tag : bright yellow-green apples: July 2005

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Sunday, July 31, 2005

links list

A brief technical note, for any as who wonder.

Martin asks here why I've structured the links in the way they are. III, IV, and so on. To put it simply, when adding the latest batch I realised the list was getting very long. So long, I wondered if stacking them in groups might help you visualise them - and re find certain ones. There is no order, there are no favourites, no "more worthy", and there are no themes. It's egalitarianism in action! And if you can think of a better way, I'd like to hear it...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

high contrast

figure 67.1. artist's impression of an editor's mind

While we're on the sheer slopes of inane rhetoric, my attention was helpfully drawn to yesterday’s headline by the ever moderate Daily Express. Apparently BOMBERS ARE ALL SPONGEING ASYLUM SEEKERS. Yet again they've excelled themselves, on the road to self-parody. The Guardian diary's already done a good job of poking it, and on one level it's hilarious. But I've written to the PCC for the first time, anyway, for what it’s worth.

Thankfully, there are some who can communicate with great pathos. I recommend you read this poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

supposed support

figure 31.8. I am the weight of the roof

Apparently there are those going around telling the Tories that they need to be faith, flag and family in the manner or some USA Republicans.

Leaving aside the moot point of whether and how such an approach could find fertile soils in our country, in the same way it would in the USA, I find this line questionable - most of all on the point of religion . Such lines as

“We believe these values must be stressed: tradition; nation; family; religious ethics; free enterprise.”

Edward Leigh has basically set religion, or more precisely Christianity, up as a bulwark of a notion of the status quo. This peeves me off a lot - how dare he try and appropriate our religion into his party political efforts? Not least in using them as some automatic guarantor of his brand of social outlook. At best he omits to notice that religion has been in the vanguard of radical change, and at worst to notice the religion might inspire people to other outlooks than a conservative ethic/laissez faire economic.

Monday, July 25, 2005


figure 56.9. keep the faith

After the discussion following my last entry, and some interesting reflections elsewhere, I thought a bit more about how religion might react to the apparently ‘ideological’ violence we’ve seen recently.

There are some people who seem to actually conflate all religion with destructiveness. Such as the otherwise quite sane Polly Toynbe, who seems to see most religion as complicit in some kinda 'death cult'. Now I’m actually quite repulsed by the ‘ideal’ religion she describes, which seems to be essentially neutered and unchallenging. Something become a private cult, that has no relevance outside one’s front room or skull. Having said this, I hope I don't sound unnecessarily defensive by trying to de-couple enthusiasm for bringing and finding the holy in our communities from the violence she noted with almost relish. The need to urgently live our religion in the public sphere shouldn’t tip over into fanaticism of any sort. I’ve actually heard people say that Jesus was a fundamentalist, and that if it weren’t for fundamentalists down the ages we wouldn’t have the ‘essence’ of religions intact here today. But this misses the point somewhat, I think, about how that essential belief relates to the world it’s lived in. Fundamentalism is a whole different measure of belief from someone who has a defining vision of the world, such as the saints and inspired rebels.

The kind of mindset, that the wielders of any violence seem to hold, is very single-minded. It seems to place ideology above everything else, anything that might impinge on the closed unit of a worldview. It's so entered into a self-contained world that nothing - the care of people, the shifting events of reality - can make them think or do otherwise. That utter denial of the value of anything but what's in their head - their virtual world - is something we should flee from. We should renounce it with conviction, repent of any artifice we might be tempted to look through, if we really want to be humanely religious.

I admire those who give their lives, who sacrifice their whole selves for others, who dedicate their lives with courage to a cause of good. And perhaps we might hope to be able to show such courage and inspiration, in some small way, in our daily lives. But we must do so because of our grounding in this world - our connections and cares about everything around us. It cannot bear any resemblance to the nihilistic act of extinction that religious violence enacts, which is a finial denial of all we’re called to care for. And what's more; such actions simply perpetuate the status quo they claim to be a cry against. The status quo of suffering and dysfunctional relationships, with recrimination coming full circle into enacting the very thing it's supposedly caused by.

The great religious figures we look up to did their best to paint another picture - of a life well lived, with every other life their concern.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Sequel, defused

figure 12.4. see them off

The attempted second round of bombings in London today may well teach us all a lot of things, in due course. For now, we can be thankful that it was apparently unsuccessful, and that nobody was hurt this time. One of the most imaginative responses to the first bombings, we'renotafraid.com, is continuing anew now. I recommend you take a look, if only for the admirable spirit of the entries - which will hopefully inspire many.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

making tracks

figure 23.1. Ray says listen

This years Mercury Music Prize shortlist is out, and there's a fair spread as always. Normally I can pick one by instinct as my favourite, but this year's proving tricksy with no outright blazer. Perhaps M.I.A, Antony & The Johnsons, or Maximo Park, who've all impressed me with thier sheer wit. Certainly not Coldplay or The Kieser Chiefs, who're way too obvious!

Oh yeas, give it a couple of weeks, and I'll reveal my own thoughts for this year's highly anticipated PL Alternative Prize. I say that cos the list's going to be THIS LONG.

While we're on the musical front, anyone who hasn't yet popped over and heard the recent offerings from Martin should do so now. Free songs; what more could you ask for? They're actually very good too, which helps.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

there's no other way/all that you can do is watch them play

figure 56.9. it's dare

I finally got to see Spirited Away last night, after looking to since it first came out. It's inspiring to see how people can still use 'conventional' animation to such astonishing effect, even as some say it's obsolete with the rise of Dreamworks-esc computer animation. That the hand can directly shine out with such inconceiveable splurges. The visuals and story are both very elegent and poetic, with a truely lyrical feel - it just flows and unfolds naturally (as much as something so supernatural could). The basic gist is the tale of a girl who somehow finds herself caught up in the life of a spa hostel, for gods. Through the central thread of trying to find her way back to our reality, we come across frog men, paper clouds, giant babies, and decieptful spirits. How much of the bemusing oddness is down to how I, as a western Viewer, am not familiar with the assumed cultural markers and references is open to quesrion (it is, in many ways, a new anime form of the Alice in Wonderland stories). But the film certainly works like a dream, with it's own internal logic that helps the whimsy and playful abandon mesh together.

from one playful cartoon venture to another

I was more suprised, perhaps, by how good the new Gorilaz album is. The first was great fun, and at times ever so creative in using fairly basic musical elements in the tunes. But it was all so considered and self conscious, with a bizarre cartoon virtual world of a band, that I couldn't help but think the venture would collapse in on itself. But Demon Days is, as they say, as if they've coloured the first one in. It's richer, happier to do complex experiments and yet trust to the music to be enjoyable. How on earth the indie boy Damon Alburn managed to get to the stage where he's making beatsy music with rappers, and getting Dennis Hopper to contribute vocals I don't know. But it caught me instantly by the second listen. It's particularly fun to see Sean Rider chipping-in with his usual charisma. Smashing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

killing in the name of

figure 34.7. the Sayyid Qutb in us all?

I thought I might wait a while before saying anything in relation to the recent bomb attacks in London. But bearing in mind Martin’s sensible point that we need to keep the balance of internet debate balanced on the moderate side, I thought I might just make a couple of observations on the way Islam is talked about in relation to violence. We do not yet know for sure whether there was some ‘Islamic ideology’ motivating the perpetrators, but even if it turns out to be some other inspiration there’s going to be a lot of consideration anyway.

Almost as soon as the news of the bombs came out, some pretty ugly reactions apparently kicked-off. A mosque was targeted by arson, and the Muslim Council of Britain got thousands of abusive emails. There are some, going right down to the extremity of the BNP, who seem to assume that all Muslims are a homogenous block of hostile aliens that must be ‘dealt with’ – either repressed or pushed outside our borders. This line of thinking is as ludicrous as that behind such wilfully broad-spectrum terrorist attacks. The conflation of the acts of a few, into a collective guilt for all, fails to take account of a reality that's essentially varied. Some British people may have contributed to the detriment of Middle Easter societies, such that many feel threatened and materially & existentially alienated - but by no means do most seek to harm. Some middle-eastern, and even native, Muslims may wish to see British people killed in an idea of retaliation or to make a strong point - but by no means the majority. It's intellectually and imaginatively bankrupt, and shows a total loss of any will - to face the real world in all it's wondrous intricacies.

There are, however more general concerns about the everyday use of everyday language in our media and public debate. Some have even questioned the use of the term Islam in relation to violent acts, of which Karen Armstrong makes a persuasive case. In fact, I suggest you read her book on fundamentalism, to get some sense of the historical background that accounts for some of religion's modern use of violence. But I would add, after hearing Mona Siddiqui’s reflection, that we shouldn’t be to quick in trying to decouple terrible acts from ideologies.

Of course we should recognise the inherent rightness of Islam, in regard to it’s general message of peace. The mainstream traditions - as expressed, for example, here - are certainly something that most could affirm as principles of valuing life. But that doesn’t mean we should be in denial about how our religions can be tortured into demons. It’s fair to say that the fundamentalism that George Bush ascribes to draws from Christianity. Though it's often a figleaf for disreputable rhetoric, we have to understand the place of faith in his worldview - and that of his many supporters and allies - if we’re to deal with it. And furthermore we Christians must face up to something about our religion. Either in it’s practised history, or in the various inherited traditions that have been passed through the centuries, there's summit that inspires or gives space for Bush's destructive acts & approach to the rest of the world – the bombings, environmental degradation, and economic injustices. In a similar way, I would suggest the Islamic badge of those who bomb and hate others must be acknowledged. They draw upon something latent within the faith, in it’s shared stories or various practised forms, no matter how much it’s taken hostage by them.

We who are unfortunate enough to 'share' some notion of our faith with those who cruelly mangle it must face up to them. Not only to understand how to deal with them - but also in order to see genuine practice more clearly, in disentangling those potentially dangerous threads in our faiths. A realistic responce needs imaginative vision and self-awareness.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

mountains and vallys

figure 4.21. we, the class of 2005

It's been a very eventful week in this country - and on two matters, the getting the 2012 olympics and the London bombings, I think I'll best leave otherts to say for now.

There's been a whole range of reactions to the G8 decisions, with various lines taken. The fact that there's discussion of whether it's a half full or a half empty glass is sad; there shouldn't even be halves. What strikes me most about the actions they've agreed to is the time delays in implementation - the increases will be achieved by 2010, and so on. Ultimately they took some notion of 'realism' and allowed themselves to think things could carry on as normal, but a little bit more. Apart from some big thinking on aids, there was no real consideration of how approaches to trade and climate change need a big re-evaluation. The fundamentals were skirted over. Perhaps we expect too much, indeed, but it'd be nice to think they could be a little bit brave. Political will seems to be a selective thing. With any luck, the movement to help them see sense will now continue...

make poverty history responce

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

foukin' money

figure 45.3. holy?

I didn't make it up to the Edinburgh march, which, despite the subsequent violence committed by a few regular hardcore 'professional' protesters in the last couple of days, seems to have been a pretty fantastic statement made. Perhaps a more focused one in it's message than a big concert, even if it got a lot less media attention. But this isn't really the time to discuss the rights and wrongs of one means or the other, for gaining the attention of people, in thier aims, and thier ways of convincing people about the message of tackling world poverty.

Angela Tilby's written a fantastic discussion of the current whirlwind of events and public dicsussion - quite tart but warm, both encouraging and reasonable in the face of much hype and misdirecting bluster. We certainly need realism, as well as astonishing vision. There is a sense in which we could inadvertently strengthen the worst of the socio-economic status-quo, if we lay everthing at the feet of 8 finance ministers at a particular time. They aren't heroes with the elixior of life, they're a bunch of men with notable power and opportunities to influence things either way. Yet one of them, our own Gorden Brown, is right to say that public expectations of them should be as high as we can make them. I don't know of thier motives (he looked very tired in a Channel news interview last night, which indicates he might well be heavily involved in pre-summit discussions), and would question some of his policy assumptions of pragmatically swallowing some economic 'givens' whole. But this statement struck a chord nonetheless.

The greatest hopes will probably never be totally fulfilled, but will certainly be closer to suceeding if driven and fueled by an ideal. Pragmatic realism doesn't really inspire great actions, so much as help to deal with the current unacceptable state of things. Yesturday a former Mozambique environment minister was interviewed on the Today programme, and he warned that we can take nothing for granted in assuming a gradual process of improvement will just happen. Increments are pithy and useless in the face of potentially massive climate change and poverty issues to come, which NGOs and scientists are noting with greater clarity. And fundamental actions might still have a chance of heading off greater environmental and human tragedy, which will impact us all in ways we cannot expect, that might otherwise only slow in its rate of increase.

The G8 meeting's start this Wednesday, and beyond media hype there does seem to be a lot of potential in them. With enough eyes turned upon the people concerned with the decisions, with enough expectation in the air, and hope building behind them. Heck, if they simply want to be remebered as great men who cared, whatever the reality of thier aims, that'll do. Anyone who's so minded could join in prayer over the next few days for all those involved in the whole summit - that the decisions which they make might be for the betterment of those in need, for the whole world concerned. I found some good intercessory ones up on the CAFOD website, if you need somewhere to start.

"We pray for those in government all over the world
that they may turn towards compassion,
That the leaders of the world’s richest nations
may choose this moment of the Great Jubilee
to make decisions in favour of the poor"

Tilby also touched on something less grandiose, but still profoundly important to us. In repudiation of the cult of money, sometimes almost presented almost as if the great evil and the agent of salvation, she pointed towards the reality that it's not the sum of our lives. Issues of wealth and living are as much for us to deal with as people 'over there', and about more than abstract monetry & economic systems that're out of our consuming hands. We all need a vision of modesty - that's not sentimentally pious about being poor, yet that hopes to see abundence for all those who lack. Life in all its fullness includes economic rightness, how we relate to our environment, how we be with every person we find ourselves alongside.

"We pray that we may accept
the light of your love
as a challenge to change
ourselves and our world"