Saturday, December 30, 2006

YESSSSSSSSSSSS.

It's officially been confirmed. Indy 4 has begun. Let the fist pumping ensue. No one can make a grown man laugh, jump around in their theater chair, spill popcorn on their neighbor that they've never met while simultaneously high-fiving them... like the dynamic film duo George Lucas and Stephen Speilberg.

Favorite Scene from Indie Films. Go.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

My Santa Debut

Hornswaggled. That's what those old western chaps used to call getting into something that you didn't want to get into but you didn't really have a choice. My Catholic friend argues that he was Hornswaggled into "getting Saved" at a Protestant Church.

"Yeah, I was visiting a protestant church with a friend. The invitation rolled around and the preacher asked us to close our eyes and then told us if we wanted to go to Heaven instead of Hell then we had to ask Jesus in our hearts. Then he asked us to 'pray this prayer' with him if you didn't want to burn eternally. So I did. Then he asked us to raise our hand if we prayed it, with every head bowed and every eye closed. So I raised my hand, after I had prayed the get-out-of-hell-free prayer. Then he told us to open our eyes and to seal the deal we had to go down front. Hornswaggled I tell you."

Well something like that story took place and I was 'elected' to be Santa. I knew something was up when Amber's cousin began circling my recliner like an old buzzard. He waited for my mouth to open ever-so-slightly as I began my dozing and went in for the kill.

"Hey, how would you like to make a bunch of kids laugh and be happy this year?"

"I'd love to." Says I, half asleep from the Sedative in the turkey, now coursing through my sleepy veins and caressing my eyelids into a peaceful half-mast. With those three words floating from my mouth like a Sunday morning comic caption, I knew I had signed the papers. Santa had come to my Chimney and there was no closing the flue to prevent his big butt from invasion. Faust was to Devil as Seth was to Cousin of Amber.

It was actually pretty darn cool. I have never been in that position before. A place where a 3 year old boy thought I could actually work a miracle. He kept patting his chest and in an excited voice he kept repeating "Me Spider...Me Spider... Web."

He believed with all of his heart that I could give him the ability to shoot spider webs out of his wrist. I almost said "little fella, if I could do that, do you think I'd be flying down-wind of a bunch of reindeer butts every year? I'd be swinging skyscraper to skyscraper my-tubbybutt-self"

But then I started thinking how I wished I had that kind of faith in God about other things. There was no suspended disbelief, no disbelief, only belief in this little guy. The belief was so great in him that I almost believed that I could do it myself.

No wonder The Lord said we should imitate their faith.

It's weird that I had to be Hornswaggled into dressing up like Santa and be reminded, or rather introduced to that kind of faith by a cute little 3 year old who wanted to be Spider man.

At my best I have a tiny portion of that faith.

Sick as Dog

Sorry. I had fully intended to post through the holidays but Nature it seems, as tamed that valliant notion. I spent the little energy that I had over at Brant's excellent Blogging Manor. Hope you get the time to go over there and check it out. I think he went and got Religion.

In the spirit of Brant's decision to remodel his current... well, you read it. And because of the state of my nose and my bodily aches I would like to post a blog re-run from back when many of you weren't around these parts.

It is called "The Menu."

Waiter: So what’ll you have tonight?

Diner: Well, my stomach’s a little funny tonight from some bad experience with some raw fundie Baptist chicken so what do you have on the lighter side?

Waiter: well, we’ve got some Presbyterian catfish that is light and liberal. Not to jarring, fluffy but with a spice that will tingle your palate as if it has depth, oh and it’s made with REAL wine (wink) not that grape juice that they cook the Baptist chicken in.

Diner: Well, I’m not too sure about that, I mean, yeah my tummy hurts but, I am not really liberal and I am kind of allergic to fish, but I do like me some wine. (winking and Ribbing the waiter)

Both: (subdued laughter and then they both clear their throats and regain composure)

Waiter: (dignified) I tell you what, we can keep the Wine from the Presbyterian catfish and maybe throw on some Methodist tofu. It tastes just like the Baptist chicken but it is not made of Chicken its tofu. So you get the feel of a Baptist chicken but without the fundamental, raw dogmatic meat that goes with it.

Diner: awwwe I’m not so sure, maybe….hey this Nondenominational Philly sandwich sounds pretty yummy. Some fundamental flavor but I can still get a little crazy and go dancing after. Wahoo!! (Hands start to wave around then becomes self-aware and regains composure) *Ahem* Sorry.

Waiter: Quite alright. Well, I have to be honest, the Philly sounds good on the menu but you really never know what your going to get out of one of those non-denom Phillies. When in reality, isn’t non-denominational really a denomination? I mean, come on. It kind of defeats the purpose to call yourself non-denominational if you don’t want to call yourself a denomination… so like what if I said, my name is “I don’t have a name” every one would call me “I don’t have a name" And in the end it just ends up tasting like, well, a regular Philly... and then...

Diner: Okay, okay, …. I get it. Well I guess we will just keep looking here. Do you have anything that’s not so War oriented? I mean, too much of that stuff is hell on my acid reflex.

Waiter: I have just the thing; we are having a special on Anabaptist and Quaker Casserole. It is divine. We grow our Vegatables in the back for that one.

Diner: well I tell you what we are going to do. I think I’ll have the Presbyterian Catfish with the Baptist seasoning, then on my side salad I will have the Methodist tofu but I want it fried like the Nondenominational Philly is fried. And substituting for my Church of Christ raw veggies, I’ll have the Anabaptist Quaker Casserole, but can I still get the wine?

Waiter: (whispers) “sure” Just don’t tell My Boss.

Today’s blog outro should be the music to "The Grapes of Wrath" in the style of a Bach Brandenburg Concerto played by a String Quartet. Quartet players are dressed in 17th century Accoutrement. Powdered wigs and fake moles to boot.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Condoms to Go

I have never understood the marketing behind the name of this store. I mean, "Condoms to Go" as opposed to "Condoms for Here"

"Yes, I would like two condoms, for here please."

Yikes. Every time I pass this store I ponder this question. I can't think of anything that is purchased in a more "To Go" fashion than condoms. Sheesh. There is no clever pun to give. The title is the pun. Can you think of any?

And let's get honest. Most guys who are buying condoms are college students and high-school students who shouldn't be needing them in the first place. So when they do buy them they are usually in a hurry NOT to be seen and that's why they drop by the most remote Krusty-Mart they can find, in the middle of no-where where no one from their school, church or community would stumble upon them to recognize them.

I guess the same discresion could be said of buying Prep-H. Not a purchase you want broadcast. Maybe that pun would work. What if there was a store that said, "Got Rhoids? Rhoid Ointment to Go."

Nah, "Condoms’ to Go" is still worse.

A little something for you to ponder as you sip on your Nog.

No telling what might turn up on this blog people. Sorry.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

And So it Begins

The Christmas marathon has begun. We will be loading our SUV to the brim with clothes for an army, gifts for the chillins' and snacks that are healthy. I am particularly looking forward to loading this one bag of my wife's that is about as large as a small Volkswagen. I call it the back-crunchin’ #$%@#$!!!!!. I have thrown my back out hauling that (word that rhymes with sucker) in the truck at least twice.

So yonder it sits, in our bedroom green, huge and evil. Plotting its next move on my vertebrae.

I'm a comin' for you greeny. You and me Baby. I’ve been doing my yoga stretches and I've said my prayers. It's up to you to go easy or hard. You throw my back out this time around and I'm takin' some lighter fluid and a blowtorch to you. I'll dance around your burning polyester corpse like a wild Comanche.

Farwell Hot'n'muggy Houston. See you on the other side of the Wassail.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Finding Christ in Other Religions

I'm sorry. That was just too fun. Posting that title. I love those blog titles that get a person's blood boiling. I believe as Christians we should not fear other religions or converstations about other religions. We are at times so afraid that someone is going to convince us that their religion is true, we cover our ears and miss golden opportunities to share the Ultimate Truth with a searching soul. It is astounding the similarities found in other religions concerning, not only God, but even the Holy Trinity. For instance, take this conversation I had with a Hindu man named Egya (pronounced 'Egg ya') about the God/Goddess Shiva.

Me: Egya, tell me about the God/Goddess Shiva.

Egya: Well Shiva is the supreme God in Hindu. He is formless, timeless and spaceless. The word Shiva means "One who purifies everyone by the utterance of his name" or the Pure One. Some Hindus believe that Shiva is one of three aspects of God. Shiva is the Destroyer, Brahma is the Creator and Vishnu is the Preserver. We believe that Shiva sustains all life with His dance.

I went on to explain to Eggya how similar Christianity is to Hindu in so many ways. This peaked his interest.

Me: Did you know that Christianity also has a Trinity. We do not believe that they are three separate Gods to be separately worshiped but that they are three "persons" in one Nature. The Nicene Creed states that "We believe in One God of Heaven and the earth of all that is both seen and unseen" He is also, formless, timelss and spaceless because he is Spirit. It goes on to say "We believe in One Lord Jesus Christ, true God of True God. He is the Son of God, begotten meaning "of God" like your son has and shares many of your characteristics -but He is not made. He is true Light from True Light. We also believe in One Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life who comes from the Father to Son and Son to Father. He is also completely God because He is also eternal, not made. He is glorified and he testifies about the Son and Father."

The Holy Spirit is sometimes thought of the Love from the Father to the Son and Son to the Father. This would make sense to understand him as also God fully because John says that 'God is Love'

Egya: Wow. That is so interesting. Very similar to Hindu. Hard to get I think.

Me: Yes, Christians regard this as the most profound Mystery of our faith. We do not shy from it though as if it were something we cannot grasp. Instead of an insurmountable wall we think of God as a Gallery of Art that has no ending and no beginning.

Egya: I did not know that about Jesus. I knew you worshiped him as a god and thought of him as a prophet but I did not know you thought of him as transcending time and eternal.

Me: Yes, we believe that he is "The Word" of God as well as the Son of God. The "word" or in the Greek "Logos" is really sort of like "the wisdom" of God. We believe that Jesus, the Logos holds all things together. Check out John 1 says (opportunity to open up the old Bible) that " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. " Then in verse 8 it says "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory as the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth."

Egya; That is very beautiful. I had no Idea that there were so many similarities. I love these verses. How much was this bible?

Me: It was free, take it if you want. I will get another tonight.

Egya: Thank you! I will see you in class.

After a few weeks, Egya began attending a bible study and converted to Christianity after a few months.

This sounds like a cookie cutter circumstance but it is really how these things usually come up. God WILL come up in your conversations, ALWAYS. It is our job and goal to present Him as He is, but letting the Truth speak for Himself. Pretty powerful stuff.

We should approach all religions with a sense of respect. You will usually find a person who is seeking God in some way. There are truths found in each religion and when you find them you can use them to show them the Light that we believe they are looking for. God does the rest of the work for us. We just need to help them understand. The work is not that hard. We just tell. Jesus told us "Go and tell..." Not go and convince or go and judge.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Favorite Sesame Street Moment no. 4

Sesame Street: Forgetful Jones in "Oklahoma"
I am sorry the quality of this video isn't the best but it is the only one of this skit I could find. Still Hilarious. My mom, grandma, dad, sister... pretty much everyone, called me Forgetful Jones when I was a kid. I would do my homework and loose it on the bus. My mom had to resort to pinning my homework to my shirt. It was charachters like Forgetful that made life a little more bearable.


IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII KLAHOMA!!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Blog

So I have started a new Blog. It will be for all of you who are interested in Music and Music History. It is essentially a study blog but I will try and make it as readable and non-comatose-inducing as possible. You see, I am a bit of a blogging addict. So I figure, if you can't beat it, make it do your homework. So here it is. "Big-time Music Nerd-fest Blog" Feel free to drop by and harass.

Finally

My wife has been gone for about a week and a half and I am a big baby. I have avoided whining and moaning about her absence because there are other guys in this blogosphere who have to be apart from their wives for much longer, but I have reeeeaaaallllly missed her. I am picking her up from the airport tonight and I feel like I am picking her up for a first date.

Man was not meant to be alone. Especially this man.

The Farmer is a Poet

“Agricola est Poeta.” Someone recently asked me what this means. I learned this Phrase in the 9th Grade. It was the first Latin sentence that I ever spoke. It translates “The farmer is a Poet”

In the 9th grade that phrase sounded funny. “Ha! The farmer is a poet. What a stupid sentence…” As the years went on and I found myself reminiscing on what I did NOT learn in high school I was struck with this here phrase and the profound truth hidden in the five simple words.

The word Poet comes from a Greek word, which means, “to create.” We all create. That makes us all poets. That makes us all artists. The farmer, the engineer, the teacher, the baker, and the candlestick maker are all poets. A songwriter or painter should never consider him or herself on a different artistic plane than said farmer or especially someone doing something as simple and trivial as a carpentry (yeah right, lets see you build a chair). In truth the farmer came much later after the fallen sons of Adam had been scribbling on cave walls and chasing down deer and figuring out the wheel. The farmer is a bit up the evolutionary chain. In fact, that should be quite liberating for the poor tortured artist who feels “enslaved” to their art. If you are feeling down in the dumps because you can't express "your art" then go grab a pitchfork or hoe and move on to something less torturous and less primitive. Whenever you get to the place where you think you can't do anything else you are knocking on depression's door.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Listen to Lindsay Fuller

I recently rediscovered an artist that I really like. I had heard Linsdsay Fuller back when I was at Baylor and on a random visit to Common Grounds. I was really blown away by the poetic and lyric beauty. It was a breath of fresh air back when soda pop Britney and In Sync were polluting the waves. Have a listen if you get a chance.

Since it IS his 250th

Since it IS Mozart's 250th,

Misconceptions and Fun Facts about Mozart

Misconception no. 1: Mozart was penniless a poor money-manager. False. Mozart's spent much of his time paying his wife's medical bills and sending money back to his father and sister. His father was constantly giving him guilt-trips telling him things like "well I guess you don't mind that your father is going around with holes in his socks." He was strapped for cash but not penniless. He did this without scoring an important court-position nearly his whole life, all the while avoiding a Church appointment. When he finally nailed a minor court appointment he made the equivalent of 50k a year. He made money other ways. His Operas brought in some good cash-flow. He taught students and all his piano sonatas were written for students. He wrote 27 piano concertos. One piano concerto paid for a years rent. He wrote 27 and didn't make it to 40 years old. At times, he gave his money away freely but that hardly makes him the financial failure he has been made out to be.

Misconception no. 2: Salieri Killed Mozart. False. I loved that movie but that part wasn't true. The reason for his death is still a mystery. Some sort of fever and the bleeding that took place didn't help much. However, Salieri did go to the end of his life denying that he killed him.

Misconception no. 3: Mozart was buried in an unmarked paupers grave. False. Mozart was buried in a common grave according to the laws of the state at the time, not because he was dirt-poor and couldn't afford a crypt or tomb. It was raining so no one saw the actual place of burial. Some DNA testing has been done but it has been to no avail.


Fun Facts:

Mozart was believed to be less than 5 feet tall. Short little booger.

Mozart LOVED billiards and was very competitive.

Mozart was a potty-mouthed. He wrote dirty poop-joke letters to his sister all the time to gross her out. Normal brother stuff.

Mozart wasn't really in love with his wife. His true love was his cousin and they couldn't be married. Jerry Lee Lewis anyone?

Mozart did have a High and extremely audible cackle of a laugh. People could hear it in a crowd of laughter or coming down the hallway.

Mozart used his musical ability to tell a woman that stood him up for a date that he was displeased with her. He sat down at the paino at her home before starting her sister's lesson and improvised a short aria with these words sung at the top of his little lungs. "Any woman who doesn't love me can kiss my ass and its hole as well" (told you he was potty mouthed)

Mozart taught Beethoven a lesson a time or two. At first Mozart was unimpressed. (It took alot to impress him) Beethoven was a crude pianist, very noisy. Beethoven picked up on the yawning, decided to take action if he was to be accepted as a student and asked Mozart if he would give him a theme to improvise upon. Mozart was at first skeptical. It was well known that Mozart could out-improvise any living pianist so the 18-year-old Beethoven asking to impress him by improvisation was a bold move. It would be like a young basketball player asking Micheal Jordan if he could impress him with his slam-dunk. In the end Mozart obliged and was floored at Beethoven's improvisational abilities. He immediately ran into his billiards room to get his friends waiting on him to finsh and made Beethoven play the whole thing over. His famous statement was "Watch out for this one, he will make a great splash in the world" Some think this statement a myth but it is fun to believe nonetheless. Beethoven had to quit lessons because his mother was sick and near death.

One of my favorite scenes from the movie Amadeus.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Will of God. Part 1, Total Depravity = Total Confusion

I am convinced that believing in Calvin’s total depravity is the first step into the nebulous wondering state of “God… what is your Will???”

We have been taught since birth, if you have grown up in a non-Eastern Orthodox or Evangelical Church, that we are born totally evil. This is just not true. We are born sinful, but we are not born demons from hell, completely abandoned by God. That total abandonment only happened once to one man and he suffered that eternal moment it so we would not have to.

No, first we must come to terms with the Doctrine of Original Sin and get a better grasp of who we are, how we are made, and what exactly we did inherit and pass on.

The reason the idea of Total Depravity (a doctrine developed by Luther and further by Calvin) is harmful for knowing God’s will is because it sets us up with the premise that every desire we have or thing that we do is totally evil. We attempt to rectify the problem by saying “Well I must always do what contradicts my spontaneous desires or personal interest and then I can’t miss the mark of God’s will.”

Thomas Merton, probably the best Theologian to come out of America wrote in his wonderful book “Life and Holiness” these beautiful words.

“Human nature is not evil. All pleasure is not wrong. All spontaneous desires are not selfish. The doctrine of original sin does not mean that human nature has been completely corrupted and that man’s freedom is always inclined to sin. Man is neither devil nor an angel. He is not a pure spirit, but a being of flesh and spirit, subject to error and malice, but basically inclined to seek truth and goodness. He is, indeed a sinner: but his heart responds to love and grace. It also responds to the goodness and to the need of his fellow man.”

That is why you are very likely to find a non-Christian at times, the first person to help someone in a dire situation. One of the kindest people I know is an Atheist. How can this be? The doctrine of original sin states that all of their goodness comes from God because even though they do not know Christ, they are not totally deprived of the goodness of God. It is a shame that innate goodness so graciously given to them will not fully bloom without the Light of Christ inside of them, but they can still surely do good things and still surely die while doing good things. This is man's punishment for sin. Death, not total depravity. We are faced with death, each one. It isn't whether we do good things that get us to Heaven, it is whether we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Christ died for those sins that determines our destination.

That is why we can find goodness even in the worst of human beings. That is why we are called to love our enemies. There is some remnant of God in there. God did not totally abandon us. For us to know God we must have God in us to recognize Him. For without Him working in us, we could not know Him.

Christ the Savior

How do you adequately speak of something so beautiful? It is better to paint the picture or absorb the best that your imagination can paint for you. For some reason people get depressed this time of year. I know I do. I think it reminds the atheist that people still believe in at least the possibility of a God and his Love for mankind. It reminds the Christian of how much he or she HAS NOT done for others and for their family and how far they have wandered from the realization of God's love for them. When they remember and can see the Love expressed they are either humbled by how little they have done because of it or they become more hardened.

This Christmas will be different. I want to bask in the wonder of the incarnation again. I don't want to hear songs about red shoes, sappy stories about indifference. I don't want to fight stores over "Holyday vs. Christmas," however important this may be. I don't want to shop till I drop at Wal-mart or any other place that is pro Christ-mas. My energy goes elsewhere this Season. I want to be in awe. I want to be humbled by that moment in History. "The dawn of Redeeming Grace." I love that line in Silent Night. Man's walk in darkness had come to an end. His yearning for the Redeemer was to be filled. God The Holy Spirit descended on a young girl and real beauty and Light entered the world.

I believe in every man there lives this faint glimmer of hope. Hope that they are not alone. It is this light that is fanned this time of the year. We give to each other and in those tiny small acts of kindness holiness is born. And holiness of any kind is from God. And the truth of God is that Christ the Savior was born.

This Christmas I want to look in wonder at that moment again. I want to sing with my brothers and sisters and the Heavenly Hosts that Christ the Savior is born. I want to kindle that Hope.

"Man is like a harp unstrung, and the music of his soul's living strings is discordant, his whole nature wails with sorrow; but the son of David, that mighty harper, has come to restore the harmony of humanity, and where his gracious fingers move among the strings, the touch of the fingers of an incarnate God brings forth music sweet as that of the spheres, and melody rich as a seraph's canticle. Would God that all men felt that divine hand." - Spurgeon

Itunes is offering a free download of Sarah McLachlan singing Silent Night. I recommend it.

A Confession,The Wind-Tamer, and Rod Serling

Inspired by the Sesame Street memory-lane and a late-night viewing of Superman, I have decided to confess something.

I am going to confess something that I still do that I have done since I was ... well, since I can remember.

Here goes. This is a bit embarrassing. I still randomly... randomly... well how to say this...

Sometimes I randomly, and without reason, will try and ...USE THE FORCE. That’s right, you heard me. USE THE FORCE. In modern day scientific terms, I try and employ telekinetic power to move certain inanimate objects. I know for certain that it will never work, and Lord help me if it ever does. I would probably freak out. But, I can't help it. There it is. I might have mentioned this but I have been fascinated by this kind of superhuman ability even before I saw Star Wars. When I was 7 years old and before I had seen Luke or Obi Wan in action, I had the neighbor boy scared to death because I convinced him that I could control the wind.


7 Year Old Me: " He O'dell, I can control the wind"

6 Year Old Neighbor Boy, O'dell: "nuh uh."

Me: "Uh huh, watch"

Then I would wait till I heard the wind coming through the trees and move my hands with the swaying trees as they were blown by the wind. This understandably scared the begeebies out of the poor lad and he promptly ran home to his mommy. My mother got a call 20 or so minutes later. That conversation went something like this:

Phone: "riiiiiiinnnnng.... riiiiiiinnnnnng.... riiiiinnn"

My Mom: "Hello... Oh hello Charlotte... yes he is....what? He said he could control what?....

[Muffled noise from the phone and my mother turns her gaze my direction and gives me a dirty/puzzled look]

...Yes, I he will tell him. Just a second...

...Son, you come here right now and tell O’Dell that you cannot control the wind. What in the world..."



And so, I told the neighbor boy my secret. It took a bit of convincing because he was about a 12 on the gullible scale. But he finally came to understand my true humanity and earthbound, slight-of-hand technique.

Sometimes I look back on this and think it is kind of creepy, but then I find myself at 32 years old still, randomly trying to move objects. I have a hunch that the same impulse that inspires me still to randomly try and move things mentally is the same impulse that inspire men to build ships that will fly into space. I imagine if it ever goes away, if we ever get tired of dreaming, then I think I would know what it feels like to be ... well... hopelessly grown up.

Then I also wonder if that impulse, that desire to do things, control things is really a remnant of a missing power that really once was ours. Something inside of man is constantly pushing him to regain his dominion over nature and over himself. I think that impulse can inspire us to reach the most amazing things and then the most horrible things.

Isn't it funny how good something can be is directly proportional to how bad it can be. It took the greatest Angel to bring the greatest and original sin into existence. Then there is man. Man is capable of the most incredible feats. We can fly to the moon and split the atom but we can also bite down on a nut, have an allergic reaction and within minutes, we are dead. We are really in control of darn-near-to-nothing. The very little that we can do or control, we screw-up royally more often than not.

Most of the time we busy ourselves with maintaining the ILLUSION that we can control more things and people than we really do, and somehow, that striving to maintain that illusion can produce some good and inspiring things, but most of the time you just find yourself reaching for a remote control across the room and realize that it isn't about to fling rapturously into your hand, no matter how fancy you flick your wrist. It is going no where and neither are you unless you get up and get it, if you don't faint, fall, hit your head on the coffee table and end up in a coma. All because you got up to quickly and couldn't control the wind ... flowing into your body and into your blood.

Finally, if I could control this blog and the sound from your computer as you read this, I would end this blog with either the soundtrack to the opening credits to the original Star Trek TV show, or the Twilight Zone.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Space Watch

I am and always will be a space geek. When I was 8 years old I would sit in my bed at night and gawk at the pictures in Cosmos by Carl Sagan. When the Cassini Probe entered Titan a few years ago I was like a little kid at Christmas waiting to see the images from that enigmatic moon around Saturn. You can imagine how excited I was when I found out my bro-in-law got a job working for NASA.

He started working for them a few years back and through hard work and favorable circumstances he is already in a position that people have to work twice as long to get. He is an engineer and one of those guys that tells the Astronauts how to work that big arm that is on the Space Shuttle. It is a pretty stinking cool Job if you ask me. For me, NASA is still one of the only things about our country that reminds us to dream and keep dreaming.

My bro-in-law is also one of those lucky few who love their Job. He loves it and does it well. He does is so darn well that one of the Astronauts approached him the other day and told him that they appreciated him. They appreciated his hard work so much that they wanted to take something that he owns into space for him. Pretty stinking cool.

For his choice he is picked his Grandfather's watch, a family heirloom. So tonight, on into space that watch went.

Well done my friend.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bueller... Bueller....?

I am actually posting a forwarded message. The devil must be throwing on a jacket and lobbing huge snowballs at Hitler.

If they know of him at all, many folks think Ben Stein is just a quirky actor/comedian who talks in a monotone. He's also a very intelligent attorney who knows how to put ideas and words together in such a way as to sway juries and make people think clearly.

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

Herewith a few confessions from my beating heart: I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who Nick and Jessica are either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they so important? I don't know who Lindsay Lohan is either, and I do not care at all about Tom Cruise's wife. Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I am a subversive? Maybe, but I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are. If this is what it means to be no longer young. It's not so bad.

Next confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution, and I don't like it being shoved down my throat. Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But thereare a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.


Ben Stein

Chinese Proverb:

"When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vincent Vega and Huck Finn

Last night I cracked open of my favorite books of ALL times, Huck Finn. Once again I was struck with the memory of the short-lived controversy surrounding this great and hilarious work of literature. Then, once again, my Christian-double-standard-o-meter went off and I asked this here question. "So what is the difference between reading and enjoying, guilt-free, Huck Finn, which happens to be chalked full of the "N" word, and watching and enjoying Pulp Ficton, chalked full of the "F" word?" Both the "N' word and "F" word are considered offensive and we discourage and shun the use of them both but somehow we find ourselves A-Okay with reading Huck Finn and not so "A-Okay" with watching Pulp Fiction. Both works of fiction are true to the vernacular of the environment. I say this because this is how we justify reading Huckleberry Finn and allowing it in the public school curriculum or in the privacy of our homes.- Vernacular and environment. Could we not say the same for Pulp Fiction? Pulp Fiction is about Gangsters and whatever goes along with being gangster and Huck Finn was written about a time when Black People were considered property. Horrible but true. And if you read Huck Finn, you find that the only really GOOD person in the whole book is Jim, and Twain was doing everything BUT condoning slavery. If you watch Pulp Fiction I think you will find the same kind of "Moral to the Story" In that there is a good and bad. -Being gangster Bad. End up Dead. Be like Cain and walk the earth doing good deeds with a wallet that says Bad ... well, you've seen it.

Personally I love both Huck Finn and Pulp Fiction. I have many Christian friends and family members (*cough* mysister *cough*) who think that Pulp Fiction came from the Devil's back pocket but they love and adore Huck Finn.

So why is one okay and not the other?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Congrats to Kat...s!!!

Ben Folds - Still Fighting It
In honor of Kat's news that she is having a boy, I present a darn good song.

Plus, it gives me another excuse to post another Ben Folds song.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I Can Finish

The hardest thing in the world for me to do is finish something. I love to "do" things but get bored easy and fast, then I'm on to something else. When I used to practice new piano pieces for recitals, if they didn't get learned and memorized in the first 3 days, then there was a good chance that they would never get finished or learned well. Now, there really is something awesome about finishing a project in the heat of the moment, but for the most part, most of us have to do things over a period of time. It's just life. You have to make the muse obey your schedule not visa versa.

So as a reminder, I got out this picture I drew in the 10th grade. I worked on it every day for three weeks. 30 minutes at a time, in class. It reminds me that if I do something in a disciplined fashion, I can finish something. Not only finish it but finish well. I did it in the 10th grade, I can do it now.

So I hung that sucker up by my desk as a kick in the butt.

It is a good thing to do when you are feeling down and unproductive. Remember something that you have accomplished and get yourself going. Feel good about those things and move forward. Set small goals at a time and eventually you'll have a finished product. I have finished things more recently than the 10th grade, thank God, but for some reason, the way I finished and the fact that I finished it at 15 when my A.D.D. was in FULL bloom and working at its maximum capacity just gets me going with a little more... gumption. Lethargy is a nasty drug for one's confidence.

I can pass that test, I can write that piece, I can pass that test, I can write that piece, I can pass that test...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Rats in the Cellar


C.S. Lewis calls them "rats in the cellar" Those moments that we really see who we really are or can be.

"If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light."
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Sometimes we have plenty of time to do all the yelling and banging around that we need giving the rats plenty of time to hide, hiding who we really are, and sometimes we don't. It is usually when we haven't taken care of a certain sin that God flicks the light on for you. And, fellow Christian, when He does, it ain't pretty. Don't get me wrong, it isn't like God is warming his hands, waiting for the moment to switch the light on. It is more like He has been trying to deal with something for a while, and finally gives you over to your self by flicking the light on. Its that whole "Pride goeth before the fall" bit. Sometimes I wish I didn't ALWAYS have to learn things the hard way, but that is my nature.

Traffic is the time that my rats show their ugly little scurrying body in my cellar. I have almost waved people over to fist-fight driving in my car several, several times. All kinds of faces, words and fingers have made their debut from the big screen of my car windows. There is one particular finger that is a superstar when it comes to that venue.

Yes, I have made a fool out of myself a zillion times in the car. It is getting better and God is helping me. He is helping me be showing me that I have alot of anger. Its not the traffic that I am really mad about. (well, not all of it) The traffic is merely the light switch.

For Faith Hill it took that Chick who sang that "Jesus will you drive my car" sap-fest-of-a-tune beating her out fo the award to put her over the edge. Before she knew it, someone had flicked on the lights and her rats scurried around gloriously in front of a gazillion veiwers.

Where do yours show up?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Random Picture Time: Amber & Seth in Central Park

Wanted to post these pics back when we made our little trip to the Big Apple but I couldn't get around to it. Me, Lindsey and her Hubby Alex. Two kick-but-powerhouse-opera singers.Central Park is one of my favorite places. I often wonder what would happen to the sanity of that city if it didn't have this park.









Another one of the marvels of NYC, the NY hot dog. Awesome.













I wish every city had subways. I only thought I hated Houston traffic, now I know.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bono and Liszt, God’s inside-out men.

Some of you may be asking, ‘Who the heck is Liszt?’ Well dear friends, if you lived a few hundred years back and you asked that question, you might have been smacked or ignored.

The year was 1847; the instrument, the piano. The god who conquered the world with the piano was a man named Franz Liszt. Until Liszt stormed the world the piano had only been played solo along with other solo instruments on any given concert. Until Liszt everyone used and read their music in concerts. Even Mozart and Beethoven had used sketches to remind themselves of what and where to play. Until Liszt the violin ruled the world as the mighty thunderbolt of virtuosity. Liszt played the piano like a gladiator would ride a chariot. When Liszt came to town an entourage of adoring followers accompanied him. He was probably the world’s first fabulously rich musician. He traveled into town with several carriages dedicated to carrying his wardrobes, piano, roadies, stylists, and … well, ladies. Liszt was the first Rock Star.

When Liszt played the piano, ladies flung their jewels on the stage instead of bouquets. They shrieked in ecstasy and sometimes fainted. Those who remained mobile made a mad rush to the stage to gaze upon the features of the divine man. They fought over the green gloves he had purposely left on the piano. One lady fished out the stub of a cigar that Liszt had smoked. She carried it in her bosom to the day she died. Gross.

Liszt changed music forever. Every time you see a rock star, know that they are great, great, great grandchildren of the mighty Franz Liszt. One could compare his popularity to that of Bono. A more accurate comparison would be to compare Liszt to both Bono and the Pope. He was that famous and revered. The imagination of the average person in the 19th century was a more fertile soil for legend and myth to grow. So by the time Liszt made it to your town, the legend and fervor that preceded him was colossal.

There were other similarities that Bono and Liszt shared. Along with a huge sex appeal, they shared a devotion to Christ. Bono, like Liszt before him, shares a devotion to Catholicism. Liszt wore a Priest’s cassock the later half of his life and was never seen in public without it. After his run-in with fame, he spent a good ten years in a monastery. Liszt was instrumental in sharing the gospel with Wagner. It is even rumored and speculated that Wagner converted near the end. Of course this could be because Wagner wanted more of Liszt’s money, not just his daughter. Even if Wagner did not convert, who else could have shared the truth to him?

Sometimes I think we assume that because Artists are not working in the Church, singing ‘Christian Music’ or they are not using their artistic gifts in direct relation to the Church then they are not Christians. I am tired of these assumptions. I made one recently about Ben Folds. Shaun Groves pointed out that he was brought up in Church so all we really know is that we don’t know either way. He could be either. Of course Ben knows, but he doesn’t go around telling everyone that he is like he is the perfume lady at Dillard’s spraying perfume in everyone’s face whether they really want to smell it or not.

The fact that well known artists do not wear their Evangelism on their sleeve, makes some Christians mad. Most Christians didn’t know that Bono was a believer until this last year when an atheist journalist delved into Bono’s spirituality and asked him point blank. To which Bono replied, and I paraphrase and condense, “Not just yes, but hell yes.” He described why he is a Christian with more meaning and power, over the phone to this journalist, than I have ever heard in any venue or setting. Probably the only person that could have made sense of the Gospel to that man at that moment in that man's life and he didn't see it coming.

I think that sometimes people shouldn’t see us coming.

Last Christmas I stood huddled with my Baptist compadres in a homeless shelter to help the workers at Loaves and Fishes feed the poor. What I didn’t know was there was a priest, in plain clothes, sitting with the homeless guys at their table talking to them and eating. I didn’t see him there and I bet they didn’t know who he was at first either. They just thought he was one of them.

Sometimes God turns up in the most unlikely people- Liszt, Bono, and maybe even Ben Folds.

Sometimes Evangelism is an inside-out job

Just ask Niebuhr.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Five Things That Will Always Be Funny

















1. My Dad when annoyed. "Son, don't you think its time that you go RAKE your room." or "Son, you know if you get bored you could just roll off your bed and make trash-angels in the floor."

2. My friend Joey Mcfarland trying to run or play basketball

3. Seinfeld, "Bro episode"

4. My wife and my sister's uncanny ability to distort common phrases.

Wife:"This is such a busy airport. I think it is a major hubub."

Sister:"I really want to go see that movie with Nichole Kidman that is a musical, Baton Rouge"


And finally, something that will always and forever be funny regardless of age, culture or race-

5. Accidental farting in Church.



Lets hear yours.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

BEN FOLDS - JESUSLAND

So what do you think? Fair? Unfair?

(See comments for lyrics. Courtesy of Euphrony.)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ben Folds vs. the Music Snob

I saw Ben Folds with the Houston Symphony a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to write about it until now.

It was awesome and aggravating. Ben Folds is hands-down one of the most talented AND entertaining artists out there right now. There are times when I listen to some of his songs that I feel more Joyful and just downright worshipful than just about any great Smitty moment that I have ever had. And Ben isn't even a Christian. If you find that strange just know that every time you sing "All Creatures of our God and King" know that Ralph Vaughan Williams, a professing Atheist, wrote the melody to that.

Back to the Point.

The guy had the entire crowd singing harmony as an integral part of the songs. Not just harmony but counterpoint. Plus, if I am not mistaken I think he arranged all the orchestral parts himself. Now, I really wish I could have gotten my hands on some of those scores because I think that some of them just sounded muddy and with a little help from some good-ole-fashioned orchestration 101 it could have rocked a little harder in a few parts. Of course that might have been the duller-than-dudu-on-a-stick conductor's fault. I'm SURE he gave it his all in the rehearsals. Besides a little muddiness in the timbres, it was downright impressive. Ben Folds played sang like a free man and the people there were filled to the brim with light by the end.

It was the collision of the two worlds that built a home for my frustration. Well, not a home, more like a fort. You know the ones you used to make in your living room with blankets and...

Anywho, the Orchestra was just stuck up. It really pissed me off. I can't STAND that attitude. The concert-mistress (first violinist, closest to the piano and conductor) was unfortunately juxtaposed to the animated and crazy Ben Folds most of the night on the screen. Her expression resembled a constipated grandmaw who's dog fluffy had just been taken from her because she was so constipated that she couldn't get off the pot to feed the dog anymore. Yeah, something like that.

I just wanted to jump down there and say,

"Excuse me, do you love music? THEN ACT LIKE IT. Just because you are not knee deep in the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Lenny Bernstein winking approvingly at you from the podium as you throw your whole body into glorious scales and arpeggios, ooo-ing and awwww-ing all the rich old farts the Houston Symphony Guild can keep out of the grave, doesn't mean that you can't enjoy yourself while playing with a friggin talented musician in a different genre, ESPECIALLY one who packs out YOUR symphony house which in turn fills YOUR paycheck with extra zeros. So, if you don't want to be here and you can't get the cobb out of your stuck-up arse then get the flippidy-flap of my flippidy-flap stage."

They were thankless. Granted, at one point he did throw his bench at the 120,000-dollar piano, but hey, it was just the cushiony part of the bench and it just bounced off the keys. If it was really a throw, then it was a careful and calculated throw. I've seen WAAAY more damage done in a Bartok piano concerto performance.

He topped it all off by telling his adoring, rowdy fans that they should all make a habit of seeing the symphony play and if they don't it might go away and leave a HUGE void in our society. Pretty cool.

The only other thing that aggravated me more that night was that I missed the first few songs, one of which was "We're Sill Fighting" a song about him and his son. We missed it because the elevator going to the third floor took, no lie, 4 1/2 minutes to get to the top. I could have crawled, backwards, drunk, blind, and paralyzed from the dormant booger in my left nostril down, to the third floor faster. I told the elevator attendant that she could really get some good naptime in between floors if she got sleepy. She didn't find that funny. She was old, and sitting down. I think she had had her fill of smart-mouth whippersnappers for the night.

All in all it was an awesome night, and THE greatest b-day present. I needed that concert.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Spades

Nothing like a plate of Chocolate Chip Cookies, a big fat glass of Milk, and a heated game of Spades to top off the Thanksgiving Holiday.

We drove another 7 hours today from Springfield to Dallas. I love to drive. There is no better time to contemplate the state of your whole being than when you are flying over the plains. I also got caught up on some easy-listening. I usually try to listen to something new everyday. I made that a habit about 8 years ago. I didn't today. I listened to only some of my favorite things:

Radiohead -OK Computer, Elliot Smith, Handel's Messiah, (John Elliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir if anyone is interested in the BEST recording of that EVER.) Bach's Magnificat, Bach's Goldberg Variations played by Glen Gould, Sufjan Stevens, Cash, and Bjork. Although I wouldn't qualify Bjork as a favorite, I just get in the mood sometimes.

Starting next week I will be once again immersing myself in my LEAST favorite musical era, Medieval and Renaissance. They all start to jumble together and give me a headache after a while. There are really two composers from that period that I really like, Josquin and Monteverdi. Palestrina even kinda bores me.

Nerd-alert. Nerd-alert.

Off to watch a movie and chow on more things that are horrible for my already growing, Grimace-esque figure.

Favorite Holiday movie- Go.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Few Reflections this side of the Carnage

Full. Full as a tick on a June bug on Tuesday. (?) That's how I feel right now and that feeling is good.

Change is hard. Holidays should be brimming with cheer and mirth but most of the time there is this constant feeling of melancholy that accompanies the turkey and then later at Christmas, the presents. The difference in the young-ones is marked from the last time you saw them. The kids get older, so you realize that you are getting older, and then you see that mom and dad are getting older and you are faced eventually with the eminence of death. "You are going to die... we are all going to die..." (Quick quick, what movie?)

Fortunately, this was NOT one of those Thanksgivings. It has been so darn pleasant that I am almost a bit giddy. The only thing this Thanksgiving was missing was a good movie and my little sister. I did see the new James Bond movie at Thanksgiving number 1 in Dallas and I loved it. But not that kind of movie. I mean one of those "Oh my gosh, I have always hoped that someday they would make that into a movie someday" movies. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars Prequels, Chronicles of Narnia, ... Death to Smoochy.

Alas, even without a grandiose dream-movie I still had the best Thanksgiving, all two of them, with my family, both the in-laws in Dallas, and the Outlaws in Springfield, in a looongo timo.

So for the first time in many years I actually feel thankful instead of just knowing that I should feel thankful but really I am sad because I don't know why that I don't feel thankful. But again, that is not me this year. Hip Hip Hurray.

In the spirit of Charles Dickens and our beloved president W,

May God bless us, every one, and if you fool me once shame on you and if you fool me twice shame on .... you.

Oh yeah and happy national get fat week too.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy "National Get Fat Week"

There. That should take care of all those pesky "Christian" exhortations tacked on to a perfectly good all-religions-welcome-and-can-celebrate-in-there-own-way holidays. I mean, who do those Jesus dogooeders think they are? All the time trying to claim all the good holidays selfishly for themselves. "Thanks" giving. Ha! I see the plan here. I see them sitting in their smoky conference rooms with their billboards trying to devise a plan to MAKE everyone realize that "Thanks" is really code for "Jesus." Well it's not gonna work this time people. "Thanks" just means thanks and that's all there is to that. So don't try and tell me that the Turkey is really symbolic for a ... Manger, or one of the animals present at the birth. Don't bother telling me that the "dressing" stands for how Jesus "dressed up" like mankind or anything. And please, whatever you do, quit with the "Yams" being Latin for "Hypostatic Union." I mean, come on. That is seriously stretchin'' it just a smidge.

In summary, I'M NOT BUYING IT.

So here's the deal. When I walk into your department store this Thursday night to fist-fight some middle-aged overweight four-eyed bachelor or a crazed soccer mom over the new X-box I better hear you say "Happy National Get Fat Week" or I am taking my business elsewhere.

Dagnabit.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Time to Change

I woke up November 1st, the day after my 32cond birthday and prayed this prayer:

"Lord, I dedicate this year to you. I dedicate this year to bearing fruit with the gifts and talents you have given to me."

It wasn't one of those New Year resolution statements. The prayer burned inside of me like a warm meal. I was energized. I got up from the bed and felt free.

I spend so much time doing things that are creative but never get finished or shared with others. This blog has been good for me in that way. I am not claiming to be some tremendous writer but I do recognize it as a talent. I hope you can recognize your talents as well. To not recognize something that you have that brings joy to others as a gift is false humility. I am not talking about boasting here, there is always someone better. Good Lord. I am talking about delighting in a gift or a talent. It took me years to learn how to say "thank you" to a compliment and not constantly feel like I needed to beat myself down in order to "feel" humble. There are two words that go hand in hand. Humble, and Thankful. You need both or you are neither.

So this year I want desperately to be the best steward of any talent that God has given me and have something to show for it at the end of the day. Because over the past 5 years I have started some 5 films and have not finished but one of them. I have half-finished: pictures, poems, songs, quartets, short stories, a novel, plays, musicals, operas and piano pieces. I don't even eat the last bite of my food. Ever. Even if I am stinking hungry. I just can't do it. I have finished some things but each finished product seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. My wife has been the greatest contributor to me finishing anything whatsoever.

So this year will be different and because the Lord has put this fire under me, it has already been different.

If you don't see me for a bit around the blogosphere, it is because I am trying to be productive and finish something.

Mainly, my degree.


Ecclesiastes
12
I recognized that there is nothing better than to be glad and to do well during life.
13
For every man, moreover, to eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of all his labor is a gift of God.
14
I recognized that whatever God does will endure forever; there is no adding to it, or taking from it. Thus has God done that he may be revered.
22
And I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to rejoice in his work; for this is his lot. Who will let him see what is to come after him?

Like this great book says, "There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens." I feel like this is a time for me to build. Please pray that I can walk humbly, always seeking Him first above all things and remember that when I delight in Him, He will give me the desires of my heart.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What Hump?


Have you ever had one of these moments? I have. Several times. I have put my foot in my mouth so many times that I can, blindfolded, tell you when shoe was made and what it has stepped in, just by smelling it.


" Hmmm. 1984, Converse, 3-day old Coke, Bazooka Gum and faint Weiner Dog poo. Good year, Good year. Comfie. I recommend it. Yessss."

[a small crowd of onlookers gasp in amazement]

“Wow mommy that man really must chew a lot of yucky shoes.” A young girl with curly hair observes.

“Yes dear, lets run along now before he insults us…”


My personal favorite "What Hump" moment was when I asked my amazing-Jazz-musician-friend if it ever made him angry that people associate instrumental Jazz with K-mart, Musak, or music on the overhead at the Western Sizzler. He just looked at me with a furrowed brow...

"What…what do you mean..."

A brief moment of silence followed.

Speechless, with nowhere to turn except into a deep, dark tunnel of awkwardness, I simply cocked my head slightly to the right and said...

"Is that a helicopter flying over us?... Must be a wreck or something... Hey, I'm hungry."

This tactic only worked because this person that I had begun to insult was plagued with A.D.D.

Being an A.D.D. man myself I knew that a few tasty distractions could serve as an adequate smokescreen for my conversational getaway.

It worked and the subject was not to be breeched again. The mystery is still unsolved.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

An Artist's Creed

As I have said before, I think that all men and women are creative, therefore they are artists. It is one of the most unique God-like qualities that He has given us. However, we do not create as God creates; some-thing from no-thing, we create using the materials He has generously given us. We must believe that those materials are good and meant for our good and His glory. Each person is unique in what they have to offer. I have started to jot some of these down to remind myself of this.

All of these are listed keeping in mind that we must first and always keep a pure and clean heart. Always remember what our Lord teaches us, that it is the pure in heart that shall see God. And when there is this purity, we can be confident and joyful in the knowledge that what we do, we do unto the Lord and that the passions that we have are truly the Desires of our heart, planted there by God Himself.

I will:

1. Never compromise or sacrifice the passions that God has put in me to prove to God that I love him, for obedience is greater than sacrifice. This will eventually cause the God of Creation, who is making me, to appear less Glorious than really is He is to me. Who am I to tell God what He can and cannot create?

2. Never let money be my primary motive in creation for this will cause me to fear or hide the creative spirit that dwells within me as a gift of God. Worst of all it changes my motives for creation which should be to delight in God and share our gifts with others.

3. Not adhere to a formula or man-made standard as if God has made every man to look, sing, write, or create exactly alike.

4. Believe that God is a God of beauty and order, and I can experience Joy in recognizing that beauty and express my admiration of His order in many new fresh ways.

5. Always encourage other Artists because after I have believed the first 4 tenants of this creed I am free to love, encourage, and inspire other artists to create an be themselves for I would believe that we are all unique Artists and children of the Living, Eternal God.

Care to add? Amend?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pardon the Vent

I am tired. I am tired of this stuff. I am not tired of the media and their exploitation of one mans sin over another's, we should expect this out of a capitalistic media. No, I am tired because the Church, well, we ask for this bullcrap. And that is just what it is. We set ourselves up on this big stupid pedestal like we are something great. Well I've got news. We aren't. In fact that should be the first thing everyone should know. It is the reason we go to church in the first place. We neeeed it. Desperately. We need each other. There is something mystical about the body of Christ, the Kingdom of our Lord that gives us the sustenance to live and walk in the light. We don't go to pat each other on the back, kiss each others butt and tell each other "HEEYYY great to see you fellow perfect non-sinning-non-cussing-non-drinking-saint! So what did you do that was so wonderful and pious this week that made your poop smell like pumpkin pie??"

It is just not true. We are crappy. Crappy right to the bone. There was some shred of a desire for God left after the fall, and that alone has inspired the only good that has ever come this world but right now, you and me, we all jack it up. We have lustful thoughts, we say mean and cruel things, we are jealous, we have cheated, we have lied and we have our own private addictions. We need God as bad as the Prostitute down the road. If you ever get to the place where you think differently, well then get ready for some media frenzy when you can't deliver the good(s).

It is amazing that we are so surprised by these things while we read the bible and it is written half the time by convicted murderers and idolators. Solomon had 500+ wives and even started worshiping and offering sacrifices to OTHER PAGAN gods later in life. David Killed a Uriah so he could get it on with his wife that he saw bathing on a roof. So that makes him a peeping Tom to boot. Even the disciples betrayed their best friend when the feces hit the fan.

I wake up every morning and know that I need a Savior so bad that if I don't pray and depend on him, I could very well end up in the same situation. Even on my best days, I still might.

Lets come out of the self-righteous closet people. We suck too. If we know something that they don't it is that despite our suckiness, God loves us and can help us if we ask him. I am not trying to lay a guilt trip or be a kill Joy, I just think that pretending that we are perfect people is one of the worst things we can do. I just read Brant's blog on some Pastors thinking outside the box on this and was encouraged.

The biggest lie that Satan has fed us from the fall is that God doesn't love us and that we need to earn it.

I am not offering excuses. I am calling out for us to get real. We don't want to get real though. It is too painful. We prefer our perfect language peppered with only the most pious phrases and our perfect homes and our perfect cars and our perfect Jobs and our perfect Churches. Crap. Crap crap crap and more crap. It IS A LIE. A facade. A masquerade sponsored by the Devil to fooling us into believing the we are better than our pagan neighbor and the at the end of the day, ... well...God? Nah. We doin' just fine without all that confession and repentance business. Mostly because we don't need it. "Hey, I got my ticket when I was seven. I'm in baby. Heaven here I come!!!"

That is why we work out our salvation with fear and trembling not pride and pats on the back.

Most of the men who read this very blog and who blog themselves have struggled or lets face it, are still struggling with addiction of some sorts. It is all in us. It is why Paul says "What a wretched man I am! Who will save me?" Come on. Do you think he was talking about a addiction to checkers? Pin the tail on the Donkey? Dates? Figs? Sandal Collections?

So in all of that there is Hope, Love, Grace, forgiveness and Peace. That is what we as the Church can offer. It offers sanity in a world where insanity is the natural pull. Not an example of a plastic perfect people that the world should want to immitate.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"Der Dentist Suchen Sie Gewholelottgeschnizzel!!!"

German for "Going to the Dentist sucks a whole lot!!!"

I know I know, I have once said that my Dentist is the Yoda of Dentists but...

I think that going to the Dentist is the perfect parable for the problem of pain. We have all asked these questions but somehow it feels good to ask them again. So I will. Why do things that are good for you have to hurt? Why are things that are bad for you taste and feel sooo good? Why do veggies taste like empty crappy water/air (unless smothered with cheese, butter or salt and pepper, preferably a nice medley of all four) while a chocolate covered Krispy Kreme donut taste like a wheel o' taste-bud-bliss made in heaven? Why does going to the Dentist suck so bad while getting the cavities was pretty darn fun? Why Lord... WHY!!!!!

The Other Half, ...2/3... well 9/10ths of My life.

Most of you know, because of my belly-aching, that I am desperately trying to finish my 394 years of college. Hopefully that will be happening this March... if the Lord decides to cut me a break. Much of what I am doing now is writing a big fat Orchestra piece that will be played in the spring by the Rice University Shepherd School of Music Orchestra. That may not mean anything to many of you but it is the equivalent of having the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform your music. Or if you have written a rock song it is the equivalent of having Nirvana Jam out on it. They are a phenomenal group of players. The whole Shepherd School is just teaming with the next generation of Major Philharmonic players. As far as Performance and Symphony Orchestras go, there are only about 4 other Colleges in the States that Can Hang with the Shepherd Chamber Orchestra. So, that being said, I have been blessed to be a part of this School for the past 3 years. I have also been blessed to NOT have to pay for it and to actually GET PAID to go there as long as I teach some theory. What the heck Baylor????

The fact that I am teaching theory and ear training still baffles me a bit. In undergrad I was the WORST theory student a teacher could be cursed with. I constantly questioned my professor(s) about the necessity of theory and accused them of sucking all the Joy out of various works that we were to analyze. I made peace with one professor one semester when he allowed me to turn in an "emotional" analysis along with the mathematical analysis of the music. So, by being arrogant and bull-headed I doubled my load of work for that class. I skated out of my music theory classes with mostly C's and a few mercy B's. Not in my wildest fantasies would I have ever imagined that I would be teaching music at on of the best music schools in the U.S. Not EVER. But here I am, doing it and I have to tell you that I have LOOOVED it. Every blessed moment. These students are great and their attitude and work ethic is WAAAAAY beyond mine. They set a great example for me and I am honored to be teaching them.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Short Break

(posted last night but the new song on Myspace wasn't working...arrh.) I am taking a 5 minute break from the dissertation. What a pain in the butt. It is now 12:00 a.m. and I have written and re-written the first 50 bars of this gargantuan orchestra thing about 30 times now.

It has been a busy, busy week folks. I am gettin' sleepy. Lesson tomorrow. Not good. Big scary Jewish prof as teacher. He no likey excuses.

Yesterday was the ole' b-day. Halloween. Or as evil old people call it, "razor apple day." Yup 32 years ago I came into the world covered in blood and slime. I squalled my first at 5:00 in the a.m. and they washed my dirty little body off and gave me to my mother. I was 8 pounds 6 ounces.

My mom has always said that of all the 4 kids, I was the biggest pain in the ass.

I guess some things never change.

In honor of my love for Halloween and scary movies...

This is an excerpt to a piano piece I wrote a few years back. I played it on a grad. Recital at Baylor and about freaked everyone into thinking I was some sort of Satanist. It is a movement for a Suite for piano that I wrote around phobias I had as a child. This one is called "birds" I saw that Hitchcock movie when I was a wee lad and was scared to death of anything flying for a good solid week or two. Then I got my bee bee gun for my 11 birthday and became the one bringing fear to those sneaky little flying ferocities. (sparrows and blackbirds only)

It is up on my Myspace if you want to take a listen.

Incedentally that particular Hitchcock movie didn't have a film score. One of the only Major Motion Pictures to NOT have a Score.

Unfortunately writing this Dissertation is kind of like trying to get a big stone to sing Great Balls of Fire at this point. No-thing is a' happening. Stravinsky reincarnate, I am not tonight.

Studly "Worship"

So when did leading worship become studly? I overheard these two highschool kids the other day discussing the various studly merits of their favorite studly worship studs.

Cool Highschool Kid no. 1: "Tod"

Cool Highschool Kid no. 2: "Chad"

Tod: "Yeah, I saw #### doing worship the other day he was pretty awesome"

Chad: "Yeah he was pretty bad-assed. I totally think he is better than -----"

Tod: "Oh totally. But -----'s gotee is tight and the set was pretty stinkin tight."

Chad: "Right on. Plus he's like 9 feet tall and lanky. He just looks like a cool worship guy. Well the set was better but the band for ##### was amazing. I hear hear -----s got a book out er somethin'..."

Tod: "Yeah ... "

[A second or two of silence came as the two began to venture into the possibilities that the man who wrote that book might be a little deeper than the one who had the "better" band.]

Tod: So I hear your doin' worship tonight...

Chad: "Yeah, I'm thinking about goin to this worship leading school next year... teaches you how to like... lead worship and stuff."

Tod: "Dude, you already are awesome at leading worship..."

Chad: "Yeah but not as cool as ----- or #####. I hear this place can really polish up your skills."


Around the corner, out of site, I wanted to shed tears of vomit.

From now on, as penance for causing young people to think that worship is about hair-gel, gotees, cool sets and killer guitar riffs, we should only allow little children to lead people in singing. Goofy nose-picking and parent waving to boot.



OR... Maybe the bulletin could look like this one Sunday out of the month.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Karma

You have to be an Astros fan to understand. It’s that simple. I am not advertising hatred. I am not advocating the grudge. I am simply stating a fact. We were headed to the World Series. It seemed to be the final inning. We had our best closing pitcher blazing strike after strike. He hadn't given up a run in like 30 games. It was a sure thing. Lance Bergman had hit the Hero's home run to send us on our way. The feeling in Houston was overwhelming. Every gas station that you entered you would find customers, who normally would not trust one another, hugging and high-fiving -glued to the radio. It was truly THE city of Brotherly Love. There wasn't a time in Houston's history in which it more closely resembled a Christian society. The Hurricane Katrina relief effort... Child's play to the good will floating around that city.

Until, he came to bat.

Albert Pujols. A name that no one in Houston will ever remember without a certain sick feeling accompanying. Just mention his name in public and you might as well have passed gas, burrito-supreme-with-extra-guacamole-style. When Pujols hit the grand slam that prolonged our World Series journey for another game he did more than prolong our journey. We never quite recovered. We limped to the series and couldn't catch our breath. He robbed us of our home game victory and eventually the world title even though we beat the little girly birds the next game at their hometown. The home of the largest half-finished McDonald's sign.

And he couldn't just hit any old run of the mill home run. Noooooo. He had to hit a homerun that smacked the upper back wall of the stadium. I half-expected it to hit the lights and cause an explosion with all the other lights in the stadium.

So do I rejoice with the Cardinals? Nay. I do not. When I see a picture of Pujols leaping for joy, I can only share the association with a certain Lennie in that Steinbeck novel when he was joyful over the dead bunny in his pocket that he insisted on keeping and petting.

I will never forgive the Cardinals for that night. I will now and forever be, an enemy of the Cardinals franchise. Some day you'll get yours Al. It's a' comin'. ha....ha ha. HA HA HA MUHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! (evil diminished chords play and laugh fades into echoes)

Friday, October 27, 2006

a poem for October

savor the night, the gale that sings
through trees and lights of cursed things
between the stars where the black roots grow
against the sky they twist and flow
like veins ripe for some vampire's drinking

a leaf or two still hangs like flakes
no longer blush red, sing or shake
the howling moon, now cut in half
by crows and plastic bones
that cackle like old dry thunder.

You twist your name through whistling wails
from old dark porches
where pumpkins flail
to burn the howling wind
with all his joy and sorrow.

undress the summer and cool the sun
that poured out silk betrothed to spring love
to bring us tarts and cakes and frills and snakes
that sing and dance down by the trail where wild things blaze
through all the sweets the darkest streets can plunder.

On Hallow's Eve, that sweetness laughs and I am here
the fear and doubt of long lost tears,
has dried the jack and lit the lantern,
handed tricks and treats to princess pea and brother
across the side where we once walked
like a child in October

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Memory From the Fourth Grade

Hello my old friend, the number 2 pencil. Remember me? It was the fourth grade. You were the champion in the favorite game of 4th graders, bored to death by droning teachers. The name of the game was "Pencil Break" That was the game where you destroyed hundreds of other pencils who challenged your title as reigning Pencil-Break champion. You remember don't you Number 2 Pencil? You were the all-time-true-champ. I even gave you a name. Your name was "Lucky" You could break any pencil in the fourth grade quad-classroom radius. And I... I, the manager of "Lucky" was the envy of every wannabe-Pencil-Break-champion boy. I got a little too cocky though. I turned up to class one day to find you broken in my desk drawer. Broken by some jealous smelly fourth-grade-nuthin-of-a-coward-punk. Oh the tears I cried.

Well, my old friend Lucky, the all-time-4th-grade-Pencil-Break-champ, I say "goodnight" to you and finally... finally, I say farwell. Thanks for the fond fourth-grade memory.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ultimate Anti-terrorism Weapon. (If I were in charge)

Aziz looked at his warring comrade. “This will be a good day Rahim. God will be pleased and offer us many Virgins…”

“Yes YESSS Aziz” Rahim said with a wild lust in his eyes. God will reward our vigilance with at least 100 virgins.”

The two men sat poised as their eyes darted back and forth, studying the enemy barracks.

All seemed calm in the hive of infidels. The very sight of them was a fingernail down the chalkboard to their hearts that burned with hatred. Every laugh from the foreign soldier was a spear into their souls that wished only to see their blood and taste the victory of the blinding light of bliss that awaited them on the other side.

Sweat began to break upon their brows. They could take it no longer.

“Now is the time Aziz. NOW!!!!”

Dust exploded from the vigorous jumps. Their legs surged with adrenaline and pushed them upright and into an instant sprint. It was like they had been reborn from the womb that was their hidden foxhole near their enemy’s camp.

Before Aziz and Rahim could finish their cries “God is Great!!!” Two flashing rays burst from the sky above and Aziz and Rahim were transported to a nether-dimension.

Light blinded them, then brilliant colors and they seemed to be… floating.

“But I don’t remember firing a shot” Rahim thought… “Where are Virgins???” he cried suspiciously to himself and Aziz.

Without warning they felt big invisible hands begin to tickle them. If there is such thing as angry laughter, they were experiencing it. They were surrounded by giant hills of what appeared to be pink candy. Trees of licorice and jellybeans. Rivers of swirling white and dark chocolate, mountains and mountains of coconut crusted creampuffs. Their eyes bulged in unquenched-anger and fascination…

“What sort of Devilry is this!!!!”? Aziz yelled. His first instinct was to fire his weapon, in hopes of breaking the spell. “AAAAALLLAAAAHHHH!!! He cried as he brandished his machine-gun weapon, still weightless and pulled on the now-spongy trigger. To his amazement only big puffs of cotton candy came out the end of his rifle with the sound of “fomp, fomp, fomp.” The last “fomp” was accompanied with a small flag popping out of the end of his rifle that simply said “BANG!”

Rahim fared no better. He violently ripped opened his shirt, popping buttons into the zero-gravity and then desperately pulled the string attached to the bombs that he had earlier taped to his brown flesh. When he pulled the string and screamed his cry of Jihad he was greeted by the flagellating sound of a whoopee cushion and soon, what seemed to be fruit punch started leaking from the pouches that were supposed to be filled with explosives. The big drops of punch drifted along with Rahim and his buttons into the air. Great drops of red and purple liquid. Every time he opened his mouth to cry out in anger a drop of this punch would be sucked into his mouth and he would be forced to swallow. He could not help but find this refreshing.

This was too much for Aziz to comprehend. “We have failed Muhammad! Now God is punishing us and we are in Hell!!!!” To this Rahim and Aziz were greeted with sound of sweet laughter. It sounded like a hundred fairies laughing and soothing the harshest fear. They began to want to laugh themselves. Suddenly their nostrils were filled with the smell of a fine dinner. Their stomachs twirled and minds reeled in hunger. A door seemed to open from the blue sky and Aziz and Muhammad were acutely aware of their hunger. Waiting in the desert for days, fasting had left them extremely hungry and thirsty.

Their eyes widened as they neared the door. With one small “pop” the rifles they had been holding now turned into strings connected to a small flock of cartoon sparrows singing in perfect harmony, Mozart’s Haffner Symphony. The birds pulled them closer and closer to the door. They saw in the room a table that was covered with the most amazing food imaginable.

From behind the door came a large man in a white robe. This man was none other than Ronald McDonald. “Come on in fellas, and have a feast prepared for you.” Ronald said and then burst into a perfect Triple Axel. He was skating on a see of frozen Raspberry Sorbet.

“I don’t want your pagan SATANIC FEAST YOU CLOWN OF THE DEVIL!!!” Aziz yelled.

Rahim hadn’t heard the McDonald comment and was busy trying to make his floating go faster towards the food...

Rahim began to fight against the birds. The music from the birds began to crescendo. The Mozart was turning into an atonal cluster. Rahim tried to close his ears. The music was now deafening.

"NO, NO I DO NOT WANT YOUR BIG MAC AND FRIES YOU... YOU..."

"Rahim wake up. Rahim! we need to open the doors. Quickly now."

"CLOWN OF DEVIL!!!" Rahim yelled and stumbled back three feet from the counter of his store.

"Goodness gracious Rahim, What did you call me??? There are people waiting child. And what do you want me to do with these brochures about ...flying school or some nonsense? Are you going to leave me here to run this store all by myself to learn how to .... Crop Dust??? What is this nonsense my little camel."

"Just throw them away grandmother." Rahim said slurring his speech.

"Ohh... I have a terrible hunger pain in my belly. Rahim moaned. Maybe across the street you could walk and get me an... Egg McMuffin."

"What?? An Egg McMuffin??? Have you been smoking that marijuana grass again. If your father was alive... oh mine Got." His Grandmother said as she began to examine his face by grabbing it with one hand and bringing her good eye closer.

"I am sorry grandmama I am just ... never-mind." He gently moved away.

"Have you said your Prayers today Rahim???"

Rahim's Grandmother's voice seemed to trail off in the distance. Rahim was waking up and staring out the window now, across the street to the McDonalds he had always detested with a deep hatred.

He glared through the window, ignoring his grandmother's ongoing lecture and looked suspiciously into the eyes of the Ronald McDonald statue. It was time for an Egg McMuffin. Time to make peace with the clown. He took another look at the smiling Ronald through the many window panes separting them.

For a brief moment, he swore the smiling clown... winked.

Somewhere under the Arizona desert, in a smoke-filled room two men in military unforms looked over the shoulder of a young inventor/idealist.

"I don't know Drake. What do you think?" The larger and more important military man said with cigar still in his teeth.

"Looks kind of shaky to me. I mean he did tell the old lady to throw the brochures in the can..." The shorter, less decorated man said gruffly.

"We'll keep an eye on him for a few months and if there seems to be real progress... We'll breif the President."

They stood still. All three reflecting the scene from the store in their glasses. Smoke trailed into a vent in the back of the dark room lit only by the wall-sized computer moniter and few other important-looking blinking lights.

The young inventor pressed the "Save As" button and typed in the words...

"Project Ronald/Rahim Rehab" and clicked back to his game of Solitaire.