Sunday, January 29, 2006

Symposium '06

After three whirlwind days at the Calvin Symposium on Worship I’m really tired. Laura and I got home at about 11:30 last night and we had a great time. Lots of highlights, almost too many to mention. I think most of all, I enjoyed interacting with the people who we got to touch base with again. We especially enjoyed seeing Ron and Deb Rienstra again – they were here from sunny California and we don’t get to see them nearly often enough. In fact, the post-symposium dinner and conversation time with them was the icing on the cake for us. We also enjoyed connecting with the Friends of the Groom; talented funny people who help us see new ways to bring drama into worship. The worship services themselves were wonderful but I most enjoyed playing with the band in Thursday morning worship with my favorite piano worship leader guy, Kent. We also got to present a session on leading worship together with Paul Ryan, Greg Scheer and Daniel Coleman. The reception marking the 20th anniversary of Reformed Worship was a nice way to end the official events. All in all, a wonderful weekend.

Posts from other blogs about Symposium:

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Oprah apologizes to viewers about her support of Frey's book

Frey admits lying; Oprah apologizes to viewers - BOOKS -

Oprah has backed off on her support of James frey's book. Soon after the controversy hit I had the opportunity to have lunch with Lauren Winner, who's own memoir, Girl Meets God, is wonderful. When asked about this matter she said that she believes that readers expect memoirs to be true so that's what authors ought to give them. I think she's right. Apparently, so does Oprah.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Commander in Chief

In my quest for the next can’t-miss show I watched Commander in Chief for the first time last night. Sorry. This one’s not going to be it. I couldn’t even get through the whole hour without doing other things at the same time. The characters seem too broadly drawn and I can’t get past West Wing comparisons – and it just doesn’t have the heft of the West Wing. And the plot about the little girl hiding the Gettysburg Address? Puleeeze. The show even made me not like Gina Davis so much.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

West Wing cancelled

This article reports that another of my can't-miss shows, West Wing, will come to an end at the end of this television season. For the past five years there have been only two shows that I've watched without fail – Alias and West Wing. [Full disclosure - although I've watched West Wing since the first episode seven years ago I briefly gave up on it near the end of season five. I came back in the middle of season six.] Now both of them are going to be having their series finales within weeks of each other this spring.

I've enjoyed both of them immensely and their absence on the broadcast schedule will probably drive me even more into my DVD collection than ever. Unless I find some new shows to take their place. But what?

I don't like to have very many shows that I am really committed to because it takes too much time. When I watch something I really like to watch it. So two shows is really all that I can handle at any given time. Lost has potential - I'm really enjoying the Season One DVD's right now and I have to decide if I can dive into the middle of season two – that goes against my start-at-the-beginning mind set. Love Monkey, which had it's first episode this week, is one that I like for all the rock music references but I'm not sure the plot will be able to sustain my interest. Tom Cavanagh is likeable as the lead but I got sick of him eventually in Ed so I'm not holding my breath. I'm willing to hang in for another week or so though - especially with Alias on hiatus.

Suggestions are appreciated. What are you can't-miss shows?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Beatles by Bob Spitz

I have a habit of writing about books before I finish reading them, a habit I was determined to break with The Beatles by Bob Spitz. This book has been the subject of internet buzz, a lot of it negative. There have been charges of a lot of errors in this book so that, added to the fact that I’ve read a LOT of books about the Beatles made me less than excited about yet another biography about them. I knew the story all too well to want to read another one.

But, my resistance could only last so long and I decided to get it from the library and give it a go. It’s a LONG book and I have lots of things on my plate right now so my trip though this book is taking quite a while but I’m up to page 360 and – its amazing. The writing is wonderful and the research that Spitz did seems unmatched in any previous book about the fab four. He got behind the oft-told tales and interviewed lots and lots of people to get a perspective that hasn’t been seen before in most of the books on the Beatles life and career. Spitz tells this story in a way that makes it fresh and fascinating. Even though I haven’t finished it yet (they’ve only just recorded “Please Please Me” and I’ve read 360 pages already!!!!!!!) I’m about ready to declare this book as the gold standard in books about the Beatles. It’s that good.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Meredith and Bryan play the Fish House

My kids Meredith and Bryan played a show at the Fish House at Calvin this week Wednesday night. It was a lot of fun and they invited me up to play "Good Lovin'" with them. It should also be noted that they played a Beatles song, "Two of Us." This is further evidence of "raise up a child in the way he should go..."

Monday, January 16, 2006

A review of The Mission Bell - Delirious

What first attracted me to Delirious nearly ten years ago was that they first took a new approach to worship music – wedding an early U2 vibe with lyrics designed for a worship setting.  Their first four Cutting Edge tapes were a wonderful introduction to a new era in worship music that is still being explored today.  Then, as a band, they decided to also create albums aimed at the mainstream and made a wonderful album with Mezzamorphis, perhaps their all-time best album.  They might have topped it with their worship-oriented follow-up, Glo.  They were seriously on a roll.

Then two things happened at about the same time – I don’t know if they’re related or not.  They got drawn in to the CCM machine and their music lost much of its freshness.  Touch and World Service, while they both have their moments, didn’t have the kind of impact that any of their earlier albums did.  They followed that up with an album of old Delirious worship songs recorded with the Hillsongs worship community (following the CCM industry standard of re-releasing any popular worship song more times than you can possibly imagine.)  At this point I had almost given up on them.  This latest album seemed a lot more like product than art and I had about had it.

However, I have a soft spot in my heart for certain bands and will allow them to disappoint me more times than I really ought to and so, even though I thought this might be a bad purchase, I bought The Mission Bell.  On first listen (in the car – perhaps my best place to listen since I have a 45 minute commute each day) I thought the album showed a remarkable lack of focus, no clear vision for the musical direction the band wanted to go (with a low point in the TobyMac rap of “On Christ the Solid Rock”) and a set of lyrics that often were nothing more than religious sloganeering (“Paint the Town Red with Jesus’ Blood”).

So I was ready to give this one a final resting place on the shelf in the basement but thought it best to give it a couple of more spins – just to be sure.  To my surprise I found myself actually enjoying more of the album.  There are a couple of catchy parts. I like the majestic chorus to “Our God Reigns,” although the lyric, especially the verses, are somewhat heavy-handed.  And the gentle beauty of the final song “I’ll See You” with perhaps the best lyric of the album is so good that it tricks me into listening to the whole album again.  So I’m not ready to call it a great album (or maybe even a good album) yet but it’s not the stinker that I first thought it was.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Discussion on Bono and "coexist" continues

I have a site tracker on my blog so I can see where hits come from and how people get here. Its lots of fun to see what generates hits on search engines. My posts about Jessica Simpson got me a fair number of hits and, to my surprise, the review of the Rita Springer album gets a lot of hits, perhaps because there just isn’t a whole lot on the web about her. Too bad I wasn’t crazy about the album. By far, though, the largest percentage of hits from search engines come as a result of my previous posts about U2, Bono and the Coexist headband that Bono wears. I also get more comments on that post than any other. So I thought that, as long as I’m still thinking about it, I’d write a bit more.

Two of the recent comments are quite long and written by someone who apparently goes around commenting about U2 in other places as well – she mentions that she has been banned from some other U2 sites. This is a topic that obviously gets some people pretty excited. I disagree with most of what a recent commenter writes for a number of reasons but I don’t want to do a point by point response to her. I’m not sure it would accomplish much anyway.

I will admit that I was puzzled by the symbols of Christianity, Islam and Judaism on the curtain during the song “Yahweh” when I saw U2 in Chicago last September. I thought about it for quite a while and talked to some friends about what they thought the band was trying to accomplish. I get into that a bit more in my previous post about it and don’t want to repeat it here. Truth be told, I wish they had chosen some other way to make the point – I would not have done it this way. Then again, I don’t have nearly as many people paying attention to me so maybe my way isn’t the best way either. I continue to think that Bono is generally on the right track, though. Here are a couple of reasons why:

  • The book Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas is a remarkable book. Even a cursory reading of it shows pretty clearly that Bono is a Christian. Not mostly a Christian or even a wacko Christian but a Christian who believes in and reads the Bible. What’s more, his theology is usually pretty good. I found some of his statements to be outstanding expressions of a Reformed world and life view informed by a deep study of scripture. Not bad for a rock and roll star.

  • Bono is an artist and, as such, says things in a way that can often be taken in many different ways. Part of this is just who he is but part of it is something he does carefully. By exploring the different interpretations of art more shades of meaning can be seen, some of which are intended by the artist and some are not. So we need to always interpret artistic statements carefully, realizing that our interpretation is just that – our interpretation.

  • I, and many other Christians, can easily find ourselves thinking that believing in Jesus means that you have to buy into certain cultural things as well. (For example, wearing “dress up clothes” to go to church – this is not scriptural but yet for some people this is an important part of what it means to treat God with the kind of respect he deserves.) Bono doesn’t follow many of those cultural norms of what it means to be a US Evangelical Christian. He has forced me to ask if some of the things he does are not right based on scripture or just based on my idea of what a Christian ought to be like. I appreciate the opportunity he gives me to think about my faith in a new way.

I’m not suggesting that Bono is above reproach or that he does everything correctly – his choice of language sometimes bothers me, for example. But he has a pretty big megaphone right now and he consistently uses it to talk about helping the poor and the hungry. He, like Queen Esther, is being a voice for those who have no voice of their own. He is using his celebrity to try to accomplish a great thing in the name of God. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt – something that Jesus did often during his ministry and something that I think Christians are called to do as well.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Setting a Weather Record

"We have a couple of remarkable streaks going in West Michigan. Today represents the 46th day in a row that Grand Rapids and most of the rest of West Michigan has received a trace or more of precipitation. Also we've had 14 days in row with no sunshine. If we don't receive any today then we will have tied the all time record."
Living in Michigan is often a weather adventure. It is now about 3:00 PM and it seems like we have a lock on the record – no sun in sight.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Are we misguided when we modernize hymn texts?

In this article, Gary Parrett suggests that we are wrong to modernize hymn texts. My church, the Christian Reformed Church, has altered the text of a number of hymns (including eradicating the puzzling "Ebenezer" from "Come Thou Fount") when they published the latest edition of The Psalter Hymnal and I have wished the editors (some of whom are friends of mine) had not done that in a few examples. I want to quickly point out that most of the changes were excellent. But I always wish that "let every creature rise and bring peculiar honors to our king" had been left alone in "Jesus Shall Reign."

I'm unsure of where I stand on the issue. I find many of Parrett's arguments less than compelling. The purpose of songs in worship is to help us worship - the artistic intent of the author is secondary to that. And, frankly, sometimes the theology is just wrong (or at least in disagreement with ours) and needs "fixing". Also, "Good Christian Men, Rejoice" is blatantly sexist - I much prefer the Psalter Hymnal's revision - "Good Christian Friends Rejoice." I think that clearly there is a time and place for revision. The question is, of course, how much and when.

I'd love to hear comments from readers on this!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Fantastic 4 review

I watched the DVD of Fantastic Four on Sunday with my kids. It was part of my Christmas DVD extravaganza – I got more than a couple of DVDs again this year. Many of them are ones that I pick up for myself and then let people wrap for me. One of them, The Simpsons Season 6, I bought last August and it sat waiting for me since then. Fortunately I had plenty to watch between then and now. And these new DVDs will take me months to get through.

But what I watched this weekend was Fantastic Four, another in the series of Marvel Comic films. Although I was a comic book fan in my younger years I was more of a DC fan (Superman, Batman, etc) than a Marvel fan. That’s because Marvel was just a startup back then and the DC heroes were more well established early on. The Fantastic Four, for example, started as a comic when I was 7 years old so they weren’t well known, especially compared to the DC heroes. But I have very much enjoyed the release of many of the Marvel films over the past few years. I really liked the Spider-Man movies and the two X-Men films. I even liked Daredevil a little although, as an Alias fan, Jennifer Garner made the movie for me. One major exception was Hulk which I saw at a dollar theater with my brother-in-law in Fort Wayne. I felt like I needed to apologize for the money he spent.

Fantastic Four might just be the most lighthearted of the current spate of superhero movies so it is mostly just fun fluff. The characters, while not carefully developed, are at least fun in their stereotypical way. The five characters (the Fantastic Four and their arch nemesis Dr Doom) all get their special powers through an excessive dose of space radiation. The Human Torch gets to have a lot of fun with his character and actor Chris Evans did a nice job making him a likable scoundrel. Jessica Alba is pretty wooden as Sue Storm (Invisible Girl) but actually might be better than Ioan Grufford as Reed Richards (Mr Fantastic). It says something when the most emotive character’s face is hidden under a huge rubber costume and is called “The Thing.” Michael Chiklis does a fine job as Ben Grimm both pre- and post-irradiation. The plot is pretty thin - I would have thought that if the guy funding your science project in space is named Victor Von Doom I might have expected things to not go real well but what do I know. The film takes no unexpected twists and turns and the action sequences are generally easy to follow. The bridge scene – where we first see the Four in action, is very nicely done.

If you’re coming to Fantastic Four to see a fine film which will give you insight into the human condition you clearly have your priorities messed up. This is lightweight fun which succeeds (more or less) at that level. Watch this movie with low expectations and you might enjoy it.