Saturday, February 26, 2011

The King of Limbs

I had a friend ask me what I thought of Radiohead's new album, The King of Limbs recently, and I wanted to throw down my thoughts and open up a venue for fellow Radiohead-heads to discuss.

My initial impressions of The King of Limbs are generally warm. I like the album overall, especially for the percussion and great rhythms. I don't think it will be one of my favorite Radiohead works, but it's still decent listening. As is typical for Thom Yorke, he has a lot to say about love and personal dealings in relationships in this work. The album has a few strong songs, and I'm quite fond of "Little by Little" for its theme-capturing music. I love that the bass plods along almost like raindrops, and even the bulk of the guitar provides a relatively simple note-to-note riff that emphasizes the building up little by little to a breaking point. I also rather enjoy "Bloom," "Morning Mr. Magpie," "Lotus Flower," and "Separator" as a finale (love the dancing guitar highs in the middle half of the song), but the rest of the album is forgettable to me. "Feral" is a unfortunate waste of time on this already to0-short album. "Codex" basically hijacked the piano from "Pyramid Song" (Amnesiac), as if we wouldn't notice. A few brief moments are reminiscent of Sufjan Steven's Age of Adz (check intro to "Bloom"), but on the converse, I recall thinking that Age of Adz had Radiohead-like hues when I first listened to it as well.

I suppose it's natural to compare a band's music with its earlier albums. To that effect, I compare The King of Limbs to the B sides of Hail to the Theif. Like the second-half of Hail, with its soulfully melancholy, but less-memorable songs, The King of Limbs strikes me as an album I'll probably save for certain moods and will likely only skip to the songs I like. Hail is one of my favorite Radiohead albums because of how well it captured both the classic, rocking (more guitar-driven) Radiohead from Pablo Honey through OK Computer and the more electronic flavorings of Kid A and Amnesiac (which were both recorded at the same time, hence their tight musical kinship)*. I'm a Radiohead immigrant who didn't discover Radiohead until Kid A, so my assessment may seem skewed to a Radiohead purist who's been with them since the beginning. Radiohead has yet to fail in my book, but their last two albums haven't been as strong to me.

*If you're like me and you enjoyed the electronic albums (Kid A, Amnesiac), then check out Thom Yorke's solo album, Eraser. Solid beats, classic Thom vocals.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yoga Fire

Yoga is dumb (<-Thesis statement). I am listening to "Working for the Weekend" by Loverboy right now (<-red herring statement that has nothing to do with thesis). Despite the misleading implications of Street Fighter, yoga will not make you breathe fire or stretch your limbs really far when fighting in a room full of ornately adorned elephants. Yoga is like the French bottled water of the exercise world. It is a scientific fact that yoga will not get you in shape. Hey, 1975 called, and it wants its lame, isometric exercise back. I know, it strengthens your core, stretches your..blah, blah, blah. I get it, celebrities do it. It's Eastern. It's meditative. It's popular. So it's virtuous. Which brings me to my next point. Go jogging. Now for some more points.

As a Christian, one should take the time to ask the question of whether or not it's okay to practice yoga. Before you blow it off as preposterous to ask such a question, consider the following statement. No, consider the next statement after this. Yoga is Hindu worship. It is a meditative exercise designed to help one unify in spirit with Brahma and learn to connect with one's inner light. It is taken very seriously by serious Hindus. It isn't just the new way to look sexy in this season's turban.

In answering the permissibility of yoga, let us consider the Bible, because, you know, it's the basis for Christianity and Christian ethic. One can take the approach that Paul takes with the Corinthians when he discusses eating meat sacrificed to idols (I Cor 8). He explains that, as saints, we know that idols are worthless, and we are under the one true God. Therefore, meat sacrificed to idols can be redefined as just food. In the same way, we can view yoga as simply an exercise that can be enjoyed for its non-real-exercise virtue apart from its original use as worship. (See paragraph 1 on the uselessness of yoga as an exercise). This seems pretty valid from a Scriptural standpoint. I'm now listening to "Down Under" by Men at Work.

However, I hear from many Christians that yoga is their way to meditate and pray to our God. This takes the argument to a new level, assuming we defeated the boss of the previous level. Hy-doo-kin! (Second Street Fighter reference). I believe we are starting to tread on the thin ice of syncretism at this point. (First ice pond fishing reference). Worshiping The Father through yoga would be the equivalent of me busting out my prayer rug and bowing in a prayer ritual in church. It would seem really out of place and incongruent with Christian worship. I'm not saying it can't be done or that it is immoral. Now I am. As Paul wrote, "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable" (I Cor 10:23). But since we established that yoga is dumb, we can rest assured that it is. Finishing off with "Time to Pretend" by MGMT.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Insight is a fascinating concept in psychology referring to one's ability to realize one's own disease or condition. For example, people who are depressed usually have good insight and realize they are depressed and are often able to pinpoint what started it and what symptoms they are having. They will come to the doctor and tell him/her their diagnosis. "I'm depressed. What can you do?" Schizophrenics, on the other hand, often have very poor insight. They usually think their lives are fine except for the fact that the government is spying on them through their TV screens. They don't want treatment because they wouldn't have a problem if somebody would just quit bugging their house with secret spy equipment.

In a more general life sense, insight is a valuable virtue. The ability to see one's shortcomings can be life altering. When UFC first became a league or whatever it is, my friends and I would rent the VHS's at the local Blockbuster. I think we watched the first 7 or 8 recorded UFC competitions that way. (Royce Gracie was my hero). Something interesting about the sport is that eventually people began to realize which styles of martial arts were most beneficial and least beneficial. Eventually, an entirely new martial art was born, so-called mixed martial arts, which is purely designed for the Kip Dynamites out there training to be cage fighters. This process took years and occurred as a result of people being challenged by different styles. The same happens in our everyday lives if we are open enough to notice. We can pick up on our deficits and make changes to correct them. If we have insight we can see when a certain habit or behavior is hurtful to others. We can see when a certain habit or behavior is hurtful to ourselves. Sometimes, we can even discern what those behaviors arose from. Either way, the ability to recognize our faults, or when we've swung too extreme on a viewpoint, or when our faith is being blocked by an inaccurate perspective is paramount to our growth as humans.

I believe that some are born with a certain level of insight. Some are blessed with it directly from God. And many grow in it as a skill through experience. Many of us get taken down by several choke holds before realizing that we need to learn how to grapple in the octagon. But the best way to learn, in my experience, is to keep oneself challenged by different competitors. It's a natural tendency to surround ourselves in media, culture, and friends who think like us, dress like us, laugh like us, and boo at the same politicians as us. But we'll never see our blind spots if we are always looking at the same thing. If we choose to, at least periodically, interact with a different age group, or ethnicity, or faith, or book style, or political affiliation we might find ourselves a little more insightful. We might find that we've strayed from a valuable character trait or that our thinking is more harmful than good. Or that Greco-Roman wrestling has no place at UFC. Or that the FBI really isn't trying to spy on us through our shoe laces. We will start to see how imperfect and codependent we are. We'll realize our need for help in a big way. We'll realize why Jesus offers His hand.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow and Birth. What are Things Ending in "days," Alex?

My 30th birthday approacheth. I haven't been bothered by that fact until we got a snow day yesterday. I live in central Arkansas where it isn't often that we acquire enough snowfall to play in. We typically get just enough to threaten our road surface integrity, which around here is like 1/2 inch. I think the state of Arkansas gets to share two or three dump trucks retrofitted with snowplows and sand spreaders. So when accumulation beyond a couple inches occurs, it's kind of a big deal. We get to play in it.

I know what you're thinking. "Man, I wish I could drive one of those dump trucks." Believe me, I get it. But the second thing you're probably thinking is, "What does that snow talk have to do with your turning 30, Sir Geidl?" Thanks for asking. I realized a cold fact yesterday while playing with my kids in the snow: I get bored with stuff that I used to intensely enjoy. Yesterday, after the building of the snowman, I was ready to call it a day, go inside, and sit around in pajamas. But my kids, who are 3.5 and 5, were having a great time picking up snow balls, making snow angels, and simply walking around in the fluffy white goodness in their grandma-issued snow boots.

It made me sad that I don't still have that level of fascination, especially for something that's pretty rare around here. I used to play in the snow until my face hurt and toes were purple; now I just want to drive the dump truck that gets rid of it. I used to love swimming; now I worry about taking my shirt off in public. I had a special affection for building forts out of Legos; now I just want them cleaned up off the floor. I used to adore playing with Transformers; now I only worry about getting caught playing with them.

I know this is a normal part of the maturing process, but there is something about our sophisticated society that steals our innocent wonder. If you've ever been to a remote area in another country, you know what I'm talking about. Cynicism is much less apparent in Uzbekistan. Adolescents don't act like teenagers in Thailand. Adults still like our silly youth group relay games in China. Big, tall white dudes are still fascinating in the Philippines despite the fact that the US military (mostly a bunch of big, tall white dudes) had a strong presence there for many years.

I wonder how my faith is affected by this "maturing." I've been a Christian for about 16 years, and there's a lot of goodness that doesn't excite me anymore. What!? That dude's donkey be talking to him! Not surprising anymore. The fact that Jesus didn't condemn the adulteress that was about to be stoned is now broken down to a theological conundrum rather than a simple picture of of a loving and forgiving manGod who was rocking society off its religious feet. If worship songs are too old, I don't like them, unless they are are revised to reflect a more modern style, which means it better have some killer drum beats and sick electric guitar fx. If Scripture is over taught, I don't care to hear it. I find myself trying so hard to step away from the cliche, that I'm rejecting anything that was old and/or exciting in my youth. That's troubling to me as I am supposed to be maturing into a new decade of wisdom.

Maybe I just need to go play in the snow.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tastes That Make Me See

My wife came across a delightful find this week at The Targ. The treasure is a little secret from down under known as the TimTam. It's a crispy cookie rectangular prism covered in chocolate often with some bonus filling like caramel. We first came across these little quadrilaterals of goodness 7 years ago exactly where you'd expect--The Philippines. We found them in a small grocery next to the stinky fresh fish aisle and Pocky, the chocolate cream covered bisquit sticks.
It's not so much that the TimTam dominates the cookie universe. They're pretty tasty, but what I like most is the fact that we found something in America to remind us of our journeys in other lands. Usually it's the other way around. When traveling, we get excited about ordering a burger from McDonald's in China or buying a 80-degree Coke in Egypt because they remind us of Home. (Home is capitalized to indicate America, the standard for home). But to see something trickle through our isolated walls and remind us of Third World living conditions is rare. TimTams remind me of short, tan people. They remind me of the skinny girl giving all her food to her little brother at the feeding center. They bring back an aroma of diesel fumes and the sound of dude yelling from his custard cart at sunrise in attempt to sell rotten custard to people who aren't yet awake. Eating squid. Singing Jesus songs to attentive children in a tight alley. Roosters in the city. A remote village with a hand-built stone pathway. Bamboo houses built up on stilts with nearby banana trees. Shy village kids all wearing flip flops on brown feet greeting us with their only English, "Good morning, sir. Good morning, ma'am." Mangy dogs with crooked tails (They all had crooked tails for some reason). Smog. VCDs. My wife. And tasty cookies from Australia. Tim to the Tams.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Abridgd Lst o' Crp We Could'v Dun W/o

At the closing of a pretty solid decade, it's important to think about all the awesome that has happened in the past ten years. But it's even more important to think about all the annoying, lame, and otherwise heinous crap delivered to us. Why? Because it's more fun to blog about. So here lies The Abridged List of Crap We Could Have Done Without over this last decade.

Abridgd Lst o' Crp We Could'v Dun W/o

1. Window's Vista. Anyone who knows me is aware of my exceeding fondness of Window's Vista. This little sequel to the successful Windows series got Wachowskied*. Bag o' burning poo and I stomped all over

2. Toy packaging. Twist ties. Freaking twist ties all over the place. Just open any toy, and you'll know what I'm talking about.

3. The demise of free downloadable music. Napster, how I miss thee. If it had really been about the artists, I would have been more concerned, but this overturn was driven by the production companies and tools like Metallica. Anytime a corporation or a rock band does something, it is evil and should be complained about on blogs.

4. Two The Tonight Shows. Jay Leno, c'mon. You think you've fooled anybody. You just started another one right next door. You're like a Third World street vendor. You think I didn't notice the whole street of pad thai being sold right next to yours.

5. Chipotle. I was just as excited as the next guy to get a whole new chip and dip flavor, but let's be honest. This is basically burnt salsa with a bunch of sugar added to it. Unimpressed.

6. Paula Abdul. I'm not sure if she's human. I think she's an android (actually a "gyenoid" would be more precise) programmed to repeat everything Randy Jackson just said except with an inappropriate amount of emotion and awkward trinket-jangling applause.

7. Global warming. Anybody remember the 80's when electric cars and solar panels and recycling were rad and fun? Well, all that was reduced and reused this last decade when Captain Planet got the most boring ex-Vice President to become ambassador for ye olde earth. Now it's not fun. It's scary. And we're all about to die of boiling atmosphere and soporific oration.

8. Eight.

9. Y2K crash. Nothing ruins a good societal meltdown like buying too many generators, canned artichokes, and grenades...and then not actually having the meltdown. Remind me not to believe the news anymore.

10. Video store graveyards. Remember when you had to go to a building, peruse some shelves, and actually pick up movies with your bare hands? Then there was the annoying interaction with a person involving you handing them money and them handing you the movies on the other side of the magic security pillars. Well, that process seems to be taking its last gasping breaths. Netflix has pummeled Blockbuster, and I believe it is single-handedly keeping the postal service in business. And Redbox continues to give Wal-Mart a great reason to keep their stinky foyer really, really hot.

*Wachowskied--The act of destroying an awesome original with sequels. Named after the Wachowski brothers, writers and directors of the Matrix series.

The title of the list is abridged. That's what makes it funny.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Extended-Release tablet (tm)

For those of you who have young children and any extended family, you understand the abominable booty of gifts that shower your kids during Christmas. For the past 3 years, we haven't been able to fit all of the presents in our car when coming home from the grandparents, and separate trips had to be made to bring them to us. It makes it hard to teach your kids how to be grateful, generous, outward thinking, etc. when they get a Toys R Us shipment every year for Jesus' birthday. Since we've discovered that it's impossible to get your family to buy your kids less crap, we've come up with a couple traditions to help reduce to the overwhelming feeling of gift blizzard.

First, we purge. We actually do this a few times a year, but right before Christmas we do the big one. We take the kids in their room and let them choose which toys they want to give away. Surprisingly, they're pretty willing to give up large supplies of toys without much fuss. For the toys that are in good shape, we donate those. The other toys we melt down and pour into a fantastic Santa mold, so they can worship his statue all year long instead of the short month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Second, we make a reservoir. We intentionally box up about half their presents right after Christmas and hide them in the garage. They are so distracted with the other metric ton of gifts that they don't notice. Then periodically throughout the next several months, we release a new toy from the box. It's an extended-release formulation that has better long-term cure rates for boredom than your standard one-time high-dose Christmas formulation. It's highly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and this guy.

Third, we burn down the statue of Santa and tell the kids about the real St. Nicolaus and the real baby Jesus. Then we make them promise not to tell other kids that Santa isn't real.