Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Weekend in NYC

Early Memorial Day Cookout in the back yard of the Compound:

Elizabeth Odegard in lovely Astoria:

Another Cookout Shot:

Bill and that jerk who wrote the smartass comment on my last post:

Bill and Linnea (aka Jackie O) on Subway

Saturday Night Poker Game. Aaron Belz and I were newbies; you can read his embittered account here.

My new friend Esther--she likes to ask questions. She is awesome:

Find many more photos from the weekend here on flickr.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Alienated Man of Violent "Honor"

It is a well known fact that Scorsese modelled Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle after Ethan Edwards of John Ford's brilliant The Searchers. Each anti-hero is a war veteran, a "searcher" whose obsession (what becomes a monomania) with a particular code of honor leads to violence. Both of this "outsiders" attempt to rescue the young girl, the object of their obsession, although she might not REALLY want to be rescued. Anyway, I have never had the opportunity to watch these two closely together, but we are doing that in my film class this week. We just finished The Searchers and will see Taxi Driver tomorrow, so I will let you know how it goes.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Train Nostalgia/ Identity Crisis

As I was packing up and moving AGAIN (actually putting stuff on top of stuff that is already in storage--because I don't know where I will be once I return from the UK), I found this happy little reminder of the joys of public transport. I miss it. By the way, I am only just learning to use the scanner and don't know how to make this not crooked. Frustrating. Anyway, I miss trains and buses--and discounts for being a "young person" (well, more for being a student. Sadly, "young person" no longer applies).

Update: I have just had about NINE INCHES cut from my hair so I no longer look, even remotely, like the above picture. There are layers involved. I am silently freaking out. Not sure how I feel about it all. Hmmm.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Baudrillard and Megachurches

One of the classes I have taught this semester is called Cultural Heritage of the West--a survey of Western literature and philosophy from the Renaissance to the Postmodern (a lot to cram into one semester, I tell you). Several of the final essays I received are particularly commendable as the students really engaged with the conceptual recommendations of those who think very differently than themselves about the nature and substance of reality. Rather than dismissing the claims completely, slapping on a pat "Christian" answer in order to quickly label and dispose, they were able to see how these critiques and questions were importnat to their own understanding of faith. This honesty, desire to ask serious, hard questions as Christians about our participation in and relationship to culture, is a far more Christian approach (in the truest sense of the word) than spewing out what often becomes dismissive formula in a Chrsitian subculture.
One fascinating essay is a discussion of Douglas Coupland's Generation X alongside Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulations and America. One of the author's most interesting points relates to Baudrillard's claim that God, like everything else, is a pure simulacrum (image with no ultimate, grounding reference point). Baudrillard claims that the church smashed its images of Christ, not for fear of idolatry, but because the production of the image blatantly indicates that God Himself is only an image, a view that they wish to keep hidden. In her paper, the student asks, "Can God Himself really be replicated and condensed to the signs that compose faith?" She continues by saying that "simulation is death, because it never moves forward." If reality is simply a flattened image, there is no progression, no room for depth--only stagnation in the guise of gloss. Although the author's paper indicates a clear desire for and belief a transcendent "Real" that gives shape and substance to the things of this world, she also cleverly notices that perhaps we, as Christians, have often reduced our faith to the very depthless signs of our consumer culture. She writes: "We show we love Jesus by the t-shirts we wear, the self-help books we read and the endless circulation of CDs that seem to give glory not only to God, but to the companies that mass produce them. We almost numb ourselves to original thought, thinking that if John Piper did not say it, it's probably blasphemy. The new religion of consumerism bleeds into Chrsitianity so flawleesly that one cannot see the distinction. Hyppereality effects the church as well. Mega-churches that bring in over 10,000 people keep them there with the alluring scent of Starbucks brewing in the foyer and the ecstatic rumbling of 15 piece drum kits, 4 lead guitars and Christian pop stars belting out radio-hit hymns. This dose of what America loves (lights, noise, gratifications) infiltrates even temples which were built to give God glory." This student's observations concerning the pat, nonoriginal replications, the fear of originality and "free thought"--another indication of stagnation-- in many corners of "Christian" culture show us EXACTLY why it is important to read Baudrillard.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Oh. My. Word. Just LISTEN! I have listened to this song no less than 20 times today--no lie. I can't help but smile during the cool trumpet part near the end--it makes me happy. This is especially for Carlos, Mike and Stephanie who will certainly dig it. And David Van Dusen--you will love it too methinks.
Update: So, Aaron Belz just e-mailed me and told me that I am "18 months behind". I am deflated. Have mercy on me, Oh cool Americans. I have lived in Britain for almost 6 years. People have bad taste there (with a few exceptions in Glasgow!)--I received no guidance.
Another cool-o-meter update: Aaron wrote back again saying that MAYBE I was only 12 months behind. whew, good to know. Aaron, why don't you just LEAVE A COMMENT?!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Summer Plans...

I will be here very soon...

And here...

And even here...

And knowing this place, the weather might very well look just like the above snowy, windy photo even though it is summer. But I don't care because it is a place I love.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Half Handed Cloud

This is my friend John, one of the most truly joy-filled people I know. He is even joyful when slipping under the weight of a retro-suitcase. John's joy, creative quirkiness and expert songwriting are all invested in a wonderful project called Half Handed Cloud. If you have never heard any of Half Handed Cloud's music, then go directly to John's website or the Asthmatic Kitty website and check them out. Someone (I can't remember who) mentioned that the music sounds like a mix of Brian Wilson and Elliot Smith after drinking a gallon of heavily sugared (or something elsed) koolaid and going to Sunday school--complete with feltboards. I had the pleasure of working at McKay's used books and records with John, back when he was in multiple bands that only wrote songs about robots (Wookieback), Seventies sitcoms (the Regal Beagles), and a special Christmas album under the name "The Season's Glreekins", complete with songs such as "Transformer Manger" and "Gas Station Stocking Stuffer". Once he kindly drove all the way down from Knoxville to perform for free at an RUF concert event my friend Lisa and I organized at the University of Tennessee--we will never forget seeing the endlesss tiny suitcases, windup toys, feltboards being unloaded from that little car. Needless to say, this big-hearted friend has endless creative energy, a wicked (in the very best sense of the word) fresh sense of humor--and deserves a good listen. Half Handed Cloud has four excellent full length CD's, and lately I am addicted to this song called "I Got a Letter" (please take a listen)from his most recent EP "What's The Remedy". This EP, recorded with Sufjan Stevens, has songs that ask interrogates the tension between Law and grace. Conceptual, theological, fizzy, and fun. Check him out! I am so excited about the music today that I even broke my black and white streak!
**Also check out this groovy video for another very addictive song from Half Handed Cloud's Halos and Lassos.