Monday, December 29, 2008

Things Have Come Together

Looks like I'll be able to take some classes next month! Yippee!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fads...By God

It seems like every time we turn around, there are experts ready to tell us how fat & out of shape we are. This sort of thing is irritating enough by itself, but when it gets into the church it becomes even more intolerable.

Take, for example, the Body By God book. Basically the idea is that we shouldn't eat anything processed because it's not "from God" (i.e., it's not a naturally-occuring food). That means no chips, no soft drinks, no baked goods, and very little if any sugar, refined or otherwise.

Well, sign me up (meant to be conveyed in a sarcastic tone)!

Now, I applaud the author's intent to help out with the general health crisis. To be sure, most processed food isn't that healthy to begin with; it's full of extra salt, extra sugar, extra fat, extra preservatives, extra-everything but nutrients. But I'm not sure that turning one's back on everything but lean meats, fruits and vegetables is

The idea is actually kind of misleading. If we were meant to eat only foods that, I presume, would have been available in the Garden of Eden, then that probably cuts out meat as well (most Biblical scholars will argue that the first shedding of animal blood happened when God made animal skins for Adam and Eve, since the birthday suits just weren't cutting it anymore after the Fall). Other than a handful of vegans, does anyone really know anyone else who would willingly say no to meat forever?

Didn't think so.

How about milk and cheese products? Odds are that the first man & woman didn't think to grab hold of a cow's undercarriage---and consume whatever come out---at any time during their brief stay in Paradise.

So that means no queso, no Jello pudding...and no eggnog come Christmas time. Gosh, who could resist (more of the same as above)?

Tell ya what, let's you & me talk a little walk down Slippery-Slope Lane:

When you start thinking along these lines, then how far is it from, say, discontinuing the use of electric instruments during worship services, because electricity hadn't been invented yet? And, of course, we all know very well that God completely stopped speaking to musicians some time around the turn of the 20th century, which means that anything that isn't written for SATB choir (complete with earth-tone robes and dickeys) and organ/piano, isn't fit to play in church services. Heck, we could write another book and call it Music By God...although if we really wanted to be authentic, we'd have to stick with zithers and flutes and other decidely non-Western instruments and music-forms (no three-part harmonies, no I-IV-V chord transitions) in order to do the Middle Eastern music of ancient Israel convincingly.

Going further, we could argue that the invention of the computer chip, mother board, and monitor was never in the original plan for mankind; after all, doesn't excessive exposure to computer screen light ruin one's eyes, and potentially lead to cancer? So there goes the overhead projector for contemporary worship services; it's back to the hymnals for us (saving eyesight but, so say the greenies, murdering the forest in the process). As a matter of fact, why use hymnals, since the printing press didn't come along until much later. Everything in the Garden of Eden was word of mouth; if it couldn't be remembered as spoken, it probably wasn't worth hearing. That cuts out most, if not all, three-part sermons/messages; we'll just have someone recite a verse from memory and then meditate on it for half-an-hour (trusting, of course, that they aren't either accidentally, or maliciously, mangling it). And there you have the substance of Church By God.

But how will we get to the service (which, incidentally, will probably be in a forest grove and not a building, the better to honor the original intent with)? Cars pollute the environment and tend to contribute to our being fat and sedentary. That leaves us with two choices: we can either ride our donkeys...or we can walk. (Transportation By God.)

And what will we take up for the offering? Printed money kills trees, and electronic money means using computers (remember the declining eyesight?). So we'll just bring in the best portions of our flock---which haven't been eaten, since we're all vegetarians now---and sacrifice these on the altar (perhaps a computer desk could fill this function well enough). (Tithing By God.)

Yes, I can see it now! Everything will be better!


...until one of us gets to church early one day, and discovers that the pastor has just finished eating a nice, juicy lamb burger...with a slice of swiss.

Then we'll wonder why we jumped on this silly bandwagon to begin with.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Still here...

Just not much to say. I'm finishing the process of applying to a couple of different grad schools, so I don't have much time or much inspiration for outside thought. When it's all over and I'm
finally accepted (or rejected, however the case may be), I'll probably have more time for this.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The World didn't end, did It?

Nope; last time I checked we're all still here.

More of substance later...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nope, not gonna do it...

There will be no editorializing on the election, historic though it may be.

...So don't ask.

...I probably couldn't find anything nice to say anyway.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A new word

(A brief disclaimer: I don't dislike Peter Frampton. Keep that in mind.)

Back to music, or at least something related to music...

Two thoughts have converged in this post, one related to music, the other to new words.

Recently Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has been in the news for adding new words from popular culture; a few years ago they added "google" and "unibrow", for instance. In that spirit, I'd like to propose a new word:

Framptonody (n.)


Because it needs to be in there, of course.

And why did this come to mind?

Because of the radio, and what's playing on it.

Over the past few years, the "oldies" station in Atlanta (97.1 The River, formerly Fox 97) has shifted its playlist away from the 1960's into the 1970's. This isn't surprising given the "30 year cycle", which as of the present (2008) plants us firmly in the decade of bellbottoms, mood bracelets, and pet rocks, although now we're towards the end of it (2008 - 30 = 1978). I'm not complaining; it's about time that someone stepped in to fill the gap, especially since the other classic rock station (96.1) has mutated into a haven for thrash-metal and other frights of sound. And one can only handle so many replays of The Supremes and Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" without wanting to scream.

But there comes a price, and part of that price is: Peter Frampton. And when we talk about Peter Frampton, naturally we focus on his live opus, Frampton Comes Alive! And when we talk about Frampton Comes Alive!, naturally we focus on particular tracks...such as "Do You Feel Like We Do".

And why? It's the talkbox, stupid. We just can't get enough of it. Sure, it's a cheesy 70's synthesizer sound, easily put to shame by the high-tech jobs we can wield nowadays, ones that can convincingly immitate different instruments and voices. But we still love it (we just can't admit it).

Apparently, so did Frampton's concertgoers (recorded in concerts in 1975 at Winterland Auditorium in 'Frisco and Long Island Area in NY, in case you're curious). In fact, they really, really loved it! Listening to the track, it's quite obvious when Frampton is ready to strap on the talkbox, because they get near-hysterical. It's the sort of audience response that most veteran bands bask in, and most new bands would kill to have.

But viewed in the cold light of day more than thirty years later, one has to wonder why they go so apes**t over what Frampton gives them in this song: a few volleys of clever, prolonged scat-singing, to be sure, but mostly just mouthing "do you feel like we do?" After every four of five syllables of this they erupt in spasms of joy. I mean, really?? One can search in vain for another live album where the audience does anything similar. Even the frenzied audience from B.B. King's classic Live At The Regal doesn't succumb to this kind of adulation; they actually let B.B. finish his musical "sentences" through their full 12-bar format before applauding, and they don't lose themselves over every two or three notes. Compare the two albums, and you have to wonder whether Frampton's audience really appreciated his work, or if they were just caught up in the massed insanity of "the moment".

This isn't unique to Frampton. During his tenure in Cream, Eric Clapton recalled one concert where he came out and simply hung his guitar from a chain suspended from the lights...and the crowd cheered for almost ten minutes---without his even playing a note! Frampton's audience is a bit better---they actually wait for real playing---but you get the sense that they're there just to be say they were there, not to actually hear anything impressive. If Frampton had talkboxed say, the Gettysburg Address, or Hamlet's soliloquy, it would have been more deserving of such ridiculous appreciation than just..."do you feeeel?" (hysteria) " we dooo?" (more hysteria).

So, I'd like to propose a new word in recognition of this unique occurence:

Framptonody (n): an act of unrestrained and undeserved approbation for particular sections of a musical performance, rather than for the totality of the performance itself; beer- and blunt-induced ecstasy at the most mundane of occurences.

P.S.: Lest you think that I'm a stiff-necked, clueless mood-killer who "just doesn't get" Frampton, I have to confess: I love it when that song comes on, and I especially love the talkbox section. But I just can't resist the urge to be contrarian...It's what I do best.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Done With It!

...The GRE, that is. Got a 1300 total score out of 1600 (730 on the Verbal, 570 on the Math). Don't know how I did on the two essays. But at any rate, that bear's done and outta the way!
Onwards and upwards!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's Obvious, Isn't It?

...I mean, shouldn't they have picked him to be Indiana Jones?

We'll miss you, Paul. We'll all miss you.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Quirks come in Sixes

I was tagged by Katie, and though chain letters tend to give me the mange, I guess I'd better play along this time. So...six quirky things about me?


1. I used to "flap". When I was younger (much younger, in my own memory, although some of my friends claim that I was still doing this as late as my early teens), I would be in the midst of drawing a picture when I would suddenly stop, stare down at the image, and commence "flapping". This involved holding both of my hands near my ears, and twirling them vigorously at the wrists, palms down. It's the wierdest thing to try to describe, and it's diffcult to reproduce. You had to have been there. But apparently I did it all the time. I'm not sure if it was joy at what I was producing or something else. Thank God I wasn't born any later than I was (1977); if I was a kid nowadays doing that I'm sure my poor folks, upon witnessing something so bizarre, would have dosed me seven ways from Sunday with every kind of medication available.

2. I positively detest the sound of nails being filed with an emory board. It's just not freakin' NATURAL! Stop it!!

3. Once when I was seven or eight I developed a short-term quirk (is there such a thing?): if I drank anything at all, I had to go and pee before I left the house or did anything else important. I just couldn't abide the thought of not getting rid of whatever I'd just consumed. At any rate, it was done by the time I was nine or ten. I don't think this ever applied to #2's...Oh god, you just learned a whole lot more about me than you probably ever cared to, didn't you?!?

4. If I sit down in a chair anywhere, I almost always have to have something in my lap; a book, a pillow, a jacket, something. I guess this illustrates how for some people, the need for a security blanket doesn't diminish with age. Or maybe it's something psychological, maybe relating to how I need to "protect" myself by placing some physical item between myself and the next person. I never was good at psychology...

5. I can't allow water spots in a sink. If I'm washing my hands in any sink, anywhere in the world, and I see that the last person left large waterspots on the sink, I must physically remove them before I leave. You'd think from that that I'm a neat freak, but I'm not. Like most single adult males, I let my bathroom get pretty scuzzy before I decide to clean it. And my car gets more permanent junk every year. But sinks...

6. A recent quirk: I don't like carrying my car keys in my pockets if I can avoid it. I keep thinking that the keys will wear down the pocket liners and suddenly burst out of the front of my pants, thus ruining them. So, if I'm wearing a jacket, I'll stuff the car keys in the jacket pockets (apparently I'm convinced that the jacket pockets are indestructible). Or if I sit down at a friend's place and I'm in front of a coffee table, I'll drop the keys there. The only time when I feel good about carrying my own car keys in my own pockets is when I'm wearing shorts with long, deep pockets (of which I have several pairs). Then it's no problem. One of these days I'm going to lose my keys from this quirk, although to date I've never lost a set of my own keys.

So, there ya go; six quirks about me that must surely have convinced you how strange I am, despite my apparent ordinary-ness. For the six people I've tagged, it's your job to come up with six of your own.

Back to the Music...

Alright, enough high-falutin' seriousness about the church and community transformation. The tunes, man! Gimme the tunes!

Here's a little sumpin' fer ya: a 1966 shindig at the Philharmonic featuring the late, great T-Bone Walker (who begat B.B. King's style, who begat Peter Green's style, who begat...) and the great
Dizzy Gillespie, in which one of Dizzy's sidemen shows us just how much fun one can have with just the mouthpiece! Note also how T-Bone plays the guitar with the face perpendicular to his body, rather than parallel like most other guitar players (including this author). Finally, note how T-Bone starts the second song aping early 60's surf instrumentals before shifting into an easy swing tempo...and how few blues players nowadays attempt anything as adventurous.

Good stuff...

Friday, September 19, 2008

When Community Transformation Comes Up Short

For the past few years the church I attend, as well as the parent church from which it sprang, have had a goal that they call "community transformation". The core of this goal is an admirable one: transforming the local community (Marietta, Cobb County, and the surrounding area) into a community that models God's ideal in its thoughts, words and actions. It's a great idea (at the very least, it's better than no goal, or even a goal like "spiritual insulation" or "cultural isolation"), and I hope it comes to pass.

Still, I wonder.

A few weeks ago while channel-surfing I stumbled on Heavens Above! (1963) playing on TCM. A minor Peter Sellers comedy, it was wry and enjoyable. I didn't think much about it at the time, but having pondered it for a while I think it has much to say about the church in modern times. So I'd like to offer it as a counterpoint to what might come about through all this "transformation":

Sellers plays the Reverend John Smallwood, a cleric of the Church of England who has been appointed parson of an upper-middle class village. Almost immediately, he begins to offend the sensibilities of most of his parishioners, for Reverend Smallwood is genuinely concerned about the larger (i.e., unchurched) world beyond the church walls. Confronted with a community that prefers its Christianity safe, un-involved and non-threatening---or at least not requiring any real change in one's mindset about relating to the secular world---he digs in his heels and hews to the Scripture. Eventually, a wealthy woman in the parish is convicted by Jesus' teachings about giving to the poor and having treasure in heaven. Having "seen the light" she turns from being Smallwood's staunchest enemy to his bankroller, and gets on board with Smallwood's plan to provide free food to the local poor. Signs are put up announcing the plan and inviting all to come.

So far, so good.

The trouble is, the wording of the invitation is ambiguous, and soon the majority of those seeking the church's handouts are the town's middle-class inhabitants. Nor is this humble charity; the items offered by Smallwood's program include the sort of luxuries that most people of that time and place would be hard-pressed to secure even with steady incomes (fine wines, deluxe chocolates, expensive cigars). Predictably greed emerges, with the free-loading church folk coming to blows over who has received the larger share of the "goodies". And businesses grind to a halt as the local butcher, fishmonger, baker and others find that no one wants to pay for their wares when they can get them free from the church.

Things only get worse with the passage of time. Smallwood's church superiors try to have him declared mentally incompetent, but accidentally consign the wrong man, a fellow parson with the same last name. Smallwood then bashes Tranquilax, a popular feel-good medicine, as nothing more than a worthless imitation of sufficiency in Christ; within weeks, Tranquilax sales are in sharp decline and the company that produces it faces bankruptcy. In an interesting twist, it turns out that wealthy woman is the widow of the company's founder, and her worldly son is understandably agitated at how Smallwood is ruining his business. Finally, the town turns on Smallwood: its inhabitants are nearly all unemployed thanks to his "charity", and the free food distrubution has been stopped abruptly. Smallwood is forced to leave town or suffer a lynching, and as if that weren't enough, he discovers that the indigents who he has been boarding have suddenly disappeared after cleaning out his house.

I won't give away the ending, except to hint that Smallwood ends up deciding that earth is not the place for him to preach the gospel. Consider that this film was put out during the same decade that saw the moon race, and you can guess well enough where he ends up.

I imagine the first reaction of most committed Christians would be, "Well, that's Hollywood for you; you can't trust them to offer an unbiased look at the Truth." And looking back over the past thirty or forty years of cinema, you'd have a point. Christians are portrayed as hypocritical and narrow-minded, concerned more with appearances than substance, missing the forest for the trees in terms of general morality, and all too eager to compromise their message in order to fit in or stay culturally relevant. If you've seen Saved! (2004), you know that this is the general presentation.

But this film is much different. Smallwood isn't putting on airs and he isn't trying to please men; he's actually quite concerned about doing things God's way, and he displays the sort of humble concern for the unfortunate that most of us suspect is the right way to live but aren't willing to fully embrace. Most importantly, he's willing to act on that concern, even if it offends other "Christians". The trouble is that when he does so, it leads to unforseen consequences that eventually sabotage his good works. Caring for the poor is noble and godly, but what happens when, while caring for them, we ourselves become impoverished, and no one is around to help us?
If our local church decided to act as it ought to, and we knew that these actions would put most of us in the poorhouse ourselves, would we be willing to keep living that way?

Interestingly enough, the most damning portrayal of humanity in this film is not of the parson; it's of the poor. Rather than being grateful for the kindness shown them, they feel entitled to it, and become even more demanding. To them the church is not a beacon of hope for living but a bastion of naivety waiting to be exploited; they will take from it what they need and then move on, without any thought to those who have provided for them. Indeed they seem to have a better understanding than Smallwood of how the world really works, and they are in a sense "wise" enough not to spoil a good thing by becoming more than superficially religious. When there is nothing left for them, they depart in search of greener lands.

To this one might say, "Well, if that happens, God will feed us and clothe us and take care of us. And He will work on the hearts of the poor to change them." And one can certainly hope that He does. But what if nothing seems to happen? What then?

Perhaps the ending offers a clue. When we last see (or hear) of Smallwood, he has "slipped the surly bonds of earth" and is singing old hymns to the cosmos (meanwhile, down below, the other Smallwood has become the church's new pastor, and has had to start at square one). You could look at this in two ways. On the one hand, maybe the film is saying that true Christianity isn't fit for this world; there are too many things that can go wrong. Better to keep your religion minimal (i.e., church every few Sundays, plus Christmas and Easter) and your living secular.

On the other hand...maybe it's trying to say that this world isn't fit for Christianity; that there are too many half-hearted, self-centered "Christians", and too many self-centered non-Christians, for it to work. In the end, maybe only out there, where there's no one but God and man alone, is where it's perfect. And if that's the goal we're aiming for (pilgrims in a strange land, waiting for a final Heavenly abode), maybe that's just about right.

Still, we do what we can here on earth.
Peter Sellers as The Reverend Smallwood

Thursday, September 11, 2008


On the seventh anniversary of 09/11, it's all too tempting to editorialize on the events of that day, thinking that the passage of seven years tends to draw some closure, a platform if you will, on which one could pontificate. Evil presidents, evil oil magnates, evil governnments, evil terrorists, the history of Muslim fanaticism, the history of democratic fanaticism, the history of financial fanaticism, the bravery of the passengers, the baseness of the murderers, the structural integrity of tall buildings, the structural integrity of chief executives, the cost of large standing armies on foreign soil, et cetera, ad nauseam...plenty of things to discuss.

But my guess is that most people are already doing this...or have already done this...or are already tired of hearing about it. And I can't claim to have exhaustively researched the topic---either from the Commission report or from the ravings of conspiracy theorists' websites---so what good would it do anyway?

Instead, I'll just recount my own experiences that day. (Be forewarned, these are dull in the extreme; there's nothing in them on which you could pin either a yellow commemorative ribbon...or a white feather.)

At the time I was twenty-four and between jobs, living with my parents. The temp agency which had been trying against mighty odds to stick me somewhere (I was an indifferent admin assistant, showing up for jobs whenever I felt like it, taking long lunch breaks, and just generally being a less-than-desirable temp) didn't have an interview scheduled for that day, so I woke up late (sometime between nine and ten) and stumbled downstairs.

Normally I would have headed my shameless freeloader arse straight for the kitchen to get some breakfast. That day, though, I went straight into my folks' bedroom and turned on the TV. I'm not sure why I did that; in some remote part of my mind, I may have been curious about the weather schedule.

I didn't have my contacts in, and the analog TV picture came on and came into resolution very slowly. It took a few minutes to register that I was seeing a pair of buildings on fire. It took a few minutes more to realize that they were in New York. It took a few minutes more to realize that they were the twin towers. After settling on that, I hung around until the teletype at the bottom of the screen flashed something about airplanes (I didn't read the whole message).

My first thoughts were, "Oh...I guess someone accidentally flew a plane into one of the buildings...kinda like that B-25 flying into the Empire State Building in 1945." By that time, the teletype had flashed past, and I had to wait another minute or so before the operative word "terrorists" appeared.

Naturally I was shocked, but I can't say it was profoundly so. Just a mild sort of dismay. (Had I been in New York, the dismay might not have been so mild.)

From there, I wandered over to my sister's house, and with her and her husband and their three kids---two nieces, one nephew---I watched the towers fall down. At some point I called my friend Alex on the phone, thinking that maybe he hadn't heard of it (which didn't make a lot of sense even at the time, but I guess I just wanted to talk to someone outside my family circle).

After it was clear the towers had collapsed, I went home, changed clothes, drove over to an Arby's and picked up some lunch. I tried to do something constructive the rest of the day (reading, sleeping, playing guitar, etc.) but just couldn't commit to anything.

Later that day Mom and Dad got home from work, and we had dinner (vegetable & beef soup, I think). Some time later I went to bed, and slept without any trouble.

The next day is a blur, but I don't think anything significant happened.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Buildings and Mountains - The Republic Tigers

Another Paste Magazine gem, from Volume 43.

A melancholy little number, sort of a cross between The Cure, Cat Stevens, and early 80's ABBA (say, around the time of Super Trooper), with a nice key change between the verse and the chorus. Some of the video evokes the desert segments of the video for Men At Work's "Down Under" (1983).


Thursday, September 4, 2008


To my devoted readers (all one or two of you):

Very little posting in this last month, mainly because I've moved yet again, as well as the fact that I've been stuyding for the GRE. But...something good has happened:

If you recall in one of my first few posts, I was wondering about what direction to take in life. In the past four months, that's been clarified: I've decided I can't keep doing the band (mainly because driving to Douglasville every week is hard on my wallet), so I gave them my two weeks' notice, and I realized that the book idea may translate nicely into a master's thesis.

So there it is: I will try the higher education tack.

Don't you love it when things get simplified?

I sure do.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Redefining "Success"

Last night I watched Dig! (2004), a fan-u-mentary (is that even a word?) about 90's rock band The Brian Jonestown Massacre from the perspective of Courtney Taylor, frontman for The Dandy Warhols. Most of the film concerns the love-hate relationship between the two bands---mostly keyed to the Warhols' greater degree of success in the music world---and the career-killing antics of Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe. It's a sad tale, really, done in a Behind The Music narrative style, except that the fifth-act
"Resurrection of the Artist" doesn't really take place. One line that especially stuck out was the following, from Adam Shore, A&R Agent for TVT Records, which tried mightily against long odds to make the Massacre successful:

"Major [record]labels lose money on nine out of every ten records, and they have one record out of ten that makes enough money to cover everything. And...I don't think there's another business in the world where you can have a 90-percent failure rate and still say you're successful. It's crazy..."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Hey Joe!...What Version Is This?"

At the risk of sounding like a senior citizen, it's truly amazing what you can find on YouTube. From the crass and uninspired to the amazing and inspirational, it's all there. And what better example of this than the umpteen-million different versions of that perennial murder ballad, "Hey Joe":

Although the song seems to have been around for a while, the first recorded version of it was in mid-1966, by L.A.-based garage band The Leaves. Their version is, not surprisingly, garage-y, at a fairly brisk tempo.*

Skipping the best-known version (we'll get to that later), fast forward one year, to the Monterey Pop Festival (June 16 - 18, 1967), and we have The Byrds mangling it in a rush, with poor David Crosby's vocals straining out a melody that just...doesn't work.

Of course, progressive rock has to have it's day in court, so Deep Purple embellishes the hell out of it with a vibe that's a cross between Phantom Of the Opera and Hang 'Em High.

Probably one of the strangest versions is one by 80's New-Waver Willy Deville (ex Mink Deville). Next time you're at Rio Bravo, see if the mariachi band will humor you with this rendition.

If the titular "Joe" of the song ever lived long enough to suffer through bad early 1990's fashions, he might have found a kindred spirit in Seal, who gives us this version, backed up by Pink Floyd fretmeister David Gilmour.

Neo-folkie/American/roots troubadour Martin Sexton has a lot of fun with his rendition, even scat-singing the lead-guitar part of the "definitive" version we all know and love...

...Which brings us to the Big One.

Type in "hey joe hendrix" and YouTube will spit out a whopping 1,640 videos (as of this writing). Suffice it to say, most of these are homemade efforts, and only a handful will really be worth listening to (though I have to applaud the bravery involved in showcasing one's skills, limited though they might be, for the critics of hysperpace). about this one?

* At 1:16 and 2:26, we hear Jim Pons' ascending bass figure that Hendrix apparently found interesting enough to borrow.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Independence Day - We Got It All Wrong!

...Or so says the late Mr. Adams:

This probably explains his unpopularity (or at least the
lack of a monument in Washington).

Monday, June 30, 2008

Scar That Never Heals video

...Proof that stop-time animation didn't die out with Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer".

Not a bad song, either.


Monday, June 2, 2008

The late, great Originator (1928 - 2008)

Mr. Diddley, looking very A-Go-Go:

Well, there's one more I never got to see live in my lifetime...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Post-Indiana Jones thoughts

My buddy Shep-dawg, Shep-dawg's wife, and I just went and saw the new Indiana Jones tonight. I'll admit I wasn't too hopeful going into it, having grown up with the original trilogy and having a firm idea in my mind of Indy as a particular person, and now having to face him as an old man.

However, it wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. In particular the first thirty to forty minutes (in which our hero survives kidnapping by Russian agents, a running fight through the same warehouse featured at the end of Raiders---and a not-to-subtle nod to the treasure he uncovered in that episode---and the sudden splitting of atoms) was pretty good. Heck, I've seen worse (such as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or The Mummy 2).

Anyway, a few thoughts (WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW!):

1. Even though she's made a career out of convincing portrayals against type (an elf, an English queen, the late, great Kate Hepburn), it's just a little hard to buy Cate Blanchett as a Russian dominatrix. Hopefully this won't be the first in a series of compromises for the sake of commerce. I know, I know, artists have to eat too, and the "best" and most interesting serious parts aren't exactly as common as the throwaway action film bit-parts. Still...

2. Apparently Lucas and Spielberg didn't want to risk having our aged Mr. Ford try to maintain the audience's interest on his own. Why else would they throw in Cate, Shia, Karen Allen (see #3), Ray Winstone, and perpetual loony-type John Hurt for good measure? Actually it seems that this is something that has increased over the course of the previous three movies. In Raiders it was mostly a contest between Indy and his French antagonist; the other actors were simply there to hold their places. In Temple of Doom, we had comic relief from Indy's Chinese sidekick, and the romantic tension with Kate Capshaw. In Last Crusade, it was almost as much about Sean Connery's character as it was his son's. If they go for Indiana Jones #5, then it will probably swell to Oceans 11/12/13 proportions, with half-a-dozen or more side players supporting Indy (and probably mostly getting in the way, much like the above actors did in this one).

3. Regarding Karen Allen? Well, to put it politely, age hasn't been kind to her. There, I said it. So shoot me...

4. Indiana Jones #4 ends with...a wedding? Hmmm; well, I guess if Lucas and Spielberg really want this to be the last one, then we might as well tie up that particular loose end. If they try to go for a #5, though, then they'll probably have to do some lame Oceans 13-esque plot manipulation to get the wife out of the picture for the action...'cause, I mean, Karen Allen as a viable sidekick on another adventure?...Naw, I don't think so...

5. The closing scenes suggest the faint possibility of Indy's son stepping up to the plate for the next run (if there is any). Hopefully, not; Lucas and Spielberg would do well to leave this thing alone for good.

When Temple of Doom came out in 1984, Lucas mentioned in an interview that he chose the particular time period for the storie(s) (the 1930's) because the non-Western world still had a great sense of mystique and romance about it back then. I would argue that this is no longer so; the Internet, globalism, and international commerce seem to have shrunken our world to less-than-mysterious proportions. Thus, in an age where high-tech computer systems can tell us more about ancient civilizations in five minutes than we could learn in a lifetime through maps, books and traipsing through the jungle, the old-fashioned archeologist Indiana Jones really doesn't seem to be all that relevant anymore.*

Still, we go to see him at the movies anyway. Maybe we're all incurable romantics at heart, even in the 21st century.

* Famous last words, probably.

Friday, May 23, 2008

When it pays to pay your dues (musically)...

In this month's issue of Paste, Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard had an interesting comment in an essay about a meditative retreat he made recently to Big Sur, California. Future rockers, take note:

I can unequivocally say that I'm so glad we were one of the last bands to break before the Internet got crazy. We actually had some time to develop. I hate hearing people say, "I went and saw this band---everybody's saying they're really great---but I went and saw them last night and they weren't any good live." You know why they weren't good? Because they've never done more than five shows in a row, and now they're two weeks into a tour---their first national tour. They don't know how to get to the shows, they don't know how to sleep right, they don't know where to find food. They don't understand how to make a set list somebody cares about. You can't blame these bands for not being great yet. We were terrible when we first started playing.

So it does seem that there's a price for the instant celebrity that YouTube affords.

Of course, he's quick to add:

...But I don't want to go back to that period where we were literally eating mustard sandwiches in West Texas because we didn't have money.


Monday, May 19, 2008

A short musical diversion...

First came the jug...

Then came the jug band...

Then came the electric jug band (circa 1966)*

* The jug is the whittle-whittle-whittle-whittle sound you hear floating in the background, underneath the guitars and drums.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It keeps me in the 21st century...

Those of you who know me well know how I incline towards
the older and the historical. I've never been able to explain
why this is or how exactly it got started; I just know that
that's who I am.

This fascination with older things spills into my music choices
as well. If you were to look at my CD collection (not my
iTunes; see post #2 below), you would probably be amazed
at the fact that between 80-90% of the titles predate 1980.
Turning from the collection towards me, you'd probably start
to see less of a normal person and more of something
resembling a a caveman...or a dinosaur . You might even see
Steve Buscemi's obsessive-compulsive character from
Ghost World...(God, I hope not)...

But all is not lost! There is one thing that keeps Dan, to
some degree, firmly grounded in the 21st century:

(Forgive the Fiona Apple cover; it was the only image
I could find online. And no, I never went to Lilith

Paste Magazine is an Atlanta-based indie music
rag that's been in publication since 2002. I came
across it through my once-passionate pursuit of
all things related to that perennial Athens-based
fave, Bill Mallonee and the Vigilantes of Love.
(Bill and VOL had their last few albums primarily
distributed by Paste).

Paste is what Rolling Stone once was, before the
latter succumbed to its own delusions of grandeur:
an honest, contemporary music/film/theater/art
periodical that refuses to kowtow to the gods of
almighty commerce. You won't find laudatory
interviews with the brainless denizens of MTV,
complete with the requisite t&a shots to titillate
the college- and under crowd; articles about
current events written by self-important talking
heads; reviews of recent albums by artists who
should have done us all a favor by hanging it up
long ago (Nickelback, Velvet Revolver, et al).
What you will find is some very good writing
about little-known artists, albums you could
kick yourself for not having heard of, coming
trends that won't be heralded by the usual
sources (and departing trends that are helped
to the door with a boot in the backside)...and,
most importantly, music worth listening to, in
the form of an enclosed CD (usually 20 to 22
tracks per issue).

There is the usual fare (which no one is calling
"alternative" any more, and has yet to be
definitively labelled as anything in particular) to
be sure, but there's plenty more as well:
balls-to-the wall rockers, acoustic ballads,
ethereal soundscapes, pop tunes, soul records
that could just as easily have come out of Stax
in the mid-60's, fusion pieces, jazz (of the non-
"easy listening" variety), blues, country that
ranges from tart, low-fi and tangy to evocative
and wide open...just about everything. Even
hip-hop (if that's your really ain't mine.)

The one thing unifying these two-dozen tracks
is quality. You'd be hard-pressed to give any
issue's CD a spin and conclude that this song
or that one should have been left off. Best of
all, everything is new; no reissues or classic
remasters here. Good taste is getting harder
and harder to come by, but thus far it seems
that Paste still has it. And hopefully, will have
it for years to come.

Pick up one the next time you're in the local
Borders or Barnes & Nobles, preferrably
before we enter the coming "age beyond
bookstores" (when all of this will be a fond
memory). Open yourself up to the possibility
of being pleasantly surprised in an increasingly
unpleasant world.

If nothing else, it'll keep you in the 21st

Kicking myself...

I just realized I misspelled the name when I first entered it. Instead of "blog", it's "block". I guess I was thinking too fast, and typed in the -ck part of reckon at the end of the -blo part of blog.

Oh well, too late to change.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

At least Pat Boone was straightforward about what he did... often has some really great, thought-provoking articles. And this one's just too good to pass up:

Sometimes, in my more irreverent moments, I have to wonder how much fun Heaven will actually be, if this is the best we can do.

Monday, May 5, 2008

What next?

In these troubled economic times, the
insurance industry provides employment, if
not satisfaction, for which I ought to be more
thankful than I sometimes am. Having had
almost a full year (2001) of unemployment,
I can testify to the fact that an unenjoyable
job is better than no job at all.

Still, it's not exactly the sort of thing I'd love
to be doing for the rest of my life. But for the
longest time, I didn't have a clue as to what
I'd rather do. As of now, though, I have no
fewer than three options before me, all equally
attractive; the toughest thing is figuring out
which one to follow through on:

Firstly, there is getting a master's degree.
Considering how little the average bachelor's
degree means in the modern world, this is
almost a necessity if one wants to stay just
a step ahead of underemployment. It would
also look better for another job I'm sure that
I would enjoy, if they'd only hire me: the
National Park Service.

The biggest fear here is, "What if I
spend a lot of time and money on this, and it
doesn't change anything?" It's hard to see it
not changing something, even if it's my own
perception of life, but, worry being the
constant companion he is...

Secondly, my little rock-star fantasy could
come to fruition: after two years of rehearsing
every week and playing around every once in
a while, there seems to be a consensus towards
trying to make our little endeavor something
that we could make a living off of. Right now,
the obvious thing to do is try to get more
bookings, some CD sales, and some kind of
media exposure; later, depending on how well
that does, the question of "O.K., do we all pack
in our day jobs?" would be inevitable. Thankfully,
we're not there yet (there I go clutching at
security again).

But...what if we do this another two years and
nothing comes of it? Will I regret having spent
that time schlepping all over creation, stuffed
into clubs with postage-stamp-sized stages,
trying to reach people who would probably
rather be left alone to drink and brood?
Odds are we won't "change the world"
through song; heck, we probably won't even
record a hit single. Will I consider that
lost time?

(It's funny; right when I got out of college,
and could hardly play a lick, this is what I
wanted to do, inspired by a Buffalo Springfield
bio, no less (!) But I didn't know where to
start, nor, objectively, was I competent
enough at playing to reasonably expect it
would work. Now that I've got twelve years
of playing under my belt, a reasonable amount
of competence at it, and a group to do it with,
I'm hesistant. Screwy, ain't it?)

Thirdly, I could follow an idea I got last fall
and try to write a book. It would be non-fiction
(no surprise), and with a historical theme
(again, no surprise), and would give me
perhaps the best chance to make a semi-
permanent impact on the world (since
professors die and are forgotten, and bands
break up and fade out of least
until VH1 subjects them to the humiliation
of strained reunion concerts and Where
Are They Now? specials).

But...I wonder if I'm really cut out to do it.
"Who are you kidding?" my mind asks, in
strident tones. "You...a writer?!? You haven't
written anything since college term papers...
and even those weren't all that good! You
took all of one English class...and yet you
somehow think you're qualified to tell the
world in print something that's worth
knowing?!? Stick to insurance!!"

Faced with these three choices, the immediate
temptation is to try to do them all: research
for the book (and write it in my spare time),
while playing in the band most weekends and
studying online for a degree. The reality,
though, is that this kind of coordination can't
last indefinitely; something has to give if
you want to keep your sanity...or your meager
social circle. Or, I could hope that someone
else writes the intended book, and that the
bandmates suddenly change their minds and
opt to keep things non-committal, leaving only
the degree option open; that would
certainly simplify things.

But that wouldn't be as much of a challenge/
adventure, now, would it?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

31 is...

I turned 31 back in January, which didn't feel any different from 30, except for an extra year. 30 is of course one of those milestones of life, at which certain things are supposed to have happened that are considered to be milestones on the road of growing up. I'm not sure that I ever had a definite idea of what 30 was supposed to look like when I was younger, but I guess the usual life goals would apply:

1. Married with kids;

2. A well-paying job that was also enjoyable;

3. Some sort of permanent residence (although I don't know if I was distinguishing between an apartment and a mortgage payment in my own mind);

4. Plenty of well-connected, fun and interesting friends to hang out with; and

5. Whatever else would fit with that age, being middle-class.

But, oh, how life throws kinks in our grand (or vague) plans! The reality of 31 is a good bit different. But rather than gripe about what hasn't worked out, or trumpeting what has, I figured I'd just list everything that came to mind about being at this point in my life. This include the good things, the bad things, and the indifferent things, and is by no means exhaustive.

So, 31 is:

An 8-hour a day, 40-hours-a week job that thankfully
doesn't require going into Atlanta to get there.

A closet full of collared knit shirts (mostly blue),
button-ups, Merrell slip-ons, khakis and jeans.

A paid-off, used 2001 Ford Focus that has required
more service work than my previous two cars combined.

A realization that 11 p.m. is now bedtime, and that
midnight is "way late" rather than (as it was in college)
"just getting warmed up".

A realization that the 33 to 34-inch waist of high school
and college is long gone, that the 35-inch waist of adulthood
is probably here to stay, and that if I don't start learning the
wisdom of "moderation in all things", the 36-inch waist
may be the new, unwelcome (permanent) replacement.

A dry period in my dating life, which has never been well-
watered anyway: two girlfriends in college (less than half
a year each), one at age 22 (old college semi-flame), one
at age 29 (less than a full year), and a lot of unattachment
in between.

A suspicion that I might very well spend the next 5, 10,
or 20 years going to bed alone.

A social circle that consists of four fellow singles (one of
whom lives out of state, one in another country, and one
with a limited calendar of availability), two married couples,
and little else besides.

An immediate family that has assumed ever greater
importance, if for no other reason than to have people
to do fun things with.

A nice lump-sum in the bank (CDs and money market
accounts) that isn't quite equal to a down payment on a
house...and, unless the market continues its downward
slump for the next three or four years, might never be.

A bachelor's degree that has so far availed me very little,
other than at least keeping me out of the unemployment

Two nieces and one nephew that have convinced me that,
even if I never produce any offspring of my own, uncle-hood
ain't too bad.

Two electric guitars, two acoustics, a Line-6 modeling amp,
Fender heavy picks...and pages upon pages of lessons,
most of which I haven't gotten to yet.

A blues/rock band that lets me live out my little rock star
fantasy...without feeling the need to shred.

A working computer, and time to surf the 'Net.

The satisfaction of having two videos on, the
technological lump.

A profound knowledge of how expensive central heating
in a three-level leased house can be, and the knowledge
that, if worse comes to worse, I can get by with sweaters
and a space heater.

A realization that reading, which I positively detested in my
childhood, TV-junkie years, is now one of the most enjoyable
things I do.

A realization that, the older I get, the more it takes to impress
me...about anything.

A Thursday-night Bible group that has shattered my earlier,
arrogant belief that younger leaders (mid 20's) cannot
possibly effectively disciple older folks (me being one of the
older ones); easily, the highlight of any week.

A job that pays enough to pay the bills, isn't especially
enjoyable (but isn't intolerable either), and that I can leave
behind when I leave the office.

The knowledge that I'm only a few thousand dollars
short of paying off my student loan...and thus being
completely debt-free.

The satisfaction of Sunday afternoon naps, and weekday
evenings hiking around Kennesaw Mountain.

The confidence in knowing that, if John Adams, the all-
but-forgotten 2nd President of these United States, can
manage to get his own miniseries, then maybe there is
hope for all of us "also rans".

The realization that Christians often scare me more than
non-believers do, even though I count myself amongst
the former.

The joy in knowing that despite the above, God's truths are
still inviolate.

Keeping busy on weekends by doing housework,
volunteering at Kennesaw Mountain, and waiting for my
"big break", if there is one.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is 31.

How about you?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

10 Things

Seems to be pretty popular for people to post 10 things about themselves that even close friends might not know. So, for lack of a better, topic, here goes:

1. I've never learned how to ride a bike. Yes, you read that correctly: never learned. The most I can recall is that my folks tried to teach me when I was four/five/six or somewhere around there, and I wasn't having it. One too many falls, one too many skinned knees, and I finally said, "I'll wait 'till I get a CAR!" Everyone says I ought to go ahead and learn it now. I agree, but I haven't yet seemed to find the time (or the motivation) to do it.

2. I think chips and salsa is the nectar & ambrosia of the gods, especially when the salsa's got a moderate amount of cilantro in it.

3. I've never broken a bone...not surprising when you consider that the only sport I played in high school was cross country/track.

4. I'm a complete prude (but see #5 below): never smoked, never did drugs, never had a one-night stand. I've had plenty of opportunities (especially at college) for doing all three, but I just never gave in. Guess I was raised better (please pardon that last little bit of self-righteousness...)

5. Notwithstanding #4, I got in trouble no fewer than four times back in one school year (4th grade) for dropping the f-bomb (on the bus, on the playground, etc.). I was foul-mouthed little hellion, for sure. My folks must have wondered where they went wrong, because in 31 years, I've never heard either one of them even utter that word, so I can't blame them for it. Nowadays this is probably par for the course in elementary schools, but for the time period (mid-80's) it must have been quite shocking for everyone involved.

6. I'm one of the few people in my age group (i.e., middle-class, American Christian) who's never really been into the band U2. I don't dislike them, I've just never been a big fan. I don't even own one of their "Best Of" compilations. Surely there must be something wrong with me...

7. I have so little upper body strength, it's pitiful. I mean, just barely enough to keep my head upright. Notwithstanding this, I once held my own in an impromptu wrestling match with a friend a few years ago, a friend who's a good three or four inches taller than me and in better shape; on the other hand, he was a little tipsy at the time, and I was as sober as a judge. Might have made a difference...

8. I watched "The Real World: Hawaii" religiously when it first came on TV. Then I lost interest in reality TV and never watched another one again. I can't explain it, even today.

9. I had to actually force myself to write the "BTW" in the first post, because I never, ever abbreviate, even in quick e-mails; I always write everything out.

10. #9 may have to do with the fact that I don't text. I also don't own an iPod (still stuck in CD stage), and my mobile phone has zero other options (and I have to admit, I kinda like it that way). Technologically savvy, I ain't.

Jumping on the bandwagon...and trying not to fall off...

Well it seems a number of my friends and acquaintances are doing it, and I've often thought/been told that I should keep some sort of diary/journal/log of what's going on with me...So here it is, the blog of Dan.

(BTW, the blog title is to humor a friend of mine, Mr. Friberg (Tom), in case he stumbles across this while
trying to save the world out in the Lone Star state. Mr. Friberg, being originally from the wilds of Minnesota, seems to have always been fascinated by Southern sayings, especially "I reckon", which he took to saying a lot, as he's wont to do, whenever we hung out. Now he's probably into Texas sayings...whatever those might be; "We do it BIG out here!" being an obvious one, probably.)