Advent

Nov. 30th, 2014 09:15 pm
smhwpf: (Treebeard)
Waaay too long since I have posted, dear LJ.

So I am going to try doing a regular daily post for Advent. You are most welcome to suggest topics, but I won't do a calendar thing, and if topics are not suggested I will just think of my own.

So, to start, Happy New Church Year, to those who mark that sort of thing. Also, Happy St. Andrew's Day.

Despite being one of the least religious countries in the world, Sweden seems to pay surprisingly much attention to the Church year. I think most people in Sweden would know that today is Första Advent (people in Britain who are not churchgoers seem to think it is tomorrow, 1st December, as that is when the calendars with pieces of chocolate behind each day start).

The lights have been going on all over town for a while already though, I think starting the weekend before Advent - this seems to be when some of the big stately homes have their Christmas markets at any rate. But there's definitely a big uptick of starts and seven-pointed (electric) candles in all the windows (including my own) from last night. And the big Christmas tree on Skeppsbron in the Old Town is alight:



I walked past it on my evening ramble today. It is, apparently, 40 metres (133 feet) high, plus an extra 4m for the star, and thus apparently one of the biggest in the world. It is decorated with 5000 lights along with sundry other stuff, and has had extra branches grafted onto it from 20 trees.

1st Advent is also (as I'm sure elsewhere) a day of many concerts, including my own choir's. A variety of Advent hymns, in Swedish, English and a bit of Latin, and Zadok the Priest to finish with something more weighty. The only context (other than a readthrough I suppose) where you will hear the words "God save the King" from my lips.

Have I only just noticed this, or is it particularly a Swedish thing, that Advent hymns are rather samey? I think we must have blessed every Davidsson and Hosie'd every Anna in the North. Anyway, all went well.

Which Churchly matters kind of brings me round to my big thing that will be happening this Advent, which is that I will be officially joining the Church of Sweden on December 10th. I've been going to a Catechumenate group this year, traditionally something for people preparing for Baptism, but in this case a fairly informal discussion group for people interested in being baptized/confirmed/joining the church/just getting to know more about their faith, etc. Anyway on the 10th is a service that is part of the programme, the "affirmation" service, where one of our group will in fact be Confirmed, we'll all make some sort of re-affirmation of faith, in my case there'll be some small thing to mark my joining the Church, and after the service I will sign the official form.

So I will officially be part of a church again. (I suppose technically I still am, as you can't actually leave the Catholic Church as such, though I suppose I have in effect excommunicated myself. Anyway, I will be part of a church that I actually go to). I'm not sure I really want to call myself a Lutheran, as Martin Luther was a right arse in many ways (though with some very important ideas of course), but the Svenska Kyrkan is not really so picky about the teachings of Luther these days so far as I can gather, so happier maybe to describe myself as "part of a Church in the Lutheran tradition" or something. Also, rather critically, "Part of a Church that has definitively decided that gays are fully equal human beings". The specific church I go to, Katarina, is also a rather big part of it. At any rate, one way and another it feels right.

Bragging

Jun. 12th, 2014 01:00 am
smhwpf: (Buffyanne)
I went to hear Billy Bragg this evening! In Stockholm! And he was awesome.

He started off in 1649, hovered round 69 with Ingrid Bergman, visited the 1930s and the 1980s, and of course spent some time Between the Wars, but brought things very much back to 2014, part concert and part political rally, and making it work.

He didhis homework on Swedish politics too. Gave a shout out to the Feminit Initiative, dedicated Power in the Union to the striking rail workers in the south, and Accident Waiting to Happen to the Sweden Democrats.

Boy, could I sing along to Power in the Union with feeling. Of course I've always been pro-union, cheered on the miners in '84 and so on, but this year's been the first time I've really found out for myself what unions mean. Without the unions, we would very probably still be lumbered with our calamitous ex-Director. That includes the local unions (i.e. us), the national union, and all the generations of unionists before us that won such a degree of clout for organized labour in Sweden, still there in spite of the Neoliberalism that's been advancing here as everywhere else.

For his encore, Billy went back to 1983, and his first album, Life's a Riot with Spy vs Spy. The WHOLE DAMNED THING! It's a short album, 7 songs in 16 minutes or so, but damn, that is still some encore!

I said this to myself last time I heard him, but I swear when he sings New England I can hear the ghost of Kirsty McColl singing along with him.
smhwpf: (Had to be there)
Was at the wedding of [livejournal.com profile] borusa and [livejournal.com profile] the_alchemist in Cambridge on Saturday, along with about... 30% of my flist.

An excellent occasion. Catriona looked Magnificent and Robert very dashing, both radiant and very much... so right. Yay for them!

The service was at Little St. Mary's, a high-as-an-elephant's-thigh Anglican church I've been to several times now on various visits, and come to appreciate very much; this service continuing the pattern. Very good choice of hymns (and ah, the singing from the whole congregation!), memorable readings by [livejournal.com profile] yvesilena and [livejournal.com profile] gnimmel...

I was in the choir, we were doing a number of anthems and bits of mass setting, including the first public performance of [livejournal.com profile] purplepiano's Honour, Riches, Marriage Blessing, which we'd previously sung at Bardcamp. (A Shakespeare setting, and a distinctly pagan element in a Christian service, with starring roles for Juno and Ceres.) A gorgeous piece. My own singing was... variable, I'd only been able to make one of the two rehearsals, so the stuff we'd not had advance PDFs of I was a bit hit and miss... but at any rate not enough to stop the choir as a whole sounding pretty darned good, I reckon.

Gorgeous mostly-veggie Gujarati cooking for the wedding feast, courtesy of friends of [livejournal.com profile] shreena's dad, too much wine, and the highlight of the reception, a concert and Ceilidh by Oysterband! Which was of course awesome. Though [livejournal.com profile] whatifoundthere and I couldn't quite work out how to wring out the dishrag. Although I think we just about got it the last time round.

And of course, chance to catch up with a reasonable proportion of the aforementioned 30% of my flist, most of seem I see far too infrequently, and some, such as the aforementioned [livejournal.com profile] whatifoundthere, that I see even further too infrequently, due to intervening oceans and continents.

Went to LSM again on Sunday morning, then hung out with various folks chez [livejournal.com profile] gnimmel and [livejournal.com profile] purplepiano until it was time to head back to Gatwick and home to Stockholm. Got home at about 2am, so a bit tired today, and hangover seems to have segued into mild cold, but a small price to pay.
smhwpf: (Doctor Martha)
Another episode in RaceFail, which has got me thinking.

In this thread (hat-tip [info]keeva), SF/F writer Lois Bujold is responding to a discussion about PoC in genre fiction, and comes out with the breathtakingly obtuse line,

The other and more hopeful point is that never before have so many Readers of Color existed to *have* the conversation, or been able to communicate with each other to do so. When I went to my first midwestern convention in 1968, there was exactly one black fan, male...

She is then swiftly called out by numerous PoC fans pointing out that they were reading and talking about SF/F looong before the advent of the internet, and just because they weren't doing so in front of the overwhelmingly white SF/F establishment or at conventions doesn't mean they weren't there.

To give Ms. Bujold some credit, she did not try to argue with this, but posted a subsequent comment to the effect that she clearly needs to go away and have a serious think about all this.

As do I.

One of the responses talked about the unwritten "whites only" signs at SF/F conventions, and this made me start thinking about other circles I move or have moved in that have, or may very well have, similar unwritten "whites only" signs. I've o occasion come to ponder these before, indeed once I almost made an LJ post about one such (gimme a cookie!), but then forgotten about.

The fact is, most of the social, cultural and even political circles I've moved in have tended to be overwhelmingly white.

Folk festivals.

Choirs, like the Hackney Singers I was in for a while ('cos Hackney is such a monocultural area).

Go tournaments, when I went to them. (OK, that is blatantly false, in that there were large numbers of people of Chinese/Japanese origin there. But next to no black or Asian people.)

The Catholic Justice & Peace conference (of which I posted briefly before). That's the one where I almost made an LJ post on the race thing, because I couldn't but be struck by the contrast between the diversity of the RC Church across the country (and especially somewhere like London), and the almost unbroken sea of white faces (apart from a few invited guests from overseas) at the conference. The conference of fluffy liberals (and not-so-fluffy radicals) devoted to Making the World a Better Place.

Even, to a considerable extent, Campaign Against Arms Trade. We did a little better, as there were from time to time people from or with a connection to places affected by conflicts assisted with British arms. But again, whether in the office or at national gatherings or the like, non-white British faces were a rare sight.

So now I'm seeing all of these in a row, and wondering just how large and loud and daunting are the "whites only" signs in front of these places, unwritten, invisible and ignorable though they may be to the privileged white people like myself that attend them.

One can make excuses of course, some more failsome than others. "Well, you wouldn't expect to see many black people at an English/Celtic folk or classical music event, because that comes very much from white European culture. Black people have their own music." Well, there are indeed differing musical traditions, and English/Celtic folk is not everyone's cup of tea. But then there's not a few white people into "Music of Black Origin", be it Jazz, blues, reggae, hip-hop, etc... and the assumption (so easy to not even realise you're making it) that white people can be eclectic in their tastes while non-white people stick to music from their own culture is racist.

A valid point is the intersection between race and class, and the fact that most of the activities I've described are rather middle-class dominated. Which shifts some of the problem to a different category - but it is not a sufficient explanation.

So I wonder, how does one go about tearing down those "whites only" signs? Where do they come from? How much is inertia, the fact that if a grouping starts out all-white or almost all-white that in itself makes it hard for someone who is not white to break into, and how much is it consciously or unconsciously reinforced by the participants? What needs to be done differently?

One of the hardest things to realise is that good intentions are not enough. I might not have intended to, but (at the very least by omission) I helped write those signs, and they have the same effect as if I did.
smhwpf: (Going places)
Teaching finished, one more day at work, then a much-needed (if not exactly well-earned) break. (Apart from a couple of book reviews still outstanding.)

In which I moan about my disorganised life )

Well, enough of that. So, what else has been going on? Well, big news in the family: my sister is pregnant with her second child - about two months in, just - and they're moving from Barcelona to Prague. Zander - her husband, and father of her child - couldn't find a job in Barca after moving out there, and has been applying round Europe for computer jobs, and got one in Prague. Sarah works from home (her journalism and PR stuff), and should be able to get it going pretty much anywhere, though it'll take time to build things back up - and she'll be taking time off anyway. They will be coming home to Scotland for Christmas and New Year, and then Zander will go off to Prague, and Sarah and Rachel will follow soon after. Meanwhile, a music publisher has expressed interest in some of my brother Angus's work - they think he should really go for the composition side of things, and want to remix a couple of his songs, including Deep Wide Ocean (as instrumental), presumably for TV or something. He is, naturally, very pleased about this. (Do check out his songs at the above link)

As for me, apart from the usual rounda of Uni stuff, I been visiting various folks, just got back from Roger and Chandra's in Derby, and their two children, of whom the eldest (Daniel) I am a Godfather. He is two now, and actually talking and walking and making mischief and stuff. Saw their latest, Alex, for the first time. He was born while I was out in Palestine.

mostly concerning Buffy fandom and fiction. )

Also completed first term with the UWE singers. It's only the second time I've been in a choir, and I'm not good at sight-singing, so it's been fairly uphill, but I think I'm getting better, ane the concerts as a whole went well. The carol concerts last week in Wells and Bristol cathedrals went very well.

So, I fly up to Scotland on Tuesday, to my mum's for Christmas. New Year in Edinburgh at my bro's, which should be fun. Hopefully inbetween I'll get some writing done, academic and Buffy-related.

Icon, once again, courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] mara_sho.
smhwpf: (Default)
Not done in a while. Fairly busy week or so. Spending waaaay too much time on [livejournal.com profile] _end_of_days, but hey, it's fun! Seems everyone wants a piece of Angel, is the thing.

Nonetheless, got the first draft of my past-Slayer folk ballad finished last week... or was it the weekend before? Something like that, and sent off to [livejournal.com profile] mirabehn, who will be performing it (along with [livejournal.com profile] evil_nick, for betaing.

This weekend, I was at the Eirene Centre in Northamptonshire with the Unite for Peace group. Small group of us, could call us an affinity group in some ways, part of the Fellowship of Reconiciliation. (Christian peace group). FoR was founded just after WW1, but its membership is heavily ageing. (Average age over 70 I think). U4P was started to bring together sort of the younger members. Which now goes up to 41. It is where I know [livejournal.com profile] mirabehn, [livejournal.com profile] evil_nick and [livejournal.com profile] tea_at_bettys from. We meet together twice a year normally, but this was a planning meeting for a conference we're organising in Feb, aimed at youngish Christians interested in peace issues and peace making. (About which I will post separately). Hoping to start attracting a wider audience. Anyway, meeting went well, going to be a lot of work though.

I was monumentally pissed off about the fact that going to this meeting (combined with lectures on Friday afternoon) meant missing the European Social Forum in London. I had suggested moving the date, but seemed this wasn't going to work.

I was going to go to the anti-war march on Sunday at least, but had a change of plan. I'd been going to stay at the Eirene Centre Saturday night and go down to the march on Sunday, but as we finished relatively early in the evening, and people had gone off, I decided to go down to London (which was on my way back home), and see who was around. So on the way down I thought I'd give my ancient friend Iain a call, see if I might stay with him and Rachel in Hayes, then go with him to the demo. (We go way back to my 1st year at Warwick, which is, bloody hell, 17 years ago now. Yeeee. In a couple of years time, most of the new 1st years won't have been born when I started Uni. Anyway, he's one of the few people I've stayed in contact with all that time. We've had our differences politically, he's pretty much a Blairite, but the worm turned over Iraq, and he now runs the Hayes Stop the War group.) But it turned out Iain had recently turned his ankle, and couldn't go to the march. So, as I hadn't seen him and Rachel for a while, decided to stop round Sunday morning and afternoon instead. Went to Iain's local Methodist church, pub lunch, watched Angel and Firefly, talked politics and played 1830 on the computer. And drank lots. Good weekend all in all.

In other news, I have joined the University choir, the UWE Singers. Went on Tuesday evening, having missed the first two weeks for one reason or another. (respectively stupidity and a meeting addressed by 'Women to Women for Peace', a group of four Israeli and four Palestinian women doing a tour, who were speaking right in my 'hood.) We are doing Bernstein's Chichester Psalms and someone or another's Rio Grande. I am a little bit apprehensive about being able to learn it all - only been in a choir once before, the Hackney Singers, for a couple of years. I would say I am not much more than minimally competent for a non-audition choir such as this. My sight-singing skills are - well, let's just say they'd be better described as 'stare at it hard for several seconds and I might just get it singing' skills. But it's taken at a slow pace, going over parts and then putting them together and suchlike, and hopefully I'll get a reasonable amount of home practice in. I'm a reasonably good memoriser, too.

Well, that's about all from me for now. Better get back to the quite-fascinating-but-at-times-intensely-annoying book I'm reading to review.

Go listen!

Mar. 16th, 2004 02:29 am
smhwpf: (Wesley)
My brother Angus, an aspiring Edinburgh-based musician, has finally got some of his music up on a website. (Having sorted out numerous technical hitches). It can be downloaded here. More will follow.

His music is quite 80s-ish, but with a lot of other influences, Celtic and 60s in particular. It certainly has tunes and stuff at any rate, otherwise I wouldn't listen to it even though he is my brother.

Please do go listen if you fancy it.

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