Music
Dancing With a Ball and Chain: In Honor of The Civil Wars

Dancing With a Ball and Chain: In Honor of The Civil Wars

Last week the highly-publicized civil war between The Civil Wars came to a not-so-shocking conclusion: They have broken up, for good.

The folk duo went on hiatus in November 2012, cancelling their tour and kicking up a storm of speculation about alleged “internal discord.” The conflict, which remains ambiguous, didn’t prevent the duo from releasing a second and final album last summer. After a year of silence, they once again make headlines only to quash whatever hope remained that they might reconcile and get back on the road. In memoriam: Snafu aside, The Civil Wars made fantastic music.

Although never romantically “together,”…

Read More »

New Music: Mac Demarco’s Salad Days and the Impasse of Good Advice

New Music: Mac Demarco’s Salad Days and the Impasse of Good Advice

“Treat Her Better”, and “Go Easy”: the voice of pleading fights down that of advice in Demarco’s latest release.

Mac Demarco’s Salad Days has been, strangely enough, a joy to listen to. If I were a music critic, I’d try and fail to describe the playful self-awareness, the almost-total coincidence between irony and sincerity, etc. I can’t describe musical form too precisely, but suffice it to say, it’s tailored extremely well to the album’s content. And the content is stunning – or would be, if it didn’t have so many layers of irony and alienation covering it over.

In this case, that’s…

PZ’s Podcast: If You Can’t Stand the Heat

EPISODE 171: If You Can’t Stand the Heat

IMG_3572Guess I never tire of quoting Gerald Heard’s maxim about opting out: “The verb to escape is clear enough — it means to leave a position which has become impossible.”

There’s a long back-and-forth within the history of Christian endeavor as to the relative merit of engaging a fallen world in the hope of transforming it; or opting out of it in order to watch, wait and pray. Many dedicated saints have taken the first road. Many others have taken the second. There is obviously room for both.

This podcast examines the second road, and offers another element, too. You could entitle the talk “Feel to Heal”. I believe it, in any event.

Something happened to me on the 26th of July in London, Ontario. I knew it was happening when it was happening. It was even captured “on tape”. You can hear it at the end of this cast, about five minutes into the concluding music. “Good God,” I said to my friend — over the shouting — “he’s really doing it!” Speechless we were. Hope you will be, too, in a good way.

Take Sinead O’Connor to Church

The official video for Sinead’s awesome new anthem dropped over the weekend and needless to say there’s a lot going on in it. Almost feels like a tailor-made response to The Huffington Post piece mentioned below:

New Music: French Style Fur’s Is Exotic Bait

New Music: French Style Fur’s Is Exotic Bait

On the heels of obsessing over Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence, Matthew Linder and I found another target for our obsession in French Style Fur’s Is Exotic Bait. The band is made from members of We Barbarians and Cold War Kids, and most of the lyrical content comes straight out of the poetry of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and mystic. Here are the results of a conversation surrounding one of the deepest albums we have heard in quite a while.

Matt: So what did you think about “All the Way Down”?

Blake: That track is just so credal. I can’t ignore that…

Read More »

Another Week Ends: Electroshock Silence, MMO Addiction, Little Miss Perfect, Novel Tweets, Dawkins Hubris, Weird Dylan and Mad Max

Another Week Ends: Electroshock Silence, MMO Addiction, Little Miss Perfect, Novel Tweets, Dawkins Hubris, Weird Dylan and Mad Max

1. Buried in a weekender earlier this month, you may have seen the, er, shocking report of a study conducted at UVA (of all places!) that found that “People Prefer Electric Shocks to Being Alone With Their Thoughts.” If you dismissed it as classic social science clickbait, Lord knows you’d have our sympathy. But it would appear the findings were for real. In an article for The NY Times this week, Kate Murphy expanded on them substantially, folding in a number of our hobby horses along the way (compulsive busyness, over-distraction, Romans 7, even male underachievement), while curiously missing a golden opportunity…

Read More »

Just One of the Guys?

Just One of the Guys?

Stephanie Phillips on what it means to be a woman (sort of) in Jenny Lewis’s new album, The Voyager.

“Enter Sandman” Mariano Rivera and the “Long Arm” of the Law

“Enter Sandman” Mariano Rivera and the “Long Arm” of the Law

It was perhaps the best “mid-game entrance” routine in the history of sports. I certainly can’t think of anything that comes close. When Mariano Rivera strolled out of the bullpen in Yankee Stadium to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, it was game over. The ominous, yet melodic heavy metal tune certainly added to the mystique. It truly stunk to be on the opposing team.

Exit light
Enter night
Take my hand
Off to never never land

Rivera not only has the most saves in baseball history, he also has the highest save percentage (89%) among the all-time greats.  (The save statistic is defined for closers as either…

Read More »

St. Reba Reminds Us to Pray

St. Reba Reminds Us to Pray

The past few weeks have offered us a particularly difficult news cycle. A passenger plane was shot down in Ukraine. People continue to die in the Israel-Palestine conflict. And at home in America, children have crossed our borders alone and scared, longing for something less violent than the places they left.

I find myself wanting to do something, anything, to make it better. At this point I have been to all the relief websites. I know I can give money. If we knew Spanish, we could foster a child. And past that, I am basically out of options and stuck feeling…

Read More »

The Courage to Be “Weird”

The Courage to Be “Weird”

The internet got a little bit stranger this week with the release of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s newest album, Mandatory Fun. For close to 40 years now, Weird Al has embraced everything counterculture, playfully mocking the earnestness of 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and 10’s versions of “cool.” From Michael Jackson to Celine Dion, from Star Wars to the Beverly Hillbillies, there are few pop culture themes and memes that the musical master of parody has left untouched.

Weird Al predates me. I discovered him as a nerdy elementary schooler at a friend’s sleep-over. All we third and fourth graders howled with laughter,…

Read More »

The Repetitive Hope of Gavin Bryars’s “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”

The Repetitive Hope of Gavin Bryars’s “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”

I heard Gavin Bryar’s “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” for the first time in college late one night while perusing the internet for new music. This was during a particularly dark period in my life after a recent breakup where I spent many a night on the internet distracting myself with music blogs, Facebook, or AddictingGames.com. I happened upon a positive review endorsing the piece and intrigued by the concept and backstory, I downloaded it and pressed play. Normally, I would listen to music on my laptop while continuing to browse the internet but minutes after the song started,…

Read More »

Another Week Ends: Nick Cave, Cuddle Parties, Prognostalgia, Wine Snobbery, The Vicar of Baghdad, and the Post-Christian Politics of Jesus

Another Week Ends: Nick Cave, Cuddle Parties, Prognostalgia, Wine Snobbery, The Vicar of Baghdad, and the Post-Christian Politics of Jesus

1) “The Vicar of Baghdad” is a three-part series over at Vice, and it’s difficult to put into words the (foolish? amazing?) courage of Vicar Andrew White, an English-born Anglican priest who walks with a cane, and who has now served in Baghdad’s central districts for fourteen years, running St. George’s Episcopal Anglican Church, as well as running a clinic for locals and, most interestingly, working as a intermediary between Sunni and Shia leaders for peace and dialogue. It’s a real-life parable (ht JZ).

2) There were several au contraires to the presumption that we “live by looks” this week. Or,…

Read More »

I’m Wasting My Young Years: Simone Weil Tackles FOMO

I’m Wasting My Young Years: Simone Weil Tackles FOMO

To many students like myself, mid-July feels like this: “I can’t believe school starts in only a month—I haven’t done enough summery things yet.” There’s a nagging sense of regret even in the present that maybe we could do more to optimize our time. Maybe it’s FOMO, the fear of missing out, or, perhaps, the fear of wasting time. Summer is a long-anticipated golden calf in my head, carved deep with endless vacations and immediate suntans and condensating glasses of Kool-Aid. Not a moment of this empyrean season should go to waste.

And so waste becomes the object of frenzied anxiety….

Read More »

Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

When you watch a movie that’s a re-make of an older movie (which was also probably adapted from a musical adaptation of a novel) – do you ever mope and wonder if anything out there is original anymore? Is there really nothing new under the sun? I like to be cynical and sleep bitterly in this camp from time to time, sure that our collective imaginations are being mercilessly wiped away by some Never Ending Story-esque of a Nothing. “This is all that’s left of Fantasia!?” But then I consider the very concept of originality and I start to chuckle…

Read More »

Another Week Ends: Blinded with Science, Stumped by Meaning After God, Paralyzed by the Law of Ice and Fire, Outmaneuvered by a Cheeseburger and Oversimplified by Gallup

Another Week Ends: Blinded with Science, Stumped by Meaning After God, Paralyzed by the Law of Ice and Fire, Outmaneuvered by a Cheeseburger and Oversimplified by Gallup

1. Aquinas followed Aristotle in claiming the end (telos, purpose) of biology is medicine. Science has long been a technical discipline designed primarily to promote human flourishing / well-being. Of course, it was always contemplative to a degree, satisfying curiosity or even, as Aquinas also notes, teaching us about God. The study of creation reflects upon the Creator. One wonders what the role of science is today, what a panel of researchers would say if asked. My best guess would be something along the lines of increasing knowledge for knowledge’s sake; if pressed further, one might say that pure knowledge works to bolster happiness and/or…

Read More »