Saturday, December 30, 2006

What IS in a name?

One fun way to play with the internet is to pick your favorite search engine, type in your own name, press the “search” button, and then see what happens.

I know, it is a shockingly brazen and unsophisticated way to use this remarkable technology….whatever. And yes, I am already aware that it is called a “vanity search” and that is what it is when you are fishing around for your own identity, but that’s not really what I’m suggesting. No. What is far more interesting is finding out how many people in the virtual world share your name and then checking out what they are up to.

Personally, I think almost everybody has done this type of search…I know for a fact, from my Sitemeter reports, that a couple of you, my own virtual namesakes, are definitely interested in what the other Barry Pike's of the world are up to. So, just for grins, here are what a few of you are doing:

This guy is extremely successful in the corporate world. Like me, his background is in sales, it seems, but he is now the CEO of a major player in the high-tech digital media services industry. He’s Canadian, so he is probably a hockey fan…hey, we’ve got that in common.

There is an Englishman with my name who is an editor of a literary periodical, The Bottle Sreet Gazette, which is devoted to the work and life of Margery Allingham (1904-1966), the famous British mystery and crime novelist of yesteryear. He is also an authority on classic radio dramas produced by the BBC.

Then, there is this distinguished looking gentleman from California. He is a Starship Trooper. Well, more accurately, he is a Sith Lord. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

And this guy is a professional drummer, somebody I am sure I could relate to. He is also English and played with Fumble, a very successful rock-and-roll band on that side of the ocean who has performed with Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, David Bowie and many others. Very cool.

That's great, guys. Keep up the good work.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Warning: Geeky post about Internet Radio, music, and audio in general

This is a very interesting new product. First shown at last year's Consumer Electronics Show, the InFusion portable internet radio from Torian began shipping in November.

It is a battery-powered, fully portable, WiFi-driven media playback device. It also functions as an MP3 recorder/player and a regular FM radio. The cool thing about it is that it is designed to access the gazillion internet radio resources without the need for a computer. All it requires is WiFi. As WiFi becomes more and more ubiquitous, accessories like this will be increasingly practical. Not only will you be able to tune in at the local coffee shop, but even at home, it will be possible to listen to your favorite Ivory Coast alternative-rock channel as you mow the yard, fix supper, or clean the garage.

I love exploring the obscure and bizarre creative corners of our musical world through the many internet radio portals that exist today. For more info on this, check out this very helpful Wikipedia entry for details and links to explore. The only drawbacks so far have been that I have to listen to it on my computer, can't easily record the streaming audio, and therefore I can't take it with me.

This type of device or a variant should and will likely become standard equipment on home stereo component equipment. In addition to the buttons that allow you to select CD/DVD, FM, AM, and Cable TV, will be a button that says IP or somesuch, which will then allow you to tune in to the amazing programming choices that exist on the internet. Obviously, broadband internet access will be required, but that, too, is becoming more available with each passing day.

Audio quality continues to be an issue with every IP audio device. While I expect the InFusion sounds as good as most of the other internet-based players, I have yet to hear any consumer online-driven audio source that sounds as good as a compact disc through a decent conventional player. MP3's offer incredible convenience and access, but the fidelity is greatly inferior to the CD, DVD, or other fixed digital playback systems. In general, audio playback quality has suffered tremendously the last few years because the industries that drive the technology shifted their focus from prioritizing high-fidelity sound to high-quantity delivery methods. There are a host of issues, technical and aesthetic at play and I'm not going to get into it here. My hope and expectation is that the quality of the sound will soon catch back up with the wonderful freedom that we now have to listen to programming available from all over the planet.

The InFusion at first seems a little pricey at $229 and it is only available via special order through their site. But it is cheaper than most IPOD's and many other MP3 players. I think the idea is way more interesting than satellite radio, although, obviously, where there is no WiFi, there will be very little fun to be had. Yes, I want one.

h/t RadioWorld Online

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Notes in passing...

We had a wonderful Christmas, and thanks so much to those who have sent their greetings here and elsewhere.

It has been great having my brother and his family in from Virginia this week. We were hoping to get out and do some pistol-shooting this week, but its just a little to chilly for that to be much fun for long. It has been great, though, just to hang out with them, share Christmas, play games, etc.

I'm having a lot of fun with my new lap steel. It is a great-sounding instrument and I am really enjoying it. Not easy to play, by any means, but within my reach. I already speak the language, I just need to work on the dialect.

One of the many joys this time of year brings is some time in which to read. I just finished John Scalzi's Ghost Brigade, which I got for Christmas, and it was excellent. Scalzi creates a fascinating universe that is at once alien and bizarre, yet at the same time absorbing and believable. If you like sci-fi, you should check it out. I'm hoping for a 3rd book in a similar vein, although it seems he got distracted and wrote something new and unrelated. It is very likely to be good, too.

At church this weekend we are having a guest artist lead our worship services. Lee Behnken has been a friend of our church's for many years. He is a gifted writer and performer of considerable international renown and a great guy. I'll be backing him up on acoustic with his band, I think, which will be fun and different since I really am an electric guitarist primarily. But it is always fun to play new music with new people and learn new things.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tyropita! (No, I'm not Greek, I'm just here for the food.)

I haven’t written much, if anything, about one of my favorite things: cooking. I am actually the primary cook at our house and have been since the mid-80’s. There are a number of reasons for this, including, as we joke around here, the primal need to stave off starvation. But, really, my wife has never really enjoyed cooking, didn’t do much of it in her formative years, and is not particularly interested in doing so now. There are a handful of things she enjoys making and can do very well…like microwave popcorn, macaroni & cheese, and toast. And she makes great coffee, which is perfect since around here, that is a primary food group. Early in our marriage, we tried cooking together and that worked about as well as two people trying to drive the same car at the same time. Early on, we did learn to make our now legendary Walnut Chicken with Rice together, and we still enjoy it now, nearly a score of years later. But generally speaking, two cooks in the same kitchen sounds like a recipe for divorce (heh).

Anyway, I didn’t marry her for her cooking – what’s that mean, anyway?

My brother, an excellent cook, and I learned the basics of cooking from our mother. As my father tells it, Mom wasn’t always a great cook, though. Evidently her Tuna Noodle Casserole nearly killed him in their early years. But by the time I came along, she seemed to have gotten it down pretty good because I still like that dish…once a year or so. Anyway, he didn’t marry her for her cooking either, evidently. Besides, she became a master cook and certainly still is. In addition to hosting the headquarters for most of our traditional holiday family gatherings, she is still learning to cook new things all the time and teaching her grandkids to cook, as well as continuing to make the staples that we all enjoy.

Seasonal holiday fare is really not my thing, so, unless your family is pretty peculiar, what follows is really not much like a traditional Christmas treat at all. I enjoy a lot of diverse kinds of food, but one of my favorites is Mediterranean cuisine. So here is a really easy recipe for what, to most Americans, will be an exotic dish but is, in fact, a staple in Greece. This recipe is a functional amalgam of several others, none original. It is slightly Americanized, but it works, its very easy, and its really, really, good.

It is called Tyropita, which means “cheese pie” in Greek. Here is the recipe:

---1 roll of phyllo dough (I use Athens Foods. 1 box comes with 2 rolls – freeze the remainder)
---1 lb of feta cheese
---1 ¼” cup of cottage cheese
---1 stick of butter or the margarine equivalent.
---Pam or some other cooking oil spray
---6 eggs
---fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

Phyllo dough is found in the frozen foods aisle at your grocery. It is that paper-thin, multi-layered dough that is used to make baklava and other tasty treats.

Defrost the phyllo dough as instructed on the package. When it is thawed, you are ready to start. First, carefully unroll the dough. The only tricky part about this recipe is the fragility of the sheets of dough. Try not to tear them.

In a large bowl crumble the feta cheese, add the cottage cheese and the eggs and mix it well. Melt the butter in either a saucepan on the stove, or with a microwave in a bowl.

Spray the Pam liberally on the bottom and sides of a 9x13” casserole pan. Glass may work fine, who knows? Mine is metal…I don’t know why. Now is the time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Carefully lay the first sheet of dough on the bottom of the pan. With a soft bristled cooking brush, apply some of the clarified butter to the sheet. Lay a second sheet on top of the first and then brush on more butter. It doesn’t have to be too thick, but you should be sure it is spread across most of the sheet. Do this until you have a total of 8 layers of buttered phyllo sheets, which should be about half of your roll.

Spoon the cheese mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly across the phyllo dough. Then add the rest of the dough sheets and more butter until you are out of dough, probably 8 or 9 more sheets.

It is difficult to slice this dish into portions after its done baking without destroying it, so let it bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or so, then remove. With a very sharp knife, cut through the top layers of dough down to the filling…you can cut it in squares (easy), triangles (traditional), or diamonds (fancy). Return to the oven and cook for another 50 minutes or so, or until the top is a beautiful crispy, golden brown color. Upon removal, finish slicing to the bottom of the pan and then serve.

These are great hot or cold and are perfect with soup or stew. The feta cheese brings the attitude, but really, it’s just a cheese sandwich with a kick.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Well today we saw a milestone come and go. We breached the 1000 hit mark on our trusty sitemeter. Nevermind that 90% or so were Google drive-by's...we take our satisfaction where we can find it. Nevermind, too, that the 1000th visit happened to be from our brother in Virginia. We hasten to inform him that, though his faithful patronage is gratefully acknowledged, that there is, in fact, no prize but this cheap praise for his effort.

Tomorrow, please come back for something heretofore unseen on this site. We will share some observations on cuisine and family, and will feature a simple and very tasty Greek recipe that is in no way related to Christmas or to any other holiday of which we are aware. We attempted to post it earlier today and would have but for the fact that the requisite accompanying photograph failed to meet even the meager standards enforced by the management of this so-called blog.

We will now, at this time, cease referring to ourselves in the third person because we find it tedious and annoying.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sliding Into Christmas

I know, the last post was especially obnoxious since it gave nothing and it took from you the one thing in this life that you can't ever get enough of...chocolate. No wait, I mean time. I stole a few seconds of time...but not from many of you, after all. From less than a dozen or so, in fact, according to my site meter, but nevertheless. Well, sorry about that.

And now, by way of abrupt transition, this.

I happen to know what one of my Christmas gifts is and it is totally, unbelievably great. I know what it is because I got to pick it out. My beloved wife is giving me this:

This is an Artisan EA-1 Lap Steel Guitar. But it is not just any lap steel guitar. It is this great blue color, first of all, and then there's the really cool part: It is autographed by Robert Randolph. He is the burning hot, brilliant young blues rock steel player that you may have seen and heard as recently as last night on Late Night with David Letterman.

Here is a closeup:

The previous owner won it in a radio station promo contest, and decided to sell it. I've been wanting one of these for a while, but this one is especially nice.

Lap steel guitars are simple instruments and not typically expensive. The EA-1 is a basic model, but completely usable in a performance setting. It is a 6-string instrument, usually tuned to an open tuning, and is equipped with one single-coil pickup. It is played by moving a slide up and down the strings with the left hand while the right hand, equipped with a thumbpick and 2 or 3 fingerpicks, strums and picks. The slide is, in my case, a Dunlop stainless steel bar designed for this purpose. The instrument lays flat in one's lap, or can be mounted on the supplied telescoping legs to adjust it to standing level, if preferred.

The lap steel is adaptable to many different styles of music, but its roots lie in the country blues traditions. Depending on how it is played and amplified, its tone can be a restless blues wail, a deep-throated rock-and-roll snarl, a gentle, plaintive country moan, or a sweet, velvety gospel tenor. The slide action of the left hand makes it an especially intuitive, expressive instrument.

In accordance with the common laws of Western Civilization, I do not get possession of this gem until Christmas Day, which is as it should be. But I can scarcely contain my excitement. It is going to be some serious FUN!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Whimsical Musing on Advertising and Materialism

There are so many things in this world that do not function as advertised. Products and services often fall far short of expectations and promises. The purpose of advertising, obviously, is to compel or inspire people to buy something, to make us believe that our lives will be enhanced if we acquire this newfound item or capability. Often, we are disappointed.

I am certain that, in realms where money is no object, a tiny percentage of the planet’s population is able to afford and enjoy the very best of whatever is available to satisfy their desires for luxury, comfort, and convenience. While I in no way begrudge them their satisfaction, it is nevertheless not surprising, for example, to find that a Porsche Carrera GT may brings its owner a high degree of satisfaction and thrill. Anyone will appreciate the beauty of form, the engineering, and the technical excellence that goes into this kind of accomplishment as well. And it is very good that in every industry, it seems, there are some few individuals and companies whose passion is to achieve the very best quality, rather than to be the most popular or the most sold.

But it is even more remarkable when similar success occurs in much less rarified fields of endeavor. There is a gentle satisfaction, even delight, that settles over me for a time when I encounter something that really does what it is supposed to do, or which actually exceeds the claims of its advertising. I am especially impressed when this success occurs in fulfilling a common everyday need. The simpler and more mundane it is, the more I appreciate it. Things like ...SHAVESECRET!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Happy Birthday!

A birthday is a happy thing. And tomorrow is mine! My family celebrated today with a wonderful feasting and very generous gifting. As for the cake, Texas Sheet Cake has been my favorite for a very long time, preferably made with real buttermilk by my Mom.

Here is what I got:

First, of course, the Music:
Bare Naked Ladies (the band, by which I mean, their most recent CD), Are Me
Charles Mingus, The Very Best Of...
Newsboys, Go
John Coltrane, Blue Train (One of the best classic jazz albums ever.)

A new pair of Wolverine boots! This is my footwear of choice year round, pretty much.

A Radial Engineering ProDI, which is kind of a geeky technical device, but a thing of beauty nonetheless. This company makes, among other things, the best direct boxes available. For the curious and/or perplexed, this is a device that will allow me to interface my acoustic/electric guitar to a PA system or studio environment with an extraordinarily high degree of quality and goodness. What I like about RE is that they take a relatively basic device that really serves a pretty pedestrian function and apply high scientific and engineering values to its design and manufacture. I just like it because, for what it is, it is the best possible example that exists on the market today. I am very pleased.

A very generous cash gift from my beloved Grandmother

A gift certificate to a local retailer.

The American Heritage Pictorial History of the Civil War, which well satisfies my enjoyment of both history and art.

Many thanks to all!

Oh...that picture above is a random scan from the Bare Naked Ladies cover art...pretty groovy. And the music is great.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Frederick Polley - New York City

Frederick Polley was exceedingly gifted in drawing architectural subjects, and he demonstrated a special appreciation for historic churches, in particular. Many of his works feature buildings and typically one sees that he strives to capture not merely an accurately rendered image, but also to reflect a sense of identity, character, and even history associated with his subject.

This lithograph was made from a drawing entitled "Little Church Around The Corner". I don't know which church this is in New York City, or precisely when it was drawn, but there are several things to appreciate. I like the open gate and the pastoral tone set by the shrubbery wall and courtyard, juxtaposed against the subtle backdrop of skyscrapers and penthouses in the near background.

When possible, my family collects the works of Frederick Polley.
If you see any, please let me know!

Listening: Lachrimae Pavin by John Dowland

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Scourge of the Yard Varmints

Personally, I think the .17 caliber round is a worthless thing, but I really like what these guys have done with it.

Yes, I want one...the world's smallest machine gun.

When I Don't Know What To Do

As a worship leader and musician, every now and then I come across a song that sings from my heart as though I myself had written it. As a songwriter, I usually really wish I had written it. Its not envy...well, not on my good days, anyway. Its just that there are some few songs that resonate strongly with who I am and what my life is about, such that I just want to make them my own.

This is one of those songs. Here are the lyrics, and here is a link to iTunes to download it. For 99 cents, about the cost of a Snickers bar, you can receive a much sweeter blessing. This song wants to be played loud, by the way.

When I Don’t Know What To Do
Tommy Walker WeMobile Music ©2005 CCLI #4556332

Lord I surrender all to
Your strong and faithful hand
In everything I will give thanks to You
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan

When I don’t know what to do
I’ll lift my hands
When I don’t know what to say
I’ll speak Your praise
When I don’t know where to go
I’ll run to Your throne
When I don’t know what to think
I’ll stand on Your truth
When I don’t know what to do

Lord I surrender all
Though I’ll never understand
All the mysteries around me
I’ll just trust your perfect plan

As I bow my knee
Send Your perfect peace
Send Your perfect peace, Lord
As I lift my hands
Let Your healing come
Let Your healing come to me

By the way, this whole album is excellent. One of Tommy Walker's gifts is that, regardless of whether you are musically inclined or not, you will know this song after hearing it one time. You will be singing along by the time it gets to the second chorus.

I really hope you will do this and then tell me what you think.

Friday, November 24, 2006

They smile in your face, all the time they wanna take your place, the back stabbers...(falstetto: Back Stabbers!). The Gospel according to the O'Jay's

An article in the December online issue of Christianity Today reveals some big changes at the Purpose Driven Life organization, the adjunct ministry started a couple of years ago by Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church, as an extension to his best-selling book. While the sale of the book that started the popular wave of teaching on church health, personal growth, evangelism, and outreach remains strong, evidently the corporate entity itself has had trouble sustaining its function of support and implementation to churches. In the last few months it has been compelled to cut staff by 35%, downscale efforts, and consolidate its leadership under the church’s oversight. While the reportage in the CT article seems, to me, balanced and nonjudgmental, predictably, some of the response around the blogosphere is decidedly less so.

Rick Warren, like every outspoken pastor before him, has never suffered from a lack of critics among the faithful. While a man may be blameless before God with Christ as his Savior, if he finds his efforts in the realm of ministry blessed by the Lord to any significant degree, it is a fact as sure as Jesus is coming again that he will be pulling arrows out of his back. It would seem obvious that there is no man or church in possession of perfect theology, in either doctrine or practice, but yet, since Christian theologians thrive on sputtering about the distinctives of their traditions of belief rather than focusing on the overarching commonalities, it is not surprising that there are many who find fault, even grevious errors, in Warren’s writing. And I do not doubt that some errors likely exist. But does that explain or give justification to the self-righteous tone that pervades in the wake of what, for the dedicated workers at PDL, is likely a disheartening turn? Why do we exult, even quietly, in this kind of misfortune?

The Purpose Driven Life, by even the most cynical estimates, has had a significant transforming impact on contemporary culture. There are hundreds of churches and many thousands of individuals who will testify to the positive impact this book has had on their spiritual life. I am one of those people and my church is one of those churches. Has it been 100% effective everywhere for everyone? What do you think?

I am always surprised and dismayed at what I see in the Christian community when a successful or prominent ministry suffers what seems to be a reversal of influence or a change of direction. Inevitably, the sniping begins in earnest, with assumptions and insinuations of impropriety or bad theology as the root cause for such a “downfall”. As the influence of Promise Keepers, another high profile, effective, and culturally engaging evangelical outreach, began to fade several years ago, the media earnestly tracked its “downfall” as it condensed in size, scope, and impact. Within many Christian circles there was dismay and disappointment and, sadly, a smug satisfaction among others.

In the secular business world, downsizing and loss of market penetration is truly a bad sign. It is intuitively obvious that negative growth in commerce ultimately spells doom for a company that can’t change or reorganize itself in time. And when they are successful, they are lauded, are they not? To some extent, this model may apply to churches and ministries, too, at least in the sense that as resources decrease so does impact. Yet the prevailing attitude of many towards ministries is the notion, completely unsupportable from scripture as far as I can tell, that simply because a ministry is large, or has a plan for growing large, it must be, ipso facto, theologically flawed. Then, if and when this suspect ministry wanes, suffers a setback, or repurposes itself, the critics point to this fading as “proof” of defect. Could it not be, instead, that like individual believers, a ministry is called by God to be effective for a season, to fill a specific and focused purpose, to meet a certain need, and then to fade or recede into a less visible role? It is hypocritical and illogical when these exulting critics point to both the “success” and the “failure”, dubious terminology at best, as proof that the target ministry was truly worthy of their holy disdain.

By way of further example, witness, too, the criticism that has been aimed at Willow Creek Community Church or Lakewood Church whose principal sins appear to be that they are too large and too effective at reaching out to their communities. In recent decades past, the targets have been the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard Church movements. And, oh yes, their theology is bad, too. Billy Graham, John Maxwell, Max Lucado, and John MacArthur have all been criticized for, in effect, being too popular and, of course, having bad theology. And what of a truly controversial ministry like Trinity Broadcasting Network? TBN is the world’s largest religious network and America’s most watched faith-based channel. They offer commercial-free inspirational programming 24 hours a day with shows aimed to appeal to people in a variety of Protestant, Catholic, and even Messianic Jewish denominations. You know that is bound to piss some people off, right? Sure, a lot of it isn’t great television and you can definitely find some questionable individuals espousing bad theology. But what about the thousands of people who have reportedly come to know Jesus through the efforts of TBN and all of these other aforementioned high profile ministries?

Where are the measures of charity and love to balance this pathetic urgency to denigrate and belittle other believers because you are right and they are wrong? Is it simply envy or professional jealousy? Is it some delusion of denominational superiority, some misguided notion that you are the recipient or repository of doctrinal purity? Honestly, I don’t even care where this hateful spewage comes from. There is something sick and perverse, something truly sinful, at work in us when we find ourselves either indifferent to or secretly relishing the distress of others or the demise of a ministry simply because it is not of our preference.

It begs the convicting question posed by yet another oft-criticized youth-oriented evangelical movement…WWJD?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

North Christian Church - Lynn, IN 1909

This is a real-photo postcard that my wife (the antique dealer) found. It is a picture of the North Church of Christ in Lynn, Indiana. It was located on the corner of Sherman St. and Main (US Hwy. 27). I'm not sure when it was built but, as notated on the photo, this picture was taken in 1909. This congregation eventually built a new building to the north of town (in the 1960's, I think). This building was then purchased by my grandfather, George H. Polley who added on, remodeled and converted it into "Polley Farm Service", a very successful business in the sale and service of lawn, garden, and farm equipment.

My grandfather retired in 1976, selling the business and the building to a couple of good guys that had worked for him for years. In March of 1986, a tornado whipped through Lynn, destroying numerous homes and other buildings, including the Randolph Southern School, which combined K-12 grades and was located adjacent to Polley Farm Service. This building was literally flattened by the tornado, with the walls blown out and the ceiling crashing down. Miraculously, neither of the guys working there were killed nor seriously hurt. In fact, in spite of a couple of million dollars worth of property damage, no one was injured.

It is not uncommon for buildings to far outlast those who designed or built them. When I drive through an old town I always like to look at the names and dates that so often mark the buildings from the 1800 and 1900's. I live in a house that is at least 130 years old. It is a very strong, old tw0-story brick Italianate farmhouse that has seen many generations come and go. But nothing lasts forever on this earth and it is only by God's mercy that this old house was not touched by the tornado that angled its way through Lynn that cold day in 1986, less than a mile away. One day, it too will fall, though, of that I am certain.

Though we seldom consider it, Man's greatest achievements and most revered monuments are never more than a breath away from complete destruction. It is likely that from the pulpit of this old church, many people through the years heard sermons encouraging and exhorting them to store up their spiritual treasures in Heaven, rather than trusting in the fragile and temporary security of physical things here on earth. For we are all just passing through this life and everything we leave behind will one day fade, fall, or burn. This picture is a testimony to that truth.

As for what comes next...Life after is less a question of if there is such a thing, but rather where are we going to choose to spend it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

10 Thoughts In Passing

1) I am working night and day this week so I'm behind on important things like blogging, art assignments, guitar practicing, home maintenance, computer audio card installation, Romans 6:1-12, and figuring out how to make my cellphone behave.

2) My Ford F-150 was a really, really good truck, may it rest in peace. With nearly 200K miles, many of them hard miles, I can't complain. It served faithfully for many years.

3) Sadly, since I will soon be buying another vehicle, all friends and relatives can expect lovely jars of homemade carmel corn for Christmas this year. Oh come on, its the thought that counts!

4) Remind me never to use the words "cannonball baptism" again. I can't believe how many hits I've been getting off of that stupid Youtube post. Yeesh.

5) Its more fun to deliver mail in the summer than it is in the winter. And some people just get way too much mail. You don't need ALL of those stupid catalogs. No. You don't.

6) I don't watch that much television, but I do like that show "Shark" on Thursday nights. I think James Woods is an exceptionally gifted actor, if homely. And Jeri Ryan...well, she has gifts, too. The writing is pretty good.

(7) It is odd to me that I don't write much about music on my blog. I've started to a couple of times, but I haven't been happy with what I wrote. Music means so much to me and it is my principal and most beloved means of artistic expression. It has been said, famously, that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture". That is a true statement, I believe.

(8) The above quote about music supposedly originated with Elivis Costello in 1983 in an interview in the now defunct Musician magazine. I like Elvis, and especially his music from that period, but I am dubious that he made that up himself. One thing I am sure of is that Elvis Costello is married to Diana Krall, who is one of the best jazz vocalists of our time. She is due to bear twins soon. Maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt. He could be that smart after all. Once, back in the early 80's, Elvis said something inappropriate at a party and Bonnie Raitt clocked him. Knocked him clean out cold, from what I understand. I like Bonnie Raitt, too, but I've got to move on...

(9) I'm really digging this English Renaissance music I've been listening to. I am co-coaching the Fine Arts Academic Team at the local high school. In spite of our school district's very small size, we have one of the most competitive teams in the state. This is the second year that I've helped out by teaching the kids music history. It is a lot of fun and I think they are just starting to appreciate some of the hot tunes from the 1500's. This next week we are going to be dissecting William Byrd's "Mass For Four Voices" and then checking out a gaggle of Thomas Morley's secular motets.

(10) G-man, buddy, we will be praying for you this week as you go through your trial by dentistry. Be strong. This too, will pass. We love you.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Frederick Polley in New Orleans No. 1

Click to enlarge

Frederick Polley loved New Orleans and made a number of excellent drawings while visiting there. He seemed to appreciate the intrinsic uniqueness of the city, how it was unlike any other that he had seen in his considerable travels. This, and several pictures to follow, were published in the Indianapolis Star back in the 1940's. Customarily, for all of his published newspaper work, he also wrote a by-line describing the location, maybe its history, sometimes the occasion of his visit, etc.

Listening: Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis (b. circa1505-d.11/23/1585) This is a hauntingly beautiful piece, unique in its use of 40 voices, divided into 8 5-voice choirs, each singing a unique part. This very popular work is presumed to have debuted at Queen Elizabeth's 40th birthday and it has had an interesting performance history, including a special BBC performance this year.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Veteran's Day

NPR's radio program "Day to Day" had the idea that a good way to honor veterans on Veteran's Day is to have Alex Chadwick do a politically-tinged little pseudo-essay, complete with sound elements from a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Predictable and powerless to resist the urge to connect the recent mid-term elections to the memory of our honored dead, the bumper to the segment nevertheless included some interesting historical information.

According to NPR, there are now 14 surviving American veterans of World War I. The youngest is 105 years old and the oldest is 115. It is fascinating to consider all of the things that these men have witnessed, both in that first "modern" war as well as in these intervening years.

I am deeply grateful to the men and women who have served in our military, now and in the past. Without their resolute sacrifice, we would all have far fewer freedoms which we could take for granted. And I am thankful, too, for those who are even now stepping up, volunteering to serve their country in a difficult and unpopular conflict. May America's prayers go strong before you and her gratitude stand firm behind you.

This beautiful painting of the American flag is by Gayle Curry.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Gifts From Over The Mountains and the Far Sea

Nancy, and her sister, Mary, returned yesterday after spending a week vacationing in Portland, Oregon. There is a third sister, Annie, the middle one, that lives out there and a glorious assortment of nieces and nephews and other various relations. Mary’s daughter and her family live there, too, and are responsible for bringing us this guy, one of my nephews:

Now this is one fine-looking young man.
Click on it and check out that smile in closeup.

No, I didn't get to go this time because, well, because somebody needs to stick around and get some work done around here. But, my ever-thoughtful wife returned with magnificent presents, which I will now catalog in detail:

1 lb of Stumptown French Roast coffee (black gold, this...perhaps the best coffee in America).

Books from one of the most wonderful places in the world, Powell's Books, in Portland. Titles include:

Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz, of which I am a fan)
The Right To Write by Julia Cameron (author of The Artist’s Way, of which I am a fan)
Zappa, A Biography by Barry Miles (about the late, great, profound, and profane Frank Zappa)

And, of course, she brought the great picture above as well as tales of exotic adventures, of sushi, of clothes and shoes, of live comedy, and coffee shops, and a prodigious amount of shopping. And she brought good reports of loved ones afar off whom we very seldom see.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Go Ahead, Say It Out Loud

Since mid-October, when driving south on US 27, just before entering the next town south of where I live, I have seen an unusual sign posted at the end of a residential driveway. It is clearly observable en passant that the people who live there have an abundant quantity of a popular seasonal gourd and they are desirous of selling them to anyone who may drive by.

You know the one I is Halloweeny and it makes a really good pie. I like pie.

But I digress.

This is what the sign says:


Now, this is not just about an unfortunate mispelling. This sign has been up for weeks! And here's the odd thing...okay, one of the odd things. The "N" was obviously added to this sign as a corrective afterthought, for it is a different color marks-a-lot than the other letters and it has been shoehorned akwardly in between the "U" and the second "P". I really want to know if the sign-making part-time produce marketers don't know, or if they don't care?

Go ahead, try to say it. If you are not from Estonia, or one of Tolkien's Elven folk, then you cannot readily pronouce this word. Just one letter of the alpahabet off and phzzzzzt! This word is no longer in English. But it is, really, it is. I promise.

Your assignment is to work this word into casual conversations for the next week. You people with children, get your tykes to say this word. That should be good for lots of laughs.

Listening: "Flow My Tears" by John Dowland (b. 1563-d.1626) I'm really into English Renaissance music at the moment. More on that later.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Frederick Polley, American Artist (1875-1957)

Frederick M. Polley. Painter, Printmaker, Illustrator, Writer and Teacher. Indianapolis, IN. Born 15 August 1875 in Union City, IN; died 9 Sept 1957, Brown County, IN.

Studied Indiana University, Corcoran Art School, Washington, DC.

Teachers included James R. Hopkins and William Forsyth.

Exhibited: Society of Etchers, Brooklyn, NY, Philadelphia Society of Etchers, Library of Congress 1944 and 1945, Carnegie Institute 1945, Delgado Museum. Prizes include Hoosier Salon 1942 and 1943, Indiana Art Club 1939, 43, 45, New Orleans Art League 1943, Herron Art Institute 1934.

His work is contained in the collections of the National Museum, Washington, DC, Herron Art Institute, Iowa State University, University of Pittsburgh. He was author/illustrator of "Our America, Historic Churches in America" and illustrator for "Indianapolis Old and New".

Polley was illustrator for the "Indianapolis Star" (Sunday edition) 1924-47. Also illustrator for "Ladies Home Journal" and "Esquire". Taught at Herron Art School, Indiana University and Arsenal Technical High School, 1917-1941. He headed the graphic arts department of Arsenal Technical High School for many years.

When possible, my family collects the works of Frederick Polley.

If you see any, please let me know!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In Which John Kerry Is Revealed To Be A Republican Secret Agent

It is rare and uncharacteristic that I would feel inclined to post anything of a political bent. Not because I'm not interested or concerned, because I truly am civic-minded. But such topics are covered exhaustively elsewhere in the blogosphere by people much more motivated and capable than I am.

However, this little brouhaha fascinates me. Its just so crazy. Its really more the human drama side of it that makes me wondrous. But as I watch this story unfold, I can't help thinking that maybe Karl Rove is the greatest political mastermind of our time after all. Could it really be a tactic in some brilliant and subtle Republican strategy to simply see to it that every now and then somebody sticks a microphone in front of this guy?

I bet the Democratic Party leadership is livid. Well, the best among them probably are, Howard Dean notwithstanding.

First, you have this:

which leads to:

followed quickly by:

and then everyone piles on: (this link won't last long)

Update: Glen, of course, has the definitive Reader's Digest version to prevent you from having to wade through the junk above. Just in case it had crossed your mind to do so.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Winter Sky

It is so seldom that I take a picture of the sky that looks right...but this was what it looked like a couple of evenings ago when the present cold/wet front blew in.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


The website is tastelessly constructed, though its core idea is laudable. But, since I had paid for a three-month “Gold” pass status so that I could read my friend’s obituary (below), I decided to poke around a bit.

I came across a piece of good news that I haven't been able to shake out of my head just yet. A pair of my high school friends had posted the announcement of their engagement...some 27 years after our graduation. I know it sounds like some sappy chick-flick, but I can't help it, I think it is wonderful.

Kim and Michael dated in high school, if I recall correctly, but then evidently went their separate ways at some point. I know very little of their intervening lives, but I remember hearing that Kim had gone on to modeling school and presumably a career in that field. She married and has an 18-year old son. Michael, too, married and at some point moved to Houston and created a successful advertising career. Now, both divorced, it seems, they have found each other again.

This makes me happy for several reasons. First, because, in general, I'm a happy-ending kind of guy (not to imply that their marriage means its all over; that's not what I mean). At the end of my movies, I usually expect all the bad guys to be dead, and the hero and his girl to be riding off into the sunset. That’s not a lot to ask, is it?

Secondly, these were two really, really nice people when I knew them in school, and I'm just glad to see them blessed. Mike and I weren't especially close, but we had several classes together and I remember him as a smart, easy-going, solid guy with a good sense of humor. Kim was, and still is, extraordinarily beautiful, but she also had a warm, sweet, generous personality. She was the kind of girl that made a guy want to sit up a little straighter, watch his language, and try to behave a little more gentlemanly...just because.

My prayer for them is that they live happily ever after.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


One of my best friends from high school died last month. I found out about it serendipitously a couple of days ago. I impulsively clicked on the link in one of those spam-like messages that I normally delete without reading. At this website, the first thing I saw was a vaguely familiar name with an announcement referring to my friend’s obituary. He died of liver failure as a result of alcoholism. He was 48 years old and is survived by his 5-year old son, his long-time girlfriend, and numerous friends and family.

Lee was a year older than I was, but we became fast friends my freshman year and even stayed in touch regularly for the first few years post-high school, too. He was an extremely intelligent, personable guy with, even then, a rapacious appetite for life and pleasure, who held few inhibitions. Girls, and fully-grown women, loved him, although whether it was in spite of or because of his wolfish ways, I was never certain. Teachers were startled by his abilities, and he was a hilarious, bawdy companion. His home life was decidedly unconventional and largely unsupervised, although he was loved and supported by his parents. Lee was a non-conformist and an agnostic, but he was completely accepting of my own stumbling and uncertain emerging Christian faith.

Lee turned me on to Hesse’s Siddhartha, the writings of Carlos Castaneda, Kurt Vonnegut, Tolkien’s LOTR and many other literary works. Though he disdained the high school jock clique, he convinced me and several others in our merry little band to join the soccer club. At that time, in football-crazy Texas, soccer was not a normal mainstream sport like it is today and it was largely incomprehensible to most of our classmates, which, of course, made us cool. Our team was only reluctantly sanctioned by the school, our coach worked for free and barely spoke English, we had to pay for our own uniforms, and we were routinely beaten to a pulp. But we had the best time playing in front of our girlfriends and the occasional family members.

Ever a charming, silver-tongued rascal, Lee helped me talk my parents into letting me go to my very first rock concert (Genesis- the “Wind and Wuthering” tour) when I was 16 years old, an important milestone in my life. He also baked the brownies that we ate on the way, as I recall, and the less said about that, the better. Though not a musician, he always had the best taste in music, introducing me to Kansas, John McLaughlin, Ravi Shankar, Yes, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd and many other interesting artists. He had wide-ranging interests and taste in art, music, science, and literature well in advance of his years. Even in high school, I considered him a renaissance man, and his intellectual openness to so many disparate disciplines made a lasting imprint on my own thinking. He taught me that it was okay to be interested in a lot of different things, that I could like whatever I liked, not just what I was supposed to like.

After high school, Lee went on to do a number of unusual things in exotic places. He attended my wedding in 1983. From the late 80’s on, though, we really didn’t keep up with each other much. I hadn’t spoken to Lee since the early 90’s, and then only briefly.

It makes me sad to know that he is gone.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Astronomers have now identified and cataloged some 200 known planets, all within a distance of some 200 light years. Astrophysicists and other scholarly theorists have widely differing ideas about how big they think universe is, but one thing we know for sure…it is really, really big. The estimates range from “millions of light years” to “infinitely big”, so it is safe to say that the number of actual planets orbiting stars might well be in the thousands of millions, at least.

And, as I spiral slowly towards my point, how many millions doesn't really even matter to me. Among the defining characteristics of planets are that they are spheroidal, that they orbit a star, and that they exhibit some type of revolution, spinning more or less freely through space. Each of these planets, and even many sub-planetary bodies, regardless of their solidity and composition, shares a common feature. Their relationship with their sun creates, in virtually every case, a sunrise and its counterpart, a sunset.

One of the dumbfoundingly fascinating things about God, and one of His most God-like characteristics, is His omnipresence. He is, literally, everywhere, which is, in itself, an extremely hard thing to think about. According to Romans 1:19-20, God has made himself readily known to man through His creation. One of the things that I like to think about is what God’s creation tells us about Him. I think we can perceive, although barely understand, some things about God by looking at the created universe. I have always been curious to know the things He has certain concern for or in which he takes especial joy.

Throughout the universe, possibly even within our limited 200 light years of perception, there are sunrises and sunsets occurring continuously, overlapping and without ceasing. To the Lord, it is a constant unfolding and refolding of light and darkness taking place without pause or breath across the span of His creation. From this, I think it is a true thing to say that God likes sunrises and sunsets.

Most people have only seen the sunrises and sunsets that we have, one each daily, here on earth. There are a privileged few who have seen the sun rise and set from the moon. And there are some few telescope photos, some creative artist renderings of sunsets, real and imagined, from the perspective of a few of our other local planets. So, by far, the majority of sunrises and sunsets are happening in places that human eyes have never seen. And, in this life at least, never will see. They are for His eyes only, and they give constant testimony to His astounding power. He is not like us in so very many ways. But one thing we can deduce is that God likes sunrises and sunsets.

Here on earth, as I noted, we have one of each, every day. I very much like to try to get to where I can see either one or the other, sometimes both. There is just something special about it, affirming, peaceful, and freeing. And it is very good to know that I am not watching it alone.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Autumn Pastel

'Tis the season for fall photos.
This picture was taken through a semi-opaque portion of a stained glass window hanging.
This is a beautiful time of year in rural Indiana.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Some things last forever, but most last only for a short while.

Do not blink because, in that moment while your eyes are shut, that baby who used to throw his head back and laugh uproariously as you scooted him around the living room in an empty Pampers box will change into the young man calling you from his apartment seeking counsel and needing encouragement as he tries to find his way through his sophomore year in college.

This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing…perhaps it is both at once. But it is certainly a true thing. Our time here is short and every day is important.

Some things that happen only occur once and then are gone, but other things appear to happen over and over.

Remember to show love and offer mercy to those around you. Everyone is just trying to figure out what the next step is. Help them. Helping others will help you understand important things about yourself. We are all in this together and no one has all the answers. Spend as little time as possible on the things that are least important.

Read from the book of Psalms. It doesn’t matter which one. The one you need to read will find you. Keep reading until it does.

Count your blessings. No, really, I mean it. With pen in hand, enumerate the things in your life that bring you joy and give you pleasure.

In times of sadness, frustration, pain, disappointment, and depression, let your mind remind you of the factual truth that your uncertain heart will forget or try to deny. Some things last forever, but most last only for a short while.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Like My Blog Is Impressed By Excuses...

...but this one is pretty good. My in-laws are in town from Texas so I'm like, uhm, busy and stuff. So, in an effort to distract you momentarily, here is a picture of one my aforementioned stupid dogs:
I know what you're figured me for more of an Irish Setter or Labrador Retriever kind-of-guy. Well, you are right and I'm not happy about it. This annoying pipsqueek of a dog was thrown out of her previous home for numerous crimes and misdemeanors and came to live with us against my wishes and better judgement. She is an idiot and she has a brain the size of an acorn. Her name is Daisy. Yeah, I know, I know...she's cute as a button. Whatever.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mac PowerBook Pro

I really, really, really want one of these. A Mac PowerBook Pro on which to write music. Loaded the way I want it, it rolls in at about $3500.

Hey, prayer is a powerful could happen.

Things You Don't Hear Every Day

One sure sign that I am too busy living my life to blog properly is when I post entries about the misadventures of other people's pets. That said, this excerpt below, from an email my brother sent me today simply cannot go unreported. The internet needs to know this, and now.

On a more somber note; Fiona ate a quite big chunk of a pair of my dirty
underwear. Well, as you might suspect, it dang near killed her. She had to have
surgery yesterday to remove it

And I thought my dogs were stupid. Well, my dogs are stupid, but still...

You know, when you have a personal blog like mine, not some important big-time Instapundit kind of meta-blog, but just a homey little plot in the rural backwoods of cyberspace, you take on a tacit obligation, an implicit moral responsibility to write about absolutely every interesting, unusual...or disgusting thing that happens to you and/or the people you know. Thats just the way it is.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

This Old House II

More progress...

There are two porches, big one on the south side and a small one on the north side. This first pic shows the southern porch and the bedroom windows above it all spruced up and primed for paint.

The north porch in the next picture is primed and ready, too. You can start to see the vision revealed in here. The brown-red hue on the porches and the guttering, complemented by the black eyelashes and bracings, really is going to look nice, we think.

Its not really an actual textbook Victorian color scheme, but our house, though built in that time, does not really reflect Victorian design values any way, so we don't care. Our goal is to preserve and enhance the appearance.

My hope is the guys will get done with the painting this week. My in-laws are coming up from Texas this week, probably arriving Friday. There is still a lot to do, but if the weather holds, it could happen.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Tommy Walker Concert

I have like 5 minutes to blog this which, well, begs a question, I suppose. Today is one of those days which starts at 5:00 AM after a 4-hour nap and careens at prestissimo tempo with scarcely time to gasp for air until well after sundown this evening. But thats not really my point.

Friday night I went with some friends to see Tommy Walker at Grace Church in Mason, OH (a Cincy suburb). It was an intimate gathering, really, of no more than 300 people or so, for an artist who has played in stadium venues around the world. It was an outstanding worship concert, and it really moved me. The Lord spoke to my heart through the music, directly leading me to some new ideas and convictions, gently reminding me, as well, of things He has told me before that I need to hear again.

I'll have more on this later.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

This Old House Part I

We are very blessed to live in an Old House. It was built in the 1870's and is located on a corner of my grandmother's farm. The property has been in our family almost continuously since the original homestead documents were issued by then Secretary of State James Monroe in 1815. It is an Italianate style 2-story home and the brick was made from the Indiana clay beneath the fields that surround the house.

As a kid, it was always "the rent house" that my grandparent's owned. At that time, it was inhabited by the Welch family. Sometime in the early 50's Bud Welch struck a deal with my grandfather, paying $50 a month in rent. And that was what the rent was for some 30 years. In the 80's the Welch's moved into town and the house was rented off and on to different folks, but it gradually began to fall into disrepair.

In the late 90's our family began to plan to move from where we then lived, in the Dallas, Texas area. My parent's moved up here first in 1997 and lived in this house for the first year or so. They supervised a big remodelling project that involved tearing down an old wooden summer kitchen and storage shed, and adding on a nice 2-car garage, a spacious family room area, and a new kitchen. Later, new windows would be added all around, and the upstairs would be completely remodeled.

For several reasons, though, the design of the Old House did not really suit my parents lifestyle. So in 1998, when my family moved here, it was decided and arranged that we would move in here. Ultimately, upon inheriting the adjacent farm that had belonged to my great-aunt, my parents decided to build their own house on the opposite corner of the family property.

Construction work currently being done here is a big painting project, designed by my wife and made possible by my grandmother. It is being done by Mangas Construction, one of the very finest construction contracting companies in eastern Indiana, owned and operated by a distant relative, Bill Pearson. These guys were really patient with us as Nancy experimented with both color and design to get the look right. It is a difficult job, really. Much of the wood guttering, jambs, and trim needed to be repaired, caulked, replaced, etc. before it could even be primed. And, like many houses of this era, it is extremely tall, with lots of detail work in very hard to reach places.

More pics and info later.

Listening: The Other Side of Something by Sara Groves. An exceptional songwriter and brilliant lyricist, this album has one of the most transcendantly beautiful performances of the classic hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" ever done. This album was produced by Nate Sabin and Charlie Peacock.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Truth on rye with mustard, please hold the wrath.

In Bible Study Fellowship this year we are going through Romans. We just finished Romans 1 and are starting on chapter 2. I had forgotten some of the fascinating things that the author, the apostle Paul, says about God's wrath, and his description of the progressive stages of unbelief and its consequences. I was struck anew by its relevance to our own oh-so modern times.

We don't hear much about God's wrath in the contemporary culture, and what little we do hear seems to be misinformed. Modern evangelicals don't find wrath very "seeker-friendly", I expect. I have heard some rather wild-eyed rants about God’s wrath from a televangelist or two. Liberal theologians generally eye it with the same disdainful regard that they reserve for the Garden of Eden, Noah, the Virgin Birth, Heaven and Hell and, well, most of what the Bible actually says. Rank and file Christians, along with marginal and nominal believers of all flavors kind of shift uncomfortably in their pews on the rare occasion that the topic wafts by. Agnostics, and so-called atheists, seem to have much the same viewpoint as the liberal theologians, actually. Hmm.

It is man’s propensity for sin, of course, that places us in the path of God’s wrath. But even the language we use when we talk about sin today seems often not quite right. We use terminology such as "falling into sin" and "stumbling into temptation" which makes it sound like we are victims of something, as though some outside force was forcing us to do bad things. Paul is very clear, though. We are not victims, but perpetrators. The sin is within us, not outside of us, and that is the message that nobody likes to hear these days.

Romans 1:16-17 gives us a taste of the antidote, though, and why Paul was so anxious to write this letter to the Christians in Rome:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

(c) New International Version

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hugh MacLeod (of the Clan MacLeod, no doubt)

I have been enjoying this post, entitled How To Be Creative, from Hugh MacLeod's bloggish website, It's not a brand-spanking new thing, I guess, and no doubt many have already read it. But it was new to me, so maybe it will be new to you, too. I don't agree with completely every single thing he says, which he would no doubt think was healthy, but he offers many, many valuable, edifying insights into living a creative life.

I really do like his "Sex & Cash Theory". It is an overly provocative name, but then Hugh is in the advertising biz, so that's that. So much of what he says makes a lot of sense to me. Some of his other ideas challenge me, in a good way.

Go read the whole thing, as Glenn would say. Its rated PG, as is most of life, I think. It's long, but well worth it.

Same As It Ever Was

Sharon has an especially thoughtful post on the trials of growing up, with some wise counsel for kids. In addition to her typically astute observations, be sure to take a look at her stunning artwork.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Girl With A Pearl Earring

We watched Girl With A Pearl Earring last night on IFC. I had previously read a review of the book by Tracy Chevalier and so was somewhat familiar with the story, but I was unaware that a movie had been made (in 2003).

This movie really drew me in, appealing equally to my interests in history, in art, and in imaginative storytelling. Anyone interested in fine art would find this movie enjoyable, I think. The award-winning cinematography is superb, the directing very artfully done. Many scenes in the movie actually look like paintings by Vermeer or Rembrant. The musical score is also very good. Always complimentary, never overshadowing the other elements, subtle and beautiful.

The acting was pretty good, especially that of Scarlett Johansson, who really does bear more than a passing resemblence to the young woman in the painting. Colin Firth's performance is not especially broad, but the movie didn't really require much. As Johannes Vermeer, his job was to play a brilliant, moody, and harrassed painter, which he did sufficiently. Most of the supporting roles were good, if not great. Tom Wilkinson was convincingly lecherous and despicable. Vermeer's wife, Catharina, played by Essie Davis was a difficult role. I wanted to feel sympathy for her actually, but there was just a bit too much whining and shrieking, not entirely uncalled for, but still.

Part of what appeals to me so much about this story relates to my previous post, actually, about my fascination with old photographs. What the author and filmakers have done in Girl With A Pearl Earring is give the backstory that I always look for in the antique photos. And it is a compelling and richly drawn story - never mind that it is fiction - it puts a stunningly beautiful work of art into a context drawn from the possibilites of life.

I intend to read the book now, of course, and I expect it will be even better than the movie. Tracy Chevalier has a wonderful suite of linked websites, designed by her sister, one for each of her novels. Each is very creatively done, different, and interesting; I encourage you to visit them. They will make you want to read her books to be sure. For those interested in the "writing life", she includes biographical info and some generous insight on her own creative processes.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Speak to me with thine eyes...

I am fascinated by antique photographs, especially pictures of people. Nearly every antique store has either a file or a pile of old photos and very, very few ever have any accompanying information to identify the subject, date, setting, or significance.

I peer into these old pictures, focusing all my powers of observation, intellect and intuition, attempting to pierce the shrouds of mystery with the force of my will. Like new-found evidence uncovered by accident at the scene of a very old crime, old pictures of people provide clues, but no satisfaction. I want to know who they were, who loved them, where they lived, and what their lives were like. But answers and identities remain ever elusive, ever intriguing. Conjecture and imagination slink in and nibble on these scraps and go away hungry. It is like having a beautiful, perfect key to a door, but the door itself has been misplaced or destroyed so the treasure that waits behind the door is forever lost.

Who are these people? Where are they going and what are they thinking about? Who do they love and what did they do with their lives? How is it that a moment, perfectly preserved in two dimensions for a century or more, can be at once so revealing and also completely impenetrable?

Sometimes I think that if only the right person would see this picture, then the mystery could be solved. Someone somewhere might know...must know, must have a memory of this. But the truth is, in all probability, the right person doesn't exist, or rather, doesn't exist any more.

In this life, some mysteries will remain unsolved for the duration. In this life, you can't know everything. You don't get to understand everything you see in this life. But there will be time for that later.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Stand and Deliver

All day long I've been thinking about this one idea, basically.

I'm going to do something new and exciting to my workspace. I'm going to elevate my desk about 2 feet so that it will be a standing desk rather than a sitting desk. Somewhere I read about some executive who has a standing desk and he does his work while walking on a treadmill all day. I don't think I'm quite that radical, but I do think that standing and moving around should be healthier than sitting.

I'm going to go think about it over a piece of pie. Wick's Pie Factory is located about 14 miles from here. Mr. Wick was an old friend of my grandpa's from way back and these folks know pie. You may have seen them in your local grocery. They are famous and they ship pie all over the country. The pumpkin pie is exceptional. The sugar cream pie is also very good, but it is serious businesss....folks have been known to break into a diabetic sweat just looking at one of those. I can have about 1 piece per year.

Yes, there is probably a link between pie and my interest in metabolic modification. Let's not dwell on it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

What I Did This Weekend.

I am highly amused and humbled by my weekly Sitemeter reports. Apart from just a handful of virtual friends and acquaintances, my anonymity remains intact. A big day around Pike Speak is when there have been 6 hits and 2 or more last for more than 4 seconds. Even my family doesn't read my blog, which is really funny to me. And perfectly fine.

The fact that I do almost nothing to advertise my presence will no doubt keep my blogospheric impact at this microscopic level. That's really okay with me because it keeps the expectations low so that I can safely post gratuitously self-indulgent and mindless missives like this one. Plus, if I want to post pictures of postcards, fungus, or mummified monkey paws (its coming), I can do so without disturbing the balance of power in Washington DC or irritating the Muslim anarchists in the Middle East. I can't imagine the pressure that Glenn must feel.

A furiously busy weekend: Bible Study Fellowship Leader's meeting at 6:25 AM on Saturday. Followed by a mad dash to the Post Office, an hour-and-a-half late, and the delivering of the mail at a brisk pace on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Then straight from there to worship band practice at church, roughly an hour late, then a quick dinner on-site, a meeting, and then the Saturday night service, which went well. Home at last around 8:30 PM. Relaxed by watching the DVD of Toto's 25th Anniversary concert in Amsterdam, which was very, very good.

Up again at 6:00 AM Sunday in order to be at the 7:30 AM run-through, which went well. Two services on Sunday morning, left the church about 12:30 PM. Went home, changed clothes, and then high-tailed it up Fountain City to Levi Coffin Days, a glorious spectacle of small-town, midwestern Americana. Lunch was a Taco-in-a-bag for Nancy and, for me, barbecue chicken fixed by the local Boy Scout Troop. Flea markets, garage sales, and neighborly loitering and then home to drop off Nancy. Drove back to Richmond to hit the OfficeMax, Sacred Grounds for a jolt, and the grocery. Home around 6:45. Worked until about 8:30 on Bible Study Fellowship prep, conversed with JP at length on IM about his Jazz Improv class at IU. Then, finished out the evening with a snack and the last two-thirds of Kill Bill 2 on the tube.

Yes, that's right. My blog is now about what I did over the weekend. Maybe later we'll talk about theology, Renaissance music history, or lawn-mower repair, but not today. Look, with respect to Pike Speak, all I can really promise is that I will usually check my spellng.

Go visit Rick, Jeff, or Sharon if you really want to see how creative blogging really takes place. Unless, of course, you are Rick, Jeff, or Sharon, in which case thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth

Normally, I am one who enjoys reading and who reads a lot across a fairly broad range of topics. My ancestry includes teachers, theolgians and librarians, my minor in college was English/Literature, I was taught at home how to use the Dewey Decimal System when I was in the sixth grade, and I have been employed by a prestigious research library. By both preference and genetics, I have an affinity, even a love for the written word. I often have strong and specific opinions about books and the ideas they convey.

But at present, I am coming out of a kind of reading slump. For the last 4 months, I really just couldn't read anything, fact or fiction, with any kind of sustaining interest. Taking the summer off from Bible Study Fellowship, a seasonal and especially disciplined reading program, I haven't been in His Word with any degree of intensity or regularity, either. I can't even get through Guitar Player magazine before the next month's issue has shown up already. I have a shelf of unread books glaring scornfully at me from across my office.

This week I read three of Louis L'Amour's books in 3 days. They are not long or hard to read, by any means, nor are they especially well-written. But there is something they have that I find very appealing, a distinct moral clarity of classic proportions, expressed in the romantic ideals of the mythic American West. I find the same is largely true of Tom Clancy at his best, back in the 1990's, although his backdrop is obviously our contemporary culture and his approach more effusive. It is not hard to distinguish right from wrong, virtue from vice, good from evil in these books. They are often not so much about the happy ending, as some might suppose, but about integrity, personal motivation, community, legacy, and the spirtual and ethical importance of "doing the right thing" regardless of the cost or consequence.

Is it literature? Who cares? It reminds me of some of the things that are really important in life and brings back into focus many of my core beliefs. And it gets me reading again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mushroom Art

One of the most interesting antique art works that we own is this amazing little oil painting of a country church. Strictly speaking, this would likely be considered an "American primitive" piece, less, perhaps because of its age and more so because of its composition, technique, and its highly unusual surface. This painting is rendered on a giant preserved fungus, not unlike those featured in my previous post.

The painting itself is quite good. Simple and folksy, but expertly and artfully realized. There is no signature or date, nor anything else to trace the paintings provenance. Its age is uncertain, but my wife the antique dealer is sure that it is well over 50 years old, possibly much older. Here in eastern Indiana, there are many little country churches that look like this, but it is not one that I have been able to locate.

Here is a picture of the back of the mushroom. It appears to have been dried and then preserved with some type of shellac or clear varnish. There are some nicks in the fungus on both front and back, and the crazing of the paint is clearly visible, but the mushroom itself is really not fragile. It is light, but solid. It feels a lot like papermache'.

Its dimensions are approximately 7.75" x 6" x 1.5". We keep it on a little easel with a small, antique quilt sample.

It would be interesting to know if more of this type of work exists, if anyone else has ever seen such a thing, or has any additional info at all. (Yes, I'm talking to both of you who occassionaly read my blog...)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fungus Humungus Amongus - Part I

There is a tree in our yard that has been dying for, oh, say 20 years or more. For the last three years it has exhibited the strangest growth, that of a giant fungus, growing out of its side like some kind of appendage.

There is something innately repulsive, yet also beautiful, about it.

Here you can see how the rainwater has pooled in the nexus, reflecting the side of our house in the background.

Here is an interesting definition of this type of growth, from the 2006 edition of the venerable Random House Unabridged Dictionary,
"any of a diverse group of eukaryotic single-celled or multinucleate organisms that live by decomposing and absorbing the organic material in which they grow, comprising the mushrooms, molds, mildews, smuts, rusts, and yeasts, and classified in the kingdom Fungi or, in some classification systems, in the division Fungi (Thallophyta) of the kingdom Plantae."

I really like the word "multinucleate" and will be attempting to work it into casual conversations over the next few days. I am also intrigued by the notion of the Kingdoms of Fungi and Plantae.

Soon I will offer a follow-up post showing a very unusual form of art using fungi as its basis.

Listening To: "SONGLINES" by The Derek Trucks Band

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Simple, not easy.

Jeff at anti-itch meditation has a great post in which the answer to the ills of society is revealed. Why do people expect the solutions to the really big questions to be easy and glib?

The answers to the plaintive "how can we stem the tide of _________ in the world today?" questions are not ever going to be found in some deep, solomonic pronouncement which, when spoken aloud, somehow will awaken the world to its plight and release the cosmic energy necessary to set the universe aright. Nope. The only bastion against sin remains a redeemed heart

Friday, September 01, 2006

I have several jobs. One of them is working part-time for the US Postal Service as a "Rural Carrier Associate". In our little area of Randolph County we have only two rural routes. Most of the folks that live in Lynn proper actually have a box and come pick their mail up on a semi-daily basis. My job is that of a substitute carrier, meaning that I run the route every other Saturday and on days when Jennifer, who is the real mail carrier, is sick, on vacation, or feeling otherwise postally disinclined.

Like all jobs, there are good things about it and not-so-good things, but overall, I like it very much and it has been a blessing to our family. There are only 7 people total who work at our Post Office and all of them are great. Because we are very small and in the country, the whole vibe is much more relaxed than it is in the city facilities. Rick, the Postmaster, couldn't be a nicer, more easy-going boss and alot of the bureaucratic formalities and regimental unpleasantries one finds in the administration of a metropolitan Post Office just do not exist in our office. We don't wear uniforms. We drive our own vehicles to deliver the mail and the USPS pays us a per diem to cover this usage. This is a good thing because postal delivery is really hard on the brakes.

As I mentioned, it is a rural route and, after sorting, casing, and generally organizing the mail, it takes about 4 hours to drive around the backroads putting mail in people's mailboxes and delivering packages. There's more to it than that, really, more detail than most people want to know about. But, in truth, alot of my day is about driving around out in the country, which is pretty fun. Except when it snows or ices, then it is not fun, but hard, hazardous, exhausting work.

I like to take pictures of some of the areas I see on my route. This a pond that is on County Road East 700 South (I told you it was rural). This photo was taken in the late spring, but this is an interesting place all year round. I almost always see geese at this pond, but I've also seen all manner of other waterfowl, including herons and what appear to be seagulls or a near relative. This area is beautiful in the winter, too.

I don't think I would enjoy postal work as much as I do if I had to do it everyday, but it isn't bad being the substitute. Its relaxing to drive around out in the country, listening to NPR and rock-and-roll on the radio, putting letters in boxes. Lord willing, I plan to do it for at least another three years or so, until my son gets out of college.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Postcard Art

Here is a selection from my wife's antique postcard collection that hardly requires comment. Even now, a 100 years later, it continues to make its own comedy.

The illustrator, Vincent Colby, was an artist whose work was popular in the early 1900's. This card was copywrited in 1909, published in NYC, and was posted from Anderson, Indiana to New Castle, Indiana in February of 1912. Little seems to be known or written about Colby, but mentions (without detail), that he was involved in the production of two animated silent short films. He was the animator in the first, I Should Worry (1915), and possibly the director of the second one, Seven Cutey Puppies (1917).

This postcard was one of a series featuring puppies in various situations with humorous captions. They are moderately rare and, as with all postcards, value is dependant on condition. This particular postcard is suffering, unfortunately, from some ink bleed from the postmark, but we don't care. It is still a hoot. And the artwork is really excellent.

On the back of the postcard is a cancelled 1-cent Ben Franklin stamp and this cryptic note written with a fountain pen:

able to live without sleeping but I do not think I will try to live without eating for them eats are great expecially (sic)

The punctuation-impaired writer has wonderful handwriting but did not sign this little missive.

Nancy has a number of very old postcards showing scenes of Richmond, IN, and some unbelievably rare photo postcards of Lynn, IN, the little town where we live in the early 1900's. I will probably show some of those here, too. We are blessed to live in a part of the country rich in art and history.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Its not what you know, but who...

I have a friend who has built an internal combustion engine that runs on distilled water.
I have a friend who travels all over the world recording great music with famous people.
I have a friend who has taught physics to high school kids for nearly 40 years.
I have a friend who is wondering what he is supposed to do with his life.

I have a friend who is a sheriff in Texas.
I have a friend who has perfect pitch and never misses a note.

I have a friend who is a sergeant in the USAF.
I have a friend who rescues children from unsafe homes.
I have a friend who is the parent of a severely disabled child.
I have a friend who works hard in a factory six days a week.
I have a friend whose wife died on their honeymoon.
I have a friend who believes that he can harness the wind for all our energy needs.
I have a friend who has led hundreds of people to The Life Eternal.
I have a friend who has made millions of dollars.
I have a friend who is an excellent cook and takes great pleasure in serving others.
I have a friend who can build a house from the ground up.

I have a very good friend who sings so beautifully that sometimes it makes me cry.
I have a friend who is an excellent farmer.
I have a friend who plays guitar much, much better than I do.

I have a friend who sacrificed his life to save me and all my friends.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


This evening I was thinking about my grandfather’s hands. I remember well the hands of both my grandfathers. Strong, thick fingers, scars upon older scars, rugged and leathery. The hands of men who worked hard.

I was replacing the blade on the lawnmower; a job which carries a substantial risk of, skinned knuckles at least, if not worse. I know this from prior experience and have just relearned it afresh.

I am not especially gifted in the repair and maintenance of things mechanical, but I have an abiding interest in how things work and, thanks to my maternal grandfather, George H. Polley, an especial appreciation for motorized lawn equipment. His life’s business and his professional success rested on his skill in the sale and repair of lawn, garden, and farm machines. For many years he ran a successful, respected business in a very small Indiana town. When I was young, I would go to work with him and play in his store, dismantling old engines, watching him work on new ones, listening to him sell a chainsaw, or going with him to deliver a riding lawnmower somewhere out in the country. He has been dead for nearly 20 years now, but still I often hear stories from men who worked for him or people that knew him or did business with him. He was a highly respected man in this area of the world. And it seems he always had a Band-Aid on his hand, or a cut that was healing up from his work.

My paternal grandfather, Lee Wisdom Pike, was principally a carpenter. For many years he worked for the Katy Railroad in north central Texas, designing and constructing bridges, trestles, and rail yards. The history of the railroad is very strong in our family. My brother and I are the first generation not to have spent some time in the employ of a railroad. At least not yet. I was much younger when I knew Grandpa Pike, but I recall vividly that he was missing a finger, about half of the forefinger on his right hand. That was a fascinating thing to a little kid. He and my grandma lived on West Texas Street in Denison, Texas. There was always lots of wood to play with at his house. I distinctly remember looking at his hands one day when I was quite young and we were both down on all fours in the backyard as he showed me how to properly position a nail and swing a hammer. That is a very useful skill.

Both of my grandfathers, and even more so, my father, taught me most of I know about what it means to be a man in the world. I learned how to live from these men, less from what they said but from who they were and are. Their lives continue to teach me, and I am grateful. My earnest prayer is that I have passed on some of their love, their faith, their strength, their wisdom, and their humility to my own son. Time will tell, to be sure, because life is a marathon, not a sprint. And yet already I have seen in him the same quiet strength of character and power that I felt from the lives of these forefathers that he never knew.

I am truly blessed by the God of the past, the present, and the future.