I’d been trying to only post written stuff here, but this is just something I felt the need to share. A few months ago, I participated in a contest, and this was my entry. I have a few other sounds that I’ve created/remixed, so if there’s any particular interest in this one, I may branch out and start sharing some of that here, as well.
Something that I absolutely love experiencing is when I’m able to revisit a story that I’ve heard or read a thousand times previously, and somehow manage to find something new in it. That happened to me at church yesterday.
I’ve gone to church all my life, meaning that, at the very least, I’ve heard the story of Easter 32 times by this point. (In fact, it’s far more than that, by the time you count all the sunrise services I’ve attended as well, plus the various passion plays and cantatas I’ve seen, the number of performances of Godspell my wife has dragged me into, etc. Oh- and the fact that the events of Easter are literally the very crux of my belief system.) And yet, one simple thing from yesterday’s service, which I had never even considered before, struck me.
The way the pastor was dressed. Yes, he was wearing the traditional dress pants and button-up shirt that one would fully expect to find a pastor wearing on a Sunday morning. But rather than a suit jacket, he was wearing a windbreaker. He took the majority of his sermon to get to why he was wearing a windbreaker in church, and his reasoning was pretty simple. But still, this thought struck me pretty hard.
Why- on every Sunday morning, but particularly on Easter morning- do we dress as though we were going to Jesus’ funeral? Isn’t the whole point of the Easter story that on the third day, the two Marys went to the tomb, found it empty, and (so spurred on by the angel) quite literally ran back to tell the disciples? Why do we expect our Easter services to be somber, thoughtful affairs? There’s no somber tone, there’s no thoughtfulness- it’s simply running out and telling people, “Hey- you know all that stuff that Jesus said that sounded absolutely crazy? Turns out, it’s true, and yeah- he still wants you to go meet up with him!”
For me, dressing up for church has never really been a thing. From the time I was allowed to have my own say in what I wore to church, whenever I could get away with it, I was a t-shirt and jeans kinda guy. In my head, God wants us exactly as we are- we’re not supposed to be trying to fix whatever is wrong with us so that we can be worthy of His love. It’s something He wants to work with us to fix. And I don’t figure he’s too terribly concerned if we show up on Sunday wearing a comfy pair of jeans and our favorite t-shirt (even if it happens to be a Sonic the Hedgehog t-shirt, and you always make the same lame joke by clipping your nametag onto Sonic’s ear)- but rather He’s concerned that we’re still letting Him take control of all that crap we keep screwing up our lives with. ”But if I can just control this, than God doesn’t have to know about it. And I won’t have to bother Him with it, and He can deal with all the more important stuff.” As much as it strains our brains to try and figure out, not only does God know about all that stuff, whether you tell Him or not, but there’s nothing more important to Him than trying to help each of us with our “petty little problems that are so much less important than everything else going on in the world”. (Dude- this is the guy [for lack of a better word] that exists on multiple planes of existence simultaneously. This is a guy that has come up with the most brilliant stuff- stuff that made Einstein pretty much just shrug his shoulders and said “I dunno.” He’s the ultimate mathematician, and yet He cares for us. I don’t think we can even begin to argue with that until we can wrap our minds around the specifics of how the universe work, and the potential of multiple realities existing simultaneously.)
But I’m going wildly off-track here: For as long as I could get away with it, I was a t-shirt and jeans kinda guy. Something about dressing differently for church than I would anywhere else always seemed kind of fake to me. I understand that everyone has different convictions, and a lot of people probably feel like it’s disrespectful to wear anything but the absolute best to church on Sunday. But that’s not me. I can’t claim to be better than anyone else, and as I said, I know everyone has different convictions. I just have never felt like dressing up for church was a show of respect. And the pastor wearing a windbreaker sort of codified that for me.
Why do we treat Easter Sunday like it’s Jesus’ funeral? We get all shinied up, and go to the church. We have some light, polite small talk and maybe some coffee while we’re waiting for the service to begin. Some of the people there are people we see on a regular basis, and some are people we only see occasionally. Maybe there’s one or two that kinda knew this Jesus guy a little bit, but felt compelled to come anyway. We go in, sit quietly while the preacher says some words about this guy we all knew, and we all think about how painful that death must have been. After a prayer, we all go out to lunch (some of us going together, some people maybe not), and then we all go our separate ways.
Why aren’t we treating Easter as a celebration of life, rather than a “celebration of life”? Why aren’t we following the 2 Marys’ examples? Why aren’t we telling everybody about this crazy thing that just happened? Why aren’t we ready to go for a run after finding the empty tomb?
Look- I don’t want to sound pushy. I know I’ve not been the greatest example of what a Christian should be. I know that the past 6 months or so that you’ve known me, I’ve been a pretty terrible example, frankly. To be perfectly honest, though, I was a terrible person long before we met. But, despite all my flaws, all my screw-ups, the disaster that I continually (though unconsciously) attempt to make my life, God loves me. Even when no-one else does, He does.
And He loves you, too. Whether you want to believe it or not, He does. I truly believe that. Even if you continually turn your back on Him, He loves you, and He will never tire of trying to get your attention. As a favorite song of mine says, “Just know this- that God is faithful, even if you don’t have faith yourself.”
I know this probably isn’t what you want to hear; I know it would be easier to just keep living your life the way you are. And believe me, I can understand that desire. I’m not going to lecture you for the way you live. Nobody has any right to, and even if I did, you know and I know that it would certainly not be my place to do so.
I’m not trying to pester you about this, but in a way, I guess I am. Look: just go to church tomorrow. It’s Easter. It’s kind of a big day for my family, and we’d all like to see you there, and to be able to share it with you. The way I see it, you don’t really have much to lose: you wake up a few hours earlier than you normally would on a Sunday, but in exchange you get a free breakfast and free coffee. We can even pick you up- it’s really no trouble.
If you go, and you don’t experience anything worth exploring, you haven’t lost anything more than a couple hours of sleep. I’m not going to stop being your friend if you come to church and decide it’s not worth your time. And I’ll stop asking you to try it, because you have tried it, and come to the conclusion that it’s just not for you. And that’s fine. Either way, we’re going to be praying for you, and praying that things start looking up for you.
So, my most recent post was reblogged by someone, and they (in their reblog) asked how one watches YouTube channels on Roku. That made me realize that maybe I need to point out a few of the awesome things one can do with a Roku and a couple of channels (and a few things I wish I could do).
First off, despite the lack of an official YouTube channel, there is a channel available (through the official channel store, I believe) that lets you watch YouTube videos. It’s called “RateRix”, and it’s free. It’s also a bit on the broken side (I usually have trouble searching for individual videos), but it works great for looking at YouTube channels. It’s not the most intuitive interface given the partial lack of functionality, but it’s pretty simple to search for a channel. Of course, once you find the channel you’re looking for, it’s also pretty easy to find which show you want to watch.
There’s been a great addition to the official channel store in the form of Plex. This is a terrific app that streams content from a local server to your Roku. I’d tried using this when Plex was still in beta form (and a private channel), but had difficulty setting up the server, so I gave up on it. Luckily, having noticed it was in the public store, I tried it again. Server set up is ridiculously easy (I already had a media server that I was streaming content from for other devices), and the channel works beautifully. The only issue I’ve had is server-side (I have a memory leak somewhere that winds up requiring a full reboot every couple of days), but aside from that, it’s a super-easy-to-use channel. I have a few shows which (let’s just say through the use of torrents of black magic) appear on my media server shortly after airing, and the Plex Media Server updates my media library every hour or so (I forget what I’ve got it set on), so new shows are fairly quickly available via my Roku box. (For the record, if I lived in an area with even a marginally decent over-the-air signal, I’d be getting those shows via broadcast, and possibly recording them via MythTV or some other Roku-based DVR solution).
I also highly recommend the Pandora channel. For so many years, cable companies have tried to use digital music channels as a lure for bringing customers to their digital packages. Pandora offers the same sort of service (only customized based on your preferences) for free. (I’m sure a lot of people already know of the awesomeness of Pandora, but it’s just amazing to me that there’s such a terrific free alternative to what cable companies have been trying to charge for forever.)
So, what do I wish I could do on Roku? Mostly, I wish I had access to the free offerings on Hulu (or, I’d be more than willing to pay for Hulu Plus if it meant I could get all the content Hulu offers). I kind of wish all of these YouTube channels had their own channels on Roku, though that’s not really necessary at all. There’s a few shows on TV that post their show online (but outside of Hulu)- I’d love to have access to Conan via Roku. Frankly, in a few more years, I can see Conan and The Daily Show having dedicated Roku channels (even if they’re unofficial). But for now, I’m finding most of the content I want in ways that, even if it’s not exactly the way I want, it’s in ways that work for me.
Several months ago, my family cut the cord. We needed to make room in our budget, and our Dish Network subscription seemed like as good a place as any. Of course, we knew it would be hard, but it had to be done.
We were paying around $60/month for a crap-ton of channels we weren’t watching, and pretty much the only things we ever were around to watch “live” were reruns of “The Simpsons”, and occasionally “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” Everything else was recorded, and we’d catch up when time permitted.
With that in mind, we decided the best way to go would be to drop the $60/month Dish service, and replace it with a one-time $60 purchase of a Roku box, and re-up with Netflix for $8/mo. Quite frankly, we really haven’t looked back.
The kids are constantly finding things on Netflix to watch (as am I). And things just keep getting better. I recently rediscovered Crackle, and the occasional commercial interruption seems a small price to pay for free content. YouTube has recently launched an initiative wherein various media personalities are setting up their own “channels” on YouTube’s “network” (for lack of better terms). I’ve already (less than one week in) fallen in love with a couple of shows on both Nerdist Channel and Geek & Sundry. Netflix is also creating original content, while other new media outlets are trying to find their own way in this landscape.
One of the channels I was most excited about when we first got our Roku was TWiT. It is, essentially, a return to the TechTV of old (which was, before the G4 debacle, easily my favorite channel). TWiT do something pretty interesting with their Roku channel (well, with the network in general, but I particularly love the way it works on Roku): there is a live stream of content, meaning that if you watch the live stream, you’re seeing the shows as they are recorded on set, plus backstage stuff between the shows. The shows themselves (minus any backstage stuff) are then posted at a later time, allowing for on-demand viewing.
To be blunt, I love this model. This seems like the sort of model that other content providers could be using. Yes, it seems natural for news-focused shows. But why couldn’t this model be followed elsewhere? For instance:
A sitcom network. Let’s say 4 half-hour, multi-camera shows a day, filming is streamed live. Live stream gets to see the whole thing, warts and all. Line flubs, retakes, everything. After filming, the live stream gets edited down into the final product, and posted in an on-demand form. Ads are worked into the show (very much as was done with live broadcasts in the ’50s and ’60s). I would say each show has a 3-hour shoot, with the live stream repeated in the second-half of the day. One day a week, the network streams all of that weeks’ shows on the live stream. The network could even follow a sort of BBC-inspired model, where each show has a 13-week run, and could possibly do another 13-weeks the following year.
A drama network would need to be run differently, but it would still be workable within this landscape. It would mostly require filming the episodes in advance, then “debuting” them via a live stream, making them available on-demand later. Likewise an action network- really anything requiring higher production values and/or a lot of location filming.
Will we ever see something like this? I don’t know. But I’m certainly continually more and more excited for the evolution of new media.