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 It was full of cheerleading-for-Jesus songs characterized by simplistic lyrics and outdated musical production that simply ripped off whatever was popular in the “mainstream” 10 years earlier.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.

July 6, 2014
Matter

Matter

Mild Peril (2014, Telefuture)

Imagine a sci-fi/fantasy amalgam featuring feather-haired space knights soaring through the cosmos on metallic steeds, wielding blades of cyber-mithril and saving maidens from evil nebula dragons.

July 4, 2014

Listen to a Track from Sinoia Caves’ “Beyond The Black Rainbow” Soundtrack

Listen to a Track from Sinoia Caves’ “Beyond The Black Rainbow” Soundtrack

While certainly not without its flaws — i.e., it would’ve worked better as a 30-minute short than as a full-length feature — there’s no denying that Beyond The Black Rainbow had style and atmosphere to spare, thanks to Panos Cosmatos’ incredible visuals. However, Jeremy Schmidt’s soundtrack was a major part of the film’s engrossing aesthetic, too. Recording under the Sinoia Caves moniker, Schmidt drew inspiration from the vintage synth-work of Tangerine Dream, Wendy Carlos, and John Carpenter to create an ominous-yet-evocative score for the sci-fi/horror film.

Jagjaguwar will be releasing Beyond The Black Rainbow’s soundtrack on September 2. You can listen to its first “single,” titled “Forever Dilating Eye,” below.

And if you’re curious as to what a movie with such music might look like, here’s the film’s trailer.

Reading: Brendan Eich Fallout, Commenters, Google, Twee Revolution, “Frozen,” Instagram & more

Reading: Brendan Eich Fallout, Commenters, Google, Twee Revolution, “Frozen,” Instagram & more

Several months have passed since Brendan Eich stepped down as Mozilla’s CEO amidst controversy over a donation he made to California Proposition 8. CNET’s Stephen Shankland discusses the ongoing fallout of Eich’s departure on Mozilla and the tech industry: “Illustrating just how toxic Mozilla's controversy has become, few high-ranking figures in the Bay Area's tech scene were willing to go on the record to comment on Mozilla's plight. Taking a public stand on Eich means painting a target on yourself, said one tech company executive. ‘Intolerance tends to beget intolerance. There are no winners here.’” Related: Shortly after Eich’s departure, I wrote some analysis for Christ and Pop Culture.

Luke T. Harrington writes what I’ve been saying all along: Internet Commenters are WORSE THAN HITLER. “If Internet anonymity has proven one thing, it’s this: we’re all more than willing to be absolutely horrible people if we’re fairly certain there won’t be any consequences.” This article seems rather fitting in light of various online discussions concerning a certain recent court decision.

The European Union recently ruled that people have a right to be forgotten from Google’s search results. And as Google’s efforts to follow the ruling have exposed some uncomfortable truths about how we perceive online information: “…the steady accumulation of removed links—especially to quality journalism written in a clear spirit of public interest—starts to erode trust in the reliability of Google search results. Now, anyone who does a Google search even just for the article mentioned above will have to wonder whether they’re getting the whole story. And anything that suggests compromise, lack of transparency, or incompleteness in search results plants a seed that starts to undermine the idea of what Google is supposed to be.”

If you thought hipsters were bad, then brace yourself for the Twee revolution: “Twee’s core values include ‘a healthy suspicion of adulthood’; ‘a steadfast focus on our essential goodness’; ‘the cultivation of a passion project’ (T-shirt company, organic food truck); and ‘the utter dispensing with of “cool” as it’s conventionally known, often in favor of a kind of fetishization of the nerd, the geek, the dork, the virgin.’” Ugh, twee is the worst. (But can it really be an article about twee if you don’t talk about Talulah Gosh or Heavenly?)

Frozen has become a hit pretty much everywhere in the world but it’s struck a special chord with Japanese women: “The film’s popularity has coincided with public outcry over sexism in Japan, where unlike in America, Disney marketing played up the movie’s empowerment message.”

Using art history and criticism to better understand Instagram: “Technology has so democratized image-making that it has put the artistic power once mainly associated with aristocrats — to stylize your image and project yourself to an audience as desirable — into everyone’s hands. (Although the parallel to art as ‘celebration of private property’ is probably most vivid in the case of those who most closely resemble modern-day aristocrats. See: ‘Rich Kids of Instagram’). But images retain their function as game pieces in the competition for social status. ‘Doesn’t this look delicious?’ ‘Aren’t I fabulous?‘ ‘Look where I am!’ ‘Look what I have!’” Via

Scott Derrickson, director of the recently released Deliver Us From Evil, explains why horror movies are worth watching: “It’s a genre that takes the mystery in the world very seriously. There are a lot of voices that are broadcasting that the world is explainable. Corporate America limits the world to consumerism. Science can limit it to the material world. Even religion limits it to a lot of theories that can explain everything. I think we need cinema to break that apart and remind us that we’re not in control, and we don’t understand as much as we think do.”

The “.io” domain name is kind of trendy right now, particularly for tech-related sites, but it has a dark side: “…a cut from the sale of every .io domain goes to the British government for the administration of a territory whose original inhabitants should arguably be getting that money, and whose only current inhabitants are 5,000 U.S. troops and spooks, their civilian contractors, and a handful of British personnel who are there for policing and customs purposes.” Via

After slogging through the previous three movies, I had no intention whatsoever of seeing Transformers: Age of Extinction. However, Rob Bricken’s hilarious (and spoiler-filled) FAQ now has me curious, if only to see if it’s really as awful as he makes it sound. But I can wait for it to come to Netflix.

Everybody hates passwords — they’re hard to remember and we have so many of them these days — but Mauricio Estrella used his password to change his life. “My password became the indicator. My password reminded me that I shouldn’t let myself be victim of my recent break up, and that I’m strong enough to do something about it. My password became: ‘Forgive@h3r’.”

June 30, 2014

Deeper Truth & Elusive Beauty: An Interview with The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus

Deeper Truth & Elusive Beauty: An Interview with The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus

After two decades of silence, the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus surprised fans — many of whom (myself included) had long ago given up hope that we’d ever hear anything more from the enigmatic outfit — by announcing that they would be reuniting to perform several concerts, reissue their previous recordings, and record a new album titled Beauty Will Save the World.

While the last couple of years have seen some amazing reunions (e.g., My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive), the RAIJ’s reappearance is something truly special, due in large part to the mystery that has always surrounded their activities. After we’d exchanged a few messages, the RAIJ agreed to answer a few questions about their origins and history, their reunion and new album, and their artistic and aesthetic approaches.

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Lightfoils Returns With “Hierarchy” Full-Length

Lightfoils Returns With “Hierarchy” Full-Length

Back in 2012, Chicago’s Lightfoils released their self-titled EP, one of the best shoegaze releases I’d heard in quite some time. While shoegaze music is often (and understandably) described as “ethereal” and “blissful,” Lightfoils brought an urgency and intensity to their wall of sound that had me eagerly waiting for more. And now, two years later, the wait is over: they’re set to deliver a new full-length titled Hierarchy.

Hierarchy will be released on July 8, but you can already hear two of its songs, “Diastolic” and “Addict.” I’ve embedded both below. Via

Reading: Raising Daughters, Slender Man, Typography, Church Abuse, Hayao Miyazaki & More

Reading: Raising Daughters, Slender Man, Typography, Church Abuse, Hayao Miyazaki & More

As a father who’s grown tired of all of the machismo-laden posturing about daughters, dating, and suitors, I appreciate Jen Wilkin’s piece on raising daughters: “Here’s the problem with shotgun jokes and applications posted on the fridge: to anyone paying attention, they announce that you fully expect your daughter to have poor judgment. Be assured that your daughter is paying attention. And don’t be shocked if she meets your expectation. You might want to worry less about terrorizing or retro-fitting prospective suitors and worry more about preparing your daughter to choose wisely.”

S.D. Kelly considers the disturbing story of Slender Man: “…if the character of Slender Man didn’t already exist, we would make him up. Because we are always making up reasons to do bad things. The devil made me do it. The Slender Man made me do it. Either way, something outside of myself is responsible for my own awfulness.”

Gracy Olmstead on the necessity of good typography: “Fonts are integral to storytelling and communication—they build our language, communicate our ideas. They draw or repel the eye, depending on their shape, size, and other attributes. […] [E]ach font is an artistic statement. It takes words, and turns them into art. It makes language beautiful to the eye as well as the ear.”

Speaking of typography, Kenneth Ormandy recently released Normalize-OpenType.css, which promises to improve web typography support better kerning, ligatures, and more.

Karen Swallow Prior on church abuse and a heartbreaking hashtag: “Perhaps if the church dealt more honestly with sexual temptation, temptation would lead less frequently to acting out on it. Keeping talk of such temptations taboo leads naturally to imagining that one’s temptations are somehow unique, which leads, in turn, to imagining oneself as somehow unique and, therefore, entitled in one’s status as ‘special’ to act on one’s temptations.”

Samuel Sattin discusses the idiosyncratic, curmudgeonly, and unique genius of Hayao Miyazaki: “There is one famous animator who rebukes modern technology in favor of hand-drawn, 2-D conventions. His grumpiness knows no bounds, and he seems to be interested more sometimes in what will perish than what will live on. But in many ways, even at Pixar where the future of the industry is being assembled brick by brick, he is looked to as a constant source of authenticity and inspiration.” Related: A collection of giant Studio Ghibli images, perfect for your desktop background.

If you care about your personal data, then you should think twice before filling out that BuzzFeed quiz: “It starts out with some pretty basic things, like whether you’ve connected your Facebook account to the website, your home country, and your age and gender (if that information is available). But things quickly get a bit more serious, especially for anyone who spends a good deal of time filling out the site’s popular quizzes.” Lots more info and discussion hereVia

I, too, have known that sublime joy known as the “coder’s high”: “I would lock my vision straight at the computer screen, trance out, and become a human-machine hybrid zipping through the virtual architecture that my co-workers and I were building. Hunger, thirst, sleepiness, and even pain all faded away while I was staring at the screen, thinking and typing, until I’d reach the point of exhaustion and it would come crashing down on me.” Kottke has more: “I’ve definitely had productive multi-hour Photoshop and writing benders, but coding blocks out the world and the rest of myself like nothing else.”

One of the most interesting things to come out of Google’s recent I/O Conference was the announcement of “Material Design,” Google’s new design guidelines that are to create a unified experiences across its applications. Although the obvious implementation of this spec is in Android apps, I'm particularly interested to see how it’ll apply to their web apps like Gmail and Google+ (since I’m not an Android user). I love the spec from a purely visual and interactive perspective: while some might see “Material Design” as the latest incarnation of “flat” design, Andrew Coyle argues that it’s “inherently skeuomorphic.” Via

Fr. Lawrence Farley argues that reading Genesis as merely an explanation of how the world was created is misguided: “The stories of Genesis cannot be read apart from their original cultural context, and when we read them as they were meant to be read, we see that the creation story was a gauntlet thrown down before the prevailing culture of its time… These stories affirm that the Jewish God is powerful enough to have created everything by a few simple orders. They affirm that Man is not the mere tool and slave of the gods, whose job it is to feed the deities and care for their temples. Rather, Man is a co-ruler with God, His own image and viceroy on earth. And Woman is not a thing to be sold, inferior to Man. Rather, she shares Man’s calling and dignity.”

June 23, 2014

Rebeccapurple

Rebeccapurple

Non-developers probably won’t know who Eric Meyer is, but in my world, he’s a pretty big deal. He’s one of the biggest proponents and defenders of CSS, the language used to make websites look the way they do. It’s a fundamental aspect of web development, and without Meyer’s tireless advocacy, it wouldn’t be nearly as widespread, accepted, and developed as it is now. (And on a personal note, Meyer’s own writings were a significant help to me when I first started dabbling in CSS.)

Sadly, his six-year-old daughter Rebecca recently died from cancer, and he has chronicled the tragic, ongoing experience with incredible, heartbreaking honesty and bravery.

Last week, the CSS Working Group (which oversees the CSS specification) agreed to add “rebeccapurple” to the official CSS spec as a color name for the hex value #663399. Purple was his daughter’s favorite color. Originally, the goal was to use “beccapurple” but Meyer asked for the change because “Rebecca informed us that she was about to be a big girl of six years old, and Becca was a baby name.” And so he writes, “She made it to six. For almost twelve hours, she was six. So Rebecca it is and must be.” (I challenge you to read those words and not get a wee bit teary-eyed.)

This is one of my favorite comments on the addition: “Usually when I’m crying reading computer spec’s it’s out of frustration, not sadness and sympathy.” Indeed.

June 21, 2014

A Couple of Awesome Things for My Fellow “Star Trek” Fans

A Couple of Awesome Things for My Fellow “Star Trek” Fans

Over four decades have passed since the original voyages of the starship Enterprise but Star Trek continues to journey on. Of course, there’s the official Star Trek continuity, last seen with 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness. However, a massive fan community surrounds the franchise and continues to churn out plenty of original work inspired by the adventures of Kirk, Spock, Picard, Data, et al. Here are just two recent examples…

First is Pixel Trek, a website that aims to create a pixel art version of the Enterprise D from Star Trek: The Next Generation that you can explore as a little pixellated Lieutenant Commander Data. I’m not sure how canonical it is, but it does seek to answer some important questions, such as “Where does the bridge crew go when they need a potty break?” and “Are there any staircases in the 24th century?” The project is still in its early stages — only a handful of the Enterprise’s decks have been mapped out so far — so more’s to come, but even now it’s an enjoyable and rather charming (in an 8-bit sort of way) diversion.

Second is Star Trek Continues, a fan-made series that aims to complete the original Enterprise’s travels. If you’ll recall your Star Trek broadcast history, the original series was only three seasons long, meaning that the final two years of the Enterprise’s original mission are unknown. Until now, that is. The first episodes are available now (watch the first episode below), and even a cursory look makes it obvious that the creators are obssessed with getting the details right. Everything looks exactly like the original series, right down to the color palettes. (And yes, that is MythBusters’ Grant Imahara as Mr. Sulu.) For a “behind the scenes” glimpse at this monument of nerdery, Wired is doing a series of short videos on the production.

June 17, 2014
A U R O R A

A U R O R A

Ben Frost (2014, MUTE)

This is the sound of musical equipment being tortured and pushed to its limits until the envelope isn’t just breached, but rather, punctured, shredded, and burnt to a crisp by the exit velocity.