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.

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.