Monday, February 28, 2011

Juxtaposition of Two Realities of Death

 That Zac and his wife Mandy can confront death so bravely is inspiring.

I was reminded again of these videos as I continue reading the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer explored the meaning of death after four fellow German pastors died on the eastern front in WWII.

In a letter following this event Bonhoeffer wrote:
"In the face of death we cannot simply speak in some fatalistic way, "God wills it"; but we must juxtapose it with the other reality, "God does not will it." Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that it stands in need of redemption. Christ alone is the conquering of death. Here the sharp antithesis between "God wills it" and "God does not will it" comes to a head and also finds its resolution. God accedes to that which God does not will, and from now on death itself must therefore serve God. From now on, the "God wills it" encompasses even the "God does not will it." God wills the conquering of death through the death of Jesus Christ. Only in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ has death been drawn into God's powers, and it must now serve God's own aims. It is not some fatalistic surrender but rather a living faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, that is able to cope profoundly with death. (Pg 384)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Name This Style of Art

 I need your help!

Elena and I watched Father of Bride II (we are rediscovering the Steve Martin classics) and I was struck by a piece of art hanging over the mantel in their daughters house (~46 minutes in).

While the subject is fairly mundane, I think it is beautiful. The problem is I lack the vocabulary to describe in words what moves me through my eyes. As far as I can tell I am drawn to the vivid lighting; with the harsh shadows cast across the bold colors.


Could any help name what style of art this is? I'd like to explore more like it and eventually try and find something for my own home.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tears of Hope (Video)

A young families story as they struggle through their fathers battle with cancer.

I posted The Story of Zac Smith (from the fathers perspective) almost a year ago. Please watch it before reading on.

Just this month a follow up video was released from his wife's perspective:


A Story | Tears of Hope from Adam Kring on Vimeo.


These video's remind me of the profound perspective on suffering and death in Man's Search for Meaning.

To quote further from Viktor Frankl's book:
"...But not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete." (Pg 76)
I have a great respect for these videos because they confront suffering unabashedly, understanding it as a reality of the human experience.

As Viktor recalls from his experience in the Auschwitz concentration camp:
Suffering had become a task on which we did not want to turn our backs. We had realized its hidden opportunities for achievements, the opportunities which cause the poet Rilke to write, "Wie viel ist augzuleiden!" (How much suffering there is to get through!) Rilke spoke of "getting through suffering" as others would talk of "getting through work." There was plenty of suffering for us to get through. Therefore, it was necessary to face up to the full amount of suffering, trying to keep moment of weakness and furtive tears to a minimum. But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the great of courage, the courage to suffer. (Pg 86)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

3 Favorite Kickstarter Projects of 2010

 Together raised over $1/2 million. Read about their journeys in crowd-sourcing creative projects: 
  • Art Space Tokyo: Community fundraising and publishing in the digital age / $24,000
  • The Glif: iPhone tripod mount and versatile stand / $137,000
  • Blue Like Jazz the Movie: Grass roots funding for a movie that Hollywood doesn't think is worth it  / $345,000

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Beautiful Picture from the Egyptian Revolution


An Egyptian women tweeted "A pic I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers".


Also, of all people, Bill Clinton has some interesting thoughts the role of digital technology in society - it's all about the public institutions. 


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Enjoy the Music of The Social Network?

 I have some excellent (legally) FREE Music (47 tracks to be exact) recommendations to share with you on my lunch break.

After watching the "making of" documentary I got excited about The Social Network all over again. One of the original hooks for me was learning the soundtrack was done by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (FYI, they'll be back together with David Fincher to score The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). I'd like to introduce you to some of their best work that is avaliable for the best price that exists.

  • First, if you enjoyed the music in the movie at the very least, you should download the Free 5 Track Sampler EP of the Soundtrack.
The free EP is notably missing some of the best tracks on the the official soundtrack, their cover of In The Hall of the Mountain King (originally by Edvard Grieg) is one of them:



  • Second, with some very similiar instrumental sounds, is a little known project by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (under the band Nine Inch Nails) called Ghosts. I have recommended this before, but I can't recommend it enough. I have been listening to this album more consistently the last 3 years then any other album. You can download Ghosts, the whole 36 track instrumental album, for free.
Here's one of my favorites, 28 from Ghosts IV:




A Drowning is my favorite off the EP. Such raw and honest lyrics. This is Trent Reznor at his best:




It's the glare from the reflection
Making patterns in your eyes
It's the looking back in anger
With every second slipping by

Undertow has come to take me
Guided by the blazing sun
Look at everything around us
Look at everything we've done.

Please anyone
I don't think I can, save myself
I'm drowning here please, anyone

There's a tiny little window
Swarms of locusts fill the sky
Maybe I just disappear, If I can
Keep my head above the tide.

Please, anyone
I don't think I can, save myself
I'm drowning here please, anyone

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Exactly What Role Did Social Media Play in the Egyptian Revolution?

One of the major themes of our time that I'm most intrigued by is the rapid dissemination of information through digital technology. This is changing our society on every level; from our interpersonal relationships, our communities, our churches, our politics and our global human civilization.

As I closely watched the revolution in Tunisia and Egypt unfold, I had a nagging curiosity about the role of social media. When the world watched on as Egypt flipped the Internet switch off, my suspicions were all but confirmed.

Fast Company put together a great analysis of the 3 dimensions (vertically, horizontally, and compounding) that social media contributed to the revolution in Egypt. While a monumental event such as overthrowing a 30 year tyrannical regime can make us hopeful about technology, many of us seem divided on something like Wikileaks.

A lot of the changes happening in our social structures due to digital technology can make us feel uneasy, and rightly so. I used to understand this agitation as digital technology being "unnatural" or "foreign", like foreign bacteria being rejected by our immune system.

Digital technology is no less natural of a tool for social change than the printing press in the last millennium, no less natural to the human condition than even a pencil and paper. What has changed is the degree of complexity. And with greater complexity comes greater risk. But complexity and risk is hardly unnatural to the human condition either (one might even say that complexity and risk defines human nature).

I say all of this because I think we should not shrink away from technology and reject it as unnatural when it makes us uneasy. We are uneasy because we are unsure of how to responsibly wield it, we lack Wisdom individually and as a society.

I believe our technology has outstripped our Wisdom. We need to slow down, open our eyes, and practice self-restraint in wielding new technology. This is easier said than done because there are many very powerful forces at play which compel our society to unwittingly wield now and ask questions later (the central role of consumerism in our society manifested as techno-lust and the demands for efficiency in free-market capitalism).
But I'm not content to submit to this strong current because I believe there's a better way. This motivates me to advocate self-restraint and more responsible adoption of technology today (optimistic) while also seeking to anticipate the changes in technology of tomorrow so we can brace ourselves for the ensuing chaos that is sure to follow (pessimistic).

I am uneasily hopeful when it comes to digital technology - pinned between the tension of optimism and pessimism.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lesson from the Children's Nursery

 This sappy reflection seems appropriate for Valentines Day.

On Sunday morning I volunteered for the first time in the nursery during Colossae's gathering.

A one year old girl was crying her eyes out because her whole world fell apart - Mommy and Daddy are gone. They'll be back in an hour, but she doesn't know that.

One of the other regular volunteers tried in vain to calm her. She would defiantly squirm and run to the gate at the door, crying out and reaching over with her tiny arm for salvation. She was yearning that someone would take her back to mommy and daddy.

Finally, I was asked to hold her because someone knew that she seems to calm down whenever a guy holds her. At first I was perplexed, but anything that would silent those shrieks, I figured it was worth the shot for the sake of my ears.

As soon as I embraced her in my arms I felt her whole body transform. Her spine relaxed while her tiny arms clung around me. Within a minute she was still and quiet.

It's as if she had an innate sense, as if she was created to trust and have faith that in a mans embrace she would be secure. She could relax, be at peace, knowing that her world was going to be okay.

There is a purity in her trust of mans embrace. A purity that this world won't ever be able to live up to. As she grows in this broken world she will learn the need to "Be wise as serpents—and harmless as doves." (Matthew 10:16).

All the same, there is a beauty and a great hope expressed in her innate sense of trust. A trust we all seem to yearn for; are even created for.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Man's Search For Meaning

 A Jewish mans reflection on surviving 3 years in Nazi concentration camps (Auschwitz, among others) - so get over the cheesy sounding self-help sounding title because this book is way more important.

After reading his account of entering Auschwitz I felt such a great weight, anchoring me to the ground I stood on.

With his experiences being so far removed from my own life, it is shocking how intimately relevant I find his reflections. It's as if all the noise of life was stripped away in Auschwitz, allowing him to stand face to face with the universal truths and challenges concerning the human experience.

Here's an excerpt from Mans Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl to wet your palette:
And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstances, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.
It has sold over 10 million copies (to put that it perspective, that puts it somewhere between The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess and Dante's Divine Comedy) in 24 languages, and was named one of the ten most influential books in America by the Library of Congress.

Probably worth picking up.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Social Network just a Movie about Facebook?

 This 8 minute behind the scenes documentary and review will help communicate the art and value of this finely crafted film. 

It's definitely worth viewing. Get your hands on it and let me know how it matched up to your expectations (likewise if you had already seen it in theaters).  

After watching The Social Network you'll also enjoy Part 2 (Boston), Part 3 (Los Angeles), and Part 4 (The Lot). I have a much deeper appreciation for the craft of film making, especially David Fincher as a director.

Another post will be coming about the soundtrack. Keep an eye out if you like free music. 

I'll leave you with this closing thought from Part 4 in the documentary:
"If you have time for that Facebook, you have time to tutor a child" 
 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Monday, February 07, 2011

Phantastes

If you like Chronicles of Narnia, this free book is a must read.

C.S. Lewis wrote, concerning his first reading of Phantastes at age sixteen:
"That night my imagination was, in a certain sense, baptized; the rest of me[,] not unnaturally, took longer. I had not the faintest notion what I had let myself in for by buying Phantastes." - Surprised by Joy
Lewis elaborates further in the foreward to an edition of Phantastes:

"It must be more than thirty years ago that I bought - almost unwillingly, for I had looked at the volume on that bookstall and rejected it on a dozen previous occasions - the Everyman edition of Phantastes. A few hours later I knew that I had crossed a great frontier. I had already been waist deep in Romanticism; and likely enough, at any moment, to flounder into its darker and more evil forms, slithering down the steep descent that leads from the love of strangeness to that of eccentricity and thence to that of perversity. Now Phantastes was romantic enough in all conscience; but there was a difference. Nothing was at that time further from my thoughts than Christianity and I therefore had no notion what this difference really was. I was only aware that if this new world was strange, it was also homely and humble; that if this was a dream, it was a dream in which one at least felt strangely vigilant; that the whole book had about it a sort of cool, morning innocence, and also, quite unmistakably, a certain quality of Death, good Death. What it actually did to me was to convert, even to baptise (that was where the Death came in) my imagination. It did nothing to my intellect nor (at that time) to my conscience. Their turn came far later and with the help of many other books and men."
You will quickly see just how much this book influenced Lewis. You will encounter allusions to the Wardrobe from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe as well as metaphors of human nature which will remind you of The Great Divorce.

This is also one of the four brilliant works that put me on the scent for discovering Faust.

If you have an e-reader, you can pick it up for free because the copyright has expired.

Once you've read it, I found an excellent essay written on the structure and conclusion. A beautiful symphony indeed.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Thank God the British have a Spine

 at least when it comes to their sense of humor.

Richard Hammond, on every ones favorite British automotive television series Top Gear, recently stated:


"Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat."


To make matters worse, Clarkson joked that the BBC wouldn't receive any complaints from the Mexican ambassador because he would likely be asleep. (autoblog)
Unfortunately the ambassador wasn't asleep, and demanded a formal apology from the BBC.

The following was BBC's response:
Our own comedians make jokes about the British being terrible cooks and terrible romantics, and we in turn make jokes about the Italians being disorganized and over dramatic; the French being arrogant and the Germans being over organized. We are sorry if we have offended some people, but jokes centered on national stereotyping are a part of 'Top Gear's' humor.
Well done.

I appreciate this response. In this case bowing to the pressure of being politically correct is a contradiction in itself. The offended is being close minded about how different people understand and relate to the world around them (isn't it the ambassadors job to understand this?).

One of my favorite aspects of British culture is their self-deprecating and severely sarcastic sense of humor

It reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously.
It reminds us that we all look like goof balls in some one else's eyes.
It reminds that it's okay to laugh at yourself.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

1984

 The commercial that redefined more than just superbowl advertising. 

Adweek has a great article tackling the design process, history and myths sorrounding the iconic commerical:


"The real villain was our collective fear of technology, not a corporation either real or imagine."
Guess that makes Google the villain, because they sure seem to be working hard to make us fear technology again.
"The Big Brother of the spot wasn’t IBM—it was any government dedicated to keeping its populace in the dark. We knew that computers and communications could change all that"
This is particularly interesting in our day of Wikileaks, Twitter solving real world problems, and national revolutions being organized on Facebook.