Hip Hop 4 Tha Soul

I just needed a fun song today.

Tim Wise drops Wisdom

Earlier this week I was reminded of Tim Wise’s insightful, humility and honesty. It is a long clip, but it is worth the watch. Warning, Tim doesn’t pull punches in subject or language.

Hip Hop 4 tha Soul.

This song reminds me of my relationships of my wife; all the fun we had while dating and all the fun we are having as a family.  Enjoy.

Princess and the Frog, Voodoo, & Evil

Over the past year there has been a lot of buzz about the Princess and the Frog which premiered in December. People were encouraged to see an African-American princess, but many were also disappointed that her suitor was not white (I value the multi-racial/ethnic aspect, but also hope that at some point we do see a black prince, more on that in another post). Some were also a little disappointed (spoiler alert!) that the princess spends most of the time as a frog (A concern I share, but I also believe there is so much fervor around the film and the New Orleanian African-American culture is portrayed so strongly that no one will forget she is Black)

Since the release there has been a new slew of critique considering the usage of Voodoo. From my perspective this has come mainly from mothers and/or evangelical Christians (which for clarification sake, I am not the former and only partially the latter).

I had no problems with the Voodoo given Disney’s propensity to use magic. Disney couldn’t use a witch or warlock because the film wasn’t in the context to use Wicca, it was in the context to use Voodoo. The reality is, the witches that we so readily view as “acceptable” evil characters are the white-European equivalent to Voodoo. There are various similarities in the way the spirit world is engaged and interestingly enough the Christian – mainly Catholic – response to these two sets of beliefs.

If you have a problem with magic or witches,  you should also have a problem with Cinderella, the Little Mermaid and most of Disney’s Princess films. What I think made the difference with Princess and the Frog is that this was a depiction of a culturally unfamiliar, but geographically close magic. Americans talk more readily about witchcraft, which makes it not as shocking. We have TV shows – including kid’s shows – about witchcraft, can you imagine having a TV show about Voodoo? Even the magic in Aladdin had been primed by years of I dreamed of Genie.  Voodoo is a partly American magic, but we don’t discuss it, thus when it is portrayed illicits more fear due to its unfamiliarity. Like with most things, we fear that which we don’t understand or is unfamiliar to us.

Perhaps the magic was a little more intense than what Disney has previously produced, but for whom? Children today are more used to intensity and reality than they were a generation ago. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes adults and especially Christian adults can be a little overprotective of our children. Remember the days when children could actually walk to the park, have adventures in the woods, not have to put on hand-sanitizer every time they stepped out of the house or do anything without helicopter parents swooping in? I believe children are much more imaginative, independent (not individualistic) , confident and mature when they are given the freedom to be themselves, be with friends, and be responsible for themselves and their thoughts. I am not saying we throw our children to the wolves. There is some mid-point.  Watch a child who learns anything, they have to be guided through the process. As adults we have to help children to become human beings who think, feel, critique etc. We are called to “raise” our children. Which may at times mean protect, but those words are not synonomus.

Truthfully, I would rather magic be presented realistically, because whether Wicca or Voodoo, it is real. I would rather have children realize the gravity of Magic as opposed to taking it lightly. Would I take a four-year old to the Princess and the Frog? No. But I wouldn’t take a four-year old to most Disney movies. Would I debrief with an eight year old? Yes. But I would do so for ANY movie we went to.

* By the way, things were intense in the Lion King. Remember that dark musical scene with Scar and the hyenas and the fact that Mufasa was murdered? Talk about evil. And there wasn’t even Magic involved . . . oh yea except for the illusions via Rafiki.

Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness

Stanley Hauwerwas and Jean Vanier’s Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness is the third book in the Resources for Reconciliation series put out by Inter-Varsity Press.

I was introduced to Jean Vanier about a year ago. A friend of mine handed me a copy of From Brokenness to Community, which is an edited version of Vanier’s speech at The Harvard University Divinity School Wit Lectures.  As I read Vanier’s story of leaving what he thought he knew, changing his life’s trajectory and engaging in community with the mentally “handicapped” I immediately engaged with my own selfishness.  Reading From Brokenness to Community pushed me into a deep examination of myself, of my brokenness and of the redemption that God provides within community – both in communion with Him and communion with others. If you have not read From Brokenness to Community, it is well worth purchasing. The book is only 50 small pages and is easily read in one sitting – although it is best read at a walker’s pace, taking in every word and nuance.

Vanier begins Living Gently in a Violent World by explaining L’Arche. The L’Arche movement is an international connection of faith-based communities centered on developing communities where people who have developmental disabilities and people who do not have these disabilities live in harmony. In 1964, Jean Vanier and his wife Pauling welcomed two men with disabilities into their home in France. What they learned and gained from that experience was the impetus for the L’Arche movement.

Vanier is humble and poignant in Living Gently in a Violent World. Vanier admits that L’Arche is still maturing and that, in some ways, is a fragile movement.

“. . . L’Arche is a fragile reality. Will it still be here in twenty years? There is always be people with disabilities, but will there always be people who want to live with them as brothers and sisters in community, in a place of belonging that helps each member, each person, grow to greater freedom?”

As I read of the challenge and returns of the L’Arche community I could not help, but think of its larger impact. L’Arche communities are diverse both between communities and within each community. Some communities are primarily Christian (although there is denominational diversity), those outside of the Christian faith lead some, and they exist from North America to the Middle East. However, all of these communities support the whole-person transformation of all community members. The community is not to “help” people with disabilities or even to enrich or mature those who do not have a disability. While, this surely does occur the central aspect is L’Arche is the central aspect of the Christian faith; Love.

Vanier tells rich stories about what love can do to individuals hurt by the pain of abuse; abuse, spiritual, social, and mental. L’Arche’s result is to address brokenness through the love that is found in true community. L’Arche’s uniqueness is that it highlights brokenness, not so that people wallow but so they can find redemption. It is the acknowledgement and gentle approach of community that pain and brokenness that allows society to find healing. When we are willing to recess into our own brokenness, we are able to view the holy aspects of others. We have come down off our spiritual or moral pedestals to dwell and broken people in need of healing and redemption via community and ultimately the Father.

Vanier is the prophet in Living Gently in a Violent World, while Hauwerwas is the polemicist. Hauwerwas begins by confronting the issue of time. While we are often scurrying around to find answers and to enact our own justice, we often neglect that peace (ultimately love) takes time. Violence is a shortcut to peace, and inevitably brings us to more violence. Hauwerwas argues that peace is achieved by redemption and transformation, which inevitably takes time.

“If the time has already been redeemed by Jesus, we learn to wait on the salvation of the Lord by taking time to listen to our weakest members”

Progress pushes us towards deafening speeds that force us to continue to move closer to an ideal, which seems to get further and further away. However, speed is not the central issue. We are consumed with the purpose behind the speed, efficiency. We desire everything when we want it and how we want it. This expands beyond the golden arches (McDonalds), domain names, or radio signals. Efficiency has overwhelmed our relationships. We see the traces of this the heightening levels of divorce, the constant movement of people (i.e. the idea of a “starter house”), the institutionalization of the “mentally handicapped” etc.  What is more dangerous is our dependency on efficiency. Our society is suddenly lost and frustrated when remote controls do not work, when automatic gates do not close on vans, when the internet is slow, when our churches get out “late” or when our food does not come quickly enough. This fervor for efficiency passes over people and focuses on the task.  We disregard community. We go and leave church having little more than interactions of “Southern Hospitality”. We drive past our neighbors rather than getting to know them. It is not that we are inconsiderate, we are simply too busy to invest. For Haurwas the ethos of L’Arche is what the Church and society needs to combat this dependency on efficiency.

“Constancy of place seems to me imperative if we are to be Christians who don’t abandon one another in the name of greater goods. You cannot be constantly going and coming as an assistant in L’Arche. Core members, love routines, and routines create and are breated by familiarity. Familiarity is what makes place “a” place.”

I must admit; I was a little disappointed by Hauwerwas’ contribution.  Make no mistake; Hauwerwas gives a sophisticated perspective on the L’Arche community and its prophetic voice to both the global and local contemporary church. Hauwerwas’ academic resolve is unquestioned. However, his academic prowess convolutes the wisdom of his commentary. Nevertheless, Hauwerwas’ perspective is a valuable asset to the book.

Gentleness and weakness are usually the last things we think about in our modern society. We are a society of quickness, efficiency and strength. These characteristics result in a violence that is sometimes systematical interwoven in the fabric of our society (i.e. American Slavery) and sometimes intentional.  Vanier and Hauwerwas view L’Arche as a flagship to the church and hope that its expression of Christianity can embrace a gentleness of patience that will bring healing to broken people and a broken world.

(I will be going back and writing on the first two texts Welcoming Justice and Reconciling All Things later this spring and I hope to read the last text Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission soon after its release.)

Thoghts about pop-culture, ethics, morality and value ispired from a conversation on facebook.

Although we have moved away from overtly signing songs and telling folk tales or myths as ways to convey ethics, values and meaning in our culture, popular culture has become the town square, campfire and village gathering that the contemporary person covertly learns societal values through. The tragedy is not the vehicle of information. The tragedy is that the stories and songs are no longer mediated by elders seeking to guide the community they are mediated by some guys trying to make a buck.

The Grammy Awards, Beyonce, and who should have a gramophone statuette.

Last night Beyonce won six Grammy Awards breaking the record for most Grammy awards won by a female artist in one night;  The six trophies brings her up to 17 in total – I thought it was only 13, but I did some digging and if you add her shared awards she has a total of 16. Last night Beyonce was catapulted over a host of classic artist to the top ten list which contains the likes of Aretha Franklin,  Michael Jackson, Alison Kruass, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton and B.B. King .

I am not hating on Beyonce, but is she really that good? Should we really say her names with those that I listed in the top ten? I personally believe that she is overrated and that plenty of folks have better voices and songs than she does, but I don’t give out the Grammy Awards. I have conceded that the Grammy Awards are as much, if not more, about popularity as they are about talent. So I supposed, given that I can be okay with Beyonce’s success.

But unfortunately that means that they Grammy Awards don’t mean much anymore. Not solely because Beyonce has 16, but because the Grammy Awards seem like a time for celebrities to pat one another on the back. As Stephen Colbert – ironically a Grammy winner himself – put it last night “the only thing better than celebrities congratulating each other is celebrities giving each other awards”.

All my frustration with the Grammy awards let me to search who folks who did not or have not won a Grammy. Let’s just say the list of those who do not have an award does not help my view of the Grammys. Read the list from www.toptenz.net and make your own decisions.

The Grammys, much like the Oscars, have lost some of its luster and credibility in recent years with such pop phenoms such as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera taking home Grammys. But even more indefensible is the rock and roll legends that haven’t won a Grammy. Some of the most famous and influential musicians in music history have never won a Grammy and here are the top 10 on the list. Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix won Lifetime Grammy Achievement Awards after their deaths, but we won’t count those since they were given out based on a career and not a year, so to speak.

10. Buddy Holly

buddy_holly

Although his success lasted only a year and a half before his death in an airplane crash, Holly is described by critic Bruce Eder as “the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll.” His works and innovations were copied by his contemporaries and later musicians, notably The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones, and exerted a profound influence on popular music. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Holly #13 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Buddy Holly died in 1959, the year of the first Grammy Awards ceremony and was never eligible for a Grammy during his lifetime.

9. The Doors

the_doors_band_members

The Doors’ music was a fusion of psychedelic rock, hard rock, blues-rock, and acid rock. They were considered a controversial band, due mostly to Morrison’s cryptic lyrics and unpredictable stage persona. After Morrison’s death on July 3, 1971, the remaining members continued as a threesome until disbanding in 1973. Despite a career that barely totaled eight years, The Doors still enjoy a huge cult following as well as status in the mainstream music industry as being hugely influential and original. According to the RIAA, they have sold over 32 million albums in the US alone. The Doors went winless by the Grammys for during their entire eight years together.

8. Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd

The band became prominent in the Southern United States in 1973, and rose to worldwide recognition before several members, including lead vocalist and primary songwriter Ronnie Van Zant, died in a plane crash in 1977. The band reformed in 1987 for a reunion tour with Ronnie’s younger brother, Johnny Van Zant as the frontman, and continues to record music today. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 13, 2006. The band now has a total of 7 deceased members. A Grammy still eludes this iconic and pioneering Southern rock band.

7. Jimi Hendrix

jimi hendrix

Hendrix synthesized many styles in creating his musical voice and his guitar style was unique, later to be abundantly imitated by others. Despite his hectic touring schedule and notorious perfectionism, he was a prolific recording artist and left behind more than 300 unreleased recordings. With all of his popularity and musical influence he never won a Grammy. In 1992, Hendrix was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

6. Queen

queen_81

As of 2005, according to The Guinness Book of World Records, Queen albums have spent a total of 1,322 weeks or twenty-seven years on the United Kingdom album charts; more time than any other musical act including The Beatles and Elvis Presley. Also in 2005, with the release of their live album with Paul Rodgers, Queen moved into third place on the list of acts with the most aggregate time spent on the British record charts, but Queen has still never won a Grammy.

5. Grateful Dead

the grateful dead

The Grateful Dead’s musical influences varied widely; in concert recordings or on record albums one can hear psychedelic rock, blues, rock and roll, country-western, bluegrass, country-rock, and improvisational jazz. These various influences were distilled into a diverse and psychedelic whole that made the Grateful Dead “the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world. 30 years of touring though couldn’t garner a Grammy award.

4. Led Zeppelin

ledzeppelin1969promo

With their heavy, guitar-driven sound, Led Zeppelin are regarded as one of the first heavy metal bands. However, the band’s individualistic style draws from many sources and transcends any one genre. The band have sold more than 300 million albums worldwide, including 111.5 million sales in the United States and they have had all of their original studio albums reach the U.S. Billboard Top 10, with six reaching the number one spot. Led Zeppelin are ranked #1 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. Rolling Stone magazine has described Led Zeppelin as “the heaviest band of all time” and “the biggest band of the ’70s”. But sorry, no Grammy for you.

3. Diana Ross

the supremes

A twelve-time Grammy and Oscar-nominated singer, record producer and actress, whose musical repertoire spans R&B, soul, pop, disco and jazz. During the 1960s, she helped shape the sound of popular music and the Motown Sound as lead singer of The Supremes before leaving for a solo career in the beginning of 1970. Since the beginning of her career with The Supremes and as a solo artist, Diana Ross has sold more than 100 million records. Apparently not enough to win a Grammy though.

2. Bob Marley

bob marley

He was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for the ska, rocksteady and reggae bands: The Wailers (1964 – 1974) and Bob Marley & the Wailers (1974 – 1981). Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, and is credited for helping spread Jamaican music to the worldwide audience. Although he never won a Grammy in his lifetime, he was recently announced as a 2007 Grammy Hall of Fame inductee.

1. The Who

the who

The primary lineup was guitarist Pete Townshend, vocalist Roger Daltrey, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. They became known for energetic live performances, are one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s and ’70s, and recognized as one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, their first year of eligibility. According to the New York Times, The Who have sold 100 million records yet were never recognized by the Recording Academy.

Source: www.toptenz.net

1.Sir George Solti – 38 Grammys
2.U2 – 22
3.Pat Metheny and the Pat Metheny Group – 17
4.Stevie Wonder – 21
5.Aretha Franklin – 20
6.Alison Krauss – 20
7.Michael Jackson – 13
8.Aretha Franklina – 11
9.Carlos Santana – 9