Friday, February 29, 2008


I don't think there will be dental visit in my future that doesn't include some sort of real and immediate pain, or promise of pain. Amber, my sweet, my darling, my love... can walk in the Dentist smiling and walk out yawing and stretching. (I wonder now if that was some sort of sneaky ploy to get me to go in.) I, me, myself and moi... not the case. Not even close. I walk in, sit down happy as a goofy pup, and it is like the Hygienists and Dentist throw some sort of black magic steel party in my teeth. For instance, my routine cleaning has now been scheduled for a full-on deep cleaning on Tuesday. SUCK. I had that already, not two years ago. What the crap?

I suppose God decided that I should be created with teeth that are prone to gengevitibactorialsomethinsomething in exchange for being outlandishly handsome. Ho hum.

It doesn't help that I have the nervous system of a monkey on crack. When it comes to certain things I have about a ZERO on the pain tolerance/wuss scale. I swear to Buddha that a few weeks ago, when my wife pulled a hair out of my cheek- WITHOUT WARNING OR ASKING- I thought I was going to instantaneously cry.

We were just lounging on the couch after a hard days work, watching the Late Show...

Amber: "Heeeey, you've got a stray hair on your right cheek."

Me: (Tired and barely paying attention.) "Oh, that's niIIIIIIOOOOOOWWWWWE GOD!!!! AMMMBERRRR???"

Amber: (Studying the liberated hair between her thumb and forefinger and unmoved by my pain.) "Oh, you big wimp. Its just a hair."

Me: "Being a wimp is entirely not the point!" I say, rubbing my cheek and trying to conceal the tear that is bulging in my right eye above the empty and bloody follicle.

Amber: Looks at the camera filming us and chuckles.

Me: "And that really hurt Amber, and its still HURTING."

So off to the dadgum friggin everloving God-bless-him dentist I go this Monday.

Truth be told, I am extremely grateful for my Dentist Rodney Rayburn. When my wisdom teeth started to abscess a few months ago, I called from NYC and Rodney IMMEDIATELY called in a prescription, from Houston to NYC, and even found the Pharmacy less than a block away. The man rocks. Having genetically cavemen teeth on the otherwho... sucks.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hey Kids: The Truth About Jell-0

Gelatin is a processed version of the protein collagen, a simple protein that makes up one-third of all proteins in the human body. The main source of the collagen that is used in Jell-O comes from hooves, bones, connective tissue found on cows, horses and pigs.

That's right little children, every time you eat that little, wobbly, fat-free, sugar-free, cherry-flavored glob... you are eating ole' Bessy's cow toenails and boiled bones. Darn that Bill Cosby, darn him to heck.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Kroger Zone

I walked into the Krogers today to buy Claritin, and instead of heading straight for the Pharmacy, I was struck by the glorious bounty of elbow-room abounding in the place. It felt weird to not rub butts with half the people on my block as I tried to find the dadgum raisin bread. It felt even stranger to not be cussed for accidentally rubbing butts, even though it is usually THEIR butt that rubs into my butt area.

The Kroger in Sugarland was so strange today that it felt a bit like a twilight zone episode. I expected to hear Rod Serling pipe through the Grocery speaker: "A young man... sorry, a young and devilishly handsome man... steps into a familiar place. A place where he used to by his coconut cream pies and cranberry scones..." Okay, not the best impersonation.

I also had a dream last night that I was singing with the Soggy Bottom Boys on Oh Brother Where Art Thou, when we all noticed that the full moon kept getting closer and closer to the earth. Withing minutes, (a very older looking) George Clooney and I were swimming for our lives as the closing moon was causing unbelievable tides to swallow all land on the planet. The moon looked a little like the Palantir in Lord of the Rings.

That, was a cool dream.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


For the next week or so, the blogging might be scant... like that sorry excuse for a post that I slapped up there yesterday and didn't have the common decency to back the photo up to the last > of the rocket picture.

We are in Houston now and we are already having a heck of a time with our friends. I've got this German test coming up and I also have to finish producing a record for my good friend Carey. So, for the next week or so, you will be seeing either the shortest, or the most bizarre (lame) posts yet, or maybe short, pointless vignettes from my childhood.

I don't know... something. I gotta write something every day. It is a rule. I shall not break it.

Do you guys have creative rules that you follow every day? I have to create something every day or I seriously get depressed. Even if it is the literary equivalent of whittling a small, wormy stick like this post. Just something.

Hope you enjoy the picture.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Big Boy Toys

WASHINGTON - A missile launched from a Navy cruiser soared 130 miles above the Pacific and smashed a dying and potentially deadly U.S. spy satellite Wednesday, the Pentagon said.

Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I've Been Holding Out.

A few months ago, I sent a query letter and the first chapter of my book to one of the most well known literary agencies in NYC. I won't mention them by name, but one of the many big-hitter-authors on their roster is an author that has carved quite a place/throne for himself in the Legal Thriller genre.

"Why in the world would you even bother, Seth?" you might ask. Well, when you are looking for Agents, one of the things you do is try to find a Novel similar to yours, then look for their agent. Well, I found a novel that was similar to mine in style and I set out to find his agent. My novel is very quirky and (hopefully) funny and weird and you can't imagine how hard it was to find a book similar in style. And you can't imagine how bummed i was to find out that his agent was not only huge, but uber gigantasauras huge, and taking on a new author was probably at the bottom of his to do list... twenty years ago.

Alas, I sent the query anyways and sulked off to bed.

Lo and behold, the next day... I got a request from that agency to read the full manuscript.

That doesn't mean that he will represent me, but I went from a 1 in 50,000 to maybe a 1 in 20 to 50. So, I geeked out pretty hard. That means, out of the thousands of queries they get weekly from new and established authors, they saw something in my query and first chapter that stood out enough to request the full manuscript!

"But what the heck?" I thought, "This guy doesn't need any new authors... he's gets enough money to go to the moon and jump around in a space suit trying to catch zero-gravity m&ms every time "you-know-who" publishes a new novel."

After a little research, I read that this particular agent tries to pick one or two new authors every few years to reinvigorate the business. So, I might have a shot, if not with him, then one of the other 3 amazing agents at his agency. Either way, I am honored and bewildered that he (or his screening assistant) thought mine was interesting enough to put in the finals.

I tell you this news now, my friends, for two reasons.

First, for you to pray that God's will is done, (or that they they will beg like starving puppies to represent me, either one... same thing.) and second, because and its more fun to talk about it while its still a possibility.

At the very worst, I know that it is good enough for them to take the time out of their busy schedule of managing their multi-million dollar producing clients to read me little ole' novel, which is encouraging. And a little encouragement goes a long way, especially in a business where rejection is the norm, especially for a newbie like me.

I know what some of you are thinking... "huh, I always thought Seth was a decent dribbler, but not all that special." Well, that may be true, but I'm happy to say that there is a great difference in the writing you see here, and the intense, sweaty work that goes into shaping each paragraph of a novel like its an ice sculpture... (in my case, the sculpture resembles a short and pudgy man.) or tweaking each sentence until it rings like a bell... or giving it structure and its dialogue authenticity... developing characters until you forget you are reading... the whole time trying to stay spontaneous and crackling with energy... Not to mention correcting the myriadic mountain of cascading grammatical errors. I hope I've achieved, even a little of that. In the meantime, I'll keep crackin' at it.

Anyways, I thought I'd share that with you guys because its getting close to the time they should be letting me know, and because I like you so darn much and I thought you'd find it encouraging too. I hope this encourages anyone who is working at a goal or a dream, and to not give up, and to know that little successes are the ones that get you to the big ones, and that the biggest success is actually doing it! So, if you've had a dream sitting inside of you for a long, long time, maybe its time that you gave it a little life while you can. There are hundreds of thousands of people who don't have the resources that you have, and to do nothing with what you have, is a sin and a smack in their face. "To whom much is given, much is required." Get to it and bless others generously with what you have been given!

P.S., there is no doubt that the novel would be 100 miles of that agency if it hadn't been for my wife's keen, creative, encouraging, and gorgeous green editing eyes. Period. End of story. And, I just bet, that his might be the only novel that was completely edited while waiting on line for Broadway auditions, so, DOUBLE-FUN!

Wish me luck!

Okay, back to German studies.

German Fun.

"On the street to Bremen there stands an old donkey. He is weak and tired, because he has been the move all day. Why is he on the way to Beermen? Because hopes to find work as a musician. He thinks maybe he can find work in the symphony orchestra as a trumpet blower. At home he can no longer work, because his father, a miller, wants to get rid of him. He is fifteen years old, and the bags which he must carry to the mill are too heavy..."

A old donkey... that finds work... in an orchestra...

Translating German is fun. I love translating German. I don't could go on living if I didn't get to translate such masterpieces. I can hardly wait to see what happens next. I love German. I love translating German. I'm going to gnaw off my arm at the elbow. Thank you, thank you.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


So what did I do for Valentines day? I dropped my wife off at the airport. First Valentines day apart. But we've never been big Valentines day folken. That's not really true. We say that, but then when it gets here we always get something for each other. Or we use it as an excuse to go splurge on some chocolate.

But this year, Amber is on her way to Houston to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast. For the past week I've had a blast reading lines with her. I get to be all the other voices, and since I've about got that flick memorized, I think I do alright. Especially with Cogsworth and Lumiere.

So, I batch'n it for Valentines day. Poor wittle me. I do miss my green-eyed girl. Its only been 5 hours. Wuv, twu wuv...

Maybe I'll see movie tonight. I should study German, but come on. It's Valentines day.

Oh, and on the train ride back, a large man sat next to me. He looked like a mix between Gerry Garcia and Santa Clause. It was the first time I've ever seen or heard of anyone snoring and humming at the same time. No kidding. Snoring, and humming, both coming out of the great mass of white-haired flesh pressing against my right side.

P.S. The Osteen Discussion is getting revved up. I'm about to take it another notch and talk about the merits, if any of prosperity.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Few Things to Remember as We Discuss Dr. Osteen... (revised version)

For the sake of knowing that I'm trying to give an unbiased opinion, I am stating heretofore, that I am not an Osteen advocate. I don't even watch him on T.V. (regularly) I don't send Lakewood money. I don't go to Lakewood when I'm in town. (not that going there would be bad. It's fun! I've been!) Me and the Lord were and are getting on just dandy without his books and sermons. That's because I'm not a light reader. You are talking to a man who reads Aquinas' Summa Theologica on the can for fun. Even Lucado, Lord bless him and wonderful cash-cow gifts, bores me up one tree and down the other these days. But that's just me. Lucado is a great writer. I just don't go in for the light theological reading these days, or anything written in the last fifty years. So why talk about Osteen?

First, I like shaking things up. Most of you know that. It's fun (for me) to wrestle with issues, learn and be sharpened. There are some things I know a lot about, there are some things I don't know much about, but I'm learning. So about Joel... I don't know much about him, but I've heard a bunch of stuff about him, and some of that stuff includes damning the guy to hell for telling people that God wants to bless them. I've got a hunch that there is a bunch of jealous, pastor-envy going on in the undertones of damnation.

Second, I don't believe in taking someone's word about someone else. (Unless they are an unrepentant murderer being chased on the news.) Especially when it has to do with their eternity. I like to dig in and find out for myself. This is what I'm doing with Joel Osteen, and his message. I've heard the opposite arguments presented, and the other day, I picked up his latest book at B&N, and after reading it, I decided that... he ain't so bad. A lot of big-wig Christians disagree with Joel, but then again, a lot of Christians disagree with the Pope. Big surprise. In the below discussion, we are talking about Joel, and his most current book, and the accusations that have been made towards him. You are welcome to join in, even though it might get pretty heavy sometimes. (Meaning: If you don't like theological, eschatological talk, you might fall asleep in parts. But I hope not!)

For me, this kind of stuff is what I live for. I could sit around the fire all night talking about this stuff. But one reason I picked this topic with Joel, is that for me, it goes further, deeper. It has to do with Christ's Kingdom here and now, and what all that means. For me, its been something I've been thinking about since I read St. Augustine's City of God. (A book all Christians should read. Especially the chapter on heaven. Wow.) More on that later. For now, let's talk Osteen. See comments in post below! Me and Cach and C-ham are at it! Wahoo!

Prelude to the Pandora's Box.

Just a few lines from Osteen's new book, then I'll build my case:

"When God puts a dream into your heart, it may look impossible in the natural. Every voice may tell you it will never happen. "You'll never break that addiction. You'll never accomplish your dreams. You'll never be happy." But if you believe and stay in faith, and expect good things, you can defy the odds."

"Don't go around thinking, "Everybody gets good breaks except me. I've reached my limits... I don't know why I'm not as talented as that other person." No, get rid of that defeated mind-set. You are a child of the Most High God. God has breathed His life into you. He planted seeds of greatness in you. You have everything you need to fulfill your God-given destiny. God has already put in the talent, the creativity, the discipline, the wisdom, and the determination. It's all in you. You are full of potential. But you have to do your part and start tapping into it. You have to make better use of the gifts and talents that God has given you."

"Other people's opinions do not determine your potential."

"Out of your greatest rejection comes our greatest direction."

"Granted, you may have gotten off to a rough start in life. You may have had more than your share of unfair thins happen. But it's not how you start that counts. It's how you finish. Shake off the past; shake off discouragement. Remind yourself that God is still in complete control of your life. If you'll keep your trust in Him, He promises that no weapon formed against you will prosper. Your situation may seem unfair, it may be difficult; it may seem the forces working against you are winning momentarily, but God said He'd turn your circumstances around and use them to your advantage. The Scripture says, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy is coming in the morning."

"I don't deserve anything. I'm just a weak worm of the dust," I hear people say. No, you're not a weak worm of the dust; you are a child of the Most High God. Hold your head up high, put your shoulders back, and start acting like a child of Almighty God."

"Some people are always finding fault with themselves. "I wish I didn't look like this. I wish I had her personality, and I wish I had his talent." No, God designed you as you are on purpose. You are an original. Quit being negative and critical toward yourself and start enjoying yourself as the unique creation of God."

"Remember, we are called overcomers. That means we're going to have obstacles. You can't have great victories without having difficult battles."

"The Bible says, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law," The curse behind any kind of defeat - sin, mistakes, wrong choices, fear, worry, constant sickness, unhealthy relationships, or bad attitudes. Please understand that those are all things from which you have already been set free. But here's the catch: If you don't appreciate and take advantage of your freedom, if you don't get your thoughts, your words, your attitudes going in the right direction, it won't do you any good."

"Too many people learn to function in their dysfunction."

"Take responsibility for your actions. God has given you free will. You can choose to change.."

"Don't take the easy way out. Keep doing your best even when it's difficult. Keep loving, giving, and serving. Your faithfulness is noticed in heaven. You are storing up equity for both yourself and generations to come."

"Before you were born, God saw you, and He endowed you with gifts and talents uniquely designed for you. He's given you ideas and creativity, as well as specific areas in which you can excel."

"Sam asks God to forgive him every day for something he did three years ago. He has asked for forgiveness more than five hundred times for the same thing. Sam fails to grasp the fact that God forgave him the first time he asked. The problem is, Sam didn't recieve the forgiveness and mercy. He continues listening to the accusing voices. "You blew it, God can't bless you. You know what you did a few years ago." Instead Sam needs to get up every morning and say something like, "Father, thank You that Your mercy ednures forever. I may have mad mistakes in the past, but I know nothing I've done is too much for Your mercy. I may have even made mistakes yesterday. But I know Your mercy is fresh and new every single morning. So I receive it by faith today."

Up Next: A Case For Ole'steen

Newest series in the brewing pot. I've been doing some reading and guess what? I think he's 99 percent right on. Can't wait to do some blogwrasslin' with some of you.

Random Morning Song

For some reason I awoke this morning singing:

Lambs eat oats
and does eat oats
and little lambs eat ivy
a kid'll eat ivy too
a kid'll eat ivy too
wouldn't you?

Anybody know this song, or why in the name of Mr. Rogers I would wake up singing this little ditty?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tim Keller

We saw Tim Keller the other night talking about his new book, The Reason For God. I haven't read the book yet, but from all accounts it is as fantastic as his sermons. Keller is an incredible preacher. Most of you know that. I'm a little late on the preacher-clue train as far as great teachers go. I didn't know a darn thing about Tim Keller when we got here until I bragged to one of my buddies in Missouri about our new pastor. He already had half his sermons on podcast or whatever.

To be honest, I usually don't like to listen to sermons much. I love preachers, I am a preachers son and grew up surrounded by preachers, but after all these years, I much prefer reading. Mostly because I'm a.d.d and I have a hard time concentrating on long lectures, which is what preaching is. I much prefer the Socratic approach.

HOWEVER, Tim Keller is a different story altogether. The man is not only a giant, six-foot-four brain with glasses, he is extremely likable and probably the best Bible teacher I've ever heard, in person. I say teacher, cause that's what he is. A pulpit-pounding pontificator, he is not. Thank God. Tim is much more like a professor, but one of those professors that get applause after their lectures. Not that he goes for the applause thing, or that he cares about that crap.

Most times, in college, if you go to a good University, you have professors who are pretty good and you enjoy their class a great deal. My undergrad, not so much. My grad school, bunches. And if you've ever experienced a teacher that is so brilliant, that you can't wait to get a good seat, you'll know what I'm talking about. It's like they've got... shoot, I hate to use these words, but "the secret" to it all. And it's not really a secret at all, it's just that they have a way of shining a light on what has been there all along, something that you knew, somewhere inside of you, but where unable to express it or find yourself. That's what a great teacher does and that's what Tim Keller does.

We love Redeemer and we've already been blessed in so many ways by friendships there. Last week, Tom Jennings, an incredible musician, head-hancho of the music program at Redeemer, and all-around great guy ask Amber and I to sing "Give Me Jesus" for the two evening services. We did, and we were blessed and I hope the good people there were blessed as well. Later that week, we went to a meet and greet with Tim Keller and got a chance to talk with him a bit. (He liked us but only recognized us from behind, as that is how he saw us singing.) Also, during the Q & A about his book, I noticed that Genny Owens was sitting in front of me. We also met her and chatted with her after. What a sweet person she is!

So that's the church update for now. Going to lead worship for a Redeemer group tonight and need to brush up the guitar skills. Maybe work on my nunchuck skills or bow staff skills after. Peathh Out.

(Updated links coming tonight!)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Let's Link Folks.

Let's link folks. I'll be the first to admit, that as a community blogger, I suck. I've got two incredible thesis to respond to in my comment section (MB and Vitamin Z) and I keep meaning to get there but as soon as the time comes to respond, it evaporates. Dangit! I've even got blogs over there to the right that are no longer in service or are flat-out wrong addresses. (Sorry Joanna!)

So, I'm doing a little update. On any average 2 or three days, I read about 6 blogs pretty regular, sometimes obsessively if I'm bored or procrastinating. (I've got a little O.C.D. and blogging helped me to quit smoking.) But lately, I've discovered a few more blogs that I just gots ta' read. Like Majorsteve's and Amy's, and Joanna's... and superchurchlady's and many, many more. You guys are killing me. You've been a needed break from my Deutsche studies.

A side note: Oh how I can't wait to get back to some music making or novel writing. BTW! Yesterday, I did get a commission from a touring string sextet to write a kick-arse piece for their Aisian tour! That'll be fun, and it will probably be recorded and sold! However, I've got loads of songs bursting to come out and two ideas for novels that are twitching just below the knuckles to leap onto the... what's the word... a.d.d. moment (or little mermaid moment)... keyboard!

Anyways, back to the blog linking business. If you want me to link you, and you don't see the link to the side, holler at me. I've been told recently that I need to beef up my blogging habits. I'm lazy. I said that already.

But part of it isn't laziness. I've just never been in it for the numbers. Plus, it seems like the best blogs are ones that didn't really try that hard and they were just good in the first place. But that's neither here nor there. There are 5 blogs that I read this past week, written by everyday joes, that I think should be the most popular blogs on the internet.

Back on topic Seth, back on topic. You send me your link, I'll send you mine. I like to read. Cause' I like people. I'm like a dog. I like talking to people. I like peeing on things to mark my territory. And I promise, promise, that I'll never hump your leg or sniff your butt. Back on the human side, I also like discussion. I live for it. I've learned a boatload from the regular to irregular contributors here: C-hammer, Mammasboy, Cachinator, Fancypants, Euphrony, Vitamin-Z, R.O., Rob, Bill, Shaun, Brant to name a few... So if I link you, I'll read you.

But I have to do a lot of hunting for others sometimes because of my poor linkage. There are a few blogs that I read that are linked from someone elses blog. I end up clicking to three blogs to get to the one I'm trying to read. Now THAT is lazy. Well, lazy no more. So here's the delio. If you've commented on my blog in the last 6 months, or if you've linked me and I didn't know it, I'm linkin' ya. Period. If you are a lurkin' machine... (my chance to be a hypocrite and guilt you out by insinuating that you are slightly creepy,) then lets link baby!

Point is, I'm honored if you have been reading, not creeped out, all ye lurkers. If you like what I have to say, then I'll probably like what you have to say. But maybe not, because it's fun sometimes to disagree!!!! Shoot, if we didn't disagree sometimes then what a boring bunch of mushrooms we'd be.

CORNY, SAPPY MOMENT ALERT I am really very happy and amazed that you all read this here blog. Thank you for being a part of my day and for your continued encouragement and for sharpening me. God bless us, every one.

So come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together and try to link one another right now.

If you wanna drop me an email, go for it:

So who remembers Lincoln Logs?!!!

-Thus Sayeth The Ward

p.s., If you subscribe to my feed, you'll get those posts that I post for 2 minutes and remove because they were either: too mean, to stupid, too embarrassing, revealed something top secret about my marriage, revealed something top secret about my involvement with governmental contact with extraterrestrial intelligence, or my thoughts on whether or not there will be pooping in heaven. Stuff like that.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Barth on Prayer

My friend Dr. Eddie Carder, a professor of Philosophy and Faith and Ethics, called me up a few days ago and sent me to his website. Turns out, I have lots of friends with blogs and websites who haven't said anything to me about their blogs and websites. More on that later. Suckers.

Anyways, Eddie sent me over there where I read this quote by Karl Barth, one of my all-time favorite theologians. Barth changed my world as a young 17 year old doubter, teetering on the edge of Universalism, and now again, something has changed in me since a few days ago when I read this here quote on prayer, a subject that has always been mysterious, but lately has been a... struggle.

"God is not deaf, he listens; more than that, he acts. He does not act in the same way whether we pray or not. Prayer exerts an influence upon God's action, even upon his existence. That is what the word 'answer' means. ... The fact that God yields to man's petitions, changing his intentions in response to man's prayer, is not a sign of weakness. He himself, in the glory of his majesty and power, has so willed it."

Here is another from Barth on prayer. I love this one as well.

"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world."

Watching the Grammys

Actually having a good time and haven't wanted to barf once. Kanye was a little stuck up, as usual. Old Houghton and Aretha tore it up with some gospel. They flat-out had some church up in that place. Lovin' it.

Amber quote after Foo Fighters win: "Man, musicians are just aWKwARD on film. They're just rejects from middle school that never got over it."

The dialogues in between awards are C.O.R.N.Y. Dear lord let the writers back in the building.

Lurker? Is That Word Necessary?

Lurking sounds so weird. I'm a pretty regular lurker I suppose, but that blasted word just sounds perverted. I prefer... I don't know... "reader?" Isn't that what people are? We don't call people who read the NY Times "lurkers." Why am I referred to as a "lurker" when I'm just reading a public document? A lurker is a man who looks over a woman's shoulder to check out the cleave. A lurker is a man standing next to you at the urinal and tilts his head your way. (Yes, that's happened. I now go number 1 in stalls.) A lurker is a smelly guy on the subway who is trying to read the funny poem you are writing about him... a lurker is someone at the next table who is eyeballing your food as it arrives from the waiter's hands onto your table.

So... maybe if you had a web cam switched on in your office while you typed or something... you could call me a lurker. But not if you are publishing your stuff on the world wide friggin web.

Essentially, by definition, a lurker poses some kind of threat to the lurkie. Maybe that happens sometimes, but not here. Read away, and never feel guilty. That's why its up here on the dadgum internet. If I didn't want to know what I thought, I'd write a letter to myself. Half the time I think "Lurker" is used by bloggers to get readers to comment so the blogger won't feel depressed because nobody is commenting.

That's all for now. Carry on.

(This paragraph was taken from a much longer blog. My new resolution is to write shorter blog entries. After writing a book or two, its been reeeeeeeal hard to cut these babies short. I mean, just look at how this parenthetical is growing. I can't stop myself. I wanna type type type.)

Friday, February 08, 2008

There is a fine line between being cutting edge and idiotic.

Karlheinz Stockhausen "Helicopter String Quartet"

This would be idiotic.

My dear, dear, German brothers,

The time has come for you to face the facts and realize that the world no longer cares much for what hasn't been done compositionally. That musical catharsis is over. The Viennese School of Composition is allllll done influencing the world. The French, the Slavs, and the Americans grabbed the torch after Schoenberg, and left the building. Don't take my word for it. Just go listen to the score to There Will Be Blood.

It is time for you to stop counting measures up in yer helicopters, while playing tired old atonal glissandos that mimic the helicopter's sound, and admit the world of composition has moved on. Not only have they moved on, they laugh at thee. What's next? Will you be riding on cows and playing wild trombone glissandos while screaming intermittently, "Ja Wohl COW! EINS! MOO!?" How 'bout tubas on whales? You are dipping into Monty Python territory here, fellas.

I mean, even one of your own german fiddlers looks like he is about crack up.

There comes a time when a composer has to look at some totally original ideas and say, "nahhh. That's just dumb." You... have missed such a time.

City Sketches: Skyrockets In Flight

I just ate, no, devoured, no, stuffed my salivating kisser with the best lunch I've had in weeks: An extra long hot dog, slathered with spicy sauce and spicy mustard, all made with the tender care of Aziz, the vendor chef on the corner of Broadway and 69th.

I had just left the Barnes and Noble to study for the retake of the German Exam that I bombed by 10%, when the sizzling chicken and lamb called to me like fattening sirens. My whole body convulsed and surged towards the two men shoveling the glimmering meat and onions upon warm disks of pita bread. I reached the two appetite-pimps quickly and the order for the Pita and Chicken left my mouth in a mumbling trance. Then, I saw them: Four hot dogs, warming on a side burner, crying for a bun. "Stop that pita order pilgrim,” said I. "Give me one of those Hot Dogs before I start to cry."

A block later, hot dog half devoured, I stepped into one of the local corner Krusty Marts, and perused the drinks for the perfect counterpoint to the hot dog melody that was enrapturing my senses. (Cue John Denver "You Fill Up My Senses...") Feeling a tad guilty, I reached for the grape juice... (some sort of Baptist-Boy freudian thing there, no doubt) then I saw it. One of those old-timey, glass coke bottles. You know the ones that look like they were somehow transported from Floyd's barber shop on the Andy Griffith Show?

The dancing, digesting hot dog within me rumbled, "Take and drink... you fool!" So I did. And it was good. (Pausing my typing for another swig...) "Ahhhhhhhhhh."

As for now, (belch) I'm ridn' the rush. I'm surfing the sugar-starch wave. I'm seeing in Technicolor little chiren. And I'm spending it all on you, dear friend. Because I know very soon, I'll be stricken with a strange and irresistible urge to take a nap, or throw up. So let my words be few... readers, this here blog, it buds for you.

What's your guilty pleasure?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

There Will Be Blood Review, Part 2: Sir Daniel, The Uberman's Man

There Will Be Blood showcases one of the most virtuosic, awe-dropping, flipping magnificent acting performances known to modern cinema.

In this film, Daniel Day Lewis made me forget about that hunk of melodramatic crud "The Last of The Mohicans" (cue Mohicans clip: "Just stay alive! Whatever may occur! I will find you!" - then he jumps through the waterfall like all brave Indians do-) and placed himself on the pedestal reserved for Brando, Pachino, Nicholson, Hopkins... (I realize that I just offended half my readers with that Mohicans slam...)

He was almost too good. I had a hard time caring too much about his costars. It reminded me of a quote by the famous Conductor, Toscanini, while referring to himself to a preening opera diva who demanded she be treated like a star, "Ah, Madame, but the stars cannot be seen while the sun shines," Toscanini said, and pointed to himself.

This was true for D.D.L. in There Will Be Blood. There wasn't a moment when my eyeballs were not glued to that guy, even when someone else was talking.

If they don't gift wrap the Academy Award and hand it to him while messaging his shoulders all the way to the podium, then they need to march over to Jaimie Fox's pad and bust his academy for Ray into a billion shards.

It is hard to describe a performance so spectacular that I can't get it out of my head. Maybe I should just take Hemmingway's advice and deem it "too good to talk about."

As for the movie... I went into the flick thinking that it wouldn't compare to No Country for Old Men. Rarely does a year in film yield two marvels of American Cinema, but this year is such a year.

I've read a few good reviews of this film and for some reason, they still don't capture "that something" that There Will Be Blood made me feel. Maybe because something truly artful cannot be captured, or if it is, it is blemished and made less.

I'll probably fail too, but might as well give it a go.

Not only was There Will Be Blood a commentary on the perils and parallels of pure capitalism and religious corruption, it shines the light deeper, into the soul of why there is capitalism at all. There Will Be Blood was a commentary on survival. It wasn't just about the evils of capitalism and religion and how both can take advantage of people and their possessions. It is about survival through dominance. From the beginning we see a man scratching in the desert for silver. His ladder breaks and he falls back into a hole where he had unsuccessfully dug for silver. He breaks his leg in the fall, but in the entire falling ruckus, silver is found. He then drags himself up out of the hole, with his silver, and miles and miles through the desert to the gold exchange. He survives.

There are two primary characters in this film: The Oil Man, (Daniel Day Lewis) and the Preacher Man. (Paul Dano.) Both want to thrive. They want control. They want to be the survivor, the winner, and the conqueror. In the end... well, it's no spoiler to say one wins and one loses. But there is Redemption here, just not a "Christian" redemption. The redemption is more Nietzschean. (That gives me the creeps just writing that last sentence.) It is the uberman's redemption we see the end. He kills God, or God's man. In doing so, he proclaims that he is finished, he survives, and the film ends.

To the filmmaker's credit, this is neither glorified nor admonished in the film; you the viewer are left to do your own deciding. (Again, another sign of Stanley Kubrick's influence on cinema. As in all Kubrick's films, ironically, we are given a God's eye view of the situation.) The director here shows us what happens, and leaves the viewer to extrapolate the moral, if any, ourselves. And that is hard for some. We like morals handed to us on a silver platter. But life doesn't work that way. It's a bonafide you-know-what-arooney sometimes and everybody knows it. And unfortunately, sometimes the bad guy wins. But is the bad guy really any worse than you or I, in our worst moments?

In "There Will Be Blood," we are shown man as animal. Not a completely savage animal, but a principled and intelligent animal. But unlike the principled villain in No Country For Old Men, who showed us a cold and otherworldly embodiment of evil, Daniel Day Lewis showed actual love. He loved his son, but loved him so long as he was not his competition. Love, in his case, being a natural, chemical reaction that can be broken if the survival of the lover is threatened. Daniel Day Lewis' love for his adopted son is not transcendent in its beginning or in the end. The only thing that is, is his need for power and survival. Man as survivor. And it is only through defeating his enemy, is his purpose renewed. This is distinctly Nietzschean. Even D.D.L.'s religious-church repentance stems from a need to survive and dominate.

The ending leaves you with a strange mixture of triumph and sickness, as all who go down the path of the uberman eventually feel.

I recommend this film for those who want to see a spectacular acting performance, rivaled by few, and for those who want to sit around thinking about the film for days after. It isn't a film for the family. It is a great film though, and if you liked No Country for Old Men, you'll like this one as well.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

City Sketches: Before Bed

Lately, since we've moved into our new apartment, I’ve been taking to sitting in my office/bedroom, in the dark, with the window slightly open, just to listen. During the night the city sounds like a distant, idling engine or far-off waves. Except instead of seagulls, you occasionally hear a truck beeping as it backs up, or a police siren wail, grow loud enough to make you feel uneasy, then finally die away. An exciting sound for me tonight, but tomorrow, it might sound lonely as heck.

Either way, it never stops. Even in the darkest, silent night, the city washes over you with that constant, soft roar that seems to stretch out forever, into the soft glow it gives to the horizon and finally out into the cold Atlantic.

I love it. All that soft noise makes me sleepy.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dubya Fever

Is it just me, or do the primaries seem more intense than a normal presidential election? I feel like we should be getting ready for the inauguration soon. Are we that tired of Dubya? I think maybe we are.

Why do you guys think this particular primary is more amp'd-up than in any primary EVER? (Besides having the first Black and Woman candidates, which is huge. But besides that... or is it just that? Not trying to belittle the HUGENESS of that, but could it be other things? Educate me.) Why is this election so important? I really, really, really don't know who to vote for. I've seen the footage. I've seen the debates. The only dude that makes sense right now to me is Ron Paul and he doesn't stand an ice sickle's chance in the Devil's crack of winning.

So here is what is important to me and you tell me who you think I should vote for.

1. Bring our boys home to their wives and children and let the Arabs kill each other till they're done. (That sounded horrible. But honest. Yikes.) OR, send a few hundred thousand over, along with any and everything else needed to finish the job. Time to drop waste or get off the pot there, if you ask me.

2. Stop spending a Trillion Dollars a second on other countries while people are losing their jobs and homes here, and while half our kids are uninsured.

3. Better Public Schools that can compete with the fancy private schools. That means pay teachers more, and offer school vouchers, that is, if the kid can make the grades. If he can't, then too bad. (I was too lazy to get into the advanced classes in middle school until my freshman year when all the pretty girls went to advanced class and I was stuck with belching bubba and his croonies. It took me one semester to raise my standards and it was off the A.P. courses I went.)

4. Do something about health care. It is unbelievable. Inconceivable. Retardamundo. Blasphemous. Sickening. and Crappy doo too.

5. Find an alternative to oil. Offer a national prize or something to the science stud who comes up with the energy solution. Shoot, make him president next time. Time to get off the oil teat folks.

6. I don't know... maybe catch... oh, let me see... OSAMA BIN LADEN??????? Don't you think it's about time for him to retire???

... those are the things that are off-the-top-of-my-head important to me right now. As for Abortion and the other issues, the Supreme Court will be taking care of that. Bush's legacy might be saved by the Justices he put there.

So what am I missing? Help me out. You won't offend me in the least.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Growing Up?

I don't know what is happening to me... I was talking to a friend the other day, and he was giving me the top five reasons that the music pastor at his church in Alabama should be fired because he isn't relevant, and how much money his church spent on their building and how ridiculous it is that the kids have somewhere to play, and how old fashioned preaching is and how much money America has and how its been a crappy influence on the church and blah blah... As this friend went on and on, something occurred to me. Something that oddly, living in New York City has shown me: I no longer want to gripe about the church. I no longer want to gripe about America.

I know, I know what some of you are thinking, whilst spewing your double espresso all over your Relevant Magazine. "Well shoot, Seth. How can you call yourself a thirty-something white, hip, American Protestant?" Well, I can't. Never could really. I bought some square glasses a few years back and two days later I lost them. And there is something about those square glasses... they tend to change perfectly good fellas and creative guys into whiny schmucks. And with every single one, somewhere along the way, the church burned them. Eventually they left it, all the while yearning for the potluck dinner of their youth.

I wonder someday if they'll end up like Citizen Kane, alone and isolated by bodyguards, in their state-of-the-art, nationally televised sanctuaries. A stainless steel earth swirls above their still body as they lie on the floor... Finally, they gasp their last breath, open their hand and out rolls their glass-snow-shaky-thingy to the ground. It smashes on the textured concrete and reveals a little white church. As the water drains across the floor, instead of "rosebud," they whisper "pot luuuuuck."

Seems like everyone is putting on cool, square glasses, or beefing up their biceps, and screaming for significance by slicing at the church that raised them, with all the lusty zeal of a teenage party-animal. Then they write a book about it and get rich off it. Then they write books about why their competitors are wrong, calling them heretics and get richer. And then the repeat the procedure, ad nauseam, and get triple rich. Then, ten years later, they write a book about how they were wrong for getting so rich, and get rich again.

I read those books and think, "Yeah, I guess I can see how we are crappy... it just doesn't seem all that bad to me. (Put down the book, rub my belly and yawn) What time is the potluck dinner honey? I'm starving."

Truth is, last 4 churches I've been to, even though they've all had pretty nice buildings, they all seem to really care about things that Jesus cared about: Spreading the Good News and helping the helpless, which would be, according to the bible, everyone. Are they perfect? No. Are they working on it? Yes. Sound a little like me? Double yes.

Then there is America. Last time I checked the news, I saw about 5 countries where people were being killed daily by either a crazy, tyrannical regime or some other sort of natural disaster- famine, starvation...

And as I shake my head and watch the news footage, I'm finally not afraid to admit that I am thankful. I am thankful that I wasn't born in that town in Africa with the lone chicken running down the middle of the dirt road/main street. No, for as long as I can, I'll be just fine to shop at the supermarket for my pre-plucked, de-boned chicken thank you very much, even if my hormoned-bird gives me gradual man-boobs and theirs won't. Because who knows how long that will last?

Let's not mistake "civilization" with "prosperity." Nothing wrong with a supermarket or a paved road, or nice carpet in church for that matter folks. And no, being thankful isn't the same thing as being selfish. It takes true humility to be thankful. And let me tell you, I am one humble dude. Middle name: Humility. I make humility look good baby. I put the hum in humility. (For typing this last paragraph, you may expect the Good Lord to send me to Africa, very soon.)

Seriously, It's what I do with what I've been blessed with that matters. If I'm truly thankful, I'll share what I have.

And last time I checked, if there is any country that is doing something about it, the U.S. is one of them. Are they doing it perfectly? No. Are we working on it? Yes. Sounds like me again.

So I guess what I am trying to say is this: I have nothing to gripe about. I live, eat, and worship in a country that facilitates and encourages, in bounty, all of the aforementioned verbs. Good lord. I just turned into my mother. Seriously. My left arm is a woman's arm that resembles my mother's.

From now on, for every negative thing I say about capitalistic Christianity, I should say something about how it is doing some, no, a lot of good.

This is not a prideful pat on the back. I'm just laying down my rectangle glasses. I'm shelving my hair gel and I'm turning off those Mac Christian adds with the "cool, real Christian and the dorky Christian guy." Cause truth is, I'm dorky. Yes, I like church. For all its funny, quirky, misguided, goofiness. Cause that's me too, and that's where I'm loved. The church has loved me in my worst and best moments. They've loved me, regardless of my idiotic mistakes, and not simply for what I can do to jazz-up the service. And certainly not for how much cash I've put in the bucket.

So when do I get my bar mitzvah?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Here Kitty Kitty.

I don't know what it is with me and cats. They love me, yet I love them not. I spent the better part of my younger years discovering ways to aggrevate them. What else is there to do in the Keytonville hills of Oklahoma? I can't believe that my kitty, Tiger, didn't go insane by my sixth birthday. He finally ran off after I devised something akin to a medieval kitty-torture gauntlet. It was the masterpiece of my younger years. I won't go into the sordid details, but lets just say that Tiger was to start the race with tape on the paws, and clipped whiskers on one side. He must have seen me gathering my tools. When I went to find him he was gone, his cat nip with him.

To this day, I am the master at small, kitty-annoyances. I can masterfully annoy a cat into a harsh bite towards my hand, without it ever leaving my lap. One of my favorite things to do, is to barely touch the hair on the cat's back, near the tail, and watch every muscle in the kitty's back convulse, as it thinks a fly is nesting, or something. It will usually endure the spasm for 3 or 4 minutes until it looks back at me with a look that says, "He bub. I know that's you. If you don't want a claw to the crotch or a chomp to the finger, cut that crap out." This look is usually followed by an annoyed lick to the paw, with ears pointed back.

I give the cat another 5 minutes, and repeat the procedure.

Just one of many.

So, I don't get it. Why do you love me, oh feline genus? I am a bitter, bitter winter wind to your affection, and I'm here to tell ya, it shant change...

Maybe they are trying that pacifist thing that those Tibetan monks did... thinking that I'll eventually cave to their undeserved affections...

Friday, February 01, 2008

There Will Be Blood Review, Part 1, The Score: There Will Be Bartok

I am so torn about the score for There Will be Blood. Half the time I was ticked off because once again, a film composer (Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead in this case,) rips the stylings of some of the world’s greatest 20th century composers, and once again, everyone thinks that this particular film composer came up with these revolutionary sounds. Reading the iTunes comments, you'd think that 1930-1970 never happened in composition. It really sounds nitpicky, maybe a little snobbish, but just think of it this way... Let's say, you love the Beatles, and suddenly, a composer comes along and mimics the Beatles and everyone thinks the mimicker is sooooo original. "Oh my gosh, did you hear the Roaches??? What and amazing song! Who would have thunk to write an album based on some guy named Sgt. Paprika's Lonely Hearts Club??? Just so original."

ON THE OTHERHAND, the actual scoring of the film was breathtaking. It is one of the most effective and heart-pounding scores ever written. I couldn't help but love every blasted moment of that wonderful mimicry/original music. It was like hearing an amazing cover band. (I can't believe I just said that about Jonny Greenwood.) The mimicry was somtimes so good and so severe, I had a hard time discerning whether the music was straight-up Messiaen, Bartok or original music. (Which is a real accomplishment.) For instance, "Proven Lands" was FILLED with Bartok's orchestrations and harmonic language. (Harsh plucking of the strings, slapping the strings with the violin bow, all under a pizzicato-plucked string- melody utilizing the octatonic scale. See: Anything Bartok wrote.) Also, the opening glissandos in the strings... STRAIGHT OUT of Penderecki's Threnody for Victims of Hiroshima. And I mean STRAIGHT. I actually turned to Amber and said: "Hey, that's Penderecki!... wait, no, it's not. No, maybe... no... wait... huh?"

A part of me wonders why the Director didn't use the original guys instead of hiring someone and paying them a gillion bucks to mimic music that already has a zillion good recordings ready to paste. After all, Stanley Kubrick was famous for cutting his films around the score. Bartok's Music for Strings Percussion and Celeste is mesmerizing in the Shining. I think Bartok would have LOVED Kubrick's treatment.

So, while it really ticks me off that Greenwood mimicked the compositional stylings of Penderecki, Ligeti, Bartok, and Messiaen, I LOVED his placement of the actual music itself. No doubt about it, it was some of the best mimicry I've ever heard.

Lastly, I don't mind some mimicry in film scoring. However, I still want to hear an individual voice. John Williams does this. So did the late Goldstein. Greenwood... not so much. But still good! See how I'm torn here folks?

In the end, I believe this is why Greenwood didn't get the nod for the Academy. And because the score was declared ineligible for an Academy Award nomination under a rule that prohibited "scores diluted by the use of tracked themes or other pre-existing music."

Believe it or not, originality is something they look for. Which is a bizzare thing to say about someone in Radiohead. Radiohead is one of the few bands to make a dent in the high-falluten "art-world," mostly because they are cutting edge. Here, Greenwood is 40 years behind the times, and more striking- stylistically unoriginal. At the same time, if he would add a bit to it, maybe a change in orchestration, he would fit right in with the post-modern school of composition.

Also, really cool placement of the Brahms Violin concerto, except for on HORRIBLE cut that neutered the ending of the last movement to one of my favorite works for the violin and orchestra. This is where the director could have added 15 seconds of shooting, or credits and saved the score from such hackery.

(After I wrote the above, I read that Greenwood loves the Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony, a MASSIVE an obscure work of Messiaen. I also read that he obsessed over Messiaen in his teens. I will admit to a healthy obsession to Oliver Messiaen myself. Specifically, the Turangalila Symphony. I will also admit, it is hard to listen to Messiaen and not imitate him. I've had a healthy dose of Messiaen-imitation accusatons as well, by composers who knew Messiaen. Yikes. Talk about squirming.)

Btw, Messiaen is a nightmarish name to spell, for a man with dyslexia, during his doctoral comp's.

A Thing of Beauty