Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert

NBC News political analyst Tim Russert died suddenly today at age 58. He was probably my favorite political analyst. He had a relaxed style which I really liked and when he said something I just figured it was true - and it usually was. I well remember during the 2000 election when he got out his white board and started adding up electoral votes pointing out that it was still up in the air and showing how either Bush or Gore could win. That board became his partner for the rest of the evening. Just at the time that snazzy graphics were showing up on the screen, Russert showed that clear explainations were more important than flash. I'll miss his contribution to the news.

Friday, June 06, 2008

What's the trouble with Moralism?

My book is quoted in this article from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship website. It's a good article with many other good links on the topic of faith formation.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Momofuku – Elvis Costello

A few months ago I saw that the Police were going to be playing the Arena in Grand Rapids and I thought "that's cool." But when I saw that Elvis Costello was the opening act I jumped at the chance and decided that it was worth the money. That prompted me to rediscover and discover (thanks to Bethany) much of Costello's extensive catalog. To put the icing on the cake, he had a new album, Momofuku, coming out on CD five days before the show I had tickets for. Perfect.

So I spent a lot of time with some of Elvis' albums reminding myself that I really liked My Aim is True, Mighty Like a Rose and his collaboration with Anne-Sofie Von Otter, For the Stars. I learned to love North and All This Useless Beauty and I once again was astonished at how Costello jumps from genre to genre all the while keeping his sense of melody and interesting chord structures. I will admit that his classical piece, Il Sogno, didn't do much for me, sounding somewhat like a soundtrack to nothing. But overall I was really really impressed. So when I read that Momofuku was Elvis with the Imposters, the same band that had done When I Was Cruel and the Delivery Man I wasn't real excited (because those aren't among my favorite EC records) but figured I'd pay 10 bucks so that I'd know the new music for the show.

I'm really glad I did because Momofuku sounds fresh, energetic and engaging in a way that many of Elvis' other recent albums don't. I like almost all of the songs and the performances are not over-thought. The album came about very quickly – hence the name, a reference to the inventor of instant noodles. Costello had no intention of making a record but when his band fell into place at a session for the next Jenny Lewis record he couldn't resist. This format suits Costello well and the album has an urgency that is infectious. From the open track, "No Hiding Place" to the finale "Go Away" Costello's legendary lyrical directness is in full force. And while it didn't jump out at me at first, hearing him perform "Flutter and Wow" in concert has made that song one of my all time favorites. Momofuku is an album that is best enjoyed if you're in the mood to listen closely but not too closely, to think about what you're hearing but not too much and to enjoy a great record rather than listen to the NEXT BIG ARTISTIC STATEMENT. But that is the main strength of this record - because Costello seemed to not try so hard to make that big statement he succeeded in make a great little pop record that's worth repeated listenings.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ready to rock the RCA

This weekend the Reformed Church of America is having their General Synod in Holland, MI. Ordinarily that would get only a moderate notice from me since I belong to their sister church, the Christian Refomed Church, and RCA synodical decisions have only a minimal effect on me. But this year I have been asked to play guitar for worship for this group every day (except Sunday) for the next 5 days or so. I practiced once with the brass and string group for the opening and closing worship and tomorrow I practice with just a keyboard player for the morning prayer sessions. I'm looking forward to this for a couple of reasons: 1) worship services planned by my friends Ron Rienstra and Greg Scheer are usually awesome so these should be too 2) it is fun to play guitar 3) it is fun to lead worship on the guitar 4) it is fun to play with good players - and I will be.

So, watch out RCA - I'm ready to rock.