Thursday, November 29, 2007

Grace upon grace

Last week was overwhelming, draining, gut smashing, life altering, eye opening. I can think of other adjectives but I think you catch where I might be heading here. It seemed like anything that was holding me together decided to up and leave or break. I wish I was being dramatic but I am not. It was what it was and I have become a better person for it. I will spare the details but I noticed how I much I was trying to control my life. Trying to make sure nothing fell apart and nothing went out of control. When you hold on so tightly that is when it pops and breaks. And break they did....

The hardest part of it all being that I am a student was that my computer died. Something fried. It would only run the fan and not turn on. I had to let it go to the lovely people at apple for a week. It's amazing how I rely so heavily on technology and how it plays such a fantastic role in my life. Just sitting here on my lappie is so lovely as I listen to my ipod and texting friends on my phone. I love it. I am glad it exists in the world. I am also going to praise the amazing people at Apple here for a moment. My computer came back with a complete makeover. It has a new case (the old one was dropped so when you wanted to close the lid you had to shift it to the right and then close it), a new bottom case, a new keyboard, a new display. There is no longer my "Jesus is the Savior, not Christianity" sticker. There are no more scratch marks, hand smudged mouse track pad, the n is now shown once again on my keyboard. I feel really lucky that all this was fixed and now better.

I stepped back this week and realized the grace I have been receiving lately and the beauty of life that I am seeing with new eyes. I guess that was my prayer a while ago and I believe I am seeing with new eyes. I have received meals, flowers, candy, hugs, texts, emails, small notes of unexpectancy. I have been showered with a bit of hope. The grace was unexpected but I am so not going to lie that I needed it. I needed to see visual reminders of God and that there are good people in the world that when you hit the bottom will help pick you up, dust you off, and help you see that today was just kind of shitty and soon again something will be better.

It also doesn't suck when you make a great mixtape!!
Good Woman (Cat Power)
Be Not So Fearful (Jeff Tweedy)
no ones gonna love (band of horses)
Intuition (feist)
The Trapeze Swinger (Iron and Wine)
The Orchids (Califone)
You are Not Alone (Patty Griffin)
Shelter (Ray LaMontagne)
Wonderwall (Ryan Adams)
On and On and On (Wilco)
Rake (Sufjan Stevens)
Much Farther to Go (Rosie Thomas)
Acuff-Rose (Jeff Tweedy)
Your Hand in Mine (Explosions in the Sky)
Ode to the Irc (Band of Horses)

So I hope to be blogging more, getting my homework done, and/or procrastinating more....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 your computer

Thhis week, like the last two have been overwhelming, mystifying, and has made me slow down and realize what is in the way and what has been missing. I realized that I haven't been to a live show or bought a new CD in months. Many people miht not find this weird..odd..or strange, but to a woman who spends her waking moments with music in her eyes or in my face this is a rare oddity. I think it's almost like a bad caffiene addiction, when you stop you have bad headaches, wierd mood swings, and altered state of being. I think I am going through music withdrawl.

Yesterday I had the rare chance to chat with my friend in New York and we like to swap music or music sites. I feel really lucky to have friends like this. I was just made aware that NPR revamped their site and have a lot of music, concerts, and interviewss ready to listen, and add to a playlist of the concerts on hand. It's live music of great bands right here, right now. I have alrerady taken in Thurston Moore and at this moment listening to a radio set of Band of Horses. The new record is pretty great but there are two songs that I can't stop listening to and they are both played live with some fantastic emotion that I think only a live show can really put across.

My computer took a crap last night. I am really bummed and it looks like I can't take it to an apple store until later this weekend, the biggest shopping weekend of the whole year. I hope NPR or my ipod will bring me to the places i need to find a little bit of sanity. So here is to hoping.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Familie Movie

My first encounter with Danielson was at Calvin College back in the undergrad days. I can't remember the year, but I know the venue, where I was sitting, and encountering the art meets music style of Daniel Smith. He was wearing a tight fitting suit, with blinders around his eyes, antlers on his head, and bells strapped to his ankle. He had an overhead projector with all the lyrics on it and invited everyone to sing along. I had never encountered anything like this at the time and it has ever so impacted my life as it engages with the merging of art, music, and spirituality.

Sunday I had the small chunk of time to snuggle on my couch and remember my experiences with this musical endevor through a musical documentary. I had heard about the documentary a year ago when they first finished the film but I hadn't received the opportunity to watch the documented journey of the Danielson, Brother Danielson, Danielson Familie, of Danielson Sonship. All of these groups are a hybrid of the thoughts, ideas, and vision of Dan Smith. I

If you haven't heard the music take the time to figure it out. I promise it does take time and it's not soothing to the soul but a music journey of merging faith, art, and music. Danielson: A Family Movie (or Make a Joyful Noise Here) follows the ending of the Familie and working towards a new project. The music is passionate. Passionate about a loving Father (God) who is the Creator of all things and enables those who recognize this Spirit to forge in creativity. The music is odd yet rich in what it means to serve, love, care, and give to other people. People want to automatically label things as Christian and leave the conversation with all your preconceptions but that would be shallow and unable to deal with what is real and what is in front of you.

I can tell you a lot about the film but I don't want to. I want to talk about the experience with the film and the movement in my soul that I haven't felt in quite sometime. I work hard to find the spiritual throughout my culture. With Danielson it is the manifestation of the Spirit and what we do when we learn how to die to ourselves and begin to live in the spirit of something bigger than ourselves. Life in the spirit is beautiful if we allow it to not have boundaries or constraints on our life. The creativity astounds me as Danielson Familie wears nurses uniforms and offers the visual reminder that Christ/God/Spirit can offer healing into our lives.

Without Danielson we wouldn't have Sufjan Stevens. Danielson helped produce the Michigan record that was highly acclaimed. Sufjan steals many of the ideas that Daniel Smith had set up and I think that's lovely. He is able to introduce merging of artistic concepts that not only stirs your ears but also your eyes. It's amazing what happens when we connect the music with the art or at least find and contemplate the statements being made on stage. Friends are good for this.

This film made me miss my Michigan community. A community of people who are committed to art (visually and musically) and how we can challenge one another to not only be better artists but better people who live with a spirit inside them that pushes and validates people outside of themselves. I hope to find an art community again. I don't know if that will lead me back to Michigan but I hope it leads me home.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

In This World

Monday afternoon I was asked to show a film and follow up with conversation on the fiction documentary In This World. the film is about two boys fleeing their refugee camp in Pakistan because of the wars and bombing in their home of Afghanistan. The conversation is a tough one when you this topic is basically unanswerable. I was trying to find background information on the film and I ran across this quote from the review in the LA Weekly:

The world is full of refugees, and Western countries that have helped create them (as well as those that haven’t) must deal with the fact that to reject them is inhuman, to accept them by the millions is impractical, and to create humanly decent criteria for who qualifies and who doesn’t is all but impossible. That is the West’s dilemma.

The film follows two boys trying to find a better life for themselves. They have to put their lives in the hands of others to get them to their destination of London where they hope to seek asylum. I am going to be honest and say that I haven't really processed through this issue much. It's huge. It almost seems like an impossible conversation. I even had to say that after the movie. It is almost impossible but at least it is something to think about and work our way through new parts of the conversation. Does it move us towards a conversation of non-violence or the conversation of the war? I didn't want to make the conversation a political one but in light of the fact the war is costing America over a trillion dollars it's a worthy conversation to undertake. Imagine if we used a trillion dollars for providing free education? Imagine if we used that trillion for housing? or meal plans? or rebuilding old buildings? or college educations? These are some my thoughts for alternative fundings or at least new solutions to old problems.

I don't think I have the final over arching solutions but I also think as the church body we can be vital into helping create new solutions.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Squid and the Whale

As I sluggishly get through my day today and especially now to keep my eye lids open as class drones on I realized that I haven't talked about my new Netflix experience as well as partaking in Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale. I finally decided that spending eight dollars a month is worth getting a couple of movies a week and indulging in all that I can with documentaries and Independent films that when I walk into the dreaded Blockbuster I end up being bombarded with bad Hollywood movies and overpriced Jiffy Pop. This has been a fantastic decision and kind of kick myself for not doing this movie in my mailbox thing earlier.

The latest movie watching adventure is The Squid and the Whale. A great film that is obviously influenced by Wes Anderson who was also the producer of the film. The plot reminds me of The Darjeeling Limited and The Royal Tannenbaums with a father estranging himself from his family due to selfish actions and the insistence their way is the best way (sometimes the only way). The film is stylistically lovely and the music looks back to the classic rock diddys (Lou Reed, Loudon Wainwright III).

The film has a simple story (or a simple story that my generation understands so well) of a family divorcing, the children almost forced to choose sides, and the repercussions when you don't know who you intermingles with chaos and pain. I think the story is almost hard to watch at times when you see a nine year old boy masturbating in the library as well as getting drunk on weekdays locked in his bedroom hoping to drink away the understanding that he might just look like his father. The father (Jeff Daniels) is a harsh yet loving father, wanting what he thinks is best for his boys, but sabotaging them at the same time.

There are some great themes of loving yourself, loving who you are becoming, facing your fears, and standing up to the scary present that is slowing becoming your past. The concept of the squid and the whale is only important in theory but a beautiful reconnection of what it means to be loved by your mother and communicating your desires and needs to be loved in return. I think they did a great job showing the expectations of sleeping with the hottest girl and how that can skew your perception of yourself and of others.

I walked away from the film with a bit of hope and knowing that the pain continues to bring you closer to a new reality but a reality that you are not perfect and it is okay not to be.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Joanna with her orchestra

With an opportunity to sit in the beautifully designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, with a twenty eight piece orchestra, a mandolin, and percussionist, my friend Erika and I was transferred into the world of Joanna Newsom. The night was filled with the beautiful, breathtaking music from the harpist, avant-garde folk stylings of Joanna. The night began with the orchestra backing her to the 2005 Y's record. The record is beautiful and haunting. Almost stepping into what it might have been to live in medieval times. I love the record because of a lot of reasons. The music is beautiful, how could it not when you have an orchestral arrangement by Van Dyke Parks (think Brian Wilson's Smile and Pet Sounds) and recorded and produced by Jim O'Rourke (Sonic Youth, Wilco) and Steve Albini (master behind Nirvana's In Utero and The Pixie's Surfer Rosa). We were treated to the record from beginning to end, only to take breaks in between tracks to sip water and thank the audience for being there. The music was gorgeous and very much like the album, the only new additions were from the mandolin/banjo player and well versed percussionist.

The second half was an array of songs from her first full length The Milk-Eyed Mendor. What I loved about these songs is that she totally rearranged and added depth and scope to the already established songs. The songs were given perspectives and with the sound as it is in this concert hall it was a breath of fresh air and a new sense of how one can approach her songs. She is quirky little lady, you can sense that she knows what she wants and has a great personality to back it up. What I loved about the night was the use of instruments that colored and envisioned the evening. I keep thinking about the percussionist who had no boundaries around his instruments. There was no snare drum or drum sticks but a bass drum that was used like a rock bass drum (hence with pedal) but more often used with mallets or with his hands. No part of the drum was off limits as he knew how to use the head to vary sounds. The mandolin player would add his breath of knowledge and challenge the orchestra with what he could add to the beautiful full sound.

The only critique of the night was that I wanted it louder...not 'turn it to eleven' sound but I didn't think it needed the dainty undertones as it was awarded by the sound engineer. Other than that I was amazed by the work of Joanna Newsom herself. Her voice has matured with the time she has played and her skills on the harp is magnificent. I don't have a lot of background on the harp but it was lovely to be a part of.

The night was magnificent from beginning to end. I had a wonderful evening with a wonderful friend. We both had fancy new dresses on and cute new boots. I can't say enough of what a lovely evening I had with some of the most intriguing scope of sound i have heard in quite some time. One of my favorite songs is entitled Peach, Plum, Pear from her fist full length. You can see a past live show below. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Top 5 Favorite Songs

I was asked tonight what my all time top five favorite songs were. Within moments I had three, a couple more i had the fourth, and the firth I am sure will be developed by the end of this post. The act of the favorite song is different than the all time top five favorite bands or the all time top five favorite albums. These three are ENTIRELY different categories and entirely different bags all together. I think music really relates to your soul and your feelings. I think the songs move you into a new space entirely or you will never get sick of them.

You can not judge someone for their favorite songs. This is different than the band...that is a matter of wholistic taste. Some of the worst bands can write a song that can change your life. It does not make them a great band or even a great songwriter. It just means they wrote something that changed your life.

My top 5...
Your Hand in Mine --Explosions in the Sky
(this song is utterly beautiful and the best song to think to as well as to drive to)

Sunken Treasure-- Jeff Tweedy
(This would be from the solo DVD and not from Being There Disc One. There IS a difference. I like this version better because of the openness and space that you can feel from the recording as well as the raw emotion).

Damnit-- Blink 182
(I am sure I just lost some points with some people but I am definitely okay with this. I remember when I was a kid in high school and hearing this song for the first time. I was sitting in my parents living room on the forest green couch. the video was illy and that beat was something I couldn't get out of my head. Let's just say that this song may have launched my love for music.)

Dreams--The Cranberries
(This song is beautiful and driving. It some how keeps me hopeful for something bigger than myself. I see a lot of simplicity and beauty and a whole lot of life. Call me crazy but then again I LOVE it.)

The fifth song is usually hard for me or the fifth of anything. It's the last straw or the icing on the cake but it is hard but if I cam going to choose one it will have to be....

The Trapeze Swinger--Iron and Wine
(It goes on all my mix tapes within the last year or so. There is something so beautiful about the line "I heard from someone you're still pretty" and this song has opened the door to some really beautiful conversations.)

If there are some Runners Up they would be
Wonderwall-- Ryan Adams cover of Oasis. Simple. Beautiful. Breath taking. Took something and made it beautiful.

That's When I reach for My Revolver--Mission of Buurma. Freaking Amazing

Sufjan Stevens--Chicago. The acoustic version live at Calvin College. It is so stripped down and is the back bone to all the other versions he has done. It is beautiful and i remember the first time I heard it it brought a tear to my eye.

So these are my thoughts. I would love to hear your list if you have one....

Monday, November 5, 2007

if you want to be alive.

You have to learn how to die...
if you want to want to be alive.
I got the opportunity this weekend to spend time in New York City. This in itself took almost two years to accomplish and extra hours spent serving mint mochas and pineapple soy smoothies. The weekend was short, a whirlwind of subway rides, blocks of high rise buildings, and the feel on your skin that the weather was changing from the final moments of summer to the crisp air of fall.

The city is breathtaking in the way that it is constantly moving and never stopping. That it works for the pedestrian rather than the automobile. It's interesting to be within a space that honors public, communal ways of movement rather than DEtroit or Los Angeles that works individually with the individual car moving one person at a time. It removes the sense of the private and moves you into peoples lives and conversations until you come to the next stop. These stories get off and the new stories of meaning and purpose walk into your life for a moment.

You can get lost in a space like this. Not so much in the physical sense but just the stories of life. Watching people move forward to their destination or in some ways get lost in the shuffle and just follow the person one step ahead of you. I think going to the city gave me a new appreciation of what it means to live, how I am living my life, and what I can be doing with my time rather than sitting at home some nights instead of exploring what is right here around me. Granted LA is not New York. There is a different identity here on the west coast (less European and hip hop infusion and more Beach Boys meets plastic surgery).

There were moments where I felt like when I was in London. When I went to Europe I feel in love with the culture, the way of life, the people. I could speak the language and for the first time my dress wasn't odd it was basically normal. It's not that I have bad taste, it's just that I don't wear polo shirts and khaki pants. I think dress and fashion is a lot of fun, something that can motivate you for the rest of the day and put you into a great mood. I think it expresses somewhat of an identity and says what you think of culture and what you think of the quote on quote popular. Though I live in LA I still got off the train and looked like I stepped into Hipster Land. Which it was and was fantastic.

All I can say is that I was inspired and hopeful for the future. When I returned back home to California I did feel a sense of home. So all that to say I am not packing my bags tomorrow but acknowledging that there is a lot to live and a lot of places to learn.