Current Entertainment Friday, Jan 22 2010 

Currently reading: Yikes, nothing at the moment. I guess I should fix that. Most recently read the absolute worst popular fiction book I’ve ever read. (Not my usual reading fare, but it’s good airplane and travel reading.) There didn’t seem to be any plot development at all until the last couple of chapters. The characters did out-of-the-blue unmotivated things. The guys got together and hung out and talked about their feelings for the girls (what guys really talk about at diners, or what girls like to think they talk about at diners, hm?). Huge cast of characters drawn over from a previous book; more time was spent going over the plot from the first book than having a plot in THIS book. Took place in a small town…small enough that anything anyone did outside of their house was seen by at least one — usually more — other main character; I’m from a small town and it ain’t quite like that. Reading this book was kind of like work, but once you start you feel obligated to finish. I find it remarkable that anyone published this book.

Currently watching on TV: Chuck, loved-loved-loved the episode I just watched online, “Operation Awesome.” This is good fun stuff that leaves you with that “feel-good” thing. The Closer remains at the top of my list, though it isn’t currently showing. Can I marry Fritz? 24 has just started, so far so good. Could be interesting. Gosh, did you see what Renee did to get the security bracelet off that guy’s wrist?! Woah, was that unexpected! (Oh, yeah, “that makes her craaaazy.”) Yeah…I turned away from that one, as one sometimes has to do on 24. I just watched the first episode of Human TargetMostly because of the lead actor, who I like and have vaguely followed over the years. It’ll probably be like for most things these days though, if I’m home and happen to want to watch something on TV, I’d watch it. I still like the Law and Orders, but don’t catch them often. Have gotten into Criminal Minds recently after being turned off earlier by some uber-violent sicko stuff in some episodes, but again I don’t catch it often. I think that’s about it! I can always dig people house-shopping on HGTV.

Most recently watched movie: Airplane! Oh yeah, baby. “And that’s when I developed my drinking problem.” “And don’t call me Shirley.” “–A hospital? What is it? –It’s a big building with sick people in it, but that’s not important right now.” “And they’re perfect for keeping hot dog buns fresh.” “Would you like that smoking or non?” “Jim never has two cups of coffee at home.” “El noa you smoko.” “Everything is perfectly fine. And, by the way, does anyone know how to fly an airplane?”

Most recently watched movie in the theater: Uhhhh…the latest Harry Potter movie, months ago!

Currently listening to: The Moody Blues and New Order, both hits albums. The Moody Blues are mostly a band from before my time, though I loved “Your Wildest Dreams” in the 80’s. It’s so weird that I’ve come to love them so much. I love the harmony, the richness and energy of the music with all the different instruments, oh, the flute in “Nights in White Satin”! I could listen to that CD over and over and over again…and have! I got New Order just recently, man is that a fun album. New wave I’d call them, not sure exactly what it is, synth pop or something. Somehow I never heard of them in the 80’s, though I vaguely knew 3 songs. “Blue Monday” is the best, and the long version of it on Disc 1 is awesome. It was a good buy, I like the songs I didn’t know before too. Good fun stuff, good to clean your house to and dance around a bit.

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Current Entertainment Monday, Feb 23 2009 

I happened to wind up over at my old blog, and realized I’d forgotten all about the various random things I’d posted there. I came across one that was interesting to look back at, “Current Entertainment.” Since it was interesting to look back at the old one, I decided to write a new one. Friends and family, feel free to share what you’re watching/reading etc. in a comment.

Currently reading: Well, I just finished reading Perspectives on Election. It was OK. Sometimes I can only take so much of the polemical kind of stuff. It’s in the “5 views” series, with 5 contributions plus responses from two Calvinists (one supra- and one I guess infra-, I’ve already forgotten precisely), one Arminian, one open theist, and one Christian universalist. I think I found the Christian universalist chapter most interesting because it was a view I was unfamiliar with (though I can’t say I was convinced by the author’s argument). At least the book was mostly in good spirit — 4 of the 5 authors were considerate and respectful in their responses. The fifth, a fellow named Reymond (the supra-), ended several chapters saying he was praying for the authors to see the error of their ways and basically came off as quite smug, arrogant, and condescending. On the whole, not a bad book if you’re interested in what the various views are out there among the broader Christian community.

I hate starting books (love reading them but hate starting them…if that makes any sense), so I haven’t started it yet but I have from the library Peace Like a River, which my friend Amy told me about. That’s next on the list.

Currently watching on TV: Monday nights are a killer! I would need to take a day off work to watch all this in one day. At 8 I watch Chuck and House. House is beginning to annoy me a bit, but I still watch it so far. Chuck I used to think (from the first episode and maybe part of another) was the dumbest thing I’d ever seen. But recently I’ve seen a few more episdoes and found it hilarious. One of my favorite recent TV lines comes from here, “I was having a great time until the terrorists stole my pants and tried to kill me.” It really captures the spirit of the show, too. It’s kind of silly, but fun and with a really good heart. Kind of like Chuck.

At 9 I watch The Closer and 24. The Closer (along with Battlestar Galactica) has really become my only must-see TV. I had gotten to where even though I watched every 24 episode, it was mostly because you had to to get what was going on. But this season is different. The new FBI agent partner brings a human face to what had become almost a joke of “who’s going to get tortured in this episode?”. Seeing it through her eyes, in my view, makes it fresh again.

At 10 I watch one of the two shows I had to miss on my DVD recorder, if I managed to record them. Otherwise I watch them online later.

Normally I actually don’t watch too much TV anymore.

Most recently watched movie: Ummmmm…oh my gosh, I actually can’t think of one. I saw The Village a month ago or so at a friend’s house. That was pretty good. Oh, my most recent in-house movie was Consenting Adults. Rated R but not nearly as sketchy as it might sound from the title. I’d wanted to see it for some time because a young Kimberly McCullough, who grew up on General Hospital in the 80’s-90’s and is still on today, was in it. Not worth it for that, BTW. I don’t think she even had lines. The movie was pretty disappointing on the whole. The plot had promise, I guess, but somehow I never really bought into those characters, except maybe for Kevin Spacey’s character, the bad guy.

Most recent movie watched in the theater? Oh, my, couldn’t say. I’d’ve liked to’ve seen the new James Bond movie, and also the new Liam Neeson movie Taken, but it never worked out. Maybe Mamma Mia was it? Found that one extremely disappointing. It is wrapped up in happy bouncy songs and happy bouncy people, but it is at it’s heart a celebration of hedonism and lack of responsibility. I think a lot of people missed all that amidst the happy bounciness. I did really like the dance scene to “Lay All Your Love on Me” (I song I LOVE from Information Society, didn’t know ABBA did it first) where the guys are out on the dock and they all jump off.

Around the same time I saw the new X-Files movie…extremely disappointing is putting it mildly.

Currently listening to: In the morning when I wake up, the radio. My CD player alarm broke. It’s not even a good wake-up station. There is a good wake-up station, but for some reason I can’t pick it up well in the master bedroom. In the car, I’m seriously missing my free SIRIUS subscription and my favorite channel, 22. I’m listening to the radio or to one of three CDs — Burek by Dino Merlin, Big Thing by Duran Duran, or Who We Are by Lifehouse. That is more or less random, the CDs that happened to be there.

Time to go set up those other Monday night shows to record!

What do you LOVE about your church? Wednesday, Jan 28 2009 

Just so it’s not all about complaints…

Here’s a few things I love about my church (and I won’t say the name here because this isn’t a plug for my church, though if anyone should wander by who just happens to be looking for a solid church in the Northern Virginia area I’d be happy to share). Skipping the most obvious stuff, the stuff that I wouldn’t be there otherwise without (biblically sound!)…

(1)  A lot of great verse-by-verse preaching. I really enjoy both topical and verse-by-verse preaching, but at my church now the percentage of verse-by-verse preaching is higher than topical, whereas at my previous churches the reverse was true. This difference takes good preaching and makes it even better for me, because it’s fresher.

(2) A friendly congregation that actually looks you in the eye when shaking your hand, and often introduce themselves (though I can never remember the names, to my enduring shame), and even sometimes invite you to church activities. I’d say all my churches were friendly…but it’s quite possible this is the friendliest I’ve been to.

(3) A large(-ish, that’s relative, it’s not a megachurch) church with all the resulting activities and classes, that holds multiple services in an intimate-feeling sanctuary that makes it feel like you’re going to a small church. Of course, this may need to change eventually; I regret the strain that multiple services puts on church staff, especially the preacher. But I very much like the feeling of the sanctuary now — you can look around and see everyone easily. (Actually, as I’m thinking about it, my church where I used to live was bigger, around 3,000 attendance I think when I left, and we had built a new sanctuary while I was there that held I think over 1000, and I loved that too! The sound of the music was incredible. So I guess there are some great things about both the smaller and the larger.)

(4) Care paid that all aspects of worship are God-honoring. Especially I would note the music, where so many churches (it seems to me) do not give sufficient attention to the lyrics, but in my church we haven’t sung a single song where I would quibble over lyrics (and only one song I personally don’t care for, because it sounds too much like a 13-year-old girl singing about her boyfriend — “My Savior’s always there for me…” — but as I said that’s only a personal preference…and it was only once 😉 ). There’s no “sendin’ it to ya'” or “I did it my way” or “and it burns, burns, burns, like a flame goin’ higher” here!

I think I started out with a few more, but it’s getting late and my brain’s slowing. So, perhaps you have a few to add!

Praise God for all churches that love and honor Him in all things.

What do YOU want from church? Saturday, Nov 15 2008 

“I love my church, but — ”

Fill in the blank.

Surely there’s something. In fact there may be a lot of somethings! We in America are some of the world’s greatest consumers, and we often take our consumerist attitudes to church with us. We complain about the length of the sermon. The topic of the sermon. Which pastor or minister is preaching. The children whispering behind us. The style of music. Too many/too few hands in the air. Too many/too few musicians. The praise team because we prefer choirs/the choir because we prefer praise teams. The parking space that required a five-minute walk to reach the sanctuary. Too many jeans/too many suits. The size/shape/consistency of the communion wafers.

Surely, surely, by now I’ve written something that you’ve actually complained about. If not out loud, in your head. (God knows about those too! 😉 ). I was able to come up with them because I’ve had critical thoughts about most of them at one time or another!

Some complaints are legitimate. God calls us to be discerning. One of the churches I visited in the area where I live had a lot of things about it I liked. The sermon was biblically-based and delivered well. The church’s doctrine seemed pretty much in line with what I believe the Bible teaches. But the music…well, for part of the music they sang TV show theme songs. There was a point to this, as the theme songs were all on topic related to the topic of the sermon. Is it a sin to sing TV show theme songs in church? I would not be so legalistic as to say that. It seemed weird, but…okay, fine. But then they did the Laverne & Shirley theme. Is Laverne & Shirley a wicked show? Well, actually I’ve never watched it, but I wouldn’t guess so. But the chorus basically repeats how “I did it my way.” Sinful words? Well, not necessarily, probably depends on the context. The context here was church. The House of God. Rather than shaking a playful fist at convention or men or whoever it was those gals were shaking fists at, it kind of seemed like shaking a fist at God. In my opinion, at best it represented a glaring thoughtlessness about the choice of songs. I never went back to that church. Did I overreact? I don’t know, but I think this example goes beyond a personal preference, and it wasn’t about what I “got” or didn’t “get” from the church.

Another example from music — where so many of our criticisms come from — is the song “You Deserve the Highest Praise,” which has bothered both me and my friend Amy because of the phrase “sendin’ it to ya'” — boy that sounds petty, doesn’t it? But should God really be referred to as “ya”? It doesn’t feel very godly. It doesn’t feel very respectful. It certainly doesn’t remind me of God’s holiness. And therefore it bothers me.

So, what’s legitimate to complain about (broadly speaking, to include critical thoughts), and what is a sign of an arrogant and ungodly consumerist attitude toward church? I certainly don’t claim to have the answer (now THAT would be arrogant). When it comes to the things that are clearly personal preferences rather than clear violations of biblical teaching, I think it has at least something to do with (1) how we express our disagreement or criticism, or otherwise respond to it, and (2) whether it distracts us (or worse, prevents us) from worshipping God and fellowshipping with church family.

At the third service of my church (the service I usually attend), there is a young man, almost certainly in high school, who plays the electric guitar. I do not like this electric guitar. I think the music would sound much better without it. And after all, shouldn’t three guitars be enough? I try very hard not to let this electric guitar distract me. It has only really distracted me twice — when I found myself wincing from a headache I’m pretty sure it contributed to. But I say this only in a very anonymous fashion here. I’m sure the young man who plays that guitar is very talented. I’m so glad (SO GLAD!) he’s using his talent in public worship of God. I’m glad he’s there as a testament to the youth in the service. I’m glad he’s there to bring a sound to the music that — while I’d happily do without it — others may really enjoy. I hope that his participation is as much a blessing to him as it is to anyone sitting in the pews. So I try not to think critical thoughts, and I succeed. Usually. And writing all this has made me realize that I should pray I succeed all of the time.

Without further ado, though, check out the following two illustrations of the negative and critical attitudes we sometimes bring to church with us. Laugh…but be convicted as well. And please, I’d love to see your comments on the things you’ve said or thought (or you’ve heard from others) that you know are signs of an improper attitude — again, funny, but convicting.

A Sampling of 90’s Music Memories Tuesday, Nov 11 2008 

Today I have been playing around on Youtube, looking at top 100 hit lists by year and going, “Oh, my gosh! I remember that!” And, though I’m an 80’s gal, these songs are some memorable ones (or videos) from the early 90’s that you don’t hear much — or at all — anymore. Here are a few gems.

(1) Signs — I didn’t know this one well but always thought it was funny — check out this user video. I laughed so hard my throat hurt. What’s your favorite sign? Ooh, oops! Actually, warning, bad word in the first couple of frames. I’m having internet problems last couple of days and missed that frame first time around. Anyway, for me it’s a toss-up between the sign on the bridge at about 1:00, the bicycle sign at 1:42, and the fine (the LEAST of your worries) at 3:07. [Ratings notice: in addition to the bad word in the sign, in listening again, I think there may be a few naughty words in the lyrics themselves, though online lyrics list different words.]

(2) Three Little Pigs by Green Jelly — oh my gosh! How I remember screeching “Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!” with my friends in college.

(3) If I Ever Fall in Love Again by Shai — I was never terribly into R&B, but man is this song pretty! Love it! What a nice sentiment too!

(4) Informer by Snow. Heavy rotation on MTV, and no one could understand the lyrics so they started playing the video with lyrics onscreen, like here.

(5) Ah, and the only one of these you’re at all likely to hear on the radio once in a while, the Bee Girl Song! Okay, that’s not the title, but that’s what it was famous for, to the point of controversy. The Bee Girl overshadowed the group! But I LOVE this video, and the song. The 90’s were kind of lousy for music if you like upbeat fun stuff — so glad grunge is gone. But look at the colors in this video! You almost can’t help but feel happy…just like the Bee Girl in the end!

Major Tom Monday, May 5 2008 

OK, I’m an 80’s gal. So much so that, because I didn’t actually start listening to popular music really until 1985, I sometimes come across a song that I never knew in the 80’s but still absolutely love. (Let’s hear it for Sirius channel 22!) Major Tom is one of those songs. I heard it once or twice, really just the chorus, and just loved it. Finally saw the title and singer on, yep, Sirius 22, and looked it up online. Wow! If you too are an 80’s gal/guy, check out the Wikipedia page on Major Tom — fascinating! I had no idea such things ever happened in pop music. When I found the lyrics I was surprised to find this is actually a sad song! What an odd topic for a pop song in the first place! Too cool.

Here’s the English version (with kind of weird un-serious video…well, those were the times):

And if you’d like to hear the original German, with handy German sing-along lyrics:

Let’s Hear it for the Nazarenes! Saturday, May 3 2008 

OK, I must confess I know next to nothing about the Nazarenes…apparently because I’m not from Kansas and I’m not sure I’ve even driven through there…maybe once on a family vacation, but if so we didn’t get further than a few fast food places and gas stations (sorry, Kansas). Check out the following clips! I’d love to sit down with a Nazarene who could explain all the inside references! I think mostly what I got is they don’t drink, they’re not Calvinist (I think…?), and there’s a whole lot of ’em in Kansas! Entertaining stuff.

Cause & Effect; I Could Never Be Your Woman Sunday, Apr 27 2008 

Woo-hoo! I just purchased something and found something! (I should be in bed…)

I had a tape of the Another Minute by Cause & Effect in the early nineties and LOVED-LOVED-LOVED it. And it was kind of one of those cool things where hardly anybody had heard of this band, so they were “mine”. “You Think You Know Her,” “Farewell to Arms,” “The Beginning of the End…” I so loved this album. But, you know, it was on a tape, and tapes don’t last forever. Been some time since I’ve even played a tape. For the last decade or so I’ve been trying to little-by-little replace my favorite 80’s (this is the rare 90’s, though I think it was all written in the late 80’s actually) tapes with CDs. But you can’t find Cause & Effect out there. So today I remembered to look it up on Amazon, and there were 9 used CDs available — now there are 8! I can’t wait to get this CD! I will be dancing around my living room just like when I got that Glass Tiger album, 1986’s The Thin Red Line. I danced around absolutely giddy, I think especially to “Closer to You…” Darn, I’m gonna have to go listen to that album!

AND, WOWEE!!!!! I searched like a decade ago for this song “I Could Never Be Your Woman” which I absolutely LOVED in 1997. I can peg the exact year because I lived in an apartment then that I only lived in for 6 months, and I can remember when this song would come on the alarm radio in the morning my night owl self would be wide awake and full of pep. I can remember thinking, “If only I could find some way to wake up to this song every day!” Now, a guy sings this song, so beats me what it’s actually about, but I don’t really care. I LOVED the music. Still love it. I just found it on YouTube!!!! I searched for this song on the internet “back in the day” as the younguns say, but the internet is way more developed now than it was then, certainly there was no YouTube. I couldn’t even find out who sang this song. Turns out it’s White Town (never heard of ’em). But…how can I buy it? Looks like you can purchase the single on Amazon, but maybe somebody I know has one of those buy and download online thingee deals? I’m listening to this song now…yeah, already like th 5th time. I just absolutely love the sound of it. Apparently the oboe line in it (which some people find creepy?!) samples some 1930’s song! Freaky!

Maybe I should think about that bed thing though…