Saturday, July 28, 2012

Opening Ceremonies Wrap-Up

Well, as you probably know if you are a faithful reader (if not, why aren't you?), I love the olympics. I love the fanfare, the stories, the glory of triumph and the agony of defeat, the wild upsets, the channeled patriotism, the sport-specific commentators, the constant coverage, all of it. So, there was no way I was missing the opening ceremonies last night, especially after I heard Voldemort and Sir Paul McCartney would be there. So, last night I headed over to Cam and Linnea Johnson's (Elsa and Matt's sister and brother-in-law) for our second consecutive opening ceremonies party. Here are my thoughts about last night in no particular order.

1. Obviously the children's choirs starting the show was a big hit, especially when two of the four songs were hymns ("Jerusalem" and "Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer" - both sung at Kate and William's wedding btw). I earned a fair amount of nerd points with my commentary throughout this section of the opening ceremony. For instance, while we use all kinds of Welsh hymn tunes in our hymnal, "Gude Me, O Thou Great Redeemer" is one of the only Welsh hymns to be translated into English because the language is so difficult to translate into English meter.

2. could you not love the Independent Olympic Athletes walking in? My question: what if one of them wins a gold medal? What song are they going to play as they stand on the podium? I guessed "I Gotta Feeling" while Cam guessed "Gettin' Jiggy with It." I guess we'll just have to wait, hope, and see!

3. I loved all the creative transformations throughout, although I wasn't as fond of the "technological age" part of the show. Also, people of Great Britain, we all know Al Gore created the well as the cure for global warming. So, yeah. I do think one of the highlights was the fairy tale section.

4. Arctic Monkeys were flat throughout the entire singing of "Come Together," though you wouldn't know it by the way Lauer and Costas were singing their praises.

5. Could the queen smile once in a while? Was she at a funeral or the opening games? This clever internet post proves my point.

6. Best olympic cauldron ever. Also, all the mechanics of the rising copper "petals" went off seamlessly. Eat it, Canada.

7. All speakers could try to show a little more general enthusiasm/voice inflection to prove they're actually living human beings rather than drones or automatrons.

8. Paul almost crying and "Hey Jude." Enough said.

Okay, now I have to finish writing a paper and try not to turn on NBC and get sucked in. Later!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Changes: A Sermon of Sorts

So, this is kind of sermonic; get over it. I'm working on a sermon for Sunday and this is part of it that I really resonate with but won't be preaching about due to time considerations (and all ResCov attendees breathed a sigh of relief).

I don't like change. I find change to be difficult and not part of my natural composition as a human. I still have a 218 number (Northern Minnesota area code), a Minnesota license plate and driver's license, and an undying loyalty to all Minnesota sports teams (and the state in general). I used xanga as my blogging format well into 2009 (which is conservatively a good three years after I should have); I still use yahoo for some of my email accounts even though I judge others for the same luddite indiscretion; heck, if I had gotten drafted for World War II, I probably would have showed up on the Western front with a muzzleloader, dressed in Union blues, singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Again, I'm not great at change.

So, this fall I have huge changes coming up. I'm moving to a new city, working at a new church, starting a new school - a whole big ball of change. On some days, I picture this change all at once and want to go in my room, turn on the A/C, and rock in the fetal position for the rest of my life. On other days, I look over this vista of new opportunities, freedom, possibilities and think how lucky I am to experience it. For, if I look to the not-to-distant past, change has been pretty good to me. Change took me to Ecuador and brought me to Chicago and North Park, two places I never thought I would have lived and two places that have changed my worldview, my opinions, my general disposition. I don't want to "spit in the face of Time/That has transfigured me," as Yeats said. And looking back over these past 10 years (getting old!) gives me hope for the future, that change will continue to mold me into me, that change will work over the corners and smooth the rough edges that can develop when I become sedentary in body, mind, and soul.

This Sunday is both the eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (depending on which calendar you follow) and the feast of Mary Magdalene. I'm preaching this week and thought it would be interesting to look at Mary Magdalene instead of the usual Sunday texts. The Gospel text for the feast of Mary Magdalene tells of Mary's encounter with the risen Christ. She is the first person to see the Risen Christ, and when she sees him, she embraces him. Confusingly, Christ responds: "Do not hold onto me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father." He seems to be saying, "Mary, get off me. I don't want you touching me," which seems kind of cold and Scandinavian for our Palestinian Savior. But I think Barbara Brown Taylor has it right when she interprets this as Mary wanting to keep Jesus as she knows him, in the here and now, in an eternal present of sorts. Taylor says, "He (Jesus) knows that we would rather keep him with us where we are than let him take us where he is going." How many times do we cling to half-truthed dogmas because an unknown future seems to scary? How many times does fear cause our fists to close on whatever is near in an almost reflexive reaction?

Now, I know it's not a perfect model for my life (I don't claim that Boston is somehow my messianic destiny, but I do think it's where I'm called), but I think fear makes me want to cling to what I know right now: my life, my church, my city, my friends, my views on politics, my view of God. I like it. It's become rather easy. Yet, maybe I'm being led to a new place, and my call is to loosen my tight grip on the past and present so I can move into a future. This is not to say we're all supposed to move every six years to spice things up; I think that is just as dangerous and can lead to us running from problems and circumstances, but as someone who feels called to a different place, I think it is accurate.

At least that's what I'm telling myself so I can stay out of the fetal position for one more day! So, not the usual blog post, but these are the things I'm pondering at the moment. Now, off to run at Helwig because it is way too hot to even think of running outside.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New Computer, Bad Habits, and To Rome with Love

I have to say, after spending so much time waiting for my old computer to do simple tasks, it is so luxurious to click on a website or application and, voila! it appears without taking a bathroom break/nap/inventory of my life as I wait for it to load (on a separate note, I've been thinking a long time about how to use "voila!" with correct grammar. I'm not sure I did it, but at least you know that I tried.) I especially notice how fast iTunes and Spotify are compared to the old one. I really do recommend letting your current computers getting really slow and crappy before you buy a new one because then the stark difference is so pleasurable! Actually, I think that could go for a lot of things: TVs, cars, furniture, etc. You don't appreciate them unless you've had to spend some time with less than ideal versions. There's some sage advice to live by.

So, today I had to rectify a bad habit I've formed over the last six months or so. In the sanctuary next to the piano, there is a large green ceramic planter that is currently empty. This is not one you would put a few flowers in; this is small tree material. One Sunday I got to the piano and noticed that a few weeks of chord charts/music had accumulated on the sides of the piano. Responsible Dave would have at least grabbed the music and thrown it in the worship closet to get filed later. I mean, let's not get crazy and think I should have filed it right then and there! But, you know, the closet was at least seven steps away, and here was this cavernous empty space of a planter right next to me just asking to be filled, so I quickly shoved the music into the planter...and have continued to shove more and more music into the planter until this week I arrived at the point where any more music would rise above the rim of the planter and expose my papered monument to disorganization for all the congregation to see. I could have tried to pass it off as some type of metaphoric statement about tree destruction around the world, but I think my thinly veiled laziness would have quickly been uncovered. So, today I emptied it out (along with all of the chord charts that did find their way to the closet but not quite to the filing cabinet), sorted the music, and filed it. 

Oh, I saw the new Woody Allen movie, To Rome with Love starring Woody himself, Penelope Cruz, Roberto Benigni, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Alec Baldwin, and Alison Pill (among many; there never seems to be a lack of stars willing to play any role for Woody Allen). It revolves around three separate stories that are held together by their common geographic proximity to Rome. In many ways, like Midnight in Paris, the city is one of the main characters in the movie. It's hard not to book a ticket on your smart phone (if you are one who owns such things) while you watch it. Many parts were funny/charming, but I think having three different stories going led to an uneven and disjointed movie, especially when all three aren't equally strong (I'm looking at you, Benigni). It's definitely worth watching, but it doesn't have the holistic storyline that other Allen movies have. 

Whenever I'm feeling down, I remember that I could be miserable, agoraphobic, and sweaty at the W(t)aste of Chicago, and it makes me feel better. I feel like I'm in a deep inhale right now before I begin the exhale of vacation, preparing to move, moving, and getting settled in. I've decided to lean into the relaxation rather than fight it. We'll see if this is a good life decision. Okay, I'm off to read. Later!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jar Jar, New Computer, and First Paper

Last night I watched Star Wars: Phantom Menace for the first time probably since it came out. Again and again, I was amazed thinking of the number of people who must have assented to both the existence of one Jar Jar Binks. He is a truly horrible character that says nothing beyond cliches and nonsense. Did they really all sit around and watch the edits and think, "You know what would make this scene perfect? We should have Jar Jar come in, say something stupid, and fall on his face. Does that sound good to everyone?" There's a point in the movie when young Anakin Skywalker saves Jar Jar from assured death at the hands of a trader of one kind or another, and I think of all the things that Anakin/Darth Vader did in his life, this might have been his most profound work of stupidity and evil.

I think I'm going to buy a computer today. I know I'm going to get a new one for school, so why not just go out and buy the thing? Plus, I am starting to develop an irrational hate for pinwheels, the perfect sign of your life slowly swirling down the drain while you wait for your computer to accomplish the simple task you have commanded. Actually, I think I'm going to go right now and buy that thing.

Okay, I'm back. I have successfully bought a new MacBook Pro (with student discount plus $100 to spend at iTunes/Apple apps) and also transferred all my info from the old computer to the new. All of this, and I just received David James Duncan's The River Why in the mail. It's a pretty good day in the Bjorlin household.

In other news, last week I turned in my first official paper for my Th.D./Ph.D. program. I'm taking an independent study methodology class that will officially be counted in the fall, but I can do as many of the papers (7 in all) beforehand during the summer and take some pressure off my class load in the fall. If you don't know, this is my dream come true. So, one paper and three books down, 6 papers and 11 books to go!

Also, congratulations to Brian and Alissa Holmertz who got married this weekend in Green Bay (I don't know if a WI license is good in the rest of the US; we'll keep our fingers crossed). It was a beautiful wedding for two great people. Also, I stayed at Aloft in Green Bay, and I have to say I was impressed that such a trendy hotel existed in Green Bay. Okay, I'm going to spend the rest of the evening either reading The River Why or watching West Wing. Later.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fantasy, Star Trek, and Wedding

So, I just finished George MacDonald's Lilith. It's the story about the famed Lilith of Jewish folklore who was supposedly created at the same time as Adam and would not be subservient to him or God and has spent her life going after children and howling her hatred toward humankind (I'm going to skip the obvious feminist critique of such a story). MacDonald's belief is that no one, no matter how evil, is too evil to be past the point of the love or redemption of God even after death (this is where much of the theology/soteriology behind C.S. Lewis' Last Battle and The Great Divorce comes from. So, he takes the story of Lilith and shows how even she may be redeemed by the judgment and love of God. The last 50 pages were incredibly poignant, poetic, and hopeful.

I think that's one of the reasons I love Christian fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, George MacDonald). Sometimes it's hard to see the plot, the beauty of this grand story of redemption and love when you're reading Paul's epistle to the Corinthians or when you've grown accustomed or hardened to the beauty of the biblical story. It can be easy to forget this grand narrative. Reading fantasy/fiction shows this epic story of redemption that can slip under the defenses I've created for myself, renew my hope, and help me return to the biblical stories with new eyes to see the story I'd been missing the whole time. On that note, if you haven't voted in the poll on your favorite fantasy work, please do so on your right. Harry Potter's currently avada kedavra-ing the competition...or at least crucio-ing it.

I watched Star Trek for the first time (the 2009 movie, not the TV series). I have to say, I truly enjoyed it. Although Jessie nerding out to it was a bit much at times, especially when she went into the history lessons ("The blue shirts are the medical people....etc." or "When I was little, I taped my fingers together until I could do the Vulcan sign for "Live long and prosper.").

Today I'm heading up to Green Bay for Brian and Alissa's wedding! Two wonderful people that met at ResCov, I believe! It should be a good time, even if it is in Green Bay. Luckily, we won't need to print out directions; we'll just follow the smell of beer and industrial waste. BOOM! I kid, I kid!

Okay, I'm going to get some stuff done before I head to Wisconsin. Later!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

4th of July, Heat, and Patriotism

So, I've survived another 4th of July in Chicago. I don't get how the whole city isn't consumed in fire with the crazy amounts of fireworks going off all night. Two years ago, my friend Kassi was sitting on a porch gesturing with an open hand when a used firework landed right in it. You couldn't have planned it. So, as the smell of phosphorous begins to dissolve in the atmosphere (which I can't imagine is helping any global warming initiatives), I thought I would update my blog!

First things first. This Chicago weather is absolutely unmanageable, unchristian, and unamerican. No one should have to live with this heat and humidity. I went for a run at 9:30 on Monday evening and thought I was going to drown halfway through. I felt like I should implant gills halfway down my throat to get at the oxygen that was eluding me. Also, the lack of air conditioning in the church is making for an interesting Sunday worship experience. I'm going to have to start wearing sweatbands like a punk bassist so my hands don't slip right off the keys. Although my guilt-ridden, firebrand sermon style seems to really work in this heat!

Anyway, back to the 4th of July. I recently posted about how the olympics were one of the times I became irrationally patriotic. That's not quite true. Here are several other things that do the trick (again, I'm not saying it's rational):
1. West Wing
2. Fireworks synchronized to music

3. A good John Phillip Sousa march
4. The president's speech in Independence Day

5. A good outdoor baseball game when the weather doesn't make you think the game is taking place on the shores of the river Styx (umped by Charon)
6. Footage from Obama's election party in Grant Park
7. The 1980 miracle on ice... "Do you believe in miracles?!"

8. When people try to make the U.S. a more just, compassionate, and merciful place that welcomes and stands with the marginalized and oppressed, you know, the "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses"...even when it means getting labeled unpatriotic
9. Ray Charles' version of "America, the Beautiful," especially when it is played in The Sandlot

10. Protest folk music (i.e. Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Phil Ochs, etc)

I think that's my list. I could make a list of things that are considered patriotic that I do not consider patriotic, but I'll give my cynicism a rest for the day. So, I hope everyone had a fun and safe 4th of July. If you need me, I will be bunkered in my air conditioned apartment. Later!