Lego Movie

I probably have two reviews of Lego and I can’t decide which to embrace

Review No.1
This movie has a lot of goodwill in the bank from hours of playing with Lego as a child, back in the days of child like innocence. I’ve been looking forward to seeing it for days. It is bonkers and a whirl, so much of a whirl that I feel like I only caught a fraction of the film and want to see it again. The creativity and playfulness of creating with Lego is caught on camera and I was engrossed, it takes the mick out of things such as micro managers and self help manuals and the surly Batman made me smile. There is one part of the movie plot which I think detracts rather than enhances from the experience, but I didn’t even mind it so much. With so much going overall it was almost like a welcome time out.I enjoyed it and want to see it again.

Review No.2
This movie is the work of very clever corporations who have taken creativity and colouring outside the lines and turned it into an extended advertisement that will do wonder for sales of Lego and brand overall as well as film studios. I had fun, enjoyed the experience and wanted to go home immediately and play with my Lego. I walked past ‘The Art and Hobby’ Shop afterwards and the Lego sets seemed to be jumping out wanting to be bought, and I’m an adult. If I was a parent with a child walking past the shop after watching the movie I’d want to buy something. It was like watching a really cool movie about Apple or Coca Cola that you enjoy.

Creativity and believing in your ability to change the world seems to be something that we can’t challenge as it is seen as something good and desirable. The Lego movie gets away with being an extended advertisement as it encourages peoples to play and create. Yet that is also linked up with making a lot of money for Lego. And because that it is at the back of my mind it makes it hard to sit back and enjoy the show. But I did enjoy the show.

the church organization man

I am not doing a good job at finishing books at the moment. The problem maybe starts in picking books from the beginning that are just going to be hard going. So I’ve been wading through the first few chapters of a book called ‘The Organization Man‘ by William H. Whyte.

I am drawn to this book because I guess that I see something of ‘the organization’ in church and wonder if it says anything interesting. (I’m probably more drawn to it because it’s an old Penguin book that I bought in Galway last summer and I’m trying to read the books I’ve bought. I hate the thought that I spent 2 euro on nothing and that means that I’ll try reading books that are a bit boring.)

I struggle a lot to feel at home in the Presbyterian church (or maybe any church) as there is something that doesn’t seem to want to allow ‘me’ in. I don’t know how to describe things but I’ll try. It’s like you have to be homogenized to truly fit in or accept that you will have to suck it up to get along with things being the way they are or pretend that things are great even when they’re maybe not deep inside. This is something I wrestle with constantly as I can’t see how it will ever be resolved.
How do you remain yourself in an organization that you don’t feel particularly comfortable in?
Do you just have to accept it and keep trucking on?

To pick an example some people in church think you should get involved with worship because you play the guitar.
The minister might be completely determined that church worship will be more dynamic with two acoustic guitars compared to one because in his head two guitars equals more of a team, more fellowship in worship and better worship. The church is being a more dynamic organization.
This is the over riding principle in his head. More involvement and integration means better music.

He will not listen to the person who actually plays the acoustic guitar saying things like
‘I can’t hear my guitar’ or ‘You don’t need two acoustic guitars, it doesn’t actually help the sound of the music’ or even the plain ‘I don’t feel called to’ or any other legitimate reasons. It’s like all that hard earned knowledge about the guitar that you the individual has gained over the years become redundant in the church because bigger issues are at play. Taking part or being seen to be taking part is far more important than how things actually sound. You end up bringing your guitar along and playing even though you can’t hear your own guitar. You think it’s ridiculous that you can’t hear your own guitar but somewhere you are fighting that because somehow it will be for the good of church community by keeping the minister happy. If you can’t hear your guitar how is anyone else going to? It doesn’t seem to matter.

I’m sure I’ve blogged about that sort of thing many times before. But it’s a constant struggle. And it seems to be cranked up more at the moment as ministers seem to be going after people not being committed enough to church. It’s like someone has worked out that we have a very selfish culture and that the church should counter act that by not being selfish and doing things we don’t feel like doing.

Which of course we should and do have to do.
But I think the individual and his view of things falls through the cracks so often. The organization is constantly deemed more important than the individual. Elders are made to do things that they don’t want to do because the minister is convinced that it’s best for the church if they do the thing he wants done.

It’s also a struggle from a creative point of view.

Whyte talks about this in the book and how there is a struggle between coming up with ideas, thinking outside the box, going against the grain etc and administrators who want order, consensus and goals.

We’re famous in the Presbyterian church for having committees and sub committees, committees on committees. liking order and traditions.

On the other hand things like messy intuition, aimless thoughts or questions that wander of course aren’t appreciated or valued because committees focus on agreement and order. These things inhibit creativity and make it hard for people who have been made that way.

The way the PCI is set up it great in many ways but I don’t think it lends itself to being creative and that make it’s people like me wary of it. Will I have to strip away those bits of me to fit into this organization? But I don’t want to to that so what do we do?

I guess that I was thinking about this sort of stuff after seeing pictures of the Pope resigning this week.

Forgive me if this now swings into an ungraceful rant about the Vatican.

Something about the Pope and all the cardinals, bishops and the church governance makes me feel so uncomfortable and frustrated.
I don’t know why it freaks me out so much, or how to talk about it without sounding like a bigot. It makes me angry.

The problem I have with the position of Pope is that he is my brother yet he is a brother that I can’t challenge. He is a brother that has security guards and goes around in it strange clothes and robes that I am supposed to respect and show great reverence for as he is the head of the Roman Catholic church. I can’t say things about him as I might offend friends and their religion. Yet their religion is also my religion. So that is the tension. I can’t have communion in their church even though it’s not their church, I’m as important a member as anyone in the Vatican.

It makes me frustrated. I can’t relate to their way of church governance. Yet it’s also somehow related to me.

So I’m not sure what I’m talking about.
Don’t take this one as a reasoned and sensible post. It’s a rant about the Pope and I’m wrestling with stuff at the moment. But there is something about it all the pushes all my buttons.

drawing lines + risking things

I’d an idea a few days ago and thought ‘That might just work, I’ll give it a go…
And so the last few days have been spent trying to make this idea and see if it will work or look as cool as I imagined it might look.

It can be hard to have an idea  sometimes as the point when you see it in your head or imagine what it might look like, or the ideal way it would sound, or the ideal way it might come out is the best that it’s going to get. When you try to make the thing it usually looks nothing like you imagined in your head, or it sounds crap, or looks rubbish,  or won’t work.

Or maybe it would work if you kept at it or tried again and took your mistakes aboard and got help.

But sometimes you just get fed up because it was another example of something you tried hard to make work that didn’t work out the way you planned and all those hours you spent fiddling at it and trying to be careful and this mess or that song you don’t like is what you have to show for your work. It can be disheartening.

One of the main ways it goes wrong is in not knowing when to stop. You might have something you think is OK or at home with but then you think ‘Ah, but it could be better if I added this….‘ and before you know it you’ve gone too far and messed it up. You added too much paint, you’ve not taken enough care, or you just  didn’t care and just added something random and now it’s a pigs ear. G.K Chesterton is supposed to have said

‘Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.’

Is drawing the line the hardest part?

But on the other hand if we don’t ‘risk it for a biscuit‘ or if we settle for not taking risks and having a go then perhaps that is worse? I always think (and get a bit freaked out) by the parable of the talents and how the master treats the servant who buried his talents and played it safe.

This song covered by The Unthanks has been stuck in my head as well.

It’s about a man and his prized pigeon who he risks on big race from Rome.

‘There was gonna be a champions’ race from Italy
“Look at the maps, all that land and sea
Charlie, you’ll lose that bird”
But Charlie never heard
He put it in a basket and sent it off to Rome
On the day o’ the big race a storm blew in
A thousand birds were swept away and never seen again
“Charlie we told you so
Surely by now you know
When you’re living in the West End there ain’t many dreams come true”
“Yeah, I know, but I had to try
A man can crawl around or he can learn to fly
And if you live ’round here
The ground seems awful near
Sometimes I need a lift from victory”‘

how can we sing our song in a strange land?

I has been on a bit of a downer this week after spending last week in and around Dublin.

There are many reasons why I feel down but the main one is that just don’t feel as creative here in Belfast-Lisburn, I just don’t feel as inspired and free to make things or see new possibilities and this gets me down. I try drawing but don’t want to experiment and then get stuck in a rut, a bad rut. I hate the stuff I do and want to rip it up (which I nearly did yesterday afternoon).
I try writing a song but can’t get past the first two lines.

That is not meant to be a slight on either Lisburn-Belfast, I guess you can’t help who you love. You can try and give it a go, a sort of arranged marriage of sorts but it might be a unhappy arranged marriage at that.

The light, colours, angles, are all wrong. Nothing seems to fit properly and the shadows creep in all the wrong corners.  Everything is green and overhangs the pavement.

publish or perish?not sure

This book is a struggle to read, but there bits that voice some of what I struggle with in life, especially when it comes to things such as making a living or why I sometimes feel a bit odd or stuck.


‘..every modern artist who has chosen to labour with a gift must sooner or later wonder how he or she is to survive in a society dominated by market exchange.  And if the fruits of a gift are gifts themselves, how is the artist to nourish himself, spiritually as well as materially, in an age whose values are market values and whose commerce consists almost exclusively in the purchase and sale of commodities?’

This is what gets me down. How to make a living with gifts in a commodity society?

Later on in the book (after skipping out chapters) Lewis Hyde writes this

“Having accepted what has been given to him – either in the sense of inspiration or in the sense of talent – the artist often feels compelled, feel the desire, to make the work and offer it to an audience. The gift must stay in motion. ‘Publish or perish’ is an internal demand of the creative spirit…”

This is what also gets me down also because I feel that ‘publish or perish’ line deep in my gut.
I realise that it could be an idol in my life, something I look to to give me  value or validate me,  but it’s also part of the way I’ve been created.

the freedom of obscurity…

It’s one of those strange ones.

I’ll admit I do like it when some people read a blog post,
or listen to a song I’ve written and say they enjoyed it,
or buy something I’ve doodled
the moment I feel that there is an audience gathering (no matter how small that audience is or even if there is no audience at all and ‘the audience’ is only in your imagination) I start to freeze up and not know what to do.

There is definately something liberating in being able to do your thing in obscurity but at the same time it can deeply discouraging. Perhaps it’s just a paradox?

Robert Hughes writes a bit about this sort of thing in ‘The Shock of the New’ when describing how Picasso and Braque came up with Cubism. I’m not saying I’m Northern Ireland’s answer to Pablo Picasso by the way, just that the fact nobody is reading your blog or listening to you allow you freedom to experiment a bit and say things that you would never get away with if you had an audience.

‘But he [Picasso] was so little known, and Braque so wholly unknown, that in the public eye neither artist existed. The audience for their work might have been a dozen people….This might seem like crushing isolation, but it meant that they were free, as researchers in some very obscure area of science are free. Nobody cared enough to interfere. Their work had no role as public speech, and so there was no public pressure on it to conform. This was fortunate, since they were engaged in a project which would presently seem, from the point of view of normal description, quite crazy’
Robert Hughes, The Shock of the New