Friday, June 30, 2006

Meme Meme Me

I've been tagged by the great Lisa Cockrel, editor extraordinaire at Today's Christian Woman and a wonderful thinker/writer. Nobody's ever tagged me before, so I feel particularly special. And since I'm regularly accused of being a music snob, I'm especially motivated to show off. This should be a hoot. Here were my instructions:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they
have words, or even if they're not any good, but they must be songs you're
really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7
songs. Then tag 6 other people to see what they're listening to.

So, here are my seven songs, in no particular order:

1. Paul Westerberg, "Mr. Rabbit," from the album Stereo
This album goes back a few years, but I recently got it back after having loaned it out, and I've rediscovered how wicked cool it is. Paul Westerberg, former singer/songwriter for the Replacements, recorded the album in his basement, and the songs reflect the sheer rawness of it. "Mr. Rabbit" is an American folk song in the making.

2. Half-Handed Cloud, "You've Been Faithful to Us Clouds," from the album Halos & Lassos
Half-Handed Cloud is my new favorite band, and Halos and Lassos is my new favorite album, and so I'm reluctant to list only one song, especially when the title doesn't do justice to the rampant quirkiness of the music. But this is the track that I had on repeat for my whole commute today. Halos and Lassos is like the Beatles' White Album or the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds or They Might Be Giants' Flood, using the Psalms as a sourcebook. From Sufjan Stevens's label Asthmatic Kitty. Speaking of Sufjan . . .

3. Sufjan Stevens, "Casmir Pulaski Day," from the album Come On Feel the Illinoise
Best album of 2005, bar none, and an unbelievably tender, sad song. Sufjan is the great hope of music.

4. The Decemberists, "The Sporting Life," from the album Picaresque
A gift from my sister and brother-in-law, these guys are remarkable. I dig the song because it's about the moment of failure in a person's meager attempt to impress girls and live up to parental expectations by pretending to be an athlete. I can relate.

5. Death Cab for Cutie, "I'll Follow You into the Dark," from the album Plans
I'm a sucker for nerd rock. I saw this video online. Very creative, very touching.

6. Matisyahu, "Message in a Bottle"
The Police originated this song, but Matisyahu, the hasidic reggae sensation, is a natural to cover it. Again, I saw it online and don't think he's put it on a disc, but this is a song for the ages, and I'm glad to see someone true carrying it forward.

7. The Fold, "The Title Track," from the album This Too Will Pass
I knew the lead singer when he was the best high school drummer I'd ever heard. He's a great guy, a remarkable talent, and a constantly maturing, reflective soul. I'm glad to see he's following his bliss in music.

And now for the magic six:
1. Amena Brown
2. Allen Fawcett
3. Paul Grant
4. Pete Juvinall
5. Nancy Chan
6. Kristi Reimer

Get busy!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What Am I, a Piece of Meat?

Here's what Amazon.com had to say about an author who shall remain anonymous.

About the Author
size : 5.3 x 8.3

Poor guy: I'm sure he's very personable, probably has a great sense of humor, probably loves his family and friends. I'll bet if we met him at a party we'd think, There goes a handsome fellow or What an interesting conversation we just had; I'm glad I met that guy. Such is my industry, however, that we are always thisclose to reducing authors to commodities. We know authors principally through their writings, not through direct encounter, and so it's easy to mock them, to demonize them, or perhaps worst, to treat them as a product.

I recently told some would-be writers, "You are more than your writing." I think that's why I like blogging; the writing itself is as much a statement as it is an invitation. We write, and we are written back. Some of us even show our faces. Over time, as an outgrowth of consistent encounter, we are known more fully, even as we more fully know.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Dirty Talk

I just recently discovered the television show Rescue Me. It's the story of life as a firefighter, starring Denis Leary, on the basic cable station FX. The first thing I noticed, to be perfectly honest, is all the dirty talk.

There are, according to George Carlin, seven words you can't say on television, but I've heard several of those very words on Rescue Me. I couldn't believe it at first--I thought perhaps I'd wandered over to HBO, or plugged in a DVD in my sleep. But there they were, dirty word after dirty word, waking me up and serving me notice.

These new language games aren't isolated to deep slots on the television dial. Coarse language and thinly disguised euphemisms are becoming more common in commercial advertisements on the major networks, on billboards, in print and online. I know of a local restaurant that uses slang terminology for an erection as its tagline. Ruins my appetite every time.

Now, I was a junior high boy once, so I know the visceral appeal of dirty talk. And I was still juvenile enough during my constitutional law class in college that I committed to memory the case that protects our right to free vulgar speech (Cohen v. California, in which a young man was arrested for showing up at the courthouse wearing a jacket that read "F--- the Draft"). But most of the drift toward vulgarity in culture is unconscious, with very little circumspection guiding the process. So I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about
  • why people use vulgar language,
  • what makes it vulgar,
  • how vulgarity shapes our worldview and behavior,
  • how our worldview and behavior shape our approach to vulgarity,
  • and what we ought to do about either ourselves or the world around us as a consequence.

Have fun! Show your work! Tell your friends! It'll be interesting to see how I react to the comments on this one.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Super Duper

Whenever a superhero movie comes out people send me all the news clips. Usually that's great, except that in the case of Superman Returns, I'm getting clips that promote someone else's book.

That made me sad, so I went to Amazon to see if anybody still cares about Comic Book Character. Sales are kind of stinky, to tell you the truth, but I did find a new review posted that's really nice. Supposedly the guy is a "top 500 reviewer," so that's got to count for something. Here's what he wrote:

I have long seen comic books, at least superhero comic books, as more than
mere entertainment. I share this view with the author. Indeed, we both seem
to see the world as fallen- and in need of the inspiration that comic books,
at their best, can provide. This book is a well-reasoned look at the
legitimacy of the comic book as moral teaching aid in everything from
social justice to the metaphysical nature of good versus evil. It is written in
an enjoyable, informal, non-academic style (it is documented with footnotes, but
mercifully they are included at the back where you can ignore them if you
choose.)
_My only real complaint is that there are so many examples that
could have been included but were not. For instance, the Spectre, who as the
embodiment of the Wrath of God is the most theologically and metaphysically
relevant of characters, is only mentioned a single time in a single
sentence. The same goes with the complex Sandman mythos- mentioned a single
time in a single sentence. Such potentially fascinating characters as
Hellstorm (son of the Adversary) or Grimjack (walked out of heaven to help
his friends) are totally ignored. Even the original Captain Marvel (part man
and part God - with the wisdom of Solomon) is likewise ignored. Yet, I
suppose that there are only so many examples that can be fit into a book of
this size.
_Still, the examples that are given are well explored (especially
Superman, Captain America, and the Green Lantern/Green Arrow partnership.) A
prime specific example would be Green Lantern's eventual understanding that
law and order (accidentals) are less important than truth and justice
(essentials.) I could easily see this book becoming the starting point for
any number of discussions on what constitutes a true hero and heroism.
Indeed, I found myself wanting to argue on numerous points...
_As for this being strictly a Christian perspective, it truly seems to
me that the core concepts of Truth, Justice, and Good- as well as the heroic
archetypes that embody them- could be held to be more essentially Platonic in
nature. But that would be another discussion.

Isn't that nice? This weekend I'll be writing a very brief "Sympathy for Lex Luthor" for Christianity Today Online, which will post sometime next week. I'm starting to feel better now.

Link of the Day

My wife is away this week, speaking to community leaders in rural Kentucky about the problem of domestic violence. My friend Margaret Feinberg had a recent post about the problem of domestic violence and contributing factors in rural Alaska that included a photo of a bumper sticker you wish there were no reason to print. Read the string of comments too for an interesting and heartfelt conversation about where to serve in a world full of hurt.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Mean Girls Love Spam of the Day

Here's the spam of the day:

"She is tailwind visual aristotelean. She is cruddy clarinet sowbelly bronzy."

Sounds like the makings of a great pop song--or graffiti on the bathroom walls at the school of the arts. I don't know what they're saying, but I certainly hope I'm not bronzy.

For the unhip, "bronzy" is bad--as opposed to the cool lingo of my current favorite defunct television show, Firefly, in which "shiny" is good. If you're tired of trying to stay cool like me, check out Paul Grant's blog, by clicking here or scrolling through my links.

Swallowed any good spam lately?

Friday, June 16, 2006

A Good Reason to Love God and Tolerate John Calvin

Came across this line from John Calvin today: "God accommodates himself to our weakness." Not having read much of anything by John Calvin, but having plenty experience in weakness, I'd say that's a pretty happy statement.

The question that flows out of it, I suppose, is this: how accommodating of the weaknesses of others am I typically willing to be? Assuming that becoming like God is a noble pursuit, how do I become more accommodating? And what do I have to sacrifice along the way?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Nineteen New Reasons to Check E-mail


This weekend I took part in a gathering for InterVarsity Press with nineteen invited guests from across the country, all there to talk about Likewise (see my earlier post "Papa's Got a Brand New Pet Project"). I had a great time getting to know all these people, expanding my worldview and absorbing various perspectives on the needs of the emerging culture which Likewise may be able to address. I was called a twisted nerd and branded as one of the "Scum of the Earth." We listened to soul music, eighties rap and slam poetry. We loitered at restaurants and saw Chicago from a great height. We ate like idiots and made inappropriate jokes about donkeys. And now I have nineteen new friends. Nice work if you can get it.

The theme of the Likewise Gathering was "Come and Be." The tagline for the Likewise line of books is "Go and Do." Time will tell what gets done as a result of this gathering, but I certainly enjoyed being with everybody. I'm sure I'll continue to reflect on my experience of the weekend--there are professional but also personal lessons I can take away from the event--but for now I think I just need some sleep.