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Music Review: Mosaic – Teach Us

Okay, I’ll admit that I’m procrastinating… but this band is worth the time to stop and listen!

Mosaic became a full-fledged band  in 2009. Prior to that it was simply a Christian worship group of five friends who had begun as a jam session over Christmas carols.  Currently, I’m only going to talk about their latest album, Teach Us, released in summer of 2011, because it has so much good about it that I still can’t stop listening to it.

What does Mosaic sound like? If you wanted a short-hand description, I’d say a cross between the glowing melodies of Sixpence None the Richer and the flexible creativity of Switchfoot. But that shorthand is likely to mislead, because it can’t account for the lovely and unique quintet vocal and instrumental mixture of Mosaic’s musical formulations of Biblical passages.

Most of the lyrics conform closely to scriptural passages and adequately communicate wide verse ranges better than I’ve heard before. Unlike some worship music, which can tend to focus on single sentences or phrases alone, Mosaic boldly follows entire portions of whole chapters in the Bible. For example, the song “Return to Me” follows the words of Jeremiah chapters 2-4 and also Hoseah 11:7-8 with the agonizing orchestral strain providing a background for the love expressed by God the Father for wandering Israel.

In Teach Us, a fair number of Old Testament passages and others from the New Testament are given aural shape in a way that emphasizes the tone and attitude of the writers and speakers. In a very real way, Mosaic manages to provide an animating and moving rendition of the scriptures, obeying in spirit the Biblical mandate to write the law upon the door frames of our houses, upon our gates, and upon our hearts. The only track that is not an original composition is track twelve, a combination of Nothing But the Blood and Jesus Paid it All.

The whole album expertly demonstrates the ample musical talent and artistry that is bound up in this quintet. The musical styles of each vocalist is expressed in a dreamy way that does not detract from the prevailing melody lines. Mosaic proves adept at being a chameleon of genres as well, with “Fear the Lord” exhibiting a versatile piano with smooth transitions between a light jazz combo style and a strong refrain reminiscent of modern alternative pop. Other songs manage to generate an entirely new sound, so that one might question whether he or she is actually listening to the same group. Each of these songs has a story behind it, related on Mosaic’s website, strongly influenced by the group members’ religious faith.

The vocal harmonies blend and counterbalance quite well in pieces such as “Out of Eden,” and creative, almost unorthodox, rhythmic expressions intrigue in “Seek the Lord.” Put another way, if there were a musical equivalent for a sweet tooth, Mosaic would be the chocolate-covered strawberry to satisfy the craving. The sound is simply astounding, and I highly recommend these gifted individuals who glorify God with their talent to anyone who even pretends to listen to any kind of music.

My Psychology Dissertation

As none of you may know, I’ve been hard at work on my Ph.D. in psychology. I’ve observed the human condition, smoking a pipe and attentively listening to patients blab on and on about their ridiculously meaningless lives as they recline on my utterly impractical ottoman.

Even though the work has been extremely boring and pointless, I did manage to have an epiphany. I’ve coined a new term in the field of brain shrinking, and have painstakingly produced the following dissertation for your enjoyment.

Harvard and Yale, I’ll be watching the mail for my diploma in six to eight weeks. All other universities, you can begin bestowing honorary doctorates at your convenience. Nobel Committee – I realize that there’s no prize for psychology, but I think you’ll agree that we can make an exception just this once.

Here we go:

Introduction

This amazing dissertation will reveal the discovery of a groundbreaking new diagnosis in the field of psychology: flashophobia!

Background

Over the past few years, flash mobs have taken the world by storm. These events, as describe by Wikipedia, are “a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.”

Often, flash mobs include dancing and music. If you’re unfamiliar with flash mobs, the following YouTube videos are an adequate introduction. (Isn’t the Internet great!?)

Of course, as with every fad in America, corporations try to get in on the action:

The Diagnosis

Unfortunately, this phenomenon of flash mobbing is neither innocent nor harmless. Many poor souls have reported feeling anxious and overwhelmed by the fear of a flash mob breaking out at any moment. In extreme cases, this fear becomes a paranoia. When this happens, the individual is said to suffer from flashophobia.

Severe flashophobes avoid all public settings. They are highly suspicious that their friends and family are planning a flash mob behind their backs, and their greatest fear is that a mob will be personally directed at them. Flashophobes are known to attack pairs people walking in step down the sidewalk, or individuals tapping their feet in a coffee shop. In one case, the flashophobe was sent into a fit of rage when exposed to elevator music. “It’s just rhythmical. A little too rhythmical,” she explained.

To date, there is no known cure for this debilitating condition.

Future Work

It has been observed that flashophobes are often deathly afraid of another popular phenomenon called planking. So far, we have not determined if this is simply another way that flashophobia manifests itself, or if the behavior deserves its own classification: plankophobia!!

Conclusion

As you can plainly see, this research is awesome. If you don’t agree, you obviously don’t know much about psychology.

You can thank me by pre-ordering a copy of my upcoming book: Flashophobia – Be Careful Where You Dance. It’s main goal is to educate the public about the dangers and struggles that helpless flashophobes face as they attempt to eke out a simple day-to-day existence. I’ll warn you, it’s a tearjerker.

TTFN, Crookback Joe

I am a rich man.

I am a rich man.

I have hired a personal driver.

He has been instructed to avoid all arterials.

We travel the curvy backwoods country roads.

I call him my swervant.

TTFN. Crookback Joe.

Of the failure of technology and science fiction characters…

Five Reasons That Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Should Rock Your Socks Off

1.  The Motion Picture Constituted an Epic Fail.

The first Star Trek movie was not good.  Sufficed to say, there were too many new characters, too little worthy dialogue, and an overemphasis on cinematography.  The script took over half of the movie just to get to the major threat that was going to blow up Earth that time.  Even when they got to the energy cloud, and discovered the massive alien ship enveloped  within it, they only managed to discover that it was controlled by a nigh omnipotent being that thought machines were alive and biological beings were not alive.

"Why did we even agree to make this movie?" "I'm a doctor, not a movie critic Jim!"

After the confusing (and rather unnecessary) interpersonal conflict between Kirk and Decker, the death of a character we didn’t care about until she came back as an alien probe, and Spock’s emo phase after having failed his Ph.D. in Vulcan studies, we are left to discover that the mysterious V’Ger is nothing more than your garden variety NASA probe, Pioneer X’s cousin.  Which threatens to destroy Earth, and then leaves without giving us so much as a shred of the information it gathered in its quest to become omniscient.  But the Wrath of Khan is much much better…

 

2. An Egomaniacal Genetically Engineered Indian Warlord From the Nineties Makes a Dang Good Villain.

He has it all.  The brains, the brawn, the gray hair, the accent, the raggedly clad band of followers. Not only that, but he has a pet slug that will eat out the inside of your brains and turn you into a zombie.  And as far as his motivation, there is nothing more compelling: having been woken up from his slumber this walking hunk of Ricardo Montalban had been encountered by the Enterprise in the original series, and attempted to hijack the Federation’s Flagship, albeit unsuccessfully.  But he managed to get a traitorous Starfleet officer to become his wife, so it wasn’t all that bad.  Fast forward fifteen years and the now gray haired intimidator is bitter because his wife got killed due to climate changes as a result of an unfortunate astronomical event.  So, his anger (read Wrath) is both unjustified and ill-directed, straight at the person of Admiral James Tiberius Kirk.

"I am, literally, so awesome.""

Also, as far as monologues, Khan is more bearable than the majority of his counterparts.  When he speaks to Kirk after having shot up his pretty little ship, he only gives him a minute to live, and almost manages to get information on a weapon of mass destruction in the process.  While he was outwitted by the Spock-Kirk combination, it isn’t beyond the realm of reason.  When combining the luck and skill of that combination even Khan could be expected to lose a fight with a surprise advantage.

"I'm still so awesome. Check out my pecs."

Overall, Khan is muscular and mad (describing both his emotional and mental states), armed with a weapon of mass destruction and obsessive.  Perfect combination for a villain.

 

 

3. Kirstie Alley from 1982.

This is no offense to Kirstie Alley, but the Wrath of Khan is probably the best that she has looked in a movie.  And that is no surprise, considering that it was her debut into the movie world.  I don’t think I’ll understand why she didn’t reprise the role in the third movie, but she played the part pretty well in the Wrath of Khan.  But alas, it was on to bigger things for her… like Cheers, and weight loss endorsements…

"Are you sure that uniform is standard?"

4. Weapons of Mass Creation.

The Genesis Device is perhaps the best plot element introduced in the Star Trek movies.  It was created by Federation scientists, but Khan (and later the Klingons) would have it used against the Federation.  What is really great about the Genesis Device is that it showcases the all-in-one package of mass destruction and creation.  A little computer animation and… TADA!  No major orbital bombardment necessary, just a jungle planet built from the re-ordered molecules of all your worst enemies.  Although insta-terraforming is a great idea, the scientists Marcus don’t really seem to think about its destructive power until the Reliant claimed dibs on the thing.

Finally, Genesis inspired great lines:

“Genesis, what’s that?” – Kirk, lying through his teeth.

“Life from lifelessness.” – Carol Marcus and Spock.

“My God man!  You’re talking about universal armageddon!” – Dr. McCoy.

“According to legend the Earth was created in six days, but watch out!  Now here comes Genesis, and we’ll do it in six minutes!” – Again, Dr. McCoy.

"I'm sorry I didn't think about the ramifications of planetary genocide before making this thing. My bad guys."

5. Characters Die.

And we’re not just talking about redshirts here (for background, please see this).  Or the enemy cannon fodder.  This is that adorable cadet you met while touring engineering, the captain of the hijacked Federation ship, the villain’s right hand man, and the protagonist’s right hand man.  Yes, the Wrath of Khan is a veritable minefield for all your favorite characters.  While that may pose issues for the writers of sequels (who would later develop a resurrection method for in later movies), it makes it especially thrilling in the Wrath of Khan.  It no longer matters what their rank is, what color shirt they wear, or how new they are to the action.  And given Khan’s propensity to dispose of human life in a cavalier manner, the likelihood that you’re going to get hit with an unexpected death is up there.

And of course, to wrap it all up, the cathartic salvation of the Enterprise in the last few scenes was made possible by, you guessed it, the sacrificial death of a main character.  I could imagine hordes of trekkies walking out of the theaters in 1982 in tears, trying to figure out how they would get that character back.  It must have been Star Trek’s Darth Vader-Anakin Skywalker moment (or at least its Han Solo in Carbonite moment).

Technically they aren't breaking the redshirt rule... since they're ALL wearing red shirts.

In summary, the Wrath of Khan should rock your socks off, and you should watch it.  The action is intense, and the plot is riveting, and the results are astounding.  Therefore, you  should boldly go… to your rental store, and pick it up and watch it.

That is all.

- The Rza

The origin of the word Origin.

See: The origin of the word Origin

Southern Small Talk

In the South, “the weather” is not the go-to topic for chitchat. I was suprised to learn this just a couple of weeks ago. No, sunshine and precipitation take a back seat to good ol’ guns and ammo.

According to my limited experience, at least, handguns are the focus of 95% of all idle conversation in the South. The subtopics, listed in order of popularity, are as follows:

  1. Arsenal – What you’ve owned, past and preset.
  2. Concealability – A good handgun is easy to hide in your waistband or pocket.
  3. Clip Capacity – The number of rounds is a major factory in the “stopping power” of a given firearm.
  4. Number of Parts – The fewer the better. A good handgun is easy to take apart, clean, and reassemble.

Since all of my own experience with firearms came from the BB gun range at middle school summer camp, you can probably imagine that Southerners don’t consider me a brilliant conversationalist.

In the paraphrased words of Theodore Roosevelt,

Speak softly with a Southern drawl, and pack heat.

TTFN, Crookback Joe.