Monday, March 28, 2005

Too Much Is Not Enough

Spring break has changed a lot in the past 30 years. Back when I was a student, spring break was a week off from school. Now, spring break seems to have become a time when a disproportionate number of people leave Michigan to head to warmer climes so that they can ... well, I'm not sure what, exactly. But so many people head south for spring break that schools have had to give up the Friday before spring break just because they were fighting a losing battle. Now, this year, for the first time, the school my kids attend have put Parent-Teacher conferences, and all the partial-school-days that go along with them, on the week just before spring break, thereby giving parents who desire an even longer break nearly two full weeks. How are we supposed to convince students that the work they do this week is important if the schools and parents don't treat it that way?

I don't think this is all because we need a break in March or that life has gotten too intense. I think it has to do with money. Too many parents have enough disposable income that this once-in-a-childhood type of trip has now become a yearly event. Not only is it yearly but this sort of trip is now expected and seen by kids as some sort of right that they deserve.

I'm certainly not immune to materialism. I like stuff a lot. But it is times like this that I am really concerned about the path that our society is on. As Bono says "too much is not enough."

Friday, March 25, 2005

Until the End of the World

This link contains a really wonderful exploration of the connection between the Maundy Thursday story and the U2 song "Until the End of the World." Bono really clinches it in the last verse of the song: "In my dream I was drowning my sorrows/ But my sorrows they learned to swim./ Surrounding me, going down on me/ Spilling over the brim./ In waves of regret, waves of joy/ I reached out for the one I tried to destroy./ You, you said you’d wait until the end of the world."

The power of grace continues to surprise me.

Thanks to Beth at U2 Sermons for pointing out the link to me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Red Lake, Minnesota

There was another school shooting this week. This time in Red Lake, Minnesota. Ten people were killed by a young boy with a gun - or guns. This is the first one of these since Columbine but somehow, the Columbine shootings still seem pretty recent.

From what we know about the adolescent mind, it seems pretty clear that teens are going to make bad decisions. Their brains are wired in such a way that the higher decision-making areas just aren't developed yet. We see it all the time in schools and, no surprise, in the way they drive. When I taught high school I dreaded after-school parking lot duty. I saw so many potential accidents and near-misses that I couldn't stand watching. So, it's pretty clear that some kids are going to make some really really bad decisions. Some kids will feel ostracized. Some willl get angry. Some will want revenge. There is little we can do about that given the nature of people and of adolescents.

What we can do is minimize the danger by getting rid of guns. This strikes me as a pretty clear solution to the problem. This is an easy way to minimize the damage that kids can do when they go off the rails. Come to think of it - it might minimize the damage lots of people can do. Why are we so obsessed with guns? I don't get it.

Monday, March 21, 2005


Because of the aforementioned Itunes-Pepsi free song giveaway, I've been able to add to my music collection a lot lately and it's been great. One CD I downloaded last week is the first album by the Corrs, Forgiven Not Forgotten. It's great. I like it a lot and, in fact, it may be my favorite Corrs album - always a dangerous thing to say when you've only had it for four days but still, it's really good. (Full disclosure - I have not yet heard Talk on Corners.) One of the things I like about it is it is more rockin' and more Irish than their later stuff. This seems to fit a pattern that I've seen in a number of bands, especially in CCM, and that is what I think of as "popification." Bands put out a cool, quirky, interesting first album and then producers and record companies get a hold of them and steer them decidedly toward the middle of the road. I blame the record companies but I really have no evidence of this. However, I feel pretty confident that it comes as a result of trying to sell more albums.

Now I have nothing against selling more albums. Musicians and business people need to make a living just like I do. But why is there is pull towards homogeneity that seems so prevalent?

This doesn't always happen at the second album - it can happen at various points in an artist's career. Other examples of this phenomenon are Considering Lily, whose strange but interesting first album was followed up by an incredibly forgettable second (and last!) album. Margaret Becker put out a fabulous album late in her career (Falling Forward) which had some success so it was followed up by a popified lousy album. Phil Keaggy's company got a hold of him and made him put out True Believer, my all-time least favorite PK album. My daughter Bethany thought that Jars of Clay had done this on their second album but I'm not so sure I agree. Besides, they have made up for it.

I'd love to hear examples of this from others.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

So Much More

I haven't yet written anything about So Much More by my good friend Debra Rienstra and I really need to do that because it's wonderful. I'm only about halfway finished with it (grading and writing have taken up most of my spring break so far) but I am really enjoying this book. Debra is a fabulous writer - she has the ability to address very complex ideas in a way that describes them clearly and succintly. This book is not Christianity for Dummies. It is far too articulate and intellectual for that. It is, however, Christianity for Beginners. Even so, I, a seasoned believer, am finding wonderful new ways of thinking about the Christian faith that are enriching my life. This would be a great book to give to a thoughful friend who is thinking about Christianity.

EDIT: I got caught up in the book today when I should have been grading papers and I finished it. It is wonderful throughout. Debra even addresses the issues of pain and evil with gentleness and a wonderful combination of both an academic and pastoral heart. This is a book about the heart of Christianity written for those who's heart is very close to their mind.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

MTV's 'Spiritual Windows' mix faith with rock 'n' roll

Thanks to Beth, over at U2 Sermons, I was pointed to this article about MTV's newfound spirituality. This really fits in well with much of what I've been reading about the impact of post-modernity on culture. It seems that a thirst for things spiritual is more than just an academic idea - it's starting to show up in tangible ways on MTV, of all places!

U2 inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame // U2 inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame // 2005-03-15

Another reason to like U2: How many bands are there that have been around as long as U2 and, when they do concerts, don't just do oldies? Not many. Let's think this through.

As much as I like Paul McCartney (and I like him a lot), nobody really wants to hear "Driving Rain" instead of "Sgt. Pepper." Even if he did a concert that was a 50/50 mix of old and new people would be irritated. In fact, for his last ten albums or so, he plays two or three on the tour (assuming there is one) and then they are never performed live again. Even though Flaming Pie was hailed as one of his great albums he played NOTHING from it on the tour to support the album that came after that one on the US leg of the tour and one song in Europe. I'm not just picking on McCartney here. As I said, I really do like him a lot - even his new stuff.

Are there any other artists who didn't become an oldies band? The Grateful Dead managed to pull it off, mostly because they had no hits. It's easy not to get stuck playing your hits if you have none.

The Rolling Stones? Oldies band.

Yes? Oldies band (although on the last tour they did play "Mind Drive" which was a real kick).

Are there any bands that you can think of who managed to have hits a long time ago and can still pull off doing "fresh" concerts?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Playing in the Band

I played at the One Trick Pony last Saturday night with my band, the Lazy Blue Tunas - here is a picture! Posted by Hello

Monday, March 14, 2005

Stan Grenz

I learned late last night from Bethany that Stan Grenz passed away. I'm stunned and saddened by this. I met Stan just once, about six weeks ago. I heard him and his wife Edna speak about worship at the Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts and then, about a half hour later, at the dining hall Stan sat with me at lunch. We had a wonderful chat about many things including postmodernism, the joys of being co-presenters with our wives,and ministry to children. Stan was very supportive of my work and gave me some good advice regarding my recently submitted book - it turns out I'm working with the same editor that he has worked with on a few books.

I was impressed with Stan's wonderful manner and his obvious concern for other people as well as his quick mind and grasp of detail as well as concept. I liked him a lot.

To read more about Stan, go to emergent-us: Brian McLaren Remembers Stan Grenz.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

How to dismantle the fall semester

My friend Ron got tickets for the two of us to travel to Chicago in September and see U2!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have to wait 6 months for this show now but I'm pretty geeked about it.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The power of television

This ebay item, eBay item 3962513751 (Ends Mar-14-05 13:22:33 PST) - PENTAGON Crane AMERICAN FLAG Sept 11 2001 9/11 ORIGINAL was featured on ABC World News tonight. It is a flag that was flying at the Pentagon on 9/11 and the owner needs to sell it to pay medical bills. It had been on ebay for a week and had built up to a bid of $79,000. After the report aired I went to ebay and watched the bid steadily climb for about ten minutes to over $100,000 then came back a while later and was astonished to find that Within 3 hours of the broadcast it was up to $314,000!

It pays to advertise - especially when the advertising is free!

Lazy Blue Tunas - One Trick Pony - March 12

My band, the Lazy Blue Tunas will be playing at the One Trick Pony in Grand Rapids on Saturday night March 12 from 9 until midnight. The Pony is a great place - I even bring my kids - and for the first time we are adding a drummer, the amazing Eddie Eicher.

This promises to be a show that people will be talking about for at least the next day so come on out and enjoy a night with the Tunas!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

New Colors

I'm not sure I like this but I was getting a little sick of the other colors. Unfortunately, this is a bigger deal than when you change colors on Xanga because there are personalizations that don't transfer over. This one looks better though, right?

things Bethany wrote: Apocalyptic Pacificsm

In her latest blog entry, things Bethany wrote: Apocalyptic Pacificsm, Bethany once again does a nice job of the kind of synthesis which she is so good at. If you haven't read her post yet you should probably do that first.

Go ahead, do it now. I'll wait.

OK, I have not yet read Dark's book (which is actually Kent's fault, since he borrowed Bethany's copy over Christmas vacation when I had hoped to read it) but it seems to me that U2 is nearly a perfect example of the kind of Apocalyptic art and living that Dark refers to. (Besides, it's been a couple of days since I worked U2 into a post and though I should.)

I also wonder if Tori Amos is very slowly (very very very slowly) getting there. Having been raised as a Methodist, she deals with some issues of faith in her new album, The Beekeeper. Sometimes I think she's just loony (Original Sinsuality? oh, please.) but she at least trys to look at what it means to come from a background of faith and apply it to the world. Now if she would only take the next step...

Monday, March 07, 2005

New Music

I can easily get into musical ruts, where I listen to a lot of the same old stuff over and over. This past winter I listened to music in my car in a typical me" fashion by playing through a lot of artists or sets in chronological order - so, for example, I played all my Eric Clapton from the first Cream album until, I think, Money and Cigarettes, when I took a pause from this system. I have a 6-CD changer in my car and so I listened to a Clapton every 6th CD. Yeah - pure geek.

Anyway, I got some free itunes songs from Pepsi caps and started getting some new music. Around the same time Bethany played me some music from the soundtrack to Garden State and introduced me to Frou Frou. I was taken with both albums and bought one and downloaded the other through itunes.

[Funny Garden State story - I went to Best Buy to buy it and asked the 22 yr-old clerk where I could find it and she said "Oh, that's a great album. I love that one." She stopped in her tracks and turned and looked at me (looking , I'm sure, at least my age) and said "is this for you or is it for somebody else?" Thanks - I feel much younger now.]

Then my friend Ron gave me the new Tori Amos album. I hadn't really listened to Tori Amos before and I LOVE IT! Finally, after Gideon Strauss noticed my blog I started clicking around on his blog and his daughter Shimmer posted about a band called Eisley and I listened and liked it too! Bethany said they were on her list so I figured I might as well get their album Room Noises. So I downloaded that one from itunes. I haven't had this much new music in my life in a couple of years.

Pretty exciting. Thanks to all my influencers!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Save Toby is a hoax - I'm shocked!

I have great news.

According to Snopes, Save Toby is merely a hoax and the amount of money donated is a fixed number that is changed manually periodically. This means that the rabbit Toby is safe.

I was getting attached to that little bunny too and now I don't have to worry. I wonder if I can get my $3000 back...

Friday, March 04, 2005

Save Toby again

Save Toby is up to $17,000 - either this guy is really getting donations or he is changing the number by hand. It was $16,... this morning.

Why do I keep checking?????

U2 - Rattle and Hum (1988)

I was fortunate enough to get my very own copy of the DVD: U2 - Rattle and Hum (1988) from my youngest daughter for Christmas and I'm presently on my second play-through of it. There is a lot to like in this film and I remember watching it soon after it came out. One thing I didn't notice before is another example of where Bono's seemingly unthinking actions while he sings are often tied directly to what he's singing. The case in point this morning which I noticed while eating my morning pop-tart (Strawberry) was during "Bad" when he sings about "this lifeless lifeline" and the microphone cord that he's been playing with is there, being held up as a lifeless lifeline. If I hadn't noticed that this stuff happens often with him I wouldn't have thought anything of it but Bono apparently puts a LOT of thought into what he does while he's singing.

Just another reason to like U2.

I should mention that my current reading of Stockman's book has added to my understanding and appreciation for this film. I think Stockman is right on target with his analysis of this film as a journey through the mostly American U2 influences and I think the album has been unfairly religated by some (not Stockman) to the "oh yeah, they also released this" pile partly because it is hidden in the twin shadows of Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

God, Part II

I'm reading Steve Stockman's book Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 and I noticed that he missed the point of the beginning of one of U2s songs - rare for him, I think, because most of his comments are right on target.

The song "God, Part II" is, indeed, about John Lennon and starts out with the lines "I don't believe the devil, I don't believe the book" which Stockman takes as a counterpoint to the litany of things Lennon does not believe in as listed in the song "God" from JL's Plastic Ono Band album. (This is a great album, by the way, just don't listen to it if you're already depressed.) The lines in this case are more about The Lives of John Lennon by Albert Goldman - a book that was released just before Rattle and Hum was released which said many negative things about Lennon. There was a bit of a controversy with the book's release and this song was Bono's two cents defending Lennon's legacy. The devil in the first line is Goldman

I disagree with Stockman's assessment and, it seems to me that he entirely missed the book connection.


Another blogger has discovered the group of bloggers who hang around the Worship Apprentice offer, and with whom I occassionally dialogue. I should note that I was not invited to this dialogue - I just pulled up a virtual chair and have been enjoying the talk. Somedays I don't read much of it because I am too busy but I usually enjoy the posts.

So, Mr Strauss, welcome to our little corner of the blogosphere.