Monday, July 30, 2012

The Demon-Mouse in my bedroom

Yesterday my pastor preached a sermon on the Kingdoms of Light and Darkness, exegeting Mark 5. In this passage Jesus encounters the man Legion who could not be trapped or bound by any mortal power––and then casts the demons out, whence they went into pigs. After the service, I stayed in New York all day to eat lunch with friends, watch Batman, and attend a bonfire at one of their houses. After an altercation with the Corning Fire Department––the entire Corning fire department––I decided to head back across the state line early and catch up on some things at home. Little did I know that my peaceful night was about to be haunted by an apparently demon possessed mouse. My battle against the forces of evil involved four mouse traps and lasted until two in the morning. While I will refrain from describing the battle for much the same reasons that C. S. Lewis refused to publish a sequel to The Screwtape Letters, one chapter of the cosmic struggle that took place in my closet last night is chronicled below in this series of hidden-camera photographs.

And he walks away, unscathed. Again.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Climb Every Mountain

A friend of mine, Alex, is really into climbing mountains––particularly in the Adirondack Range. When I got back from Tennessee this summer he invited me to go with him on his next trip, but because of one thing ore another, it kept getting put off.

This Saturday it looked like it was finally going to happen though, and we made the five or six hour drive north to Adirondack Loj––the intentionally misspelled hiking base a few miles from Lake Placid.

As Lake Placid is one of my parents (and I guess mine too) favorite vacation spots, I had been in the area many times and even hiked one of the easier climbs that branches out from Loj. Never anything super intense though.

Saturday was different, as we had tentative plans two summit two mountains; Algonquin and Iroquois.

The hike up Algonquin was pretty challenging. While I was expecting it to be long and pretty steep, the smooth rock faces that that have just low enough a gradient for you to walk on them without falling backwards were tiring.

We also got off to a late start (about 3:45am instead of 3) and were moving pretty fast to make up for it and have time for both summits.

Safe to say, by the time we got to the top, I was pretty exhausted. The view was beautiful though, and after eating lunch at the top, we decided we could make it to Iroquois too.

Iroquois didn't turn out to be nearly as far as I was afraid it would be. While it had taken us almost three hours to get from Loj to the summit of Algonquin, Iroquois was essentially on the same ridge, and only took about half an hour to reach.

The climb down went––obviously––faster than the assent, and all said and done, we finished the entire climb an hour ahead of schedule, which was nice, considering that we had almost a six hour drive back.

It was a long day, but it was also fun. And the scenery was as breathtaking as usual in the Adirondacks. Just as we finished the final slog up the side of Algonquin and collapsed on the summit, I saw this bird [above]. It was flying like you would see it fly high on a thermal in the air above a parking lot or river or something––only we were on level with it now. I was honestly too out of it right at that moment to appreciate it very much, but the photo looks cool.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Human After All

It's always a weird experience when you spend years liking something and let it become a part of your life without knowing anyone else who knows what it is. And even weirder when you then suddenly end up in a place with a bunch of people who love it as much or more than you do.

With the internet becoming what it is right at the time I was starting to become what I am, I often found myself looking beyond my own peer group for all things art and music related.

Growing up in a small, fiercely paternalistic and culturally xenophobic evangelical community in rural northern Pennsylvania, this was a huge blessing as it allowed me develop a diversity of tastes and likes that would have otherwise probably been limited to Country or CCM.

At the same time, it was a curse, because it caused me to become alienated from whatever tiny shreds of ability to relate to those around me that I may have had before. I would frequently become a fan of something, and spend years being the only fan I knew of it.

One of those things was a band that would become one of my favorites. LCD Soundsystem.

I bought my first couple of their tracks after hearing them on a videogame soundtrack. Later, when I went to Europe the first time for a semester––also my first time away from home––I listened to more of their music, and it seemed to take on a new meaning for me.

And that's how it's always been. Whether it was driving home from a good party early in the morning, feeling lost in a foreign country, or dealing with the death of a friend, their music always seemed to meet me where I was.

And all that time, I didn't know a single other person, at least in real life, who had ever heard of James Murphy or the band LCD Soundsystem.

Their concerts were always 300+ miles away, and if they ever came closer, it was for music festivals that I didn't have time or money to go to (not to mention that kind of thing tends to be awkward by yourself). So LCD Soundsystem came and went without me ever interacting with anyone else about them.

Last night I drove to Ithaca (by myself) to see SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS, which is a documentary about the band's final show and the days preceding and following it. I normally wouldn't have driven that far just to watch a movie, but if you know me, you know documentary film is my favorite kind, and the subject was obviously something I like.

I got there an hour early, and after walking around the Commons––which is interesting even on a Wednesday night––stopping by Starbucks and then Ithaca Ale House, I made my way down the dark alleyway that led to the art theater where it was being shown.

It was crowded inside––so much so that the people who frequented the theater seemed surprised by it. I got in line, and then realized that all of the other people there were in line for the same room as me.

The film was great. Totally worth the drive. But I think the weirder, and more memorable part of the experience for me, was, after six years, finally being in a room with 200 other people who liked LCD Soundsystem. They were out there after all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The RE-Re-re-launch

While I've technically been unemployed since coming back from school beginning of this summer, I've been working on a number of projects for a number of different people and groups. One of these has been Common Grace Inc.––a company my Dad and several others started seven or so years ago to market a local crystal jewelry piece called SOUL®.

While the business is being relaunched, the piece itself has been around for more than ten years. So as part of the launch, we interviewed a number of early customers who have owned it since the beginning, asking what it has come to mean to them over the years.

I filmed the interviews and used the footage as part of a video for the website. It's been done for a few weeks, but is just finally posted now. Take a look if you have a few minutes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

An honest darkness

I need something to get me excited about life again.

Last night I finished For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway. It was amazing. Best book I've read in at least a couple years. In fact, while I can't ever remember getting so wrapped up in a book before that I couldn't put it down, as it were, I couldn't put this one down––at least not for the last eight or nine chapters. It was gripping, poignant––and also extremely and profoundly depressing.

Books that I think are great usually have to speak to me in some way, and this one spoke to all of the despondency, meaninglessness and the darkly ironic sense that only what I think shouldn't happen will happen. Things that I tend to teeter on the edge of most days.

I know I should probably stick to literature––and music too for that matter––that denies those feelings instead of affirming them. But I tend to come away feeling insulted by books that deny them. And so I inevitably gravitate toward the other ones. The ones like Candide last Christmas, A Thousand Splendid Suns a few years ago, or my all time favorite book, Till We Have Faces, one of the very small number of books I've read twice.

I don't like things that are morbidly dark. I can't stand horror books, or horror movies, or death-metal. Glorifying pain isn't any more honest than pretending it doesn't exist. But it's the books that are honestly dark. The ones that don't deny that there is beauty in the world, that there is goodness in people, and in God––but also that the world is full of pain, and darkness, and irony, and maybe, just maybe the balance doesn't quite add up.

Those are the books that get me.

And I've been gotten.

That combined with a few, very very minor let-downs this week, has me feeling down. I wouldn't say I'm quite depressed. Just not very excited about life.