August 19, 2014

Reading: “The Abyss,” Black Girl Nerds, “Boogie Nights” vs. “Magnolia,” Saving Syria’s Chants & more

Reading: “The Abyss,” Black Girl Nerds, “Boogie Nights” vs. “Magnolia,” Saving Syria’s Chants & more

Why isn’t James Cameron’s The Abyss as popular or well-known as the Terminator series or Avatar? Daniel D. Snyder thinks it has something to do with The Abyss’ anti-war themes, and that’s a shame: “Cameron's message has been both consistent and valuable, assuming you think its a message worth spreading… Yes, there is a contradiction inherent in making action-packed anti-war films. But if we’re going to have over-the-top blockbusters, we might as well appreciate the ones that preach peace and love. If The Abyss preached it a little too loudly, is that so wrong?”

Imagine your typical nerd and you probably see a scrawny, bespectacled white guy. However, nerddom is far more diverse than that: Enter the black girl nerds: “‘As black women, just based off our gender and race, we do have two strikes against us,’ said Jamie Broadnax, creator of BlackGirlNerds, an online community described as ‘a place for women of color with various eccentricities to express themselves freely and embrace who they are.’”

Nathan Rabin discusses the one-two punch of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and Magnolia. “Boogie Nights takes audiences on a spellbinding journey from innocence to experience to degradation, and then to a place of catharsis and renewal. Magnolia, Anderson’s 1999 follow-up, begins in a place where many films end: in a state of bone-deep exhaustion, with its gallery of Los Angeles lost souls feeling defeated and emotionally strip-mined to the point where they don’t seem like they can go on for one more cursed minute.”

A former punk rock drummer is working hard to preserve Syria’s Sufi and Christian chants: “The project got its start when Hamacher read in a book about ‘the world’s oldest Christian music.’ He tracked down From the Holy Mountain author William Dalrymple, who told him there were no recordings of the music — and that ‘it’s not a monastery in the desert; it is a Syrian Orthodox church in the middle of the city of Aleppo.’ Hamacher ended up staying at that church as a guest of the archbishop, who has since been kidnapped by rebels.” You can listen to some haunting excerpts here. Via

Do you desire a calmer, more orderly life? Maybe you should try thinking like a chef. “But practiced at its highest level, mise-en-place says that time is precious. Resources are precious. Space is precious. Your self-respect and the respect of others are precious. Use them wisely. Isn’t that a philosophy for our time?”

As it turns out, there’s a lot more to noise than just making noise but we just lack the vocabulary to describe it. “Pigeon, who is a sound geek, believes that ‘we are still living in the ice-age of noise machines,’ stuck with non-adjustable white noise generators when we could be custom-designing the color of our noise to perfectly fit our needs — ‘a noise whose “color” compensates for your personal hearing thresholds, the flaws of the speakers or headphones you are using, and takes into account the characteristics of the sound you want to mask.’”

Matthew Derman considers two different versions of the Silver Surfer — my favorite comic book character of all time — and finds himself wondering what makes the Silver Surfer the Silver Surfer? “Is it just the board and the Power Cosmic that distinguish him, and aside from that he can act and feel however the writer of the hour wants him to? Or is there some other integral aspect that, if tampered with or removed, makes him into something new and inaccurate?” (I’m a big fan of the Ron Lim-era Surfer comics and Silver Surfer: Requiem, myself.)

After Robin Williams’ death, countless tributes reflecting on the life of the beloved comedian and actor were posted. However, this tribute by someone who performed some improv comedy with Williams was my favorite: “I’ve rarely been steamrolled onstage like this in my life. But I’ve also rarely felt so much adrenaline. Part of this, I’m sure, is being up there with someone I’d admired so much for so long. But a big part of this is also the joy of realizing I am in the presence of an impatient, wonderful, big-hearted genius who was still humble enough to ask if he could be on my show before he stole it.”

We may never jack into the “Matrix” or wander around the “Sprawl,” but ‘80s-era cyberpunk is still influencing our vision of the future. “In 2014, it’s hard to imagine even one of the last modern cyberpunk-ish heroes, Neo, figuring in at all. Our Matrix is so much more diffuse, and our enemies so omnipresent — it’s the NSA tapping the iPhone in your pocket, the webcam in your shiny new MacBook Air. There really is no pulling out the jack. So the people who grew up on cyberpunk have become slicker and more efficient, projecting a hyper-refined and expensive sense of taste, favoring clean lines, baller outfits, powerful matte-black weapons, and the kind of opulence telegraphed by machines without visible seams.”

Luke Harrington’s latest column for Christ and Pop Culture skewers Christian websites, and it is brilliant, especially his comments re. Relevant, Movieguide, and Patheos.

Chef photo by Dulcinea.navarrete. Cyberpunk image by Vang Cki.

Download Earwig’s Discography for Free

Download Earwig’s Discography for Free

No, not the Earwig from Columbus, Ohio. I’m referring, instead, to the UK’s Earwig, i.e., the trio of Kirsty Yates, Julian Tardo, and Dimitri Voulis. Yates and Tardo would later form Insides and release the criminally unknown Euphoria in 1993. But as Earwig, they created the template that they mastered on Euphoria: Delicate, spidery guitar melodies and drum programming that create a lush-yet-unsettling backdrop for Yates’ tales of romantic escapades and disillusionment. (Sample lyric: “Trust me to be careful/You break easily/You’re so fragile and you’re delicate/But you’re safe in my hands… I promise nothing.”)

Listening to Earwig, you can hear the seeds of what groups including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gang Gang Dance, and HTRK would be doing two decades later. All of Earwig’s releases are now available for free on Bandcamp.

First is their only full-length album, 1992’s Under My Skin I Am Laughing.

Second is a brilliant remix of Under My Skin I Am Laughing’s “Every Day Shines” plus a new track.

Finally, there’s Past, a compilation of three vinyl EPs released prior to Under My Skin I Am Laughing. These feature a harsher, rawer sound than the trio’s subsequent material.

August 17, 2014

Aphex Blimp Day

Aphex Blimp Day

Update #1: Aphex Twin has, in fact, announced a new album titled SYRO. And he announced it “via Tor, the deep web browser typically used for the internet's shadier pursuits,” because he’s Aphex Twin and that’s just the sort of thing that Aphex Twin would do.

Yesterday, the Intertubes were all abuzz with news that a blimp bearing the number “2014” and the Aphex Twin logo was floating over London. Fans immediately started speculating that this might mean the reclusive mad genius Richard D. James is finally set to release some new music. (The Twin’s most recent full-length, Drukqs, was released in 2001.) After all, he’s said he has six albums’ worth of material recorded.

To help celebrate this momentous-yet-odd occasion, Vapor Lanes released an “alternate” version of “Vordhosbn” that slows the Drukqs track down from 45 rpm to 33 1/3 rpm. As he puts it:

I first conducted this experiment in college with some friends, and found the results so captivating that I now consider this the “correct” way to hear this song. Where once the drum programming was verging on incomprehensible, suddenly it’s one of the best hip hop tracks you’ve ever heard. It grooves so perfectly that it almost seems intended to be slowed down in exactly this way. Hope you agree.

Via Marc Weidenbaum, who has more “Aphex Blimp Day” links.

Image via Chris Randall.

August 10, 2014

What Made “Guardians of the Galaxy” So Darn Good?

What Made “Guardians of the Galaxy” So Darn Good?

Like many of you, I went and saw Guardians of the Galaxy last week. Marvel’s latest comic book movie has certainly struck a chord with moviegoers, grossing over $300 million dollars to date. And it did so despite not featuring any of Marvel’s more well-known heroes (e.g., Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk). Indeed, the title is almost a second tier property, at least in terms of popularity, and yet it has received almost universal acclaim. (The movie currently enjoys a 92% rating on RottenTomatoes.)

So, despite being a lesser-known title with no famous characters, why has Guardians of the Galaxy received so much critical and popular love? Well, for starters, it has an awesome soundtrack:

Lesser films might have populated their soundtracks with a similar assortment of surefire mood-setters (and download-inspirers), but director James Gunn — who also developed an orchestral score with longtime collaborator Tyler Bates — found a way to fully integrate the era-specific music into the plot of "Guardians," using the music to provide an emotional connection for Star-Lord (Pratt) to his late mother, and by association, his long-lost homeworld.

Or, as BuzzFeed’s Alison Willmore and Adam B. Vary write:

The music that carries Guardians of the Galaxy through its interplanetary adventure is even more joyously unhip. Marvel’s latest movie has an AM Gold soundtrack that, on one level, is completely at odds with its sci-fi setting, and that on another, better level, is absolutely perfect. It’s powered by a literal cassette mixtape — Awesome Mix Vol.1 — made for Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) when he was a Midwestern kid, by a dying mom who wanted him to hear her favorite songs. They’re ’60s and ’70s radio fodder, classic and cheesy pop hits that have survived enough decades to accrue the heft of collective memory. When the title splashes across the screen, it’s over a wide shot of Peter with his Sony Walkman headphones on, rocking his way through the craggy landscape of an abandoned planet to the sounds of Redbone’s “Come And Get Your Love.”

Then there’s Chris Pratt's goofy charisma. I’ll admit, it was hard to see him as an intergalactic hero after watching him play Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation for so long, but the moment he flipped off the Nova Corps, I was sold. Basically, as Kevin Fallon puts it, Pratt’s Star-Lord is the “Everydude Superhero”:

The best praise I can give Guardians of the Galaxy is that if I was 12 years old right now it might be my favorite movie of all time. The movie was aggressively fun, and, despite its sci-fi setting and outlandish plot, somehow relatable. There wasn’t just comedy in it, as there is in many superhero movies, but it was actually a comedy. It’s a movie more interested in being superficially entertaining than offering some moody rumination on the nature of heroism and good vs. evil, and the linchpin holding it all together was the casting of Chris Pratt, who will henceforth be referred to as the Everyman superhero. (And the manliest French braider who ever was.)

[…]

Modern superheroes are too often modeled after the unattainable ideal. They become slaves to the Herculean exercise regimens suffered in order to manufacture chiseled bodies to match their chiseled jaws. They’re often holier-than-thou, altruistic, and, for lack of a better word, perfect. There is often two character types in Hollywood, especially in this genre: the guy you wish you were and the guy you wish you were best friends with. Pratt’s Peter Quill breaks that mold. He’s the guy you already are.

Finally, there’s no denying that Guardians of the Galaxy is very different from the other comic book movies out there, both in terms of tone and in how it approaches typical comic book movie tropes.

Pretty much everything in Guardians of the Galaxy is retro, one way or the other. The vision of outer space and aliens and spaceships is straight out of classic space opera, but also 1970s Marvel comics, classic anime, and old Moebius bandes dessinees. The action-adventure stuff is pure 1980s: Indiana Jones and Kurt Russell, goofy-ass heroes who got knocked on their asses on the regular. They don't make movies this unabashedly spacey any more, nor do they make adventures this upbeat and good-natured.

[…]

I already mentioned that there's a lot of intentionally cheesy stuff in this movie — not just the music, but the cliché-ridden storytelling and some of the little character moments. To some extent, the movie gets away with the cheese because of the riotous humor — but also, you sense that the movie 100 percent invests in the cheese, and believes in it. Like Stevie Wonder calling to say he loves you, this movie means it from the bottom of its heart.

By embracing the corny instead of keeping an ironic distance, Guardians winds up being able to work on a few levels at once: funny and sad, superheroic and self-mocking. And Gunn seems to be making the case for cheese as a valid aesthetic, not just something that has to be deracinated and reimagined endlessly to be acceptable to "sophisticated" audiences.

All that being said, I’m not so sure that Guardians of the Galaxy is the best Marvel film to date, a sentiment that I’ve seen here and there. The Avengers still holds that distinction for me, but Guardians of the Galaxy is neck-and-neck with Iron Man for the #2 spot. (Guardians of the Galaxy does have The Avengers beat when it comes to Ranger Rick references, however.) I’m perfectly willing to change my assessment, though, after another viewing or two. I do think, though, that it’s the most ambitious Marvel film, from using largely unknown characters to its goofball approach to just throwing audience members into its cosmic setting. Which is just another of saying, bring on 2017 and Guardians of the Galaxy 2: More Awesome Mixtapes!

15 Years of Opus

15 Years of Opus

Although it existed in several forms before August 10, 1999, that was the date I registered “opuszine.com,” the domain that would serve as Opus’ home for many years until I switched to opus.fm. Which means that Opus is now 15 years old. And while not my sole writing outlet — I’ve also written for Christ and Pop Culture, Filmwell, and TwitchOpus is still very much my hypertext homebase (pardon the nerdy term).

Opus has changed quite a bit over the years. It has slowly evolved from a place to share random things with close friends (and teach myself HTML and CSS) to a somewhat legitimate webzine (which, if nothing else, got me Cornerstone Festival press credentials) to its current form (whatever that might be).

What hasn’t changed, though, is my desire to constantly improve Opus and use it to hone my talents as both a writer and a web developer — and to make it an interesting and thought-provoking experience for the thousands of people who visit every month.

To that end, I think Opus has been pretty successful (though improvement is always possible). Many thanks to those who have read, contributed, and offered feedback and camaraderie. I’ve met some very cool people, and had some great experiences and opportunities, as a direct result of running this website/webzine/blog/whatever. It’s grown into something more than I ever imagined it could be back in 1999.

The Best of Opus

Given the occasion, it seems only appropriate to compile a “best of” list from the thousands of articles, reviews, etc. that have been posted on Opus over the years.

These articles represent what I’m most proud of about Opus, and what I hope will be part of Opus’ legacy. Here’s to 15 more years, and then some. All glory and honor, world without end…

August 8, 2014

A Cry for Help From Iraq

There are many horrifying images coming out of Iraq as ISIS goes about their brutality, images bound to nauseate even those with the strongest of stomachs. The video below doesn't feature any bloodshed, beheadings, or corpses, but it's no less shocking, depressing, and infuriating.

Vian Dakheel is a Yazidi member of the Iraqi Parliament. Her people, one of Iraq’s smallest religious minorities, are currently being oppressed and slaughtered by ISIS. I don’t post “current events”-type content very often, for various reasons, but this cry for help is deeply, profoundly gut-wrenching. And it should cause those of us surrounded by wealth, comfort, and safety — which I suspect is true for the vast majority of people who read this site — to sit and pause and think. And I mean, really think.

We live in an incredibly connected age, thanks to blogs, social media, etc. Even so, it’s easy to think of those problems in far-off lands as just that: problems way over there, with little relevance to those of us over here. They’re sad to read, but then we just skip on to the next tweet, Vine, Instagram post, or status update, and everything’s fine again. Dakheel’s painful appeal cuts through all of that bullshit, however. It does for me, at least.

I’m reminded yet again that my circumstances are a far cry from those of the vast majority of humanity, and especially from those currently huddled in the Sinjar mountains who are threatened with death from dehydration on one side, and death from ISIS on the other. I’m reminded of my privilege as an American, privilege that I have done nothing to deserve and take for granted all too easily. And I’m reminded that the world is far from being a safe and just place. Rather, it is a place where children are beheaded, women are raped, and men are hung and crucified simply for believing something different.

I feel so helpless and hopeless, my outrage essentially a token gesture for all the real good it can do. I could change my profile photo on Facebook and Twitter to the Arabic letter “nun” or something similar. But instead, I choose to respond in a way that seems even more impotent — and yet, like many of those currently being persecuted, I also believe it may move mountains, and even comfort those huddled in the shadow of those mountains.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, let justice be done. Lord, save the fatherless and the widow. Lord, bring the evildoer to ruin. Lord, have mercy…

Reading: Weird Al’s Halftime Show, Facebook & OKCupid, Terminator Spoilers, Shoegaze Revival & More

Reading: Weird Al’s Halftime Show, Facebook & OKCupid, Terminator Spoilers, Shoegaze Revival & More

What would be the perfect follow-up to “Weird” Al Yankovic’s success with Mandatory Fun? Why, a Super Bowl half-time show, of course. “A proposed ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic halftime show performance at American football’s main event would be a victory for that off-the-field 99.999 percent. And it would be a bracing celebration of cultural changes that have shrunk the distance between creative fans and the pop stars who once towered over them.”

Tim Carmody explains why Facebook and OKCupid’s recent experiments are so problematic: “They’re all too quick to accept that users of these sites are readers who’ve agreed to let these sites show them things. They don’t recognize or respect that the users are also the ones who've made almost everything that those sites show. They only treat you as a customer, never a client.”

And speaking of Facebook, Jerri Kelley Phillips describes how easy it is to find lots of potentially compromising info via unprotected Facebook profiles: “I randomly wandered through my friend’s friends lists, and I picked people at random and wandered their pages. If I could, I wandered their friends’ lists. In 9 out of 10 tries, their posts and information were wide open for anyone who wanted it, so I looked. Let me tell you a bit of what I found out.” Via

Everyone hates movie spoilers, and The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson discusses the biggest movie spoiler of them all: “Re-watching Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it’s actually frustrating to see how carefully crafted the first half-hour is, how thoroughly it takes advantage of audience assumptions, all in order to floor them with the big reveal… Counting Cameron’s first run at these characters and this basic idea, it took around seven years to build up this fake-out — and just a couple minutes of trailer… to blow it. It’s one of the dumbest marketing missteps of all time — at least in terms of audience experience.”

What do you you when you’re making a game about defeating death, and then the game’s main character actually dies in real life? That’s the challenge faced by the folks developing That Dragon, Cancer. “Both Ryan and Josh already knew they were trying to do something different with That Dragon, Cancer. Something that hasn’t been done enough in games yet. They wanted to put players into another person’s shoes, a real person’s shoes, as they experienced something that could easily be overpoweringly emotional. But they also wanted to give players a genuine sense of hope, even faith.”

Shoegaze may have been derided when it first emerged on the music scene in the ‘90s, but in 2014, shoegaze still going strong with a new crop of bands to pick up where Slowdive, Ride, Chapterhouse, et al., left off. “Shoegaze may have been killed off by grunge and Britpop, but now it is reborn. Time to get out your Ride, Lush and Chapterhouse records. What was once a term of derision, coined by the music press to slate outfits whose players tended to stare through lank fringes at their guitar pedals, is now a badge of honour.”

Nobody seems to like Richard Dawkins very much these days. First, there’s this Eleanor Robertson piece (via): “Dawkins has been arrogant for years, a man so convinced of his intellectual superiority that he believes the one domain in which he happens to be an expert, science, is the only legitimate way of acquiring or assessing knowledge.”

Elsewhere, Amanda Marcotte criticizes the popular atheist’s approach to feminists: “Dawkins is being particularly disappointing this round because he’s hiding behind a gambit so transparent that every shitty 18-year-old boy who wants to win an argument with his girlfriend resorts to it: Telling you that you’re too emotional to be reasonable and he alone possesses access to objective reality above emotion.”

Derek Rishmawy discusses how pastors should react when prominent Christian figures (e.g., Gungor) reveal doubts about certain tenets of the Faith: “I’m all for guarding the flock, teaching against false doctrine at appropriate moments, and so forth. And yet, evangelical pastors need to work on cultivating safe spaces for their people to ask the real questions they have, precisely so that they might hear good biblical answers andhear questions that allow them to question their own doubts.”

Author Lev Grossman explains C.S. Lewis’ importance: “As far as the modern fantasy novels goes, [The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe] is ground zero. You’re seeing the atom being split for the first time. So much of what’s written afterwards comes out of that simple moment, just emerges from Lucy going through the wardrobe.”

“Weird” Al photo by Robert Trachtenberg. Richard Dawkins photo by Shane Pope.

July 30, 2014

The Colonel Mustard presents “Spider-Man: The Musical: The Musical”

The Colonel Mustard presents “Spider-Man: The Musical: The Musical”

If you look back at the history of comic book-inspired musicals featuring Irish mega-rock stars, one title stands above all others: Julie Taymor’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Much has been discussed about the project — its long development schedule, the many mishaps and tragedies that occurred during its production, the cast and crew upheavals — but nobody has known the real story behind the story… until now.

The provocateurs in The Colonel Mustard Amateur Attic Theatre Company are no strangers to elaborate, groundbreaking, and incisive pop culture-inspired backyard theatre productions, e.g., Dr. Quinn: The MusicalX-Files: The MusicalGods of the PrairieJurassic Park: The Musical: 3D. This August, however, The Mustard will present their most comic book-ish, most musical-est, most meta-ful production to date: Spider-Man: The Musical: The Musical.

We’re told that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Given that a talent no-less-esteemed than MacArthur Genius Julie Taymor chose to imitate The Colonel Mustard’s unique vision for a world where every facet of pop culture has been turned into a musical, we think it’s only right that we repay the favor.

That’s why we’ve written a musical about Julie Taymor writing a musical about Spider-Man.

Yes, it’s a musical about a musical about a comic book about a spider-powered superhero who… is in a musical about U2? Um, never mind the details. If you’ve ever experienced a previous Mustard production, then you know what to expect: ingenious sets, hilarious musical numbers, clever-yet-loving skewering of pop culture icons, and a whole lot of good, wholesome community fun. And you know that they work on a shoestring budget, which is why they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the production.

If you enjoy theatre, pop culture, comic books, and/or productions that combine all three with Bono and The Edge, then consider contributing to the cause. And of course, joining the Mustard on August 22-23 for Spider-Man: The Musical: The Musical.

Full Disclaimer: Not only am I a fan of The Colonel Mustard, I’m also on the board.

July 26, 2014

Reading: “Ikiru,” a Bible Redesign, “The Simpsons,” Myers-Briggs, Leaving Facebook, Soccer & more

Reading: “Ikiru,” a Bible Redesign, “The Simpsons,” Myers-Briggs, Leaving Facebook, Soccer & more

Ron Reed contemplates Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru: “Akira Kurosawa’s epic Samurai films are among the greatest movies ever made. But it is a quiet, intimate story about a very different sort of hero, a mid-level bureaucrat confronted with the futility of his own life, that may be the director’s masterpiece. Certainly it’s one of his most spiritual films.” I came to similar conclusions in my Ikiru review.

Adam Greene wants to redesign the Bible like a work of literature: “Greene's background is in book design, and his understanding of the art behind a great book is infused into Bibliotheca. Every element of the four volumes has been carefully considered to make reading a pleasurable and distraction-free experience.” Simply put, I love everything about this. For more info, check out Greene’s interview on Bible Design Blog or his Kickstarter campaign, which has been a rousing success.

FXX recently announced Simpsons World, a website and app that will give you access to every Simpsons episode ever, along with tons of supplemental material (e.g., scripts, “behind the scenes” info). This almost makes me want to re-subscribe to cable TV. Almost.

I’m very happy to learn that the Myers-Briggs personality test a big load of hooey, but that’s probably because I’m an INTP. “This isn't a test designed to accurately categorize people, but a test designed to make them feel happy after taking it. This is one of the reasons why it's persisted for so many years in the corporate world, despite being disregarded by psychologists.” Of course, according to the Myers-Briggs, all of my skepticism concerning the Myers-Briggs can be explained by my Myers-Briggs profile. Turtles all the way down…

Jessica Ferris left Facebook after its confusing privacy controls made it possible for someone to stalk her and she makes a strong case for why more should leave the social network: “Facebook wants us to think that it aims to strengthen our connections with the people we love, but this claim is just as much doublespeak as that 2009 open letter. Facebook wants to strengthen our relationship with Facebook, using our friendships as vectors.”

I know next to nothing about soccer, but that didn’t stop me from writing about the World Cup and the grace of the saddest — and classiest — soccer fan: “Here in the midst of a social media blitz that was clearly finding joy and humor in Brazil’s defeat, an old Brazilian soccer fan showed us all up with a dash of grace and class and in the process, made the already elegant game something truly remarkable.”

The Beautiful Noise shoegazer documentary is finally complete and making the festival rounds, with a general release scheduled by year’s end. Director Eric Green recently sat down with Drowned in Sound for an extensive interview that covers the film’s genesis, who was interviewed and why, and much, much more.

Anil Dash has written a sobering article reminding us that the line between “public” and “private” information is almost non-existant today: “Public is not just what can be viewed by others, but a fragile set of social conventions about what behaviors are acceptable and appropriate. There are people determined to profit from expanding and redefining what’s public, working to treat nearly everything we say or do as a public work they can exploit. They may succeed before we even put up a fight.” Via

Mark Strauss explores some of the ways Christianity might handle the theological conundrums of extraterrestrial life: “O‘Meara, in fact, raises the possibility of a seventh option to consider, which is not on Kuhn’s list. What if Earth and humanity merited God’s unique intervention because we are the only species in the universe who actually needed redemption? There can be other worlds with other creatures — but they are not necessarily implicated in our world of sins, they would not need a savior.” Related: J.W. Wartick pushes back against the claim that aliens can’t have salvation.

I recently attended an airshow, and while many of the airplanes I saw were impressive, I did miss seeing the ol’ F-14 Tomcat. A former F-14 officer reminisces about his days flying the Tomcat, reflects on why it was so influential, and considers the current state of naval aircraft. “I always like to say there are two kinds of people in this world: those who were a part of it (the Tomcat Community) and those who wish they were. I don’t think we will ever have a plane that captures and defines a culture as strongly as the F-14 Tomcat did. It was camaraderie, hard work, fun, rock and roll, and sex appeal all rolled into one.”

July 15, 2014

Yacht Rock and Classic Contemporary Christian Music: A Match Made in Heaven

Yacht Rock and Classic Contemporary Christian Music: A Match Made in Heaven

In the last few years, “yacht rock” — a tongue-in-cheek label for the super-smooth pop that dominated radio airwaves in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s — has made something of a resurgence. Some of it is no doubt due to nostalgia, but as is the case with disco (another much-maligned genre), if you look past the clichés and schmaltz, you will, in fact, find some great songwriting. What’s more, you can hear yacht rock’s influence in the recent crop of chillwave artists (e.g., Washed Out, Toro y Moi, Chad Valley) and even in Daft Punk’s retro-electro.

When yacht rock was at its peak of radio dominance, though, I was growing up solidly in the world of “Contemporary Christian Music,” or CCM. The Imperials, The Blackwood Brothers, The Gaithers, Steve Camp — these were my earliest musical experiences. As I grew up, I left all of that behind. CCM began to feel like a creative dead-end to me. It was full of cheerleading-for-Jesus songs characterized by simplistic lyrics and outdated musical production that simply ripped off whatever was popular in the “mainstream” 10 years earlier.

I’ve since begun to reassess some of those opinions, though. Sure, some CCM is as cheesy as ever, but as a website like CCM’s 500 Best Albums Of All Time points out, its long history contains plenty of gems made by truly talented artists. And as thatMimosaGrove’s “Yacht Rock + Smooth CCM” YouTube playlist reveals, some of those older CCM songs and artists — e.g., Bruce Hibbard, Phil Keaggy, The Imperials, Daniel Amos, and even DeGarmo & Key (who were the epitome of CCM lameness to my high school self) — don’t sound too far out of place next to, say, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, or Toto.