Thursday, March 30, 2006

changes come

This is a live record from Over the Rhine's "Ohio" tour. If you don't know who Over the Rhine is, they're a husband and wife duo that write some beautiful, spiritually slanted, folk rock. Karen is a siren and the rest of the band is terrific, including Paul Moak who is an evil genious of a guitar player. It's only available on their website but it's cheap and well worth it.

Monday, March 27, 2006

the church that doesn't exist...

I thought this was an interesting article from Relevant regarding the church, what we often expect it to be, and what it should be with regards to our involvement. Happy Monday.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

iowa shmiowa

Iowa is a state I have been unable to attach purpose to, but I will wager a guess and say this past weekend there has been more interesting than most I’ve spent anywhere else. I’ll start at the beginning. This may take a while, but stick with it, it’s worth it.

I left town on Friday with a band called Clemency with the intention of playing at a benefit for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital at Coe College in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We have all the time in the world considering we aren’t scheduled to play until 1 AM on Sunday morning. We head north into Illinois and the completely asinine interstate system that runs through-out the state. Despite the fact that there are thirteen, yes thirteen, different varicose arteries of the Eisenhower interstate system on this slice of middle America, one must drive four hours northeast to the east edge of the state in order to then cross west to Iowa. Foolishness, I say.

Regardless, we get about 40 miles from the Iowa border before we stop to spend a night enjoying the marvelous shower heads at the Holiday Inn Express. We sleep late, eat breakfast, cross over the mighty Missisip into Iowa and Iowa City where we squander our afternoon at the local Barnes and Nobles before going on to Cedar Rapids, which is only about 20 minutes away.

Cedar Rapids is the “city of five seasons,” a bit of trivia that no one in the city could actually explain to us. It is also the home of Quaker Oats and the entire town smells like oatmeal, depending on what day of the week it is. It is also darn near impossible to get a hotel room there as we got the last, and I mean last, room in the city at the Economy Inn and Suites, which was neither economical or anything slightly resembling a suite unless you count the miniature coffee pot in the bathroom. Or maybe the kitchenette in the lobby.

Our contact for the event calls us to fill us in on the details as we are lounging in the room watching NCAA basketball, an activity I did with my back to the TV. She tells us that she’s a bit disorganized because she caught her boyfriend in bed with another girl this morning. She had ignored our earlier calls because she had driven half-way to Milwaukee in an act of self-preservation before deciding to return. We’re told to go to the school’s gymnasium and when we arrive, they ask us if we have our own PA. This is never a good sign. The girl has obviously been crying, but is very sweet and gracious. In fact, the fractal sampling of the student body we encountered was just like this as Coe College proved a friendly place.

The short of the next six or so hours is that the school is hosting a fund-raising lock-in for St. Jude’s, an activity that only drew 20 or so people, including the girl who slept with our contact’s boyfriend. We played Jenga, I learned how to swing dance with a girl who bore a shocking resemblance to my friend Emily DeLoach (I have pictures), and we even shared the stage with a band called, “Oh Sh** and the Ruptured Rubbers.” After the show, they announced their name had changed to the Trojan Whores. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

After we all feasted on their home-made stew of jam-based rock and blues, we took the stage with our own brew of pop rock, no doubt shocking the small yet eager crowd with the fact that we were a Christian band. This was no matter, and in fact wound up being a great tie-in to the whole St. Jude’s thing. Jude was the patron saint of lost causes, and Christ made me aware of His own capability in such things long ago. We played, we made some friends, and a good time was had by all.
OK, now for the fun stuff. It was about 2:30 in the morning and we were all hungary so we made our way to the Perkin’s Restaurant next to our hotel. In the parking lot, a man who was obviously drunk did not hesitate to inform me of how he could have easily gone to bed with a woman who had just left the lot. As I was at a loss for words, I kept walking and he followed. He then offered us $20 to steal a police car next to the building so that he wouldn’t be caught drunk in public. I said I’d do it for $21 but then kindly declined. The lobby was bustling with a bizarre mix of white trash and homosexuals, all of whom were openly talking about sex. If that wasn’t weird enough, a six-and-a-half foot tall black woman walks into the lobby, sporting an Adam’s apple. Now, I might be wrong, but these two things don’t really go well together. In other words, “she” was an obvious Ru Paul admirer. A patron turns to us and says, “I’m too drunk for this stuff,” and from the looks of it, he was far from the only one.

We get to our table and quickly make friends with the people at the booth next to us. One of them is from Clarksville, TN, and asks us who we are, etc. They ask for a CD so Paul, the bass player, goes to the car and comes back with a CD for everyone on our side of the restaurant. This apparently made the waitress’s night, who kept saying, “Wow, this is so great. I just can’t believe it. You guys are great. I just can’t believe it. Wow, this is so great.” And so on...every time she came to the table. She was a little spacey but sweet never the less.

As the aforementioned table next to us left, a guy who was obviously drunk and a bit autistic came to the table with his CD. He asked if we had a permanent marker, presumably for an autograph. We said no, but the server gave him a pen. He then proceeds to autograph Paul’s jacket with the words, “Beef Cake.” He says it’s his nickname. We ask why and he says, “Because my friend won $100.” Right. He then moves on to Justin, the drummer, and signs his jacket. He then sits down at the booth behind me and realizes my jacket is too dark to write on so he leans over and writes “Beef Cake” on my THIGH!!! He proceeds to do the same to Jason, who poses the same dilemma, and then walks off yelling, “My friend won $100!”

Then, as we are leaving, the manager of the restaurant asks us for a CD to give to a server who is off-duty. “He’s all in to that Christian stuff,” she says, “He’s 19 and he’s still a virgin.” Paul then replies, “You don’t say,” to which she says, “Yeah, he’s 19 and he’s never even had sex!” Thanks for the clarification.

That’s about I really feel like sharing about the weekend. I will say, it’s funny how people who aren’t Christians react to those who are. Take the 19-year-old virgin, for instance. It was sort of like we were from a different country. I find it humbling to see how God uses us in any situation, providing us the opportunity to minister to not only the 20 or so people at the school but also to the people in the restaurant. Who knows when they’ll listen to the CD and what they’ll get from it. And in spite of that, our natural reaction is to be discouraged at a small turnout.

I’ve said too much so I best be moving on. Cheers!

Friday, March 24, 2006

the times they are a changin

They say that life comes in seasons, eras maybe, and when those times pass, that they may never be reclaimed. They say that life comes at you fast. Whoever they are, I hate them. There, I said it.

Two nights ago, I made a somewhat, and by somewhat I mean frequent, trip to the local Waffle House, an edifice I've possibly spent more time in than even the house where I currently reside, and I uncovered some startling news. That's what happens when you go to a Baptist college and you and your friends lack the motivation to seek out more typical college activites or dare I say, date. And through our nearly nightly visits we made the aquaintence of a sweet waitress named Sharon who would eventually know us so well as to place our drinks on the table when our car hit the parking lot. Over the years, 5 to be exact, we've had our ups and downs, but Sharon has always been there.

Two nights ago, I arrived to find a somewhat somber Sharon who quickly informs me it is her last night on the job after 15 years of working the third shift. She tells me her husband is sick and "not doing so well" and that she needs to go and be with him in Illinois. Now, as rediciulous as it may or may not seem, I was devasted. She was on the verge of crying the whole time we were there; it's hard to see someone you've come to love, leaving a place she loves being, in no more than a literal whimper.

I hate to see her go and realize I probably wont see her again so farewell, sweet Sharon. When I go on medication for my high cholesterol, I will know you were an intrical part of it (you think I'm kidding, ask my parents, or my physician).

Monday, March 20, 2006

relevant cinema

This week's trip to the movies was for The Wachowski Brother's V for Vendetta, a savvy political comentary about the power of government over the indifference and fear of it's people. The principal character, V, is an homage to Guy Fawkes, a 17th century Englishman who attempted to blow up Parliament to start a people's revolt against the government. People should not fear their government but the government, rather, should fear its people. That is, if the people are willing to stand up. It takes a leader, someone to pave the way, and here we find V. It's a little 1984, a little Farenheit 451, and a pretty good movie so check it out.

In the news this morning, I read where the US is not accepting the results of this weekend's presidential election in Belarus (former Soviet Union) and is calling for an investigation into potential fraud and a new vote. The reasoning is that the incumbent leader, Alexander Lukashenko, provided a context of fear that lead the people to feal they no choice but to vote for his re-election. Governments have used fear and threats for centuries to create the perception of public support and the reality of control over the general populace. Vendetta uses this idea, borrowing 1984's premise of creating the news to show the people how much they need their government as protection against the world at large, empowering the totalitarian regime.

It's really interesting to me how much we accept as fact and how much trust we place in the powers that be, as if some upper-class Ivy leaguers could ever really understand the needs of the the remaining 270 million or so people they make decisions for. At what point does the power we assign through democracy translate into power being taken away from the people?

I'm not paranoid or turning into a conspiracy theorist by any means, I just enjoy a thought provoking film every now and then, especially when history and current events provide credibility. Happy Monday!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Here's a posting from my favorite internet humor site, Timothy McSweeney's Interet Tendency. They do these lists and they're quite funny and rediculous. Here's an example.

Secret Canadian
Superweapons in


- - - -

Titanium Mountie

Canadarm face slapper

Ballistic beavernauts

120 mm maple-syrup mortar

Peacekeeping robot that attacks you by surprise

Bioengineered crazy lumberjack choppers

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Is that all the guster you can muster?

Upon reading over my last blog, I kind of had to laugh at myself. If anyone's seen Donnie Darko, then you know about motivational speaker turned child pornographer, Jim Cunningham, who quoted the line above. Throughout the movie Cunningham talks about how all of our actions are based in either fear or love and the point is that there are obviously a lot of other emotions floating around in there. He's obviously the brunt of a lot of jokes during the movie and after reading the disjointed rambling below, I can't help but laugh and think it sounds like I had taken a Jim Cunningham seminar a bit too seriously. It's a great movie, watch it if you haven't. I still mean it anyway.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

thoughts on a sunday

I watched this movie twice this weekend. Why? Because it’s amazing. Hitchcock has this way of just sucking you into a story, despite the way they may seem dated by many of todays standards or better yet, expectations, of film. The contrast of light, the brilliant colors (even in his black and white movies), the always dynamic leading man and the signature Hitchcock blonde; couple these things with a creative and timeless story and the films still are stunning. Hitchcock was known to labor over his work, building elaborate sets and even breaking for days at a time to ponder potential holes in the plot to make sure the stories are intelligent and complete. Often times I’ve heard friends pass these movies off as dated, that the suspense doesn’t hold up, but to me it’s like saying Faulkner or Hemmingway are dated compared to contemporary literature. You have to know where the art is coming from, especially if you are going to watch it for arts’ sake.

I’ve heard it said many times that what set the films apart was Hitchcock’s use of our most basic emotion, fear. I got to thinking about that claim and I affirm it. If love is our most noble and precious emotion, our most fulfilling and even heart-aching, and if fear is the absence of love (I’ve heard this as well and I agree), then fear is certainly our most basic emotion. When all of the love and compassion in our lives is taken away, what is left? Fear. No wonder it has such an effect on every aspect of our lives. Hitchcock’s films are a case study of ordinary people responding to fear and it’s fascinating.

As I am thinking about this, I am sitting on my back porch reading 1984 and listening to the music the hispanic family down the street is playing rather loudly. I think about diversity, about how grateful I am to live in a part of town that embraces diversity, how I love it. I think about how many people don’t love it and refuse to embrace it, see it as a threat even, and as a result fear the presence of minorities in their neighborhoods. I even grew up in a neighborhood that once forbid Jews and African-Americans to live there. This adds paranoia to our lives, causing us to lock our car doors at intersections or avoid all but the main roads when out for a jog. This drives property values down and causes schools to deteriorate. This tells people their communities aren’t worth having pride in, that their ambitions aren’t as valid as the rest of us. This adds to the difference, and that saddens me.

I look back down at the book and read a striking line. “Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” What a striking line! While the book is talking about government, I can’t help but think about religion. I thought about how orthodoxy can be so beautiful and rooted in meaning (think prayer postures and the use of early church art to help the illiterate), but I also think about how a lot of it is rooted in a church tradition that feared its membership growing outside the teachings of the church. Their fear of individual spirituality spurred a myriad of church tradition that attempted to squelch the expression of many great thinkers and artists (think Galileo). It is as if somewhere down the line much orthodoxy is rooted in fear, even with the best intentions and methods, because it says, “I do not trust you to do this on your own.” Our modern churches are certainly guilty of this fear as well, turning our physical churches into shelters from the world around us, shutting out the dark to protect us from the things that threaten to destroy our neat Christian existence. We teach self-centered theology, that the church is more of a building running on time-tested schedules than a body of believers shining in the darkness. Spirituality becomes strict religion, born of our fear.

At this, I put my book my book down and started to ponder spirituality and nature, the way that I have been so blessed to experience God through creation. A tree in my backyard is blooming small pink blossoms, budding out of tight yellow-green clusters. I’m ashamed to say I don’t know what kind of tree it is but I am struck by its beauty. I grabbed my vintage camera (thanks Dad) and took some pictures of the flowers. I see my Lord here and I am so thankful for a God that says, “I trust you enough to see me in creation, in the small details of your life, working it out without having it all written out for you.” There is no fear here, only love. How amazing!!!

So why then do I experience so much fear in my life? Work with me as I’m tracing through a lot of thoughts here but fear is an undeniable topic this weekend. If you read down through this blog or have talked with me at length, you’ll know I have my fair share of insecurities. These exist mostly in social and musical contexts and still often mystify me. When I think about dating, I get so clammy and nervous and rarely act upon any impulse to get to know anyone. I fear going to parties or even gatherings with people from my church. When I play somewhere, I worry about whether or not my playing fits, or if my gear sounds good despite the fact I know I am a capable, competent guitarist with some terrific sounding equipment. Even this morning at church, someone asked to hear my new amplifier (which is sweet, by the way) and I was worried about whether or not he would like how it sounded. These things might not seem like much but that’s precisely the point; why do I experience fear in areas I have no reason to? It is such a part of our lives, and such an un-Godly thing.
I need to be reminded of fear and its manifestations that I may learn to live in love. I am grateful of Christ’s love, its unconditional and uncompromising ways, the way it is completely void of fear and I pray to live in love with God and with people around me.


Friday, March 10, 2006


If the only thing you know about Daniel Lanois is that he produced some U2 records, please go out and get some of his albums. Shine, or Acadie, or whatever else. It's inspiring.

humble pie

I suppose I'll give an update from the last post on my Oscar predictions, the closest thing to an NCAA bracket you'll ever see me do. The official tally was 12 out of 24, an F by most standards, unless you go to Brown or some place like that. But I did win a prize at my friend's Oscar party (merely by default). I was pleased and very surprised to see George Clooney win as well as Rachel Weiss. And the 3-6 Mafia?!? Are you serious? As Jon Stewart said, "It just got a little easier out there for a pimp." And of course, the upset for the evening, Crash, was a huge surprise and kind of disappointing. I confess I've maybe been a little unfair towards this movie but it still should never have won best picture. There's this tragic thing in the Academy where the indies or even the major studio films that don't pull the box-office never seem to win, such as Traffic, Fargo, and In the Bedroom. Of this year's five films, the other four where definately superior to Crash, which is disappointing. I'm not trying to insult anyone for liking Crash, I liked it as well, it was just the weakest nomination this year. So please go see the others if you haven't, they're terrific.

I left town with a friend this week, not really going home with him, but to a sort of home away from home. It's sort of strange watching someone you're very close to hanging out with other people he's really close to, being a sort of fly on the wall in his life. Situations like that seem to bring my shyness to the front and while I had fun, I think about how I rarely make accurate first impressions. I'm not unstable or anything but I do think it takes a while to get to know me. I would even say there are people I've known for years who still don't have an accurate idea of who I am. Does that make sense? I'm not sure if it's having walls up or what the deal is. Or maybe it's just that I'm overly shy and protective on the outset, which I guess is like having walls up. I just answered that question.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


The entire year is filled with various sports championship, redicuous award shows and opporunities for Hollywood and the celebrity population at large to praise each other and make the rest of us hate our already plentiful lives. The way I see it, there are only two exceptions I maintain throught out the year: Formula 1 and the Oscars. Who cares about the former, plus the latter's time has come as well as the time for my completely shocking and awe-inspiring predictions. OK, so maybe not awe-inspiring. But never the less, forget about the NCAA's or all of Mariah Carey's Grammy's, it's Oscar weekend!

This is how it will work. I name each category, who I think will win, and the name of the film or crew recipiant(if applicable). Then who I want to win, and maybe a description of why, will be in parenthesis next to it. No parenthetical reference indicates the winner and my hopeful are one in the same. I will also comment on the prediction if I feel the need to. Please note: I don't really take this that seriously but when you don't really care about sports, and the Grammy's suck, there's not a lot of popular culture for me to be excitied about. So endulge me.

Actor in a Leading Role
Philip Seymore Hoffman - Capote
He simply has to...see the film if you haven't...

Actor in a Supporting Role
Jake Gyllenhaal - Brokeback Mountain (George Clooney - Syriana: he was my favorite supporting performance this year but it'll never happen)
Jake's good in this movie and the hype is in his favor

Actress in a Leading Role
Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line (I want her to win, but I must give Felicity Huffman honorable mention)
It'd be nice to see a local girl, masterfully portraying another local girl, win...

Actress in a Supporting Role
Michelle Williams - Brokeback Mountain (Catherine Keener - Capote)
All five women in this category deserve the award.

Animated Feature
Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit - Nick Park and Steve Box
They spent five years on this film and it shows.

Art Direction
King Kong - Grant Major, Dan Hennah, and Simon Bright
Sin City was snubbed for a nomination here.

Good Night and Good Luck - Robert Elswit
Beautiful and tense; simply terrific

Costume Design
Walk the Line - Arianne Phillips (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Gabriella Pescucci)
The Academy seems to favor the realisitc and accessable (don't hold me to this, or any of it, for that matter)

Brokeback Mountain - Ang Lee (anything but Crash)
Lee will get it, but Clooney (Goodnight), Miller (Capote), and Spielberg (Munich) all masterfully made original films. From a direction, I repeat - direction, point of view, Crash is such a rip-off of PT Anderson's Magnolia, it should never have been nominated. If you don't believe me, rent both movies and watch them consecutively.

March of the Penguins - Luc Jacquet and Yves Darondeau (Murderball - Henry-Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro)

Documentary Short
God Sleeps in Rwanda - Kimberlee Acquaro and Stacy Sherman
I haven't seen any of these, but Rwanda is a favorite subject so I'm assuming (yes, I know what happens when I assume).

Film Editing
Crash - Hughes Winborne (The Constant Gardner - Claire Simpson)
Everyone seems to love Crash, but Gardner was pieced together so well; plus the editor, Claire Simpson, previously won for Platoon so she's good.

Foreign Language Film
I haven't seen any of these but the word is out for Tsotsi, or maybe Paradise Now; I like the whole suicide bomber idea.

Star Wars:Episode III The Revenge of the Sith - Dave Elsey and Nikki Gooley

Music (Score)
Brokeback Mountain - Gustavo Santaolalla
Original, minimal and spacial without being minimalist.

Music (Song)
"Travelin' Thru" from Transamerica - Dolly Parton
It's Dolly, come on...

Best Picture
Brokeback Mountain - Diana Ossana and James Schamus, Producers (Capote)
Oh, the hype...Capote really was the best so please support it.

Short Film (Animated)
How should I know?

Short Film (Live Action)
Where do you see these things anyway?

Sound Editing
King Kong - Mike Hopkins and Ethan Van der Ryn

Sound Mixing
Walk the Line - Paul Massey, D.M. Hemphill and Peter F. Kurland
All of the applause and such...tough work

Visual Effects
King Kong - Joe Letteri, Brian Van’t Hul, Christian Rivers and Richard Taylor
About the best looking film I have ever seen.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Brokeback Mountain (Capote)
Larry McMurtrey...he's great, but "In Cold Blood" created a genre and the adapted text was terrific.

Writing (Original Screenplay)
Crash - Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco (Syriana)
Again, Crash seems to be a favorite, but I really appreciated the complexity and vision behind Syriana, though the execution hurt it a bit.

OK, that's it. I'm not an expert, I just like movies and at the present moment, this is more interesting than anything else I have to do today. And besides, even the "experts" have no idea. Sunday at 8/7 central!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

public service announcement

First, I must begin with a confession; I really like tea. To be more specific, I like loose leaf tea with a dollop of milk and a teaspoon of sugar. Yesterday, with this in mind, I decided to go find a tea pot with my friend Jordan. We wandered into Davis Cookware and Cutlery, the quaint and cluttered little shop in Hillsboro Village, to find a shelf full of pots. The clerk, along with his brother and father, was quick to help, leading me to a pot in my price range and then talking me through a selection of teas. As time progressed, our conversation switched to music and the man's brother quickly chimed in. We talked about Monterey Pop, CSNY, Zeppelin, King Crimson, and a whole world of live music that the two brothers had the pleasure of enjoying. Jordan and I shared in their joy at recounting their experiences and left the store an hour later, charmed from my experience. The bottom line is the men in this store are delightful, helpful, and their tea is terrific. If you drink tea, or need kitchen ware, please pay them a visit and help to keep them open.

Oddly enough, I saw a ghost from my recent past in the Village as we drove away. His name is Johnny Bonanno and if you have kept up with my life at all in the last three months, you know exactly who he is. If not, check out the lone blog on my myspace page. The short of it, otherwise, is that he's the guy who scammed some bandmates and myself into thinking we were going on tour with Shania Twain. And there he was, walking in the Village. I was stunned and simply couldn't even muster the energy to speak to him. I had deleted all the numbers of people relevant to the incident as a way of letting it go so I had no way of contacting the other people involved in the scam. All I could do, or really felt like doing, was just stare. I honestly thought he was dead; long story.

Tomorrow, I head to a banquet for abstinence education. My sister is the CEO of this non-profitt group in Chattanooga and some friends and I are doing dinner music. Nothing like playing romantic jazz standards at an abstinence dinner. Cheers.