Monday, July 31, 2006
Friday, July 28, 2006
And not the kind of camping I’m used to –the “hey, there’s a hotel near the Grand Canyon” kind of camping.
No, this is the kind of camping that involves tents, and sleeping on the ground, and cooking over a campfire. Camping that involves camp stuff.
Not sure how I got myself into this one. I am going with a great group of people, so maybe I let personalities cloud my normally rational and comfortable judgment.
Prepping for the trip has been fun. Found that old sleeping bag in the back of the closet. Relearned the meaning of “deet.” And bought a tent.
Although the tent concerns me. I realized after the purchase that nowhere on the box does it mention that an air conditioner is included. They wouldn’t sell a portable room without an air conditioner in this day and age, would they?
I plan on making the time whirl by faster by pretending that I’m on a new Survivor-type reality show. Even before I set up my tent, I’m creating a confessional area, where I can go and complain about my fellow cast mates to the cameras.
“I was trying to start a fire,” wheeze, cry, “and Vicki was so mean,” wheeze, cry, “saying I was striking the wrong side of the match,” cry, wheeze, “and I’m like, how am I supposed to know that?”
I’m ready with my rant against Shon. I suggested we add Spam to the shopping list, and he wouldn’t take me seriously. I hope he loses the immunity challenge.
Okay, I hear you. “Spam?” you say. “Seriously? Spam? The sham ham?”
You must understand that when I was growing up, I thought Spam was food reserved for the wealthy and socially elite.
As most of you know, I come from a family of twelve siblings. We were not eaters of extravagant foods. We did not eat caviar, or calamari, or croissants. We did not drink champagne, or cognac, or claret. And we rarely ever ate Spam.
Except on very special occasions. These occasions were often camping trips (hence my current yen). And these Spam events had two specific characteristics:
My dad was in charge of cooking.
And my mom wasn’t around.
I used to believe that my dad was taking the opportunity to splurge on his children, toss a taste of the high life our way. But maybe it was just that he couldn’t inflict his love of ham product on his children while his wife was around to protect them.
By the way, dad gets the final laugh: his granddaughter is now working for Hormel.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll get some Spam this weekend after all. One can always hope for the better life.
Just my thoughts,
The Quick and the Dead, Sam Raimi’s 1995 flick about a quick-draw contest, just plain works as a western.
In fact, it is clearly meant to be a tribute to the genre. The High Noon emphasis on clocks; the use and renewal of every gun fight cliché (he had fifteen showdowns to showcase); the classic yet novel uses of shadows (at one point the audience becomes aware of who lost a quickdraw by noticing a bullet sized beam of light in the middle of the gunman’s shadow); and even a character motivation reveal straight out of Once Upon a Time in the West (effectively done, may I add).
Of course, solid acting performances never hurt, and Raimi gets just that from Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gary Sinise – who has, really, only one full scene, which he underplays to heartbreaking perfection – and a slue of supporting players. The one weak link is producer Sharon Stone, who’s not bad, just not good enough.
And, without a doubt, this flick is about something. In fact, it wears its theme on its sleeve – the setting is a town named Redemption, for goodness sake. But this is also in keeping with the genre, at least as redefined in the ‘70’s spaghetti westerns.
One of the story lines by screenwriter Simon Moore follows Cort (Crowe), a preacher forced into the contest by the vile Herod (Hackman). You see, Herod, a career baddie, runs the town – a fact he established over a decade ago by killing the marshal and becoming his own lawless law.
And Cort drives Herod a bit crazy. You see Cort used to be an outlaw in Herod’s gang, but he has repented of his evil ways and become a preacher. And Herod can’t stand the idea that anyone can repent.
Which is really marvelous, because, well, ain’t it the truth? Sin loves company, and detests the light.
I just picture the Biblical Herod, keeping John the Baptist alive in his dungeon, even though he can’t stand to hear his words of condemnation, but also can’t stand proving John right by killing him. He wants to test John, to prove that John is just like him, to show that he isn’t that bad…
And Hackman’s Herod wants to test Cort, to prove that he is just like Herod, to show that Herod isn’t that bad…
So he does his damnedest to force Cort to kill, to sin again.
And here’s the cool part – he succeeds.
This is a story of attempted redemption by flawed people, who still fall down after repenting, who still fall into their old ways. And still try to change, despite failure.
The film has many more layers – each character (including Herod) carries their own need for redemption, and have their own plan for achieving it. Virtually all of them fail, mostly because they are looking for redemption in the wrong saviors. (DiCaprio plays Herod’s bastard son; and looks for acceptance as a son from Herod. Now there’s a lose/lose situation.)
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t really find an ending that reaches redemption, devolving in the final moments into a simplistic revenge story. Cort himself is left with the potential to find redemption in a new career – between outlaw and preacher – but certainly doesn’t find it within the movie.
But that flaw doesn’t succeed in ruining what preceded it -- Raimi and Moore exploring the bigger questions, succeeding in layering a genre flick, and leaving us with hope that redemption may be around the corner.
And they still delivered one rootin’ tootin’ western.
Just my thoughts,
Thursday, July 27, 2006
I’m not talking about the movie that is about something that takes on a genre, like Silkwood, an issue movie told as a thriller. Though they can be good too.
No, it’s the genre movie that is layered that I’m attracted to.
Of course, for such movies to work, they have to do two things:
One: The “something” they are about must be natural to the story. Rear Window’s setting lent itself to commentary on the voyeuristic nature of American society; Hitchcock didn’t have to dig to find an excuse to fit such themes in.
Unlike, say League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (suddenly the movie is about father/son relationships?) or Batman and Robin. Who can forget Clooney’s third act speech to Robin about loyalty and family and, uh… I can’t remember what else he was unforgettably babbling about.
Two: The “something” they are about must be subservient to the genre. Lethal Weapon was an action movie that delivered action through to the end – it didn’t stop being an action movie to create a discourse on why or why not life is worth living.
The negative example is the sit-com’s “very special episode” – where they forget to bring the funny. Situation comedy without comedy is just a situation. I suppose this is one of the many reasons I like Scrubs. They manage to have a whole lot of “very special moments,” but they never stop being Scrubs to do it.
Sci-fi does this right a lot – being a genre that naturally takes the opportunity to explore meaning. I introduced my brother Luke to the Firefly series recently, and was reminded at how much the drama/western/sci-fi show spoke to Life.
(The Firefly theme song, written by series creator Joss Whedon, was recited at my brother Chris’ funeral – not because Chris was a fan of the show or the genre. Just because the show is that relevant.)
So, anywho, I re-watched two movies recently that prompted these thoughts. Tomorrow I’ll chat about Sam Raimi’s The Quick and the Dead; later, I’ll bring up the Bourne trilogy. So if you want to rent them as homework…Just my thoughts,
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
One of my distractions is to skim some blogs. I say "skim," because I do not have time to read all of my friends'/acquaintances'/strangers-who-I-likes' blogs. This is why I refuse to start a blog of my own, because I don't have time to keep up with one.
But then again, I'm supposed to be writing most of the time, and constantly in need of work evasion excuses, so I do have a blog, and do read the blogs of others.
All this to say two things: first, welcome to the world of blogging Jennifer! Ms. Schuchmann counts among my favorite things. A child from a family of twelve, we get each other on so many levels. We started out as professional acquaintances, became working partners, and live as friends. She and her husband (David) and family provide my Atlanta hotel needs (Chez Schuchmann is a comfortable bed-and-poptartsforbreakfastifyouwant), and it was David who introduced me to the decadent joys of Argentinean meat restaurants.
Check out her blog.
And second, friend Barbara (hey, I'm in Hollywood, I'm allowed to introduce smart, styling people as friends: name-dropping is a way of life out here) caught my eye/ear with this in her latest blog entry:
"The real is not entertaining to people. If it was, they would sit in their living rooms at night and stare at each other instead of turning on the television. "
Scoot on over to her blog to get a short discourse on why stories are meant to be better than real.
Just my thoughts,
My pastor threw out such a phrase this past Sunday. He was speaking of this life and the afterlife, as pastors are wont to do, and addressed the behaviors of certain individuals in this life. And then he said (paraphrased to fit memory):
“You have to remember that for some this world is the only heaven they’ll ever know. And for others, this world is the only hell they’ll ever know.”
Just my thoughts,
Sunday, July 23, 2006
The classic book for this month’s club was Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.
Hardy is a word twirler that can keep up with the best linguist jugglers, and while entertaining make great insight into the workings of the sexes, as well as a stab or two at practical theology.
Some quotes from the book that caught my mind’s eye:
“That I can’t, indeed,” he said, moving past Oak as a Christian edges past an offertory-plate when he does not mean to contribute.
Silence has sometimes a remarkable power of showing itself as the disembodied soul of feeling wandering without its carcass, and it is then more impressive than speech.
‘Yes,’ said Joseph, ‘and I was sitting at home looking for Ephesians, and says to myself, “’Tis nothing but Corinthians and Thessalonians in this danged Testament…”
Her emblazoned fault was to be too pronounced in her objections, and not sufficiently overt in her likings. We learn that it is not the rays which bodies absorb, but those which they reject, that give them the colours they are known by; and in the same way people are specialized by thei dislikes and antagonisms, whilst their goodwill is looked upon as no attribute at all.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Love the clip. I believe this may hold the most concise, purest explanation of what Unitarianism is that I have ever encountered.
But watch the clip at your own risk; you may be tempted into laughter, as well as a touch of thoughtfulness.
Oh, and a quote from an interview, as the creator of "This Week in G-d" for the Daily Show reconciles his humor with his faith:
Stephen Colbert: " I love my Church, and I'm a Catholic who was raised by intellectuals, who were very devout. I was raised to believe that you could question the Church and still be a Catholic. What is worthy of satire is the misuse of religion for destructive or political gains. That's totally different from the Word, the blood, the body and the Christ. His kingdom is not of this earth."
Just his thoughts for our edification,
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Hey Sean,I've been a fan of your work since seeing Moreau at Taproot more than a couple years back, and now I work for Taproot as their IT guy. (I was helping Karen with an email and saw you had a blog) Anyway, I am thoroughly enjoying your blog thus far (keep seeing movies!!), but I had a comment about the end-tag you usually put on your blog entries:First off if this is your blog isn't all that is written here (unless otherwise quoted) "Just your thoughts"? Also I am of the personal opinion that when you put that little statement at the end of an entry it weakens some of the strong things you've said up above. EX: this is why pirates wasn't the best movie of the summer! (And we all can agree with you) And we're like "Yeah Sean! Tell it like it is!" and then you're like, "But that's just me." And then we're all like, but no! You're not alone! We agree, we agree!I think that since this is your blog we already know that what we are seeing is your 2 cents. But maybe that's just my thoughts on the matter. =)~Ben Morrell
Welcome! Any fan of Moreau is a fan of mine… uh, wait, that didn’t sound right.
And welcome to the Root, one of my favorite places on earth. I hope you’re an “it” with them! (Sorry, just a little cockney humor.)
As to my call sign, you bring up some very good points. Overall, it seems to be working for me, for several reasons. Here are two of them:
1) Despite the fact that she doesn’t post often, this blog is also my wife’s. The old, “just my thoughts,” says in part, “the opinions expressed in these commentaries do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the management.”
2) I am trying to encourage conversation. Now, my opinions are among the best that money can buy (and I should know, as I buy them at an exclusive boutique down on Rodeo), but that doesn’t mean that other opinions aren’t also valid. They may be wrong, but they are valid.
And, despite what cable news and the Republicans and Democrats tell you, differing opinions and dialogue are actually good things. Despite my sound and fury, I rarely mean to be the definitive answer on an issue. I’ve even been known to listen to rational argument and –gasp!—change my mind. (I know, I’d make a lousy president.)
So if you ever think what I am saying is right on, leave a note saying so! And if you mistakenly think my opinion is out in left field, jump on in!
Of course, all of this is just my opinion, so feel free to comment.
He did a great job, making some really thought provoking points.
He pointed out the problem with the over-simplified “WWJD” movement: few of us really know Jesus well enough to know what he would do. So instead we got a bunch of well-intentioned folk acting nice, but not necessarily Jesus-like.
He also questioned why so many people have such bad misconceptions about who Jesus really is. (Appropos to my post from Monday.) This was followed by a short film, depicting Jesus in several modern-day contexts:
-Taking a nature hike, and casually tossing his empty water bottle on the ground
-Playing basketball, taunting, and throwing a tantrum when a call doesn’t go his way
-Leaving pennies as a tip after eating in a restaurant (with the waitress giving the classic line, “Jesus – what a cheapskate.”)
-On the highway, yelling and giving the finger to someone who cut him off.
And more that I can’t remember.
Bryan followed this up with the point that so many people don’t have a true picture of who Jesus is because those of us that call ourselves “Christ”-ians aren’t doing a very good job of representing him.
Just my thoughts,
Monday, July 17, 2006
“Yes, sensational headline-grabbing, sound-biting and photo-oping leaders who are masters of fear, anger and intolerance abound. But, all that notwithstanding, Christianity is not essentially a hate group.
“Demonstrating this point is "Smoke on the Mountain," a much-loved musical that is back at Taproot Theatre this summer. The show is as pleasant a reminder as anyone would ask for of the other Christianity -- humble, poor, loving, giving, accepting and ... funny. Yes, funny.”
Interesting take on Christianity, no?
Just my thoughts,
Sunday, July 16, 2006
As part of my look-see series at summer movies that are good enough that they should be great, but disappoint instead, I now take you to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
-Action sequences so fun that I laughed my way through them – in a good way (hamster-ball chase, three fighters with two swords, Jack on a skewer – a riot!)
-Captain Jack, still the ballsiest, very most funnest performance of a pirate ever – gotta love Depp
-Cool looking villains and cameos (Davy Jones’ tentacle face, the barnacle guy in the wall that comes out and leaves his brain behind)
-Did I mention the action sequences?
Why it isn’t the best movie of the summer:
Structurally, this movie is an absolute mess.
Billy Wilder reminds us that there are two ways to tell stories: You can tell a simple story ornately, or you can tell a complex story simply. Pirates II is a complex story told ornately.
There is a type of action movie that is meant to be a “leave your brain at the door” flick; but Pirates seems to aspire to being more – to being clever, witty, and with a plot that is engaging. (Exactly what the first Sparrow voyage delivered.) The problem here is that the plot is so messy, that thinking gets in the way of the cool action.
Example One: Goal
The goal – what the characters want – drives the action movie. Friend Cory, in explaining why he was disappointed in Pirates, points out the simplicity of Raiders of the Lost Ark: the goal is to get the ark. No matter what happens, or what obstacles need to be overcome, or personal problems ensue, the hero always comes back to this. Get the ark.
In Pirates, the goal(s) are not clear, or when clear, are convoluted, which makes them not so clear. Clear?
Orlando needs to get the compass to save his sweetheart, Kiera. Until he meets his estranged father, and then his goal is to kill the heart of Davy Jones, because that will save his dad, who he obviously loves more than Kiera who he stopped trying to save several action sequences ago.
Kiera is trying to save Orlando, and to do that she needs to get the document that she is carrying around with her for the entire second half of the movie. It is made clear later that the document only needs to have the name of the person she wants to save written on it; so really all she needs to do is find a pen and get the correct spelling of Orlando’s name to achieve her goal. I think it is the pen, not the spelling, that foils her quest.
Captain Jack needs to kill Davy’s heart in order to get free from his curse (it is made abundantly clear by Orly’s quest that such an action clears everyone from the curse). That is, until Jack gets the chance to kill the heart and the writers’ realize that the movie would be too short at this point, and then the notion is introduced that everyone but Jack is helped if the heart is killed. A move so convoluted that the writers’ have to get two other characters to stand there and explain it to the audience.
Eye-ball Guy and his partner have a simple goal: get rich and watch out for number one. They have no moral compass other than self preservation, until the movie needs to squeak out some emotional manipulation in order to make the final moment of the film work, at which point they become heroic figures who are literally willing to die for the sake of honor and loyalty, two qualities that they apparently developed in the sixty-eight seconds it took to travel the firefly section of the Disney Pirates ride.
Example two: Motives
Major Spoiler Alert. Turn back now, ye spoiler haters. Ye’ve been warned!
Another thing to make your head hurt is trying to figure out why folks are doing what they are doing, especially when emotional response to scenes depends on it.
Now, this type of movie requires a bit of mystery, and the moral ambivalence of Jack Sparrow is a necessary ingredient. But that isn’t the stuff I am talking about – I am referring to the stuff where the filmmakers need us to know what is going on, and assume we do.
Such as the final battle with the Crackhead. Jack has left his comrades on the ship and is rowing toward the island; something that Kiera remarks is selfish (she is disappointed because she wanted him to do one right thing.)
Except the audience knows that he is doing the right thing, and not being cowardly at all. You see, there is only one thing that can defeat the Crackhead (other than hanging explosive kegs directly overhead, which… well, makes no sense at all), and that is the heart of Davy Jones. And the heart is on the island. So the only way that Jack can save everyone is to get to that island…
Oh, but wait. Jack turns around and goes back. So I guess he was acting cowardly and decided to go back to the ship to help save the others, which wouldn’t work as the heart is on the island… but I’m willing to go with it. And Kiera points out he did the right thing after all and we can all revel in Jack doing the Han Solo and coming back to save the day, but wait…
Oh, Kiera explains that the Crackhead is not after the ship, it is only after Jack and his marked hand, something that Jack clearly knows. So if Jack stayed in the rowboat, those on the ship would have been saved as the monster would have gone after the rowboat.
But wait, she still says Jack did the sacrificial thing… by dooming them in returning… but it was brave somehow… even though he knew it would kill everyone… and he didn’t go for the heart, which would have saved the lot of 'em… Okay, my head hurts.
I could go on and on and on... much like the movie goes on and on and on.
Pirates of the Caribbean II will probably be much better enjoyed the second viewing, when one need not try to figure out the plot. Or enjoyed if one has their brain turned off. But the first one was so much fun AND so smart, I wanted the second, craftier one to be even more fulfilling.
Oh, and for those of you that are arguing that Empire Strikes Back and Lord of the Rings One and Two are also cliffhangers, and therefore Pirates doesn’t need to be intelligible until the third one comes out: stop that.
Empire and both Lords were middle-of-the story flicks, absolutely. But they were well-structured flicks with strong, clear goals (simple stories told ornately), and they each completed their own cycle.
Pirates is a messy half of a movie masquerading as a complete issue in a three issue set.
But did I mention the action sequences that are more fun than any action has a right to be?
Just my ambivalent thoughts,
Saturday, July 15, 2006
2nd Lt. Luke Gaffney has now deployed to Iraq.
May the road rise to meet you,
may the wind be always at your back,
and may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord cause his face to shine upon you,
and give you peace.
Just my thoughts,
Friday, July 14, 2006
Sometimes better movies are more frustrating that poorer movies. Know what I mean? You go into the theatre expecting greatness, it starts to deliver greatness, but then just falls short of actually being great.
X-Men 3, for example, which turned out to be a lousy movie with some marvelous action. Why a lousy movie? Because all of the potential of the first half was frittered away in the second half.
So now on to two really good movies (really, they are good!) that, as I will explain, are not the best movies of the summer.
Today we look at Superman Returns:
-Some great action, especially the airplane save
-Kevin Spacey and Parker Posey – very nice performances, great chemistry (“Wow, that’s really something, Lex.” “Wait for it.” “Wow, that’s really something, Lex.”)
-Funny call backs to the Reeve flicks and comic books (“Look, up in the air.” “It’s a bird.” “It’s a plane.” Enter Clark Kent…) (Cover of Action #1 as a cell photo)
-Nice romantic triangle, without the cop-out of making the new beau a jerk or a sacrificial lamb
-Always good to see Cyclops and Superman working together
-Didn’t back away from the Christ symbolism
Why it isn’t the best movie of the summer:
In short, it missed the opportunity to be more than just fun. Supes reminds us repeatedly that the world needs a savior; and his dad is all in our face about how Kal-El was sent to earth to help mankind reach its potential; they only need someone to show them the light.
Well, Clark did don the tights to save a bunch of people, and he did the sacrificial thing when he needed to. But he never inspired. He never moved past being just a global cop to become a symbol, to be something greater than his powers. (Like Bruce in Begins becoming a symbol, lasting past his own deeds.)
I wanted, nay, needed to see the world be better – act better, rise to its potential – because of Superman. I didn’t see that happen.
I walked out of the theatre content, feeling that the world is a more entertaining place because Superman exists.
I just wish I walked out feeling like a better person because Superman exists.
Just my thoughts,
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
My nominees are:
“Oh my stars and garters!” Hank McCoy (Kelsey Grammer), X-3
“Great Caesar’s ghost!” Perry White (Frank Langella), Superman Returns
Both classic lines delivered beautifully.
I am open to votes, as well as additional nominees.
Just my thoughts,
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
I have the great joy of being surrounded by talented people.
For example, this guy. Robert G. Lee.
Believe it or not, despite his twisted sense of humor, he runs my church's drama group. Yes, the inmates run the asylum.
Check out his website. He has it so people can book him as a comedian. I go to it just to listen to the clips and give myself a free chuckle. Funny stuff.
Make sure to visit the auction page and try that clip. Who knew buying stuff could be so much fun!
Just my thoughts,
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Friday, July 07, 2006
Bryan Ballinger is one of the most talented and wacky guys I know. And he got me my first Veggie job back in the day, so I still owe him five or six.
Check out his blog, breadwig, to see some of how his brain works; and check out the goofy other sites he has.
I recommend Kooky Chow for the sheer weirdness of the world we live in (caution: not for the sensible of stomach).
The Superman pic is from his blog -- scroll down to see this sketch evolve into a 3-D picture.
Just my thoughts and his drawings,
Thursday, July 06, 2006
I'll be seeing Superman Returns tonight (I know, it's about time), so I want to get this off my chest before the new rubs out the old.
I recently watched the Christopher Reeve Superman: The Movie, as prep for the new one. I recall the old one with nothing but fondness, so I was surprised by all the things I didn't remember.
I really didn't remember anything from the farm days (including that the actor playing teenage Clark looks older than Christopher Reeve), and I had blocked out the painful recitation of all the lyrics to "Can You Read My Mind" as Clark and Lois muck about in the sky (Margot Kidder, a foreshadowing of Shatner - egads!).
But mostly I forgot how unsatisfying the movie is. (I know, sacrilege!) Hey, Reeve is great, and the action is great, and it is all magical (I do believe a man can fly - clap! clap! I do believe a man can fly - clap! clap!), but the ending...
Hey, did I mention this had thirty year-old spoilers? Here we go...
At the end, Supes decides to honor a promise to save the East Coast before heading West and saving California (Lois included). Because of that decision, Lois dies.
Wow! Holy consequences, Batman! But wait...
So Superman reverses time, and saves Lois after all. No cost, no pain, no problem.
The sequel promotes the same philosophy. Clark tells Lois his secret, but then decides he doesn't like the consequences of such a choice, so erases his action.
No risk, no danger, no tension ever again. In a world where choices do not have consequences, there is no drama. Any thing Superman does from now on, he can erase at whim.
And such a story has nothing to say about real life.
In fact, it is a very popular philosophy, one of wishful thinking: our choices have no consequences.
Cheat on your wife? No harm in that, really. Cheat on your taxes? Everybody's doing it, it can't be morally questionable. Cheat on your diet? Who's to say that this is less healthy -- just those priggish health police.
These are lies; choices do have consequences. And thus, to see a movie world where there are no consequences - no cost to personal choice - is unsatisfying to the soul.
Doctor Who did an episode on a similar theme, where Rose chooses to change the past to selfishly make her life better (and don't even try to tell me that Supes spinning around the world wasn't pure selfishness); but the consequences are dire, and the cost is oh so much more personal.
Even the Smallville folks got it right, with Clark pulling a Movie move to save a dead Lana, and being forced to live with a dead dad as a result.
Much more satisfying, much more real.
Much more dramatic.
Just my thoughts,
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Oh beautiful for heroes proved
in liberating strife
Who more than self their country loved,
and mercy more than life
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
Oh beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years.
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
And yet the two of them got together and created a country that had room for both of them, and all of their opposing ideas.
A place with space for disagreement, a nation where patriotism wasn’t based on consensus, a land that actually encouraged variety.
And isn’t that among our greatest strengths? Our unity and diversity, in constant tension, in constant check and balance, in constantly united divergence.
And here we are, two hundred thirty years later, still living the experiment that the world thought couldn’t last.
And, as Garrison Keillor pointed out, it has worked so well that, try as we might, we can’t keep millions of folk from sneaking across the border for a piece of the multi-flavored pie.
And, as Garrison also reminded us, this is the land that God has truly blessed.
May He continue to bless this great nation; and may keep trying to live up to the blessing.
Just my thoughts,
What I do find, as I have posted before, is that they “lead” worship in a concert style – they perform and invite us to maybe sing along. As I have said, what I find problematic about this style is that the band tends to concentrate solely on how good they sound. I believe that quality is a critical, necessary ingredient for anyone in arts leadership in a church – let me repeat, they MUST bring their first fruits and be of high quality.
But sounding good isn’t the ONLY responsibility for worship leaders.
Which brings me to what apparently is going to be a traditional, annual pet peeve of mine.
This being the Fourth of July weekend, our band was naturally in a patriotic mood. To express their feelings of pride, they opted, for the second year in a row, to play a “rah-rah, ain’t it grand to be an American” song immediately following the service. So they chose the rousing, patriotic song… (wait for it…)
“Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen.
Now for those of you that like jumping to conclusions, stop that right now! I like the Boss, and have no problem with his music being played in a church when appropriate. But here’s the problem:
“Born in the U.S.A.” is NOT a patriotic song. In fact, it is an indictment against America, asserting that we use (and abuse) the blue-collar class, and then throw them away when they are no longer useful. It is an anti-war song, also playing up the racism inherent in the American system (“Sent me off to Vietnam to go and kill the yellow man.”) The chorus tells how this man is stuck, with no hope or options, because he was “born in the U.S.A.” (For complete lyrics, check out lyricsdomain.com.)
I like protest songs. I like songs (and other art) that call us to examine ourselves, our leadership, our actions. But our church band wasn’t playing the song to remind us that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, or to tell us that the system is broke and needs some fixin’. They were playing it as if the song were, well, a “rah-rah, ain’t it grand to be an American” song.
Because lyrics aren’t important. Meaning isn’t important. Context isn’t important.
All that is important is that the band sounds great.
Welcome to the future of American church music.
Just my thoughts,
The 5th of July, being more than a play by Lanford Wilson, is also the date this year that you can catch the Doctor Who marathon on the Sci-Fi channel. A perfect time to catch the firsthalf of the first season of the new Who, a witty, well written show that entertains with a tad bit of bite.
Just my thoughts,