Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

March 2006

GeneralFriday, March 17th, 2006, (11:22 am)

It always amazes me how everyone seems to be of Irish decent in some way on St Patrick’s day. As if that then validates the drinking of Guinness or ‘green beer’ as you American folk do (because you’re too scared of Guinness I think!).

I don’t mind at all. Such claims, especially from my American friends, always make me smile. I don’t mind the “part Irish” claims of course. It only annoys me when someone tells me they ARE Irish when clearly they’re not.

St Paddy’s is a big deal over here in Liverpool of course. We’re as close to Ireland as you can get without actually being there, and Liverpool seems to have more ‘Irish Pubs’ than most cities in the UK. Of course though, on St Paddy’s they’re all Irish, just like us. We’re all part Irish today!

PhotographyThursday, March 16th, 2006, (3:40 pm)

I think this photographers work is amazing. I went to see an exhibition by him a while back and was astounded and somewhat saddened by his photography of a ‘free’ Afghanistan and Iraq.

As I looked at the pictures I tried to stretch my imagination what life must be like for people where scenes like this are not uncommon. Thing is, as good as my imagination is, I know it could stretch that far.

Below are just a few of the pictures by Simon Norfolk.

Former teahouse in a park next to the Afghan Exhibition of Economic and Social Achievements in the Shah Shahid district of Kabul. Balloons were illegal under the Taliban, but now balloon-sellers are common on the streets of Kabul providing cheap treats for children.

A government building close to the former Presidential palace at Darulaman, destroyed in fighting between Rabbani and the Hazaras in the early 1990’s.

Bullet-scarred apartment building and shops in the Karte Char district of Kabul. This area saw fighting between Hikmetyar and Rabbani and then between Rabbani and the Hazaras.

Destroyed military and cicillian radio installations on Kohe Asmai (known as ‘Radio TV Mountain) in central Kabul. Looking towards the west of Kabul.

Wrecked Ariana Afghan Airlines jets at Kabul Airport pushed into a mined area at the edge of the apron.

Bullet-scarred outdoor cinema at the Palace of Culture in the Karte Char distruct of Kabul.

Photography by Simon Norfolk

GeneralWednesday, March 15th, 2006, (11:39 pm)

I’m not an open book. I don’t pour my heart out in public, though sometimes it might look like I do, and although I am sitting here writing this, I’ve been here before and simply just not posted the words. These words, this process, is perhaps my therapy. Maybe it’s distraction, maybe by writing this I don’t actually have to think about it that much. Ah, what the fuck do I know?

I’m just getting knocked about at the moment, that’s all. The road seems to have gotten a little bumpy of late and I’m probably making matters worse by listening to stuff like ‘James’ and ‘Coldplay.’ I keep trying to forget but it seems that the universe is conspiring to remind me all the time. But of what you’re asking right? Well you see that’s the thing, I’m not really sure, and you know what, I actually don’t want people to tell me what they think it is. I think I just want people to say ‘Hey’ and nod as they wander on by and acknowledge that I’m in this place.

Yesterday, I was chatting to my friend Anne in Boston and she told me that Karen, an old friend of mine, is getting married in July. This isn’t bad news of course. I am happy for her. But there’s a little more to the story than just that.

Karen and I became very close back in 1999. I visited her a lot, and she even came to England and NO, we never slept with each other before you assume that. We really were that cliche ‘just good friends.’ I enjoyed her friendship until the day she announced that she was in love with me and that she couldn’t continue to be friends because she couldn’t move on with me in her life. She brought our friendship to an ugly and unpleasant end by telling me that I wasn’t on “God’s Road” before she hung up on me. Click and that was it. You’re not on God’s Road, goodbye.

At the time that burned me real bad. God’s Road? What the fuck? But what I think made things worse is that I think I could see what she meant. And please don’t feel like you need to say some trite Christian comment that will give me clarity or direction. I know what she meant. She put it off for as long as she could, then found the exit and used it. Like someone trying to put out a fire in a burning house might reach that point where they realize the fire needs more than a few buckets of water.

Evidently she’s found someone on God’s good Road. She found him three weeks ago in fact! And in less than a month they have already set a date to be married. July this year!

I think she may have strayed onto God’s race track, but I wish her well in my heart. Hearing that news kind of stopped me in my tracks though, you know what I mean? It made me think about the “road” I’m on.

She’s part of my history right? I know that. But you know that warning ‘objects in mirror are closer than they appear.’ Let me tell you, that’s true!

My photo albums are littered with people who have come and gone through my life like visitors to a theme park, and I guess that I’m having a rare moment of vulnerability feeling like maybe my whole life is just a theme park. A fun place to visit but not a great place to stay.

And you know what, maybe it’s the saddest thing of all, but despite having a phone book full of numbers and a life full of friends, many of whom have been close friends since forever, I’m sitting here writing about this shit on my blog instead of talking to one of them about this.

So forgive me for this rare moment of self pity if you will. I’ll be fine later. I’m just feeling a bit like Disneyland right now.

GeneralTuesday, March 14th, 2006, (12:10 pm)

I had to laugh when I recently learned that the chain of ‘family restaurants’, Hooters, have started an airline. My first thought came from the rather base instinct behind the male appreciation for ‘lovely lady lumps.’ However, on a more considered reflection I thought to myself that flying Hooters Air might actually be a pretty crass affair.

I’ve only been to Hooters once in my life. My friend Missy insisted that I needed to try this (just as she insisted she take me to a strip bar a couple of years earlier when I was, believe it or not, a strip bar virgin!).

“Hot girls in tight t-shirts serve you.” She explained to me as if I had been born on a turnip truck the day before. “You’ll love it.” Missy assured me as she speculated that Hooters may well be some guys idea of heaven.

‘Love it’ was perhaps overstating how I felt about Hooters. Yes I do like chicken wings, and yes I do like boobs, and a combination of the two wasn’t something I was about to object to, would it be enough for me to want to fly Hooters Air? Not really.

As much as I like chicken breasts, I’m not enough of a breast man for it to make me decide that I want to fly with an airline that is all about them. Plus the prospect of sitting next to a man who has isn’t real exciting to me.

The airlines inaugural flight ended in “a big guy in shorts” being arrested for making an “unsuitable comment.” Which left me wondering, when an airline sells itself on boobs, how unsuitable does a comment have to be in order to have someone arrested?

Of course in these tough economic times for airlines, the possibility that this venture won’t work is a very real one indeed. If that happens you can be assured that it would be headline news. Not because it would be big news, but because the temptation to come up with some witty headline about Hooters Air going bust would surely be an opportunity to good to pass up.

Hooters Air
Hooters Air First Flight Ruined by Boob
United Airlines squeeze Hooters

General and PhotographyMonday, March 13th, 2006, (3:37 pm)

It’s been trying to snow here for a while and at last it finally managed to do a decent job and snow enough to cover everything! I wasn’t going to go out in it because people around here have no idea how to drive in snow and so the roads have been littered with wrecks. But against my better judgement I took to the roads in my most unpractical of cars, and I’m glad I did because it’s the first time I have seen these parts covered in snow in eight years!

All these pictures are taken not to far from my apartment. Maybe a 15 minute drive (on a normal day) is about as far as I got. The two pictures below are kind of interesting. The sunnier of the two was taken in the fall of 2003.

Faith & ReligionFriday, March 10th, 2006, (2:01 am)

All this talk on various churchy folks Xanga’s about sex has been very interesting to watch unfold. Dgausepohl got the ball rolling with the statement “We have no legitimate right to sex outside of marriage.”

He followed this up with an invitation to members of his church who were sexually or emotionally involved with someone who wasn’t their spouse to call him for help. this was also extended to single people who were having sex and wanted to stop having sex.

His actions were clearly a well meaning gesture. The married Houston based pastor seems to want to ‘get down and dirty’, so to speak, with the subject of sex among Christians. Though perhaps unsurprisingly, his invitation hasn’t resulted in his diary being filled.

“Who am I kidding…myself? Silly me; expecting people having a sexual problem to admit it, and to email or call me to talk about it.” He writes.

But really, what did he expect? The Church has struggled with this subject since, well probably since forever surely? We are sexual beings programmed, you might say by God himself, to desire sexual gratification. But when the Bible and the Christian church seems to be so quick to condemn much about the tricky subject of sex, it surely can’t come as a surprise to anyone that people aren’t lining up to talk openly about it.

“Give ’em fire and brimstone for 40 minutes, threaten them with damnation, and then tell them your office door is open any time if they’d like to learn how to spare their souls.” Suggests one comment on the pastors blog. Maybe that approach would work on a Sunday morning in Texas. A bit of damnation before lunch never hurt anyone right? But then again maybe sex in church on a Sunday morning might be a little too much for some?

It’s a fine line. How does a pastor address this with the urgency and passion that Dgausepohl clearly has, but do so in a way that doesn’t actually close more doors than it opens?

“Its one thing to offer counseling and healing to those who have been hurt and broken by sexual relationships. Its another to be calling people on the carpet for unbibilical behavior they don’t wish to change. Everyone wants the first one, but no one wants the second. But can we have one without a clear position on the other?” Asks someone in a comment of Dgausepohl’s Xanga.

And there is the problem. It’s all very well asking the congregation to come and confess their deepest secrets, but what is expected from such meetings? One has to assume the pastor is going to want to see some change, and if he doesn’t… what then?

It could become ugly, worse still, it could become public, and although we might appear to live in a very open age regarding sex, with the media full of stories about ‘who does what with whom and how,’ those stories aren’t about us, are they.

Indeed Dgausepohl himself writes “The New Testament is clear that our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ are not private, but community matters, and that we are accountable to the community of faith for [our] own behavior toward one another.”

Now I’m not judging the pastor when I say this, but that statement immediately makes me extremely cautious. The privacy issue might not be one that effects just me, there could be someone else in the church involved too, and maybe they’re going to be really upset with me if I ‘out’ their sin to the pastor while I confess mine. Furthermore, while pastor might grant me some limited form of confidentiality, what does he do about the knowledge that this other member of the church, who might not have taken up his invitation, is engaged in ‘sexual sin.’

Can – worms – everywhere!

The subject of sex with someone other than your spouse is one that most would probably agree on in that it isn’t generally a good idea. But sex with before marriage, now there’s a tricky one. If you took a census of everyone who goes to church I think I might bet that the age group with the least attendance would be the late teenagers to early thirties. Could it be considered merely coincidental that this age range is the same age range that’s having sex before marriage?

I don’t know if anyone has ever done a seriously large scale study into church attendance demographics, but from my own experience I’ve seen lots of Christian friends leave their churches around the time they leave home and go to University. They then remain absent until such time as they have had enough ‘fun’, then they settle down and possibly return to the church. Could this be because church is an easier place to be in when you are either a child, or married?

Of course many single people go to church. But of them I wonder how many really do remain a virgin in every respect until they are married? And of the ones who don’t, how many of those are willing to talk about it?

Pastor Dgausepohl isn’t getting the response he had hoped for from his invitation. He is, of course, to be commended for seeking honesty among his fellow Christians, but there seems little point in asking questions to which one already knows the answer. So while his door my may be wide open for conversation, behind closed doors people will continue to come together in entirely different ways.

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