Brilliant Music - Patrick Watson and The Cinematic Orchestra

As a music geek, I can't help but be excited about last month and the month to come.  Allow me to share a couple profiles of who I consider to be the names of those responsible for creating music that can only be described as gorgeous.

As a lover of the genre affectionately known as "prog-rock", I have always loved thoughtful instrumental music.  First it was groups like Tristeza, Tortoise, and Unwed Sailor.  Then it was The Mercury Program.  But if you want the height of beautiful, introspective, emotional music, then look no further than The Cinematic Orchestra.  Each album is a brilliant progression over the last, but (with only the exception of their first album) their entire library of music is without peer.

Live drums, some sampling, string and horn sections, guest vocalists, pianos, synthesizers, light guitar work and other elements get shaken up in a bottle with jazz and fusion touches that combine into a mix all its own.  The songs can literally leave you breathless, while others will just grab you where you stand and freeze you in your tracks.  What makes it work is the orchestration is varied, simple, yet complex and delicate in the way it combines so much yet remains so intentional and sparing.  Never does it feel like too many instruments are playing too much.  The song literally is king with this group, and they know how to push just the right notes to create a maximum sense of aural euphoria.

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The Divine Guide in Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life"

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” (Revelation 21:2-4)

“…also, on either side of the river, the tree of life.” (Revelation 22:2)

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"The American Bible Challenge" Auditions

Are you interested in getting on television?  Do you like the Bible?  Do you despise the Bible but still know a ton about it?  Well, have we get some information for you!  Jeff Foxworthy is hosting a new television show called "The American Bible Challenge".  Check out some information from the press release:

"The first ever game show created to test your knowledge of The Bible will make its television debut this August.  GSN – the Game Show Network - and the creators of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" are producing “The American Bible Challenge” which will be hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy.

...And right now – THE SHOW IS LOOKING FOR CONTESTANTS who have a passion for The Bible and giving back to their community!!!!

“The American Bible Challenge” is criss-crossing America scouting potential players who want to win money for their favorite charity.  Individual players or teams of up to three people who have competitive spirits, great personal testimonies, and of course know their Bible are encouraged to try out.  ALL ARE WELCOME TO THE CASTING CALL. 

For a list of casting cities, additional information, and to sign-up as a prospective contestant, please go to: http://tv.gsn.com/shows/the-american-bible-challenge/casting/

This could be the kind of thing you sign up your youth or small group for.  Kind of interesting as well that the money made gets raised for charity.  The better question is - am I going to see you on TV anytime soon?

“The American Bible Challenge” will debut on Game Show Network this August.

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New PT Anderson Movie Trailer!!

I can't help but be all excited like Brett McCraken finding a new Terrence Malick film.  PT Anderson is among my favorite living filmmakers, with Punch Drunk Love being my favorite film of all time.  He is also responsible for the brilliant films "There Will Be Blood" and "Magnolia".  So, when his new stuff gets announced, I get giddy.

The newest PTA film is called "The Master".  An early description of the film from imdb.com says this: 

"A 1950s-set drama centered on the relationship between a charismatic intellectual known as "the Master" whose faith-based organization begins to catch on in America, and a young drifter who becomes his right-hand man."

Trailer link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oZDKFoCqAw 

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The Dictator film review

I have a love/loathe relationship with Sacha Baron Cohen.  The man is undoubtedly hilarious and appears fearless as evidenced by his comedic resume.  He is also smart, which is evident in the searing wit that his brand of gross out humor typically obscures to casual film bystanders.  Yet, I loathe him because his reliance on gross out gags, over sexed sense of humor, and reliance on trying to push the envelope get tiring…But lets not thrown the Baron out with the bath water. 

“The Dictator” reunites Baron Cohen with “Borat” and “Bruno” director Larry Charles (who also directed Bill Maher’s fiercely unbiased “Religulous”).  “The Dictator” is an entirely scripted work about “Supreme Leader” Aladeen (Baron Cohen) of the fictional country of Wadiya.  In the film, Aladeen is intent to kill and “lovingly oppress” his countrymen, but first must deliver a speech about nuclear weapons to the UN in New York.

The Artist as Storyteller

It happens to everyone, at an early age.  At some point in our wonder-filled Kindergarten experience, we were all handed a piece of paper smothered in dots.  And we were all instructed to carefully draw lines from one dot to another, following the numerical sequence, with the promise that an image would appear.  Thick crayons scrunched in our tiny hands, we all learned how to “connect the dots” and find the hidden pirate or giraffe or pumpkin.  It was like magic.

The ancients knew how to connect the dots too.  The Greeks, the Romans, the Babylonians, the Chinese—they all pondered the night sky and grouped the stars into constellations upon which they tried to derive greater purpose and ultimate significance.  There were figures in the stars that pointed to something greater than themselves—ancient mythos, creation stories, immutable fates and foreboding omens—and although this was more related to superstition than truth, they all understood the concept that they were a part of something larger than themselves.

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The bestselling books of all time are stories

I've always been fascinating with Top 10 lists, especially when they involve books. I suppose that comes from being around books all my life: selling them, writing them and now publishing them. Just this week I ran across a Top 10 book list that made me stop and reflect on what makes a book a bestseller. Thanks to a post from Justin Taylor, I found a graphic showing the Top 10 books over the last 50 years (If you can't quite read the graph, click here for a closer look). It's a fascinating and instructive list for one very simple reason: 8 of the Top 10 books are stories.

Number one, of course, is the Bible, the greatest Story of all (and the bestselling book, not just in the last 50 years, but for all time and by a wide margin), followed by Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Alchemist, The Da Vinci Code, The Twilight Saga, Gone With the Wind, and The Diary of Anne Frank. The only exceptions are Quotations from Chairman Mao (otherwise known as The Little Red Book), and Think and Grow Rich (one of the bestselling "self-improvement" books of all time). And if you throw out Quotations from Chairman Mao, mainly because it's probably required reading in Chairman Mao's home country, you're left with just one book in the Top 10 most popular books of the last 50 years that isn't a story.

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Hear the Voice

David Capes is the Thomas Nelson Research Professor at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of numerous publications and is one of the top scholars and writers for The Voice, a new Bible translation that reads like a story with all of the truth and wisdom of God's Word. To illustrate how The Voice transports the reader into the Bible's narrative, Dr. Capes shows how the Bible's first verse reads in this new dynamic rendering of Scripture compared to a more traditional Bible version.

Here is Genesis 1:1 in the King James Version:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

That is a brilliant, simple, accurate translation of the Hebrew.  As we thought about our intended audience, however, it dawned on us how different the word “heavens” and “earth” are for us today compared to the ancients. 

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33 Films That Take Faith Seriously

Christian moviegoers sometimes lament the dearth of good, positive, realistic portrayals of faith in film. If Christians are portrayed in film, it’s usually as right-wing zealots (Citizen Ruth), scary pentecostals (Jesus Camp), or psychotic killers (Night of the Hunter). Or faith is reduced to schmaltzy simplicity, as in most “Christian films” (Facing the Giants, The Grace Card). But many films throughout cinema history have actually provided rich, artful portraits of faith. The following is a list of 33 films that take faith seriously; films I believe every Christian should make a point to see.

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Moving Beyond "Christian Films"

The filmmakers and many of the defenders of Blue Like Jazz have gone out of their way to distance Jazz from the “Christian film” stigma. Understandably. Director Steve Taylor even stirred up what really amounts to a non-controversy by declaring that the “Christian Movie Establishment… is out to get us,” going so far as to say that Sherwood Baptist (the church behind Courageous and Fireproof) issued a “fatwa” against Blue Like Jazz. 

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