Category Archives: Entertainment

Band of Brothers and discarding the troops

I wonder if many politicians had experienced the hell of war would they be so ready to send troops into battle? Band of Brothers is an incredible series, and speaks about lots of issues. Episode 9 is perhaps one of the most harrowing and moving episodes of a TV series I’ve seen for a long time. It explores the effect of war and combat on the people involved, on a very obvious level when ‘Easy’ company discover a concentration camp but on a number of other levels including Nixon’s battle with the bottle. In an early scene a new replacement – O’Keefe – is shocked to see two French troops execute three German prisoners.  Perconte and the others shrug their shoulders and go on with the journey, yet later Perconte tears into O’Keefe for wanting combat when the veterans are tired of  combat, of the fear, the killing, and watching their friends die. I was really struck how violence breaks us inside, in some cases numbing consciences.

I remember protesting at anti-Iraq war marches in Belfast, but gave little thought to the effects of that deployment on those who fought. Yes I’ve lamented the huge loss of civilian life but never really considered the troops worthy of my compassion – they sign up for it after all. Watching Band of Brothers – although a different context – has made me realise that my commitment to non-violence must include a commitment to all the victims of violence – including the troops who serve in war zones. Watching the emotional and mental brokenness – especially in episode 7 when Buck Compton just can’t take any more of watching his friends get killed – made me realise just how much care and support soldiers need in the challenge to reintegrate back into ‘civilian’ life. In the UK alone it is estimated that 20,000 former soldiers in the justice system. Maybe those of us who campaign against war also need to campaign that those who carry out those wars on behalf of the politicians in comfortable offices aren’t discarded when they return.

This also means the church needs to be a place of healing for all who are broken as a result of violence, something the Crossfire trust has been trying to do for all ‘sides’ in the troubles in NI.

The return of the egos – the Apprentice is back!

The ApprenticeWednesday nights are now being cleared in my calendar (or at least the time to catch up on iplayer) with the new series of the Apprentice. It’s one of the few programmes I watch on TV. I love watching and analysing how people relate to and treat each other, how they work in teams. It never ceases to amaze me how despite the fact that the aim of each programme is to win the task, so many are so self-obsessed that they would rather spend time and energy bickering, proving they are the best, bad mouthing colleagues or deliberately not trying to get others fired. I know after watching their performances I wouldn’t want to employ many of them. They claim to be leaders, to be skilled managers, yet they fail to be able to do some of the simplest tasks working in teams because their egos get in the way. Integrity is certainly not a word you often associate with many of the candidates. Servant leadership is also alien (despite not just being a biblical concept but also accepted in the leadership world). I really don’t like Philip – yes he may be a ‘grafter’ but did he say one positive thing in last night’s programme? Constantly sniping and trying to undermine his team leader. Last night in homegroup we were thinking about Philippians 3 and how Paul’s definition of maturity is someone who knows they haven’t yet arrived, who knows there is more to learn. For us that was a liberating discovery, when we realise maturity isn’t about thinking we are sorted or when we know it all, we can stop pretending, we can stop being defensive and can be free to be the people God created us to be. That sort of person to me is so much more attractive than the arrogance and over-confidence we see displayed on the Apprentice. I’m not a fan of Debra either – the ice queen, who again seems too quick to pull others down.  I wonder how employable going for broke to win the Apprentice really makes you? All that aggression may be good in the short term, but longer term an ability to relate and treat colleagues well does tend to be helpful…

Jade Goody – are we taking celebrity culture too far?

For many of you the obvious answer is probably yes – our celebrity culture has gone far too far, and our obsession with celebrity and five minutes of fame has become destructive in how we so quickly write people off, and dispose of them once their celebrity usefulness is over.

Jade Goody’s very public struggle with cancer has been making me think a bit. Her openness at living out her illness in the public eye has resulted in many women going for cervical screening and all sorts of other screening. This is a good thing. The media’s attitude to Jade has been fascinating. She tends to be a love her or hate her character. The was vilified in 2007 over the racist comments in Celebrity Big Brother. Even then what did we expect when people are put in such an intense environment and despite what Endemol may have claimed they are put under pressure so they do and say shocking things, cos we all know that’s what pulls the viewers in. So we despite our verbal disdain often fuel that obsession with celebrity. It’s interesting watching how the media are now responding to her – tragic is the word often used. Have they forgotten how they treated her? Does her illness wipe the slate clean in their eyes?

Today she has gone for more surgery but there is something that just makes me very uncomfortable about watching what looks like her eventual death in the public eye. The article is peppered by statements from her publicist,  the very phrase ‘her publicist’ makes me squirm and I just wonder how morbid we have become? Are we quite content to watch someone’s life ebb away in the public eye? Are we just taken in by the dramatic twists and turns in her very public life? Does anyone else feel the deep unease I do? When it comes to the end stages of cancer we often hear the phrase ‘dying with dignity’. What does that mean to die with dignity? Is it a completely subjective thing or is there a point when we should say no – enough is enough?

I’m also intrigued that she plans to get christened with her two sons next week. I hope and pray she finds even more than she is looking for…

Flora – are you really that desperate?

flora-butteryI rediscovered TV a couple of nights ago after a bit of a hiatus – or more accurately found two programmes in a row I actually wanted to watch. One was the incredible yet harrowing Magdalene Sisters – a frightening insight into some of the widespread abuse by the Catholic church. There’s a lot I could write, but that’s for another time.  On a lighter note I actually watched some of the ads. The flora one caught my attention partly as it was so bad. Gary Rhodes on tour taste testing Flora Buttery against something by Lurpack. Apprently most people prefer Flora. That is until you read the small print at the end. 200 people surveryed. 48% (96) preferred Flora to 45% (90) who preferred the other ‘leading brand’, with another 7% (14) who had no preference. That’s hardly conclusive – if I was trying to prove something there’s no way statistics like that would stand up. Firstly I can’t believe Flora think the viewing public are so stupid as to not notice these results prove nothing, and secondly that they are so desperate that they felt they had to use them in the first place!

A Man Called Cash – Steve Turner

I sat slightly embarrassed on the bus a couple of days, misty eyed as I read the last few chapters of Steve Turners fantastic look at the life of Johnny Cash. Unlike many biographies he didn’t gloss over anything, its a brutally honest appraisal yet that is exactly how Cash himself was. Its made me dip back into the back collection of ‘the man in black’ and discover the haunting power of many of his songs.

Beginning to understand more of who Cash was, the transparency of his faith and failings has breathed new life into many of his songs. The man who dressed in black, and had seen so much of death was at the same time someone obsessed with life. His faith and Turner’s last chapter on that inspired me no end. Cash for me is an example of a treasure in a clay pot – all is there to see and amid the failings God is clearly at work. Perhaps Cash lived out that battle in public that most live out in private, pretending n the outside that everything is fine when actually the pain, the struggles are overwhelming.

Perhaps Cash’s greatest attribute was the recognition that he knew what it was like to be in the places were many are, so when it came to faith there was never a self-righteous, sanctimonious or ‘preachy’ way with him. Larry Gatlin described Cash and June’s life as an open book, people who weren’t perfect but had found hope that they shared. The God that shined through Cash related and spoke to people as he wasn’t dressed in cliches, and genuinely cared for people. Bono summed it up well

“People were selling God like a commodity, and I couldn’t relate to them. Then I met Johnny Cash and i felt like him. You read the scriptures and you realise that he’s actually like these guys in the scriptures. He’s not like these weirdos.”

Maybe a good dose of Cash-esque honesty may be of more use to the church than slick programmes and great pretenders…

The Boss

Who is there who can top a 2 and 3/4 hour set from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band? They may have taken a while to get going, but when they did it was amazing. Sometimes after a gig you can feel you’ve played out an artist but I’ve been delving back into the back collection ever since. Here’s a wee snippet from the gig. I’m not even going to try to put it into words. Check him out yourself…

Some of the clips on youtube of Bruce playing with u2 and REM are well worth checking out.

After all the excitement of Thursday night, the soapbox ventured out to the *insert energy drink brand* soapbox races at Stormont. On a sunny afternoon Stormont is a great venue, a lush green oasis in Belfast’s suburban sprawl. Unfortunately this soapbox wasn’t racing but some of the racing was pretty funny. Some of the competitors appeared to have forgotten to road test their machines, some had clearly spent far too much time in their garages! Interesting afternoon out but they maybe did string it out too long as the crowd drifted off with not even Colin Murray’s not quite suited to a family day out humour struggled to keep people there.

What better way to end a day like that with frisbee at seapark…

Long live the storytellers and prophets

Last night i was at a gig by Martyn Joseph – a Welsh singer songwiter, who has been plying his trade for a couple of decades. He’s no chart topper, but then he’s still around unlike a lot of today’s manufactured pop. How old do I sound? Over the course of 3 hours (with a break in the middle), he played songs and answered questions about his music and life. At times he was a stand up comedian, a master storyteller gripping us with his stories, at times he was the angry prophet railing against closure of welsh mines, of senseless loss of life, celebrity and politicians, at times he had us singing along to Elvis, and at other times the beauty and tenderness of his songs brought tears to our eyes. His songs are in many ways simple – about life and what he sees, whether in the news or an old lady in the post-office. He has that gift of involving us in the songs, of bringing melody and lyrics to express that which often we find difficult to express. I long for more musicians like him – the storytellers and prophets not afraid to write raw honest songs, who aren’t at the mercy of the record company or swayed by the whims of the buying public..