Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Meaning Of Christmas

Linus might be the only one still allowed to say that on ABC. Preach it Linus.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Elias: So Cal Artist To Watch In 2009

"While I have learned not to be too cryptic or abstract in my songs, I seek a universality in songs that will contain a broader message that is at once simplistic and complex--depending on where the listener is ready to accept the listening..."

Why I Like Elias:
It does my soul proud to find artists that expand the typical "christian" view of art. Too often we forget our roles as children of a creator, and bind ourselves in an off-kilter interpretation of the "Do Nots." I believe in rules and in order, but if Christ set the whole individual free then He must have set their passions free too. Unbelievers might be drawn to God if we actually lived like we were set free from a suffocating prison. Why should we pretend like we're still in it? Elias' music brings me to a place where I can enjoy quality music in freedom. His seamless transition between soulful vocals and tailored MC skills puts him in the top 20 of my, "Most Interesting Current Artists" list.

How I found Elias: A brief history
Around Thanksgiving time Sev Statik of Deepspace5 graciously offered his friends on Facebook a free album of their choosing. I asked for the album he and producer extraordinare Dust put out in the highly regarded Rawkus 50 called Back To Dust. I'm glad I did because it's an amazing piece of work. The one track that really stood out to me was called Far Cry which is a man's story of how he has fallen short in becoming the man he wanted to be. The song stayed in constant play on my media player because of Elias' unique singing voice and catchy vocals...

"I'm so far away. I didn't plan to be this way. My life's not what it should have been. I'm not the man that I could have been. It's a far cry from the days of my youth. It's a far cry from the days of my youth."

Those lyrics resonated with me, and the tune has been stuck in my head for weeks. I decided to look into who this artist was, so I started at Elias' Myspace page. In my research I found out that Elias has not only worked with Sev and Dust, but he's working on various projects with Mars ILL and he's working with the brilliant band from Denmark Dafuniks. Not to mention he's also a member of the Scribbling Idiots crew along with one of my favorite MCs TheoryHazit.

Leaving His Mark In Denmark
While on Myspace, I asked Elias about his work with the funky "secular" band Dafuniks. Their soulful work together is nothing short of amazing. Some believers might question Elias' intentions in writing such love songs as All I Want and Hello I Love You. As someone who appreciates these tracks I wanted the inside story on how he came up with the lyrics. This is what he had to say:

"That song [All I Want] exists on several different levels. It IS a secular song. That is to say there is nothing explicitly religious about it.
On one plane it is ONLY about a woman that I fall in love with while I'm on stage. (fictional) So it is a very simple song about "desire." However, as with "Hello, I love you." I can actually be talking about something entirely different. I do think attraction, love, desire, lust, are all interesting topics that are very real to us. We confuse them, use them, and mix them up until they are all one thing. That is the reason why at one point in the song I'm saying, 'it's the come on before the front on, before the run on,before the safety's off and the gun on, before I'm looking down the sights of a muzzle, before you look at me and a puzzle. I seen you before girl I know your ain't looking for love your looking for games.'
So, within desire and lust you have this larger pull at the back of your heart--the one that REALLLY longs for love. A real love that is that kind that is "All I want" not the kind that is immediacy and flash passion. So, then the last verse of the song is actually changing the protagonist into someone worth chasing after--the divine but personified in the "her". It's the realization that YES--THIS Is IT. So, the last verse is really about God. Most people will not know that but it is not always the poet or story tellers job to tell the meaning of a story. Sometimes they just tell a story and share art. I'm not writing sermons--I'm writing music that people 'feel.' When they feel they come up with observations, ruminations, and interpretations that even I never intended--but that essentially is art. It is neither something the artist can cling to and claim or owned entirely by the listener/viewer."

Referring to the track Hello I Love You, Elias commented:

"In the song Hello, I love you it appears that I'm doing a song about picking up on people...but I'm not...I'm loving life itself and recognizing that while desire, hope, and passion are all important in life--Love binds all these things together to make sense. That is why the verses start with 'My name is desire and such/I'm the one that brings the fire and lust' and the second verse starts, 'My name is hope,broke? Nope. Y'all think I choked..."

Personally, I enjoy Elias' venture in word-play. It's this kind of transparency and creativity that I look for in new music. I can see some of our God fearing number not agreeing with Elias' lyrics, and that's ok. Maybe some rich conversations about what it means to be a Christian and an artist will come out of it. Hopefully the world will hear enough of Elias to get that dialog rolling.

Elias' Myspace

Elevate LA Behind The Scenes Extra: My Actual List Of "Most Interesting Current Artists."
(This is a musical artist list)
1. Berto Ramon
2. Surreal
3. Sufjan Stevens
4. Dust (Mars ILL)
5. Joanna Newsom
6. Freddie Joachim
7. Mates Of State
8. The Welcome Wagon
9. Elias
10. Jupiter7
11. Flatfoot 56
12. Tycho
13. TheoryHazit
14. Mr. J. Medeiros
15. Josh Garrels
16. Mariee Sioux
17. Trace Bundy
18. Listener
19. Judah the Lyrical Rev
20. Soul Addicts
(Truth be told, this will probably change some by tomorrow)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

What Do Bugs Bunny and Pixar's Presto Have In Common?

I can't sleep tonight, so I've been surfing on the web. I stumbled upon an old illustrated version of Bugs Bunny's biography called A Hare Grows In Manhattan on ASIFA Hollywood's blog. (scroll down a ways to see it) I couldn't help but notice that this panel looks a lot like Pixar's Presto. Was Pixar tipping their top hat to Bug's biography? It looks like it to me. What an interesting cross-over between Disney/Pixar and Warner Bros.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Brendan and the Secret of Kells

The team at Cartoon Saloon in Ireland have put together a masterpiece! I haven't seen much of this project, but the trailer looks amazing. The character designs and the backgrounds are just stunning. From what I've seen of the animation, it looks brilliant. Check out the latest trailer by clicking here(This version is in French. The English trailer will be released in a few days)
From what I can tell, the story has something to do with the origin of the Book Of Kells. Of course the Book Of Kells does actually exist. It is an Irish illuminated manuscript of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) thought to be created in the early 8th century.
(A page of the actual Book of Kells)
I'm not sure if this will make it to distribution or not, but director Tomm Moore has been working on a comic as a prequel to the movie. My guess is that he'll find a publisher and distribution shortly after the film's release if he hasn't already. Check out a few pages from this project below.

Monday, December 01, 2008

S.A.Y. Yes: Pico Union

(Birthday party)

I'm not sure how clear I've made my ministry out to be on this blog yet. I'm currently an intern living in a community house owned by the First Evangelical Free Church of L.A. Our church and community house (the Nehemiah House) are located in Pico Union, just blocks from downtown Los Angeles. We have an after school program called S.A.Y. Yes (Saving America's Youth). Right now I am the senior high boy's mentor/tutor. I do things like: help them with their homework, go to their parent teacher conferences, help them apply for college, teach them how to draw, hang out with them every possible moment, share meals with them, and volunteer in our church's youth group. It may sound pretty simple, but to a neighborhood with a 70% high school drop out rate it can make a huge difference.

My work is a lot of fun, but it is work. In fact, most consider what I do to be more than a full time job. People haven't been very consistent in our students lives. Parents come and go, or they work 2 to 3 jobs. Friends move away. Teachers get a better job in a nicer school. That's why our house decided to live in the same neighborhood they do. We try to be positively involved in every aspect of their lives. It's our job to reveal Jesus to them in every situation.

One of the challenges is to remain consistent and available to these kids while the need for a more substantial income grows more urgent. I have to pay rent, and pay off my student loans. I need gas and car insurance to drive our students around. Our center needs school and art supplies, but we have almost no budget to speak of. This problem has been somewhat covered for the last year by a ministry called TechMission. Since January of 2008 they have paid me to mentor in our center. Our church is small and can't afford to pay me or our other staff members. When my term with TechMission ends in January of '09 I will have to look for money elsewhere. The question is where do I go? What job can I get that will still allow me to be available to our youth? An 8 hour shift 5 to 6 days a week adds up to a lot of time that I'm no longer here- which reminds me of a story...

There was a pastor who moved into an inner city neighborhood. He ministered
in an area with a lot of drugs and gang activity. Over time he developed a relationship inside
of the neighborhood gangs. Everyone in the neighborhood was aware of his mission whether they
attended his church or not. One day the pastor struck up a conversation with a drug dealer. The
pastor was very discouraged by his lack of success and asked him why the gangs and dealers were
winning. The dealer said, "When little Joey walks to school in the morning, who walks with him?
I do. When Joey is at lunch who's waiting by the fence outside for him? I am. When Joey
walks home from school, who walks with him? I do. When his mother sends him to the store,
who's waiting for him outside? I am. I see Joey every day, and you only see him once
or maybe twice a week. That's why they come to me, and not you. I'm there,
and you're not."

I want to be there for these kids as much as I can. They aren't just students to me. They are my friends. Please pray that God will provide the right job, and enough money for me to minister to my neighbors. If it's on your heart to help you can volunteer at our center or click on the Donate button to the right. If nothing else, I urge you to be there for the people in your neighborhoods.
(weekly S.A.Y. Yes photo contest. I think
we were acting out a Bible story regarding a king)