Violence over being called violent

Much has been said about the events following the Pope’s perhaps unwise comments about Islam – see here and here – but it’s worth repeating. Unwise though the pope was, does it really do any favours to show your displeasure at being accused of being a violent religion by killing nuns or calling for ‘a day of anger’? If the pope was feeling particularly rash he’d probably just go ‘see???? you nutters are proving me right!’.

What is clear is that there are a heck of a lot of Muslims who aren’t into violent retribution for nonsense talked by the pope. But the ones who do declare fatwas on people for trash-talking the Prophet or the Koran could clearly do with a reality check. Either that or just say ‘yes, we are indeed a violent religion – you, in the robes, outside, now!’

Every faith has its extremists – America has it’s gun-toting so-called-christian militia (otherwise know as the GOP), but they aren’t generally referred to in the press as ‘Christian extremists’ – same with the troubles in Northern Ireland. Our language is very different. Perhaps because the terms we use to describe the different levels of commitment to a religion don’t really work for Islam – moderate doesn’t seem to be a word that any muslims like, with its connotations of being watered down and less committed. Perhaps what we need to support are those muslim leaders who challenge muslims that it is more intrinsically muslim to be anti-war than it is to be pro-violence.

A very wise friend once commented that the problem with George Bush isn’t that he’s an evangelical christian, it’s that he’s not evangelical christian enough. The culture of right wing Evangelicalism in the US has very little to do with any Biblical notions of ‘christ-like’ behaviour. Blessed are the peace-makers? Is it possible to read the whole story of the bible and not come out with the conclusion that God is on the side of the poor? the marginal? Sure, it’s easy enough to proof-text any level of craziness, in the same way that Armando Ianucci can edit a Blair speech for Time Trumpet to make him look like he’s into all manner of surreal weirdness. But if you take the Bible seriously, it seems to me pretty clear that the calling on people who are inspired by Jesus is towards peace, reconciliation, justice, care for the poor, sick, disenfranchised. All very politically charged things. As Desmond Tutu once said ‘when people tell me religion and politics don’t mix, I have to wonder if they’re reading the same bible as me’, or words to that effect…

So in the same way that the deranged war-monger in the White House needs to be exposed not as a religious extremist, but as a having a violent, neo-imperial agenda utterly indefensible from the Bible, so it’d be great to see more public dialogue about the nature of ‘true’ Islam, rather than just some late night channel five discussion show chaired by Terry Christian (which was the last one I saw – truly dreadful).

For reference, my favourite book deconstructing the theology of the far right in the US is Ceasefire – Searching For Sanity In America’s Culture Wars by Tom Sine – it’s pre-Bush Jnr, but pre-empts it perfectly, and is still prescient. Would love to see Tom Sine update it, but he lost a hell of a lot of friends when he wrote it…

Douglas Coupland interview

Douglas Coupland is without doubt my favourite fiction writer. He’s the only one I can think of right now that writes in my language, where I don’t have to step out into someone else’s world to read it. Reading his books is like talking to friends you’ve known for years, with whom you have endless shared jokes and a whole private vocabulary.

I’ve just finished his book-before-last, Eleanor Rigby, which is wonderful – full of the usual Coupland-style reliance on huge coincidence and wrestling with the most enormous questions of modern life, without positing any particular answers, just challenging all of us to live for something bigger, better, more noble than the world as it’s presented to us.

There’s a wonderful interview in the back of the book, which I was trying to find a link to online, but all I found was this one which accompanied his latest book JPod. JPod’s another fine book, though it’s more impressive than deep, in the way that Eleanor Rigby is deep, or Girlfriend In A Coma… it’s back to the zeitgeist defining magic of Generation X, Life After God and Microserfs, rather than the more traditional novel narrative of Miss Wyoming or All Families Are Psychotic.

Anyway, if you haven’t read Eleanor Rigby yet, but the version got the interview in the back – the interview is worth the price of the book itself. Great stuff.

I just wish he’d keep a blog, but I guess after a day writing, the last thing you want to do is write more. It’d be like me putting tonnes of free music online daily. Great idea, but really, if I’m going to be recording music, it’s going to be working towards a bigger project, not just throw-away MusiBlog stuff…

And now that book’s finished, I’m reading ‘God Has A Dream’ by Desmond Tutu – more about this when I’ve finished it. Suffice to say, he’s one of the most profound and inspiring human beings I’ve ever come across.

Much more productive day today

Today was better – started off with lots of practice, which doubled up as a way to continue experimenting with the laptop looping set up. Am just experimenting with what kind of tolerance the processor has for varying degrees of looping and processing all happening at once and what the optimum buffer size (and therefor latency time) is. It’s a bit of a faff, but I think it’s coming together… Should be able to get something workable soon…

Also managed to get some nice things to wear on stage, and find out how much my programme printing is going to cost – the nice people at The Bass instutute in london sent me their ad through to stick in it, so I now need to put it together with some bio stuff and an ad for my website and online CD shop, and we’re away! That’s probably the main job for this evening.

Anyway, knowing that quite a lot of bloggers read this, I have a cheeky request, which is that you blog about my edinburgh show, and link back to this site – that way it should send a whole load of traffic my way, and get all the Edinburgh-bound readers of your lovely blogs to come and see the show, and then I won’t need to phone you up to beg for food when I lose my shirt on the show, thus posting one blog thingie will save you having to console me on my failed show for hours on end… go on, I dare ya!

the two links you need are to the edfringe.com page for my show – http://www.edfringe.com/shows/detail.php?action=shows&id=BASS where people can get tickets, and to the front page of my website where people can have a listen to some MP3s and find out a little more about the show!

and you can include this picture if you like, too!

thanks!

Weapon Of Mouse Destruction

Just been up to see my mum for a few days – very nice it was too. My mum’s cat is called Gizmo. Well, technically, he’s my brother’s cat, but he’s moved out, and the cat stayed… anyway, Gizzy is the cutest friendliest cuddliest little beasty on the planet… so long as you’re human. If you happen to be any kind of warm blooded furry or feathered thing, and smaller than a tiger, she views you as potential dinner. Mice, rats, voles, moles, rabbits, hares, pheasants, and all manner of garden birds. She’s lethal. A one-feline environmental disaster area. How can one so seemingly cute be such a cold-blooded killer?? Guess the various smiling faces telling us about how they plan to rid the world of evil, whilst perpetrating muchos evil of their own have been taking lessons… Indeed, she’s a veritable Weapon Of Mouse Destruction…

(BTW, Tonight there’s a round-the-world candle-lit vigil for Peace, called for by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Check and see if a church near you is involved and head along there…)

Anyway, whilst in Berwick, managed to catch up with Heath – first known as ‘the boy next door’ when we first moved to Berwick (1986), soon became the drummer in the first band I was in (called various things, I think Mother’s Legs was the longest lasting name, though we never did a gig.) Heath then went to the same college as me, and now works in a theatre just north of London. He’s a very nice bloke, and it was a lovely surprise that he was ‘home’ at the same time as me…

Got a couple of days in the studio this week, with Chris Bowater (gospel singer/worship leader guy from Lincoln that I used to do loads of gigs with) – very much looking forward to that. Playing with Chris was always a fun challenge – he’s got an amazing sense of harmony, and is a great piano player. Other than that, it’s lots of teaching, and getting to grips with Fruity Loops – been programming drum beats, and learning how to automate effects changes and mutes etc… all good stuff…

Hang on, forgot to mention rather fabulous and eventful gig last Tuesday night – I was playing at Delicattesen in Reading (see link on left hand side), with Julie Lee (who I played at Greenbelt with last year), and with Pierce Pettis (who I’d not played with before, but who is marvellous) – I was only doing a couple of songs with each of them… That all went well, but half way through Pierce’s set, some poor bloke collapsed, fell off his chair and had a fit! Didn’t look like Epilepsy, and he came out of it pretty quick. We sat him up, and tried to talk to him, but he was still pretty out of it, and couldn’t stand up to leave the room. So we called an ambulance which arrived in LESS THAN A MINUTE!!! – you can say what you want about the national health service, but that’s what I call speedy response!! They took him in for observation, but the medics said he was in no immediate danger. Anyway, if by some quirk of fate you’re reading this, Mr-Looks-Like-Kenny-Rogers-And-Falls-Over-At-Gigs, I hope you’re feeling much better…

Aside from that it was a stunning night’s music – same line up as the 12 Bar Club gig the week before – Julie and Pierce, with Brian Houston on before them. All three are seriously world-class headline act stock, and if you get any chance at all to see them, jump at it!

One of the best things about the evening was Pierce’s between song banter, which is excellent – very very funny indeed.

so here’s my top 5 banterers (in no particular order)

  • Pierce Pettis
  • Michael Manring
  • Ben Castle
  • Martyn Joseph
  • Mo Foster

In fact, Mo’s stories are so good, he’s written a book – 17 Watts – full of his marvellous rock ‘n’ roll anecdotes, which is required reading for anyone with an interest in the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in the UK, and the growth of the music industry here through the 60s and 70s…

Soundtrack – currently, listening to more of the stuff by me and theo (hopefully the street-teamers will have some of this to listen to soon…), and whilst away, the soundtrack was Michael Franti – ‘Songs From The Front Porch’, Scritti Politti – ‘Cupid and Psyche’, Francis Dunnery ‘Man’, Lifehouse ‘Stanley Climbfall’, ‘Pierce Pettis ‘Everything Matters’ and ‘Making Light Of It’, and Juliet Turner – ‘Burn The Black Suit’ – all very fine stuff. The drive home from Berwick was mostly soundtracked by Radio 4 (always fun to learn new stuff just by sticking the radio on – doesn’t happen too often with the TV), and then a documentary about Elvis Costello, ensuring that sometime this evening ‘Armed Forces’ will go on…