Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Tropfest" 2009




This years 16 Tropfest Short Film Festival Finalists DVD is out free with the 'Sydney Morning Herald' [and possibly other Fairfax papers] today!!
'Tropfest' was started by John Polson and friends at the 'Tropicana Cafe' Darlinghurst, with a street closure and secret celebrity judges. It's been simulcast across the country out of Sydny's Domain Park in February now for many years and expanded into New York.
Each film must be 7 minutes or less and feature that years specified item which is currently 'spring.' Many Tropfest winners have gone on to big things and others pop up in projects all over Aussie TV.
Our local 'Yellow Pages' Directory and Tooheys beer ad veteran produced the film a few years ago about having to choose between his twins so one succeeded in life and is currently on ABC TV in a comedy called 'Chandon Pictures.'
Tropfest is about clever ideas and genuinely has finalists from schmick productions to handycam plain... other bloggers have marvelled at the recent New York winner shot on a phone camera.
Another feature is the use of well known or pop culturally topical actors who will be known to local audiences. It seems to add that indefinable spark to an already clever idea.
This last year a Melbourne crime inspired TV series called 'Underbelly' made a household name of actor Guyton Grantley who features more than once in films this year including a very funny film called 'Being Carl Williams' about him being mistaken for his gangland killer character from the TV show. The unwitting local petty crim is played by the lead actor from Aussie film 'Thunderstruck.'
I have spoken to my newsagent about collecting spares this year again so colleagues not near a Sydney Herald out there could contact me offline to hopefully receive a copy!! I'll post about spares tomorrow!!
The Tropfest 2010 item is 'DICE' for those who want to get started early!!
Running the 'Shorts' competition at Blackstump and several styles of video activity at Youth Groups I reckon they are a great group building exercise and challenge to stretch most groups.
Encouraging worship contributions opens up a whole other area of discipleship and participation.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"WE Believe" steps up

This week I will start to invite some participants into my next crazy idea!! 'WE Believe'
As previously blogged I hope to build up a space of 'affirmations' or creedal statements with A3 portrait photos of the authors AND the invitations are ready!!

I'd be open to receiving contributions from individuals who would like to contribute and invite readers to think of young people they think would have important, insightful, creative or authentic things to share.... let me know!!

Midnight Oil Warm Up

Just when you thought they'd gone away!!
Even the venue has no information yet but RSS feed and Google Reader devotee and friend Andrew has given me the lead to two warm up concerts for the Oils in coming weeks that will be no secret in the media today!! Just leave it to the weekend to check out!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

MCG Bushfire Concert March 14th MCG and SCG

Do yourselves and the Victorian Bushfire victims a favour and go see what all the fuss is about when Australia's best band 'Midnight Oil' reform for the March 14th MCG Benefit Concert held similtaneously with an SCG show featuring an acoustic set from Coldplay!!

Friends and colleagues actually keen should keep their eyes on local gig guides as the 'Oils' would typically do a 'warm up show a night or two before at a local venue!!
I will of course be ensconsed with family on a weekend away in Forster!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

False Oscar Leak

So the giveaway thnat the memo about Oscar winners was leaked is really that it was signed by the Academy Head.... they make a huge deal about PriceWaterhouse Coopers keeping it under wraps so I hardly think it'd find it's way onto paper in this format!!

Glad the very first award for the day was wrong just to back that up!!

Unreliable Ideas: Collecting some other posts

MOVIES WORTH DISCUSSING

‘Australia’ rated M
In northern Australia at the beginning of World War II, an English aristocrat inherits a cattle station the size of Maryland. When English cattle barons plot to take her land, she reluctantly joins forces with a rough-hewn stock-man to drive 2,000 head of cattle across hundreds of miles of the country's most unforgiving land, only to still face the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by the Japanese forces that had attacked Pearl Harbor only months earlier.

In 1939, the aristocratic Lady Sarah Ashley travels from Great Britain to Australia to meet her husband Maitland Ashley in northern Australia. The husband's drover comes to the city of Darwin to bring Sarah to their farm; however, when they reach Faraway Downs Farm, they find that Maitland was murdered. Sarah befriends Nullah, who tells her that the administrator Neil Fletcher is stealing her cattle; has killed her husband; and is working for the cattle baron King Carney. Sarah fires Fletcher and his men and together with Drover, Nullah and a group of loyal employees, they ride together to take the cattle to supply the army and win a tender in times of war. But the ambitious Fletcher has other intentions and uses Nullah to press Sarah.
www.imdb.com

I may be alone in this but I really enjoyed the film and think it’s got some great themes and insights in trying to describe the Australian pschye, story, values, influences and history in a fable of ‘Gone with the Wind’ proportions.
Is it the best work Baz Luhrmann’s done? No way
Does Nicole Kidman deserve the slaying she’s received in the media? No way

There are tearful moments, schlock, corn, wide landscape expanses, insights into indigenous culture and a cameo or feature from just about every recognizable Aussie actor in history!! Step aside from the hype and give it a chance… though at 2hrs 40 it is an ordeal!!

‘Gran Torino’ rated M
Walt Kowalski is a widower who holds onto his prejudices despite the changes in his Michigan neighborhood and the world around him. Kowalski is a grumpy, tough-minded, unhappy an old man, who can't get along with either his kids or his neighbors, a Korean War veteran whose prize possession is a 1972 Gran Torino he keeps in mint condition. When his neighbor Thao, a young Hmong teenager under pressure from his gang member cousin, tries to steal his Gran Torino, Kowalski sets out to reform the youth. Drawn against his will into the life of Thao's family, Kowalski is soon taking steps to protect them from the gangs that infest their neighborhood.
www.imdb.com
This film is about cultural and generational change, themes of redemption and relationships.

‘Seven Pounds’ rated M

'Ben Thomas' [Will Smith] has a secret where even the previews talk about how he took only seven seconds to ruin his life. We pick up the unfolding story in this film where it seems Ben has chosen a range of people to help out in life, seemingly out of his capacity as an IRS [Tax Ofice] Case Worker.
This moving film comes from the 'Pursuit of Happyness' team and has a similar grain and feel whilst Will Smith works hard to create the depth and complexity of his character who is surprised by the girl he meets who is in need of a heart transplant.
As the truth about Ben and the reasons for and nature of his helping become clear, this turns into a very moving and thoughtful story of one persons attempts to make a real difference in the lives of others.


Will Smith quote:
"Usually with the films that I make there are ideas that I connect to, but lately I've been dealing with the bittersweet in life because it feels more natural. You don't ever get it really the way you want in life. That really fascinates me. As an actor, there are certain parts of a character that you create, and you train yourself to have those reactions and then it becomes hard to stop them when the role is over. You have to retrain yourself. My character in this film is like hot grits. You know you can't shake them off and when you do, it hurts."

SPOILER ALERT
While I found the story had weaknesses and some aspects were simply implausible, it is a 'fable' in the truest sense and offers reflections on:
life
mistakes
that things don't always go well

There are challenges awaiting many thoughtful viewers and the films climax is sudden and definitive!!

‘Defiance’ rated M
On the run and hiding in the deep forests of the then German occupied Poland and Belorussia that was World War II, the THREE Bielski brothers find the impossible task of foraging for food, weapons and survival, not just for themselves but for a large mass of fleeing Polish Jews from the German war machine. The Bielski brothers, living with the fear of discovery, contending with neighboring Soviet partisans and knowing whom to trust take on the responsibility as a guardian angel that is a fascinating insight into the true events of a small independent group of defiant band-of-brothers. Consisting of women, men, children, the elderly and the young alike hiding in makeshift homes in the dark, cold and unforgiving forests in the darkest times of German occupied Eastern Europe, Defiance is a beautiful reflection of dedication, sacrifice, desperation and hope.
www.imdb.com

‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’ tbc
“Once again I ask too much of you Harry!” Dumbledore
Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts turns out to be quite the exciting year. First off is the arrival of a new teacher at Hogwarts, Horace Slughorn, who is a bit more useful to Harry than he realizes. Next, Harry obtains a Potions book which used to be belong to the very mysterious Half-Blood Prince. Harry finds that the Half-Blood Prince's ancient scribbles are written along the margins of almost every page, giving Harry advice on how to improve greatly on his Potions work, and also teaching him a few helpful (and dangerous) spells along the way.

Amidst this, Harry is starting private lessons with Professor Dumbledore, during which Harry learns the dark secrets of Voldemort's past, hoping that they could use these secrets to find a way to defeat him.

Harry's year gets even more stressful with the suspicious actions of Draco Malfoy, who has been sneaking around the school doing, so Harry assumes, Voldemort's bidding. Harry quickly becomes determined, and slightly obsessed, to find out exactly what Malfoy has been up to and putting and end to it.

Yet, during this time, Harry and his friends go through daily life, busy with school work, Quidditch, (in which Harry has been made captain of the team) and of course, romance. Ron has found a new girlfriend, Lavender Brown, a perky (if not obnoxious) Gryffindor student, and Hermione is not happy about it. Ron and Hermione's friendship takes a toll throughout the school year and Harry, as usual, is stuck in the middle. Harry, meanwhile, is facing a romantic dilemma of his own: he realizes he is falling for his best friend's sister, Ginny Weasley, who is unfortunately dating Harry's classmate, Dean Thomas. Harry's pining for Ginny and Ron's hilarious relationship with Lavender give this story a large dose of reality.

Throughout all the school drama, however, the obvious darkness of Voldemort's impending rise to power is always apparent. The incredible action-packed climax is sure to leave the audience stunned and, inevitably, prove that you shouldn't trust everybody who you think is good and also prove that not everyone can manage to survive.
www.imdb.com

As the Harry Potter series becomes darker and more layered the movies are for older and older readers/young people. There continues to be controversy in Christian circles [and no doubt some will criticize our choice to consistently draw attention to these films].
The plain truth is the books and films have been hugely popular and have maintained the theme that although the premise is one of magic, the test is of very human values and choices… indeed these stories are about ‘who we are and who we will be’!!
We must be engaged in our culture and context seeking to find where God is emerging and allowing God to transform, question and cajole us through whatever medium God’s values are in evidence! Don’t miss the boat!

‘Pink Panther 2’ tbc
Steve Martin seems very excited in the chat show circuit about the results of his second tilt at Inspector Clouseau of the Pink Panther series!! Peter Sellers and friends are a hard act to follow!
My own story through High School was one of attending every Pink Panther film with good mate Graeme or others and literally leaving the film having fallen to the ground, rolled in the aisles and laughed until we cried and our sides ached! Some of those films have travelled better than others but the innocent premise and sight gags just struck a chord!!
The one snippet I’ve seen involved Clouseau, the bumbling French detective ‘standing in’ for the Pope at St Peter’s until he stumbled over the balcony, snatched the corner of a carpet banner hanging down and entertained the gathered throng with his attempts to escape a fall and certain death. It did look funny!

‘Terminator Salvation’ tbc
Set in post-apocalyptic 2018, John Connor is the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright, a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet’s operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind.
www.imdb.com Warner Bros Films

Aussie Sam Worthington joins Christian Bale, Helena Bonham Carter and others in this latest installment co-written by James Cameron but Directed bu McG.

An action movie fable which always has surprising potential for thinking about the consequences of our values, decisions and societal choices!!

To go deeper with credible movies and use films well in worship, discipleship and youth ministry programs you should check out:
The Internet Movie Database www.imdb.com
Darren’s Digital Orthodoxy http://digitalorthodoxy.com/index.php?Doo=ContentView&id=1
Hollywood Jesus http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/
US site with reader contributors and [1] often helpful slant on lots of good films
Rotten Tomatoes http://au.rottentomatoes.com/
Usually succinct and honest reviews
Damaris http://www.damaris.org/cm/home/damaris
Reviews, clips, Talk Sheets etc
UCA NSW Synod INSIGHTS magazine
http://insights.uca.org.au/reviews/resources/a-m/faithandfilmresources.htm
Film and faith resources and reviews from Adrian Drayton
100 Films with a faith angle, see what you think http://artsandfaith.com/t100/
Or to find sites fitting your impressions, explore http://www.cmu.ca/library/faithfilm.html

MUSIC WORTH HEARING

“Life in Technicolor/Lost/Viva La Vida” Coldplay
Check out the latest clip for ‘Life in Technicolor’ as Coldplay laugh at their own reputation for ‘over the top’ concert experiences as the local church hall marionettes explode into a full on rock show.

“No Line on the Horizon” U2 album
OK, the word that comes ot mind is “underwhelmed”
Someone should have gone to Morocco, walked into the studio and said to Brian Eno “put down the headphones, step away from the panel and walk out of the room backwards and you get to live!”
Basically U2 have produced quite an ambient record with a few interesting tunes out of familiar themes without really including a track which will reverberate around the world and take their reputation, concerts, efforts towards a better world or soaring faith explorations to any greater heights!!
That said I liked “Surrender” and “Cedars of Lebanon” as tracks for use in coming weeks and at Easter, without any sense of “must do”!!

“You Found Me” The Fray
Although already nabbed by various TV dramas to wallpaper their adverts, the Fray have again produced a track of self examination, connection and a mood which invokes serious thinking about who we are, how we connect with others.

“Caught in the Crowd” Kate Miller Heidke
News Ltd, the Education Dept and other partners in NSW/ACT have been running an ‘anti bullying’ campaign with a range of sports and media stars and their stories. Along came Kate MH with performances on radio capturing the attention of teachers and parents as a song written from the perspective of the bystander, apologizing for inaction in the face of bullying at school!!

“Raise the Alarm” The Living End

“Whoa, whoa...
I may not believe in God,
It doesn't mean I'm a lesser person.
I still have a heart,
And I know what it feels like to be broken.

I may not believe in Jesus,
But I believe in sacrifice.
Life doesn't always stand a reason,
And no one ever gets a chance to live it twice.

But I'd rather risk my fate,
Than to lose my faith,
In the lovin', the hatin',
The constant debatin',
The chaos, the calm.
Raise the alarm.”

So what’s that lyric doing on this list?
Well, the deal is, what do you make of this perspective?
How does it challenge an exclusive view of the Christian faith as guardian of values,, morals and all things good?
How do you see this song lived out in the lives of people today?

What is ‘the good news’ in this context?
How do we have the discussion about being good c.f. being a builder of the world lived according to the values of God out of the perspective of afith in that God and personal relationship with Christ inspiring your reflection and action.

“The Fear” Lily Allen*
Superficiality, fame, getting ahead… is this what it takes?
Explore values, pop culture but be warned about the lyrics and language*

“Use Somebody” Kings of Leon
Ready to move from the superficial to something of substance?

“Right Round” Flo Rida feat. Keisha
Different readers will relate to different songs. From an analysts point of view this song is an interesting grab of pop culture in a cover with the usual rap workover!!
On another level it’s yet another track about values, what matters,a dn looking for direction in life. It’s just hit No 1 in the ARIA charts at the time of writing.

RESOURCES
NOOMA DVDs
Rob Bells’ series of 7-14min reflections on various topics relating to discipleship, life and faith are on the whole edgy, open, sharp and useful for reflection, discussion, worship and making a point beyond the superficial.
Not very title in the series is as useful as others and tastes, perspectives and needs will vary BUT the website has great summaries and preview clips to point you in the right direction!!
http://www.nooma.com/

Bushfire Reflection Resources
Check out Darren’s coherent collection of stuff from a variety of sources in the wake of the Victorian Bushfires and relevant to follow up for any kind of natural disaster
http://blog.digitalorthodoxy.com/?p=1015

“Downtime: Helping Teenagers Pray” Mark Yaconelli
From his stream of contemplative youth ministry resources and ideas

Changemakers TEAR
http://digitalorthodoxy.com/index.php?Doo=ContentView&id=186
Read about the study series at Digital Orthodoxy

WEBSITES

‘Fresh Expressions’ treasury of resources from this C of E/Methodist movement for creating new forms of church and transformation across the UK
http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/index.asp?id=1

http://www.pastor2youth.com/
http://www.thesource4ym.com/
http://www.youthspecialties.com/
http://www.youthministry.com/
http://www.egadideas.com/
http://blog.digitalorthodoxy.com/
And sign up for the Youth Leader Email with regular ideas and resources
http://www.rethinkingyouth.blogspot.com/
http://280slides.com/

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2009 Academy Awards Winners Leaked?

SPOILER ALERT i
If you like me do not want to know who will win an Oscar tomorrow Oz time then look away!!




In bad news here for Channel Nine [who for the first time are playing the Oscars live!!] plus 9.30pm highlights after 'Underbelly 2: A Tale of Boob Cities' it would appear a memo about this years Oscar winners has been leaked.... IF it's authentic of course!! It'll be interesting to see after rapid official denials!!

Usually Price Waterhouse have everything under lock and key as the pop culture awards fest culminates in rewarding the media companies that have spent the most millions [think 'Shakspeare in Love'] or effected the best smear campaign [think those who spread the rumour of 'Slumdog Millionaire's' young indians being shortchanged and living in squalor... and ocassionally a gifted actor or storyteller is recognised and rewarded for what they add to our culture and reflection!!

I know it's corny and the world has many more important things happening tomorrow but as a movie fan I always enjoy seeing actors 'as themselves', like reliving some moving cinematic moments and will happily cheer on as Heath Ledger is given a postumous Oscar for his portrayal of 'The Joker' in 'The Dark Knight'...
More on this later including the annual 'Raspberries' and their celebration of movie WORSTS known as the RAZZIES

Friday, February 20, 2009

"No Line on the Horizon" U2


Suspisciously U2's new album was available for sale/download on the Aussie distributors website getmusic.com.au with blame attributed to a staffer BUT it was gone two hours later!!
So far to me it sounds interesting and OK without being as stunningly landmark as previous efforts... I'll turn it up loud tomorrow and we'll see... mercifully for those lacking enthusiasm this could be the penultimate post on U2 and bring the topic to a close a week early!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Richie Benaud surprises No-one



So Richie has confirmed that he will do his last summer of cricket in the 09/10 season here in Australia. Sadly his role has been so diminishd in recent times it's already sad, now all that remains is the final broadcast!!
I recall inspirational footage of his bowling exploits with the old Midford shirt unbottoned half way to the waist, his adage that if you can't add anyhting to the pictures then remain silent.... don't we wish a few colleagues understood that!
His bloopers reel must include his intro to the first State One Dayer at Adelaide Oval with the temporary floodlight towers that were raised and lowered for games so as not to destroy the heritage views of the ground... apparently the Towers are "only 30 minutes to full erection!" and then 15 seconds of silence...

Cheers Richie!! I see a final 12th Man CD in the making!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Funny Jumbotron Clip


Featured on the TODAY Show here in Oz this morning was a very funny youtube clip! It turns out the uploader likes to record the goings on from the big screen during the breaks because 'people are always going crazy'!! Stay tuned for the 'who is that guy?' stories to follow... not quite Matt Harding but funny all the same!!

OK, U bear with us for 2 weeks

Here are a few links related to an Irish rock band you may hear something about in the next week or so... there's a Conference in the New York talking about their music here and no, despite it's location I won't be there!

AND one of the key presenters Nick McCormick gives a blog review of their upcoming album here and I agree with the reader comment about the quotable quote of the article "I can tell you what Bono thinks because he as been texting me!"

I'll try to come back and add any relevant links to this post and you can skip over it if you wish!!
I really don't care, I get that:
*music appeals or not to different tastes...
*going along with the tag 'biggest band in the world' carries a pretentious self importance
*A millionaire rock star banging on about world poverty when his own bands finances are
invested in tax havens is more than disappointing
*once you know there's a new album you'll check it for yourselves
*some people really don't care
*Even I am over outdoor stadium shows and thought the last U2 tour was underwheliming at Homebush in the sense of the sound, a little bit the rain but much more that the stage was too low and meant standing in the crowd caused sightline problems and was an atmosphere killer [with due deference to all my elipse attending mates!!]

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Caught in the Crowd" Kate Miller-Heidke


"The Daily Telegraph" newspaper has for a long time been a participant in anti-bullying media coverage utilising spots stars, actors and celebrities to talk about anti-bullying strategies! In recent times the ecclectic singer/musician Kate Miller-Heidke has played a few sets on radio and one song made an impression on teachers and parents mindful of the bullying issue...

The Education Department, the Telegraph and others are now partnering in a specific campaign related to the song in question "Caught in the Crowd" where the song comes for the perspective of the observer and calls on kids not to ignore bullying!!


You can check out the MySpace page here

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bitter Sweet Super 14 Rugby Kick Off


Weekends have suddenly become busier [and Replay Tuesdays] with the return of Super 14 Rugby between the provinces in Oz, South Africa and New Zealand!! I have my three sets of tix for the Waratahs v Reds, Crusaders and Force spread across the season and I look forward to some entertaining footy between now and late May!!
Bitter sweet because I always enjoyed watching TV footy a little bit more when I played and it reminds me [still] how much I miss it after rupturing both patella [kneecap] tendons in 2003!!
I've blogged about this before and you'd think that after 20+ seasons that'd do... and sometimes it is OK... but I miss the team culture, the challenge, actually having some success and running around, belting people and pushing myself to contribute in a game week by week!!
I have given up coaching for a couple of seasons to allow others a chance and to spend time with the girls [looking to go back next year when Ellie hits School]!!
I did of course read of the World Golden Oldies in Sydney next year for Over 35s... it's an amazing culture!! I could just pass the ball or dog a tackle if I was worried!! Hmmmm!!

But seriously, for my annual season preview... keep your eyes on an injury free Kurtley Beale [NSW Waratahs 5/8th] only 2 years out of school and finally not being told to bulk up but rather rediscovering a reasonable fitness without losing your natural skills...
I've blogged before thet footy amtes who coached juniors had seen him playing for St Josephs in Sydney when they had been down to see former team members turn out down there!!
Hopefully his knee and ankle repairs 'take' and we see his best for the Wallabies later this year!!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Obama Artwork


Just a bit of a laugh to celebrate the fact I've finally gotten back to, finished and sent in my Portfolio!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

U2 in residence on Letterman


U2s 2009 Grammys Opening celebrated in a 'raw session'

U2 continue to set 'pop culture' records as they take up residence on 'The Late Show with David Letterman' on CBS in the US and hopefully on that week on TEN here in Oz!!
This is the week of the release of 'No Line on the Horizon' which while I predict it will be different & interesting will not be choc full of life changing stuff... more likely a few glimpses at some interesting themes...
As a fan of the phlegmatic Letterman I look forward to a few late nights on the computer with the Late Show on in the background from March 2nd...
For the uninitiated this program is recorded in the 'Ed Sullivan Theatre*' which is the same place the Beatles debuted in the US, Elvis was filmed from the waist up and many fine comics got their start. Of late Dave's best segments have been the stream of 'Great Moments in American Presidential History' a nightly contrasting [until recently] of some seminal public speeches with those less than stunning moments from George W Bush!!
Of course, Simone was pretty excited to have scooped me on this U2 news, which is code for tragically reading the ABC website on a Friday night at work during a lull [closet net junkie]!!

Read about U2 on Letterman

Row M Seat #30 "Gran Torino" rated M


SYNOPSIS:
Following his wife's funeral, grumpy Korean War vet Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) has little to do but drink beer and sneer at his mostly South East Asian neighbours, some of whom sneer back. Next door, Hmong teenager Thao (Bee Vang), is reluctantly pushed into an initiation for the local Hmong gang - to steal Walt's pristine 1972 Gran Torino - until Walt catches him at it.
Walt's general disdain isn't limited to Hmongs; he has never really connected with his adult sons, either. But when the prickly old geezer is out of beer, he grudgingly accepts an invitation from Thao's sister Sue (Ahney Her) to go next door for a barbecue - and beers.
His resentment begins to thaw, and when Thao wants to repair the family name and work for Walt doing odd jobs for a week, Walt starts to recognize the humanity in the boy and becomes the father figure the boy doesn't have, leading to dramatic changes in everyone's lives.
Urban Cinefile

Everything I read told me this would be a good film, with the grainy storytelling qualities of 'Million Dollar Baby' and some familiar themes Clint Eastwood seems to have enjoyed exploring in recent times. This is a moving parable and is one of those multilayered films I appreciate even more the further away I get.
Eastwood's character study is made most real by the authentic neighbours, with little or no English and a very different culture of family life.
Walt 'fixes things' from electrical goods to potentially his young neighbour whose sensitivity and struggle Walt sees. He is gruff and is disappointed in himself and others, yet redemption is possible and surprisingly so...
Set in Detroit, the Gran Torino is a symbol of life itself, from the glory days of American 'muscle cars' to the current economic plight and societal changes thrown in along the way.

It's a moving exploration of:
*multicultural issues
[Walt lumps all 'slopes or zipperheads' together until it's pointed out to him these Vietnamese people are there because they fought on the US side and had nowhere else to go after the war]
*classic second generation issues with a gang storyline
*generational differences pre and post the 1950s
*identity
*issues of faith & life with some nice by play between Walt and his young Catholic Priest

Spoiler Alert:
Confession, redemption and the path to seeing more in others than their flaws proves to be far more complex than might be expected and the parable ending is suitably bitter sweet!!
It's a timely story with Easter not too far away...
video

Thursday, February 12, 2009

After the Fires

The one task that remained for me [besides some requests from Getty Images] was to thumb through the books on my shelf from the indefatiguable Dorothy McRae McMahon and find some crafted words for more traditional settings that I could/would adapt as single slides on various walls in a stark space.... on our youthmultimedia egroup Robert Stringer posted Dorothy's work to share.....

IN THE GRIEVING
After the fires

You will need:
A large bowl of water
A small leafy branch
A basket of leaves and cut flowers

Opening Sentences
As we gather here today in grieving,
our hearts cry out the hard questions for God.
“Why?” we ask into the heavens.
“Why would this happen to the people and the land?”
Our tears are joined in loss and pain,
as we look around us and see the ruins of life.
Our faith trembles in confusion,
as we try to hold onto certainties,
in the midst of the challenges to hope.
Where are you, loving God?
Come to us now and weep with us
as we face the harsh realities of this time.
A silence is kept
Our tears and the tears of all the people
are joined with the tears of God.
A bowl of water is lifted high and placed on the Communion Table

Hymn or song

Prayers of confession
O God, who understands the deepest fears in our souls,
when tragedy strikes and the innocent suffer,
we cannot help but struggle.
What will others ask of us, who are your people?
Will we know what to say if they talk with us about you?
How can we interpret the universal upheavals before us
and the terrible despairs that spread abroad in our community?
Silent reflection
Forgive us as our faith falters, O God.
May we honour what lies before us,
rather than trying to offer easy answers or trite responses.
Stand beside us, Jesus Christ
and heal us, Holy Spirit, we pray.
Amen



Assurance of pardon
The minister takes the branch,
dips it into the bowl of water
and walks down the aisle sprinkling water on the people.
We are never separated from the love of God.
Jesus Christ has walked our way, with all its realities.
The tears of God will become the water of life,
for us, and for the world.
Thanks be to God.

Readings

Sermon

Hymn or song

Affirmation of faith
Let us stand and say what we believe:
We believe that we are never left alone.
God, the Holy Parent,
holds us in the hollow of a loving hand
and cradles the whole world in compassion.
Christ, the Human One,
walks beside us and bears within,
every grief and pain which is ours.
The Holy Spirit hovers like a dove of peace,
breathing healing and kindness
over the stricken people.
This is our God,
the One whose life is never defeated.
Soon we will see before us
the rising of good and hope.
This we believe.
From this will we live.

Prayers of Intercession
Let us lift our lives to God
and pray for all those
who long for those they have lost,
for treasures which they will never see again,
for homes which are nothing but smouldering ashes
and for the land itself as it mourns this day.
As we make our prayers,
let us place these flowers and leaves
in and around the bowl of tears,
as a sign of the renewing of the people and the earth
which is to come.
The people bring their prayers
O God, in Christ Jesus,
as you experienced in your journey on earth,
there are times when it is hard to believe
that life will ever rise in strength again.
Grant us the faith to believe that this will come, O God.
Make us your true witnesses to love and grace.
Amen.

Hymn or song

Let us go from here
As the bush springs green again,
restoring its beauty to us as a gift,
as the seeds are broken open by the fire
for the beginning of new life,
and as we bring together all that is among us
for the future in this place:
Let us go from here,
stronger than when we came,
holding on to those who have lost the most,
ready for all that is to come
and walking firmly into a new day.
Let us go in courage, hope and peace,
surrounded by the love of God.

BLESSING
And may the Holy God surprise us on the way,
Christ Jesus be our company
and the Spirit lift up our feet.
Amen.

More Resources for focus on the Victorian Bushfires

"Never Alone" Barlow Girl
"A Day Without Rain" Enya
From "Mustard Seeds" Blog by Ann Scull from East Gipsland

"Gabriels Oboe" Ennio Morricone and Yo-Yo Ma recognisable from the film 'The Mission'
[lament]
"Prélude from Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 In G Major, BWV 1007 (Excerpt)" Yo-Yo Ma
[a range of reflective emotions]

Several colleagues have referenced 1 Kings 19:12 or the wider passage off the earthquake etc and whether God was 'in' those..... write a short paraphrase for reflection

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hold This Space

Cheryl and the alt.worship folk in VicTas have generously and selflessly begun to post some aspects of the urban space they are creating from scratch for this weekend in Melbourne!
I mention it here because the prayers and well thought out 'spaces' may offer you ideas for your weekend in your place... and they have some really important and appropriate ideas.
I'm sure they would be happy to hear other ideas and how stuff was helpful for you... keep up with the ideas and suggestions here

More on Bushfire Liturgies etc

This snippet from todays WARREN cartoon in the Daily Telegraph celebrates a link between the spirit of Aussie diggers and volunteer firefighters...

The Uniting Church in Australia collection of liturgies which might be useful and adaptable for worship in corporate settings this coming week and beyond can be found here.

There is still a gaping hole for discussion> reflection> space for children, youth & families and to be honest my creativity is still in recovery from a dry 2008!!


What I do know is:

treat young people as capable of feeling, processing, understanding

take questions seriously

don't expose children to image overlaod but neither ignore their reality

shut up and ask questions

create time and space for spiritual practices with space, simplicity and appropriate resonance

water is a contrasting and useful element

maybe choose one photo to use sparingly

don't mould the story to fit your picture of God

don't impose God on this story

while the stories of volunteers, relief efforts, sandwich makers, free coffee and generous donors emerge and tv newscasters are keen to refer to 'if there's any good to come out of this story' I believe it's imporant to let those acts speak for themselves...


Suffice to say the normal reactions might include:

confusion

anger

disappointment

resolution

fear

questioning

helplessness


More than one colleague has it right, suggesting SIMPLE gestures, spaces and time where God will emerge and have space to do so...


But then, what would I know...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bushfires in Victoria

For this post I borrow a Mike Emmett photo without permission..

Australia's worst bushfires swept across Victoria over the weekend and particularly on Saturday 7th with a resultant loss of over 170 lives, countless hectares of bush, houses and all the emotional, community and physical energy that goes with it.

Colleagues are asking 'what can> should> will we> provide for people facilitating discussion> prayer> reflection> worship across synod [NSW/ACT] or the nation? Some are sharing wisdom, plans, suggestions and raw emotion as this is still and unfolding tragedy and fires are still threatening as yet untouched areas!!

Coming back off a break [complete with head cold] my mind and emotions are still swirling from all the images and news, the analysis and stories, with thoughts of all that's needed and possible...


I would want to suggest or agree with the following:


  • It's very early to be throwing loads of images at people

  • It would be sad to use music, scripture or liturgy to 'insert' God into the situation but rather it's important to trust and allow God to 'do what God does' and enter into our story, struggle and suffering in spaces and places where room is made

  • Every person and group will be different and I suspect the situation is very different for Victorians and others

  • It is possible to be too quick to try to answer peoples questions

  • We can affirm that God is

  • We can affirm that peoples experiences and emotions are real

  • We can seek create space for honest and 'safe' expression which might initially be about allowing people to see and know the desolation, lament and loss in what's happened

  • Spaces for reflection and prayer can be powerful

  • Think about using bowls of water or trays of sand alongside scripture [especially instead of candles] in a space where people could trace their thoughts and prayers, ask their questions and get in touch with confusion, anger, powerlessness, hope, desire to help etc

  • Like some colleagues I wouldn't be too keen on music attempting to answer or override where people are at, but rather use space making sound and questioning or open rythms

  • Today for about 20secs Channel Nine used a song with video snippets and it was "Mysterious Ways" by Bryan Adams from the "11" album. I thought the first 2mins 10 of the song would be useful with a set of slideshow images trying not to overwhelm e.g. fires, volunteers, some of the countryside but not lots of families, burnt out cars, or reminders of the worst of the tragedy... it's not yet a week since this happened

  • Some other tracks which come to mind include:

  • The album "Theology" Sinead O'Connor is a spot on suggestion from Cheryl at Hold This Space

  • "Fragile" Sting

  • "Never Meant to Fail" Alex Lloyd

  • "Holding On" Alex Lloyd

  • "Coming to Life" Andrew Winton

  • And there are tracks by Missy Higgins, Kasey Chambers & Wendy Matthews

  • All of these are as much if not more about the mood than the lyrics...

  • I have an idea about collecting newspapers and using those for people to thumb and pray but again its pretty early and people may just need to be in a space where they can pray with very simple prompting...
  • Black Chalkboard painted sheets of mdf and chalk could create a chalking gallery or grafitti space
  • Listening rather than speaking is underrated
  • Two places to do more reading would include Urban Seed and Godspace

  • If you were looking for photos you can purchase them from Fairfax

  • I have asked permission to use a few of their pictures in worship [we'll see]

  • In relation to questions about 'where is God in all this?' I agree with Christine Sine at Godspace "...The question that many are asking of course is where is God in the midst of this horror. And I must confess there are no easy answers. I certainly do not believe that God wants disasters like this to occur, nor do I believe that it is punishment for our sins. More than anything I believe that God is present in the grief and the suffering of families who have lost everything, including loved ones in the fires . God cares deeply and intimately for all human kind. God is with us in our grief and wants to comfort us in our anguish..."

  • Some colleagues have made reference to Luke 13: 1-9 about the fruitless figtree but even morseo the way in which Jesus is drawing attention to peoples mortality and the need for reconciliation> relationship with God

  • Others mention Psalm 80

  • What is a biblical story allowing us to live in the story yet offering hope we are actually ready to hear in the nature of the world lived according to the values of God and all it offers us in the face of uncontrollable tragedy and loss
  • TextWeek has been updated with liturgy, ideas and articles related to the bushfires
  • The Uniting Church in Australia has a national fundraising initiative and other information, pastoral letters and responses
  • Stay tuned for more ideas, reflections and resources from colleagues and egroup sharers...

Monday, February 09, 2009

"Viva La Vida" Coldplay and Jay Z at the Grammys

"Viva La Vida" Coldplay Grammy

I know people love or hate Coldplay and they cop a lot of flak in the UK for insipid lyrics. I for one value the mood and vibe of their songs and the absence of pretentiousness that's there in spades with other bands who actually claim to be 'biggest in the world.' Anyhow I digress...
The digital revolution that brought us US TV shows 'straight off the satellite' late in 2008 has meant that ARENA on Foxtel have had the Grammy's on live today and the Oscars will be live either on 9 or Foxtel later this month too...
Therefore I can celebrate having watched U2, Kid Rock, Radiohead and others live today [while convalescing from a head cold] AND the fact that Coldplay 'Viva La Vida' won Song of the Year in their first of seven categories!!
I know it's almost a power ballad, I know it's over used on TV and in sport coverage BUT I just like the song and find it moving...
The show had lots of fun duets [including the Jonas Brothers and Stevie Wonder] and I'll post Coldplay here when youtube catches up!!
As we speak they just snagged Rock Album of the Year also...

The Grammy's are also good as a reminder of other songs I/we liked during 2008. Other notable winners include:
"Say" John Mayer linked with the movie 'Bucket List' for Best Male Pop Vocal
"Rockferry" Duffy with Best Pop Vocal Album
"Sex on Fire" Kings of Leon with Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals
"In Rainbows" Radiohead with Best Alternative Music Album

Check out the winners here

Sunday, February 08, 2009

"You Found Me" The Fray


"You Found Me"
I found god

On the corner of first and Amistad
Where the west was all but won
All alone, smoking his last cigarette
I Said where you been, he said ask anything
Where were you?
When everything was falling apart
All my days were spent by the telephone
It never rang
And all I needed was a call
That never came
To the corner of first and Amistad
Lost and insecure
You found me, you found me
Lying on the floor
Surrounded, surrounded
Why'd you have to wait?
Where were you? Where were you?
Just a little late
You found me, you found me
In the end everyone ends up alone
Losing her, the only one whos ever known
Who I am, who Im not, who I want to be
No way to know how long she will be next to me
Lost and insecure
You found me, you found me
Lying on the floor
Surrounded, surrounded
Why'd you have to wait?
Where were you, where were you?
Just a little late
You found me, you found me
Early morning, City breaks
Ive been calling for years and years and years and years
And you never left me no messages
You never send me no letters
You got some kind of nerve, taking all I want
Lost and insecure
You found me, you found me
Lying on the floor
Where were you where were you?
Lost and insecure
You found me, you found me
Lying on the floor
Surrounded, surrounded
Why'd you have to wait?
Where were you, where were you?
Just a little late
You found me, you found me
why'd you have to wait
to find me, to find me

The Fray take a similar path with their latest Oz number 1 song as it's already debuted as a TV drama advert backing but like it's predecessor speaks of the struggles of life and identity in real earthy tones that resonate with their audience. They tour here next month!!

"Get On Your Boots" U2

Catch the new U2 single video at u2.com or here at youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZ7zKeYhU_8

Friday, February 06, 2009

"We Believe" Affirmations


"We Believe" is the working title for my latest bit of inspired madness!! A number of recent experiences, reminders and ideas have inspired me to work on a photographic and written artspace project that will be handy at a few events I'll be part of in coming months.

The 'Rebuilding Afghanistan' photo display, our 'Affirmations' Station activity at NCYC09, Trinity Wall St 'Our Neighbours' pics, how I might get 'Salt [Factory]' rolling and a need to actually achieve something in Mark Hillis' "Next Gen's" project have all come together in an idea I think can be done reasonably simply.

"Affirmation" by Savage Garden was a catchy pop tune with a long series of "I believe...." statements which has inspired a number of groups and events to use it's lyrics to encourage young people to either write their own, or contribute to a group, 'affirmation'> belief statement> creed!

My plan is to invite a bunch of young people to write an affirmation> belief statement> reflection> or creed AND I'll take their photo and curate a space and a display for worship, reflection or as part of a bigger event!!

So look out....

'Rebuilding Afghanistan' at the Lovatt Gallery











I mentioned this the other day and had some space in the shadows of my holidays to actually get there myself!! It's a great upstairs space above Newcastle Regional Library. The stark white walls were ringed by a series of A3 photoboards with brief descriptions!

They were great: water wells, reconstruction, school outdoors, soldiers doing everything from carpentery to light fittings, providing whiteboards and setting up medical supplies. I found the pictures of obviously 'wise' and 'senior' locals in friendly or significant conversation with soldiers the most striking.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Shane Claiborne Feedback on NCYC09

Colleagues have picked up on Shane's reflection on his precious time at NCYC09 in Melbourne and you can read about it here
He's neither overstating nor having a lend of us and I for one am very proud of and committed to the values which have led us to doing things like NCYCs 'day of submersion actions' in NCYC, which in NSW/ACT we've done in small ways at other events and will continue to do...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

"Raise the Alarm" The Living End




All the magazines and critics said that 'White Noise' was a great return to top form for 'The Living End' after Chris Cheney's serious car accident! I caught this track 'Raise the Alarm' on aussie tv 'Video Hits' this morning, although the clip version on youtube is rubbish... this is a good quality live one from a Melbourne laneway gig!!

"Raise the Alarm"
Whoa, whoa...
I may not believe in God,
It doesn't mean I'm a lesser person.
I still have a heart,
And I know what it feels like to be broken.

I may not believe in Jesus,
But I believe in sacrifice.
Life doesn't always stand a reason,
And no one ever gets a chance to live it twice.

But I'd rather risk my fate,
Than to lose my faith,
In the lovin', the hatin',
The constant debatin',
The chaos, the calm.
Raise the alarm.

The living that die,
The constant deny,
The chaos, the calm.
Raise the alarm.

Whoa, whoa...
Raise the alarm.

I may not believe in regrets,
But I believe in salvation.
Some things I'd rather forget.
We choose what we see,
And we see what we choose to believe.

In the name of the father,
The son, and the holy ghost.
I'm not concerned with religion,
After all it's what's inside that matters most.

But I'd rather risk my fate,
Than to lose my faith,
In the lovin', the hatin',
The constant debatin',
The chaos, the calm.
Raise the alarm.

The living that die,
The constant deny,
The chaos, the calm.
Raise the alarm.

Whoa, whoa...
Raise the alarm.
Whoa, whoa...
Raise the alarm.

But I'd rather risk my fate,
Than to lose my faith,
Yeah, I'd rather risk my fate,
Than to lose my faith,
In the lovin', the hatin',
The constant debatin',
The chaos, the calm.
Raise the alarm.

The living that die,
The constant deny
The chaos, the calm,
Raise the alarm

Whoa, whoa...
Raise the alarm
Whoa, whoa...
Raise the alarm.
(Yeah!)
Raise the alarm.

I think it'll be an interesting pipe opener for a discussion about the place of 'faith' or 'discipleship' in the scheme of things!!