Archive for Culture

‘Idol’ Recap – Season Finale

Posted in Culture with tags , , on May 19, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

When you get to this point in the competition, you know everybody can sing. It’s just easier to point out the flubs and missteps rather than the usual 3 – up, 3 – down. So, here is the weird stuff from tonight.

-Paula Abdul looked like an Oompa Loompa tonight – orange skin contrasted with bright green. Lay off on the spray tan!

-Adam sounded bad on Kara’s song. Also, his pants were atrocious.

-Kris sounded bad on Kara’s song, too.

-Kara’s song made Adam and Kris sound bad. The final song this year was a great reminder that even someone like Kara DioGuardi, who has written a ton of top 40 hits, still writes 10 pieces of crap for every hit.

Bottom line is that it’s down to who America likes more. This year, more than any other year so far, neither finalist is clearly better than the other. It’s totally down to preference. Do you prefer theatrical, glam-oriented, slightly experimental rock? Or do you prefer a more laid-back, singer-songwriter type of vibe? Your choice, America.



‘Idol’ Recap

Posted in Culture with tags , , on May 5, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

It’s getting down to the wire on American Idol. Exciting category for me this week. I grew up and learned to play guitar on hard rock, so this was my wheelhouse. It also looked going in like this week was going to be a snap to judge – Allison and Adam kinda have a run on the rock thing over Kris and Danny. There were some interesting surprises in store this week, both good and bad. Here’s the rundown.

AdamGood performance. Really good performance. Actually not as good as I was expecting, especially when I heard he was doing a Led Zepplin song. But mad props for being the first Idol contestant ever to tackle Robert Plant. Obviously, this week had Adam and Allison written all over it.

AllisonI liked Allison a whole lot early on. She had the young thing going for her. She had the cool thing going for her. She had the rock edge thing going on. The last few weeks have been misses for me. And this week was, too. I think she’s having an identity crisis as a singer. She’s doing this weird blend of rockish vocals mixed with popish mannerisms (picture Christina Aguilera’s hand gestures when she sings a long run). Plus tonight she went down the road that L’il was on the last few weeks before she got booted – getting mouthy and annoying with the judges. Note to all contestants: I don’t care how good you are, or think you are; even Paula has sold more records than you have.

KrisKris was out of his element tonight. It’s not that he can’t rock, it’s just that hard rock isn’t his thing. That being said, I was pretty impressed with his performance. The judges poo-pooed it some, but I thought he did the best job of the night in terms of playing sort of a bad hand. He definitely handled hard rock better than, say, Matt handled country.

DannyDanny gets the award for the night in terms of sheer guts. Everybody remembers Michael Johns getting booted early last year on ‘Dream On’. When I heard Danny was performing it, two things went through my head – 1) Wow, that’s gutsy; and 2) I don’t see this going well for Danny at all. I was right on both counts. I don’t think Danny is in any danger of going home. America loves him so much, I think he could hum for the next two weeks and still walk away the winner. Tonight was horrible. In every respect terrible. I hated it. Everything about it. He was trying too hard to be, well, hard. He was trying to snarl like Adam. He was trying to gruff up his voice more than usual, and it just sounded stupid. He was frequently off pitch on the melody. The ‘scream’ at the end was just that – an uncontrolled scream. As screechy as Stephen Tyler gets, he never loses control. Simon’s critique that it sounded like something from a horror movie was all-too-accurate. The judges kept saying stuff like, “I don’t know if it was the right song choice for you…” Here’s the easy answerL unless you’re Stephen Tyler, it’s the wrong song. Just ask Michael Johns. Oh, and if Danny really needs to listen to his performance to see if it was as bad as the judges said, he definitely doesn’t need to be the next American Idol.

The duets tonight were a nice surprise, and very interesting. I always hate the big song and dance numbers that the final 12 and onward do on results night, so I thought I would hate the duets, too. I actually like both the duets tonight. American Idol finally managed to creat filler that doesn’t feel like filler.

Good show tonight. If I had to guess, I’d say either Allison or Kris is going home. Simon was right in saying that Allison’s duet with Adam might have saved her tonight. We’ll see!


‘Idol’ Recap

Posted in Culture with tags , , on April 21, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

Disco week. Yuck. Nobody really likes disco, I think. There are some great disco tunes from the 70’s, but not many. Here’s the rundown.

3 – Up

Kris – This guy just gets better and better each week.  The jazz club/singer-songwriter spin on ‘She Works Hard for the Money’ tonight was great. Despite Paula’s weird comments about Kris ‘shopping in the women’s department’, it was a very enjoyable segment on tonight’s show. The judges keep saying that they’re looking for originality and artistry, and for my money, it’s pretty much down to him and Adam for the title this year.

Nostalgia – It was a great night for music reminiscent of some of the video games I grew up playing. I’m talking, of course, about Anoop Desai’s arrangement of ‘Dim All the Lights’. It reminded me of the ending sequence to Mega Man X. Also, mad props to Anoop for proudly sporting what I like to refer to as the ‘9th grade mustache’. Between that and the polyphonic midi arrangement of his song, I was pleasantly reminded of my middle school days (’96-’98, for those of you interested).

The Show’s Pace – They really moved things along this week. It almost felt rushed – and I loved it! I can’t even remember how many articles I’ve read over the years bemoaning the amazing amounts of filler in American Idol broadcasts. It seems like the show’s producers finally noticed. Much appreciated, AI!

3 – Down

Danny – I’m tired of Danny. The judges just can’t seem to get enough of him, and I don’t get it. I’m tired of the glasses, tired of the weird faces when he sings, tired of him flailing around on stage, tired of the cheese. His voice is great, I’ll give him that. But that’s all I’ll give him.

Allison – There literally wasn’t anything that I liked about her performance tonight. The arrangement was bad. The vocal was bad. Her outfit was beyond bad. She’s just trying too hard. I mean, come on… Glitter makeup?!

Matt – Stayin’ Alive? Not after tonight’s performance. It looked like he walked into a costume shop and said, “I want to be Justin Timberlake for Halloween.” Tonight was just one too many drawn-out falsetto endings for Matt. Too predictable. Too pitchy. Too many weird facial expressions. Too… not… good. The judges liked it (except for Simon). They are crazy (except for Simon).

As I’ve said over the last couple of weeks, the contestants who have some genuine artistry in them are setting themselves apart more and more each week. Tonight featured boring and predictable arrangements (L’il, Danny, Matt) contrasted with unique and original arrangements (Kris, Adam) and weird arrangements (Allison, Anoop). Unless something very unexpected happens in the next few weeks, I predict we’ll be seeing Adam and Danny in the final. If you were paying attention, you’ll remember that I don’t like Danny. I don’t. But I think enough people love him that he’ll end up in the final with Adam. It’s a shame, really, because Kris really deserves to be in the final. Let’s see who gets eliminated tomorrow!


Sexting and consequences

Posted in Culture, Life with tags , , , , , on April 15, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

There has been a tremendous amount of attention in the news media and among bloggers (youth ministry blogs included) about ‘sexting’ – the sending and receiving of sexually explicit photos and videos via cell phone, particularly by middle and high school students. First there were reports and explanations of what it was, followed by stories of young people being caught and prosecuted for child pornography, followed by myriad articles and blogs about how common it is, followed by myriad more about how the initial numbers were skewed and exaggerated, and now followed by the ‘who do you believe?’ articles and blogs. This last group raises a particularly important point – what polls do you trust, how was their research conducted, how large was their sample size, from what groups (geographically, racially, socio-economically, etc.) do its respondents come from? Personally, I tend to believe some of the higher numbers, at least for more technology-based areas, such as urban areas and affluent suburbs of cities. I believe this because I grew up near Rockdale Co., Georgia, where you may remember seeing national news articles about the syphilis outbreak among high school students there about a decade ago. But for the purposes of this post, I’m going to leave all of this behind and focus in on something I’ve been paying attention to over the last few days.

The state of Vermont has been in the news for considering legislation that would prevent 13-18 year olds from being prosecuted as sex offenders for sexting. I have very mixed feelings about this. Let me say up front thatVermont senator John Campbell, who was on the Today show this morning, made a fantastic point that I had not considered before. He used the following hypothetical situation – a 14 year old girl ‘sexts’ her boyfriend a picture of herself topless, is caught, and prosecuted for child pornography; she then has to register as a sex offender; she then has difficulty getting into college; she then wants to go into education, but finds it utterly impossible to get a job because she is a registered sex offender – all for a bad decision she made almost a decade before. Put in that light, I can at least see the point of view of those in Vermont who want to pass this piece of legislation. It should also be noted that the people who see this legislation as ‘legalizing sexting in Vermont’ are incorrect. The law would not remove all penalties from 13-18 year olds who sext, it would only prevent prosecuting them for child pornography.

Here’s my problem with it, though. Ours is not a culture that usually learns things the easy way. We, as a nation, typically have to learn our lessons the hard way if they are to stick at all. Think about it. It took ten years of the worst economic downturn in our nation’s history to teach our grandparents and great-grandparents about the dangers of credit, over-lending, over-borrowing, and speculation on the financial market. Sixty years later, we let the regulations that helped to stabilize our economy expire, and here we are once again – after a decade of rampant speculation, borrowing, lending, and spending, we’re facing another severe economic situation. And these mistakes were made by educated adults with years of experience. Can we really expect a 14 year old who’s brain is not fully developed to learn without the guidance of severe penalties?

Maybe I’m just being too hard here, but it hasn’t been too long since I was a teenager. I remember the way I thought when I was 14. If someone said to me, “This action used to carry a severe penalty, but now it carries a much milder penalty,” that would translate into my 14 year old mind as “This used to be wrong, but now it’s okay.” And I think that’s the message that young people will get if Vermont passes this piece of legislation. Yeah, it will stink for the ones who have trouble later in life because of a bad decision they made as a teenager. But will teach them an even more valuable lesson about living with the consequences of their actions. To try to spare them from the consequences of their actions will only lead to an attitude of entitlement later on in life. America’s young people have to learn personal responsibility and accountability.

‘Idol’ Recap

Posted in Culture with tags , , , on April 14, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

I’m out of practice because I missed last week, but here goes…


3 – Up

Adam – Like Quentin Tarantino said, it’s just fun to anticipate and look forward to what Adam is going to do each week. He pulled out all the rock-star stops tonight, and it was awesome.

Quentin Tarantino – Am I the only one who thinks that Quentin Tarantino might be the best celebrity mentor we’ve seen in a long long time on AI? He actually gave constructive criticism and made toughtful suggestions to the contestants. He won my undying approval by being (as far as I’ve seen) the only person so far this season to criticize Danny for anything. Quentin’s suggestion of using his eyes instead of his hands to convey emotion was spot on. Did you notice that Danny didn’t wear his glasses during the peformance this week? He managed to follow Tarantino’s advice for the first part of his song, but it looked like he got nervous halfway through and reverted to being a pointer.

Kris – Randy got it wrong, Kara got it right. His performance tonight was outstanding. It was heartfelt, touching, and haunting. Definitely in Kris’ top two performances this year.

3 – Down

Allison – The judges seemed to like it a lot. I didn’t like it all that much… Her voice has always sounded a little rough and scratchy (and I like that), but now it’s starting to sound worn out to me.

Matt – Most of it sounded like a karaoke version of the original. The parts that didn’t sound like a karaoke version stunk, except for the ending. He was out of tune in parts, and all the ‘soulful’ stuff he added in didn’t add anything worth listening to. I think he’s in trouble.

Paula’s thought process – She tried to get philosophical tonight, but eight years of American Idol have taught us that intelligent thought is not Paula’s strong suit. I kept expecting to see the cameras catching her looking at a cheat-sheet of inspirational thoughts or a copy of ‘Chicken Soup for the American Idol Contestant’s Soul’.


I think the top two or three contestants are setting themselves apart. I was really disappointed to see L’il biting back at Simon this week. I think he’s been a little hard on her, but she really hasn’t been performing up to her potential. She started to show a little bit of an ‘I deserve this’ attitude tonight, and that’s never a good thing. It should be interesting to see who goes home tomorrow.



Posted in Culture, Reflections with tags , , , on April 13, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

Wow! I’m back from my short-term mission to Haiti, and there are just too many things running through my mind to put all in one post. I’ll definitely have several Haiti-oriented posts over the next couple of weeks. I wanted to start the Haiti series by sharing the most shocking thing that I experienced during the whole trip – American culture.

Here’s how it happened… We were in Haiti for 6 days with 2 travel days bookending the trip. We spent all day April 2nd getting there. We made a pretty quick adjustment to life in Haiti, at least life at the Christianville compound in Haiti. Cold showers, having to spray our rooms for bugs before bed, big ‘ol rats, spiders, extreme heat, etc. Inconveniences, yes, but not a whole lot of trouble. What I truly enjoyed about Haitian culture was its simplicity. They had cell phones, but they used them as phones and not as status symbols. They had cars, but they were for transportation and not boasting. They did not have television or personal computers or internet access. They did have a few things that most Americans do not – peace, contentment, happiness. We lived a week in a culture where survival is paramount, not personal comfort. The people, who had almost nothing, were generous beyond what most Americans would give, even though we have so much more. I was reminded forcibly throughout the week of Jesus’ remarks about the people who gave money in the Temple – the rich gave just a small percentage of their wealth, but the widow gave all she had. Jesus was much more pleased with the widow.

Fast-forward to April 9 when we returned home. We had just spent a week living (and enjoying) a much more simple, but fulfilling, life. We fly out of Port au Prince and into Ft. Lauderdale, FL. We change airlines, get checked in, go through security, and head towards our gate. As we sit down to wait out our layover, I look over and notice something which causes me the most intense feelings of disgust towards our American culture – an iPod vending machine. AN IPOD VENDING MACHINE!!! A maching where you can swipe your credit card, open the door, and take out an iPod Touch, iPod video, PSP, plus accessories. I could not believe my eyes. I had just come from a culture where the average person was more concerned with survival, and into a culture where we have enough excess to buy a $400 piece of unnecessary technology from a vending machine.

I had expected the culture shock to hit me when I got to Haiti, not when I returned home. It was a sad realization for me.


‘Idol’ Recap

Posted in Culture with tags , , on March 31, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

Interesting week this week. Some really high highs, and some pretty low lows. The usual best performers were the best, and the usual worst were the worst. I just gotta say, even though she didn’t make my 3-Up this week, I love L’il Rounds. She’s not my favorite as a musical artist, but I want to see her go far in this competition just so that America can see what a stong nuclear family looks like week after week. Also, does anybody else just really want to see Adam Lambert tackle ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ by the Darkness?


Danny – I’ve made no secret over the last few weeks that I’m getting tired of Danny, and I’m still no huge fan, but he was really good tonight. It was great to see him drop the cheesiness and pretense from last week and get back to what he does well. I’d still love to see him shine on something other than a power ballad, but to quote Randy, this week was ‘a thousand, million percent’ better than last week. And I don’t even like Rascal Flatts.

Scott – I think everybody likes this guy’s personality, and he’s got a cool story. Tonight’s performance was intimate and very solid. I definitely think he found his groove with the singer/songwriter/pianist mold, although if he wants to stay in that groove he’ll limit his song choices pretty severely. My biggest thing with Scott is just the facial expressions! I understand that because of his blindness he doesn’t squint when most others would, but it’s just a little off-putting to see. Maybe some sunglasses, a la Stevie or Ray Charles?

Kris – I liked the arrangement a lot. He took a song that I’ve always heard in sort of a Chicago blues style and turned the beginning and end into something haunting, ethereal, almost mournful. A girl I know said it was sexy. The middle section didn’t do as much for me, but I suppose it had to be done. Kris is improving every week, and that’s cool to see.


Megan – Time to go home. Not only is her vocal ability starting to resemble Sanjayah just a little too much, but her arrogance is really beginning to annoy. This week she defended a terrible performance (the judges were spot on in their criticism, despite being a bit mean-spirited towards her) by saying, “I enjoyed it, and I think my fans did, too.” If by ‘fans’ she meant ‘my family’, she may be right.

Allison – Wow. I love this girl’s voice, but tonight was a huge mess. As a music-phile and guitarist, I cringed at her clumsy attempt at playing her own instrument tonight. (Paula called it her ‘Axe’, apparently not realizing that you can’t truly call it an axe unless it’s plugged in through an overdriven amp). Tempo and rhythm are huge issues in music, and she had neither. The judges seemed preoccupied with her outfit and hair, and I can’t say I blame them. Neither was good. Plus the vocal was far from her best.

Matt – The “Top 40 Piano Player” in him came out tonight. His vocal tone sounded like a mediocre karaoke version of the Fray’s Isaac Slade. The musical arrangement wasn’t great, either. The judges were right on. Wrong song choice.

That’s that. No Idol recap from me next week, as I’ll be on a mission trip in Haiti. I look forward to some discussion about this week, as I think my opinions might not be shared by all.