Friday, June 22, 2007

Things You Don't Do, Part One?

You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
And you don't... mix hash browns and ketchup

Hash browns and ketchup are a combination that grosses me out, and this has caused argument multiple times.

Part of my dislike comes from the fact that I just think hash browns mixed with ketchup looks strange and a bit disgusting. I don't really know why. But it's not just an arbitrary color thing, like 'green eggs and ham,' that I might just love when I try it and see it's not any different.

I also just find the idea repulsive. No, I don't think I've ever tried them, and while I usually try to not knock things I haven't tried... I have good reason.

I don't think I would hate the taste. (Yes, this leads to my good reason.) The taste itself would simply end up being the taste of potato and ketchup, much like french fries and ketchup or tater tots and ketchup or any of a number of similar combinations. And I like these. The different texture/ shape/ size of hash browns wouldn't make the taste that different from any other potato-ketchup combo.

Instead, it's the mere fact that I see ketchup as a lunch-dinner condiment. Maybe even snack.

But hash browns? They're firmly lodged in the breakfast category.

I don't mind eating breakfast for dinner-- in fact, I like it a lot-- but when I do so, my meal is almost always wholly breakfast. I don't care what the time of day is, but my breakfasty foods go together and my other foods go together, and that's how it is (drinks are a little more liquid- hehe- but not food).

So, to me, hash browns with ketchup blatantly violates the separation of breakfast and lunch, and my palate just cannot welcome it.

(P.S.-- I mean no disrespect screwing with Jim Croce's lyrics. I actually like the guy a whole bunch.)
(P.P.S.-- Depending on my inspiration or lack thereof, this may or may not become a series of posts.)
(P.P.P.S.-- I also can't decide whether my last post should be continued into a longer story, or just left as a short story. Suggestions?)
(P.P.P.P.S.-- Even without Renee, I wrote something tonight. Woohoo!)
(P.P.P.P.P.S-- Not that I don't like Renee, of course. I love her bunches- even subconsciously!)
(P.P.P.P.P.P.S.-- I realize this is completely ridiculous by this point, but I just wanted to add that I don't fault anyone who can enjoy hash browns with ketchup. I just can't do it myself. And I don't bother trying it because I don't think I'd like it and, just in case, I can't chance wasting one of my favorite foods (hash browns) by making them into something I don't like.)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Writing Party #1

The leaves draped dramatically over the edge of the piano, threatening to reach the keys and play a somber sonata.

Or maybe I just wanted them to, because a sad song would complement my mood so perfectly.

I sat in the coffeehouse, listening to the slightly-skewed intonation of the struggling band playing in the background. I found myself being overly critical, and felt mean; the band wasn’t terrible, and their music actually melded into a soft but welcome distraction from my own thoughts.

I was walking by the window of this place tonight, and despite the fact it’s hardly out of my way, I’d never been in before.

The soft orange lighting made the coffeehouse look warm, and the d├ęcor was just simple enough to feel homey and almost quaint. While not normally my style, the small crowd gathered around the band looked oddly intimate, and whether caused by the frigid winter air or the loneliness I felt, I was drawn inside.

I sank into a soft couch, soaking up the novelty of this place I’d never been before. How comforting to place my mind somewhere that my eyes couldn’t find a million memories of you.

Without physical escape, I realized, there was no mental escape.

And, suddenly, I knew what I had to do.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

a whirled view

I recently read an article that was linked from a blog of a Relient K member, Jon Schneck. After reading the article, I was infuriated- partly because I'm a fan of Relient K and I thought his judgment was unfair, and partly because of the ideas that led to his criticism. I simply could not let it go, even though apparently Relient K has faced a lot of similar critiques in the past.

I read through the over fifty comments left on the blog, taking notes of things I wanted to say as I went along. I was peeved- slightly as a fan, but more as a Christian and a logical person. I don't understand- and never have understood- why people get angry when a 'Christian band' goes 'secular.' To me, increased visibility of Christianity is usually a good thing, and if the band can be listened to by more people (especially if they are up front about their beliefs), it's just another way of spreading the Word. Plus, I can see that to many people- especially who have never been religious- coming at them with God or Jesus' name and praises in every lyric might make them uncomfortable, so I don't see any problem with subtly religious lyrics. Besides, each person communicates with God differently, right?Anyway, this post probably doesn't seem coherent, because it was written in little bits, completely out of order. But when I got to the end of Dan's blog post and saw that he'd turned off comments to avoid dealing with the contradictory responses he was getting, I was a bit angry-- I'd really wanted to maybe open his (and other readers') eyes to some of my opinions (assuming, of course, that they were open-minded enough to listen and see me as more than a defensive fan). The thing is, I think I would be just as angry if they were talking about another Christian band in the mainstream, such as Switchfoot. I'm not a big fan of them, and don't know much about them- but they face this kind of criticism often, apparently. And the thing is, the ideals behind the criticism- the close-minded, overprotective, elitist ideals of 'Christianity'- really bother me. Anyway, here's the response I just had to post somewhere. Sorry this is so long.

In one of the author's comments responding to others, he said, "I threw a little red meat on Relient K out there for the fun and you took the bait quite nicely."

This sounds downright mean to me. He's trying to bait teenagers into getting defensive? Don't most people stop listening when they get defensive, which would mean that they might miss your point entirely? Wouldn't he rather his readers actually consider the opinion he feels so strongly about? Maybe he thinks he's picking brains (as his blog purpose seems to state)... but to me it seems like he's picking on people.

If you're trying to send a message about not sending teenagers into a "wolves' den," as someone called it... it doesn't seem to me that he's doing anything different. The only difference is that he's sending people into a den of wrath instead.

As for the venue, I've never been there, so I can't make an honest, educated judgment. But I can say that I believe the problem would lie more with parents who trust their kids merely on the kid saying something is "Christian." Before going to anything like a concert on my own, I know that my own mom would look into the venue, my transportation, the band, and my companions, to say the least.

From what I hear, this venue may not have been a good choice for the band to perform in. I'm uninformed, so I will give him that. However, if the author's point was that Christian bands need to be more careful about where they perform, I think the author would have been much more convincing if he had given more than one example of this occurring, especially with more than one band. If this is such a big problem, finding more information to back up his claim would not have been difficult, and he would not have been left to, instead, criticize other aspects of the band. I can only hope that the criticism of Relient K and Amos's has come after considerable research, including a visit to Amos's, listening to Relient K's music, researching both the official information given and what unofficial information you can find about each, and possibly even attending a Relient K concert.

I like Relient K's approach. I think they are all strong in their faith, but I don't think they want to be stuck in a box as a "Christian" band. And while some people don't appreciate their more subtle style, I think it's great. By performing at events like Warped Tour, where some of the other bands have similar sounds (and therefore fans of that style of music, Christian or not, are likely to abound), Relient K opens up the opportunity for new people to hear the band. And even if they're initially drawn in by the sound of the band, I'm sure some of those new fans will eventually hear the lyrics, and start thinking about what the band is really saying. And Relient K only rarely makes that completely obvious- instead, many of their lyrics they inspire thinking and interpretation; who knows? I bet at least a few of those new fans will become Christians. Plus, a "Christian" band would get hammered with even more criticism like this over things (venues, songs, outfits, who knows what) not being 'Christian' enough- and dealing with that criticism takes time away from Relient K's purpose/job/ministry as a band.

I'm not saying bands should go 'mainstream' just to try to attract new followers; I don't think Christians should be so afraid of that, though.

In a response on Jon Schneck's blog, the author of the original post mentioned that Jesus went into places with 'bad' people- but that the Gospel was always at the forefront and that Jesus wasn't 'subtle' about it. First of all, I think Jesus' parables were often metaphors for what he had to say- to me, that's fairly subtle because the meaning had to be interpreted. Second of all, Jesus could get away with not being subtle in ways we can't-- I mean, he could perform miracles! Relient K- or anyone else today, for that matter- isn't going to be able to evangelize in the same methods as Jesus. They're just NOT.

I like some of Relient K's religious songs; really, I do. But I also like that some of their songs are more vague. To me, the songs don't come across as preachy, like some other Christian songs do. Some of the songs don't explicitly say anything about God, but they are almost a conversation with a "You" that sounds like it was maybe meant to be God (and, curiously enough, often "You" is capitalized in the lyrics). Still- the lyrics wouldn't have to be about God. Maybe that's how the band or the songwriter meant it, but maybe not. I think part of the beauty of Relient K's lyrics is that sometimes they can fit in a surprising number of different situations, and that (much like the Bible) they are open to interpretation and don't force you to think about them in any specific way. The lyrics don't force religion on anybody, which I think is generally a much more effective approach to evangelism anyway.

Personally, I like the fact that listening to a Relient K cd is full of variety- a few of the songs are almost like worship, and are obviously about God. A few don't have a direct or blatant correlation, but can easily be tied to religion. And finally, a few of the songs are just meant to be fun, or give me the chance to relate to something going on in my life, but don't really say anything about God.

One commenter didn't seem to see God in any of Relient K's lyrics and doubted how they could make someone feel good- for anyone who agrees, I encourage you to check out the lyrics to these songs: Failure to Excommunicate, Getting Into You, I Am Understood?, I So Hate Consequences, Less Is More, and one of my favorites when I'm down, Let It All Out. I also encourage you to listen to these songs-- many of the serious lyrics are set to engaging pop melodies, which might help you see how they cheer people up. Besides, sometimes sad songs make me feel better. Please also remember that while some of Relient K's songs do not outright mention Christ, God, or Jesus- some of the songs are still talking about Christianity or related ideals.

I guess what I'm really coming down to is this. Just because a song doesn't have anything to do with God, does that mean it's anti-Christian?

I say no. To me, Relient K's "Mood Rings" or "In Love With The 80's (Pink Tux to the Prom)" or even VeggieTales' "Silly Songs With Larry" aren't wrong! They're just not explicitly Christian. And that's okay. I think about things other than God, and I don't think I'm wrong for that. To me, saying a non-Christian song is like saying a conversation that doesn't involve God- even if it's not sinful- is wrong. And that seems ridiculous. It's not as if a song about self-esteem or crayons is just as bad as a song about killing- at least to me!

One of the bands mentioned in this whole debate was Superchic(k). Honestly, I've heard one of Superchic(k)'s songs, ever (so I'm uninformed, but also unbiased). But this band was criticized for being so focused on self-esteem instead of on God. Well, to some people... accepting God's love means accepting that you ARE loved, as you are, and that you should feel good about yourself. This isn't a major part of my faith, but I'm not about to criticize the music of a band and say that it's too selfish and "un-Christian" just because I don't personally see its focus as a big part of my own faith.

I think being Christian- or religious, for that matter- is an extremely personal thing and will vary from any one person to another. And therefore I don't think it's easy to say what's "Christian" or not, or to criticize anyone or any group for not being "Christian" enough.

If you really think that Relient K made a bad choice in venue, write to the band. If no one responds in a reasonable amount of time, *then* write a scathing blog that makes it sound like they don't care about their young fans. But this entire blog just felt like a mean attack on a band that, as far as I have ever been able to tell, couldn't be *better* role models for their fans. To me, things that aren't explicitly Christian aren't necessarily against Christianity, and while some people may prefer to avoid anything un-Christian, that's just not the style of my faith- and it certainly doesn't make me wrong.

I bet this guy would tell me I'm making lots of mistakes and committing lots of sins in my life. But- oh well. I don't care if Mr. Dan Burrell thinks I'm Christian enough anyway. It's not his opinion (or anyone's but God) that matters, in the long run.

Monday, June 04, 2007

a step closer to gattaca?

The first person to receive a map of his very own genome was James Watson, of the famous duo Watson and Crick. For those of you who haven't had a biology or genetics course lately, and forget or just don't know, these two men are considered the first to have discovered the structure of DNA. They don't get all the credit- I won't go into it, but basically Watson and Crick made their conclusions from the various works done by other scientists. Still, they officially get credit for recognizing that DNA was a double helix and for introducing the very idea of DNA replication. Anyway, I think it's pretty cool that Watson was chosen as the first person to have this done. (In case you were wondering, Watson's partner Francis Crick has been deceased for over two years.)

It's kind of amazing that, within his lifetime, genetics has moved from DNA having no known structure and no real explanation for how it worked... to being able to tell Watson of his increased likelihood for certain cancers based on his genetic code.

Sure, there could be potential drawbacks to society's pinpointing of 'good' and 'bad' genes, but it's still an impressive amount of growth in just barely over fifty years, and I thought Watson was a classy choice to be 'first.'