I’m one of the few who watched District 9 and loved it. I saw it twice in theaters. I know that $37,000,000.00 worth of people went to see it opening weekend; yet, many of the reviews I hear/see/read are not much in favor of the movie.

Here are my top 5 reasons why I think it was not as favorably received as it could have been.

1.) Set in South Africa: For some this may not be an issue. But, not many (if any?) major movies have crossed over in the popular genre that are entirely set in South Africa? I mean, Lethal Weapon 2 had bad guys from there. Bond hung out there briefly. The guys from Endless Summer 2 went there to surf, then left. I found the entirety of the South African culture that was portrayed simply fascinating. I loved working out how to pronounce the character’s names. Wikus Vandemerwe. Right???

2.) Excessive use of “curse language.” It was very shocking at first, and I don’t have a clean mouth many times, either. I know that countries separated by a common language often develop different speech patterns, and perhaps (I can’t be certain) maybe this is one of them. I know comedians like Eddie Izzard use the “f-bomb” as a spring board into another part of the discussion or bit. It may not be seen as pejorative as in America where we strictly identify the “f-bomb” with illicit sexual material or conduct and not as much as a spring board although, it does happen.

3.) Alien speech, most of which was not sub-titled. This presented an interesting idea. Why let the audience in on what the aliens are saying when the actors can engage the dialogue and simply carry the action forward based upon what they have heard and know, versus what we simply hear as clicking sounds. It seems as though many of the characters knew the language of the “prawns.” On this point, the jury is still out for me. I think that it worked fantastically! However, I hope if a spin-off or sequel is made, they will stick to this gun because it is a neat one.

4.) The blood and guts and torture scenes. This was meant, in an artistic way, to communicate the animosity of humans (who are supposed to be more civilized, they think) towards the prawns (who are supposed to be dirty, and stupid). What we discover is a hierarchy of knowledge correlative to the hierarchy of the chain of command. Now, which informs which, we can only infer. One would imply Darwinism, the other Social Caste. The excessive blood and guts, from an average guy’s perspective, I thought rocked! It helped to convey the intensity of the weapons, for sure! Who doesn’t want to fire off a few rounds from a pulse blaster or disrupter cannon?!?!

5.) The resolution. I am surprised to find that many I speak with did not care for the ending…at all. In fact, some say it ruined the movie for them. I must have missed it. The notion that our protagonist is still hanging around is a great one! Furthermore, the story ends very realistically (albeit, contextually). The mission is, accomplished (more or less), and what comes next..we’re not sure. What I am more unsure of is the timeline of the movie. How many years apart is the narration from the action? This is why I hear the talk about a sequel. It was my first thought when I left after, “Awesome!” was..”Sequel! District 10!”

P.S.) Apartheid. This is a very large black spot in the history of the world in which more could have been done for the cause, but no one did. Hence, many are uneducated about it. I didn’t grow up knowing about it, being taught about it, or being conscious of it. And yet, here comes a movie in District 9 which sharply comments on the Apartheid era using science fiction and aliens.

The science fiction of District 9 story is the plate upon which the message, Apartheid, is served.

Bring on District 10.

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Family

08.30.2009

This is written from an experience that happened earlier this month. I was driving from south Texas to north Texas…not a short trip at all.

I love my family.

Before we even got in the car to drive to Lubbock, we were sent, in love, by family.

I spent the day in the car with my sister driving 8.5 hours from the Ranch to Lubbock.

When we got to Lubbock, we were greeted by family!

As the evening progressed on, I was laughing, sharing, and breaking bread with family.

I embraced family.

I exchanged stories with family at the table.

I chatted about old music tonight with family.

I kissed family.

I talked about God’s grace with family.

I reminisced with family.

I told stories with family.

I hugged family.

I said “goodnight” to family.

I love my family.

Gear & Amp History

08.28.2009

I love gear. If you know anything about me, you know that I am crazy about guitar tone, recording gear, and the like. I love it. I love it too much. Through the years, I’ve spent way too much money on gear that is meant to satisfy my ear’s craving to hear a certain sound. Most people get their fix by simply purchasing a .99 cent song on iTunes. I buy gear. It’s terrible.

The upside to all of it is that I have had the privilege of stewarding some fantastic pieces that are classics, and others that will be classics. I’ve also had some massive duds. Like I said, this was all meant to satisfy a craving that my ear had to hear something particular. In my rock days, it was Mesa/Boogie. In my Texas roots-country days, it was Dr. Z. There have been sprinklings throughout that do not necessarily own a genre. For example, where does a Marshall amp fit in? Most would say, “rock.” My experience with Marshall was blues. Jim Marshall would not mind that answer at all. Another questionable square peg is Dumble amps. Where do Dumble’s fit in? While I have never owned a Dumble, I have owned several clones or Dumble-style amps. Each one was different and had its own thing going on.

I could go on about Dumble Amps. There’s alot of myth. There are many questions. Dumble and Mesa/Boogie have remarkably similar histories. Both began as people/outfits of amp repair and modification. During the mid 60’s, many people were interested in modifying their Fender amps (since, Fender was the prominent amplifier supplier), for different reasons. Some wanted more power. Others wanted more tonal flexibility in the EQ. Some had repairs that invariably changed parts and things for the better. Others wants their Fender to sound like another manufacturer without buying a new amp. Take your pick. But, the common thread in all these dealings was distortion/overdrive. By the early 60’s, sounds were creeping from London, New York, and L.A. that found amps, across the board, being cranked up to fill the room. The consequent result was distortion. Distortion results when an audio signal path does not function at optimal efficiency, and the result is the sound wave clips off its edges and CHING, the signal has distorted. It was then discovered that this distortion/overdrive can occur in three places: preamp, power amp, and speakers. A pre-amp overdriven signal can be choked down to a desired volume level in the power amp stage. A power amp overdriven signal can be choked down to a desired level via a power amplifier attenuator. Speaker distortion is much less manageable. Mesa/Boogie and Dumble emerged as the two prominent west-coast amp modifiers/builders. Each began building a client list. Each began designing amplifiers that were both distortion manageable, and also versatile. Each also had their respective philosophies. Their parting ways is simply a matter of amp-building philosophy. On the Mesa/Boogie side, the philosophy was to provide a supply for the demand. Building amplifiers by hand was simply not possible after the earliest days of their existence as the demand was too great. This meant having parts made and assembled via assembly line machinery in other countries. The final assembly and checking took place and still takes place in the USA. Dumble, on the other hand, continued to maintain his hand-building philosophy, of which, he was the only one. Thus, Dumble was able to keep demand high, and prices higher. It came to be believed that as more amplifier companies went overseas for assembly and manufacturing that a hand-made product was more special, and better built. The process was more personable since it was, essentially, custom-tailored to each client.

Whichever side of the sand upon which you wish to stand is of no mean consequence. Today, one can happen upon a Mesa/Boogie for as little as $500. On the other hand, one will have difficulty getting into a Dumble for less than $20,000.00 You decide.

I’m still teribbly addicted to gear.

Recycled Love

08.22.2009

I had an incredible experience recently of being apart of a youth group’s year “kick-off” night. The energy was so intense in the room that the sound system did not have enough clean headroom to take control of the room without distorting. They were loud youth! As we began the music, we started with the song “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus. *pause for shock*

Now, what I couldn’t figure out was this: no one in the band or entire leadership structure wanted “The Climb” to happen. Naturally the question, then, is, “Why did you do it?” In trying to answer that question, I had a very difficult time. The cynic in me wanted to say, “They just want a song that will be popular.” While, the anti-cynic in me wanted to say, “Maybe there’s a point to this.”

The latter won.

The students sang “The Climb” louder than any song of worship I’d ever heard sung in that room prior to that. After the song ended, a couple of the leaders said to the students something to the effect of, “Consider the song you’ve just sung and how much energy and heart you put into singing it. Is it too much to hope that the infinite God of the universe should receive as much passion and attention in song as Miley has received? Can God..SHOULDN’T God receive more than Miley Cyrus?”

The room and all it’s energy was immediately redirected and recycled..perhaps it’s best to say it was “reborn.”

The same voices that sang the Miley Cyrus song, now were singing to the God who gave them the voices to sing.

The same passion.

The same energy.

Reborn. Recycled.

The sound system was no longer obsolete. It no longer mattered how powerful it was…it had no chance of keeping up with hundreds of passionate voices rising in worship of God.

We can learn something from this. I put so much energy into many different things in life..few of which I can say I consecrate unto God as worship.

I watched the movie “There Will Be Blood,” with Daniel-Day Lewis. In it, there is a scene in which a Pastor requests that Daniel be “washed in the blood of the Lamb” and baptized before the church will allow him to build an oil pipeline through their land. It meaningless, though angrily passionate rote, he repeats the words of the pastor and repeats the religious words that he is “supposed” to say…just for an oil pipeline.

Same speech pattern. Same words.

Dying. Depleted.

There’s another scene just like it near the end, only the tables have turned. The preacher has fallen on hard times, and in his desperation tries to woo Daniel into paying him lots of money for another plot of land where there has been no drilling. However, Daniel wants to hear the preacher say, “I am a false prophet. God is a superstition.” No recitation, no money. The preacher repeats these words as many times as Daniel asks him too…just for money.

Same speech pattern. Same words.

Also dying. Also depleted.

God reminds me, “There’s a point to this.”

I have faked my relationship with God more times than I can count.

I have sold God out in the face of adversity more times than I can count.

Yet, God is continually recycling and rebirthing all the rejection of Himself and somehow using it to continue to tell the story of His faithfulness and love.

Rescue & Joy

08.11.2009

We have been rescued. Though, being rescued may not be much help to you if we do not understand from what we have been rescued.

The “Big Church,” as I call the universal Church, was, according to Ralph Martin, “Born in song.” What he means is that the Big Church was born in rejoicing. The rejoice is a product of the coming and the work of Jesus the Christ. But, it truly rings hollow if we are not aware of the context of why we should be so joyful!

Calvin Stapert says, “The news the [Big Church] hears and proclaims is the good news of a rescue, and those rescued response to their rescuer with rejoicing and thanksgiving.” – This rescue to which Stapert is referring may be best summarized by the words of Paul in his letter to the Galatians: “He has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (3:13). – This is the rejoicing and the manner in which Ralph Martin uses the word “song.”

To say “The [Big Church] was birthed in joy” is to say that she has her roots in the person and work of Jesus the Christ.

So far as joy can be found, it is found in the person and work of Jesus, the Christ. However, joy is not totally pervasive. It is not found everywhere in everything. This is the joy that has both come and is becoming. We see bits of it here and there, some measures larger than others. Regardless, this is the joy that turns “mourning into dancing;” “where there once was hurt, He brings His healing hand;” “the Spirit of His Love pierces the darkness.” Thus, joy is not complete…yet. Don’t be afraid, for this, too, shall pass.

The worship wars are all about genre.Little else matters to the general public. The text of the song is “2nd Flute” to the genre. This is evidenced by the innumerable comments one receives from younger generations about how their music makes them feel; while, at the same time, the same remarks one receives from elder generations about how their music is singable. The younger generations cling hold of one aspect of God that their music sings of, while the elder generations hold fast to the “inspiration” of the text of their music. Ultimately, however, this textual commentary fades when the sound technician begins to set sound levels. Then, the drums are too loud, or the piano is too low, or the bass is too loud, or the vocals are too low. At the end of the day, worship music falls to the way side as that “other” thing we do when we attend church..and why? There are two reasons that I can perceive that lie at the core of the entire discussion. The first is informed by the descriptions I just illustrated: worship wars are all about genre. If all we bicker about is genre, then worship can seemingly fall by the way side as a preferential “other” thing that we do as a body. This gives birth to multiple services, in which the worship music genre is geared towards a specific age group. The other, and most cutting answer, in my most humble of opinions, is christian fundamentalism and seeker-sensitivity.

(Fundamentalism refers to a movement in thinking that begins, truthfully, in the late 18th century, and spreads clear through the mid-20th century. I would make the argument that the seeds of fundamentalism were sewn in the American expansion westward with the accompanying revivalist movement in the early 19th century, and the underpinning scholastic trend of empiricism which prompted Christians to feel they needed to prove scripture empirically.)

Fundamentalism and seeker-sensitivity causes genre-centered worship wars in this way: it elevates hymnody to a “level of inspiration,” and demonizes anything that would stray from it. The seeming impossibility of other musical forms or ideas is squelched in the face of the “inspired” hymns. The “inspiration” of hymns is merely a poor reflection of one’s understanding of scripture. When asked, “How do you mean, the hymns are inspired?” The response, in my experience, has been, “Well, not to the level of scripture, mind you. But they’re so deep and rich with the Bible’s truth, and not so repetitive and un-singable.” So, by this, I understand what the fundamentalist is getting at…however, my challenge is, “We proclaim the truth of God as found in the scriptures and in the earliest of teachings. Whether in strophic form (hymody) or through composed (more like modern music), the truth is being proclaimed. How much truth does mean higher quality, it simply means more.

I intentionally leave this topic in-conclusive, unresolved and full of holes for this purpose: every person has a responsibility to think, inquire, and study through the basic precepts of why church is done the way it is done. If your leadership promotes one style, inquire as to why. Learn to trust your leadership by inquiring of them.

Politics

07.05.2009

This blog post has nothing to do with anything, save the fact that it is meant to contribute to an upcoming and ongoing theory about the recent resignation of Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska.

The theory is simple, to provide “real change,” Governor Palin will be joining former-Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, in 2012, or 2016 for a White-House bid. Palin will probably take shotgun to the ever-talkshow-present Gingrich, in an attempt to illustrate to the American people, via a well-funded and sharply directed campaign, that Obama has not lived up to all of the “change” emblems he once declared so bright and clear.

So, why resign? Well, Gingrich has not held office since 2000 when he stepped down from the House. Since then, however, he has managed, almost single handedly, to garner more support for the Republican Party from the OUTSIDE, than any other Republican from the INSIDE. To continue in her “not as usual” way, Palin, in my opinion, is seeking to hook up with Gingrich and with a one-two punch, knock some sense into the Republicans and take down piece by piece some of the Democratic strongholds. It will only work, however, if they are careful to clearly and succinctly illustrate where the shortcomings of their opponents are, and how they WILL provide a better alternative. Good luck. Call me if you need another weeping prophet.

Now, is it a bit hasty to start so early, Mrs. Palin? Well, if the previous election cycle is/was any indication, the answer is no. The Democratic Party was already talking “Hillary” in 2004/2005 after John Kerry lost to George W. Bush. The Republicans must now take a lesson and get the grass-roots folks busy busy busy.

To be honest, a Gingrich/Palin ticket is much more appealing, to me, than a McCain/Palin ticket. Gingrich is a tried and true politician with a penchant for talking to the people, not to other politicians. He has a string of books giving himself a solid conservative base, and moreover, he’s interested in his views from a critical thinking standpoint, and not an emotional one. He is the first to acknowledge when Democrats have done very well, and this election cycle we just finished is no exception. He was the first to cite the Republicans failure..a failure, which, I think, he needed to watch happen, let happen, then criticize. Many outraged Republicans came to know Gingrich through the recent turmoil of religiously-demonizing politics. I believe,
as of this writing, that the Gingrich/Palin ticket is very promising. But, let’s hope that they play it right and not Republican business as usual. Keep Bobby Jindal on the side-lines for 8 years. Let him show forth that he is not quite ready to do much of anything because he’s too interested in party-pleasing than actually taking care of business. The same arguments in a new way are still the same old arguments. They won’t do, sir.

Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. I like the sound of it. Maybe toss a position to someone like Huckabee (AR), Perry (TX), and even Schwarzenegger (CA). Get it!

?

02.22.2009

In the spirit of faith:

I have found that I love questions and questioning. Am I devoted, then? Questioning opens up the platform to learn more about who we are and who we are not.

At first, I asked questions because I was curious and didn’t know the answer or how to find it. It was genuine.

Then, I asked questions because I wanted to be seen as one who wanted to learn. I had realized that my whole life I didn’t love learning until that point. I wanted to change for the better.

After that, I began to ask questions because I wanted to be seen as the rhetorical one who was smarter than others because I thought of just the right question to ask when no-one else did. This is where arrogance begins to step in. After all, in academia, we act as though there are only so many finite thoughts from which to pick, better snatch them up and claim one or two with your flag before someone else does!!!

This, then, led to me asking questions because few else were asking them. I realized that no one was going to ask my question for me, and if they did it was because I was too scared.

Now, lest you think that these stages were so concrete and creedal that I laid them in stone, I am simply making a generalization about what once was, and what still somewhat is. I still revert to any/all of these patterns in a given day or two.

I had realized that if the God of the Bible was the God that so many had called Him as, then, by nature, I should be questioning. I mean, if there is so much that I cannot know about Him and His ways, I’d better be asking because this God should, de facto, provoke my curiosity at least! He stirs my affections, originates my convictions, and He certainly stimulates my intellect.

Creativity is all around us. It is in us. It is part of our nature. Creativity is embedded into our very essence. We do it every day. We have an unction to esteem value to the products of creativity. The implications are endless.

I have struggled to write music for as long as I can remember. Only recently have I begun to grasp what it is to write music. I am a “creative” type of personality. I believe in new solutions and in new ideas. However, when applied to my old first love, music, I have come up empty and lacking. What is the challenge in writing a song? Let us suppose the challenge is originality.

God is the original: pre-eminent, created everything from nothing. I can’t top that. I can’t be more original than that. So, I have to make due with what is already made. What does it mean? That means that my ability to be original is only a shadow of God’s. At least it’s a shadow.

We stand in the shadow of the Almighty, dipping our brushes into the easel of His creation so that we might paint that which we claim to be authors. Nay, I am not the Author.

I guess every Christian album on iTunes deserves 5 Stars. Go ahead. Get ’em.