Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brandi (not Brandy)

My friend Lance Hill (you may know him from the "Famous for No Reason" campaign) drove the three hours from Taylor's campus to meet me in Ann Arbor, MI for a concert by none other than Brandi Carlile. Honestly, I hadn't heard more than two of her songs before tonight but was drawn in when Rachel Sawyer (thanks much) contacted me a few days ago and said she could get me and a friend "on the list." Although her voice kind of annoys me in the two singles I'm semi-familiar with, I'm always up for a free concert. So, for the first time in my life, I got to say, "I'm with the band" and received a VIP sticker (which we didn't really use... but the envious glances by hardcore fans were fantastic).

A singer/songwriter named, Angel Taylor opened for Brandi. Her soulful voice was great but the instrumentation from the three-piece band wasn't something to write home about. Unfortunately, the strongest effort was a cover or Jet's "Are You Going to Be My Girl?", acting as a bit of an outlier from the rest of her songs. She mumbled a lot between songs as well, making for awkward silences following what I presumed were jokes. Overall, mediocre performance from a young (she's only 21) artist... she's got time to improve.

Brandi walked onto the stage and the first thought that came to my mind was that she was like Tina Fey, just substitute a Southern drawl for Tina's thick-rimmed glasses. Hailing from the Seattle area, I'm not sure where the voice/accent came from but it helped in making for a strong stage presence, always making the audience feel like they were close friends with her and the band in some Southern hospitality sort of way. Interesting and relevant stories (e.g. an account of a friend's suicide or meeting and recording with her teenage idol Elton John) kept me in-tune with the set and helped keep me from disconnecting (something that often happens when seeing an unfamiliar band).

Opening with a 5-piece acapella (sp?) song, I enjoyed the variety of song performances throughout the night. She and the band commonly switched from full standard band (+ cello) to a more stripped down guitar/snare/acoustic-bass set up to a completely unplugged voice/guitar. Since her inception as an artist, she has toured with "the twins" (the lead guitar and bass players). They were a living cliche in how eerily similar they were, making me think of cinematic twins such as the bad dudes from the second Matrix or the Weasley twins from the Harry Potter series. Anyhow, they were skilled musicians and served as strong supporting vocalists (there's a lot of "ooo"-ing in her songs).

The variety of instrumentation served as a good foundation for her strong lyrics that made for an engaging evening. Although not my exact style (her voice still kind of annoys me), her lyrics had a way of drawing the listener (me) in. While the crowd there loved her, it was a bit weird being completely unfamiliar with an artist's music while sitting amongst her biggest fans. My favorite line came from a guy sitting behind us, "You know what Brandi is really good at? Everything."

While I may not have been as enthusiastic about her music as the rest of the crowd, it was a good show, it was great to see Lance, and it's always great to feel like an insider (thanks again, Rachel). Filling the encore performance with solid renditions of Johnny Cash's "Jackson" and the Beatles' "Let it be" didn't hurt things, either.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I was a homeschooler.

I was a homeschooler. Great time. Lots of field trips and learning at a pace in which I was not hindered by 29 other students. I transferred to a public high school and enjoyed my experiences there as well. Capped it all off with a Christian university. That's my educational background.

Just read an article on public schools... and their benefits. Recommended reading.

Highlight phrase:
"Christians, sadly, tend to believe more in the negative power of sin than they do in the redemptive power of Christ in the lives of His people."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rebellion: A Personal Account

For a while now, it’s been cool to be rebellious. James Dean, the Revolutionary War, Che Guevara, the Civil Rights movement, and the Empire Records movie all serve as pretty sexy examples of taking down the man, standing up for individuality and doing it rather eloquently. Now some of those examples are a little more legit than others (despite his sweet tee-shirts, Che was a jerk), I think our culture has made us look up to those that stand for something out of the ordinary, to rebel against the status quo. I’m a sucker for this attitude. It’s why as a child I chose to play soccer (a sport my dad knew nothing about), chose French in high school (I didn’t want to learn the common language of Spanish), and currently watch movies only a select few have actually heard of. Not to say that I don’t enjoy soccer, French, and indie movies, I do. It’s just that if given the choice between the usual and the unusual, I’ll almost always choose the unusual.


A common line for hip, progressive Christians directed towards the American Church is the phrase, “I want to be known for what I am for, not for what I am against.” Typically said in relation to the Church’s reaction towards homosexuality, abortion, other religions, etc,* many people in the Church are tired of being known for what they are not and would rather be known for what they are. Frequently, this same crowd turns to a Christianity that is marked by pushing forward a Kingdom of God system; a relationally-driven, social-justice type of Faith that is more concerned with meeting people where they are than decrying their sins from afar. I’m all for this.

(bring it back together)

So how do those two paragraphs fit together?

I’m one of those “hip, progressive Christians.” I don’t like that the Church is known for being against stuff.

But what I do is pretty lame. I think I’m known for being against the Church. I don’t like what I’ve seen her do, so I complain about all of her problems.

I’m not excited that the Church is commonly known for what it’s against, but more often than not, that’s typically how I approach the Church itself. It’s fun to be the rebel; the cool, young revolutionary bent on pointing out everyone’s mistakes. But it’s about as effective as the Church’s efforts against homosexuality, abortion, and other religions, etc. As messy as the Church can be, it’s my family on earth and it’s God’s vessel.

I want to be known for what I’m for, not what I’m against.

*This is not intended to belittle the issues of homosexuality, abortion, or other religions. They certainly need to be addressed by the Church… they might just not need to be what we are most vocal about.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Grapes of Wrath

The book follows the Joad family as they are forced out of their Oklahoma farm to trek across the country to where there is “work” in California. The book isn’t exactly a pick me-upper, but I loved the beautiful way Steinbeck has of describing injustices. Let me highlight three major themes that were portrayed oh so elegantly:

causes of injustice
In California, the family is consistently met with unfair work systems, corrupt authority figures, and ill treatment by locals. Citing “panic” as the cause of much of the injustice, the people don’t know what to do when there is not enough after the machine of the bank puts them out. Specifically, “what made ‘em bad was they needed stuff.” (The current day comparisons are many.)

natural law
The family’s response to many of these laws is an understandable one. In a day when the lines of right and wrong were anything but clear, the conclusion is that “Law changes … but ‘got to’s’ go on. You got the right to do what you got to do.” On the road and in the camps, a new order came into being, “laws were made, then codes came into being.”

each other
New communities and orders are made that, admittedly, have a more liberal (O.K., maybe even communist sounding) feeling to them but what’s stronger than that is the need we have for one another. What the large businesses fail to offer is respect for human lives, and whenever that happens, something has to change. Referring to the ‘lost-on-religion’ preacher, he is remembered as saying “a wilderness ain’t no good, ‘cause his little piece of a soul wasn’t no good ‘less it was with the rest, an’ was whole.” (I haven’t come to a conclusion if Steinbeck crosses the humanistic, lack of need for a savior line…)

Along with most of Steinbeck’s other books, this one has my recommendation… but you don’t have to take me word for it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Round Glass

Can you think of any other notable character/person that sports the circular glasses? (If so, please comment)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Micro Finance Introduction

Just finished Muhammad Yunus' book, Banker to the Poor; Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty. Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for his engineering of Micro finance. As a "guy with a business degree" interested in nonprofit work, I thought it prudent to familiarize myself a little more.

A summarizing quote in the final chapter:
"I found myself thinking of ... my very first borrowers, those who were raised to think that they were nobodies, worth nothing, and who had become sudden heroes at this summit. It was those people, with their lives of simple dignity, who had radically changed me from a bird's-eye-view economist, teaching elegant theories in a classroom, to a worm's-eye-view practitioner, helping to introduce real and lasting change into people's lives."