Blog archive August 2004
i came to punk a little late. i read all the scare stuff in the newspapers, but somehow didn't really hear the music until i went to university in the autumn of 1977, just in time to buy 'never mind the bollocks' without parental disapproval. the moment i heard the sex pistols i understood entirely. this was what we had been waiting for, in the bland desert of the mid-70s. i cut my hair messily, wore t-shirts made from plastic dustbin liners and supermarket carrier bags, and a bicycle chain and padlock round my neck. fortunately no photos survive.
and that christmas i returned to the christmas dance of the school i had just left, in a toned-down new wave expression [skinny tie, 60s jacket etc]. and the teachers were afraid of me. yet they had known me for seven years, and i hadn't changed inside at all. and i learned three things that have stayed with me ever since:
1. people believe what they read in the papers
2. people judge by appearances
3. always be sceptical of moral panics. the truth, seen from the inside, may be very different.
incidentally, if you want to wear a carrier bag just cut a neck-hole in the bottom and two armholes in the side seams, and pull it on so the handles are round your waist. the logo will be upside down - instant ironic branding! have to be skinny though. i couldn't do it now.
kester writes about the punk movement of 1976-77 as cultural permission-giver - you don't have to be skilled, beautiful or rich, anybody can do something - and thinks alternative worship may have a similar function - and short creative life before exhaustion or co-option.
and i thought:
punk gave permission at the time, but continues to give permission to this day.
you don't have to last to be lasting.
in 'the complex christ', kester quotes a line from 'mission shaped church':
'it is a cause of major celebration when an alt worship community lasts ten years'
which set me thinking:
a lot happens in ten years
many cultural expressions don't last ten years [pop groups, magazines, art movements, tv series, protest groups etc]
it's only institutions which last longer, and alt worship is not an institution or in the business of making institutions
the important thing is that the possibility continues, not any one expression of it
so it's out now and i got my copy
there's a discussion board as well on the site which i kept quiet about because i was looking after it while kester was on holiday and i didn't want any custom :)
i've quoted bits from the draft version ages ago. this is a review i did for greenbelt's 'wing and a prayer' magazine:
'The Complex Christ is a book about changing the church, but it digs deeper than most of the current postmodern makeover and resource books. Brewin is a member of London alt-worship group Vaux, but he sees alternative worship as like punk - a ground-clearing explosion that leaves space and permission for new things, rather than the long-term future itself.
He draws on the new science of emergence to argue that the Church must become ‘emergent’ not ‘emerging’ - a self-organising, open system built on bottom-up change, with distributed knowledge and servant leadership. The Church must be part of urban culture, yet subvert and bring change with the stratagems of the trickster. But God prefers evolution to revolution, and we must learn to wait for God’s new thing to be born as so many did in the Bible.
Large slices of Biblical exploration and new science give a theological depth missing from much ‘emerging church’ writing. The Complex Christ is a complex book, yet Brewin's engaging and witty prose guides us through, with reference to the likes of Rolf Harris, the Sex Pistols and Ofsted. This is a rich and original book which makes most church futurology look shallow.'
to which i'd add from my notes:
brewin's book is about emergent church rather than emerging church, and the difference is important. he sees most of what is currently happening under that label or as alternative worship as at worst window dressing for the old structures, and at best a ground clearing exercise which he likens to punk - an explosive moment that leaves space and permission for future newness.
[this book is] a challenge to those who hope that a 'postmodern' makeover will save the church. [it's about] the necessity of a much more radical transformation than that, based in god's own example of radical incarnation into the unexpected form of a baby.
a key theme is evolution not revolution, and the necessity of waiting for god's new birth. one of the best parts of the book is the chapter called 'advent', in which brewin considers the times of waiting we pass over in the bible, between old and new testaments, between annunciation and birth, and takes them as the model for our situation now - that we need to drop our programmes and business, learn to grieve and be patient - that the kingdom is brought in by evolution not revolution.
i can only say - THIS BOOK IS SIGNIFICANT. READ IT - especially you program-driven 'postmodern' church people out there.
nic had lost his 'god is in the shit' photos, but fortunately had sent jpgs to me [that ended up on my blog and a few other places]. in returning them i noticed he is now working ten minutes walk from me... so nic wrote, "we should grab an ‘All Day Breakfast’ at ‘Franks’"
and i typed 'frank's shoreditch' into google and found classic cafes
'Classic Cafes is a seriously sentimental celebration of the 'classic' Italian-styled Formica cafe/coffee bar dating from the early and middle part of the 20th century. Places that cultural critic Richard Hoggart described as: "full of corrupt brightness, of improper appeals and moral evasions... a sort of spiritual dry-rot amid the odour of boiled milk."'
'From Billy Liar to Brief Encounter, the classic 1950s & 1960s cafe/coffee bar was a vital part of popular culture in Britain. Full of dreamers, schemers and social outcasts reliving better times, the cafe in modern British literature and art is a place of disaffection and alienation but also creativity, romance and bohemianism... This Cafe of dreams embodies a culture of contentment seemingly long gone.
Classic Cafes champions the faded, yet somehow still vivid, attractions of the authentic greasy spoon, documenting an institution perilously close to vanishing altogether...
Classic Cafes upholds the evocation, protection and celebration of cafe-style and charisma. The dormant charms and warm atmospheres - the fug and food! A little English allure which speak volumes about a national confidence dating from the 1950s...
Classic Cafes cherishes the preservation and upholding of all the minutiae of... formica signs; tables; mosaics; ceilings; Gaggia machines; light fittings; booths; banquettes; chairs; cutlery; coathangers; cruet; plates; saucers; cups; knives & forks...
Classic Cafes values the warm, family-centred nature of these places. And especially celebrates the spectrum of huddled cafe misfits and outsiders: lapsed psychotics; sundry recovering nutters; tensed pensioners; tabloided builders; strapped actors; PC powered SWP gangs...
Classic Cafes extols the remarkable therapeutic function of the cafe - an oasis of drab British peace and repose in a power-crazed, craze powered metropolis...'
in the window of The Gap it says 'AUTHENTIC' in front of a display of jeans. what does 'authentic' mean, exactly, in this context? or has it become a meaningless word of consumer desire like 'luxury', 'exclusive', 'designer'?
the graffiti is a better class in shoreditch. graphically oriented. i've seen several things that are in 'street logos' [on my booklist]. i pass a banksy rat pouring toxic waste onto the pavement on my way to work.
deja vu. on the way to lunch i glanced down a street and realised i'd been there for a job interview 12 years ago and hadn't seen or even thought about it since. back then shoreditch was a neglected corner of the city. i wondered where i was as i picked my way through the puddles and litter to a grimy victorian warehouse. you could have shot oliver twist there, in all senses. now it's almost over, as a fashionable area. the warehouse is clean.
i didn't get the job and didn't care much. they were sooo pretentious.
i have two lives at 90 degrees to one another. each appears as no more than a thin line when seen from within the other.
how good is this?
'Bikes Against Bush is a one-of-a-kind, interactive protest/
performance occurring simultaneously online and on the streets of NYC during the upcoming Republican National Convention. Using a Wireless Internet-enabled bicycle outfitted with a custom-designed printing device, the Bikes Against Bush bicycle can print spray-chalk text messages sent from web users directly onto the streets of Manhattan.'
check out the quicktime movie
"When your own time to die comes, will death be more easy because your last days were filled with hate? Oh, yes, fully justified hate, but whoever found hate a satisfactory meal?
"Better far to forget, or at least forgive. Easily said, by me, but not by the survivors. So the only words left must be these: Be merciful."
Bernard Levin, who died on Saturday, questioning in 1995 whether elderly Nazis should still be tried by their equally elderly victims. Levin himself a Jew of course. Beautiful.
'It seems that every company imaginable is getting its own Web site [sic]. Even individuals are taking the plunge. The latest status symbol is putting up one's own personal home page - a private URL is more desirable than a Beverly Hills area code - complete with digitized portrait, hypertext resumé, your vacation photos, and of course the proper links to your favourite Web sites and the home pages of all your friends. Mosaic, I think, will one day be everyone's personal interface with the world. Soon we will have Secure Mosaic and be able to use our credit cards to buy things directly from Mosaic sites. Already, you can order a pizza via Mosaic, from the Pizza Hut Web site.'
Steven Levy, in Macworld December 1994. Less than ten years ago...
I still think a private URL is more desirable than a Beverly Hills area code though.
all this talk about sabbaths... i've been getting home from work at 9 or 10pm all this week, too tired to do anything much except watch tv. in fact i've been watching too much nighttime tv for a while now, to the detriment of my other activities and sleep time. i ended up watching big brother this year because it was on when i was watching, and in the end i was engaged. i became aware of the trajectory of the show. it seems like a freakshow in the early weeks, full of annoying and shallow people. but as they get evicted the remaining ones grow into relationship with one another, with their situation, and also unknowingly with viewers like me, who see them most nights - maybe the only non-work people i see for an hour!
in the end it was moving to watch nadia win, because it meant so much to her - not fame, or money, but public acceptance. all she could say [coherently] was "thankyou" again and again. she had forgotten about the prize money - having gained something of far greater worth.
at the beginning her transexuality had seemed part of this year's plot to stir things up in the big brother house - the viewers knew but the housemates didn't - what would happen when she told them? when would she tell them? after an affair? but she never did tell them, because she wanted to be accepted for who she is now. and by the end it had genuinely become irrelevant - almost no point in telling, of a past left behind. a redemptive story then, and surely the most deserving non-careerist winner of the five so far.