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November 29, 2006

Unreported Holland, Part II

Follow-up to Unreported Holland, Part I from [TBA]

See, I thought the Dutch general elections would be newsworthy, but again, only one report in the Guardian, and it was about a Greenpeace activist disturbing the current PM’s final election speech. Great. Again, the BBC hardly did better shining a light on Dutch politics, mainly saying there would be tough coalition talks.

First of all, let me cheer you up and refer to my earlier posts: the little party I voted for, which was projected to lose four seats and end up with two, managed to lose only three seats so finish at three. Hurrah! The interesting bit comes next: the first three people on the party’s list were held by men. With only two seats projected there was bound to be someone with lots of favouring votes. And indeed, one member managed to obtain more than 30.000 personal votes, bringing her far above the personal quotum of about 16.300.

Basically, the quotum for a party to obtain a seat in parliament was about 65.000 this year. For a single person within a party to claim a seat, this quotum is 25% of that, so about 16.300. Most party members accumulating so many votes are already on a position on the list where they’ll end up in parliament, just because their party gains enough seats. In the case of this smaller party, only 3 seats were obtained, and the lucky lady who was originally placed 6th gained the 2nd number of seats in the party, winning her a seat in parliament.

The results

And here’s a little puzzle for you: how do you create a majority of 76 with the following election results?

CDA (Christian Democrats, right of center, conservative) 41 (-3)
PvdA (Social Democrats, left of center, mildly progressive) 33 (-9)
VVD (Liberal Democrats, right wing, mildly progressive) 22 (-6)
SP (Socialists, left wing, mildly progressive) 25 (+16)
Groen Links (Green Socialists, left wing, progressive) 7 (-1)
D66 (Democrats, left wing, extremely progressive) 3 (-3)
CU (Christian Union, left of center, mildly conservative) 6 (+3)
SGP (Reformed Party, right of center, extremely conservative) 2 (0)
PVV (Freedom Party, right wing, conservative) 9 (+9)
PvdD (Animal Rights, left wing, mildly progressive) 2 (+2)

I could probably make a nice table, but don’t have that much spare time. At the moment, most signs indicate a CDA-PvdA-SP (99) coalition, but no one can find a subject on which both CDA and SP agree… Another option might be CDA-PvdA-CU (80), but does that really reflect the public opinion?


Unreported Holland, Part I

Why is it when there’s a sparrow causing havoc in some entertainment show in Holland, I can read all about it on the BBC front page, and the story lingers for days, whereas when substantial attacks on democracy occur in the same country, I have to resort to the Dutch newspapers? Since no one else does, I thought I’d bring you Unreported Holland.

The first story to bring to your attention, has actually been mentioned briefly in the media, mainly because it concerns recent developments in the UK. The Guardian even managed to make it front page news (at least on their website). Supposedly, the Dutch were going to ban the burqa from the streets. Surprisingly, this article only lingered for a few hours.

To be fair, the article was stirring with insufficient information. The parliament had merely accepted a proposal that allowed looking into such a ban. The Guardian failed to mention that at the time, within a week general elections were to be held, and a left-wing majority opposing such ban was bound to be formed as a result. On top of that, the news did reappear once more, when The Economist outrightly denounced the mere thought of banning religious clothing, wondering where the Dutch justice department had not been reading allowing the green light for this process.

One further comment. The following letter was placed after the original article in the Guardian:

Naima Bouteldja is unhappy with Dutch law banning the veil because she believes Muslim women are being asked to submit not to the law of the land but to a dominant way of life. But the dominant way of life in any country is what that country’s laws do or should reflect. No sensible western woman would walk along the streets of a Saudi city wearing a miniskirt. Saying that she worships the beauty of the human body would not save her from condemnation there, and rightly so.

I wonder if the writer realizes that he has just put Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands on the same line. Most Dutch people – even these days – would consider their country tolerant, and would probably see that as the dominant way of life. A way of life, where we don’t tell people what they cannot do. Now let’s hope the predictions are true and this proposal ends up in the bin as soon as the new government is formed.


November 28, 2006

Oh. His. Word. Part II

Follow-up to Oh. His. Word. Part I from [TBA]

Between all the queueing, there was some gospel.

Ever been to what used to be Soul Nation? It was a bit like that inside, but then not as sweaty. And not as smoky. And not as aggressive. Basically a massive Christian dancehall party. Well. And with gospel songs. The DJ and compere played the impatient crowd (having paid 30 quid and already waiting 2 hours for the main act) just about right, having them sing one of the most uplifting and groovy gospel songs (In the sanctuary, by Kurt Carr) as one massive gospel choir. The support didn’t do too bad either, though apart from an great upcoming voice (Roger Samuels) lacked in quality what it had in energy.

Then there was Kirk.

Kirk Franklin is probably the most successful gospel artist alive. Not related to Aretha as far as I know, and mainly working behind the scenes and letting his lyrics and choir do the work for him. He has worked with many famous artists such as Stevie Wonder, Mary J Blige, R Kelly, and U2’s Bono. Anyway, if you’re interested I’m sure you can find out all the good bad and ugly about this man. Or if you’re more interested in what he does, here’s a clip of one of his most accessible stuff.

I’m actually not sure how to review what happened between Kirk entering the stage, and us breathing fresh air. Not having had any proper food all day nor having had much sleep this weekend kind of put me in some standby mode to begin with. I remember grooving lots and thunder clapping Bajan style and holding hands with random people and having a group hug with more random people and holding A Lovely Day for lots of beats over and over again and freaking out another random person for coming in with the Melodies from Heaven harmony. And I remember trying to take a photo with Ali’s phone but being so not with it that once I was happy with the everchanging composition I realized I had my thumb on the wrong button. And I remember the pianist singing in the singing contest whilst no one was paying attention. Even he could sing. And I remember miming the piano bit and Kirk jumping into the crowd and everyone singing bye bye bye bye bye, bye bye bye bye bye bye bye etcetera. It was great. Wish you were there. Low battery now though.


November 27, 2006

Oh. His. Word. Part I

Follow-up to Israel & New Breed from [TBA]

Once in a while I listen to Premier – a Christian radio station that plays some good funky gospel between 11pm-1am. It was there I found out about Israel Houghton playing London. It was there I found out Kirk Franklin was playing London. It was Thursday night when I found out. The concert was last night. Maybe not exactly impulsive, it was one of the crazier things we’ve done in the house.

Spent the weekend with Rev in Olton, Birmingham, doing the usual: singing songs (quite a lot actually, for a weekend away), sleeping and freezing on church floors. I taught a song I wasn’t too sure about, but everyone loved it, though according to Ali it might be because of my chicken on drugs performance, or my face lighting up whenever the tenors (i.e. Jonny and two girls) came in with their harmony.

Got back 1pm on Sunday, ready to leave for Hammersmith, London, 2.30pm. I cheered when tomtom said we would take the M40, but then it guided us along the M4 for some reason as well, where we spent the larger part of our journey down. Through some miracle we managed to find a parking space a 5 minute walk away from Hammersmith Palais, yet we could practically join the queue there. The doors were bound to open 6.30pm, but that’s about the time we joined the queue. That is, the queue to pick up our tickets. Which we didn’t get till 8pm.

We queued a lot actually. To get to Hammersmith, there was only one exit lane which was crammed. The fact that some thought they were too good to queue and do some last minute merging didn’t help. Similar problem in the ticket queue. So what do you do? It seems like most people just hope someone else says something about it. I thought I’d use my Dutchness and loudly proclaim my dilemma with people jumping queues. At least the people behind us knew we were on their side, so helped them stay ahead of the sneaks.

On the way back, tomtom had the great idea of sending us up the M1. She forgot there were roadworks. Even beyond tired, Ali used mathematical wit and picked the outside lane. Indeed, it was the fastest. Mainly because eventually all 3 lanes were supposed to merge on the inside lane. It was worth it though. We saw 3 Noonoos and a man with a fire spitting machine.


April 25, 2006

Israel & New Breed

Title:
Live in London
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

Scene setting

Methodist Central Hall, Westminster. Capacity of a couple of thousand. As beautiful from the inside as the outside. Spot the 5 white people in the queue. No strip searching. No bag searching. No limits on photography (just a "no flash please"), just a small one on illegal recordings:

If you're caught making a sound or video recording of the concert, your camera will be confiscated. Hold on. No, you can keep your camera. We will confiscate your tape and use it for our radio shows!

Support acts

As we enter, the Hill City Mass Choir are singing a couple of well known worship songs with a gospel flavour. Despite a low early attendance – Ali worries as there is no one sitting in front of us, prompting her cause for concern being picked out to give her testimony on stage and talk about "christians" again – the choir give their everything and set the enthusiastic mood for the rest of the night. Turns out this was only their warmup…

Then we're urged to silence even as people are still coming in, as upcoming hot UK gospel artists Four Kornerz are about to perform. As we're all in a good mood and they're dressed with style, we give them a big cheer and enjoy their gig. Imagine Outkast singing about their love for God instead of you and your girl in your caddy, and you get the idea. The balance wasn't quite right yet (as with Outkast, I could hardly understand the lyrics), but the musicians were great, and yes, the dress sense was good smooth.

The compere of the night was Muyiwa of Premier Christian Radio – if you're interested in gospel or any chilled RnB soul music (that sings about a slightly different kind of love than Usher) then it's a good listen from 11pm onwards. He also performed with his backing singers to keep us entertained, but they lacked the energy of the previous two acts. They had humour though. HCMC came back for a few more songs now with the whole audience joining in – the night was organised by House on the Rock for their 10th anniversary, and both the choir and most of the audience were members. We were more than happy to be part of their celebrations!

Main performance

It's Israel's first performance in the UK (save the one in Birmingham the night before) and he must have been well surprised to get so much enthousiasm from the audience (congregation?). The opening act was a seemingly endless medley of his "greatest hits", his funkiest songs and just one big happy feast of recognition and praise and dance. Let's just say I was happy I brought a bottle of water!

For Nikki: I recognized Another Level; Who Is Like The Lord; Trading My Sorrows; Again I Say Rejoice; New Season; and highlight All Around.

And then I lost track of what happened. It involved lots of amazing solo performances of both band and singers. Whereas I'd expected a few more people, Israel worked with only one singer per part(!) but all so competent that the four of them sounded like 5 million Rev choirs together. After all the hype and funk and dance and oh yes gospel – cue Lord You Are Good – the reflective moment couldn't have come at a better time.

So yes, suddenly Mr Houghton was left on stage by himself (though not after the synth dude helped him sort out his keyboard) to tell us the story of his life. Cue lots of borderline cheesy humour – but who cares? we're having a great time! Also cue lots of audience cheering for recognizing themselves and a rendition of One Love as his Jamaican heritage is being welcomed by the island descendants in the audience.

Eventually, he got to his point and the second half of the concert. Again, my mind wandered off (in the first half it was just me being delirious with all the excitement, this time it was just taking the chance for contemplation) so I'm gonna guess and say Israel was going through some psalms and spontaneous worship. All by himself. By the time I woke up from my deep thoughts, the rest had rejoined him on stage for the finale.

I should say grand finale. I just checked with Ali and Rich and indeed Friend of God was the song to start the dance towards the end. By this time Israel's guitar was working properly as well, and he got to showcase another talent whilst the crew lead us through song. But the London talent got a shot as well, when during Alpha and Omega the band went mute and the hall was filled by the chanting and worship of 3,000 great singers at the height of their worship feast. Now there must have been 2 or 3 more songs here including an encore (after the audience kept on repeating their ooh-ooh-oohs for one song) but the final showpiece of gospel extravaganza was Not Forgotten – some kind of Arabic melody and breakbeat mixture, aka Ali's favourite song.

The Verdict

It's hard to compare a gospel concert to any other, and even within its own genre, this concert was unique. I've seen LCGC (London Community Gospel Choir) perform twice, and they're always engaging, and quality. But in this case I felt part of the concert. The concert was great because I was there (if that makes sense at all?) and took part.

Okay I'll try and explain. I've had the same feeling after seeing Lauryn Hill live ages ago at Pinkpop Festival; Manu Chao 4 years ago at Lowlands Festival (Me Gustas Tu had just been a big hit in the Netherlands); Basement Jaxx last year at the Carling Academy. These artists, and Israel last weekend, seem to welcome you to their ground, their home, and ask you to join in and party with them. I think Lauryn Hill only sang one of her own songs – the rest was just a big DJ hip hop music battle – yet I wasn't disappointed. Israel cut quite a few of his songs short, but I didn't care because it was my party too.

For the untrained spirits or souls there might have been too much worship and praise in this concert. Actually, it was just one massive praise and worship session! But that's what gospel stands for, so it's what you would expect from such an event. Even so, there was so much musical talent and so much energy from both the stage and the audience that there should have been enough to enjoy as long as you accept being welcome.


February 20, 2006

Confessions

Dear friends, family. What you have feared for those years while I've been in the UK has come true. I've been taken over by the force, and have been identified as a Christian, and even been spotted evangelising

The signs have been there all the time. Whilst in England, I have visited a total of 36 churches, some of which more than once! I'm very proud of this fact actually, as churches are generally cold buildings, and revisiting them is a sign of true spirit.

Then there is Rev. Singing songs with words as Joyful, joyful, Lord we adore thee! must mean that I believe the Lord exists and is wonderful. In the same way as singing you make me feel like a natural woman is speaking from my deepest desires.

On this blog I have touched upon some religious issues, inviting Christians to help me out in finding out about Christian concepts, such as heaven. Clearly, one must be a Christian in the first place to even want to talk about Christianity, or Christian related stuff.

On other blogs, I have tried to explain how I see the ways some Christians work, for instance how evangelism to them makes sense, a sense that makes it feel like it's their duty to tell people about their faith. Another sign of being a Christian: actually trying to make sense of Christian activities and trying to explain others about their ways. Surely a non-Christian wouldn't even bother?!

Then look at where I spend most of my time. This term I've actually managed to get to campus in the morning every day when I didn't feel crap. Some of the time spent on campus was for direct maths purposes [lectures, supervision, seminars, PhD progress], but most of the time I spent in the Chaplaincy, where obviously all one can do is talk Christian stuff and be converted if not already and figure out how to convert other people.

What went wrong?!

Nothing, really.

I joined Rev because I like singing. I ended up visiting churches [which I already did, but mainly for tourist purposes] with Rev because, well, that's where we stay, and that's how we're supported most of the time. I ended up talking about Christian stuff because many of my friends here are Christian, and I like to understand why their faith is so important to them. I believe in something there, and it makes sense to me to call it God.

Grown up in a Western society, it's quite common [understatement] to be brought up with Christian morals. Seeing that our laws are based on Jewish-Christian traditions, I don't think anyone in such a situation can reasonably say they have nothing to do with these religions. [I'm not implying Islam has had no influence or contribution in Western civilization, but it's not part of the current argument.] I understand if people don't want anything to do with these religions, but to dismiss their relevance in life shows a complete lack of historical and political awareness, and that annoys me.

Seeing that lately, I've had trouble getting my point across, so I'll try some more:

  1. I don't and I won't call myself a Christian [I believe in most of the stuff 'necessary', but without sounding rude, there's other stuff in my life that I think needs more attention]
  2. I don't mind you calling me a Christian if that makes sense to you. I don't see how what I've said makes me more a Christian than a Muslim though
  3. I don't mind anyone being whatever-ist or -im or -an. Just don't go about telling other people why they're wrong [note that this is different to telling people why your faith is good, which sounds perfectly acceptable to me - hence me defending evangelism]
  4. I'm sure there's another point, but no one's perfect so I can forget things too

On a final note

Apologies for the attack on your senses. I was on a mission, being truly annoyed by someone claiming to show so much respect but disrespectfully dismissing my attempts of coming to a common ground, and I changed my blog in such a way to get my message across of how ridiculous the dismissal was. The green-ness is all in favour of Hayley to see if she can shine a better light on the entry if the letters don't dance in front of her eyes. It's only temporarily, really.


February 14, 2006

Dear God

I have no idea who wrote or photographed the original. I know that Nikki sent it (amongst other letters) to me, and it seems to have been written by a kid called Jane. For you, on Valentine's Day.

DearGod


October 14, 2005

Heaven

And this is where I get lost.

So I don't know where it started, but I've been reading some webcomics lately – some better than others – and this one in particular. Hopefully that link will bring you to the episode that stirred this minor rant.

Also, my apologies, for I suck at logic.

Suppose heaven exists, and that some other realms form its complement (say, hell and purgatory). And suppose that these are the places where people end up when they die.

Now, in Christian terms, I would say a man [please, let me generalize, for it makes this entry easier to write. Feel free to read woman, and she, when possible] will end up in heaven if he has lived his life trying to follow in Jesus footsteps. I say trying, in the sense of 'we're all sinners'. I would also say heaven for him would be to live amongst his loved ones, and to be close to God, rid of any other needs.

Now, suppose this man has many loved ones. His wife, his sons and daughters, his neighbours [hey! It might happen!], friends from work, friends from the pub, who knows. They might make him happy, and he could miss them if they weren't around, bringing him into a less heavenly state. When in heaven, he shouldn't have any needs, so all his loved ones should be there [resulting in even more confusion, as he could end up missing those still alive]. Obviously, his loved ones might love other people as well, who might need other people, basically making heaven one [hell of a] crowded place where everyone lives, apart from those loved by no one.

Now, the man might have a loved one who has a loved one he despises. That would make his life in heaven less heavenly. Also, the man might love someone who has been too much of a sinner to 'deserve' to be in heaven. Barring that loved one would make the man's life in heaven less heavenly, however. Maybe by loving that person, the man doesn't deserve to be in heaven himself, and by using the same hypothesis, heaven would end up a very lonely person, only inhabitated by those who don't love people who have sinned too much. And God. Barring the despised person would make the man's friend's life in heaven less heavenly, which makes this rant a bit too confusing.

Referring to the comic assuming the mother's life was saint-like, she would either end up in a heaven without her beloved son, which is a contradiction as she would miss him in a place where she should be happy. Or she would end up in heaven's complement with her son, which contradicts the proposition that she lived saint-like.

Help! How to end this seemingly endless conundrum? I'd love for heaven to exist, not in the least to make this entry worthwile. My best guess is that heaven is a state of mind. It's a place where you can be with God alone, who is your first love and which will make you forget about your loved ones. Or it's a place where you believe you are with all those you've loved. In Matrix style, you're basically hypnotized [well, you're dead anyway] and made to believe everyone and everything you've ever loved surrounds you in an ever-so heavenly fashion, with God smiling on you. An alternative of that solution would be that you are with God and those who you loved who didn't end up in heaven's complement, and that you are put in such a euphoric state that you cannot miss those absent loved ones, and that you can bear those loved ones' friends that you despise.

Personally, I favour the second option of the constructed solution. Actually, I'm too confused to state a preference. I think I want to stay on earth for a while…

Again, please note that this entry is constructed around my personal interpretation of the Christian rendition of heaven. Which [in the personal interpretation] is probably where most fallacies lie.

P.S. Seems that the most likely definition is:
An eternal state of communion with God; everlasting bliss
So basically, my whole rant just now was pointless, or mainly aimed at a more popular concept of heaven [as presented in the comic].


June 11, 2005

Another Level

Title:
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

This CD announces a new season of worship. Did that put you off? No? Good. No need to be a Christian to enjoy gospel music (see Revelation, or the Rev audience)! Also, you'd miss out some of the best funk of the last few years if you don't give this a chance!

I'm not really sure about this, but gospel music seems to be getting more popular in Britain. Not that it attracts huge crowds, but with the help of the Love Actually opening scene, and small gospel like backing for Natasha Beddinfield and Joss Stone, people have become more aware of it. Especially soon-to-be-weds simply need a gospel choir for their perfect day.

Although we're not specifically a gospel choir, we do sing a lot of gospel in Rev, and so you get to know quite a few different styles and artists. Some, such as Mary Mary (from Shackels) or R Kelly (though not purely a gospel artist, he has worked with many, and his latest album contains a gospel CD) are better known to the pop loving public than others. Those others will only surface in commercials (I Wish in the Coca Cola commercial) or with a chorus in a hiphop song (Lovely Day) and then still only when the Christian message is latent. Or the public needs the likes of Whoopie or Beyoncé to spread the word.

And then if you really care or if you're really obsessed about the music you dig deeper (search credits of aforementioned artists, pick up any gospel sounding line in films you hear and google it) and find this CD. I was excited about the Snow Patrol CD I got the other day, but this is truly on another level. Basically this CD makes any chore bearable.

I could describe every single song and its amazingness, but I do have other things to do. Really, I do, like listening to this CD again! OK then, first song Who Is Like the Lord is the perfect accompaniment for washing vegetables, and then later towards the bridge in the song, it works with chopping as well! Followed by You Are Good you can start heating the oil in the pan and create some heavenly food with this uplifting music! Could there be more exclamation marks? Well, there are 14 songs so get ready! By Trading My Sorrows it should be about time to lower the heat but keep on stirring. In the mean time set the table so that by the time of I Lift Up My Hands we've arrived at a perfect and lovely song in the background for your dinner! For dessert there's some more lush harmonies ending with the first song which again helps you washing up – in case you need more time, the music is great enough to repeat all!

Okay that might not have helped, but I hope you understand that I'm excited about the CD, and that I think you should be too if you like any uplifting music and love funk and big bands and lush harmonies. If you ever want to obtain such a gospel CD, I suggest you order it from the .com Amazon website instead of the UK one. CD's are cheaper in the US, and even with postage you'll end up more affluent than doing it the UK way. Actually, if money is your thing, I'd suggest you leave the UK for good as this is the most expensive country ever (and no need to be so expensive, island syndrome being a bad excuse) but that's material for another entry.


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