Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To read


Being Christmas break, apparently I'm supposed to have time to read, both "for fun" and "for school". And do all the normal Christmas related things. Ha.

Anyway, I am trying to squeeze in some "for fun" reading into my break in some sort of half-hearted attempt at living a balanced lifestyle that includes leisurely activities like "pleasure reading". This endeavor has come in the shape of A.J. Jacobs's book, The Year of Living Biblically. The dude is a secular Jew who writes for Esquire magazine and lives in New York City's Upper West Side (yeah, he's quite the cliche).

The book details a year in which he attempts to follow every rule of the Bible (hence, his beard pictures above). While a little gimmicky in nature, I've enjoyed his reflections on the book I say I surround my life around. In general, there's always something pretty interesting about hearing an outsider's comments on one's lifestyle (religiously narcissistic?) when done in a relatively objective manner. An atheist guy did something sort of similar a few years back when he sold his soul on ebay and then visited a number of churches, only to get a book deal out of it. A.J.'s book is better written and is a little more comprehensive ("ebay guy" had some fascination with evangelical church's excellent public speakers). It also reads like someone writing from NYC - what I believe The New Yorker would read like even though I don't actually read The New Yorker. I'm only a third of the way through the book but I enjoy A.J.'s humor and candidness concerning Christianity and I suppose I think it's important that, as a Christian, I remain somewhat aware of perceptions held towards whatever subgroup I may fall into.

All this to say, I'd recommend the book if you're looking. I got a few other books for Xmas that will hopefully be read before 2nd semester (that Bonhoeffer book and some mentoring book I always allude to in my class papers but haven't actually read). Alright, have a splendid New Year's. Keep reading, it's good for you.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas thoughts

As a semi-well educated, hip twenty-something, I'm fairly good at complaining. One such occurrence happens frequently whenever I hear someone (typically a pastor or a "Christian by trade") call the listener to remember the "reason for the season" and to "get back" to the true meaning of Christmas. My initial response, as a whiny young person, is to explain to everyone around me that Jesus' real birth most likely didn't happen anytime around December and that a call back to the meaning of Christmas would bring us back to some sort of Roman (or is it Greek?) pagan holiday which really has nothing to do with Jesus' birth.

I know, I annoy myself.

The next step in the conversation (one I rarely get to) should be about the redemption that can happen with holidays like Christmas. And hopefully, we can be reminded of the redemption that Christ can bring to all of life. That's something I can celebrate. So it is at this time of year that I would like to call everyone to remember not the true meaning of the holiday (I am neither Roman nor Greek and don't necessarily care to celebrate their pagan holidays), but rather to embrace the redeeming love brought through our lord Jesus that extends through our whole lives, even to our holidays.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Top 11 of 2010

On what could have been the "Top10 of 2010" (numeric alliteration, if you will), I chose to include 11 albums on my "best of" list for the year. I know, it could have been awesome, but I simply could not exclude any of these albums. It literally would have been a personal insult to the artist.

Now to the (usual) preface:
For me, Top10 lists are 100% subjective. Unlike the responsibilities magazines, websites, or "real" bloggers hold in being "objective", this is a list of personal favorites. Case in point: Arcade Fire's The Suburbs is certainly one of the best albums of the year yet I feel zero responsibility on including them in my Top10 when I didn't listen to or enjoy the album as much as my other choices. I feel especially inclined to include this caveat of an intro as a number of great indie rockstar albums came out this year yet they didn't make my list.

Anyhow, a ton of great music has come out this year and being out of school for the majority of it allowed me to listen to a lot of it. Here are my top picks and a brief reason why. Enjoy and, if I know you, link to your Top10 list in the comment section... I'm always looking for new music and new lists.

11. Beach House - Teen Dream
Dreamy. Swirly. Non-distinct. An album I had to include simply because of the number of times I ended up listening to it. I never got excited about it. I rarely even felt like listening to it. It just always found its way into being played. It's kind of like a crappy apartment that isn't really special in many ways but it finds a way into your heart because of its familiarity.

10. The National - High Violet
This band is just great at crafting songs filled with melancholy. I chalk it up to their lead singer's baritone vocals. Again, this isn't a band I get excited about. Rather, as with this album, I hit play and am instantly overwhelmed with well crafted songs and lyrics filled with fantastic imagery.

9. Tokyo Police Club - Champ
This was my first foray into TPC's music. Taking it back a couple of years, I get the same feeling from this band as I did from the Christian garage-rock band, Bleach (any takers on that comparison?). What I mean is that this band is great at making catchy jams that are easy to rock out to.

8. Vampire Weekend - Contra
Loved their first album. Love this album. A few more blips and beeps this time around. Catchy pop songs. Needlessly intelligent lyrics but that's besides the point, I'm not listening to VW for their lyrics. Sidenote: the fiancée bought us tickets to their show earlier this year and we grooved for a solid hour.

7. Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz
It's about time. After waiting for a solid five years for a significant new album, Suf delivers the jams. And I mean jams. Leave it to the indie-king to change a lot of the instrumentation but keep what we all love about him. While most artists would most likely flub up, Sufjan creates sounds and atmospheres that will keep me listening for a long while.

6. The Drums - The Drums
I kind of started listening to this band as a joke. My little bro showed me a song called "Let's Go Surfing" which, as the name suggests, is pretty awesome. Little did I know that I would love the rest of the overly dramatic album as well. This one's perfect for a trip to the beach ... or wishing you were at the beach.

5. Sleigh Bells - Treats
Pretty voice. Distorted guitar. Heavy beats. It's like a mash-up created from scratch. I love the intensity of this band and the fact that it's the perfect album to throw on when in the car with a group of friends.

4. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
Man, this guy came to Taylor my senior year and I missed the show ... then again, I really had no idea who he was so I can't really kick myself. I'm pretty sure he's not actually that tall but this album is great. Guitar and a fantastic voice. That's pretty much all it is. And it's perfect for background noise, for driving by yourself at dusk, for studying, for listening to.

3. Jonsi - Go
I was a little hesitant where this one was going to go. Jonsi's departure from Sigur Ros with Riceboy Sleeps had me literally sleeping so I didn't know what to expect from this release. I was pleasantly surprised. This album is large, joyful, exciting, fun, and an experience all around.

2. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
This new band consists of some young college kids from Florida. To a certain degree, that's all you need to know. The music is young, fun, and a good time - kind of like college. It also kind of makes you feel like Florida.

1. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
I was initially hesitant of listening to this band. For some reason, they just sounded too generic. After I got over myself, I absolutely loved this band and this album. I attended a show of theirs earlier this year and it may have been the best concert experience of my life. So much energy and it's all matched with a level of depth not always found in your usual album.


Honorable Mentions :: Yeasayer, Odd Blood :: Broken Bells, Broken Bells :: Best Coast :: Crazy for You :: The Radio Dept., Clinging to a Scheme :: LCD Soundsystem, This Is It :: Spoon, Transference :: Drake, Thank Me Later :: Phantogram, Eyelid Movies :: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Social Network


8 reasons why you should see The Social Network:

1. You're reading a blog that was linked to through a social network and you more than likely clicked on that link that was on a social network which led you to this blog.

2. Justin Timberlake.

3. It has 97% on both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. For a movie that's not a documentary, foreign, or Pixar, that's saying something. But hey, maybe it'll be popular with critics today and then rejected 5 years from now... kind of like how Facebook was talked about 5 years ago and is now rejec....

4. I was thoroughly captivated for 120 minutes by a movie about a website and a few court cases.

5. Quick, smart dialogue.

6. Everyone is/will be talking about it. You might as well join the conversation with some sort of knowledge base.

7. Although Jesse Eisenberg is labeled "the rich man's Michael Cera" by Michael Goodrich (meaning he repeatedly plays the same character), he does an excellent job typifying many of our (assuming you're under 30) generation's negative characteristics.

8. Great story telling simultaneously including complex characters, recent history, and our current digital era without ever getting preachy.

and probably a few other reasons yet in my current state (1am and having a head cold), I'm not thinking of them.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Being Hip to the Hop

When someone like myself enjoys hip-hop, it can usually be perceived in two ways.
1. I'm simply an anomaly. A white, suburban kid who simply enjoys an eclectic selection of music.
2. I'm an indie-music-loving-kid-cliche who enjoys the idea of rap music because it doesn't make sense and either loves obscure "indie" rappers or digs super mainstream artists for irony's sake.

I'm a little bit of both.

The following are a few hip-hop albums I have recently acquired and would recommend. (For those of you with sensitive ears, please realize most of these albums are "R-rated.")

Artist: A Tribe Called Quest
Album: The Low End Theory
Hip-Hop legends from the late 80's/early 90's. They're kind of kings in the genre so I decided to check them out and I discovered some jazz influenced hip-hop that's done it's fair share of influencing. One of this album's singles: Scenario...


Artist: Big Boi
Album: Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son Of Chico Dusty
Half of the illustrious Outkast duo, Big Boi has some serious beats on this solo album. Maintaining a sense of otherness often thought to belong to Outkast's other half (Andre 3000), Pitchfork describes the album as "inventive, bizarre, joyous, and masterful;" hardly the grounded rapper he played in Outkast. Take a listen to his single: Shutterbug...


Artist: Drake
Album: Thank Me Later
Dubbed "the next big thing," Drake was signed by Lil' Wayne at the young age of 23. He's not exactly wise and mature ... but his lyrics do contain an honesty that I respect, an honesty that's oftentimes sad and depressing (oh, and an "honesty" often explicit). Album highlights usually occur whenever he's "spitting it," which, unfortunately, is not as often as I'd like. Listen to the album opener: Fireworks...


Artist: Shad
Album: TSOL
So this is my "indie-rapper" pick. Hailing from Canada, still pretty underground, he's not exactly a chart topper. I heard about him from the RELEVANT Magazine editor (via their podcast), which can be a hit or miss way of discovering music, but I am loving this album. His lyrics range from encouraging women to get in the hip-hop arena to rapping about his name: Shad, short for Shadrach, from the Old Testament. I'm super hesitant to mention that he may be a Christian (1. I'm not for sure if he is and 2. about 99% of Christian rap is absolutely dreadful) but his lyrics reflect a certain redemptive quality without having that preachy aspect that's so annoying in any CCM rap. For reals, check this guy out. Here's his single: Yaa I Get It...


That's it folks, any hip-hop suggestions?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Brazil: Joga Bonito


Brazil (or, Brasil, for you purists): they have all the makings of a team you could hate. A boat load of past championships, stacked teams, over-enthusiastic fans, always a favorite to win the cup. They could very well be the Yankees or Lakers of the soccer world.

But they're just so much fun to watch. And they have fun. And they're not major cry babies (yeah, I'm talking to you, Cristiano Ronaldo). And they help the other team up when they fall. And they're creative. And they're really, really good.

So while I'm not necessarily rooting for the Brazil team this year, I'm not not rooting for them.


Oh, and by the way, I'm loving the World Cup this time around. Having all the games streaming online relegates just about every morning to just watching beautiful soccer.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pictures: A Weekend in Review

Well I don't usually write "update blogs" but I'm more than sufficiently bored and I like the idea of a picture blog detailing the second half of my week.

First of all, Jorjette came to visit (Wednesday-Sunday):
We hadn't seen each other in almost two months so it was nice to have 3 1/2 days to do whatever we pleased. We decided to go to my subdivision's fantastic beach. Besides getting burnt (by the sun) and bitten (by gross lake-bugs), it was a true beach experience.

Later that night, we watched Shutter Island.
Although Jorjie fell asleep, I was spellbound for the first hour and a half. Scorsese is a master/genius movie maker. Although the plot line felt a little tired (especially as things progressed), the way the movie was crafted made the experience (and $1 at Redbox) totally worth it.

On Friday night, Jorjette and I made a little trip to Ann Arbor (our usual hang out spot) and made our first trip to State Theater for the movie The Secret in Their Eyes.
Turned out to be a fantastic little Argentinian thriller/romance/drama/thinker. Thoughts were provoked... and I think that's why indie/foreign movies should be made.

Saturday held my little brother's graduation.
I was impressed with a couple things. Namely: the quantity of beach balls students are able to sneak in, one of the valedictorian's fiddle skills, the elected speaker/teacher's vocal similarities to the Simpson's Mr. Burns, the fact that Green Day is still being played at graduations, and the lack of preparation on the student body president's part while simultaneously able to entertain a few thousand people.

Later that day, the USA's World Cup journey began.
Thank-you Mr. Green. We owe you one.

And today, I finally had a chance to return to Hope Community Church.
While I usually have an internal debate on whether or not to make the trip into Detroit for the Sunday morning service, I always come away encouraged that the body of Christ is alive.

That's my weekend. Oh, listen to this song by The Drums. It served as our melodramatic theme song.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Zeitoun; a few words

I just finished Dave Eggers' latest piece of nonfiction, Zeitoun. I thought the book deserved more than my standard Facebook-notification of recommendation.

The book gives an account of New Orleans residents Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun as they experienced the events of Hurricane Katrina. The Zeitouns are devout Muslims, have four children, and are respected contractors in the New Orleans community.

Throughout the first third of the book, I quickly bonded to the Zeitoun family while also forming a connection to the city of New Orleans and the Syrian culture from which Zeitoun came. Written in a chronological, journalistic nature, the impending natural disaster creates a certain "impending doom" that is hard to ignore but once the brunt of the hurricane comes and goes, the crux of the book arrives and gave me a picture of post-hurricane New Orleans and all the mayhem that came with it. While most of the book's criticism of the country's reaction is told in a pure story format, the following quote nicely sums up much of the book's thesis:
This country was not unique. This country was fallible. Mistakes were being made. He was a mistake. In the grand scheme of the country's blind, grasping fight against threats seen and unseen, there would be mistakes made. Innocents would be suspected. Innocents would be imprisoned.
A quick note on the author, Dave Eggers. Although certain friends of mine (cough*Goodrich*cough) have a distaste for Eggers' popular book, A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius, calling Eggers a "narcissistic tool" who thinks that he is "...so special and no one gets it," I have enjoyed his writing. While writing some decent memoir-ish stuff, he has also written a good amount of social justice related books (most notably, What Is The What), with profits usually going directly towards charities involved with the subject at hand. He has also started a writing and tutoring center in his hometown of San Francisco and been involved in similar operations around the country. Basically, it's nice to see a talented, successful author use his craft to highlight more substantive issues (read: not narcissistic).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Spring Intake

What follows are the movies, television shows, and books I've been consuming this spring, hopefully to the betterment of my overall self. I watched a lot more television this spring than I have at any other time. I once heard it described that the 'television show is to the movie' as the 'novel is to the short story.' I've found this to be true and have learned to enjoy the meta-narratives present in television shows such as Dexter, The Sopranos, and Mad Men. As far as literal literature goes, I finished a couple of elongated classics (The Brothers Karamazov & Augustine's Confessions) while also experiencing some fresh, current voices as well (Dave Eggers, Chuck Paluhniuk, Reif Larsen). It's been a good time as far as media goes and I look forward to enjoying a few more months of peace before the fury of grad school hits this fall.

movies/television mad men [season 3], dexter [season 4], food, inc., sugar, youth in revolt, the sopranos [season 1], moon, the hurt locker, star trek, avatar, the sopranos [season 2], scrubs [season 1], an education, the sopranos [season 3], crazy heart, paranormal activity, scrubs [season 2], the road, scrubs [season 3], a serious man, scrubs [season 4], gomorrah, pushing daisies [season 1], alice in wonderland, scrubs [season 5], the informant, sorority row, the blind side, precious, how to train your dragon, doctor zhivago, scrubs [season 6], scrubs [season 7], the brothers bloom, in the loop, pushing daisies [season 2], the sopranos [season 4], scrubs [season 8], community [season 1], the office [season 6], 30 rock [season 4], sherlock holmes, bored to death [season 1], lost [season 6], 24 [season 8]
books pilgrim at tinker creek .. annie dillard, the selected works of t.s. spivet .. reif larsen, not for sale .. david batstone, the brothers karamazov .. fyodor dostoevsky, suite francais .. irene nemirovsky, confessions .. st. augustine, the moon is down .. john steinbeck, choke .. chuck paluhniuk, survivor .. chuck paluhniuk, the wild things .. dave eggers

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Summer Music

The mention of summer can elicit a number of feelings. For some, it can simply mean a break from always using your brain. For others, it can mean riding around in the car with the windows down and sunglasses on. And for still others, especially those in post-college days, it can simply mean a few warmer months and a couple of pool parties.

Whatever the case, a new season, especially one as distinct as summer, deserves some music recommendations. While every season has it's unique characteristics with appropriate music accompaniment (i.e. winter's isolated feeling coupled with Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago), summer can best be described by it's 'who-cares?' attitude coupled with music that is catchy and easy to sing along to. While Jack Johnson or Bob Marley may provide some classic examples of this 'genre' of music, I'd like to make three suggestions on recent albums releases.

First up, Vampire Weekend rules the summer. A couple years ago they stormed onto the music scene with their simple pop melodies and afro-beat sounds backed by their ivy league lyrical references/persona. A few months back, they released a stellar sophomore album, Contra, that is as carefree and catchy as the first album while adding a few more electronica touches. And Cousins may be my favorite song of theirs:

Next, the Brooklyn based band, Sleigh Bells, just released their first album, Treats, a couple weeks ago. They are crazy. They are also crazy catchy and perfect for listening to really loud in your car. Their song Rill Rill creates such a great vibe:

And finally, Surfer Blood is a band based out of West Palm Beach, Florida and comprised of some young, college guys. Naturally, living on the beach and being 20 is going to give you some "summer music" cred and when you add in their infectious vocals and guitar hooks, you get their perfect summer album, Astro Coast. Here's their single, Swim:

Alright, so there you have some of my summer picks. Any comments on your favorite current summer album or classic all-time favorite?

Happy summer and happy listening.

Monday, May 17, 2010

AROUND THE WORLD wide web: PART TWO

About a month and a half ago, I began a series called AROUND THE WORLD, click here for a fuller explanation of what it is.

After a weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico for Matt and Jess's wedding (congrats!), I now have enough info to fill an AROUND THE WORLD blog (or at least an "around the country" posting). Here's what's going on:
  • Paste Magazine's chief editor, Josh Jackson, writes on the central characters of 24 and Dexter (as well as on the character of our centers).
  • Twitterers worth following: fake tips for proper writing, inside Christian jokes, the guy that created Freaks & Geeks.
  • Best online comic strip? (beware: occasionally R-rated)
  • Tony and Peggy Campolo talk about their various opinions of homosexuals in the church.
  • 10 new songs (often times awesome remixes), 5 times a week, free downloads, and free music advice.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Local Natives (w/Suckers): A Concert Review

Percussion and vocals.

These are two things that can turn a concert from enjoyable to transcendent. While listening to NPR's All Songs Considered (NPR's music podcast) coverage of the recent South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, I noticed that they kept commenting on how this year's festival was really strong due to these two elements. So I'm going to agree with NPR (like any good, young progressive should and would) and reiterate that great percussion and vocals make for a great concert.

With that said, Kenan and I (above) attended a Local Natives concert at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor on Monday night. Luckily, great percussion and vocals were present as well.

The opening band were the Brooklynites, Suckers. I didn't bother checking out their music beforehand but these guys put on a really great opening act. Their set included a lot of energy and their lead vocalist (while reminding me of little of Jack Black) had a lot of character to his voice. I was also impressed by how multi-instrumental these guys were (as were Local Natives). There were times when the lead singer was strumming his guitar, banging a drum, and alternately whistling and singing, all at the same time. And everyone in the band did this to some degree or another. All this to say, they were really fun and their music, while foreign to just about everyone in the crowd, was very engaging.

Now onto Local Natives. After multiple recommendations of this band, I finally checked them out a couple weeks ago and, after a couple listens, I was hooked. Amidst other admirable attributes, they have great harmonies that beckon the listener to sing along, forcing me to fall in love with them. I also saw that they were playing the Blind Pig and my brother had been a mega-fan of their song, Airplanes since MySpace was cool/used, so we bought tickets to the show.

The show eventually sold out, making for a crowded standing area but which also made for a very energetic crowd. Going back to the opening line of this blog... this band knows how to sing. And not only that, they know how to get everyone in on the singing. The band had 4 of its 5 members mic'ed, adding to the group mentality of the vocals and they often had at least two members singing, even during the verses. This also encouraged the enthusiastic crowd to sing along with all of the choruses. The following is the shaky (I had to groove!) video of their crowd favorite, Airplanes:
video
I'm a sucker for great drums as well. So when I see that a band has a drummer plus someone else on another drum/cymbal, I know there's going to be some great beats. And I was certainly satisfied with the percussion the Local Natives provided. They often just went to town on the drums and this, coupled with the vocals, made for some incredible moments. The drum solo later on in the song Who Knows, Who Cares is one of my favorite moments on the album and, although I don't think I caught it on tape, here's part of that song:
video
The band played all the songs I was hoping for (not surprising considering they only have one album) but it was a good length of a concert. They repositioned themselves for a few songs in the middle (showcasing their ability to play any instrument), slowing it down a little bit, only to pick it up at the end with the song above and then an encore performance of Sun Hands.

OK, enough of my blabbing about my concert going experience. My final verdict: if at all possible, see this band live.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Relevant Confessions

I've been reading through St. Augustine's Confessions for the last year or so. It's been a slow read due to it's brainy nature but every once in a while there'll be a passage like the following that will give me reason to pause. So here's ol' Gus, giving relevant commentary on the relationship scripture has with truth:

When, therefore, someone says, ‘Moses meant what I understand by this passage,’ and someone else says, ‘No, he meant what I understand by it,’ I think I show more proper caution in saying: Why not both, if both are true? And if someone sees a third meaning in these words, or a fourth, or any truth at all, why should we not believe that Moses, through whom the one God tempered the Holy Scriptures to the minds of the many readers who would see various truths in them, himself saw them all? For my part, I am bold to avow that my own attitude is thus: if I were to write something of Scriptural authority, I would rather write in such a way that whatever truth one could comprehend about those matters, it would be echoed in my words, rather than write one true opinion so plainly as to exclude other opinions whose falsity could not offend me. I am reluctant, therefore, my God, to rush into believing that Moses did not receive a similar gift from you. In writing these words, Moses perceived and considered every truth that we have been able to find in them and every truth we have not been able to find, or have not yet been able to find but which nevertheless can be found in them.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Antlers: A Concert Review

In opposition to college, this year has been a slow year as far as concerts go. Not that there's been a shortage of them, it's just that I don't have a boat-load of scenester friends to encourage me to hit up the latest shows. So while I was debating whether or not to go to The Antlers concert last night, I had two options: I could go to the concert alone and count it as a low-point in my post-college, post-friend life, OR, I could go to the concert alone and count it as a celebration of my independence. I guess I'll go with the latter.

The Antlers are an indie band from Brooklyn, New York (which is where just about every indie band is from nowadays). They put out an album last year titled, Hospice. It's sort of a "sad elegy for a dying friend" type of an album that critics eat up. The album commonly has moments of naked emotion that are often coupled with the lead singer's wanderings into falsetto-land. The album also has quite a few moments of just noise. Enough so that it really annoyed me while listening to the album, but!, I kept coming back to it largely due to some of the more melodic songs (i.e. Two). I really wanted to go to the concert in order to make some sort of final verdict on the band.

The concert was held at Ann Arbor's The Blind Pig, a venue I had previously never been to before. It has a cool bar/small concert feel to it and, according to their website, was Nirvana's favorite venue at which to play... so that's kind of awesome. Anyhow, a band called Phantogram opened. Comprised of a male/female duo on guitar/synth (respectively), the band used pre-recorded drum loops, a lot of reverb on their vocals, and a strobe light to create some pretty stellar dance-ish music. My life wasn't changed or anything but they had a cool sound that, after their final request before their final song, had the crowd dancing. Here's a short video:
video
Next up, The Antlers came on stage. They only have the one full length album and an earlier ep so I was familiar with just about all of the music they played (which is always nice). Overall, they put on a good show, transitioning from bare vocals to loud noise rather well. The emotive feeling their music evokes translated well to a live performance. Unfortunately, their drumming was a bit choppy and they commonly played their songs just a little bit different from their album. For one, they never pulled out an acoustic guitar (sorely missed on their single, Two). Secondly, they have some great synth interlude parts to their songs that they just didn't hit as solidly as they could have. Both of these things hurt the performance in my view as they didn't achieve the range of sound the album covers. With my grievances expressed, I do think they put on a good performance.

Here's an acoustic-free, Two:
video
After they finished their set, they left the stage for about 30 seconds, then came back on for the encore (I hate when bands leave for a long time... as if they're not coming back). They played two more songs, the first of which was a cover of The xx's VCR, a song I really love so I was pretty excited about that and forgave them for any misgivings I had with their performance. (The (crappy) video is below.) So they finished on a high note and overall, it was a good Friday night. Check them out if they come around your part of town.

video

Saturday, March 27, 2010

AROUND THE WORLD wide web: PART ONE

I'm not sure how well known the website, Burnside Writers Collective (BWC), is, but every so often (once a week?) they have a posting entitled Across the Universe where the author gives four or five links to interesting happenings on the internet. It's a great resource to find new corners of the web or fresh perspectives on popular topics. I suppose they could simply Twitter links every couple days but I just love how they're all grouped together in some sort of megaTweet of substantive information.

Anyways, I'm copying their idea and giving mine a snappy title: AROUND THE WORLD wide web.

Without any further ado, check out what's hip on the internets:
  • Sufjan Steven directed and scored a film about New York's ugliest highway, The BQE. It released last fall but Pitchfork has the entire film streaming for the next week. I've loved the music for a few months now and the visual side (which I'm watching now) is equally beautiful.
  • A great blog entry (stolen from BWC's Across the Universe) on appropriate responses to art.
  • I don't pretend to know anything about fashion, etc. but The Sartorialist is one of my favorite GoogleReader followings. Just stylish people shot in the "real" world.
  • March Madness has been madness. I thoroughly enjoyed filling out and following my own brackets. Here's Obama's picks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Music Christians Love

Author's Note: When I run out of things to blog, I usually resort to forming some sort of list in some sort of imaginary category. Deal.

By now, many (/most) Evangelical Christians in the U.S. are unafraid to own "secular*" music. For a while there (I'm guessing: 1985-2005ish), it was kind of taboo to show up to church with Alanis Morissette or Nirvana blaring from your car's heathen-turned-radio. Maybe this wasn't everyone's experience, but I went through a couple "secular" music purgings in order to be sanctified from everything-not-Audio-Adrenaline.

Thankfully, many thinking Christians started to recognize that good music could exist outside of the Contemporary Christian Music market, and that music just might have some sort of spiritually redemptive qualities to it. But I won't digress any more on how I'm glad that many have started to identify truth in every area of culture (that blog has already been written).

What I really want to blog about is those "secular" artists that are Christians' favorites. Those bands or artists that, despite our demonization-through-music fear, keep us listening. Heck, it is even popular to listen to these bands even though they may not have said the sinner's prayer and subsequently signed onto Sparrow Records. Although the "secular" music stigma has diminished, these artists have and still top our iTunes play counts. Without any further adieu, here are three artists, reason why they're popular among Christians, and a personal sighting of their music in a church setting:

Artist: U2
Why: Every Christian who is a music fan loves U2. Their lyrics are often deeply spiritual and their music is top-notch. I mean, they created Joshua Tree. Even though Bono subscribes to some interfaith-ish beliefs, he's the world's largest rock star / social activist and thus, respectable.
Sighting: "Where The Streets Have No Name" in a mission trip slideshow at my old church, BCC.

Artist: Bob Dylan
Why: Well, he sort of became a Christian later on in life so this choice is kind of cheating. He's never, thankfully, been on a Christian label, though. But Dylan's beat-poet lyrics are loved by progressive Christians all across the land simply because he's probably the best lyricist alive today.
Sighting: Unknowingly sang one of his songs in my Indy church, Redeemer, as part of their liturgical service.


Artist: Coldplay
Why: Chris Martin has one of the smoothest, crooning voices. The only people that dislike Coldplay are music elitists bent on hating anything overly popular. And this is why Christians love Coldplay. Because everyone loves Coldplay. Their music is anything but raucous and their lyrics aren't even slightly offensive.
Sighting: Saddleback college group sang "Fix You" as one of their openers.


As usual, I would love to hear your input on the ridiculousness of this blog and/or suggestions for other artists to add to the list.

*I put the word "secular" in quotes because, really, it's rather absurd to label music as "Christian" or "not Christian." I only continue to use the word "secular" in order to differentiate it from music made on Christian music labels.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Opening Credits: Best Of

During this year living at home, working 30 some hours a week at a coffee shop, I've had a lot of time to watch television. More specifically, I've been watching a lot of television shows, not just "television." (There's a difference.)

One staple of every show is the introduction. That few seconds (or minutes) that is a staple of every episode of each particular show.

To me, what makes a fantastic intro is something that sets the tone for the show. It cannot be too lengthy (I want show, not pre-recorded credits overlayed with a montage of the show's cast!). And it doesn't hurt if it's infinitely funny or catchy.

I thought of this while watching Scrubs, a show with one of the best intros I've seen due to it's short, catchiness that gets right to the point:


I also love the LOST intro. It, also, is super short but has the mysterious edge the show runs on:


And finally, who doesn't know the entire introduction of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Something that iconic has done something right:


Oh, and, at the risk of every girl in the country (/world) hating me, I hate the Friends intro because it's way too long and does nothing but show the cast playing in a fountain:


Of course there's many more but I can only add so many videos to a blog without it becoming tiresome. Please comment with any suggestions for your favorite/most hated television introductions.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Character

Near the end of last year, I watched the second and third seasons of Mad Men. While it is a slow moving drama that is "boring" to my little brother (and he enjoyed the slowest movie I have ever watched: Cache), I find the sets, plot-lines, and characters fascinating. I've already gone into the premise of the show on an older blog, but an abbreviated recap is that the show is about a 1960s ad agency located on Madison Avenue.

One of the thoughts I had while watching the later seasons involved the idea of characters. The show does a swell job of developing each main character, slowly unveiling small portions of each character's person-hood, and rarely using large plot twists in order to interrupt the unveiling. As with every story told, the writers (/actors/etc.) build a character that evokes a certain emotion for those viewing. With an established character, the writer can mold the story in a variety of ways.

Peggy Olson, one of the main characters, is a young, single woman, who started out as a receptionist but worked her way up in the company despite prejudices held against women. To me (and most others watching), she is infinitely likable.





Pete Campbell, another main character, is an ad man waiting for his chance to move up in the company. He does fine at his job but is extremely self-centered and overestimates himself. He is wholly unlikable.


The show often contains meetings held where the ad men try to sell advertising ideas to large corporations. Say, for example, they're meeting with British Airways. They would come up with a quick slogan printed beneath a picture of a well dressed man walking through an airport. The ad would not just be advertising airline tickets, it would be selling a certain quality of life and "cool" factor in attempts to draw the consumer in. There's a story in every advertisement that says to the consumer, "I'm fun and likable in one way or another, you can have this life too with my product." The ad men in Mad Men are experts at tapping into the human psyche in order to find what the consumer wants.

I realized that that's exactly what the show does (as do all stories). It builds a character that is likable, unlikable, or in between...-able. A good writer knows humans well. Well enough to create someone that I have strong feelings for, or against. When Peggy Olson (the one I like) does something, I almost always root for her. When Pete Campbell does something, I almost always root against him.

What I'm starting to realize is that a mark of a good critic is the ability to look outside of a character and start to see why that character is portrayed a particular way. The writer uses a certain criteria to develop characters and I want to get to the place where I'm not so much analyzing a certain character as I am analyzing why and how that character is portrayed the way he/she is.

So I don't want to just like Peggy Olson, I want to know why I like Peggy Olson. And conversely, I don't want to simply dislike Pete Campbell, I want to know why I dislike Pete Campbell.

Basically, I don't want to just buy the product because the ad man sold the product well.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My thoughts on SNL

Every time I see an old Saturday Night Live skit, I think to myself, "Man, Saturday Night Live was so funny 20, 30 years ago. It's too bad it hasn't stayed as funny."

This thought is followed with another thought, "Well, perhaps all the skits I'm seeing are just the 'best of' skits, the highlight reels. Not all of the skits were super funny. It was hit or miss, just like it is now."

After having these two thoughts, I typically verbalize them to my brother, Kenan.

Unfortunately, I seldom remember that I've already told this to Kenan on multiple occasions.

Kenan hates when I do this.

You should probably watch Saturday Night Live tonight (11:30 on NBC). Ashton Kutcher is hosting and he's bound to have at least one highlight reel skit that I'll be laughing at 10 years from now while having my usual thoughts.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Spend the afternoon; you can't take it with you

Self-consciousness is the curse of the city and all that sophistication implies. It is the glimpse of oneself in a storefront window, the unbidden awareness of reactions on the faces of other people- the novelist’s world, not the poet’s. I’ve lived there. I remember what the city has to offer: human companionship, major-league baseball, and a clatter of quickening stimulus like a rush from strong drugs that leaves you drained. I remember how you bide your time in the city, and think, if you stop to think, “next year … I’ll start living; next year … I’ll start my life.” Innocence is a better world.
Annie Dillard's Pulitzer Prize winning book, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," reminded me of a few important truisms. For one, innocence can be a better world. To be completely lost in nature, in music, in a novel, in a relationship, in calligraphy, in ... whatever it is you're into, it can be a beautiful world. She advises to do what you do.

She's also funny.

Squirrels and box turtles are immune to the poison in mushrooms, so it is not safe to eat a mushroom on the grounds that squirrels eat it.
And finally, she finds ways to love what she loves in spite of imperfections. She acknowledges the brokenness of our world and adores it anyhow.
I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down. Simone Weil says simply, “Let us love the country of here below. It is real; it offers resistance to love.”