Star Wars

Best of 2015: Music, Film, Literature

Oh hey there. Let’s jump right in.

Music

2015 was a fantastic year for music. Adele and Taylor Swift reminded us that people still buy music and that pop stars still exist. Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and a host of other streaming services pushed the discussion of “music as a commodity” centerstage. Despite where opinions settle, I think we can all agree that our streaming discussions were well overdue (and on two fronts: people paying for their music again and artists getting fairly paid for streaming).

NOTE: Amazon Prime’s streaming service (Amazon Music) is the industry’s best kept secret. It’s by far the best streaming service. Comes with your Prime account, you can download thousands of records, listen to them offline. Why is no one talking about this?

Every year I have artists and their releases that I look forward to, but this year there were some out-of-left-field albums that no one saw coming. Leon Bridges and Sufjan Stevens’ masterpiece, for instance, rocked (and rolled) almost my entire musical year.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Someone once told me that art should look different every time you see it. I think the same can be true for music, where you hear something different every time you play it. Stevens’ latest hits the proverbial mark. Borrowing from Gregorian chants, from 70’s folk, from his own catalogue — Carrie & Lowell is lyrically transparent, musically restrained, and almost perfect. Make no mistake, people: Sufjan Stevens made a masterpiece.

There are instances, such as in “The Only Thing“, where the track is just begging for a rhythm section (i.e., bass & drums), but we don’t get it, and it’s the right choice. “The Only Thing” is about despair, about barely holding on with just a glimmer of hope. Sure, you can sing about depression with a backing band, but it wouldn’t fit here. Stevens isn’t trying to be flashy, and he’s not making anthems, what Stevens is doing is splitting open his chest and singing therapy.

As someone who’s had a similar (not exact, but similar) upbringing as Stevens, I latched onto this record like a child to his mother, and it brought me comfort many times over. Can someone with a glossy childhood enjoy this album? Of course. But who actually had a glossy childhood? (more…)

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Adventure: Not All it’s Cracked Up to Be

Adventure is weird and complicated. Like ordering a martini for the first time or Thai food, it’s not easy. It’s sexy, sure. We escape the familiar in favor of the unknown. We leave our friends and family behind. We buy maps (or iPhones) and plot new courses.

My wife and I have only five days left of our six-month stay in California. From here, we’ll pack up and drive to Idaho for a few weeks and then drive, finally, to Rochester, New York, where we’ll settle.

The idea of living in three states in one year sounded fun, initially. A couple of fair-skinned gypsies in a Prius-charriot awaiting adventure—that was us.

All I’ve ever wanted was adventure, and truth be told, I’ve had my fair share.

I’ve back-packed through Ireland; I’ve driven to the Grand Canyon on a whim; I’ve rode through a carwash on a razor scooter… Adventure is in my blood.

Is adventure good for blood?

Fake Adventures

I grew up idolizing movies like Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and The Mummy where characters traveled to the ends of the Earth, or universe, to conduct business. I’d watch TV shows like The X-Files and swoon. The monster-of-the-week storyline, on the search in a new area, fascinated me (and still does).

But it’s all fake. It’s exciting, but truth be told, if I met a new monster every week and I’d be dead by now. I’d be digesting in some mutant’s stomach and that’d be an awkward funeral.

Then there is the whole social media thing. All the fake adventurers. I recently read an article about the “Instagram Envy Effect,” which, really, is just how it sounds. Instagram captures everybody’s good moments, new moments. The rest of us watch and wish we could have those moments. Really, it’s all just fake. We post the interesting moments and leave the rest hidden, like reality TV.

I bring the Instagram article up because social media—as well as movies, music, and books—teach us some falsehoods about adventure. They tell us adventure has no downside. That it’s all just fun all the time and YOLO and pose!!!

Warning: Adventure is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Here are some tips to make sure you never, ever have an adventure.

Issue number 1:

You’re basically always packing. I’m not sure how you feel about packing, but I’m not a big fan.

Issue number 2:

Friendships are rare. It’s hard to get close to people when you’re always on the go. It’s not like the comic books where the hero has all the friends. The real-life hero, the traveler, is awkward at parties, unable to connect—not sure if he even wants to.

Issue number 3:

It gets harder and harder to leave. Maybe I’m getting older, maybe the traveler’s heart is just failing to pump like it used to, I don’t know. Maybe a six-month vacation wasn’t a very good idea. All I know, is that it’s getting harder to leave.

My friends, my family, my town. Sometimes, adventure just kind of sucks.

The memories are worth it, and that’s what I’m holding on to, for now.

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What are your thoughts on adventure?

The Grand Canyon (or, How to Set Up a Tent in 28 Easy Steps)

The Grand Canyon. It was incredible.

Since Megan and I are moving to New York in the Fall, we realized our Grand Canyon window was dwindling fast. We kicked around the idea late last week, got our friend Randall on board, booked a campsite online, and left after work Friday afternoon for the 12 hour drive.

After 12 hours of sunflower seeds and energy drinks, our Prius arrived just shy of Grand Canyon Village at around 4am. Randall, a current CCC member (and best friend since 6th grade), claimed national forests were cool with parking and sleeping. Since national forests are usually outside of national parks, we were in luck. We parked in the forest and slept as long as possible.

27 degrees and 2 hours later. 

You know it’s cold when you consider peeing your pants for warmth. Or say, cutting open your friend to sleep inside him via Empire Strikes Back. None of those things happened. It was cold though.

Feeling spry, we woke up and drove into the park. The South Rim. It was $25 for one car, not bad considering all you can do once you’re in the park.

Our campsite wasn’t available until noon so we had to tough out the tiredness and make the best of it. We traveled to the East Rim (about thirty minutes, maybe) and checked out Desert View. There was an old tower to climb up in with a store right below you. Incase, you know, you want to buy a magnet or something.

Coming back, we stopped at one of my favorite views of the whole trip: Moran Point. It was killer. We tried to recall the name later to our camping neighbors. Megan called it, “Morgan Point,” and I called it “Moron Point.” It turns out we were both wrong, Moran Point. If you go, make sure and stop there.

Noon came around and we had a tent to set up. Megan and I were completely exhausted and since we borrowed the tent, it was our first time setting it up. (Thanks Scott, your rubik’s cube tent was a delight). In all fairness, if we read the directions first—instead of dead last—we would’ve noticed everything was color coded and kind of obvious. After about an hour of this tent embarrassment, Randall stepped in and helped. I collapsed into my sleeping bag and felt rocks under my body. Oh yeah, the air mattress… we forgot that.

Exploration

After some rest, we went back to the nearest town of Williams to try the Grand Canyon Brewery. I wont say it was awful, but just avoid it if at all possible.

The next day we hiked down into the canyon. Not far, a thousand feet or so. Not wanting to add, “Rescued by a mule” to our list of life accomplishments, we heeded the warnings of the trail and stopped at Cedar Ridge.

Once back up, we continued our day of exploration. Hopi Point was awe inspiring. The geology museum was great. The general store had a hot pickle.

Before we knew it, our trip was over. Monday morning had come. We drove a different way back, stopping in Vegas to lose $5. Before we left Nevada for good, we swerved off the desert highway for one last casino. The lunch buffet and $1 roulette signs nearly caused a freeway pile up.

We made it into San Luis Obispo around 9pm and I took the longest shower of my life. I’m still in it. That’s how long it is. Actually no, but nothing is sweeter than that first shower back from camping, eh? I next collapsed into bed where there was a mattress and no rocks.

It was sweeter than any canyon I’ve ever seen. Funny how that works.

Is the Church a Boys Club?

This weekend we visited some friends in the Bay Area of California. Overlooking the Palace of Fine Arts, we sat in the park and talked faith, church, Star Wars… typical Christian stuff. Most important here, we discussed the roles of women in the church.

My wife, as well as my friend’s girlfriend, had some great wisdom to give. Their perspectives were shared with both frustration and grace. Women are battling issues in the church that men can’t even begin to understand.

(Hey boys!) Have you ever thought about the complexities of being a girl in the church? Do me a favor, next time you go, give every woman you see a high five.

They deserve it.

Since I am a man, I feel that I can solve this issue with a single blog post.

Girlie Stuff

My childhood church was definitely a boy’s club. Male senior pastors, male deacons, male elders. Women were allowed to be sunday school teachers, choir directors, or secretaries, but nothing more.

Paul’s words in 1 Timothy defined my views and 1 Corinthians confirmed them. I say this as if I knew scripture, but to be honest it was bleek. I listened and never questioned the general traditions of my church. Here’s what I knew (and assumed):

Women were not to teach men. Their life goals would consist of learning submission and quietness. Overcoming any resentment held towards men and any hostility held towards God would be their life’s work.

Eventually, I read the bible for myself. I read about Esther, Deborah, Mary, and Ruth. I read Luke. I read the words of Paul. I read context. I listened to wisdom and heard alternate, biblical views. I listened to my wife. I listened to my heart.

All this to say, I’m still sorting stuff out.

Your Mom was Stifled  

I recently read The Blue Parakeet by Scot McNight. In it he talks about the various ways people read the bible. He mentions that everyone picks and chooses scripture; he calls it discernment. The problem, says McNight, is when our discernments become canon and our canon becomes the lens through which we view scripture.

The modern church has done this—it has, we have, shaped our traditions into canon. The stifling of women, I believe, is a prime example Evangelicals need to repent for.

(For more on Scot McNight’s great book, check it out HERE).

I’m not an expert on the subject of women’s roles, but I do hope to continue to learn. So far, this is what I’ve got:

  • The traditional church may be a boy’s club, but the Kingdom of God is not. We all have a purpose and a reason to be here. Seek what’s inside you and let it out.  
  • We are all one in Christ—the curtain was torn, remember? There is no need for division anymore. Men need to teach women, and women need to teach men. 
  • Every faith generation experiences a change of tradition in one form or another (Thinking back to Paul and circumcision, or twenty years ago to the contemporary worship movement). Expect turmoil and kickback. Offer grace, always.

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What’s YOUR response? I encourage all with a perspective to participate. Please know, everyone’s view on the matter is welcome. Is the church a boy’s club? Have women been stifled, or am I making something out of nothing? 

Photo Credit: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/74576085@N00/6335630844/]

One Year Thingamagoo

Well I thought I’d take a break from our luxurious vacation and blog a little bit about the whole one year anniversary thingamagoo.

I don’t really have too much to say, other than that being married is an awesome, fulfilling, and challenging adventure. Although it may sound cliche, it is true that marriage isn’t always easy. Especially when your spouse isn’t as perfect as you. Ha ha, no but seriously… (more…)