Friday, May 29, 2009

A Quick Addendum to that Last Blog

I suppose I should modify that last blog a bit. I sounded like I was criticizing all my blogging buddies. Honestly wasn't meant to do so.

I read, or I used to read a LOT of politically charged blogs and entertainment-smut/gossip blogs and tech product critique stuff. I haven't read a theological blog in a billion years. And if I am guilty of anything, it is that I haven't been to ANYONE'S blog over there on my friend list with the exception of a few people that I see regularly.

My loss, entirely. One reason being that I've never been a RSS feed person. When I was teaching at Rice I had college students emailing me quite a bit and now with choir and all the stuff that is going on at the church, I usually spend my mornings answering emails. I've already missed two important emails this week.

Blah blah. All that to say, apologies to any friend that was offended...

Pay no attention to the complainer behind the curtain.

I'll be Loud.

I'm John Conner and I do NOT smile. I do scream, quite a bit. I also enjoy screaming into CBs.

There was something about those first Terminator films that really made the films terribly likable and fun: The Govenator.

This film made me remember and miss the campy but HUGELY FUN screen presence of Der Arnold. This film didn't have that presence. Well, not until the end anyways. But even then it wasn't really Arnold, rather, some ridiculous CGI naked ken-doll version of Arnold.

One good thing about reviewing this movie: The plot won't take much summary time. Here goes...

The robots and humans are at war. John Conner (JC initials - okay, people. Enough with the Jesus Christ initial thing. Faulkner pulled it off but it is officially cliche.) is the leader of a rebellion of sorts... But I don't know, you never seem to know who is really in charge. Anyways, they discover that the robots are making hybrid human/machine terminators. The hybrid we get to know thinks he's human and he even has a human heart. Conner of course doesn't believe him. At the end, Conner's heart is damaged in the battle with the cheezy looking Arnold-CGI-Ken-Doll-Naked-Terminator and OF COURSE the hybrid donates his heart. Where's my hanky.

The whole scene is slathered with predictability and I suddenly felt like I was watching an old Stephen Segal action flick, except without the fun. What I used to love about all those old 80s action movies is the moment in which someone describes to the villian just how tough the Stephen Segal character was.

Villian: "Who is this guy?"

Plucky guy who used to know Segal's character way back when: "Well let me tell you... (bombs go off in the distance)... this guy's so bad he could yada yada."

We didn't get a moment like that, of course. What we did get was this: John Conner screaming into a CB "If you don't listen to me then we are dead. WE ARE ALL DEAD." Yawn.

I suppose the Matrix spoiled me to AI movies forever, even though the Terminator was the first great AI action flick. What was great about those first Terminator films was that we were visited by the future and were only given glimpses of the what was to come. Here we are thrust into a future, and unlike Zion in the Matrix, or the make-shift civilizations in Mad Max, humanity is lacking humanity. I was almost rooting for the robots. At least the robots were capable of lowering their voices.

Then came the robots stealing Humans or harvesting them or some reason. Why in the world they would want to harvest an old women is beyond me. More dramatic, I guess. Then there was the cut to the robot who was surveying the prisoners... the steal-skull-faced robot was WEARING A HEADBAND. ??? ??? ???

Again, what is with the color-jacking of current film makers? Does everyone just HATE the color green? I know its in the "future" and I know the planet's been nuked to smitherines by the robots and so forth, but would it kill the guys to at least slightly color the EVERGREENS???

I don't know... I feel like this review is so disjunct and odd -just like the film. It was just a bunch of chuncks and clunks all slammed together with a lot of screaming stuff like "WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE" and explosions. There was a cool robot who had fast big motorcycles for knees. That scene was cool. I liked the big Godzilla robot.

I hate to say this... but I found the oil driller planting a nuke on an asteroid much much more fun. Dumb, stupid, un-scientific fun.

I will say that the CGI was well done. But who gives a hoot if the story is a loud bore? And event though it was great, there was nothing new offered, unlike the other terminator films which were all cutting edge in their own ways.

I give it C---- I would give it a D or an F if it weren't for that bootlegged cussing outburst that we got to hear and then later as a techno song.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hello Friends!

Been busy. And I'm a little under the weather. I know I know. Why start your post with that tired old excuse? To be honest, it is better than nothing and the surest way for me to at least post SOMETHING.

A concert pianist friend of mine is coming to play this Sunday for church and I've been trying to whip u an arrangement or two for piano and pipe organ that will break the stained glass windows and blow a few hearing aids.

The weather has been quite euro here in the city and I am liking it: green, cool, lush and pretty.

I've been wanting to write more but between the church and students and fighting off the spring allergy/flu, the time has not allowed. I've been flat-out down for the count since monday.

I've been away from the blog world and haven't had a chance to really read anyone else's blog in quite some time. I have to say... it has been a little refreshing. I suppose partly refreshing because I've been working. But also refreshing because I didn't realize how negative reading a bunch of blogs can make you. I think that the majority of blogs are discourses on things that annoy the blogger, that includes me and my blog too. Sometimes, the things really do need to be said. But overall, negativity, even in small doses, can be a deadly deadly thing. The only problem is that really positive things aren't all that fun to read. I WISH that I cared about hearing about the daily progress of my mom's flower gardens, and I do to an extent... but I'm just not attracted to that kind of reading.

Darned if you do and darned if you don't. I'm not sure that colloquialism works for this scenario, but it felt right to say it.

Oh well... at least I typed a few paragraphs about SOMETHING.

Anyways, here is a post from my Jewish friend, Jenny (a PhD student in Talmudic studies and my guitar student) on the discussion from the "The Eternal Now of Grace" post. I thought it was incredibly interesting:

"A word about Jews getting carried away with "works". You are referring to the Pharisees, as depicted in the Gospels (we have very little knowledge of them outside the Gospels and Josephus, who doesn't talk much about this issue). It would seem that the rabbis, who succeeded the Pharisees as guardians and interpreters of the law among the Jewish people after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, shared Jesus' concern with an overly rigid or strictly works-centered notion of the law. The rabbis and the early Christians each dealt with the same problem in their own way. Jesus and Paul, followed by the early Church Fathers, stressed less (or no) importance to the practical observance of the law, while the rabbis developed a system of more flexible and practicable law, and concomitantly developed an array of more "spiritual" ideas and practices to buttress the law.

If I may, an example. Deuteronomy 6 says to speak of "these words" (namely, "You shall love the Lord your God...") "when you lie down and when you rise up". The rabbinic response was something like "OK, that's too vague; let's concretize it. Recite these verses ("You shall love the Lord your God...") twice a day - once in the morning and once at night. Of course, if you're sick or incapacitated, or, say, too nervous to concentrate because you've just gotten married and you're about to have sex for the first time [this specific issue, among others, appears in the Mishnah, a rabbinic code of the 3rd century CE], then don't worry about it." The Christian response was something like, "The point of the instruction to "speak of these words... when you lie down and rise up" is to have them on your mind and in your conversation all day long; so do that. Live your life in a way that reflects that commitment and focus." Both the rabbinic and Christian responses have great merit, and each found followers who felt that one or the other response resonated more for them.

Balancing actions and feelings has been on the minds of Jews and Christians, it would seem, for a few millennia. I agree, Seth, that we should just chill about the contrast or competition between the two and see them as complementary and conjoined - even if there are a variety of ways of navigating them. Every love relationship is different; just as every relationship to God - be it Christians and Jesus through the New Testament, or Jews and Yahweh through the Hebrew Bible - is different, and works out its needs, kinks, and manifestations differently."

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Eternal Now of Grace

I've never understood the big tadoo about faith vs. works. Why are these things "vs" each other?

A mature(ing) Christian should strive to be unaware of each as separate compartments. Each act is obedience in love.

Its like loving your wife. I know I do and act like I do all at once. But I'm not thinking about either, at all. I'm thinking about her. And when I do, I'm as close to being in the eternal now of Grace that I'll ever be.

Sometimes one is more effort than the other, (I'm sure that's true more for Amber than me) but because I'm in love, (Not puppy dog stuff here, but cultivated husbands-love-and serve-your-wife stuff) most of the time, I don't have much of a choice. I love her, and that's all there is to it.

I think us greek-thinking Christians have been too darn hard on our selves for too long.

I'm a "musician." I play "music" by trade. I play in a church. But sometimes I don't. Which glorifies God? Both. But sometimes, some think that one does more than others. Why? Because of our DESPERATE need to compartmentalize. Both are obedience and both please God and myself.

Did you know that there are some tribes in Africa who don't know what "music" is? They make it all day long, but when asked about their music, they look completely perplexed. There is no word for it to compartmentalize it. It is simply a part of their communication and the joy of living. It is as natural to them as bubbling is to a brook.

But us western children of Aristotle? We've got music stores divided into THOUSANDS of musical genres.

The same thing goes for faith and works. We've got THOUSANDS of denominations, each one with a different rule book on how to better experience God by either more works or more Grace. But overall, the real separating factors between us are our different views on works vs. Grace.

Christians aren't the only ones who got all caught up in works. See, the Jews really took the works thing and made into something distorted. They got so stern about all the laws that NO ONE could POSSIBLY do them all. This is what pissed them off so bad about Jesus. He was living the law again in a way that was senergetic, a way that was both natural and supernatural to man. Sabbath made for Man, not man for the Sabbath.

So along came the early Christians and they took the "don't worry about works" thing too far and James, the brother of the Lord, came along and set things straight. You cannot separate works from acts of mercy and Grace flowing through you or visa versa. It is like separating air from the function of a lung.

But we just can't get over it, still. We love to have bible study after bible study, knocking the idea of works into the ground. Then we go lock ourselves up in a prayer closet and "get things right" so that we can FINALLY do something for our neighbor and not out of pride.

"Wait... If I help that homeless person am I doing to gain God's favor? Or did I do it because I have God's favor???"

I think that God gets quite annoyed with these questions. "Just feed the starving soul, you spoiled little idiot."

Most times, I don't think there's much time to figure all that crap out. And we've surely wasted too much time pointing fingers and sitting high in our ivory prayer towers "getting our hearts right" before we love our neighbor. When many times, the best way to experience God's grace is to do something for someone else when you are feeling very selfish.

I say that we stop altogether thinking about works vs grace and thinking about about them as extension of one another. In doing so, we start spending time with each other, and loving each other through kindness.

It is amazing how meaningless this debate is when someone you love is suffering. There is no debate. You love them and care for them. A synergetic moment. A darn-near hypostatic moment, when spirit and flesh work as they are meant to work: together all at once, sharing in the same nature, not distinctly different and in opposition, but as one.

I love the word synergetic. It means, "The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual."

Someday, we may be so lucky as to be perplexed by any question that would separate and compartmentalize Grace, faith and acts of love done in the physical now.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Beatles and Cutlass Ciera

I am forever a Beatles fan. I never ever ever ever get tired of hearing their music. Never. EVER.

One of the greatest things my dad ever did for me was introduce me to St. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band at the musically tender and impressionable age of 9. It was right about that time that we moved from Oklahoma to Indiana. It was also about that time that my dad got a new Cutlass Ciera SE equip with the COOLEST tape player and lots of console lights. I never forget seeing all the lights in that car at night for the first time. It was like a space ship. I remember it had this built in calculator on the console. Amazing.

But what was more amazing is that the Beatles were being re-released on cassette tape and my dad, being a HUGE Beatles fan, bought every tape he could get his hands on. Every time we got in the car, the Beatles flooded my ears and psyche. The combination of the 9 hour trips to Oklahoma, all those lights, the starry Indiana nights and A Day in the Life... a spell was cast. (Paul Simon's Graceland was another spell casting CD.)

The Beatles were my first musical obsession. I searched high and low for every Beatles recording I could get my hands on. Then came the Beatles records. I lifted the Tapes from my Dad's car and WORE them out. Literally. Eventually only one side of the stereo split worked. The came the CD player and the CDs. Still love the records best.

Just when I thought my love for the Beatles had moved into the golden years of fandom... LOVE appeared.

I didn't think much of it when I first heard about it, as I wasn't all that crazy about the studio rough releases back in the late 90s. The real albums, after all, were miracles. I had given up on any new kind of significant Beatles discovery.

It was my friend Josh Moore that sat my butt down, against my will, and forced me to listen to LOVE. See the thing about this record is that it was produced by George Martin, (considered by everyone to be the fifth Beatle) the Beatles original producer and George Martin's son.

LOVE is possibly the most unique of all Beatles records. In my opinion it deserves its place as the final great offering of Beatles music. When I listen to the tracks I am once again hypnotized. The odd thing being: There are no new sounds, only old sounds juxtaposed by the very producer who helped conceive the sounds in the first place. Some of the songs I've grown to love more than the originals. Hey Jude, for instance. While My Guitar is HEARTBREAKINGLY beautiful. It is George playing acoustic and singing solo with new string arrangements by the man who wrote the strings for Eleanor Rigby.

So, I've given up trying to leave the Beatles behind.

Sure the music is and always will be great, but still... all those blasted space lights in an old 85 Cutlass SE.

King Of Kong

It's been a while since I've seen a good documentary or one that doesn't depress my socks off.

King of Kong is just great.

In a nutshell:

There is this whole subculture of mega-nerds out there that only play vintage atari games. There is a whole society that keeps track of high scores. There are heros and legends in this little subculture just as there are in any sporting event.

The heros in the video game world are just as you would expect them to be.

These are real life Napoleon and Kip Dynamites.

I haven't the energy for a full on review, but I will say that during the first 30 minutes of this documentary I thought I had found the Holy Grail of documentaries.

However, nothing yet has toppled the greatness of When Were Kings. And nothing ever will.

King of Kong is filled with little twists and turns and just brimming with hilariously odd characters and obsessions that keep you glued. It is also a heart felt documentary and mostly chronicles the journey of an out of work engineer and his attempt at toppling the world record for Donkey Kong. Normal OCD man with wife and kids meets the Empire of the single middle aged men with acne and mullets.

Worth every penny.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Blog Is Dead

And Twitter killed it.

Honestly, Twitter and Facebook killed it. Or maybe something else is killing it.

My friend C-hammer stated in a recent comment that, "I think we're all consumers of so much information that blogs start to seem long and wordy. They take a little effort and involvement. Because I have a reader with lots of blogs in it, I can never seem to catch up on all of them."

I concur, and so does Technorati. In a recent release of data they stated that "200 million blogs have been created, but only 7.4 million have published a post in the past 4 months." 4 MONTHS. Hmmmm. And what has grown like gangbusters in the past 4 months? Grim.

However, its not all twitter's fault. Most blogs were never popular because of the first-class writing, they were popular because of their voyeuristic nature. We are a voyeuristic culture. We like to know what's going on across the rosebushes, behind the curtains, through the thin walls. We want to see and hear and live through other people's eyes. We are an unhappy culture. We are a culture that wishes we were all doing something different. We are never satisfied and therefore we are constantly looking for some new sweet that will satisfy our sweet tooth. We love to live vicariously through other people. I do, you do, we all do. (However, the good Lord is weeding that out in me in the past two years... well that's another blog for another... wait... NEVERMIND.)

I often wondered how long it would take for blogging to die out. It is dying out much quicker than people think. And the blogs that are surviving are the ones that provide the most information in the shortest amount of time.

Twitter is truly amazing because it doesn't give people enough time to get bored. Even thought the twitts or tweets or whatever are usually EXTREMELY boring, with every little blurb we clap our hands and bark as if we've been given a new treat.

As for me, I am glad that I was a part of this great blogging era. I'd like to say a personal thanks to my friend Joey for introducing me to the blog and then to Shaun Groves for showing me the potential of blogging. It has made me a better writer and it has also earned me many new and undeserved friends. The commenting on my blog has been some of the best and most interesting writing I've witnessed on the Internet and I do miss that. However, I feel that those days are over.

Blogging is another trinket on the long dangling, noisy, splendid, spectacular necklace around the neck of our pop culture. In many ways, I think that it was one of the healthiest of the trinkets. People started writing again and when people write, they exercise their imagination and their intelligence, or at least the ability to communicate more clearly and learn new things.

Now see, I've rambled on a good 300 twitts. And all I needed to keep your attention was a mere 5 twatts per hour. Sorry couldn't resist.

No, I'm not signing off. I have adjustment disorder so small change is hard for me. As a matter of fact, in a few years, I'll probably be the lone ragged man wandering in the endless fields of abandoned blogs, posting a thought or two or posting things that resemble paragraphs and complete sentences.

I might enter the twitter world someday, but who knows. By the time I do, people will have become so clever at it, that it will resemble an interesting art form but it will also have become passé. But people don't want steak at a movie; they want popcorn. And if it doesn't "pop" anymore, pop culture doesn't want it boring their sensory buds.

The people I really feel sorry for are those at places like the Rabbit Room where there is quite a lot of good writing going on by several good writers and creative artists. Just when I think they've caught their stride, the masses no longer have the attention span to read things longer than a paragraph. And when I say paragraph, I mean Hemingway paragraph: A sentence, if you are lucky.

Nor do they want to hear about anything that doesn't involve your minute by minute whereabouts or if you decided to wipe the boogie on the couch or the floor. However, they do have the benefit of several hundred fans, as most are performing artists, so maybe they'll become one of the last few bastions of good and surviving blogs. I hope so.

But make no mistake, if Blog is not dead, than it is surely dying. Fast.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Father and Son chat.

My Dad came to visit me in NYC while Amber goes to spend time with her mom for mother's day.

Dad: Hey, you got any coffee? Caffeinated?

Me: Umm, no we are out. I'll take you to Starbucks in the morn... ing...

My Dad pauses brushing his teeth for bed... at 9:30

Me: What time are you getting up?

He pauses and smirks.

Dad: "I'll sleep in till O-seven hundred hours just for you." *Spit*

Me: Oh good lord. I guess that's 7:00 a.m.?

Dad: Affirmative.

He laughs.

Dad: That's right. I'm getting your butt up at 7:00. I ain't kiddn' ya. And that's late for me. I mean, half the day is gone by 7:00.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Oh my gaw oh my gaw oh my gaw!!!!

President Obama totally ate a cheeseburger!!! (So did Biden, but who gives a hoot about that old dum-dum. I'm pretty sure that by now Obama thinks Biden is as worthless as a boar hog teat on an elbow.)

And not just any old gourmet-lean-sirloin-white-house-made cheese-turkey-burger... But a greezy-arsed pile of heart attack on a sugar-filled starchy bun at Ray's! No ketchup though.

Hey, nobody's perfect. Maybe it is some kind of Muslim thing against tomatoes. HA!

Ray sure got a sweet bit of promotion for his burger shack. Ray, look out. Next campaign you might replace Joe the plumber for Ray the gut buster. You really should look into getting fries, really. Tater... puffs? They'z called tater tots where I lube up the arteries. (Btw, Big Daddy's in Waco Texas USED to have the most AMAZING tater tots and burgers. It was sad sad day for the country when that place closed, as well as a sad day for the plus-sized elastic waist jean outlet in Waco.)

In other news...

Everything is almost in place to do the Beethoven Choral Fantasy on the 30th at CPC. I'm pretty pumped about it. I'll know tonight for sure if the Choir can make it.

It is green and lush here in the city. It's been cool and raining pretty steady for a few days. I'm certainly enjoying it.

I've officially joined a gym and I am loving it. It's time, friends. It's time. However, I did waltz into the women's locker room AGAIN yesterday. Praise the lord I didn't see any cougar thongs. See, the durn hallway to the lady's locker room is located just opposite to the hallway that leads to elevators. And once I make a wrong turn, it takes prayer and shock therapy to get me to take the right turn the next time... or the time after that, and after, and after. As a rule, I avoid any and all locker rooms.

I've been spotting quite a few celeb's lately. One thing I've noticed, they do look a good bit older in person. Kelly Ripa looks 3 times as skinny as she does on the tube. Barry Manilow is also abnormally skinny and much taller than I expected. Very tanned, and very botox'd. Regis looks like he should be on one of those Smuckers jars that Willard features during the Today Show.

I suppose the television adds 20 pounds and subtracts 20 years, (-200 in Regis' case.) Too bad it kills your brain cells, and causes ADD and ADHD.

What was I talking about? ... ... ... ?

Oh well, back to it. Man, I've missed blogging!

Still resisting the urge to twitter. Feels like blogging is dying a slow tweeting death. People are posting their twitters more and more. A little annoying, honestly. Kinda bugs the twit out of me. It is like opening up a novel to find a cooking pop out book instead. Or walking into room and seeing your mom and dad making out. Or walking into the ladie's dressing room instead of the elevator.

I wonder if Obama and Biden will make a trip to a local gas station to use the public crapper sometime soon. I'm sure the folks on the Today show and MSNBC would say that Obama's methane doesn't stink. I'm sure Biden would forget to flush.

All that to say, the presidential trip to the burger joint is a little cliche, me thinks. Almost as cliche as the tough-guy TV/film hero walking away unflinchingly from a mushroom cloud essplosion just in time, in slow motion. In real life that explosion would singe the hair and clothes right off their backside.

I miss Bill and his jogging detours into Micky-D's. Now THAT, was believable. Wouldn't want to see him eat in slow motion though. Shoot, I might even do that today.

Good ole Bill.