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Doce me faces voluntarem tuam quia Deus meus es tu

Thursday, June 30, 2005
Here's a link to an article discussing an interview with a leading opponent of embryonic stem cell research. Robert P. George is a professor at Princeton and a member of the President's Council on Bioethics. Read the interview for yourself to get a better understanding of the ethics involved with creating embryos just for the purpose of experimentation. Here's the best quote:

We cannot say with certainty that embryonic cells will never prove therapeutically useful in treating other diseases, but as a matter of sheer fact not a single embryonic-stem-cell therapy is even in clinical trials. No one knows how to prevent tumor formation and other problems arising from the use of embryonic stem cells. No one knows whether these problems will be solved or solved before other research strategies render embryonic research obsolete. Like John Kerry, John Edwards, and Ron Reagan, Cuomo is elevating the hopes of suffering people and their families who are desperate for cures and eager to believe that if only embryonic-stem-cell research were federally funded they or their loved ones would be restored to health.


I realize this is something of a controversial topic, but George, who is a Christian, provides both a scientific and a moral basis for his opposition. I highly recommend the read, particularly if you've decided the embryonic research is going to be a cure-all for diseases and disabilities.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Shelby Foote died yesterday.

Russell Moore has a thoughtful remembrance of Foote and his friendship with the novelist Walker Percy. I've always loved Foote's writing and his analysis of the Civil War. My favorite memory of him was watching Ken Burns' Civil War documentary in high school, and noting the way Foote pronoucned Missouri as "Missourah." I know lots of Southerners speak in that accent, but I always got a kick out of hearing Foote say it.

The thing that was admirable about Foote was his ability to walk such a tight rope between never excusing slavery, Jim Crow or the horrid Ku Klux Klan but at the same time acknowledging the honor and bravery of many in the Confederacy. It's a delicate balance, I know, but Foote managed it well. I find this ability to be respectable, and hope that I could manage a similar nuance in my own pursuits.

But think about what a life Foote had! With the possible exception of James McPherson, he is the foremost scholar on the Civil War in all of American history. He knew Faulkner and O'Connor. Walker Percy was his best friend. He lived a fascinating life. I hope the South can still produce such thoughtful and poignant thinkers.

R.I.P.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Today I recieved the Innocence Mission's Now the Day Is Over in the mail. I ordered it a few weeks back, so it was nice to finally get it. My friends will tell you that I'm almost a missionary about this band; I won't shut up about them. This is delicate music. In particular this album is full of lullabies, songs a mother sings to her children as they drift off to sleep. So much of the band's music is like a snapshot into their quiet life. I'm just thankful they invited the rest of us along.

I saw this post on individualism this morning at Mere Comments. Individualism is something I think of pretty often. In high school you regard yourself as an individual for drawing on your sneakers or trying to grow long hair (if you're a guy). There's so much more to it than that, and I would argue that when carried beyond the bound of adolescence, certain forms of individualistic self-expression can be annoy at worst, damaging to the community at best. True American individualism was more a matter of self-reliance, not a decision to express oneself at all costs to others.

I'm not saying it's wrong to march your own beat; that can - usually - be fine when talking about hair styles, manners of dress or choice in music. I think the danger in individualism is any sense that we owe nothing to the broader community or to our own families. To ignore that call is rather perilous in my own estimation. I want to be free to dress how I like in most situations or listen to what I like, but, for example, once I find myself engaged or married, I have made certain commitments and thus subsequent desires to express myself (which I pray I shall never have) must take a backseat to my commitment to my family and the larger community (both spiritual and political) of which I am a part.
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Monday, June 27, 2005
Yesterday was a good day. Sundays around Tuscaloosa are always nice, because everything is so quiet. After church I came home, ate lunch and watched the Braves finish a sweep of the Orioles.

Later in the afternoon I left the house for a while. I stopped by the library to pick up a few things. In the book department, I walked away with Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard John Neuhaus. Never Let Me Go has been highly acclaimed during the last few months. I'm only three chapters in to the novel, but I'm already hooked. Ishiguro is a master of subtlety and nuance, as I first came to see in The Remains of the Day. What a superb novel. I except I'll finish this one quickly, as it's simply too captivating to ignore.

Neuhaus' work is one that I am interested to explore. Being a Protestant, it's likely I'll find some points of disagreement with Fr. Neuhaus. That said, he's a highly respect scholar and the book comes with strong endorsements, so it's worth reading. I also checked out a cd of Mozart pieces. Very good, though I'm still trying to understand classical music. My final selection was Art Blakey's collaboration with Thelonious Monk. This is terrific music. I've always regarded jazz as existential in that it lauds the moment and the mood in a way that perhaps no other music does. Having said that, bebop has such tremendous staying power. It still sounds fresh and exciting nearly fifty years after the sound began to develop. Monk's piano playing blends perfectly with the drumming of Blakey and the horns and bass of the rest of the group. No one player is overempasized or ignored. Monk plays like one of the group, and this group is simply tremendous.

Last night was hangout time. Always good and refreshing. Too bad I nearly fell asleep in the most comfortable chair in the world.

Here's a very interesting post about Pablo Picasso, a painter about whom I have some very mixed emotions. Sort of like Pablo Neruda, who managed to write some decent enough love poetry, but also thought Stalin hung the moon. Not quite, but Stalin did hang about 20 million peasants.

The state of Illinois divested itself from the Sudan
. A move in the right direction.

Lastly, I've added new links. More are on the way and, as always, the presence of the link is not an endorsement of its content. If you're from out of state (or in, for that matter), check out the Alabama Resources. All kinds of interesting stuff: outdoor gear, enviromental awareness, coffee, clothes and more.
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Sunday, June 26, 2005
Random thought before getting dressed for church: Francis Schaeffer once alluded to an aire of deconstructionism in Debussy's music. Can someone explain this to me? I can see it in a lot of free jazz (Coltrane, Coleman, Sanders) and even some neo-classical artists like John Cage and Phillip Glass, but Debussy? It never crossed my mind.

So what's the deal? Is there something particularly subjective about the structure in his music?
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I grew up vacationing in the southern Appalachian Mountains, and I still consider the area to be one of the prettiest regions I know. I haven't been there in a while, but it's nice to have photoblogs like Blue Ridge Blog to pass along consistently breathtaking photography from the area.

If you know of any more photoblogs, please send them my way.
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Saturday, June 25, 2005
International Crisis Group is another great resource for Sudan activism. Take a moment to visit; the people of Darfur and the other ravaged regions of Sudan need our help and support.

I just got home from Birmingham, where I joined Eric G. Mann to hear Byron York give a short talk at Barnes and Noble. I picked up a signed copy of the book, the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy, and had a brief moment to ask York about his time at the University of Alabama. York was at the Capstone during the 70s. I didn't realize that he was that old. He must not be much of football fan, either, because when I mentioned that he was here during the golden years, it took a minute to sink in. Before heading back to Tuscaloosa, I drove the curvy road through the green hills of Mountain Brook to eat a delicious lunch at Chez Lulu and pick up some bread and pastries from the Continental Bakery. Not a bad day at all so far.

The Braves just won with a leadoff homer by Andruw Jones. He's tearing it up.
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Friday, June 24, 2005
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”


The Gospel of Matthew 11: 16-19

True indeed for all time.
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My friend Michael Spencer has an interesting post up about the theological resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention and its effects on cultural and missional issues. Steve McCoy has a follow up post, looking for comments from readers and colleagues.

Here's a suggestion. Just my two cents. I feel like, in a way, there's two churches. There's the invisible Body of Christ, and then there's the visible, tangible local body of believers. The second usually meets in a building with a steeple. Why not have the first group, as a body of mere Christians, work on cultural issues? It can be abortion, gay issues, the environment, schools or whatever. And let the second group, the local Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal or whatever group concern itself with the Gospel and missions.

That's a crude sketch, but do you think it might be a reasonable way to draw lines? Put another way: It's one thing for Russ Moore to speak against public schools as an editor of Touchstone. It's another thing altogether for him to do it as an official representative of the Southern Baptist Convention.

What do you think?
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Tomorrow Iran will have a runoff in its Presidential "election." I'm not sure how it's possible to have a runoff when the originial election was a sham from the get-go. This situation is so tragic and infuriating. The Iranians are desperate for freedom and the mainstream media hardly utters a peep. There's no ending the terrorism in Iraq, or anywhere else in the world, so long as the Islamo-facist nexus is based out of Tehran. There was a headline on MSN earlier today saying that some Al-Qaeda types have been found in Iran. No kidding. Michael Ledeen has been talking about this for close to four years.

Something needs to be done in Iran, though I realize it's a sticky situation for the Bush administration due to all the intangibles with the largely Sunni Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, to say nothing of Israel's interests in all of this. Still, the rights of the people of Iran and the safety of our nation is dependent upon the removal of the current power structure. In the meantime, the rest of us can continue to push for reform and draw attention to the crisis. And as a believer, I can continue to pray that any and all missionaries or small pockets of Christians in Iran (for they are no doubt present) will find strength and encouragement in their suffering, and eventually enjoy a nation where they can proclaim the name of Christ in peace and freedom.

See RegimeChangeIran for more.
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Two quick thoughts. One original, the other more profound than I can muster on my own.

First, Madeleine Peyroux's Careless Love is a great listen. All I can think of is Billie Holiday in New Orleans. Or Paris. Take your pick.

Secondly, my favorite quote from Malcolm Muggeridge:

"We look back on history and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions, wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of 'the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.' In one lifetime I have seen my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that, 'God who's made the mighty would make them mightier yet.' I've heard a crazed, cracked Austrian proclaim to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years; an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin his own assumption of power. I've heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as a wiser than Solomon, more enlightened than Ashoka, more humane than Marcus Aurelius. I've seen America wealthier and in terms of weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that Americans, had they so wished, could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests. All in one little lifetime. All gone with the wind. England part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keep her motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixotes of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate. All in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind. Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ."
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Thursday, June 23, 2005
Lately I've felt this overwhelming desire for simplicity. People who have known me for a considerable length of time might find that sort of humorous; I tend to be rather high-strung. But something - exhaustion, curiousity, God - has pushed me into a mindset that feels so quiet and relaxed. It seems like such a foreign concept to me as an American. We're so busy and everything is paced at such a high level. Why? To what end?

I understand that it is necessary that many work stressful jobs; it's something that our society demands. Surely believers need to fill these positions. I used to think I would be one of those people but now I'm not so sure. Maybe it's a phase. Who knows? What I do know is that lately I'm finding a lot of peace and comfort in simple things. Bonhoeffer's writings. The Innocence Mission. Over the Rhine. Ravi's teaching. Maybe all of this is aided by tuning out the noise. I've turned off talk radio, at least until football season rolls around. (If I'm still off it this fall, we'll know something's really up) The television is off, with the exception of the occassional baseball game. (Game 7 of the NBA finals is pretty intense, by the way) I'm having a hard time even keeping up with the political battles in Washington right now, which is causing me to question some previously held views on my own career later in life. I'm still passionate about a lot of things; the unborn, human rights, community development, environmental concerns. I still support democracy around the world and small government at home. (Just arrived in the mail is my copy of The Conservative Mind) I just can't bring myself to rise up in indignation over every Congressional turf battle or every stupid decision by the University of Alabama athletic department (and lo, they are many).

It's been said that we often need a certain level of silence to hear God's voice. What often seems to be missed is the content of that voice. Usually we think of it as God handing out advice, like He is some sort of heavenly shrink. Certainly our Lord can work has He chooses, and He often does. Yet I think we miss something in thinking that we can hear God's calming voice when our own souls are full of the clutter of our fallen modern society. I'm not talking about some mystical Eastern approach; I'm just suggesting that perhaps we're better served by the Gospel of grace and repentance when we turn the volume down on some of the secondary things in our life. I'm not trying to set up a false dichotomy between, say, "secular" and "Christian" music. I just see in my own life, and that of some of my brothers and sisters in Christ, the way Christ's voice resonates all the more clearly when we pursue some level of simplicity as take up our crosses and follow Him.

To that end, I am reminded of Gerard Manley Hopkins' beautiful poem, "Heaven-Haven (A nun takes the veil)", which the Innocence Mission has so artfully set to music:

A nun takes the veil

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
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Goodness, I'm tired. Lots of driving today, all the way down to the lower reaches of South Alabama. Evergreen, Alabama is one of those sad, sleepy towns where everything looks like did ten or twenty years ago. I met three senior adults who had lived there all of their lives, and I wonder how much (or how little) they had seen during that time. What has life been like in a sultry rural community?

I brought my camera with me, but I failed to take pictures of the two most interesting sites on I-65 between Montgomery and Birmingham. The sign reading "Go To Church or the Devil Will Get You" has been along the interstate for probably ten years, and I always forget to pull over and take a picture. Likewise I missed the tin barn adorned with a crude star made of Christmas lights and a spray-painted bed sheet reading "Happy Birthday Billy Graham." It would have been nice to have those pictures. Maybe put them on the wall next to a picture of a puppy or something. Though I don't have any pictures of puppies.

I have half of a calzone sitting in the refrigerator. I don't think I should eat it.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2005
This is too cool. Next time I have $8,000 laying around, I know where it's going.

Not that I want you to buy me anything, but I have a Wishlist, too.
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I need to be on my way soon. Last night was a blur. I slept a lot. That's good, though, because I haven't been doing much of it. I don't mind though, because I've got a dozen good reasons to stay up late. I do wish, though, that if I am to spend a night at the house, I make better use of it than reading websites and downloading songs. Oh well. It was just one night.

Right now I'm reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I don't know what I expected going into it. I think my evangelical background had somehow convinced me that this was just another book about loving God and living right. Well, it is those things, but it's so much more. Bonhoeffer understands grace and forgiveness, but he acknowledges that the call of God on our life has inherent meaning. The call to belief is the call to follow. Following Christ - whatever that means - cannot be removed from the idea of believing in Him. That's why C.S. Lewis rejected this rubbish about Christ being a great human teacher, some sort of Hebrew Buddah. It's a point that I'm ashamed I never grasped. Christ did not stop by his disciples and say "Ya'll believe me, and I'll see you Sunday." He actually told them to follow Him, even telling them that we can't truly be His disciple unless we're willing to walk away from everything we know and love. (Luke 14) That stings. I'm selfish and vain, and I don't like to hear this sort of thing. Does it matter? Not really. I've been called by the Creator of the world, the Good Shepherd Himself, and that call is one of following, not just believing.

That's hard, isn't it? But His grace is sufficient. I think one of the benefits of such a technological age is that we can connect with others in the same way. I have a marvelous group of friends here that support me and I feebly try to support them, but it's also nice to find records by artists who are confessional in their failings and struggles. I look at a band like Over the Rhine or a singer/songwriter like Rosie Thomas and feel comforted that no one is in this alone. One theme of the Church, whether Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox, is the picture of a travelling pilgrim. What beautiful imagery. When we submit to following Our Lord, we become pilgrims in an earthly sense, but we never travel alone. That's pretty encouraging.

"I'm still climbing upward and my journey's almost ended
I'm nearing the top and you ought to see the view
Oh the water flows freely, there's enough to make you free
So friend if you're thirsty climb this mountain with me..."
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Tuesday, June 21, 2005
I found this quote from Pope Benedict XVI on Andrew Sullivan's site yeseterday:

"At any rate, we can see that [animals] are given into our care, that we cannot just do whatever we want with them. Animals, too, are God's creatures . . . Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible."


These are powerful words. I believe consumption of meat is a liberty to which humans are entitled, but we are not absolved of our responsibility to those in our care. It's not an easy thing to do, but for the sake of mercy and responsibility, something must change. At the very least, a move towards organic, natural meat will lead to a more humane, healthy lifestyle.

I hope more Protestant leaders will come to share this outlook.
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Praise the Lord, we finally have internet here at the homestead. It's been nice, in an ascetic sort of way, to not use the internet after five. Still I like the freedom of checking my e-mail when I like. Now I can. Thumbs up.

I'm also visiting random websites and downloading mp3s that I've missed in the great computer swap. I've forgotten how great Belle & Sebastian used to be. Pretty great, I'll tell you that.
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Byron York of National Review fame will be in Birmingham on Saturday. Count me in.
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More protests concerning Iran. See here and here.

Sudan activism links can be accessed here.
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I'm really excited about the new record by Sufjan Stevens. It comes out in another couple of weeks. I should pre-order a copy. And he should come play a show in my living room.

Also, dear reader, I have a question. My graduate work will require that I know a foreign language. I need a suggestion. E-mail me, if'n you please, with your ideas.
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I find it interesting that one of the prettiest spots in all of Birmingham is at a mall. The Magic City is nestled in Jones Valley, full of rolling hills and green trees. Many of the villages and bedroom communities are full of shaded roads, curving among the forests. A few of these towns even resemble the villages of England and Ireland.

So it is somewhat disconcerting to me that one of the nicest views in the entire area is in the parking lot of Barnes and Noble. It's a large, outdoor mall full of upper-crust shops and restaurants. No local nail salons here; just Saks Fifth Avenue, J. Crew and Williams-Sonoma. It's built on a hill, just off U.S. Highway 280. The best thing, though, is that when standing in the parking lot in front of that enormous bookstore, a glance to the south and the west will reveal hills. Miles and miles of rolling green hills. Suburbia has found a way to hide itself in a very green valley.

Birmingham is an interesting town, full of interesting people. Last night I saw a very drunk Ryan Adams on a stage in the street between two skyscrapers. We stood next to a tree; my roommate's girlfriend thought it might be fun to climb the tree. I thought that was a good idea, but I had an even better idea. I thought it would be fun to be Spider-Man and set up a hammock of that netting stuff between the two buildings. What's not to love about that? You get to sit where you like and see the whole show. It was a pretty night, too. Perfect for hammock-lounging. You could even spit on someone and they would be none the wiser. Not that I would want to spit on someone. It's gross and highly inconsiderate. You just like the freedom to choose, I suppose. But about my Spider-Man hammock; it's a great idea. I just didn't tell anyone; they might have laughed.

I got all crunchy and hit up the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. Coffee, baguettes, peaches and squash. I'm living large. The market is nice, though. Tons of kids and dogs. I thought that was cool. I like kids and dogs. Probably need a dog before a kid, though. Or do you? If you had a kid (and a wife, Lord willing) he/she could help raise the dog, but if you had the dog first, he/she could help with the young 'un. This is all very confusing. I shouldn't worry about it.

I spent all weekend in and out of coffeeshops. I drink a lot of coffee. Forgetting everything I consumed before I showed up in Birmingham, I downed a latte Friday afternoon. Another cup of coffee Friday night. Two more Saturday morning. Another cup on Saturday night. Two more cups on Sunday afternoon. I was close to developing a twitch. I nearly broke into a fit, however, when I perused through a couple of used record stores that dared to price a used Phish record at 12.99. Used? By whom? Did Trey Anastasio sign the disc or is the owner just a boorish old crab? I want to help my local businesses. I don't want to shell out money to a large corporate store with no concern for the local neighborhood, but good heavens. Is real estate in Birmingham so expensive that it demands a mark-up so high? I could have bought a Rolling Stones record for a better price in Bucharest in 1979.

Did I mention that Ryan Adams was really, really drunk the other night? I give it a week before someone's mother writes an angry letter to the Birmingham News. That's the problem with these city-wide festivals, anyway. You can't please anyone. Rap is too vulgar, metal is too loud, college rock is too obscure. Why not just book U2 and Norah Jones and then be done with it? We can all agree with that. Can't we?
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Monday, June 20, 2005
I need to change the name of this website. "Crash" is not my last name. I remember when it became my calling card several years ago, and that's the only way many people knew me. Talk about embarrassing. I once had a month-long crush on a friend of mine, only to learn that she didn't even know my name. Why? Because of this inane nickname. To make matters worse, I had to go and get recognized with this blog and now half the blogosphere (a whopping .5% of the country) knows about all this. I mean, it's great that Hugh Hewitt dropped my name in Blog, but if I found my way to a blog convention I'd have to call myself Matt Crash or else no one would know me.

I could put it this way. I've had friends for three and four years that don't know my parents. That's ok; we're all a little displaced down here in Tuscaloosa. But when my parents are known as Mama Crash and Daddy Crash, we've developed a problem.

I've warmed up to the new Coldplay a whole lot. It's no Rush of Blood... but it ain't bad. Not at all.

I've listened to a lot of music lately. I can't take that Damien Rice record out of the cd player.

"Did I say that I loathe you?" Unbelievable.

So I got into graduate school. Two more years at the University of Alabama. Rammer jammer, baby. This town is full of surprises. And alligators. I'm aiming for a M.A. in History. American history. American political history. American political and religious history. History of ideology? Conservatism? Or maybe just bluegrass. I'd have to grow a beard. I'll do that anyway.

A full weekend report from Birmingham is coming up. And my thoughts on the One campaign and cheap grace. And Spider-Man. And private schools. And a really drunk and hilarious Ryan Adams.
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Friday, June 17, 2005
I said the other day that U2 is the best band in the world. I stand by that statment, having joyfully, thankfully and finally understood what is meant by the song "One:"

"One love
One blood
One life you got
To do what you should
One life
With each other
Sisters, brothers
One life
But we're not the same
We get to carry each other
Carry each other..."



Before this post veers off into the melodramatic, let me say that I am unspeakably grateful to God's grace and my own amazing friends.

Thank You.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2005
My blogging comrade Abigail Brayden pointed me to this article concerning the interesting cover art on the new Coldplay record. The artwork, once decoded, simply means "X & Y." How appropriate. Coldplay, meanwhile, is still passionate about making trade fair.

Sigh.

Look. I buy fair trade coffee. It's a voluntary thing on my part to pay a buck or two more for the java, and it always taste better than the cheap dreck. (Community Coffee being the notable exception) But that's a willful act, and it's not a massive reorganization of trade agreements. Using an international framework to artificially inflate prices may help third-world workers in the short term, but it is a horrendous long-term solution. It just doesn't work. Eventually the market will collapse on such prices, and then we're back to square one. Not a good idea, folks.

So how to help the third world? I can support some debt relief, on the agreement that the relieved funds go to develop infrastructure. It is important that developing nations have a free government, a free press, the rule of law and freedom of religion. Without those things, a stable economy will not develop for any significant amount of time.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2005
My friend Kathryn offers a response to my post on sex and dating. It's worth reading because she's a girl, thus with a different perspective than me, and she's smarter than I am.

You should also read it because we really are friends, as opposed to "online blogging colleagues" or somesuch. And her last two posts relate to me, although is slightly embarrassing. But only slightly.

In addition to Kathryn's remarks, read the comments (and contribute!) to the post below. My friend Traci offers a few suggestions that have a clarifying quality. I think the terms are better defined now than they were earlier in the day. I think the aversion towards too much physical contact is a good thing. I think hanging out in groups is a good idea, as well. I confess that when getting specific about spending time alone, things get a bit muddy. I don't mean alone as in a hotel room or hot tub, I mean alone as in dinner or a movie or a walk in the park. Where to draw the line in emotional terms is likely to be a bit tricky, but I don't dispute the wisdom in this thinking at all.
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In a great review of an interesting new book on Christians and sex, Challies makes the following remark:

"Part three deals with "Men and Sex." Mark Dever and several co-authors challenge single men to live lives of sexual purity. They encourage men to adopt courtship as a model, for they feel it is more biblical than dating. I am not entirely convinced of this, but when I think of my daughter beginning a relationship some day, I certainly hope she courts instead of casually dates. This chapter is very similar to what one would read in any of Josh Harris' books."


Now, I'm not attacking Challies or Mark Dever, but can someone please explain to me the difference between courting and dating? I'm serious. I am twenty-three years old, and I am totally confused when I hear pastors and authors try to make some grandiose distinction between the two. Is the implication here that dating, by its very nature, sexual? I don't think my generation got that memo.

If dating is defined as dinner, a movie and some naked playtime, then yes, dating is bad. But even among the more promiscuous of my generation, I don't know too many people who consistently view dating in that light. Certainly the Bible has much to tell us about chastity and purity. But once a believer has some strict guidelines for sexual behavior, what's wrong with going to a movie? I want to think that part of the anti-dating ideology is acknowledging that random dating with lots of differents girls/guys can be emotionally manipulative if not physically so. But I don't really think that's what they mean. This is especially true in a mobile society where young people are often relocating due to jobs and school.

I think Dever's heart is in the right place, and certainly Tim Challies is right to be cautious concerning his daughter's future dating habits. That said, someone needs to clearing define dating and courting as unique and seperate ideas. Otherwise, I'm going to establish my own ground rules, write a book and make a ton of money at speaking engagements.

On the topic of chastity, I'm looking forward to reading Lauren F. Winner's new book, Real Sex.

(HT: iMonk, a la BHT)

Steve McCoy also has a good review up of the Piper-edited book, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.
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Saturday, June 11, 2005
Yesterday evening I finished The Magician's Nephew, and I'm now I'm excited like a little kid to finish the rest of the Chronicles. It's raining in Tuscaloosa, thanks to Tropical Storm Arlene, so there will be lots of indoors for me. I just got a copy of The Great Divorce in the mail, so perhaps I'll dive into that. I bought Stardust Memories a while back; maybe I'll watch that. Or I'll get really wild and do both.

Speaking of tropical storms, who names these things? Arlene isn't a name you hear much of anymore. Isn't that a town in Texas?

I haven't listened to much talk radio lately. That's a pretty healthy thing, I think, because otherwise my blood pressure would be high as a kite. I love Rush and all, but most days it's better to read the paper and relax about the state of the world. I've even back away from sports talk. Of course, this is the most boring time of the year for sports fan, so that's no surprise. Let October roll around and we'll find Alabama with a 4-2 record. I'll be tuning into Paul Finebaum every afternoon, I'm sure.

I'm still listening to the new Coldplay record, but I'm finding it to be a tad monotonous. It's not bad by any means, but other than tracks 2, 4 and 5, I'm left underwhelmed. It's obvious that bands like Interpol and Elefant have played a role in shaping the new sound. There's more feedback and noise in the music. Has Coldplay traded in Jeff Buckley for My Bloody Valentine? Not quite, I guess, but the change is more noticable than I might have thought at first.
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Friday, June 10, 2005
Last night I was reading C.S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew. I was absolutely, positively blown away by Aslan's first words to the Cabby:

"Son, I have known you long. Do you know me?"


I think that somewhere in the heart of every believer that's the voice of Christ calling to us.
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Just a real quick update. Hopefully I'll have some good stuff over the weekend, perhaps even later today.

If you're reading this, and you like what you read (particularly if we actually know each other), shoot me an e-mail at lookagainATgmail.com. Obviously, the "at" is not part of the address. Use the @ symbol instead.

I just insulted my readers' intelligence. Forgive me.

If you're another blogger or you want to send me free stuff to review, e-mail me at mattcrashblogAThotmail.com.

Thanks!
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Thursday, June 09, 2005
It's funny how things stick with us. How we hear of people or places or things at one point in our life and years later they become very important to us. When I was in high school, early on - like ninth or tenth grade - I began to discover this music scene full of artful, creative Christians making beautiful music that honors Christ without being overt and preachy. I heard about bands like Over the Rhine and the Innocence Mission and thought they were the apex of all that is good in the musical world, at least based upon the reviews and the comments I heard.

Now I'm twenty-three and living on my own, and the Innocence Mission is one of my favorite bands. That doesn't necessarily mean anything except that I went close to five or six years without paying any attention to the band. Maybe it's the way things come full circle...the things that catch our eyes when we're young and (relatively) innocent are often the things that end meaning the most to us later in life.

When I wrote the other day about measuring life out with markers - football games, weddings, movies, whatever - I wasn't kidding. I wonder about that sort of thing often. What's worse is this: I'm washing my hair this morning and looking at the shampoo bottle and realizing that it's pretty full, but I wondered any way what life is going to be like in another month or two when I have to buy new shampoo. Is it possible, on some level, that my life will be largely the same? Will it markedly different in some happy or tragic sense? Or will I find myself in the middle of change and fluctuation?

Speaking of change and fluctuation, the fight for freedom is alive and well in Iran. Regime Change Iran and Enough! have more, with pictures of riots and revolts. I don't encourage wanton violence, but when people begin to resist an oppressive, totalitarian regime, I cheer. I hope soon the leaders of the Western nations - President Bush, John Howard, Tony Blair, et al. - find the courage to speak on behalf of the Iranians and Egyptians and Syrians longing to be free. I hope our leaders agree to begin tightening the noose around the Sudanese leadership in hopes of ending the suffering in Darfur. I hope the Christian leaders of the West - the Pope and Protestant leaders - will find a place to call for democracy and freedom. I often agree with evangelical leaders like James Dobson on things like the judicial system, but I wish once that he would speak out on behalf of those who cannot speak, as opposed to consistently being caught up in every Congressional turf battle.

Faster, please.
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Tuesday, June 07, 2005
The new Coldplay record, XY, appeared today. First it appeared on the shelf at Target, then it appeared in my stereo. I'm usually good about shopping at my local record store - where I was an employee for nearly two years - but when we're talking a savings of around five dollars on a new release, Target is hard to pass up. At any rate, Chris Martin and the boys have managed to put out a third album that is quite good. The sound is more consistent, with less movement from loud songs to soft ones. There is a dark feel, something akin to New Order or even a less-Gothic the Cure. Martin's voice and piano playing remain strong, as do the lyrics. As usual, the lyrics are somewhat vague, but a fair number of songs concern women, most likely his main squeeze Gwyneth. It's a strong release on early listenings. That's my initial take, though I won't have a final opinion until I've enjoyed repeated listenings over a protracted length of time. The liner notes still carry on about all sorts of political causes (including the tired idea of debt relief and trade barriers), but seeing World Vision listed as an organization worthy of support was refreshing and encouraging.

On the topic of Coldplay, I was talking about the band with a few friends the other night. One mentioned that Coldplay is likely the biggest band in the world right now. I'd wager that's true, but are they the best band in the world? I can't go that far. U2's last release served to remind audiences that the best rock and roll band on the planet was still a quartet of wide-eyed, take-on-the-world Irishmen. Bono may not understand the nuances of international economies (though he does so far better than Chris Martin), but he wants to help the needy and he is full of ideas. More importantly, he understands grace and he understands the Cross. And every pronunciation of the glory of God, the brokenness of man and the need to rely on and care for each other is artfully, passionately created. If we are to have rock and roll, if we are to promote the noise and the racket and the feedback, we could do far worse than U2.

Behind U2, I would suggest Wilco as the next best band on the planet. Yes, Jeff Tweedy is a married father of two still talking about his broken heart and his drinking, but he understands American music. He understands America; our impulses, our hesitations and our reservations. Wilco's music is earthy and spacy all at once, proving comfortable on both the city street and the country highway. I don't care if they are the hippest band in the country right now. I don't care if their fans are obnoxious. I've seen their concerts filled with ironic rich kids with shaggy hair and denim jackets. Minus the rich kid part, though, that's me. Wilco is American rock and roll, and it is very, very good.

Honorable mention goes to Muse. Good heavens, what a band. Falsetto vocals, classical piano and loud - extremely loud - guitars. Blows me away everytime.
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Monday, June 06, 2005
The humidity. Woe woe the humidity. It may be the only bad part about living in Dixie.

I realized the other night that so many of my favorite bands (Over the Rhine, Low, the Innocence Mission) are based around husband and wife duos. I saw Rainer Maria Friday night, another marriage rock band. The band was strong with a powerful energy. I was slightly surprised, figuring the whole thing might be more withdrawn. As it was, it was great.

My Morning Jacket was later in the evening and, frankly, a little disappointing. The sound mix was terrible and the crowd was a bit much. Oh well.

Last night was Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. Willie was solid, but very uninspired. Lots of old favorites, but he seemed like he was going through the motions. Dylan, on the other hand, was on fire. He plowed through a nearly ninety minute set with an intensity that was refreshing. Definitely worth my time and money, and the company of friends was an added treat.
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Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Last night a few people convinced me to watch the Philadelphia Story. A good movie, and Katherine Hepburn is phenomenal in her ability to take over a film.

In other news, Tuscaloosa is rainy and gray, and the Braves keep losing. I'm mildly pleased with the first bit of news, not so much with the latter.
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