The Might Be Giants | NPR Tiny Desk Concert Series

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They Might Be Giants are one of those bands that feels like they were completely before my time despite the fact that they consistently have been putting out material for something like 30 years. And despite never really getting into TMBG, I can appreciate good music when I hear it and I can appreciate the huge influence these guys have had on SO many bands that I follow. Plus it’s always a pleasant experience to see 50-somethings rocking out like 20-somethings, this video (and band) is worth your time |

Do What You Want

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American mainline culture is one of liberal vs. conservative. And what happens is the conservatives accuse the liberals of being hedonistic narcissists that want to destroy tradition and the liberals accuse the conservatives of being repressed bigots that can’t tolerate change. And to be fair there are nuggets of truth in the criticisms of both the left and the right, but I think it goes deeper than that.

On a smaller scale, this is the state of the American evangelical church now, especially on the conservative side. Rigid morality, ‘us-against-the-world’ mentality, and upon membership to most evangelical churches members are given a gun with liberal-seeking bullets. Oh, and I can’t forget repression; at church, you put on a smile and tell everyone how Jesus took away all of your problems while internally, your life continues to implode. But this isn’t the purpose of the church, or Jesus.

The deeper issue that Jesus came to deal with is our hearts. Corrupted by sin, steering the rest of the body towards self-destruction and misery, the heart is on a mission of sabotage. The gospel is the good news that Jesus gives us new hearts and eventually a new body to go along with that new heart. But the old heart is still kicking, fighting against the Christian’s new heart in what the bible calls a great ‘wrestling’.

But Jesus didn’t come to take away all of our fun or to lead a conservative government takeover. Jesus isn’t in the business of waging a culture war, but a war on our actual desires. The lack of authenticity in the church that is turning people away by the millions can only be cut out by, as Christians, genuinely doing what we want to do.

Do What You Want.

Another way to put this would be, be who you are. Being a Christian is not fitting some strange subcultural model that loves Kirk Cameron films, small talk and bad music. Being a Christian is being in relational union with Jesus, the man who claimed to be God 2000 years ago. And just like any relationship, you bring yourself into it and, damn it American Church, that is okay! The gospel changes our internal motivations, taking them from internal (narcissistic) to external (love).

This isn’t easy. It’s easy to just be “liberal”(Narcissistic) or “conservative”(Repressed), but it’s hard as hell to love God and other people sincerely. Paul expressed this when he wrote to the church in Rome saying” I don’t do what I want to do, but I do the very things I hate”. And that is the nature of the world, but he follows that up with, my only hope, that “there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus” (Romans 7 and 8:1).

So, Christian, work out your salvation well, knowing that you are free to. Be yourself, be honest, fail, fail more and love well. Be rough around the edges, and be honest about it, If you do this, you’ll break all the stereotypes the American Church has set for itself, and force others to consider the validity of your Jesus. Only then can one be their truest self, which is the promise of Christianity; that we find our truest self in the person and work of Jesus.

The Best Living Directors | Paste Magazine Vs. Me

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A while back, Paste Magazine posted an ambitious post detailing who they believe to be the Fifty best living film directors around. The list is a bit dated (March 2010), but pretty good and pretty detailed. It is certainly a post worth checking out, especially if you can’t figure out what to rent tonight. The list is pretty good, here is a highlight reel of the post | Read the Entire Article Here Continue reading

If Jesus Drove A Motorhome

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When I find a song/musician/band/album that I click with, I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about it, listening to it and talking about it. Right now, that is the wonderful Jim White‘s Daytrotter session. The musical climax of the 4 song set is the song “If Jesus Drove a Motorhome”. Kind of interesting right? I thought so, and along with an amazingly soulful woman’s voice belting out “motorhome, motorhome, motorhoooooome!” behind the chorus, I was stuck with the profoundly theological lyrics of the song. |

If Jesus drove a motor home, I wonder would he drive

pedal to the metal, or real slow? Checking out the stereo.

Cassetteplaying Bob Dylan, motivation tapes.

Tricked up Winnebago, with the tie-dye drapes. If Jesus drove a motor home…

If Jesus drove a motor home, and he come to your town,

would you try to talk to him? Would you follow him around?

Honking horns at the drive thru. Double-parking at the mall.

Midnight at the Waffle House – Jesus eating eggs with ya’ll

It’s got a hippie vibe to it, sure, but it also makes a powerful point to mull over: who would Jesus like if he was hanging out down here today? Would he go to Colorado Springs and hang out with those crazy Focus on the Family culture warriors, or would he go to Bonnaroo and camp out with the hippies? Or somewhere in between? Maybe Jesus would hang out with you, because you’re special or something.

Okay, so now you’ve made up your mind where Jesus would go based on some theological assumption or something, as have I. I’d like to think he’d ignore the crazy religious right, the catholics, and all religious broadcasting and He’s hanging with the “culturally savvy” or whatever, talking about his favorite albums (obviously “Born To Run”,”Loveless” and “Highway 61 Revisited”).

I think we are all wrong. He’s going to mega-churches to deal with the weird hyper-religious folks, in the Bible he both yelled at them for being hypocrites (Matthew 23) and answered their questions (Matthew 12). Then he’d go to the people we don’t like to go around, the trailer parks, the mental hospitals, the homeless shelters (Matthew 8), then he’d come to your place for dinner. 

Presumptuous? Maybe, but according to the biblical accounts of Jesus, his targeted demographic is ‘the world’ (John 3:16). So, if you’re anything like me, “christian music” loather, and fan of many things the religious right are not, take it easy and remember, Jesus is making all kinds of stops in your neck of the woods.

6 Films to be excited about in 2011

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When the economy is down in the dumps the number of movies made naturally goes down as well, and subsequently hollywood mega-hits become even more plotless and safe (you know, “lowest-common-denominator” thinking). And unfortunately, that is the story of 2011 for the most part, at least that’s what the box office is looking like as of July. But despite what Michael Bay and his crew of Wal-Mart filmmakers would have you believe, there’s some hope for 2011. Here are six films either out or coming out that give cinemaphiles a reason go to the movies in 2011|

 

Of God’s and Men (2010)
Director: Xavier Beauvois

 


Made in 2010, it will be coming to central Illinois for the first time later this summer (Sept 10-11) at The Normal Theatre. About a monastery under siege in Algeria, Of Gods and Menhas been getting critical praise including the Grand Prize at Cannes last year. Be on the lookout for the American release of the film, I have high, high hopes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011)

Director: Warner Herzog

Anything by Warner Herzog is worth a look, and his newest documentary about a cave in south France full of ancient, well-preserved cave paintings is sure to be noteworthy. Knowing Herzog, expect a hyper-visual, (possibly forced) existential experience. S0 if nothing else, it should be some quality eye-candy. Oh yeah, and it’s in 3D, so we will see how this turns out Mr. Herzog, we will see. And for all of my Central Illinois readers, Cave of Forgotten Dreams will also be at the Normal Theatre in the upcoming months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginners

Director: Mike Mills

Directing his sophomore feature, Mike Mills is making critical waves with Beginners, with Paste calling it the best film of 2011 so far and Roger Ebert likes it enough to give it 3.5/4 stars. Mills’ first movie was… odd, but with an interesting enough plot and some critical hype, I’ll check it out if it comes to town. Closest it will be to central Illinois as of now is The Art Theatre in Champaign. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Assassins (2011)

Director: Takashi Mike 

I might have missed my shot to see this one until it comes out on DVD, as it was playing at the Art for most of June and I think it’s been replaced by Hobo With a Shotgun. But regardless, this is something to look forward to, a Kurosawa-esque samurai flick by the guy who made Ichi The Killer. Oh my. This should be unbelievably violent and cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Director: Woody Allen

Whenever you give Owen Wilson a good director, he absolutely knocks it out of the park (Example: Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums) so I am extremely excited to see what Woody Allen will do with Wilson in this film. And despite all Woody Allen’s personal woes, he is a heck of a director, and I’m glad to see him back at it. I’ll be looking to find this one playing near me.

 

 

 

 

The Tree of Life (2011)

Director: Terrance Malick

 This is the only film on this list that I have seen so far, and with out exaggerating the impact of this film on me, I would say that after driving to Champaign twice to see it and sitting on it for a few weeks it is the best film I have seen in years. The film in surreal, sublime and grand. Now beware, if you aren’t used to Malick’s style or non-traditional narratives, this film will frustrate you to no end, but if you let this film wash over you, you will come away with a one-of-a-kind movie-going experience. Critics are going bi-polar over The Tree of Life, some (like Roger Ebert and Peter Travers) calling it a masterpiece, and some (like Peter Hammond) calling in total crap. But if this is playing near you, see it, as soon as you can. Read my full review of the film here

 

 

Cults – “Go Outside” Music Video

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I just recently called Cults’ first release one of the best albums of 2011 so far, and not only am I sticking to that claim, but I’m even more convinced that this duo is something special. With the release of their official video for the song “Go Outside”, the music video sticks closely to their cult theme, splicing actual video and audio from Jim Jone’s mega-cult, People’s Temple and the Jonestown Massacre and with a little clever editing, having these people sing “Go Outside”. The video is incredibly eerie, yet humanizing, and not to mention, it’s a fantastic song. And along with the video, director Isaiah Seret has released a statement about the video, saying,

” To tell the story of Cults’ hauntingly beautiful track, “Go Outside”, I was inspired to bring the band inside the world of Jim Jones’ famous religious cult, Peoples Temple, and the eventual tragedy in Jonestown. Fortunately, when exploring the feasibility of this video I became acquainted with Fielding M. McGehee III, an expert on Peoples Temple history and the primary researcher for the Jonestown Archive. It is thanks to him and his encouragement that I was able to take on this project and through his support gained access to over two and half hours of home videos showing Peoples Temple in Jonestown. For this music video we didn’t want to put a spin on the footage or the peoples lives—instead we wanted to re-tell and humanize their story. In order to achieve this we used a combination of stock footage, visual effects and other tricks to embed the band into the historical footage. This was achieved through my collaboration with my visual effects supervisor Bill Gillman and my cinematographer Matthew Lloyd. Lastly, I am moved to say when we completed the video we were able to preview it for some of the survivors of the Jonestown Massacre, who expressed their appreciation of our focus on the lives of the People’s Temple members as opposed to exploiting the graphic images of the final tragedy.

In History and Memory, Isaiah”

My 5 Favorite Albums of the First Half of 2011

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2011 is turning out to be an awesome year for new music, and I could probably make a list of 20+ new albums that I have listened to this year that deserve some attention. But as it is, most of us (including myself) are on pretty tight budgets and can’t buy every new album that comes out, so I have chosen 5 from the first 6 months of 2011 that are essential that you pick up, if you haven’t already.

5. Cults Cults

This may be a bit impulsive of me to throw this freshmen album in the top 5 of the year, seeing as I just got it a few days ago. But this duo combines ridiculously catchy hooks, surf pop, cool vocals, and audio of actual cult leaders. Unless someone unbelievable comes along in the next 6 months, these guys are my favorite new band of 2011.

4. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

The third solo album by former this Drive-By Tucker is his most impressive work since his contributions to The Dirty South in 2004. This album is signature Isbell, intricate lyrical narratives, a dark sense of humor, and a wailing guitar, not to mention a really cool New Orleans ragtime track with vocals by The 400 Unit’s drummer. But this album would be worth picking up if not just for the track “Codeine”, with the great chorus “one of my friends has taken her in and given her codeine”. This is turning into one of my go-to albums, I can’t recommend Isbell any stronger, he has yet to sing a bad song.

3. The Decemberists The King Is Dead

In an interview with NPR earlier this year, Colin Meloy said of his newest album “I just wanted to write pretty folk songs”, and on The King is Dead, that was exactly the result. Recorded in a barn in the Pacific Northwest with the help of the great Gillian Welch, this is the prettiest album of the year, taking Meloy’s hyper-literate lyrics mixing them with Welches great background vocals and somehow managing to sound uncannily like pre-Automatic For the People R.E.M. (before they were boring). Honestly, I may be shorting this album by only placing it in 3rd because it came out in January and is still in constant circulation in my car. This is one to pick up if you haven’t already.

2. Gillian Welch The Harrow and the Harvest

I was 12 years old the last time Gillian Welch released a solo album (Soul Journey) and that album was one of the most important albums of my adolescence, so I have literally been waiting for this album since 2004. Anything coming out the gate with such high expectations has a good chance to let down, but The Harrow and the Harvest does not. It is a beautiful album through and through, the album is carried by Welch’s angelic voice and David Rawlings “Buddy Miller-esque” guitar. I just hope there isn’t another 8 year gap between this album and her next one.

1. Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Confession: before buying this album I had never listened to Bon Iver, or really had a desire to. I chalked him up as just another clog in the ever expanding “new-soft-indie-folk” scene, but when people like Paste and Pitchfork started giving Bon Iver, Bon Iver near perfect reviews and everybody that I talked to about it was freaking out about it, I decided to pick it up. That was almost 3 weeks ago, and I have yet to take it out of my car’s CD player. The album is sprawling, creating soundscapes moreso than songs. The arrangements are sweeping and dynamic and the vocals act more as compliments to the bigger picture of the songs themselves. It’s very emotional, very sublime, and I am absolutely blown away by it. It is still early, and I need to put it down for a while and come back to it, as of right now, these ears are saying that it is not only one of the best albums of 2011, but of the last 5 years.

Honorable Mentions|

Bob Rynerson Bob Rynerson

The Old 97′s Grand Theatre Volume 2

My Morning Jacket Circuital 

Iron & Wine Kiss Each Other Clean

Various Artists Rave On : Buddy Holly

Beastie Boys Hot Sauce Committee Part 2

Drive-By Truckers Go Go Boots

Thurston Moore Demolished Thoughts

The Civil Wars Barton Hollow

Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues

Chris Thile & Michael Daves Sleep With One Eye Open

Mumford & Sons | ‘Home’

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Word on the street is that Mumford & Sons have been testing out new material on the road for a while, but until now, no high quality recordings of songs off of the announced EP have surfaced. The track is slower, more drawn out and more subtle, reminiscent of songs like “Sigh No More” and “After the Storm”, but missing the hypnotic ‘catchiness’ of “Little Lion Man”, which is quite alright with me. “Home/untitled” has a tour-exhausted melancholy to it, which has traditionally be indicative of an upcoming Masterpiece (Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues, Bon Iver Bon Iver, or even Dylan’s Basement Tapes) The song showcases a maturing group, hopefully well on their way to releasing a masterful sophomore album. Now this is all premature, but regardless, I am very excited to see this recording, as you should be too.

Our Church Plants Aren’t Working | David Fitch

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This rings true to some things I have been mulling over in the context of ecclesiology, denominations, the church culture and the like. Finch here is proposing a fantastic solution for churches misusing their budget and mismanaging their leaders. I highly suggest checking out this entire post David Fitch’s blog |

“This is an idea whose time has come. It is easy, simple, saves money, and I think it seeds the mission of God in N America for generations to come: STOP FUNDING TRADITIONAL CHURCH PLANTS and instead fund missionaries to inhabit contexts all across the new mission fields of N America.

Traditionally denominations have funded church plants. They do this by providing a.) a full time salary plus benefits for three years, and b.) start-up funds for equipment, building rental etc. to a well-assessed church planter (read entrepreneur). The goal is a self-sustaining church in three years paying its own pastor’s salary and assorted sundry costs of running the church’s services. The costs are astounding, perhaps 300-400,000 dollars or more to get a church plant going.

Today, in the changing environments of N American post Christendom, this approach to church planting is insane. For it not only assumes an already Christianized population to draw on , it puts enormous pressure on the church planter to secure already well-heeled Christians as bodies for the seats on Sunday morning. This in itself undercuts the engagement of the hurting, lost peoples God is bringing to Himself in Christ.

Of course this approach worked for years. In the post WW2 period in N America, denominations were either:

a.) feeding off disenchanted protestant mainline Christians/ dormant Roman Catholic Christians seeking a more vibrant faith, or

b.) planting their brand in the ever expanding suburbs where there were no churches yet and thousands of young (mainly white) Christians were moving there looking for a church….

Times have changed however. The market of these various Christianized (in some way) populations is shrinking and all but saturated in N America. Instead we live in a society that is more and more post Christian, non-Christian, outside the orbit of the regular church…

[Davids Proposal]

… Instead of funding one entrepreneurial pastor, preacher and organizer to go in and organize a center for Christian goods and services, let us fund three or four leader/ or leader couples to go in as a team to an under-churched context (Most often these places are the not rich all white suburbs where evangelicals have done well planting churches).

These leaders will have time and space to then a.) get to know and listen to the neighborhood and the neighbors b.) establish rhythms of life together which include worship, prayer, community, discipleship and presence among the neighbors, c.) discern God working in and among the neighbors and neighborhood, d.)bring the gospel to these places wherever God is working. This includes reconciliation, peace, forgiveness, healing, righteousness, and new creation. D.) develop a way of bringing those coming into faith in Christ into a way of growth and discipleship.

I believe that you put three or more quality leaders together in one place for ten years you will have a new expression of the gospel i.e. a church in each context. Gospel as a way of life will take root. Many will brought into the Kingdom. Imagine what could happen if we funded 100’s of such teams.

read entire post here