Saturday, June 06, 2009




The modern-day church is failing. And I say this with as much optimism as I can. I once heard someone say that there are so many Christians turned off to the church, just imagine how much greater that number is among non-Christians. Worship music is among the many categories that are failing. Postmodernity is an arguable idea, but many agree that postmodernity says one thing: modernity is dead.

Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Darrel Evans, David Crowder, Jeremy Camp, Tommy Walker, and assorted organizations are the leaders of contemporary worship. Many are excited by these names, but an important question needs answering. Why have they formed their own genre? Worship music is no longer simply defined by the lyrics but now has a specific sound. This sound can be described as a step above of what is heard on contemporary Christian music stations: distortion is more noticeable, drums can dynamically press forward, and the bass can catch a groove. But with the exception of David Crowder, singers must have clean, inoffensive voices. By nature, worship music is simplistic due to the massive amount of songs many worship leaders need to learn—only Tommy Walker and Delirious have left this simplified format—to a dagree. From a musical standpoint, worship is still behind. Even the most updated worship band is still five years behind current music trends—minus San Diego-based Something Like Silas who have found a genre home with the post-emo crowd.

Sad fact: If worship leaders were not playing worship music, they would be out of a job. We are now back to the ancient argument of “Christian bands” or “Christians in a band.” What I mean by this is simple, should we be supporting mediocre music because a Christian made it. My initial answer would be no, because I hold to Madeline L’Engle’s concept that there are only two types of art: good art and bad art, and bad art is bad religion. Thus, do we really need more people badly representing the name of God? Many Christians will say they like the sound of worship music. I do not deny that, but I would further argue that their preference to this particular style of music has been socially constructed. Here is a simplified example: Eric was scolded for listening to secular music when he was in junior high. In fact, his parents made him stop listening to secular music and started making him listen to Christian music. He was forced to listen to so much Christian music that he got used to it as a genre (the recording styles, song structure, guitar effects, lyric formation), and forgot about earlier comparisons to mainstream trends that might have existed in his head. Another example: A young girl goes to church from a very young age where the only progressive songs played are “Lord, I lift your name on high” or “Shout to the Lord.” Then someone brings in new songs from Matt Redman. Redman’s music was years ahead of her normal dose of ‘80s worship. But 5-10 years ahead of her such a trend is still another 5-10 behind. These two examples prove an important point about Christian culture. First, a fear of changing with the times sets churches back several years and claims that any modern change is a sinful compromise. In looking at modern worship this way, it could be easy for any of the popular worship leaders to simply exploit the church music scene because it only has “up” to go.

This is only the music. I haven’t even started on the lyrical portion of songs, but that will be enough for today as I do not want to allow my pessimism to completely take over.

Coming soon...

I'm aware that I haven't posted on here in a while but there is a method to my madness. Stay tuned for my new and improved blog. You know you're curious.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I don't even know what to do with this

I almost lost it when I saw this trailer for a new Japanese animated show coming out in 2010. It's either wildly irresponsible storytelling or comic genius. I guess we'll find out in the less than a year. Enjoy or stare in shock and awe.

Monday, March 23, 2009

BSG: Rest in Frakkin' Peace

I just watched the series finale of Battlestar Galactica tonight. Now, to some of my friends, this comes as a relief as it won't be on as much in the house, making way for potentially less nerdy things. To them, I will simply smile and hear their latest complaints when they begin to notice the new shows, like Dr. Who or my latest rediscovery of Babylon 5. The nerd will live on. On that note, I've also been collecting a large amount of comic books lately. I have most of the Civil War story arc from the Marvel Universe, along with several trades from The New Avengers storyline. Anyways, back to BSG.

I know many people will discuss the finale with a very critical edge. My roommates didn't particularly care for the end, and I must admit I think it could have been better. But besides the nit picky, I was very satisfied. It answered many of the questions and ended with just enough ambiguity. I appreciated the finale's pace. It didn't end with a battle, but almost created a very lengthy afterward. Sure, Return of the King did this and everyone got annoyed, wondering when the credits were coming. But BSG had a lot to close off and it didn't feel the need to do that when the explosions very coming. Instead, it just revealed them naturally. To hell with the 3rd act from the screenwriter's playbook. Without giving any details away, the ending was what I expected and wanted.

I'm gonna miss this show. I know people think I'm crazy when I say this, to which my only response is you don't know, but BSG is the best show on TV right now. Its end only marks the continued downfall of television dramas. Sitcoms are doing fine, but dramas are getting thrown off TV quicker than Garfield can eat a lasagna. BSG's end means I'll have a greater reason to turn off the TV and return to my DVD collection. It deserves the Emmy for best drama. Season 4 was sensational, as were the other seasons, and it did things shows have never tried. Its brilliance lies in its ability to be remain true to itself. It's a sci-fi show that addresses terrorism, love, God, genetics, robotics, Greek mythology, cloning, class struggle, military culture, ethics, and prophecy. And all the while, a Bob Dylan song is playing in the background.

I'll greatly miss this show. I'm looking forward to the made-for-TV BSG film that'll premiere later this year (though it's a stand alone). And I'm also curious about the spin-off series Caprica, coming out next year. I don't know if the concept of the show will last, but I'm committed to giving it a try. The golden era of television has long been over, and BSG's exodus marks the outro of a diamond in the rough. BSG, RIP. And for that matter, TV in general, RIP.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Story of David Comes to NBC

So iTunes is just one of the best things created since awesomeness came to the earth. Steve told me today that the pilot of the new TV show Kings was on it for free. I downloaded the hour and a half episode of the new NBC show episode titled, "Goliath" and watched it with my roommates. For those who don't know, Kings is a modern retelling of the story of King David. It's set in a fictional kingdom that functions much like how we'd imagine a place like England would if they had a king, but the setting is a mix between New York and Chicago. The architecture shots of the capital, known as Shiloh (Hebrew lovers, look it up), are incredible and truly set the stage for the show. A closer look behind the scenes also reveals some fascination stuff. Producer an director Francis Lawrence (who directed films like Constantine and I am Legend) is Catholic. Former Heroes producer Michael Green is Jewish. And another major producer (his name slips my memory, though I did hear him speak at a panel at USC last) is one of the few Muslim producers in television.

I've been curious about this show for some time and I must say, I was not let down. My roommates and myself watched it with the biblical story in mind and found that it truly set up the source material well. Few characters have the same names as in the Bible, save the lead, David Shepard (get it?) and Rev. Samuel. David's relationship with the king is one of love and confusion. Rev. Samuel is stern. The show doesn't shy away from using the name of God. Even Jonathan's character is gay, something that brings much disappointment to the king. This is a controversial debate in the David story. Some say King Saul's son was gay and others say the love he had for David was brotherly love, not romantic love. Either way, taking a side makes for great drama. The production is also wonderful, and there's a lot of butterflies throughout the pilot. At the end of the episode, butterflies (the king's favorite image to evoke in the public) land on David's head in the form of a crowd.

Watching this show, I couldn't help but see similarities between Saul's character and President Bush. We have a king who uses the rhetoric of "God" to unite people, though those close to him roll their eyes at it, but he does many things God would not approve. Rev. Samuel approaches the king and tells him he is no longer in the Lord's favor. We see a man who loves his country but doesn't admit his shortcomings. In one scene, the king's daughter proposes health care reform, but the king wants to end the war and not worry about such things. Hmmm...shameless! The king is even controlled my a brother-in-law with a substantial amount of gold. Sounds a lot like the accusations against Bush's millions in the oil business.

It's refreshing to see that as Battlestar Galactica comes to an end, there are still shows worth checking out. While most TV producers are content adding to the legion of cop and hospital shows, it's nice to see that the medium of television can still pump out an original idea. Let's see if it lasts.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I'm on the staff page!

Check out the address below, I found it funny. There should be a pic, don't know why it's not there.

Wonder Woman and costumed heroines...briefly

So I just watched the animated cartoon Wonder Woman that came out on video last week. It was created by the same animators that created Superman: Doomsday, which was rather entertaining. As many know, I'm a huge fan of comics, though the Marvel Universe has my hearts many times more than DC Comics. Still, Wonder Woman was actually quite enjoyable, which makes her terrible costume all the more tragic. There's a reason no one has brought her story to the big screen (though Buffy creator Joss Whedon was actually begged for the job a couples years back), the outfit is dated and far too ridiculous. I was watching this cartoon and enjoying the mythology I was presented with: Amazon woman fight the god of war Aries, and after a great battle Zeus orders their queen to inprison Aries rather than slay him; years later, the Amazons live in isolation from the rest of the world until an Air Force pilot crashes on the island; Aries escapes and brings his warlust to the U.S., influencing all men towards their weaker and more violent sides; Wonder Woman, with an army of Amazon women, take on a god; Wonder Woman then finds her way back into society, finding a man to love--but he's the one waiting up for her, preparing dinner. But as I enjoyed this cartoon that had a generic feminist undertone, I couldn't help but laugh at how the costume undermines the point.

Are we really supposed to take the idea of "girl power" seriously in comics if the woman are still dressed like their dominatrix counterparts so many years ago? Wonder Woman, Catwoman, and so many more desperately need new looks. The latest trend in Hollywood has been to take their cues from the fanboy, an affectionate term for crazed fans who have dedicated years of their lives obsessing over cult phenomenons like Star Trek, Star Wars, and comics. And it should be easy to guess the sex of this cultural movement from the name and the general views of femininity often presented. I know the fanboy wouldn't want to see Wonder Womnan's costume change in any potential film versions of her, but it needs to happen. Sure, leave the red, white, and blue colours, but give her some pants and some bra support. It's been going on long enough, let the male gaze take on a different shape than it's usual sexism.

Since I'm talking about the female costume, it seems appropriate to bring up Watchmen as well. I recently turned in my review on Watchmen, in which I critiqued the film pretty intensely. The editor I send my articles in to at the newspaper emailed me back, telling me she agreed with my criticism of the film but also thought the worst thing about the film was its treatment of women. The treatment of women she's referring to is also in the graphic novel. There's a rape, an execution of a pregnant woman, and general distancing from seeing women as heroes (the Silk Spectre's number one strength in the story is her female role in relation to convincing Dr. Manhattan to save the world--something a man couldn't have done). I often don't know what to do with this part of the story, but I'll have a chance to really get into it when my Biola English class goes through the graphic novel. Writer Alan Moore is a very fatalistic man, and for these negative portrayals of women, he creates many more negative views of men. He's just fatalistic throughout the work (and, based on interviews with the man, his life seems to reflect his narrative negativity).

Comics were created for a male audience, but times are changing--though the demographic hasn't changed that much. But just because men are the primary consumers doesn't mean the adolescent bias should continue. Many are discussing how comics have been moving from low culture to pop culture to high culture. If the medium truly wants to make it to the top, it needs to cloth the females, get rid of the general stereotypes, and start to truly see things differently.

Friday, March 06, 2009

"Who Watches the Watchmen?" I did!

It's 3:30am and I just returned from watching Watchmen at a midnight showing in Red Bluff, CA. Going into the film I was plagued with several emotions. Critics really didn't care for the film, though Roger Ebert gave it 4 stars. Regardless, I had been excited for his film since I saw the first preview for it when The Dark Knight came out. After viewing it I find that I really want to see it again. It's 2hours and 43minutes long, so it's hard to remember it all. I find that I'm feeling the similar emotions as when I saw V for Vendetta (ironically, based on a graphic novel by the same writer/illustrator team as Watchmen). I liked it, though my original idea of what I thought it would look like is completely off.

I'm not going to give a long review as I will be writing one for the newspaper I submit articles to, so if you want to know my full thoughts just go to their website and download the PDF (or you could just ask me in real life). I will say that it was great to watch the movie after reading the graphic novel is based on. The director took greats pains to make this film the perfect adaptation, and it is...perhaps to a fault (more on that in the review). Still, I loved the graphic novel. It wasn't a superhero story about good and evil punching each other in the streets. It was a mystery story that ends in a very unexpected way. This isn't the left and right scenario most superheroes face. This is that gray area most superheroes don't seem to find themselves in. That's why Watchmen is such an important piece of superhero literature and an important piece of literature in general. TIME magazine has this one in their top 100 American literary works written since 1920. Imagine that, a major magazine has Watchmen on the same list as The Great Gatsby, Lolita, and A Clockwork Orange. Makes sense, it is that good.

I won't give anything away, but I will say the film is completely worth the price of admission for those who want to see a superhero film expand the genre's scope. It's not as good as The Dark Knight but it's an enjoyable film. Actually though, I really wanted to write this post because the film got me thinking about my top 5 favourite superheroes again and I wanted to update my list with a little more detail.
5. Gambit: there's something about a southern dude who turns playing cards into kinetic energy and throws them at his enemies; also, his uncertain loyalties make him very interesting.
4. Green Lantern: a regular dude given the power of the gods in the form of a ring; it's like Lord of the Rings stuff but with more green and aliens.
3. Wolverine: I can't help it, he's just great; Hugh Jackman brought him to life and the different versions of him in the comics are cool; he's the ultimate assassin in the Ultimate X-Men and the Weapon X storyline is so intriguing.
2. Rorschach: You'll see him in Watchmen; the uncompromising anti-hero with a strict code of honor; he's methodical, crazy, and, in the film, the inkblots on his mask continually change--so cool.
1. Captain America: I know, why would I love a character that was created to motivate soldiers in WWII; yet there's something intriguing about him; a classic hero trying to survive in contemporary America; and he leads the rebellion against the government when it decides to force all superheroes to register; interesting how he reflects this country--especially when he's assassinated and his sidekick Bucky, who was once brainwashed into a super soldier for Russia and now uses excessive force when he pleases, becomes Cap.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Pop Culture from the Margins

Last semester I taught pop culture and had a few students that had some amazing papers that I thought they should share with the school and they got that chance on Wednesday with Common Day of Learning at APU. The students did a great job and had quite a crowd. I put together a panel of three students and myself and they were able to speak for a full room. All the seats were taken and many others were sitting against the back wall. Not bad for an event that took place at 9:30am. The title of the panel was "Pop Culture from the Margins." I was really proud of how the students did.

I started the talk by presenting a methodology that covered that basics of what the panel was about: issues like privilege, representation, hegemony, and postmodernism wrapped into 15 minutes. The students-Whitney, Kim, and Eric-then presented on different ideas under this flag idea. Whitney and Eric were in the pop culture class, and Kim is on the newspaper staff, along with Whitney. Whitney gave a great talk on the "self-tropicalizatioin" of J-Lo in her films. She provided some important details on the way J-Lo has used her Latin roots to create her image. Next, Kim discussed changing gender roles in science fiction, specifically focusing on the unique gender issues presented in Battlestar Galactica (I take a little pride in helping her come up with the idea). Eric then closed with a discussion of the comic book's transition from low culture to high culture.

The students seemed very receptive to what was discussed, and rightly so since the student speakers presented their information with great interest in their topic and appropriate detail. Not just bragging, but we had a great panel that covered the many different aspect of "pop culture from the margins." Common Day of Learning is often considered a joke or annoying obligation by some students, but if they attended our panel, they found some great information with a very timely application. Good times.