I had my first frustrating but fun experience with a Macintosh computer back in high school. My mom was given an Apple IIe for her classes, and I used it after school to try and play the text-based Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy game (which embues things with another level of connection as the storyís writer, Douglas Adams, was an early Mac fan who died unexpectedly near the turn of the century). We had a couple of computers before, the Tandy (such a simple and amazing thing) and the Atari (which I learned how to load and unload the hard way), but the Apple IIe was empowering in some weird way that escapes me at the moment. I just know that I enjoyed having it around, even if I didnít make it very far as Arthur Dent in the game where the world was ending and all you needed was some peanuts, your alien best friend, a handheld computer guide, and a towel.
Thatís about the last fond memory of an Apple product that I can recount for over a decade. I didnít really care for Macs beyond that. I found their shapes to be weird; I found the spinning wheel of passing time annoying; I found PCs much more enjoyable, not that I really understood the difference.
It wasnít until the end of my second year teaching that I was brought back into the world of Steve Jobs (who, it turns out, had been expelled from his own garden for a while). Some of my students chipped in and bought me an iPod mini. As I had never owned a portable CD player, this brought me back to the world of music that I had forgotten. It was only a matter of time, then, before I invested in a small iBook. Then it was a nicer laptop, a full-fledged iPod, an iPhone, and then an iPad. Iím not sure why, really. A number of things come to mind. Something about the design. Something about how it says this is a whole device. Lots of things that lots of Mac users can say much better than me. And even though I have a PC laptop in my classroom, I find that I do all of my important work on the Mac in the workroom.
I was surprised by the death of Steve Jobs this past week. I knew that he had been sick. I knew that he was a genius. I didnít know much beyond that. What I do know I have since learned because of articles that Iíve read online (mostly using my Apple products). Itís taken some time for the ďChristian communityĒ online to say much. Within a day of his death, I found one reprinted article at Christianity Today about Jobsí ďsecular gospel,Ē which was a bit of a downer. Most of my friends posted comments about his passing in somber tones; one even used the moment as a reminder that even the rich and powerful have to die some time. It seems like Steve Jobs knew this more than many of us. I came across the commencement speech from a few years ago that has gotten no small amount of airplay since his death: he had a decent view of things, call it secular if you will.
The Onion said it irreverently and best: Steve Jobs was the last man who knew what in the world he was doing (thatís my clean version of what they said). So many of us, myself more than most, waffle between ways of thinking and living and dealing with things. Our vision often lacks focus, our work often lacks style. Something about Steve Jobs was steady, directed, in a way that might not be too easy to find anymore. In the days since his death, it has been noticed that a lot of people have been eulogizing him as if he had been their friend and not just some creative genius (and how strange to call him creative when really it was a tech thing, some might say). Perhaps he was more of a guide than a friend: someone who didnít just see how things could be, but sought to find a good way to get there. It takes a real kind of confidence to do that, to help people get there. How strange that we see it more clearly now that we have less of it to see.
The last couple of weeks have been pretty crazy for me. I preached four times in eight days, I co-emceed a wedding, I started back to school, led a meeting or two, spoke a little bit to a group or two, and now I'm smack dab back into advising a class and trying to stay a little ahead of the game. Our first long weekend is a couple of weeks away, so I'm hoping for that to come along sooner than later.
Below is a video for a song I like a lot by Jason Grey, whose last album was quality stuff. This song, from an album that will drop in a few weeks. "Remind Me Who I Am" has a catchy tune with some great lyrics. Check it out below. . .
One last music video before the week ends: this time one last one from Steven Curtis Chapman's upcoming album, Re:creation. This one, "The Long Way Home," has obvious nods to a number of previous SCC songs. What he does, though, is extend those moments into this one, which is a rare feat in music these days.
Anyway. Great song to end this last week before school starts back up for me. Still a lot to do between now and then, but ain't that the way that it goes?
This past Christmas I ordered a book in Honolulu that would greet me when I arrived at my parentsí place in Tennessee. The book was by Douglas Coupland, who Iíve been a fan of for almost a decade. The bookís topic was a man, a Canadian I had not heard of: Marshall McLuhan. The book, Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! was the beginning of a revelation to me. Here was a man of faith, a Catholic, shaped by his upbringing, rooted in a classical education, all but prophesying a future that has somewhat come to pass in my lifetime. Sure, he coined phrases like ďthe medium is the messageĒ and ďthe global village,Ē but it turns out that there was so much more being said than that.
So one afternoon during Christmas break I went with my mom to the closest Barnes and Noble to see if I could track down an actual book by McLuhan. I found Understanding Media, a book which took me months to read. And while there were a number of things that I totally didnít get, there was enough that I did, enough that my thinking about some things has been shaped greatly. (Plus, he had some great things to say about the medium we call the comics. Heh.)
And so today he wouldíve turned 100 years old. I only know this because a few days ago, spurred on by a quick phone conversation with a co-worker, I picked up Nicholas Carrís The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains. I had seen the book before, had even flipped through it. I had not noticed until this time, though, that McLuhan is all over the bookís introduction. This, in turn, led me to Carrís blog, where I found out about McLuhanís birthday.
So hereís to you, Marshall McLuhan! Iím glad I found out about you, especially here at what could be the most important turn in Western thinking in centuries. You saw a lot of this; I hope what you saw and had to say will help us through all thatís about to happen next.
You can check out a great excerpt from a Carr essay on McLuhan here. Plus, I highly recommend Couplandís book. Itís short, sweet, and a great introduction to an interesting figure in recent history.
U2 was on Letterman Monday night. Since it was quite a while after my bedtime, I did not catch the show. It did remind me, though, of a clip and a link that I wanted to post concerning the band. A few weeks ago, they played Nashville (for the first time in some time, really). At the end of the concert, as they were ready to play one of their best songs from the 90, "All I Want is You," they called a man onto the stage to play with them. The man was blind and had made a sign asking to play the song with the band for his wife (as he had played it for her on their wedding day). Here's a clip:
The clip from another angle was posted over at The Rabbit Room. The article itself was quite moving (as a fan of the band, I get a lot of what was said). And then the comments. . . the comments were amazing. How easy it is to forget that good music moves people. Hopefully, it moves them to be good people who do good things. Click the link here for a look at the long comments section plus an embedded song, "Walk On," from All That You Can't Leave Behind.
Contemporary Christian music has been dying for some time. Earlier this year, one major Christian publication stated that CCM as we've known it would not last to the end of 2011. This may very well be true: many of the artists of the genres heyday have moved on to other things, and (let's face it) Christian radio has all but abandoned artists that don't stick to a particular format or style.
All of which makes me glad for Steven Curtis Chapman. Of all of the artists I have grown up with, he's the one that has aged well. Part of it is because of his life experience. Part of it is because he's a great songwriter. A big part of it, though, is that he is able to blend the ordinary and the divine in a way that is unique amongst his peers. Almost every song he produces straddles that line so very well. He's got a "new" album dropping in a few weeks, re:creation. From what I can tell, he's revisiting some old songs and adding some new twists. Plus, he's revisiting old ideas and putting a new spin on them. Below is a video of the album's first single, "Do Everything." It's classic Chapman, and for that I am grateful.
One of the big joys of seeing big movies is that you see big trailers. And if there is one movie you want to have a trailer in front of, it would be the latest and last Harry Potter flick.
I couldn't remember what big 2012 movie I had heard would have a trailer before HP as I stood in line talking to friends. It took a while, but then I remembered that we'd be getting a look at the next Sherlock Holmes movie, which would be released at Christmas. (As an aside, let me say that I am much less excited about this one ever since the BBC and PBS released their new Sherlock this past year.) So I was more than pleasantly surprised when I saw the beginning of a trailer that I had forgotten about totally: The Dark Knight Rises.
What was strange was that the audience reaction to the teaser was a small step above negligible. This from a crowd that groaned a little at the Smurf trailer? It was weird to me, but then I saw some confirmation online in this article at CNN.com. Turns out mine wasn't the only theater that had absolutely nothing to say.
What's so interesting about this? It's interesting (to me, at least) because Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two is in line to have the biggest opening weekend ever. . . if it does better than Batman: The Dark Knight. So you really think there would be some hooting and hollering when the trailer aired. And yet not. . .
Check out the article, though, for some interesting thoughts on all things Bruce Wayne on the run. Maybe next week I'll have something to talk about besides movies. . .