Friday, February 27, 2009

What do you guys think of this?

I can write me some long posts...

Exhibit A: See post below.

Well, I've been out of it for a while and my statcounter tells me I've got some new viewers. I don't really know why, but okay then. A bunch from this here city as a matter of fact. So here's the deal my new friends.

I started this blog a few years back to get better at writing as writing was something that I had always wanted to do but was too chicken to try. So, this is where I write a bunch. Not editing, but writing. You'll find that there are a bunchload of mistakes on this blog. I try to leave as many as I can stomach. The reason being that I think people, me, myself and I, have spent too long being afraid. Being afraid to submit to the viewing world something that isn't flawed. It darn near crippled my piano playing while I was getting a Masters in Piano and it kept me from ever writing as many songs as I wanted to write.

So, sometimes, I do spend a good bit of time (an hour or so) writing a post and shaping it up, nice and spiffy. But most times, you get it just like it comes out. Sometimes raw and smelly and sometimes quite catchy, if I do say so myself. But it is flawed, nonetheless. See, right there... two sentences in one paragraph that start with "but." But am I going to change them? Crap no.

So, feel free to comment, harass, admonish, PRAISE, jeer, and so on and so forth. Its all fun to me.

In fact... I think blogging truly lends itself to a kind of innate and raw imperfection. Even the best blogs seem a little rough around the edges however grammatically correct. Honestly, if I read a blog that is too perfect, I always feel like... someone just showed up to the movies in a prom dress.

But that's just me. What the heck do I know? Bottom line is I try to keep it fun. And short. However, I do fail that second one quite a bit. Again, thanks for reading and feel free to chime in and give me a hard time.

The Bono Conundrum

We live in an evangelical culture of molds. We love them. Drive down any highway in the Bible Belt and you'll find 3 basic architectural molds of Church and Church people. Before I get started here, let me just say that this isn't a bashing fest, this a commentary. (How was that for a cheap and lazy disclaimer. Hey, I never claimed to be a non-hypocrite.)


1. High Church people. These are usually Baptists. Baptist-lite. Extra-strength Baptists, and Baptist-Olestra. They mostly dress a certain way, and sing a good healthy mix of hymn and praise music. Every once in a while a long-haired, bearded pianist will wander who looks like Jesus at the piano, but most times, they keep things close to the chest and playbook as far as that goes. Good clean fun.

2. Superdome Church people: These are the guys that probably have the most fun on Sunday morning. Not much Calvinist fatalism taught here, and no hints of Gnostic "this-life-sucks-flesh-and-Earth-is-evil" talk. They've usually got some unbelievable band and some incredible media team that rivals the pop culture that they are... well... rivaling.

3. Then you have the occasional small neighborhood church. This is my favorite church. It is a church and built-in small group all in one nice package. You aren't allowed to drop by, sing a few words off the wall and hit the Luby's. If you come, you will be hugged. Sadly, since the rise of the mega-church, these important congregations have been weakened and the onslaught of hugs one receives when visiting can often times scare a family away. But, here, IMO, we find the most non-conforming group of interesting Christians known to man.

That's the Church culture. There be the molds. Anything outside of that mold is considered suspicious and should be discouraged.

Christian Art

Then we've got the ever-splendorous Christian Music Industry. I'll admit, I'm a bit jaded here. So forgive some of the words that follow. It is in this industry that we find, IMO, Christianity at its absolute worst. When I first came to Rice, Amber and I were just visiting Nashville for the first time and dipping our toe in the waters. I told the Music Business and Law prof. about some of our upcoming meetings and he told me that I should buy some lubricant for the initial screwing that was coming. He went on to say, not in a judgmental tone, but as a warning, that the Christian Music Industry is notorious for paying late, or never paying, and absolutely abusing songwriters.

We heeded his advise and dove in. We met some wonderful folk. However, long-story-short, it wasn't for us. A label fellow (VP) at one of the big ones liked our record and had it in his car for a week but said that it was perhaps too strange and -get this- complex for the radio and would need to be simplified. Well, we went a different direction and God bless them.

The thing to note about the CCM industry is that there are molds. Those molds are cast from tried and true molds found in the "mainstream" pop world. Yes, there are molds there as well, but CCM music, (specifically radio tunes) are the grand mold-followers. And yes, there are original voices that make it through from time to time, but they are rare. Who in the hell would sign a man today who would want to showcase the hammer-dulcimer and have lyrics like "and the moon is a sliver of silver, like a shaving that fell on the floor of a carpenters shop"? Nobody.

However, there are many reasons to listen to CCM rather than participate in the business. Much good comes from the guys sweating it out in that industry and it is appreciated. However, I do feel sorry for many who wish to be more expressive and individual than they are allowed to be. The mold will not allow it.

All these things are representative of molds. These molds, though good in some way, have contributed to many, many painful things in our faith. This is because molds cannot be kept. No man is plaster. No man is marble. We are absolutely flawed. And from those flaws God creates beauty. There is great beauty in man, for what God makes is good and Holy. But a mold is nothing more than an unattainable idol. It is the Golden calve that we want to so desperately see, when God wants us to simply desire Him.

Then along comes a S.O.B. like Bono. He doesn't appear in all the molds. He pays no homage to the popular and well-known mold gurus. Is he crazy? What the hell? Did someone read that Rolling Stone interview where he flat-out says that he is a "Christian," even though he doesn't like the moniker because of the loss of its meaning to the mold idols.

I truly believe that the life of a saint should be extraordinary. Nothing plain or mold-like about it. Obedience is a terrible and wonderful journey. It will make your parents think you've lost it. It will make your friends say, "are you out of your frigging mind?" Obedience calls unto a radical life of embracing who God has made us to be. Following Jesus is not an easy thing, but it is like that Mountain hike that is to tiring and irrational. What good is a mountain hike anyways? You get hungry; its dangerous; you get tired; but the view is spectacular. No trading it. Or it is downsizing your monthly expenses, even though you don't need to. It is a trip into the plain and ordinary, but the obedience brings the bliss. The wood-paneled walls might as well be Sistine Murals.

There has been a story that I heard or the news that has stuck in my mind since I viewed it. It was an NBC special report about a man who was a football star who suddenly quit his multi-million dollar career in the NFL and took a job as a border patrol officer instead. People thought he was nuts. He doesn't think so. He believes that it was obedience because it was what he had always wanted to do. Yes, he was big and brawny and could knock down a tree on the football field, but that's not the vision that was in his heart. The obedience was to monitor drug trafficking from Mexico. He had grown up around drug dealers and when he was a boy he dreamed of being a peace officer so he could make a difference. So you have a man who the world thought should enter into a societal mold: Big black man = potential NFL star. Try again. The life of obedience is NEVER predicable. It never promises a grand retirement fund, because you don't really retire. No, not all of us will do something so odd as to question our sanity, but... you just might. No, I take that back. Sometime, you will. Period. No exception. You'll be asked. It's up to you to play it safe or take the leap.

I'll end this here incredibly long blog with a great quote by Thomas Merton. (Himself a strange saint, in that he decided to go live with a bunch of Buddhist monks as a Christian Monk. No, he didn't convert. Lewis greatly admired his writings.)

"One of the first signs of a saint may well be the fact that other people do not know what to make of him. In fact, they are not sure whether he is crazy or only proud; but it must at least be pride to be haunted by some individual ideal which nobody but God really comprehends. And he has inescapable difficulties in applying all the abstract norms of "perfection" to his own life. He cannot make his life fit in the with the books." Thomas Merton

The grand evangelical illusion of our time is that there is a real tried-and-true created mold. There is no mold. There is only obedience. And obedience is a vast, unending gallery of art that might at any moment transform into a cool brisk world, with snow, a Lion and an evil queen, or a barbed wired fence separating two countries, or in front of microphone staring down a million reasons to believe that you are better than you are.

Dangerous business, that obedience.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


First off, this is a real float in a parade in Germany. Second, I'm sorry... but there is something TERRIBLY wrong with this float. TERRIBLY. WRONG.





A tier of wrongness, culminating with one great wrongness that overshadows all other wrongs.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Boom Goes The Dynamite

If you watched the Academy Awards last night and you were maybe one of two or three Americans who didn't know what the heck "Boom goes the dynamite" meant when Will Smith invoked it after flubbing his line, here is the reference.

First the Will Smith refresher:

Now, say hello to my secret living-hell-fear. This happening to me is up there with being buried alive.

Holy at Redeemer Presbyterian

Hi friends!

We've been so humbled that quite a few people from the services yesterday at Redeemer Pres. have found us to request a copy of the song Holy. We are so glad that you were blessed by it and we wanted to thank you for sharing that with us.

For those of you that have requested a copy, you can get it on iTunes under the artist name "Five Cent Stand" and on the album "Bitter Kiss."

Here is the link to Holy on iTunes! Five Cent Stand - Bitter Kiss - Holy

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Job

So my good friend Matt called me a few weeks ago and said that his church, Central Presbyterian on Park and 64th, was looking for an interim music director and he thought I would be a good fit. Soooo, a few weeks ago I went and played their awesome, volcanic Pipe Organ (yes, you heard that correct, and no, I didn't wear the slippers), led worship with Matt, William and Amber, and a guy named Tim Shew (who was Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway) and felt right at home.

So, I've been hired.

And I have to say, as far as buildings... this is one of the most interesting churches I have EVER set foot in. The building was built by Rockefeller and it is just flat out beautiful. There are all kinds of things going on in its SEVEN STORIES (threes stories below ground and four stories above) at all times. Anything from a Messianic Jewish service to major motion pictures and even episodes of Gossip Girl and other shows that need a church setting. (Quite a few Sex in the City episodes were filmed there...) It is on the corner of 64th and Park Avenue and if you been to the city you've probably seen it, or you've seen it in a film or T.V. show.

More than a beautiful building it is home to some truly wonderful people. They've already been so unbelievably kind to us and I am VERY excited about all the possibilities there, as the church is open to so many ideas and it has so many things to offer the community and each other. The interim pastor is Howard Eddington. He used to pastor a large church in Orlando and he is just a fantastic guy. He's written a book on Joseph (also semi-autobiographical) and he used to be Bill Bright's pastor.

Even though the building is very old with a rich and interesting heritage, it is a young, growing church, thirsty for the Spirit of God.

So, if you are in the neighborhood on a Sunday, please, drop by!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bowm Chicka bowm bowm. Thank You For Flying Southwest, no seriously, baby. Thank You.

Say hello to the view from new "metal detectors" coming soon to an airport near you. I'm not so sure about this business. First off... el-creepola. Believe it or not, I'm a slightly modest chap. I go into the bedroom to change my socks. Maybe my buddy Forky wouldn't have a problemo with the nudy show at the airport but I would. I suppose the thing that bothers me more than me is my wife having to go through. If they so much as make her stay 1 second longer than they make me stay, I think I'll lose it. I'll just be forced to bring a suitcase full of LARGE, un-ziplocked shampoos in my carry-on next time I travel. Uh huh. That'll show em'.

As for me. When I go through, they might hear me manufacture a little "moood" music. A little, "bom chicka bom bowm chicka chicka. How bout that? Huh? Huh? Chicka bowm bowm" OR, maybe I would put a plastic bible verse on my chest. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Maybe just good old "John 3:16." Nahhh... How bout, "I'm, too sexy for this x-ray." Oo Oo! Or maybe I'd put two d's on each rear-cheek so it would spell "Did." Okay, I'll stop.

I do that - I'm sure those of you who have read my blog long enough know this: When something makes me feel uncomfortable, I go ahead and take it to the extreme. Sort of the Harry Potter Bogart trick. Don't judge me. At least I didn't say I'd put two M's and spell "Mom." "Did" is funnier. Yes, I'm a male.

Still, all potential butt-words aside, it all seems a little wrong to me. And just how long will it be before there are goggles available to buy that will allow us to see through each other's clothes. You know that some dirty company somewhere is already designing the perv glasses.

So, how do you guys feel about all this airport x-ray vision stuff? Do you feel like you need to sort of... buff up... before you go to the airport now? Do you mind that someone can see the delineation of your private spheres? I know I do.

I think they should have a picture posted of what they can see, and you should be left with the option heading on through the "no, you can't see my captain and corporals before I head to grandmas for christmas" -detector.

But that's just me. A good old mid-western/southern/New-Yorker who likes to keep the places where the sun don't shine in the dark, or at least shaded.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

After almost 6 years... still pathetic, and proud of it.

My wife just left for NYC. I'll see her in 3 days. As soon as she stepped out of the car, I missed her. I'm sitting here working on my dissertation and I miss her. Every time I leave, I miss her. Yeah, yeah. You are all grossed out. Call me a sap. Abuse me. Tell me that BDA (blogging display of affection) is lame and you don't want to hear it. Too bad. Sorry; my blog, my party.

Yes, I am a big baby. I admit it. I embrace it. After almost 6 years of marriage, I feel a little lonely at every meal not shared with her, and I despise every single night that is not spent with her pretty head on the pillow next to me. She is my better 3/4... 8/9... 9/8.

No matter what the circumstance - if I know that I won't see her in few hours, I get a little aching in my soul. And that is the one aching that I'm thankful for.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Stop With the Gate Business

I am interrupting my study-silence to bring you this important rant.

It seems like very time something goes awry in anyone's life, the press slaps on that "Gate" crap. Troopergate... mommadidn'tlovemegate, gate this, gate that. But it was Phelps' "Potgate" that did it for me. I've had it. POTGATE??? COME ON. It is POT. He was smoking a dooby from a bong, not committing treason or pumping up with steroids. Yes, smoking pot is lame. But this gate business has just got to stop. It's just lame. There is no other creative word for it. Lameola.

Pretty soon we are going to be saying that our pets were involved in poopgate when they diddle behind the couch or refuse to stay off the carpet. (Shout out to V and J.)

My in-laws have a dog named Cromwell. (The best dog ever.) But you know, no dog is perfect and Cromwell likes to get a little rowdy and he chews up a cardboard box or two when mom and dad are gone. Puppychewgate.

I'm a man, and sometimes I forget to close the toilet lid just like every other red-blooded hubby. Squatgate.

Give it a rest already...gate.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

An Urgent Message From Nancy Pelosi...

500 MILLION AMERICANS... EVERY MONTH... LOSE THEIR JOBS... FIVE-HUNDRED-MILLION!!!!! (even thought there are only about half that many in the U.S., including illegal aliens.) NANCY PELOSI ROCKS!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

E*Trade Babies (Outtakes)

And speaking of babies... I do love talking on the phone to a friend who has just had a new baby. We are in the middle of a conversation about the economy or Astronomy and suddenly I'm being asked if I made a poo poo. Or...

Me: "Yeah, can you believe the crap that guy pulled, and what exactly is a ponzi scam...?"

Friend: "Yeah, seriously man... awwwwwe, is it da booby-milky time? Do you need da momma?"

The odd thing about the whole senerio is that the friend seems to continue the conversation by answering your questions.

Attention! Dissertation Defense

I will be defending my dissertation on friday, March 20th, at the Shepherd School of Music at 3:00 in the conference room on the second floor. It is free and open to the public! Please come and leave your tomatoes at home!