Friday, December 30, 2011

Top Ten TV Shows for 2011

Now this is a challenge... essentially TV this year has just been a series of low lights but I'll give it a stab
1. 'Gruen Transfer/Nation'
2. 'The Slap' but it was on 30-60mins too early
2. 'Spicks n Specks' great entertainment as ever
3. 'Rock Wiz' for lazy Saturday nights, actually scored a five this year once
4. 'The Mentalist' patchy but entertaining
5. 'The Good Wife' even better off the internet in the right weeks
6. 'Big Bang Theory' current season
7. 'How I Met Your Mother' could almost be a must see and is nearly great
8. 'House' was better but still not great
9. '7pm Project' but suffered from George Negus failure
10. 'The Late Show with David Letterman' late night staple
      just to see how stale Dave can get despite some great guests
Q&A. 'The Inbetweeners' and Major League Baseball are just outside the Top Ten for me...
All in all it was a terrible year for TV... and what's with all the late night NZ shows?
I can't bring myself to add NCIS [both coasts] or CSI as they get watched when I can't be bothered changing the channel. Gibbs is OK I guess!!

Best of in 2011 'Music'

This is just the stuff I enjoyed [in no particular order]:
1. '21' Adele a great soundtrack for a rubbish year!!
2. 'Ukele Songs' Eddie Vedder
3. 'The World is a Picture' Josh Pyke from 'Chimneys Afire'
4. 'El Camino' The Black Keys
5. 'Moonfire' Boy & Bear
6. 'Mylo Xyloto' Coldplay up loud though!
7. 'Triple J's Like a Version 7'
8. 'Wasting Light' The Foo Fighters
9. 'Ceremonials' Florence & the Machine
10. 'Duals' U2

And the music that's been played incessantly at my house:
'Party Rock Anthem' LMFAO
'Price Tag' Jessie J
and one of those compilation albums of dance music full of samples, covers and hip hop

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Australia's Summer of Cricket 'Boxing Day Test'

   First we crumbled at the might of New Zealand's 'Black Caps' and now we face the challenge of India [ranked second in Test Cricket at the moment behind England]!! There will be glimpses of promise but I think inconsistency will be the key word this summer. That's what comes with rebuilding a team and the mix of experience and youth in our batting and bowling ranks.
   Yesterday India began their innings after our below par 333. The batters who made a start looked more in command of their own game and more assured than our top order, which comes with an established outfit who know their own game at this level. They also have the best of the conditions and the wicket.
   Cricket is a game of statistics and someone worked out that between one day internationals and Tests, Sachin Tendulkar, the best batter since Bradman,* has made 99 centuries... he was out in the 90s in Mumbai so comes here chasing the hundredth 100... and looked for all money like it would happen this morning until a  false stroke in the 70s.
Apologies to my OS reader/s for three paragraphs of indecipherable cricket jargon!!
   Sadly, technology will be a talking point all summer. The game uses a 'Video Referrral System' to check aspects of the game.
- Whether a bowler oversteps the line in delivering the ball
- whether a catch is taken on the full
- whether a players bat or gloved hands touched a ball before it was caught behind them
- whether a ball that would have hit the stumps is stopped by a players body [principally the legs below the knee] and not their wooden bat

   This last one is the most controversial. The teams have to agree to a set of playing conditions before each series. Whether to use floodlights on a dull afternoon and whether to have the video referral system are two bugbears for the Indians and they don't agree to either.
   Yesterday we saw how farcical that is because the umpire is still able to use video checks to establish whether the bowler overstepped [and he did]. That day before, two Aussie betters were given out caught behind the stumps when they [by all replays] did not hit the ball. They had no recourse to technology.
   There are great cameras used in the sport coverage and for some years there has been a belt strap camera with a stabiliser arm so a walking sideline camera can follow action up close and remain steady. This summer the TV coverage has added a special 'segway' scooter for close ups between official play and around the boundary. 'Joe the cameraman' failed to notice a protective helmet on the ground and ran over it in taking footage of the Aussie team warming up for the next session of play... great youtube blooper tape!!! Technology!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

"Must Be Christmas Tonight" Not Quite

Didn't have time to do more with individual lyrics lines but here's another fav. tune!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rev. Series Two Episode 7 "Christmas"

I love this show...
I remember reading about it in the beginning of year TV outlines from the UK in early 2010 but which is yet to make it to screens here in Oz!
The first series was only six episodes long and it's been a while until they picked it up again...

   The program tells the story of Rev Adam Smallbone as he and his wife Alex [with her own career as a Solicitor] move to a small struggling parish in London called 'St Saviours in the Marshes.'
   The small band of regular characters provide gritty comedy drama about a whole range of life and faith issues. It is not 'The Vicar of Dibley' because these characters are contemporary, complicated and from across the community on modern London.
   This show nails it in terms of call/vocation, context, mission and the small details that grind away in the face of 21st C challenges for an urban vicar and each and everyone of the characters in the story.
   I don't know what it's like for others but the echoes of everyday amplify the humour and the pathos for me.
   I used two scenes from series one at a youth event last January and there are heaps of small moments and significant conversations bringing a visual reality to the everyday storylines... especially bench seat conversations between Adam and the brilliantly written Colin.

"Tom Hollander said,"[w]e wanted to define ourselves in opposition to the cliché of a country vicar, partly because we wanted to depict England as it is now, rather than having a sort of bucolic-y, over the hills and far away, bird-tweeting England – we wanted the complications of the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic inner-city, where everything is much harder."
   In this Christmas episode Adam is busy doing the details of making Christmas Eve and Christmas Day a meaningful time for all and it ends up costing him at every step... it's advent writ large and I had tears streaming down my face as he attempted to wrangle things into a manageable mess!!
   The pub drunks at Midnight Mass, the stolen bicycle tyres, Colin's punch in the eye... all took their toll!!
Adam perhaps felt worst about missing the final hours of friend Joan's life having promised to visit her at the retirement home and being held up a few times...
   The 'Rev.' BBC website is here

21st December "How to Make Gravy"

Now this is a Christmas song!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Christmas All!!

One of my favourites!!

"White Wine in the Sun" Tim Minchin

  I didn't have time or head space to contribute to friend Darren's playlist for Advent BUT here's a new favourite track for your alternative Advent when you're tired of Buble, Jewel and the rest!!
   In an entirely inadequate way I describe this as evocative of my childhood Christmases with the rel's but also of the context into which the advent message of hope might speak loudly if we could stop getting in it's way with religious piety and irrelevance!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Stockland know how to commercialise Space

   The Picadilly complex in Pitt/Castlereagh Sts [attached to the Wesley Mission space] behind the Hilton Hotel is the Uniting Church' Sydney headquarters. The building has been managed by various developers over the years but Stockland are the champions when it comes to commercialising space.
   You often see entry points to the building on the Aussie nightly news because ICAC [The Independent Commission Against Corruption] is in the building [and Graham Richardson lunches contacts at Georges Cafe]!!
   There are occasional celebrity spottos as it's a thoroughfare thru to the Hilton and has a door through to David Jones menswear and down to the foodhall from there...
   As someone with an eye for useless information I have often marvelled at the developers capacity to envisage an opportunity...
- the front wall alcove became a money change bureau
- a wall cavity near a bland rear entrance is now a small coffee cafe
- two walkways have had booths added and are currently a newsstand and phone seller
- as shops change hands they are sometimes divided in two to double the opportunity

   I'm sure the latest 'one sticker' is testing the audience reaction ahead of more possibilities... as the lifts were being refurbished one creative obviously saw the potential of the blank canvass that is the grey lift door... hat tip to Elenie P for the photo... I forgot to take one on the way back down the other day as I was observing the latest innovation.
   Others mind you are annoyed at Coke, apalled at the sight, aware that the full strength version carries 13 spoons full of sugar etc etc... I just marvel at Stockland wondering what's next... corporate jumpsuits on the cleaners? We don't actually have the tabletop adverts at the Level One Food area? 
   And what of the large empty foyer after the couches were removed years ago? Nothing to do with the  huge crowd of english language students who congregate downstairs on their short breaks I'm sure?
   Perhaps 'McCafe','Boost Juice', 'Footlocker','Foxtel' trailer, 'Corn on the Cob'... a branch of 'Uniting Bank'? Now that I won't be in the building every week I look forward to the full makeover I'll notice next time I'm in town!! Spare a thought for the upper floors and the possible nasal spray adverts on their yellow lift doors with a phone number in large red font...
Mea culpa: friends would know I can't be complaining about the commercialism, just noticing... if the advert were for Coke Zero then I'm pretty confident I paid for it. If the foyer had become an athletic shoe sales outlet I'd stop every time on my way through... just to look mind you, gearing up for the annual purchase!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wonderful Farewell Gift

   I've had a photo of Bar Beach, Newcastle in a frame on my desk at the Youth Unit in Sydney. It's been a reminder of one of my favourite places in the world in both good times and bad. At the same time I had talked of my hope to one day have a picture of Sydney Harbour that would remind me of my twelve years in the UCA Synod Youth Unit. The Harbour has always been and will continue to be a favourite spot to spend time. Whether walking there, thinking creatively along the way, heading to the Dendy or a late night meal at City Extra... I'll continue to be found there... just a bit less often!!
   I'm staggered, humbled and very grateful to everyone responsible for a stunning Ken Duncan framed photo I was given as my farewell gift!! In all honesty I'm glad it wasn't a book or another shelf filler but I was surprised to see my dream suggestion taken up... thanks all!!
   Imagine a white spacer and black wooden frame... I'm an urban dweller who considers a walk along the beach to be a stroll along the 2m wide concrete walkway above the sand. In Sydney [especially in spring/summer] I enjoyed the dusk walk to Circular Quay and the whole area pictured... to think, to compose talks, to reflect on meetings, listening and what we were doing... there's no place quite like it...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

OpenAir Cinema Mrs Macquarie's Chair

   For nearly twenty years now we've made the annual trip once and twice BC [before children] to the OpenAir Cinema in Sydney. I think I've blogged about it every year...
   A temporary stand to seat 5000 people is built in the Domain with a view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The seating is rows of locked together sebel plastic chairs. The screen is on a fixed pontoon in the water and it is raised into place ahead of the pre screening adverts.
   The formerly Phillips OpenAir is now sponsored by St George Building Society and large middle section of deckchairs are for a few hundred account holders. There is a VIP sponsors bar for celebs...
   The catering and bar area serve Belinda Franks catered gourmet food and charge the cost of a small child per drink.
   The ticketing has changed over the years with technology and we figure with print at home tickets we now need to queue 30mins earlier from 5.30pm to have a run at our favourite 'general admission' seats.
   You put your name on a card on your seats. One runs there and the other grabs a spot at a table... Apparently the catering area has been redesigned this year to allow more dining seats. We like to get the seating row with the crossover aisle behind for the film...
   The seats are the only drawback so our rule is not to see films over 2 hours... no J. Edgar I'm afraid... perhaps 'The Ides of March'!! Tix are onsale from 9am tomorrow and films will sell out [they keep a few hundred for each night but it's a long queue until that allocation is exhausted... best to pre purchase!!]
   It's a great day of shopping, relaxed dinner and spectacular setting for an outdoor film screening.
   Free ponchos are distributed on showery nights and only extreme weather would see a cancellation... We've been very lucky in all that time... this years weather patterns are not encouraging... check out the season program and details here...

Sydney 'Bucketlist'

   As my time work based in Sydney draws to an end I have really enjoyed the strategy of deciding a few fun things to do during what was always going to be a 'crap' 2011!! It doesn't matter that I won't quite finish the list... I will in coming months anyway... it's been about enjoying the stay, having stuff to plan for that I'd look forward to and making sure I did all the stuff I wanted to across my 12 years with a desk in Pitt St!!
   My next day trip will include a trip to the IMAX to view 'Hubble' or 'Mission Impossible' and lunch in Surry Hills. When I get to the 'Harry Potter' exhibit at the Powerhouse I'd classify it as a one off world class event. I will just need to get to Belvoir St next year and I'll be done!!
   Very soon Sydney returns to the status of 'that place I go to for a day off' instead of the walking path outside my work... any meetings or training I attend, I'll choose... woo hoo!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

These Results will Happen

   Not sure which is the most unbalanced this week... the Australian Test Cricket Team or the Federal Labor Government Cabinet?
   The difference is that the cricket team has a future and a few capable up and comers in the side and waiting to be selected. The team lacks balance with Phil Hughes opening and Ricky Ponting struggling early in the batting order.
   But anyone who remembers the mid 1980s and a few other eras will remember the terrible days, matches and results which galvanise new players and give them a store of performances to improve on. We have to stick with the core of this new mob and manage the retirement of others, knowing it won't work everyday. Am I the only one impressed with Nathan Lyons reaction to being bowled and falling seven runs short. He was 'gutted' and the next time he's in a tough sporting situation he will remember how that felt and find extra motivation not to be back there...
   Federal Labor on the other hand is a conflicted 'team' with infighting, lack of confidence, short term fear and the problem of minority government. It is amazing they have moved ahead on some major agenda this year but nobody looks like they're enjoying themselves... let's see what 2012 brings...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Aussies turn today...

So the aussie cricket team are really trying to make a game of it today at Bellerive Oval!!

Friday, December 09, 2011

NZ 'Black Caps' must have pulled them down over their eyes...

  The kiwi cricket team is on a  steep learning curve this Australian tour as they fell a bit cheaply on a tough wicket in Hobart today. Phillip Hughes did himself no favours once again getting caught 'in the slips' neither back nor forward. It showed he's lacking confidence in his method as he attempts to 'save' his wicket and post a score that will keep him in the team v India later in the summer!!
   Maybe they'd be better to decide one way or the other and give him the next three Tests... he's made three centuries and looks like if he could just cut loose once it might keep happening. His technique means he will get out for a 'zack' now and then...

More on those 'Reasons People Leave'

   I've had a few contacts since the blog about the Barna Group Research here. The first thing to note is that my quick summary doesn't do the findings justice but points to the website and the free intro material!!
   Essentially they outline significant percentages in their research of US young adults who could be described as relating to each reason in some significant measure.
   I too think there's something deeper going on which these presenting reasons describe... I posted it as my own thought starter to return to after the holidays and I'll chase up those comments and connections too...
   Suffice to say the question of motivation, the nature of community and the way in which communities of faith identifying as Christian churches do and don't seem like places for young people to connect is more complex and individual than any sample size.
   For me it's also not about becoming relevant but being 'authentic' and in this 'we' have much to do in addressing who we are in the face of complex contextual and societal shifts with which the 'church' at large has failed to keep up with...
   How true that much of ministry and mission and connections into peoples lives revolves around 'relationship' and whether or not the values, ethos and lived out story make sense... how true that each indivisual will have their own reasosn for joining in and staying connected in ways that fit their 21st C lives.
   What I think the research points to is some presenting issues the church could do something about in reshaping itself to engage in God's mission in the world. The 'reasons' all have some connection to where that activity might be focused or not and many are not even asking the hard questions around this...
   OK, my posts for the next three to four weeks will be holiday and sport related, if there are any at all... for the purposes of my vocation... HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS re-membering the story of God become one of us and the impliactions of the invitation to join the party... see you in the New Year!!

The Black Keys "El Camino" CD

   New work from the 'Keys' whose quirky rock style is occasionally my chosen fix of loud music... turn it up here. They were on Letterman tonight here in Oz and I'll post the official clip of that song tomorrow when I'm actually awake!!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

'Pumphouse' Changes...

   Hey it's that time of year and as I wind down to holidays and a new role in 2012 I'm pondering some blogging changes. I might split my blogging between 'Pumphouse' for the stuff 'nobody' wants to read but I want to write and a second more exclusively youth focused blog... with a working title of 'Ideas Big and Small'!! On the other hand it might be just too much to have two spaces... it could just be a facelift and new title... yes my last two years have been that forgettable, painful and in need of moving on from!!
Dunno, but I'll ponder this over the holidays and you'll be the first to know!!

Why Most Young People Leave the Church

   The Barna Group [obviously stealing inspiration from the Uniting Church in Australia] have launched a few years of work focused on 'Next Generations' and this post follows up from one previous entry. There is paid material and resources on their website but also teaser and free material to get you thinking.
   A recent feature focused on 'why young people leave the church' and I do/don't agree with the emphasis transferred to our context here in Oz. This post introduces the topic and you can read all about it here

The article talks about:
#1 Churches seem over protective
   Many mainstream churches are still trying to create 'safe' communities for young people and risking irrelevance as life becomes complex or restricts 'risk taking' adolescents from exploring their values and connecting popular culture and the world they live in.
The article cites attitudes to media, music etc. It's more far reaching than this and relates to the narrow 'salvation' restriction of 'the gospel.'
#2 Teens and twenty somethings experience of church is shallow
Our faith, teaching and the nature of our Christian community does not relate to daily life clearly enough in ways that make sense of the connections.
#3 Churches come across as antagonistic to science
The struggle with 'answers' in our faith and a vocation in the sciences [or working with technology] in a culture still arguing about evolution v creation
#4 Young peoples experiences in relation to sexuality are often simplistic/judgemental
Expectations v he complexity of modern life... judgementalism... two standards...
#5 They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity
Suspicious of anyone's 'truth claims' and have been raised in a climate of acceptance, openness and tolerance...
#6 The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt
Feeling unsafe and not finding places and people to explore with...

   The article questions the polarised responses of either ignoring the world of todays young adults or preferring to adopt their tastes, choices and expression at the exclusion of others. It questions hierarchical ways of focusing discipleship as preparing the next generation for church leadership. The opportunity exists for ministry and mission with young people that's multi-generational, more like the 'body' metaphor and is about the gifts and abilities, passions and questions of all...

OK, there's again much more to be said... but this is a start and I'll pick it up post holidays!!