Today I bought the latest Vineyard variation, Vineyard Cafe. It’s like an Unplugged Coffee House type of deal. They even gave me a coupon for a free coffee at the bookstore I bought it at. Anyway, it’s the latest version of the many versions of praise series Vineyard has. That’s always kind of bothered me. They just have a bunch of different versions of the same songs then sell new CD’s with these rehashings. Smacks too much of money making to be comfortable for me. Then I go out and buy every version. Sigh.

At any rate, the reason I bought this was because I heard the first track on the demo tape at the store and was blown away. It’s this Scott Underwood song, Hop on the Bus. I sing it a lot at church, loud, with motions, being developed for an eventual project I hope to do with Dave, Vineyard Karaoke. But I digress. This version was incredible. My goodness. So I bought it. The rest is kind of boring. But they have some good hymns on it, so that kind of redeems it. Just like KCPC redeems Vineyards’ songs from their sketchy theology! Ha!

Seriously, though, as John Yoon was telling me just minutes ago, Hank Hanegraff et al should at the very least acknowledge that some of the music coming out of the Vineyard movement is good and is reaching people. I mean some of the songs are so great and moving. Especially the Scriptural ones (that aren’t taken out of context) like His Love Endures Forever or Psalm of Thanks. Good songs.

Sometimes I sense this kind of praise backlash and people say the best praise really are the hymns and stuff like that. I can’t deny that the text to many hymns (not necessarily every single one, though. Just because the song has a regular metric pattern and is kind of boring doesn’t mean the hymn text is great. Seriously, there are a lot of sketchy hymns as well. Like Away in a Manger… did Jesus really not cry? I mean, that’s speculation at best, right? There’s other stuff in the hymnals that are kind of weird also. But I digress.) are really good, and they are great songs. But I think sometimes that people forget that there is a reason that contemporary praise and worship has become so popular. Yeah, the hymns are great, but I think we cannot deny that they must have been missing something, that for all their greatness, they must have not been reaching people the way contemporary praise does. I got this from another one of those great Worship Leader articles that Pastor Dave gave us. I mean, we have to realize that there was something lacking in these hymns that contemporary praise had, and that contemporary praise does reach people in ways that hymns apparently can’t. I mean, there is no other way to explain the rise of contemporary praise. It’s kind of interesting to note how this occurred with Urbana. Until pretty recently, the praise time was led by a talented pianist and organist playing hymns. There is a reason that Urbana switched their praise mindset, as have many churches around the country, and we can’t deny that.

So the point is that I agree that hymns are great, but I think we need to realize that contemporary praise exists because it does something for people that hymns apparently have not been able to do. So it’s good to critically examine contemporary praise and want to go back to hymns sometimes, but I don’t think we should look at contemporary praise as being some kind of compromise worship wise or good but not the best and hymns as being the best, ideal praise. Else we risk alienating worshippers, forgetting why contemporary praise came about in the first place. If the hymns really were ideal in facilitating worship, I don’t think contemporary praise would exist.

At the same time I think it’s impossible to deny that a lot of praise songs are kind of lacking lyrically, bordering on the silly to just plain wrong / heretical. But collectively, I think they are reaching people, helping them to focus on God in worship. The same Worship Leader article noted that a person with the right heart will sincerely be able to praise with a slightly lyrically lacking praise song or with a musically staid hymn. Similarly, a person with a hard heart may have difficulty worshipping even with an emotionally moving contemporary praise song, and the powerful words of a classic hymn will also be meaningless to him. The point the article makes is that while we should seek to find the best musically and lyrically in praise, the most important thing we should strive for is building the heart of worship in the believer, because if we can be successful in doing this, what we do in other areas will matter a whole lot less. I think I agree with this, even if I haven’t articulated it very well. I think contemporary praise is great because it moves the heart of the worshipper, even when the lyrics are less profound than a hymn. Sometimes the simpler lyrics even make it easier to meditate upon. I find that personally it is ofttimes difficult to really meditate on the meaning of the lyrics of the hymns, especially when I am singing them, and if this happens, what does it matter what the words say? It’s just rote mechanical singing. Too often hymns approach this line.

Tonight I had dinner with some old friends. It was kind of odd. I think I realized that though we haven’t really hung out together for say 3 years, fundamentally they really haven’t changed much at all. On the one hand that was reassuring. I was just thinking how good it feels to be comfortable with people because you essentially know them and vice versa. That you know who they are fundamentally and they you. Maybe it’s just a good feeling to get with people and feel like nothing’s changed. On the other hand, I found that I was kind of sad that they were the same. I just saw one friend acting a certain way, and I thought to myself, “Wow, this friend is exactly the same.” And all I could do was shake my head and feel a little sad. Maybe I have changed.

I went to Sunnyvale Golfland, cited by GamePro Magazine as the site of the first ever Street Fighter tournament tonight. Played Street Fighter 3. Kind of weird. I basically got my butt kicked. And I saw the look in those kids’ eyes. I had the same look in my prime. I would think to people I played who were like I am now (not very good), “Man, I am such a better Street Fighter than this loser. What an amateur. Well thanks for wasting your quarters.” He had that look to me. And I couldn’t help but have the feeling, “OK, punk, you think you’re cool. You have no life, you loser. My future is at least somewhat set, all you have is this pathetic game.” Man, my pride. I remember that people I used to play would have that look at me too. I would have the smug arcade rat look, and they would look at me and I knew they were thinking that this game was my life and I was a loser. Now it’s reversed and wouldn’t you know my pride, I can’t but help doing the same thing.

I really was into the game though. Last night I was talking with Mike Chen about all the versions of Street Fighter and their associated glitches. First came Street Fighter II, the original, that really did change video gaming and arcades forever. If you don’t believe me just walk into any decent arcade. You’ll see it dominated by variations of the same theme – 2 people fight until one is unconscious or dead. Street Fighter II started it all. There was really nothing like it before it came. It also started the tons o’ buttons trend. Before that, most machines had 2 buttons, some 3, like Double Dragon. After Street Fighter, tons of machines got tons o’ buttons. Revolutionary game.

The early known glitches were the Guile freeze, when you do a sonic boom while he is coming out of his standing roundhouse kick. No advantage, just cool to see. Later discovered the Guile “handcuff” glitch. Here you do a flashkick with the medium kick, and press medium punch right before (or while) you are doing it, and the opponent is close. Was unknown how to get out of it until the Guile “air throw” or “invisible throw” was discovered. This throws an opponent even when he is not in Guile’s grip. Done by doing a kind of delayed sonic boom; charge back then forward with the medium kick and medium punch right after. Timing is pretty difficult but it’s potent. Soon after glitches were found that reset the machine. One with Guile (like the handcuff but with fierce punch / roundhouse kick) and with Dhalsim (fierce fireball while the leg is retracting from a standing roundhouse). There were reported glitches of a Guile “knife throw” or Zangief throwing a Molotov cocktail but never confirmed, though various friends swore they saw it somewhere.

The successor was Street Fighter II Championship Edition. Sped it up a little, changed the feel so it was a bit more stiff and less flowy, and let you play the bosses as well as the same character as your opponent. Also fixed obvious flaws like Guile’s too powerful flashkick, Blanka’s too vulnerable rolling ball, and the infamous short, short, short, throw “cheap” moves, and differentiated Ryu and Ken more. Also fixed glitches. Only one known glitch for this game – Vega can get caught in his backflip so he scrolls quickly, vertically, on the screen.

A weird phenomenon occurred right here in that these so called “turbo” chips started popping up which affected the game. It let you throw multiple projectiles simultaneously and do moves in the air as well as some other odd things. Definitely not sanctioned by Capcom and difficult because since the turbo chips were not standard, different machines did different things, depending on which chip it had. And there were a lot of different chips. I got pretty good at it, but it wasn’t that great.

Then Street Fighter II Championship Edition Turbo Hyper Fighting (I swear that was the real name). Added speed, different uniform colors, more flowy, let you do combos starting from the air. Personally my favorite version, even though there are no glitches.

Then Super Street Fighter II. New characters, different feel. A big step back in my opinion. Made it slower, which was not good, after being sped up with Hyper Fighting. Only redeeming characteristic was the Zangief glitch; you could do his backdrop piledriver no matter where your opponent was on the screen, even if across the screen. All you needed was some delay (eg. getting hit, or blocking something), and your opponent being on the ground. While you are in the delay, do a 360 with the joystick and press medium kick. Opponent warps into your arms and you do the move. Looks cool and really confuses opponents. But did not work on special tournament style games which were set up 8 in a row, as in Tilt in Vallco.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo. I lost touch after this, so I have no idea what the rest are like. Don’t know about glitches either. Then Street Fighter Alpha, then Street Fighter Alpha 2. Also a bomb of a game Street Fighter Movie, which had digitized images of the actors from the movie. A truly terrible game. Also Street Fighter EX or something which is like Street Fighter Virtua Fighter style. And Street Fighter vs. X-men, which is actually a pretty good game, set up in a kind of tag-team style.

Now is Street Fighter III.

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