Sunday, January 29, 2012

I'm a Christian, I'm a Christian

Author Peter Rollins, continues to generate debate and acclaim from his recent release Insurrection. This modern-day parable opens up chapter one of the book. After reading this story, I was hooked and had to read more. You can read my review of Insurrection here.
Every Sunday the pastor would stand at the front of his Church and with a booming voice finish his rousing sermon with a plea:

“Each week I go to a nearby town and serve the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden; what do you do? How do you show your compassion to those in need?”

People would applaud the minister’s closing remarks and every- one would wave him off at the end of the service as he hurried away in his little car.

The truth, however, was that each week he would go to a golf course and play a leisurely eighteen holes away from his congregation, family, and friends.

This deception had been going on for years, but eventually it came to the attention of some angels. They were furious at his lies and reported the situation directly to God.

After a little consideration, God said to the angels, “I will visit with this minister on Sunday and teach him a lesson he’ll never forget.”

Sure enough, next Sunday, God showed up at the Church. Yet again, the minister informed his congregation that he was going to go serve the poor before leaving for the golf course.

This time however, God intervened. When the minister took his first shot, the ball took off, flew through the air, bounced onto the green, and dropped into the hole.

The minister was amazed. At the second hole the same thing happened. And the third. And the fourth. Right through to the last hole.

With his last stroke, the minister sliced the ball badly, but still it curved around and, like all the others, found the hole in one.

All the while the angels in heaven watched what took place in utter disbelief. By the time God returned they shouted, “I thought you were going to punish the minister for all his lies, but instead you gave him the perfect round of golf!”

“That may be true,” replied God with a smile, “but ask yourself this: Who is he going to tell?”

Peter Rollins is a writer, lecturer, storyteller and public speaker. He is also the founder of Ikon, a creativity-laden faith group that has gained an international reputation for blending live music, visual imagery, soundscapes, theatre, ritual and reflection to create what they call ‘transformance art.’ Insurrection is his fourth book.

Friday, January 27, 2012

old nature / new nature

how do you identify yourself?

at some point we all struggle with our identity.

who are we really?

labels stick to us like a badge of dishonor - given to us by ourselves or by others…
imperfections and feelings of self worth consume our thoughts
where do we find our true identity?
but what if we were willing to cast off the old nature and embraced something new…
renewed in the knowledge that we were made in the image of God.
we can be made new again.

[i made this video with some of my students. based on the theme of Identity and Colossians 3:1-17

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Best of 2011

Again this year, my music purchases were mostly digital. Out of the list below, only two were purchased in CD form, the rest were purchased digitally (via iTunes or Amazon) while a few were streamed on Spotify. I listen to a lot of music and this year was no different... lots of beautiful stuff out there in 2011.

(my reluctant top ten)
10: Tycho - Dive
instrumental electronic soundscapes that, in my case, seem to breed creativity. listen to Coastal Break and see if that doesn't change your mood.

9: Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
to be honest, i'm a fan so it's no surprise that this album makes my list. i can't say that i liked it better than Viva La Vita - but it was a very listenable album. Don't Let It Break Your Heart is the peak, with their signature guitar sound and an amazing hook: When you're tired of aiming your arrows / Still you never hit the mark / Even in your rains and shadows / Still we're never gonna part / Come on over baby / Don't let it brake your heart

8: Radiohead - The King of Limbs
Another creative album that firmly adds itself to the Radiohead repertoire. Not as strong as In Rainbows, but solid all around. Key track: Separator

7: The Appleseed Cast - Middle States EP
just four songs shouldn't perhaps even qualify - but coming in at 27 minutes (including the 14 minute Three Rivers) makes it feel like something more than an EP. The song Middle States has a familiar Appleseed Cast (from the Low Level Owl/Mare Vitalis era. The lead track End Frigate Constellation is the best - with low-fi indecipherable lyrics that build on its mysteriousness. When that last lyric Waiting for the night to come is deciphered a sense of peace is restored before a fuzzy distortion-heavy ending brings closure to a beautifully mesmerizing song.

6: Washed Out - Within Without
simplistic synth harmonies with warm, lush vocals. the lead track is probably the best but future listens may change my mind. Nothing stands out, yet i can't stop listening to it.

5: The Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part 2
After 25 years the Beastie Boys can still hold their own. What a brilliant come back album after such a long hiatus. Genius rhymes. Genius beats. Can't wait to see what Part One will bring. Key Track: Too Many Rappers

4: Explosions in the Sky - Take Care Take Care Take Care
I'll always greatly anticipate any new music from Explosions in the Sky. Take Care delivers in mighty ways in the sense that nothing seems old - but fresh, new, exciting. The instrumentation builds to powerful crescendos that leave the listener awestruck. There is something magical about this band. Take Care adds to the magic.

3: I Break Horses - Hearts
I Break Horses is sort of homemade shoe-gazer music by Maria Lindén and Fredrick Balck of Sweden. The catchy first track Winter Beats builds and builds, moving and pulsating like a functioning cog in a powerful machine - churning and churning; as if part of something bigger. Beats then bleeds into the title track Hearts which chillingly takes shape as more of a layered interlude, with a heavy multi synth backdrop and an eventual unrecognizable vocal mix that becomes another instrument that keeps the machine working. Wired reminds you of where I Break Horses is rooted before a sort of time warp of sound brings unresolved closure. The rest of the album is much the same: an electronic, computerized, expression of the soul.

2: Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
So melodic and dark, Helplessness Blues is a chilling follow up to Fleet Foxes deput from 2008. The title track, released months before, set the stage for a brilliant album. The Shrine / An Argument is musically, nothing short of perfection where each instrument, each lyric, each vocal harmony plays a role in telling a story of heartache and despair. "when you talk you hardly even look in my eyes". what heartache.
The rest of the album captures this same emotion with chilling detail. Helplessness Blues proves that Fleet Foxes deserve one's attention, now and always.

1: The Roots - Undun
Undun is the soulful telling of a typical from-the-streets story of a man, Redford Stevens, who sadly becomes a statistic. It's a concept album from one of the most diverse groups in all of music. Who else can match the talent of The Roots? Who else would dare make a hip hop album like this? Lyricist Black Thought paints a compelling story while raw, soulful instrumentation serving as the canvas. There is just something creative about this album and perhaps that is why i've been drawn to it. The story of the album is tragic - doused in helplessness: And no one’s in the lighthouse / You’re face down in the ocean / And no one’s in the lighthouse / And it seems like you just screamed / It’s no one there to hear the sound / And it may feel like there’s no one there / That cares if you drown / Face down in the ocean...
(the hook from The Lighthouse).
Each track is a sort of puzzle piece, part of some larger story that is tragic and desperate. None the less, Undun may not fully be understood or appreciated for some time - but it's worth digging in to, no matter where you're from and that is why i picked it as the number one album of 2011.

the best of the rest (and thanks to Spotify - i may realize that some below are even better than the ones listed above)

Foster the People - Torches
Mute Math - Odd Soul
Phantogram - Nightlife
Chad Valley - Equatorial Ultravox EP
Real Estate - Days (been listening to this simple group for the last few days and it is growing on me.)
Cut Copy - Zonoscope
Tim Hecker - Dropped Pianos
The Middle East - I Want That You Are Always Happy (there's something special about this album. so simple and a bit different. so raw and honest.)
Loscil - Coast/Range/Arc (if you like ambient, drone-like sounds, check out Loscil.)
Tune-Yards - W H O K I L L
Katie Herzig - The Waking Sleep
Destroyer - Kaputt
The Kills - Blood Pressure
Girls - Father Son Holy Ghost

BEST REISSUE: The Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions
This is brilliant. One of the most creative pieces of music ever. I've always thought of Pet Sounds as one of the best albums of all time... i think SMiLE trumps that. Brian Wilson is/was a genius... and a little bit crazy, too. SMiLE is a masterpiece.


here is a recap of top albums from years past:

My Top Albums:

In 2011, i/we watched 139 films (i keep a movie watching log)
My only 5 star rated movie that i watched this year was the remake of 3:10 to Yuma. Loved it. what an adventure.

I also read 29 books. [good reads] my favorite being In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - an exceptional piece of non-fiction literature.

It was another great year.