The last few years of my doctorate have been about developing my voice. It looked at how I use my voice to say something distinctive and interesting. The critique I bring is dependant on me, the stuff which makes me whoever I am. I didn’t particularly like my old voice, it was to middle-y, but it was mine. And something in my brain hears it and connects with it. I wonder what I have said distinctively in my old voice. I wonder what I can say in this current voice which is new and distinctive. I didn’t take much notice of my old voice, but now when I think of saying something I doubt myself, I think again. I need to risk to find my old voice again. I doubted myself at the best of times, but now I need to chat. I was proud I had called 999 and had a discussion conveying important information while my current voice is different. All this doubt was internal and I need to try using my voice again. Hopefully next weeks activities will take another step towards having my old voice back.

Playlist of influence.


I have many different playlists across various services. On iTunes I have about 60 different playlists currently. I have about 20 playlists on Spotify. Some of these are functional collecting a genre or artist together, some are something more life giving. I have a playlist filled with songs I like driving to called “driving”. I have one filled with songs of that help my think about faith called “Worth”. I have a playlist of fragile songs called “fragile”. On the more frivolous side I have a playlist called “six” that just has the sixth song off of a load of albums and one playlist called “way” that only has songs with the word way in the title. I even have an entire history of a band, the blue nile, or list build from the a set list of a concert I have seen, Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil.

Tonight I have been listening to one of the playlists called “40”. The playlist aims to draw together one album from each year I have been alive that means something to me. (The albums don’t really need to be one a year but roughly so). They start with the music of my father and mother, Cliff Richard, the Beach Boys and John Denver. The music of my brother including the band he sang in. The music of my teenage, my Contemporary Christian Music leanings through to today and the dream pop leanings. I don’t often listen to this list, but tonight it has been on. The Boy has enjoyed it being on.

I have always known that the power of song is significant but tonight it struck me just how much of my belief is informed and reinforced by song. How much I am uncritical of songs but adopt them as my own and have a view of faith I have found through song. I learned and identified with song. In listening to this playlist I have been revisiting my initial thoughts about my theological worldview and discovering how much it has shaped me. I don’t quite know what to think but in the meantime I will enjoy.

A small confession.

I have been using computers for a long time. The BBC B on wheels at primary school, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum at home, the first rumblings of PC’s. Being introduced to the an early Bulletin Board System form of the internet in 1991 and thinking, “that’s rubbish.” Through out all that followed, my start on BBC Basic, through Microsoft Windows, 95, 98, 98se, Xp, dual booting with linux, building my own tower computer, moving to apple products, to my current all apple set up, there is one thing I have never done.

I have never chosen to use Microsoft Outlook as my default email client. It always seemed a bit weird, a bit like trying to cram Word into an email programme. Things change. Microsoft recently has become the company which is experimenting more than Google and Apple. Both Apple and Google became massive and overtook Microsoft was left as a big fish but not the biggest fish anymore. Perhaps it is a throw lots of stuff at the wall to see what sticks approach, in a desperate attempt to stay relevant. The phone adventure didn’t take off enough to support a vibrant app eco system. Given this failure, and the amount of Apple phones in the wild, both Google and Microsoft realised they needed to make apps that allowed people to use their products on Apple’s mobile devices, Google use their cloud based apps to provide a back end. Microsoft used their cloud service as a base to design a web app version of Word, Powerpoint and Excel that could live on mobile devices. They also released Outlook. This is a good decision as for lots of people this works as it pragmatically ties in with work tech decisions.

Well, now it is confession time. I now use Microsoft Outlook as the default e-mail client on my phone, even though I don’t need to for work.

Why? I hear you ask. Actually it is very good. I have been looking at email apps on the iPhone for a while as I am not happy with the performance of the iOS default mail app, so I wanted a replacement. While I have used many apps for the job, but none have really hit the mark, and Outlook is doing a great job currently. I don’t know if it will remain my default app longterm but it is decent so far.

The success Outlook has had with me is build on 2 main factors. First is the way it divides your email into two separate mail boxes. Focused and Other. Focused is where it takes the important mail. It guesses, (well i assume there is a complex algorithm and artificial intelligence at work here), which of the e-mails you review are important, and which aren’t. in the past month it has only got 1 email wrong. I run 4 email addresses through this outlook app. The app works well across 365 emails, other Imap accounts and gmail accounts, judging from the different accounts what goes where. Yesterday I had no emails in my focused box, all 63 emails I got yesterday went into the other account, and rightly so. The app loads into the focused mailbox, a decision that allows you to focus on the work you should be doing. When it loads in email it will tell you if email goes into the other account so you can check them, but it is built to let you ignore what can be ignored.

The second factor is the integration with cloud storage accounts. I use Dropbox and OneDrive for various things. (Despite using Apple products I do not trust Apples iCloud services with anything important.) The ability to save a attachment from my phone to my Dropbox account within the app is great. The old process using Apples universal “box with arrow” wasn’t a bad experience, but to have this streamlined is handy.

If I had to make a criticism the diary does support syncing with Apple’s calendar app nor with iCloud drive. This seems a bit of an oversight when the app does sync so well with some other apps. And as other apps have proved calendar sync is a thing that can be done well (including the old sunrise app that Microsoft bought in order to improve outlooks calendar functions). the other isssue is that this is Microsoft, the historic enemy of Apple, buying success. they bought the metal handling from accompli, the calendar from sunrise. The Outlook app is build on the work of another company that they bought. Internally it feels a bit like disliking a sports team who buy all the best players, but then in fantasy sports doing the exact same. There’s a dissonance about it.

Given all that it is a solid 8/10 for this app, it is not perfect but it is very good at what it does do.

A story for the #courgettecrisis. “What They Sell In The Shops These Days” by Daniil Kharms

This is not a picture of the shops yesterday. #Fakenews

Yesterday I was involved in a discussion about the lack of courgettes in the shops, #courgettecrisis. I was urged to shop locally and eat seasonally; i was encouraged to note the advice from a mitchelin starred celebrity chef.

Well.
I dont live in a globalised, commodified, consumerist society to shop local and seasonally, I want everything cheap and available now. As for taking vegetable selection advice from a chef who is backed by the big potato lobby…

Anyway, this put me in mind of one of Daniil Kharms stories from “Incidences”.

(22) What They Sell in the Shops These Days

Koratygin came to see Tikakeyev but didn’t find him in.
At that time Tikakeyev was at the shop buying sugar, meat and cucumbers.
Koratygin hung about by Tikakeyev’s door and was just thinking of scribbling a note when he suddenly looked up to see Tikakeyev himself coming, carrying in his arms an oilskin bag.
Koratygin spotted Tikakeyev and shouted: — I’ve been waiting for you a whole hour!
— That’s not true — said Tikakeyev — I’ve only been out of the house twenty-five minutes.
— Well, I don’t know about that — said Koratygin — except that I’ve already been here a whole hour.
— Don’t tell lies — said Tikakeyev — you should be ashamed to lie.
— My dear fellow! — said Koratygin — Be so good as to be a little more particular with your expressions.
— I consider … — began Tikakeyev, but Koratygin interrupted him:
— If you consider . . . — he said, but at this point Tikakeyev interrupted Koratygin and said:
— A fine one you are!
These words put Koratygin into such a frenzy that he pressed a finger against one of his nostrils and through his other nostril blew snot at Tikakeyev.
Then Tikakeyev pulled the biggest cucumber out of his bag and hit Koratygin across the head with it.
Koratygin clutched at his head with his hands, fell down and died.
That’s the size of the cucumbers sold in the shops these days!

part 2(016) by Laconic Hegemony (vol 13), a #mixtape for you.

laconichegemony

The new Laconic Hegemony “part 2(016)” is now out. Laconic hegemony is a small mixtape I put out with my favourite songs of the past year. You can listen to all, some or none of it. it is your choice. All these songs have been songs which have accompanied my over this year and mean something to me in some way, but I am aware they do not currently mean anything to you. Think of it as a c60 (roughly) of goodness to accompany your work rest and play!, and is so inclined, let me know what you like from the mixtape.

Mixcloud Mixes Object

Technically my mixtape are hosted by mixcloud.com who provide the free widget above, an app for listening on your smart phone or even using a website, (A website, can you imagine!) The reason I use mixcloud.com is they are free, (which is important) and also they use their advertising income to pay royalties to the featured artists. I guess it is not a lot of money but I like the idea that the artist will make something from this randomly being played on the internet.

Album of the Year 2016

In all my busy-ness I realised I needed to sort out my best albums from 2016.

the long list is, (in no particular order).
Human Performance by Parquet Courts
Is The Is Are by DIIV
Bitter Charm by Dunes
I Had A Dream That You Were Mine – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
Heavn by Jamila Woods
Walls by Kings of Leon
Visions Of Us On The Land by Damien Jurado
Good Grief by Lucius
Vitals by MuteMath
Ballard Of The Broken Few by Seth Lakeman
Front Row Seat To Earth by Weynes Blood
Light Upon The Lake by Whitney
Wow to the Deadness (EP) by Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil
Colouring Book by Chance the Rapper
Yoncalla by Yumi Zouma
A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead

the top three are

number 3

Bitter Charm By Dunes.

This is great wee album of post punk beauty which borders on dream pop. Yip possibly my favourite sound in the world.  although they are knocked off a point by only releasing the album on cassette.I don’t mind vinyl, but I am not returning to the world of cassettes.
Link to the SFsonic review

number 2

HEAVN by Jamila Woods

I don’t often got for R&B, but her voice is delicious. the album is great and avaialable for free to stream or download from the artists Soundcloud page.https://soundcloud.com/jamilawoods/albums it is a great album i find myself returning to often during the last year.
(Link to the Pitchfork review)

number 1

A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead.

well of course it was.
constantly on repeat, offering something different each listen, melodies to die for.
It is wonderful.

link to the Guardian review
Link to the pitchfork review
link to the FT review

Films for youth work


On the plane to Australia I had the chance to catch a few films, including the recent film “Sing street“. The film centres on a group of young people being young people in Ireland, during the nineteen eighties.

As I watched this I thought this is a great film. Then I wondered if this would be a great film to use in a youth work setting. I think so, and at the end of the film I started a small list of films that say something about being young that I would show a group of 12-15 year olds.

the list currently is.
Gregory’s Girl 1981
E.T. 1982
The Breakfast club 1985
Clueless 1995
Romeo & Juliet 1996
10 things I hate about you 1999
Ping Pong 2002
Napoleon Dynamite 2004
Pitch Perfect 2012
Sing Street 2016

What should I add or take away?