New Beginnings & A New Name: Jesus Goes Pop

So things will be moving in a [slightly] different direction around here. I have been feeling like this is getting pretty random lately and so I am making an effort to focus this in a little bit more on the things I’m passionate about, namely the intersection of where faith meets the media we consume — the music, movies, books, and television that we listen to, watch, and read.

I’m still going to post frequently and keep up with the awesome content, but it’s just going to be more intentional and focused about what I’m posting on here.

Here’s what I have on the docket to post in the next week or two:

“The Odd Gospel of Timothy Green”

“The Avett Brothers & The Carpenter”

“The Ethics of Breaking Bad” (this one could be a whole website in and of itself)

“Away from the World: A Theological Review of Dave Matthews Band’s New Album”

Unholy Night: A Book Review”

I’m excited for this new direction and think it’ll be a great thing.

I hope you’ll join me.

Cheers,
Eric

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The Dark Knight Rises & The Power of Silence

Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.” – The Dalai Lama

Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite living film directors. He’s done MementoThe PrestigeInception, and the three newest Batmans. His movies always make me think, leave me in suspense, and freak me the heck out. The more I think about it, the things that freak me out most in his movies is the use of silence. In some of the suspenseful, crescendoing scenes in movies, we have been conditioned to expect the music to build up along with the anticipation. But what Chris Nolan does is he often uses silence to do that build up for him.

And it’s terrifying.

For those of you who have seen Dark Knight Rises [and if you haven’t, this won’t be too much of a spoiler] but when Bane is about to come out onto the football field, when he’s walking through the tunnel, don’t you expect some kind of chaotic build up to the frenzy that would take place when he enters the field? Instead, literally all we hear is the voice of a little boy beautifully singing the Star-Spangled Banner. I’ll save the lecture on nationalism in the face of imminent destruction for another day.

The point is, whenever destruction happens, we flock to sounds and chaos and noise. Whenever I’m home alone and scared, I turn on the television just so there’s some background noise going around. Anything but silence.

And when something as terrible as the shooting in Aurora happens, we hurry to make noise. We blame parents. We  blame the media, the internet, rap music. We blame the shooter’s parents, we blame this generation’s parents, we blame all parents. My particular brand of noise was against guns. But we make noise all the same. Anything but silence.

It reminds me of a passage from the Book of Job. After the initial round of sufferings against Job — call it evil’s shock and awe campaign — three of Job’s friends come to him and see that he’s in terrible distress and sadness. Here’s what they do:

12When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their head. 13They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

Initially, they make noise. But then they settle into silence. This is the response of the faithful. Immediately after the tragedy in Aurora, a pastor made sweeping declarations that all non-Christians who were killed in that theater are going to hell. I wish he would have just kept silent. That kind of noise is despicable on top of incredibly insensitive.

Why can’t we simply do as Job’s friends did? See people who are suffering and sit down and weep with them? 

We don’t have to explain away their problems, or get them to laugh to escape their pain.

People yelling louder won’t change the fact that 12 people went to a movie to be entertained, and didn’t come out of the theater alive. Dozens more came out injured.

Lest we forget the shooter. We forget that someone became so broken and jaded against the world that he felt the only thing to do was to take tear gas and guns into something as innocent as a movie theater and start shooting.

Certainly as more details emerge, and more evidence comes to light, these conversations need to happen. We need to talk about available mental health resources. We need to talk about why this kind of thing happens.

But for now… we need to recognize, as Chris Nolan does, that there is power in silence. We need to learn to sit with victims of senseless violence and say that it’s terrible and senseless and appalling.

And weep with those who weep.

Cheers,
Eric

Instagram Friday!

Before I even begin, an admission: This is a shameless hijacking of ideas from the wonderful, awesome, incredible ladies at Steeples & Stilettos. They have Instagram Thursdays and I loved the idea so I did Instagram Friday. They’re Queen’s “Under Pressure” to my “Ice, Ice, Baby”. Whew. That felt good.

Ok now moving forward. This week was big for me. As an introverted media whore (the “introverted” describes me, not the media), I love release dates. Especially when they’re for things I have much anticipated. Books, CDs, DVDs, movies, software, Apple products… You name it. If it has a release date, and it’s something I want, the countdown is on. This past Tuesday, October 11th is a date I had circled on my calendar for not one, not two, but THREE releases that I was looking forward to. Here they are.

Ashes & Fire by Ryan Adams – This is the album cover in the bottom corner of the iTunes screen. Ryan Adams is one of my favorite musicians. He released a whole bunch of discs from 2001-2007, but has been fairly silent since… Until now. He’s incredibly talented and this disc is outrageously good. (Spoiler Alert: He’s also prominent in my Music Monday in a few days so come back for that!)

The Tree of Life – Terrence Malick’s latest came out on DVD/blu-ray this past Tuesday and I swept up to pick up the blu-ray version at Barnes and Noble. Haven’t watched it yet, but am so excited to have it. Such a great movie. If you haven’t seen it, you should highly consider it. Such a good movie.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides – Like both Adams and Malick, Jeffrey Eugenides is an incredibly talented artist who hones his craft so well as to have very sparse releases. His last book Middlesex was published in 2002 and won the Pulitzer. Incredible book from an incredible talent.

There were a lot of great releases this week. That’s why this picture was an easy pick for this week’s Instagram Friday.

Did any of you rush out to get any of these? If so, what do you think of them? I’m obviously bias, but want to hear your reactions. What do you think?

Have a great, Ryan Adams-Terrence Malick-Jeffrey Eugenides-filled weekend!

Cheers,
Eric

Moneyball as a Lesson of Innovation

I think it is only fair to start this out by saying that there are few things in this world that I love more than baseball. My family, some of my friends, my wife, maybe God (only kidding… kind of). So when a movie like Moneyball comes out it’s a pretty big deal. Now I will admit, this post is being written before I see the movie (but I’ve read the book so… that almost counts, right?). I’m planning on going to see it this afternoon so I will know quickly whether or not this post is completely off-base. But I don’t think it will be.

It’s been a hard year for fans of Minnesota sports. I recently moved from my sports home of Minneapolis down to Phoenix. I have enjoyed Arizona, but the physical distance from KFAN and other Minnesota sports fans has been tough. Thank God for podcasting.  One thing about Phoenix that surprised me, is that it is far and above a football town. Which is weird because they have a great baseball team and a fairly mediocre to not-so-great football team.

All of that aside, I’m really excited to see Moneyball (2011) with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  It’s based on Michael Lewis’ 2003 book.  From what I’ve heard/expect, it will be somewhere in the neighborhood of Bull Durham/Field of Dreams, not that I have high expectations or anything. Critics call Moneyball the baseball movie for nerds but I think it is made for all of us. Here is why.

If you don’t know the story, here is a summary.  Faced with putting together a baseball roster 1/4 the budget of the NY Yankees, General Manager of the Oakland A’s Billy Beane had enough. Every year, he would develop amazing players only to be robbed of them in free agency by rich teams like the Yankees or Red Sox.  Instead of drafting players solely on the basis of common stats like batting average, home runs, and RBIs, he used a computer-generated analysis and found a better way to rate players (this is called Sabermetrics). This idea stressed the greater importance of “lesser stats” like on base percentage (hits plus walks and being hit by pitches), which gives their team a statistical advantage in the long run.  And it worked albeit with heavy opposition of the idea for his first season in 2003.

Was it a change that came easy? No.

Did the “establishment” of baseball cry foul and think he was crazy?  Yes.

The thing about Moneyball is that it awakens an “innovative spirit” within us.  Whether in business, school, your personal life, church, or your slow-pitch softball team that went 2-15 last summer, we must pay attention to what this movie awakens in us.

So where do we go from here?

Let’s try this…

When someone says something like “that’s the way we’ve always done it”,

Pause.

Question whether that means it’s the best course of action for the future.

If it didn’t work today, adapt it and try it again.

Keep creating. Keep questioning. And keep moving forward.

It’s the only way to stay ahead.

Cheers,
Eric

Law and Gospel in “Good Will Hunting”?

So I took a class last semester on the Lutheran buzzwords “law and gospel”. I was skeptical at first because I thought we’d just heard fire and brimstone about how everyone needs to be convicted of their sin and blah blah blah boring and unimaginative.

Fortunately for me (and the church as a whole, I believe) that wasn’t the class we were getting. We watched movies and tv shows, listened to songs, and tried to find where there was law and where there was gospel in our world today.

One of the clips we watched was this little gem from “Good Will Hunting”. This is one of my favorite movies, but I’d never thought about it as particularly gospel (aside from the “Do you like apples” scene, because that’s just awesome). The whole scene is great, but the part I’m talking about in particular starts around the 2:50 mark until the end. Take a look at this scene and tell me if you think it’s gospel or not.

Powerful scene. But is it gospel? If someone stood up and preached from a pulpit “it’s not your fault”, is that message a sufficient sermon? What do you think?

Cheers,
Eric

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