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Modern Theology for Modern Slavery: Review of Slavery Free Communities by Dan Pratt

25 Feb

Another book review for you this time. Slavery Free Communities was kindly lent to me by my friend Joan, and I took far too long to read this, considering there were other people waiting in line. I’m fairness, my tbr pile is insane. Anyway, I’ve finished it now, I’m passing it on to the next readerg hopefully today, and I’ve used the remainder of my time with it to write a big long review.

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Wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care

31 Jan

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed many things – our vocabulary (go back in time and try telling your past self that you’re not sure whether to take a PCR or an LFT because you may have caught Omicron from an anti-masker even though you’re double-vaxxed), our workplace habits (hello, Zoom), our travel and our priorities. One of the very minor things it has changed is my mind about songs with actions.

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My Year in Review – 2021

29 Dec

It’s been an up and down sort of a year. It started during a miserable winter lockdown and has ended with lighter-touch restrictions back in force and the threat of more (thanks, Omicron), but there has been quite a lot of good stuff in-between. I found a lovely wee flat and moved back to Glasgow, which was great (because however nice East Kilbride is, it’s not Glasgow) but then got new neighbours with some seriously anti-social dogs. The year was bookended by failing to get two writing/editing jobs that I wanted and that would have paid decent money, but on the other hand I finished the novel I was working on and had a few smaller pieces published.

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It’s Chriiiiiiissstmaaaas!

23 Dec

The race for Christmas number one is being fiercely fought between Ed Sheeran & Elton John, and Ed Sheeran & Elton John (with Ladbaby). The tension is entirely bearable. However, although I’m not a fan of Ed or Elton, I am a bit pleased that Christmas number one will be something Christmassy this year. It rarely is.

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A Question of Emphasis

14 Sep

One of the things my church has done to help people feel connected during the last year and a half of craziness is get a variety of members to do readings. They don’t give the reader’s name, but you often recognise the voices, which is nice, or you spend the entire reading going “whose voice is that?”, which is a little distracting. Anyway, as part of this I recently recorded a looong Bible reading for my church (Jeremiah 7, if you’re interested – it’s available on YouTube).

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A very long musical pause

2 Aug

Yesterday, I went to a church watch party. This is not, as my older sister suggested, a meeting where people compare wristwatches, but a social occasion when friends gather to watch the livestreamed church service together.

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Karen 2.0

5 Apr

At the moment I am reading a book called Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. Actually, I’m reading a lot of books at the moment, because I always read multiple books (it’s like being able to select which chocolate you most want to eat now from a carefully curated box) but I want to tell you about Mini Habits.

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Christmas songs that aren’t

19 Dec

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when songs from 50-odd years ago get dusted off and Noddy Holder informs us all once again that “It’s Chriiiiiiiiiistmas!” But among these festive hits and Christmas carols, there are some that aren’t actually about Christmas at all. This is mostly because here in the northern hemisphere we associate Christmas with snow and ice and wintry pursuits, even though the chances of it snowing on any given Christmas Day are about as high as Lapwing getting to number one (although they are currently number 13 in the UK iTunes chart, which is respectable). So here are a few songs that you perhaps believed were Christmas songs, but aren’t.

Photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert from FreeImages

Jingle Bells

What, Jingle Bells not a Christmas song?? But find me any reference to Christmas in the lyrics. Go on, I’ll wait.

The reason you won’t find any is that this is just a song about winter frolics. Yes, it does mention a sleigh, but it’s only now that a sleigh automatically brings Santa Claus to mind. Back in the 1850s, when it was written, a sleigh was a fun way to travel in winter – with a horse, rather than nine reindeer.

Let it Snow!

Again, nothing Christmas-related in the lyrics. This song was written during a heatwave in Los Angeles as a pleasant fantasy of cooler conditions.

Baby it’s Cold Outside

You’re getting the idea now, aren’t you? This mildly creepy song is just about a cold evening, which could be anytime between November and March. It was written for a housewarming party, apparently, and was subsequently used by hosts as a hint to guests that it was time to go.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Yes, it mentions sleigh bells, but probably just the kind of sleigh from Jingle Bells, not the reindeer- propelled variety. This is (yet) another in the “it’s not Christmas, it’s just cold” category.

Ode to Joy

I’d never thought of this movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as being Christmassy at all, but apparently many people do – particularly in Japan, for some reason. My brother-in-law referred to it as Christmas music when it appeared in the soundtrack of Die Hard, but conceded that he may consider it Christmassy because it’s in his favourite Christmas-adjacent film*, rather than because there’s anything Christmassy about it in itself.

I considered including When a Child Is Born in this list, but decided against. It’s borderline. It doesn’t mention Christmas, and reading the lyrics the ‘child’ is either every child that is born (most of the verses) or a saviour who has not yet been born (the talky bridge and the last verse) rather than explicitly being the baby Jesus. But it does mention a star and says “this comes to pass”, which is very biblical sounding, so I’ll allow it.

I’d be happy to tell you which are my favourite (actual) Christmas songs. If you would like that in another post, leave a comment to that effect. Mariah Carey doesn’t make it in, I’m afraid.


* Christmas-adjacent because it is not a Christmas film. Yes, it happens at Christmas, there’s the odd Christmas-related quip and some Christmas music, but the events of the film are not contingent upon it being Christmas. John McClane could have been attending his wife’s office shindig in July and things would have panned out just the same.

Every song on Radio 1

5 Dec

Although I am demographically more of a Radio 2 listener, for the last few months I have been listening to Radio 1 every morning. This has exposed me to a great deal of modern popular music, and I have noticed some patterns. In fact, I have identified a few (a very few) categories that probably 90% of the songs fit into.

Rap/Grime/Drill/Hip-Hop (as if I know the difference)

There seems to be only one kind of song in this musical genre(s), at least among the stuff I’ve heard, and it goes like this:

I used to be very poor.

Now I am very rich.

My wealth and fame give me entry to exclusive locations, the ability to purchase expensive items, and access to many women.

I also swear a lot.

Pop

There’s more variety among the pop offering, and it’s largely divided according to relationship status.

I am in a relationship

You are very attractive.

I think about you all the time.

I enjoy having sex with you.

I am looking for a relationship

You are very attractive.

I think about you all the time.

I very much hope that we will soon be having sex.

Those songs are generally sung by men. The ladies’ response can be split into two other categories:

I don’t know what you’re waiting for.

I think I’ve made it clear I’m interested.

or

Not a chance, pal.

Now get out of my dancing space.

I am no longer in a relationship

There are two categories in this relationship status, too, and there is a pronounced gender divide.

Generally men:

I used to be in a relationship with you.

Now I am not.

The breakup was my fault / I don’t understand where I went wrong.

I am very sad and regretful.

Generally women:

I used to be in a relationship with you.

Now I am not.

The breakup was your fault and you were very foolish.

I am happy and have no regrets.

So there you have it: 90% of the songs on Radio 1 in a single blog post. This doesn’t cover weirdy indy songs where you don’t even know what they’re singing about (although often they are the men’s “no longer in a relationship” category, I think). It also doesn’t cover Christmas songs, which are starting to creep onto the Radio 1 playlist, and had already conquered Radio 2 by December 1st.

Speaking of Christmas songs, there is an utterly adorable new song about the weirdness and sadness of Christmas in 2020, our reassessment of what matters and our hope for better times. And it has a catchy chorus and a gorgeous video of Glasgow. It’s by a couple of Glasgow teachers called (collectively) Lapwing, and you can listen to here:

Being topical, accidentally or otherwise

19 Nov

One of the worries when you are writing for magazines is that your article will already be outdated by the time it’s published. It takes longer than you might think to put an edition of a magazine together, and articles are usually commissioned weeks or even months in advance. When I wrote my latest article for Christianity magazine about the effects of Covid-19 and associated lockdowns on vulnerable children throughout the world, we were in lockdown. By the time it was published, we were in that beautiful period of semi-normality between the first and second waves of the virus.

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