#1 is a doozy.
Image Journal’s Gregory Wolfe on the theological goals and appeal — and shortcomings — of Thomas Kinkade’s art:
To those who questioned the prettiness of his paintings — their too-good-to-be-true sentimentality — he had a theological answer: “I like to portray a world without the Fall.” A retort to that statement would be that faith itself teaches us that a fallen human is ill-equipped to imagine an Edenic world — and that in any case our task in life is not to look away from the sin-scarred creation and dwell on an ideal world but to look for grace and redemption in the midst of the mess we've made.
It's an argument I’ve made myself, in an essay criticizing Kinkade's aesthetic. Yet I am still forced to admit that he raised a valid question about the purpose and meaning of art. After all, Western art in many ways starts with the Greeks, who made ideal beauty, with its glimpse of divine perfection, the hallmark of their culture. Doesn’t seeing the world as it ought to be elevate and enlighten us, offering us a small respite from the darkness? That’s precisely what so many have found in Kinkade’s art: a powerfully nostalgic longing for the way it ought to be, a break from the daily grind and the thousand disappointments that drag us down.
Kinkade died on April 6, 2012, possibly due to alcohol-related causes (he had been battling alcholism for the last few years).
This isn’t the first time that Wolfe has written about Kinkade and his art: be sure to read “The Painter of Lite™” from 2002.
Cool cool cool…
Where Community stands out is that there is method to the madness, a real purpose behind the zany gags, odd characters, and hilarious parodies. For Harmon, the show is all about exploring the power of community. In a captivating Wired article, Harmon explains in his studies of story structure from Joseph Campbell, he breaks down an episode’s narrative to these eight steps: 1) a character is in a comfort zone; 2) but they want something; 3) they enter an unfamiliar situation; 4) adapt to it; 5) get what they want; 6) pay a heavy price for it; 7) then return to their familiar situation; 8) having changed. Harmon says he obsesses over this model; every point must be covered.
That template could work with nary a nod to the concept of community. But not for Harmon. He employs it to show why this study group would stay together despite its quirks and differences, how it decides who can be involved, and how it changes the members — for better or for worse.
This is where Community leaves a lasting impression. It‘s easy to talk about “community” only in shallow and positive terms — how helpful it is in promoting growth, teamwork, and so on. We are often inclined focus only on the Hebrews exhortation to keeping meeting and encouraging and loving one another. But Community has the courage to go deeper; to admit that, sometimes, community stinks. It is hard.
A short video from mewithoutYou about their new album, the recording process, the band’s relationships, and whatnot. I’ve been looking forward to Ten Stories for awhile now, and it’s currently available for pre-order on the band’s website. Three versions of the album are available:
- Compact Disc ($12), which includes a 12-page booklet with artwork from Vasily Kafanov
- Vinyl LP ($18), which comes with gatefold jacket, booklet, Kafanov’s artwork, and an extra insert
- Deluxe Box Set ($40), which is limited to 2,000 hand-numbered copies on 180 gram 2XLP, and comes with bonus CD, b-sides, and other goodies
All pre-orders come with a digital copy of the album that will be available on the album’s official release date (5/15/12) and the band is currently working on a digital-only release, as well (more details here).
Finally, I forgot to post that mewithoutYou had already released one song from the album. You can listen to “February, 1878” (a title sure to make the band’s long-time fans smile knowingly) below.
This NY Times article is disturbing:
No one claims that science was ever free of misconduct or bad research. Indeed, the scientific method itself is intended to overcome mistakes and misdeeds. When scientists make a new discovery, others review the research skeptically before it is published. And once it is, the scientific community can try to replicate the results to see if they hold up.
But critics like Dr. Fang and Dr. Casadevall argue that science has changed in some worrying ways in recent decades — especially biomedical research, which consumes a larger and larger share of government science spending.
In October 2011, for example, the journal Nature reported that published retractions had increased tenfold over the past decade, while the number of published papers had increased by just 44 percent. In 2010 The Journal of Medical Ethics published a study finding the new raft of recent retractions was a mix of misconduct and honest scientific mistakes.
The graph included with the article is alarming: essentially, scientific journal retractions have increased significantly between 2000 and 2009.
Gordon T. Smith for Christianity Today:
It is not be an overstatement to say that evangelicals are experiencing a “sea change” — a paradigm shift — in their understanding of conversion and redemption, a shift that includes the way in which they think about the salvation of God, the nature and mission of the church, and the character of religious experience. Although there is no one word to capture where evangelicals are going in this regard, there is a word that captures what they are leaving behind: revivalism.
Revivalism is a religious movement heir to both the 17th-century Puritans and the renewal movements of the 18th century, but one that largely emerged in the 19th century. It was broadly institutionalized in the 20th century in the conservative denominations in North America as well as in parachurch and mission agencies that then in turn spread the movement within North America and globally. For evangelicals up until at least a generation ago, the language of conversion was the language of revivalism; it shaped and in many ways determined their approach to worship, evangelism, and spiritual formation.
The focus of conversion was the afterlife: one sought salvation so that one could “go to heaven” after death, and the assumption was that “salvation” would lead to disengagement from the world. Once converted, the central focus of one’s life would be church or religious activities, particularly those that helped others come to this understanding of salvation that assured them of “eternal life” after death. Life in the world was thought to hold minimal significance. What counted was the afterlife. And if one had “received Christ,” one could be confident of one’s eternity with God. Conversion was isolated from the experience of the church. Indeed, it was generally assumed that a person would come to faith outside of the church and then be encouraged, after conversion, to join a church community.
On each of these points, evangelicals are moving toward a thorough reenvisioning of the nature of conversion and redemption. Increasingly, there is appreciation that conversion is a complex experience by which a person is initiated into a common life with the people of God who together seek the in-breaking of the kingdom, both in this life and in the world to come. This experience is mediated by the church and thus necessarily includes baptism as a rite of initiation. The power or energy of this experience is one of immediate encounter with the risen Christ — rather than principles or laws — and this experience is choreographed by the Spirit rather than evangelistic techniques. Evangelicals are reappropriating the heritage of the Reformation with its emphasis on the means of grace, and thereby affirming the priority of the Spirit's work in religious experience.
The fundamental categories and assumptions of revivalism are thus being questioned as never before. There were voices in the past that questioned revivalism: C S. Lewis, always adored by evangelicals, was seemingly oblivious to the language and categories of revivalism. A. W. Tozer, J. I. Packer, and John R. W. Stott, while obviously evangelicals, nevertheless seemed to be able to articulate the Christian faith in other than the language and categories of revivalism, as did many others. But the difference of the past generation of theological reflection is that we can genuinely speak of a sea change, so much so that the language and categories of revivalism are simply no longer viable. However much this vision powerfully shaped the life of the church and its mission and, indeed, influenced more than a generation of evangelical missionaries to spread around the globe, the church has over the past generation sought new linguistic wineskins and new theological categories by which to understand conversion and redemption.
I know all too well what is described in the third paragraph quoted above. That was largely my understanding and approach to Christianity for at the least first two decades of my life. There is, of course, nothing wrong with wanting to go to heaven and all that, but it led to a very myopic view that saw this world as, at best, a temprorary irritation to be suffered through on our way to our real home — heaven.
However, by the time I reached college, I began to feel that mindset was lacking and unable to sufficiently explain the complexities and wonders of life. It took a few years, but I slowly began to realize that Christianity was more than a “personal relationship with Jesus”, though that’s certainly a critical component of it. Or, as Smith puts it so well, “a complex experience by which a person is initiated into a common life with the people of God who together seek the in-breaking of the kingdom, both in this life and in the world to come.” Also:
One voice more than any other is sounded in this conversation — that of Lesslie Newbigin, whose theology was shaped by experience in both West and East, as a missioner and then bishop in India. Newbigin argued that conversion is a matter of understanding, ethics, and community — that there is no conversion without conversion of the mind, identification with the reign of Christ, and incorporation into a faith community that is marked by and sustained by its sacramental actions — baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Newbigin’s fundamental observation and conviction is that the church is not a provider of religious products and services but rather that the church is a people in mission. The church, collectively, is through an active discipleship a living embodiment of the kingdom to which the church witnesses. Thus the church is not obsessed with its own growth but with the kingdom, as it seeks to live the gospel within particular social and cultural contexts. This perspective is reinforced by Newbigin’s recognition and reminder to his readers that all reasoning arises from a particular rational tradition which is embodied within a living community.
Alexis Madrigal on the slowing rate of innovation in tech/internet firms and start-ups:
But I think the problems go deeper. I don't think Silicon Valley and all the other alleys and silicon places are out of ideas. But I do think that we’ve reached a point in this technology cycle where the old thing has run its course. I think the hardware, cellular bandwidth, and the business model of this tottering tower of technology are pushing companies to play on one small corner of a huge field.
We’ve maxed out our hardware. No one even tries to buy the fastest computer anymore because we don’t give them any tasks (except video editing, I suppose) that require that level of horsepower. I remember breathlessly waiting for the next-generation processor so that my computer would be capable of a whole new galaxy of activities. Some of it, sure, is that we're dumping the computation on the servers on the Internet. But the other part is that we mostly do a lot of the things that we used to do years ago — stare at web pages, write documents, upload photos — just at higher resolutions.
On the mobile side, we’re working with almost the exact same toolset that we had on the 2007 iPhone, i.e. audio inputs, audio outputs, a camera, a GPS, an accelerometer, Bluetooth, and a touchscreen. That’s the palette that everyone has been working with — and I hate to say it, but we’re at the end of the line. The screen’s gotten better, but when’s the last time you saw an iPhone app do something that made you go, “Whoa! I didn’t know that was possible!?”
The Halo movie should’ve been a slam dunk to make. It was a well-known and insanely popular (and profitable) title. But it never got made. This excerpt from Generation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood explains why. As it turns out, it was all due to a profound misunderstanding of how Hollywood works.
In the end, though, it wasn’t the Master Chiefs’ fault that the deal stumbled. Nor was it CAA’s. The failure of the Halo movie remains a potent illustration of the gulf that still lies between Hollywood and the videogame business. It should have been the tent-pole movie to die for, instead it became the one that got away. Millions of Halo fans around the world wanted a movie, yet it failed to launch. Partly, it stemmed from the on-going inability of both sides of the deal to understand each other’s culture, needs and language.
The immensely powerful Microsoft had wandered into the deal naïvely expecting everyone to play by its rules and the resulting culture shock put immense strain on the Halo deal. For Moore, then corporate vice-president of the Interactive Entertainment Business division at Microsoft, there was clearly culture clash during the negotiations: “You work for a company like Microsoft, where you do what you say, you say what you do; you think you have an agreement, you’re ready to go, and then… [the deal falls apart].”
It was something that talent agents working at the intersection between the two industries have experienced many times. “When the videogame industry talks to people they do it open-kimono and they expect the same transparency back,” says Blindlight’s Lev Chapelsky. “Hollywood doesn’t function that way, they dance and they sing and they play games and go through their ritual haggling. To somebody who’s not accustomed to that, it can be insulting.”
Microsoft clearly weren’t accustomed to it. They were used to being the strongest contender in any negotiation they entered into. But this time they were far out of their comfort zone. “We don’t understand Hollywood,” Microsoft Games Studios general manager Stuart Mulder confessed to the trade papers in 2002 as the company inked in its deal with Shapiro at CAA. It was a throwaway comment that would turn out to be disturbingly prophetic.
Talk Talk’s concert film, Live at Montreux 1986, recently started streaming on Netflix. And despite discovering this fact after midnight last night, I, of course, had to watch the whole thing. I’d heard bits and pieces of the concert before, and seen some random clips on YouTube, but this was my first time experiencing the entire thing. Here are some random things that came to mind while doing so.
- Mark Hollis may be one of the most uncharismatic frontmen in the history of rock n’ roll. His sunglasses have more stage presence than he does.
- This, of course, doesn’t matter, because dude can sing.
- The performance is so obviously from the ‘80s, and painfully so, from the Keith Haring artwork on the stage to the band’s fashion sense to guitarist John Turnbull’s glorious mullet. If you were to just see a picture of the band on-stage, especially one featuring Lee Harris in his shirtless majesty, you’d probably conclude that they were the uncoolest band ever. Which really just makes them that much cooler — and reveals how ignorant you are.
- My favorite thing about the entire performance may be that Turnbull appears to be wearing a fanny pack.
- You could argue that someone raising a lighter during a Talk Talk show is evidence that you’re watching an artifact from a kinder, gentler, and less cynical time. Today, that person would be shunned to within an inch of their life.
- The piano intro to “Tomorrow Started” is jaw-droppingly, heart-achingly beautiful.
- My favorite Talk Talk song is, without a doubt, “New Grass”. A close second is probably their epic Montreux performance of “Such A Shame”, which I’ve embedded below.
The master of cosmic horror speaks to matters of the heart.
Last week I received a “you probably don’t remember me” note from a man I went to a school dance with nineteen years ago. He is married and has three kids, but states he is not happy. What should I do?
Dear Concerned Lady: –
Although humankind has a yearning toward whatever is redolent of mystery and allurement, it is well that certain lacunae in our knowledge should remain forever unfilled. Your shadowy correspondent’s mention of the ill-regarded numbers nineteen and three recalls an unutterable experiment performed on sticklebacks by the Swedish icthyologist Dalgaard. I dare not describe his observations, but he concluded that, the longer we can remain innocent of our place in the cosmos, the better it must augur for our mental integrity. He came to understand there was more meaning than is commonly supposed in the nebulous half-inscriptions found on abandoned wharves — while who knows what malign significance underlies the latest findings on the growth of angiosperms, or the cycle of the solar spots? What of the transgalactic pulsings that have cost more than one astronomer his powers of reasoning? I have heard it whispered that the imprints found on Dalgaard’s pillow, toward the end, resembled the fronds of a kind of bracken previously unknown to botany. The muffled clattering sounds from my roof impel me hastily to conclude,
Yrs most cordially & sincerely, – HPL.