Bach is still the king

Some people listen to music with their ears, others with their minds, and still others with their souls. The first people largely don’t understand music; they listen to pop music in their cars, or in the mall while they’re shopping, or they think hip-hop is great. The second group of people understand music. Chances are they had piano lessons growing up, they played in band in high school and they enjoy classical music. I would dare say that a large part of this group is made up of musicians who aren’t the one doing the performing. They sit towards the back of the recital hall, or they hide in a dark corner with their ipod, and they listen critically. If the performer is good, the listener is pleased and points out all the parts of the piece they love. If the performer is not so good, the listener has nothing but criticism for the music from beginning to end, and then typically ends with an appeal to the musician on how he could improve. Often this appeal starts with something along the lines of “Well here’s what I would have done differently…”

Then there are people who listen with their soul. There’s no really easy way to classify these people. Some of them don’t know the difference between a quarter note and a quarter rest. Some have probed the depths of music theory for decades, and can give the play-by-play of every piece as it unfolds. But regardless of head knowledge, these people connect with the music on a deeper level. They listen with their eyes closed, but would never be mistaken for a sleeper. Their head moves from side to side, and follows every crescendo in the music. They tap their fingers on the beat, conducting the orchestra of imagination as the musical imagery plays out before them. As the second movement darkens they begin to feel the tangible struggle between good and evil. The battle turns south, and the antagonist gains position. Defeat for our hero is imminent. And then, with a single chord, a single note, evil is struck down. The hero has triumphed, we are victorious! The score reverberates sounds of victory, and of the peace that lies ahead. Evil has been conquered!

I went to the National Cathedral tonight to hear an organ concert from Dr. Paul Jacobs, the division chair of organ from Julliard School of Music. It was phenomenal, sitting there in the chancel of the national cathedral, watching a man disappear behind an enormous organ and play amazing music. There are something like 10,000 pipes in the cathedral organ, and sitting there in the chancel is a full 3-dimensional musical experience. Music comes from every direction–above, behind, and beside you. About 150 of us sat there in the chancel, and not a single one of us could see the organist, so instead the northern three rows stared across at the southern rows, and they stared back. It was in this rather unusual people-watching experience that I realized how differently people listen to music.

The ear listeners were typically easy to spot because they flaked out. Some left after only a few minutes (and were rude enough to come back for their sunglasses in the middle of a song), and others were enjoying their Sunday afternoon naps, completely unaware of what was happening around them. Maybe some of them didn’t know what they were in for, and sat down thinking this would only last a few minutes. Or maybe they’ve never been to a recital before and just don’t understand the etiquette. But there they were, plain as day, sitting there bored out of their skulls.

The brain listeners constituted the majority of the crowd. Young and old alike, they sit quietly and listen carefully. They smile when the music, full of emotion, crescendos into one enormous cacophony of sound, the low end rumbling in your chest, and appreciate the moment. Of course they recognize the extreme talent as the organist seamlessly transitions into the light, airy fugue movement, and nod in appreciation of the mastery of the musician’s craft.

Then there were the soul listeners. Some lean back and close their eyes. Others lean forward, eyes wide with anticipation. The old man across from me listened with his soul, anticipating every measure as much as the one before, beaming with happiness, while the rest of his family listened with their minds. The lady behind him listened intently, eyes closed. She moved in rhythm to the music–not a lot–but just enough to be seen. Of the 150 or so people in the chancel, probably only a dozen of us listened with our souls. And at the end of the recital, as the different listeners collectively rose to offer our thunderous applause, we all looked the same. The ears and the minds looked no different than the souls, and may have even clapped louder and faster and cheered more often. But there is no comparing the experience of the three. One heard music. One heard years of practice and study, and technical proficiency. One caught an extraordinary glimpse of a composer’s soul, a piece of paper and ink, brought to life, again, for the very first time.

I’m thankful for God’s gift of music, and the ability to listen to it with my soul.

And no, there’s nothing wrong with hip-hop and pop music. I listen to it some. But it doesn’t have soul.

How will the fight end?

Just seven years into the 21st century, I think it’s obvious what the church of this generation will be judged by: how it handles the up-and-coming war on homosexuality. Some denominations have openly embraced it (United Methodists), some have firmly rejected it (Presbyterians), and others (Wesleyans) are still having hissy fits over drinking and smoking. But I believe without question that how the church treats homosexuality will be its defining role in the next 15 or 20 years, and I’m quite frankly worried about what the outcome will be.

Read Religious Groups Lead Gay Pride Parade for the inspiration of today’s post.

In the past century or so, it seems like churches have gone through as many changes as they have in the 1500 years prior. Denominations and church bodies have made leaps forward, from the Roman Catholics using common vernacular to Holiness churches wearing jeans on Sunday. And taking that short-sighted look at the history of the church, there would be no reason to believe that it will hold firm on any particular doctrine, because so many have changed in the past few years. Viewing only that short segment of the past, I would be compelled to say that in 20 years homosexuality would be widely accepted among evangelicals, despite the clear Biblical precepts against it.

On the other hand, looking deeper into the past of the church I think it’s safe to say that we haven’t changed nearly as much as you might think. Or maybe what’s more appropriate to say is that we haven’t ended up that much off from where we started. Upon closer examination, the church almost looks like it runs on a system of checks and balances–it fluctuates between extremes. If you consider the Crusades, the selling of indulgences, the Spanish inquisition, witch trials, slavery and the whole lot, you grow a bigger appreciation for what the church has come through and survived. No single institution has thrived like the Church, which I believe is just one more way Jesus proves the church to be his ordained body of the believers.

So, taking a broad view of the Church, I would tend to believe that Christ is ever in a proactive state of leadership, correcting the course of the Church when it strays off the path. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay for us to lose focus of God’s truth. God still led the Israelites despite their stubbornness, but the price they paid–40 years in the wilderness–was a steep one. I believe the same still holds true today. Christ will always be leading his bride despite her shortcomings, but there will always be consequences for our actions.

But disregarding the history, my question is how will the church react in the next few years, and honestly, I have a bad feeling about it. Surrounded by a world of progressive, postmodern thinking, standing firmly on a set of beliefs is quickly going the way of the dodo. It’s no longer acceptable to take a stand on right and wrong, black and white. We find ways to justify the things we want to do, and those means of justification are growing stronger and stronger. Our most visible “Christian” leaders, the likes of Joel Osteen, Brian McLaren, and Tony Campolo, are now spreading their own version of the gospel, one that leaves room for Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and everyone else to get to Heaven. Many leaders will no longer say definitively that Jesus is the way and the only way to Heaven. There’s no way we’ll win the small battle if people won’t even declare Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

I’m worried about the direction the Church is headed. I fear we’ve already earned our time in the wilderness, and as stubborn as people are these days, it may take a lot longer than forty years to pay the consequences. But the one thing that’s changed in me since college is how I handle that fear and anger. In college, I mostly gave up on the Church as whole, and wrote it off as a gift which man had abused and wasted. Now I have faith in te body of Christ. I just don’t have faith in many of the people who supposedly compose and lead it.

Changing jobs but not changing jobs.

Today I signed my new job description, and I’m now officially the graphics designer/projection technician for the Smith Center. It means I’ll be doing a little bit less lighting, and be spending a little more time during the week working on graphics. I’m still doing lighting design some, and hope to do more if things fall into place, but for now I’ll probably be about 35% lights and 65% graphics stuff. It’s more than a little scary for me, because I don’t really feel like I’m ready to take on the role. I certainly don’t stack up to our two guys who do design for Frontline and the Rock. They’re awesome. But I take some good pictures, and I’m hoping between that and massive amounts of reading (mostly websites, but also some books) and podcast watching, I’ll be able to do a decent job at designing graphics, too. Today I took a crack at cel shading a picture I took. In retrospect, it was a terrible choice of picture because the process was painstakingly slow. I think you can figure out why. Now that I’ve spent hours on it, I’m not entirely sure it’s suitable for being used in a worship service, but I guess I have to learn those things, too.

You’ve seen this technique before in tv commercials. It’s been a fairly popular look in the last couple of years. Also, I remember a set of curious grandparents wondering what good could possibly come from taking pictures in the old town park. Well, here’s one of them!

And with cel shading:

Not entirely sure it’s finished yet, but dang, I spent a long time on it already.

Oh yes… I no longer love the game of golf. I despise it.

I can’t wait to go again.

This Just in…

This just in: playing golf every week makes you a better golfer.

Nate and I played at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club, in Front Royal, VA today. It’s been rated as one of the ten best public courses in Virginia, and at just $31 for 18 w/cart is a great deal to boot. It’s gorgeous… nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, you’re surrounded by mountain peaks on all sides. Several of the holes boast amazing views of the ridges as you tee off, the grass is immaculate, and the staff is even friendly. Typically Nate and I play at Sleepy Hollow Golf Course in West Virginia, a backwoods, hillbilly golf course. But we got frustrated last week when it cost us $45 to play 2 rounds of golf, considering it’s EXACTLY THE SAME PRICE to play two rounds at Shenandoah Valley.

Today my new driver finally made it out of the driving range and onto the course, where it rewarded me with many 280-290 yard drives and more accuracy than I ever hit my 3-wood with. Actually, I played amazing golf today… until I got onto the green. I ended up shooting an 84, but would have easily shot more like a 75 or 76 if I didn’t putt like a 7-year old girl. I holed out a 25-yard chip (over a bunker) for birdie, knocked it stiff on the par-3 17th (I actually thought it was going in the hole for about 10 seconds), and hit an amazing sand shot to within inches on the 11th. Too bad I probably hit 30 putts over the course of 18 holes… I think it’s actually better for me to purposefully roll just off the edge of the green so I can chip. I’m much better at chipping.

I like golf.

Good Riddance Attention Whore

Cindy Sheehan, the blundering leader of Gold Star Families For Peace, resigned yesterday after fighting her so-called hard fought battle for almost two whole years. Often called the “face of the American anti-war movement”, she often managed to rally a few hundred generally annoying people to march with her and promote their hatred of the Iraq War, and more importantly their intolerance of President Bush and the Republican Party as a whole. Sheehan made her big slip-up when she decided that she held influence because of what she believed in, and not because she was a puppet of the Democratic party. As soon as she began to “hold the Democratic Party to the same standards [she] held the Republican Party”, her ‘power’ and ‘influence’ soon found their way to the Democratic dumpster, where she was labeled an “attention whore”. Since she’s now been ousted by the entire American government, she decided yesterday to give up her fight, which lasted a whole two years. In the process, she “sacrificed” her 29-year marriage, estranged her surviving children, went into massive debt from hospital visits whilst spending her money to further her cause, and generally made an ass out of herself to the majority of the people who know who she is. Here’s her blog of resignation: Good Riddance Attention Whore

Normally I don’t get too worked up over disillusioned people like Cindy (except when they protest at funerals… that pisses me off). But her resignation letter sent me off the edge today, so I thought I’d rail on her a little bit. I hope you read her letter, because it should enrage any American as equally as it did me. In just 1200 words, she managed to call America terrorists, murderers, warmongers, cowards, fascists, ungrateful, and liars, to name a few. She spends her entire ‘plea for peace’ trying to paint herself as a martyr, telling all the awful things she’s gone through because her son died in the war, and she tried to rally for peace. She nearly died. She’s penniless. She’s divorced now. Her children don’t love her anymore. She’s a crusader against the masses, championing a cause that no one cares about.

The funny thing to me is this lady personifies everything in the American culture that she’s trying to fight against. She despises the fact that her son was “killed by his own country” for nothing, yet she is leading the movement that declares this war to be for nothing. In her letter she talks about the dire failings of America’s bipartisan government, yet she was and (based on the comments on her blog) remains a major Democratic tool, rallying people not around a common cause but rather a common political party. Nothing about her divisive, politically-driven leadership ever came close to bringing unity or peace to our country, let alone to Iraq. She even went so far as to personally meet with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. At what point did it become the right of American citizens to carry out their own foreign policy? Her actions strike at the very heart of what democracy stands for, and are a battle cry for anarchy and rebellion.

I’m about as frustrated as I can get with our country anymore. The drive-by media is the real fascist here, pumping our citizens full of their anti-war, anti-Bush, Democratic propaganda. They’ve even managed to sway a large majority of republicans to give up on the cause and to lose faith with our current administration. Somehow they’ve made Americans believe that we can support our troops and not support the war, despite the ridiculousness of that statement. And somehow the Democratic party has come out as the good guys in this whole mess, despite the fact they obviously still believe this war is worth something, being that they just signed another huge war funding bill. Maybe they just don’t have the balls to stand up for what they believe in, but somehow I doubt they really believe in much of anything, except maybe gaining power for themselves and their party.

So good riddance to a thorn in America’s side. I’m sure ten more will pop up to take her place, but at least we got rid of one pain in our backside for now. When I think of one line to try and sum up my feelings on the resignation of the attention whore, nothing comes to mind more than a quote from good old Donald Trump:

“I think it’s wonderful because I like to see bad people fail. [She] failed. I’m happy about it.”

A little harsh? I don’t think so.

A new season

The Colts have officially put last year’s season behind them, per Peyton Manning during his latest press conference. Mini-camps have started already, and the team is now focused on the 2007 season. So although it’s sad to take down my banner (I spent the better part of four hours making that banner the night they won), I stand with my team as they press on to win the prize, namely Superbowl XLII. So no more Colts banner for now.

In other news, I’d like to retract what I said about Donald Miller’s message. I listened to it again, in the company of my mom and stepdad, and the three of us were together unimpressed. I still like the allegory he made between our lives and stories, and some of the implications it had. For me, being largely a reading/writing person, the story connection was a new and unique way of looking at our spiritual walk. But overall the message was very toned with post-modernism, specifically with a heavy dose of self interest. As I listened again, I became aware of just how much the message revolved around our decisions as humans, and how little it involved God leading our decisions. It was one of those messages that we as humans like to hear, because it’s easier for us to decide what we want to do than it is to let God decide. Richard was quick to point this flawed theology out after we were done listening to the message, and he was right to do so. Unfortunately, it’s the overall tone of the emerging church movement, and while I see a lot of benefits within the movement, many of its leaders scare me… a lot. Brian McLaren–yikes.

Fusion Conference

We’re heading into the last day of Fusion Conference at the church. I’ve only been working the main events, so I didn’t get a chance to sit in on any of the seminars, but the speakers have been great so far. Donald Miller, Dan Kimball and others. Donald Miller really challenged me tonight in what may be the best message I’ve ever heard. It’s funny, because he’s not the captivating, uber-communicator type that you might expect when I say ‘best message I’ve ever heard.’  But he just relates things in ways that make a lot of sense to me. And judging on how well his book (Blue Like Jazz) sold, apparently a lot of people my age.

I have the recording and I want to listen to it again before I post more thoughts, mainly because they’re all very disorganized at 3am. But there are some good thoughts swirling around in my head.

Oh, Don Miller is pretty funny, too. He claimed to stop wearing deodorant in favor of anti-bacterial hand gel. In the context of the conversation, it was really funny.

Churchton, Maryland

I drove over to the western Chesapeake Shore today for my second shoot on the bay. This time it was about 50 degrees warmer than last time, I have an exponentially better camera, I found a great place to shoot, and God provided some tremendous light to shoot in. I have a ton of pics I really like, so when I say I’ve got 12 for you today, understand that’s narrowed down from a field of 40 or 50 candidates. Maybe someday I’ll get a flickr account or some other online photo album, but for now I’m content just to show them off here. You can feel free to click on them, I remembered to upload two different sizes today, so each picture is about 1.2mb for the ‘medium’ size. I already have one as a wallpaper and another couple waiting on standby, and if you want to use any of them as a wallpaper feel free. If you email me and ask, I’ll even crop it for widescreen or standard width.

First Photo Shoot

My work schedule got switched up a little bit, and I no longer have time tomorrow to shoot, but since I left work earlier than expected today, I took the D40 out for its first photo shoot. I panicked for about 15 minutes trying to think where I could get to in time for the sunset, and quickly realized that I live in the middle of a very, very large urban jungle. I also tend to shy away from the monuments, mostly because a) everyone’s already seen a thousand pictures of them, and b) then you just look like a tourist when you take pictures there. So instead I went to Freedom Park in Rosslyn, right across the river from DC. Freedom Park is basically a bridge that was never used as a road, so instead they planted grass on it, put some artifacts on the bridge, and turned it into a ‘park’. It’s about 1000 feet long, and holds some interesting things including sections of the Berlin Wall, a headless statue of Lenin (that’s Vladimir, not John), and a memorial to journalists killed in action (the glass, almost iridescent structure you’ll see later). One great thing about this park is although it is directly in the middle of Arlington’s business district, it sees very few visitors and being up in the air as it is, it really feels like an escape from the busyness of the city, despite it moving all around you.

I only brought one memory card with me, meaning I only had room for about 950 pictures today. In the two hours I was there, I shot 902. Originally the camera said it would only hold about 450, so it was funny to keep taking pictures and watch the “pictures remaining” number continue to climb. Now, those 902 include a lot of shots where I just held the shutter and took two or three at the same time, just to ensure that I got at least one good shot. By the time I was done deleting the excess, I only saved about 200 pictures to my hard drive today. Of those, I’ve picked a handful to show off. These are raw, meaning no special photoshopping was done, although I expect you might see some of them return in the near future, all jazzed up.

As always, click to see the full image, but beware… the new camera means the full images are about 4MB each. In the future I’ll remember to save a medium size for easier enjoyment.

The Journalists’ Memorial

So you know where I am, there are the monuments.

Freedom Park’s upper portion connects to this building, home of many offices, some small boutique stores, and Channel 7 News.

The sunset reflected on this building was amazing… blue fading to orange, through red. I just couldn’t get the colors to saturate as much as I wanted to.

This just turned out awesome. I started playing with zooming the lens during long exposures, and got this. It just gives an unbelievable sense of motion.

Upper side of the park.

Lower side of the park.

Inside the building.

And for today’s bit of trivia… this is the 100th post since I switched over to WordPress a couple of years ago. That means I’m probably averaging about 3 posts a month over the 3 years or so I’ve been doing this. Prolific.

Cross one off the list

You may remember a few weeks ago, when I listed some of the things I wanted to do in the near future. They’ve all been desires of mine for a long time, thought some (like ice hockey) have only more recently become of interest simply because, well, there’s just not that much ice hockey going on in Marion. But this week, after many months of reading photographer’s advice, reviews, specs, and looking at hundreds of photos; and having a few dollars in surplus thanks to birthday and tax money, I purchased this:

The Nikon D40, the newest model in their highly-regarded line of great cameras. Professionals the world over all shoot Nikon digitals, because they’re great cameras and they cost a lot less than the Ferrari’s and Porsche’s of cameras do. Believe it or not, I actually made great improvements in my purchasing discipline this time. Originally I had eyed the D80 or even the D200, which would be at least twice as expensive as the rig I got. But after reading lots of information very thoroughly, I came to the conclusion that this camera will do 99% of everything I want it to, and I didn’t really need the other 1% anyways. So when I finally decided this was the model to buy, that also freed me up to go ahead and buy it, because my specially designated photography savings was adequate.

So now I look forward to having a new outlet to express myself creatively and artistically. This camera is powerful enough to do a lot of things my old camera couldn’t, and it will provide the shot in the arm I need to spend more time pursuing my photography. I’m already planning on shooting Friday, and taking my next photo trip Tuesday, location TBD.

I’m excited.