Category Archives: U2

Mmm… DVD

About 11 months ago I got my first DVD and quickly realized how cool digital technology is. At the time I didn’t have a DVD player and had to be content simply sitting in front of my DVD-equipped PC. But I still realized the potential.

Aside from all the obvious advantages like the discs not wearing out like VHS tapes and being able to jump into any point on the DVD and all the extra stuff and how much you can cram into a DVD — aside from all that stuff there are some really cool advantages to DVD. The best thing is being able to take something you really like and translate it into a different medium. With a DVD’s crystal clear sound and near-perfect picture, you can export those niceties to other areas. It’s a stupid example, but you can grab an awesome screen shot from a DVD and use it for your desktop. It’s the lamest example, but it illustrates how much cooler DVD is over VHS.

Tonight I took the advantages of DVD one step further: I made an audio CD from a DVD. It doesn’t sound that exciting, but when you put it in the right context, it’s awesome. The best DVDs you can get are live concerts. They sound awesome. The only problem is that you’re limited to a DVD player. I don’t have one of those in my car. However, the DVD is digital. Why not pull the audio off the DVD and burn it on an audio CD? My friends, it’s not easy, but it’s possible. Welcome to the future.

Of course there are some legal concerns, but as long as you’re doing this kind of thing for personal use only (which I am), you’re good to go. I now have half of U2‘s Elevation 2001: Live from Boston DVD on an audio CD. And it sounds great. Mmm… technology.

What Can I Give Back to God?

What can I give back to God
for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation – a toast to God!
I’ll pray in the name of God;
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do
And I’ll do it together with his people.
(Psalms 116:12-14, The Message)
(Quoted by Bono before “Where the Streets Have No Name”)

The blessings of God are a tremendous burden and weight. Who am I to deserve what I have? Who am I to squander my wealth while so many die hungry? Growing up you never quite realize.

It hits home on a crisp Fall evening after Daylight savings time, when the night sky is unusually dark, and you realize the darkness has set in for a season. You walk a little faster, and steal a glimpse inside an apartment window as you pass by. That first-floor dwelling looks shabby and crowded. You spot several children on the floor, crammed into what must pass for a bedroom. A window is broken, covered for what seems like years with plywood. The security door usually hangs open, blowing in the wind.

And I walk on by. I only notice in the first place because I’m on foot, impoverished enough to take the bus to work, but rich enough to not know what life is like at the bottom of the rung.

I am one of the elite. I was raised in one of the richest counties in America. I grew up in a loving family with plenty of money. I shouldn’t sugarcoat things; we weren’t perfect. For many years my parents’ marriage was a facade, until the kids were old enough and to let it crumble to pieces. A few years later it was patched together again with the grace of God.

But we didn’t lack anything growing up. There was food on the table, we were healthy and had access to doctors. We had braces and glasses when we need them, even if we didn’t want them. We had a yard to play in, and yard to work in. I had my own bedroom, bigger than my brothers, with my own desk and dresser. I had toys, I had a bike, I had my assorted collections from over the years. We went out to eat on Friday nights, and my brother and I each got two quarters for two arcade games, to pass the time while we waited for our food.

My schools had everything you could ask for. In fourth and fifth grade I entered a magnet program. I took accelerated classes. My teachers had the materials they needed, every child in every class had a copy of the book they needed. Many kids even had the resources to go buy their own copy if they wanted.

When it came time to drive, my parents had the resources to provide me with a car. A job came with the car, to help pay the insurance. But gas and many of the repairs were covered by the bank of Dad. Even when I managed to screw up I was forgiven and life went on.

I received the higher education of my choice, and although I’m still paying for it, strapped with the middle-class luxury of debt, half of it was covered by my parents. My wife and I were married in a church with all the trimmings, thanks to the generosity of our parents. My college wheels turned into the down payment for my first car when my parents bought back the truck they gave me for school.

I live in a modest apartment, fully furnished, heated and air-conditioned. Water flows from the faucet, hot or cold. My wife and I drive a 2002 model car. We both have jobs we enjoy, not exactly making the big bucks, but making money enough to cover our expenses and save a little for the future.

I live in a free society and have the freedom to do what I want, say what I want, and believe in what I want. I worship my God with no penalties or restrictions.

I live in an age of amazing technological advancements. We’re so advanced we have to find ways to burn off the extra food we consume. We invent ways to be active just to give ourselves exercise — so different from a few hundred years ago when the sweat of a man’s brow also kept him from being overweight. Everything in my life is designed to make things faster, all so I can get to playing with my myriad of toys.

I’m writing these thoughts on a top of the line computer, connected to the Internet where I can access vast stores of information and connect with people all across the planet.

I am the favored majority. I am the favored race, the favored gender, the favored religion, the favored economic class. I live in a land of vast opportunity. Resources are available, safety nets are in place, others are watching my back.

What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me? This is the question of my generation, the question anyone like me must answer with our lives. I cannot, in good conscience, squander my prosperity. I cannot, in good conscience, live for myself. I am not my own. I was bought with a price, and I must repay that debt. I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, and I’ll do it together with his people.

The Summer I Started Listening to U2

That summer my life changed. I wouldn’t say that summer changed my life, only that my life changed during that season. I was on my own for the first time in my life. I was a few months into a new relationship, one that would eventually lead to marriage, and a few months out of another, longer relationship.

“When you stop seeing beauty / You start growing old … I lost myself in the summer rain,” (Summer Rain)

I was working at what would one day become my vocation, for the first time in my life. I was doing something that mattered to me, not just stacking frozen peas. I was also learning what it’s like to earn a living, knowing the value of a hard earned dollar, and what it’s like to go hungry because you’re poor. Not that I starved that summer, that’d be overstating it. I simply learned what it’s like to live with only enough food to survive. Snacks didn’t fit in the budget. I endured heat stroke, playing the crowd for another two bits.

“Like a preacher stealing hearts / In a traveling show / For love or money, money, money,” (Desire).

My grandparents celebrated 50 years of marriage that summer, while my parents celebrated their roughly 25 years together by separating. When I finally came home that summer it was to help my mom move out.

“Trenches dug within our hearts / And mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart,” (Sunday, Bloody Sunday).

My home church started to fall apart that year, too. Back stabbing and gossip and pride and who knows what else sunk their teeth into our little congregation and tempers flared, people left, and I was left wondering from afar what happened to Christian love.

“Yeah I’d break bread and wine / If there was a church I could receive in / ’cause I need it now,” (Acrobat), and then “please…please… please get up off your knees,” (Please).

That summer I discovered public transportation and pleasure reading, and what a perfect pair the two make. That was also the summer I started listening to U2.

“I’m wide awake. / I’m not sleeping. / Oh, no, no.” (Bad)

Hero Worship

Bono (front man for the rock band U2, in case you live under a rock) was on the cover of Time magazine this week. It’s an interesting story, basically a feature on the rock star and his strange commitment to African debt relief. Apparently if an important celebrity keeps at some crazy cause for long enough, they’ll put you on the cover of Time. Being a U2-addict, I immediately read the article.

Sometimes I’m beginning to wonder if my fascination for Bono and U2 is bordering on hero-worship. If there’s a blurb that mentions U2, I’m hooked. It’s not like the guys in U2 are that amazing. They do make some amazing music, and they back it up with some strong, although often vague, spiritual values. In their private lives they’re rock stars who like to party. And apparently sometimes they have a conscience. Hence Bono and the whole debt campaign.

And maybe the hero-worship comes in because at times people like Bono seem a bit like Jesus. They do very outrageous yet righteous things, and very few people understand them. As much as the church doesn’t like to admit it, Jesus had some of the rock star quality in him. Everybody knew him, and he was always at some kind of party. And if it wasn’t the first century, he probably would have had sunglasses.

I don’t know how Jesus does it.

“Christians are hard to tolerate, I don’t know how Jesus does it,” said Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2, to which he added, “I’m one of them.” There’s a lot of frustration in that quote, but there’s also a confession of faith. My roommates in college introduced me to U2, about a decade after the rest of the world discovered the band. It’s been an obsession since, and I’ve really been intrigued by their spirituality. A new book explores this, and you should definitely check it out (as well as a passageway.org article featuring the book).

Like a Song

But I won’t let others live in hell
As we divide against each other
And we fight amongst ourselves
Too set in our ways to try to rearrange
Too right to be wrong, in this rebel song
(from ‘Like a Song’ by U2)

Hundreds of others have probably seen the same thing in these words, but I just discovered this song the other day. These words remind me of myself. A younger me, vibrant and vocal about the inconsistencies in my church and longing for the church to be what it’s supposed to be. Reassuring that I’m not the only one with such feelings.

Bono Thanks Billy

“At a time when religion seems so often to get in the way of God’s work, with its shopping mall sales pitch and its bumper sticker reductionism—I give thanks just for the sanity of Billy Graham, for that clear, empathetic voice of his and that southern accent, and part poet, part preacher, the singer of the human spirit I’d say. Yeah, I give thanks to Billy Graham. Thank you, Billy Graham.” – Bono, lead singer of U2, in a video on the [now defunct] Thank You Billy Graham website.

U2 vs. NBA Finals

(today is National Yo-Yo Day)

Game 1 of the NBA finals was tonight. NBC expected poor ratings so they tried a little stunt during half time to give the ratings a boost. They showed U2 live from Boston.

Well, sort of live. They showed “Where the Streets Have No Name” live and then “Elevation” taped from earlier in the evening. The game’s in the third quarter now, but they also promised more after the game. I can’t help but wonder how much NBC paid for that.

Except for Bono’s slurred lyrics on Where the Streets Have No Name,” (he sounded drunk) it was some quality concert footage. I’m continually amazed at the way U2 can focus on faith and God in a way that doesn’t turn people off. Bono introduced “Where the Streets Have No Name” with some words about God and heaven (mostly incoherent thanks to the crowd noise, but I’m sure they’ll be on the web in no time) and the closing chorus of “Elevation” transformed into “Jubiliation,” which I can only guess is a reference to Bono’s work with Jubilee 2000, an attempt to bring debt relief to poor countries.

U2 is not afraid to touch on some deeply spiritual issues. And Bono has done some pretty powerful work to make debt relief happen, something the church should be actively involved in. You might not agree with everything U2 does, and they don’t have it all together, but they do set an example worth noting.

Elevation 2001: Live in Minneapolis

So last night I witnessed the much-hyped U2 concert experience. The Elevation tour is certainly a step down from the over-production of their Pop Mart and Zoo-TV tours, but it was still quite a show as rock and roll concerts go.

My seat was behind the stage in the nosebleed section, not generally the best seat in the house. But with a heart-shaped, open back stage it wasn

My Changing Musical Tastes

I’ve said this before in various musical tirades (tirades about music, not set to music), but I think I grew up in the back closet of the music world. My family had little or no musical talent. The closest my brother and I came to playing instruments was the recorder in third grade. Between you and me, I sucked at it. A piano sat in the corner of our house for 20 years, and for most of those years it was out of tune. My mom was the only one who could ever play it and I don’t ever remember that happening.

When it came to recorded music I was still in the closet. My musical education began with what was popular. A stint of <a href=”http://www.mtv.com/”>MTV</a> watching in second and third grade made me a fan of Bon Jovi’s <i>Slippery When Wet</i> and the Beastie Boys’ <i>License to Ill</i>. But then the New Kids on the Block (see the Backstreet Boys of the late 1980s) hit it big I was disgusted. I turned to Weird Al Yankovic for relief, and my musical education consisted lesson by parody—I rarely knew the original. There was the occasional popular song that I heard and liked (for some odd reason): the Beach Boys’ “Kokomo,” Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” But for the most part I wasn’t a big music fan.

Then I discovered Christian music. I listened to <i>Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out</i> and I was shocked. Church music with guitars and drums? At first I thought it was a bit much. But then the rebel in me screamed for more and I was hooked. A dozen Petra albums later I was a true Christian music junkie. I have a collection of over 150 CDs I don’t listen to anymore to prove it. I even had a Christian Rock radio show in high school. I basically missed out on the entire music scene in the 1990s.

So when I came to college and lived for four years with roommates who were proud <a href=”http://www.u2.com”>U2</a> addicts, it was only a matter of time. I had heard of U2, but I knew nothing about them. If I heard one of their songs on the radio I couldn’t have identified it as U2. It took two years of U2 roommates and it began to sink in. During my senior year I finally caved in completely.

And I discovered a world of some of the best music I’ve ever heard. It’s easy to get over-dramatic about U2 being the best band in the world, but there’s a lot of truth in that statement; especially when you’ve spent the last eight years listening to Christian rock.

Tomorrow I’m going to my first U2 concert—the Elevation Tour. The tickets just about wiped out my entertainment budget for the year. My wife and I will have to cram ourselves into the closet with a stereo to simulate another concert experience this year. I’m looking forward to the show, which isn’t exactly an understatement. I know it will be good, but I’m trying not to get my expectations too high. It’s easy to expect too much and be let down. I’d rather be genuinely impressed.

What I most respect about U2 is their ability to confront God. They don’t have an evangelistic message. All four members aren’t even Christians. Yet God still comes out in their lyrics, as if he were an undeniable part of life. U2 simply accepts this and lets the Spirit come out in some amazing music. They don’t try to package a message in four easy steps. They don’t shoot for a specific JPM (Jesus’s per minute). They just sing about life—all the ways that life can suck, and all the ways that life is beautiful. It’s refreshingly honest.

I guess you could say I’m a fan. We’ll see how the concert goes.