By offering up his own interior narrative, Bazan holds a mirror to the self-mythologizing we all do in retracing our own steps. To write Phoenix, Bazan spent time in the namesake city; the soaring “My Phoenix” is the kind of anthem that will resonate with anyone who’s left his or her hometown, then returned for holidays, births or funerals. The whole thing clashes and clamors, but a sentimental tug remains, even as that sense of connection and belonging diminishes over time.
There’s bound to be baggage when you go back to a place — both emotionally and geographically — from your past. For both longtime followers and Bazan himself, the record serves as an opportunity, a chance to revisit a place and assess what, in retrospect, has shaped its creator. Phoenix is an unflinching invitation to Bazan’s own personal reckoning. He’s still analyzing the motivations, decisions and actions that have come to define his own history, but in recasting his origin story, he’s also offering the audience an open door.
I cannot get enough of David Bazan’s new album. It’s deep and wide sonically as well as in meaning. Bazan is firing on all cylinders, it’s like he’s tapped into something that has re-energized him. I’m particularly drawn to Quietest Friend where he sings the lines, “I traded my inner wisdom for a jury of my peers.” This has been ringing in my ears since I first heard it. Thank you, David for this album.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to refine and summarize some of my thinking as it pertains to the concept of convergent Friends, remix, and renewing faith traditions and share it with Friends in a public talk. In that talk, I worked to distill down some of the ideas I think are most important.
I have put this talk together in ebook form complete with lots of pictures and illustrations and formatting that adds to the reading experience. I wanted to share this with all of you and make it as accessible as possible, so it is free to download. It should work with most modern-day eBook readers and apps. If that doesn’t work for you, I have also turned the talk into a downloadable .PDF.
A powerful essay on the “co-opting” of minority cultures by Parul Sehgal. This is something I am deeply interested in understanding and observing within “participatory culture,” which often takes part in remixing texts of many kinds. Sehgal’s points are a clear and necessary check on the “fast and loose” nature of those borrowing culture to create culture.
Calling out the co-opting of minority cultures to seem cool has become a public ritual. But where is the line between borrowing and theft?
…Questions about the right to your creation and labor, the right to your identity, emerge out of old wounds in America, and they provoke familiar battle stances. The same arguments are trotted out (It’s just hair! Stop being so sensitive! It’s not always about race!) to be met by the same quotes from Bell Hooks [sic], whose essays from the early ’90s on pop culture, and specifically on Madonna, have been a template for discussions of how white people ‘‘colonize’’ black identity to feel transgressive: ‘‘Ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture.’’ It’s a seasonal controversy that attends awards shows, music festivals, Halloween: In a country whose beginnings are so bound up in theft, conversations about appropriation are like a ceremonial staging of the nation’s original sins.
…In an essay in the magazine Guernica, the Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie called for more, not less, imaginative engagement with her country: ‘‘The moment you say a male American writer can’t write about a female Pakistani, you are saying, Don’t tell those stories. Worse, you’re saying: As an American male you can’t understand a Pakistani woman. She is enigmatic, inscrutable, unknowable. She’s other. Leave her and her nation to its Otherness. Write them out of your history.’’
I realize not all morality finds its origins in the 80s, but in this case, I think I am on good ground. When I was growing up in the age of the 8 inch-high bangs and pegged pants, Birthday parties were nothing like they are in today’s suburb…
Reading in the Christian Century today there was a review of Joel Salatin’s newest book “Mad farmer?” and read this parable from the “Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic,” as Michael Pollan describes in Omnivore’s Dilema. Salatin writes:
We have neighbors—I’ll call them Cleve and Matilda—who would be the bane of liberal environmentalists. . . . Members of the National Rifle Association, they hunt avidly and procure all their meat that way. They scavenge firewood from neighbors’ woods to fill their home-built outdoor wood furnace that supplies all their domestic heat. Their huge garden, filled with blackberries, strawberries, and vegetables, offers a cornucopia of bounty, which they freely share with neighbors, including us. They can, freeze and dry their bounty.They don’t go out much. . . . They don’t buy new vehicles, seldom or never eat out, do fix-it jobs in the community to earn their living. They don’t buy things or shop—their clothes are common working threads, worn out and eventually discarded for rags. They listen to Rush Limbaugh. . . .Now let’s meet another family, living in suburbia, utterly dependent on industrial food, helter-skeltering daily between charitable and recreational activities. Shopping and getting take-out food routinely, amassing 20 pairs of shoes and a dozen trousers. Jetting to Disney World for vacation and popping pharmaceuticals for mental and physical survival. Big paychecks, lots of paper wrappers, big lawn to mow and nice annual donation to an environmental organization. Goodness, maybe they even sit on the board of a prestigious greenie.org.Let me ask you a question: Of these two scenarios, who is the true environmentalist?
You can drive around most neighborhoods here in the suburbs and find at least some vacant buildings. Some of them are small, and if not historic, they at least have a history. While others are just enormous squares, nondescript, no personality or history at all. “throwaway” buildings might be a way to think about it. On our drive to take our oldest daughter to school, we drive past an old Car Dealership that is either defunct or has moved to a more “developed” part of town. In Either case these three or four separate parking lots, and multiple-unit buildings have sat empty as long as we’ve lived here and show no signs of being bought. The weeds and grass have begun their revolt, and I hope they succeed. Surrounding these vacant lots are open fields. Every time I drive by I am sad that these lots are taking up with could otherwise be open fields with trees and animals living there.
But this happens all the time. Some new franchise opens in an already over-saturated market, tries to out advertise, out sell, and out yell, with new products or looks, but underneath, we all know it’s the same story being sold just repacked with a different logo. And soon enough, everything closes down and those once wild fields of life and now empty fields of tar. Continue reading When The Church Becomes a Department Store
Going through Christmas this year I began to wonder if Christmas has lost it’s power as a symbol and sign in our culture today. Symbols can lose power over time and when this happens there needs to be a reformation of those symbols and signs, or a letting go of them. This is in part why early Quakers did not celebrate Christmas and other holidays, they felt that for whatever reasons it was celebrated, the signs and symbols utilized in that celebration did not connect to the actual reality of Christmas: the incarnation of God.
The history of Christmas has gone through many ebbs and flows. There are times when it has held more meaning and times when it was less important culturally and religiously. Its not just now, its always been like this and for the first 300 years of the early Church they didnt even celebrate it or call it Christmas. Continue reading Has Christmas Lost its Power?