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Reflection: Curse Your Branches December 13, 2009

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I finally bought Bazan’s newest album. I put some preliminary thoughts on the album on a blog a few months ago. Now, however, I have now had a chance to listen and mull the album over.

There is always something beautiful about somebody singing from the freedom of theological honesty. Christian musicians and artists feel the necessity to act as apologists for the faith. This makes for some awful artwork and boring music. Why? Because it is contrived bullshit. It is forced propaganda, instead of authentic refrains from the human soul.

Has Bazan has fully freed himself from his Christian roots? No. Certainly not. He sings and lyrically rants about his former faith in the same manner that he sings and rants about the alcoholism that also haunts his life. They both cling to him like an unwanted specter, a shame, or guilt.

All that to say, I thought the album was gorgeous. It was an honest and well crafted portrait of a soul in process.

So Says I August 29, 2009

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Things to do before I die: see these guys live.

An address to the golden door
I was strumming on a stone again
pulling teeth from the pimps of gore when hatched
a tragic opera in my mind…
and it told of a new design
in which every soul is duty bound
to uphold all the statutes of boredom therein lies
the fatal flaw of the red age.

Because it was nothing like we’d ever dreamt,
our lust for life had gone away with the rent we hated
and because it made no money nobody saved no one’s life tonight.

So we burned all our uniforms
and let nature take its course again
and the big ones just eat all the little ones
that sent us back to the drawing board.

In our darkest hours
we have all asked for some
angel to come
sprinkle his dust all around
but all our crying voices they can’t turn it around
and you’ve had some crazy conversations of your own.

We’ve got rules and maps and guns in our backs
but we still can’t just behave ourselves
even if to save our own lives, so says I, we are a brutal kind.

Cause this is nothing like we’d ever dreamt
tell Sir Thomas More we’ve got another failed attempt
cause if it makes them money they might just give you life this time.

Reflection: Waltz With Bashir August 17, 2009

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Memory takes us where we need to go

"Memory takes us where we need to go"

Memory is dynamic…”

Though, I do not know how, this film manages to stay apolitical. It seems like a documentary about a man who is trying to understand the link between hidden memories and dreams that are all to real.

I say it seems like a documentary, because just 30 seconds into the film, you realize it is so much more. Then, 30 hours after the credits have rolled, it remains with you, as if etched upon a memory that it said was unreliable in the first place.

The subject matter is intense, and the writing is superb. The film on one level explores the effectiveness of war and violence, and goes so far as to compare the actions of Israeli Defense Forces to the Nazis at Auschwitz. On another level, there is hardly an explanation for the overarching political realities. Instead, we find one man trying to explore a fragment of his life that is missing from his memory – his reality.

These elements alone would make a captivating film. But, filmmaker Ari Folman decided to tell the story through animation. The extraordinary visuals, coupled with Max Richter’s haunting score, make a captivating film absolutely mesmerizing.

So much of our reality is defined by our memory. I wonder what we are missing and whether it is best left hidden.

Want A Cold One? August 15, 2009

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Pedro the Drunk Agnostic Lion August 1, 2009

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I’ve been listening to Pedro the Lion (along with Headphones and Bazan) for a couple years now. In anticipation of his upcoming album, David Bazan actually played Cornerstone Music Festival last month. For those of you who don’t know what Cornerstone is, Cornerstone is the mother of all Christian music festivals.  For those of you who don’t know who David Bazan is, he is better known as Pedro the Lion and he is an admitted agnostic.

All this is a good story and well told by Jessica Hopper, so check out this piece from the Chicago Reader.

Hard To Be is the first track of his newest album and it should give you a good idea of where he is coming from:

Wait just a minute
You expect me to believe
That all this misbehaving
Grew from one enchanted tree?
And helpless to fight it
We should all be satisfied
With this magical explanation
For why the living die
And why it’s hard to be
Hard to be, hard to be
A decent human being?

The beautiful story of David Bazan’s journey through faith, doubt, alcohol, and transition, makes his music all the better, for me. He has become an Agnostic and has found something extraordinarily rare in Christianity – authenticity.

image source: Google image search

Reflection: Gran Torino July 31, 2009

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reconciliation despite racism

reconciliation despite racism

Recently my nation has been following the suject of race again. The story of professor Henry Louis Gates arrest has brought the old and endless debate on race back to the forefront of our minds. It seems we will never learn to live together in a diverse culture.

In the midst of this debate, I had the chance to watch Clint Eastwood’s film Gran Torino. This film is undeniably about race. Eastwood’s character, Walt, is an unlikable ornery old racist widower who has to watch his impoverished Detroit neighborhood go through significant changes. Most prominently among the changes, is an influx of Hmong residents from Vietnam.

Walt is very set in his ways. He is particular and holds everyone up to his standards – even his own family. One of the ways he is particularly set in is his view of race.

Walt is a racist. He is not a racist in the same vein of an Alabama Klan member. Instead he is the typical flag waving Midwestern racist. He uses coarse and terrible racial epitaphs for everyone from Italians to Asian Americans. He despises every minority with equal derision. He castigates them all.

So, Walt is an unlikely hero for a story about racial tension. He becomes a hero when he stands up to a local marauding gang and inadvertantly rescues a Hmong neighbor. He was, in all actuality, trying to kick the gang members off his lawn. Nonetheless, he wasseen as a saint by his neighbors.

I’ll leave the rest of the plot out of this post, so you can experience it yourself. HOwever, I will say that there is no Hallmark moments in this film. Walt never sees the light, so to speak. He remains a bigot and a racist throughout the film. The only people who are able to actually tolerate Walt are the people who accept him for who he is. He is a terrible racist and they relate to him anyway.

In one poignant scene, Walt looks in the mirror and says “I’ve got more in common with these Gooks than my own spoiled-rotten family.” So, Walt appreciates his neighbors, but never meets the politically correct ideals. He still describes them cruelly and coarsly berates them with vile words. Yet, somehow, it is okay.

In an era where our nation is more and more diverse, perhaps we need to have realistic expectations of one another. Perhaps, political correctness is an unrealistic goal for racial reconciliation. We should embrace the fat that we are all flawed and have unfortunate views of eachother and try to get along anyway.

We’re all racists. We’re all jerks. If we are to have a politically correct litmus test before we can begin reconciling, reconciliation will never occur. Instead, the prerequisite for reconciliation should be relationship. As neighbors from diverse backgrounds interact and get to know one another, reconciliation will naturally occur.

Very Accurate Chart July 17, 2009

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song chartSource: I saw Matt Scott and Blake Huggins put this up on Twitter and Facebook. Awesome.

I have blogged elsewhere about how awful (and creepy) Christian music usually is can be. I want the music that I use to celbrate my spirituality to be as nuanced as my faith journey. Having the hots for Jesus, just does not cut it for me. Sorry.

On-Air Screaming July 16, 2009

Posted by watchman in culture, politics, Watchman.
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I am really tired of people who quote some radio talk show host. These guys are all the same. They yell about conspiracies, liberals, and commies until they decide to take a call. Then, they proceed to verbally abuse the caller unless the caller happens to agree with them.

Can you imagine seeing two people have a conversation like this on the street:

I’d call the cops on Beck. What a psychopath.

The great ghetto of all things intellectual is AM talk radio. It is a vast ocean of propoganda, talking points, and outright mindless chatter. If political/social issues are going to ever be seriously dealt with, they will be dealt with in civil interactions among people who actually listen to one another.

Reflection: Stockholm Syndrome July 11, 2009

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Derek Webb is once again ruffling feathers and angering decent wholesome Christian folks in his new album Stockholm Syndrome. In his previous solo effort, he made Christian Radio mad by calling the church a whore with bastard children. (To be fair, the prophet Hosea and St. Augustine said that a long time ago, but pesky details never get in the way of the Pharisees.)

Now, Derek has put out this little gem:

In “What Matters More” Webb challenges listeners right off the bat by singing

You say you always treat people like you like to be
I guess you love being hated for your sexuality

But, he is not done.

If I can tell what’s in your heart by what comes out of your mouth
Then it sure looks to me like being straight is all it’s about
It looks like being hated for all the wrong things
Like chasin’ the wind while the pendulum swings

‘Cause we can talk and debate until we’re blue in the face
About the language and tradition that he’s comin’ to save
Meanwhile we sit just like we don’t give a shit
About 50,000 people who are dyin’ today

Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

Apparently, this song, in particular, cost Webb a record deal and has permanently put him on the fringes of Christianity. There are worse places to be, in my opinion.

There are things I like and dislike about Stockholm. I like how he pushes listeners both stylistically and prophetically. I dislike the blatant heat with which he preaches.

Musically, Derek Webb is “harsher” than ever as he leaves his acoustic folk background behind and has now dived right into pop electronica. So, fans of his Caedmon’s Call days or even of Mockingbird may feel left out. But, I think the music is generally accessible. I mean, we are not talking about a Moby album here.

The biggest turn off for listening will be the critiquing blasts that Webb gives the likes of
Fred Phelps. He mourns marrying his “conscience to the state.” This is a preachy album. It is not Andy Griffith sings your favorite hymns and it certainly is not Christian worships songs that have been done 40 times over. The album is prophetic in the sense of mournful calls for change.

“The only common good
is that we understood that
laws injustice are only good for breaking”

I love what he is saying. I just wishes it was less blatant and a bit more subtle. I am a fan of former Christian acts like Pedro the Lion. David Bazan provides a genuine struggle with faith, but still gives a deep, lasting musical experience. Webb’s latest album hits hard at first, but dissipates fast. Such is the danger of blatant pop music and lyrics.

One final note. I cannot say that this is my favorite music in the world. But as I listened to the album, I realized the significance of the album title. Stockholm Syndrome is the psychological phenomena where a victim loves the person that is harming them. This is clearly true of Webb. Despite his critiques, he loves the indifferent church, that political and sinful whore. I doubt that she loves him back. Yet, his love moves him to criticize and implore. That, at the very least earns my praise.

Also, check out iMonk’s observation. I love the Rich Mullins comparison.

Time To Care About Soccer? July 5, 2009

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Colbert (my new primary source of news) is wondering whether we should care about soccer. You can see the interview here. Anybody care?


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