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The Song That’s Stuck In My Head #6

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

“After the Storm”
Mumford and Sons

These guys have fast become my favorite band lately. Their breed of Irish folk-rock is like brewing hope and angst in a slow-burning cauldron deep in my belly. No other band I can think of makes me want to connect with God and smash something at the same time. This one is more understated than most of their songs, but is perhaps one of the best expressions of determined hope in the midst of loss and desolation that I’ve ever heard: “That’s why I hold — that’s why I hold with all I have — that’s why I hold.”

And after the storm, I run and run as the rains come. And I look up, I look up, on my knees and out of luck, I look up.

Night has always pushed up day; you must know life to see decay. But I won’t rot, I won’t rot — Not this mind and not this heart — I won’t rot.

And I took you by the hand and we stood tall and remembered our own land, what we lived for.

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears, and love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears. Get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

And now I cling to what I knew; I saw exactly what was true – but oh no more. That’s why I hold — that’s why I hold with all I have — that’s why I hold.

I will die alone and be left there. Well I guess I’ll just go home, oh God knows where, because death is just so full and mine so small. Well I’m scared of what’s behind and what’s before.

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears, and love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears. Get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears, and love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears. Get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

The Faith Project

June 24, 2009 1 comment

I was unexpectedly hired today by a friend of a friend, or rather a client of a client, who is putting together a project on faith from 250 or so tapes he has shot over the last several years in numerous countries where he has interviewed people from a wide variety of backgrounds on their views on God, faith and religion. He has come to me as a consultant of sorts, to get him set up on the front end with technical issues and work flow, which – hooray for some extra cash. But what seems even more interesting is what all those people had to say. It seems from what little I know about it to be hours (weeks really) of reflections, experiences, stories and meditations on faith and God. What an incredible labor of love he’s putting together – I’m intrigued to learn more.

Faith and Pop Culture

February 4, 2009 1 comment

We could argue for a long time about the poorly-conceived efforts of self-proclaimed Christians to “take back the culture for Jesus” in a militaristic us-vs.-them mentality. See some of my thoughts on the matter here and here.  I think occasionally of a flip side of this question though – what it might look like for people of faith to speak into and contribute to pop culture in a way that is neither propagandist nor disingenuous to their journey of faith. It is perhaps easy to just back away from the question, to assume that pop culture is inherently opposed to the point of view of Christian faith and the authentic voices of faith will be by and large silenced or edited down to neutrality. But what if the goal isn’t necessarily to influence or change pop culture, but to be conversant with it and perhaps have something to say on its own terms? After all, I don’t think it can be denied that pop culture influences how we view ourselves and the world around us.

watchingtv1950ent1-767606With the visual art media for example – film, TV and the like (probably stage also although I can’t count myself among the twelve people who have gone to the theater in the last decade) – what people see can be extraordinarily effective in influencing their perception of things. Think for example of the holocaust. I can’t form a visual picture of it without referencing Schindler’s List. Or World War II – Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, and Clint Eastwood’s Iwo Jima movies all come pretty quickly to mind. The way I perceive these events has been pretty significantly affected by these films.

These are fairly iconic examples, but I think this applies to more subtle life situations as well. Romance and gender relations, friendship, parenting, and even faith are all modeled for us, for better or worse, in pop culture. (I can count on one hand I think the films I have seen with a character demonstrating faith in a redeeming fashion. Signs…Chariots of Fire…that’s all I can think of. Not counting movies based on the Bible of course.)

Anyhow, my thought here is that what we see and experience in pop culture on some level influences our perception of people and circumstances, if ever so subtly, and even though in engaging in pop culture we generally don’t set out to discover and adopt these ways of living. I remember a friend suggesting once that America’s rampant obesity might be tied to our cultural obsession with skinniness by way of the skinny people we see on TV and in movies. Perhaps so.

I certainly think that people of faith contributing to what our culture as a whole ingests as entertainment or art is worth pursuing. I don’t think it’s a matter of “taking back our culture for Jesus” or any of that crap; it’s more that I don’t see many examples of artists of faith expressing their creativity in a way that is not disingenuous to their own faith journey. This I think would be pretty remarkable to observe.

megaphoneAll this said, I think there is a difference between a call to the arts and a call to influence pop culture. Any person of faith with an awareness of an artistic gifting I think should reckon with a call to the arts; a call to influence pop culture I think is much more rare when it actually occurs (as opposed to people in the first category who also artificially presume the second).

It doesn’t seem appropriate to expect (or even hold out much hope) that a person of faith’s efforts toward the arts will be of the missional sort, having the kind of impact on other people that brings more love, hope and other God-things into their lives. This is perhaps a grossly under-thought statement, but I lump pop culture in general in with other expressions and institutions of the world as a whole, like politics and the economy, in the sense that a person who orients their life around their faith in God should be conversant with it and contribute to it as appropriate, but will likely meet with immense frustration if they make it a primary venue of their expression of faith.

And not to entirely contradict myself, but for folks who do consider themselves as having a call to the arts, pop culture can and in ways perhaps should be a great place to express that call, especially for those who appreciate pop culture, enjoy it and perhaps have something to say on its terms. That said, for the rest of us I’m sure there is no shame if our art never goes beyond, say, a small local production, or a modest circulation among friends. In the end, while the artist certainly should have something to say, I don’t think the process of creating art can incorporate the art’s expected impact too much before it begins to cross the line into propaganda.

People don’t particularly look to art for answers or for a right view of the world. As a friend of mine  said recently, “the reason I watch anything and everything is to find moments of magic.” I think this is perhaps a better expression of what a call to the arts should mean than whether or not it is relevant or influential on pop culture’s terms.

The Song That’s Stuck in My Head #1

January 29, 2009 Leave a comment

So this used to be a separate page here on the site but I’ve migrated it into the regular blog posts. Perhaps that will make it a bit more regular then….

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“Deliver Me”
David Crowder Band

One of the several creative or counterintuitive tracks DCB has adapted or adopted, from well-known traditional hyms to a Sufjan Stevens cover. This one, written by a band you’ve never heard of, was popularized by Sarah Brightman, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s ex-wife and his inspiration for the character of Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera. It’s a plodding minor-key dirge that feels like walking through knee-deep mud to get to someone on the other side:

All of my life I’ve been in hiding
Wishing there was someone just like you
Now that you’re here, now that I’ve found you
I know that you’re the one to pull me through

Musically the song never actually gets to the other side, so to speak, and instead ends with an instrumental jam that is even more desperate and furious than the song itself. There’s a break in the middle, though, a stop-and-breathe moment which is the part that gets stuck in my head, quoting lyrics from another hymn I also happen to enjoy:

Jesus, Jesus how I trust you
How I’ve proved you o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus:
Deliver me.

Many songs get stuck in my head because I happen to have recently heard them somewhere or have been thinking of them. This is one of the few that often enters unbidden in the middle of whatever I am doing and subtly and briefly takes me somewhere else.

The Alphabet Meme

November 22, 2008 1 comment

Fletch at Blog Cabins kicked off a list of best films by letter, and though I haven’t been tagged I thought hey, why not join the fun. Here are the stated rules:

1. Pick one film to represent each letter of the alphabet.

2. The letter “A” and the word “The” do not count as the beginning of a film’s title, unless the film is simply titled A or The, and I don’t know of any films with those titles.

3. Movies are stuck with the titles their owners gave them at the time of their theatrical release.

4. Films that start with a number are filed under the first letter of their number’s word. 12 Monkeys would be filed under “T.”

5. Link back to Blog Cabins in your post so that I can eventually type “alphabet meme” into Google and come up #1, then make a post where I declare that I am the King of Google.

Seems like a good time. Here’s a shot.

Apocalypse Now – more for it’s impact on culture and filmmaking than the fact that I enjoy watching it
Babettes gaestebud – I love films about love
Chinatown – The best film ever written
Dark Knight, The – Seemed easy to fill in here. Someone get me a Joker t-shirt.
Empire Strikes Back, The – a Star Wars film had to make the list
Fight Club – Narrowly beating out (ha) the Fisher King.
Godfather, The – Empire got it right. The best one there is.
Hana-bi – Another movie about love. Sort of.
Incredibles, The – Pixar’s reigning king
Juno – Watch it for the soundtrack, let alone the film
K-PAX (Aaa! Just kidding! – actually I can’t think of one. I’ll have to go with King Kong (1933))
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – Can I just include all three here?
Matrix, The – One of the few movies that changed how I look at the world
Napoleon Dynamite – Utterly quotable, but only if you do it right. Otherwise you just sound dumb.
Ordet – Heard of it? The power of hope, captured on celluloid.
Pather Panchali – Another film school film, one I get lost in.
Quiet Man, The – Not many Q offerings, but this one is a gem.
Rope – My favorite of Hitchcock’s (really – North by Northwest didn’t even make the list)
Shichinin no Samurai – If the Godfather is the best there is, this one is the granddady of them all
Trois Couleurs: Rouge – Another movie that changed how I look at the world. And it’s about love.
Usual Suspects, The – Saw it four times in a row in the theaters.
Vertigo – Vertigo? V for Vendetta? I’ll go with Hitch again.
Wit – a tale of an adamantium will crushed to the point of being able to be loved.
X-Men – because there just aren’t that many X films.
You’ve Got Mail – “I was eloquent! Shit!”
Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination (it’s the only Z movie I can remember ever seeing)

Think you can do it too?

Blogging With Nothing to Say

November 13, 2008 9 comments

That’s right, if you’ve navigated here looking for content, I might suggest this site, or this one. Or if you’re given to lists of things, try this one. I’ll bet you’ve never seen lists like those.

On the one hand it feels like faith and spirituality have been in the forefront of my mind recently, as though my awareness is heightened and my expectation for something, somewhere, is growing. On the other hand, I am not thinking about it – that is, I have no new thoughts on the matter. Or many thoughts at all. I am not pondering the nature of God, I am not reassessing my value system or deconstructing my cultural mores. Mostly I am just being, just inhabiting the strange space that is my life in Cincinnati, with its many wonderful components and its several frustrating aspects, but which for once has lately been uncontested by outside stressors – pending or recent births, moves, job changes, church hops, or financial crises. Well, ok, I can’t entirely rule the last one out, but it’s not stressing me at the time of this writing.

I suppose it’s my nature in this void of sorts to look for other things to stress over – parenting, my performance at my job, my inadequacies as a husband, father or friend. But in reality nothing is wrong with life right now. In this welcome lack of inner turmoil I have found myself instead looking at my forward boundaries in the arenas of friendship, spirituality and even finances, and musing on ways to advance them. Actually this most often becomes a general mushed up feeling of desire rather than any actual plans, since I can usually convince myself fairly quickly that I don’t know what I’m doing.

This blog often reads like a journal more than a series of essays on topics, something I think a good blog in part should be. If you don’t know me and you have read this far, send me an email and we can have coffee next time I’m in your neighborhood. I have occasionally toyed with the idea of writing more formal posts in a systematic way – music reviews or apologetical topics, for example. Apologetics is a strange and uniquely Christianese word, by the way – it makes it sound like we have to say we’re sorry to the rest of the world for the things we believe. In any case, as with all worthy ventures in life, making the time for more systematic posting is the hardest part. Most of my posts are fired off in between renders at the office or compiled over a period of several days as I find time to steal for them. (Now that’s apologetics. Or just bad excuses.)

And if you’ve forgotten what the subject of this particular post is, well then I told you so.

Avid Segment Mode

November 3, 2008 Leave a comment

OK I realize this will be a foreign language to pretty much anyone who may read this blog on a regular basis, but I have to get this out there. I think it is one of the stupidest features of the Avid Media Composer that moving clips on the timeline in segment mode automatically deletes any transitions on the outer borders of the clips being moved. I just want to grab the clips and scoot them down a little ways – why do you punish me for this? I know I could go into trim mode (don’t get me started on Avid’s clumsy modes) and scoot them down with frame accuracy, but now you’re asking me to 1) enter trim mode, 2) shift-click all appropriate clip edges (heaven forbid I miss one) and 3) move them. Why can’t I just drag a selection box around them and move them where I want? Swipe, swipe, done. Not swipe, swipe, add transition, add transition, add transition, done.

I suppose this is what comes from cutting my teeth on non-linear systems like Premiere and Media100 where drag and drop is the modus operandum. Grab it, put it where you want it. None of this five-step-instead-of-two business. I’m sure there are ways to avoid losing my transitions in segment mode, but why would I have to work around this in the first place? Why not just leave them as they are unless they conflict with another transition?

Avid programmers, take note. Final Cut Pro is in our future.