Monday, December 31, 2007

end of year top ten lists

one of my fave things that always arrive at the end of the year are best of lists. music. movies. books. you name it. i love reading them to find some bit of overlooked or previously un-enjoyed bit of beauty, or to remember once again something that i enjoyed during the year. below are a number of links to well known publications. i suppose to enhance my indie cred i should have some random dudes blog linked to his fantastic list mentioning movies and/or music i have never seen nor heard. but i didn't. most of this stuff is accessible. this is not about trying to outdo people with, so here are a few links to some great year end top ten lists,
from the post-dispatch.
a list by manohla dargis of the new york times
a top 25 by british entertainement sight empire.

side note: part of the beauty of lists like these are the conversations they begin, manohla dargis points this out in her article. and most the conversations are stirred more often by omissions than by inclusions. for instance, there are some glaring omissions on the empire list, and they had 25 chances to get it right. oh well.

on to music (just one):

random viral video:
this has to be my fave viral for the year. seriously. i can't even believe this is real. apparently these prisoners do a whole bunch of other dances. daily exercise, i guess.

hopefully i will get to my own list of top tens for music and movies. maybe ill do books next year. happy new year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

it has been some and all. now i have some time that the primary holiday of the "holidays" is over i will post a bit more. here is an article on my favorite modern director, whose new film, there will be blood, will opening soon. can't wait!

Monday, October 15, 2007

"praise jesus"

this past weekend i celebrated my thirtieth year. (were we celebrating past or future?) the old house was cleaned out and polished, lights hung in the trees in the backyard, the patio swept and the firepit set, bottles and bottles on the table in the dining room.
i find myself continuing to crawl backwards into myself. no more moving outward, no more extension, but myself folding in, inverting. all the stories i could tell seem so useless when they pile one on top of the other. to explain this i must tell that, and to explain that i must tell this. and so why bother. isn't it easier to vanish?
i talked to my father yesterday. (how many things unsaid even in that simple statement...)
he told me that he had taken a trip to maine. he sailed a sailboat out into the ocean; sliding through marble waters. on the last day as they sailed toward port, the wind picked up. the waters swelled and splashed over the edge of the boat, misting salt spray. he told me how perfect it was. meanwhile my mother hadn't received the check he should have sent. and the present he could have given me lay locked up in a safe at borders.
still in maine, my father ran into a woman he had once worked with. my father had been fired from that job and given an apocalyptic prophecy as a send off: my father would never work again, he wouldn't be able to send me to college, his life would descend into an unidentifiable mess. "but look at me now", my dad said to me, imagining he was confronting his old boss. "i'm on a cruise in maine. i showed him. i wonder what sort of stories they are telling in the old office now."
"i couldn't imagine a better way to write that script" he told me. (never mind his recent divorce, his isolation, excommunicating himself from the church, or his estrangement from the son of his old age)
then my dad related the entire story to the folks who were hosting him. how he had been unjustly fired, cursed with a dire prophecy and how after all these years he had gotten the upper hand. he had showed them. fuckers. afterward they all said in unison...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

razor blades and a warm bath

i am nearly finished with sylvia plath's the bell jar. this is probably not the book i should be reading at this moment in my life. what's more, my wife warned me not to get it. i suppose there is a kind of sick justice that i used my father's gift card that he bought me at borders (he had the manager lock it up in the safe so i could go pick it up - what warmth - happy birthday son!) to buy the book.
i loved the first half of the book. the second half is nothing more than shock treatments, mental hospitals, razor blades, glass bottles of pills; suicide in all fashion. suicide has never seemed as attractive to me as it has in this book. i am not saying: committing suicide is attractive to me. it isn't. but the repeated variations, and the beauty of her descriptions combined with the psychologically awkward place i find myself in is an unhealthy combination. she manages to even make the process of disembowel ling oneself a aesthetic exercise in death.
"When they asked some old Roman philosopher or other how he wanted to die, he said he would open his veins in a warm bath. I thought it would be easy, lying in the tub and seeing the redness flower from my wrists, flush after flush through the clear water, till I sank to sleep under a surface gaudy as poppies.
But when it came right down to it, the skin of my wrist looked so white and defenseless that I couldn't do it. It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn't in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get at."

Saturday, October 6, 2007

for public consumption

The snow fell lightly, pattering against the windshield. Earlier the air had been thick and the streets dirty, but the snow seemed to cleanse things and put a chill back into the air. Leah drove the truck slowly down main street to the brick church where the AA meeting was scheduled for noon. She turned into the parking lot; two cars were parked near an entrance. She pulled up next to them, turned the keys back toward herself and sat for a minute. With one hand she tapped her leg to the subtle beat of the song on the radio, remembering the promise she had made, with the other she held onto her dying cigarette, gently ashing out the window.

Inside the church was silent, and it smelled like antiseptic cleaner. The fluorescent lights along the hallway gave it a greenish glow and the linoleum dimly reflected the ghastly light of the long thin bulbs. Every other one lit to save energy and money. Leah passed classroom after classroom looking in each one, walked down the stairs covered in linoleum tile. At the end of the hall was a room decorated with pieces of kid art. Mobiles hung from the ceiling and pieces of construction paper were taped to the door. They were cut into shapes of animals with cotton balls glued on as tails and black buttons for eyes. In the middle of the door was a sheet of white paper with a big yellow sun on it, with long rays like blond eyelashes. At the bottom of the sheet were three people: a father, a mother and a child, stick arms reaching up, holding hands.
Inside was a circle of chairs, and seven people sitting down, they all turned in their chairs to look at Leah.
“Come on in,” they said almost in unison.
“Is this AA?” Leah asked, poking her head inside the door.
“Yes. Get some coffee and grab a seat.” An older gentleman pointed to a long folding table with a large metal percolator, Styrofoam cups and a basket full of creamers and sugar.

Kath came in three times. The first time, Leah lay on the bed, turned away from the door. Her coat still on, her hat still on, and the leg of her pajamas wrapped around her face. The heavy sour smell of cigarette smoke lingered just above her.
“How did it go?”
“What go? Fucking AA?” Leah turned her pajama covered face toward the door, toward her mother. “I’m eighteen and going to AA. Fine, it went fine.”
“I’m sorry I asked…”
“Whatever.” Leah muffled through the pajamas. She pushed the pajamas up above her eyes with the palm of her hand and played with her fingers. Kath watched her every movement and put her hands together.
“I like your jacket.”
“You got it for me.”
“I did?”
“Mom, God, you bought it for me two years ago for my birthday, remember.”

Kath came in again and brushed the leg of Leah’s pajamas back from her face, kissed her on the cheek, and gently touched her face.
“It’ll be all right babe, everything will be all right.” And she left.

The last time Kath quietly sat down on the bed and placed her hand on Leah’s shoulder, “You know you’re pulling a mother. When I was young and things didn’t go my way I ran into my room, and shut the door.” Kath stood up and let her hand trail the length of Leah’s arm. “But your door is open.”

Leah had fallen asleep, but awoke when she heard the heavy thudding of her father’s thick feet on the carpet. He didn’t say a word. He just knelt by the bed and laid his head against the edge of the bed. He put his hands against the small of her back, as if he were consecrating her to something pure and holy. Abraham sacrificing Isaac. She was still. Moments passed, his head still resting on the bed, and then he rose and went to the window. He pulled the shade, careful not to wake her, and as he left, he shut the door.

When she woke, it was some time later, and all that remained was the vague remembrance of her father’s hands on her back, her mother’s words and her own anger. She got up, wiping sleep from her eyes and walked down the hall, hugging the wall, and went outside for a smoke. The air was biting and the fresh snow looked blue and crisp. Clouds of steam came from her mouth and nose. She walked from the porch out onto the front lawn and stepped toward the trees that bordered the house. The cigarette hung loosely from her fingertips. She stopped and stood quiet for a moment, and in the trees and bushes she heard the snap and rustle of movement.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

radiohead link

per the article below, here is the radiohead sight where one could, if one wanted, download their new rainbows...FOR FREE!!!

Monday, October 1, 2007

iron and wine interview

one of my fav bands, iron and wine just released a new album entitled, the shepherd's dog. here is an interview with sam beam, the creative muscle behind iron and wine.
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also, on another note a new radiohead album will be coming out on oct 10. happy birthday to me, and what's more, you can download it for free from their websight. check this shit out!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

eastern promised

i went last weekend with a couple friends to see david cronenberg's latest film, eastern promises. i posted earlier that i was eagerly expecting this film as well as a few others. in the intermediate time between when i was first aware of the movie coming out and when i saw it i had developed a rather heady expectation of what the film would be like. in particular i was struck by the poster featuring a pair of heavily tattooed hands, which belong to viggo mortenson's character. the film was in short, one of the most, if not the most, heavily violent films i have ever seen. it is not that the entire movie is violent because it isn't, there are really only about three or four scenes of violence. but each scene is a puncture in the narrative flow of the film. the actual violence itself is arresting, and because it is so jarring, it forces you to be on edge during the remainder of the film. in the final battle mortenson's character, nikolai, faces a couple of chechen thugs in a steam room. cronenberg intensifies the sound of skin on skin, giving each punch, cut and slash of the knife greater aural and visual impact. the scene was so intense that instead of gasps in the audience, there were laughs. it was as if those watching the scene simply had no recourse to the emotional toll the scene took. to gasp, or otherwise recoil, would be to not give the scene its proper emotional due.
the performances were a bit of a mixed bag. i was particulary bothered by the fact that there were not, as far as i could tell, any native russian speakers. because i know russian, and spent some time in russia, i notice things like this. when they spoke in russian they spoke very slowly, and when they spoke in english the thick russian accents where spotty. this was especially the case for vincent cassell whose accent was inconsistent at best. mortenson's accent was at times a bit overdone, otherwise he turned in a remarkable performance. at times his character was servile, at other times steely and ruthless. he handled the nuances of his character with remarkable deftness. the finest performances were put on by armin meuhler-stahl as the godfather of the russian mob, the vory v vaskonye. he was at times gentle and fatherly, yet with a constant threat of menace behind his twinkling blue eyes. naomi watts turned in the other outstanding performance as a frightened midwife who discovers a dead girls diary.
i wanted to like this movie a lot more than i did. perhaps it was because i had such a heightened sense of expectation going into it. it is a good movie, and one of the better films to come out this year, but not a great movie by any stretch.
now my attention is turned to Wes Anderson's new film, The Darjeeling Limited. Here is an article from new york magazine on one of my favorite directors. enjoy.

Monday, September 24, 2007

embrace the f*** you

my counselor told me last week as i stood to go, "embrace the fuck you". funny, i know. we had been talking about my tendency to flip off the world, or as she said so delicately, "to say 'fuck you ' to everyone." i don't deny that i do that, or have that tendency. never before has that tendency been more obvious than this past summer in the week leading up to my firing from evolve24. i just couldn't shut myself down, it was bird city, all the time. the morning i came home after being escorted off the premises the first person i called was a friend of mine, david panell. he told me that i had an authority problem, that was the first time anyone had ever said that to me, and as i thought about it i realized it was true. but it's not just a simple i hate rules or the people that make them sort of thing, it's really a trust issue. my fundamental problem is that i don't trust that people love me or that they have my best interests in mind. i figure that everyone is out for number one, themselves, and if they are going to control me with their own well being in mind, than the only logical thing for me to do is say, fuck off. doesn't work so well in a corporate environment. or any environment for that matter.
i can, and will, continue to plumb the depths of that tendency. that is why i am in counseling after all. and i will continue to investigate how and why i have come to the place i am currently at. i am sure there are parental issues there, false christianity and false gospel issues. there are also guilt issues as well. lastly, and perhaps most appropriately for this blog, there are grace issues.

Monday, September 17, 2007

nonbelief is hot!*

some of you might be familiar with books like Richard Dawkin's the god delusion, or perhaps Sam Harris' book the end of faith. Both of these writers, along with Christopher Hitchens, have come to represent a new form of virulent anti-theism**. atheism would just be simple denial of god, where as in my coinage, anti-theism is a type of hyperbolic religious warfare against christian believers. there has been a renewal of late of this type of bully pulpit philosophizing. the essential thrust of these of arguments is that religious belief is by its very nature, logically incoherent, empirically unverifiable and psychologically aberrant and consequently dangerous to the public good. accordingly their respective positions ride a heady wave of sound reason, empirical fortitude and common sense. it seems to me that most christians have one of several responses to this sort of argument, it is either to descend into similar hyperbole and condemn the rhetoric of harris, et al or it is to treat it with a kind of smug self righteousness shown here by Ralph Reed, the third option is to simply retreat from the debate in total. a fourth possible option is laid out here by martin marty in an interesting article in the christian century.
i remember saying to some of my friends in the immediate months following 9-11 that we should watch out for a new kind of attack against christianity in which islamic extremism and christian fundamentalism would be lumped together. harris in his book, The End of Faith, essentially does this very thing. However, he takes it a step further by widening his argument to include christian evangelicals among the community of the dangerous.
The very conflation of Islamic terrorism and Christian political movements (I am uncomfortable with many, if not all, Christian political movements by the way – perhaps another post is due on this subject) shows the disingenuity, not to mention the overall sloppiness, of Harris’ project. He continually lumps things together and condemns them in total without bothering to dissect each piece. The problem is that he ends up with this all- encompassing, anti-religious, anti-theistic stance that confuses and obfuscates the very thing which he proposes to illuminate. He seemingly has no understanding of the historical role in which Christianity has helped shape western culture, nor does he seem to have any ability to distinguish the various threads of Christian practice and fundamentalist Islamic extremism. Anyone who wished could clearly see the difference between these two, yet somehow he fails. No other conclusion can be drawn but that he does not wish to see the difference because it would not allow him to promote his agenda.
I think it would be easy for Christians to look at the arguments put forth by Harris, et al. as merely specious misrepresentations of what we believe and move on. But the fact of the matter is that he has raised the stakes in the debate. And perhaps now, more than ever, a true believer should realize the very consequence of what we believe. Namely, that our belief is not morally or spiritually neutral and there are those who are bent on the destruction of our faith and practice. It is not enough to turn our heads, or to bury them in the sand, and laugh off the mischaracterization an answer to everyone who asks you to of our faith. At the very least we ought to be challenged to understand our faith more, and be ready, at any moment, as Peter commanded us “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have...”

*a quote from jacques berlinerblau
**i thought that perhaps i was the using anti-theism for the first time, but it turns out that this very term is used by the individuals listed above. so much for originality.

why peanuts is the best

so, i'm watching peanuts this morning with eva and charlie brown makes a reference to albert schweitzer. how can you not love a kids cartoon that references an esoteric german theologian from the turn of the twentieth century. also, found this. gotta love this too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

three films i can't wait to see

i am excited about this. in this article viggo mortenson mentions investigationg russian prison tatoos. in 2000 and 2001 i spent nine months in russia. one of my good friends had a small tattoo at the back of his hand just beneath his thumb; three little dots in a triangular pattern. if you look at the picture of mortenson's hands in the poster you will see the same tattoo. i tried over and over again to get my friend to tell me what the tatoo meant. it was a mysterious tattoo to me at the time and he refused to tell me what it meant. much later i found out...
i am also excited about the two films by my favorite directors named anderson: the darjeeling limited and also there will be blood (can there be a more forboding title?)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

ironing out the wrinkles

madeleine l'engle died. death is hard. it's not as if her death has affected me profoundly or anything. but i think she was a pretty neat woman. it strikes me in thinking about her that she is the prototype of what a christian artist should be. she was a tremendous artist. she was faithful to what she believed, and yet it did not translate into hackneyed artistic products.

the problem with contemporary christian art is just that, it is christian art. it is art created specifically for a subculture community. it does not aspire to greatness outside of that community. and i believe that because it does not aspire to that kind of greatness it does not glorify god in the way that true Christian art should. i realize that much of what i am saying depends on vast generalizations, and obviously it does not apply to all christians who do art. however, if we think of the greatest christian artists over the past century they were not artisits who created art striclty for the christian comunity but rather artistis who did work in the public eye.

it seems to me that the christian's first responsibility is to the glory of God. this is a profound responsibility and ought to translate into first rate work. many people have written about this, and much more profoundly than i could ever. dorothy sayers comes to mind in particular. one can find a challenging depiction of the responsibility of the christian artist in her book of essays, Letters to a Post Christian World. another work that i have not read, but that that i have read snippets from is Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky's Sculpting in Time. In it he says, "Art must transcend as well as observe; its role is tor bring spiritual vision to bear on reality."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

everybody has aids!

so i just finished all families are psychotic. everyone has AIDS. the son, the mom, the lover and the son's wife...all of them. i kept being reminded of the satirical song "everybody has AIDS" from the movie Team America:

Everyone has AIDS!
Everyone has AIDS!

And so this is the end of our story
And everyone is dead from AIDS
It took from me my best friend
My only true pal
My only bright star (he died of AIDS)

Well I'm gonna march on Washington
Lead the fight and charge the brigades
There's a hero inside of all of us
I'll make them see everyone has AIDS

My father (AIDS!)
My sister (AIDS!)
My uncle and my cousin and her best friend (AIDS AIDS AIDS!)
The gays and the straights
And the white and the spades

Everyone has AIDS!
My grandma and my dog 'ol blue (AIDS AIDS AIDS)
The pope has got it and so do you (AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS)
C'mon everybody we got quilting to do (AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS)
We gotta break down these baricades, everyone has
AIDS! x 20

that is a totally inappropriate song.

Monday, August 27, 2007, such as

had to....

Sunday, August 26, 2007

our fathers are our models for god

i talked to my dad on tuesday. it's amazing to me the level of dysfunction that existed under the guise (or perhaps in the disguise) of normalcy in our family. i am only beginning to grasp that now. how many lies we lived. and it has been with an increasing sense of shame and horror that i have watched as my father turned from this guy into this guy over the past year. i cried for the first time in over a year after i talked to him. my insides were twisted and i felt sick. i spent the next three days nearly immobilized with a deep sadness. and as my luck would have it, i also had the flu. but you know the interesting thing is that in the middle of all of this shit i am getting a clearer and more distinct picture of what being loved by jesus is all about.
i really shouldn't drop a line like that and leave it hanging. it seems so cheap doesn't it? it's almost a non sequiter. but i started this blog precisely so i could work these things out, and do it in a public fashion because there is nothing for me to hide anymore. i don't pretend to understand paul (wink wink) when he says he is the worst of sinners, i get it. that's all i used to get. in fact, that was where my understanding of the gospel ended. i do bad things=bad dude=not loved by god. perfectly rational. just not the gospel.
i can remember a good friend who used to look me in the eye and tell me he loved me. it was all i could do to keep from laughing/crying/punching him on his tongue. why? i didn't believe it. my line was this: "just around the corner is my next screw up. it happens to have your name on it. when that collision happens, and i've screwed you over you won't love me anymore. end of story."
like i said, totally rational. in fact, i think people tell themselves that same line in differing variations every day, all day long. but the more people came into my life that looked into my eyes and saw how very screwed up i was, and more they continued to tell me that they loved me, the more i began to understand that grace was something much bigger than i had ever thought it was. and that the cross had something of infinite importance to say about my worth. and that my sin was not the most lasting or true thing about me.
i get angry when people toss grace around like a bean bag. a thing to be thought lightly of. i get angry when people bandy words like "brokenness" around as if there is something romantic about sinning against other people. the reality of sinfulness in this world is that it comes with a body count. sin is not neutral. and the grace that conquers it has been hard won for us.

you might wonder why i posted this clip. the fact is i think tyler durden is right. our father's do model god. so when our father's fail what happens to god?

is the failure of my father a model for god's failure in my life? it somehow illuminating the way jesus really loves me? i'm not going to (nor am i trying to) solve this issue in a blog post with a pithy saying and a video clip. i think it is enough at the moment for me to hold both of these things, tight fisted, in a kind of tension.

there are things i know to be true. not just true in some syllogistic way, but true in a deeper sense. felt truth, experienced truth, having lived and seen something work itself out true. i wouldn't have put grace in the title of this blog if i didn't think that it was the central issue threading through all our lives. by grace you are saved.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

what i'm reading

last night my wife banished me to border's in order to find something to read. now, i'm the sort of guy who has trouble ordering from a menu at a restaurant because i can't make up my mind. so imagine my trouble at a place like borders with books stacked, quite literally, to the ceiling. i was given one rule: it must be fiction. anyone who knows my family and sees the title to the right probably will think i bought a secret biography of the Perkins clan. its not true but it could be.
coupland is the author credited with coining the phrase "generation x". apart from that however he is quite an accomplished writer. if you can imagine a 21st century jack kerouac, then you have a pretty good idea what d. coupland is all about. he's not quite as transient as kerouac, but he has seemed to have inherited some similar personality traits.
he also has a god fascination which i enjoy. i'll let you know what i think of it when i'm finished.

Monday, August 20, 2007


here is grace. my daughter: evangeline grace. eva for short. and at this particular moment she is captivated by blues clues, the way only a two year old can be.
eva was a surprise to us, and our lives have changed in dramatic ways because of her arrival to our family.
my wife and i were married in march of 04, we found out that we were pregnant with Eva in September of that same year. at the time Lindsay was teaching at Kirk Day School, and i was working part-time at Starbucks and going full time to seminary. we also bought a house. a one-bedroom house. in fact we closed on that house the same week we found out that we would be adding another person to our family. Eva was born in May, Lindsay quit teaching and i lasted one more semester at Covenant before i left for full time work at Starbucks. for the next year i was assistant manager at the starbucks in kirkwood. (yeah, that guy worked two blocks away from the starbucks store.)
it was a difficult year to say the least. i was never happy with my job. and two months after i started my dad walked out on my mom. never to return. we also were expecting our second child. we found out early with our first pregnancy whether it was going to be a boy or a girl. we waited on this one. six months after my dad walked out, and six months after i first began to wrestle with the deeper issues of father-son relationships, we had a boy.

first off...

here are my orange clogs. crocs, to be exact. i purchased them as an homage to mario batali after i got a job an italian joint here in saint louis. since that time my crocs and i have been inseparable.
this is my second go 'round with a blog. i hope this time i will be more consistent with my posts.
i'll post a picture of grace in my next post.
all for now.