Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The War

On Sunday PBS began airing the new Ken Burns documentary entitled "The War". It is a fourteen hour epic that looks at World War II through the experiences of townspeople in four different U.S. cities. Christy and I have been fascinated at the experiences of these soldiers and citizens and it has been humbling to see the love, community, and humanity stacked alongside the violence, death, and inhumanity. I'm not a student of the war, so I've learned a lot through this birds eye view presentation. The Bataan Death March, The Battle of Guadalcanal, and the sacrifices at home by Rosie the Riveter to produce the equipment necessary to win the war.

Go to to see read more about the documentary. Go to to hear Ken Burns talk about the making of the film.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Believing and Following

I'm a bit of a late-comer to these two absolutely incredible books by Stephen E. Robinson. I'm genuinely surprised at how consistently amazing Robinson is at condensing a gospel principle into understandable terms. Though unfortunately and consistently, "the good news" seems to be misunderstood and misapplied by people around the world who should know better (me included). These books have really helped me look at mankind's spiritual journey with fresh eyes (or to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, to look along the beam of light rather than looking at it.)

Believing Christ is particularly great at showing how there is hope for the imperfect individual within the gospel covenant, and how Christ's grace functions to save mankind. Our best efforts (whatever that may mean depending on the individual), coupled with the atonement of Christ will make us whole in God's kingdom. I love the many illustrations and analogies he draws that helped me grasp the concepts in the book, particularly the weight room analogy (because it is easy to get caught up in feelings of embarrassment or inadequacy when you are unable to lift the barbell that last time, but it is so important to realize that the real strength is gained when we are working at the limits of our abilities).

Following Christ aided me in understanding that principle based living helps us continue in the good news after having entered into our covenant relationship with Christ. If only all Christians within and without the LDS faith (certainly me included) would invest more energy into what Robinson calls the Prime Directive. Quoting Paul,

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I
am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the
gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though
I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I
am nothing...Charity never faileth...And now abideth faith, hope and
charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." (1 Cor. 13)

That is amazing to really think about. Even if I pay all my tithing, and go to the temple every week, and serve in three church callings, and have 2 Doctorate degrees, and understand the scriptures forwards and back, and have faith to do about anything...if I'm not filled with love towards God and my neighbors (difficult ones included) I am nothing. Robinson says "the heart and soul of the gospel is love, and all the rest is commentary."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

White Noise

Don DeLillo is considered one of the greatest living American authors. I'd read portions of his work in college and I thought it about time to properly tackle one of his novels. White Noise was published in 1985 and won the National Book Award. The main character, Jack Gladney, teaches "Hitler Studies" at a midwestern arts college, but is shamed by his dirty little secret - that he can't speak German. There is plenty of satire in this book, especially on educational institutions. There are three main themes that I was able to see, death, technology, and belief vs. unbelief.

The term "white noise" is applied in the book to these concepts and you see them dominating the thoughts of the Gladney parents. "The deepest regret is death," says Jack, "The only thing to face is death. This is all I think about. There is only one issue here. I want to live." An advisor says to him, "You could put your faith in technology. It got you here, it can get you out. This is the whole point of technology. It creates an appetite for immortality on the one hand. It threatens universal extinction on the other. Technology is lust removed from nature."

This is a masterfully thought out work. The plot is amazing, and despite the heavy themes it is actually quite amusing. Like most great books it asks more great questions than it answers. Since finishing it I've thought a lot about the fear of death and how it not only effects me as an individual, but as a nation at war in a world at war. I've though about my beleif system and why I beleive it is beautiful and real and necessary and not just an illusion pretended for the sake of those around me. I like to think about these things.

Wet & Rusting

I didn't think I would ever use the word "cute" to describe a Menomena performance, but this Take Away Show changed that.

Monday, September 10, 2007

King of Kong

On its opening weekend we decided to go and check out what we thought might be a fun and quirky documentary called "King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters." It turned out to be the most enjoyable movie-going experience I've had this year (although granted, we don't see a lot of movies). The trailer is okay, but doesn't really do the movie justice. I was prepared to be amused, but I wasn't prepared for the bizzare personas, the drama, the conspiracy, and the humanity that we saw. This is a true good guy versus bad guy story that my wife and I talked about many times in the days following. Go see this film. What is on the line? World Records. Kill screens. The livelihood of a family. Gaming history. Your own chumpatization.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Playlist III: September Eleven

1. Andrew Bird - Don't Be Scared: This is from the Weather Systems album. I love the way the song builds with the harmony and the line "Don't be scared, don't believe that you're alone." That is a good reason not to be afraid, I think.

2. Coconut Records - West Coast: This is very Weezeresque stuff. Fun and poppy. Jason Schwartzman is an interesting guy to follow just because of his movie roles alone, but I'm impressed by his record.

3. The Decemberists - I Was Meant For the Stage: I've always envied people who seemed to know from a very early age their callings in life. I've never been that way. This song is about bravery as much as anything.

4. Okkervil River - Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe: I've noticed that my life hasn't often played out like a movie. But sometimes it does, so I can appreciate the "maybe" on the end of the song title.

5. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Raining in Darling: "And I will make mistakes alright, 'cause the body asks so much." Story of all our lives, right? I'm a fan of this album. He can use words like "rerendered" in songs.

6. Bright Eyes - Classic Cars: I don't know anything about cars, much less classic cars. But I can appreciate a song about finding faith, or the search for life's meaning. Love the line, "I made a new cast, of the death mask, thats gonna cover my face." People can change!

7. Denison Witmer - Stations: Finding Dension years ago felt like a gift. He is a real songwriter. His "Safe Away" album is absolute gold. One I return to time and time again.

8. The New Pornographers - Challengers: This one features Neko (whose tracks are the best on the album). Isn't this a pretty example of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus?

9. Hayden - Trees Lounge: Two Canadians back to back. I was introduced to Hayden by my maple-leafed-loving brother in law. Steve Buscemi wrote and directed the movie by the same name, and this song was written specifically for it.

10. Pavement - Stereo: This album (Brighten the Corners) is top ten of the 90's for me. No one's lyrics are quite like Malkmus's, "A redder shade of neck on a whiter shade of trash" (Shady Lane). Or from this song, "And what about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy? (I know him and he does)" Geddy Lee is the singer of Rush. Good stuff.

11. Neutral Milk Hotel - Two Headed Boy: This one is an absolute masterpiece and probably in my top ten songs of all time. How do you write a song? This is how you write a song. Of course there are other ways too, but they just aren't as good.

Monday, September 03, 2007