28 February 2008

Cartoons and Richard Land

Wittenburg Door is the world's first and oldest Christian satire magazine, and it is run by Trinity Foundation, which along with being a thriving homeless ministry, is also a tele-evangelist watchdog group. Hey, someones gotta do it. Along with hundreds of genius articles they have a cartoon series: Lifestyles of the Rich and Religious. They're freaking awesome!! Here's one about Kenneth Copeland; well, worth reading.

Also, here's a link to an interview with Richard Land, one the big head honcho guys at the Southern Baptist Convention telling us that its not that he's against taking care of the poor necessarily, its just that hating gay people is clearly more important (whoops, sorry, that's not what he said...just what he meant). He did say that he doesn't believe that young evangelical voters will vote for a president that isn't pro-life. On that one thing, Mr. Land and I agree. What we don't agree on is the definition of pro-life. By what he writes and speaks about, Mr. Land does not seem like he is pro-life; he is definitely anti-abortion, but if he were pro-life wouldn't he care more about the poor, about AIDs, and about torture, and not just about gay marriage and abortion? Nah, pro-life doesn't mean that you're actually for all life does it? Maybe we should change the title to pro-politically-expedient-non-gay-non-poor-non-Muslim-life. But, what the hell, at least he's not preaching against dancing and playing cards.

27 February 2008

Larry Norman (1947-2008)

Larry Norman, probably the first, possibly the best Christian rocker died on February 24, after a long series of health problems. Before DC Talk, before Petra, before Steve Taylor (one of the few who could give Larry a run for title of "best Christian rocker"), before Rich Mullins and Kieth Green, there was Larry Norman. He was a legend.

Here is an article about him on open source theology.

Here is an article about him from the Canadian Press.

Here is his official website, chronicling his last words.


Goodbye, Farewell

26 February 2008

Beowulf and Godsylla

Sometimes one comes across an item of such exquisite nerdiosity, that the only emotion one can feel is awe mixed with jealously for not having thought of it oneself. Here is such an item gleaned from the pages of one of the internet's most original publications: The Speculative Grammarian.

Here it is: Beowulf and Godsylla

Of course, Eduard Sievers would be turning in his grave, because as fine as this little poem is, it does not follow the dictates of Germanic Alliterative Verse! Travesty!

Also, here is a very interesting article about J.S. Bach, if you're interested.

At land, at sea, at home, abroad; I smoke my pipe, and worship God. -J.S. Bach

25 February 2008

Nostalgia and the Simple Life

If you hate thoughts-in-process; words and phrases well one their way to becoming full-fledged ideas, but aren't quite there yet; don't read this.

There is an interesting article, here, that discusses a recent accusation leveled against some environmentalists, that they are like the "Luddites" of 19th century Britain. Regardless of the true nature of Luddites (which the article discusses), today the term is applied to those who are distrustful of technology. The article discusses how wanting to save the environment does not necessarily evince wanting to rid the planet of technology. It talks about the real Luddites, and how the people who do advocate living a life less encumbered by technology are simply nostalgic for a different time, or they are trying to force some moral agenda on people (i.e. deep ecologists, militant vegans, etc.).

This got me thinking about the connection between the desire to live a simple life (and I assure you, absolutely no Paris Hilton connotations intended), and being nostalgic. In a previous post I discussed how I liked music that made me feel nostalgic for different time. I think that nostalgia is one of the defining characteristics of my personality. What connection, if any, does that have with another desire to live a simple life? I Thessalonians 4 talks about living a quiet life, minding your own business, and working with your hands as a Christian ideal. I think that it that type of hybrid nostalgia/desire for a simple life that attracts me to things like G.K. Chesterton's distributivism, to growing a garden and (theoretically) riding a bicycle; to music like Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie; to collecting typewriters and old crap; to enjoying the literature of Steinbeck (Travels with Charley is the Bible of Nostalgia); to identifying with one of Isaac Asimov's characters in The Caves of Steel, who, living thousands of years from Asimov's day, is known as a "medievalist" because he prefers wearing glasses to having his vision corrected. So, am I a Luddite? I think the existence of this blog answers that question. Am I nostalgic for a simpler time? Aren't we all? Is this in some way connected for our hope in Christ's return and the final, unequivocal establishment of the Kingdom of God? Is being nostalgic for things past (which probably never existed anyway) a way of looking to the future? Well…I better stop before someone accuses me of being a pothead.

But lest you think I've stopped being a hippie: FIFTY POSSIBLE WAYS TO CHALLENGE OVER-COMMERCIALISM by Al Fritsch, S.J.

20 February 2008

Racism, Demonization, and Christianity

Let me preface the below statements with several warnings: 1. This is a rant. Ranting is one of the ways I deal with overbearing amount of pain and suffering in the world around me. 2. I love my country, but not more than I love my God. 3. Finally, while this is a rant, I am not at all being sarcastic (something I have developed something of a reputation for), but I am emotionally worked up over some stuff. For one thing, I tried to talk to 117 9th graders who come mainly from white upper class families today about how maybe, just possibly, Jesus wants us to be concerned for somebody besides ourselves once in a while. Approx. 115 of them actively, adamantly, and spitefully opposed my message. So, yeah. I'm ranting. I'm emotional. Get over it, and I hear this: if anyone single one of you people tells me to move to Canada, not only I am going to call your parents, I'm gonna give you a morning detention AND I'm never gonna give you a f*%#ing bathroom pass again!!!!!!!!!!!!! Whew. I feel better now. Sorry for that.

The sad fact that has been hidden from me for many years by my education (thank you Ace Virtueson) is that America has always required some group of people to hate. Yes, a simple fact, obvious to most people, but it has really hit me hard today. Today I learned about the 120,000 Japanese people (70,000 of which were full-fledged, flag-waving, card-carrying American citizens) which were "interred" for up to 2 years starting the day after Pearl Harbor in 1941 for absolutely no reason. What a monstrous blot on history. Is too ugly to tell children? Is that why Christian education makes absolutely no mention of it?!? I have long felt hurt by what I feel like was an education that was extremely misleading when it came to two areas especially: science (you mean to say that the earth isn't 6,000 years old?), and history (sample history lesson: Americans are God's chosen race, the New Israel; God blesses us more than other countries; until 1962 when the Supreme Court banned prayer in school, our country was perfect [oh slavery, slavery wasn't that bad]).

I am coming to realize that our country (and probably all countries) has always had a certain group of people to hate. The list is long and in some cases it overlaps, but there has never been a time in our country where equity and justice for all has even been remotely considered. Here's a list of people that at various times (including now) it has been ok for the U.S. to hate:
1. Native Americans (starting with Columbus and continuing, with varrying levels of intensity to present day).
2. African Americans (starting with the inception of our country and continuing, with varrying levels of intensity to present day).
3. Chinese (Google: American Anti-Chinese League, 1800s)
4. Japanese (WWII)
5. African Americans (they get mentioned again with emphasis on the Civil Rights movement on the 60s).
6. Communists (post- WWII, cold war era) especially but not limited to: Russians, Chinese, and Cubans
7. Muslims (post 9-11)
8. Undocumented immigrants especially but not limited to Mexicans.

ALL of the above groups, and I'm sure I'm missing several, have experienced and many of them are experiencing HATRED at the hands of Americans.

Why? The only answer I can think of is that Hate is the logical outcome of Fear and Fear is the most powerful leverage a government has over its people. Now were there members of each of those people groups who in some way, real or imagined, threatened our country? Absolutely. So, then aren't Americans justified in their hatred? Well, maybe so, maybe that's just how the world is. You hate those who hate you. You hate those who in some way, real or imagined, have harmed you, and your afraid of those who are of the same religion, or color as those people who have harmed you, so you hate them, too. Just the way it works...unless you happen to be a Christian. Christians are not allowed to hate. Christians LOVE their ENEMIES. NO EXECEPTIONS. The Church in America needs to wake up (I believe this beginning to happen), and realize that we have made our country into an idol. America is not godly, and never has been. Hatred, pride, and greed are the three least godly things I can think of, and they are sins that we all as individuals, but also we as a people group, country, ethnicity have been guilty of collectively. Where is the Justice of God? When will He stand up for the poor and vindicate the oppressed? I will be afraid for my country on that day.

Amos 5:21-24
21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

17 February 2008

In Defense of Bob Dylan

Music is, by very definition as an art, subjective. Yet, most people can identify at least some of the reasons they like a particular song or musician. Further, it seems possible to identify some of the general characteristics that make songs great, but there again, there will be differences of opinions. I think, though, these differences can be generalized into several different camps based on opinions about what the definition of “good music” is.

The Varieties of Musical Experiences
1. There are those who define musical goodness purely in terms of technical perfection. To these people, music is only music when it is executed with polish, clarity, and pitch-perfect sound, otherwise it is simply noise.
2. To others, music is only good in relation to its context. These are the people who need the “perfect” song for the moment, for the mood, for the zeitgeist. The people whose favorite song is only their favorite because hearing it reminds them of a certain time, and that song encapsulates their experience. For these people, only a song’s context can determine its goodness.
3. To some, music must be a human enterprise, and appeal to human emotions and instincts. These people feel that sometimes music is “fake” because it relies too much on instruments and machines and computers, and not enough of real, living-breathing human beings. They tend to want music raw, uninterpreted, and unproduced.

These are broad categories, and most people fall somewhere in the borderlands between these. As for me, I am mainly a #3 man. Yes, I appreciate to a degree category #1. There is no musical experience like hearing the Chaconne of Bach’s Solo violin partita No. 2 flawlessly executed by a virtuoso performer. Unfortunately, there are extremely few musicians who can actually manage perfection sometimes, and no body can manage it all the time. Why then, you ask, is there so much “flawless” music out there? It is because it is the product of computers, sound boards, and an army of talented producers who take the musicians less-than-perfect output and polishes it until it loses its soul. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. The vast majority of big name pop stars would be flipping burgers today if it were not for slick producers and their incredible technology. I’ve seen the recording process. A talented producer can take three, disjointed bars played on an out-of-tune guitar, an off-key singer, and a drum machine and make into a billboard top-40 love ballad. Many people either do not know or care about where the song came from so this does not bother them.
But I’m a #3 man. I want to connect to a song. I want the song to wrench me; I want it to make me nostalgic for things I’ve never even experienced. And that’s the crux of the matter. The songs that tend to grab my emotional and spiritual attention are those that are guttural, fierce, raw, and brutal. I want music so deeply felt, so primal that you see a musician grow older and wither as he plays it on the stage. Yet, somehow, and this is paradox that I think may be at the core of all beauty, the music must also manage to be lyrical, idyllic.
Thematically speaking, I want to hear music about wandering, about uncertainty and hope (there’s that fundamental paradox, again). I want outlaw music. I want to hear music about trains, and traveling, about heartache, about times gone by. This is because, whether it is a figment of my imagination or not, these things seem more real to me. That is why I love Bob Dylan, though his voice be ragged. Though he never sings a song the same way twice, though his diction is difficult and he unpredictable so as to be a duetist’s nightmare: he is nothing if not real. He is Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, the Blind Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt. He is the drunkard, the saint, the troubled artist, the quintessential vagabond; riding boxcars, drinking sterno, saying things only prophets say, and caring not for the world; always shifting, changing, reinventing, yet transcendent; possibly the most paradoxical public figure to ever live. That is Bob Dylan.

And so, I propose a musical education a la youtube. Open your mind to the genius that is Bob.

Here's a one of his most famous songs, as he performed it for Pope John Paul II in 1997. By the way, what other musician, besides Bono, do you know who got invited to play for the Pope?

I just hope good old JP 2 didn't think Bob was accusing him of knocking on heaven's door.

Many complain about Bob's voice. They wander if he just smoked too many Camels. Here's a clip of Bob doing something a little different with his voice, and singing a duet with Johnny Cash. Pure vocal poetry; but he does have demon eyes.

Here is Bob performing with Paul Simon (another one of the world's greatest musicians). Watch it at least until the harmonica solo, for it may be the greatest harmonica that has ever been laid down.

As just illustrated in the last video, not only can Bob sing, write songs, and play the harmonica, but he can also dance. Here's another Johnny Cash song where Bob lays down some moves. What a great train song!!

Believe it or not, the most controversial thing about Bob's career was when he reinvented himself in the later part of the 60s, he went from singing acoustic folk songs to mainly electric guitar songs. However, the transendent quality, the guenuine, raw emotion of his music carried over. Let me illustrate with two versions of the same song. The first from the 60s (pre-electric, but the video is a corny photo-montage), the second from a recent (200) concert.

Ok, that was really good. But give this a chance.

Finally, two versions of what could be my favorite song (though its so hard to pick). One is with Eric Clapton (the Titans of Rock together on one stage!), the other is during the early 90s during Bob's "fat" stage. He is clearly drunk, he tells a ridiculous story in the beginning, his guitar playing is off, and yet, yet, he is real. So real. What can I say?

And, if you're still not convinced, well, don't think twice. It's alright.

16 February 2008

Poison Indeed--Cultural Digest Vol. I

Picasso, The Black Pitcher and the Head of Death

I pursue two things with this post: 1) My undeniable urge to be nerdy, 2) Something besides a political or moral blog post. So here it is, partially it is an open and honest look into my dehabilitating habit of omnivorously reading book reviews whilst I should be working; but, it has a little smattering of everything from folk music to Jewish Adventure Novels.
1st: Appelations:
How the '47 Cheval Blanc, a defective wine from an aberrant year, got so good
A very educational article about a wine that neither you nor I will ever taste.
2nd: Liber Bellum
A Novel in Four Vintages by Paul Torday
The review of a book about a wine snob.
Review of Michael Chabon's Novel Gentlemen of the Road
Here's the first chapter of the serial version of the book. I read almost the entire thing, at school, during a series of lunches.
3rd: Art
Why do people steal art?
4th: Music
Rugged, Unadulterated Blues/Americana
By the above genre classification what I really mean is that most of you will hate them, but they do a cover of Johnny Cash's Sam Hall, and Dylan's I was young when I left home. By the way, I hope you can appreciate the irony of me sending you to a myspace account as a part of an exploration of "culture."
Slightly More Polished Folk/Americana
A mixture of Simon & Garfunkel and Leadbelly.
Santa Fe, NM
Keeping with my folksy music theme, here's the official website of the Thirsty Ear Music festival, which I will be attending hopefully (it's close enough).
I've spent a ridiculous amount of time working on this post, and the formatting refuses to cooperate, thus the lack of spaces. Oh well, I hope you're appreciative.

15 February 2008

The Craftsman by Richard Sennet

Here is a book review for The Craftsman by Richard Sennet. Has our society lost a part of our soul with the advent of the Industrial Revolution?

London Times Online

In other book news, I've begun reading Godel, Escher, Bach; an incredible book, even though my 1983 copy (exactly as old as I am) has completely fallen apart.

Here is a list of the ten best bookstores in the world: Book porn.

Trucks and Fascism

The other day I was directing traffic in the parking lot of the high school I work at. There was this huge dullie, uber-triple extended cab, F-3,000,000,000 truck, with monster-truck tires leaving the parking lot. All the sudden, I heard what sounded like a very large aluminum can rolling around in a truck bed. I turned around just in time to see the truck's 4-foot long, 8-inch diameter tailpipe fall completely off in the middle of the road. The truck kept on going. I thought that was the funniest thing in the whole freaking world. But, it did remind me of the fact that I am prejudiced against drivers of ridiculously large trucks (I do not have a problem with ranchers and farmers driving trucks, just the greedy, neglegent northeast height yuppies with their enormous trucks and their Hummers and their Escalades [In New Mexico, we pronounce each syllable after the spanish fashion: Es-ca-la-de]. We all have our prejudices, you know. Sometimes we call them pet-peeves, but really they're biases. Usually, they prevent us from seeing the whole truth of the matter (except in my case of course).

I have long said that if I became the fascist dictator of Albuquerque, I would outlaw all trucks within city limits unless the driver got a special agricultural permit. As my wife, who is many times a prophetic voice in my life, keeps on telling me, I need to get over my prejudice. For one thing, I know alot of really great people who drive trucks.

The problem with fascist dictators is...well...they're fascists. They try to impose their personal beliefs (usually hate-filled) on everyone. Hitler, Franco and Mussolini all started out pushing a "moral" agenda (they used the term loosely), and ended up willingly destroying human life in order to inforce that agenda. This is obviously wrong. It would even be wrong if their morality was truly moral. It would be wrong for me to impose my anti-truck legislation, not because I am wrong about trucks, but because it is wrong to politically impose your morality on people, no matter how correct your morality may or may not (Hucka)be.

06 February 2008


Dispensationalism, was once held to be a serious heresy by the majority of evangelical Christians. Today, it is the other way around: anyone who is not a pre-tribulation-rapture-pre-millenialist-dispensationalist is considered suspect in fundamentalist/evangelical circles. Personally I think it is a viewpoint that is 1) wrong 2) not necessarily evil in and of itself, but has contributed to some distrurbing trends. It is interesting to me the way that history and theology are intermingled, and how that intermingling has vast and surprising effects on politics and public policy. I think this has totally been the case with dispensationalism. I have a lot of fragmented thoughts on this, and it is going to take me several posts to get them all out, but I think here I'll give you so pre-lims:

1. pre-tribulation-rapture-pre-millenialist-dispensationalism has led to an irrational and immoral support of the nation of Israel by the United States.

2. pre-tribulation-rapture-pre-millenialist-dispensationalism has led to widely held misconceptions about end-times, bible prophesy, and the nature of the Kingdom of God, which has flawed the way people interpret history, current events, and most importantly Scripture.

3. pre-tribulation-rapture-pre-millenialist-dispensationalism fosters/grows out of a gross misunderstanding of the purpose and program of biblical prophesy, which can be easily illustrated by a recent informal poll of about 120 9th graders and a Christian school. Everyone of them agreed with this statement: "The primary role of a prophet in the Bible was to fortell the future." Does the church train its young people to think that Ezekiel and Jeremiah were nothing but glorified psychics!?!? Sadly, I think the answer is yes.

More on this later, I must go and eat at Il Viccino with my wife.