Thursday, July 30, 2009

neil armstrong podcasts

Neil Armstrong is the best DJ. Ever. That is all.

Friday, July 24, 2009

why I dance

Dance is the only art of which we ourselves are the stuff of which it is made.
--Ted Shawn, Time, 25 July 1955

I woke up a couple of days ago in the middle of the evening (thanks to my circadian rhythms being off from Europe) just in time to see the middle of "So You Think You Can Dance." I generally don't watch much TV, definitely not much reality TV, but what I have seen of SYTYCD has been impressive. The quality of the dancers and the choreography on that show is astounding - the idea of picking one as the best is silly.

I tuned in just in time for this performance as choreographed by the very talented (and very demanding - as seen on "Making the Band") Laurie Ann Gibson:
This is the perfect example of how AMAZING hip hop dance can be when done correctly. It's not all popping, locking, and gyrating. The minutely controlled isolations and emotions in every tendon of these dancers shows such power and conveys a very loud message without them having to add any dialogue. Flawless.

There was another piece I saw while watching from Emmy nominated choreographer Tyce Diorio. This is a contemporary dance to Maxwell's "This Woman's Worth" about a woman battling cancer. The dancers convey the message so well that you forget they're dancing. It had all the judges crying at the end it was so inspirational.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

TV, pain, & supernovas

A few more links I might as well share while I'm posting, because who knows when I'll get around to it otherwise:

"Why I Don't Have a Television and Rarely Go to Movies" by Pastor John Piper (just an excerpt - click the link for the full article)

What the eyes see really matters. “Everyone who looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Better to gouge your eye than go to hell (verse 29).

Brothers, that is serious. Really serious. Jesus is violent about this. What we do with our eyes can damn us. One reason is that it is virtually impossible to transition from being entertained by nudity to an act of “beholding the glory of the Lord.” But this means the entire Christian life is threatened by the deadening effects of sexual titillation.

All Christ-exalting transformation comes from “beholding the glory of Christ.” “Beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Whatever dulls the eyes of our mind from seeing Christ powerfully and purely is destroying us. There is not one man in a thousand whose spiritual eyes are more readily moved by the beauty of Christ because he has just seen a bare breast with his buddies.

But leave sex aside (as if that were possible for fifteen minutes on TV). It’s the unremitting triviality that makes television so deadly. What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ. Television takes us almost constantly in the opposite direction, lowering, shrinking, and deadening our capacities for worshiping Christ.

One more smaller concern with TV (besides its addictive tendencies, trivialization of life, and deadening effects): It takes time. I have so many things I want to accomplish in this one short life. Don’t waste your life is not a catchphrase for me; it’s a cliff I walk beside every day with trembling.

Warning: you may feel your spirit convicted. I wouldn't go so far as to eliminate TV totally from my life (would I?) but I do think this article raises very valid questions in which we should examine what we expose ourselves to, often on a daily basis. Even putting the Christian lens aside, shouldn't we be trying to always better ourselves, not wasting this precious time we've been given? Is "New York Goes to Work" doing anything for you? I doubt it. Granted we all have our guilty pleasures, personally a "Law and Order" marathon will make me seriously reconsider leaving the house. In the greater scheme if our exposure to music, movies, television, books, etc. is desensitizing us to our morals, our standards, and our purpose how do we distinguish the damaging from the entertaining?

For the most part I try to surround myself with positivity but I don't shy away from art that lays bare the selfishness, the evil, the pain of our world. A lot of disturbing works of arts - novels, paintings, song lyrics, movies - open our eyes and make us aware of the possibilities that lie in the world, positive and negative. I know people with no TVs, no cable, people who restrict themself to only non-fiction works, people who only listen to Christian music, people who only listen to Christian sermons -- is each one of them missing out on a certain beauty of the world? I believe that's a personal choice and you should do follow your convictions and instincts - which may be different based on your purpose and path.

In considering completely eliminating a form or more of popular media from your life, is there something to be said to being able to join in on a conversation about the latest movie or sitcom, even if it's "worldly?" In Corporate America where you rely wholly on your network and its connections, maybe you limit your opportunities by not being able to bond with coworkers or your boss by being that person who's clueless about pop culture. Maybe it doesn't matter. If you couldn't eat meat for religious reasons, would it matter that you're not ordering a steak during company dinners? Of course not. If you don't drink then you get yourself a Shirley Temple or a water at happy hours and keep it moving. On the other hand, if we consciously filter the TV programming, movies, and music that we're exposed to and we make conscious decisions to not "waste life" but rather use that time to relax or learn, perhaps they're not the damaging and desensitizing mediums Pastor Piper makes them seem.

G.D. at "Post Bourgie" explores in this post "Boy Pain, Girl Pain" the differences in how reactions to pain have been socialized based on respective cultures and genders. It's really an interesting thought and I think that similar reasoning can be applied to a wider range of our perceptions - what's hard for me may not be hard for you and vice versa. This appeals to the fact that we must always strive to understand and celebrate our differences: weaknesses and strengths. Just like you don't know anything about me I don't know where you were raised, if you were abused, if you have some sort of mental illness, what you are battling right this minute. Who am I to judge your perceptions? Needless to say the post (and the comments) is thought provoking. There is also a follow-up post that's good and further explores the topic.
And while there’s probably a lot of variance as to individual thresholds for those things, there’s a huge social component to certain perceptions and sensations. The ability to brush off the kind of agony you feel when you work out is a learned behavior, and often informed by things like gender and class and race in ways that we don’t always acknowledge. I tease my female friends that working out with them is always a drag because they’re crybabies.* (“It’s supposed to hurt!”) The arrogance/condescencion in that statement is twofold: it presumes not only that my friends can’t handle physical pain because they’re women but also that my very genderized notion of pain is the only way of understanding and experiencing it.

I mentioned an artist a few months back named Mr. Hudson. He has a (relatively) new song out with Kanye West called "Supernova" and it's fire. It reminds me of Moulin Rouge but a reloaded version. The video is also wild and features more than Kanye vocals over a cartoon (no shots to "Streetlights"...).


What a bittersweet celebration the entire world has joined in honor of Michael Jackson's life. He led such a tortured life that was put on display for the entire world - a world that often forgot there was a human being behind those many bizarre antics and musical genius. Joe Jackson recently told CNN "I wish the world had recognized him when he was living" which sums up how ironic this celebration is (although the comments were ironic in and of themselves as they were coming from a man depicted as the central figure in MJ's abuse). We've all been overwhelmed with coverage and reflections on the great Michael Jackson's life and legacy. However, there have been two blog entries that I found especially original and appropriate. Click the links to read them in their entirety but I've highlighted passages that really hit home for me.

"Michael Jackson: Freak Like Me" by Richard Kim for "The Nation"
Our fascination with Whack-o Jack-o has never been only, or even primarily, with his prodigious skills. It was with the way he personified our culture's most central ambitions to whiteness, immortality, wealth, real estate and fame. Lodged somewhere between the superhuman and the alien, aspiration and disgust, Jackson was a grotesque reflection of our collective desires.
Was Michael Jackson a weirdo? Of course he was a weirdo.
But maybe if you had been in the public eye since you were 7, had grown ass women throwing themselves at you since you were 13, suffered physical abuse at the hands of your father, watched your father and older brothers engage in sex with groupies on tour as a child, were called "Big Nose" and "ugly" by both family members AND fans, developed a skin disease that took away the one thing you repeatedly expressed your pride for, and spent the last half of your life as the most famous person on Earth, you'd probably be a bit of a weirdo too.
I am not attempting to paint Michael Jackson as a saint, as no man ever lives up to such a lofty title. But to me, the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” seems to sum up Michael Jackson’s life more than ever.
Now you know I have to throw up my favorite Jackson song. RIP King. Only you could pull off a sweater vest with a giant sequin star on it.

Edit: after watching this a ridiculously embarassing number of times PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE watch it and just look at the short, pudgy Jackson with his jacket open. His moves and facial expressions are HILARIOUS. Bonus points if you can tell me his name.