Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Moz became Latino yet remained aloof

Chuck Klosterman's new book of old SPIN essays is out and I'm once again contemplating his pop-culture genius. One of his essays (my favorite of his) describes his surreal experience at a Smiths/Morrissey conference in 2002 East L.A. 75% of the people there were Latinos under the age of 20. Klosterman is mystified: Morrissey once sang that we must look to Los Angeles for the language we use, because London is dead. And so it is: The question is no longer "How soon is now?"; the question is "Es realmente tan extrano?"
And again, this time quoting 23 year old Albert Velazquez, a six foot eight (six five without the pompadour), 235 pound Mexican construction worker: The last time I saw him live, he looked into the audience and said, 'I wish I had been born Mexican, but it's too late now.' Those were his exact words. And the crowd just exploded. He loves the Mexican culture, and he understands what we go through.
And yet 43 year old Stephen Patrick Morrissey, the one with Irish blood and an English heart, lives as a recluse in a mansion in L.A. and has never once attended this convention.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

M. Ward

The best album of 2006 (so far). From Billboard: Ward says two pieces of post-war literature, Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" and Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five," helped inspire some of the new album's themes. The sound: World-weary-joy in a crowded tin-roof shack in Mississippi. My favorite line, worthy of a tombstone: "[he] stormed with his feet and clapped with his hands/ (And) summoned all of his joy when he laughed." For those of you who were there Tuesday night, this is what I was talking about when I said the best art in the world makes us ache for the joy it can never provide itself. Merge Records is currently streaming the album on their website.


Monday, September 04, 2006

One of the best videos ever made

I'm in awe at the amount of time this must have taken to get it in one take (notice there are no edits).

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Geography of Nowhere

Is a book by James Howard Kunstler, written in the mid-90s lamenting the loss of main streets and coherent communities in America. His main thesis is that the American cry of "you can't tell me what to do with my land!" has resulted in what he calls "scary" places--cement-block buildings, kitsch architecture, and "nowheresville" suburbs. Inner cities have been abandoned for "safer" places, thus making any kind of mutual dependency or community next to impossible (in fact, often the appeal of "the next great place to live" is its exclusivity/privacy/distance from the "down and outs."
I grew up in a neighborhood in Memphis, TN which was originally out in the country (it was on a beautiful pond surrounded by trees) but gradually got taken over by suburban sprawl (read Wal-Mart and six lane highway). Kunstler's book put into words what I had felt most of my life but couldn't express, plus I thought his solutions (you'll have to read the book) were quite in line with a biblical worldview (even though he is quite hostile to Christianity). I wrote him an email to say thanks and didn't think I'd hear back. But what do you know, some authors actually care about their readers! Here's my email and his response:

Hi James,

I wanted to drop you a short note to say "thank you" for your book. I read it this summer. You've given justification (and cogency) to my childhood's "backseat rantings" (as I imagine my parents calling them) about the horrors of living in a suburb. I grew up in a suburban neighborhood in Memphis, TN. I heard about your book through an interview with Thom Yorke in Spin.

One question that kept coming up as I read (I'm a Presbyterian campus minister):

Didn't Christianity/the church play a major role in establishing the town model you celebrate in The Geography of Nowhere? One of the things I lament about the modern church is how it has given up its stance in the center of life (especially in America's cities), and that seems to be concurrent with a weak understanding of/interaction with our own history (and a lack of faith in Christianity's relevance in the modern world). Memphis is a perfect example. When I recently went there to visit family, I noticed all the historically "city-center" or at least "community center" churches have all moved to a non-descript, blasted landscape (yes, pastors can read Ferlinghetti) with literally NOTHING around (no poor people, no buildings, no NOTHING!). They are communicating physically what they've concluded theologically/culturally: "We have nothing to say to the complex problems of life/we are no longer recognized as a source for answers to difficult questions/retreat is the ONLY viable option."
Granting you the modern church's failures, then, where would YOU trace the origins of the community model you're buying into? I'm buying it too, as I think it is a thoroughly BIBLICAL model--you may disagree! :) After all, the Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city!

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts (if you have time).



Well, thanks for the compliment.
Must have been an annoying childhood.
I've been to Memphis and the devastation of the city center is impressive.
The origin of the community model I buy into is the American civic experience prior to the end of World War Two.

"It's All Good"

TO MY READERS AND CORRESPONDENTS: I'm getting swamped with e-mails again, and it is necessary for me to ask for your cooperation. I will gladly answer urgent or compelling letters, but please don't overload me with links, clippings, or plain old chitchat. I appreciate your understanding.

Friday, September 01, 2006


We spent a weekend in Cape Cod last week (our first time there) with the Hickmans (RUF St. John's). The Black Dog (Martha's Vineyard) was monumental--do yourself a favor and get the Swordfish if you ever go. This is Nadine sporting her Black Dog tshirt. We don't call her the "Dean of Cute" for nothin.

Out of the ashes of Andytown comes...

This blog. While this is no attempt to re-create the genius that was the Andytown blog, I hope to at least make this worth your while. If you've come here from the RUF UConn site, welcome! I'll be posting some messages from Tuesday nights as well as some thoughts on culture, music, theology, ladder golf, Settlers of Catan, and pogo-balls. That last one is for my sister if she ever reads this. (Now THAT was a great Christmas. I bounced the snot out of that thing.) Also, you should anticipate a lot of pictures of my daugther Nadine (and my other daughter when she arrives!) Brace yourselves, this is going to be really, REALLY good. Or just better than average.