Posts Tagged ‘Michael Burwell



24
May
09

The Dark (K)night – part 2

Last year I posted on the subject of the state of our culture and this was motivated by the brouhaha related to what at the time was a blockbuster new movie, the latest in the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight.  This post eventually has become the 5th most popular ever on this blog and stirred up a lot of feedback from people (on and off line).  I had not seen the movie when I wrote my original thoughts.  A few weeks ago I actually saw The Dark Night and I wrote a reply to my own original post as an update.  Read on…

I was recently on a trip and a friend loaned me “The Dark Knight” to watch on the plane. Having written this post several months back but never seeing the movie, my curiosity was piqued. I decided to pop it in and watch it on my laptop.

I had to stop the movie since the flight was over and normally I would not have finished it because I wasn’t really enjoying it that much. But then I recalled that this original posting got a lot of traffic and lots of conversation, and honestly, some people were a little upset at me. I decided to watch it to it’s conclusion so I could post this follow up.

My first impression as I watched is that the movie wasn’t as sadistic as it was originally reported to have been. Yes, the Joker was quite disturbing. They did a fine job with his makeup and Heath Ledger did a fantastic job acting quite insane, psychopathic, intelligent, and maniacal. But were elements of this movie “heinous” as I mentioned in my original post? Was this really “Saw-light?” (I will say parenthetically that the comparison to “Saw” is not unfair since the morality choice/murder/sicko-methodology combo thing would not be in The Dark Knight if it were not for that series of very popular films.)

I’ll start with positives and a cool-factor. As mentioned before, Heath Ledger did a fine job acting. And the Harvey Dent/Two face character was also well done. Honestly, the Two Face situation was a welcome surprise in the movie even if I felt that just because they *could* show us graphically how disturbing he became, I wondered why they really needed to (back to the whole should-have-been-rated-R discussion). How can you ever really go wrong with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman? And Christian Bale is an acceptable Batman, really the best the franchise history I suppose. And the cell-phone radar thing was a really cool special effect and an idea that worked.

Fast forward to the end of the movie; my first impression had changed. I had witnessed a man cut open and a cell phone/detonation device sewn into his stomach, then blown up remotely killing everyone in the jail/police station with him. I had seen people given a moral choice in pulling a trigger and killing hundreds of men, women, and children on a ferry boat before the people on the other boat made the same choice to kill them (yes, they didn’t do it, but I will point out that the vote taken was overwhelmingly in favor of doing it). We saw a hospital blown to smithereens room by room and during that time we do not know if the patients are in their rooms or not. And yes, there are the multiple times when the Joker takes his knife and slices open people’s faces just like was apparently done to him (though we never really know how or who did it, another dangling plot line). On this last point I heard people say “yeah but you didn’t see it on screen” which basically blows me away. In my most “duh” statement I have ever written on this blog: just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean we don’t know it was done. Do you really need to see it for it to be corrupt or if it’s off screen do we somehow place it in a redemptive category? I vote not since our minds can fill in the blanks.

I didn’t like things about this movie that I guess others either a) overlook or b) somehow expect in a superhero movie: the plot line is thin and strays, I think the hero (Batman) is 2 dimensional, people pop up when you least expect with no explanation of how they got there, villains make silly choices, guys who should know better don’t, the police chief is always made out to be bumbling, Batman’s mysterious code of honor is cloaked in mysterious dialogue of mush, most of the action sequences are too dark to understand what is actually happening, and dangling plots abound. Normal fare for a superhero movie unless it’s named “Spiderman.”

There are movies I have seen that delve into the depravity of the human condition and have sparked interest in discussing redemption. Batman did not do any of that but only left lasting impressions of gross images.

In the end, I walked away with a “whatever” personal experience. The movie was not that good and the really bad guy (the Joker) didn’t get what he deserved, the really good guy (Harvey Dent) didn’t get what he deserved, and the “good” guy (Batman) didn’t get what he deserved (which is somehow where people come off calling him a “Christ figure”). But maybe America got what it deserved which was another movie with a bunch of Satan in it since we seem to love it so much.

Some say Heath Ledger went insane portraying the Joker and his death was the result of the role. It seems Mr. Ledger got so close to the devil it likely killed him. I ask you to ask yourself and the Holy Spirit why you would get close to anything that has that potential? Kind of sounds like the forbidden fruit conundrum.

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17
May
09

Hello Vineyard

“Hello, hello, I don’t know why you say goodbye I say hello” – The Beatles

There are many twists and turns, rises and falls, on the road of life.  There are goodbye seasons, which can be bittersweet, and there are hello seasons, which are full of wonder and discovery. Sometimes God takes us down paths in our lives that are unexpected but the result is so amazing.

It’s like the father who is taking his son to his first trip to the zoo.  “Where are we going daddy?” the son asks.  “You’ll see,” says the father with the knowledge that his expectant son will absolutely love where they are going.  The father knows that when they get there his son will be excited and it will be a great experience and he will likely remember it for the rest of his life, so he holds back to get the pleasure of seeing that look of joy and discovery on his son’s face.  Our heavenly Father does that for us sometimes.  I really wish that I knew what was happening next, but God says, “Just wait, it’s going to be good,” and somehow He loves that element of surprise.  God knows, we don’t, and He’s good with that.  The little boy trusts his daddy, just as we should trust our Daddy in heaven.

Dina and I have been in a transition period in our lives.  Transitions are uncomfortable and this particular season was the most painful and difficult of Dina’s and my life. Always there is the unknown, and many times we asked, what’s next Father?  In response our loving God opened up door after door to lead us to a group of Jesus-followers that have a refreshing purity about them in their walk with the Lord and their fellowship with each other; so much so that it seems a special impartation of the Holy Spirit loves this place and has taken up residency there.  In hindsight, the road to this church was an easy one.  An email from an old friend, a coffee with a new friend, meeting, greeting, connecting, praying, plugging in, God speaking, and finally a sense of peace.  I wish all life decisions were this smooth.  In a time when Dina and I could have been hard-headed about what’s next and laid out our own agenda of what the future should look like, God had a special plan for us.  And now that we are here, full of wonder, we absolutely love it.

Isaiah 40:31 says “but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  We had patience and let the Lord lead us.  There really is no other choice.  You must trust.  www.vineyardcs.org

28
Apr
09

Mac haters

Okay, I have a mac. A MacBook Pro to be specific.  I bought it in November.  I bought it because I have been exploring new audio platforms to use for recording in the studio and macs have a great reputation for stability.  I wasn’t ready to make the jump from my beloved Sonar-based Windows x64 (Vista Ultimate) setup but I was in the market for a new laptop.  So I figured that I would get the laptop and learn the whole mac world so if I ever did make the leap over to something like Logic or ProTools for my audio recording, I would only have one learning curve (the software) not two (the software + the system).  So far I have been very happy with my decision.  The initial learning curve was a bit steep but once I learned a few things, I can say I love my mac.  My experiment has worked and I am happy I made the decision that I did.  

I have discovered something interesting along the journey.  The world is full of mac haters.  Since getting the mac, I have been in a variety of settings with it: church meetings, business meetings, client meetings, interviews, Starbuck’s, my friends house, my studio, etc.  In most, if not all of these settings I get a myriad of interesting comments.  These comments come out right about the time I pull my shiny silver macbook out of my backpack.  They all are some variety of “oh, a mac guy.”  It is said with derision and disdain.  It is said with a smirk.  It is said with a knowing sarcasm that implies “here a guy who thinks he is better than all of us.”  The most interesting comments come from IT guys.  They utter “oh, a mac guy” but this is said with a tenor of “you just made my job harder you jerk.”

Funny thing is, having a mac has made my life easier and more productive.  Compatibility with all systems, networks, wifis, etc has been a breeze.  Case and point: I needed to print some stuff at church and I just unplugged the USB cable from the printer and plugged it into my mac and no sooner than you could say “oh, a mac guy” the driver had loaded and I was printing lead sheets for the worship team.  I was so impressed with this I started plugging into printers in every home and office I visited for about a week.  It worked every time, like a really neat magic trick.

(Here is a good place to address the 3rd category of people which are other mac users who utter some version of “oh, a mac guy!” with delight and a sense of “I’ve got a friend in the world” – call it instant-community – kind of like when you find out your boss is a believer.)

I have never had a problem connecting a peripheral, or to a wifi network or LAN, opening up a Microsoft document or Microsoft formatted file.  On top of that I never shut the thing down, it’s “always on” so startup and shutdown takes as long as it takes me to open or close the lid, screen management for projection is a no brainer, the battery lasts like 4 1/2 hours, the blue screen of death is non-existent, everything is super fast, and Office:Mac actually works.

I have come to a conclusion.  The reason mac people love macs is for all the reasons above and more, but I figured out that the thing works so well you never actually learn anything about your computer.  I am serious.  I think the reason mac users love macs is because they don’t have to know squat about a computer to make it work, they just don’t know this, but wouldn’t really care even if they did because they are more productive than you.  

That said, people who use Windows based computers have to actually know how a computer works.  Here’s the rub for mac users, if something goes wrong on your PC, you can actually fix it yourself – for cheap.  I have built more PC’s from scratch than I can remember and all of them are still in play in someone’s home (or recording studio) today.  And it’s easy to upgrade and modify.  For mac users, if something goes wrong, it’s a trip to the Mac store and I hope you paid $349 for the extended warranty.

So it’s funny, the mac haters hate macs for reasons that are not based in reality and the mac lovers love macs for reasons that would actually make the Windows people happy.

Okay you weigh in, do I have a point?  🙂

11
Apr
09

Destinysong

A year ago today I was rejoicing in a successful evening of Easter services (and preparing for more on Sunday!).  I rejoiced in the opportunity for believers to celebrate our Savior’s resurrection and those who made first time decisions for Christ.  It was by far my favorite Easter program I ever had the fortune of participating in, let alone to lead.  (For video of that service, check out the videos section of this blog.)  It was a weekend of rejoicing for all God had done, and continued to do in many ways in our lives.  This weekend we have a different kind of milestone to celebrate.  God is so good.  A few months ago, a very Holy Spirit inspired couple asked a simple question to Dina and I, “when will [we] build the studio?”  Little did we know they were planning to mobilize this effort.  See, it has been a dream of mine to have a professional recording studio located right in our own home for many years.  We have built 3 home studios (2 in basements and 1 in a bedroom) and have produced several projects out of these studios (and actually ended up with a few good ones).  But I always wanted to take it to the next level.  The first time Dina and I drove onto our property here in the Black Forest we saw a detached and oversized garage and the first words out of our mouths were “that’s where the studio will go.”  Well here we are some years later and the dream has come true.  In the most unlikely of times and under the most unlikely of circumstances, inspired by our amazing friends who have sacrificed in a huge financial way, propelled by big vision from the Lord for change in the world, and seen to fulfillment by a small group of believers who still believe in miracles, Destinysong is now a reality.  Today, Dina, Julian, Jasmine and I put the finishing touches on the studio and officially moved in our first bits of gear.  I stood in amazement that God would bless us in this way.  And the elation I felt one year ago in the fullness of how great an Easter Celebration could be, is only eclipsed by my utter astonishment at how the faithfulness of a few can birth a vision into a reality.  I have been posting pictures on the Destinysong website for the past 3 months to show the progress of the building project, and as soon as the weather clears, I’ll snap a few more of the beautiful, final product.  Check out our website here (or click on the link in the sidebar) and I pray that all of you are blessed as you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus tomorrow!

31
Mar
09

CompassionArt

Okay so is it just me or does anyone else feel the drought in new worship music releases?  The “latest” worship albums I have been spinning are all from last year.  So do yourselves a favor, stop what you are doing right now and go out and get the newly released CD “CompassionArt.”  This CD was totally an unexpected pleasure to acquire.  To give you a framework for it, this project is the vision of Martin and Anna Smith (Martin being of delirious? notoriety).  The idea is to get some of the best worship songwriters in the world together (Martin, Darlene Zschech, Chris Tomlin, Israel Houghton, Matt Redman to name just a few), link people up in two’s and three’s and see if they could whip up some righteous new worship songs (my verdict is they succeeded).  Secondly, get in the studio and have a bunch of these same songwriters and some cool guests (Kirk Franklin, Leeland, Any Grant, etc.) record a full blown album that sounds great (again, my verdict is they succeeded) and have all proceeds go to charity (and yes, this means ALL proceeds including an agreement with CCLI to not bank off of church play).  This album was a pleasant surprise and I recommend it to anyone.  Go get it!

On another note, the aforementioned delirious? just released a live CD/DVD project recorded on their tour stop in Columbia.  Just watching and listening to these guys I always am amazed at their humility and talent and how much they have paved the way for all modern worship over the past 15 years.  If you have never truly experienced d: this is certainly a good starting point.  That said, it’s a bittersweet offering since it’s likely their last.  Martin and Stu have decided to focus their efforts on future CompassionArt projects and so they have announced the band will shut er’ down at the end of this year.  Sniff sniff.

09
Mar
09

U2 “No Line on the Horizon” Album Review

Okay so today I went to R&R Coffee here in the Black Forest and got a cup of Forest Mist Dark Roast (a signature blend…mmm), then I went next door to the Post Office and mailed back a washing machine part we didn’t need, I went to PetCo and bought some fish for my tropical tank, and I went to Target and bought the new album by U2 on CD.  Not a bad set of errands.  PetCo’s doing 5 for $5 tropical fish, R&R Coffee has a self service on drip that is less expensive and better than anyone around, and Target had the CD on sale.  The only thing I didn’t get a deal on was the washer pump (waste of shipping $!).  Can’t win em’ all, but in the process I got the new offering from one of rock’s most enduring bands.

First I will say that listening to Bono sing is worth the price of admission alone no matter the quality of the album.  What is that price you ask?  iTunes carries it for $9.99 album only or $17.99 which includes an hour-long movie featuring the music of the band as a part of the download (by Anton Corbjin who is the band’s favorite photographer).  Not bad.  If you prefer hard copy (and for those who lament the lost pleasure of album artwork who doesn’t?) Target has it on sale this week: album alone is $9.99 as well or you can get a cool deluxe edition for $21.99 which includes the album plus a poster, a mini book, and finally a download of aforementioned movie.  If you really want to go crazy you can get the whole thing bundled with DVD version of the movie for $64.99.  $9.99 seemed like the right choice for me although I will admit I had the deluxe edition in my hand for more than a few minutes.

Okay so with a 30+ year history behind them, who doesn’t like U2?  It used to be if someone said U2 was lame folks would give them the luxury of personal opinion, but today saying U2 is lame is like calling Bob Dylan a two-bit horseshoe farrier. Yeah, you would be called crazy.  Here’s my overarching assessment of their output over the years: they consistently outshine every other alternative band in history but they run out of gas 75% through almost every release.  It’s true.  I mean, you really have to be a major fan of their creative muse to like “Mothers of the Disappeared” for example (from “Joshua Tree”).  But 75% of U2 is 100% better than 99% of the artists in the world so who’s complaining?  If we have to suffer “Please” we still get “Do You Feel Love” (from “Pop”) or if we have to endure “Peace on Earth” we still get to revel in “Kite” (from “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”).  All that to say I always expect to enjoy most of a new U2 album, but plan to be bored or let down by a chunk of it (kind of like a new Hillsong release or the skillets at Village Inn).

For this effort they ran through a series of producers (big names like Rick Rubin) and finally landed with three guys who have consistently delivered for them over the years: Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno and a few by Steve Lillywhite.  So expect the album to have some sounds that hearken your favorite U2 stuff from previous years.

I scanned a review that said something about U2 getting criticism for their last album, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” because they didn’t risk enough on it and this album was theoretically a response to that critique but I don’t hear it.  It sounds very much like “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” era U2 which is not to say it’s bad, I just don’t get the whole exploring-new-territory thing.  U2 on this album sounds like we would expect U2 to sound.  Anthemic, bluesy, and pulsating (all that’s missing from early U2 is the passion).  That’s why we listen to them over and over right?  U2 is a sonic soundtrack for our lives.  Our lives in the car, in the kitchen, on the bike, at work, on TV, gosh you can place U2 just about anywhere and it plays well.  So expect the familiar and that’s okay, well better than okay, it’s downright good.

“Get on Your Boots” was the first single released (to mixed reviews) and I was excited because it sounded like a band that was in fact looking to reinvent.  But as track #6 it sounds oddly out of character with the album up until that point.  The new fresh sound comes only after familiar territory.  Funny, as I listened the first time as each track came on it sounded like a different U2 album from the past.  I wonder if this was intentional by the band. Almost a retrospective without being retrospective.  I actually spent a little time linking each song to a previous U2 work, but I will spare you the list due to the length of this post.  Try it yourself, it’s fun.

As a leadoff cut “No Line on the Horizon” is a dud.  The title suggests that the band is looking forward with no boundaries which implies uncharted waters.  Can anyone else hear the blatant nod to “Until the End of the World” in the guitar riff?  That’s from 1990 and it’s funny because that song was written for a movie soundtrack where they were supposed to try and write in a style of where music would be 10 years from the writing.  They should have started the album with “Magnificent” which really shines as a classic U2 groove and overarching melodies.  Still, like a good road trip, this album gets better as it travels further and explores more.  That’s a first for U2 with me: I enjoyed the 2nd half more (One exception is “FEZ-being Born” which is out of place and belongs at the end of the album or somewhere else).  “Unknown Caller” has a rare Edge guitar solo, which was very refreshing to hear.  “White as Snow” is hauntingly beautiful (and correct me if I am wrong but isn’t that the melody line to “O Come Emmanuel”?).  Bono is in good form with his wink-of-the-eye one-liner lyrics (“gotta stand up to ego but my ego’s not really the enemy”) and the album just sounds great sonically.

So in summary, if you like U2 you will like this CD; I do and I did.  It doesn’t break new ground but it’s everything we want in U2.  Not bad for $9.99.  I can listen to it over and over again too and probably will (can’t recycle that coffee and get the same bank for the buck now can I?).

On a final, Christian worldview note, I will say that it was refreshing and nice to have Bono singing about his faith so positively on the last album, but unfortunately there’s not a ton of that going on here.  We get that old 90’s style of faith from Mr. Vox.  It’s a sardonic and slightly jaded religiosity that filters though.  I recall seeing him wearing one of those “COEXIST” hats on TV last year at an AIDS rally.  Is Jesus still the only true way to salvation for Bono or does he now espouse the ever so popular one-world religion that prevails these days?  In “Breathe” he sings, “St John Divine on the line, my pulse is fine.”  Seems he hates religion, but then again don’t we? At one time Bono and the Edge wanted to abandon their careers in music and become pastors, but that was over 20 years ago. It’s almost as if when he says “stop helping God across the road like a little old lady” in “Stand up Comedy” he’s singing to himself, the Bono-Christ.  I am happy that my faith remains unshaken.  Why don’t you all pray for Bono when you finish reading this, okay?

07
Mar
09

Coldplay a Guitar Influence?

Okay so I was casually listening to the album “Parachutes” by Coldplay and something jumped out at me that I never really noticed before.  The main riff and guitar solo in “Yellow” seems to be the template for almost every single contemporary worship guitar solo that has happened ever since.  Now when one thinks of guitar influences, most especially in the last 10 years, certainly Coldplay doesn’t jump to mind.  (In fact, I wonder if there has even been a major guitar influence in the last 20 years.  A friend of mine was explaining that Matthew Bellamy from Muse is a big deal but unfortunately, I couldn’t hear the major leap I think that all electric guitarists are secretly hoping for.  But that’s just me.)  Nevertheless in “Yellow” that solo is the style that every electric guitarist in the modern church has had to either a) learn or b) doesn’t know anything else exists.  It’s the 8th note, two tone (think 2 strings), all downstrokes, just north of broken sound, with delay on it.  Yeah you could say that came from the Edge, and it’s pretty obvious that Coldplay’s biggest influence is U2 (by admission from the band, but then again they also claim Delirious? is an influence.  But hey, Delirious? is most influenced by, you guessed it, U2).  I have heard “Yellow” many times and never put 2 and 2 together until this last listen.  It was released in 2000 and became a bona fide hit (#5 in UK) and it broke the band to a worldwide audience that embraced a new fresh sound (that sounded like u2 and Delirious? but that’s a niggling detail for anyone under 18 at the time).  Okay so to wrap up:

1) Most Christian guitarists and Christian artists I know listen to and love Coldplay

2) “Yellow” is one the band’s most popular songs and has this guitar solo/riff in it

3) Since 2000 most modern worship has guitar solos that sound like “Yellow.”  

You listen to the song and tell me what you think.  But prior to 2000 if modern worship even had a guitar solo, it certainly didn’t sound like everything coming out of Hillsong and the Passion guys.  Weigh in!




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