Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Kickin' it at Calexico

Last night, my wife and I Love Taco Bell, and myself enjoyed an evening of Calexico at 9:30 Club. After putting away a few PBRs and pretzels prior to going, we arrived just as the band was coming on. I was banished from partaking of the bar because I have misplaced my driver's license (which I'm sure will involve a lot of paperwork and a trip to the always fun DC DMV). The club put two big stamps on my hands to indicate "Access Denied." They even provided a warning (albeit gentle) of getting tossed out if I attempted any funny business at the bar. Luckily I could drink the water.

Anyway, the show, of course, was very good. Calexico played a lot from "Feast of Wire" including "Across the Wire" a staple of a good number of mix CDs I've burned for people. They even busted out a heartfelt rendition of Love's "Alone Again Or." The crowd was mostly into it. Though I could go on and on about the usual annoying hipsters and fratboys who seem only capable of talking in loud, incomplete sentences during the softer points in the set, I'm afraid I would be only preaching to the choir. However, right in front of me I did witness the re-incarnation of the Dancing Elaine (she of "full body dry heave" fame). It was quite a show!!! There are times when I wish I had that annoying picture phone!!!

However, there was some sadness. My favorite baseball player, Greg Maddux, once again lost. After an awesome start, he and his Cubs are sinking deeper and deeper into the depths of the Central Division. Pretty soon they'll be battling it out with the Pirates for last place. Let us all pray that this slide does not continue. Unless there is a big turnaround, we could be witnessing the final pitches of one of the greatest pitchers ever.

Tonight my wife and I start our first Spanish class. That should be interesting, given my own difficulties with mastering English (as you loyal reader has already discerned, no doubt). Please wish us luck!!!


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Observations of the Mundane Kind, Part I

This morning while riding the metro to work I sat next to a woman reading a rather thick looking piece of literature. In my hands was a copy of recently deceased theologian Jaroslav Pelikan's brief Whose Bible Is It? A History of the Scriptures through the Ages, a rather brief but engaging overview of how the Bible came to be. The situation I found myself in, by sitting next to this woman with a big book, thrust me into a ponderous mood regarding the navigation of Metro culture. I believe riding the metro requires a certain adherence to unspoken set of rules and manners that should be observed as strictly as possible. Here I will be writing about two. The first concerns material to be read while riding. They include newspapers, periodicals, mass market paperbacks (of any size), memos from work (on a limited basis), bestsellers (paperback or hardback), classics (preferably in paperback and published by Penguin Press) textbooks that do not involve problem solving, religious or spiritual texts (Bible, Koran, Bhagavad Gita). Non-bestselling hardbacks should be easy to manage within tight spaces, such as mine was, as well as somewhat easy reading. However, the woman sitting next to me was reading something that was very thick and cumbersome, causing distraction when she turned the pages. The size and shape of it was like a chemistry or math text, which would have required difficult problem solving, thus eliminating it from metro reading.

Having described situation number 1, that I was within my reading rights on the Metro and the woman was stretching the boundaries, I proceeded to breach a second rule. I consciously looked at what she was reading. For what seemed like two minutes (between DuPont and Farragut North) I stared at her text, scanning deliriously to try to find a title or chapter heading. Though there are times when you can "accidentally" catch sight of what a person is reading, I was blatantly violating the no look rule. But I am glad I did. The heading I saw read Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin. Now why is this so special that it should be a cause for a reflection? Remember, I was reading a book about the history of the Bible. And here was a text about evolution. The juxtaposition was such that I wished all in the car were violating the no look rule. Also, I'm from Kansas, which made the situation even more worth the effort of deep intellectual musings. The clash of cultures occuring on the Red Line this morning was the proverbial microcosmic glimpse of our broader society, demonstrating how the two could actually ride side by side without creating controversy (maybe this was a result of her not violating the no look rule). Perhaps us two could have been the punchline to a New Yorker cartoon or an editorial, who knows?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Danielson Documentary

Saturday night my wife and I strolled into Silver Spring to enjoy a screening of DANIELSON: A FAMILY MOVIE {OR, MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE HERE} (for a quick synopsis, click here) at the AFI Silverdocs Documentary Festival. The film follows the journey of Daniel Smith, musician extraordinaire from New Jersey and his rotating band, which includes family members and friends. It is a very good meditation on the intersection of faith and art, the joy of creating, and the struggle to become known and accepted by sometimes suspicious listeners. Throughout the film Daniel (known by his stage name as Brother Danielson) maintains a positive gait, and the viewer can't help but smile.

Of the myriad of topics that arise from viewing, the one I am currently most intrigued by is the spiritual dimension of creating. Brother Danielson insists that he doesn't think too much about the creative process when writing music. He allows for it to just happen, relying and trusting the Holy Spirit to produce what is intended. That trust never wavers, even when audience members are left baffled by the result. Here Brother Danielson, because of his faith, submits to a higher force, willing to forgo audience expectation in order to serve God. And the result is an interesting blend of sonic folk music and performance art not easily understood yet fully accessible. The audience member, regardless of his or her own spiritual expectation, is forced to simply experience. The words and music (and look) aren't the typical CCM faux-asthetic that manufactures emotion upon a listener. Rather it defies expectation and recognizes the complexity of the human condition and how it relates to true spiritual needs.

We currently live in a culture that values the separation of the secular and sacred. Much art is focused not on religious themes, as it was in the past, but rather on thoughts and ideas that rub against traditional notions of the sacred. We have a vibrant secular culture which too often looks at the sacred with some contempt (real and imagined). Here Brother Danielson and his band don't conceive of their music outside of their faith. Their faith is their creative force, serving God without fakiness. Of course what happens is confusion by both Christian and non-Christian. One group doesn't have the cultural framework to be moved by the sound, the other may be put-off by the apparent "self-indulgence" of it (as one of the club intelligentsia put it in the film).

Fans of Sufjan Stevens will also certainly enjoy the film. As an integral part of the band, he provides an interesting counter-balance to Daniel's vision. Sufjan's subsequent rise as a solo artist contrasts Danielson's continual struggle to breakthrough. However, both seem to stay true to their own particular vision, unwilling to compromise. And Daniel keeps smiling and creating. Also, those from Baltimore should note the scenes shot from one of the coolest venues on the planet, Ottobar!!!

Anyway, before I ramble on and on and on too long, look for it on DVD in the future. If you're a fan of strange folk music or good documentary filmmaking, check it out!!!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Those Darn Yankees

It would be easy for me to express my dismay and displeasure at the hordes of Yankee fans who showed up Friday night into the friendly confines of RFK. They have a tendency to travel in packs, screeching at the top of their lungs for all things Jeter, taunting the opposition with witty banter. It's easy to be a Yankee fan. They win, alot. But it's just as easy to be an anti-Yankee fan, to be fueled by a burning dislike for the Bronx Bombers, to always cheer for their opposition. Of course, Friday night was no exception. However, because of the thousands of Yankee fans, both genuine and faux, RFK rocked with the genuine thrill and emotion that only baseball can provide.

I was proud of the Nats fans. They held their own up through the seventh inning, continuing to shout down all attempts by Yankee Fan to dominate the cheering. And the Nationals, who hit the skids against the Rockies, had a legitimate chance of winning. Yet things, as they inevitably do, fell apart. And Yankee fan, perhaps more used to the seventh-inning inebriation than us DC fans, overcame all efforts by us to thwart their cheering attack. Despite this, as I sat high up in centerfield, in the very last row of seats with my friends, surrounded by the sounds and smells of Major League Baseball, I revelled in this passion for a game that yields much more disappointment than victory, and this Friday night was no exception. Had I only had tickets for Saturday or Sunday.

Friday, June 16, 2006

What, another blog?

Greetings fellow travellers. Welcome to the Meddling Methodist, where levity rules and irreverence prevails. For those interested in heady matters, theological disputes, the state of world affairs, etc., I invite you to navigate the billion other blogs readily available (though from time to time I may offer my own ill-formed and half-baked thoughts). For insight into the pscyhe of one who has gone through seminary, is yet to be ordained, values hospitality and grace, likes to have fun, lives in the political epicenter of the known universe, and is happily married, you've come to the right place. Let us journey together...

Upcoming post--Yankees/Nationals game tonight