Monday, August 31, 2009

Ordinary People

I picked up Ordinary People the other day from the library. I'd never really heard of it, but the synopsis sounded interesting and the cast members were familiar. Still, I wasn't really sure what to expect from it. Even with the intriguing summary, I thought perhaps it would lean toward trite or overdone. Maybe even cheesy.

What I got, however, was the best I could have hoped for. Lately, my movie tastes have been veering away from the fantasy, action, and comedy that I once loved and moved into the realm of drama. And not just any drama, but that which is portrayed as the true, honest drama of everyday life and of... (wait for it) Ordinary People. Recent favorites have included Garden State, Now Voyager!, Wit, and 84 Charing Cross Road. These, with their mix of drama, the occasional dose of humor and a soupcon of quirkiness, have epitomized the 'movie-worth-watching' for me. They all are everyday-real and honest, but at the same time they are beautiful and tragic.

Timothy Hutton, Mary Tyler Moore, and Donald Sutherland are the people at the center of the story, a family struggling to make sense of and deal with the death of their oldest son and brother. In a world where we cover up our private struggles and present whitewashed facades to our acquaintances, friends and family even in the face of great pain, hurt and confusion, Ordinary People (and the others previously mentioned) is an anguished breath of fresh air.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Doubting Thomas

Ok, so as soon as I say something about the dangers of people including too many quotes in their posts, I want to start posting song lyrics and poetry. This crow sandwich is a little dry. On to the real post:

I have been a long-time Nickel Creek fan, but in recent years I have moved into other genres and artists to captivate my musical attention. However, in the past week or so, I have returned to the tried and true and have found a lyrical honesty that I never 'got' before while listening to their music. Their last album, "Why Should the Fire Die?", is probably my favorite of their works -as it is probably their most progressive and complex album. The songs range from wistful, sweet ("First and Last Waltz") to a new take on bittersweet ("Helena"), to the incredible musicality we'd come to expect from the trio ("Scotch & Chocolate") and more.

The one song that really takes the cake for me, however, is "Doubting Thomas". Written by Chris Thile (already a favorite of mine, both with Nickel Creek and as a solo artist), the song centers around lyrical themes of religious doubt, wanting to do "the right thing" but not knowing what it is, and not wanting to unintentionally lead others astray from the truth. It is a simple melody, with simple harmonies, accompanied by no-frills honesty. With all my doubts and questions, I sometimes feel that I don't fit in the Christian circles where people seem so sure or they have all the trite Sunday School answers. I know it's not the best place to be in the world, but I would rather be honest about my doubt than put on a happy face and sing words that I don't really mean.

What will be left when I've drawn my last breath
Besides the folks I've met and the folks who've known me?
Will I discover a soul-saving love
Or just the dirt above and below me?

I'm a doubting Thomas
I took a promise
But I do not feel safe
Oh me of little faith

Sometimes I pray for a slap in the face
Then I beg to be spared 'cause I'm a coward
If there's a master of death
I bet he's holding his breath
As I show the blind and tell the deaf about his power

Can I be used to help others find truth
When I'm scared I'll find proof that it's a lie?
Can I be led down a trail dropping bread crumbs
That prove I'm not ready to die?

Please give me time to decipher the signs
Please forgive me for time that I've wasted

I'm a doubting Thomas
I'll take your promise
Though I know nothing's safe
Oh me of little faith

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thoughts on Counterculture Consumerism

In Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture, Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter examine the phenomenon of past and present ‘counter-culture’ movements. Through their examination of these growing movements, Heath and Potter seek to explain how the search for individuality and a method of rebellion has in actuality become the newest method of conformity in consumer culture. In order to understand this ‘evolution’ of counterculture, one must understand the groundwork of the movement in the first place. They give the history of the baby boomers that “declared their implacable opposition to ‘the system’… and renounced materialism and greed, rejected the discipline and uniformity of the McCarthy era, and set out to build a new world based on individual freedom”. Next are the ‘Hippies’ who “bought VW Beetles for one primary reason—to show that they rejected mass society” and in direct protest to the Big Three. Heath & Potter list many other ‘movements’ that label themselves as counterculture, but one of the things that interests the authors most is the connection between the counterculture movement and the consumer culture now associated with them.

The counterculture movement has become more of a material search for ‘self’. The quest for the individualistic, ‘Other’, exotic, etc., which has been associated with the counterculture has turned into a search for commodities. Who can buy the latest ‘cutting-edge’ technology, or wear the latest fashion, in essence who can be the first to be different. This relay of supposedly counterculture values to a consumer market has only led to a furthering and revitalization of mainstream consumerism under a new label. Perhaps the only way to be truly counterculture is to “opt out of the system… and go off and live in the woods somewhere (and not commute back and forth in a Range Rover). Because the everyday acts of symbolic resistance that characterize countercultural rebellion are not actually disruptive to ‘the system’”, they perpetuate and fuel mainstream consumerism. True rebellion and counterculture only occurs when “it becomes genuinely antisocial”.

Heath, Joseph and Andrew Potter. 2004. Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture. HarperCollins: New York.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Christmas in August

Took Grams to Frankenmuth on Friday to visit the new creperie and we decided to stop by Bronner's just for the heck of it since we were in the area. Visiting Bronner's Christmas Wonderland is sort of a tradition for our family, it goes hand-in-hand with childhood visits to Grandma's house and holiday wonder.

As a child, Bronner's symbolized the very essence of Christmas to me: bright colors, sparkling lights, tall trees, life-size nativities, and a general feeling of overwhelming wonder. However, as I walked down the well-stocked aisles of glittering ornaments, prelit trees, and Christmas decorations, it struck me as odd. Is this what Christmas has come down to for me? For us? Chintzy Made-In-China plastic icicles and a set of plaster elves?

For a store that advertises itself specifically as a "CHRISTmas Wonderland" (really spelled with the caps), I find it odd that it is all about the stuff. A store over the area of one and a half football fields, dedicated to Christmas and stuffed to the gills with... stuff.

After visiting this altar of Christmas Materialism, I feel I need to reevaluate what Christmas means to me --even if it happens to be August...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Our "passions a quotation"? Literally?

"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation" -Oscar Wilde

I don't know if any of you guys have ever noticed the quote sitting on the header of my blog, but I have to agree with Mr. Wilde. Pretty much everything to be said has already been said and we're just trying to think up new and improved ways of saying them (and not always succeeding). However, the more I read, books, interviews, and especially blogs, I feel like I am seeing people who are writing only what other people want to hear. People I know well (intelligent, educated, opinionated people) writing just to appease one group or one person, or writing to enforce this facade they have erected. This is starting to disturb me.

I am not innocent in this respect. Sometimes I feel like I write just to get a response out of people or to talk (translation: "rant") about what I've read recently. It is when I find these blogs that sound as if they've lifted the entire post from a well-known book or I scroll down a blog and nine out of ten in the archives are just lengthy block quotations that I have a problem. Are we growing up a generation of parrots? Are we writing just what people want to hear or what we want people to hear from us?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

An Update :)

Hola chicos!

Here I am again. Sorry for the absence. I did kind of abandon poor little "Wanderings" temporarily for newer pastures. Been working on this post for The Corner Booth, and also researching a couple others. Getting really excited about upcoming posts and thinking about doing a current events post as well... We shall see. :) My next post will mostly likely be either critiquing/debating the education of women/girls in the church OR the weird cross-section of Nationalism and Christianity. BTW, Sarah has a new post up complete with poetry!

I am whupped. Seriously. It is hot here for the first time all summer, I think. Over 90 degrees Fahrenheit today and of course it's the one day out of the entire year that I am walking outside for three hours... Anyway, the Great Lakes Folk Festival was worth it. Got to catch up with Scott, enjoy some good music (we got acquainted with the Finnish-American All Star Band), and get lost at MSU... But really, free music festivals, no matter how hot, are always good. Paid a whopping two dollars for parking and that was it. Well, except for the fresh-squeezed lemonade and then some Bubble Tea afterward. Introducing Scott to bubble tea was definitely an experience and not something I think he is likely to forget... For those of you that don't know, bubble tea (at least as I know it) is basically tea (usually with cream, but sometimes fruit) with these large (and I mean large!) tapioca-like 'bubbles' that you suck through a wide straw as you drink your beverage. Here's a picture (below) of my Tiki Tea (basically a mixture of black tea, coffee, and cream) with black bubbles.

The Finnish-American All-Star Band

Tiki Tea with black bubbles

Scott waiting with breathless anticipation for the next schottische. ;)

In other news: I made paella! I don't know if it is true to paella-goodness as I've never had the real thing, but I thought it was delicious! Well, really anything rice-based packed full of seafood is all right with me, so... I found the recipe online, substitued turmeric for the saffron (that stuff is expensive!) and splurged just a tiny bit on the seafood. It was wonderful and more than made up for the nasty shelling of raw shrimp I had to do. Ugh. Not such a huge fan.

My dish of paella-wonderfulness

Last but not least, I have a bumper crop of juliette tomatoes! Remember Frankie and Johnny, my two little tomato plants? Well, they have grown. In fact, they are probably the largest tomato plants I have ever seen... I will have to post pictures again, but as it's pitch black outside right now, that's not happening... So, anyway, if you're in the Flint or Lansing area and will eat tomatoes, give me a call, text, comment, or Facebook message and I will bring some your way! I am giving all the credit to Dr. Earth organic fertilizer as I do next to nothing other than occasionally fertilize and water when I remember...

Oh, and this is what happens when you send Lindsey to the library... A random collection of books on religion, anti-religion, feminism, linguistics, and a spiritual biography thrown in for good measure... :)