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I Wanna Know What Hipness Is

TOP-Hipper-CoverI recently re-discovered a band that loomed over my childhood. Tower of Power, a brass-based soul-funk big band explosion used to make an annual headline performance each summer at the San Mateo County Fair when I was growing up. The band was local, from Oakland, which is across the Bay. As is often the case, lyrics of songs that washed over me when I was too young to understand often blow me away when I hear them again for the first time as a grown man.

Take for instance “What Is Hip” from Power’s Hipper Than Hip (Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow) LP. The song could almost be a riff on the collect for the fifth Sunday in Lent (or the Fourth Sunday after Easter, depending on which Prayer Book you’re looking at): “Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found.”

Power is tapping into the same idea on Hipper Than Hip, asking what actually is hip anyway (I wanna know). It’s really a perennial question, observation, and reality check. During a time when it seems everyone is an indie hipster creative, we ought to allow “What Is Hip” to live a second life. Watch this amazing recording of Lenny Williams leading the band in a live(ly) performance of the song on Don Cornelius’s Soul Train—hey, people all over the world, remember Soul Train!? Watch, listen, pay attention to the lyrics, and be convicted of your need for Jesus because “sometimes hipness is, what it ain’t.”

What is hip
Tell me, tell me, if you think you know
What is hip
If you’re really hip
The passing years will show
You’re into a hip trip
Maybe hipper than hip
What is hip

The Postmodern Community: A Magnifying Mirror of Me

One of the most interesting books (if you are a nerd like me) I’ve read in the last couple of months is Babel, a book co-authored by Ezio Mauro, an Italian writer, and Zygmunt Bauman, a Polish sociologist. Himself a secular Jew, Bauman seems to always offer profound insight into our Western cultural climate, and if you manage to read Babel, it will likely leave you with more questions than answers. Here’s just one quote that is ripe for reflection and is good fodder on the self’s bent-inwardness (incurvatus in se):

41TCtCOvLTL…[C]ommunities came to be supplanted by ‘networks’—forms of association made to the measure of ‘self-communication’. In stark opposition to the old-style communities, a network is a grouping (more correctly, a list or a roll-call of names or addresses) meant to be selected/composed by the individual on his/her sole responsibility for the selection of links and nods. Its ‘membership’ and boundaries are not ‘given’; neither are they fixed—they are friable and eminently pliable; defined, drawn and endlessly redefined and re-drawn at will by the network’s composer placed firmly in its centre. By origin and by its mode of existence, it is but an extension of the self, or a carapace with which the ego surrounds itself for its own safety: cutting its own, hopefully secure, niche out of the dumbfounding, inhospitable, and perhaps—who knows?!—hostile offline world. A ‘network’ is not a space for challenges to the received ideas and preferences of its creator—it is rather an extended replica or magnifying mirror of its weaver, populated solely by like-minded people, saying what the person who admitted them is willing to hear, and ready to applaud whatever the person who admitted or appointed them says; dissenters, individuals holding to contrary—or just unfamiliar and thus uncomfortably puzzling—opinions are exiled (or, at least consolingly, amenable to being banished) at the first sign of their discordance.

A Treatise Against Christian Hypocrisy

A Treatise Against Christian Hypocrisy

Because I am an immediate devotee to anything Mark Burnett produces, I suffered through an entire season of Fox’s Coupled this summer. If you aren’t familiar with this romantic tale, then pat yourself on the back for being a better person than me. The premise is simple: twelve single women get to filter through a lot of men to see if they can ultimately be “coupled” off. You know the drill: island location, loads of Mai Tais, one affront to feminism after another.

There was one character that had me rapt for the entire season. Her name is Alexandra “Alex” Clark,…

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Bad Moms, Odd Moms, and Everything In Between

Bad Moms, Odd Moms, and Everything In Between

I’m a mom, so I run primarily on adrenaline and guilt. Throw in some coffee in the AM, some wine in the PM, and you’ve covered the structure of most of my days–but I’ll be damned if anyone but me reduces my life to a cliche. I’ve seen some pretty bad representations of the pulled-in-all-directions nature of motherhood, so when the trailer for Bad Moms popped up on the internet a few months ago, I approached it warily. A major Hollywood studio accurately portraying my constant ambivalence? A script penned by two men (the writers behind The Hangover, no less)?…

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Back To School, I Mean Anxiety, I Mean School

Back To School, I Mean Anxiety, I Mean School

After months of swimming pools and sleeping late, the school year is upon us. For so many reasons, we rejoice in its arrival. The fall means that we get to reboot the family schedule. We buy a new day planner (if you’re a Technology Memaw like myself) and make dinners in the crockpot again. If you are lucky enough to go to one of those schools that requires uniforms, then by now you have spent a mortgage payment on tiny sailor dresses. It is all very exciting.

Also, the school year brings enough devilish anxiety to blow the roof off of…

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An Upholder’s Confession

An Upholder’s Confession

This one comes to us from friend and contributor Lindsey Hepler:

In her recent book about habit formation, Gretchen Rubin describes four types of people: obligers, rebels, upholders, and questioners. Without ever taking her short quiz, I already know which type I am: an upholder, through and through. Upholders, Rubin says, respond readily to outer and inner expectations. Basically, we are rule followers and rule lovers.

On the positive side, being an upholder often contributes to success in school, where being a good rule follower is essentially seen as the same thing as being a smart/gifted child. An adult tells us what…

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Old Boyfriends and What We Keep Hidden: Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past

Old Boyfriends and What We Keep Hidden: Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past

As of late, the subject of one’s past has become a pretty popular topic. Political candidates and beauty contestants alike all seem to have histories that are up for discussion and judgment. And the past, in our current climate, appears to generally be full of things people want to remain hidden.

Of course, the past always has a way of whispering hello to us, all these years later.

In early June I was driving our children up from Mississippi to Sewanee, Tennessee. Which meant, as luck would have it, that we drove right past Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Many of my weekends in college…

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From the Archives: Law and Grace in the Competition of Marriage

From the Archives: Law and Grace in the Competition of Marriage

As with most of the provocative second half of Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice, the following excerpt goes well beyond abstractions and gets uncomfortably close to the bone–in the best possible way. The language here has to do with marriage, but you could easily substitute a variety of other relational contexts:

Men and women encounter a serpent-ridden wilderness of Eden when they enter into marriage. Competition for need-fulfillment and attention squanders huge amounts of energy in resentment and suppressed antagonism. The nature of the law is to place every single marriage under the Damocles’ sword of needs to be met. The word…

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A Button for the Unlovable: Corduroy as a Picture of the Gospel

A Button for the Unlovable: Corduroy as a Picture of the Gospel

This post comes to us from Blythe Hunt.

I would like to say that my reason for having hundreds of children’s books is that I have two small children; however, I owned most of these books pre-children, pre-marriage. I’ve always loved children’s books, and I am sure I’ll continue collecting even when my own children have moved on to Seamus Heaney and Mary Oliver (fingers crossed…).

In college, I wrote three senior theses (true confession!), and I continued my lit studies in grad school—I was hooked on finding deeper meaning in every piece of literature that came my way.

And then I had…

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This Blog Was Bound for Failure

This Blog Was Bound for Failure

In the summer of 2009, my family participated in a Community Supported Agriculture farm share for the first time. We “subscribed” to a crop share with a local farm, and each week, we planned our meals based on whatever variety of organic vegetables came in that week’s farm box. I (kind of) gave up my tight-clenched first of control over our weekly menu, breezily mentioning to friends that we “ate with the seasons,” lah-dee-dah, so whatever showed up in the box each week is what we ate. I read Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver, watched “Food, Inc.” while my husband cringed…

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Coram Deo: Dust, Ashes and Grace  

Coram Deo: Dust, Ashes and Grace  

This one was written by Nico Ghibaudy.

Sin weighs a ton.

Or at least it feels that way. We are easily deceived in moments of weakness. It’s easy to allow the cinderblock of post-sin guilt to outweigh the infinite joy we have in the presence of God. Guilt feels heavier. Turning to Jesus in the aftermath of a sinful fall is like a child looking his parents in the face after he was told not to draw on the wall with colored markers but did it anyway. It’s hard to look our Father square in the face and admit that we…

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Grace in Goofiness

Grace in Goofiness

My parents have three daughters and a son. We girls were, and are: rule-followers, studious, somewhat-to-highly anxious, bookish. Two of the three of us skipped a grade and became valedictorians of our high school classes, while the other was the salutatorian, and all of us were the kind of students that teachers would leave in charge of the class when they had to step out in the hallway for a moment. My brother, on the other hand, might have been the reason that the teacher had to step out for a moment, most likely to have a good laugh out of…

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