Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blue Like Jazz... the movie.

I've said before how much I love Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. He's a fantastic writer and storyteller, funny as hell at times, but my favorite thing about him is his honesty about his walk as a Christian. Mostly autobiographical, Don tells stories from his time at Reed College in Portland, where Christians are in the huge minority. Shares how he questioned his faith and then found his way back. He isn't afraid to talk about doubts, anger, questions with the church, etc. It's good stuff. Changed my life in ways. I have several copies I lend out whenever I get the chance to.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

 "There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.) And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere. Of course, I had always known He was, but this time I felt it, I realized it, the way a person realizes they are hungry or thirsty. The knowledge of God seeped out of my brain and into my heart. I imagined Him looking down on this earth, half angry because His beloved mankind had cheated on Him, had committed adultery, and yet hopelessly in love with her, drunk with love for her."
 "Believing in God is as much like falling in love as it is making a decision. Love is both something that happens to you and something you decide upon."
"We would eat chocolates and smoke cigarettes and read the Bible, which is the only way to do it, if you ask me. Don, the Bible is so good with chocolate. I always thought the Bible was more of a salad thing, you know, but it isn’t. It is a chocolate thing.”
 So with Nashville' Steve Taylor directing, the movie has its cast and has been well on its way, but they've lost backers. Aside from the usual "It's hard to raise money for movies right now," spiel, Don states on his blog that one of the reasons is the following, which I think is very sad.
2. Blue Like Jazz is a very hard film for church-going, evangelical Christians to get behind. The folks who invest in Christian movies were scared to death of Blue Like Jazz. While it has a PG-13 rating, there is language, drug use and a scene where the protagonists put a giant condom on a steeple. To me, it’s the only movie that takes an honest look at a Christian kid coming of age in America, a story experienced by tens of millions of students each year. But students don’t fund Christian movies, older white guys do, and they find it hard to relate to the theme.
Sound hilarious and poignant and awesome to you? Exactly. So the reason I write this is because I just donated measly $25 to a Kickstarter campaign begun by his fans (some dudes just down the road in Franklin, Tennessee!) to raise money to get the ground rolling again on the film... and I just wanted to get word out, because I think it would be great for America to see this side of Christianity.  Not the scary politically charged side. Not the hypocrisy or the judging or the arguing about rules and whatnot. Just the real side of human Christianity. Real people with a PG-13 rating, who laugh at things like a huge condom on a steeple, who smoke cigarettes and drink beer and actually go on as believers, loving God and believing in salvation through Jesus Christ not in blind faith, but with a studied understanding that it's all about loving each other and being good to people in the end. People like me.
So far, over $50,000 (out of the goal of $125,000) has been raised. I was cracking up at the bonus prizes you get for various donations. Wish I had an extra grand hanging around so that I could be an extra in the movie. Sweet!

So check it out. Let me know your thoughts. Let me know if you want to borrow a copy of the book.
Also, for extra reading, here's an article in Christianity Today about the movie, including an interview with Don and Steve.

Updated October 7th: Blue Like Jazz has been saved! In the 8 days since I posted this, more than $75k has been pledged, and the funds are now at over $140k. How awesome is it to see that many people step up? 

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Call me shallow but it's the [bleeping] truth"

I watched High Fidelity with my parents over the weekend. Jon Cusack easily edges anyone out as my favorite actor, and I think this was the movie to give him that edge way back in the day. This may or may not be due to how much I dig his character. I would, without hesitation, date and marry Rob Gordon and happily spend the rest of my life holed running a record store with him by day and holed up in some crappy apartment, smoking cigarettes and arguing over our Top Fives, by night.

Rob is disappointed by my healthy collection of Disney soundtracks.

So I finally actually purchased a copy and brought it home with me for the weekend. Within five minutes, after saying "You know... that Jack Black is a funny dude, but he's super annoying," my dad conked out. Mom gave up after 10 minutes, saying "Jon Cusack is obviously an acquired taste, and not one I've acquired." Who are they? Did I really come from them?

Anyway, there's a quote in the movie I love, that I somehow had forgotten:

"...What really matters is what you like, not what you are like...
Books, records, films -- these things matter. Call me shallow, but it's the f*cking truth."

I totally get this, without a doubt. Of course, being a real person and a good/nice Christian person and all, I certainly don't judge anyone for their tastes. I recognize that it's what's inside that counts and blah blah blah. But I will totally pass you by if you have absolutely no interests in these realms. They don't have to be the same as mine, by any means. I'm not a snob. You can read trashy romance novels til you're blue in the face or listen to Adam Lambert all day... at least you're excited about something and enriching your mind a bit. (A bit.) And sure, if I like you enough I'll try to steer you to more, um, advantageous avenues... but in the end, one of my philosophies has always been: Never apologize for what you like. I'll happily admit there are some things I love that 98% of of you will want to barf over. Plus, I've ready many a trashy romance novel and am currently in the process of purchasing tickets for Lady Gaga... my tastes know no bounds. How can I feasibly judge you for yours? (Except I secretly kinda do, but only a little bit... I'm kidding... or am I?)

However, if I recognize in you a kindred spirit in terms of WHAT you like... you've made a friend for life. If I hear you say you like Ryan Adams or Mumford and Sons and also quote Elizabethtown and are also dying to go to the Wizarding World of  Harry Potter and have your shelves full of great Southern novels and children's fantasy books... I'll probably marry you on the spot. We can make it work. (Actually I think I just described Sara Beth... unfortunately we are both far too boy crazy for that to ever happen.)

Am I alone in this? I guess at least Nick Hornby (author of High Fidelity, the novel on which the movie was based) got it. I'd love to sit down and have a conversation with that man.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My favorite book of all time.

Boy's Life by Robert McCammon

I was introduced to this book in the 11th grade, in which it was required reading from my teacher. And I've loved it since. Read and re-read and passed on and caused others to love it. Now I'm sending it out to the interwebs. McCammon is an author from Birmingham, Alabama, mostly known for years spent writing in the Southern Gothic/Horror genre, but this gem is his one-and-only (so far) shot at the coming-of-age novel, with a mystery and magical realism twist. Can you imagine why I love it? Didn't think so. At any rate, the story is set around a 12-year-old boy growing up in a small Alabama town in pre-civil rights 1964. He witnesses a murder and begins to question everything about what he thinks he knows about the world. You see it all through his eyes, eyes that like to see the best in people and in things, trying to hold on to the whimsies of childhood and belief in magic... all while watching a murder mystery unfold and deal with a trying time to be growing up in the South.

Just do yourself a favor and read the epilogue and tell me if it doesn't get you the least bit interested:
"You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn't realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by the silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present, and into the future. You probably did too; you just don't recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God's sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they'd allowed to wither in themselves."

(C) Boy's Life by Robert McCammon, 1991. (HB) (Recently re-released in paperback.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Entertain me

Actually, I think I'm good. Because I have all of THIS to look forward to in the coming weeks...

How I Met Your Mother. Started back last night with some good laughs... I'm having mixed feelings about whether I'm ready to find out who The Mother is.

GLEE. Coming back tonight! When someone asked over teh weekend if I liked this show, all I had to say was "Do you KNOW me?" Of course I love it. It encompasses everything geeky and band-nerdy and music-loving inside me.

The Big C. I've just recently begun watching this, which is in its first season. Laura Linney is fantastic. I laugh, I cry, I ogle her adorable young doctor. All good things.

The National at the Ryman, October 3. My first Ryman Show. Can't freaking wait.

The Avett Brothers at the Ryman, October 29th and 30th. Celebrating my birthday weekend in style.

Plus of course there are lots of great books and albums coming out. I owe you all TONS of reviews from all I've read so far this summer. I'm still processing Mockingjay, and now am working on another series I love.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I do love a choir

I love a church choir. Maybe it stems from being raised in a Southern Baptist church, or maybe it is just a Southern thing altogether, but it never fails that a good choir makes me grin like a fool. Which is probably why this song was the first one I heard that sealed The Killers' place in my all-time favorite musicians. And probably why I said this before about my wedding whenever that comes along. There's a reason we all love Sister Act, people, and it's not just for Whoopi and all her sass.

And judging from the following, I can't wait to get my hands on Kings of Leon's new album to be released in October. Come Around Sundown is set to release October 18th, and those yummy Followill boys are saying it came out a bit "chilled out and beachy," which usually isn't my thing (I was looking forward to some gloom and grunge), but I have high hopes with the addition of a choir in the first single. Seems their paying an homage to their very Southern downhome roots, which is something I'll always appreciate. Despite all the flack they get here in Nashville (why does everyone love to hate on their hometown bands once they hit it big?), I love me some KOL.

Kings of Leon - "Radioactive"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I still love you, though, New York

That video was shot on September 7, 2001. Ole Ryan had no clue he was capturing one of the last videos of the towers.

Hard to believe it's been 9 years. I was a freshman at Auburn on that day, safe and sound and asleep in my dorm room when the planes hit. Lizzie had an 8:00 class, so she was long gone by the time I woke up, and I've never been one to watch TV as I got ready. Back then I wasn't quite as attached to my computer for news or emails either, so I hadn't heard a word about it until I stepped outside and was stopped by a friend on the front steps of our dorm, who asked "Have you talked to Smith? What are they saying up there??" I probably looked like a crazy person as I stood there with a clueless look on my face. See, my boyfriend was a cadet at West Point, the US Military Academy for the Army, located in upstate New York. I remember her saying, "We don't know what's going on... thought it was an accident until the second plane hit... you need to call him." So of course I freaked out. I joined the rest of the nation in those moments of freak out, of confusion, fear, and then that quiet panic of realizing that life has changed. I went to my math class, probably failed a quiz that was later not counted, and then spent the rest of the day in a daze of talking to my friends and family not there with me, glued to those images on the television, and trying to get Smith on the phone. They were quite busy up there. And all I could think was how one time he told me that since West Point is a terrorist target, they would be on lockdown if anything ever happened. I didn't talk to him until mid-afternoon. I was a mess.

I can remember that feeling so well of wanting to know that each and every loved one I had was safe, even though I didn't know a soul in NYC or DC. Or who would have been flying that day. But I was already homesick, away at college for only a month, and I had that childlike feeling of just wanting my mom and to be home. To be able to see and touch everyone I loved and know they were ok. It was surreal to know that my mom and sister had watched it all live on the televisions at our high school.

I remember crying for months. Putting a flag on my car.
I visited New York that October, a pre-planned birthday present from Smith, it was surreal to be there. Surreal to fly and see all the panicked faces around me. I flew into Newark, the airport from which one of the planes had departed. Security was crazy. It was probably the safest I ever was when flying, but I'd never been so scared. When we got to the city, there was still ash in the air and smoke rising to the south. We didn't go to Ground Zero. Didn't want to see it. Felt terrible about the idea of gawking like tourists. Years later we eventually visited and saw the concrete memorial there in the absence of all the mess.

So now, nine years later, it's still not quite another day. Everyone says "Always Remember," but can we ever forget? I don't think so. Alan Jackson had it right... the world stopped turning for real. But it's nice that today everyone remembers, but we all keep going on. There's a wedding going on at Centennial Park tonight (bet that dude won't ever forget the date of his anniversary). Vanderbilt is playing LSU at the moment, and I can hear the game from my front porch and see all of the Banana Pants walking to the stadium. The Bammers are on the TV kicking Penn State's ass in Tuscaloser. Charlsie is talking about baking cookies. Nat is working an event before the Reba McIntyre and George Strait concert tonight (I soooo wish I had tickets.) I've been on the phone with Verizon troubleshooting my phone. Normal day.

Life is weird. I kinda wish we all still had the flags on our cars. Despite the terrible thing that brought us together, wasn't it so nice to revel in that patriotism and feel that connection? Of course, I've always been a cheese. Always teared up when Lee Greenwood sang "And I Gladly Staaand UP..." I'm a lost cause.

God Bless the USA.
Last weekend on Percy Priest Lake. (Americuh.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pick me, T. Swift! Pick me!

I've been attending Crosspoint Community Church for a while now, and I can't tell you enough how much I've grown as a person and in my faith during this time. It's been a truly great experience for me. And beginning in a few weeks, I'll be joining a Community Group for women and also volunteering through the Serving Saturdays activities... taking my journey from attending church once a week and reading Christian writers' blogs and books to stepping out in the community and doing something and getting involved. I've very excited about this.

But on an only somewhat-related note, my preacher and his family were asked to appear in Taylor Swift's latest music video. That's Pete Wilson and his wife acting as Taylor's arguing parents, and also his kids (including the birthday boy). Adorable kids. It made their life to be a part of that.

Stuff like this just doesn't happen when you live somewhere like Dothan. Or Birmingham, for that matter. Neither does this:

That is a tour bus belonging to John Rich (from Big and Rich of the "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" Country Music shame fame). And it was parked in front of my house. He lives up the street.

In my best Stephanie Tanner voice: How rude.


Another very cool thing going on in Nashville is Donald Miller bringing his "Living a Better Story" campaign to Belmont University. He is one of my aforementioned favorite Christian authors/bloggers, and I am truly inspired by his idea of making your life into a story. I can hardly begin to describe it, as it is the subject of an entire book, but basically when they went to make his bestseller Blue Like Jazz into a movie, he found himself disturbed by how much he was editing his life to make things better, more attractive, more funny, etc., for the movie version. And it got him pondering the what ifs of what could happen if we actually set out to make sure we lived better stories. He realized that his life had been about writing books and making money, and that at the end of the day, he wanted it to be about more. So he started The Mentoring Project. Rest is history.

Soooooo, back to my story. He came to speak at Belmont, and students were handed cash and asked to "do something" with the money. The idea is that they'll use it to create a story, and then share their stories, via video, blog entries, and other formats here.

Pretty cool,  huh? These are the things I love about being in a college town, and one that draws big names and cool events to it more so than the college towns of my past (love them as I do...).

Sidenote: I got to hear Don speak once at a mega-church here back in the fall, and I got my book signed. I dorked out and took a picture with him. He's an upstanding dude. Great speaker. I left inspired. I recommend his books for any person interested in reading about faith and wanting to be inspired, but not preached to. He presents ideas and arguments so candidly and with such humor, that I would call them musings more than anyone. They're the stories of his faith, and he's an awesome storyteller.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Assault by pelvic thrust

While I do not want to speak ill of the deceased, I have many questions about Michael Jackson. Did he really have a skin condition? What was the deal with Macauley Culkin? The little boys? Lisa Marie? He left us with an endless stream of WHY. I'm just baffled.

But what may baffle me most is the following video.

Am I the only one who finds it a little creepy that he is with this gang of dudes and they single the girl out and follow her around and dance-stalk her? Sending menacing pelvic thrusts her way? (Check out the assault-thrust at 2:13.) Jumping through windows to get to her? Michael, that is not attractive. That is being a stalker. She needed a Sassy Gay Friend to save her from making a terrible mistake.

A new theory

Bobby and I discovered something a few months ago, and it has been tried and tested and proved correct time and time again. So I'm sharing it with you.

So about a month or so ago, we were in Asheville for a wedding weekend. It was a bit of a reunion weekend, since the bride was from my hometown and had gone to college with my sister and me, and it was all a bit reminiscent of being teens let out on our own in a big new city for the first time. Except we have real jobs and money to spend and actual legal rights to go to bars. So we did. And we went to fancy dinners. And we stayed out Friday night entirely too late, considering we were expected to be at a brunch at 10am.

Needless to say, Saturday morning was less than pleasant. And to top it off, my poor seester woke up with a migraine. So Bobby and I, after foregoing brunch in search of pain medication for Nat, were on our own to explore for a while. But first... we were hungry. And we needed a few things from ole Wal-Mart. So there we are,  hungover and hating the miserable heat that we were disappointed to find was plaguing North Carolina just as much as Tennessee... walking around like zombies, searching for silly things like bobby pins, v-neck tshirts, and Alieve. So we made our purchases, adding some green tea (Bobby's fave that he highly recommended to ease my head), and we headed to Zaxby's. We ate. Realized later it was only 10:30am in Central Time, which just seemed weird to have been sitting in a Zaxby's. And then we headed home.

The radio was on, and all of a sudden... Michael Jackson is singing. What is this song? Brains aren't working. Then there's a "heee heeehah!" "Go'on Girl!" The Way You Make Me Feel. And we jam out.

Approximately four minutes later, we realize our moods are instantly lifted. And we decide that the combination of Zaxby's (or probably any acceptable fried chicken goodness), Iced Green Tea, and Michael Jackson will lift any mood. The Trifecta of Hangover Cures, if you will. (Add Alieve also, but that is just a given.)

So while I haven't tried this out as a Hangover Cure again (I'm not a big drinker, so those Saturday mornings are thankfully few and far between), I have realized The Gloved One's powers for lifting a mood. "Billie Jean" did it over the speakers as I worked a late shift at the restaurant a few days ago (all the servers who had previously been ho-humming about, annoyed at customers and such, suddenly were bouncing around and dancing and singing like crazies). Then just a moment ago in the car, the following, my favorite Michael Jackson song, popped up randomly on my iPod, and my sleepy ho-hum mood was instantly lifted. Try it out. You'll see. He's magical. We always knew it.

I'd forgotten about this video. Perhaps just listen and don't watch. It's a bit of a [debbie] downer. 

When I was little, I thought the words were "... and no mustache could have been any clevah." Listen for it. Ha!