Monday, November 24, 2008

my new book!

hey, everyone, i edited my first ever book! you can (please) buy it here or ask buy it directly from me.

and to add to the thrill of having a book published, image journal featured our book in their newsletter. whoohooo!

check it out:

Remembering the Future, edited by Chris Keller and Andrew David
Remembering the Future, edited by Chris Keller and Andrew David

Remembering the Future is a selection of works published in the last three years by The Other Journal, an online journal at the intersection of theology and culture. Included in the anthology are poems by the likes of Luci Shaw, Marjorie Maddox, and Paul Willis, interviews of contemporary thinkers such as Lauren Winner, Brian McLaren, and Charles Marsh, and essays on everything from genocide to pop music (including a piece by music writer and former Image intern Joel Hartse). The anthology charts a course across human transgression—poverty, rape, violence, genocide—into the iconography of contemporary culture—Borat, Britney Spears, reproductive technology, the ONE campaign. The book will naturally appeal to readers with a theological bent, but it does not remain in the realm of mere ideas. Rather, its contributors are interested in the ways that theology is incarnated in real life, here and now—in family and community; in politics, economics, and education; in works of social justice; and in art, literature, and music. In the preface, the editors articulate their vision that “authentic, redemptive Christian practice requires double-vision, that is, thoughtful engagement with both the biblical tradition and the cultural moment.” From a broad spectrum of creativity and theology, this anthology encourages us to rethink our comfortable paradigms in light of such thoughtful engagement. The contributors, including voices from the emergent church and the evangelical, Catholic, and mainline traditions, are not always in agreement with each other, and many of the pieces are provocative—a testimony to the diversity of perspective that The Other Journal values. The opening poem by Luci Shaw, “A Few Suggestions for an Insubordinate Idea,” sets the tone for the whole book, which seeks to goad and stir, to “fling / a glitter of ash over the ocean, pocking it like rain. / Ignite a burning bush. Transfix the universe. Then,”—and here’s the beauty of what Remembering the Future does—“having found a mind of your own, come home. / Burrow my brain. Be one of a neuron couplet / that breeds a host of your own kind.”

Click here to buy the book.

Friday, November 14, 2008

if i were discussing this book: the shipping news

the shipping news deserves a high rating; perhaps a 14 or 15 on the 17 point scale. unfortunately, i moved on to the next book before really gathering my thoughts, and so the the authentic-seeming wacky characters (with names like quoyle and wavey) have faded into the thick newfoundland fog where i last left them.

still, if i were to scratch out an essay from the cobwebbed corners of my mind, i think i might approach the novel from the perspective of an editor. (quite a shock, eh!) as i recall, annie proulx's style is somewhat unconventional: she somehow gets away with fragments. sentence shreds. and her characters, the madcap way they talk on and on about knots and the hulls of frigates--pages and pages of dialect about nothing, about nothing but getting to know the characters themselves. anyway, i think i'd try to articulate how this works and doesn't work; i'd try to understand whether this unique writing style somehow reflects the themes of
the shipping news or whether it's a way of speaking that proulx carries with her everywhere she goes; and then i'd recommend the book, because, well, it's really quite good.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

i don't like the sound of this

according to this AP report, president-elect obama plans to blast into office with a series of executive orders.

on the surface, the proposed executive orders represent a new direction for the country. if you're in favor of lifting limits on stem cell research or if you cringed at the "drill, baby, drill" chants of the republican convention, you should be happy.

i'm afraid that obama's mandate for change may result in a continuation of other bush doctrines, specifically the unfettered increase of executive powers. of course, it may be that this is the usual political territory for a new president and obama will represent a less power-hungry force in the oval office, but i'm not convinced.

in other news, i loved
obama's pseudoseriousness at his first press conference this week. when a reporter asked him a wacky question about the new puppy he promised his daughters for being such good sports about the campaign, obama played it straight. he calmly described the pros and cons for various dog breeds as if he were weighing whether or not to invade afghanistan.

Friday, November 07, 2008

vocab (mccarthy style from the back page)

today a facebook friend told me that he loves jane eyre because of charlotte bronte's interesting use of punctuation. and then, in a seemingly unrelated incident, another friend commented on the story that i wrote about my encounter with a man and his paradox finding device. not to gloat, but she gave me a very big compliment on the piece; she wrote, "Andrew I love this! And, by the way, you sound like...cormac mccarthy. I'm serious." i was feeling very happy, but then i remembered that this particular 17 point scale fan didn't enjoy reading cormac mccarthy. hmm...

anyway, it just so happens that i have a post that i've been meaning to publish on punctuation and cormac mccarthy, and the conversion of these two incidents seems like the sign that i've been waiting for. it is time.

over the course of my blogging career i've written several entries under the heading of "back page." these were blog posts that borrowed their text from the postscripts of occasional wisdom and much long-winded, overblown verbosity that i scribbled in the back pages of the novels that i recently finished reading. although i like the idea of the "back page" posts, i have since stopped writing in my novels, which makes the simple transcription from book to internet nearly impossible. thus, i am phasing out the "back page" posts and using this post as something of a transition...

THE BORDER TRILOGY, books 1 and 2

all the pretty horses
by cormac mccarthy
the crossing by cormac mccarthy

critical accolades:
all the pretty horses won the national book award and the national book critics circle award.

less official acclaim:
greg wolfe, editor of image, has repeatedly described cormac mccarthy as one of the greatest american writers, and the crossing as cormac's greatest novel.

the 17 point scale concurs:
these are my favorite books of 2007, and cormac mcarthy is my favorite author of 2006 and 2007. he is the master of the dark, thoughtful novel of hope. his characters occupy a strange space between passion and stoicism, and his landscapes are quietly authentic.

but i'll spare you a mccarthy lovefest. instead, i'll bludgeon you with another andrew favorite, grammar.

as i was reminding myself about the plots of all the pretty horses and the crossing, i stumbled upon a new word: polysyndeton.

yes, apparently, cormac writes using polysyndeton. i knew this, i've just never put a name to it. he writes of a man walking and stooping and brushing the blood from a horse's hoof. cormac is stylistically spare--he shuns question marks, semicolons, and the ever-helpful quotation mark--but in my attempt at cormacian polysyndeton, you'll note a superfluous and. that's because polysyndeton is the deliberate use of several unnecessary conjunctions in close succession. i've called it the literary and but polysyndeton is probably a more universal term. in any case, passages like this are the bread and butter of mccarthy. they subtly slow down the text and thereby help communicate a sense of quiet. they also a have a distinctly biblical feel.

if you're not mccarthy, you probably write using syndeton or a single conjunction.

or perhaps you're crazy. perhaps you write using asyndeton, that is, the deliberate omission of conjunctions altogether. you know, little jewels like: i came, i saw, i blogged.

(and then i stopped blogging for several months because i was so busy working for that great shining star of online awesomeness,
the other journal.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

election 2008, andrew, and a curious device, part ii

CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST (wherein andrew describes his encounter with the paradox finding device)

later, as we sat in the kitchen alcove of beth’s house sipping hot chocolate, the man pointed to a series of digits on a print-out. “now, see this? everywhere you see a string of numbers like this—three-eight-eight, oh-two-seven—that represents a potential metaphysical inconsistency.”

i considered 388 027. the number had no obvious significance, no sign of a pattern or mathematical errancy, nothing for the likes of an english major.

the man danced a practiced finger from row to row as he scanned the digits. he grunted occasionally, belched loudly when his finger stopped below a series of seven 9s, but otherwise seemed entirely absorbed in this gypsy math.

then, from behind the curtains i heard the now familiar hum of the paradox finding device. strange that i hadn’t noticed it before, i thought. then the curtain moved—i hadn’t seen the device move before, just the noise and lights. the curtains jiggled again. perhaps i’d found the paradox motherload.

april’s cat stepped out from behind the curtain, eyed me curiously, and turned back into the long fabric.

“hi, josie,” i said. “what do you have back there?”

i could now make out her figure behind the curtain, nipping at what must be the paradox finding device.

josie, leave that alone.”

leaving the man to his cryptic pages of digits, i walked into the kitchen. the counters were mostly bare. a spicy curry-like substance stewed quietly on the stove. next to the wine rack i spotted the bright blue spray bottle.

josie!” i called, “you better leave that thing alone.” grabbing the half-full bottle, i returned to the alcove. the cat had batted the strange device into the middle of the room. she pawed at it in what seemed regular intervals.

“are you planning to spray that cat?” asked the man. he was staring at me now.

“maybe,” i lied.

“of course—well, don’t bother. come; sit, sit. there’s interesting stuff here, but i think that all we have time for are these twenty or so pages.” he was pointing to a stack of pages he’d labeled “election 2008.”

“this is amazing stuff. you score a seventeen!”

“is that good?”

“well, it’s a true paradox, that’s for certain.”

“oh, OK.”

“see, look here. these numbers suggest that on both a global and a micro level you hold views that are paradoxical.”

“what do you mean?”

“for starters, you genuinely believe that barack obama is the moral choice for president, and the immoral choice for president, and that there is no moral choice for president. and you believe that mccain is in many ways the best that the republican party has to offer, but don’t expect to give him your vote—”

“i follow you, but you’ve got to give me some credit for consistently thinking that sarah palin is a loon.”

the cat had abandoned the paradox device and was purposefully walking about the room.

“meow,” she said.

“hmm. perhaps. nonetheless, you believe that capitalism, democracy, and the protestant work ethic are keys to the continued success of the united states, that distributism and quasi-socialism are keys to the ensuring equality of man, and that these systems are all myths, half-truths to make us feel that we can build sustainable society.”

“right, i see where you’re going with this. i’m stuck with these non-negotiables—we must have the freedom to earn our own keep, control our destinies, and live our lives without the interference of a malignant bureaucracy, yet the very system that allows such american dreams seems set up to propagate inequality, poverty, and poor health care. the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. and although many churches and social programs successfully address these needs, others create generational patterns of welfare.”

“oooh, boy,” he cried, looking down at the print-out, “and we haven’t even mentioned the abortion issue.”

i couldn't resist the bait. “i buy the arguments of websites like, which describe how obama’s emphasis on decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies through education, birth control, and condoms will have a greater impact on the number of aborted babies than any policy of mccain’s. and i hate how the republican party has co-opted this issue as the one way to keep evangelicals in their electoral camp. but i’m going to have trouble voting for a candidate that supports increased access to abortion.”

“you don’t even need me!” he flipped to another page. what about your so called objectivism?”

“what do you mean? i’m a model of objectivity. after all, i’m an ISTP.”

“then how is it that you are so swayed by the call for change, by smooth talking, amazing speeches, and funny jokes? why do you esteem the underdogs and challengers over the seemingly capable incumbents? and why do you allow personal grudges—i.e., the lack of response to your supersonics pleas—to impact your vote? and for that matter, why do you so prize objectivity? ”

i stared at the man, dumbfounded. i looked at the pacing cat, at the hanging drapes, at the curious buzzing device on the floor. “i don't know. what’s the answer?” i asked.

he ran a hand through his hair, shuffled the papers into a yellow attaché case, and stooped down to pick up the device. the cat meowed once, twice, and a third time. with tired eyes he looked at me and then back at the cat.

“she says that you are the answer.”

Sunday, November 02, 2008

election 2008, andrew, and a curious device

“the device is used to spot paradoxes,” explained the man as he slapped it against his thigh. “if there is a paradox, these lights here, here, and here will blink swampy moss green, night-shade eggplant purple, and laundry blue.”

“and—those are colors?” i asked.

“yes, the colors of paradox.”

he pushed his chair back and walked toward me. the device dangled in his hand like a strangled bunch of metallic carrots. it whirred and hummed against his side.

“show me again,” i said.

he nodded, gave the awkward device three quick shakes, and dropped it to the floor—not a sign of flashing lights. the device purred but remained inert.

“but first can i touch it?”

nodding, he reached down and grabbed the device by what looked curiously like a stem. he offered it to me.

“don’t worry it won’t bite,” he chuckled.

it didn’t bite, but it kept buzzing. i carefully examined the contraption, testing its weight in my palm, listening for the source of that noise, turning it to explore its edges, grooves, and nubs.

i handed it back to him.

“OK. i suppose i’m ready.”

again, three shakes, and then he tossed me the device. nothing happened. it murmured in my hands just as it had a moment earlier on the floor of beth’s living room and when slapped against the man’s thigh. and then, it suddenly lit up. a carnival of greens, purples, and blues flashed through my fingers.

“a paradox!” shouted the man.

CONTINUED IN THE NEXT POST (wherein the mysterious paradoxes are unraveled)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

the very bad landlord 2



you see, a long time ago, say two and a half years, mr. pastor guy was my landlord--apparently leading the mars hill flock doesn't pay as well as playing slumlord in north greenwood.

that wasn't a misprint; after graduating from SPU i spent one year in a two-room apartment across the street from love zone and the liquor store, but aj's basement was the closest i've come to a tenement.

the house boasted 5 dorm-sized rooms and alex, nathan, and i found our way into the smallest. the room was just big enough for alex's bed, a bunk bed, and a dresser. if our blood alcohol level was really low and we timed things just right, we could just manage to walk from one end of the room to the other without knocking a knee against a wall. thankfully, it only took a step or two to cross that vast expanse, enter the hallway, and grope at my dresser, which was sandwiched between the water heater and some cobwebs.

and i had it good. as far as i know, nathan stowed most of his belongings in his jeep cherokee. for those two months of tenement bliss, he lived like a modern gypsy.

i can't blame the minister for our sardine state. nathan was getting married in a couple of months and i was searching for a new roommate; we were too cheap to fly solo in the cruel world of seattle rentals, and alex was too nice to knock us on the head with a crowbar of common sense. i suppose he could have thrown the RCW our way too--there must be a city ordinance against cramming 500 pounds of human flesh into 5 square feet.

which brings me back to aj.

in some sense, aj was charging alex a reasonable price for the room. they were mars hill brothers, so aj probably thought it would be good of him to cut alex a deal. but when alex told aj about his closetmates, the kindly hearted preacher grew stony.

OK, that's a true story, but i don't know where i meant to go from there. at the end of the post i wrote the following:

back story to backbackstage tale of intrigue
this obscure phrase was then followed by a list of names. well, i don't see the intrigue (except in not telling you who was on the list), and i can't recall the story that was supposed to be revealed through the telling of all that back story, but i can tell you this: i can't imagine myself ever doing that again.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

a wedding and a precursor


as of this date, my former roommate, alex the indie music hookup, is married. there were three highlights to his wedding:

first, it was the best wedding i've ever attended that consisted entirely of recorded music. well, i can't be entirely certain of that, but generally i tend to think that live musicians provide weddings with a special, unique feel that is noticeably absent when another recording of pachelbel's canon hits the stereo. somehow sappy wedding music that's live is infinitely more tolerable than sappy music from a CD. however, despite my strongly pro-live perspective, i was happily suprised by alex and katie's wedding. they picked a satisfying selection of contemporary songs that lent their wedding a fresh gravity. the only potential for a musical frown during the event was that they didn't hire our band--that's right, they marched out of the sanctuary to sufjan's "chicago" (!) and they didn't hire us. maybe they thought i was too busy with my usher duties.

second, the food was delicious.

and third, the pastor. he wasn't delicious, and he wasn't a highlight in the traditional sense of the word. it was his first wedding and his sermon aimed at the epic rather than the simple. i think he was trying to read through the bible in 80 days or three wedding services, whichever came first. still, he didn't stutter, stammer, or stare blankly at the waiting couple. it was a decent first time.

no, his highlightyness was more related to his role as the protagonist in a behind-the-scenes tale of mystery and mayhem than any personal trait.

Monday, October 20, 2008

i watch a lot of movies

in preparation for the upcoming film, faith, and justice event, here's another movie-related post!

on january 9, 2008, my favorite movie critic, jeffrey overstreet, provided a list of his top 25 films of 2007. he has since updated the list, but i have pasted the original list below. i have bolded the films that i have seen. of course, i'm not sure why i'm doing this, but everyone likes lists, right?

1. Into Great Silence

2. There Will Be Blood
3. The Devil Came on Horseback
4. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
5. Lars and the Real Girl
6. Ratatouille
7. Zodiac
8. Paprika
9. I’m Not There
10. No End in Sight
11. This is England
12. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
13. Away from Her
14. Once
15. Juno
16. No Country for Old Men
17. The Savages
18. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
19. The Wind That Shakes the Barley
20. Into the Wild

21. La Vie en Rose
22. Climates
23. God Grew Tired of Us

24. Manufactured Landscapes
25. Jindabyne

  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
  • Waitress
  • Eastern Promises
  • The Darjeeling Limited
  • The Namesake
  • Offside
  • The Lookout
  • Dan in Real Life
  • The Simpsons Movie
  • The Bourne Ultimatum
  • The Host
  • Bella
  • Amazing Grace
  • Hot Fuzz
  • Knocked Up
Others that Jeffrey hasn't seen
  • 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
  • Gone Baby Gone
  • Syndromes and a Century
  • Ten Canoes
  • Great World of Sound
  • Ghosts of Cité Soleil
  • My Kid Could Paint That
  • Rescue Dawn
  • Persepolis
  • Talk to Me
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
  • Rocket Science
  • American Gangster
  • The Great Debaters

Thursday, October 16, 2008

i have to get ready

i really like this video.

and also, if you happen to know anyone with a commercial popcorn maker that i might be able to borrow for the Film, Faith, and Justice festival at Mars Hill Graduate School next weekend, please let me know!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


in case you haven't heard, the other journal is putting on the third annual showing of their film, faith, and justice (FFJ) festival. i haven't been yet, but it seems like a great event--award winning documentaries from the human rights watch traveling film festival, crazy cool speakers from around the nation, discussion panels that include local community leaders, nonprofit volunteer opportunities--wow.

generally speaking, when i watch films like
hotel rwanda or the devil came on horseback, i'm paralyzed by a stark understanding of my own monetary, time, knowledge, and geographical limitations; i'm caught by that ugly question, what now? however, with FFJ, i'm hopeful that the illuminating lectures, discussions, and nonprofit booths will help provide some context, thought, and directive for how i am to respond to these kinds of films.

you can check out FFJ on facebook or the FFJ site (buy tickets here).

you can see some of the movie previews here:

also, monday night at 5pm (october 12), there's a mock debate at the SE senior center at rainier and holly. if you go, be sure to say hi to mike and mari, friends of the 17 point scale, and perhaps me.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

my vocation


i sometimes wonder about the utility of my vocation. if society is sucked down the tubes of economic ruin, my job would be one of the first to go. if the global market crashed, my wordsmithing skills and knowledge of grammar would make me an eloquent beggar, but a beggar i'd be. and when i'm feeling doubtful about my career path, these thoughts make my skills seem insignificant: i don't have a practical skill, i think, i can't build houses, kill deer, or fix automobiles. i can't heal insomniacs, calculate foreign tax returns, or operate an oil refinery.

i'm not sure where i was going with that--in fact, one of the labels for this post was originally "soccer"; i don't know how that fits in--but i suppose it's all true. if you think of maslow's hierarchy of needs (remember, that pyramid from your freshman psychology class), art is somewhere at the top. but does that mean that my intended profession is less valuable than the professions that may occupy the bottom? or, conversely, does that mean that my intended profession is more valuable than the professions at the bottom? does it matter?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

good 17 points scale news!

at the request of my reader, i have prepared a little bit more content for the 17 point scale, at least 8 posts in fact!

[photo by andrew david. "we shall be happy again!" somewhere in the cascades, wa.]

Sunday, September 21, 2008

if i were reviewing this film: smart people

smart people follows the awkward relationships of a sorry, self-absorbed professor, his family, and an ex-student now-MD love interest. if i were to review smart people, i might liken the film to its professor-protagonist: like dennis quaid's character, the film has a pretentious, elitist feel that lacks beauty and soul.

for a full review on the film, see

PS i do find it interesting that the filmmakers decided to cast the intellectual grump as an english prof. when conjuring academic stereotypes, my first instinct is to cast hypothetical english profs as individuals who are passionate about literature, otherwise mousey types that become strangely animate in the presence of language and writerly minutia. i suppose this reflects my own experiences in college and my belief in the transformative power of art--in what department might you cast a brainy, cynical jerk who's all ego and no soul?

Monday, August 11, 2008

my girlfriend's a cosmo girl!

that's right, i'm dating a cosmo girl. you can find her at

the photo was taken as part of an extensive photo shoot. cosmo paid me somewhere between $0.17 and $1.56 for this image.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Kierkegaard in '08

in case you're not sure who to vote for yet, here's a convincing campaign ad:

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

i like this band

whoohoo! now you can listen to synthar while browsing the 17 point scale ratings, which i intend to update a bit more frequently during the upcoming three months.

well, now that i've posted this, i realize that the sampler tends to fade out before the songs really bloom. generally speaking, i would recommend sampling tracks 5 (a post-apocalyptic warning), 9 (the sampling function fades before the amazing life-changing beat), 10 (very sad), and 11 (very happy).

and then later, you can buy their album.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

armies clash by night: some war films end in sight

build me a ladder of logic up to the sky, a string of carefully constructed proofs that creatively illumine the uncertain state of this world and that beyond. that's my charge to any issue-oriented documentary; do that and i'll happily climb the rungs of your rhetoric. i am so charmed by logic that if a filmmaker sugercoats truth or skillfully twists on-screen action away from one view or another, i'm likely to miss it, likely to fall into the rational trap of the film's narrative.

all that to say, although i can't be sure of the objectivity of
no end in sight, the movie makes me angry, angry that the occupation of iraq was undertaken in a fog of idiocy. no end convincingly argues that our leaders had access to effective means of avoiding a full-scale insurgence but they chose to plug their ears, close their eyes, and clash by night.

still, i don't know where to go from there. i obediently followed
no end's story arc, and just as the title might suggest, it left me without a conclusion, without some sense of what to do next. this frustration is complicated by the increasing optimism of the war in iraq. no end leaves us in 2007, when things were still going horribly wrong, but now in 2008 the latest AP reports suggest that there may in fact be an end in sight. and so, while no end may be a fine piece of cinematic rhetoric, i seriously question it's timelessness and application for the world today.


and here's another rhetorical success. this film (not a documentary) successfully demonstrates the injustice of "stop-loss," the US military's doctrine of reinstating soldiers after their tours of duty have already been completed, that is, sending them back to iraq against their will. i might gripe that some of the film's characters behaved incongruously to their personalities or life scenarios, and that the film may have went a little overboard in some places, but like
no end in sight, stop-loss is a likely candidate to make you mad. oh, and get these guys some prazosin!

Friday, July 25, 2008

leave it be

The world is full of wonders, great big wonders and little tiny wonders. Yet we are often so caught up in our routines and single-minded sense of purpose, that we barrel right by these God-granted glories.

On a recent bus ride downtown, I was having one of those moments. My eyes were locked on the seat in front of me, but my mind was elsewhere. I was worried about our fare or the next stop or what was for dinner, and then Beth nudged me and directed my attention out our window. She was pointing at a rather ordinary looking rose bush.

"What?" I asked.

"Look at that leaf," she said, "If you think about it, that leaf is in a constellation of other leaves, a rose bush universe."

That's not quite what she said, but I think it sums up her point. Beth was highlighting the miracle of life. That leaf, albeit it an ordinary, brainless bunch of chloroplast, experiences rain storms and beetle migrations, Metro exhaust and pedestrian chatter. I doubt there's a mansion in heaven for that leaf, but here on earth God has provided it with everything it needs; He has even provided it with purpose. That tiny, insignificant leaf is responsible for some of the earth's oxygen. We breathe because of that leaf (and his leaf buddies).

So pause and smell the air. Taste the food. Listen to the sounds. Live in the moment.

And remember, God wants you right where you are: That leaf makes air, and you sit there reading this blog.

[adapted from a letter to someone traveling abroad]

Sunday, July 13, 2008

the 17 points of attraction

i guess i'm not the only one to see the scientific merit of 17 point scales. check out this site to hear the informal findings of some engineers who used a 17 point scale to gauge the perceived attractiveness of their 70-some subjects. as one might expect, their scale ranged from 0 (disgustingly ugly/repulsive) to 17 (perfectly attractive/marry this person right now!).

photo: blb, "the 17 builds a dam" great smoky mountains, tennessee

Saturday, July 12, 2008


the next issue of the other journal will focus on the 2008 election. although i'm interested to see how theologians will address this topic, and i think it will be an interesting issue for our readers, i wonder how creative writers will take to it.

if poets and writers are our modern prophets, our contemporary truth-tellers, then it makes sense that their work might be politically noisy, that it might voice protests or hoorahs over policies and potentates. and perhaps we should listen.

but when i sit down to read a poem or a short story, i don't want to bullied into belief. i don't want a writer knocking me up side the head with the moral bush is bad. if this is their point, i'd like the message to sneak past my defenses, settle in my mind, and convince me via the rhythm, images, and story.

so, yes, i'm afraid that some writers will forget their subtlety and fly headlong into the role of teacher. therefore, when i think of our next issue, i'm most excited by the lens we're hoping to use for election '08: change.

it's a word that's on the lips of all our pundits and politicians these days, but i also think it's a potentially rich word for christian writers. when you think about it, nearly all great literature is about change. we read books that have shifting plots, characters that are melded by their stories. and at the heart of the christian faith is change.

and speaking of change, here's the point of today's entry: today i'm on the brink of change. after battling a nasty cold, i'm starting to feel much better. this seems small and shallow, of course, but to me, at this moment, it feels big and important.

and i just finished haruki murakami's the wind-up bird chronicle, which i hope to say more about later.

and after several years of off-and-on practice, i'm finally learning debussy's "claire de lune" in its entirety.

so hooray for change!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

bad decisions

it's a dark day in seattle--thunder, lightning, ruptured community.

today, on the verge of a courthouse victory in their case against clayton bennett, the city caved. they got cold feet, or perhaps greedy, and agreed to a cash settlement. mayor greg nickels claims that the settlement will keep seattle in the good graces of the NBA--commissioner david stern has even reversed himself, stating that a remodeled key arena will meet the NBA's standards. in exchange for stern's weak promise that if the washington state approves funding for the remodel, seattle will be on the short list of cities to receive the next expansion team, bennett gets a get out of jail free card. already he is whisking the sonics away to oklahoma city.

after hearing the news, i turned my radio to 950 KJR and then made my way to i listened as choked-up fan after choked-up fan bitterly torched the city of seattle, called for starbucks boycotts, vowed to never watch another NBA game again. some seemed close to tears as they talked of their memories, torn from them, perhaps forever. others talked of the future and their children who will have no shawn kemps or gary paytons, no kevin calabro.

and they said goodbye. a community 1000s strong suddenly deemed irrelevant by the powers that be. a community that in a flourish of ink, suddenly lost its reason for being.

perhaps there's still some hope.

(1) the city may have acted with prescience--balmer's still around, so this seeming betrayal of fan interest may actually result in seattle getting a second shot with the supes someday in the far future.

(2) howard schultz's lawsuit to rescind the original sale of the team is still on the table. if successful, we could be cheering in the streets once again.

in the meantime, here's my list of annoying people that deserve an otter-pop spanking:

howard schultz
clayton bennett
commissioner david stern
governor chris gregoire
speaker frank chopp
mayor greg nickels
city councilman nick licata

Monday, June 30, 2008

bad movies kind rewind - on NPR this morning i heard that the supreme court ordered the military to confiscate several copies of be kind rewind from guards at guatanomo. apparently the jokes in the film were so bad and the plot was so far-fetched and stupid that its use on prisoners violated the geneva conventions.

6.picnic at hanging rock - this is a film that makes me think that despite the popular knee-jerk criticism of twenty-first century hollywood productions, movie-making has progressed a great deal during the last few decades, and perhaps my officemate, who heartily recommended this 1975 film, hasn't. OK, james and i usually see eye-to-eye on films, but in this case the scenery, sound effects, storyline, and overall picture experience did nothing for me. there's a novel concept in the film, but it only works if you can overlook the aforementioned flaws and suspend your critical thinking skills.

Friday, June 20, 2008

the greatest literary figure of our century

i have a new favorite author.

he recently won the national book award for the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian, but i didn't read it. he has had several novels honored as new york times notable books, including
indian killer and the business of fancydancing, but i haven't read them. he received the PEN/hemingway award for best first book of fiction for the lone ranger and tonto fistfight in heaven, but i didn't read it. my newest favorite literary figure has even appeared on a new yorker's best writers list.

so who is this fellow that wins my praise without hardly a glance at his novels?

he is
sherman joseph alexie, jr., S-H-E-R-M-A-N, last name A-L-E-X-I-E, the great champion of sonics basketball and the gabbiest witness ever known to seattle law.

as an aspiring literary editor, i sometimes feel constrained by the categories of good literature, as if my life should be a series of witty remarks, fine wines, and twisting metaphors, as if everything must add up to transcendence and truth, as if anything less than poetic is second rate.

but that's all wrong.

and today, as mr. sherman alexie, one of washington state's great writers, testified about the value of professional sports, especially the sonics, i was reminded again that the value of everything in this life is to some degree a function of artifice, emotion, and quality. and inasmuch as sonics basketball typifies these characteristics, it is valuable.

later this year, if the city's lawsuit is unsuccesful, the seattle courts may attempt to put a price tag on that value--is sonics basketbal worth $10 million to the city? is it worth $50 million? $100 million?--but really it is invaluable.

OK, so why is alexie so great? well, besides knocking me on the head and reminding me that i need not make excuses for liking the sonics, or cheeseburgers, or gas-powered motorboats, alexie also gives a crazy diverse testimony. he takes the courtroom and transforms it into a canvas where he paints NBA basketball as a unifying force for families and cultures and, you got to see this to believe it, a playground for our century's hercules and athena.

i love this.

Q: Say they plan to leave at the end of the lease term, why renew for those final two years?
A: . . . I want two more years of the Greek gods. (search for alexie)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

some thoughts on quotation marks and italics

+updated 6/19/08+

I wrote this for another context, but I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I'd bore the world rather than just my colleagues.

As you may know, my day job is as an editor for a university. In this position I work for a bunch of academics, and over the last five years I’ve developed the bias that many academics are not great writers.

This is compounded by a few factors.

First, the overarching goal of most academic writing is not the creation of good writing, it’s the generation of new ideas, or if I’m a bit less generous, the goal is to sound smart and innovative. Thus, academic writing is by its very nature flush with field-specific terminology and verbosity.

Second, because academics are bright and successful within their field, many seem to naturally assume that they are also good writers. Actually, this is probably true of non-academics also, but in my department, I’ve found that it takes a long time for the higher level faculty to seek editorial assistance. But they all need help, and once I find my way to their manuscripts, they hardly ever bat an eye if I swap some quotation marks for italics or make a few nouns roman type (I suppose they’re usually too busy!).

Likewise, I think the academics that write for nonprofit theology journals could use some help, and I doubt they’ll really care if lowly journal editors assert their will on matters of emphasis. But if they do care, such editors have the big guns in their arsenal: (1) they’re using CMOS, the king of style since the early 1900s—it happens to be the stylebook of most book publishers, the stylebook of most scholarly work in the humanities—and as far as writing style is concerned, CMOS is like the US constitution, and the journal editors are the Supreme Court; (2) they’re attempting to keep all of our articles consistent, so an author could be consoled that there’s nothing wrong with their style, they’d just like it to match the rest of the issue’s content; (3) they’re attempting to make their content relevant to a larger audience than just other theologians; (4) they’re an interdisciplinary journal with a creative writing section, so unlike other theology journals, great writing will never take a backseat to great theology; and (5) even if the author is a big name that they just have to publish, they are still the one’s pulling the strings, so authors are really beholden to their editorial decisions.

My perspective is that academics, especially in the humanities, attempt to compensate for their lack of writing genius by using artificial means of emphasis like the quotation mark. In most instances, a word can be emphasized naturally in the sentence or paragraph construction without stooping to quotation marks or italics. Moreover, by making sparse use of this convention, words that are set off by italics will stand out more. Also, many writers seem to use (or overuse) quotation marks for ironic use (see CMOS 7.58) when it really doesn’t make much sense.

So given that it’s generally best to trim a manuscript of excess italics and quotation marks, here are the guidelines that I'd recommend for a theology journal:

  • Foreign words unfamiliar to readership = italics
  • Emphasis (try to avoid) = italics
  • Terms, words used as words, letters used as letters = italics
  • Nonstandard, ironic, or other special sense (try to avoid!) = quotation marks

Of course, ultimately, the author is always right. Editors can usually get away with enforcing matters of style, but if there’s an impasse, an editor's only options are to give in or reject the piece.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

pizza, pirates, and laser tag!

when my dad concocted 3d pirate black-light mini golf, we thought he was crazy, but now he's managed to combine pizza, pirates, and laser tag. check out this video:

by the way, i've tasted lou malnati's deep dish in chicago; i've tasted the pesto in the cinque terre; i've tasted pagliacci, pegasus, and tutta bella, but despite my far-flung pizza-eating experience, pietro's is still my fav.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

the great smoky mountains

i'm planning a trip to nashville and the great smoky mountains next month, and i have potentially 4 days to spend in the smokies. (or is it smoky's?) anyway, if you have any knowledge or advice about that part of the world, let me know!

atheism, sharing, and god

ok, i live and breath editing, so you'll have to pardon another ancillary mention of my work at the other journal (TOJ).

in my editing class, we've been getting the inside scoop on the publishing biz; this means chatting with acquisition editors and writing book proposals.

now several months ago, i thought it might be interesting to approach my boss's boss, the director of mental health at the seattle VA, about a book on his amazing discovery of prazosin, the nightmare-relieving pill for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). murray's a funny guy, a great storyteller, and an important figure in the research community, so i figured that a book that walked a tightrope between biography, history, and timely political commentary could be entertaining from his perspective.

but then the miracle of calvin college happened. at the festival of faith and writing, an editor for one of the big christian publishers approached TOJ about the prospect of transforming our atheism issue into a book. the editor encouraged us to submit a book proposal and then he bounded back to his world of signed books.

as it happened, my assignment for a book proposal was due the next week, so i jettisoned the poor iraqi PTSD veterans--in fact, were i to properly edit this post, they'd have been wiped from the annals of the 17 point scale because i have nothing more to say about the dormant book idea; i suppose that it's relevant to the chronology but not to the story--and attempted to pull together a coherent thesis for the a TOJ atheism book.

here's what i determined: recent publications that write on atheism from a christian perspective tend to lapse into polemics. they exist solely as a response to richard dawkins, christopher hitchens, and company. in contrast, the content in the current issue of TOJ uses atheism as a starting point for more important discussions about what it means to be christians. how should a life of faith differ from a life without faith? what atheistic ideas challenge christians to live life better and more like christ? i was a bit surprised to find such a foundation, but i think it might work.

still, just now as i was relaxing on my couch and listening to my highest rated playlist, i couldn't help but get a little apologetical. and when i say "a little apologetical," i'm referring to the branch of apologetics that relies chiefly on easily disproved observations.

i was listening to "a friend i had" by aaron sprinkle, and i thought, gosh, this seems like such a perfect song. it was more a gut reaction than the result of a close analysis of the melodic complexity or the lyrical juxtapositions, but i was overpowered by a strong sense that everything was just right. so right, in fact, that i needed to tell someone. i needed to get the message out to as many people as possible. i needed to share.

i think that this silent urge to share beauty is everywhere in the world. it's in the thousand blogs that celebrate a quote or lyric in every post. it's in my atheism book proposal.

and what's not in my atheism book proposal is this simple proof: perhaps that beauty is truth and perhaps that truth--perhaps all truth--somehow leads to god and perhaps our innate need to share that truth is in some way reflected in the international movement known as the church.

after exchanging book proposals with an editing partner in my class, she remarked, andrew, you need to use more confident language. enough with the "may," "could", and "perhaps"--write with some authority.

ok, then.

you can poke holes in my theory or decry organized religion or dismiss church or laugh at ritual but isn't it true that there's something distinctly human about sharing beauty, and isn't that to some degree the purpose of church?

yes, it is so.

photograph: andrew david. "the shining." central park, nyc, ny.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

letter to you!

April 1, 2008

Dear Everyone I Know:

Baseball’s had its opening day (Hooray, Bedard!) and the calendar says April, but I’m not yet convinced that it’s spring. Yesterday I dashed through the VA parking lot in a big fat hail storm, and just last Friday my coworkers were leaving work at noon to avoid icy roads and the promise of snow—what’s going on? This is Seattle, the land where clouds and sun play peek-a-boo all spring long, the home of drizzle, not snow.

So since I’m in a wintry mood, I thought I’d send a Christmas letter of sorts, an annual holiday update but with a twist (WARNING: that twist means that I’m asking you for something).

I think that people usually start these letters by describing the highlights and lowlights of the year:

I founded a soccer team. During the first season we were known as The Others, but after a season of soul-searching, we changed our name to the Powerhouse Penguins. We’ve even won a game!
I performed in a
Sufjan Stevens cover band and a Backstreet Boys karaoke group.
I contacted my legislature and governor about various
SuperSonics related issues, got cynical about their lack of response, and haven’t yet contacted them about Darfur.
I wrote several book review blurbs that were published in ImageUpdate, dozens of blog entries, two pages of an in-progress novel, and a few articles about Alzheimer’s research.

New York City, NY: Beth and I attended the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference and visited with Matt and Jacinda Basinger.
Ocean Shores, WA: I celebrated my birthday in the penthouse at the Gray Gull with a dozen or so of my friends.
Belize: Beth and I joined my parents and grandparents in a Belize adventure. I have some great memories from the trip, and it was good to be able to travel with my Grandpa one last time before he passed away in October.
Portland, OR: I made several trips to visit my parents for holidays (e.g., Thanksgiving), Pietros Pizza fun, and Powell’s Books.

Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy
Food: Indian curry

OK, so now the twist.

As you may know, I’ve been working as an editor for the University of Washington (UW) Department of Psychiatry for a few years now. It’s interesting work—I’ve learned a ton about schizophrenia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease—and they even paid for me to get a certificate in editing from the UW, but I’ve been hoping for something with a little less statistical genetics, something a bit more creative.

Then, in August of 2007, I was invited to join the staff of The Other Journal, an online quarterly that explores matters of faith in the context of art, culture, social justice, and theology. The journal aspires to be a meeting place between the academic and the popular, and they publish essays; book, film, and music reviews; visual art; blog posts; and creative writing. They asked me to edit their upcoming print anthology and the Imagination section, a hub of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Since then we’ve published an issue on
psychopathology (“Virtue, Sin, and Psychosis in the New Millennium”) and an issue on atheism (which is currently ongoing), and I’ve had the opportunity to work with a great collection of amazing writers and poets. I even got to meet poet Luci Shaw, who was shocked to find that I was a twentysomething rather than a bespectacled old scholar in a tweed suit.

Now, I said that this was something of a Christmas letter. That’s because I’m kind of asking you for a Christmas gift.

The Other Journal is a non-profit organization, staffed primarily by volunteers (and people like me, working at about a buck an hour) whose work is made possible by the generous financial contributions of our readers. They hardly pay me, but I’m excited nonetheless. The experience is great and I think we’re publishing important content that needs to be seen—check us out at Therefore, I’m asking that you consider giving to The Other Journal.

We would use your contribution to help fund the continued work of the journal and to increase our ability to impact the world. This month, for example, we plan to attend the Faith and Writing Festival at Calvin College, an important gathering of leading voices in the exploration of faith, writing, and culture. The Faith & Writing Festival represents a unique opportunity to promote The Other Journal by hosting an exhibit and networking with publishers and writers. The conference will also allow our team of editors to meet from across the United States to refine our focus for the upcoming year.

Your contribution would also help run a series of films, lectures, and panel discussions called Film, Faith, and Justice. Last year we joined with the organization Human Rights Watch, to have the festival at the UW campus, where over four days we drew more than 1,800 participants from Seattle’s eclectic community of activists, students, academics, videophiles, and people of faith.

We need your support; all donations to The Other Journal are tax-deductible.

We are accepting online donations through the Mars Hill Graduate School donations page (; in the Gift Information section, be sure to write the following:

apply my gift to OTHER
if other: The Other Journal
Donations, made out to “Mars Hill Graduate School” with TOJ/AD in the memo line, can also be sent via snail-mail to The Other Journal at:

The Other Journal at
Mars Hill Graduate School
2501 Elliott Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121

Thank you for reading my letter and considering supporting The Other Journal.


Andrew David
The Other Journal

PS I’m also hopeful that this working-nights-and-weekends gig might eventually turn into a more legitimate part-time job, and if we do really well at getting donations, that might be a possibility.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

profanity, art, and toj

there's some great content up at the other journal. the current issue is on atheism.

also, i really like this poster.

but today i'm returning to an opus that i abandoned several months ago. the psychopathology issue of
toj features the poem "hedonist's prayer,"a dark parody of the pater noster. the poem approaches the theme of moral depravity with harsh, honest language as the narrator confesses an appetite for "smut and sex" and an allegiance to "the satiation of desire." the poem even drops a participial adjective f-bomb.

so how does such a poem find its way into a christian journal that is primarily staffed by evangelicals?

there are several ways to approach the issues raised by "hedonist's prayer," but i'd like to deal with my mom first.

i expect that my mom would object most strongly to the profanity. indeed, i remember getting my mouth washed out with soap for calling someone
stupid. at the time i was probably being naughty and belligerent in other ways too, but my mom used the opportunity to illustrate a biblical mandate for thoughtful, conscientious, and clean action. as the scriptures say:

do you not know that your body [e.g., mouth] is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body [i.e., with your mouth] (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
and the lesson stuck. i don't cuss and i don't use profanity in my writing, and although i see the distinctions that separate some swear words from non-swear words as somewhat arbitrary cultural designations, i still cling to a belief that there is value to keeping my mouth clean, that this non-divisively sets me apart from a culture that could care less, that this somehow honors God.

my personal rejection of profanity is universal yet nuanced. there seem to be several uses of profanity, and although my personal usage has yet to waver, i recognize distinctions between these uses.

many people seem to use profanity as a normal character in their everyday alphabet. perhaps this pattern of usage supports the view that profanity is no longer profane because some pockets of culture have adopted it into the general lexicon.

yet here comes my mother again, thrashing her broom against those four-letter words, crowing that profanity is unnecessary, that there are better, more eloquent ways to convey one's meaning. were my mom an editor, she might say that when someone's sentences are peppered with profanity, they are falling into the trap of someone who uses
like to convey every little thought or who has fallen exhaustingly in love with (nasty) adverbs.

and to this critique, the language lover in me raises his glass and cries, "cheers!" although creative writing that attempts to recreate a foul-mouthed dialect may succeed at realism, i hardly ever find it poetic. likewise, i'm not sold on literature that appears to have missed the copyediting desk--if it uses alternate spellings or attempts to excuse odd pronunciations with a boatload of apostrophes, it's probably not for me--and if the profanity is grating in its insistent repetition, it's probably not for toj.

others seem to use profanity to express anger, shock, or surprise--coffee in the lap, rat in the room, spouse in the doghouse. although these emotional outbursts share an authenticity with the first pattern of usage, they generally are accompanied with more oomph and pack a more powerful punch. if a character drops an anvil on his toe, a lone word can communicate a lot. when the anvil crushes the toe, it really isn't necessary for the character to say anything intelligible, but a brief curse certainly has more literary merit than a weak "ouch, that hurt!"

returning to paul's letter to the corinthians, i find that scripture seems to be speaking to precisely this kind of profanity, this harsh un-love-ly response to life lemons. personally, this is the point where i choose not to swear. but what about my characters? what about a poem in the editorial slush pile?

and finally, the occasional speaker of profanity seems to use their swear words literally, that is, their profanity means what it says. when profanity is used for the purpose of clear explication, when no other word conveys the same meaning as the ostracized word, i think this is where the editorial gates must open wide and begrudgingly let the word stay.

art and morality seem to be in a strange match of tug-o-war, and as a young editor, i'm caught in between, wondering how things turned out this way. if i truly believe that art is our way of communicating some sense of truth, of unconsciously channeling messages from the divine, how do i balance artistic integrity with moral integrity?

i don't really know, but i stand behind art like "hedonist's prayer," art that navigates the precipice of profanity with care, that uses every word to serve the purpose of the work without succumbing to shock and awe, and that seeks to show us something of ourselves, the world around us, and perhaps God.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

and because i haven't published something on the sonics in about a week . . .


3,691 to 117

This was the 4 day total of calls to the governors hotline beginning the morning after the Ballmer announcement and ending the Tuesday we assumed it was dead and filed our public disclosure.

97% of the people who bothered to call in urged her to support a solution and get something done. We expect similar numbers but a much greater quantity of calls when the legislature returns their tallies.

also, last week we heard a lot of rhetoric about "not having enough time to put together a package." but as i was listening to 950 KJR AM tonight, i learned that during the thursday session at least 5 hours (!) were spent congratulating one another on a session well spent and recognizing the lifetime achievements of some of the retiring legislators. that's a bit frustrating.

on the sonics blogs i frequent
i've noticed an overwhelming response in favor of this proposal (i.e., hundreds of posters) and an equally dramatic backlash against the politicians in olympia for sitting on their butts and doing nothing. my impression is that many of these fans are your typical washingtonians--liberal and left--and i wonder how their dissatisfaction might influence the next round of elections. i know that i for one am disappointed that i haven't even received a dismissive form letter back from my legislators.

finally, people are calling obama's latest speech amazing.
my pastor, for instance, has said that it is "perhaps the most powerful speech on the issues of racism and economic divides offered in the past 40 years." check it out at the npr site. and i'm sure that if obama were on the scale tonight, one thing he might add is that each and every one of us should do our part to end racial discrimination, economic crises, and sonics atrocities by emailing the seattle city council and urging them to find a solution to the missing $75 million (

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

andrew the political provocateur

my friend greta recently pegged me as "pretty passionate about the sonics," which i suppose must be somewhat true. after all, during the last week i have sent several impassioned pleas to my governor and state legislators, and i have printed and posted "save our sonics" paraphernalia--grammar errors and all.

however, i haven't actually watched an entire sonics game all year. the supes suck this year, and i'm happy to spend my time elsewhere, give someone else my dollars.

the thing is, NBA basketball is cyclical. today we field a team of rookies and scrubs, but tomorrow--and by tomorrow, i mean five years from now--the key arena/ford center will rock. think '95-'96.

but my sudden political activity isn't founded on a gamble or the promise of a rosy future--i'm willing to admit that durant might lose a leg and presti's stockpile of #1 draft picks could turn to naught. no, my desire to keep the sonics and impeach the legislature is entirely separate from the great potential of future iterations of the green and gold.

i guess i am just tired of the same old irrelevant arguments. i am tired of dogma that prohibits us from looking beyond our wallets and imagining the world from someone else's shoes. i am tired of leaders who parrot back the same meaningless answers to straw man arguments rather than taking decisive action.

and that is why i have called the legislature (800.562.6000), written my governor, and enlisted at least 3 others to do the same.

now it's your turn! unless the governor schedules an emergency legislative session, the city ponies up another $75 million, or some other sports miracle occurs, today is the last day.

photograph: sean meichle. "the provocateur." VAPSHCS, seattle, wa.

PS apparently i am so annoyed at our leaders that i even gave the governor some input on an unrelated bill about law enforcement and gang activity.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

the sonics make me happy, frank chopp does not

contact the governor!

My email to Gregoire:

Dear Governor Gregoire:

Hi, I'm writing to encourage you to take a stand in favor of the recent proposal by the potential Sonics investors who are offering to contribute half the cost to a Key Arena renovation. As I understand it, the City of Seattle would chip in another $75 million, which only leaves $75 million for the state. And since the bonds for Safeco are expected to be paid off early--right?--that means no new taxes! For $75 million I think this is spectacular, must-do high priority.

I'm proud that Washington state hasn't caved to Clay Bennett's extortion attempts, but this deal is our chance to say YES! to the 40+ years of memories, the jobs, and the civic pride that is the Sonics.

And I am counting on you to take a leadership role and make the legislature consider this sweet bill before the NBA Board of Governors meets in April. Frank Chopp and Jeff Morris are fond of saying that there isn't time or that other issues are more pressing, but quite frankly, it's the 11th hour and now is the time.

Governor Gregoire, if you don’t do all that you can to embrace this bill and keep the Sonics in Seattle, if you don't rally for the legislature to fund the state’s portion of the proposal before this session ends, I will be very disappointed. Please don't let your legacy suffer; don't make me vote for Rossi in the next election; make our state ecstatic and proud.

Thank you for your time,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

my synthar blurb

as usual, my latest image update blurb, a review of synthar's evenings and weekends, is kind of a gamble.

i'll explain the gambling later, but in the meantime, here it is:

Synthar: Evenings and Weekends

SyntharIn this season of last caucuses and primaries, with the names of presidential candidates on our tongues and a foretaste of change on our lips, the pop-indie band Synthar has come out with just the album to match that extra kick in your step—or that worried furrow of brow—that may accompany this historic time. Synthar’s debut album, Evenings and Weekends,is a genuine, synthesized consideration of change and transformation. Its sound lies somewhere between electronica and folk—as the Jackson Free Press says, Synthar has taken “synth-pop into singer-songwriter territory.” Synthar is an internet band: its members—spread around the world from Shaoxing, China, to Jackson, Mississippi and from New York, New York, to Stanford, California—huddled their laptops together to create an irresistibly catchy mix of Moogs, vocoders, guitars, and sad, understated vocals. The tracks of Evenings and Weekends range from themes of changes in landscape—“Hurricanes” is lead singer Johnny Bertram’s firsthand response to Katrina and Rita—to the hiccups and tragedies of relational change in “My Heart Is a Beating Drum,” “Stabbed by an Unseen Blade,” and, most traumatically, “The Phone Call.” Synthar also asks us to question how our dollars and cents impact the world. In “The Robots Among Us” they warn that “in the land of milk and honey / where we walk the thin line between / what we need and greed” there are “robots among us” who “don’t understand the warmth of human touch”—and the song builds to a chilling climax when the robots join in the chorus. But most extraordinary is Synthar’s uncanny juxtaposition of generally dark, meaningful themes with spritely, upbeat melodies. The combination of thoughtful lyrics with playful synthesizing and vocal harmonies results in moments of happy-pop-bliss, making Evenings and Weekends an album that is not just smart, but indeed, as they sing in one of their happier tracks, gives you “the urge to dance… dance the morning away / and when the day finally turns into afternoon / you’ll flip the record and dance to new tunes!” Because Synthar is an independent band in the truest sense, the best way to buy Evenings and Weekends is directly from them on their website (ours even came with a handwritten “thanks.”) Plus, the handsome CD and packaging are individually screen printed by hand.

For more, visit You can also listen to a few tracks on Synthar’s Myspace page.

OK, how is this a gamble? it's not that i'm hesitant to recommend the album; evenings and weekends is seriously really good. it may even be my favorite new album of 2007.

no, it's because i write these reviews for an arts journal that focuses specifically on work that somehow engages faith. therefore, i always feel challenged to center my thoughts on some theme or idea that is relevant to the image vision--faith, art, mystery.

sometimes that's a breeze--the culturally savvy christian, for instance--but often it's a stretch. it's not that i walk the plank of clear, accurate critique into the surging waters of creative interpretation, but that i sometimes have to dive beyond the patent responses of other reviewers. i have to lay all of my cards down on the table and say, "you know, i haven't heard anyone else say this, but the road sure strikes me as an incarnation story," (yikes!) and that's a scary place to be.

so here's where things get dicey with my evenings and weekends review. every other e&w review explores the synthar sound. they reference bands i've never heard of. they describe how andrew, johnny, matt, and joel have built a bridge between new wave 70s (?) and synth pop. occasionally a reviewer mentions synthar's socially conscious lyrics, but the only reviewer to mention subject matter says that he was initially turned off by the "futuristic, sci-fi themes."

(futuristic, sci-fi themes? as far as i can tell, only one song, "the robots among us," taps the sci-fi genre, and as i suggest in my blurb, it does so in a satirical, now-focused way.)

the problem is, i'm no music critic. i can confidently rank e&w among my top three 2007 albums because i probably only listened to three 2007 albums. and so my only chance of saying something profound and worthwhile about a band is to listen to those words, those strange syllabic formations that some listeners may deem a musical afterthought. and those words tell me that change is in the air. so when i say that my blurbs are a gamble, i really mean that i hope the synthar fellows won't be surprised to learn that their tracks are about change. i hope a few dozen readers will buy the album, nod their head--in time to the beat, of course--and hear the change.