31 October 2008

Happy Last Day of October!

Tonight, I will be visited by one of two entities:
  1. The Great Pumpkin
  2. The ghost of Martin Luther
Either way, I get presents.

In honor of Halloween and Reformation Day, here are a few old posts from years past.

First, for those curious about Halloween, here's my take on the controversial holiday.

But, since today is not just Halloween, but also the anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses.
For those who are completely unfamiliar with the history behind Martin Luther, I wrote a brief post a few years back concerning the event.

The traditions and teachings of Luther, though, are alive and well today, and influence most western Christians. While I am not Lutheran, nor would I ever dare to consider myself a great theologian, I cannot deny the importance of Lutheran thought in my own writings. Below are several posts I have written throughout the past two and a half years that demonstrate Luther's legacy.
Sobald der G├╝lden im Becken klingt / im huy die Seel im Himmel springt
"I am Yours. Save me."
"...of whom I am the worst."
Sin Boldly (But Believe in Christ More Boldly Still): Thoughts on Evangelism
The Simple Beauty of Salvation

Luther was known for his wicked sense of humor. And just because I can, I proudly present "I Got 95 Theses, but the Pope Aint One"


Rock on.

Hat tip for the video: Locusts and Honey

26 October 2008

Gun Control and God

From Congressman Paul Broun:
All of our rights come from God, not from government. Our Founding Fathers understood this. They understood that the role of government, is to recognize and preserve our God-given, inalienable rights. Therefore, they wrote the Second Amendment.

Guns and religion. You, sir, are clinging to them.

I don't care enough about guns to have much of an opinion on the Second Amendment. Yeah, you should be licensed to own one, just as you are to drive. Outside of that, I meet both sides of the argument with an astounding "Meh."

But to say that gun ownership is a "God-given inalienable right" while at the same time arguing that universal health care is not part of the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is insane.

Rock on.

20 October 2008

mewithoutYou

I first started listening to mewithoutYou my senior year of high school. It was a period during which I would buy and listen to pretty much any album released by Tooth and Nail records. As a result, I have a lot of really crappy CDs (Does anybody want my copy of Hawk Nelson's Letters to the President? I've been trying to ditch that thing for two years now...)

mewithoutYou's three albums, though, are the highlight of that period.

Falling somewhere between modern Sufi music (lead singer Aaron Weiss's mother was a Sufi) and post-alternative-hardcore (a catch-all category for music that is beyond simple classification) with elements of Roma/Eastern European folk music, mwY is one of those bands that has a very distinct style, but avoids the trap of repeatedly making the same album.

The first album of theirs I bought was [A->B] Life, which is much closer to their hardcore roots. Their second LP, Catch for Us the Foxes might be my favorite (the videos posted below are both from Foxes), though Brother, Sister - their third release - is what got me through freshman year of college.

"January 1979"


"Disaster Tourism"


I was fortunate enough to see mwY in concert at the 40 Watt, but I've already written about that.

As far as musicians go, the guys from mewithoutYou are out there; Aaron Weiss has taken vows of poverty and chastity, and the bus is run off of used vegetable oil. But for all of their eccentricities, or perhaps because of, their music stands out in a world where rock is finally starting to become innovative again.

Rock on.

19 October 2008

WALL E

Bravo, Pixar. Bravo.

I have long been a fan of Pixar movies. They know how to tell a good story, and with style.

With that in mind, I must say that WALL E is Pixar's best movie yet.

The creators have managed to look back on the history of cinema and look forward to the future of consumerism and affluence in popular culture - in a kid's movie.

The movie starts with a bleak look at the future of earth. The camera flies over a city overrun with garbage, piles of compacted trash reaching higher than the surrounding skyscrapers, and every thing in sight is produced by the same conglomerate - "Buy N Large". This wretched landscape stands in very stark contrast to the cheerful music playing behind it. Our hero, a trash compacting robot with a pet cockroach, triggers adds as he walks by, and we discover through fading holographic videos that humanity left earth because we had so completely poisoned it.

So it goes that WALL E works day in and day out to clean up, saving little pieces of trash - a spork here, a light bulb there. But here's where Pixar shows their true brilliance. This movie is not just an environmentalist critique of our culture. WALL E is Charlie Chaplin. NPR had this to say in their review:
There's actually a nice parallel between this largely silent film and Chaplin's first sound film, Modern Times. In that one, the silent clown used the soundtrack mostly for music and effects, not for speech, just as Pixar does here. Chaplin only let you hear a human voice a couple of times, and only on some sort of mechanical contraption — say a closed-circuit TV screen — to emphasize its artificiality. It was his way of saying to the sound world, "OK, everybody's doing this talking thing now, but look how much more expressive our silent world is."
Humans are left out, except as videos, until nearly halfway through the movie. When humans do appear, they are lazy and overweight. It seems that life in space is everything it promised to be - with hover chairs, nobody moves; with video screens built into these chairs, nobody has face-to-face conversations anymore; having never seen the earth, nobody knows what "dirt" is. The film-makers took The Jetsons and decided to show what life would really be like in a world where nothing was more than a button away.

On top of the scathing critique of consumerist culture, WALL E is full of allusions to other movies. Of course, Charlie Chaplin is the inspiration for WALL E, but he looks an awful lot like Number 5 from Short Circuit. Auto, the ship's autopilot, is H.A.L. 9000 (Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey) - right down to the glowing red dot. And continuing the ode to 2001, Johann Strauss's "On der schoenen blauen Donau" and Richard Strauss's "Also sprach Zarathustra" both recieve their moments of glory in the film. Life on board the ship is somewhere between The Jetsons and Star Trek. Even the animated short (a Pixar tradition) gives a wink and a nod; the entirety of Presto is reminiscient of Bugs Bunny and a Merrie Melodies short, though Presto's magic hat resembles more closely that of the sorcerer from Fantasia.

As the credits role, we are treated to the evolution of art - from cave paintings to post-impressionist, van Gogh-esque scenes, the credits continue to show Pixar's brilliance and finish the story; the credits are a well-animated post script in a culture that walks out as soon as the credits roll.

One of the more interesting aspects is the importance of touch in this movie. WALL E spends most of the movie trying to hold EVE's hand. The humans afloat in space have become so dependent on technology that they no longer even converse face-to-face. As such, two humans (one voiced by Pixar's favorite actor, Cliff the Mailman) begin a relationship at first touch, and later rediscover the ship's pool and the joy of splashing water.

WALL E also serves as what one of my professors would call a "chaos monster". For the humans of the film, everything seems to be going fine. Not that things are fine, but nobody realizes how completely screwy things have become. Enter WALL E, who upsets the status quo - first, with the other robots, and then with the humans. As he roams the ship, everywhere he goes becomes a site of change. Like the children in Narnia, WALL E's presence disturbs those around him, awakening them from the trance-like assistance that has become life.

Pixar has a long tradition of telling stores with the lessons that need to be told - rites of passage, acceptance of yourself and others, courage, and the importance of remembering your past (seriously, who didn't get that from watching Toy Story 2?). With WALL E, Pixar has set a new standard for not only artistry, but themes in children's movies. Hopefully, other production companies will follow this shining example.

Rock on.

Powell Endorses Obama

This is just to interesting to not pass on.

I wish I could say I have eagerly awaited Powell's endorsement, but truth be told, I nearly forgot about him.

I wonder what this will do to poll numbers.

Prediction: Obama's lead will grow in Pennsylvania and he will gain a lead in both Ohio and Florida. Don't know about Nevada, Colorado, or North Carolina.

Time will tell.

Rock on.

18 October 2008

The Dog Ate the Sourdough!!!

I love my dog. But she has incredible ups for an eleven year old Lab. With the ability to mount tall counters in a single bound, she ate my fresh loaf of sourdough (she's done the same with bagels on multiple occasions).

But it's alright. I have fresh bagels, a new loaf of sourdough, and half a Reuben to make up for the loss.

And you may or may not have noticed, but I haven't exactly posted anything. The week was a little more hectic than I thought.

Shalom.

11 October 2008

Of Sourdough and New Posts

This just in: I have a fresh loaf of San Francisco sour dough. Thanks, Kroger!

I also have three new posts in the wings. I just need to get around to typing them. And my editor's in the middle of midterms. Expect something next week, though.

Shalom.