Jesus Christ Superstar

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Jesus Christ SuperstarAndrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar is a really great musical. I am aware that it was a successful stage play before it was a movie, but the 1973 movie version is what I’ve loved and seen at least once a year for most of my life. (Although I believe that the CD my family has was made with the 1996 London cast) As in all of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals, the music is incredible. Besides that, there’s something fascinating and powerful about the anachronistic setting and the opening and closing scenes that show the actors arriving at and departing from the setting. The casting is great, too. Still, it is the music that really makes Jesus Christ Superstar excellent.

But Jesus Christ Superstar is not a Christian musical. It technically is about Jesus, and the characters and events are relatively closely based on the Bible, but that’s about as much as can be said for its religious value. It is my understanding that neither Andrew Lloyd Webber nor Tim Rice consider themselves to be Christians or claim that Jesus Christ Superstar is a specifically religious movie. Although there isn’t anything that directly denies Jesus’ divinity, there certainly isn’t anything that affirms it, either, and there is no discussion of His salvific work. Very few of the lyrics even come from the Bible.

 

"Every time I look at you I don't understand why you let the things you did get so out of hand."

“Every time I look at you I don’t understand why you let the things you did get so out of hand.”

Much of the musical is shown from Judas’ point of view, and his frustration with Jesus is the main theme. After the introduction that shows the cast arriving in the desert and setting up, the movie opens with a musical soliloquy by Judas in which he rants and rails about how things have gone too far. Over the course of the movie, we see Jesus ride into Jerusalem, get betrayed and arrested, appear before Pilate and Herod, and get sentenced to crucifixion. Throughout all of this, we see Jesus’ other followers’ devotion to him, his apprehension concerning his upcoming death, and Judas’ confusion and conflict as he decides to hand Jesus over and then regrets it. In the end, Judas hangs himself, Jesus is sentenced to death, and, before the crucifixion scene, there is a concluding song and dance number in which Judas and a group of scantily clad female backup singers sing the title song, asking questions about Jesus’ identity and mission that the movie never answers. At least this movie shows the crucifixion as being the most significant aspect of Jesus’ life, which is more than some movies about Jesus do. But Jesus Christ Superstar completely leaves out the resurrection. It’s almost as if Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice didn’t know what to do with it, so they ignored it.

At any rate, ending the movie with the resurrection would have detracted from the emphasis that the movie puts on Judas’ questions to and about Jesus. It’s actually really sad that the movie ends the way it does. To quote 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” And anyway, the questions that are asked in Jesus Christ Superstar would not be left unanswered if this was a Christian movie that portrayed the resurrection. Okay, I get that the line “Who are you, what have you sacrificed?” is there because “sacrificed” rhymes with “Christ”, and that it’s completely obvious what Jesus sacrificed. But the song asks other questions, including “Do you think you’re what they say you are?” and “Did you mean to die like that; was that a mistake?” At that point in the movie, Jesus is done talking. There is no final song in which Jesus responds to Judas and to agnostic viewers who share Judas’ questions. This portrayal of Jesus never explains that he is to die to atone for the sins of humanity and to bring salvation and eternal life. He just dies and disappears, and the rest of the actors break character and climb back onto the bus and leave without him. The end.

 

It's harder to see in a still image than the video, but you can still sort of see the shepherd dude near the left hand side.

It’s harder to see in a still image than the video, but you can still sort of see the shepherd dude near the left hand side.

But then, in the last couple seconds of the movie, something cool happens. We get a view of the sun setting behind the cross that the actors have left behind, and the faint image of a human figure walks across the frame. This was actually a blooper; when they were shooting the movie, they accidentally caught a random local shepherd on film, but they thought it was a cool visual effect, so they used it. I don’t know whether or not they even realized that it really looks as if the shepherd is Jesus Himself. That final image almost seems as if it is an acknowledgement of the resurrection after all. I’m not going to claim that this was divine intervention; God doesn’t need to miraculously show His hand by speaking through secular art when He already communicates with us via the Bible. But it’s pretty satisfying to see that, despite their efforts, the moviemakers were incapable of totally ignoring the resurrection.

Happy Easter! He is risen!

Easter

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Nothing Really Matters: A Close Reading of Bohemain Rhapsody

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Bohemian RhapsodySome popular songs lose their appeal and fade into obscurity as soon as they have existed long enough to have outgrown the attractiveness of being new and current. Other songs make the transition from current hits to oldies and become nostalgic memories for some and offer a sense of musical stability over time for others. Yet other songs never leave the mainstream and continue to be popular for an indefinite period of time. Bohemian Rhapsody falls into this category. Recorded and released by the English rock band Queen in 1975, the song is still well known and loved by a notably large portion of the inhabitants of our culture. Its appeal does not lie only in its musically aesthetic quality, for there are many pieces of music in existence that are aesthetically pleasing, and long-term popularity cannot be ensured simply by being a “good song”. Bohemian Rhapsody’s timeless role in pop culture is a result of other likable qualities, such as its vaguely abstract lyrics that make just enough sense to be thought-provoking, seemingly metaphorical, and universally relatable, without being specific enough to confine the song to a single context.

Bohemian Rhapsody begins simply with the line, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”, introducing a binary opposition and a tone of uncertainty which sets up the sense of a dichotomy, even though the question is answered to some degree by the following line: “Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.” The listener can relate to the singer as he questions the nature of reality and implies that he is trying to escape from it. The song continues, “Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see. I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy.” It is not clear who the singer is addressing and what exactly the implied audience is supposed to see in the skies. It is also not clear whether this rejection of sympathy is sincere, or whether the statement is ironic and actually is meant to evoke pity.

BohemiaThe song articulates its theme in the next couple lines: “Cause I’m easy come, easy go, little high, little low, any way the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me, to me.” This sense of directionless is what puts the word “Bohemian” in the title. Although Bohemia refers to a specific geographical location in central Europe, the song title is using the word to refer to the bohemian lifestyle. Although the term has been used in some officially defined contexts, Bohemian generally can be used to mean more or less the same thing as Hippie. Although “bohemian” is an older phrase, they both describe a type of person who prefers a free and unstructured way of life than that of normal society.

After a brief pause in the lyrics, the second verse begins, and the poor boy who needs no sympathy informs us of the context of this monologue. As it turns out, he has committed a murder. He sings, “Mama, just killed a man. Put a gun against his head, pulled the trigger now he’s dead. Mama, life had just begun, but now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.”  The listener is not told why the singer killed a man. Maybe it was self-defense, or maybe it was an argument that escalated into a gunfight, or maybe it was a cold-blooded murder committed for no reason at all. This detail is evidently not relevant to the song. We can infer that the singer is on the run because he continues, “Mama, Ooh-ooh-ooh, didn’t mean to make you cry. If I’m not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters.” Although he is repeating a line from the previous verse, this same phrase carries a very different meaning this time. Now the singer is using this idea of meaningless as a word of comfort in a miserable situation, but he is acknowledging that it is only an act; that things do in fact matter.

Bohemian RhapsodyIn fact, the singer now sounds to be anything but carefree. The next verse begins, “Too late, my time has come, sends shivers down my spine, body’s aching all the time. Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go. Got to leave you all behind and face the truth.” It would seem that at this point, the singer has been caught and is being taken to trial, or perhaps he is turning himself in to the authorities. His remark about facing the truth seems somewhat ironic when juxtaposed to the opening lines of the song, which questioned reality. Apparently, that question has now been fully answered, and we are to assume that this is “the real life”, not fantasy. The other question is whether or not anything really matters. Although that point was never stated as a question, it is evidently something that the singer does not decisively know; he seems to change his mind. Now, he evidently does not believe that nothing really matters, because this verse does not end with that previously repeated line. Instead, it ends “Mama, Ooh-ooh-ooh, I don’t want to die, sometimes I wish I’d never been born at all”, followed by a dramatic instrumental where the dismissively carefree line otherwise would have been.

Scaramouche

Scaramouche

After this instrumental, the song changes. The melody is different, and there are additional voices. The lyrics, now sung by someone other than the poor boy with whom the listener is already acquainted, continue “I see a little silhouetto of a man, Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?” Scaramouche is a character of the commedia dell’arte, a theater tradition which originated in 16th century Italy. It was by nature comic and somewhat improvised, and the characters were exaggerated stock characters that were meant to be ridiculous. Scaramouche, also known as Scaramuccia, is a rouge who is known for his black mask and his conceited manner of speech. Presumably, the people singing this line in the song are either the authorities or upper-class people, and this line indicates that they are pigeonholing the main singer into a stock character role, so to speak, because of his comparatively low social status. If this part of the song is taking place at the trial or in jail, it is evident that neither he nor his crime is being taken particularly seriously; the case is a matter of entertainment and humor for those around him. This fact is emphasized by the quicker and more staccato melody at this point in the song.

The following line, “Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me”, is sung by a larger group of people, who then take turns singing the name “Galileo” followed by the name “Figaro” and the word “Magnifico”. Galileo, of course, is the name of a very influential Italian scientist of the Englightenment era. Figaro is the name of a famous opera character, but the famous Barber of Seville opera was in fact based upon a play by the same name that was inspired by the aforementioned commedia dell’arte tradition. Magnifico refers either to a Venetian nobleman or to a high-ranking person in a less specific sense. Whatever these lines contribute to the plot of the song, a class distinction is being emphasized between the lead singer and this other group of people.

Poe boyThe original singer continues this theme as he now sings, “ I’m just a poor boy; nobody loves me.” This echoes the beginning of the song, but at that point, the singer continued by saying he needs no sympathy, and now he is asking for sympathy. A chorus jumps to his defense, singing “He’s just a poor boy from a poor family; spare him his life from this monstrosity!”

This is followed by a three-way argument between the ‘poor boy’ and the two groups of people. The original singer begins, “Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?” One chorus responds, “Bismillah! No! We will not let you go!” Bismillah, short for the Arabic phrase “Bismillah- ir Rahman-ir-Rahm”, is an exclamation that more or less means “In the name of God!” (Technically, this “god” is Allah) In repeating and slightly overlapping lines, one group demands the release of the ‘poor boy’ and the other refuses to let him go. The original singer re-enters the melee with the line “Mama Mia, Mama Mia, Mama Mia, let me go!” and his supporters join in on the third “Mama Mia!” The phrase “Mama Mia” is Italian for “my mother”, but it is also a generic exclamation, (one that is more vernacular than “Bismillah”) and it hearkens back to the “Mama” lines earlier in the song.

I tried to write this blog post without mentioning Weird Al's version, but I just couldn't do it.

I tried to write this blog post without mentioning Weird Al’s version, but I just couldn’t do it.

The chorus continues, “Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me!” After a brief upbeat instrumental which makes it obvious that this song is ideal material for the likes of Weird Al Yankovic, the song becomes a monologue once again, as the original singer says, “So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye. So you think you can love me and leave me to die. Oh baby, can’t do this to me baby, just got to get out, just got to get right out of here.” But then the song becomes quieter and slows down again. After a couple “Ooh yeah”s, the song returns to its earlier theme: “Nothing  really matters. Anyone can see. Nothing really matters… nothing really matters to me.”  Finally, the line “Any way the wind blows” recurs one more time at the very end.

Essentially, the song alternates between the idea that “nothing really matters” and the need to escape from an unpleasant situation that clearly does matter. It also presents the dichotomy between the so-called Bohemian “any way the wind blows” philosophy and the theme of confinement. Additionally, the opening question about reality, which seems to have been forgotten in the lyrics of the rest of the song, is implied again by these dichotomies. The singer of the song speaks as a bohemian sort of person who believes that “nothing really matters” and who goes through life with an “any way the wind blows” mindset, but he finds himself in a situation where he is described as a stock character and where he is must plead for his release in a very non-“any way the wind blows” way, so is that really the real life? It’s certainly not his idea of “the real life.” And, of course, the song is itself a composed piece of art; the exact scenario that it relates didn’t literally happen, at least not to the specific people singing the song. Presumably, it is meant to be metaphorical in some way, and perhaps it is also meant to be a social commentary.  At any rate, one thing is clear. The song itself is not real life, it is just fantasy.

My Favorite Songs

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One of my projects over this last month has been to make a list of my favorite 250 songs. (This list is now available on youtube and can be yours for the low, low price of 48 minutes and 13 seconds of your precious time.) As you may be able to guess, this was a pretty time-consuming project. Why, you may ask, would I choose to commit my time and effort to such an utterly pointless endeavor? Well, I happen to have quite an affinity for utterly pointless endeavors if they involve carefully organizing things into lists that will continue to exist in a tangible form after the project is finished. Some people knit or sew or do woodwork because they like their hobbies to produce tangible results; I make lists.

Part One: #250- #201

For the record, only pop songs are eligible for this list. That means that oldies, songs from musicals, and folk songs are all valid possibilities, but hymns and classical music are not. Current hits are eligible if I happen to like them, but very few songs from my own lifetime make the list. There are some, but not many. (A significant portion of the list consists of songs from the 1960s, and I noticed that the year 1967 in particular showed up quite a lot.) In order to be an available option for the list, a song must also have words; instrumentals aren’t allowed. These rules exist because certain types of music can only be judged according to different criteria. (This is especially true for hymns. It wouldn’t be possible to compare a hymn to a pop song according to a standard that takes into account the different things that make them “good”.) Christmas music, songs in languages I don’t know, or especially goofy songs are eligible, but tend not to do particularly well.  That may be less true of my current list than in previous years; I can think of five songs offhand that are in different languages and there might be more I’m forgetting. At least a couple are actually pretty high. Also, a Christmas song was #1 in January 2012, (and #14 this year) but I didn’t really think of that specifically as a Christmas song because it happened to be from the Doctor Who soundtrack, which placed it into yet another genre, and these genres kind of cancelled each other out and led me to treat it as a run-of-the-mill pop song.

Part Two: #200- #151

It is worth noting that my methodology for favorite-song-lists is very specific. It is necessary that I follow the exact same procedure every time I make such a list. The first step is to look through all of the music I own and write down the title of every song that I like enough that I believe it deserves a place on the list. Normally, the final list has one hundred songs rather than two hundred fifty, but the preliminary list always has a large surplus. Usually, it has somewhere between six hundred and seven hundred songs. This implies what the next step is: I must cut songs off the list until I’m down to the predetermined number. In theory, this step could be done fairly quickly, but I spread it out over the course of several days in order to ensure that a temporary mood doesn’t play too large of a role in this selection. Once I have my 100 or 250 songs chosen, the next step is to record a clip from each song and to save it onto my computer. These clips can be anywhere from five to twenty seconds, although I aim to get them as close to ten seconds as possible. Generally, the average length ends up being a bit higher than ten seconds. These clips can come from my favorite part of the song, from the very beginning of the song, from the title line, or from a place that just happens to be convenient to edit. That detail isn’t particularly important. Collecting these clips is the most time-consuming and least fun step, but the next step is the funnest.

Part Three: #150- #101

That’s when I put them in order. First, I sort them into three folders: A is for the songs that I really love and wish I could put at #1, B is for the songs that I really like, but not quite that much, and C is for the songs that I also like, but it wouldn’t make me extremely sad if they didn’t make it very high. Each of the three folders is then subdivided into three more folders, so I end up with A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3, C1, C2, and C3. At that point, any folders with ten or fewer songs can remain as they are, but any folders with more than ten songs must be further split. If I recall correctly, this time I ended up with some folders that had names that were seven characters long. Once all of the folders are manageably small, I can start editing the clips together into a longer audio file. I don’t put them all into one file, because that would be too long to work with easily. This time, I used ten files, each of which were about 25 songs long. Finally, I use these audio files as the music for a video which gives the number, title, artist’s name, and release date of each song. (I don’t include the artist and date if the song has many different versions and the version is not significant to the placement on the list. Generally, this is true of the folk songs. I also occasionally am unable to find this information and have to leave it out. In some cases, this could conceivably be because I was wrong about the title of the song.)The video editing process is my second least favorite step. It gets slightly tedious and it takes longer than you’d think. This time, it’s taken me probably about six or seven hours spread out over five days. To answer the questions you might have, yes, I do have more important things to do, and no, I don’t sleep. Not very much, anyway.

Part Four: #100- #51

If I knew more about music, it would be fascinating to analyze the patterns and similarities between my favorite songs. Since I don’t really know what I’m talking about, I probably shouldn’t say much about those observations. However, there is one simple pattern that’s very obvious. I apparently really, really like The Seekers, since they came in at #1, #2, #3, #4, #6, and ten other places farther down on the list,  plus two more songs that fall under the category of folk songs that I like regardless of the artist performing them. Lately, I have indeed become somewhat obsessed with The Seekers, as anyone who has seen my facebook profile or my tumblr page will tell you. (And this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned them on my blog, either.) The Moody Blues made quite a few appearances in my top 50 as well, which is somewhat surprising since I don’t listen to The Moody Blues a whole lot. The Beatles didn’t do as well as usual if you judge based upon the top of the list, but in the entire list of 250, they certainly still had more songs than any other group. There also were a number of Monkees songs, which included #5, and this is noteworthy because The Monkees haven’t played a prominent role in my previous lists. To make a more general summary of the kinds of songs I like, I notice that the 1960s are disproportionately represented, and in particular, I saw the year 1967 quite a lot.

Part Five: #50- #1

Various Aspects of My Life Today

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Every now and then, generally on a Sunday afternoon, I like to open a Word document and just type random things at intervals throughout the day. Later in the evening, I then give the whole thing a very quick and cursory edit and stick it on my blog with a few pictures added. I am not sure if anyone else in the world is particularly interested in reading such random collections of stuff, but it’s fun to do, so I keep doing it anyway. Without further ado, here is a list of stuff that I felt like typing at some point between noon-ish and 8:30-ish PM this evening.

I found this online and edited it a little. It used to say Missouri, but I've been to Missouri many times and I can assure you that it is more true of Alabama.

I found this online and edited it a little. It used to say Missouri, but I’ve been to Missouri many times and I can assure you that it is more true of Alabama.

1. Alabama is such a weird place. Today’s weather feels more like an example of the proverbial April Showers than like typical mid-January weather. The temperature is high enough that I would have the windows open if it wasn’t raining, and it’s so humid that my hair is just as curly as it is on a ridiculously hot summer day. The current weather system is interestingly reminiscent of the rain that occurred during the first week of June. In fact, I am now experiencing much nostalgia regarding the beginning of last summer.

2. On the way to and from church today, I discovered that I still know all of the words to all four verses of “Today Thy Mercy Calls Us”, “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted”, and “Be Still My Soul”, the first three verses of “Salvation Unto Us Has Come” and “Soul Adorn Thyself With Gladness”,  and the first two verses of “By Grace I’m Saved”, “We All Believe in One True God,” and “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands”, even though I haven’t sung in the car much since about late September. Ironically, despite being able to do all that singing in the car today, I still couldn’t sing in church due to the cold that I had almost two weeks ago. Also, I can’t remember all of “Christ is Arisen”, which is odd given the fact that it’s only one verse long.

No, there is no reason for this image to be here. Should there be a reason?

No, there is no reason for this image to be here. Should there be a reason?

3. When you think about it, it’s really amazing and incredible to have a body. It’s a concrete and physical representation of your entire self and identity, like an avatar in a computer game except that it’s more real. And you can do stuff with it, like walking around and like eating. I might not like everything about this physical self-container; I might wish that it had a prettier face or that it danced better, but the fact remains that it’s a pretty cool thing.

4. I feel very proud of the last couple chess games I just won. None of them were particularly interesting tactically; they mostly involved things like races to get pawns queened and slow maneuvers to chase the opponent’s king around. But now I’m sad because I just lost a game. Yes, I am typing and playing chess at the same time. I might be playing better if my attention wasn’t divided. (Update a couple minutes later: I won a game by resignation because my opponent made a really stupid mistake and lost his queen just a couple moves into the game. That blunder would have been unusually bad even for me. The moral of this story is that you should always think very carefully before moving your queen that soon.)

A picture of me and my sister. As you can probably guess, it's a rather old picture. I'm the one in pink.

A picture of me and my sister. As you can probably guess, it’s a rather old picture. I’m the one in pink.

5. It just occurred to me that last summer, when my sister and I fought a spam war, (the evidence of which can be seen here and here) this was before we used tumblr. I think that the time is coming when I should plan my next attack.

6. It’s mid-afternoon and I’m still wearing my church dress. I’m lazy and I hate changing clothes. Also, I happen to particularly like this dress. It fits me nicely and it’s comfortable, which always win major coolness points for dresses, especially dresses that still look as nice as this one does. I like the pattern, too; it’s brown and white with pink flowers. The really appealing thing about it is that, unlike most of my clothes, it doesn’t have a super low neckline or a very short skirt. I suppose I could see it as a compliment that the fashion industry assumes that anyone who wears my size would want to wear revealing clothes, but they happen to be wrong. I would prefer to dress more modestly than most clothing manufacturers allow, and this dress happens to be adequately modest.

I posted this on tumblr this morning

I posted this on tumblr this morning

7. I have two jigsaw puzzles in progress right now. I’ve been too busy to really work on them, so right now, they’re just sitting around and I put a few pieces in place every now and then. That’s not the way I like to do jigsaw puzzles; I have been known to stay up ‘till the wee hours o’ the morn to finish a puzzle that I started earlier that evening. Puzzles are fun because they’re somewhat intellectual but take up little enough mental energy that you can use that time to let your mind wander wherever it wants. And they’re metaphorical for life in that the point is to take hundreds or thousands of little pieces and put them together in a way that makes sense and allows you to see the big picture. The difference is that, in the case of a jigsaw puzzle, it really is possible to get the whole thing put together properly, and it usually doesn’t even take very long and isn’t very stressful in the meantime. Still, the metaphor is accurate enough that there’s something comforting and reassuring about accomplishing a jigsaw puzzle, particularly if you do it in a short time frame. The fact that life is significantly more complicated than jigsaw puzzles is the main reason that I decided to do two at the same time. That setup is still much simpler than real life, and it’s less fun that just focusing on one puzzle.

In progress

In progress

8. I’ve made a list of my top 100 favorite songs four times over the last three years or so, and it’s always a pretty long process. Making a list of my top 250 songs is taking forever. But it’s a great excuse to find time to listen to a lot of good music. That includes some music that I haven’t listened to since the last time I made a top 100 favorite songs list.

9. Speaking of music, I’m a little bit obsessed with Judith Durham of the 1960s Australian folk band The Seekers.  I think that she exemplified everything that a female pop singer should be. Most importantly, she had a very beautiful voice and she sang songs that I like, but besides that, she had a pretty face and dressed nicely. Also, she was married exactly once and divorced zero times, she never did drugs or got in trouble with the law as far as I know, and there was nothing even remotely provocative about her image. But mostly, I like her because she had a very beautiful voice and sang songs that I like. Examples of Judith Durham’s awesomeness can be found here and here and here and here and here and here and here. Those are about half of the songs by The Seekers that are going to be on my top 250 favorite songs list.

On days like today when there's lots of stuff I want to do and none of it involves leaving my room, I just stack everything I intend to use on my bed or desk.

On days like today when there’s lots of stuff I want to do and none of it involves leaving my room, I just stack everything I intend to use on my bed or desk.

10. I have experienced an utter lack of schedule since my car broke down on Friday. Even though it’s working again, and even though it got me to and from church just fine this morning, my life still isn’t following a predictable and controllable chain of events. Because I have obsessive-compulsive tendencies regarding my schedule, this feels like an anomaly in the space-time continuum. Note to self: get to class early tomorrow so I can ask my physics professor how to solve anomalies in the space-time continuum. If he asks what I mean, inform him that my car broke down on Friday. This should clarify matters entirely.

11. I don’t know what to make of the fact that I barely have any homework to do. It’s not that I have a problem with this situation; there are an infinite number of things that I’d rather do than homework. It’s just that I am unaccustomed to having as little homework as I’ve had this last week and a half. It’s an aberration that baffles me even while it brings me pleasure. I am content to spend the rest of the evening reading, writing, playing online games, and recording snippets of my favorite songs, but my brain tells me that this is not the way college students are supposed to live life.

In case it isn't obvious, I don't care if my pictures are relevant. Here's a random picture of Oswin from Doctor Who.

In case it isn’t obvious, I don’t care if my pictures are relevant. Here’s a random picture of Oswin from Doctor Who.

12. Here is a fun fact which my sisters told to me over Christmas break: Liquid Paper (which is a certain brand of correction fluid) was invented by the mother of Michael Nesmith, who went on to become one of the Monkees. In case anyone reading this doesn’t know who the Monkees are, The Monkees was a television show in the mid-1960s featuring a band by the same name. As a musical group, the Monkees were successful and talented enough to earn themselves the reputation of a serious band in their own right, despite the fact that the television show was anything but serious and clearly modeled after the Beatles. (To my sisters: Sorry, but it is true. I’m not criticizing them. I’m just saying that they were intended to be very, very similar to the Beatles.)

13. And now it’s time for a fun grammar fact! The contraction “ain’t” stands for “am not”, and technically is grammatically correct. Or at least, it was grammatically correct until it departed from common correct usage because it had become so prominent in common incorrect usage. It is frequently used in cases where the correct contraction is “aren’t” or “isn’t”. For example, “Ain’t those some funny-looking chickens?”  or “That one ain’t a chicken at all; I think it’s an ostrich.” But if the word “ain’t” can be correctly replaced with “am not”, it would have been grammatically acceptable. For example, “Actually, I ain’t sure if it’s an ostrich or a penguin.” On an unrelated note, I take pride in my ability to come up with brilliant examples of sentences with which to discuss grammatical points. Just kidding. I was only trying to come up with a relevant way to mention an ostrich in this blog post. Mission accomplished.

A picture of my beautiful cat that I think should go viral

A picture of my beautiful cat that I think should go viral

14. It’s raining very heavily outside, I’m feeling extremely lazy, and I’m not particularly hungry, but I feel like eating. Besides, it’s suppertime. It’s a good thing that I’m a college student and that popcorn and hot chocolate constitute a perfectly valid dinner under such conditions.

15. This popcorn has utterly failed to live up to my expectations, and I feel that my expectations were entirely justified on the grounds that the bag in which the popcorn was packaged clearly indicates that this popcorn is butter flavored. This, as it turned out, is untrue. However, I do have some cause for satisfaction, because there are notably few unpopped kernels. This is not a condition for which the popcorn or the corporation who packaged and sold the popcorn can be commended; rather, it is a sign of my own impressive popcorn popping skills.

16. I recall those days when I was a young child who had no fear of thunder and lightning, for I was brave and bold, not in general, but in regards to such phenomenon. Those days are long gone, and now I live in a world where storms are to be feared, not because of a paranoid phobia or a childish terror of vague and uncertain causes, but because I know I must drive my car tomorrow, and my brakes screech something terrible when it has just rained.

17. Once again, I am engaging in an interesting experiment where I periodically time myself attempting to memorize a string of digits acquired with a random number generator. The history of this experiment can be found in these blog posts from last summer. I find it relevant to mention this point now because I am pleased with my statistics recently. Despite the fact that my life is currently in turmoil, as indicated by other statistics regarding my quantity of sleep and my emotional state at various points throughout my daily life, my brain appears to be functioning at higher than normal efficiency. Out of the past six runs of this experiment, I have succeeded four times in memorizing a string of twenty random digits in less than a minute, holding them in my mind for more than a minute while not consciously thinking about them, and then writing them down accurately in just a couple seconds. This game does have some practical applications. Early last week, for example, I instantaneously memorized the speed of light (299, 792, 458 meters per second) without having to actually put any effort into it. Clearly, I am well on the way to turning my own brain into a robot, and I expect that the fact that this doesn’t bother me is evidence that I’m getting quite close. Now, if only I was as good at things that actually matter in real life.

I made this sign for my wall this evening. Aside from the obvious fact that I can't draw or write properly, I think it's an awesome sign.

I made this sign for my wall this evening. Aside from the obvious fact that I can’t draw or write properly, I think it’s an awesome sign.

18. In order to make hot chocolate, I microwaved some milk. It scalded a little, and when I took it out of the microwave, I observed that there was a sort of film across the surface of the milk. I lifted it, and it had the texture of wet paper. This fascinated me. I am easily fascinated.

A Campaign to Save CDs

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I’ll be the first to admit that, in terms of technology, I’m a little behind the times. I mean, I didn’t have a cell phone or a facebook account until 2009, I rarely text, and I’m a little unclear on the distinction between an iPod, an iPad, and an iPhone. I still think it’s pretty awesome that, not only do I have a phone that I can conveniently carry around with me, but that said phone can also be used as a clock, a stopwatch, a camera, and an alarm, and I can even use it as a light source. Never mind that it can’t connect to the internet and doesn’t have the games and apps that everyone else seems to have. I don’t feel that I have much of a use for that kind of technology; the existence of cell phones themselves still seems pretty cool to me. And don’t even get me started on the internet. The internet is like magic. Here I am, sitting alone in my dorm room and typing words that will shortly be visible on computer screens (and other internet-enabled technological devices) all over the world for anyone to see. If I was to log onto facebook right now, I would be able to simultaneously look at stuff posted by people who are in the same building as me and people who are in different countries.

So, despite my relatively old-fashioned use of technology, (if you can call it old-fashioned to use devices that are just a couple years out of date) I’m really not opposed to technological advances. At least, not in theory. I don’t approve of the fact that my computer has updates to install on a daily basis, and I really don’t like the fact that anything related to computers will become obsolete almost immediately after it comes into existence. And I really, really am annoyed by the fact that music and videos are constantly being revolutionized.

I knew that this semi-artsy picture that I took a couple years ago would someday be relevent for something.

I knew that this semi-artsy picture that I took a couple years ago would someday be relevent for something.

When I was little, (we’re talking early 1990s here) my family mainly used cassette tapes to listen to music and VHS tapes to watch videos. We also listened to vinyl records sometimes, although the record player lived in the basement, and we had several tape players in various parts of the house. It was Christmas 1999 when we gave in and started using CDs. After that, I think it was another four or five years before we got a DVD player. Now, there still are vinyl records, cassette tapes, and VHS tapes in our house, and the family still owns the technology to play them, but we have become accustomed to primarily using digital technology. Unfortunately, even though it’s only been a few years, digital technology is on the way out. Now, people listen to music on their various iThings, and DVDs are giving way to Blu-Ray. (To be honest, I don’t even know exactly what Blu-Ray is, even though I’m well aware that it’s actually been around for quite a while)Otherwise, people just use the internet to listen to music and watch videos.

 

This isn't necessarily related to this blog post in any way, but whatever.

This isn’t necessarily related to this blog post in any way, but whatever.

I don’t necessarily think that’s a terrible thing, but it bothers me to know that my fairly impressive CD collection is already nearly obsolete, and DVDs aren’t much better. Meanwhile, it’s hard to even find a cassette player anymore, so cassette tapes are almost worthless, even though they were still in standard use just a couple of decades ago. In the grand scheme of things, a couple decades is no big deal. I’m not very old; I shouldn’t have had to already watch a couple phases of “new” technology turn into obsolete technology. Just imagine all of the new forms of media storage and media playing that will come about throughout the course of my life! The state of my music collection will never be constant. I’ve already experienced the transition from cassette tape to CD and a partial transition from CD to MP3s. And I’m behind the times; practically everyone else in the world is moving beyond MP3s.

This is my request to the people of the world: please don’t let CDs become obsolete! I love my CDs. I think that MP3 players are a pretty neat idea, too, but I still prefer CDs. Once CDs finish going out of style and iDevices completely take over as the universal norm, something else will come along and iThingies will become obsolete, too. Then everyone will either have to lose significant portions of their music collection or spend lots of money to replace it all. The only way we can end this ongoing pattern of technological replacement is to decide that we like our technology the way it is, and we’re going to keep using it, even if electronics manufacturers tell us that we aren’t supposed to like the old way. (Again, I think it’s ironic that something like CDs can be called “old” when they were cutting-edge just a generation ago.)

Let’s keep technological advances in fields such as medical science, engineering, and physics, where they can do good and useful things that will benefit the human race as a whole. The entertainment industry is more developed and less important than any other field of scientific endeavors. If advances in entertainment technology slow down or even stop, it isn’t going to hurt anyone. I suggest that we all continue to use and enjoy the music-storage and music-playing devices that we have now and do our part to help them stick around for a while longer.

Long live the Compact Disc!

Why I Don’t Think “Go Tell It on the Mountain” Is an Awesome Christmas Hymn

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A lovely mountain in New Zealand

A lovely mountain in New Zealand

Don’t get me wrong; I really love Christmas music, but there are a few Christmas songs in particular that just annoy me. The two that come to mind specifically are “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain”. In both cases, I think that the main reason I don’t like them is that, as a child, I was forced to sing them a few too many times when I would have much preferred to sing something like “Savior of the Nations Come”, which was always a favorite of mine. You know, something with Jesus in it. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” never even mentions Jesus. The first time I had to sing it in Sunday School, I had no idea what it had to do with Christmas or Advent or God. (Fun fact: it was written in 1962 and probably actually alludes to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I’m not even making that up.) I still hold to my little-kid opinion that a song isn’t really church music if it doesn’t have Jesus in it. Granted, the song “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is the only pseudo-religious Christmas song I can think of offhand that doesn’t mention Jesus at all, but an awful  lot of Christmas favorites are much more shallow than the awesomest of the hymns in the hymnal.

Baby JesusI mean, where’s the cross in hymns like “Away in a Manger” or “Silent Night”? Where’s the law and gospel; where’s the part that tells about what cute little Baby Jesus did when he grew up? As certain English professors would say, where’s the “so-what”? “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” are beautiful songs, and maybe I shouldn’t be complaining about them, given the fact that my sisters and I had a good time singing them all the way to and from church on Wednesday night. (But that was just because my sisters didn’t know the words to “Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People” and I didn’t know the Christmas song they like that’s either in Spanish or Portuguese, they can’t remember which one.)Christmas carols, even shallow and/or secular ones, are perfectly valid ways of enjoying the holiday season. I’m just sayin’, you don’t really appreciate the awesomeness of Jesus’ birth unless you keep in mind that he grew up and lived a sinless life and died for the sins of the world and rose again from the dead.  Only a few favorite Christmas carols have all that in them.

From "The Sound of Music"

From “The Sound of Music”

“Go Tell it on the Mountain” technically isn’t any worse than certain other Christmas hymns that I actually do like. In fact, I just checked and it even has the word “salvation” in it, and the word “salvation” is a good sign. It’s just that you have to get through an awful lot of lines about the mountain before you get to the salvation line, and after that, you’re back to singing about the mountain again. Not only does this song not bring to mind the cross for me, it doesn’t even bring the manger to mind. All I think about is that scene at the end of “The Sound of Music” with the song “Climb Every Mountain.” That’s another example of a beautiful song that doesn’t have Jesus in it and consequently isn’t good church music. (Fortunately, to the best of my knowledge, no one has argued that it is.)

Good FridayThis is what I have to say about that song: Go tell what on the mountain? “Jesus Christ is born” is a good message, but you don’t want the “Jesus Christ” part to be overshadowed by the “Go tell it on the mountain” part. I have the same complaint against the principle that the sole goal of the church is to recruit new members. That’s technically true; evangelism is of the utmost importance, but it’s important to remember that the word “evangelism” means “good news” and that attracting people to the church building isn’t really evangelism unless they’re hearing that good news there. If I was visiting an unfamiliar church and heard a sermon that was just about the importance of evangelism, I’d feel like I had accidentally walked into a meeting of the advertising department in a business. I probably wouldn’t be interested in coming back again. For the benefit of non-Christian visitors, Christian visitors, and members alike, church should be more about what we believe (that Jesus died to pay for our sins) than about what we’re going to do to persuade more people to come to our church. Faith comes from hearing the Word, so the Word is what people should be hearing.

Maybe it’s a bit unfair to hold all that against a cute little children’s Christmas song like “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” But think of it this way: Martin Luther’s idea of a cute little children’s Christmas song was “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”, which is all about Jesus and the incarnation and salvation. Twentieth and twenty-first century little children are just as capable as sixteenth century little children of understanding and liking hymns with some depth and substance to them. I can say this based upon personal experience, for I used to be a little child myself in the not-so-distant past. ‘Twas in those aforementioned days when I was saddened by the fact that grownups thought I should be singing “Go Tell It on the Mountain” when there were other hymns I liked better.

If you want to sing “Go Tell It on the Mountain” this Christmas season, go ahead. It’s not an evil song. In fact, it’s certainly better, both in terms of religious significance and in terms of aesthetic coolness, than a lot of Christmas songs I could name.  But don’t forget that Christmas is about more than images of mountains and/or Baby Jesus; it’s about the God who became human and died on the cross for us.

Merry Christmas

Music I Like (that isn’t older than I am)

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My sisters sometimes tease me about the fact that I don’t like any current musicians. We all like oldies, but they like more new music than I do. There are some recent songs and artists that I like, though. For the sake of pointing out that fact, here is a list of current or recent pop music artists that I enjoy. (Listed in no particular order)

 

Artist: Adele

My favorite songs: Rolling in the Deep, Set Fire to the Rain, Someone Like You

This is a new discovery of mine; there were no Adele songs on my most recent list of favorite 100 songs because I didn’t know any. Actually, I kind of doubt that Someone Like You will make the top 100 next time, either, but the other two probably will.

 

Artist: Michael Buble

My favorite song: I Just Haven’t Met You Yet

There are others I like, but most of them are covers, like Cry Me a River and Save the Last Dance for Me. I don’t think that I Just Haven’t Met You Yet is a cover, and if it is, I’ve never heard of the original.

 

Artist: Paramore

My favorite songs: That’s What You Get, Ignorance, Monster, Crushcrushcrush

My sisters, last I knew, totally do not agree with this one, but it’s probably my favorite of everyone on this list.

 

Artist: Muse

My favorite song: Knights of Cydonia

I don’t actually know anything else by them, and I only know Knights of Cydonia because of Guitar Hero. Still, it’s a very cool song, and at one time, I knew it by heart.

 

Artist: Expose

My favorite songs: I’ll Say Goodbye for the Two of Us, I’ll Never Get over You Getting over Me

One could argue that this doesn’t really count as current or recent, but many of their hits were released during my lifetime.

 

Artist: Chameleon Circuit

My favorite song: Exterminate Regenerate

They’re a band about Doctor Who. That pretty much says it all. Unfortunately, there’s only one of their songs that I know very well.

 

It is also worth noting that my very favorite song as of January 2012 is Stowaway, which comes from the Doctor Who soundtrack from 2007. Still, it’s true that a large portion of said list consisted of old stuff like Beatles songs and Irish folk songs.

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