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Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
Broadcaster, musician, song writer, tea drinker and curry lover.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The World Cup of Amateur Dramatics

So the 2010 FIFA World Cup (of soccer, for those who are unaware) is over for another 4 years. It was quite eye opening watching it for the first time in the USA, where it was viewed with a certain amount of interest, but also a little skepticism.

For me personally it was interesting to be able to watch a month of soccer (I'm going to call it that throughout this post, so as not to confuse it with what Americans call football) given that I have watched far more football, basketball and baseball over the last 3 years.

I think the main problems the Americans have with International soccer are very understandable. The lack of technology to help correct decisions to be made is baffling even to most Brits, and the excuse that FIFA gives of preferring to keep the "human" element in the game because it is a tradition, is becoming lamer and lamer.

I think the main frustration I have, and one which is shared by my American friends is the diving, the time wasting and the conning of referees that has become a part of the game - apparently accepted in recent years. Except that it is not a recent development. The Brazilians were the target of constant fouling back in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

There was also a legendary confrontation between Argentinian skipper Antonio Rattin and German referee Rudolf Kreitlin in the 1966 England World Cup Finals, when the Argentinian was sent off but refused to leave the field for a long time. The Uruguayans have long held a reputation as persistent foulers.

The problem is that these things have been ALLOWED to become a part of the game to the extent that they now appear accepted, and it is far too late to be able to do anything about it, since they have become a part of the game even at grass roots level.

All this left me very disillusioned as I watched this year's World Cup Finals, because I realized that I now preferred football (American, remember) to the game I was brought up with for over 40 years of my life. Football is by comparison a much more honest game, and although a lot longer and punctuated by clock stopping, it is a TOTAL SPECTACLE, and as such, a blast to watch.

I cannot wait for the new football season to start, but the thought of watching soccer sadly leaves me pretty ambivalent (and this has nothing to do with the currently miserable state of Liverpool FC).

I have long been calling for a running clock to be stopped in soccer every time the ball goes out of play. I know that would lengthen the game, but it would also eliminate the vast majority of the time wasting techniques, such as fake injuries and "tactical substitutions" that plague the game now. Of course it would not cut out ALL time wasting, but I do believe that 90% could be stopped with a running, and stopping clock. The purists will hate it but sooner or later something will have to be done to maintain the credibility and high profile worldwide of soccer.

Sorry to get political, but...

I pretty much vowed I would avoid politically tinged postings when I started this blog, but I am a little concerned at two rather worrying traits I am observing in Christians both in this country and elsewhere.

Perhaps it is true to say that for some years now, Christians and the Christian church have been viewed as being somewhat naive when it comes to what is going on in the world around us, perhaps worryingly so. Jesus charges us in Matthew 10 verse 16 to be "as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves" [NLT] because we Christians are "...sheep among wolves." It is imperative that we are as informed as we can possibly be so that we are not devoured by the wolves that are more and more prevalent today.

The second thing I have observed is an apparent fatalism among some Christians in the USA who take the attitude that the downfall of the country (and by association all that the current administration is bringing to pass) is inevitable and willed or planned by God, and therefore there is no point in getting in the way of this (and by inference, doing anything about it.)

 I see nothing in my Bible to support this approach. Indeed God has given us free will so that we can actually do something to change what we see happening around us. If God wanted us to sit back and do nothing, there would have been no point in having free will, since it would be useless.

Without wanting to point the finger too much, I have to say that this fatalism I see around me smacks of laziness. After all, how much easier is it to do nothing about the current political and spiritual climate, than it is to get involved and get your hands dirty? How much easier is it to stay silent on the issues than it is to speak up?

We have a responsibility to try and win back this world for God. In Micah 6 verse 8 God charges us to "..do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

We have to get our hands dirty.

Okay, no more political pronouncements, I promise. Rant over.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Nicki Rogers

My musical friend Nicki Rogers asked me the other day to provide a quote for some new PR stuff she was doing, and I duly delivered a paragraph shortly afterwards. However, after doing that I carried on thinking about one of my favourite artists in the UK, and so I decided to blog a little more about Nic.

I first encountered Nicki back in the late 90s when her band (Shine) supported my band (Audacity) at the Spring Harvest conference (almost certainly) in Skegness, England. I can't help but throw that in as a piece of one-upmanship!! Shine was a pop/dance all-girl band, and after meeting and interviewing them for UCB Radio several times I was left with more than a sneaking feeling that there was much more musicially to Nicki than what she was doing at the time.

Nicki describes herself on her Facebook page - among other things - as someone who is unhinged, laughs and is red, and she is right. Add to that accident prone and "not afraid to poke fun at herself" and you have a pretty good picture of the artist. I mean, anyone who calls their second album "Feeder Lane", which is a reference to Nicki's penchant for driving...erm..."difficulties", is okay with me.

The thing about Nicki, to excuse my use of cliche, is that what you see really is what you get. She has one of those quintessentially English voices, and the way she writes reinforces that. A song such as "Good Lord" from her debut record 'Colour Scheme' is a good example. I think I once described her as a British Sheryl Crow, and by that I mean not just musical references, but the kind of instrumentation used. Just listen to "Something of a Miracle" from Nicki's second album 'Feeder Lane' and you'll see what I mean.

Nicki is an accomplished piano player and pretty useful on the guitar - which of course has a name! Her choice of collaborating producers and musicians has always been very sensible, and the likes of Andy Harsant, Dan Wheeler and Graeme Duffin helping to develop the sound, but never in a direction that takes away from the music.

I also like the fact that Nicki has devoted a lot of time to touring on behalf of charities such as Toybox. You get the impression that she is never going to consider herself "too big" to do anything, and actually on those more intimate tours she always seems to be totally at home and is able to charm an audience within seconds, usually with some story of clumsiness or something related to that!

A few years back I was part of a gig with the wonderful Carl McGregor and friends, and got the opportunity to play as part of Nicki's backup band. I can't remember what song it was - although the guitar was there - but I do recall thinking how lucky I was to be doing this. You'd think I'd remember it better, but there you go.

Anyway, ALL of which to say that yes, Nicki Rogers really is a British national treasure, as I once said in an album review. She'll never agree with that, and it's a measure of her God-centered nature that it's not an issue for her, but I would say if you get a chance to hear any of her 3 albums, especially the latest one "Once In A While", they'd be well worth a listen.

Nicki Rogers: hilarity is never far away!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

4th of July Wedding

I was at a wedding over the weekend. Those who know me will be aware that I am not the greatest fan of going to weddings, so when I like and enjoy one, it HAS to be good. Such was the case with Jaci & Josh's wedding.

I should say from the outset that this was a Christian and God-centered wedding, but at the same time it did not follow the traditional wedding service format. Having said that however, at no time did I feel that this was anything but a Godly occasion.

I'd not been to a full-on outdoor wedding (that I can remember) before, and the setting in the shade at Applegate River Lodge on a sunny, but not too hot July 4th was about as perfect as it could be.

The service contained the essentials, but was at the same time tailored to the tastes and personalities of the bride & groom, and it got me thinking that really that is the way all weddings ought to be. As long as they contain the legal essentials, the rest of the ceremony is up to the couple, and to include a time when the bride and groom prayed together while the PA played Sufjan Stevens' sublime reading of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" was a lovely touch.

I'm all for informality, and this wedding was a great example of just the right level of the formal and the informal. Sometimes at weddings you just get this sense of starchiness and having to be on your best behaviour all the time, but Jaci & Josh successfully managed to keep things light, fun, yet still God centred.

All in all, a great day. Thank you to Jaci & Josh for the invite, and I wish you every happiness and blessing in your life together.