Land of Confusion

For some reason I had an itch to listen to Genesis today as I was writing a lecture for my religion and pop culture class. I hit shuffle and the first song that kicked in was “Land of Confusion” with it’s awesome Phil Collins-echo-snare intro. I still prefer the Peter Gabriel Genesis stuff to the uber pop the band produced once Phil Collins took over but this is easily one of my favorites (“Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” is still the tops). The song provided some inspiration and perspective to my lecture on how pop music often times reflects what’s happening in the zeitgeist and allows us to see our current situation from a different, and often needed, perspective.

The song is a perspective on the greed and uncertainty that surround the Cold War while still holding out hope for a better future. I remember the music video growing with all the distorted caricatures of famous people but never really got the point… in my defense I was 6. Listening back to the song now there are a lot of parallels to our times of uncertainty and “too many people making too may problems.” I guess that’s something that will never go away as long as there are people. It’s nice to know that in other times of confusion people are inspired to reach out with hope and deal with the mess surrounding them. Now it’s back to work…


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Art + Theology

I just finished up helping with a class on Theology, Art and Film. Interesting loot at art and artists using film as a lens into the life of the artist and the creative process. Of all the classes I help out with, this is the one that I know the least about because I’ve had no professional art training. I like being able to sit in class and learn right along with the students and here the conversation that comes out of our studies.

I loved being able to look at both art and theology as meaning making systems that are both attempting to make sense of life. There is an attempt by each to shed light on what it means to be human and how we interact with the world and with the divine. Art provides opportunities and challenges to our beliefs that are often missed because we approach art with a mindset of aesthetic like or dislike. Most of my favorite art is because of the reaction it inspires inside me. I love the photographer Andres Serrano because of his provocative nature and how the images challenge my preconceptions of the subject matter. (I’ve included some of his work below… be careful if you google search his work) Theology is similar to art in that it words to create meaning and understanding of what it means to be human in a world created by God. Where it differs is that theology has achieved this primarily through reason, following patterns of consistency in order to form a rational systematic theology.

This is where the primary area of tension between art and theology comes into play. We have a tendency to try and fit art into our prescriptions of how the world works when art does not function or live withing the realm of reason. Instead of having our theology inform how we approach and understand art we would be better served to bend our theology to encompass and embrace the arts. Here are some of my favorite works that have challenged my theology and understanding of the divine.

Francis Bacon – Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X

Andres Serrano – Madonna and Child

Marc Chagall – White Crucifixion

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Lent Soundtrack

I have a love/hate relationship with Lent. On one hand it’s my favorite time of the liturgical year because we are confronted with our limitations and mortality, something I find myself thinking about a lot in regards to faith. But Lent can also become watered down with what feel like spiritual new years resolutions or diminished by the knowledge of a coming Easter. I tried giving stuff up, one year I gave up all beverages but water which is quite a sacrifice knowing how much I love coffee and beer. After my time of sacrifice I didn’t get a new spiritual understanding or connection with the divine, instead I was irritable and well hydrated.

So this year I decided to make a play list from one of my favorite musicians and theologians Nick Cave to help encompass what this time means to me. There is a lot of questioning, a lot frustration but also a hope that there is ultimately something beyond our frustration. These aren’t necessarily my favorite songs but ones that inspire me to think and reflect about what it means to be a person of faith when faced with the reality of life. I hope that you all have something to focus your thoughts for these next few weeks and that your process is more than just giving up chocolate. Here’s my Lent soundtrack:

1. Get Ready For Love
2. We Call Upon the Author
3. Supernaturally
4. Spell
5. Wonderful Life
6. O Children
7. Carry Me
8. Abattoir Blues
9. Bring it On
10. The Ship Song
11. Into My Arms
12. Death is Not the End
13. God is in the House

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Burgers, Video Games and the Telecaster

Some really fun things came through Twitter today that I thought you might get a kick out of. The first thing comes from LAWeekly and their quest to try 30 burgers in 30 days. They have been doing this search for a while and just posted their 5 best burgers so far. I haven’t tried any of these but going to a place called the Lazy Ox Canteen for the “Best Char Burger” sounds like a good plan for the weekend.

Tomorrow is the first day of March and so begins the only time people pretend to really care about college basketball. The real fun is when the NCAA tournament field is released and we get to fill out our brackets to prove how much we know but eventually lose in the tournament pool to someone who bases their picks on school mascots. Doug Gottlieb from ESPN radio has provided us with an awesome bracket to vote on to tide us over until selection Sunday, the sports video game bracket. The #1 seeds are hard to argue with; Techno Super Bowl, NHL ’94, NBA Jam and Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. I like Punch Out to take the crown but wouldn’t be surprised if NFL Blitz and RBI Baseball upset some of the favorites.

Finally, the Fender Telecaster celebrates it’s 60th birthday and NPR has a great article celebrating the people who have used the Tele to wail. While I love Telecaster users like Johnny Greenwood and Springsteen I decided to post a video of the man that made me love the Tele, Andy Summers.

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Oscar thoughts

Here is my obligatory review of last night’s Academy Awards… yawn. The opening bit was funny but nothing spectacular and then it was all down hill from there. I found the whole thing unfortunately boring and predictable. That being said I was thrilled to see Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross win the award for best original score for “The Social Network.” The have already agreed to do the music for David Fincher’s next film which is an english version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” should be really interesting.

I was able to see 8 of the 10 best picture nominations (sorry 127 Hours and Winter’s Bone) and would have given my vote to Black Swan. Granted I’m a huge Darren Aronofsky fan and have always had a leaning toward the dark and twisted. I thought that as a film it was the most complete and developed of all the nominees. King’s Speech was good but I felt was severely lacking in original score and cinematography… great performances and screenplay but not up to the level as Black Swan as a complete work. Of all the movies I saw I was most surprised by The Fighter. I had pretty low expectations and was completely blown away by Christian Bale and Melissa Leo as well as how raw the film felt. Here is how I would have ranked the movies (that I saw):

1. Black Swan
2. The Fighter
3. The Social Network
4. True Grit
5. The Kings Speech
6. Toy Story 3 (did anyone else have an extreme emotional connection to this one?)
7. Inception
8. The Kids are Alright

Now that the awards are over I’m still going to try and see those movies I didn’t get to as well as the documentary Waste Land. Overall I thought it was a very strong year for movies and I wish that the award show would have lived up to the work it honored.

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heart of a heartless world

We started exploring some interesting territory this morning in my Theology, Art and Film class brought on by the life and work of Frida Kahlo. Most of the conversation revolved around issues of reconciling socialism and Christianity because of her political views and those of her husband Diego Rivera. What really peaked my interest was when Barry put up a quote from Karl Marx from Engels’ “The Condition” that is widely used but rarely in it’s entire context. Maybe the most famous Marx quote about religion is that “Religion is the opium of the people” but here is the entire quote in context;

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of the real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people, the abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which need illusions.”

I’m not here to defend Marxism or even support it’s core ideology but point out that it may have some fair critique of religion as a social construct. It’s not as much an assault on the content of belief but a critique of the function of religion in society. I think there is part of his critique that religion keeps people numb to the current situation they are living in and so those that are oppressed and exploited are ignored. The development of liberation theology, especially in South and Latin America, is an attempt to reconcile Marxism with the Christian mission and the preferential treatment of the poor. I think there is an interesting conversation to be had here especially because issues and language of socialism have been reintroduced into our current landscape and the political script. Some pretty deep waters to be swimming around in at 8 am on a Monday morning but very much worth the time and effort.

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Is Radiohead messing with us?

There are plenty of reviews of the new album “The King of Limbs” so I don’t feel like I need to rehash what’s been said.  If you want you can check out the reviews of Rolling Stone, the Telegraph, and my friend Barry.  I love what they are doing on these songs and there is a lot to listen to but I think they might be teasing us for something to come.  The album itself doesn’t really sound like a comprehensive work like their previous releases.  The first 5 tracks have a similar sound to them but then the final 3 stand alone as unique one off tunes.  Maybe they are teasing us for something to come… I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist but it wouldn’t surprise me by any means.

On Feb 11. Radiohead posted something on twitter that was a link to what they called an “office chart” which looks a lot like a track list of working titles.  The list of 10 names is:

1.Fog (Jamie xx Remix) Nosaj Thing Drift (Remixed)
2.Tripped Up Ramadanman Re-Edit Shortstuff Mickey Pearce
3. Sun Days Macc & dgoHn
4. Keep Time Shed
5. Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 903: Fantasia Christophe Rousset Bach: Harpsichord Works
6. SP Morgan Zarate
7. Chazm Julio Bashmore
8. Seamonkey (Untold Remix) Moderat
9. Stereo Freeze Untold
10. 7c 1020 Macc & dgoHn

None of these titles look to be on the new release not to mention there are only 8 tracks on King of Limbs.  We’ll see what happens over the next couple weeks to see if Radiohead continues to blow our mind but until something happens I am perfectly happy listening to the new stuff.

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