Sunday, June 28, 2009

TV shows


If you've ever been to college, you know: most college students don't watch television. They're busy having a social life, doing schoolwork, going to classes, parties, bible studies, etc... Whatever their excuse, they simply don't (usually) plop down on the couch for five or six hours at a time to watch television.

However, before moving away from home, I was a pretty avid television watcher. I had my schedule, based on which day it was, of course. Come to think of it, though, I don't think I liked many of those shows. None of them made any impression on me what so ever. There were exceptions of course: Home Improvement, The Cosby Show, and others that I can't remember right now. So, since school has let out, I've been pushed back into my old TV watching days, but hopefully with a more discerning eye. So, anyway, I've thought of some categories of TV shows that have caught my eye recently.

Best TV show with character: World's Strictest Parents on MTV. First of all, let me say that another category it would win is "Least Accurate Title for a TV show". Basically, MTV took troubled teens from California and dropped them off at a pastor's house in the midwest for a few weeks. The pastor also has three other teenagers of his own living in the house. In the specific episode that I watched, there were two teens, a guy and a girl. The girl was fairly compliant throughout the entire episode, but the guy was a rebellious son of a gun for the first half of the episode. Also, let me say that the parents were not strict, but they were clear on rules and consequences and stuck to the enforcement on the kids. The only rules they really laid down were: No drugs, no alcohol, no sex, and I think a curfew (it's been a few weeks since I've seen the episode). Anyway, to be frank, this was a touching show. I was about halfway to crying when the end of the episode came around. It was very clear that the pastor and the rebellious boy had begun a relationship of trust over the course of his journey there, and it was true and loving. I had to verify many times that this show was in fact on MTV.

Best reminder that Americans have forgotten their history: 1000 Ways to Die on Spike. Basically, an episode of this show basically showcases of about 10 cases of death that were unusual. They have a quick re-enactment, a tangential "expert" to comment in general on whatever may have been wrong with the individual or circumstances surrounding his or her death (very loosely), then they give it a funny name and a number and move on! None of this material is given the proper tone. They rip out the dignity of humanity by making light of how people come to end their lives. These were real people with real problems, who probably struggled with them for years, hurting their family, their loved ones with either the way they fought it, or the way it came out after their untimely deaths. To be curt, it's disgusting. But, it also reminds me of the bloodlust of Roman citizens. They piled into the Colosseum to see deaths as a sporting event. However, as the crowds diminished, managers had to up the creativity of the deaths. This seems to be the case here, as well. The base idea of this show is "let's list a bunch of gruesome ways that real people die so that we'll catch people's attentions and entertain them with some quick quips so that they won't feel disgusted afterwards."

Best repackaging of a classic show: American Gladiators on NBC. God, I love this show. As some of you know, I already have a name picked out: Rhino. However, as few of you know, I gave serious thought into entering this past year. I didn't know when graduate school would start for me, so I didn't send in an audition tape, but I'll be ready this year. Anyway, this gem of a has pretty much everything the 80's show did and more: traditional American values, stories of normal everyday Americans rising to the challenge and competing against each other and what seem like Titans that have risen out of Greek mythology. Also, some of the best classic challenges are back: the Ring Swing, the Pyramid, Assault, and of course, the iconic Joust. I was so glad to see that this show was given a second chance. Although corny at times, they always applaud the persons who come in second place for finishing the grueling last challenge, which is something that is rarely seen outside of kids' sporting events.

Worst TV preacher: Joel Osteen. He's creepy. I don't like the globe spinning behind him, his toothy smile, or his sculpted hair. Just creepy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009



Earlier this morning, I watced a fascinating (edited) interview of Mike Huckabee on the Daily Show. The subject was abortion. Now, there are many things on the Daily Show that are hilarious, and often, they have disregard for actual news items and instead choose topics on top of which better jokes can be made. But, the two interviews I've seen with Mike Huckabee are possibly some of the best content on the current issues of abortion and gay marriage that I've ever seen of heard from anybody.

Mike and John are two very well read, intelligent people. They clearly define lines and put forth clear, logical arguments, and have incredible respect for each other. Best of all, they always directly answer questions made by the other, and often make concessions during the discussion, not just at the end right before commercial breaks so that they can sweep it under the rug. It was suggested (jokingly) that they should have their own show where they discuss issues "in which they are not the protaganist." I supremely enjoy Mike Huckabee's sound and thoughtful reasoning, but this post isn't about Mike Huckabee (the only political figure whose rallies I've attended, with Chuck Norris in attendance), it's about the subject matter on which they spoke last night.

I'm thankful for many things. A few of those things I'll list for you now:

  1. I'm thankful I'm not a politician. (At their best) They have to make decisions about the morality of certain activities in an era in which moral knowledge is quickly being disregarded as not knowledge.
  2. I'm thankful I've never been in a sexual relationship. Heck, I think I'm thankful I've never been in a serious relationship, mainly because of the temptation of crossing the fine line between the two.
  3. I'm thankful for children. Over the past few years, I've been allowed to watch the development of a very special child, Zechariah Hayes. I do recognize that he is probably very special to me because I got to hold him when he was smaller than my forearm, and simply, I've gotten to watch him grow. However, I still very much appreciate the exposure to his growth.

There's plenty of others, I assure you, but they'll have to wait for another blog post on another day. Anyway, I'm sure you can logically fit how these things I'm thankful for fit together as evidence in my mind. However, I always somehow missed a compelling discussion on the subject of abortion that would push me towards ruminating on abortion by myself. Thanks to Mike Huckabee, John Stewart, and a few hours of manual labor this morning, I was finally given the opportunity to finally let my mind and conscience weigh in on this subject.

Funnily enough, I seem to have come to the final conclusion that Mike Huckabee did at the end of the interview. If you saw the edited version on the show, I encourage you to go watch the unedited version on . It's definitely the best 15 minutes of video I've spent watching online within recent memory. Anyway, the conclusion I came to this morning follows.

Most of the debate around abortion on the pro choice side of the argument centers around concocting the cases that they consider (like the consonation, huh?) to be sufficient evidence to allow abortion. Rape, a mother's life in danger, developmental problems with the child, etc.

However, I am very much at a place very much out of line with the reality of abortion. Playing a small mindgame, I decided to try to play the part of a pro-choice, and concoct a situation in which I would be involved in the decision to abort a child. I would be married and fully aware that a very positive aspect of sex is the reproduction of new life. I would be at a position in life in which I would be comfortable at least my own wife comfortably (otherwise I would not be married). I would be at a point in the relationship with my wife that discussion would be at a very healthy and open point in which discussions of all sorts would be explored and sincerely, thoughtfully, and respectfully explored.

All of that being said, I ask you, the reader, to remember that pregnancy has never been a sure-fire thing. As the curse of woman, she was to endure pain during childbirth. Before modern healthcare, pregnancy was very much a risky business. Often, either the fetus or mother died in the process of childbirth. That has been a fact for thousands of years. People have been aware of this danger and have still gone forth with the process of reproduction (I hate to say that with such sterility). However, in our modern day, perhaps we have overestimated the abilities of modern medicine by living that sexual intercourse does no longer pose a threat to the woman's life.

Now, you may think me crazy when I say that, and that's perfectly fine. I do recognize that it feels a bit too much to the "scare 'em" tactics of the abstinence programs in our school districts, but I'd like to point out that it is a valid point. If we write off the validity of these claims, we are playing the part of the voluntarily blind, disregarding the views of our past.

Anyway, back to the mindgame, I can not foresee a situation that I would consider abortion an option. However, as you have seen, I can not foresee a situation in which I even get close to premarital sex. So, in my mind, the abortion of debate comes down to: do two wrongs make a right? No, they make a very wrong. I don't want to minimize those who are in sexual relationships that are outside of marriage, and I want to make something very clear to you: My viewpoint comes with years upon years of development that is much different than yours. My stance on premarital sex is a very real and achievable goal that comes only through significant support of my parents, my God, and myself. I'm constantly surprised and disappointed that those around me did not grow up with the same support. However, I'm not here to push in your face that I think I stand upon morally superior ground. I'm the chief of sinners, don't let me fool you to thinking otherwise. In other words, abstinence can and does work in our modern society. I do not avoid women, I interact with them on a constant basis. I have very frank, eye opening discussions with women that constantly challenge me and shape who I am becoming. I also talk with guys sometimes. As to whether or not this lifestyle is meant for me to keep for a lifetime, that is an ongoing discussion between me and my God.

Anyway, both Mike and I came to a similar conclusion: once you have engaged in sex, you (women) have made your decision about what to do with your reproductive organs. The functional purpose of the genitalia is reproduction. Another benefit, the pleasure, either expected from the partner or there in the moment, is the reason why most people do "it." That being said, on the other side of the bed, men have to recognize that their responsibility once they have engaged in sex is providing for the child and his wife. The Jewish law stated that once a man and a woman engaged in sex, they were legally married. Now, I'm not about to lobby for this to be put into American law, but I would like you to recognize that this was already a given when our laws were conceived in this country. Judeo-Christian laws are the basis on which most consistent moral codes, and therefore, sets of laws, are based. Basically, the process of being legally married has always been intended to occur before copulation.

This stance is definitely an ideal, and I recognize that, but I also see that within my experience, it is an achievable one.

postblog: I usually won't cover subjects this controversial, nor this mainstream. I've just been hankering to find a good subject to write about, and this kept on developing in my head. Hopefully, my next blog will be more curt.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Popular Music


Over the past few days, I've been thinking about music a good bit. The past few years, some of my best friends have been avid musicians, outstripping my limited abilities handily. It isn't a competition, but whenever they talk to me about music, I simply nod and listen for the only words I know: "chord" and whatever number they say are added.

Anyway, one of the things I realized a little over a year and a half ago is that I can barely stand independent music. Now, independent music is fairly broadly defined, but if I say indie music you know exactly what I'm talking about! Now, it doesn't necessarily have to be one guy, one guitar, talking about his emotions with such deep metaphor that he barely understands his lyrics. Sometimes, it's more than one person. Sometimes they have a band behind them (when they record the album). Sometimes they have more than one singer! Sometimes they branch out to electric guitars, but these guitars are without the qualities that I hear from my favorite 80's metal bands (Metallica, Iron Maiden, Tourniquet).

Anyway, when I got to Clemson University, I realized there wasn't much of a music scene. There was a band in my hall... but they just annoyed me. There was music on my computer... but that's always been there. There was music downtown... but it was indie. Well, it was better than nothing. I started to attend small concerts when Tom Conlon came to my church my 1st semester at Clemson.

Now, I have nothing against Tom. Anytime he comes anywhere near where I'm living, I will attend one of his concerts. His concerts are intimate, and the relationships I have with the people that attended his concerts are the reason that his music means so much to me (in part). The other part is that, in some way, he reveals quite a bit about himself through his music, but in a sly way. It took me many listens to his catchiest song "Birds Fly" before I could deeply understand how he was singing what he was singing.

Whew, that was a poor segue. Anyway, I remember the exact moment I realized I and indie music were not on the best of terms. It was while I was watching Once. During the third or fourth song, I didn't even listen to the lyrics, I just scowled. It kept on going on, so I got up to go to the bathroom. After doin' my business, I returned to the movie. After a small furthering of the plot, I went back to my room and did checked something on the internet, then came back to the movie.

At the end of the movie, everybody in the room began exclaiming how moving the movie was, and how well the soundtrack blended with the storyline. Personally, I thought the soundtrack was tedious, overly mystic, and sometimes outright boring. Most of all, I thought that the storyline was clearly an excuse to make such a movie, but that didn't help in making a better movie. However, I didn't dare utter the worst of these thoughts, so I went with a more thoughtful one:

"I don't think I like indie music."

Because that's really what was at the core of this. It was an indie movie about the making of indie music, and I found it God-awful. However, I also recognized that other people would very much enjoy it, get it, and appreciate it. However, I was not one of those people. I don't know,

It's a very difficult thing to describe when you can't pinpoint why you don't like something that you know is enjoyable. The reason I didn't write this as a review of Once is that I have nothing negative to say about that movie that is concrete other than the music was clearly the point of the music, and I didn't think the music was great. I also had this feeling when I watched No Country for Old Men. I sat there watching it with my best friend, and neither of us got it or appreciated it. Deinitely the only flop of a movie that we've ever watched together. It was as if I was disappointed in myself for not enjoying a movie that was clearly well put together. It wasn't my fault I didn't like it!

Anyway, as a retort, about mid-February, the dcf band played the final song from Once. I was blown away. First of all, I didn't recognize the song. Second of all, people I cared about were singing it. Third of all, we were all encouraged to sing along. Lastly, it sounded a good bit different. I don't know if I believe some of those reasons I just wrote. But that's all my mind can pull out of it. I was astounded to learn from what movie the song was.

The point is, perhaps the packaging spoils the goods for me. I don't appreciate re-packaging songs in ways other than what I am used to (ala Moulin Rouge). If you put indie music in the correct package, I think anybody can appreciate it. With that being said, I don't think it's in the correct package.

postblog: If you're reading this, and you're an indie artist, please don't be smug in your music. It's quite annoying. Also, don't try to be funny, you're not Weird Al.