This week I have been showing most of my classes the same film. Under normal circumstance we don’t just show videos in RE – despite the reputation of the subject in some circles. And theoretically we shouldn’t show them in the last week of the year, as this detracts from the work ’em to the last minute ethic.

I was originally just going to show it to my Year 10s, but I realised that it has a message that all of my year groups could use and with only one lesson left to leave one message in their heads, I chose to show them Radio with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ed Harris. I wanted them to realise that they have the chance to make a difference to the world around them. They need to see a positive example of how the way we treat others can change us as well as them. And they can see that even someone who society might otherwise reject can make an impact on the world around them in a positive way.

Unfortunately I wasn’t surprised to learn that many of them cannot even sit and watch a movie without being unbelievably disruptive.  I had to abandon it altogether with one group because I couldn’t even get it started. Because it is longer than the lesson period, I offered to show it at lunch for anyone who wanted to finish it. I had some top set Year 9s take up that offer, but no others.

That doesn’t mean I’ve changed my view of the potential of the film. I’m trying to work it into my schemes of work in my new school. I think it deserves to be shown over two or more lessons, with opportunity for feedback and analysis.

If you are familiar with the film, you might be interesting in the page about James “Radio” Kennedy on the T. L. Hanna High School website, or the official site of Radio and Coach Harold Jones.

Potter Profits

The excitement is building toward the release of the latest Harry Potter book. It’s not particularly exciting for me, because I’ve not read any of the books. I was going to pick up the first one a while back, but just had too many other things to read. But nonetheless, the world is abuzz with Potter fever.

One place you may not find J. K. Rowling’s latest blockbuster is Asda.  Asda intended to sell the book for $8.97 when the cover price is £17.99 (yes, that a bit more than $36 these days).  Potter publisher Bloomsbury didn’t like that. But what they really didn’t like was when Asda accused them of “blatant profiteering”. The giant retailer also accused the publisher of “attempting to hold children to ransom” because the cover price is twice the average child’s pocket money. Bloomsbury said the comments were “potentially libelous”. I’m not sure how they could be potentially anything after they have been printed, but I suppose that’s for Bloomsbury’s solicitors to work out.

Bloomsbury is says it not withholding the book because of Asda’s comments, but because Asda owes them money, though they wouldn’t say how much. Asda was much more forthcoming, saying they owed Bloomsbury £38,000 while at the same time Bloomsbury owes them £122,000.

It is a testimony to the popularity of the series that the publisher can afford to cut out the second largest retailer in the UK and an initial order for 500,000 copies of the book. Asda is convinced it is going to have the title in stock by paying their outstanding balance today.

I have a hard time seeing Asda/Wal-mart as having the high moral ground when it comes to complaining about profiteering, just because they are making a popular book a loss-leader. And does every child have a right to Harry Potter at a reasonable price? It’s not exactly food, clothing, or shelter. Also, since the release date of the new book has been known for ages, children have had time to save up their pocket money. Is there a reason Bloomsbury shouldn’t maximise their profits?

Breeding Terrorists

After the complaints that Farfour, the giant mouse character on Pioneers of Tomorrow, the Hamas children’s show on Al Aqsa TV was a clone of Mickey Mouse, he has been replaced with Nahoul the Bee.

Little Green Footballs has a clip of the show where Nahoul is introduced. They post the dialogue from the clip underneath. It was so shocking, I thought it must be a spoof. Then I watch the clip and saw that it was also subtitled.

Nahoul: I want to be in every episode with you on the Pioneers of Tomorrow show, just like Farfour. I want to continue in the path of Farfour – the path of Islam, of heroism, of martyrdom, and of the mujahideen. Me and my friends will follow in the footsteps of Farfour. We will take revenge upon the enemies of Allah, the killer of the prophets and of the innocent children, until we liberate Al-Aqsa from their impurity. We place our trust in Allah.

Nahoul the bee claims to be the cousin of Farfour the mouse.  I’m not sure exactly how that works. The Palestinians have clearly made remarkable advances in the area of genetics.

Historical History

As we left the local library and museum today, we stopped at the new Oxfam bookshop. Until recently, Oxfam had a few used books for sale in their main shop. The selected is now expanded, but still quite limited.

Nonetheless, I have a hard time passing up a used bookstore, especially if I haven’t visited it before. I saw several things that interested me. One I couldn’t pass up. For £3.99 I picked up a copy of The Life and Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. It is 632 pages, in almost perfect condition and was published in 1885. It’s not a reprint. It came off the press when William Gladstone was Prime Minister and Queen Victoria still had 16 years left on the throne.

I don’t know when I shall read it cover-to-cover, but it is nonetheless a jewel on the bookshelf and no doubt a useful Church history resource.

My Masculinity Isn’t Threatened

Visiting my cousin’s blog I was tricked into taking the Star Trek personality test. However, I’m man enough to admit that it showed:

You are Uhura

“You are a good communicator with a pleasant soft-spoken voice.
Also a talented singer.”

I was 10 percentage points off of my childhood hero Captain Kirk, but sadly I was just as likely to be one of those red shirt extras in a landing party that invariably get killed.

Click here to take the “Which Star Trek Character Are You?” quiz…

Two Wrong-Headed Views

I don’t know if I have ever come across two boned-headed people coming from such completely different perspectives about the same thing.

Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother contestant Jade Goody told a magazine that she felt her miscarriage was God’s punishment for the row caused by racist remarks she made to and about Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on CBB. Apparently the British public got angry, the Indian public got really angry, but God decided somebody had to die.

Why the Anglican Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Rev Nick Baines felt the need to step into this, I don’t know. Nonetheless he issues a statement, saying, “Jade Goody can be sure that losing her baby wasn’t a punishment from God.” Master of the obvious, Bishop Nick. But then he continued, “God doesn’t punish people. He stands by them and shares in their suffering as we see in Jesus Christ.” What? I’m not sure how he sees the latter sentence relating to the former.

God doesn’t punish people? Tell that to Ananias and Sapphira. Or Herod Antipas. Or anyone who has read the book of Hebrews:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “ My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

Chastening and scourging sounds like punishment to me. It sounds like God is a bit harder than I am on Aidan, who I have chastened but never scourged. Bishop Nick must be one of those liberals whose theology is entirely independent of the Bible.

No More Money for Nothing

Record companies are not happy these days. CD sales are slumping. It is predicted that this will be the worst year in nearly three decades. Of course artists and record company executives will still make lots and lots of money. Obscene amounts of money. Just less obscene amounts.

Legal digital downloads are much less lucrative than CDs, especially because customers can download just the tracks they want. Band and artists can’t put out two or three really good tracks on a CD and expect to get the full whack for it.

And what’s got to really irritate the grey suits that are used to running the industry? Not listeners who file share, but bands who don’t need them any more. They have to wonder how many more bands like Arctic Monkeys are out there. We are in the midst of a serious paradigm shift.

And I didn’t mean to leave out file sharing altogether. Record companies weren’t so worried when file sharing was making a cassette copy of your vinyl, or even your CD, for a friend. Really, that’s all that’s happening now. The only difference is that people have a lot of friends, with the means to share with all of them, and they are completely unbounded by geography.

I think the record companies are eventually going to completely lose out on the file sharing argument. I’m not saying they have a valid position in intellectual property law, but what we have is a new way of thinking about intellectual property due to the realities of the information age.

It’s a bit like why am I going to buy Encarta when I can use (and even participate in) Wikipedia? Or newspaper websites that have tried to charge for the news – still trying to live in the age of the cover price. Most of the time, I can find someone else with the story for free. The Times recently revamped their website and tried to put the newspaper edition with all the stories behind a subscription. When I went to have a look just now to see how much a subscription to that edition is, I discovered that it is free again, even though they haven’t publicised this and you have to know which link to click on (BTW, it is the “Our Papers” link on the right-hand side of the top row of the menu).

Record companies executives are just going to have to come up with other ways of making money that are viable in the current marketplace. Otherwise, they are going to have to put up with less stratospheric salaries.

Veiled Justice

If you have the impression that Muslim women wearing the full veil are not in touch with the modern world, you would be wrong.

A woman serving on the jury of a murder trial has been arrested for listening to her MP3 player under her hijab, while the defendant was giving evidence. He was later found guilty. I can see that one going up on appeal. Can you say, “re-trial”?

It’s not like this woman wanted to be in court listening to her MP3 player. She avoided her first two summons to jury duty. She doesn’t have a job, so she tried to say she needed to go job hunting or go on a nursing course, for which she could provide no details. Then she kept arriving late to court during the trial, but the judge wouldn’t dismiss her. She doodled instead of reading the evidentiary documents handed to her and refuse to put them in the into the lever arch files provided to her.

The judge even thought he heard “tinny music” but decided it was his imagination, until another member of the jury finally complained.

The woman almost certainly faces prison if she is convicted. I have a had time imagining how she could not be convicted. The maximum sentence is indefinite imprisonment and an unlimited fine. I would expect that she would get at least several months.

Equal Pay for Unequal Work

This is the first year that the women’s champion will get the same payout as the men’s champion at Wimbledon. After her win yesterday, Venus Williams paid tribute to the first famous sporting lesbian Billie Jean King for fighting for this for years.

But has Venus really earned her money? She will get the same £700,000 for playing 15 out of a possible 21 sets of tennis. The men play a possible 35 sets, of which today’s finalist, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played 16 and 20 before meeting each other in today’s final. Thus Venus has been paid £46,667 per set, or if you want to give her credit for the possible 21, which she has completed in short order due to her superior skill, that’s £33,333 per set. By that calculation, Federer and Nadal can only make £20,000 per set. Today’s final went five sets, so on an actual per-set-played basis, Federer made the same as if every challenger had taken Venus to 3 sets.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love women’s tennis. I’ve always been a bigger fan of the women’s game than the men’s. They have much nicer legs. But if you want to talk about superior skill, Venus could pump up her biceps all she wants, but she could still not compete against the men. Not just the best of the man – any of the men. No woman has ever beaten a ranked men’s player.

For all of her talk about Billie Jean, remember that BJ beat Bobby Riggs when he was in his 50s and she was in her 20s. He had been the top tennis player in the world two years before she was born. It is often forgotten that Riggs beat then-No. 1 Margaret Court 6-2, 6-1 several months before he lost to Billie Jean.

The male players know the women shouldn’t make as much. British No. 1 Andy Murray is opposed to the equal pay and former No. 1 Tim Henman has called the women greedy. John MacEnroe favours equal pay, but openly admits the women don’t train as hard as the men. I clearly have a more favourable view than Pat Cash, who has called women’s tennis “two sets of rubbish”.

Clearly legs that look as nice as those of Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, or Michaëlla Krajicek are worth something, but £700,000?

Summer Saturday

It was starting to look a lot like there would be no summer in Britain this year. The last time I was out on a bright and sunny Saturday, I was watching parachutists jump onto the fields outside Sainte-Mère-Église at the beginning of June.

I enjoy going to the city centre on sunny summer Saturdays. We used to always eat sandwiches out in front of Marks and Spencer until Subway arrived and then that became a tradition for awhile. Today we ate at Subway again.

In WH Smith I found the sequel to the book I’m reading. I almost bought it since I haven’t been able to find it at Tesco, but I decided to look on Amazon. I can get the hardcover for £5.15 (including postage) or the paperback for £5.14. That’s nearly £2 cheaper than in the store and I don’t have to go back into town to get it.

After we got back from visiting friends in a nearby village, and the kids had their dinner, bath, and were off to bed, I sat outside in the waning sunlight to read more of my book. I looked up from time to time to see over the river to the cathedral, where the scaffolding has finally been removed. The newly cleaned spires on the four corners of the tower glowed in the evening light. Groups of teenagers sat on the playing fields and a dad was kicking the ball around with a couple of boys who would be too old for that sort of thing too soon.

There are worse places in the world.

I tried not to look at the chain linked fencing that cuts across the ancient meadow, blocking off a large portion occupied on the weekdays by workmen as they prepare to destroy the beauty with unnecessary flood defences. But Asda gave them money build concrete walls and huge earthen mounds to push the water downstream into the houses that have never flooded before and that’s what they are going to do. This is probably the last summer I’ll have the view that came with my mortgage.

Summer or not, being Britain after sunset, the chill in the air got me before the light faded. I found my bookmark and put Northern Virginia in the summer of 1862 on hold. Now that I’ve made a cheesecake (from a box, of course) and I’m waiting for that to set, I’ll get back to the story.

I’ll pick up from the line: “I’ll stay sober, sir, I promise,” for he had a whore to bury and general to see.

One day I’ll write stuff like that.

Stringing Me Up

I stopped by a local music store this afternoon to purchase a guitar pick. It took the idea of Rip-off Britain to another level. A single Dunlop Tortex .60mm cost 80p ($1.60).

I’m sure there has been some inflation of plectrum prices since I left the States. The last price I remember paying for an identical pick was 45¢. May they are as much as 80¢ now and it is just another example of prices being the same figure in dollars as they are in pounds.

A set of 12-string strings starts at about £13 ($26). I found a set of Martin strings from an eBay shop in the States for $9.69 (£4.85) including international first class postage. The best price I found for the same thing from a British eBay shop was £7.70 ($15.40).

I looked at guitar prices and again I haven’t been in the market for a guitar for a long time, but I can’t imagine that some of the guitars I looked at were anywhere comparable to the price for the same instrument in the States. I played a Freshman cutaway six-string that had good action and an okay sound for £400. Surely this wasn’t an $800 guitar in the States. I would have said maybe $400, even though the body of it felt a bit plastic. Freshman assures me that it wasn’t, even though their guitars are made by cheap Southeast Asian labour and shipped to Scotland.

Music appears to be an expensive habit in this country.

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the News

When she appeared on the Doctor Who Christmas special last year, Catherine Tate did not get far from the one-dimensionality of the characters on her eponymous BBC3 show. The episode was critically panned by fans, primarily due to her.

Now she’s back as the Doctor’s companion in series 4. This is not a positive direction for the show. Freema Agyeman did okay in picking up where Billie Piper left off. But there was the real problem: Billie should have never left. There was a lot more time and space mileage left in Rose.

Now I suppose Donna will have to fall for the Doctor as well and there will be more women (and Captain Jack) pining for him, keeping the tension up with unrequited love.

Freema is spinning the Martha Jones character over to adult-oriented Torchwood for three episdoes, before coming back to the Doctor in the middle of series 4 – at which time there will be two companions for the rest of the series (or season, as it would be called in the States). I don’t care if it is bigger on the inside, the TARDIS is going to be a bit crowded.

I hope they don’t crowd me out as a viewer. Given that all this will bypass Aidan’s brain and his appetite for Doctor Who programming is insatiable, I’m sure we won’t miss an episode.

Of the Making of Books

The first difficult aspect of writing a novel seems to be picking which “how to write a novel” book or books to buy. I had seen one at Waterstones and went back to refresh my memory of the title so I could look for it on Amazon. That was the easy part.

Once I got on Amazon, I found there were loads of others. All of them are claiming, of course, to be the best book on the subject. This, of course, undermined my faith in the first book, which was based entirely on the fact that I had seen it first.

It also caused my fragile confidence to waver anyhow, because if there are enough people to buy all of the “how to write a novel” books, there are an awful lot of people trying to do the same thing I’m doing. And chances are, I’m not better at it than they are. After all, the scramble for readership due to the Malthusian nature of the blogosphere is evidence of this.

Every time I go into a large bookstore I realise just how many books are on the market at any given time. These are the lucky ones – the ones that are not languishing manuscripts in the bottom of drawers or computer files in no need of a printer, or even half-formed ideas in somebody’s head. Most of the time they are not the ones that have been repeatedly returned with a rejection slip.

So I think why bother? After all, my mother thinks I should write short stories and my wife wonders why I’m not sending off more magazine articles. But then I’m not sure there’s any money in the former and it takes ages to the latter published for a very small sum in return. Sadly it seems no different than the music business. Everybody wants a break and so few are talented or lucky enough to get it.

It reminds me of the monthly “Jesus Jam Night” at the Sonshine Inn, the Christian coffee house where I used to be on staff. People would get up on stage all evening. Some were mediocre, some were worse. Many of them did Christian karaoke, using backing tracks to sing somebody else’s song, but not nearly as good. Occasionally a real talent would come along, but they were rare enough that even some of the mediocrity would get picked up for the regular rotation of artists and bands playing the coffee house. I’m evidence of that.

I was going to get back to researching my book, but in my head I’m still playing with some chord changes in my new worship song. Off I go – jack of all trades, master of none.

Adding to the Rotation

My two new Delirious? CDs got here today. I got their most recent studio release The Mission Bell (2005) and King of Fools (1998), the first release the produced under their current name. (Before then they were part-time musicians called The Cutting Edge Band, because they were the worship band for a youth outreach called Cutting Edge.) They are best known in the US market for the 1995 worship song “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”.

Having been very impressed with World Service (2003), I was hoping I would not be let down. Both CDs are very good. More depressingly excellent musicianship. I’m currently listening to the radio chart singles off of King of Fools. I listened to the whole thing, unaware of which tracks had made the UK single chart. Now I’m going back to see if they stand out among the others, because the whole album is impressive.

I don’t buy new music very often. I tend to play the same CDs in the car. Until I got World Service, for months I have rotated between The Best Worship Songs… Ever, Geoff Moore Greatest Hits, and Rich Mullins Songs. I don’t often find new music that’s worth buying. I will probably end up getting just about the entire Delirious? back catalogue.

Past My Mediocre Prime

I’ve been getting my guitar out for a few minutes over the last couple of day, limbering up the fingers for no particularly good reason. I had thought about taking it into school for the last week and maybe playing for some of my lessons. This worked well in one previous school, but given some of the groups I have right now, I sense the strong possibility of more than one Matthew 7:6 experience.

So I’ve just sat on the bed and played a few old tunes. I haven’t written anything new in years and years. After I was in Texas, I thought I would try to come up with a new worship number to send off to friends in Gonzales and to anyone else who might want it, but nothing has happened yet.

So I just strum away gently, mostly because I don’t even own a pick at the moment. Twenty years ago I wouldn’t have imagined the time when I was plectrum-free. But then I never would have imagine I would be where I am now.

For some reason, I browsed into the site of one the Christian music festivals happening around the UK this summer. They have links to the scheduled artists. I started at the bottom of the page and worked my way up. I clicked on one acoustic artist and listened to some of the stuff on her website. I was not impressed and thought maybe I’m not as bad as I always imagine (and usually confirm when I listen to old tapes) if she’s playing at that festival. Then I listened to a few more artists and bands and sure enough, I’m pretty crap by comparison.

Sometimes I think that if I could surround myself with some decent musicians, it might make some fairly decent songs sound fairly decent again. After all, I play some of my tunes and I can still hear The ad hoc Band in my head. I hear the drums and the lead guitar fills, rather than (or at least on top of) some sloppy rhythm work that reveals most of my 27 years of playing have been wasted.

But most of the time I think my day has passed and music is a young man’s game.

It’s Not Fair

I have heretofore refused to say anything about that cranial vacuum known as Paris Hilton. However, yesterday’s antics were just too much.

I don’t even mean Paris’ own histrionics in the courtroom, though I have to say I don’t think I ever had a client behave like that when being sent down. You would think she was going to the scaffold, but even those facing death have almost always done it with more dignity. She has been sentenced to 45 days in an jumpsuit. I guess orange just isn’t her colour.

She is only going to jail because she was driving on a suspended license after two alcohol related convictions, the second of which resulted in probation, and both picked up within four months.  The only reason she was pulled over the third time, within six months of the first offence, was because she was doing 70 in a 35 in the dark with no headlights. Yet despite this she had to be dragged from the courtroom screaming, “Mom! Mom! Mom! It’s not fair! It’s not right!”

She is right – it’s not fair. She should have had more consequences sooner. It’s not fair that people with lots of money can buy their way to leniency. It’s not right that the sheriff was either conned or paid to let her out on a false medical pretence. No, Paris, life isn’t fair.

But that’s not the worst bit. Like I said, who should care about a rich little airheaded bimbo spending six weeks in the Gray Bar Hotel? No one. Certainly not every TV network. This is worse than when I was in the States at Easter and watched the coverage to find out who fathered Anna Nicole’s baby. I watched it because there was nothing else on. The eyes of the world were focused on finding the lucky fornicator.

The leaders of the seven richest nations (and their belligerent little Russian friend) are meeting in Germany to develop coordinated policy on a variety of world issues and the live coverage is about someone best known for their acting in front of bedside camcorder.

And it’s not like the UK is immune to this. Every newspaper and television news programme has covered this. Why? Why do people care? What does this say about the values of western society?

Big Boring

I just sort of watched a Friday night version of the current edition of Big Brother. It was on while I was surfing around on the net. This has to be the worst season yet.

They started with all women except for one man. They threw somebody out for using the “N” word, though it never aired. Instead of evicting anyone tonight, they introduced to two men into the house. Yawn…

Mrs H didn’t even bother to watch at all, as she was watching another telly programme she missed on her laptop. She didn’t miss anything.

Reality Check

As is the custom with most bedtime prayers, after the fixed bit, the kids as God to bless various grandparents, uncles, cousins, and pets. Tonight Abby included Spiderman and the Green Goblin. I told her we really shouldn’t pray for them because they aren’t real.

With that sound of disappointment that drops by about a fifth at the end (or sounds like a race car passing), she said,  “Oooooooooh.”  She perked back up and said, “They’re only real on the telly.”

Bloc Voting

The Eurovision song contest is tonight. It’s like international pop idol that every country other than the UK takes seriously.   I think that’s because the UK actually has a music industry. We watched March of the Penguins instead.

Actually I forgot about it until I was watching the story of how the Frenchmen made peguin film. The acts had already performed and we watched the review of each one with the voting phone numbers at the bottom of the screen and the interval act while all the countries got their votes together and got ready for the video uplink to the studio of each national broadcaster with the announcement. Each country doles out a sort of proportional representation vote of 1-8, 10, and 12 points. This means that Andorra and Moldova get to hand out the same number of votes as the UK, France, Germany or Russia.

Terry Wogan always commentates for the BBC. He’s always a bit drunk. This makes it much more entertaining.

In recent years, it has become a matter of regional political block voting with talent having little to do with it. Since 2000, no Western European country has won. The winners have been Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Finland, and this year Serbia. In addition to added national pride, the winner hosts the contest in the following year. They have the year to promote themselves as a tourist destination.

In 2003, with anger over ther invasion of Iraq and a really bad act, the UK got nul point. This year, we were saved from this fate by the loyalties of Ireland and Malta. You would think we would be considered honorary members of the Eastern bloc since half of it’s population lives here and supports the other half financially.

Reading and Writing

Apparently if you want to be a good fiction writer, you need to read fiction. I’m trying to read more and particularly American Civil War fiction, since I’m writing a story from that conflict.

I started with Widow of the South by Robert Hicks. In the airport waiting for the return flight from Texas I picked up Rebel : The Nathaniel Starbuck Chronicles: Book One by Bernard Cornwell. It cost $15.00. I am just over half-way through it and I started to wonder how much I would have to pay to get the second book in the series.

I was in Tesco the other night and I saw the third book of the series on the shelf. I dug through to try to find the second book. I couldn’t find it, so I asked at the service desk. They didn’t have individual titles in the stock database, but the customer service lady pulled out a drawer under the books there it was. In a small reversal of rip-off Britain it was £4. It’s mass market, so the print is smaller than the one I bought in Houston, but that’s why I have reading glasses. And I already know Tesco carries the third book.

Cornwell’s book is a lighter read than Hicks, but then Hicks took seven years to write his, and Cornwell has written 46 books in 25 years (Rebel was his 21st book in 1993). I really want mine to be more like Hicks’, with the main characters based of historical individuals and exploring the characters more deeply.

It’s just a matter having the time and opportunity to do the research.

Creatures Great and Small

We are only four episodes into the new series of Doctor Who and I can already anticipate the new toys that will shortly become available to Aidan.

So far we have rhinocerous bipeds called Judoon, the android Slabs, Carrionites, Cat People, Pig Men, and a Dalek-Human hybrid. I predict a new alien invasion will join the various creatures that descend from Aidan’s room and take over the floor, couch, and tables downstairs.

I have to wonder how the Doctor decides to wander off to various times and places and yet nearly every single time stumbles into world-threatening situations, only to save civilisation as we (or occasionally as the inhabitants of some other world) know it. The chance of this happening over and over and over again must be astronomical.

The place of Doctor Who in the world of science fiction is secure. With the third episode of this series, the franchise has, with a total of 727,  exceeded the number of episodes in the various incarnations of Star Trek.

Erasing the Competition

How insecure must British Airways be?

As has been reported all over the news here, they have edited the in-flight version of the latest James Bond film. It wasn’t edited for sex or violence, but for the appearance of the owner of a rival airline.

In Casino Royale, Richard Branson has a brief non-speaking cameo as he walks through an airport security scanner. Not on the BA version. He’s only seen from behind.

And BA is very concerned about product placement in films, especially if that product is another airline. The tailfin of a Virgin Airlines plane is intentionally obscured in Casino Royale.

It seems to me that this is rather pointless. After all, if someone is watching the film while on a British Airways flight, they’ve already made their choice of airline. Of course, BA may be worried that if the cabin crew are not being particularly attentive or the food quality is poor, people will be aware there is an alternative next time.

ad hoc Discovery

I’ve just come across an old cassette of a recording of my old band from Saturday, February 19, 1994. It was “unplugged” set because our drummer had another commitment that night.

Some of it is shockingly bad. On the other hand, some of it is quite good, especially for a band that had to struggle with the limits of my musicianship.

I heard songs I’d even forgotten that I had written. I have no idea how to even play them anymore. I was trying to imagine the chords in my head and some of them were there. I don’t know whether labouring over them for an extended time would re-establish pathways in my brain. I hate to lose them forever, even if I haven’t play some of them for nearly 13 years. The ad hoc Band dissolved in August 1994.

While digging in the same box, I also found a tape of the group in which our favourite areopagite served as drummer when I first met him 17 years ago. Their musicianship was better than the ad hoc Band, but then they weren’t burdened with a certain rhythm guitarist.

It’s All Greek

After watching an episode Dr Who, Aidan was under the impression that a female robot was called an android. He was referring to the robotic Anne Robinson character in the Ninth Doctor episode “Bad Wolf”, who has the name Anne Droid. That’s when it finally dawned on me that a female robot should not be called an android.

Android comes from the Greek ανδρας which means a male. A female robot should be called a gynoid from the Greek γυνή. The proper unisex or generic term should be anthropoid.

I’m sure there are science fiction writers out there who have gotten it right, and at first I was going to say that clearly Russell T. Davies isn’t one of them. But being the generous soul that I am, I suppose that Guy Noid wouldn’t have fit the story quite as well.

The Impact of a Good Teacher

I was browsing my hometown newspaper online, which currently features an article about my childhood piano teacher. She is now 88 years old and still teaching. I never knew she had such an eventful life.

Some people don’t know that the piano was my first instrument. I suppose these days some people don’t even know the guitar was my second. I wrote my first songs on the piano and it was my background playing the piano allowed me to teach myself the guitar.

I was never a good pianist. I didn’t practice enough. I didn’t want it enough. I gave it up after three years. Mrs Willman could have made me much better had I been willing.

My parents even bought a huge set of classical music books in the expectation I would be willing. As a major bibliographic investment, these didn’t prove as valuable as the sets of World Books I had received a few years before. I only ever played a handful of pieces other than some in the final couple of volumes, which contained modern music, including my mother’s favourite, “Moon River”.

But I still carried what I did learn with me. So I suppose that in every music incarnation I’ve experienced, as worship leaders, solo artist, band frontman, and in every song that I’ve written, there’s a bit of Mrs Willman.

Expensive Nostalgia

Checking my Wikipedia watchlist, I found out that Barry McGuire has apparently gotten the rights to To The Bride, his 1975 live album with 2nd Chapter of Acts and a band called David, because he has it available as a CD. Unfortunately, he has priced it at $30.00 (plus $5.00 postage), which is a bit higher than I value nostalgia. I would probably pay half that much.

I have owned the LPs for some time, but I haven’t been able to get them copied onto either cassette or CD. I thought the school had that facility, but I later discovered that it doesn’t. I’ve not come up with any other options. I had originally wanted to use the song “I Walked a Mile” in my Year 9 unit on suffering. The lack of attentiveness to almost anything I have played for them means it really isn’t worth the effort to get it copied.

On a related note, the home page of Barry’s website features a YouTube video that uses “Eve of Destruction” as the background music for a presentation of the “these really must be the last days” view, complete with shots of a Bible open to the Revelation. He also links to another YouTube video which uses “Callin’ Me Home” over landscape shots. It uses the studio version from “Lighten Up” rather than the live version I prefer, but it is still a beautiful song.

Religious Minority

Heaven and Earth, the Sunday morning non-religious show kind of about religion, did a survey of Christians. They found that 22% say they suffer from bias in the community, 25% feel discriminated against in the workplace and 33% complained that media reporting was biased against Christianity.

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I’m glad to say that my Wikipedia article on “a band called David” has been restored.

I convinced the administrator who deleted it that they met the criteria of a “notable band”. I also Googled and found out what the original drummer Gene Gunnels is doing now.

As I have mentioned before, How the West Was One was one of the first contemporary Christian albums I owned. It still makes a regular spin in my car CD player, 28 years after bought the cassettes. For some reason, Gene’s work on the ride cymbal on the opening track “Hey Whatcha’ Say” during the lyric “Not in my life / Not in my life / Not in my life” and at the end of the song is still a foundational memory that I re-live each time I hear it. It is again the ride cymbal that comes at 13:50 on the Phil Keaggy song “Rejoice” that I always notice as the Keaggy/Souther duet fills out to a full band jam for the last two and a half minutes of the first disc.

Definitely notable music.

Badge Envy

Heather Mills has more than just Paul McCartney angry. She’s gotten on the wrong side of the Federation of Disabled People.

They are all in a huff because Heather is appearing in the ABC TV series Dancing with the Stars. The UK-based group say that she should give up her blue (handicap parking) badge because she is able to get around. “Clearly she has mobility so she should refrain from using the badge. It’s not fair on other disable people.”

Now I’m no particular fan of the strange estranged Mrs McCartney, but as a advocate for the handicapped, and most certainly my fellow amputees, the only thing I can say to the Federation of Disabled People is “on your bike”. I’m glad that on a good day and with the quality of prosthetics Heather can clearly afford, she can dance. I wish I could. It still takes her 35% more energy to do it. That means she gets worn out that much faster. And she’s taking half the weight on a stump in a socket. If she dances for a hour or two (and why shouldn’t she), she may not have much energy or tolerance left to do much more.

The advantage of handicap parking is not just the proximity to a destination. It is the width available to open the door. Someone wearing a prosthesis needs more room to open the door, because even if they can run into the store, they can’t fully flex their knee.

What is mobility? That she isn’t in a wheelchair? There are a lot of people who are not in wheelchairs with blue badges. And how is it not fair on other people? She’s a leg amputee. She has mobility issues and they aren’t going to go away. Why can’t the FDP instead focus on the fact that a disabled person is being showcased in a talent that is mobility-oriented.

The Federation of Disabled People does not appear to be a national organisation. The only thing that comes up when I Google the name is the Brighton and Hove Federation of Disabled People. I also noticed that in every news article it is mentioned that her car is a Mercedes. I don’t know if the original story writer knew this or if it was pointed out by the FDP. Perhaps they don’t like rich relatively mobile amputees.

All is Quiet on the Inner City Front

Ok, so it’s the small Midlands city front, but why waste a chance to drop in a Bruce Cockburn line?

WordPress may not be the best platform for someone who is borderline OCD. With Blogger, I was blissful unaware that no one was reading my drivel. Now I have stats. I’m constantly checking the stats. Does my public love me?

For some reason, after riding uncharacteristically high, I’ve hit a dip today. This is despite the fact that in between marking Year 9 exams, I’ve put a lot of stuff out there trying to get you tag surfers (and you know who you are, even if I don’t) to click on over.

I could try hiding some stuff under the “More” tag to entice you. Hmm…. Sex? Right-wing politics? Left-wing politics? Devotional content? (I’m still reading Job and Fr Pat’s commentary.) History? (It is the 424th anniversary of the Papal bull Inter gravissimas – the object of derision by Orthodox Christian ever since and the 203rd anniversary of Marbury v. Madison, the bane of Presidents and Congresses ever since.) Humour? (Or maybe I can get more American readers if I write it “Humor”.) Britney Spears? I could be the 4 millionth blog to put up a picture of Bald Britney, or even one with her head shaved. What is it you people want?

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