Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

January 2007


Faith & Religion and GeneralWednesday, January 31st, 2007, (8:49 pm)

Watching those God Inc videos always makes me think of that song by Joan Osborne in which she wonders ‘What if God was one of us?‘ I always found that song interesting, because I’ve heard Christians talk about how they met some random person who they believed might have been an angel. One of heavens own workers walking among us to intervene in a situation for whatever holy reason.

Hearing stories like that made me start to look at strangers in a different way. I’m no expert in the employment and deployment of angels, but I sometimes walk past a homeless person begging on the street and think to myself, could that person be an angel? I wonder if that some kind of test, and if so did I just fail?

The problem with that line of thought is that I sometimes feel like I’m a terrible person because here are all these homeless angels and I’m just walking past them saying “sorry” when they ask me for change.

Sometimes I’ll stop when a homeless person asks me for change. I’ll give them a couple of bucks or something and chat with them for a minute or two, secretly trying to figure out if they’re an angel or not, looking for signs like especially bright eyes or an unusually good complexion.

In Portland this last Christmas a young guy asked me if I could spare some change. I stopped to go through my pockets as he explained that he needed to get ten dollars to buy a bus ticket so he could make it home to see his family for Christmas. I looked at him as he went on to say that so far he had got five bucks. Right then the thought came into my mind again. Is this guy actually an angel? I paused for a moment thinking that the bus ticket story was more than likely BS. But then, I though, what’s five bucks really, and it was Christmas.

I handed him a five dollar bill and told him to go get his bus. His eyes lit up and he thanked me excitedly in a way that made me feel like perhaps this time the bus ticket story might just be true.

As we went our separate ways I wondered if I looked back whether he would still be there. Angels have a habit of disappearing, or so I’m told. I didn’t look back though. Maybe he was an angel, or maybe he was just another street kid finding ways to get money from strangers. In truth I didn’t really want to know. I was happy to just believe that as unlikely as it might be, maybe I’d just helped out an angel.

Long hours, little pay
[Video] Joan Osborne “What if God was one of us?”

Found on the webWednesday, January 31st, 2007, (12:24 am)

We’re back in the offices of the almighty again this week for episode 3 of God Inc.

God Inc. Episode 2
God Inc. Episode 1

GeneralSunday, January 28th, 2007, (8:24 pm)

It was interesting watching the whole ‘Donnie Davies’ video episode unfold across the net last week. Interesting not so much for all the angry and perplexed reactions the video received, but for how Davies video, in which the supposed pastor is seen singing “God hates a fag“, has been repeatedly removed from YouTube, Google Video, Revver, and myspace. Is that because they don’t get the gag, don’t think it’s funny, don’t want to incur the wrath of God, or worse yet, the wrath of the religious right? At this stage it’s hard to tell.

The video is an edgy parody of the kind of religious nonsense that has left many wondering whether or not it could actually be genuine. Certainly it wouldn’t be the first time such a hateful message has been heard from those who claim to otherwise be full of the love of Christ. However it’s now emerged that Donnie Davies is actually 28 year old comedian Joey Oglesby from Dallas. Oglesby insists he is not Davies, but if he isn’t then it would seem he and his twin brother were separated at birth.

So it’s joke then. Clearly not one that everyone will find amusing, but it is nonetheless a joke and therefore deserving of it’s rightful place aside other clips? Apparently not if you’re Google, YouTube, Revver, Myspace, or any of the other American video sharing websites that have spent the last week feverishly removing the video wherever it appears.

ETHICALLY OFFENSIVE

According to YouTube the video was removed “due to terms of use violation.” One assumes they felt it crossed what they term an “ethnically offensive” line. Google Video, Revver and Myspace would probably cite much the same reasons. But the question isn’t so much why they removed the video, but why they have never felt equally motivated to remove other such material that might be deemed “ethnically offensive”. In particular the videos produced by the Westboro Baptist Church who are deadly serious when they proclaim that God really does hate “fags”.

It seems likely that much of the inspiration for the Donnie Davies video might have been derived from the venomous hateful spew that is preached by the Rev. Fred Phelps and his church. Their message that “God hates fags” and so called “fag enablers” is exported around the world using their website and services such as YouTube and Google Video.

The church has basked in media attention created by their highly controversial protests at military funerals, holding placards with slogans like “Thank God for 9/11” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”. The protests are staged to highlight their belief that because of America’s acceptance of homosexuality, God is punishing the country by killing U.S. servicemen in the Middle East.

DOUBLE STANDARD

If you search for Fred Phelps YouTube and you will quickly find plenty of videos from the Westboro baptist church in which you’ll find many videos that contain “ethnically offensive” language that is surely no less offensive as that used in the Donnie Davies video, which lets not forget is a joke.

Google video, who own YouTube and who also removed the Donnie Davies video, go one better. They have a whole section of videos by the “fag” hating ‘Christian’ group!

It’s therefore puzzling as to why a parody video featuring “fag” hating Christians is repeatedly removed while a whole slew of genuine “fag” hating so called Christian material remains online. Are we to conclude that these videos are somehow less “ethnically offensive” than Donnie Davies singing that “there lies no virtue in sodomy”? How come genuine “fag” hating ‘Christians’ don’t incur the same kind of anger and complaints that has surely befallen the Davies song?

While I am not calling for internet censorship, I would be happier if the sites that removed the Davies video were to show some consistency and apply their ethical and moral judgement equally across the board instead of allowing extremists to voice quite hideous and unpopular opinions while silencing those who would mock them.

[Video] On YouTube : Thank God for Dead Soldiers
[Video] On YouTube : Your pastor is a whore
[Video] On YouTube : President Bush is a “fag recruiter.”
[Video] On YouTube : God is America’s terrorist
God hates a fag
On Google Video : Videos by the Westboro Baptist Church
Westboro Baptist Church : godhatesfags.com
Westboro Baptist Church : thesignsofthetimes.net
‘God Hates Fags’ music video stirs up storm in cyberspace
Donnie unmasked!
Joey Oglesby’s acting resume
Joey’s myspace
Hypocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury by Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy

Faith & Religion and Found on the webWednesday, January 24th, 2007, (11:52 pm)

Donnie Davies from Baytown, Houston, is a Christian musician and a “reformed homosexual” doing what he says is the Lords work by “letting people know that God hates a Fag.” His recent song performed with a band by the name of ‘Evening Service’ is called ‘The Bible Says’ and in an upbeat chirpy fashion not unlike a lot of Christian music you’ve heard, Donnie sings that “God hates a fag, and if you’re a fag he hates you too.”

“Being from south Houston has been as much of a factor in the tone of the music as being Christian.” Says Donnie who runs a Christian program called C.H.O.P.S. (Changing Homosexuals Into Ordinary People) “Houston is a strange place and we feel like it is reflected in our music. We live not too far from the chemical plants in Baytown and sometimes being so close to that kind of industry creates intense self-reflection, which is what we are all about.”

The video to ‘The Bible Says’ (above) shows Donnie emerging from a bright white light in a pink shirt with a guitar in hand. That’s followed by scenes of Donnie praying, singing and looking contemplative as the he sings lines like “The Bible says, plain as day, with a man, you shall not lay.”

But look a little closer at Donnie’s guitar playing in the video and you begin to get the sense of something not being on the level. He’s not playing the instrument at all, in fact he’s not even faking it well either, and in the background the guy playing the piano is also doing a terrible job. Then he launches into the chorus with “Lord help them hear me, and make clear my voice, because being gay, is nothing but a choice.”

Yes, it’s a joke. Donnie Davis is not real and neither is his band, C.H.O.P.S., Love God’s Way ministries, or any of the other elaborate internet props that have been created to pull off this audacious and fantasticaly offensive gag.

REMOVED BY YOUTUBE

The video was on YouTube, but after only a few days it was removed. It’s still available on myspace for the time being, but presumably because of the strain on ‘Donnie’s’ on website, the video is no longer available there either. In fact as fast as it appeared it seems to have dissapeared.

When I saw the video I was nearly crying with laughter, it seemed so very obviously a joke to me. The moustache, the cheesy video, the gratuitous praying, there was no way this was the real deal. But as I followed links to the ‘Love God’s Way Ministries‘ website, Donnie’s bands website ‘Evening Service‘, and even his own website, I began to question my first assumption. The language and graphics seemed genuine enough. “Christian Rock doesn’t have to be about boundries, it primarily needs to be about faith.” So says eveningservice.com. The Love Gods Way Ministries website claims to specialize in “Christian topics other Ministries do not want to talk about.”

But there are some giveaway signs of humor. At the Love Gods Way Ministries website there is a “valuable resource’ for Christian parents in the form of a list of “gay bands to watch out for.” These include Scissor Sisters, Rufus Wainwright, Wilco, The Doors, Sufjan Stevens, Metallica, The Rolling Stones, John Mayer, Eminmen, The Killers, Frank Sinatra, and many others. A similar list of “safe bands” is desperately short.

There is also another video featuring Donnie sounding suspiciously similar to prosperity preacher Joel Osteen who runs the Lakewood church, one of the largest so called mega churches in the United States, also based in Houston.

Another telling sign that this is indeed an elaborate gag is the fact that despite claims that Davies has been singing Christian music for years, a quick search on Google (performed on Jan 24th, 07) only finds two significant mentions of the a Donnie Davies in Christian music. Both of those are at websites that ‘Donnie’ is cleary associated with, and suspiciously both domain names eveningservice.com and lovegodsway.org were purchased at roughly the same time as donniedavies.com, toward the end of 2006.

UNFORTUNATELY BELIEVABLE

Despite the evidence, the gag has already been very effective at making some believe that it is indeed a genuine Christian music video. The YouTube appearance provoked some heated knee jerk reactions before it was deleted.

“This is not in the least bit funny, whether it’s meant as a joke (I doubt it) or not. Having a ‘Christian’ preaching hate toward anyone is repulsive.” Read one comment. Another response attacked the video. “You are a sick person and I hope whatever children u might have all turn out gay!” Though my favorite comment read. “$50 says this guy wears Care Bears pajamas and lives on his mom’s sofa.”

No doubt YouTube were inundated with complaints about the video and that is why they chose to remove it so swiftly. Ironic then that the video sharing site have never felt the same sense of urgency to remove any of the actual God Hates Fags spew that comes from the Westboro Baptist Church and the Reverend Fred Phelps.

As funny as this might be, it should serve as cause for alarm to Christians that so many people find it entirely believable that this could indeed a real Christian video. That fact that it doesn’t immediately scream fake perhaps tell us more about the state of our churches than Christians might otherwise be comfortable admitting.

[MP3] God Hates A Fag
[Video] “The Bible Says” by Donnie Davies
[Video] Donnie Davies welcomes you
[Video] Another message from Donnie. “I was born this way.”
[Video] Jan 26th video message from Donnie Davies
Donnie Davis
Love God’s Way Ministries
Evening Service band
another video featuring Donnie
Joel Osteen
Southpark did the same. No one took that seriously
Reverend Fred Phelps
God doesn’t love everyone

PoliticalWednesday, January 24th, 2007, (2:44 am)

Why does the President of the United States give a State of the Union address? It seems like a totally pointless exercise to me, where the tradition of standing to applause is kept with no real regard as to whether the President is being truthful or in fact just spouting a crock of shit.

The State of the Yawnion is just an excuse for a jolly ol’ political ‘knees-up’ really isn’t it? I mean if the President was really going to talk about the State of the Union wouldn’t he also talk about the fact that the economy is struggling, “the war on turrr” has turned to shit, and the cost of that war in financial terms alone in spiraling out of control. Wouldn’t he have to mention something about the republicans getting whooped in the midterms?

Oh sure, we’ll hear all the good stuff (though I’m struggling to think what that might be), but I’m just thinking that when the President is obviously such a ‘lame duck’ and the union is in the trouble it is, I would have thought the President might just as well throw his arms up in the air and say “ya know what, things are pretty fucked up right now.”

It’s too much to ask of course, but wouldn’t it be cool if Mr Bush actually stood up and told the truth, the real state of the union. Would America get behind an honest leader I wonder? If he admitted mistakes and failings would that be more effective than simply reeling off a bunch of punchy sound-bytes that require a standing ovation every 36 seconds?

When YouTube is tomorrow full of the Presidents gaffs and muddlement over the English language, will anyone stop to think how sad it is that the buzz isn’t one of admiration of how the President stood up and told the truth? Surely an honest State of the Union speech now would be one that history remembers.

“My fellow Americans. Good news! Everything is fine in the Union today. Trust me, this time I’m telling the truth. We’re winning the war on turrr, the war in Iraq, and the war on drugs. We’re not leaving a child behind. We’re saving babies. We’re doing out bit to save the ecosystem and those fluffy polar bears. We’re breaking our addiction to foreign oil. It’s all great and y’all should be proud to be an American.”

By next week no one will remember or even care what Mr Bush said in his annual dance in front of the gathered clappers. But for now it’s show-time baby, nothing more, nothing less. So everyone, one more time lets rise to our feet and have a round of applause.

Full transcript of 2007 SOTU
President relents to new reality
Flat SOTU address still Earns requisite applause
Bush Urges Congress to Embrace Iraq Policy
Bush’s SOTU: Nixon Would Have Been Proud
Lame duck soup
The silliest speech in the union
Official 2007 SOTU Ovation Stats
[Video] Jon Stewart’s State of the Union preview
[Video] State of the Union cartoon

MusicTuesday, January 23rd, 2007, (10:21 am)

If I played an instrument then between that, writing, and photography, I don’t think I’d ever have time to work! I love music, but aside of learning three cords on the guitar, I never really learned how to play an instrument. I keep telling myself to buy a guitar and take that up again, and maybe one day I will.

I actually wanted to learn how to play the bass guitar, but my music teacher told me I had to learn the six string first. They misunderstood my intentions though. I didn’t really want to learn how to play the guitar so I could make music. No, I wanted to play the easiest instrument possible that would allow me to join a band and enjoy all the ‘benefits’ that go with being cool and in a band!

After watching Adam Clayton from U2 I decided that being a bass player was just the ticket. I could grow my hair long, stand on stage, pluck a few easy baselines, bob my head back and forth like they do, and just be wickedly cool. The fame, the girls, and the fortune would be mine with two strings less effort than the guy who played lead. A master plan!

In the end though, I never got to learn bass, never got to amass a personal fortune or enjoy international celebrity, and girls… well, a gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell.

Had I taken up the musical keyboard rather than the computer keyboard, then I might have produced material not unlike that featured in the video below. The music and video are the creations of a Brit by the name of Clive Booth working under the name ‘Ribside’.

Now, while the music might not be to your taste, I enjoyed the video because it has a quirky unassuming quality to it. Looking out across a very uninspiring yard to a gate as leaves blow around in the wind, somehow the whole scene takes on another feel.

As I watched the video I found myself willing Clive to hit a few more keys and funk it up a little. But nonetheless as the music played I sat there bobbing my head in a fashion not dissimilar to the base player I never was.

The track is called ‘All With Immaculate Teeth’ and you can see/read/hear more from Ribside at ribside.com

Ribside

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