Windows Defender

I just wanted to let you all know that Windows Defender Beta is a steaming pile of crap. Every computer – except one apparently lucky one – that I’ve tried to install it on has been either an understated failure or a disaster.

Thankfully I kept the install file for MS AntiSpyware around. You know, the one that was actually working before they called it Windows Defender and lovingly crafted it into a Microsoft Approved Turd ™.

Gosh.

A Pastor’s Guide to Music.

Now, I’ve heard quite a few sermons about the evils of rock music in my day, and it’s become quite obvious to me that most of these sermons are written and preached by people that really haven’t heard any music created outside of CCM circles since the 1980s and early 1990s. I feel, then, that it’s my duty to preachers everywhere to help them understand this modern music and what it is. Now, bear with me, I’m not trying to be either pedantic or exhaustive. Just the facts, you understand.

First off, a few words about the rock bands of the 70s and 80s: they were and are a joke. The so-called demonic music of that time was at the time an act and is in retrospect a laughable non-contribution to the history of music. It was a selling-point, not a set of beliefs being foisted on the youth of America, and any young impressionable person that actually embraced that lifestyle has either since grown out of it or is still a flaming idiot.

In fact, the major selling point of rock music has been and remains rebellion. Which, of course, it stupid. It means that every band ever will always be trying to re-invent the genre, while at the same time trying to package that rebellion into a saleable product. Idiotic, you say? Yes, I tell you. Rebellion as a selling point of music, though, is nothing new, and it feeds the cycle that began in the 60s (and way, way earlier than that with the philosophies feeing the 60s). The people are rebellious and listen to rebellious music, which merely confirms their lifestyle. It’s stupid in that eventually there’s nothing left to rebel against except that which is already rebelling: the ultimate act of rebellion nowadays is to stop rebelling. And there’s lots and lots of music that does that.

A. Hard Rock

Hard Rock embraces metal (Metallica, Megadeth, Led Zeppelin), glam-metal (Duran Duran, Stryper, KISS, Aerosmith), grunge (Nirvana, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam), punk (The Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Clash), rock-rap (Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Rage Against The Machine), and many, many other subgenres.

If you’re thinking about the music that you listened to in the 80s and 90s, you are thinking of Hard Rock (probably). This a huge, mind-bendingly complex umbrella term for the many, many kinds of blues/rock/rock-rap and fusion bands. The main thread of rebellion comes through here, although there are many, many bands that exist in the genre without any sort of negative connotation whatsoever.

B. Indie Rock

Indie rock is a weird genre comprised of both a music style, and a way of selling music. A lot of indie rock is influenced by mainstream rock stylings but also has developed its own sound. Essentially, indie rock works apart from the major labels, and often leans heavily toward sounds develloped by the Beatles, but also toward garage rock, lo-fi rock, art rock, and others. Indie rock also tends to encompass a lot of indie pop, which I’ll include here as well.

You’ll have your basic staples of modern indie rock (The Shins, The Unicorns, The Smiths), but also post-rock (mostly instrumental bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, Slint, Rachel’s, A Silver Mt. Zion), post-punk (Xiu Xiu, Joy Division, Talking Heads, Mission of Burma), art-rock (Bauhaus, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, David Bowie, Brian Eno), math-rock (No Means No, Breadwinner, Don Caballero, Yona-Kit), shoegaze (My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Chapterhouse), and more. Indie rock is probably more complex than mainstream hard rock will ever be, as it houses quite a few bizarre and eclectic bands that will never acheive great commercial success.

Indie rock bands need to be judged on their own merit individually. It’s quite easy to write off most hard rock made by major labels as crap if you’re so inclined, but indie rock contains bands both beautiful and virulent.

C. Pop

Pop is everything. While musical purists would categorise most modern music as pop music and most of it devoid of artistic value, pop is an umbrella term for that which is not rock, jazz, classical, folk, hiphop, big band, etc. Pop is mostly a genre of exclusion.

It includes boy-bands, soft rock, female vocalists such as Sherryl Crow (spelling?), new country, old country, and a myriad of others. Pop is generally pretty disposable music, and I don’t mind saying that if you can listen to it in one decade and laugh at it the next – disco, anyone? – then you’ve got some pretty horrible choices going on in your life. Take note, those of you who listen to dance, boybands, pop-hop, and all that other garbage that will destroy your brain and turn you into a disposable-music-buying droid.

D. Hiphop.

Hiphop is not just that gangsta rap stuff that says f*** the police and whatnot, k? I think hiphop is one of the most misunderstood genres in modern music, at least in our circles. But then, there is a lot – a LOT – of garbage in rap circles; if you want to find out what the good stuff is, you’ve got a bit of a job ahead of you.

This is rap: rhymes over samples. That means that, yes, a lot of hiphop doesn’t even use its own music. See the Beasty Boys for details, and also underground hiphop of pretty much any variety. Yes, there is no singing for the most part. But hiphop is actually an extremely complex art, from the production of beats down to writing the material. The best rappers – in my opinion the lyricists, meaning those who concentrate most on the structure of their rhymes – have practiced for year and year to get to their skill level. If you think rap is easy, you’re right in the same way that classical music is easy if you’re playing chopsticks. If you think it’s artless, you haven’t really taken the time to understand the genre on its own terms.

That said, you don’t have to like it. You just have to respect that people like Jay Z and Tupac have amazing skill at what they do. Let’s not even talk about freestyling and DJing and mixing and scratching. Okay?

E. Folk

Folk has been around forever, as long as some guy could make a guitar or a lute and write a song about some dude and a river. But there are quite a few modern variations on that theme.

You have your basic folk artists (Bob Dylan), but you also have things like freak-folk (Animal Collective, who are essentially furries with instruments), pysch-folk (Espers, no happy tunes about birds here), folk-rock (Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas and the Papas), folk-punk (Against Me!), Folktronica (Boards of Canada, Manitoba, The Books) and others.

And to Finish

There you go: in the broadest of musical terms I have swept over the last 100 years of music and given you a sampling. Want to know more? Read up on Wikipedia.

One last thing: if you mention AC/DC in your sermon, kids will roll their eyes internally and laugh at you privately. No one, except some old people and die-hard rock fans, listens to that music extensively anymore. And for good reason. But that’s just me.

A note: please don’t comment about how I put band A in category X. This is a complicated thing, and a lot of these genres constantly cross-polinate. There are also some people whose compulsive compartmentalization reaches a point of insanity where there are nearly as many genres and sub-genres as there are bands to fill them.

A note to Mr Paul McCartney about the seal hunt, etc.

Dear Mr Paul McCartney,

I am in awe of you. In awe. In the words of the great Mr Intar Web, “Wow, just wow.” Your heroic quest to stop the cute widdle baby sealy-wealies from certain death has inspired and strengthened me.

However, as I sit here in Toronto in my seal-skin igloo covered in a lush scattering of baby seal hides with my baby seal tooth necklace around my neck and baby seal hide head-dress, I must ask this question: have you ever clubbed a baby seal to death?

No, you haven’t. And this is, Mr McCartney, why you have so much rage in you. You need a release. You need catharsis. Nothing, nothing at all, can come close to the pleasure of hitting something that will one day grow into a gigantic ugly beast over the head with an iron bar. I like to think of it as getting in touch with my masculine side. You might want to try this as well. You desparately need 1) rage control, and 2) masculinity, and 3) to have your vocal cords bashed in with an iron pipe.

But I’ll leave you with some thoughts. First, Canadians are not barbarians. We do not, for instance, skin the baby seals alive. We kill them first, and then we skin them alive. Afterwards, we tear raw chunks of flesh off with our teeth whilst howling at the moon. Naked. All this to the whimpering of Disney-esque seal mothers, deprived suddenly of their darling children.

Also, thank you for protesting something that no longer takes place. Can I recommend a few more? Alright then! Tiennamen Square, for one. Horrible. Also, napalming Vietnamese villages during the war. Terrible. And for dessert, I hear the sack of Rome was pretty bad. You make some signs, like “Atilla teh Killa!” and I’ll carry them around for you while I’m not doubled over giggling like an idiot.

Lastly, a joke that you may think quite merry. What’s the difference between a truckload of bowling balls and a truckload of baby seals? That’s right! You can’t unload the bowling balls with a pitchfork!

Thanks for your sincere consideration,
Concerned Canadians Everywhere

Here are some pictures for you.

This is an alleyway with a door. But you already knew that.

Apparently someone spilled some oil here and someone else took a picture of it. I am one of those someones but not the other.

This is Nick walking in a city strangely denuded of any colour but red.

Self-referential.

A long time ago there was a fire on a pink wall, which I think may be nature’s way of saying that pink walls are extremely ugly and should be destroyed. With fire.

These kids nowadays with their spraypaint and fancy-pants ideas!

This is Nick again. But he doesn’t really love Felicia. He loves someone else or something.

An attrocious building stands in Hamilton, and said building is the colour of death.

Go to jail. Go directly to jail. But this isn’t jail, so try again, thanks.

Sweet, sweet love. Ah, how it resonates in my soul. Also, I want a coffee.

They built a child’s ride around this magnificent statue. FOR SHAME!

Good afternoon, weekend!

Friday was nuts. Absolutely crazy. But at the end of a very long and stressful day, I fired up the drumkit and totally nailed a Bloc Party song of the most complicated variety. There’s nothing at all like the adrenaline of being absolutely perfect and hitting all the beats right.

Great start to a great weekend? I think so!

Egalitarianism.

I had a thought after one again dwelling on the differences between libertarians, liberals, and conservatives.

Democracy is not an end. It is a means. It is the best way to acheive freedom for the people, and in that sense needs to be completely egalitarian: all people must be equal, or there is no real freedom.

However, what applies at a national level or an international level doen’t at all scale to, for instance, the church or the home. The home and the church are both not democracies for a reason, and in that context egalitarianism is a very bad plan. The elders aren’t equal to everyone else. Parents aren’t equal to children.

My point being, egalitarianism itself can’t be egalitarian in that it doesn’t scale. It must be in place in some points, and must not be in place at other points. Just, where to determine those intersections?

Meditations on House.

Tonight on House, Wilson says to House something along the lines of, “Did it ever occur to you that I might be going through something and want to have a real conversation about it?”

House brushes it off with a, “Then I’d say you’ve made some bad choices.” As if to say that he’s not the kind of person who does that.

Now, I know I’m wildly paraphrasing their conversation, but it does beg this question be ask: what sort of friend are you? What sort of friend am I? When people are going through something, are we the type of people they can trust to hear them out?

Do you even have any friends like that? I have at least one or two. People I can talk to and lean on. It’s not a mutual admiration club, but it’s something meaningful. I thank God for these people, especially when it comes down to crunch time and stuff goes wrong. And I hope that I can be that to other people as well.

I will give you some advice.

When you chew, do it slowly. You’ll enjoy the food more that way.

Don’t be afraid. Fear is the mind-killer: there are so many things to be afraid of and so little time in which to bow to those fears. Let them pass through you, instead, and make you stronger.

Be mature. But don’t let people tell you that maturity means pissing on other people’s parades. Let people tell you that maturity is about making good decisions.

Speak clearly. Say what you mean, and say it well. Don’t talk in half-thoughts and partial opinions.

Change your mind. If you’re wrong, admit it. But don’t just admit it and go on secretly thinking the same thing. Change your mind, and roll with it. Let your mind change your life.

Don’t live in others’ affirmation. Your worth is not determined by how many people like you or laugh at your jokes.

Don’t be a jerk. But don’t be too nice either. Everyone hates an idiot, but no one trusts a pushover.

Live like you mean it. Life isn’t made for half things. Either go whole-hog or don’t go at all. Better the person who lands on his feet than the one who never jumped.

Treat people like you want to be treated. However, if you want to be treated like a piece of tender foliage, get over yourself. You’re not that fragile.

Don’t be afraid to stand up. People are always going to tell you that you’re wrong. If you have to be wrong, at least be in the right. And people aren’t always right that you’re wrong. Sometimes they’re wrong, even if they’re twenty years older than you.

Get some experience. But if your experience makes you act like a fool, don’t expect people to respect that. Experience that isn’t backed up by action is worthless. You could wallpaper your house with 70-year-old idiots.

Love other people. You will get hurt. Get over it. Life is tough. Suck it up. Cry on someone’s shoulder, and let someone cry on yours, but stop crying eventually.

Just do it. But think about it first. If you need to think about it that much, there’s something wrong and it’s probably you.

Respect intuition. God gave it to you for a reason. Intuition is not, however, infallible, and neither are you.

Resist catch-phrases. Anything that can be summed up in under five words is suspect. Flesh it out.

Live for real. Idealism is fine, if your idealism matches up to the reality that you actually, you know, live in. Idealism that shoots for the impossible is almost always damaging.

Speak up. If everyone’s quiet, everyone’s dead. Your tongue is a weapon: use it when you need to.

Shut up. If everyone’s talking, no one’s listening. Your ears are there for a reason: use them at all costs.

Covenant and a generous Orthodoxy.

If there’s one thing I brought back from the message at MaryBeth’s wedding this weekend, it’s that we Reformers sure like to talk about the Covenant. In fact, if you’ve ever seen the catechism material our churches like to use – at least the few I’ve been to – you’ll understand. As a friend pointed out to me, every single lesson is about covenant.

The interesting thing in watching messages or listening to messages from outside my circles is how they seem to focus on Jesus, almost never mentioning any Covenant of any kind. Not because they necessarily aren’t covenantal in their theology, but more because it’s not something that’s in the forefront of their minds or tacked on as the foreword to every concept.

I’ll be the first person to tell you that covenant is essential. For Israel, their covenant with Yahweh was the jewel (or the centrepiece) of their entire faith as it was expressed in the nation itself. They were in a much more tangible sense than we are in direct, visible covenant with God. But at the same time, the covenant itself isn’t the endgame: there’s more to it. In fact, the whole thing points in the end to the person who made it with the people who joined into it by choice or otherwise. For the Jews of the Old Testament, that person was God as he revealed himself to them. Covenantally, to be sure. But in the end, the Jews came to focus on that covenant instead of what it pointed to, I think. That is to say, their nationhood and its personality in relation to this earth became more important – think of the uprising during Roman times – than what it actually meant.

More to the point, they concentrated on the relationship more than they concentrated on the author of the relationship. In that, they became static: the OT covenant was very much about the Mosaic Law, and the Mosaic Law became something of an idol to the religious leaders, regardless of their particular racing stripes. They guarded it with their verbal law, basically hedging the Law around with “safeguards”, or garnishing the ground around their statue. Whatever you prefer to call it. Eventually it got so bad that the garnish obscured the object of their effections, and I think that’s when it all went bad. Not only had they removed the Covenant from the context of relationship with Yahweh, they also removed the Law from its context of that relationship until there was such a divide between what the Law and Covenant really meant and what it was supposed to represent that they couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

Not, of course, to say “screw the covenant and concentrate on the relationship”, but instead put your Law back in the context it deserves and let it show you the things it’s meant to show you. I think this is part of what Jesus came to show to the people of Israel: your Covenant with Yahweh is not about your nationhood. Your nationhood is, instead, about God. But of course, once your nation is the penultimate theological drive in your life, it’s difficult not to crucify the things getting in the way.

Not only that, Jesus came to tell them the same thing that Hebrews tells us. Both Covenants, however you arrange and separate them, are about the Christ. The law is imperfect in that it cannot save. The old covenant is imperfect in that it centres around that Law. Christ, however, is perfect in that he can and does save from sin, and the new covenant in his blood is therefore perfect. This is, I think, extremely orthodox.

But the same thing applies today: our faith is not about the new covenant. The new covenant is, instead, about Christ’s death and resurrection. And when I say a generous orthodoxy in the title of this post, what I mean to say is that we – focusing perhaps too tightly on covenants – and those such as the Emergent Church – focusing perhaps too tightly on Christ – are pretty much saying the same thing.

This is how I would say it: the covenant is not the centrepiece of our Christian faith. No, Jesus Christ is, and our relationship to him as individuals, churches, and the church. We are in a covenantal relationship with him, yes, but let’s not get all hung up on what type of relationship that is all the time, because while it may be academically helpful and scripturally fruitful, it’s just a means to an end. The means: covenant. The end: relationship with Jesus.

I heard a pastor friend of mine once comment that a sermon isn’t quite complete without Jesus. All of scripture points to him. The finger it uses is these different covenants, and though we may not agree on all the garnish, we do have a point of ecumenical agreement with other churches in that fact, whether we talk about the relationship or the object of it.

Which is just my way of saying that we aren’t so different after all.

Here’s something for your ears.

I threw a little something together at work today. Don’t worry, it’s no masterpiece. This is basically a really short song that doesn’t have any purpose other than practice for me. It consists of a drum loop I threw together, a Ben Gibbards acoustic guitar intro looped and distorted, several audio samples of famous people saying famous things, some hand drums played by American Indians, and some Mid-east Asian guy crooning something or other.

You can download or listen by clicking here.