Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best Songs of 2012

While there's some heavy cross over from the Best Albums list, the Best Songs list allows for a few top 40 hits and/or stray song that I heard on a commercial to sneak in because, really, those individual songs often times defined the year in music just as much, if not more, than the full albums.

Check the Spotify playlist here.

And here are my favorite tracks from the year 2012. Happy listening.

25. Of Monsters and Men - Mountain Sound
24. Mumford & Sons - Not With Haste
23. Damien Jurado - Working Titles
22. The Shins - Simple Song
21. Dirty Projectors - Impregnable Question
20. Grimes - Oblivion
19. Lana Del Ray - National Anthem
18. Mumford & Sons - I Will Wait
17. Frank Ocean - Super Rich Kids
16. Sufjan Stevens - Silver and Gold (watch the video on YouTube here)
15. The xx - Angels
14. Passion Pit - Constant Conversations
13. Oberhofer - Haus
12. The Avett Brothers - Live and Die
11. Beach House - Lazuli
10. Kishi Bashi - Bright Whites
09. Gotye, Kimbra - Somebody That I Used to Know
08. fun. - Some Nights
07. Chromatics - Kill for Love
06. Passion Pit - Take a Walk
05. Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe
04. Nicki Minaj - Starships
03. Sufjan Stevens - Christmas Unicorn
02. Frank Ocean - Thinkin Bout You
01. fun. - We Are Young

Monday, December 17, 2012

Best Albums of 2012 (Albums 10-1)

For albums 20-11, click here.

My, my, my. The older I get, the harder it is to find the time to really invest in and search for good music out there. It's also a little less socially acceptable to spend quite as much money and energy. Never the less, I appreciate those times that I can really lose myself in an album or find my way to a concert on the occasional weekend, sharing in the art form with others. All that to say, I'm happy to be sitting down with a laptop, sorting through my iTunes and Spotify playlists picking out the highlights from the year.

The following are albums 10-1 of my favorite 20 albums of the year. I didn't have a crystal clear top album, lacking any album that just blew me away. But it's been a fun year for music. And a good one. Both some old and new names and, looking at my top five, some great sophomore releases.

To check all 20 albums, click here for the Spotify playlist.

Without further ado.
10. Lana Del Ray - Born to Die
I'm not sure if this is a guilty pleasure or if I just legitimately like it. Either way, I'm sold on the faux-sex appeal thing. Something like a modern day Marilyn Monroe. Catchy hooks and inane lyrics. Yeah, yeah, she was awful on SNL and the con list is lengthy, but it's a super fun album.

9. Grizzly Bear - Shields
Grizzly Bear comes back off of the highly acclaimed Veckatimist with a super solid output. For me, Shields just improves on its predecessor's best elements.

8. Oberhofer - Time Capsules II
While this certainly isn't an album on any sort of objective "best of" list, it was a favorite of mine. As the band was stopping by Taylor this spring, I familiarized myself with the album and was pleasantly surprised. Nothing extraordinary. Just some good, indie rock. And I actually didn't love the live show... thankfully I didn't let that persuade me away from the album.

7. The Shins - Port of Morrow
The Shins are just kings/queens of indie rock. Simple Song is super catchy and fun. The rest of the album follows suit. 

6. Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal
I was a little late, but I totally bought into the Icelandic indie pop group's gorgeous harmonies and folksy influences. What a consistently great album.

5. Beach House - Bloom
I was worried this guy would be a little boring. I was so happy to be wrong. Bloom takes everything from Teen Dream and improves upon it. The hazy guitars and swirling vocals are still there but added are some legit hooks that make this album irresistible. 

4. Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE
Who saw this one coming? After an incredible amount of buzz after its release, I had to check it out. It took me a few listens to really get into it (R&B isn't necessarily my go-to genre) but the production on this guy is fantastic. And Ocean weaves some fantastic stories from all sorts of corners of society. I'm glad this guy is around.

3. Mumford & Sons - Babel
Perhaps one of the most anticipated albums of the year, Mumford had a lot to live up to. Thankfully, they stayed true to their colors and brought more of their great faux-folk pop rock. They didn't need to reinvent the wheel and it shows. While there's no Little Lion Man or Sigh No More, the whole album is consistently solid and, if you have the few bonus songs, maybe I'm wrong in saying there aren't any timeless hits.

2. fun. - Some Nights
We were all there, right? Listening to We Are Young playing during that commercial, wondering who sang that irresistibly anthemic chorus that we would be singing along to non-stop for the next six months. I certainly was and was delighted to find that the band was fun. Coming off a couple of my past faves (Anathallo and The Format chronologically), I was pleased to see some of those guys hit it big, big. They've been making great music for a while now and Some Nights brings hit after hit, in the best way possible.

1. Passion Pit - Gossamer
Well, this is it. I never would have guessed Passion Pit's new album to come in number one but after buying the album and letting it play enough times in the ol' car radio, I couldn't get enough. While Manners took the music scene by storm with its high-pitched vocals and crazy electronica beats, Gossamer slows things down just a little bit in order to make the album accessible for all sorts of audiences. In my humble opinion, it was a good move. And let's be honest, who hasn't caught themselves chanting "I took a walk" under their breath a few hours after listening to the song?

There you have it. Don't hesitate to comment with your thoughts and/or links to your Best Of lists.
Here's to a solid 2013.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Best Albums of 2012 (Albums 20-11)

For albums 10-1, click here.

My, my, my. The older I get, the harder it is to find the time to really invest in and search for good music out there. It's also a little less socially acceptable to spend quite as much money and energy. Never the less, I appreciate those times that I can really lose myself in an album or find my way to a concert on the occasional weekend, sharing in the art form with others. All that to say, I'm happy to be sitting down with a laptop, sorting through my iTunes and Spotify playlists picking out the highlights from the year.

The following are albums 20-11 of my favorite 20 albums of the year. I didn't have a crystal clear top few album, lacking any album that just blew me away. But it's been a fun year for music. And a good one.

Click here for the Spotify playlist and...

Without further ado.

20. Purity Ring - Shrines
Trippy, catchy, thoroughly listenable. Sweet vocals accompanying beats that are simultaneously aggressive and laid back. I've enjoyed listening through the album many times this year while working in the ol' office. I'm still holding out for IFC to bring them to Taylor in collaboration with the Sex and the Cornfields programming.

19. Damien Jurado - Maraqopa
I don't know if I'll ever absolutely love a Damien Jurado album. But I find it hard to think of an album of his that I won't enjoy. With his latest (in a long career), Damien brings his same luscious voice, this time with fuller instrumentation. 

18. Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
I have to admit it, I was originally turned on to the Dirty Projectors due to their song, Stillness is the Move. I know, I know, it's a little bit of an outlier in their catalog, but it was a great introduction and I have since grown to enjoy their intricate, offbeat works.

17. Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself
I have a ton of respect for Bird. He just won't stop putting out solid records. Break It Yourself is another example of Bird's intricate guitar and violin work on top of some of the most unique lyrics in the folk genre.

16. The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter
Maybe the folkiest of the folk music I listen to. Jorjette walked into my office a few weeks ago and asked, "What are you listening to?" (read: "Why are you listening to country music?") I'm not positive of my response but mostly just because their music is fun, and simple (in the straightforward way), and good.

15. Sufjan Stevens - Silver & Gold
I feel bad for putting this guy so low on the list and I'm probably a little unfair. Sufjan's first collection of Christmas music, Songs for Christmas, holds a dear place in my heart, easily earning the spot of favorite collection of Christmas songs due to the consistency, ingenuity, and beauty of the records. My major beef with Silver & Gold is a pretty unlistenable second disc. I'm still waiting on discs 3 and 4 to really grow on me. And then the title track Christmas Unicorn are already favorites of mine. Oh, and the live show was easily the funnest concert I've ever been to. So I love the moments of greatness and am left wondering about the misses.

14. The Tallest Man on Earth - There's No Leaving Now
What is there to say about tTMoE? He creates some hauntingly beautiful, stripped down music, largely created by that screechy voice and narrative of his.

13. Cat Power - Sun
I'm not super familiar with Cat Power's back catalog of music but this sounds different. Same great, full voice but this time on top of some pretty layered, synthesized, swirling instrumentation. While a few of the tracks get on my nerves, I love the direction she's taken this album.

12. Grimes - Visions
I strayed away from this album for a while despite it's positive reviews (from both critics and friends). Due to its freaking scary cover, I totally thought they were some indie-approved metal band. I was wrong. Grimes' dancy beats and soft vocals are anything but.

11. The xx - Coexist
Soft, precise, well-constructed. A solid sophomore output from The xx leaving me excited for a long career. 

Don't hesitate to leave your thoughts or links to your own lists.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Movie Authors

I first became familiar with the term, "Auteur," while reading Robert K. Johnston's Reel Spirituality. Its definition:

A filmmaker who influences their movies so much that they rank as their author.
It's a term that may not be used as much as it should. Or, perhaps, we refer to movies too much as "the new Will Ferrell one" or "the latest Final Destination." Either way, I was reminded of the term while watching Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited a few days ago. It, along with his most recent Moonrise Kingdom, follow in a stretch of family dramas that have a distinctive flavor including hand-picked music, deadpan acting, and luscious visuals.

Looking at the movies coming our way this holiday (read: Oscar) season, I can't help but take note of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. While I'm not a super-fan of Tarantino, I do like the fact that he has a distinctive style while also bringing something new with most of his movies. 
I would include both Anderson and Tarantino on the list of directors that fall in the "auteurs" category. Do you have other additions for today's world of cinema? Maybe Terrence Malick? P.T. Anderson?
Or maybe on the opposite side of the auteur coin, those directors/producers that are equally known for being the author of consistently poor movies?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Short Reflection on The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I'm a sucker for reading books just before I see the movie (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hunger Games, etc.) and the same is true for The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This book never made it to my high school English class reading list. Yet I enjoyed its offbeat Young Adult-ness. The amount of sex and drugs was surprising for the age of its targeted audience but I suppose that's not a new thing in a time where honesty trumps most everything else.

I would perhaps describe it as a high school version of Garden State's coming-of-age and calls for a responsibility over one's actions similar to East of Eden, although slightly more humanistic. And I would deem this description a positive review.

In the epilogue, the protagonist (/narrator/letter writer) sums up the whole thing rather nicely:
So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them. 
Check it if you're into that sort of thing.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving, and the Day After

It's weird being all grown up and moved and away from immediate family. Yesterday, after video chatting with our families, Jorjette and I drove to D.C. to enjoy Thanksgiving with some aunts and uncles.

They live near the National Cathedral. We took a little walk before dinner and passed Homeland Security and walked through American University.

And their row house is fantastic and everything a row house should be.

Today, the Friday after Thanksgiving, we're back in Grantham, moving onto the Christmas season.

We bought a $20 Target Christmas tree and, well, it looks like a $20 Target Christmas tree. But it's cute and  we're in good company.

And Eleanor enjoys the season.
 Alright, that's all. Enjoy the weekend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stray Observations on Skyfall

I had a chance to catch Skyfall last night alongside some other fine Messiah folk. I don't claim to be a James Bond fan. In fact, other than Casino Royale, playing a lot of Goldeneye as a kid, and a half hour of a Sean Connery edition here and there, I don't believe I have any background with the ol' 007. Now of course Bond has helped to define American culture's idea of what cool is and what masculinity looks like but that's another conversation.

Now action flicks aren't my first choice, but I enjoy a good one here and there. Coming into Skyfall, I was excited about the directing choice of Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road). When a more thoughtful approach can be brought to an action flick, I'm on board.

And to be honest, I think he (and the writers) brought some more introspection to the screen. Of course Bond was still using some pretty ridiculous gadgets and hooking up with every lady under the age of 35. But for the first time (in my limited Bond memory), a lot of thought had to be put forth on Bond's part when it came to his motivations for his role as an agent and the primary relationship explored was the one between M and Bond, not exactly a sexy relationship.

Beyond appreciating a little bit more thoughtful approach, the movie was a little slow. If felt long. There were some cliched action scenes (crashing into fruit carts, subway chases, fighting on top of a train) but there were also some beautiful shots (skyscraper fight scene, the Scottish bungalow, the island).

Javier Bardem provided a great villain that conjured up memories of Batman's Bane. I enjoyed the more philosophical middle act of the movie but, really, the movie was about Bond and M. And the final third of the movie, while beautifully shot and very deftly shot during dusk (a literal sky fall), delved into Bond's childhood in another move that conjured up thoughts of Batman.

All together, I thought it was a good installment in the Bond franchise and I continue to think Daniel Craig's portrayal is a pretty accurate representation of today's Bond.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bazan - A Night of Beard Rock

Last night, I had the chance to see David Bazan perform in Philadelphia at the First Unitarian Church. In many ways, Bazan (and his former band, Pedro the Lion) is the voice of a niche demographic of people mostly comprised of disillusioned twenty-somethings who have been disheartened with the state of life.

His albums are deeply personal accounts of questioning relationships, oneself, God, and culture. Lyrics are often beautifully cut and dry. And depressing. Yet I think they earn him credibility for the rare moments of hopefulness.

I had a chance to see Bazan perform during my Taylor career. He slowly strummed his electric guitar in the student union in front of an audience (including myself) that wasn't familiar with his music. I later discovered a few of his albums and became deeply appreciative of him. My former experience seeing him live and his penchant for house shows had me expecting a quiet evening of listening to his thoughts.
While sticking in a few other favorites in between the A and B side of the album, on this tour, Bazan has been playing through Pedro the Lion's album, Control. The album very much focuses on infidelity within a marriage. While it doesn't shy away from the carnal, it opens with a simple internal account of describing himself at the beginning of a relationship, saying "I need you," yet also wanting to keep his options open. It's heartbreaking.

Knowing the content of the album and based off my former experience seeing Bazan live, I was expecting a relaxed show. I was off-base.

The venue, appropriately enough, was in a church basement in downtown Philly. It was kind of the anti-house-show. It was dingy and quickly became sauna hot. But it was also kind of perfect for a good beard-rock show. At one point, Bazan jumped and did the leg split thing.

In between songs, Bazan has a routine of asking the crowd, "Are there any questions at this point?" The crowd, who proved their fan-dom by knowing just about every lyric, missed their chance to really engage with him. We did learn that Bazan has a thing for mashed potatoes and Gillian Welch's voice though. But unfortunately, no substantive questions were posed and thus, not many responses worth expounding upon.

Otherwise, the show was incredible. While the bassist fixed a guitar string, Bazan performed Wolves at the Door with just his guitar and voice, reminding me of how unique and incredible of a voice he has. Much of the rest of the show was spent rocking out through Control. What was lost in slowly pondering his lyrics during his slower shows was more than made up for by the raw emotion and energy put into performing an album that he described as the "only Pedro album he doesn't hate." He and his three piece band were tight and put on a show worth checking out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Steves Weekend

This past weekend, my good friend and recent supervisor Steve Austin was in town/campus. He and Steve Ivester (from Wheaton College) flew in to have a conversation with Messiah's leadership director Ben Taylor on some best practices and sharing about how each other's schools conducted student programs. And yes, it was great to call them Ben and the Steves. And it was a pleasure to host Austin for the long weekend.

So while they were hard at work for a few days, it was great to talk in person with Austin in the evenings and then, on the weekend, to have a chance to spend some quality time with Ben, the Steves, and the entourage of friends.

Here we are at my new favorite Messiah area breakfast place, Home 231.
(photo credit to Amy Vanderwerf)
It was refreshing to have a close friend in town for a few days. Being in a new place, you adjust and are known in a specific context. But it's nice to converse with someone who has known you for a while. Steve has known me pre-marriage, as an undergrad and grad student, as a friend on the weekend, and as his GA working in TSO. In many ways, close friends can identify things in myself before I can even put a finger on it. It's a way of being known. And isn't that what we're all longing for?

So I enjoyed the weekend sharing more of my current life and being understood. And I look forward to more of that with friends at Messiah and the surrounding area.
For a few more photos, check out the Facebook album

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Eric Metaxas - The Million Dollar Man

As a student described him after his chapel lecture, Eric Metaxas is the Million Dollar Man. I had a chance to hear Metaxas share last night (via video feed - I'm finding Messiah commonly has a "sold out" problem) about Bonhoeffer and his experience writing his biography and then this morning about the influence of William Wilberforce in the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Metaxas speaks with a quick wit and isn't afraid to linger on a joke but he seamlessly moves into convincing and inspired accounts of Christ's work in his own life and in the lives of those he's written about. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, make the effort to be there.

While I wouldn't quite label him the "Million Dollar Man," Metaxas does have a lot going for him. From a Yale education to writing for Veggie Tales to his biographies to being featured in national media outlets such as The New York Times and CNN, he's dabled in enough areas of culture to be well known, safe, and respected enough to be invited to lectures on Messiah's campus as well as the National Prayer Breakfast. In some ways, he may be championed by Evangelical circles as the guy that has a lot of influence and is a committed Christian. Thus, the Million Dollar Man.

But I think it goes deeper than that. In many ways, he's what we at Christian colleges salivate over, embodying what we hope all of the students we work with someday reach. He's deeply committed to his craft of writing and writing well. He's nominally interested in writing biographies but absolutely loves the ability to tell the stories of individuals who inspire him personally. He's unabashedly committed to Jesus being at the center of what he does but isn't suckering people into his works with a bait and switch way of sharing the gospel. His historical figures' stories stand alone and are impressive accounts of research, narrative, and inspiration.

So I respect Metaxas. I think he's good for our culture. I think he's good for curious college intellectuals who are trying to sort out their vocation and how it relates to their faith.

Oh, and as evidenced by his leading of Amazing Grace at the end of chapel, he has a really good singing voice.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Few Things from the Last Month

Oh my. Well we've been here in Grantham, PA for the last month+. A new place always has its challenges yet the Messiah crew has been very welcoming. We tend to compare everything to our Taylor experience. I know this is a bad habit but it's hard not to when you've spent a considerable amount of time elsewhere. So there's a constant compare & contrasting, pro & con-ing of everything from the college campus, student affairs department, nearness to the closest Target, number of concerts passing through, etc. So while we're still adjusting, we're content where we landed. A few things of note include...

Our cat! We got Eleanor a few nights ago. She's a Maine Coon kitten (12 weeks), loves to cuddle, likes to explore, hasn't made any messes outside her litter box, and is only a little afraid of the dish washer. She also enjoys sitting on the keyboard of my laptop. Perhaps she can have a guest post soon. We miss her terribly when we go out and feel like new parents with a newborn more often than not.
As I mentioned before, we're in a first year hall*. Close to 300 students. I have 8 enthusiastic and delightful RAs. They're a different crowd than my hipster filled IFC group from the last few years but this year's group of students have their own set of lovable characteristics. I look forward to deepening those relationships. I also look forward to more time with the rest of the hall. It's a slight adjustment knowing that I won't be getting close to all of them... but I do want to make meaningful relationships... I just need to figure out where and how to do that. Oh, and all the first year students have some massive game day on the first weekend. Footage of the day could probably be used for some sort of Vizio TV commercial, emphasizing the color quality of the HD screen.
Lastly, we live close to Harrisburg, PA, the state capital (and about a Marion distance away). During the few visits we've made, we've enjoyed it's quirkiness without being totally sold on it's incredibility. At first glance, it seems it may be a city being gentrified by some cool, young 30-somethings who are passionate about urban renewal. But then we've realized that the row of bars/restaurants, well-kept cathedrals, and a few neat spots like Midtown Scholar (pic below) have been residing simultaneously along side rundown buildings and pockets of poverty for quite some time now and there's no real upswing on the horizon. All that to say, we're excited to explore the city, perhaps attend a church downtown, and become more accustomed with the occasional city life. 
There it is. A few snapshots of our life at Messiah. Obviously there's plenty more. But that'll come in future blogs or, more likely, future conversations. 

*We use the term "first year" for it's inclusion of both transfer students and the gender inclusive terminology as compared to "freshmen."

Friday, July 20, 2012

Keep On Moving

I'm very happy to announce that Jorjette and I will be heading out to Grantham, PA early next week to move to Messiah College and, more specifically, Naugle Hall. Messiah is pretty great - they have a fantastic Residence Life program, a kick-butt soccer team, they're near a number of East Coast cities, and they have an African elephant skeleton on campus. While moving can be stressful, we're excited to get settled into our new place on campus.

While the summer has been somewhat frustrating in that we didn't have very clear direction on what we would be doing in the fall, it has been a time where I have been reminded of the Lord's faithfulness to me. I suppose that may be easy to say now as I have a clear direction and plans. But even a month ago, when I was jobless and wondering what I would do if nothing worked out by the fall, the Lord was close and I had to continually repeat the ol' Scott Gaier-ism, "my value is in Christ."

That's not to say I have really enjoyed the process. I hated it, actually. It sucks not knowing what you're going to do. But then, in mid-July, I was in talks with two schools that would easily be at the top of my wish-list of schools at which to work. The term over-abundance often came to mind. 

So there you have it. It's onto a new place, new people, new traditions and stories.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Frederick Buechner's "Telling Secrets"

After finishing Frederick Buechner's Telling Secrets, it's safe to say that I have an intellectual crush on this guy. His Telling the Truth was fantastic and I look forward to reading more of his many books. And who knows, maybe I'll try out some of his fiction.

With Telling Secrets, there's much to love. He describes his journey of airing out his (painful) internal self. Through experiences both with his parents and as a parent, he learns that healing can come from the honesty of telling secrets.

As I describe it, his writing sounds cheesy and cliche but that couldn't be further than Buechner's style. His prose draws me in and turns those simple concepts from cliche to profound; not by manipulating words but by being honest and direct.


There are many great thoughts such as...

Telling our secrets - 
"...what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are - even if we tell it only to ourselves - because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing" (p. 2).

Finding meaning in struggle -
“Events happen under their own steam as random as rain, which means that God is present in them not as their cause but as the one who even in the hardest and most hair-raising of them offers us the possibility of that new life and healing which I believe is what salvation is” (p. 31).

And our pursuit of Jesus -
"Peter really did not know who Jesus was, did not really know, and neither do any of us really know who Jesus is either. Beyond all we can find to say about him and believe about him, he remains always beyond our grasp, except maybe once in a while the hem of his garment" (p. 85).

Friday, July 6, 2012

An Avengers Pro/Con List

I just caught the new, indie flick The Avengers. You should check out your local art cinema to see if it's playing.

As somewhat of an outsider when it comes to superhero movies, I made a well thought-out pro/con list of this latest blockbuster. The list was internally formulated during the last 53 minutes of the 142 minute movie.

Pro: Robert Downey Jr.
Con: Samuel L. Jackson

Pro: Scarlett Johansson
Con: Scarlett doesn't have a super-power (don't pretend she does)

Pro: Kitschy one-liners said right before, during, or right after kicking a bad dude's butt
Con: Having to sit in a theater where people laugh out loud

Pro: The name Loki from Asguard
Con: The name Lookie at his Ass-guard
(This pro/con could easily be vice versa'd)

Pro: Jeremy Renner
Con: Not The Hurt Locker or The Bourne Legacy

Pro: Perfect fast-paced summer action flic
Con: 142 minutes (Steve, if Dark Knight was a half hour too long, this was an hour too long)

Pro: Did well to meld 6 different superheroes
Con: Too super-humanistic (hey-o!)

Pro: Joss Whedon
Con: Not Christopher Nolan

All joking aside, my very under-developed comic book nerd side enjoyed this one. Still, looking forward to another comic book movie slated for release later this summer.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Friend, John Steinbeck

Now that I've finished the Dragon Tattoo series, I'm now onto a different era, genre, and style. I've just started John Steinbeck's Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. I'd safely say I'm a Steinbeck fan and reading his daily musings while writing what I consider to be my favorite novel is pretty interesting. Translated to today, perhaps it's like the well-done extras found on your favorite DVD. The format includes letters that Steinbeck wrote to his friend and publisher, written in the same book as the original text for East of Eden. Thus far, the subject includes mundane weekend activities with his deepest hopes for the book in the next breath. It's pretty great. Here are a couple quotes.
"Even if I knew nothing would emerge from this book I would still write it. It seems to me that different organisms  must have their separate ways of symbolizing, with sound or gesture, the creative joy - the flowering. And if this is so, men also must have their separate ways - some to laugh and some to build, some to destroy and yes, some even creatively to destroy themselves. There's no explaining this. The joy thing in me has two outlets: one a fine charge of love toward the incredibly desirable body and sweetness of woman, and second - mostly both - the paper and pencil or pen (Steinbeck, 1969, p. 11)."
"Work finished for today and the Hamiltons are in. I do hope they are well in. I've worked long today but happily. And now Elaine [his wife] and I are going to Macy's to look at some grass rugs (Steinbeck, p. 17)."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dragons! Tattoos!

"When it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies; it's about violence against women, and the men who enable it"

After a week and a half spent on the beaches here in Southeastern Michigan, I've finished Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and have thus finished the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed the series although I may have to agree with Lehr in thinking the (American) movie outdid the first novel. Here's hoping the next few movies are put into production and live up to the first.

While I agree with the quote up top, I do wonder why, if this is what Stieg was really trying to get at, why he spent a solid 400 pages on spies and government agencies. And his style of writing can be a bother - rather dry and heavily including the smallest of details. I suppose the style is supposed to mirror Salander's (the girl with the dragon tattoo) mind, but it gets tiresome. 

Either way, he highlights the still under-acknowledged issue of violence against women. I'm not sure if this is a counter-balance to the issue or not but Stieg's picture of sexuality is pretty fascinating. The dominance that men taken over women is pretty blatant but Salander's response borders on similar levels of dominance.

As sexuality is often used as a form of power, it's also regarded rather flippantly between many of the main characters. It is a rare instance when sex is partnered with commitment or attachment. Perhaps it is more of my reaction against a looser European view of sexuality, I don't know.

At any rate, and perhaps in contradiction to my style critique, the series is a page-turner and perfect for a summer read. I only wish Stieg were still alive and able to comment on his novels.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

From One to the Next with a Little Space in Between

I really do enjoy blogging. It brings a level of order to the potpourri of thoughts and ideas floating around my head that I like to throw out there and can then find closure on the particular subject upon posting. I think it also re-energizes me to a certain level. This past year, I certainly had my time filled with class work, thesis writing, and job searching. These were all things I found value in but may not have necessarily enjoyed. Spending time with my wife, engaging in good conversations with friends, investing in TSO & IFC students, reading and journaling – these were all activities that gave me life and came higher on the priority list than blogging.

But I’m now in transition time. If I were into clichés, I’d say I’m turning to a new chapter. And if I were into Bible clichés, I’m currently in the Selah phase. So perhaps I’ll have time to think and ponder and then blog.

The transition out of the Taylor community has been a difficult one. During my undergrad experience, I became very invested in my small group of friends there. Leaving was difficult but it was 4 years in the making and staying any longer would have felt like hanging out longer than what was healthy. Now, after 2 years in the masters program, it’s different. I wouldn’t feel comfortable staying in class any longer, but the desire to stay is there. I have good friends that are sticking around. I have students and programs that I still feel invested in. I tried to leave with a good sense of closure but it usually ended up in a lot of tears and trying to figure out a way to reverse time.

I just returned from my good friend, Ben Goller’swedding. As it was located in Orlando and Jorje and I decided to drive it, I had plenty of time to think while driving the ever exciting 20 hours of highway located between the panhandle and the crossroads. Along that route, my mind frequently went to the friends Jorje and I had grown close to over the last couple years. Lord knows my prayer life has been spotty this past year and has usually been instigated by a sense of helplessness or desperation. But I decided to lift my friends up in prayer while driving – replacing my helplessness catalyst with boredom/loneliness.

While my therapeutic prayers for friends may not have the best motivations, they are a part of a larger goal to practice some good habits in this next month. I’d like to spend some time reading (fiction!) in a hammock. I’d like to spend some extended time with my wife and brother – most likely watching cable shows or beaching it. I’d like to think about the upcoming school year. I’d like to figure out ways to maintain the friendships I’ve cultivated without living in the past. I’d like to rest and know the Lord is in control.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Wise Words from Wendell

For Christmas, the wonderful Kinsley Koons got me a book of Wendell Berry's poetry entitled, "A Timbered Choir." I'm going to be honest, I don't read poetry very much. But in efforts to stretch my literary self, I committed to reading a few poems every few days. More often than not, the poetry flies past me and I don't slow myself enough to contemplate but every once in a while a poem stops me. Those are good moments. Here's one poem that provided such an example:
A gracious Sabbath stood here while they stood
Who gave our rest a haven.
Now fallen, they are given
To labor and distress.
These times we know much evil, little good
To study us in faith
And comfort when our losses press
Hard on us, and we choose,
In panic or despair or both,
To keep what we will lose.

For we are fallen like the trees, our peace
Broken, and so we must
Love where we cannot trust,
Trust where we cannot know,
And must await the wayward-coming grace
That joins living and dead,
Taking us where we would not go -
Into the boundless dark.
When what was made has been unmade
The Maker comes to His work.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Six favorite Nostalgia Night moments

The following are a list of my favorite Nostalgia Night 2012 moments/components:

6. Ain't No Sunshine being sung. What a fantastic song.
5. Mario nailing the screaming at the end of his number.
4. A surprisingly well performed Whitney Houston act. I was only expecting a poorly done tribute.
3. The Beach Boys medley. Executed so well.
2. Bad. The perfect way for Matt Griffen to finish his Taylor career. (see below)
1. The sax man. Dude played four different saxes and absolutely loved performing in every single act.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My boo

I love my boo. And she loves me.

In many ways. But oftentimes specifically and tangibly through concert tickets given to me for special occasions.

Like to Youth Lagoon concerts. Me so excited. And I love you, Jorje.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Commercial Trends

I'm not for sure why the new (or at least revived) trend in TV commercials is to feature some unknown artist sing about a product but it's pretty awful. This Hyundai commercial is pretty dreadful and Pizza Hut has committed a similar crime (I can't find that one online...).

On the other hand, I do find Hyundai's DIY-feeling commercial endearing.

Let's hope it's a short trend.