Monday, March 30, 2009

This Light and Momentary Pain

I was once told that in the Far East if someone desires to insult you they might tell you, "I hope you have an interesting year." I have not been able to confirm this during my travels in Asia, but regardless it has certainly been an interesting week.

Between the anesthesia and vicodin, the distinctions between days and are kind of ambiguous. I pretty much have just sat in one of three places while life seems to happen around me- a little like the book/film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Most of the time I have been fluctuating somewhere between comfortably numb and a thorn in the flesh esque experience.

A most welcomed expectation to this pattern was the Aaron Weiss concert at the 930. Most unexpectedly, following the concert my friend Drew and I got to eat Ethiopian food with Aaron and discuss more in depth some of the ideas he seems to be espousing in his music.

Specifically, I asked him to further explain his attempts to unify Islam and Christianity when the two faiths have such radically different beliefs in the person and work of Jesus. This led to some discussion on the nature of revelation and authority. Like Menno Simmons, Aaron seems to believe that the internal work of the Spirit of God trumps any "tract or Holy Book". This inner guidance is common to all men and not coherently linked to the work of Jesus.

It was difficult to determine whether we were actually communicating, but he told me that my questions were beautiful and gave me several hugs in the course of the conversation. At one point he said "it makes a certain sense," and I had to fight from saying "but it's only stupid talk." It's hard to stop being a fanboy, even in theological debate.

In light of the concert and our discussion, I am eagerly anticipating mewithoutYou's new album, It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright, where hopefully some of these questions of orthodoxy/ heterdoxy will be clarified.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mega Ramp

 This would have been a much better way to break my ankle... definitely more fun than a hitting a car. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

2009 Norton Lectures: John Mark Reynolds

Dr. John Mark Reynolds
delivered the 2009 Norton lectures a few weeks ago at SBTS. I think that his lectures, which are now available for free download, were a very articulate defense of orthodox Christianity. In fact, I have yet to see a solid atheist/naturalist response to many of the points he raises. Be sure to check them out.

We Beheld His Glory: How a Christian Worldview Produced Science

Full of Grace and Truth: An Epistemology of Belief in a Skeptical Age

The Glory of Jesus Christ: The Way Forward in the Dialogue Between Religion and Science

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dialogue of the Day

Me: "Sorry I am taking so long, I am not used to these crutches."

Doctor's receptionist: "Well hopefully you won't have to use them long... though you probably will. "


My western-shirt-&-Wrangler-clad orthopedic surgeon informed me that I do in fact need surgery, so Thursday morning he is going to be screwing my ankle back together.

It's crazy to think that something I can't even remember happening has had such long reaching repercussions.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Quote of the Day

"God does not need your good works; your neighbor does."

- Martin Luther

Sunday, March 22, 2009

PT Bruisers

Yesterday I had a collision with a PT Cruiser at the Barret/ E. Oak Intersection. I don't actually remember much about the accident, but eyewitnesses said I flew over 15 feet through the air.

By the time I regained consciousnesses I was lying face down on the pavement and there was a pretty good crowd around. I was sort of embarrassed to find my face was in a puddle of my own drool and blood but given the circumstances I don't think anyone thought less of me.

The first thought I had was, "I think my leg is broken." My second thought was, "Crap, I think I am going to miss Luke and Katherine's wedding." Both sentiments proved to be true.

The whole neck brace and stretcher in the ambulance kind of freaked me out, but the EMT's turned out to be cyclists themselves and began debating the merits of toe clips.

In all, I am thankful for the Lord's provision in protecting my life. The next six weeks of recovering are going to be rough, but I trust in God's sovereignty.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. Fro the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bike Snob Quote of the Day

Bike Snob NYC critiques a "Fixed-Gear Documentary. "

"Well, all I can tell you is, if you don't know then you were never really a part of the "scene" and you don't understand the fixed-gear experience. It's a Zen thing. You feel totally connected to the bike. By the way, here's another interesting fact about fixed-gears from the video:

'Simple bikes can do amazing things. Like riding backwards, bouncing on a rear wheel, and even standing motionless. Tricks that would be all but impossible on regular bikes.'

So basically, if you're not interested in getting to your destination and prefer to stand still or bounce up and down, or you actually want to get farther away from your destination than you were when you started out, a fixed-gear bicycle is a good choice. And don't try to bounce on your rear wheel or stand motionless on a non-fixed-gear bike. I think you'll find it totally impossible."

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's Hard to Find a Band That Never Quits

As previously mentioned, I have under taken the nearly impossible task of debating Chris Heiniger as to which independent singer/songwriter is better: Colin Meloy of the Decemberists or David Bazan, who is most famous for his work in Pedro The Lion. In his post, Chris proves that his love for Meloy's music is equaled only by his (and Meloy's) knowledge of classical literature. An apt apologetic to be sure.

Due to a self imposed handicap of selecting a song at random, Chris wrote his post on a particular Decemberists song that is 12 minutes long and, in true Decemberists fashion, has three distinct movements, which essentially function as individual songs (though granted, chapters in a larger narrative). For this reason I doubt Chris will mind if I choose to expand my interaction beyond a single Pedro the Lion song.

I will certainly make no attempt to diminish any music by the Decemberist. They are a top notch band in my book. In many ways, this whole debate feels a bit like choosing a favorite child, only in this situation I do have a favorite child and feel strongly enough to share my sentiments.

The first Pedro the Lion song I selected is "Secret of the Easy Yoke" from It's Hard to Find a Friend. As characteristic of Bazan's early material, this song explores frustration with the church while holding on to a remnant faith:

"I could hear the church bells ringing
they pealed aloud your praise
the member's faces were smiling
with their hands outstretched to shake
it's true they did not move me
my heart was hard and tired
their perfect fire annoyed me
I could not find you anywhere

could someone please tell me the story
of sinners ransomed from the fall
I still have never seen you, and some days
I don't love you at all

the devoted were wearing bracelets
to remind them why they came
some concrete motivation
when the abstract could not do the same
but if all that's left is duty, I'm falling on my sword
at least then, I would not serve an unseen distant lord

could someone please tell me the story
of sinners ransomed from the fall
I still have never seen you, and some days
I don't love you at all
if this only a test
I hope that I'm passing, cause I'm losing steam
but I still want to trust you

peace be still (x3)"

Here Bazan examines the divine as only the back-slidden can. He is forced to decide if the hypocrisy of the church can somehow be separated from authentic spiritual experience. Notice that Bazan doesn't play favorites- both he and the church-goers around him are indicted for their lack of faith. Bazan recognizes that if religion is merely about morality, than all hope is lost. Instead, he seeks the hope that is only found by those who embrace their incapability.

Bazan's later work is certainly more cynical. Bazan's religious musings gave way to a couple concept albums where each song was a chapter of a larger story. His best attempt at this is certainly Control, which, like any good story, features lies, murder, marital infidelity, and the corruption of corporate America. Shockingly explicit lyrics and biblical imagery abound. Due to thecollective nature of this project, examining a single song apart from its context would not do it justice. However, I appeal to this project to demonstrate Bazan's versatility as a song writer.

In true post modern fashion, Bazan's attempts at meta-narrative have been replaced by several albums that are essentially collections of short stories. Achilles' Heel and his analog synth driven side project Headphones are indicative of this shift. While Bazan remains just as lyrically candid, almost all traces of optimism have been erased. Bazan is clearly indebted to Flannery O'Conner, borrowing her Gothic sensibility and satarical tone. (One Headphones song is named "Wiseblood.")

"Hello Operator" is an exceptional example:

"Hello Operator
I would like to place a call
To the pale gray telephone
That is hanging on the wall.

I know this sounds crazy, but...
Could you patch me through?
So she does not hear me ringing,
I will wait. I've got nothing else to do.

So when she finally picks me up
Checking for a dial-tone,
To finger in the number of
Her new lover's telephone.

I will be resting on the earlobe that I used to hunt and peck
I will slowly wrap myself around her pretty little neck
I'll begin the explanation as to why she cannot breathe.
You should not have been unfaithful
You should not have ever f*cked with me."

Like much of his other material, this song demonstrates Bazan's ability as a songwriter more so than lyricist. Read aloud, "Hello Operator" seems morbidly trite; but Bazan's calm, collected delivery sells this otherwise absurd story. In true Bazan fashion, the plot and instrumentation synergistically build into an bitterly ironic climax. For the singer, the pain of betrayal and the lust for revenge transcend reality.

In terms of lyrical grandeur, Meloy is clearly the superior. But with Bazan's simple, minimalist approach, less is more.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pedro v. Decemberists

It has recently come to my attention that Chris Heiniger has started this blog with the sole purpose of arguing with me over the superiority of The Decemberists over Pedro The Lion.

In my apologetic, I will be arguing for the superiority of the collective work of David Bazan, including Headphones, his self-titled material, and rest released under the Pedro moniker. Although these projects explored different genres, the song writing and song writer are homogeneous and should be critiqued as such.

My response is forth coming, but due to an abundance of assignments and exams that actually matter that are due this week it may be delayed until this weekend.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Good News for People Who Like Good News!

Depending on the day of the week, if someone was to ask me who my favorite band is, I would respond with one of two answers. Amazingly, both are playing at The 930 this spring.

Aaron Weiss, the lead singer of mewithoutYou, is doing a very rare solo concert to kick off Cultivate Beauty month on March 27. The following day he will be teaching a song writing clinic. Both events are free. I have been absolutely captivated by Weiss's brilliant poetry for over six years now and I eagerly anticipating seeing him in person.

Also, Anathallo is performing on on April 16th. I can say without hesitation that Anathallo has the best live show of any band I have ever seen. The musicianship and contagious energy of this band can only be adequately experienced in person. The 930 is a perfect venue for this band- I'm expecting great things.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Calling the Shots

They have a naked portafilter at the Heiniger household now. No, it's not what you think it but yes, it is almost sinfully pleasurable. As if the Farm didn't already have the best home espresso set-up in the city, they now have a new grinder on the way, which basically means they will be running/rocking better hardware than many coffee shops. Perhaps Chris should open up a chain called Heiniger Bros?

Okay, maybe not.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Preaching as Telling the Story of God's Mighty Acts of Remption

Today I heard Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old give the first lecture in the 2009 Mullins Lectures. I was impressed by his clear, deliberate communication, the redemptive focus of his message, and his fantastic beard. Download the message here.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: Gospel Implications

Last night I saw Slumdog Millionaire, which just won 8 Oscars including Best Picture. I had incredibly high expectations going into the film and I was amazed to find they were far surpassed.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the film for me was the constant intensity. Several parts in particular offer a tragically realistic look into the lives of street children who are forced into begging and prostitution by slum lords, who essentially use them as slaves. Many beggar children are scarred and maimed by the slum lords to increase profits.

Personally, it immediately brought back memories - long suppressed - from when I was in Cambodia, surrounded by some of the worst poverty on earth. There are few feelings of despair that compare to encountering these beautiful, beggar children. Giving money only propagates a cruel system and giving nothing leaves them in the same condition. For Christians, the gospel demands we take action to stop systemic oppression, which is the result of sins of greed and negligence.

Proverbs 14:31, "Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him."

Ecclesiastes 5:8, "If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter."

Psalm 72:12-14, speaking of the Davidic king:

"For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight."

Luke 4:18,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,