May 28, 2010

Horse 1091 - The Colour of Radio

Members of the Twitterati will have read that yesterday I was in the offices of the ABC in Ultimo, to discuss something of perhaps future import.
The way I figure it, digital radio has the potential to offer a wider range of programming to listeners because of its extra bandwidth. I also figure that in the Australian radio landscape there have been great gaps and holes left behind.

Radio in the 50s and 60s was probably in its heyday in Australia. Comedy, drama, suspense and all sorts of radio plays could have been heard. Jason and the Argonauts, The Shadow, The Idiot Weekly, Please Sir etc went down in Australian folklore. Yet when the onslaught of television cam upon us, the medium of radio was abandoned.
Locally produced radio in Australia falls roughly into three categories - music, talkback and news and current affairs. True, the ABC does produce such shows as AM, PM, and Gardening programs, but really most of what is on the radio hardly deviates from that. There is very little in the way of new scripted radio content at all.

To be totally fair, I do like the BBC's Radio 4 and Radio 7 and probably listen to them far more intently that I do Australian radio. The obvious argument here is that if I'm already getting this content, then why do I need to complain? The answer to that is obvious - why can't we do it here?
Australia has a veritable glut of live comedy just asking to be put on the radio. The Melbourne Comedy Festival for instance could be broadcast live, with very little outlay. Radio is inherently cheaper to produce than television as well. Gone are the need to provide sets or costumes, and microphone equipment for radio is cheaper than a full kit of cameras and boom mikes.

And to this end I suggested that the ABC as part of its commitment to new content, set up a radio station which would be digital only (which might also encourage the switchover), and be similar in style to BBC Radio 7, but with more of an emphasis on live content.
Specifically, I like to be the host of the Australian version of either "Just a Minute" or "Does the Team Think?", both of which rely heavily on a panel of comedians having to think on their feet.

One of the questions that one of the grey suited penguins asked me, is if my proposed station were to be adopted, then what would I call it? (Always marketing types and their damn names), to which I ironically suggested that it be called ABC Radio Spectrum - "The Colour of Radio" and have various blocks of segments named for the "colour" of their content, rather like the old Penguin paperbacks. To tell the truth, it was BJD who gave me this idea when on many occasions whilst I was still at Tooney Baps, that he said that what the band was playing needed more "purple" or "orange".
Actually it's not all that hard to imagine a block of programming with the station idents going something like "This is ABC Radio Spectrum, you are now entering the Yellow Zone" if it was say live comedy or perhaps "this is the black zone" if it was a horror drama, or maybe "welcome to the green zone" for a block of crime thrillers.

Overall, I'd say that the meeting went well but as always with these things, you never can tell really.
The future is bright, the future is Orange?

May 24, 2010

Horse 1090 - Above All? Really?

In church yesterday, as is the custom in most churches around the world, we were engaged in singing praises to our Lord for a time during the service. One of them happened to be that most ghastly of songs "Above All" (written by Michael W Smith).
Now I pretty well much have hated this song for a while (and by hate, I do wish that it be eliminated) but now I have a fairly well laid out rant against it.

1. It's hard for a congregation to sing:

Most professional musicians have usually had at least a modicum of vocal training at the very least. Most musicians you'd hope also have an ear for music. The problem is that if you take a piece of music which was originally written by a musician as a solo piece, and make a congregation sing it, invariably they do quite badly at it.

This could be said for all sorts of modern worship type songs. In the age of packaged media and digital recording, it is very easy to tweak even the very worst singers via autotune, such that they can sing well. The problem is that congregations don't have that luxury. Untrained singers who are trying to tackle a difficult line of music will usually do quite badly with it.

Exhibit A:
"Above all wealth and treasures of the earth.
There's no way to measure what You're worth"

Whilst it is true that I do not have the language to express what goes on at the end of this line, I can tell you that every congregation will maul it. The note/tone/chord structure is such that it is badly defined. Having untrained people sing a badly defined note results in much much badness.

F#m F#m/E D A/C#

Bm Bm/A C#7

Just don't. Please don't.

2. This metaphor makes me cringe:

The chorus for want of a better word goes like this:
Laid behind a stone
You lived to die,
Rejected and alone
Like a rose,
Trampled on the ground (err, what?)
You took the fall,
And thought of me
Above all

Like a rose, trampled on the ground? What?

I grow roses. I like every other rose grower, grows them because of their inherant beauty. I'm wondering if Michael W Smith actually read through Isaiah 53.

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
- Isaiah 53:2-3 (NIV)

Rejected and alone? Most certainly. Inherent beauty? No, but rather "no beauty" and "nothing in his appearance that we should desire him". Like a rose? I scarcely think not.

3. The whole Hook is wrong - the main cut and thrust of this:

You took the fall,
And thought of me
Above all

Really? I can prove otherwise.

Christ's first purpose, i.e. his reason for being was NOT to save sinners.

Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
"You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
- John 18:36-37

The first purpose of Christ, and indeed the first purpose of God (remember, that Jesus IS God), is to bring glory to Himself. His prime purpose in coming to Earth and being born as a man was to establish His Kingdom.

Now I know that I'm splitting hairs here, and indeed I do so quite deliberately, for even 99% correct is still 1% wrong. I do believe that it was Paul who told us to watch our life and doctrine closely and to persevere in them.

If Jesus is God, and his first purpose is to bring glory to himself, then it follows that his first thought, that is the thought that is "Above All" is NOT us.

If it is right for man to have the glory of God as his goal, can it be wrong for God to have the same goal? If man can have no higher purpose than God’s glory, how can God? If it is wrong for man to seek a lesser end than this, it would be wrong for God, too. The reason it cannot be right for man to live for himself, as if he were God, is because he is not God. Those who insist that God should not seek His glory in all things are really asking that He cease to be God. And there is no greater blasphemy than to will God out of existence.
- JI Packer

When Jesus was in the upper room praying before his execution on the cross, where was his first thought? It wasn't for "me" as the song "Above All" makes out:

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
- John 17:1-5

Jesus' first thought, ie the one he thought of "Above All" was Himself and His Father, God. This is a case of glory being directed to the proper place at the proper time just like it always had done, and always will do.

Now I know that this sounds inherently selfish, but again you have to remember that the Godhead is a) triune (and therefore this becomes a strange matter of semantics), and b) deserves that position by virtue that He is the premier being. God IS selfish, and quite rightly so.

Of course I realise that Mr Smith was trying to express gratitude to God*, and that is an entirely noble end but, hideously flawed. I would even suggest it is bordering on arrogant to think that Christ would think of us over His Father.

* Aside: As a songwriter, you have a certain responsibility to make sure that what you write is correct. If you write songs that congregations are going to sing, you are in effect putting words in their mouths - think about it.

May 17, 2010

Horse 1089 - Build the Bogandome NOW!!!

The Sydney Morning Herald reports this morning that there would be a few new stadia to be built if the Australian FIFA World Cup 2018 or 2022 bid gets up. If in the event that it doesn't succeed, then I hope that common sense wins, and they build the Bogandome anyway.

The Bogandome (the proposed West Sydney stadium, in Doonside), would be flanked by the M7, the main Western Railway line and is easily accessible from the M4 as well. Because it will be built next to the existing ex-Olympic Baseball stadiums, and the venue where the GWS AFL team already train out of, it's perfect for holding training sessions outside of the main venue anyway.

Supposing that they did built the Bogandome, then several of the key problems are already solved. Because the M7 and the M4 are both quite close, traffic should not be that much of a problem.
If they were to think properly about building the stadium, then the car parks could be strategically placed directly underneath the stadium in an arrangement like the already successful Rouse Hill Town Centre shopping complex. It has underground parking underneath the place for 3000 cars. If this was properly executed with a full multi-level situation, then I see no reason why you could fit up to 25,000 spaces in there.
Also, because it would be built next to the main Western Railway line, a fully integrated railway station could be built right into the superstructure of the venue. If this were to happen, then it would be even easier to fill and clear than even Sydney Olympic Park.

The way I see it, the Bogandome already has two clients in the wings. The GWS AFL team and the West Sydney Rovers would be looking for a venue in the Greater West to be playing out of. To be fair, the City of Blacktown already has over 500,000 people and with the surrounding districts of Campelltown, Penrith, Liverpool etc, that probably encompasses another million people at least.
To be utterly honest, both the drive from the West to either the SFS or the SCG is quite frankly a pain in the butt. If you take a train you can expect to take roughly an hour to get there as well. Isn't it about time that someone was forward thinking and actually gave the people of the West their own home for sport?

Even if the FIFA World Cup bid fails, building the Bogandome would create a lot of jobs. Builders, concreters, plumbers, electricians... people running the stadium, caterers etc etc etc.
It would be an investment in the future of Western Sydney, one that's sorely needed.