Monday, October 29, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

Yesterday I was exhausted from the Halloween schananagins and decided that the time was finally now to encounter and embrace the new Wes Anderson movie. I have had a love affair with this director since I encountered the imagination and brokenness in Rushmore. I remember like it was yesterday seeing The Royal Tannenbaums, and being wide wide a few Christmas vacations stepping into the underwater world of The Life Aquatic. Anderson has the ability to transform the mundane into something other. It puts this little smile in my heart when the not common man encounters the normal and prevail.

Often times I get a response from people that they are not the biggest fans of Anderson; they just don't get it. There is something about confronting our brokenness, confronting the pain of what the American dream promised and then it doesn't work out. Those who have had a great family life might not understand the pain and turmoil of the family is a bit dysfunctional, something that Anderson has yet to escape in the exploration of the question. Darjeeling is no different as there are three brothers who don't really trust each other and try to get the most out of a journey for their runaway mother about a year after their father dies. The quest is to get the most out of the adventure, seek spirituality, and seek a way for the brothers to get along.

Interesting that Anderson would center this film on the spiritual quest, which I think is a touchy subject for some, but brought up some new truths for me. I think the film addresses our desire for an instant gratification, saying that I prayed for something to happen and why fourteen minutes later we don't see a response. They pray to anything, use anything, and seek for a spiritual result. What they turn to is a need for consumer goods, sex, or control. Each were the filler for the thing that they wanted more was coming to a healing space.

There is a beautiful scene where Owen Wilson takes off above bandages, he is utterly wrecked, gashes on his face still raw. He looks straight into the mirror and says...."I'm not healed yet." Wow, did that strike a chord with my own brokenness and the need to continually healed. I have taken the bandages off but yet the wounds are not as fresh but they still ooze from time to time.

Other than the story the colors were amazing, the music was superb, and the editing was spot on. The film was beautiful. It was interesting to read this article thought it held no real life situations though spent some time talking about the pain of Owen Wilson during the time of the filming (he attempted suicide), finding joy in small moments. If that doesn't seem like real life to me than mine must be fake. I have a lot of new thoughts on the theological meaning with our culture and how we want to deny it all. I will come back to this hopefully soon. Until then go see this movie. It will be worth the time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

To paint. To create. To make something from nothing or really something else.

It's interesting to ask the question of why do we create art? I think it's such a healing expression of who we are and who we are becoming. In some ways it solidifies ideas new and old as well as coming to a new understanding. The process for creating is often times an individual act. On Friday my friend Glo and I dared to ask what it would mean to create in community? I thought about who might show up and why someone would want to create with somebody else? It was an interesting outcome of maybe less than ten people showing up to share why they do art and create together. There is a sense that you can let go and hear what others have to say about your work but also ask questions and allowing yourself to go to those places.

It left me wondering if art creates freedom? When we put ourselves in the work are we displaying our intermost thoughts like a picture journal with limited words and actions? Those questions are left to an individual to respond. Yet, when there is a seminary-worth of people and a limited number of people who respond are we limited as well in our creative responses? Many people I know feel like they can't do art because they can't either. I think we can't limit ourselves at our limitations. I hate exercising but I can't let that stop me. I need to get creative and try something that is fun but also worth working the muscles that need to be stretched and pulled. Why are we afraid to create? I think just giving it a try loses nothing...

Monday, October 22, 2007

what youth culture can do to help us remember....

When I was 18 I decided that my life goal was to be a youth pastor. I thought that this would be a really great decision. Serving the Lord, helping kids, loving has caused more trials than I originally thoughts, but that is a different blog. In the quest of youth ministry I feel in love with popular culture and in turn youth culture. I loved watching shows on the N like Degrassi: the Next Generation. I used to watch the first generation after school. I learned great life examples of why you shouldn't take acid (spiders!) and what happens when you have sex (becoming pregnant)....I found myself this Saturday, exhausted from work, in front of my television watching the show in syndication. It's a lovely little teen drama with interwoven relationships, pregnancy, abortion, eating disorders, and rebellion. Life seems so simple in the show or really, drama, heartache, pain. All the things that makes a teenager...

Teen culture is interesting. I love the questioning. I love the life experiences. I love the rebellion and questioning. Life isn't black and white though often it is processed that way. The show always leaves in suspension and i love how youth culture is always dated by the latest fashions and trends. What is great about the show it doesn't shy away from the hard questions and doesn't limit the love or the struggling with the conclusions.

With the prompt of Degrassi I decided to revisit The Adventures of Pete and Pete. A fabulous show that was on Nickelodeon when I was a middle school student. There are two brothers named Pete and they live in a universe that I believe hipsters currently live their life. There is desire for freedom but also the questioning of life and relationships and asking what is the purpose. What I loved is the show usually brought global issues like the hole in the ozone or the commercialization of christmas, or the need for math word problems. What was great about the show (which is quite a bit) is that they had so many great actors who are a bit quirky join them in their world. Steve Buschemi was Ellens dad, Jeanne Garafolo was a poetry teacher, Iggy Pop was Nona's dad. I mean come on what other show has managed to do that?!
I guess that I relate to the show because it seems that it raises issues that we still deal with. Issues that seem so important to living and what it means to live is to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves. To live almost in a world that is full of creativity, a great group of friends, and to question why we don't all have superhuman best friends named Artie, the strongest man in the world.

I guess I still live in that space where you can dream big and live in your imagination. Not the kind that reality is replaced but the kind of world where you can laugh at yourself but also turn back time and live in the same hour again. I don't know about you but that sounds like fun to me!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus

I took an hour this afternoon to watch this documentary entitled Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus. A documentary about following the musician Jim White and the culture of the south. Focusing largely on the oddities of faith and following the goodness or the blood of Christ. If you have seen the movie Saved (Mandy Moore, Maculey Culkin) it sets up an interesting fictional portrayal about the Evangelical Right. This documentary has no fictional portrayals but stories of the inhabitants of a deep south. There are moments where you have to question to yourself if this can actually be real? There seems only two ways of living, well maybe three, either you go to church or you live in evil. Or you accept Jesus in your heart and then on sundays you go back to the Pentecostal based church and repent for your deeds. The religion seems to be religion, follow the rules, accept Jesus, live your life.

The music in the film is fabulous. The premise was surrounded by the fact the film makers received a Christmas gift of Jim White's Mysterious Tale of how I Shouter Wrong Eyed Jesus! The music is deep south, found on the swamps, and nothing to do with metal. On a deeper look there is the music from 16 Horsepower and the Handsome Family. The movie is interwoven with the music of the south, deep dark , mysterious, and oddly creepy.

I really loved this film because it is awkward and tough to swallow. There is a tough understanding of those who live in the small towns with nothing but tradition, a church, a jail, and an auto shop. If you are lucky a McDonald's or a KFC. Life seems to be small and simple and narrated by Jim White's view of the south. Something that he grew to love and find beauty in. There are moments where you wouldn't think that someone could live in these spaces but there they are in their lives and their understandings of how they got there and why they stayed. Sometimes shocking and sometimes you just have to laugh. Like when the old man shares a story of how when he was a young lad the family received a Sears Roebuck catalogue, inside all they saw was perfection, what they saw were people without fingers, sores, and brokenness. Within hours the catalogue was filled with no longer perfection but stories of disillusionment, chaos, love, incest, and relationships.

Overall the movie is worth seeing. The colors are dark, thought the shots and movements of the musicians are worth enduring the crazy south interpretation of faith and being saved. Beautiful snapshot of something that is not a universal idea but still someones way of life.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

In Rainbows

My junior year of college I had the chance to see a laser light show of Radiohead's Ok Computer at the Grand Rapids Conservatory. It was really interesting and I remember that night really falling in love with what Radiohead offered sonically. Years later I feel asleep to Kid A and remembering oddly falling in love with Amnesiac. Now I am not really surprised as I love sonic noise and how you can manipulate noise to add texture or a message to the music. On Thursday I finally took the time to erase some space from my limited hard drive to make room for In Rainbows, the latest record from Radiohead

In Rainbows is a beautiful record. It is only ten songs, low quality MP3s, but from what I have been reading it seems as if it is just a tastey treat to wet the palate before the full length box set comes out in December. The record itself is a step back from the noise exploration and is VERY accessible. If you didn't like Amnesiac or Hail to the Thief (this one might just be a favorite of mine) this can bring you back to the Ok Computer days. It is very easy to listen to and is very distinctly Radiohead. Simple driving beats, multiple guitar parts, string emphasis, and beautiful simple drum parts. Everyone that I have talked to about this record can't stop listening. They just keep hitting play when the Ipod finishes off with 'Videotape.'

What's interesting about this one is that there is no cover art or liner notes. A friend directed me to this blog that has different designs for each record. This design is my favorite. Pablo Honey is fun and Amnesiac is fantastic (I think it's because I have a thing for library cards. The meaning behind this is still being determined.)

The reason there is so much talk about the album doesn't have much to do with the music per say but how the album is being distributed. You can't find it on itunes or going to the local Best Buy, you can only find it to download at their website and you are able to set your own price. I am intrigued to find out people don't want to pay for the record but get it for free. Others I have read have paid up to $300 for it. For me I just laugh because it is a huge middle finger to record companies and the market that jacks up the price for art (this is a whole other conversation!) that almost every single time the musicians never receive a penny for the music they made. It is often on the tour and the merchandise purchased at said concert. It's an interesting conversation. One I hope to hear what people are saying and what the outcome financially for the men in Radiohead. If you are interested in finding out what others are paying there is a survey you can take to see what others have paid for in rainbows.

Take the time to check it out if you haven't yet. You might not pay a thing but remember that this time the artist is getting the money for something they have made.

Friday, October 12, 2007

at the window.

As I am sitting here trying to do my homework I watch life walk by these windows. Life that is dressed in flower print dresses, t-shirts that explain college attendance or how they enjoyed their vacation in St. Barts or some other tropical paradise with over priced beers and assortments of beaded wares that you can return home to your children who are begging for your return and the material wares. I see brokenness and joy as just the last hour has displayed the faces of those walking by the window. .Kids skating on their skateboards, lunches in brown paper bags, and I wondered what those who may have sat at this window years ago would have seen and those who sit here 20 years from now what their eyes will process.

What will have changed?
Will there be long-haird Mexican teenagers skating to the Arco? Or will the Arco be replaced with high rise apartments. The gas station being sold because their is a car that runs on water or on dandelions? The need for such a place might be archaic. Or will we all be walking because everything in the city seems to work together? Will the suburbs be the new city squares?

Will the elderly ladies still be wearing back pocketless pants with elisto waistbands? Will our dress still communicate our desires and purposes? Will men find the cure for the elusive polo shirt, stone washed jeans, and baseball hats that communicate ether a team or honking for America?

I don't know where the thoughts have sprung from. Maybe it's sitting with the new Radiohead (in Rainbows) that is so simple and elegant and doesn't push forward but allows the door for noise and simplicity to intertwine. Beautiful isn't it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Women and the Body

I have been lucky this quarter to have two directed readings. A directed reading is doing a lot of reading and than working one on one with a professor to talk about the reading. It's fantastic because than I don't have to go to class!! As of now I am working with the concepts of body, theology, and advertising. The other is the Christian perspective to divide the secular from the sacred. The two are starting to merge themselves together which couldn't make me happier.

Women's issues and the church are rarely merged together and when they are they have a specific women's ministry that usually talks about domestic home issues or raising children. I usually don't fit in that category because I am a horrible domestic and my womb is not full or have ever been full with children. Me aside, the issues I have been reading about has made me look at the world around me, and specifically women on television, a bit differently.

I am getting over being sick so Sunday evening I spent the day with books and my couch. It was a lovely day but I need distraction and hence the glory of television. The public kind...I don't receive or pay for cable. The portrayal of women are interesting. I think the jog is up on the fact that thin is in and there is only one certain kind of woman so they (as in the TV people) will put brown hair white woman, black woman, or hispanic woman in the place of the enduring blonde but the issues stay the same. Who is prettier, what is the woman doing, where is she working, what are the main issues? Often times I see the women dealing with petty things (or what I what I see is petty) like getting their hair done, nails re-polished. The issue is who is the man in their life. Beauty and the Geek, Americas Next Top Model, Deal or No Deal...what is the common function of the show? What are these women doing? and how are they succeeding? Across the line women are paid to be beautiful..

In one of my books I read the phrase, something of which I will paraphrase, as women have in the past not had authority with their words so their authority has been moved over to their body. Their body is what gave them power. Are we manipulating the body still today? Are we still finding the authority or even worth in a woman for the look of their body or the work of their hands, the brilliance of their thoughts? and when a woman is brilliant she is usually white, thin, and characteristically pretty.

Are we really moving forward with women's issues or are we stagnant? I will let you be the judge.

Monday, October 8, 2007

the attack of 11:11

I need to make the comment be known that i still encounter 11:11 on a almost daily basis. This blog post was started at 2:22. I don't know what the crap is happening and I still don't know what it means. Does it mean that I look up daily around the eleventh minute of eleven o'clock and need to do something? Is my life a meaningless repetition of work, class, reading? I don't know what it all means. I don't think I am going to try to figure it out.

The pattern of also not living in fear is also following me. I only have so much time in my day and so little money in the ole bank account that repetition of what I eat, what I watch, and where I go seems to be limited to my apparent lack of imagination and ideas of what life can really show me.

I am trying to live outside of the box with my thinking but my life doesn't connect at the moment with the thoughts. I guess that is what happens when you are tied to something and the goal is to get the most knowledge out of the moment and forget to live life to the fullest.

I guess I need to ask myself do I like the repetition? I don't think so. But I know that I eat the same thing, go to the same places, not do anything out the ordinary, and then life repeats itself. Does this mean I am getting boring? Probably. Does this mean that I need to do something different? Probably. Does this show I can commit to something or am I committing to a boring reality?

Oh the questions. I think what I am waiting for is something to fall out of the sky to shake things up, and then I realize that the only way of shaking things up is, well, to either pick up the vacation snow globes and watch the snow fall onto the distant memories, or I can shake up my life and do something spontaneous.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Free Burma.

Free Burma!

The oppression that is happening in Burma is horrendous. To learn more click above.

There is no limit to my love.

I thought I might spend my morning thinking of happy thoughts. I have been holed up on my couch for the last couple of days with a pretty brutal sinus thing. I was looking at my bookshelf glanced my eyes over books that have made my life happier and easier to make it through the tough days of being a Christian. There are a few books that made this journey bearable and often times easier to remember what love and grace is really about.

One of the first books I read that made me realize that there was more to being Christian than being Republican and Baptist was Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamont. I had this wonderful roommate, Sara Joy, that gave me it as a gift ( I think) or let me borrow hers. The details are fuzzy now but it doesn't really matter now as I have read and recommended the book many of times and don't even know where my copy is. This book is about the trouble of being human and wanting to desire and follow the life of Christ. Lamont encounters God through her life of growing in San Francisco in the 60's and 70s, being a drug addict and alcoholic, and wanting to change her life. She questioned her faith for awhile, felt God watching her like a cat, and one day turning around and saying: "Fuck it, I will follow you." Anything like that that is so raw and full of emotion draws me in. I love her honesty and her journey. I got to hear her speak last year and she was just lovely. You can not escape her honesty and her ability to sit, be, struggle, and wrestle is worth the time. She has also written a couple more like this: Plan B and Grace: Further Thoughts on Faith.

Dangerous Wonder was given to me the first summer I worked at Spring Hill. We read a chapter a week, engaging in the beautiful and simple writing of Mike Yaconnelli as he engaged into the burden that doing ministry presents and how to avoid living a boring life. That boring life I think is introduced by the church on a regular basis, we are afraid of messing up. We are afaraid of failing. We have all these books that introduce how to do all the right things and become stale and boring in the journey. Dangerous Wonder asks what it means to live out a childlike faith, that jumps without thinking, and dives in without being safe and secure. I think it offers the opportunity to live in grace and to live in the freedom that grace actually promises. We read scripture and it alludes to living in freedom but then we get into the church and it gives us new rules, new laws, new ways of being, offering freedom but really giving us chains. Yaconnelli reminds us to do something different...Life and living it without boundaries and limits. I want a gospel like that rather than always doing what someone else expects from you.

This book I finished just last week and I know it will forever change how I live and love. It throws out all the rules (do I sense a pattern here!!) towards living a faith that is burdened by law, lines, and boundaries. It asks how we can rethink living in grace and love. These things are hard to do and often we have been restricted by trying to do the right thing rather than living in the freedom that grace abounds to us. It offers the possibility that we don't have to opt IN to grace but we can choice to opt out of grace. I think that gospel is easier to swallow. It doesn't limit possibilities, gifts, or talents. I don't think it ever limits love or restricts where you want to give and offer to those around us. It pushes one to look for God in all things rather than looking for evil. We attract good things when we think of good things. I want that love. I want that grace.

So those are a couple of books that have impacted my life. They are good reads. You should read them.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Pushing Daises

Well I was pleasantly surprised last night when I watched the first episode of the new show Pushing Daisies. It was almost as if I was pushed into a land mixed with Tim Burton, Dr. Seuss, and Roald Dahl. It was quirky, bright, colorful, humor was dry, and the story line interesting.

The premise of the story is this guy Ned (of course his name is Ned!) and Ned can raise people from the dead, but only for one minute, after that someone elses life will be taken. If this person is touched again by him or they touch him they will die, never to be touched again, and never to be raised from the dead. I think it's interesting because it brings up the issue of touch, the promise of a juicy story line because there is all this tension about him and his friend "Chuck" who is a girl and he raises her from the dead.

I loved the colors in the show. They were bright and there were certain scenes where the quirky waitress from the Pie shop, Neds shop and profession, wheres the same robe as the wallpaper and couch fabric. There were shots of the main characters as children who imagine crushing a make believe world as they are huge child-like monsters. I love anything that merges child like wonder into adult life situations. I think that's why I love Tim Burton's work so much or the stories of Dahl. Which, by the way, Wes Anderson is making an animated story about The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

I am looking forward to seeing where this show goes. I hope people watch it because most shows on TV that I end up liking end up getting kicked off the air (Studio 60 and Arrested Development). Dry humor and quirky plot lines don't go over well on American TV. It is disappointing...let's be honest. So here is to hoping for this show to survive. I like being pushed into other worlds and other ways of seeing life. Chuck sells honey that she makes and the money goes to the homeless. It's funny...quirky. I guess thats a lot like me.

Monday, October 1, 2007

When worlds collide.

This weekend was an interesting musical endeavor. My friend Adam (pictured below) was in town touring with his band Remembrance, metal in nature and lyrically focused on a Christ like life. The band was playing at Cornerstone California, which is the newest off shot of Cornerstone festival that started in Illinois. I had interesting emotions coming and being at this show. I hold many healthy growth experiences to my treks to Cornerstone and hold them fondly in my memory. I was happy that these guys could play at something that has given a lot of hardcore and metal bands a platform to play and get their careers started.One of my favies is Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. They threw a whole box of t-shirts to the crowd. They made me laugh with their funny antics and pride seemed far from their attitude on stage. Musically I was excited to go back a few years and be around metal and hardcore, something I have not been around since I moved to Pasadena. I loved being around the music, I even got a couple of albums to play, usually when I paint, or being creative.

Going to this festival was not cheap and the atmosphere is always interesting when you mix one part Christian subculture, one part hardcore, and one part consumerism. I think what you get is a mess of people attempting and striving to be like Jesus but not knowing how to do it when we have an old religion mixing with a new way of seeking and experiencing spirituality and Christianity. The fest was $40, parking another $5. Water was something that was expensive, and merch was two rows in a large tent selling everything from art, to hoodies with Jesus is my Savior/Music is my Life, and pamphlets to give money to help kids in Africa. To participate in the festival is just to be a passive observer or throwing down in the mosh pit. There was a guy playing some sort of music infusing rock with jam beats, he commented about how uncool he felt often times for playing music that had Christian undertones and what it meant to follow whole heartedly to follow that Christ guy.

The next day I found myself attending another Festival, this time it was Swerve Fest that celebrated film, music, and action sports. It was an interesting concept and took place over the weekend at an art park in Los Feliz (those who are not familiar with the area, it is a small creative town north of downtown LA) It was very interesting to contrast the two fests as this one offered creativity and was FREE. It was free to attend the shows, though you had to pay a small fee to see the films. Parking was FREE, it is NEVER free in this town and especially when it is a chance for someone to get money. The food was not free but Fuel TV was giving away a lot of prizes for participating in silly games or recycling your trash. The prizes were not high fives or candy but passes to movies or even an XBox. Kids could design their own skate deck, Ready Made magazine was offering a subscription to their magazine for $5.

The atmosphere was calm, people sitting and calmly listening to music about riding bicycles and seeing life through rose colored glasses. There were people picnicking and enjoying their Sunday afternoon on a hill over looking the city. Devotchka played a beautiful set. If you are not familiar with them watch Little Miss Sunshine. There music was the main soundtrack to the film. I loved it because it seemed so beautiful and so simple, yet for a four-piece there was a lot going on. I also was told that Jesus Saved (St. Vincent has a t-shirt that says St. Vincent says JESUS SAVES and in tiny letters and I Pay) and that I was told threw another T-shirt that we need to Stop Genocide.

What are the differences between the two. Sometimes I wonder if the pictures in the Highlights magazines I read as a kid is a good indicator of this test. What is the same and what is different in these two pictures? I was given an assignment in class last week that asked us to compare a Psalm with an Egyptian Hymn to the Sun God. There were a lot of similarities. Where were people being served and loved, whose gifts were being highlighted, whose talents were being rewarded. I don't know about you but the edge to create and helping to provide a space to create is something I lean more towards. I don't think there is a limit or a boundary to love and there certainly can't be when it comes to art.