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February Playlist: Bowie’s Last Score

Haven’t done one of these dedicated lists in a while, but since he’s all I’ve been listening to this past month, it felt appropriate. The rules are: 1. Every song had to have been recorded some time in Bowie’s final two decades-ish (1995-2015) and 2. It couldn’t have been released as a single, i.e., deep cuts only. Pretty happy with it! Presented in chronological order:

PZ’s Podcast: How To Be Popular If You’re a Guy

PZ’s Podcast: How To Be Popular If You’re a Guy

Episode 209 (up now!)

The answer to that question has to lie, somehow, in whatever explains the popular success of Rodney Marvin (‘Rod’) McKuen.

Rod McKuen died a year ago, and did you know he sold 100 million records? No kidding. Rod McKuen sold 100 million records.

(He also sold 60 million books. But hey…)

Here is a man who was universally dismissed, from day one of his earthly success, as being a “kitschy” Philistine and arch-sentimentalist. No critic had a word of praise for him. Ever, ever, ever. And that’s been true right up to the present day.

And let the People say: He…

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The Gospel According to Hamilton

The Gospel According to Hamilton

This one comes to us from our new friend Cort Gatliff.

My life can be divided into two distinct eras: Before Hamilton and After Hamilton. On October 1, 2015, after months of following the online hysteria and critical acclaim, the former era came to an end when I finally set aside time to listen to the Broadway cast recording of composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s latest, unconventional project: a hip hop musical about the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. Moments after hitting play, this work of art captured my imagination in a way no other cultural phenomenon in recent memory has. So…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Genesis Chapter Thirty Three Verses Twenty Four Through Twenty Eight

This morning’s devotion comes to us from the Rev. David Browder. 

Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. And when he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” And he said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:24-28, NRSV)

Although swooning on my part is a rarity, U2 is a band I like very much. In their song “Bullet the Blue Sky,” Bono sings, “Jacob wrestled the angel; and the angel was overcome.” Bono then folds the famous story of Jacob wrestling the angel into the midst of a song about unjust violence and hypocrisy. Military force in El Salvador is mentioned, as is 1980s televangelism.

R-1311927-1253218044.jpegWith all the flux and panic of humanity, what does it mean for Bono that Jacob overcomes the mysterious man with whom he is wrestling? As dour as Bono’s prognosis is, Jacob’s is no better. Jacob is sure that his sly chicanery has brought him a just and violent death, courtesy of his brother Esau. As you might remember, Jacob had stolen Esau’s birthright by a despicable deception, and Esau is now on the way to meet him face-to-face. Jacob is backed into a corner, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata playing in the background, with no one to blame but himself.

It is at this moment that God comes to Jacob. He does not come as a sweet and gentle person but as an adversary. As an adversary He breaks the remaining vestiges of Jacob’s faith in himself. Wrestling with God, Jacob actually believes that he is prevailing, but all the mysterious “man of God” had to do was reach out and touch Jacob’s leg to dislocate it. As dawn breaks, Jacob asks for God’s blessing, and what a beautiful metaphor: Jacob’s faith is transferred from himself to God as a new day dawns.

All the political and social unrest of the world adds to personal strife. Troubled relationships, broken dreams, and unexpected tragedies can be like a powerful Esau racing toward you with fires to start. “Bullet the Blue Sky” plays as belief in your own ability to master your domain diminishes. It is then that God visits “under the guise of His opposite.” A new day dawns as your faith is placed in One who does have control and dominion. It turns out that the One you have been fighting all night is totally in your corner.

Critical Thoughts on the Evangelical Embrace of Thomas Kinkade’s Art

Critical Thoughts on the Evangelical Embrace of Thomas Kinkade’s Art

A year and a half ago I wrote a post on Mockingbird about Thomas Kinkade, the prosperous “Painter of Light,” mostly responding to a then recent article highlighting his death due to a drug and alcohol overdose. I attempted to offer a thoughtful interpretation of Kinkade, his art, his unfortunate demise, and the Evangelical embrace of his work—how I see all of these things as interrelated. Some people disagreed, and others even regarded me as being arrogant about art and taste.

Admittedly, what I wrote was tongue-in-cheek at points. I’ve never respected Kinkade’s art, so I poked some fun at his expense, which in retrospect may have been…

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Just Like That Bluebird: The Mortal Prayers of David Bowie, RIP

Just Like That Bluebird: The Mortal Prayers of David Bowie, RIP

Gutted by this morning’s tragic news about the death of David Bowie. His incredible new single “Lazarus” had actually been on repeat in our office the past couple weeks. By way of paltry tribute, here’s the reflection from the back of A Mess of Help, slightly embellished. The world will be a duller place without him:

Rumor has it that David Bowie lobbied for the role of grand elf Elrond in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of The Rings. As good as Hugo Weaving was, Bowie would have been better, and not just because he played more or less to type in…

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PZ’s Podcast: Five O’Clock World

PZ’s Podcast: Five O’Clock World

EPISODE 208

Now we think that reality, the “real world”, is what happens “between nine and five”, that is, what happens at work, in the office, at school, in career, and so forth. And a lot of people want to tell us this is true.

But not The Vogues. They were from Pittsburgh and they understood about shifts and hourly pay. Yet they understand more than that!

For the fact is, ‘as you lay dying’ (Faulkner), you won’t give your “nine-to-five” life a single second thought. Not one single second thought! You’ll forget it all, in the absolute blink of an eye. That’s just…

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The Secret History of William Axl Rose [Super Deluxe Edition]

The Secret History of William Axl Rose [Super Deluxe Edition]

Well, the unthinkable has happened. Axl and Slash have buried the hatchet and are confirmed to be playing a headlining set (with Duff, possibly others) at Coachella this year. True to my word, to celebrate the momentous news, I’m posting the full Guns n Roses chapter of A Mess of Help. Portions of it appeared years ago in various forms on this site, but what you’ll find below was completely rewritten and is about three times longer – thus the Super Deluxe descriptor. Hope you have a fraction of the fun reading it that I had writing it. 

Intrigued, excited, and…

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January Playlist

Finding Faith: Top Ten Albums of 2015

Finding Faith: Top Ten Albums of 2015

It’s that time of the year again, time for another top ten albums list. The more of these I write, the more I realize how futile it is to attempt to pick ten albums to represent the year in music. This year the task was made even harder by the launch of Impossible to Say, Blake Collier’s and my music podcast. Thanks to the podcast, I listened to probably twice the amount of new music I listened to last year, which made winnowing down this year’s list an arduous task. So, without further ado, here are the albums that have…

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Martin Luther vs. English Christmas Carols

Merry Happy Christmas!

Another Week Ends: Little Richard, Brand Luther, Star Wars, Marilynne Robinson’s Soul, and Identifying As…?

Another Week Ends: Little Richard, Brand Luther, Star Wars, Marilynne Robinson’s Soul, and Identifying As…?

Click here to listen to the accompanying episode of The Mockingcast.

1) On the heels of “identity” being Dictionary.com’s word of 2015, Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill discusses a theme that we have spoken about quite a bit ourselves this year, namely, the increasingly fluid cultural understanding of identity politics. O’Neill takes on the phrase “I identify as…” as a telling move from what we used to say about ourselves: “I am…” And with this new movement of self-identification comes the emphasis on subjectivity, the need for one’s identity to be transient, temporal—rather than objective, fixed, given.

O’Neill describes that this rampant interest…

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