Tuesday, April 24, 2012

There Are Places We Must Go: A Spring Mix, 2012

Here's my spring mix. I'm not sure what to say about it. It lasts less than forty minutes--over ten minutes shorter than my next-shortest mix to date. Many (most?) of you will find many (most?) of the tracks pretty old hat. Stylistically, it's not exactly pushing boundaries.

Still, it matters a lot to me. I've put it together with as much thought and care as any mix I've ever made.*

*Except for my never-released winter mix, which I spent a great deal of time putting together before scrapping it and starting over. I then carefully rebuilt it and refined it, and I listened to it more than any mix I've ever put together. It has some of my favorite hip-hop tracks, my favorite Radiohead song, and some of the best transitions I've ever come up with--and I do love a good transition. Even so it never seemed quite right, and it remains isolated on my computer and on a cd in my car.

[The cover is a poorly composed photo of the Lewis & Clark (plus huddled, loyal-dog-like Sacagawea) statue downtown.]

As always, check the tracklist to ensure accuracy:
1. "I'm the Man Who Loves You" by Wilco
2. "Sweet Thing" by Van Morrison
3. "Darkmatter" by Andrew Bird
4. "Strike" by Destroyer
5. "Oh Yoko" by John Lennon
6. "Autoclave" by the Mountain Goats
7. "Icy Cave Dancers" by Breathe Owl Breathe
8. "Shelter from the Storm" by Bob Dylan
9. "Orpheo Looks Back" by Andrew Bird

Those interested may find my older mixes here. Even older ones--from 2010 and earlier--are archived here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The generally profane but sometimes profound Drew Magary has written a story about the premature birth of his third child.
I walked into a brightly lit OR with a dozen doctors and nurses waiting and a big blue scrim in front of my wife to keep us from viewing the horrors below. They strapped my wife's arms down to the table, like a prison inmate about to get a lethal injection. I sat next to my wife's head and held her hand. They cut her open and began digging around for the child. All I could hear on the other side of the scrim were sounds—terrible, awful sounds. It sounded like a foley artist was on the other side of the curtain, scoring a Three Stooges clip and using every sound on the soundboard: vacuums and gushes and slurps and God knows what else. My wife dug her nails into my hand, and I couldn't bitch about the pain because, you know, woman being sliced open.
You should all read it. It's profane and profound. Make sure you stick around for the Stephen Colbert quote.

Which Colson?

Well here's an interesting contrast:

Daniel Silliman's Chuck Colson "mostly rehashed ideas, reiterated party lines, and packaged other people's thought into talking points."

Meanwhile, David Sessions' Colson was a primary engine for the worldview revolution in American evangelicalism, and, even today, "The power of Colson’s ideas still runs deep."

Perhaps there's not a real contradiction here. Silliman's accounting for the originality of the ideas, while Sessions is paying attention to the impact of Colson's particular articulation of those ideas regardless of their originality. In any case, both reflections on Colson's legacy merit your time. Near the end Sessions offers evidence of Colson's own doubts about the Religious Right's politicization of Christianity. Silliman's focus on contradictions or moments of ambiguity in Colson's thinking provides an even more compelling alternative glimpse into the man's life, work, and thoughts.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Modernity of American Christianity

This conversation between Ross Douthat, reasonable and orthodox Catholic, and William Saletan, reasonable and agnostic liberal, is well worth your time. In setting up the exchange, Douthat tries to clarify what he's defending and, more to the point, what he's not:
If orthodoxy is ancient, it’s useful to think of fundamentalism as a characteristically modern school of thought: It has the weird mix of closed-mindedness, pseudo-analytic rigor (once you’re inside the system, at least), and certain faith that History is about to vindicate its ideas that we associate with certain strains of Marxism.
Historically speaking, the modernness of religious fundamentalism is glaringly obvious, but there's this lagging sense in the culture at large (and in slow-to-alter textbooks) that religious fundamentalism represents some sort of archaic, reactionary hold on the past. For example, American history textbooks still tend to represent the "Roaring 20s" as a battle between modern, progressive elements (flappers, jazz, women's suffrage) and conservative, reactionary impulses (the Red Scare, the Scopes Trial, Prohibition).

It's not hard to expose this dichotomy as patently absurd. William Jennings Bryan, the prosecutor in the Scopes Trial, was the American populist, a champion of "the people" against the moneyed interests of Republicans and in some ways a progressive hero. Even more telling, women's suffrage and Prohibition were overlapping, complementary movements. Not only were the causes aligned--to a significant degree (though not, of course, universally speaking), the supporters were the exact same people. To support the progressive/reactionary antithesis, then, you have to suppose a kind of schizophrenia among suffragettes and Prohibitionists: they were progressives when talking about women's rights, reactionaries when talking about alcohol. It doesn't work.

Throughout the conversation, Douthat pleads with American Christians to dissolve the artificial, unnatural, and destructive bond they've forged between Christianity and the fundamentalism of modern American Protestantism. This may sound like some kind of creeping liberal compromise, but it's not. The point is less a defensive posture against Saletan and other liberals critical of Christian "backwardness" than it is an aggressive indictment of Christian conservatism. If the cause of Christ is synonymous with that of modern Christian fundamentalism (or, for that matter, political neo-conservatism), then it will surely fade into oblivion alongside the evaporating modern age.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Silliman on studies of speaking in tongues:
A lot of it is crazy talk. Not the speaking in tongues -- the studies.

[link fixed]