Monday, December 3, 2007

Mark 2:23-28

I love playing basketball. Like most team sports, basketball creates a harmonious poetry that can only be understood through the experience of the game. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny aspects to the game that call for the utmost attention to detail and commitment to sharp, mental focus. I could not count the number of times I've lost myself in the pleasure of this game if I tried. It is truly an awesome experience to lose oneself in something good.

One thing that makes basketball a great game is its framework of rules. There are many rules to the game and it takes a long time to learn them all. However one does not need to know all of the rules to be able to enjoy the game at its base level, one just needs the basic rules of offense/defense, dribbling/traveling, and perhaps a few more. Still, as one's skills and knowledge of the game improve, so will one's enjoyment of the game. It has been a great joy to observe, coordinate, and play this game at many levels ranging from elementary to college. One thing I have noticed over the years is that this framework of rules in basketball is crucial because without it the game would fall apart.

However, what makes basketball good is not the specific rules to the game, it's the fast-paced, explosive energy and high demand for physical and mental performance. It is not the X's and O's of a zone defense that allows someone to lose oneself in the game, it is the teamwork required for success. When I am in the middle of a game I do not think to myself, "Don't travel. Don't travel. Don't travel." I'm lost in the enjoyment of the game. I'm not thinking about the rules because the game itself is much more important than the rules.

Still, at one point in my life I needed to think about the rules often. This was when I was just learning the game of basketball. I even needed a few referees to guide me and point out my errors. But as I learned the rules of the game and committed them to habit, I then also began to enjoy the freedom and comlexity that is beyond the rules. Now that I know the rules and I respect their purpose, I enjoy the game of basketball so much more.

Sadly there are some who don't like basketball. To them the game is silly and does not make much sense. These people may only know a few of the rules or perhaps have never bothered to learn them. And others have even attempted playing the game but were so distracted by the peculiarity of the rules that they missed the game entirely. I feel bad for these people because they have missed a great experience; one that is filled with goodness and pleasure. But perhaps there is another great game with a great framework of rules whose beauty may capture them. Hopefully.

I love playing basketball. And I love the rules to the game. But mostly I love playing basketball.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I watched the Disney Pixar film, Ratatouille last night. It was fantastic. I'm finding that the older I get the more I tend to enjoy these kinds of movies. They are full of entertainment, visual flamboyance, humor, and they always tell a good story. But at some point while I was watching it I found myself thinking about the Gospel story. I guess this post is evidence that I did not stop thinking about it.

If you've seen it or not, think about this: The story is about a loser chef, Linguini who can't cook. And no one else thinks that he can, especially the head chef who has all the right credibility. Then you have a rat, Remy, who is inspired and repeatedly visited by a Ghost or Spirit of the best chef, Gusteau. I will spare drawing the parallels since I'm sure you've already thought of them :)

Well you know how it goes: with the inspiration and guidance of Gusteau, Remy takes Linguini from zero to hero while the chefs who didn't believe are made out to be the real losers. And on top of it all there is throughout the entire film Gusteau's motto that says, "Anyone can cook!" Pretty cool huh?

So I started thinking of other Disney movies and I realized that the story of the Gospel is right there in so many of them: Aladdin, Cinderella, Lion King. It's funny that when writers at Disney want to tell a great story they can only conjure up a recrecation of the ultimate Cinderella story!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Koinonia Pt. 2

In Part 1 of this post I described my experience at the young-adult church service, "Vintage" which is held on Tuesdays at "The Chapel," a mega-church in Getzville, NY. I tried to explain the worship part of the service as objectively as I could, but we all know how sarcasm just sneaks in from time to time. In Part 2 I would like to follow up my description of the service with some of my thoughts. To preface these thoughts let me just say that I believe that the purpose of the Church is to build community with other followers of Christ and spread the Gospel to those who have not yet experienced the Love and Grace of God. This is why I have titled this post, Koinonia, which literally means fellowship or a communion with God.

Anytime I walk into a "mega-church" I get sick. It's like a disease or a phobia; I just get sick to my stomach. The main reason for this is because I see the building and immediately think of money. The facilities at this church were state-of-the-art and no doubt costed the community a pretty penny. My mind automatically thinks of the many other ways that the church could spend Her money instead of building new facilities. To me it points out where the church's emphasis is; where is the priority? When I walk into a mega-church I get the feeling that the emphasis is on the meeting place, the building, and the experience that happens in that particular place.

When I entered the actual sanctuary it was designed in an amphitheater style; a design that fixates on the stage. And a beautiful stage it was; but stages are meant for performers and Koinonia is not about performing, it is about worshipping together. When someone performs there is a relationship created with those who are watching: a performer/audience relationship. The problem with this performer/audience relationship is that it is superfluous and distracts from the real reason that the Church gathers. It is undeniable that there was a performer/audience relationship on Tuesday night as evidenced by the applause after every song. The arena style seating also caused me to wonder what might happen if the stage were empty. Would these seats then have a purpose? It is my concern that this sanctuary was setup as an audience, not a community.

But the stage was NOT empty! And occupying its space was a 9-piece band ready to lead us in worship. The musicians were talented and were no doubt employing their God-given ability which I am happy to see in any church. The energy level was high and the people's hearts were worshipful; this I will not argue at all. Please understand that I am not questioning anyone's heart or intention. I am merely critiquing the theology and liturgical style of the worship. So the first issue I will address is the volume of the sound.

As the amps were cranked and the drums crashed, the physical energy was pumping. But the major problem I have with this is that the music coming from the stage drowned out the voices of the people who sang from the seats. And in a true Church, the goal is a community of believers, not a rockin' band. All is lost when the corporate voice of the church cannot be heard in our worship together. It was a frustrating scene for me because I felt small and unimportant compared to the band on stage. It should not only be the ones with microphones standing in the spotlight who are heard.

I also felt uncomfortable with the musicianship; more specifically the flare or grandeur of performance. Being a musician myself, I find it hard to focus when the musicians are playing so extravegantly; I get stuck watching them. Maybe this is my own problem, but would it hinder the worship of God to minimize ostentatious performance? I don't think so. Making a joyful noise unto the Lord is good, but the leaders of worship have a responsibility that may re-prioritize their performance style.

During the service there were a variety of lights flashing, spinning and spotting all over the place. They focused mainly on the band (as if the people weren't already watching) and often zipped out into the audience in beat with the music. Frankly, the lights are pointless. They serve no theological or liturgical point! They merely distract and disinvite people from focusing on God. The neon shapes were shallow, cheap and downright annoying. Just because you have it doesn't mean you need to use it. And if it isn't serving a theological or liturgical purpose, why did the church spend thousands of Her dollars to own it? This is why my stomach turns when I walk into these places.

Lastly, the content of the music that was used for worship was too focused on the individual needs and works. I get so tired of seeing songs that are about MY NEED or WHAT I WILL DO or HOW I WILL DO IT. These songs are missing the grand point. In Koinonia the people of God worship together. So all of the I's should be We's and the My's should become Our's. And yet still, as Robert Webber says, "The content of worship must always be the story of God's redemptive acts, especially in Jesus Christ." The words in our songs of praise should be focused on God's nature, God's work, and God's promise. To simply acknowldege the love relationship between "God and me" is immature and needy. Music is a powerful tool for worship, but it is the text that is most important! We do not hum together, we sing words! Therefore, as Bonhoeffer states, "The music is completely the servant of the Word, it elucidates the Word in its mystery."

One of the reasons that I get sick to my stomach when I walk into a mega-church is because it makes the followers of Christ look superficial. It makes Christians look shallow. From the outside it seems as though the believers of Jesus need big, fancy, expensive facilities and breathtaking technologies to find God. And that scares me! Maybe I am too self-concious, but I have a deep concern for how we represent the Church of Jesus to the world. The culture of the Lost does not look at the mega-church and see Divine spirituality. It sees commercialism and entertainment. I can attest to this from many conversations and understanding with members of this culture.

In the end, the Worship of the Chuch is about one thing: God. To offer our praise to any other recipient or for any other reason is heretical. And within this Worship of God, there must be a shaping of community that affirms together the Worthiness of God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit. When this is done a remarkable thing happens - some call it Koinonia.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Koinonia Pt. 1

Last night I attended this young-adult church service out at "The Chapel" over in Getzville. A friend invited me so I told him I'd go. I could see the enormous building from the highway. I knew I was in for an experience. The service was called "Vintage." I don't know why. Perhaps they're hardcore wine drinkers!

It was your typical mega-church with a cafe, bookstore, and arena sanctuary. Before entering the arena for worship I was able to get my cup of Joe just like all the other young adults who were socializing - latte in one hand, Bible in the other.

Upon entering the sanctuary the room was filled with dim light and anticipation. The stage was occupied by an nine-piece band basking in fog and green light. As I sat down in the theater style seating I mentioned to another guy, "I feel like I'm going to watch a performance." He affirmed my statement with excitement and explained to me how cool the upcoming spectacle would be.

Just before the loud crash of the drum beat the dude with the acoustic guitar invited us to come and worship - then BIM BAM BOOM the drums began. It was loud and overflowing with energy. The amps were turned up and the bass was thumping. I guess God has grown hard of hearing in His latter years... Thank goodness the drummer knew this and played with extra flare.

The light show was right on par. Various colors zoomed and flashed this way and that. On more than one occasion I was temporarily blinded by the swift gleam of a spotlight right in my face. And I also noticed a variety of shapes that the lights were displaying: suns, spyrograph-type designs, and stars.

I decided to shut my eyes and listen instead of risking another 2-second visual black-out. As I listened I noticed that I could not hear any other person singing except for the ones on stage with microphones. The enormity of the sound that came from the stage was overpowering the individuals who were also singing along.

But that didn't stop the band from really rocking! The drummer grooved and the keyboardist grinded. The crew was obviously feeling the spirit. And as soon as the saxophone solo ended and the electric guitarist faded out his effect with tenderness the audience applauded. Actually, after every single song the audience applauded. I wasn't sure who they were applauding.

At one point, however, the decibel level dropped and the emotional level inflated. The band leader repeated "I need your love" for about twenty measures and built up the anticipation for a finale that no one would want to miss - not even for a coffee refill. And of course, as hoped, the band crescendoed to a blazing piano-sax-olin jam that carried on as the spirit led.

And then finally the worship was done and we sat down.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


The term "saved" gets thrown around a lot in Christianity. Many people will use this term when referring to a specific event when they "got saved.” Or, others may casually refer to persons as being “unsaved.” In any case, this kind of talk is both exclusive and theologically incorrect.

The word “saved,” when used in the spiritual context, is theologically wrong for a number of reasons. First, using the term saved to identify a group of people logically leaves a contrasting group of people identified as unsaved. Theologically it is impossible to exist a person that is unsaved. The reason for this impossibility is that Jesus died for the entire world - everyone and everything (John 3:16,17; Romans 8:19-25). Therefore, if Jesus does the saving, how can there be any who are unsaved? Is His work incomplete? The answer is no. It is not Jesus’ work that is incomplete, but ours.

Secondly, it is important to discover the theological dilemma with the tense of the term “saved.” As mentioned above, many people refer to a specific event during which they “got saved;” as if to say that the saving has happened and is done. But this is wrong because we cannot claim to have been saved in the past tense. Rather, we are being saved every day that we surrender our will to the Father’s in the same way that Jesus did. When God's work is finished we will say Jesus has saved; but for now, Jesus is saving. Romans 10:13 affirms this when Paul writes, “For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved”

Jesus’ work on the cross is infinitely and continually saving us. Thus, using the term “saved” to refer to a specific event in time is incorrect. The event in which one “got saved” is not Jesus’ saving but is instead a moment of comprehension and an experience of Grace and Truth. It was at this moment when Jesus’ work on the cross began transforming and saving the person from a life of sin. It was at this moment that the person was “born anew” (John 3:3) and could begin the life-long process of accepting grace and redemption.

Lastly, the exclusiveness of this term is not only unchristian in the way that it passes judgment, but it too is theologically incorrect. Jesus does not refer to those who do not believe in the One True God as “unsaved.” Instead, to describe the unbelieving Jesus uses terms such as “blind” (John 9), “lost” (Luke 15), “unbelief” (Mark 9:23,24), “sick” (Matthew 9:12), and “hearing and not understanding, seeing and not perceiving” (Matthew 13).

Instead of labeling those who have not realized the Good News as “unsaved,” Jesus uses terms from the physical domain as if to say that we are the problem; we are the incomplete ones in this redemptive relationship. Our physical existence is inhibiting our spiritual existence. Spiritually we are lost, blind, deaf, and altogether unhealthy. Jesus is much more concerned with our spiritual health.

But instead of using such decided language as “unsaved,” He uses terms that are alterable. And so, with the saving grace of the cross the blind may see; the lost are found; the deaf may hear; and the spiritually dead may live.

We are not saved. We are being saved every day. We are being renewed and redeemed by the grace of God and the death of Jesus Christ on the cross so that we may become the creations that God originally intended us to be.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I had this awesome Nintendo game when I was little called "The Exodus." In it you could be Moses and work your way through various tasks to complete levels in the hopes of freeing the Israelites. You could even begin as Moses' mother or that maid who drew him out of the water and you had to protect him from the Egyptians who tried to take him from you! Intense! I can't say that I was all that into it, but it was a sweet game for a 9 year old.

Lately I've been reading that good ol' story of Moses and the redemption of God's chosen people. What amazed me this time through was the number of times that God provides for His people; not necessarily the grand finale act of redemption, but all the small steps leading up to that finale. From the burning bush to the Red Sea to the manna in the desert, it is incredible how many times God provides for His people. Truly God is faithful in His purpose and His promise to the chosen people of Israel.

However, what is even more amazing than God's provision is the Israelites' response! The chosen people of God have some serious issues with trust! After everything that has ocurred in Egypt - all the miracles, all the plagues - and the Israelites have been set free, they still don't trust God to provide. In the 10th chapter, when Moses has led the Israelites to the Red Sea he writes, "As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, 'Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!'" These words make me laugh; as if they were the last sarcastic words of a doomed group of people. And, in their eyes, they were doomed because they were only looking at what stood before them. They had forgotten God's promise to provide.

I can't bring myself to type the sappy story of how this relates to my life. But the moral goes like this: I'm an Israelite. It is pretty ridiculous sometimes how the Truths speak louder than the story itself.

I don't know if this story of the Exodus ever even happened. Frogs, flies, and locusts? Sounds pretty crazy. I don't know if God really killed all those first-borns or brought darkness over Egypt. I'm not sure what I believe. But none of that really had to happen because I know that it's right on. Somehow. It's True.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stop Trying So Hard!

Hillary Clinton spent the day in Las Vegas 'walking in the shoes of a nurse.' John Edwards spent the day shaving old men's faces at a nursing home. Barack Obama spent the day cleaning houses as a hospice care worker. WTF people? Aside from pandering to voters, what are you doing? Holy shit I'm so sick of these presidential candidates trying so hard! Obama's got ringtones for God's sake!!!

And it's not just the "Democrats." Mitt Romney says we need a man of faith in the White House and he's the man. Wow, is there an echo in Washington? News flash, Mitt: It doesn't seem to be working out this time 'round. Giuliani avoids a debate question by stating he couldn't possibly admit his mistakes in the time allotted. Ha! Good one, Rudy! Well played!

Democracy is basically a well-to-do popularity contest and ALL of these dumbass candidates will do ANYTHING for YOUR vote. Period. That's all I can stomach right now.

(By the way, great photo, Mitt! You look confident, strong, and hopeful.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

YouTube Debate a Joke

The Democratic Presidential hopefuls are so cool and hip that they can connect with the nation through YouTube! Or... they're so desperate for attention and advertising that they will waste thousands of campaign dollars to show they're face on CNN for an hour during a highly hyped debate sponsored by the internet's most popular free speech medium. If their mission was to walk circles around issues and waste the time of the viewers, then mission accomplished. I cannot believe how difficult it is for politicians to answer a question. Each candidate danced around straight answers; it was a joke.

And the bottom line is that every candidate thinks he or she has the right answer to everything. That's not a democracy, that's an autocracy. It will only lead to the inevitable end in which the Democrats will shoot each other before allowing someone other than their self to win the candidacy. I do have shreds of hope for something better, but when I see stuff like this I am burdened with the despair that all politicians are sucked into the downward spiral of the machine.

Still, I am supporting Barack Obama whom I think has the most genuine heart to serve and the most sincere foundation of values; his lack of experience is, in my opinion, an opportunity to regain control of a corrupt system through new personnel and building new bridges rather than old cronyism. For more information, see

Barack n' Roll.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Merton Thought...

This is a small excerpt from a book of Thomas Merton's writings. It is a great follow up to some thoughts on the 'Gentle Pantheism' post.

His Paradise and Our Own:

"All nature is meant to make us think of paradise. Woods, fields, valleys, hills, the river and the sea, the clouds travelling across the sky, light and darkness, sun and stars, remind us that the world was first created as a paradise from Adam, and that in spite of his sin and ours, it will once again become a paradise when we are all risen from death in the second Adam.

Heaven is even now mirrored in created things. All God's creatures invite us to forget our vain cares and enter into our own hearts, which God Himself has made to be His paradise and our own. If we have God dwelling within us, making our souls His paradise, then the world around us can also become for us what it was meant to be for Adam - his paradise.

But if we seek paradise outside of ourselves, we cannot have paradise in our hearts. If we have no peace within ourselves, we have no pease with what is all around us. Only the man who is free from attachment finds that creatures have become his friends. When he is pure, they speak to him of God."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Apple, Do Something Constructive Like Make Good Products (Instead of Obnoxious Ads)

I'm getting super tired of Apple and their pretentious, artificial advertising campaign. Don't get me wrong, I love Apple's products - I'm actually updating my iPod on my MacBook Pro as I write this; but I am a bit fatigued by Apple's stupid self-absorbed ads on TV, in magazines and on the internet.
First of all, the arrogance displayed by the Mac vs. PC ads is just annoying (albeit funny at times). Get over yourself, Apple, you've created some crap products too. I happen to know a handful of a billion people who still prefer to use PCs. Secondly, the identity-themed ad campaign is quite possibly the most BS, dishonest (and probably most effective) idea ever. "You are your music" says one ad for iTunes. "Touching is believing" says another for the iPhone. Wow. Talk about a load of crap. Convincing people that they are what they own is not only the biggest load of garbage, but it creates a serious image/self-esteem problem that misses the point completely. Your music does not define you. Your contacts don't impress. "You're not your f***ing khakis." (Tyler Durden, Fight Club)
Ultimately, for a company that wants so desperately to be hip and cool, Apple sounds a lot like the Man.

Friday, June 22, 2007

"Gentle Pantheism"

Lately I have been contemplating God's immanance and metaphysical representation in our reality. For example, how does a pine tree portray qualities of God or speak God's voice or fulfill its function for which it was created? It grows. It is dependent; and unable to sustain itself alone. It contributes to and is part of something greater than itself. These are just a few qualities that immediately come to mind when I contemplate this issue. The same questions may be asked about everything in our world of reality.

The Post-Cartesian philosopher Benedict De Spinoza held the fascinating idea that the world is only made of one substance: God (Monism). He denied the distinction between attribute and substance therefore claiming that all things could be made up of one infinite substance (God) which contains infinite attributes. This allowed Spinoza the basis to believe in a Pantheistic reality in which God is exhisting through (and in and of and from) everything. Critics debate whether or not Spinoza believed in a strict Pantheism where God is literally the world; or whether he believed that all of God's attributes are somehow expressed in the world. Still, Spinoza's idea is captivating and I find there is support for his argument.

Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk and modern Christian contemplative, writes that the only true identity we can possess is to find our purpose in God just as a flower or a bird does. "Each particular being, in its individuality, its concrete nature and entity, with all its own characteristics and its private qualities and its own inviolable identity, gives glory to God by being precisely what He wants it to be here and now." It is this fulfillment of function that grants Divine purpose. Therefore, I am led to believe that, in all its submission to function and purpose, all creation is representitive to God.

Aristotle touched on this idea of the fulfillment of function in his Nicomachean Ethics. According to Aristotle the only way to reach Eudaimonia - the happy life - was to figure out the function for which we are created and attain it. However, Aristotle was very vague in describing exactly what this function was.

However, of course, there is an exception to the fulfillment of Divine purpose in reality: me. And you and all human beings. Spinoza believed that humans were granted two attributes of God which were Thought and Extension. With these attributes we have the ability to maneuver away from our purpose. And, I would like to point out that it is obvious that the assumption at the base of these thoughts is the existence of God.

Though this is the end of my post, it is far from the end of my contemplation on this topic. Perhaps a future post ("Brutal Pantheism?") will be written on this. I have dubbed my idea here "Gentle Pantheism" because unlike strict Pantheism I am not avdocating the equity between creation and God; but I am perplexed by creation's gentle, hidden voice which speaks of purpose and Divine perfection.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Next Neil Young

Neil Young is arguably the greatest North American songwriter of all time. In 2002 Paste Magazine ranked Young #2 on the list of "Greatest Songwriters of All Time" - merely a hair behind Bob Dylan. He has been inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame - twice! From Buffalo Springfield to CSNY to Crazy Horse and many others, Neil Young and 'Old Black' have contributed a lifetime's work to the world of song and lyric. Even so, all legacies must come to a close. Although Young's career is not over, his achievements have in many ways been solidified in music history so that his role in this grand opera seems to have been fulfilled. With the loss of such a pioneer, there are some boots to be filled.

My friend is obsessed with Ryan Adams. He spends his hours at work networking Ryan Adams forums and befriending fans from across the globe. Just the other day he received a bootleg recording of a show from a fellow fan; it was postmarked from the Netherlands. It never ceases to amaze me every time my friend has a new album or song to show me; or a new story about this singer/songwriter; or tickets to another show. He loves Ryan Adams.

Of course he is not alone. There are millions of other fans out there who like the art that this man is creating. But my friend, well, I consider him a credible judge of music. You see, my friend was raised on the hands-down, critically acclaimed, "good" music. He was listening to Dylan/Beatles/Hendrix/CSNY mix tapes on his way to school in 7th grade while the rest of us were listening to Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumkins. He introduced me to Herbie Hancock's "Headhunters" in 10th grade when I thought Herbe Hancock was a ficticious character from some novel or movie. So when it comes to the artful critique of music, I trust him.

In the fall of 2003 my friend approached me with an album called "Heartbreaker" by Ryan Adams. He said I must listen to it, so I did. Once again his musical taste confirmed my trust. It was an honest album. It had a way of catching you that didn't seem dirty or fraudulent. It was just plain and simple songwriting. Nothing ever overdone nor underdone. Over the years I have faithfully admired "Gold" and "Love is Hell" and "Demolition" and "Rock n Roll" and "Cold Roses" and "Jacksonville City Nights" and "29," as well as various unreleased, live, and miscellaneous works.

At 33, Ryan Adams is currently releasing his tenth studio album, "Easy Tiger." Not included in this library are the multiple albums Adams released with his first band, "Whiskeytown." He has also produced for the likes of Willie Nelson as well as backed Nelson on recent tours. His songwriting accomplishments need no embellshment, it is obvious that Adams has found his vocation.

Like Neil Young, Adams is a pure writer. He can tell a story. He can break your heart. He can fire you up. He can put you to sleep. And every time you hear a song you know that it is exactly the way it should be. Nothing missing. Nothing to be removed. It is pure Goldilocks perfection. And, like Young, I would like to believe that Adams is at the "Zuma" stage of his career; which, if you know Neil Young, then you know that there is plenty of Ryan Adams to come.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Last night Shooter Jennings, son of famous country outlaw Waylon Jennings, performed in Rochester. I was there. The summer sun set over the miniature Rochester skyline while the masses quaffed the contents of their plastic cups. I was standing at the front of the herd. The majority of the goers had no clue what was to happen on the stage that stood before them. I did. Only moments later did a rabid crew of Shooter junkies come rasslin' in behind me. These were my good friends. As time ticked away, and despite Rochester's great lack of blue-collar, redneck, country folk, there was an air of 'God Bless America' hovering the pack. We were ready for Shooter.
At last Shooter, Ted, Leroy and Brian took the stage sporting nothing but the best deep-south apparel. Shooter's black leather vest with the words 'THE WOLF' and his leather-bound confederate flag guitar only aggrandized his presence on stage. Opening with "Electric Rodeo" set the stage for a show that never lacked energy nor country pride. Songs like "Busted in Baylor County," "Manifesto #2," and "Steady at the Wheel" were high on my list of favorites.
If you have not yet listened to Shooter, and you wish to die a happy man/woman, I highly recommend you give him a listen and discover the hidden country bumpkin that lies deep within.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Matter of Pride, Not Principle

As we near the end of George W. Bush's second term in the White House it is clear to most Americans that the status quo is much worse than when he first took office in 2000. Multiple polls have confirmed this view as the current opinion in America among citizens of both political parties. This is a sign of how bad things truly are: Bush has lost the support of his army of admirers, his true-blue believers, his faithful followers. And despite the loss of support, the smear of scandals, and the exhaustively futile effots in Iraq, Bush has remained unchallenged by a substantial group of his faithful followers: the Church.
The Christian Church has consistently been one of the most outspoken bodies in America on issues of morality in society and government. However, over the last eight years American Christians have displayed nothing but blind loyalty to man whose walk doesn't come even close to his talk. And only now, as current trends illustrate, are Christians - who voted twice for this man - beginning to withdraw their support for Bush and his policies. Still, this recant of support is often unspoken and hidden in order to preserve the appearance of being without fault.
As years pass and situations in the world worsen I am disheartened to see so many Christians who would rather not talk about the shortcomings of America's leadership than to renounce their patronage. I am sickened to see the Church as a living body "affirm by their silence the most un-Christian policies of government" (from 'The Church Jesus Builds;' edited by Joseph Coleson). It is a fantastic dream in which Christians are living to presume that being correct has more to do with who you voted for than how you live! This lifestyle is the model for so many Christians because it's EASY!
I encounter Christians on a daily basis. They are good people with good hearts full of love and belief for God. Yet unfortunately I run into a dead end 90% of the time when I attempt discussing the dire need for change in America's leadership. I can often see the fear or embarrassment on their face. It is this reason that I have come to the sad conclusion that American Christians would rather hold on to their pride than actually live like Jesus.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Power of CAT POWER!

If you haven't already, do it. Listen, that is, to Cat Power. Chan Marshall is the singer/songwriter behind this band of one. You can find her on Matador Records alongside the likes of the New Pornogrophers, Belle&Sebastian, and Yo La Tengo. In addition to praise from critics everywhere, Cat Power won this year's Shortlist Prize for "... artists whose small commercial ripples belie their wake-making creative waves."
Her latest album entitled, "The Greatest" is so well put together that one cannot help but listen - everytime- to the record in its entirety. From the first dense piano stroke to the last gritty guitar, it is obvious that this album was produced over and over to reach its final state. And it's not exactly the worst singing you've ever heard either. Cat Power's voice is a paradox of subtly and authority.
And, on top of it all, this talented singer/songwriter is about the closest thing to a Victoria's Secret model that the indie music scene has produced. With her stunning looks on top of her musical talents, this brilliant belle is sure to continue making waves in the industry.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth: A Flawless Fairy Tale

Last night I watched Pan's Labyrinth for a second time since first seeing it in theatres back in January. Once again Guillermo del Toro's beautiful fairy tale drew me into a world in wich all that mattered was the story itself. Unfortunately, in the viewing room with me were two 18-yr-olds who could not fathom such a tale as they heckled and harassed implausible scenes. Ironically, the two skeptics did not criticize the blatently fantastic scenes involving Ofelia and her extraordinary advenutres, but rather the scenes involving humans in more realistic situations. This caused me to wonder why it is often easier to understand and believe the truths and meaning behind a fairy tale than it is to believe those of reality. As displayed by the two 18-yr-olds, it is often easier to lose oneself in the fantasy world than to understand and accept the flaws of the real world.
I think this is partly what Guillermo del Toro was trying (and succeeded) to do. By employing brilliant symbolism and artistic perfection, del Toro allows his audience to understand the story of young girl and the horror of human nature during the Spanish Civil War without clear-cut references to details. Ofelia's imaginative excursions all symbolize aspects of the Spanish Civil War, however, despite exhaustive internet search, I have not found exactly what they mean - perhaps it is better this way. Nonetheless, del Toro's use of the fairy tale is a reminder of how stories are often better communicators of the truth than reality itself.

The Things They Carried

For the past week I've been reading Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried." It is an experimental novel of short stories about the Vietnam War. O'Brien actually served in the war and narrates the work as a veteren retelling his stories twenty years later. This allows him the opportunity to tip-toe between fiction and non, leaving the reader to decide.

In the story entitled, "How To Tell A True War Story" O'Brien explains that a true war story can neither be told nor believed. The title alone plays on the word 'tell' - does he mean to Recount or to Perceive? In any case, O'Brien emphasizes one true point about any war story: there are no rules. However, as the theme of the book is plain to present, it is obvious that this goes not only for stories of war, but in war itself as well.

As the storyteller narrates he states various attributes that verify true war stories; many of which are paradoxes negating a statement from the previous page. For example, "...a true war story is never about war." The inconsistencies and contradicting characteristics are an obvious metaphor to the random turmoil that is war. According to O'Brien, war has no uniformity, no stability, no predictability.

After telling one single story four different ways, O'Brien confesses to his reader that his memory has served him wrong. In fact, none of what he has written actually ever happened. Each vignette was told in a certain manner to evoke a certain truth because what matters is not the name of the character, nor the setting of the story, nor the details left out here or there, but rather the ultimate truths of human nature. In this particular story the love between two soldiers and the burden of grief is what matters.

O'Brien captures a heavy truth in that stories of war are not obligated to be recognized in the context of past tense. The real truth found in stories of war is the human nature that is bound to be recognized forever in the present tense.

"... And if it did happen happen, it didn't happen in the mountains, it happened in this little village on the Batangan Peninsula, and it was raining like crazy, and one night a guy named Stink Harris woke up scream with a leech on this tongue. You can tell a true war story if you just keep on telling it."

Video! Audio! Disco!

"To see. To hear. To learn." This is the Latin translation of the words that are both the title of this post and of this entire blog. My hope is to use this blog as a means to appreciate the arts and contribute to a community of critical thought. Please stay tuned for new posts coming soon . . .