Barefoot in the wilderness
in search of understanding


iTunes in Norway

It might not sound like much from the title, but it could have ramifications. And, I believe, it’s a first step towards sensible rules governing downloaded music. The Register is reporting that the Norwegian consumer protection Ombudsman has found that iTunes is guilty of breaking Norwegian law. One part is that it’s unreasonable to make Norwegians sign an agreement that they’ll be governed by English law. Fair enough. But the other parts are, I think, worthy of wider note:

[The Ombudsman said that] iTunes must accept responsibility for damage its software may do, and said it is unreasonable to alter terms and conditions after a song has been sold.

Both of those are very common in the world of software, and both are utterly unreasonable. We wouldn’t accept it if car makers disclaimed all responsibility for damage that their cars might do, so why do we let software manufacturers get away with it? And as for altering terms and conditions after sale? That’s just plain silly. And yet most of the legal download services enforce such terms as this – they claim that, after you’ve paid for the music and at any time of their choosing, they can change how often, where or on what devices you can play it. It’s a strange world in which we let companies get away with such blatant abuse.

pax et bonum

The Pipettes

The Pipettes are a girl band with a difference. Watch the video on their front page! Good stuff :-)

(_Thanks to Eddie for the link._)

pax et bonum

Manchester Passion

I’ve just finished watching Manchester Passion – the BBC’s new version of the Passion story. For those who missed it (most people outside the UK, apart from anyone else!), it was a live, 1-hour programme taking Jesus through the City of Manchester from the Last Supper and Gethsemane to the crucifixion, accompanied by a Manchester soundtrack (music from New Order, James, Oasis etc.). OK, it was broadcast on Good Friday, but we only just got around to watching it :-)

Generally, I thought it was very good. Some of the music worked particularly well – for me, stand outs include Sit Down during the Gethsemane moment (“Those who feel the breath of sadness / Sit down next to me / Those who find they’re touched by madness / Sit down next to me / Those who find themselves ridiculous / Sit down next to me / In love, in fear, in hate, in tears / In love, in fear, in hate”) and Pilate duetting with Jesus to Wonderwall (“Maybe / You’re gonna be the one who saves me / Yeah maybe / You’re gonna be the one who saves me”). And the downbeat/upbeat switch at the end was handled excellently (the sudden appearance of Jesus at the top of the clock tower singing I am the resurrection by the Stone Roses!). Some of this music is, in this context, profoundly worshipful stuff! Writers of “worship songs” take note!

If you get the chance, I’d heartily recommend watching it for a refreshingly different and moving version of the story.

pax et bonum

Be careful what you listen to!

A man was dragged from a plane and interrogated because the taxi driver who took him to the airport didn’t like his taste in music. (From The Register .)

Waste of time?

Sorry for the lack of posts here in the past few days. I’ve been wasting my time with new toys instead of blogging.

What toys? Well, I’ve bought myself a new electric fiddle from eBay. Not one of the gorgeous but expensive Bridge fiddles that I’ve been lusting after for a while now. Instead of spending 1000 or so on something I couldn’t be sure I’d like long term, I’ve opted to spend 63 (including postage!) on something that will let me get started. OK, it’s not exactly pretty and, OK, it doesn’t sound anything like as nice as the Bridge, but for this price I can’t really complain :-)

Of course, an electric instrument isn’t much use by itself so I’ve also added an M-Audio Black Box – a combined amp modeller / effects box / drum machine / USB recording interface that Tom pointed me at. They’re going quite cheap at the moment (I got mine for 99 from SoundControl but they seem to have sold out online now) but are very good value for money. So, for less than 165, I’ve got myself a starter electric fiddle / effects / recording setup. Which is nice :-) It looks like this:

The fiddle actually looks a little nicer than that makes it look – the paint isn’t flat red but is a bit sparkly. However, the strings on it are horrible!

The basic, unaltered fiddle sounds like this (75 kB mp3) but adding a bit of reverb and chorus to it mellows it somewhat (145 kB mp3). Of course, being electric means that I can do funky (150 kB mp3) and strange (300 kB mp3) things. OK, so the playing’s not that great on those tracks – I’ll try and get a better recording! Those are my first attempts; the provided software is powerful but doesn’t always work the way I expect.

pax et bonum



Today was Remembrance Sunday in the UK – the day when we remember those who have died in wars. However, there’s a big question over what we should remember and why. Ekklesia has been suggesting that Christian churches should encourage their members to wear the white poppy rather than the red one – to remember all those who died in wars, not just “our soldiers”, and to support non-violent resolution of problems. This has proved somewhat controversial. (For foreigners: it is customary in the UK to wear a red poppy to commemorate the fallen, after the fields of the First World War sprouted poppies once the fighting was over. The sale of these poppies raises money for the British Legion, which takes care of old soldiers.)

We recall the military downfall of Hitler, for example, but not the aftermath of the extravagently wasteful war that helped bring him to power. According to John Gaunt of TalkSport Radio, I am ‘despicable’ for even mentioning this complexity – just as President Bush has recently called those who question the impact of American military adventurism ‘enemy comforters’. These are political attempts to repress different memories. The awkward truth is that it is always might, and not always right (when those two things can be clearly distinguished), that wins wars.
Presiding clergy and other secular officiants often wrestle hard with these matters around Armistice Day. But they know that sensitivities around the defence of an ingrained ‘natural’ patriotic and military outlook are so high that there will be hell to pay for even the least sign of dissent.
Mention the fact that Britain has armed all its own most recent enemies (notably Argentina before the Falklands and Iraq under Saddam) and there will be discomfort if not outrage. Suggest that an altar is not the place for national flags and military symbols, because it is a symbol of reconciliation for all, and you will be accused of being ‘a troublesome vicar’ (as a friend of mine was no so long ago).
Another friend who is a German minister in Britain was even required to bless military colours, though in her own country (given the terrible experience of ‘church and nation’ being identified so disastrously under Nazism) this is little short of blasphemy (From Ekklesia.)

Fortunately, this message is getting out and spreading. Even at the official ceremony at the Cenotaph today, in London, members of military families who have lost loved ones in the war in Iraq laid wreaths of both red and white poppies..

pax et bonum

Mapping free will

Here’s a neat idea, passed on to me by John Peck from one Donald Bailey. We are often told that we can only have one of these possibilities – either we are free to make choices or God is in charge of the Universe. Now, I’ve said quite a few times on this blog and elsewhere that I believe this to be a false choice, that in fact the Bible tells us that both of these things are true.

The neat idea is this – consider theology as akin to mapmaking. Now, when we make a map of the world, we are faced with a problem: how do we reduce the three-dimensional shape of the Earth (a sphere) onto a flat two-dimensional piece of paper? Inevitably, when we make the map, we lose part of the reality. The most famous style of world map is the Mercator projection. This maintains the directions between any two places on Earth (useful for navigation) but at the expense of seriously distorting the areas of the countries (it makes Africa look far smaller than it really it, and all northern and southern countries appear far larger – this is why it’s been accused of allowing the rich northern nations feel more globally significant than they ought). By contrast, the Peters projection allows all regions to have the correct relative areas, but at the expense of sacrificing the constant direction. Looking at either form of map tells us true things about the world – and both are good methods, as good as it is possible for them to be. But neither is true to the exclusion of the other. Both are true and accurate, but limited, representations of the true nature of the world. So, then, both free will and divine sovereignty are true and accurate – but not to the exclusion of the other.

pax et bonum

Meek and mild?

In Church today, the Gospel reading was Mark’s account of Jesus saying that the Kingdom of God belongs to children. One point the preacher made was that this meant those outside the Covenant – for children had not taken their place within the Covenant community. However, he also looked at some Christian views of children, especially the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” idea. He suggested that one reason for this phrase becoming so commonplace was the unfortunate fact that, in English, “mild” and “child” rhyme. He quoted an old Charles Wesley hymn:

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon your little child.

Render this in French, though, and it just doesn’t work (and apologies for my terrible French – errors doubtless my own rather than the preacher’s!):

Gentil Jesu, bon et doux
Regardez lez enfants…fou

Doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it :-)

pax et bonum


In the wake of Jack Straw’s recent statements about women wearing veils, Ruth Gledhill has a fascinating discussion of the diverse ways veils and headcoverings are worn in Islamic cultures. She also mentions a nice quotation from a forthcoming interview with Bishop NT Wright, in which he points out that asking a muslim woman to remove her veil is rather like asking a secular western woman to remove her blouse. And, lest anyone point fingers about “repressive” Muslims, don’t forget that there are plenty of Christian churches (especially in the USA) in which women are expected to keep their heads covered and their mouths closed.

pax et bonum

St Francis' day

Today is the fourth of October – St Francis’ day. To celebrate the occasion, here’s one of my favourite stories about him.

One day, Francis told Leo, one of his companions, to go and preach in the church of a neighbouring town. Leo declined. Francis ordered him under his vow of obedience to go, so Leo went. However, shortly afterwards, Francis has second thoughts. Who was he to order such a holy man as Brother Leo around? So Francis stripped himself and ran after Leo, reaching him after he had entered the church. Francis apologised to Leo and the two of them proceeded to preach in the church (to great effect, as always).

This is Francis – passionate, humble and beloved.

pax et bonum