Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fragments and Links

I think that one thing Nietzsche and Bill Simmons have in commen is much of their best work is actually published in fragments. They are both observers more than orators and the kernel and digressions of their prose are always more interesting than their writing itself. So along those lines, I have collected some observations, quotes and links that do not warrant their own post but that I think are fun or provocative none the less.

"I find that I’m much sadder about the state of Dr. Horrible soul after 43 minutes than I was about Anakin Skywalker’s soul after—what, 12 hours?—of Star Wars I, II, III." -my friend Tom I have to say, I'm a big fan of decentralized production of art and this can only be a step in the right direction
Was anyone else startled by the honesty of "Believe" by The Bravery? Very Camus.
There's a smell of stale fear that's reeking from our skins.
The drinking never stops because the drinks absolve our sins
We sit and grow our roots into the floor
But what are we waiting for?

So give me something to believe
Cause I am living just to breathe
And I need something more
To keep on breathing for
So give me something to believe

"The call to service is often harder to exercise when power is so readily available." -Darrell Bock Commentary on Luke - on the Church's transition from movement to institutions.
It seems to me that the first question in Christian political theory is not what we should do with our power but is power the kind of thing the Church should wield. Power can provide the mirage of a shortcut to change when our mandate is service and proclamation. Bonhoeffer used to say that a church that expends most of its energy fighting for its own rights and struggling for its own existence has already ceased to exist.

My wife's response to the 'I kissed a girl and I liked it' song..."She makes some really good points."

Does anyone else feel disoriented that Stargate Atlantis has a Dr. Keller? The role is played by actress who was Kaylee, the ebulient mechanic from Firefly/Serenity, one of my favorite science fiction characters of all time (who SA is basically wasting as a timid flirt). But every time Shepherd dramatically yells 'go get Dr Keller' I envision the brilliant, bald, senior pastor of Manhattan Pres emerging to save the day.

Wouldn't it be cool if preachers had entrance music like baseball players. OK, it would actually be wrong on so many levels, mostly how it would play into the already problematic celebrity culture of the teaching ministry. But it is fun to think about what songs I would choose. I think I would have to go with "My Exit Unfair" by mewithoutYou or "Crawling" by Linkin Park

Speaking of mewithoutYou, (and here) I have had favorite bands before, but this is my first time as a hard core fan waiting anxiously for each new release, keeping careful track of touring schedules and buying the T-shirt. One of Charis' first words was 'ity bit' as she put her thumbs and pointer fingers together requesting the itsy bitsy spider song. I am convinced she is into spider themed music b/c we went to mwY's Brother Sister concert when Amanda was 39 weeks pregnant. (Incidentally, if you have never seen the look in a guy's eyes who is trying to decide whether he should card a 39 week pregnant woman who wants to get into Slims in a shady part of SF, it is truly a delight).

I think I am going to expand on this idea in a future blog, but Keller (the pastor, not the fictionalcheif of medicine) dropped a fantastically provacative quote the other day: "Christianity is the only religion that does not claim moral superiority of the believers to unbelievers." (paraphrase)

Speaking of moral superiority, I love this website. It is written as a helpful guide for Latinos, Asians and African Americans to negotiating the strange world of liberal Anglo culture: "stuff white people like". #'s 14, 21, 28, 30, 35, 39, 44, 61 and especially 73 (Gentrification) totally nailed me. I love #2 (Religions their parents don't belong to.)

I highly recommend visiting the comments section of my last post. Our friend Tiffany knows us from more life stages than any one else (Beaver Camp, Madison and Buffalo - and she and Josh even visited CA). She is a bona fide English Professor and excellent poet. She has posted an Allentown poem of her own and I couldn't be more honored. For those of you who are wondering what we are talking about with all this bronze angel stuff, Amanda and I lived in this second story dive in downtown Buffalo. It had mold, was under heated, grew icicles on the walls (inside) and is still my favorite place we have ever lived. It was across from a great restaurant/bar called Gabriel's gate which had a large bronze statue of the angel Gabriel with 2 propane torches on top of it. Our window afforded the finest view of Gabriel in Buffalo. The first time i saw it at night I thought the building was on fire.

Rilo Kelly's "Pictures of Success" is one of the best songs I've happened on in a while. I love the verse:
I've had it with you
And Mexico can f%@&ing wait
And all of those French films about trains
'Cause I’m not scared
But I’d like some extra spare time
I'm not scared
But the bills keep changing colors
Bills changing colors to convey various levels of lateness and urgency is such a visceral image of uncertainty and upheaval.

A friend recently said ‘profanity is the crutch of the inarticulate.’ I understand his point. But for those of us who love words, though we tire of their overuse, taboo words are too rich and powerful to completely set aside.

I actually think this guy is an atheist and many of these dioramas (for lack of a better term) are actually deconstructions or decenterings of the text. His intent is clearly to undermine the Biblical narrative by highlighting the sex and violence. But he just does such a great job. He parses of the description of Solomon’s Canaanite wives and concubines he could fit as many images of his extensive Lego sex scene as possible (and props to him as Lego's are not known for being particularly limber). And honestly, this gets at the heart of the narrative. Solomon wisdom was no match for his sexual apatite. Intelligence is not a particularly helpful weapon against moral failure (and may actually be a detriment). The Bible is a remarkably honest book. Prudes tend to make poor exegetes.

All of this talk of Legos reminds me of the very good Death Star Canteen sketch. It is fun to think about how many levels of management there must have been between Vader and the guy who hands out trays in the Death Star Cafeteria.

Speaking of an exegete who is not a favorite Mark Driscoll line of late: "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas...unless its itchy."

If there are two kinds of people, those who think the Flobots are a gimmick and those who think they are an immensely talented and refreshingly contemplative hip hop act, count me in category 2. Love the muted trumpet. Love the themes.

Eminem is a technical virtuoso. But his stuff just ends up making me sad. His creative genius is obscured by his lack of emotional maturity.

A movie like "The Kingdom" wants me to believe it is a deconstruction because of the heavy handed moral ambiguity of the ending (which was about as subtle as the rat at the end of "The Departed"). But if you make a movie that is 60% gunplay and Jenifer Garner's pouty lips...and market it as 98% those may assuage your conscience by your quaint little deconstruction - but you are just war profiteering.

And on the topic of action movies that try become message pieces with a brief post script...I finally saw "Lord of War". Unlike the tobacco lobbyist in ‘Thank You For Smoking’ I never felt a thing for Cage's protagonist. But it did have 3 very interesting lines
"She didn't know I existed. I was beginning to think she had a point."
"Maybe that's what I can't escape. You can fight a lot of enemies and win. But you can't fight your biology."
"They say evil prevails when good men fail to act. They should say evil prevails."

I noticed that I pass a Decatur Street on my new bike ride to work a couple weeks ago. Last week in Omaha, one of the students in the class I taught showed me a picture of a sediment problem at the bridge in Decatur. I don’t actually know where Decatur is. But what went through my head in both of these instances:
Our stepmom, we did everything to hate her
She took us down to the edge of Decatur
We saw the lion and the kangaroo take her
Down to the river where they caught a wild alligator
Speaking of Sufjan, I saw a really intriguing film that parenthetically tells the story of his rise. The movie actually follows the Danielson Family on tour. At the beginning of the movie he is ‘my brother’s buddy Sufjan.’ By the end he is an international phenomenon. But Danielson is intriguing in his own right. The Church has only recently abdicated a central role in the realm of creativity and art. I find it interesting what kinds of art emerge from a life of faith that turn out to be of value to those outside the church. In this case the answer is…slightly disconcerting art.


Amanda said...

I read your blog. I liked the explanation of Gabriel and the poems. That sure was a cold city.

JMBower said...

That was an....epic I have more comments than Buffalo has snowflakes. I will attempt brevity.

1)Dr. Horrible - excellence.
2) Firefly/Kaylee - yay.
3) If I were a preacher, I'd enter to either U2-"beautiful day" (cliche but energizing),Beatles - "Revolution", the theme from Star Wars (how awesome would that be..there's already that built in messiah-narrative link), or SRV's "Texas Flood". (just because, hey, it's SRV, and has a blazing blues intro).
4)what white people like - I forgot about this, need to revisit. Hillarious.
5) eminem reminds me of an autistic fifth grader with Tourettes. Talented, but without control.
6) Sufjan is awesome. Casimir Pulaski Day is one of the few songs that will still make me slightly tear up. There's something very real about the "unbearable lightness" of the tone matched with the subject matter. Like you expect the moment to be grave and dark and heavy and it is just an empty lightness.
7) re: Christianity/moral superiority. i think I might have subsequent thoughts about whether the dictates of the canon have filtered down into a similar perception among all its devotees. Humankind loves nothing so much as declaring itself superior to that which is external.

That was not brief at all. Mea culpa.

stanford said...

Hey Justin,

So I don't know the protocol being new to the blogging thing. I think I am supposed to comment on your comments here rather than on your blog. Apologies if that is incorrect.

1) Great entry music choices. If I used Beautiful Day it would have to include one of the best lines ever: “You’ve been all over/and its been all over you”
2) I think you really hit on something I love about Sufjan: the dichotomy of lightness and gravity. It gives his music a very lived in authenticity. ‘Wasps of the Palisades’ is my favorite but ‘Cashmere’ is brilliant.
3) I’m sure you have more to say on the moral superiority issue, but let me just affirm that I am 100% with you so far on both counts. Triumphalism is a major problem for the Church. Keller actually taps into Foucault’s idea of ‘the other’ in his discussion. This is definitely going to be a full post and I will look forward to your insights.

Anonymous said...

I love that song by the Bravery. The last verse especially:

I am hiding from some beast
But the beast was always here
Watching without eyes
Because the beast is just my fear
That I am just nothing
Now its just what I've become
What am I waiting for
Its already done

Being afraid of being "nothing". I don't know why but that always strikes me. I've spent some time thinking about life and purpose. Have you ever read "A Breathtaking Work of Staggering Genious"? There is a part where the author is talking about what he and his brother have experienced, and how it MUST have had some greater meaning.

*Can you not see that we're extraordinary? That we were meant for something else, something more? All this did not happen to us for naught, i can assure you-there is no logic to that, there is logic only in assuming that we suffered for a reason. Just give us our due.*

I wrote about it in my Livejournal
anyhow, just thought you might find it interesting.