Obama's Got an iPad

"Jorge, I'm the President of the United States...you think I gotta borrow someone else's computer?" [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-WC2TgWwrE]

Ha. In fairness, there was a huge deal made of Obama's blackberry back when he was elected.

I can see the dangers of having a personal communications device when you are the President.

But, the world is changing and yes, Presidents will need to have their own iPads.

I wonder what his favorite app is.

UPDATE: YouTube's integration sucks with some videos.  You can watch it here.


Bashir vs. Bell

I'm near the end of reading Harnack and needed a break. Duke is up by 12. Hopefully this will end well. I was told to watch Rob Bell's interview with Martin Bashir on MSNBC. Googling it, I ended up at our favorite (sarcasm) blogger's site, Justin Taylor's Gospel Coalition, where he graciously linked the YouTube video. Please, before going on, watch the interview below.


A few things must be made clear in order to move from point A to point B:

  1. Shame on MSNBC for having Martin Bashir interview Bell.
  2. Shame on them for airing it.
  3. Shame on Bashir for his interview tactics.

And I'm serious.  I had to watch the clip three times.

Taylor refers to Bashir in this way, "Martin Bashir is a reporter impatient with evasive answers." I argue: Martin Bashir is a reporter who has his own agenda and wants to zing his interviewee. Moreso than ought to be acceptable in journalism. (I'm a fan of hard hitting journalism, but Bashir is worse at it than most and leads the interviewee into questions that are often unanswerable because he begins with presuppositions that aren't true to the interviewee...not sarcasm)

First of all, like all great journalists (sarcasm), Bashir begins with a line that is framed around bloggers and writers' opinions of the book and not necessarily off of the book itself. He says, "Bell says that ultimately all people will be saved, even those who've rejected the claims of Christianity..." Congrats Bashir, good way to hook the audience (sarcasm).

Then, because it is appropriate to focus a religious leader on Japan (not sarcasm), Bashir asks Bell about Japan--posing the question, "Which one of these is true: Either God is all powerful but [God] doesn't care about the people of Japan or [God] does care about the people of Japan and isn't all powerful.  Which is it?" Bell answers saying that God is Divine and that the message of the Scriptures is that God will fix this place and renew it again. Most likely frustrated that Bell didn't answer his unanswerable question (even Jesus spoke in metaphors), Bashir asks his question again. Bell responds that this is a paradox at the heart of the Divine.  "Some are best left exactly as they are" Bell says. Knowing that this paradox is a reality, Bashir backs off the question.

Then he asks if Bell is a "Universalist." Bell says no and points out that Christians have disagreed about this speculation (whether or not ALL will be saved) for ages.

Then it gets good.

Bashir asks the question that he will harp on for the rest of the interview: "Is it irrelevant, or immaterial, about how one responds to Christ in this life in terms of determining one's eternal destiny." Bells says, "It is extraordinarily important."  Bashir responds immediately (interrupting) that in Bell's book he says that "God wins regardless in the end."

I think it is at this point that Bell realizes that Bashir and he are operating on two different mindsets, two different paradigms of thinking.

Bel says, "Love wins, for me, is a way of understanding that God is Love and love demands freedom." Bashir says, "You are asking for it both ways, that doesn't make sense." While I might argue that yeah, Bashir, it doesn't "make sense," because the idea behind a God who puts its children on earth and those people fall away from God and God still chooses to save them doesn't "make sense"...it is not my point. Bell isn't asking for it both ways.  Bell is asking for a new way of thinking.

Bashir repeats the question. Bell says it is terribly relevant. "Now, how exactly that works out in the future, we are now...when you die...in speculation." Going on explaining himself Bel basically says that entire Dogmas have been written and designed around this, which seems to be logical speculation. (I actually think this is a weak answer from Bell and perhaps without the TV cameras and the elusive British accent, he may have responded in a way that makes more "sense")

OOOH. Then Bashir says, "I'm not asking what happens when you die, I'm asking about the here and now." Oh Bashir, how messed up you are. YES YOU ARE. You ARE asking about what happens when you die because the question you are asking revolves around the idea of what happens when you die! You're asking that if your response to Christ's love matters in the here and now.  AND you're functioning off of the assumption that that response secures you in either Heaven or hell.  So, yes, Bashir. You ARE asking about what happens when you die.  And it is to that point that Bell is responding.

Bashir continues to ask, "Does it have a bearing or not have a bearing, how you respond to Christ now, to determine your eternal destiny."

I think Bell is making the point that you have to "know" what's going to happen when you die...and you can't. However, for Bell, that doesn't make how you react to God's love irrelevant. (I might argue that it is indeed necessary...simply because Jesus commanded it.)

"It has tremendous bearing" Bell messed this up (Cameras, lights, and British again). I'm not totally sure that Bell actually thinks it has a huge bearing.  I think he DOES think it is relevant. (Again, I think this can be explained inside of Jesus' calling and command on our lives.)

Bell also says, "I assume God's grace give people space to work those things out." Some may think, including Bashir, that this is a cop out answer.  To which I respond: Saying this is a cop out answer assumes that you don't allow God's grace to move and work in the world.  Because this entire faith is built off of a grace, one that surpasses understanding, I might argue that you have nearly disqualified yourself as a "Christian." It's not a cop out...it's an explanation (or at least an attempt) at wrestling with the many questions of life that are unclear.

Bashir quotes a critique of Love Wins: "'There are dozens of problems with Love Wins.  The history is inaccurate, the use of Scripture is indefensible.' That's true isn't it?"  To which Bell obviously responds, "No." Does Bashir really expect Bell to admit that his factual information is wrong? I'm not sure.

The kicker: "Why do you choose to accept the works of the writer Origen and not Arius..."

While I haven't read the book (Divinity School is time consuming), haven't compared the historical notes (and typically Bell's books and messages are well backed up and researched...even perhaps moreso than others...), the assumption of understanding Origen over Arius is assumed because while both were controversial at times, Arius is understood to have believed that not only is the Son subordinate, but also did not believe in Trinitarian theology and thought the divinity of the Father was over the Son. This is typically considered somewhat heretical and so...my point...BASHIR OUGHT NOT LEAD THE QUESTION AND ASSUME THAT IT IS "TRUE" WITHOUT ASSUMING THAT BELL OPERATES UNDER TYPICAL PROTESTANT CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES LIKE THE BELIEF IN THE TRINITY. Bashir should not assume anything as a journalist, but if he does...he has to be fair about what he assumes.

I thought Bell was going to handle this. But...he went a different way. I think this was a mistake on Bell's part.  He started, "Well, first and foremost because I am a pastor." However, he went on to talk about a personalized side of the pastoral role rather than emphasizing the doctrinal thoughts and principles. Unfortunate.

I wondered why Bashir went back to the, "That's true isn't it?" line. Here's my hypothesis: Bashir thinks Bell is a hipster pastor who is changing the Gospel to serve a purpose and in that process the Gospel is watered down and destroyed (he actually uses this as an argument later). Bell doesn't think so. But, it doesn't matter because Bashir has his own agenda. He later says that Bell has tried to make the Gospel more "palatable" for contemporary people who find the idea of Heaven and hell hard to stomach. Then the line, "That's what you've done haven't you?" And Bell says, "No. I spend an entire chapter in the book talking about hell."

I imagine that if Matt Lauer were interviewing Bell, he would've asked "Have you done that?" Instead of "That's what you've done, haven't you?"

There is a huge difference.

The long and short is that Bashir has an agenda, something every good journalist should have (sarcasm), and wants to appear as "hard-hitting" and so he asks leading questions (poorly disguised I might add), that do no give justice to the discussion and rather try to catch a writer in his tracks.  This is poor journalism and does nothing but provide viewers to your television show. This, perhaps, is one thing that is wrong with the world at hand.

Shame on Bashir.  Shame on MSNBC.  Give the man an opportunity to defend himself in a way that is fair and just.


The Future of Television

Today Netflix announced that they will be delivering an exclusive television series to Netflix subscribers in 2012. And, even better, it is not some no-name TV show. It's going to be called "House of Cards" and will feature Kevin Spacey as a lead actor. Guess who is the executive producer too? David Fincher. The show will be available to any device that can stream Netflix. Presumably, at a given time every week.

So, let's get this straight: you'll be watching a first run episode that no one has ever seen (so in a sense, live) from any device anywhere. It's like HBO, without having to go through a cable provider. And available to you when you're on vacation.

My point: isn't this exactly what television in 2011 should be like? I think we are becoming one step closer to getting rid of cable providers.

I've been thinking for awhile about how far we are away from completely Internet based TV. Even as it is now, I watch shows the day after with Hulu for the iPad hooked up to the TV via HDMI. I use the Apple TV to stream podcasts and YouTube to the television. We use Netflix to watch movies if we have a free night (don't remember when the last time that was...), also via Apple TV and the Wii. I use the MLB app for the iPad and Apple TV to watch any Major League Baseball game whenever. As of late too, I've been using the March Madness app for the iPad connected to the TV to watch tournament games that we don't get via cable. The NBA also has this functionality.

Brilliant. Completely brilliant.

I might add as well that because we don't have HD programming here, the quality is better via Apple TV and the iPad than it is via our cable provider.

I rarely use our TiVo anymore.

It is, and will continue to be, easier to break off from the cable provider.

As I see it, the only real issue (other than HBO shows and shows like Mad Men...none of which I watch) with this model is ESPN. Major League Baseball is going straight to their customers. You subscribe by the month and can watch any game whenever you want, get a radio feed whenever you want, AND watch a broadcast from either team's home commentators whenever you want. In an area like we live in with no teams close by, this is an absolute must for a baseball fan.

If ESPN sold their programming through a subscription to their customers, wouldn't you buy it? Then you could use any device whenever (including those hooked up to your television) you want to watch ESPN. I have a feeling if this became competitive (rather than monopolistic companies that are the only ones who serve your area controlling your programming, etc) it would drive the prices down. It would cut out the middle man between the channel that offers the programming and the consumer.

That model is always a better model. I'd much rather subscribe to NBC, CBS, ABC (or even better...specific shows) directly than pay a cable provider a ton of money each month for a bunch of crap that I don't watch.

I only hope the channels and producers see this. Huge opportunities are ahead of us.

This happened in music with iTunes and later Amazon. The customer of the labels was not the retailer, as they often thought...it was the listener. This has happened more or less in news publications since its conception. This needs to happen in movies (although the movie theater experience inherently means this may be impossible) and I definitely think it is about to happen in TV.

Congrats Netflix, I'm going to give "House of Cards" a try.


On Paying Attention To Television

When I was growing up, there were two shows on television that I knew better than to interrupt: West Wing and Deep Space Nine. Whether it was Aaron Sorkin's dialogue or the fact that you couldn't just rewind it TiVo style, it was a no no to say anything during either of those shows (probably moreso West Wing because of that Aaron Sorkin thing). It was plainly understood. West Wing was on Wednesday nights so the stress level was already high having to get home from church, but my sister and I didn't want any of that stress coming out on us...so interrupting was not even thought of.

I've never come to watch West Wing in its entirety, but I have watched a few episodes and it was extremely clear to me within the first episode or so why this rule was in place: lines are easy to miss. If you miss the lines, you've missed the show.

They are not always humorous lines, although often are, but the dialogue moves so quickly that you have to pay close attention in order to be able to get everything. It's like being stuck in Gilmore Girls hell.

Of late, being a full time Divinity student, I have not had time to watch many shows. My wonderful wife on the other hand, does. We have had discussion after discussion about how in the world she keeps up with work while still watching TV. She has often told me, "You can't just decide to watch a movie and only watch a movie, you have to get other things done at the same time." She is a master at it.

My issue: I don't think my mind works like this. I'm the type of guy who likes to get to the theater at least 30 minutes before a showing, get the snacks, get great seats, and use the restroom at least once before the movie begins. Films are pieces of art; if you got up in the middle of an opera or symphony performance, you'd be lost. The same is true of films.

I have two shows that I go out of my way to watch every week (meaning I don't wait for them to go to Hulu and if I'm not at home the minute they come on, I'm keenly aware): Modern Family and Glee.

Both of these shows are West Wing types (although not always as respectable). These shows incorporate tons of funny and poignant lines that are not responded to by a studio audience and the humor is left to be noticed by the viewer. The writers and editors mercilessly move from line to line and don't hold back.

If you try to read or write during Glee or Modern Family, you will miss Phil Dunphy's Gloria comments and Brittany's random thoughts. And...if you miss those aspects of the show, you've missed a large part of what makes these shows successful and brilliant.

In the age of laptops, iPads, and smartphones, there is too much to distract you from true art.

Perhaps you don't need to be mono tasking when you watch The King Of Queens, but when it comes to a show that relies on curvy stories and quick, funny lines in order to "get it", mono tasking is the only way I see to do it.

I learned that this week with Glee. If you miss the narrative of Glee, you're lost and will probably write it off as a silly show. But if you catch it, your world will be opened up.


Charlie Sheen and Jesus

As I have been watching ABC's interview with Charlie Sheen tonight, I am struck by how genuinely interested I am in crazy people. Though I can't really pin down why, crazy, eccentric people fascinate me. I've tried to figure it out and a few things came to me. Most notably, they have giant egos and are extremely good at what they do. But...there is more.

While watching the interview, I kept thinking, "My God, this guy is crazy."

And while translating Jesus' appearance before the Sanhedrin from Greek to English throughout the commercials, it occurred to me that this may have been how people viewed Jesus.

I mean, think about it. Here is a crazy man who does crazy things, talks in ways we can't really comprehend, has a completely different mindset on society and life, and seems on the outside to have a huge ego. (Jesus DID pretty much claim to be the son of God)

Jesus tended to live into a reality that certain principles that had been taught throughout history were finally coming to be. You could use the word "fulfillment." While I admit it is a stretch, it seems to me that Charlie Sheen is living into principles that have come to reality inside of him; these principles might be articulated as: winning is everything and only the best win.

Interestingly, Charlie Sheen has admitted fault in several situations and even apologized for some tonight...sort of. It is pretty well accepted by believers that Jesus was a perfect man.

Another comparison occurred to me; Jesus selected followers who followed him, left everything (Matthew 19) and were willing to believe in him, live like he asked them to live, and die for his cause. Charlie's "goddesses" seem to buy into the same mindset of him. And...people (mostly those in questionable job situations) seem to follow him still. To add, Charlie seemed to sum up his theory on life as "love" based around Charlie. Jesus seemed to sum up his "theory" (many of us would say...reality) as "love" based around Jesus (I include God the Father in this definition of Jesus).

Of course, I don't think Charlie Sheen is Jesus (I actually would hold to an argument to the contrary) but I do think that it can be an interesting study as to those in our presence who are crazy and the difference and effect they have on our lives.

Next week, Hitler and Jesus.


Sheen vs. The World

[vodpod id=Video.5665367&w=425&h=350&fv=launch%3D41825237%26amp%3Bwidth%3D420%26amp%3Bheight%3D245] Hey Charlie, you're right...the world is SO against you (or more like CBS is the world). Gosh, that $2 Million an episode must really be a burden.

I had to watch this interview 3 times in order to make sure I took it all in.  I've aggregated some of my favorite lines below:

  • "Drug tests don't lie."
  • "I closed my eyes and made it so." - on how he became clean
  • "No,  I did that because they work...change the way you see things, the way you feel." - on turning to drugs and alcohol
  • "Sober Valley Lodge"
  • "At that point it's just the gibberish of fools" - people who talk about him who don't know the "situation"
  • Jeff: "Are you embarrassed that your kids will one day read about this?" Charlie: "God, no. I mean, talk about an education."
  • "Passionate.  My passion is misinterpreted as anger sometimes."
  • "They are trying to destroy my family."
  • "Defeat is not an option.  They picked a fight with a warlock."
  • Jeff: "How do you plan to win that war?" Charlie: "With zeal, and focus, and violent hatred."
  • "Accept me Chuck."
  • Jeff: "Are you going to OD? Are you going to die?" Charlie: "No, that's for amateurs."
  • "Fools, fools, trolls, they allowed defeat to be an option. I won't." - on strong people who relapsed
  • "Come Wednesday they're going to rename it Charlie Brothers and not Warner Brothers...duh. Winning!"
  • "I won Best Picture at 20.  I wasn't even trying."
  • "I'm a man of my word."
  • "3 mil an episode, take it or leave it."
  • They owe me a big one, publicly, while licking my feet."

Something tells me that CBS is not going to apologize.

But, I do think that Chuck Lorre should do a primetime and morning show interview responding to Charlie's questions.

I'm always amazed by eccentric people.  I do believe that there really is a fine line between crazy and brilliant, and sometimes the two are mixed together; Hitler was crazy, but brilliant; Steve Jobs is brilliant, but crazy.

Charlie is in a positon where he thinks he knows that his acting can make or break that show. He also mentioned (not included above) that he had been converting Chuck Lorre's "tin cans" into gold for eight years. I tend to be of the mind that it does require both writer and actor to work together to create a work like Two and a Half Men. The show might be nothing without Charlie, but it is definitely nothing without Chuck Lorre. Based on Lorre's other success, he'll be ok.

So, no, I don't see CBS paying him 3 million just to finish the show.  I think we have seen the end of Two and a Half Men. And yes, I think 2 million an episode is too much. But, you're worth whatever people will pay you to do what you do. When you're good, and in demand, you can request whatever you want. And if they want you bad enough, they'll give it to you. That's supply and demand economics and is the way the world tends to work.

But...it doesn't keep you from being a jerk.

Whatever happens with his career, we will forever connect the name Charlie Sheen with a guy living a rock star life with multiple live in girlfriends who cares nothing about anything else except to play this game called American life better than anyone else.

Sadly, he'll probably do pretty well at it too.


P.S. - Something tells me that when you are used to making $2 million an episode, someone canceling your job seems like a big deal.  But, in comparison, the world isn't against you.  I'm sure he feels like the world IS against him because of all of the negative publicity regarding the situation.  But, an interview like this does little except to present you as a man who only cares for himself. I wish him luck, mentally more than anything else.

The Sad Reality That Is Gwyneth Paltrow's Singing

When this debuted on Glee (or rather, the video debuted on YouTube first) I posted it here and made some sort of snide comment about the questionable amount of auto tune used. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1_B9FCZJMA&]

My basic feeling at the time was that while she is an entertaining actress and for the sake of Glee they had to use some pitch correction, I doubt that she had that much of "pop" control over her voice. Not that "pop" control is really all that much different from any other type of control.

Little things like her performance of the word "driving" in the first line "I see you driving 'round town with the guy I love" just made me think there had to be too much computer work done to the vocals.

I had no idea that this was turning into a career for her.

She was introduced tonight at the Oscars as "Country Music's next sensation" (or something like that) and I assume this has all come from Country Strong's suc-wait, lack of success. [I'll post the video whenever it becomes available]

My theory remains true. What was the thing most missing from the performance? Control. Her voice isn't terrible, and yes she has some slight pitch problems. But, mostly what is missing is her control.

She probably sounds like a decent singer in the shower, but not in a microphone.

While in the shower, given the acoustics of typical bathrooms, little nuances in your voice that might not be as pleasing to the ear are covered up by the resonance supplied by the tile, etc. But, in a microphone (and worse, in a dry mix driven to a TV feed) all those nuances cover up the parts of your voice that are actually decent.

It is as if microphones do THE EXACT OPPOSITE that the bathroom walls do.

Which is why, in today's world, people who are not in mastery of their voice ought not sing into a microphone. Or be recorded. Or perform at the Oscars. Or be described as the next big thing.

Stop making actors...singers. Unless they are good. Gwyneth isn't.


For the record, Bieber has incredible control of his voice for not having much training and being 16.

People That Impress Me

We are not who we are until we discover who it was that made us who we are. Then, and only then, can we live into the reality of who we are and where we are going. To deny influences in our lives is just silly. For me, I have a lot of respect for the brilliant. I have a lot of respect for the movers and shakers in our world. These people have helped define our culture and because of my obsession with the impact that culture makes on our lives, I cannot help but be incredibly impressed with them and their work. Many of these below are not "righteous" people and did not stand for a purpose that we consider right. It is impossible however to deny their gifts and talents.

Whether or not I agree with them, these are people who impress me. In no particular order, off the top of my head, and I am sure the list it largely incomplete. I haven't even googled the names, so my apologies for misspellings.

Those that impress me:

Jesus Christ Howard Stern Leo Laporte Steve Wozniak Julia Roberts Bill Gates JS Bach Nolan Ryan Adolf Hitler Eminem Meryl Streep Steve Jobs Rob Bell David Crowder Joe Torre Andy Crouch Keith Olbermann Rush Limbaugh Paul Michael Jordan Louie Giglio Michael Jackson Tim Russert Eugene Peterson Jonny Ive Ellen Degeneres Kobe Bryant Franklin Delano Roosevelt Constantine Moses Chris Tomlin Mark Zuckerberg Larry Page Babe Ruth Asa Candler Mother Teresa Barack Obama Bill O'Reilly George Washington Job Thomas Jefferson Aaron Sorkin Leonardo DaVinci William Shakespeare Darlene Zschech TobyMac Matt Lauer Shane Claiborne John Wesley Warren W. Willis Diane Sawyer Beethoven Kevin James Norman Rockwell Benjamin Franklin Ruth Rick Warren Ray Romano Francis Chan Moses Hogan B.o.B Ricky Gervais Anne Frank Bruno Mars Michael W. Smith Billy Graham Ted Williams Steven Curtis Chapman Joel Houston George W. Bush Dan Marino Henry Ford Thomas Edison Dan Brown JK Rowling Stephanie Meyers Taylor Swift Kanye West Mark Driscoll John Gruber Charles Wesley Albert Einstein King Tut Peyton Manning Napoleon George Lucas Tom Hanks Ann Curry Jack Mason Peter Sean Parker Sergei Brin Jackie Robinson Martin Luther Martin Luther King Jr. JFK Abraham Lincoln My family


On Marketing the Church

If you talk to a lot of people, especially church people, you'll get a lot of mixed responses about marketing and its relation to the church. Many many people think of marketing as a negative word.  Many many other people think that marketing is a reality, whether good or bad. Rob Bell has a quotation in Velvet Elvis that speaks about how upset he was when someone from the church that he was starting put a sign up advertising the church. He said something like "the words marketing and church can't be in the same sentence."

I bought into this theory for awhile. People have to want to come to church. No amount of commercials or billboards are going to bring them in. Sounds like a righteous argument right? If our intentions are the best, then people will want to come to church.  They will just have to.  As far as getting them there, God will take care of that.

My issue here is that I just don't see it working.

I've had the blessing now to help start two churches. Both very different, in different parts of the country. One has been around quite awhile and has struggled with many issues. One is still pretty new but has not shown any signs of huge growth.  Both have moved buildings when the first wasn't working. Both are in communities that don't allow for signs to be placed on the street.  Both are in communities that have tons of houses that house people that work in the surrounding cities. Both are surrounded by many churches. One committed itself early on to being a "contemporary" modeled church.  The other considers itself "eclectic", merging hymns and praise songs with traditional liturgy.

The second church spends lots of money sending out mailers to the surrounding neighborhoods in hopes of inviting more people to church. My initial reaction to this process (besides knowing that your response will be anywhere below 0.5% of all of the mailings you do) was one of Bell's fancy. Marketing? Church? How can they mix?  Are we trying to sell something? (You can read my take on whether or not the church has products here)

The answer (for new churches at least, and I would imagine almost for all) is...yes. We are trying to sell something. Because the more people come in, the more offering is given.  The more offering is given, means the more work that can be done to advance the Kingdom. The more work that can be done to advance the Kingdom, the more the church can live out its role. Don't believe me or disagree on principle? Ask any pastor who has been faced with a snow day or hurricane day. The decision to "cancel" church for Sunday means one thing: loss of offering.  It is even worse for those years that Christmas or Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday. Some churches refer to it as "low Sunday" (along with the week after Easter) because the attendance will inevitably be down. A low attendance means a low offering. Churches are like clubs, dues are necessary to keep them rolling.

I can tell that many seminarians are grinding their teeth at this point, but it is a reality of ministry. If your church can't meet payroll, you are out of a job and the ministry will inevitably suffer.  I don't care how "just" your principle is.  New church starts struggle in America with the same struggles that new businesses have. You have to establish your product and name in order for people to be attracted to you. This is why restaurant chains are so successful, it is much easier to start in a new area.

So, living into this reality, the next obvious question to ask is about marketing. What role does quality marketing play in the renewal of a church body?

Everyone knows that the best form of marketing is word of mouth. People speak highly of you and people come.  IF what you have to offer is worth grabbing hold of (not meaning music and sermons...although those play a very real role in the attraction of new members) then people will come. It really isn't much more complicated than that.

I recently returned from Passion 2011.  Say what you want about Louie Giglio, in a world that appears like the Church is dying - Passion is still moving. Passion is known for marketing.  They put out albums, books, DVDs, etc. all with the intention of glorifying the name of God...and bringing people to their conferences. It seems to be working too (if you consider more attendees, "working"). Next year, they are going to combine the 22,000 students who meet every year in Atlanta with the other 10,000-15,000 that are meeting in Fort Worth with presumably many more who couldn't register and hold the event in the Georgia Dome. I think it houses somewhere around 70,000 people. We'll see if they get anywhere close to that.

Passion gets a lot of criticism about a lot of things. One of the biggest - money. They market and sell everything. I mean everything. And for awhile I bought into Bell's idea. This is ridiculous.  It is the church.  I don't need to see another video advertisement.

But then I saw this video: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJnPnXmXk5k]

And I compared it to this video: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQ91eFAoJAk]

Both are simple.  Both have issues with them. One is noticeably "better" than the other.

And it occurred to me: Both are marketing. Given in different ways, both are marketing. Many United Methodists would disagree that the Church doesn't need marketing. But this video was sent out by the UMC. To market the conference.  I mean, really.

The reason marketing is necessary for us is because this is the way that humans take in information. You can tell someone about something. Or, you can show them. This is the role of marketing in the church. We have to tell and show people who we are. You may disagree with it on principle, but it is what it is. This may be unfortunate, but unfortunate is the way we have to live our lives sometimes.

The question then comes down to quality. Quality marketing triggers an emotional response. I think you can figure out which video above triggers the bigger emotional response.

If we confuse the ways of the world's money making with the Church, we will be pursuing a goal that does not align itself with the heart of God. IF, though, we take the principles that the world teaches because it better understands how sinful human beings relate to things and one another and use these to progress the Church, then we may learn something about ourselves and who God wants the Church to be.

Small churches are great. Small churches with clear mission statements are even better.  Small churches that are using evangelism to grow are even better. Small churches that meet solely in small groups may grow in their discipleship, but if they don't tell anyone about who they are, what they stand for, and what they think God is doing inside of them, they will die. Because people die. And unfortunately, the Kingdom work that that church had been doing dies with it.

And it doesn't need to.



IN ADDITION - It is probably worth noting that the UM video is meant to encourage others to encourage young people.  Using word of mouth as well. Interesting use and direction.

Just Tell Me This Isn't Like American Idol...

You won't find many more people more excited and driven to continue and advance with contemporary worship music than me. I love Hillsong. I think that most of the work that they do has advanced American Christianity. In many ways, for the better. But they miss the point on so many occasions. I can't help but think that this just is a bit...over the top.

Maybe sometime when I don't have studying to tend to I'll talk more about how I think that production in these services can work toward a higher goal and so we ought not be so quick to judge the work that they are doing to advance the Kingdom, but my first glance's reaction to this video was...a little bit of outrage.

I wouldn't be surprised if they started having Coke cups on stage because they had all of the sudden secured a sponsor.


Thanks to Bryan Browning for the link.


Google Non-TV

How long until the networks stop online ad-based streaming because people can hook their computers up to their TV's? I'd like to see what the numbers are for people who still watch live TV as opposed to who watches via TiVo or online?

Are the networks going to destroy television? Or have they already?

Read here


It's the Little Things That Matter...

...like being able to send the tweet you just wrote. It would be easy if the button were...accessible.


Brilliant Google, just brilliant.

You can have your very own one of these for like $400. Well worth every penny, I say.


Tyler Clementi

Ellen talks about it here. For a little more coverage, see below: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l82g-FaKRv4&]

I only have a few statements to make:

I don't see this as teen bullying. Bullying seems like something that can be overcome. This is evil. Pure evil. [There is only one being that can overcome evil]

The students who did this deserve whatever our justice system can give them. I hope that this dramatically changes the course of their lives.

With the age of the Internet and media that can be recorded, produced, distributed, and streamed from a dorm room, society has got to do a better job of making better decisions. Stupid jokes are no longer theoretical jokes, they are reality and can get out of hand ten times faster than we thought possible before.

How does a campus react to something like this? Keep Rutgers in your prayers. And every other high school or College that has dealt and will deal with this type of situation. In a time when it is still not "acceptable" to be gay, every institution across America has someone somewhere who is watching this story thinking...that could have been me that was outed.

Is anyone else tired of living in a society where this happens?


The Unfortunate Situation That Is Taylor Swift's Singing

Look, I didn't watch the VMA's last night. I was too busy doing school work.  In fact, I forgot all about it.

I happened to get tipped off by Twitter that Kanye was ending the show.  I figured that because of last year, this might be interesting.

It was terrible.  Kanye didn't apologize, he "toasted" his poor judgement in a way of saying, "Everyone is like this a bit..."


But, I went back this morning to find Taylor Swift's performance.  You can watch it below.  Hurry up before Viacom pulls it down. You may have to click through as YouTube has tried to disable the embedding of it.


Everyone commented just like they do every time she sings live. She's just not a good singer.

There are a few things that play here.

Anyone who has either sung (live) into a microphone that is recorded and listened back later knows that there is no way to make the sound sound like it did live.  For those of you willing to argue about live concerts recorded professionally, YES, they sound good.  But they don't sound exactly like they did live.  They're close...but no quite there.

If you've ever watched a live concert on television, you know this to be the case too.  Every singer sounds a little off. A little out of tune, a little under supported.

Taylor is certainly not an exception to this.

She's young. She's 20.

She sings on tour quite a bit. (This is rough on your voice)

She's mainly a songwriter.

The instruments and sound in the room are loud.

She has in ear monitors that essentially plug her ears and feed her what she needs.

And here's my theory: She's awkward.

Watch her on stage.  She's very pretty, but she's a tall lanky girl, who just seems out of place at times on stage. Many of us who primarily play an instrument and sing often feel that way when we are without an instrument and just a microphone.

Something about all this tells me that she may be personally aware of this. And...because of this, she is less confident.  In watching the clip several times back, I seem to think that this affects the way she sings. Without this confidence, she doesn't have the breath support  to back up some of the phrases she writes.

Nor the range.

Moving along with that theory, she doesn't have the control that many other singers her age have. Listen to Hayley Williams. She gets that control through confidence and breath support control.

I commented on Facebook earlier today that she ought to sing with some sort of pitch correction. After all, you'd be hard pressed to find a pop artist these days that doesn't sing with some effects and pitch control. It's simply a necessity in those situations. Sometimes in live tv performances, those effects are fed to the TV.  Sometimes they're not. I guarantee that you know which ones are which.

The underlying reason that Taylor's performances are not bearable is because the entire song is sung under pitch. Even someone who might be considered "tone deaf" knows when they hear bad singing.

Which leads to my last conclusion, she just doesn't have a very good ear. My guess is that the record company (rightly) picked her up because she was a phenomenal country/pop song writer and she was sellable.  Nothing better than a young, pretty, blonde girl who writes songs (and catchy ones at that) about all the guys that screwed with her. Don't cross Taylor or she'll write a song about you. However, she's not a singer. She's not terrible...we've all heard much worse...but she's not great. Unfortunately for her, that's a large part of being an artist. Musical artists get called on to sing at events live. So you have to be good. People have to enjoy listening to you sing. We just don't with her.

Taylor is great.  She's a better song writer than I'll ever be.

She's got a great heart, as evidenced by the song that she wrote for Kanye and about the experience.

She's got a great story and has only more to look forward to.

She has kept to being a good girl, in a world full of young stars who aren't.

But she can't sing.

She doesn't have the breath support.  She doesn't have the confidence. She doesn't have the ear.  She doesn't have the control.

These are all things that singers consider good and desirable qualities.

Most listeners desire for the artist to posses them as well.

Here's to hoping it gets better.


UPDATE: You can also find the performance here

Lyrics to the song are below:

I guess you really did it this time Left yourself in your warpath Lost your balance on a tightrope Lost your mind tryin’ to get it back

Wasn’t it easier in your lunchbox days? Always a bigger bed to crawl into Wasn’t it beautiful when you believed in everything? And everybody believed in you?

It’s all right, just wait and see Your string of lights is still bright to me Oh, who you are is not where you’ve been You’re still an innocent You’re still an innocent

There’s some things you can’t speak of But tonight you’ll live it all again You wouldn’t be shattered on the floor now If only you would sing what you know now then

Wasn’t it easier in your firefly-catchin’ days? And everything out of reach, someone bigger brought down to you Wasn’t it beautiful runnin’ wild ’til you fell asleep? Before the monsters caught up to you?

It’s all right, just wait and see Your string of lights is still bright to me Oh, who you are is not where you’ve been You’re still an innocent

It’s okay, life is a tough crowd 32, and still growin’ up now Who you are is not what you did You’re still an innocent

Time turns flames to embers You’ll have new Septembers Every one of us has messed up too

Lives change like the weather I hope you remember Today is never to late to Be brand new

It’s all right, just wait and see Your string of lights are still bright to me Oh, who you are is not where you’ve been You’re still an innocent

It’s okay, life is a tough crowd 32, and still growin’ up now Who you are is not what you did You’re still an innocent