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Howard Male "Howard Male" (London)

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Diary of a Heretic: The Pagan Adventures of a Christian Priest
Diary of a Heretic: The Pagan Adventures of a Christian Priest
by Mark Townsend
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Clergyman Who Fell To Earth, 30 Sept. 2013
One thing that drew me to Townsend's book was the very idea of a priest at war with his own church. Not that I'm any kind of masochist, I'm simply fascinated by the whole idea of faith and belief, particularly when it involves a clash between the institution and the individual. Townsend's story begins with his crippling guilt about an affair he had with a member of his congregation which eventually brought about a nervous breakdown. When he eventually confesses his mistake to his bishop, rather than be forgiven in the Christian manner, the bishop gives him no choice but to resign.

I offer no spoilers with the plot synopsis above because the reader is given this information in the prologue (this story is told in another of Townsend's books). `Diary of a Heretic' actually charts the following year, after the bishop has given him the boot, as he struggles to make a living outside the mainstream church, officiating weddings and funerals, and doing magic tricks (his other job), sometimes both at the same event, while struggling to work out exactly what, in spiritual terms, he does believe.

The second thing I found of interest is the author's fascination with coincidences - or to use the Jungian term which bestows more meaning on unlikely chains of events; synchronicity. The book is full of such remarkable confluences. For Townsend they represent the benevolence of an overseeing intelligence, but one which he can no longer see is being of purely Christian origin. This is where his exploration and embracing of Paganism comes in. But can he have his Christian bread while eating his pagan cake? Does he eventually return to the church, despite the church's shameless and cowardly attempts to make his life as difficult as possible? These are two of many questions answered in this admirably honest and always diverting memoir.

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to have the roles of the confessional box reversed, this is the book for you. Because, as a reader, one sometimes even feels slightly uncomfortable at the degree to which Townsend bravely opens up and exposes his inner most doubts and fears. I lost count of the number of times he openly weeps in the book; although often with joy when yet another individual or community welcomes him with open arms. So if in the end `Diary of a Heretic' merely reinforced all my prejudices about the church while simultaneously affirming my idea that the spiritual journey(if indeed you have leanings in this direction) needs to be a wholly personal and continually evolving process, it was no less an interesting read for that. May Mark Townsend, Christian, Druid and free thinker, long continue to do it HIS way!

Golden Beirut: New Sounds From Lebanon
Golden Beirut: New Sounds From Lebanon
Price: £15.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is not an EP it's a full-length album, 27 Nov. 2011
This is not an EP it's a full-length album of 12 tracks. It's also a fascinating glimpse into a culture's music that is about as far as you can get from what might normally be labelled 'world music'. Well worth investigating.

South Park - Season 14 [DVD]
South Park - Season 14 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Trey Parker
Offered by LuvFilmLuvMusic
Price: £18.00

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Another no from another big fan., 18 Sept. 2011
This review is from: South Park - Season 14 [DVD] (DVD)
Given the usual courage in the face of fascism and hypocrisy that the makers of 'South Park' show, the act of cowardice that has resulted in `controversial' episodes in this series being left off the box set is somewhat baffling. But it does mean I feel obligated as a matter of principle to further bring down their average star rating with a 'review'. Do not buy this box set!

Don't Look Now (Special Edition) [Blu-ray] [1973]
Don't Look Now (Special Edition) [Blu-ray] [1973]
Dvd ~ Donald Sutherland
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sound Advice, 28 Jun. 2011
So can anyone tell me if the sound has finally been sorted out on this new Blue Ray version? It's one of my top ten films of all time but I'd rather not watch it at all if there's still problems in this area.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 8, 2011 4:23 AM BST

No Longer at Ease
No Longer at Ease
Offered by Direct Entertainment UK
Price: £4.05

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Longer at Ease, couldn't be a better title., 14 Aug. 2009
This review is from: No Longer at Ease (Audio CD)
This is the CD I've played most often over the past month or so. The title comes from a T.S. Elliot poem via Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, and I can't remember an album being better summed up by its title than this. From the claustrophobic, lo-fi production to the minor-key melodies, Nneka comes on like a Nigerian Tricky, confiding her deepest fears and anxieties in regard to both personal relationships and her continents woes and troubles. There's nothing easygoing going on here.
And although she sites Fela Kuti (along with Chinua Achebe) as influences there is surprisingly little influence of Afrobeat here. Instead, I can hear everything from 1970's politicised Americal soul and funk, to drum and bass, to electronica, to the art-house experiments of Bjork but with added angst ('Gypsy' and 'Halfcast') to Jamaican reggae and ragga.

But when she does reggae, such as on 'Something to Say' it's completely on her own terms. This is post industrial reggae in which the offbeat guitar chops seem to have been created from sampling some huge piece of factory equipment being dragged across a metal floor. And how many reggae tracks make such effective use of a ride cymbal?

Each track here is like a new experiment; a new Frankenstein hybrid that Nneka and her producer, DJ Farhot, have felt compelled to stitch together out of old musics and new sounds. There is no need to settle on a style and then go with it, for this woman. Her restlessness is part of the essential spirit of her edgy music.

The track 'Heartbeat' is an most unbearably intense song which seems to move from the personal to the political, suggesting Nneka is as emotionally engaged in both arenas. It brings to mind, as a few tracks here do, the cinematic sweep of Shara Nelson-era Massive Attack. Even the token song dedicated to Africa isn't totally trashed by the inevitably sentimental 'uplifting' chorus. It's a damn catchy chorus and the rest of the song sounds like Sally Nyolo at her best, so I forgive her.
But the bottom line is this is the kind of music l might of hoped they'd be making in the future, when I looked forward from some adolecent year to the notion of what music might be like in 2009: challenging, sonically perverse, unpredictable, compelling, and perhaps a little difficult to get one's head around at first. But I keep being drawn back, again and again, certain that this album can't be as good as I think it is, and becoming more convinced that perhaps it is.

16 tracks; 16 different worlds, yet somehow making a cohesive whole.

Fun At The Gymkhana Club
Fun At The Gymkhana Club
Offered by SourceMediaUK
Price: £1.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Fun at the Gymkhana Club, 12 Dec. 2007
It's fortunate that Lola Olafisoye's stage persona marries the slinky sensuality of Eartha Kitt with the forbidding robotics of Grace Jones because this makes her the perfect front-person for this North London four-piece who've made something new from late-70's, early-80's, art school funk. Lola purrs and growls her way through some angular, archly stylized songs bringing to mind bands as diverse as the Au Pairs and Japan without ever sounding like either.

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