Saturday, 7 February 2009

You Need a Wife, No You**Really** Need a Wife

There’s only one thing more irritating than Smug Couples, and that is Smug Christian Couples. Not all couples are smug and not all Christian couples are smug, but all Smug Couples, whether Christian or otherwise, are indeed smug.

The problem with Smug Christian Couples (let’s call them SCCs from now on) is that they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be single, and they’ve forgotten all of the factual statements they made while they were single.

You see, when they were single, they were there with all the genuine people saying “All you need is Jesus! Jesus is all the world to me! Jesus will make you whole! You only need Jesus to be complete! Jesus loves you! Jesus can be everything to you"!”, but no sooner are they on the sniff of heat and they’ve forgotten it all; “I need a woman! I need a woman! Nggggggg! Neeeeeeee! I need a woman right now!” and before you know it, they’re in a relationship and suddenly, single people don’t exist, and if they do, everything they do is done because they’re single and therefore utterly worthless.

“You’re only saying that because you haven’t got a girlfriend” is an  message that has been implied to me a number of times by SCCs. Suddenly, my opinions on world politics, the Middle East and the economic slowdown are of no importance because I’m not in a relationship. What I need, in the eyes of these wise ones is a wife since it’s only then that any of my opinions can be taken at all seriously.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t want a relationship; I’ve met some very beautiful and intelligent women in my time and I’d be a liar if I said the thought of a relationship never crossed my mind – come on! I’m a bloke! But to be treated as a social outcast is one thing; to be treated as a social outcast by people who themselves were treated as social outcasts is another.

Suddenly, they start saying all of the things that made them go all self righteously indignant when people said these things to them. If I ever do that, please someone – shoot me! Kill me! Stick my head on a spike and hold it up for all to see!

But it’s suddenly impossible to enthuse about a woman’s beauty without being told I need a wife. Oddly, if I enthuse about a wonderful vista from a mountain top, nobody tells me ‘you need a field’ or if I gush about the beauty of a idyllic coastline, nobody says ‘you need a sea’ (no Tim, I’m not talking about you). But when you’re single, it is impossible to do or think anything of any genuine import in the eyes of SCCs.

It’s like you only have half a brain until you’re dating, at which point you are finally attributed with the ability to think… which is kind of odd because from what I see, it’s precisely at this point that SCCs appear to stop being able to think!

Try and make yourself a better human being and learn from this blog post; just because you had measles, it doesn’t make you an expert on how to cure measles, but it does mean that you should remember how it feels.

And in case you lack the common sense to understand, nobody’s asking you for sympathy, only that you keep from sticking your arrogant boot in.

Saturday, 17 January 2009


Sutlry heat vibrates everything in sight. The sea, an eternity away on a pale blue horizon gently whispers in the background.

There's nobody around as I walk from the hot sand onto the even hotter broken concrete toward the white stone building shimmering in the distance.

As I approach I see it is a cafe, shut, locked shut but I can see through the black windows the dark empty seats and unemployed ketchup bottles.

Why is this closed? Surely they would be open in a hot season like this. Along the path, there's an ice-cream shop. Also shut. No sign of life anywhere, only my shadow.

I can see the Kit Kats on the shelf and cheap joke toys hanging on a white plastic frame in faded cardboard packaging. Does anybody ever buy these toys? Not here, there's nobody here but me, the scorching sand and the sea.

The sky gently became a darker shade of blue as I sat on a step outside the little trinket shop and watched a yellow ball fall behind the horizon. As the last sliver of the blood red vanished, the sky darkened in a convulsion of silent violence. For a moment, the sea was all that existed. As distant as ever, the sea was what kept my mind from exploding in a confused bliss.

Then, directly opposite where the red sun set, a yellow sun dawned and the shimmering heat immediately returned to the sand and everything around me.

I decided to run to the sea. I don't know where I got the strength but I ran and ran toward the pale blue line. I ran without losing a breath for what could have been an hour and yet the sea seemed as far away as ever. I feared that I would be taken by this heat so I took heart at the sight of what looked like a little beach shop, on the landward horizon.

That is how I found myself here, where the sultry heat vibrates everything in sight. The sea, an eternity away on the pale blue horizon gently whispers in the background.......

For The Future Generations

One of the people behind the new multimillion dollar Large Hadron Collider said that he felt he was contributing something special and significant to humanity. On an internet forum, I mentioned that he should try saying that to someone on a run down housing estate who doesn’t know where their kids’ next meal is coming from. I was soundly corrected and put in my place by someone who pointed out that the Large Hadron Collider is going to improve things for future generations.

Future generations.

This is the unquestioned excuse for everything. If you can say that you’re doing something for future generations, you can get away with anything.

We preserve old buildings for future generations to be able to visit all the old barns of the world. We want to save fossil fuel for future generations to keep warm. We want to keep rare and endangered species for future generations to look at them and say Look at that!

We’re making people suffer today on behalf of the people who might be born, one day, we don’t because they don’t exist yet.

How do you like the idea that you might die of cancer which could be treated but because the government needs to put millions of pounds into watching replays of the Big Bang or go looking for worms in Mars, you’re going to have to die. Hey, if those future generations have to choose between you and a close look at the rings around Uranus, guess who’s not going to hospital?
Of course, it’s a price worth paying if you’re rich because you won’t need to change your lifestyle and anything you buy, you can probably get on some sort of sponsorship anyway, but if you’re poor, living hand-to-mouth and you don’t know if you can even afford to go to work next week, you got to look at it like this; it’s a price worth paying and you’ve got to look at the big picture.

Who are these future generations anyway? How do we know the future generations won't be generations of idiots? The past isn't exactly a good form! The better things are, the more people take, exploit and abuse so what's going to happen to suddenly transform humans into the responsible, caring and honest species we seem to romantically imagine the future generations to be?

No. What's happening is that today's poor are paying the price for tomorrow's rich.

There will always be economic classes because the economy requires that there are people who are poor and who don't have stuff so that those who do have stuff can have stuff that's valuable.

In fact, the only person who stands to gain from all the for future generations lark is the last human that will ever live. If that person has a crap life, then it's all a waste of time.

If you become the last human alive, rest assured, it's all for you. We're all thinking of you. You're the one we're keeping all this for, so get your ass down the museums, National Trust houses, colleges, museums and listed buildings and, if you get time, call into a graveyard to say thanks.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Jesus The Jew

There's a dopcumentary on TV tonight in the UK trying to persuade me of the offending a challenging truth that Jesus was a Jew.

Of course He was! I really am confused by this. Why has so much time been devoted to explain the obvious? Jesus was a Jew, He knew the Torah and obeyed it. He followed every Jewish law. He was a Jew in every sense of the word. He didn't improve on Judaism, He didn't abolish the law, he didn't come to wipe out Jewish ancestry.

As far as I'm concerned, when Jews become Christians (these are known as Messianic Jews), I don't see that they've stopped being Jewish.

Why is this supposed to shock me?

I'd have a bigger problem if someone tried to argue that Jesus was a Gentile!

I have a massive, enormous and humongous problem with those who blame the Jews for Christ being Crucified. If you care enough to know who killed Jesus, then you need to know that the responsibility rests on you, whoever you are and whatever your ethnicity.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

What Are They Fighting For?

The awkward question that nobody seems to be asking regarding the trouble in Gaza this; What are they fighting for?

Let's take a look.

  • Target
    Israeli civilians
  • Response to innocent deaths
  • Long term goals
    Destroy Israel
  • Action taken to protect own civilians
    None. No effort made to move anybody from any kind of military 'base'. Some might say deliberate placing of missile launchers among civilians is standarn military practice


  • Target
    Hamas military
  • Response to innocent deaths
  • Long term goals
    Establish a viable Palestinian state
  • Action taken to protect own civilians
    Air raid shelters, alerts and ensuring civilians are kept apart from military establishments.

Why doesn't Hamas target Israel's military bases?

Israel is fighting to survive. Hamas is fighting to destroy Israel.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Atheists Need To Chill, Or Grow Up

In America, there are these atheists who foam at the mouth whenever someone uses the word 'god' in any way other than derogatory. Actually, there are many in other Western countries as well (not so much in other countries since they don't want to get shot) who are really quite the same (just look for them on YouTube, they're all over the place.

These atheists are so fragile and of such a delicate mental disposition, if you are ever so bold as to say anything even remotely positive about any god, in a public place, they'll sue you for breaching their constitutional right to not hear the word 'god'.

What really gives them palpitations is whenever they pick up a US dollar bill because, written on it are the words 'In God We Trust'. Merely buying a candy bar with one of these dollar bills sends them into months of therapy.

They need to relax and chill and learn from the theists who live in the UK! Do you hear about Christians trying to sue the Bank of England for offence against their eyes and sensibilities? Do you hear of death threats against workers of the Royal Mint because of a horrendous offence against their beliefs?

What is it that could offend the theists? Well, it doesn't actually offend the theists in the UK because they're more grown up than the photo-sensitive atheists.

Maybe these atheists should move to the UK and buy UK Ten Pound Notes because, it just so happens, a picture of the atheist god is printed on every Ten Pound Note. No, I'm not talking about Richard Dawkins or the Flying Speghetti Monster, but none other than the Reverend Charles Darwin.

Do we see campaigns, posters, complaints and documentaries about the evils of having someone who is supposed to be so offensive to a segment of a society written on currency?

Nah. Can't be bothered. Too many important things to do.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christian Perspective?

It happens every Easter and Christmas. There's a holiday that Christians really dig and so the media put up a documentary or other 'groundbreaking' non-fiction to expose how false something is. If they don't do that, they present a series of documentaries looking at how people who don't like Christianity view the various Christian feasts.

Let's get an atheist's view of Christ's life to broadcast over Easter, let's get the Iranian Prime Minister (who happens to torture Christians and has promised to wipe Israel off the face of the map) to do a Christmas presentation. Let's get a disillusioned 'theologian' to walk across deserts while trying to pick at everything Christians hold dear right in the middle of their favourite festivals because this is what being topical is all about.

I'm not saying that there are no questions to ask about what Christianity teaches, I'm not saying that there's no debate to be had over the social imact of what Christ said, but it's funny how you don't get the equivalent. It's odd how, during the celebrations of Darwin's birthday, you won't get any of the discussions looking at the problems with evolutionary theory. You won't get so-called experts telling you why Ramadan could be a pointless festival.

Nope, the two that get the hit are Christians and Jews. Christians, because they don't try and force people to shut up on pain of death (hundreds of years ago, they did, but they don't now... there are countries where other religions will kill you for such blasphemy, but we don't mention that in the West). Jews get it because it's trendy to hate Israel with an intellectual blind-eye to the attacks it faces every day. In fact, it could be argued that Jews get a double-hit from the media because they're hated via Israeli politics and they're ridiculed when people apply flawed but ever-so-attractive logic to the 'Christian Old Testament' (which is a lot of the Jewish Bible).

Will we ever get a fair balance in the media? Not likely, unless you count Songs of Praise (which, I have to admit, is good three out of five times). But when it comes to getting a message across, you'll stand a better chance if you go with the flow and resist the urge to think for yourself.

Funny, isn't it, that in order to be an individual, you have to go and find out the latest trends in individualism in order to do it in a fashionable way?

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Did Google and Apple Kill Microsoft?

Is it possible that Google and, to an extent, Apple, killed Microsoft?

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post highlighting cracks in Microsoft's armour and which could have been omens of the beginning of the end for Microsoft. Has anything changed since then?

Well, the cracks are still there; Windows Mobile sucks, Vista has terrible press and Ballmer is still a brainless babboon-boy. But a lot has changed and, it could be argued, that Microsoft has died an Old Labour death, only to give birth to a smiley and happy new Microsoft.

Microsoft seems to be opening up in many technological areas. It's developing more software on competitors' platforms than ever before and even chosing other platforms over its own at times. There are signs that innovation is taking place (Mesh) and that it is learning from past mistakes (Windows 7, though I must admit that Vista's bad press is not insubstantially unfair).

It would seem that Google et al have indeed killed Microsoft in the same way that Margaret Thatcher killed Old Labour and out of the ashes of a monolithical monster, a new Blairite regime has began to find a footing.

Was it Bill Gates that was holding everything back? Don't be fooled. Microsoft hasn't become nice, it's only become better. It has seen what others are doing and has decided to copy them, only this time, instead of copying others' technology, it's started to copy some of the methods and attitudes of the competition.

But this is a good thing. I, for one, am finding it more palletable to use Microsoft products, liking where they're going and have even subscribed to their TechNet program. It's good. I like it.

I still think that Microsoft doesn't have the criminal record it deserves, but at least now, things are beginning to look better - if not perfect.

Apple? Watch your back. Microsoft is coming.

Christmas: The Impossible Dream & The Boxing Day Solution

I am genuinely concerned by the 'spirit of Christmas'. It's like some sort of mass hypnosis that turns normally rational people into strange automatons, hell bent on being nuts and doing stupid things.

No, I'm not talking about religious zealots, but the people we all meet on a daily basis.

At no other time of year do we have such a justification to do literally anything as we do when we say 'go on, it's Christmas'.

Shall I get drunk out of my head and make a complete dick of myself? Why not! It's Christmas!
Shall I photocopy my arse and send it to my boss? Why not! It's Christmas!
Shall I be unfaithful to my wife? Why not! It's Christmas!
Shall I spend more money than I have on stuff nobody needs? Why not! It's Christmas!

We sing dumbass songs which have no equivalent for the rest of the year! We celebrate a snowman that takes a kid for a quick spin in the sky, we sing of Granny kissing Santa and dancing around a tree. Who on earth would sing of 'burgers roasting on a BBQ'?

None of it makes sense and at best, it's a shallow veneer of fake goodwill which covers up a hard surface of mediocrity and self serving judgement.

How does it happen? What is it that can take a nation and hurl it into a whirlpool of contradiction? All of a sudden, we start caring for the disadvantaged, but we hope for a white Christmas and stuff anybody who lives in a cardboard box. In fact, society romanticises homelessness and poverty, harkening back with longing hearts to the Victorian era where children were seen and not heard, unless they were orphans in which case they were not even seen.

How does this work?

Is it materialism? I think that's part of it, but not all of it since there's more to what's going on than mere materialism. I think it's a perception that we have an excuse to not care (it's Christmas after all). We turn off our immediate capacity to judge, but it isn't that we love our neighbour and show them love, we just don't give a damn what they do because we're too busy getting off our faces.

Families and individuals are trying to live an impossible dream; The Perfect Christmas.

As long as your perfect Christmas is Andy Williams, a log fire, children playing with toy trains and a little snow to decorate the window pane, you will be depressed on Boxing Day.

I've found a little secret. What many people call 'the real meaning of Christmas' is the perfect solution for Boxing Day. You should try it. You may find it works. You may find that when you find what many call 'the real meaning of Christmas', you have that 'Christmas Joy' in your blood throughout the year.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

SQL Reporting Services Reports from Multiple Databases

I've been trying to work out how to get a single SQL report to run on different databases of the same structure so that I don't have to release each report thirty times to different customers who all have exactly the same structure of database.

There are some ideas out there which I couldn't get to work properly and they wouldn't work in the report deigner anyway so were a clunky to work with.

What I've come up with is a procedure to build a report and, either add the filters at the end so that design is much quicker (I hate having to type usernames and password every time a test a flippin' report), or will work from within the designer as you wish.

I start off with a regular shared DataSource and a report that's pretty much complete;

  1. Add a single string Parameter called DatabaseName
  2. In the data designer, click the properties button to the right of the current Data Source
  3. In the window that opens, click on the properties button to the right of the current Data Source
  4. Untick Use shared data source reference
  5. Type the following as the Connection String:

    ="Data Source=RCOPEH2K3VS;Initial Catalog=" & Parameters!DatabaseName.Value
  6. Click on the Credentials tab and select Prompt for credentials then type in a prompt (if you want)

You're now ready to roll! Close all those windows with Ok and then click on the Preview tab.

First, you'll be asked for a username and password and then you'll be asked for a database. The same happens if you run the deployed report from a web page.

If you have any other parameters for your report, you'll have these requested on the same window as the Database name (though, if you're a developer, there's every chance you'll be able to pass this parameter anyway).

The only drawback I can see from this is that you're using built in SQL Server accounts and not standard AD accounts.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Was Microsoft Waiting For Such a Time As This?

There's a Santa Claus movie where an elf invents a machine that can make super-sophisticated toys at breakneck speed. This machine makes him better than Santa and almost puts him out of business, but it becomes apparent after time that great though the elf's machine looked and wonderful though it seemed, it couldn't handle the load of work which was demanded of the North Pole and it fell apart. Santa came back and fixed the whole Christmas market thing.

I wonder if this is what Microsoft has been counting on during Apple's 'I'm a PC and I'm a Mac' commercials for, since the beginning of those rather clever and funny ads by Apple, Microsoft has said nothing. Not a word. Not a reply. Nothing.

Microsoft has form when it comes to pretending that an opponent doesn't exist. Just look at Symbian and how Microsoft, for years, just couldn't say the S-Word (Symbian) and just pretended it wasn't there (and this is true to some extent). But is this what Microsoft has done with Apple, or were they just wise?

Symbian has only gone from strength to strength, but these last few months have been rather bruising for Apple. it started off with evidence of proof-of-concept viruses, moved on to the disaster that was MobileMe, then the iPhone 2.0 firmware stank like a decaying badger with a good release only coming out this weekend just gone. Now, we hear of Apple blocking applications from the iPhone (a fart machine and a podcast player) because they serve no purpose and duplicate built in functionality, despite there being all manner of pointless joke apps which serve no real purpose and calculators which replace that which is already in there.

All in all, Apple has started to look like a company that's all talk and no trousers, plenty of style but not enough content. In fact, I fear that Apple is starting to look like that elf I mentioned at the top of the story.

So, what better time is there for Microsoft to start its new advertising campaign!? The commercials may not be particularly easy to decipher in regard to what they're actually saying (even the full length ones), but they are good and could well be saying "look, Apple has had a go and they can't handle working with the misters. Come back to old faithful."

Is this what's happening? I don't see any evidence that this is what's happening, yet, but I can see a situation where the tide of growth could be coming to a premature end for Apple as Microsoft comes in like the big brother who allowed his little brother a go at batting and shows him how to do it like a grown up.

It pains me to write all this because I'm what many might call an Apple Fanboy, but I have to call it as I see it here and while I believe that Microsoft has gotten off lightly for its lack of innovation (what they call innovation, I call shopping for others' ideas) and its criminal activity, it has shown that it can handle the traffic of a large customer base.

I think that Apple's opportunity to shine may be short and if it doesn't sort it out soon, it may have had its day as the premium technology provider.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Being Told What To Think

I know that there are many causes in this world which need to be fought for. The greatest cause for which any group can ever fight is that of equality. No matter what someone's position is on a matter, equality is essential to ensure all humans are given the respect they deserve by virtue of the the fact that they exist.

But just because a cause names equality as its essential motive, there is never an excuse to try and limit people's thought, to police their opinions or to fence in their facilities to express themselves. I don't care who you are, what you stand for or why you're fighting, the moment you start to tell me what words I can and can't use, on the grounds that you think they're bad words, you lose me.

Never, ever, ever try and remove words from my dictionary in an effort to limit my right to debate, question or challenge.

The page that wound me up like this was one that took me right back to the NewSpeak of 1984; Stonewall's Dictionary of Equality Language.

I want to look at some of their definitions and question the motives behind them;

Gay agenda: A homophobic term used to denigrate the LGB equality movement. It suggests a conspiracy to promote 'homosexuality' while threatening the 'norm' of heterosexual society.
Hang on a minute, how is it a bad thing to recognise that organisations like Stonewall have an agenda? Of course they do. Everybody has an agenda. Everybody has an objective. What, do the members of Stonewall just sit around and look into blank space, not saying anything just in case they find a direction?

Of course they have an agenda. At best, it's equality. At worst, who knows? But the fact is this, they have an agenda but we're not supposed to know it. That's why it's homophobic to say Gay Agenda.

Why wouldn't they want us to consider their agenda, their objectives, their goals?

Gay sex: A derogatory term used to define gay men by the sex they have, and ignores the emotional aspects of being gay. Often used in the media to imply a certain sleaziness to a story.
Nope, it's not to define the men, it's to describe the sexual act.

So far, we have a movement (Stonewall) where we're not allowed to consider its agenda and we're not allowed to talk about what people in the community do because they don't like the words.
Homosexual: Considered by some in the LGB community to be a derogatory and offensive term. It was used when same-sex attraction/relationships were construed as a mental illness. Use gay, lesbian, gay man/woman, bisexual, bisexual man/woman or the acronym LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual).
How can I keep up with what I can and can't say? I was always taught that using the term Homosexual was a respectful term. Never, in school or outside, was the term homosexual considered negative or derogatory. In fact, the term gay was considered to be as rude and disrespectful as poofter.

Now I'm told it's an insult despite the fact that someone who is homosexual is actually homo-sexual. How long before the word gay is considered denigrating because youngsters have started to use it to mean bad, boring, pathetic and horrible?

Well, at least I have the web page to tell me what words I should use.
Homophobia: literally defined as fear of 'the other'. The beliefs and actions of people who hold these views and act upon them are based around a hatred of, or intolerance for, and/or a refusal to accept or acknowledge the equal rights of any lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
Now we're cooking! This one word covers the entire spectrum, from refusal to accept right through to hatred. That's one helluva sweeping statement and talk about clipping the intellectual wings of someone who wants to think and understand!

But consider this loaded text; refusal to accept or acknowledge the equal rights of any lesbian, gay and bisexual people. I know people who believe that there is a moral issue in gay-ness (I'm not allowed to say homosexuality, remember?) but who also openly believe in equality for all people. Are people like this, homophobic? Experience tells me that if you disagree with any issue raised by the gay community (remember, there's no agenda so it's probably something that someone said when they forgot they weren'a allowed to say it), no matter how small, you're homophobic.
Prejudice: many people have prejudices or a faint dislike of people or groups. However, being prejudiced against a person or persons becomes very serious if that prejudice has an effect on the way that person is treated. Once a prejudicial thought is translated into a deed it becomes an act of discrimination.
So don't have the thought. Get it? Don't even think it.

Think about this for a minute, you've just been told that the word 'homosexual' is insulting, that there's no such thing as the 'gay agenda' and if you think there is, you're homophobic. Now, with this latest one, if you're in any doubt as to whether you wanting to ask a question could be an act of prejudice, you're probably better off not asking the question. it could turn into an act of prejudice so hey, let's not think about it - just in case.
Stereotyping: Stereotyping occurs when a person or organisation has pre-conceived ideas and notions about an individual or a group of people. For example, 'All gay men are camp' or 'All lesbians wear DM's and shave their heads.'
Maybe they could add to that 'everyone who uses the term 'homosexual' is a homophobe'?


As I said at the top, equality is a must for everyone. Nobody should be the underdog who suffers at the selfish greed or insecurity of another. Nobody. No exceptions.

That essential need for equality does not justify the removal of the the tools of thought; words. For, by removing words from the vocabulary of the people, those doing the removing are exalting themselves above everyone else and, guess what? There's no equality.

No doubt, this blog post is going to be considered by some as proof of an anti-gay agenda or some kind of homophobic scheme. Sadly, the stupid people who will conclude that I hate gays based on this blog post will not be driven by evil motives but actually, by good and well-meaning motives. I say 'sadly' because as well-meaning as many of these people may be who hate what they think I've written, they'll be too stupid to see beyond their blinkered NewSpeak noses to understand what I'm saying.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

01792 306900

I got a call today from 01792 306900. They were offering me cheaper mobile phone insurance.

I smelled a rat, so I asked them if they could tell me anything about my account, whether it was my home number, address, date of birth, anything. They couldn't tell me a thing apart from my mobile number (which they had dialled).

They tried this on me a few months back and I reported them to O2. I reported them again this time.

What I find confusing, however, is that after a little Googling today, this telephone number has been used for at least a year for the sole purpose of extorting money out of people, pretending to be offering phone insurance for people.

In total, this is the third time a Swansea based number has been used to try and scam me out of money like this. The first time, I had bought a phone from Phones4U where they were so desperate for me to get phone insurance, they gave me in cash more than the total amount of the insurance over a 12 month period. I wondered why until I got that call.

But if this company keeps using a Swansea based number, surely someone can try and sort it out? Can't someone call BT and say something along the lines of 'where does 01792 306900 go?'

I know that I've jested about Swansea and the people of Swansea in the past, but this is no joke; these people are like a bath filled with fresh human turds, covered with five day old custard and gone-off gravy.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

AblazeUK 08 - A Personal Review

The AblazeUK Apostolic Church conference finished on Thursday so I figured I'd do a little review to say what I thought were the good points and bad points. Some of it will be tongue-in-cheek, but I'll leave it up to your intelligence to work out which bits they are.

now then, to counter the tradition of reviews, I'm going to give say straight away what I thought of the conference; If I had to use but one word, it would be Brilliant. If I was allowed to use two words, they would be Absolutely and Brilliant. Three words? Absolutely, Utterly and Brilliant.

So, here's my breakdown

I've not been shy of saying that past conferences have been a little short of not very good, mainly because of the content. This time, the content was everything I needed; challenging, funny, uncomfortably revealing, comforting, uplifting, directing, renewing... lots of really good stuff.

Apart from one (maybe two) shouty sermons, the quality was out of this world. Jeff Lucas is, in my opinion, a Christian equivalent to a cross between Larry David and Ben Elton, but with his 'observational preaching' (have I just coined a phrase there?) came numerous very sharp points that made me reconsider my attitude toward much of my life. The same can be said about Malcolm Duncan who was sharp and honest. The new National Leader showed from the start that he means business and that frightens me - which is a great thing!

There was a very healthy emphasis on prayer. The word emphasis doesn't do this justice. In past conferences, prayer was a sideline, a fringe event for extremists with zip-up Bibles and notepads the size of a small table. This time, prayer was everywhere.

This is how much this conference has changed; there was more emphasis placed on prayer than there was on money.

How awesome is that!? Oddly enough, the lack of emphasis on money made me happier to give money to the cause and wish I had more to give.

The content of the conference alone is enough to make up for anything bad that could be said about the event. It was astounding. Could it be better? I hope so else there's not much to look forward to next year, but this conference was such an enormous leap that I'm still catching my breath.

Did I mention that this was very good?

So, the meat aside, let's look at some trivial, dare I say periphery issues. For example, the toilets. Yes, the toilets. These are the kind of toilet you daren't stay in for longer than five minutes else your clothes will stink of that blue radioactive goo they use to flush the things. Euch. Not nice and everyone outside can see your pants if you need to do a Number 2 (unless you're someone who keeps them around your knees and not ankles).

Food was good, if a little pricey - but you could always shop around for a bargain in the food tent. For example, Bacon Fries were 60p on one table but 50p on the other. Great, save some money and slap it into the collection basket (actually, it was more of a collection sick-bowl - I'm sure I've hurled chunks into a bowl like that before).

However you look at it, the food tent provided a handy meeting and eating place where you could browse some good books and get yourself a carved wooden angel (who came up with that idea!? Carved wooden angels that seem to have the same sentiment as Carebears - Here's Happy Angel, here's Comforting Angel, here's Special-Time-Of-The-Month Angel and here's Gardening Angel).

You just had to be careful if you sat in the eating area 'cause you could have gone flying head-over-heels on a floor that was about as flat as the Brecon Beacons.

There was also an underused creche facility. Underused because (rightfully) proud parents would (wrongly) rather block isles and exits with triple-buggy prams and bags of bottles so that everone can see the fruit of their loins, instead of making use of the actual creche and allow the rest of the conference get on with things without having to watch a brat puking up his flumps and flying saucers. However, I must provide disclosure here and say that I spent three services with my awesome nephews, right there in the tent, so go ahead and shoot me.

I still do not understand why the Apostolic Church chose Swansea for the conference. Swansea is not central, is not accessible..... is not even nice. It was only called a city because the people there were jealous of Cardiff and if a city's biggest selling point is a fountain outside McDonald's, then you get the jist of Swansea (yes, I know, there's Rhosilli, Gower etc - but isn't it odd that all the best things about Swansea are outside of Swansea, where the people aren't?)

But, let it not be said that I never have anything good to say about Swansea - the parking for the conference was reasonable at £1.50 per day and you were within walking distance of the shops... and the fountain outside McDonald's. There is a beach, if you don't mind playing Super-Frogger in the four lanes of traffic, but take a plastic bag - you may want to clean a spot for yourself in the sand before you sit down (I was lucky, I found an old crate which kept my botty clear of the ground which makes the conference toilets look good enough to eat off).

Some people say that your average Apostolic is like a Pharisee with the friendliness taken out. I think that's terribly unfair and the Pharisees weren't as bad as that. Yet, the sad truth is that the conference is geared toward people who are either in couples or in groups. There is no provision whatsoever for single, on-their-own, honest-to-goodness, lonely people. There's nothing at all to do in the day, unless you're in a group or you're a woman and the day starts with a Mon.

If you go to the morning service, you have a limited choice for what to do in the afternoon;

  • Go home
  • Walk into town (sorry, city)
  • Stay in the food tent and look like a Billy-no-mates
  • Sit in the main tent and practice your Christian-Jedi tricks
Once a service is underway, everything's fine. It's just the long bits in between that are a problem; the long bits in between and the people. Not all the people though. You only really need to watch out for the over-zealous Three-Point-Oners; these are the people who treat you like a Big Issue salesperson if you're over 25 and still single, that is, they know you're there but pretend to be too busy to acknowledge you - your existence spoils their belief that everybody in the Aspostolic Church is Living the Dream. They don't want to talk to you and if they feel they must, they will only ask why you're not married and look at you like you have a sexual problem (oddly enough, these Inquisitors are usually Pastor's wives - honest, I'm not lying and unless you're in these shoes, you won't know it).

I wanted to start with the serious positives before moving onto the not-so-serious negatives because the positive is so positive, I found I really don't care about the negatives. In the past, I've felt that there wasn't enough positive to warrant enduring the negatives, but this time, things were different and, more importantly, by the end of the conference, I was different.

You see, looking at all the negatives I've written here, it sounds like I want to world to change to suit me. I did. But the bottom line is that rather than change the world to make me feel comfortable, God is in the business of changing me to make me stronger.

In the same way as I had to learn to deal with the negatives in order to appreciate the very real positives in this year's conference, I encourage anybody who's offended by this review to get over it.


Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The Lost Chapter of the Gospel of Luke

[1] And after he did raise the dead, heal the lame and bring peace to the afflicted, behold, many yet believed Him not saying [2] "Yea, thou hast done many things but thou art also very preachy unto our ears. [3] Be thou not so preachy and we may yet believe that thou art He who Thou sayest thou art."

[4] Therefore did He say unto the twelve "As the sun riseth on the morning of the morrow, even the day that followest this, we shall go into the streets of the towns and villages with sticks of picking and pick up the litter thereof." [5] And Thomas did say "shall we not also weed the gardens of the people of the towns and the villages, picking up their daisies and mowing their lawns with a great mowing?" and thus they established in their hearts to do so, and they did preach not a word since then even unto this day.

[6] As the sun rose, they did pick up all the litter of the villages; skinds of the banana, packets of the crisp and teabags which were yet soggy were collected all, and the people marvelled. [7] Then did they the mowing of the lawns and the weeding of the gardens and the people were filled the people with awe, even as unto a great awe-filling, and the people did say among themselves "forsooth! The lame walked, the blind did see and the demon posessed were released but this! This is something our eyes have never beheld! Indeed, Israel hath never had such lawns and rockeries and clean streets!" [8] The middle classes have, even this day, nice gardens in which to have barbeques and the homeless have cleaner streets in which to sleep!

[9] And one, known as Gosphlius, did behold his well mown lawn and said "surely, this is the Son of God".