So here I was, trying to puzzle together a good driving music album, when I noticed that several of the songs were precisely 3 minutes and 30 seconds long. Coincidence? Probably.

That set me wondering. Is it possible to create a good mix album with the restriction that all the songs had to be around 3:30 in length?

I decided to give it a shot... It turned out that there were nearly 500 tunes in my iTunes library that were longer than 3:25 and shorter than 3:35. So I tried narrowing it down further, only to realise that I had more then 40 tunes in my library that were EXACTLY 3:30. Surely, it woudl have to be possible to select a playlist out of those 40 tunes...? So I tried...

As such, I'm proudly presenting... Three and a Half: A Concept Mixtape

Sound interesting? Want a copy? Drop me a /msg*

Playlist:

  1. Queen - Don't stop me now (3'30")
  2. Steppenwolf - Born to be wild (3'30")
  3. ACDC - You shook me all night long (3'30")
  4. SOAD - Chop Suey (3'30")
  5. Elton John - Heavy Traffic (3'30")
  6. Bob Dylan - Highway 61 revisited (3'30")
  7. Pearl Jam - Satan's Bed (3'30")
  8. George Harrison - Here comes the sun (3'30")
  9. Foo Fighters - For all the cows (3'30")
  10. Chet Baker - Darn that Dream (3'30")
  11. Brian Setzer's Orchestra - That Mellow Saxophone (3'30")
  12. Tavares - Heaven must be missing an angel (3'30")
  13. Nightmares on Wax - Finer (3'30")
  14. Salt N Pepa - Let's talk about sex (3'30")
  15. Tricky - She Said (3'30")
  16. Roni Size - Hopskotch (3'30")
  17. The Cure - Love Song (3'30")
  18. Knut Nordhagen - Time in Palm (3'30")
  19. Røyksopp - In Space (3'30")

But why these songs? Why not...

Queen's Don't stop me now was voted one of BBC Top Gear's top driving songs of all time, and I can't say I am in any kind of place to argue. In fact, this tune (along with Steppenwolf, Elton John, Tavares and Bob Dylan) are the inspirations for this conceptual compilation album. Pretentious? Hells yes, but so much fun!

Steppenwolf's Born to be Wild is just another classic. You just want to strap yourself to a motorcycle, with a shotgun in a holster behind you, and ride off into a dusty sunset, devil-may-care attitude and all. I love it, and it's a wicked little driving tune. After the Queen tune, it takes the mix album into a more relaxed groove, but the main reason it is here, is to serve as a spacer between the Queen song and...

AC/DC. What a band. What a tune. This is rock and roll at its most basic. The drum line is simplicty itself, the riff begs a dose of air guitar, and the singer just wrings his soul out onto the album. Wicked stuff.

Taking it an order of magnitude heavier is the quirky Chop Suey by System of a Down, off their much-maligned Toxicity album. As with many of their tunes, SoaD manage to keep the playfulness, despite the fact they are playing harder'n'coffin nails rock. Respectworthy, and definitely worthy of this album.

For a complete change of pace, Elton John's Heavy Traffic is a defiant shuffle track which is almost entirely unlike anything he's ever done before. It came off the Reg strikes Back album, which was the only cassette tape I had with me to camp once, when I was around 14 years old, due to forgetting the bag with all the tapes in it. An unfortunate accident, but I'd never listened to this album before, and over the week, I learned to love its well-produced smoothness. Heavy Traffic has been a long-time favourite of mine, and makes for an excellent driving tune, of course.

From Elton John, onto another king: Bob Dylan! Highway 61 is one of my favourite songs, and somehow the way Dylan enunciates this tune reminds me of Mitch Hedberg. Apart from it being a cracking song, I always think of one-liners from Hedberg's shows, which makes it a peculiar listening experience. Fab stuff, though.

Pearl Jam's Satan's Bed is a very odd track off Vitalogy. This whole album has a weird tinge to it, because I first started listening to it after I'd broken up with my first serious girlfriend, back when the Internet was still in its infancy. She had given me Vitalogy as a gift, but I was still in my happy hardcore phase, so I had politely thanked her and then chucked it in the back of my CD rack. After the break-up, I realised that happy hardcore was doing nothing for me in that state of mind, so I started searching for other things. I found this album, and it didn't leave my CD player for 5 weeks.

It did help me out of my down, though, and the inclusion of Here Comes the Sun, performed by ex-beatle George Harrison, is somewhat symbolic of this. As if I need a reason to include this tune. It's a cracker.

Foo Fighters are another long-standing favourite of mine. I don't know why For All the Cows appeals to me so strongly, but it has something to do with the smoothness of the delivery - from a semi-depressed ballad, via a heavier, more up-beat section to a downright protesting-against-the-world finale... Yeah, definitely one of my favourites.

Taking it back down a notch with a classic Chet Baker jazz classic.. It's just gotta be done, innit?

Brian Setzer's orchestra has always been mostly a novelty band in my book, but they do it so damn well. The drive behind the swing-style music is an uplifting, yet fully complementing tune which balances out the calmness of the Chet Baker tune nicely.

After that energetic outburst, it's back into the classics, with Heaven is Missing an Angel, by Tavares. I've got a warm memory of the whole family going on a mobile home holiday in southern France. Much of the driving was done at night, with myself and my sister asleep in the top, above the driving cabin. Of course, what my parents didn't realise that the curtains could be opened, and we could look out forward. Pretending to be superman, I'd listen to the music playing downstairs, watching the world zoom by in the night. This song was one of those tunes.

Nightmares on wax normally have slightly more energetic songs, but this one really does it for me, because it is the antithesis of the two previous songs. Downbeat, relaxing, and quirky.

... Which is exactly why we need to go the other way again. I used to go to a school in Norway where we had a complete nutter as a Norwegian teacher. He was mentally unstable, to say the least, and he really tried hard to be liked, and to fit in. As soon as we found out he used to be a dance instructor in a previous life, we convinced him to teach us how to dance. For three months straight, instead of learning any grammar or read any books, we spent dancing. Salt'n'Pepa's Let's talk about Sex was one of the tunes used, and it left me embarrassed every time. Sex? Oh my, I was only about 12 - this whole sex thing was a bit nasty, wasn't it? Lovin' the naivity.

From the simplicity of the SnP tune, taking it into Tricky seems only fair. Multi-layered music which defies classification is good by anybodys measure, no? This particular Tricky tune is kind of like drum and bass lite, which is useful, because the next song ain't...

Bristol's Roni Size has by many been accused of being the birth-father of drum and bass. This particular tune isn't very heavy, but it is one of the most easily accessable DnB tunes I know of - the first tune I'll play to someone who has no idea what the genre is all about. It's best described as ambient drum'n'bass, and fits in lovely between Tricky and...

The Cure. Lovesong is one of my favourite Cure songs. Reason enough to include it.

Knut Nordhagen is the father of a good friend of mine back in Norway. He is one of the brightly shining stars on the blues skyline back in the Birth Country of the Giants, and Time in Palm is a beautiful, laid-back tune.

Rounding off the compilation is a tune which always makes me unwind a couple of notches. Soft, gentle waves flowing out of the speakers, with fantasy-themed sound samples and a complex soundscape... All in the name of relaxation. The best possible way to end an ambitious mix-tape.

*) I have it available for download, or I could make you a CD, but if I have to start shipping them around, I'd really appreciate one in return :)

Oh, and on that note, see also my ultimate music write-up of GTKY-like goodness.

Under 16's. School Rugby Union final. A tight game but our opponents have the better of us.

We are losing 15 - 21, by 6 points. All that is needed is a converted try to win the game. But we run out of time. The halfback picks the ball up from a ruck on their side of halfway, right next to the sideline.

All that is needed is for him to kick the ball out of play, and the game will end. Victory lies within his grasp. Our team has all but resigned itself to defeat, the loss of an entire season's work.

As he picks up the precious pill, he finds himself suddenly surrounded by 5 of our men, desperately trying for a last ditch tackle. Panic strikes him, and instead of kicking the ball straight out, he turns wildly, and kicks it...

BACKWARDS!!!

Our flyhalf sprints, chasing the ball that is destined for the dead ball area, surely it must go out anyway and the game will be over. Enter goalpost.

Bouncing off the upright, the ball stops underneath the posts. The fullback, confounded by what his team mate has done, tries to recover and nullify the situation, but our courageous flyhalf has already scooped up the loose ball and planted in sweetly under the black dot. He converts his own try, and the game is ours, 22 - 21.

I have it on good authority that the kid responsible cried all the way home.

Live and learn.

When I entered church this morning a cameraman was setting up in one of the side aisles at the transept. We don't videotape our services, and his camera was clearly a professional piece, not something you might bring to film a baptism. But it really was none of my business so I passed it by.

Though almost no one knew it, it turns out the cameraman was from ABC news and he was at my church to film for tomorrow's edition of the program Nightline. The subject will be churches and politics in America. Another crew was also in Columbus filming similar events at the World Harvest Church, a megachurch whose leader is the televangelist Rod Parsley.

It is no secret that conservative Christians have played a growing role in American politics for some years now, ever since Jerry Falwell brought out the Moral Majority and Pat Robertson ran for President of the United States. Before the seventies evangelicals rarely voted, staying out of politics. Roe vs. Wade, the increasing movement for gay rights, the sexual liberation movement of the seventies and the teaching of evolution has mobilized conservative voters. Randall Terry of Operation Rescue got them to run for low office, such as precinct committeeman in the Republican Party, and the efforts of Ralph Reed and other ideological conservatives mobilized them not only to vote, but to participate in grass roots politics, so much so that these men and women have often come to control the nomination process for the Republican Party. They also became the people who canvassed precincts, made phone calls and stuffed envelopes for G.O.P. candidates.

This movement shifted the Republican Party to the far right in many areas, and moved the party from a more pragmatic to an almost purely ideological outlook in many of its policies. Ideological conservatives were elected to positions formerly held by pragmatists. Republicans who sought to advance often have had to pay homage to the far right. They needed fundamentalist support to win nomination and to get the foot soldiers they need to run a winning campaign in the general election. Moderate conservatives such as Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector found themselves under attack from the right within their own party. Previously, such challenges against an incumbent were unheard of, as they could put Republican-held seats in jeopardy.

Second, while Christians are concerned with sexuality, we don't all see sexual purity as the beginning and ending of morality. Like many others my church has come to see that gay people are as Jon Stewart so well put it, "not a random fetish but a permanent part of the human condition." Like national conference of the Episcopal Church the United Church of Christ is an open and affirming domination. That hasn't always been easy because old views die hard, but when the election was held to make my own church open and affirming the vote was 97% for. We marry gay couples and in our church directory long-term gay and lesbian couples are listed as families. Because that's just what they are.

Of course Reverends Parsley and Johnson do not agree. Recently they joined together to form a right-wing lobbying group called Reform Ohio Now intended to codify their moral teachings, including so-called intelligent design in Ohio law. Johnson is on record as wanting to make sure that no one ever has to hear about Charles Darwin's funny idea. When they announced their new group Rod Parsley stated "It's time to lock and load on Ohio."

For many of us who don't see Christ's teachings as a call to return to Phariseeism, that was the spark that lit the fire. Many Christians are tired of seeing our faith used as a conservative rallying cry. We're tired of being told by people of conscience that "You're one of the them!" when we tell them we're believers. We're tired of people thinking that faith requires us to give up on science. We're tired of letting the right become the voice of God in the world. The Sojourners movement led by the Reverend Jim Wallis marked the beginning of the mobilization of moderate mainstream Christians.

Hearing the call of Dr. Gladden, my own minister, Reverend Tim Ahrens, acted. Along with a group of other ministers and rabbis he helped form We Believe, a more centrist Christian lobbying group that does not endorse candidates, but also takes no positions at all on the issues of sexual purity. Rather the emphasis is entirely on the meek, the despised, the poor and downtrodden. Outside that Reverend Ahrens and others have begun to openly criticize Reform Ohio Now as not following the true teachings of Christ, and have entered open debate with both Parsley and Johnson. In fact, Johnson recently backed out of a debate with Ahrens, as 'not being advantageous at this time'.

What this means is that in Ohio there is an open and public schism between religious leaders right and left on the subject of what Jesus called Christians to do. This debate does not serve the interests of conservatives as it denies implicitly their claim that theirs is the Christian position. That undercuts the legitimacy of their teachings in a way that forces them to defend themselves theologically rather than simply calling us liberals. That sort of debate is one people like Reverend Ahrens, Eric Willians and Episcopal Minister George Glazier welcome, because we know our Bibles at least as well as they do, and we get to speak in inclusive language while they must speak the language of judgment and exclusion.

Tomorrow that debate moves to Nightline. This isn't the first time the national news has picked this up, it was covered in a September 2006 article in The New Yorker. But this the first time the debate has reached the major television networks. But this is part of a long-overdue larger debate for America's soul, one moderates can and will win.

Update! It appears I was misinformed, the Nightline piece is not supposed to be a confrontation between Parsley and my pastor, but rather a profile of We Believe. It can't hurt though to have publicity go to a group that is very much in opposition to Parsley's bunch.

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