Friday, 27 June 2008

Concert review: Radiohead in Victoria Park, 25/06/2008

I used to play football in Vicky Park as a kid. That was a lot of fun. But I had way more fun there on Wednesday night.

This was huge in a few different ways. First, the number of people. My friend commented on entering that "this is more like a festival", and I had to agree. Second, the set. They were on for two hours, comprising two encores, and so there was time to play the whole of latest relese In Rainbows and a bunch of older favourites, too. A fair number of people were screaming for "Just" and had to leave disappointed in that respect, although the cheer was so loud when the band kicked into "The Bends" that everyone seemed to forget about it, and the finish with "Paranoid Android" was masterful.

Third, the sound. You could really tell these guys had been rehearsing. Song followed song played extremely tight. And with enthusiasm, too: the rehearsing, recording and touring didn't seem to have gotten in the way of that. Jonny Greenwood waved his arms around as if being attacked by the notes he was playing, while Ed O'Brien strode about the stage being a rockstar (Jonny didn't want to play face-on-close-up with him, though) and Thom Yorke alternately danced like a demented nerd and engaged in ironic audience manipulation: collapsing in laughter after getting cheers from different parts of the crowd by pointing, and successfully encouraging people to wave their arms while singing
They were smiling and waving,
Smilling and waving, twitching and salivating
Like with myxamatosis.
Of course, one major reason they were able to play so many songs was because not a lot of talking went on. One of the few comments to be made was "soon the sun will go down, and then we'll be able to use the lights... properly". That was an understatement. The light show was intricate and impressive. In short, it was the complete package. Everyone went home very happy indeed, from the people who came in their work clothes, nodding their heads, to the moshers in all the merchandise gear.

(I didn't get there in time to see the support act, Bats For Lashes, which was a shame. If anyone has any comments about their set I'd be interested).

Set list:
15 Step
There There
All I Need
Weird Fishes / Arpeggi
The National Anthem
Faust Arp
No Surprises
Jigsaw Falling Into Place
Everything In Its Right Place
House of Cards
The Bends
Bangers 'n' Mash
My Iron Lung
Karma Police
Go Slowly
Paranoid Android

Related post: Album review: In Rainbows by Radiohead

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Book review: God, Gays and the Church by Lisa Nolland et al.

Nolland, Lisa Severine, Sudgen, Chris and Finch, Sarah (eds.), God, Gays and the Church: Human Sexuality and Experience in Christian Thinking (London: The Latimer Trust, 2008)

The purpose of this book is summed up succinctly on the cover:

In contemporary discussions about human sexuality, great prominence is given to personal stories from gay people. This emphasis can also be seen in recent Christian debates, such as those in the General Synod of the Church of England in February 2007. But there it was a one-sided testimony, and this book is intended to redress the balance.
That may make this book sound quite Anglican-centric, and parts of it are, slightly (and, of course, the timing of the release is not accidental), but the denominational affiliations of the contributors range from Presbyterian to Roman Catholic, so all Christians will find it useful. Indeed, what has been the historic and unanimous teaching of all Christian denominations until very recently is under increasing pressure from many angles. What is offered here by way of a redress is a collection of articles which have been grouped together under the headings "Narratives", "Genetics", "Psychology and Psychotherapy", "Biblical Theology", "Pastoral Care and Advice" and "Cultural Analysis and Social Ethics", which together aim to show that this historic and unanimous teaching is not only still credible but commendable, and in fact indispensable for anyone who takes orthodoxy remotely seriously. I have previously written some of my thoughts on this topic in this post.

As might be expected from a collection of essays, this book is a mixed bag. The sections on personal testimony and Biblical Theology are very good, in particular the dialogues by J. Budziszewski (which are really a bit of both). Robert Gagnon's article is solid, too, although it is a response to a paper by John Thorp, which isn't reprinted here (although details of where to find it are given). This gives some indication of the bittiness of the collection and seems a bit strange: why not make your own positive case first and then respond to opposing views and objections? Also, I am sceptical of the details of the chapters on psychology and psychotherapy—which won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me—although the overall message is clear enough: very many people have dealt with unwanted same-sex attraction and found the experience to be liberating. So much was confirmed by the personal testimonies of change.

Some parts of this will be more controversial than others, and for different people. For instance, Peter Ould, one of the contributors (who has an uplifting testimony of healing), is not happy with Ronald Lee's essay arguing (from his own experience) that gay culture is predominantly narcissistic, promiscuous and destructive. I agree with Rev. Ould inasmuch as Dr. Lee's argument is not strictly relevant to the main thrust of the book, and in any case there is (sadly) plenty of narcissistic, promiscuous and destructive heterosexual behaviour to worry about as well. The other socio-political chapters—on civil partnerships, the redefinition of marriage, the sexualisation of youth, what makes a stable family unit and the culture wars over "discrimination"—will doubtless prove to be just as controversial in many quarters but are backed up with much more evidence and are, in the end, far more interesting.

Overall, this book could have been better. It obviously came out in a rush: there's even a typo on the back cover. That said, it's still a good, overall convincing book, and a valuable resource. Over at Stand Firm someone was wondering how much longer this sort of publication will remain legal. If those worries are well-founded (which is a subject for another day), then this book could be worth getting now for that reason alone.

Table of contents
1. Post-Gay: The transforming Power of God The Revd Peter Ould and James Parker
2. Post-Lesbian: My Testimony anon
3. Post-Gay: Thank you for offending me Michael Goeke
4. Homophobia: An Unfinished Story and The Seeker Professor J. Budziszewski
5. The Books, the Porn, the Truth Dr Ronald G. Lee
6. Same Sex Attraction (SSA): Is it innate, and immutable? Dr Neil Whitehead
Psychology and Psychotherapy
7. How Might Homosexuality Develop? Putting the Pieces Together Dr Jeffrey Satinover
8. Post-Gay: The Primacy Of Affect: A Psychotherapeutic Approach Dr Joseph Nicolosi
9. Post-Gay: Understanding SSA As A 'Signal' Dr Joseph Nicolosi
10. What If I Don't Change? Dr Joseph Nicolosi
Biblical Theology
11. A Faithful Church: The Bible and Same-Sex Sex Professor Robert A.J. Gagnon
12. 'One of These Things is Not Like the Others': Women's Ordination, Homoeroticism and Faithfulness Professor Edith M. Humphrey
Pastoral Care and Advice
13. Pastoral Considerations For Homosexuality The Revd Mario Bergner
14. Civil Partnerships – Advice to UK Parishes and Clergy The Revd Paul Perkin and Mrs Christine Perkin
Cultural Analysis and Social Ethics
15. Gay Wednesday's 'Gay Pain' Dr Lisa Severine Nolland
16. Unexpected Consequences: The Sexualisation of Youth Dr Lisa Severine Nolland

(I've left out the multiple prefaces and appendices)