Friday, October 29, 2010

The Bradbury Foundation

The Bradbury Foundation is Hong Kong’s largest charitable trust.

The Foundation, based in Hong Kong, is a grant making trust that was established by Mr Bertram Walter Bradbury known as “Bertie” (and in Chinese as Bai Puli). Born in 1888 in Shropshire he was a Master Butcher who emigrated to live in Hong Kong. Originally working for the Hong Kong Milk Company he founded his own business, initially in the printing industry and then in the property and stock markets. He was a well liked person, owned the first television in Hong Kong, skinned the last tiger in the colony and had a close affinity with the Salvation Army. During the Japanese invasion of China (1942-45) Mr Bradbury was interred in Stanley Camp, Hong Kong.

In the early 1960s he set up a trust fund to help British charities that assist the elderly and disadvantaged in Hong Kong and the UK. On his death in 1970 his considerable fortune was committed to the work of the Bradbury Foundation. Many institutions and Schools in Hong Kong are named “Bradbury” as a result of funding from the foundation. The foundation banks with HSBC.

The trustees meet once per year in November and consider applications put forward by their country representatives. The UK representative was, for a long time, Dennis Minns. Their current UK representative is Hugh Inman.

At date of writing the trustees are following a five year plan. The foundation's four main themes during this period are believed to be: The Salvation Army, The Red Cross, the elderly and the blind. They are not funding anything which falls outside of these themes. In addition, due to the current financial crisis, the Bradbury Foundation no longer funds multi-purpose community centres. Previously this was one of their main areas of support. Funding for UK based organisations is now restricted to England and Wales. They have stopped funding projects in Scotland.

This article has been put here to provide further background on this rather mysterious, but often talked about,  trust.

I am not in a position to provide any further contact details so please don't ask!

This article (c) 2010 Gordon Hudson MinstF

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why creationism is bad for Christianity - an open letter to creationists in Edinburgh.

I was originally going to write this piece as a response to a talk given by Paul James-Griffiths (a member of the Edinburgh Creation Group) at Carrubbers Christian Centre last week, but its not really about him. There is a wider issue here about changes in the way Christianity is being presented by evangelical groups in the city. Whilst I don’t mind people believing whatever they like, when they try to represent young earth creationism as central to Christianity I think this is both incorrect and damaging to Christianity.

I write this as a former creationist myself who ended up no longer believing in God. Incidentally I attended Carrubbers and was involved in promoting one of the first tours of the UK by Ken Ham. So I speak as someone who had that level of investment in the whole house of cards at one time.

My own faith was shipwrecked by this issue because I had been told time and again that belief in a young earth and creation of the species as they currently are without evolution was essential to being a proper, soundly converted, bible believing Christian. When I started to doubt creationism I also began to question all the other things I had been told about God. I felt lied to, and ultimately I found I no longer believed in God. In hindsight if I had been in an environment where it was possible to believe in the Gospel message without having to accept creationism I would probably still be a Christian, or at least have some level of faith in God. Although its unlikely that this level of faith would have made me acceptable to evangelicals as a “real Christian”.

As time has gone on it has occurred to me that the communication challenges facing the church today are being made greater by the emphasis they are putting on creationism.

If you are a creationist in Edinburgh here are some reasons why I think your activities are bad for Christianity.

You are making the relevance of the bible conditional on the literal truth of a part of it which stands at odds with observable facts. 
You may claim that there is no contradiction between the two and that Genesis is science, but the majority of thinking people do not agree with that position and there is considerable scientific and everyday evidence to support their skepticism. By making young earth creationism central to the Christian message you are narrowing down the number of people to whom that message will appeal.  This is part of a wider movement in Christianity which seeks to add more and more levels of unreasonable belief in order to be accepted by the group as a “true believer” (whether it be pentecostal doctrines, dispensationalist, creationist or any other add on doctrine).

You are unwittingly providing fuel for militant atheists.
You see, if your argument is “Genesis can be proved to be literally true, therefore the rest of the bible is true, therefore God exists” it does not take much to turn this argument on its head and say “science proves that Genesis is not literally true, therefore the rest of the bible is untrue, therefore there is no god”. Even though there is no logical connection between the literal truth of Genesis and the truth of any other part of the bible or with the issue of the existence of God.

You are misusing creation as a proof for the existence of God.
Creationists use of a young earth and dismissal of evolution as a proof for the existence of God is a false dawn. Even if evolution was proved to be untrue it would not necessarily mean that God did it (there are other competing theories) and even then it would not logically fall that it was the Christian God as there are various other deities who lay claim to having created the world.

You are encouraging people to base their faith on a total denial of reason.
One consequence of creationism is that it tends towards putting a limit on how far people can go in investigating the world we live in. Some questions are simply off limit whilst others have a stop put on how far they can go. This means that Christians are more and more standing against education and this includes theological education just as much as scientific education. There is a general feeling amongst evangelicals that education erodes faith and is to be avoided. Hence the increased trend towards home schooling and Christian Schools in the Edinburgh area. By demonstrating outside the University and accusing it of being an atheist stronghold you are representing Christianity as Luddite in relation to education.

You are in danger of promoting lies.
Whilst I will defend your right to hold your beliefs about human origins there does come a point where it parts company with the facts and you have to accept that it is really just a faith position and accept it as such. When you try to promote it as hard fact then many people will view you as liars.

Some creationist beliefs previously promoted as true have later been found to be untrue.  This can not be said for any other area of Christian doctrine or the gospel message, which tends towards the metaphysical and therefore can never be found to be factually false. The alleged discovery of Noah’s Ark earlier this year which was then proved to be false was later defended by those involved as a way of bringing people to faith in God even although it was known to be false.
Intelligent design is worse than creationism because it starts with a definite lie. By claiming “this is nothing to do with religion” intelligent design organisations, staffed by evangelical Christians with religious objectives, start  from an immoral position which is at odds with the purported  character of God (who is supposed to be true and righteous).

In conclusion
It will be interesting to see what sort of response, if any, this article receives. My gut feeling is that there will be lots of comments trying to prove the creationist scientific claims whilst avoiding the actual point of the article which is about the way creationism has damaged the integrity of the way that Christianity is being presented in Edinburgh.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Professional fundraisers and charity trustees.

 [This article, by me, originally appeared on the Institute of Fundraising trusts special interest group mailing list].

Fundraising is a bit like teaching. Everyone has been to school so they think they are an expert on teaching. Everyone has put a coin in a collecting tin so they think they are an expert on fundraising. Like the trustee who insisted that a particular small community event could easily make £10,000 profit if only I ran it properly…

My experience is that trustees of small and medium size charities prefer:

  1. Capital appeals (easier to understand than complex revenue funding packagesand results in something physical that they can point to in the future).
  2. Events (that they can be seen at, but that don't necessarily make any money).Even if this is at the expense of revenue fundraising. 

  1. Expect returns on investment which are higher than those which would be expected by larger charities. 
  2. Are usually opposed to professionalizing the presentation of the organisation even if that costs no more than is currently being spent.

The root of this seems to be a fear of personal social exposure. They do not want to meet someone socially who knows they are a trustee of the charity and mentions it to them. The best example of this is the chairman of a charity I used to work for who, when we were recruiting celebrity patrons, said "I don't think we want any of those vaudeville types involved". He meant that he didn't want to be embarrassed by certain celebs involvement in the charity because they were not his kind of people even if they would be beneficial to the charity. The same chairman also told me that I was making too much of our case for funding and that we were simply not as important a cause as some of the bigger charities in our field. That’s a personal embarrassed issue too. People were mentioning it to him because we were getting more publicity. 

Trustees also feel a bit guilty sometimes for not helping fundraisers. For example, they sometimes think they have influence with people or organisations, but then find that when they try to use that influence that they don't really have it. If that happens once its unlikely that trustee will try and help again.

A lot of trustees in smaller charities are retired pubic sector executives who got where they got by being Teflon coated. They won't risk getting involved in things which might have a negative outcome. They don't know they behave like this, its just part of their "being".

The best situation any fundraiser can hope for is trustees who do nothing to help, but don't obstruct their work either.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is our coffee culture just drug abuse by another name?

Feeling the necessity for a caffeine hit even earlier than usual I headed out to Costa at 10:30 this morning. I don't think I am addicted to coffee as I don't feel a craving for coffee if I don't get it,  but I do think that my (ab)use of caffeine is not far off that of people who snort the odd line of cocaine to get themselves going. For me its about helping my creativity when I have a lot of writing to do. Coffee has the ability to kick start my creative thinking.

This reminds me of when I was at the height of my religious fervour and attending the most bizzare pentecostal church imagineable (including animal noises and women re-enacting labour and childbirth). I was never that much into it and it wasn't long before I realised it was all preposterous, but to do my duty as good happy clappy person I was forced to take two double espressos before the Sunday service. Its interesting how many churches these days involve coffee in their evangelism work so maybe I was just setting a trend with my use of mind altering substances.

So is the coffee culture a social habit or a clinical addiction? I think that, like the coffee of the 1970's, its half and half. Some people like to watch the world go by and some like to be seen. According to an architect friend this is why coffee shops all have big windows. To some it will be a true substance addiction, but I have yet to see mid afternoon queues at Tesco for pro-plus tablets.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Christian Zeal and Activity by John Adams

This is a video I made to accompany the musical work "Christian Zeal and Activity" by the American Composer John Adams.  For better sound and video quality, click here to watch it directly in YouTube and  then select HD.

Adams came from an area in the US where it was common to come across evangelistic camp meetings in the countryside. When he was composing this piece he recorded a preacher from the radio and chopped up his words so they don't really make any sense. Adams point seems to be that people are attracted to a preacher not by their words but by the cadence of their voice and their delivery.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Phillip McCann and cornet playing, some thoughts.

I came across this interesting article written by a visiting American music professor who had some cornet lessons with Phillip McCann. For those who don’t know who he is, Phillip is something of a controversial figure in the brass playing world. Probably the greatest lyric cornet player of the last thirty years, his five volumes of recordings for Chandos entitled  “The World’s Most Beautiful Melodies” have brought cornet playing to a wider audience than any other cornet player of recent times. Even if you have never heard the name Phillip McCann you will have heard his cornet as his cornet voiced the theme and incidental music for the TV series Hetty Wainthropp Investigates.

Phillip McCann was something of a boy wonder, joining the Black Dyke Mills Band at a very young age and staying for sixteen years before leaving to pursue a successful career as a soloist and then as a conductor. Most notably with Sellers International Band which he created as an outlet for brass students at two colleges in Huddersfield. He grew up in Bo’ness and played with Kinneil Band, in the same county where I have done most of my cornet playing. You will find an interesting biography of Phillip McCann here.

The controversy surrounding Phillip McCann is not over his virtuosity or his interpretation of the great melodic pieces that made his public reputation, but his sound. To understand this, at a time when trumpet playing was in the ascendancy and cornets were getting larger, brass band test pieces were becoming more orchestral in character, Phillip McCann rejected this and attempted to rediscover an authentic voice for the cornet, distinct from the trumpet, which makes full use of the cornet’s warm sound and ability to articulate. In particular he looked back to players like Harry Mortimer and Jack Mackintosh for a sound concept, which must also have been influenced by Jim Shepherd whom he worked with at Black Dyke.

Of course the one thing that every brass player knows about Phillip McCann’s sound is that he always plays with vibrato. Often caricatured as needless, heavy and set with a metronome, an examination of his recordings shows that its not particularly heavy, but it is indeed very regular. In the blog post cited at the beginning of this article I think we get an insight in to his thoughts on how the cornet should sound:
I think he wasn’t totally disgusted by the performance (thought I sounded like a trumpet player trying to play a cornet) and said the first thing we needed to talk about was vibrato.  Here are the important points:
  • Vibrato is part of the cornet sound.  Period.
  • Cornet vibrato is just like violin or soprano vibrato……part of their sound
  • Think of a brass band not as a brass ensemble (like Philip Jones) but as a brass orchestra
  • Cornets are the violins of the brass orchestra in terms of their vocal style and vibrato.
  • To make vibrato the lower jaw moves.
  • The movement is very small and very fast (narrow fast vibrato).
  • The movement is so small that if you stop moving the jaw even just a little, the vibrato stops completely.
  • It doesn’t get wider just because the sound is more intense or the dynamic increases.
Other points on music and cornet playing:
  • Vibrato and articulation have nothing to do with the airstream which is constant.
  • Forte is not an actual dynamic it is an impression.  FF is a huge sound but not harsh or pushed.
  • Tension is NEVER the answer
  • At all times make it feel and sound like you are singing.  This applies to phrasing as well.
  • Playing well is hard work, get used to it.  However it must look and sound easy.
  • Solos and band pieces are played well not because you practiced them but because you can do all of the techniques that allow you to play them well.
  • Don’t spend time only playing band music.  Spend practice time becoming a better player and musician.
  • A true test of a bands ability is being able to play a piece well at sight.

Its interesting that he is not talking about uncontrolled vibrato, but emphasising the importance of being able to create a controlled vibrato using the jaw rather than the diaphragm or throat. This is a challenge to my own playing where my woodwind experience has nurtured a light diaphragm vibrato with terminal jaw vibrato which tends to get too wide in loud dynamics. I am going to work on this and see if I can train myself to produce a nice regular and controlled vibrato.

Even in his choice of equipment Philip McCann decided not to go with the mainstream, rejecting thick tone of the popular Denis Wick mouthpieces and developing his own mouthpiece. While still being funnel shaped its cup is shallower, with a narrower throat and with less mass than the Wick mouthpieces. This leads to a thinner sound with more precise articulation. My experience of using one of these was that it responded well when approached with less pressure and a nice constant stream of air, but I found that it did not fit the current Sovereign cornets due to their receiver taper being fractionally larger than the original Sovereign or Maestro models.  Phillip McCann himself played on a Boosey and Hawkes Sovereign Cornet for a long time (the old round stamp model, but I am not sure if it was the medium or large bore version) before assisting Yamaha to develop the Maestro model for the UK market. This is a far more compact sounding instrument with a narrower bore than the large bore Sovereign. Having played both myself I have found the Maestro to be a better soloists instrument than the Sovereign, although some notes above the stave on the Maestro require a lot of trigger work.

On reflection I think Phillip McCann typifies the two sides of brass banding. On the one hand he is a perfectionist, striving for the ultimate technical performance, but on the other hand he is a musician in the true sense*. His music has a true heart and evokes great emotion rather than just the pure, soulless technical brilliance that is so commonly amongst brass players. Future generations may well look back to his example when trying to define their own distinctive voice for the cornet.

*The greek “mousa” meaning “song” is also the Greek word for  “muse” - a godess who reminds you of things through metrical poetry or “mousike”.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Centre For Intelligent Design opens in Glasgow

I notice that a new organisation calling itself the "Centre for Intelligent Design" has opened in Glasgow. Its first project is a speaking tour by prominent anti evolutionist Michael Behe.

Their website has no religious references on it, but after doing a bit of digging their domain name is registered to someone called Peter Loose. Maybe this is the same Peter Loose who according to this newsletter (pdf file)  previously organised a speaking tour by "Creation Scientists" from the fundamentalist Institute for Creation Research in 2005:

Dr. Andrew Snelling and Professor Phillip Johnson undertook a lengthy speaking tour throughout Great Britain from late October through mid-November. They spoke to over 8,000 people in 26 different venues. Peter Loose and the Elim churches of the United Kingdom who organized the tour were extremely pleased with the greater-than-expected turnout. Both public and church meetings were held during the tour. The largest meetings were held at the Kensington Temple Church in London and at Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh. Dr. Snelling was particularly thrilled to speak to the students at Emmanuel College in Newcastle-on-Tyne. This government-funded school had produced great controversy because it teaches creation. Evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins are indignant. Yet, this schoolis one of the best in the country, and Prime Minister Blair was supportive of the school in parliament two years ago.
The Centre for Intelligent Design seems to be an attempt to sanitise the religious message of creationism and get it into mainstream education where overtly religious organisations have failed.

I also note that they have set up their organisation as a charity on Guernsey meaning they do not need to disclose who their funders are. Maybe their funders are religious organisations? We simply don't know and this lack of transparency is troubling. If my  fears are correct this could be another example of Christians being "economical with the truth" which does not lend credibility to their core beliefs about God (who apparently has a strong interested in truth).

More to follow (I suspect).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

HTML page showing as blank in Internet Explorer after editing with Kompozer.

I am posting this solution in case it helps someone else.

The problem:
After editing a web page at work it all seemed fine to me, but a colleague could only see a blank page. He was using Internet Explorer 8. I had the same problem when I tested it in Internet Explorer 9. The page had always been designed and edited using Kompozer. The only change had been a move from WIndows XP to Windows 7 due to a computer failure. Looking at the source code it was clear that some rewriting had gone on, but the problem was not clear and I had to restore the page from a back up.

Now, this weekend I have had the same problem with a new version of my own web site. It validates with no errors but renders as a blank page in Internet Explorer.

The solution:
After a lot of debugging I have found the cause. IE9 stops rendering the page when it gets to the script tag in the head of the page that links to an external Javascript file. Kompozer has been rewriting the head elements with self-closing tags. This is fine in all the other lines, but the line linking to the external script file read:

<script language="JavaScript" src="filename.js"/>

This validates correctly and works in Chrome and Firefox, but it does not work in Internet Explorer or Safari for iPhone which both require the tag to be closed normally like this:

<script language="JavaScript" src="filename.js"></script>

The reason for this is that a self closing script tag is valid XHTML, and this is what Kompozer is editing for, but it is not valid HTML. If the web server is serving the web page as mime type "text/html", which is the norm, then IE will stop rendering the page when it sees the unrecognised self closed tag instead of just not loading the script file while loading the rest of the page. Internet Explorer was not originally designed to render XHTML at all but it does, because this is a real world necessity and other browsers fully support it even with a self closing script tag. This script tag issue seems to relate to a previous security issue with IE and it has caused it to behave differently from the other main browsers.

The reason this happened to me in the first place was that at home and work I had changed computers at work and home and installed fresh copies of Kompozer. I had downloaded the current development version from the 0.8 tree rather than the stable 0.7 one. It turns out that 0.8 has a bug where it is self closing the script tag even if you have typed it in with a normal closing tag. There appears to be no setting to override the  self-closing tag rewriting so the only solution is to uninstall Kompozer 0.8 and reinstall 0.7. After doing this I have had no problems and everything is back to normal.