Archive for September, 2005

Poverty of Time

A few weeks ago, I attended a church planters meeting, where a bunch of church planters from the Noblesville area of Indianapolis meet to fellowship with, support, and update one another. We’re trying to build bridges across our denominational lines. Well, the discussion topic at this meeting was poverty. What areas of our lives are in a state of poverty?

Now, to put this in context, Noblesville is in Hamilton County, which is in the top ten of richest counties in the country. Our church plant is on the west side of Indianapolis, in Marion county. I remained silent because, well, as I told them afterwards, we have the old fashioned kind of poverty. We don’t get the luxury of a choice in poverty. We are officially in the ghetto. They are opening a Popeye’s Chicken joint between the check cashing place and the pawn shop, next door to the liquor store. Well, there is ghetto and there is ghetTO. In my sister’s neighborhood (what did Chris Rock say about folks who live along Martin Luther King Jr Boulevards?), they have a Smokey’s Brisket and Beauty Salon. Now how are you going to have a barbecue joint and hair stylist in the same building? Wait a second, that’s nothing short of brilliant. Nevermind.

Anyway, the common theme to the church planters comments was that they have a poverty of time and community among their people. Partly, it goes back to the idea that people say they want community, but they don’t really. The other part, however, boils down to time management. Their people complained of a poverty of time.

Their lives are lived in a state of rush. They rush to work, and work so many more hours to keep up the mortgages on their homes. They have a lot of church activities that they do during the course of a week. Their kids have soccer practice. Dance lessons. Piano lessons. There is little down time, much less family time. They are broke when it comes to time. Then that poverty of time impacts their ability to form community. There’s nothing left for their neighbors. Or keeping up with their friends, much less meeting new people. They come home, collapse in their beds, don’t get enough sleep, then get up to do it all over again. So who do they turn to? Their pastors.

And the pastors were in the same boat.

A friend of mine once gave me a crucial bit of advice: if your spouse is not a part of your ministry, your ministry will fail. Put simply, your spouse, your “help-mate”, needs to work by your side, be involved in your ministry somehow (beyond “keeping a peaceful home”, though that is important also). I say that because your spouse “keeping the home” doesn’t mean you get to check out of your responsibilities of the home.

I don’t know why I’m speaking on this, because I suck at balancing my life.

Have you noticed how we’re all so busy and have “so much to do”? How much of that is vanity? It smacks of “I’m so important” or “things would fall apart without me.” The only thing that I came up with was making my wife the keeper of my schedule. It’s easy to give lip service to the idea of your spouse getting first dibs on your time, but it’s a lot harder when you have “so much to do.” I am just as prone to stretching myself too thin and living my family life on the fumes of my day. That’s no way to sustain a marriage nor a relationship with my kids.

So my wife has veto power on my schedule. I can fill up a week, but all my activities better have a “we/our” factor to them. We don’t count time with friends as busy time. If you are busy building relationships, we count that as a good busy. If I’m off doing my own thing, be it work, writing, ministry, or whatever, I can’t do that for days on end. She won’t let me neglect my family time. That’s how she’s a part of my ministry: she won’t let it take over my life. What’s the point of “doing God’s work” if you’re going to sacrifice your family in the process?

Now, I’m not perfect with this either. I haven’t been as great with our date nights, but we’re getting better at the family nights. I’ve got to realize that being in the same room with her isn’t the same thing as spending time with her. I’m trying, but it’s time for less talk and more deeds.

Remember, what you focus on most determines what you miss. Figure out what’s most important to you in this life and don’t miss out.

Interview with Shia LaBeouf

Okay, this is a bit of a hold over from the press junket that I went on for the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played, since the movie opens wide this week, I thought the timing is still okay. I put the interview with the writer, Mark Frost, and the director, Bill Paxton, over on my Hollywood Jesus blog, but I thought that I’d put excerpts from our conversation with Shia LaBeouf over here. The full interview can be found on my message board.

Jodie Foster once noted that there are some people who just have the personality where they can be child actors and not flame out and become adult actors.. Shia LaBeouf has one of those personalities. Frankly, unlike his co-star, Josh Flitter whom we had just interviewed right before him. I could see Josh having some Gary Coleman/Macaulay Culkin type issues in the not too distant future. I wasn’t real familiar with Shia’s resume before this film. He had a part in Constantine (and I, Robot was forgettable as a whole), but I never saw Holes or any of his other Disney grooming that is the bulk of his career.

I was immediately impressed with him, not because of his Hollywood charm (he bounded into the room, shook each one of us with the patented Bill Clinton double clasp hand shake, and got each of our names) but because he was so self-aware about the process. And, yes, he does possess an inherent amiability.

What do you think that (transition) personality is? You seem to have it, since you haven’t flamed out yet.

I haven’t sold out yet either and I think that’s a big reason people flame out, having cashed in. I don’t know what it is. If I could bottle it up I would probably sell it. I don’t know what it quite is. I know what it isn’t: it isn’t making films you know are bad. It isn’t making a movie with a plotline that’s garbage just so you can get a four million dollar paycheck and live really nice. If you’re making art, make art. If you’re going to be an actor, be an actor. If you’re going to make an album, make an album. If you’re going to do everything at once, you’re going to be terrible at all of them. I stick to my guns. I’m trying to make art. I’m not trying to cash in. I always say, if I cashed in I would probably have a really nice bed but I wouldn’t be able to sleep in it, because I wouldn’t respect myself and I would hate myself. It would be terrible, I would be depressed. It would cost me more money with psychiatrists than if I never went in.

All of these steps – Constantine, I, Robot – stuff like that that were these money films, slightly sell out kinds of things, brought me here. I wouldn’t be able to helm this film if I didn’t do that type of stuff. Nobody gets to just jump in and helm a film like that. You got to pay dues. So mostly everything after Holes has been kind of paying dues, and brought me here so now I’m able to do this.

Do you have a grand plan for your career?

After Dustin Hoffman became famous with The Graduate he flipped it and then played like a 90 year old woman in a movie. I’m just trying to flip things as much as possible, but in today’s film world you have independents that aren’t quite independents. You have big huge production companies making small movies with big actors. It’s hard to navigate this puzzle right now. It’s a tough business, this film business.

Now you’ve got this 2929 situation where they’re going to change distribution completely, where they’re going to release the film and the DVD and put it on cable all at once. That changes filmmaking completely. There’s going to be less money made by these studios, which means less movies are going to be made by these studios, which means there’s less opportunity to make great film. It’s all changing, man. I’m just trying to catch it right now, but I’m not going to make Cody Banks 5 or any garbage like that. It’s not what I’m trying to do.

How do you go about choosing your projects?

I read it and sometimes I go, ‘That’s not me, I can’t do that!’ So I have to go do it. It’s challenging yourself, it’s getting to a place you don’t feel comfortable. The minute you feel comfortable on a set, you’re working on a piece of crap. You know it right away. You can feel it. The minute you’re not struggling to get through the film, you’re not doing anything. There’s no work being done. They call it phoning it in. That’s fine, lots of actors do that. There’s nothing wrong with it. Robert DeNiro – amazing actor. What’s going on with the last couple films, you know? [Shia puts his hand to his face to make the phone call.] That’s what happens. But he’s still Robert DeNiro; Raging Bull is still the best performance put on film. But everybody does it. It just goes to show you that it happens to everyone. The goal is to never do it, but that goal is rarely reached. Daniel Day Lewis does it, but does he live a happy life? I don’t know. It depends on what you want. I’m OK with being happy and doing things I love.

[Another thing that struck me about Shia was that so often what he says sounds like he could be speaking for Francis Ouimet, his character in The Greatest Game Ever Played, as well as himself. After awhile, even he starts mixing his pronouns, saying “I” when referring to Francis. He goes on to discuss the movie, working with Bill Paxton and other famous actors. You know, the usual Hollywood marketing stuff that boils down to “we made a good movie. Please go see it.”]

What do you think the public perception of you is, and do you think it’s correct?

It’s never correct. It’s never accurate. You guys are meeting a representative. This isn’t Shia, this is the guy I’m presenting to you.

What is Shia like? Can the rep tell us?

So not Disney, I guess. I’m not Disney. Sometimes it does come out, but I’m not Disney. And I think Disney is kind of like that; they’re trying to reinvent themselves as well. They realize that old Disney doesn’t work. Ice Princess? Come on, get out of here. You’re going to make Ice Princess and try to market that to a bunch of 13 year olds who all play Grand Theft Auto? They don’t want to see Ice Princess. They want to see Pulp Fiction. Kids are growing up so fast now.

Why do you think people don’t support art? Why do you think Into the Blue might kick your ass?

Because I don’t look like Jessica Alba.

That’s true.

And I don’t look like Paul Walker. People know these are not the best actors in the bunch, but it’s not about that, I guess. Some people want to see that, that’s respectable. I mean I respect that. You can’t hate on that. I respect it. But it’s not what I’m trying to do and I don’t know if that would be my audience necessarily, or this movie’s audience necessarily. It’s not like they’re stealing our audience, it’s that we don’t know if our audience is going to show up. They might just look at the movie and go, ‘Aw, it’s a golf movie.’ We have a story not many people know about, we have a cast that not many people know about and a sport that – a lot of people don’t like the sport. But the movie is insane. The movie is really good. And it’s hard to do that.

###
Comment on this bit of rantus interruptus anyway you want (I don’t know where you’re reading it from) but if you want to guarantee me seeing it, do so at my message board.

Paging Dr. Freud

I had a disturbing dream last night.

We were in a deserted high school building, a mutant version of my old high school (who knows what sort of unresolved issues that represents).

“We” was me, my wife and our boys, plus Lauren, a young lady that I’ve come to think of as a daughter and Mikayla, her baby sister, all of six years old. An Asian man on a motor scooter had a nuclear device. We were told that if we could get a few miles away, we would be alright.

Mikayla chooses that exact moment to throw a huge fit at the notion of being inconvenienced and runs off. We spend all of our escape time searching for her, so that by the time we find her, there’s no point in running. We go to the roof of the building. I kiss Lauren. I take Malcolm, my youngest, into my arms and take my wife’s hand. She’s holding my oldest and Lauren is holding Mikayla. Then the nuke goes off and everything goes white.

The whiteness slowly dissolves into blackness and I remember thinking “At least now I get to see what comes next.”

A voice tells me to “wake up.”

It was still night time. I woke up in a pool of sweat, heart racing, and so weirded out that I didn’t go back to sleep. The thing is, the dream doesn’t seem that scary in the telling. I’d like to blame my sense of unease on the idea that this is what happens when I die in my dreams. Yet, that doesn’t do anything for my feeling so completely disconcerted, having this sense of living in a state of unreality. Then there are the questions. Did I die? Am I dead now? Is reality a dream? Am I still dreaming? Am I dead? Is this heaven? Hell? Why am I so scared right now?

Maybe my fear is that one day that voice won’t remind me to wake up.

Anyone want to ask me why I write horror?

###
Comment on this bit of rantus interruptus anyway you want (I don’t know where you’re reading it from) but if you want to guarantee me seeing it, do so at my message board.

Random Chatiness

(That’s code for nothing useful being posted today.)

This is my reminder announcement to all those interested that I will be the guest of the Red Light District, a horror message board, for their “Chat with the Sinister Minister.” Tuesday night 9/27/05 at 9:00pm. (Come to find out, that’s 9:00 pm “white people time”, so I guess I’m making the appropriate adjustments to the clocks in my house.) So join the group interview, and you too can find out how long it takes someone to ask whether I am secretly married to Chesya Burke.

The Katrina jokes have started in earnest. Though this may only make sense to the uber nerds of the world, I, for one, am publicly condemning Katrina: The Gathering as wrong, wrong, wrong. Brilliant, but wrong.

While I’m at it, I am continuing to do my part to bring the races together. I have been directing some of my brothers and sisters to the video How to dance like a white guy. I’m particularly fond of the “point to the Lord.”

By the way, I think the time has come for a new horror Cabal. It’s high time for a new group of horror writers to form a clique and oppress future horror writers or at least give them something to complain about. I’m officially accepting applications. By the way, congrats to my friend Jen Orosel on her latest bit of good news. I’m officially inducting her into my new cabal. Though we need a new name. Probably a new leader, since I’d only end up hen-pecked by Chesya, but at least a new name.

###
Comment on this bit of rantus interruptus anyway you want (I don’t know where you’re reading it from) but if you want to guarantee me seeing it, do so at my message board.

Worst Republican Ever

Chesya Burke accused me of being a Republican in name only, with the intimation being that I simply love being contrary. I hate it when she’s right.

You are a

Social Liberal
(71% permissive)

and an…

Economic Liberal
(35% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Democrat

Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

We love labels. Labels make us more of a known quantity. I have another acquaintance that’s constantly trying to pin a label on me, to put me in a comfortable little box that makes me easy to figure out. However, the problem is that labels don’t work anymore. Or simply matter a whole lot less.

Black vs. white.
Republican vs. Democrat.
Conservative vs. Liberal.
Postmodern vs. Modern.
Calvinist vs. Arminian.
Protestant vs. Catholic.
Christian vs. every other religion.

Have you noticed that a lot of these “vs” arguments no longer matter to a lot of us? It’s like they are more interested in arguing with each other, not realizing that they are disconnecting from whole generations of people in the mean time. At some point, if they wish to remain relevant, they will have to turn around (or outside of one another) and start answering the questions being asked of today’s culture. Because when it comes right down to them, the terms describe camps a lot more than they do people.

It reminds me of what Wendell Berry said in his article “In Distrust of Movement”: People in movements too readily learn to deny to others the rights and privileges they demand for themselves. They too easily become unable to mean their own language, as when a “peace movement” becomes violent. They often become too specialized, as if finally they cannot help taking refuge in the pinhole vision of the institutional intellectuals. They almost always fail to be radical enough, dealing finally in effects rather than causes. Or they deal with single issues or single solutions, as if to assure themselves that they will not be radical enough.

With all those labels, you still know nothing about me. Don’t feel too bad, apparently I don’t know myself that well since what I label myself doesn’t line up with what I stand for. Politically I think I lean to the right, though apparently my love for social justice and environmental concerns doesn’t allow me to exist there comfortably. I believe in personal responsibility and the community taking care of its poor. I’m a capitalist who believes that with great wealth comes great responsibility, and spending has to be tempered with compassion. I think that Democrats take the black vote for granted and the Republicans have written off the black vote.

The problem is, apparently those labels are subjective. I see myself as Black, Conservative, Libertarian/Republican, (Integrative) Postmodern, Post-Protestant, Christian. Do you think that sums me up? Do you think you have an idea of who I am and how I think? Life’s not that neat. I barely have a grasp on what all that means. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. The end result is that you actually have to talk to me, get to know me, in order to figure out what kind of person I am.

###
Comment on this bit of rantus interruptus anyway you want (I don’t know where you’re reading it from) but if you want to guarantee me seeing it, do so at my message board.

Missional Church

Don’t you sometimes wish that Christians would just shut up?

That’s pretty much the conclusion that I came to a long time ago, especially since so many of “our spokesmen” seem to say such silliness in the name of Jesus (and hey, since Jesus said, our spokesmen can’t possibly be argued with). It’s just got me thinking about what church is and what we should be about. Plus, we just talked about this recently. We’ve gotten the idea of what church is confused with the building that we meet in. Church is to come together as a corporate group to be transformed. To learn in community.

The typical foundation for what church has become is all about the Sunday (Saturday for our Seventh Day Adventist brothers and sisters) worship service. Look at our language, we go to the Sunday service, as in, we go to get served (or “fed” in Christianese). We as attenders and church staff focus most of our energy, effort, and resources into the weekend program and we call that our church experience. The staff and ministry teams do the work of service and our participation is in singing and then listening to the message. Everything else we do (small groups, outreach, missions or supplemental programs) are special events that spring from the weekend service.

We’ve gone from being a church to going to church. The model we usually operate under, for all intents and purpose driven lives, looks like this: I make sure my butt gets into heaven, join a church, and maybe that can impact the world. Churches have become so inward focused. Missions becomes a piece of the pie, another program we have the option of giving to or participating in, instead of the whole pie. That has led to the church becoming maintenance people, museum curators of all this precious history that has little connection to our day to day lives.

However, we, the church, should always have a missionary posture. Where the people realize that they are church through the week who gather together for corporate worship on the weekend. Where each member contributes to the mission of the church. This not-so-novel idea led to revisiting the idea of a missional church.

The term “missional church” was coined by the Gospel and Our Culture Network in the 90s.* Basically, the church is seen as a group of people on a mission in our current context (which then naturally lends itself to culturally appropriate evangelism, but that’s another rant sometime). The church is a reproducing community (as opposed to an empire or fortress building community) of authentic disciples who are being equipped as missionaries to be sent out by God. We listen to the questions asked by our community and dialogue over those questions. We don’t force questions that we think our community “should” be asking and provide those answers. That’s not real helpful.

The missional model would look something like this: God has Good News (that His Kingdom is at hand) meant for the world, He has chosen to use the church in order to share it, I am invited to be a part of it. We make disciples instead of making Christians and then discipling them (to create what? Super-Christians?).

As Christians, we have our identity in Christ. We find our mission in Christ. Missional people might not spend as much time at church because their whole lives are missions. We are all missionaries in the context of our social connections, called to love and serve the world. Some people may ask why we do what we do, and though we may share why, even if they don’t, our mission doesn’t change. Evangelism isn’t separated from social action. I’m going to serve because I’m called to serve, not in order to “trick” you into asking about my faith so that I can make my Jesus sales pitch.

We’ve gotten away from the idea of church being a hospital for broken people. These days, many of us feel more comfortable walking into a bar than into a church. Which is why I propose that we work on our own hearts and minds and shut up. We love other people and serve them as our evangelism, using our “talking time” to “do”. We need to get out of our Christian ghettos and into our neighborhoods and social networks. It’s about living in unity with the King, joining Jesus in what He’s already doing.

[*A quick summary of their thesis goes like this: The church is missional, not by its sending out of missionary ventures but by its life as a community sent by God into its place in the world. The church’s origin is in the gospel of the reign of God which Jesus preached and established gives shape to the church’s missional identity as representing the reign of God as its community (koinonia), its servant (diakonia) and its messenger (kerygma). The missional church lives an alternative vision in the midst of the “powers” constituted by its surrounding society’s culture and socio-political, economic structures. Churches participate in the community-forming work of the Holy Spirit by cultivating in their life together those ecclesial-missional practices implicated by the gospel of Christ. All local Christian communities are intimately bound in a “community of communities” with all others, in a global church which is apostolic, catholic, holy and one.]

###

The Get Out Countdown Clock


I love my kids. I cherish every minute I have with them.

And I want them out my house.

You see, as much as I’m tempted to lose all sense of my own life and re-fashion the frayed and tattered thing that my wife and I call a social life around my boys, I’m too selfish. I like my time with myself, I like my time with my wife, and I don’t get enough of either. So I’m looking forward to having an empty nest. Some parents can’t handle the empty nest. I know that my parents realized that 30 years of their marriage was spent raising kids. Thirty years. Now they have to find some hobbies. Either that, or talk to each other (and Lord knows married people run out of stuff to talk about after their first five years. That’s why they have kids in the first place). As to the problem at hand, I am torn about which date to go with:

Number of days til Malcolm (my youngest, the one that’s less than happy about having his picture taken) is 18: 5114.

Number of days til Malcolm is shipped off to college: 5145.

It’s never too soon to be prepared. This reminds me of a sign that I saw at my Barber Shop:

CHILDREN
Tired of Being
Harassed by your
Stupid Parents?

ACT NOW!
Move Out,
Get a Job,

Pay Your OWN Bills,

While You Still

Know Everything!

For the record, this has nothing to do with the fact that my wife and I just bought locks for our bedroom door due to the frequency of unannounced night time visitors.

Finally Getting Caught Up

This was supposed to be a blog about my take home lessons on exposure versus paying venues. You see, I am loathe to give advice to (new or upcoming) writers, because I’m still figuring out the game myself. There have been some bumpy lessons along the way, but I’m tried to keep them to a minimum. I’ve been published in one charity anthology (Small Bites) and one e-book anthology (Crossings). Neither of which I regret, but that’s more than plenty when it comes to giving away my work.

I see the lure of pursuing exposure markets. Exposure is great in theory, but by exposure, you want to mean more than being read by the friends and family of the other contributors. The basic rule of thumb is that if a market doesn’t have enough of a readership to afford to pay you, the only thing exposed is their business. There are exceptions, of course, but as general guiding principles go, that’s a pretty good one.

The only work I give away is my reviews over at Hollywood Jesus. That’s legitimate exposure (almost a million hits a day), they have a new volume of their Hollywood Jesus Reviews 2004-2005 coming out soon (I have seven reviews in that one). And they sent me to Canada as part of a press junket for The Greatest Game Ever Played.

My First Junket

Some writers have mountain retreats that they go to in order to clear their heads, focus, or simply get away. I’ll take room service over the outdoors anytime. Not that I do this often (writer = no money), but I go to enough conferences where I’m put up in hotels by my day job (scientist = no money) or my work at the church (ministry = no money). In this case, Disney arranged for my impromptu trip to Toronto, Canada.

I didn’t have a lot of notice, but hey, it was a free trip to Canada and I’d never been. I loved what bits of Toronto I managed to see. It reminded me of Chicago, except with nice people. There was a mix up at the hotel, so the first day I didn’t get registered with the media group. So I resigned myself to staying in my room, ordering room service, and getting caught up on some writing projects. And let me tell you, the more expensive the meal, the prettier it is and the less it fills you up.

I ate very pretty on Disney’s dime.

As it turns out, the Toronto Film Festival was going on. If I’d had the chance, I’d have prepared better for that. I didn’t bump into too many stars, Woody Harrelson and Madonna (whose husband is about to inflict his latest cinematic turd upon an unsuspecting populace). Luckily, my years of training at horror conventions prepared me for this. Except that I missed all the parties. Though in retrospect, the last thing the church needs is pictures of me drinking out of Madonna’s bra or something floating around the internet (it’s bad enough that whenever someone Googles something like “postmodern”, “Emergent”, and “Indianapolis” they usually get directed to my web site).

It was like my first con where I didn’t know anyone. The big difference being that at a horror writer’s convention, the other writers will reach out an draw you into the community and have it was strictly every man for themself. Well, that’s probably too harsh an indictment (as well as too much a rose-tinted glasses view on horror conventions), but the sense of competition was higher. We all like our tribes best, evidently. Writers (sub-divided by the media you work in). Talking heads. Camera men. Producers.

Anyway, if you care even a little bit about the movie, The Greatest Game Ever Played, I have posted my interviews with the writer and director. I know, “who cares what a writer has to say?” But in the Interview with Mark Frost, a couple of us became utter geeks and tried to get him to talk about revisiting Twin Peaks or what he was doing in the screenplay to Fantastic Four 2 (come on, give us at least the villain!)

A Few Words with Bill Paxton was more like a monologue with someone just pushing the “play” button on Bill Paxton and letting him go. I guess he was trying to anticipate the questions he knew we were going to ask, but it was more like a politician following a script. However, I still managed to fashion an interview out of it.

We had a chance to talk to Shia LaBeouf. I’ll probably just do excerpts of that interview over here in a day or two. Shia was definitely not in diplomatic/always on point/Hollywood speak mode.

###
Comment on this bit of rantus interruptus anyway you want (I don’t know where you’re reading it from) but if you want to guarantee me seeing it, do so at my message board.

On Kanye West

So a couple of people have been bending my ear over the Kanye West comments over George Bush’s handling of the Katrina aftermath. I know they were looking for a “Negro seal of approval” on their opinion (they took umbrage and came to me, as their “lone, reasonable black friend”, to echo their opinion and feel good about whatever foolishness they were about to say next). Why, I have no idea, since my opinions rarely please many people in any given argument.

For those who are unfamiliar with Kanye West, let me direct you to Rod Garvin‘s wonderful blog entry on him:

At a time when hip-hop was plagued with oversexed M.C.’s and superficial rhymes you could say that Kanye West flew onto the scene like an angel out of heaven. His smash first single “Slow Jam” would pre-empt any chances of being mislabeled as a Gospel artist, but the inspirational, non-preachy “Jesus Walks” earned him a place next to other Patron Saints of Imperfection and prophetic reflection, such as John Coltrane (“Love Supreme”), Marvin Gaye (“What’s Going On?”) and Tupac Shakur (Too many songs with spiritual force and social relevance to name just one). Hua Hsu of the Village Voice had it right when he wrote in his review of West’s first album The College Dropout, entitled “The Benz or the Backpack?”, that self-conflict was in. With his second album, Late Registration, West proves that he is the king of cognitive and spiritual dissonance, which helps him capture the complex nature of the human condition better than any of his peers in hip-hop and perhaps better than anyone in music – period.

Kanye’s complexity is fueled by a mother who is a retired English Professor and a father who is a former Black Panther and is currently a Christian marriage counselor. Pedigree may have given him his uncanny blend of intellecualism, spirituality and revolutionary disposition, but his middle class upbringing contributed to his preppy sense of style. Sprinkle on some hip-hop pathos and you have one of the most original musical artists ever. It is this hyper-awareness of his unique stature that boosts West’s ego and causes some critics to paint him with the “arrogant” label.

Artistic contradiction, West’s masterful formula for success, is precisely what causes Time reporter Josh Tyrangiel to question the revolutionary potential of Kanye in his article, “Why You Can’t Ignore Kanye West.” “Revolutions require moral certainty, and West’s default position is doubt,” writes Tyrangiel. “What he’s up to is more like a reformation.” Another conflicted Christian by the name of Martin Luther has taught us that reformations can have revolutionary implications, but Tyrangiel does have a point. If Hsu is correct in his assessment that, “Rather than sort through his life’s ethical messes or compromised alliances, West peddles self-conflict as an end itself,” than we have reason to be cautious about Kanye’s role in a larger social movement. In all fairness, Hsu made his comments in reference to West’s first album. The question is, has Kanye become more secure in the positions that he takes on various issues (keeping in mind only one year has past between his new album and his last one)? Let’s take a look at some lyrics that touch on race and class, which are among West’s favorite topics: (Read rest of blog entry here)

As for what I thought of the comments, let me direct you to a remix of his song “Gold Digger”:

The internets have had their way with Kanye West‘s new single “Gold Digger.” An ass-kicking protest remix is now online at FWMJ — it features Kanye’s infamous “George Bush doesn’t care are about black people” quote, and skewers the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

Five days in this motherf*cking attic
I can’t use the cellphone I keep getting static
Dying ’cause they lying instead of telling us the truth (…)
Screwed ’cause they say they’re coming back for us, too
but that was three days ago and I don’t see no rescue(…)

Swam to the store, tryin’ to look for food
Corner store’s kinda flooded so I broke my way through
Got what I could but before I got through
News say the police shot a black man trying to loot

Link to “George Bush Don’t Like Black People” MP3 (8.7MB).

Remixed by The Legendary K.O, Words by Big Mon and Damien a/k/a Dem Knock-Out Boyz.

Find another Negro to Amen your opinions. In the meantime, I am hoping that the issue of poverty in this country will finally be addressed. As always, I remain cautiously optimistic.

So I Stay Near the Door

I guess that I’m in a real poetry loving mood, because I just noticed that my last entry was a poem. This one, however, was not written by me, but encapsulates a lot of my thoughts and moods at the moment. Plus, I just got through attending a seminar by Brian McLaren (who has recently begun a new book-blog experiment) and he used the poem. To those who are wondering, I’ll be posting about my jaunt to Canada starting tomorrow.



SO I STAY NEAR THE DOOR

By the Reverend Canon Samuel Moor Shoemaker, Jr., D.D., S.T.D.

I stay near the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out,

The door is the most important door in the world–

It is the door through which men walk when they find God.

There’s no use my going way inside, and staying there,

When so many are still outside, and they, as much as I,

Crave to know where the door is. And all that so many ever find

Is only the wall where a door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
with outstretched, groping hands,

Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,

Yet they never find it – – –

So I stay near the door.


The most tremendous thing in the world

Is for men to find that door–the door to God.

The most important thing any man can do
is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands,
and put it on the latch–
the latch that only clicks
and opens to the man’s own touch.

Men die outside that door,
as starving beggars die
on cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter–
Die for want of what is within their grasp.

They live, on the other side of it–because they have found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,

And open it, and walk in, and find Him – – –

So I stay near the door.


Go in, great saints, go all the way in–

Go way down into the cavernous cellars,

And way up into the spacious attics–

It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.

Go into the deepest of hidden casements, of withdrawal, of silence, or sainthood.

Some must inhabit those inner rooms,
And know the depths and heights of God,

And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.

Sometimes I take a deeper look in,

Sometimes venture a little farther;

But my place seems closer to the opening – – –

So I stay near the door.


There is another reason why I stay there.

Some people get part way in and become afraid

Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;

For God is so very great, and asks all of us.

And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia.

And want to get out. “Let me out!” they cry.

And the people way inside only terrify them more.

Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled

For the old life, they have seen too much;

Once taste God, and nothing but God will do any more.

Somebody must be watching for the frightened

Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,

To tell them how much better it is inside.

The people too far in do not see how near these are

To leaving–preoccupied with the wonder of it all.

Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door,

But would like to run away. So for them too,

I stay near the door.


I admire the people who go way in.

But I wish they would not forget how it was

Before they got in. Then they would be able to help

The people who have not yet even found the door,

Or the people who want to run away again from God.

You can go in too deeply, and stay too long,

And forget the people outside the door.

As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,

Near enough to God to hear Him, and know He is there,

But not so far from men as not to hear them,

And remember they are there, too.

Where? Outside the door–

Thousands of them, millions of them.

But–more important for me–

One of them, two of them, ten of them,

Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.

For those I shall stay by the door and wait

For those who seek it.

“I had rather be a door-keeper . . .”

So I stay near the door


End

###
Comment on this bit of rantus interruptus anyway you want (I don’t know where you’re reading it from) but if you want to guarantee me seeing it, do so at my message board.