Posts Tagged 'fermi project'

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

“The more that you read,

the more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

the more places you’ll go.”

From “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!” by Dr. Seuss.

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I was a late developer when it came to reading.  Now we have a wall of our living room dedicated to a bespoke bookcase which takes up the whole surface.

Friends of ours recently returned from the Q Conference in Austin.  They’ve been there as delegates for the last three years and every time they have come back with ideas, books, essays and DVDs that have really stimulated my thinking.  Whilst they probably don’t have a clue about it, I think they have  brought resources and discussions into my life which have directed, stretched and shaped my thinking and growth these past few years, more than any other friends I know.

This year they both received a bag full of free stuff and they gave one of them to us.  It may sound like a small gesture, but we are so grateful for it.  More brainfood and I’m excited about getting stuck into it and seeing what I learn.

One of the things they have introduced me to in recent years is the ever excellent Paste magazine.  With the downturn in advertising revenue resulting from the present economic downturn, the magazine is sadly struggling financially.  A campaign to save Paste has been launched out of necessity and it includes 75 free downloads which some really cool artists have donated specifically to the cause.  You can get the low down and add your support here.

The New Life

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So we had 2009’s first gathering of our little small group collective in our home on Tuesday night.  It was great to see friends old and new and there was much laughing and a loud din of chat as we all caught up with eachother.  Small group just got much better as you can see from the above photo of the pudding that Learning From Sophie brought…

After eating together we watched a “Society Room” DVD where Gabe Lyons interviewed Chuck Colson.  They touched on something we have chatted a fair bit about over the past year i.e what exactly is the gospel we are meant to share? 

That may sound dumb, but, have we tended to focus on: creation, the fall and redemption without, perhaps, placing enough on a fourth element, namely, restoration?  Do we believe in a divine mandate to bring restoration to people, to our planet, for justice? 

We talked about our hang-ups with evangelism.  We chatted about the need for mission and for this not to be some kind of hit and run thing but a need to disciple people and to explain that Christianity is likely to make life harder rather than easier.  We considered whether, actually, our small group is a place where we can disciple one another and hold eachother accountable regardless of age and stage physically or in our journeys of faith.  Do we ever stop needing to be discipled?

As we start a new series of teaching moving us toward some practical outworkings of all our musings, I wonder what this aspect of the year will hold for this little bunch of friends I consider so important to me?  Maybe it’s not just the New Year that starts here, but a New Life…

“Are you under the Mercy?
Are you under attack?
Are you going forward?
Are you going back?
The new life starts here

Are you coming to grips?
Are you coming apart?
Are you listening to fear?
Or to your heart?
The new life starts here

Are you building heaven
or are you building hell?
When that great day comes
will you be able to tell?
The new life starts here

Citizen, criminal, child
woman or man
The keys to the Kingdom
are in your own hands
The new life starts here

God of our love
who ignited the sun
Not my will
but thine be done
The new life starts here”

 

From “The New Life” by The Waterboys

Wonder (part 2)

On the first post in this short series, I was wondering about the notions of things not being right in the world and the role of church and state…you can link to that here.

Growing up in Scotland, I found it a strange concept to understand that for many Americans if they labelled themselves “Christian”, then that generally also directed which political party they voted for (a generalisation, I know).  It’s also strange that when I have found myself in a voting booth and presented with an option to vote for a specifically “Christian” party outwith the main political parties or an independent candidate using “Christian” as an adjective for their manifesto, that the first thing that comes into my head is, “they must be dodgy”.  That’s probably hugely unfair, but it goes to show how prejudiced my natural response can be at times.

So, Church and State…What are our experiences of these?  For a glimpse into my experience, please click on the arrow below.

Casimir Pulaski Day

On my most recent post, I quoted extensively from an engaging interview with Sam Beam of Iron & Wine which appeared in Paste magazine.  You can link to that post here.  He commented that the three main topics which he believes will really affect someone as a human being are: love; God; and death. 

Are those the topics that really seperate “great” art (in whatever media i.e painting, sculpture, photography, literature, film, music, whatever) from “good” art?  For me, I think that notion certainly rings very true.  Faced with any one of those issues in isolation and, in our most quiet and honest moments, I reckon that we stop pretending.

I asked what these things would look or sound like?

For me, I think it might be something very much like the attached you tube clip.  This is a song that speaks more truth to me about these subjects than many others.  The video is something that has not been prepared by some high budget commission by the musician involved, but is simply someone having lovingly story-boarded the sentiment and imagery and story of the song.  The result gets me every time I watch and listen to it.  I know there can be a tendency to skip people’s video links on blogs, but I would encourage you to click the arrow below and watch this.

Love And Some Verses

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“Love and some verses you hear
say what you can’t say”
From “Love And Some Verses” by Iron & Wine

A friend introduced me to a really great music magazine recently called Paste.  I love the tag-line, “Signs of life in music, film & culture”.

It’s lovingly desk-topped and laid out.  The journalism is well researched and engagingly written.  It has been a joy to read interviews and reviews of artists whom I cherish and it has whet my appetite for a whole bunch of new bands or singer-songwriters I’ve not yet heard.

I saw an inspiring interview with the editors on the excellent Society Room DVD series produced by the Fermi Project.  Clearly, two guys who embrace culture and are excited by the expression of ideas through various means of media.  I genuinely commend the magazine to you as the interviews often seem to grapple with anything but surface, fanzine-like, sixth form questioning.

Here’s an extract from a fabulous interview with the wonderful Sam Beam of Iron & Wine:

“What Iron & WIne’s music seems to be urging toward more than anything is innocence, and the touchstones in this quest are frequently religious in nature.  Beginning with his very first album, Beam’s writing has often used the specific language of Christianity, in lines like “Jesus, a friend of the weaker ones said, ‘I’m all they stole from you,'” (The Creek Drank The Cradle’s “Southern Anthem”) or the heartfelt prayer of Our Endless Numbered Days’ “On Your Wings”: “God give us love in the time that we have / God, there are guns growing out of our bones / God, every road takes us farther from home.”  But while it might puzzle some that a self-confessed agnostic like Beam would find consistent inspiration in biblical images and characters that are as likely to converse with the Holy Spirit as they are to address a love interest, for Beam it’s a natural, essential, part of his writing process.  “I like to use [religious images] because it starts you off a little bit further along in the story.  You know, you could say Bob and Jerry did this, but then you have to explain who they are.  But if you say ‘Cain and Abel’ it carries a certain weight.  They have a connotation everyone understands, they symbolise the duality in us all…I like using those, because it’s our mythology.”

Yet Beam has always insisted that the role of religion in his writing avoids propaganda of any kind.  “I think there’s always been kind of a subversive quality to the way I use religion.  I mean, I try to use it both ways, you know, because that’s the way life is.  There are some great things about religion but there’s some really f—ed up stuff about it too.”  It seems that part of religion’s appeal for Beam is the down-and-out or desperate state of mind individuals are usually in when they find themselves asking religious questions.  Such characters always make for a compelling narrative.

With a second round of mojitos on deck and crackling, dry August heat making its presence felt on Guero’s outside porch, Beam pursues this line of thought further.  It turns out that religion is not merely a cultural shorthand or creative prop for Beam but, like Johnny Cash before him, it constitutes one of the only three topics he’s genuinely interested in as a writer.  “You have your three big things that you can talk about, basically, if you’re going to write something that actually means something to you as a human being, which is Love, God and Death.  That’s basically the thing.  Love, which occupies a lot of our time, because we don’t like being lonely.  God, because everyone wants to know that there’s a reason behind what they’re doing and what the hell is going on.  And death is just the reality of your finite time here.””

…Love, God and Death…

…What would that sound or look like?

Imitation Of Life

“You want the greatest thing
The greatest thing since bread came sliced.
You’ve got it all, you’ve got it sized.
Like a Friday fashion show teenager
Freezing in the corner
Trying to look like you don’t try”

From “Imitation Of Life” by R.E.M.

So I found myself sat staring into thin air in one of those great British institutions, the roadside service station, a few weeks back after a coffee that can at best be described as mediocre and way too large.  You know the sort, it burns your taste buds at first slurp and is lukewarm by the time you get halfway down its supersized cup.  It was accompanied by a sandwich I didn’t even like the look of.  I had that fuggy headed sensation caused from driving for several hours combined with my retinas adjusting to the artificial lighting in the sticky food court. 

As I waited for my wife and daughter to return from the toilets I found myself playing drums on my knees in time with “Sweet Child O’ Mine” as it came over the tannoy system.  I was on auto-pilot and knew exactly how the cymbals sound in time with the bass guitar notes after Slash’s guitar intro. 

I got to thinking, how many millions of people must have learned to play this song over the past 22 years?  Hundreds of thousands of teenagers learning guitar in their bedrooms, jamming with friends or forming their first bands – tens of thousands of folks mimicking the guitar riff on “Guitar Hero” on their games consoles – thousands of kids trying out guitars they will never be able to afford in music shops the world over…

Yet, once upon a time, someone came up with the notes for that famous guitar intro.  Some friends busked along in a rehearsal space that gave birth to a classic rock song that largely catapulted Guns ‘n’ Roses into international stardom.  Even folks who don’t like metal or rock music probably recognise the song.

Why do so many people play cover versions of other people’s music?  Re-interpreting songs is one thing, but playing straight cover versions or murdering the original versions is something quite different.  

It doesn’t really hold true for other art forms, does it?  How often do film directors re-make someone else’s work story board by story board?  How often does a novelist try to commit their own favourite work to memory and then re-write it verbatim?  How often does an artist try to recreate every brushstroke and tonal variation of a classic piece on their own piece of canvas?

How do we engage with culture?  Do we shun it?  Do we embrace it?  Do we mimic it?  Do we try to influence it or create it?

Several folks from the small group who regularly meet in our house have attended something called the Q Conference in America over the past few years.  They have come back energised and stimulated by ideas.  That, in and of itself, has been fairly contagious.  The simple notion of people seeing how to use their skill base in the places they find themselves in order to change things –  whether as entrepreneurs, influencers, artists, musicians, thinkers, writers, bloggers, ordinary radicals or whatever…

One of the things I got linked to through that was the Fermi Project.  Their Society Room DVDs and the Fermi Shorts series of essays are thoroughly stimulating.  I came across a brilliantly engaging essay they produced about all these idioms of culture and our response to it which you can find out more about here.


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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