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.”

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thoughts on Haiti

Amidst all the tragedies (and the news surrounding) the earthquake in Haiti, I have just a couple thoughts (who doesn't?).

Personally, I've probably read more articles in reaction to Pat Robertson's silly comments than I have about the disaster itself. That's sad; both on my part and on the media's.

Next, I wonder if it's possible for this tragedy to have occurred naturally. To many Christians (or other religious folks), an earthquake is seen as a sign from God or, at the very least, they question how God could let this happen. On the other side of the spectrum would be people citing the "blame" of this tragedy simply on natural occurrences (the country does lie on a fault line, susceptible to earthquakes). Would it be all that sacrilegious to ascribe this occurrence to science? When my car brakes down, I typically don't blame God. Maybe the spiritual and scientific explanations aren't mutually exclusive. Who knows why these things happen.

Finally, the main thing we need to remember to do is to pray, give, and be open to helping anyway we can.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Double Life

Over the last few months, I’ve enjoyed watching the show’s Dexter’s first four seasons. Each season has a distinctive overall theme on top of its basic premise. For those of you unawares, the premise of the show involves a serial killer (Dexter) who lives by a strict code of only killing other killers. After witnessing a gruesome murder in his childhood, Dexter’s father recognizes the effect this experience has on him and directs Dexter’s dark nature to be aimed at other “bad” guys.

In addition to being a serial killer, Dexter also serves as a boyfriend, stand-in father, brother, and blood splatter specialist for the Miami Police Department. Dexter’s special hobby is not revealed to anyone.

On the surface, the premise of the show sounds like your typical “twist” in a series or movie plot line, fed to the consumer for quick digestion. But what I enjoy about the show is its focus not on big plot twists but rather on the philosophical ramifications of Dexter’s bizarre life. And that’s why I enjoy Dexter and not CSI. (A preview of season 1 is located at the bottom of this blogpost)

An example of said philosophical ramifications lies within the basic premise of the show, a killer who also lives a “normal life.” Obviously, there’s a huge dichotomy there, a dichotomy that does two main things.

First thing, it recognizes the disparity between death and life. I’m not just talking about a beating heart and a stalled one. Dexter’s killings are often followed by mornings making breakfast for the kids (or some other normal life behavior). Dexter feels at home when killing but then has to act normal in order to avoid suspicions. Over time though, Dexter finds a certain enjoyment in the “normal.” But can the two co-exist?

That leads to the second thing, the fallen nature of Dexter, something (according to Christian doctrine) we all possess. I just love how exaggerated his fallen nature is. He has a dark past that he channels in a twisted, positive way. And these gruesome murders are all done over a quirky, peppy score. Well besides being taken aback, my immediate response is: what kind of double life do I currently live? What kind of heinous crime do I keep hidden? It’s a response universal, in nature.

Universal enough that I’m going to relate it to a sermon taught from my church home (Hope Community!) this past December. My pastor, Kevin Butcher, taught on Jesus’ birth bringing light to the world. In a Christmas message dissimilar to most I’ve heard, he highlighted the effects light has on sin/darkness/etc. It eradicates it. There’s no room for the two of them. That shame often keeps us from sharing or confessing but that Jesus is bigger than shame.

Commonly, while watching Dexter, I think to myself, “why doesn’t he just confess his dark nature and get it over with!? Stop playing games! (And while you’re at it, let Jesus cover the darkness).” While that probably won’t happen anytime in season 5, I’m content that in my own life I’ve got a light that is bigger than the darkness. The double life can mysteriously turn singular.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Year, New Look

I decided it was time for an update on the blog face.

I think I'm pleased for the time being.

I used a third-party template and even figured out how to get rid of the author's annoying Twitter ad at the top (although kept his name/link at the bottom) in the html-edit section!

Excuse any hiccups as I get settled in.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


In 2004, the artist known as Danger Mouse, released a record called "The Grey Album." What he did was layer Jay-Z's rapping on top of Beatles music (and mixing Jay-Z's "Black Album" with The Beatles "White Album" to get a "Grey Album"). Although he didn't mean to cause a stir, all the copyright police got their panties in a twist while the album blew-up online. He also started a trend (or at least popularized the trend) of "mashing-up" popular songs, oftentimes between seemingly completely different genres. While "The Grey Album" is decent and some of Girl Talk's music is fun (& vulgar), most of the mash-ups produced since then have been disposable at best.

What I have been thinking about recently is the mash-up of music with outside mediums. Certain albums commonly remind me of a specific time, place, or person simply because of personal experience. But sometimes albums seem to fit so perfectly with an outside medium that it surpasses a personal "moment" and legitimately mashes up with the outside piece.

My classic example is Mario Kart 64 and The Cool Kids' "The Bake Sale."

The two are inseparably linked. Go ahead, try it.

Or, try Jose Gonzalez's "Veneer" with Waking Up in the Morning

Once again, try it out.

The "mash-up" experience also happens to me while reading or driving or (fill in the blank). There's a moment where I stop and think, these two were made for each other.

Ever experience that? Examples welcomed.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Movie Cliches

In movies/television, I feel like there are two cliches that rise above the rest (feel free to offer alternatives):
1. A character getting hit by a bus
2. The catching of a bad person by recording them saying something incriminating with a hidden tape recorder.

Examples of the bus: (spoilers ahead)
Mean Girls (the jerk girl gets hit by a school bus)
LOST (I forget who... but it happens... maybe Juliet's sister?)
Closer (Natalie Portman)
Matt & Kim's music video for "Lessons Learned"
Ghost Town (Greg Kinnear)
Meet Joe Black (Brad Pitt)

Examples of the tape recorder:
Michael Clayton (George Clooney)
Green Street Hooligans (Elijah Wood)
The Informant! (Matt Damon)

Now I know there are more examples of both, I just can't think of them.

I wonder if when writing a movie/show/etc, the writer thinks to him/herself, "... and then I could have this person get hit by a bus!" or "... and the bad guy will finally get caught when he opens his stupid mouth and the protagonist tapes him!"? Don't they know they've both been done way too many times before to be legitimately surprising?

I suppose the tape recorder is the more believable of the two. In real life, I'm sure there are more people recorder than hit by buses.

Then again, the "hit by the bus" cliche can used as a comedic device (i.e. Mean Girls) where its aware of its cliche-ness and thus, awesome.

Does this annoy anyone else? Does one rub you the wrong way more than the other? Are there other more cliche, cliches?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Size Matters

What I've been watching... rated according to size
(click on image to enlarge)