Music
Another Week Ends: American Immortals, Henry James, U2charists, Authentic Nerdists, AWK Prays, and Reclusive Deities

Another Week Ends: American Immortals, Henry James, U2charists, Authentic Nerdists, AWK Prays, and Reclusive Deities

1. Part and parcel of the juvenilization we touched on earlier this week is the phenomenon UPenn bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel (best name ever?!) describes as “the American immortal”, that not-so-peculiar species that devotes so much of its time/energy to prolonging life that it kills them (often before they die). Surprise surprise–underneath the aversion to growing up may lurk a denial of human limitation which is ultimately a denial of death. In the latest bit of watercooler bait from The Atlantic, “Why I Hope To Die at 75″, Emanuel challenges the notion of “compression of morbidity”, the widespread presumption that the…

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Song for the Victims of our Modern Day Gladiators

Song for the Victims of our Modern Day Gladiators

Are you not entertained? All signs point to “No, I’m not entertained”, per David Puddy and the cheesy 8-ball jacket (thank you, Seinfeld fans). Rather, we’re disgusted.  I’ve read it in comments here. I’ve seen it on Facebook and Twitter – we’re fed up. I get it, really, I do. It’s an awful thing. However, I have to admit my two (polarized) reactions to all of this.

On one hand, I really don’t want to write about this crap two weeks in a row. This week though, we have four more (count them, four – Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Jonathan Dwyer,…

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#Blessed in the Storm

#Blessed in the Storm

It may be the most ubiquitous hashtag on the internet. We use it on every platform. And, of course, it totally transcends every category. Everyone from the 16 year old with a new Lexus SUV to the wife telling the world about her 40th wedding anniversary is #blessed. Of course, for those of us who drove an old pick up truck in high school or who’s first marriage lasted just two years, #blessed cannot mean anything good. We have somehow failed. Our lives have not measured up.

Certainly there are underlying theological implications. We may worry that other people are #blessed…

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God Helped The Girl

God Helped The Girl

I guess it’s impossible to write about God Help the Girl, the new musical film written and directed by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, without weighing in on the larger aesthetic it embodies, what some have even called a movement: Twee. But I’m going to try, as we’ve tread that ground a number of times already. Suffice it to say, if ice cream cones (with pirouette cookies), Left Banke singles, and coonskin caps turn your stomach, you probably won’t be able to get beyond the window-dressing on this one. As the opening line of The Vulture review put it,…

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Almost Like The Blues – Leonard Cohen

The sage’s brilliantly titled new record, Popular Problems, comes out on Tuesday, but NPR is streaming the whole thing this week. Of particular note, thus far, is the Exodus-leaning “Born in Chains”, to say nothing of lead “single” “Almost Like the Blues”, the words of which were printed in verse form in The New Yorker a few weeks ago. The final verse stopped me in my tracks:

There is no G-d in heaven
And there is no Hell below
So says the great professor
Of all there is to know
But I’ve had the invitation
That a sinner can’t refuse
And it’s almost like salvation
It’s almost like the blues

U2’s Songs of Innocence: Familiar But Surprising, Free But Costly

U2’s Songs of Innocence: Familiar But Surprising, Free But Costly

That didn’t take long! This review comes to us from Nathan Hart:

The biggest surprise of the launch of U2’s new album isn’t the way it was released—it’s how good the songs are.

It has been five long years since No Line On The Horizon, an album with some great moments but one which also revealed a band in artistic decline. In those five years, they knew they were one more misstep away from irrelevance. The reports weren’t hopeful: a new producer here, a scrapped album concept there. They seemed “stuck in a moment that they can’t get out of”, finally crushed…

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When Everyone Loved U2

When Everyone Loved U2

In honor of the surprise release of the new (free!) U2 record, Songs of Innocence, we bring you a reflection on the band from Andrew Barber:

Weird Al Yankovic made me a U2 fan. I’m not proud of it. But it is true.

Every now and then our local library would sell some of their less popular stuff for cheap. On a whim, my dad picked up a cassette for one dollar. You know, one of those small square things you sometimes had to wind with your finger. A single track of the orchestral score from the 1995 movie Batman Forever was…

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PZ’s Podcast: Does The Name Grimsby Mean Anything To You? and Everything Is Tuesday

PZ’s Podcast: Does The Name Grimsby Mean Anything To You? and Everything Is Tuesday

Episode 175: Does the Name Grimsby Do Anything to You?

Ever since 2007 I related to Eliot’s succinct line, “Old men ought to be explorers”. Not that I was exactly an old man, but the line gave me hope. Notwithstanding the end of something, there was something hopeful I could still do. I could try to understand.

Could I become the first man on the moon, like ‘Major Franklin Grimsby’ in Rod Serling’s short story? If I were, would anyone care? (“Does Anyone Know What Time It Is?” – Chicago) Well, at least I’ve tried to try. Lo, a polyptoton.

In this cast,…

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Another Week Ends: Biblical Counseling, Jennifer Lawrence, God Help the Girl, Volunteer Pallbearers, Sly Stone and The Nobodies

Another Week Ends: Biblical Counseling, Jennifer Lawrence, God Help the Girl, Volunteer Pallbearers, Sly Stone and The Nobodies

1. Over at The Pacific Standard, Kathryn Joyce provides a remarkably thorough look at “The Rise of Biblical Counseling”. It’s a crash course in both the history of conflicted Christian attitudes toward psychotherapy, and, unintentionally perhaps, how those attitudes are perceived by secular elites (i.e. with disdain and/or condescension). She surveys a field which runs the gamut from hardliners who would chalk nearly all mental illness up to sinful behavior (and do untold damage in the process) and more moderate, medication-endorsing voices who have the gall to insist that there may be a spiritual and–gasp!–moral component to certain afflictions, or at least, that we ignore such…

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Searching Our ‘Spirits’ In The Boss

Searching Our ‘Spirits’ In The Boss

This wonderful reflection on desire and Bruce Springsteen comes to us from Ben Self:

“It’s… that rush moment that you live for. It never lasts, but that’s what you live for.”

– Bruce Springsteen, Time Magazine, 1975

I’ve always loved the use of the term “spirits” as a synonym for hard liquors. It speaks to what is most alluring in booze and any number of other mind-altering substances and pleasures—that feeling of being transported to another higher, perhaps lighter, warmer, state of consciousness by forces within us that are beyond our control. It’s a kind of ravishing and unhinging of the mind and…

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September Playlist

  1. 09e95f9b9d69fe05485ff843784d2517Cruel to Be Kind – Nick Lowe
  2. One Way Love – Agnetha Faltskog
  3. Goodbye Eddie Goodbye – The Juicy Fruits
  4. A Day Without Jesus – Bobby Whitlock
  5. Bayou Country – Gritz
  6. What Becomes of the Brokenhearted – Joan Osborne and the Funk Brothers
  7. Suicide – The Raveonettes
  8. Racine – Duvall
  9. Another School Day – Hello
  10. Head Over Heels – ABBA
  11. So Now What – The Shins
  12. Truly Julie’s Blues – Bob Lind
  13. Like a Rocket Man – David Bowie
  14. No Show – Bishop Allen
  15. The New You – Jenny Lewis
  16. God and Suicide – Blizten Trapper
  17. Have Mercy – The Gaslight Anthem
  18. The Healing Day – Bill Fay

BONUS TRACK: ABBA does Romans 7…

 

The Gaslight Anthem Got Hurt

The Gaslight Anthem Got Hurt

In the trend of recent conversation pieces, Blake (B.I.C.) and I bring you a discussion of The Gaslight Anthem’s newest album Get Hurt.

Carl: First off, how do you feel about “break-up” albums? Intense emotional pain and torment have produced classic albums like Blood on the Tracks, but more often than not I find “break-up” records to be less interesting than others. Get Hurt is certainly a “break-up” record, and while that adds an emotional rawness missing from Gaslight Anthem’s earlier work, I felt as if Fallon’s lyrics lost some of the universality they have on Handwritten and The ’59 Sound.

Blake: As far as…

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Agnetha Faltskog Is God? (Mbird Find of the Century)

As a music fan, every once and a while you have one of those “there-is-a-god moments” that makes all the digging worthwhile. You find something, usually by accident, that seems tailormade for YOU, a piece of the puzzle that fits perfectly, that you didn’t know you were missing. It sounds far-fetched, but the sensation is a spiritual one. In an instant, the impersonal universe evaporates and the existence of God seems like a foregone conclusion. And not just any God but a God that cares about, well, you. It happened when I stumbled across Elvis Presley’s “Let Us Pray”. Same thing when I heard the story behind The Monkees’ “St. Matthew”. But this one may take the cake: the lead off track on Agnetha Faltskog’s second solo album (you know, the girl who put the ‘A’ in ABBA). Written by none other than ELO maestro Jeff Lynne–especially for her!–and produced by 10cc’s Eric Stewart, I’m sure you’ll agree that the circle is now complete:

To quote Elaine Benes, I have no speech. I mean, a Wilbury-written OWL, sung by ‘the girl with the golden hair’, the one who was by all accounts the most damaged by her former group’s astronomical success?! It’s too much. You’ll forgive me if I take the opportunity to repost Paul Zahl’s classic formulation (which Fall Conference speaker Tullian Tchividjian has run with so convincingly and enthusiastically). While PZ clearly takes the phrase in a different direction than Agnetha, by no means does his usage rule out the ‘unrequited’ aspect–it just switches the roles, i.e. Agnetha sings from the God’s-eye point of view, ‘natch:

article-2213169-006FA67000000258-499_468x763Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable. It is being loved when you are the opposite of lovable. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. It sounds a little 1970s (as in “Have a Nice Day!”). Yet the words are apt.

Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.”

PZ’s Podcast: Phony Wars, And the Winner Is, and The Federal Theology of Samuel Rutherford

PZ’s Podcast: Phony Wars, And the Winner Is, and The Federal Theology of Samuel Rutherford

Episode 172: Phony Wars

This purports to be an attack of reality in the midst of “phony wars”.

I am always struck by the truth of pop songs. Not all of them, but some of them. Such as “Waterloo” by ABBA. (Mary and I were there, as it were, when ABBA hit, stuck at a “Saturday Dance” (Geoff Goddard) during the spring of 1974 in the parish hall of Holy Trinity, Hounslow. As soon as we heard the song, and watched the girls line-dancing to ABBA, we knew we weren’t stuck any more. We got up ourselves, tho’ I’m no Diamond.)

There was…

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Another Week Ends: Little League Love, Excellent Sheep, Normal Thoughts, Memoir Distance, Lees of Memory, Leftovers and TMNT

Another Week Ends: Little League Love, Excellent Sheep, Normal Thoughts, Memoir Distance, Lees of Memory, Leftovers and TMNT

1. First off, grab the kleenbox box because here’s a beautiful instance of grace in practice. It comes to us from little league coach Dave Belisle, whose Cumberland American team (Rhode Island) lost the Little League World Series championship game to Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West this past week. In their moment of defeat, Coach Belisle gave the following speech:

2. Looking through our archive this past month, clearly two subjects have been occupying the (hive-)mind: education and suicide. The Atlantic ran an interview this week with lead Ivy League critic William Deresiewicz about his new book Excellent Sheep, and if he’s…

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