Tuesday, February 27, 2007
One of the artists who performed and talked about her amazing work was the poetess, Amena Brown. Check this out. This really knocks me out and I hope it will you as well.
At our church, in a couple of weeks, we are going to have a similar offering in which a poem by one of our gifted writers, John Waltz, will be performed. It should be interesting, both an opportunity and a challenge. I will be composing the musical underscore and orating the poem live.
My prayer is that it will be excellent, effective, and moving. And, most importantly, that the Lord will be blessed by it.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
This has been a very difficult week. My numerous professional and personal obligations have again careened into each other's orbit, as they are wont to do periodically, and the subsequent interaction of their gravitational fields has caused chaos, fatigue, frustration, and self-loathing again. Same as it ever was.
What I need is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Maybe next week I'll have time to look into that.
But take a look at this cool picture from my Rural Route #2. This was taken in nearby Carlos (pop. approx. 50) which is pronounced "carr-lus", dry and atonal, with no lingua romanzesca whatsoever. It is a vintage limo; I have no idea what year or make. If I have time, I'll get a closer look tomorrow. Sure, it's beat up, but it is still a great-looking car. How fun it would be to fix that baby up and tool around in it.
This picture really cheers me up. I'm not sure why.
When I work too much, I get depressed. It really sends me into a funk, and not the good kind of Brothers Johnson or Tower of Power funk. But, in those inspired moments when I do momentarily stop feeling moody and snappish, and actually pray for help, God actually does help. Sometimes my prayer goes something like this:
"God, you are going to have to deal with this because I have had it up to here with this @#$^)$#@ and I can't take it anymore. I can't believe I have to deal with this #**$%^@!"
The Lord understands frustration, though, verily far better than I, I'm sure, since He has billions of people to deal with. And as soon as I start talking to Him about what it is about my life that is driving me temporarily insane, the relief starts to seep in. Not all at once, but little by little, my heart starts to unclench, my brain starts to clatter again, the muscles in my neck relax and, even though my circumstances may still suck, I really do, miraculously, feel better. If I stay at a bit, my perspective actually shifts into a much happier and healthier place as I again remember how well off I am, comparatively. Music helps, too, especially worship music. When I stop focusing on myself and my "problems", I just start to feel better.
God's strength abounds when his children are beset by weakness. He has had numerous opportunities to show His strength around me this week. When there is less of me and more of Him in the equation, things definitely go smoother.
Here is a short and very good devotional my Mom sent me that cheered me up. It's good when you're Mom cheers you up. Its good when my Mom cheers you up too. So go read it and be blessed. If you don't, that means that you either don't like my Mom or you have all of the blessings you need right now.
Update: The limo is a hearse. I thought it was, then I thought it wasn't because of the windows, then today I looked closer and now I'm sure it is. That makes it even cooler, of course. I don't know much about vintage cars and even less about vintage hearses.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
1) I could be in Orlando, but I'm not. In my job I am not required to travel much on behalf of my company. I actually like to travel for fun, but typically, when you're profession is sales or marketing, regardless of your industry, travelling for work is exactly that. Work, and a lot of it. Now, having said that, the one trade show for which I am customarily responsible happens to be one that I very much enjoy, the National Religious Broadcaster's convention, being held this weekend in Florida. This convention is a fascinating convergence of radio/tv, publishing, technology, engineering, programming, media, church ministry, and music. Folks come from all over the planet, from every imaginable background. My company usually has a booth and a display, underwritten by a handfull of the more 300+ manufacturers we represent. It is a lot of work, but it is a lot of fun, too, especially when my wife accompanies me which she often has.
I've met some interesting folks, famous, notorious, and unknown. And I've heard some wonderful music and amazing preaching by some of the best. I heard President Bush speak there shortly after 9/11, and got to see the pre-release version of Passion Of The Christ another year. There is always something cool going on, plus I always get to see some of my best customers and good friends. But I'm glad I'm home this year.
2) Below is something my wife sort of gave me last year. Actually, she bought it to sell in her antique store, but she made the mistake of bringing it home first, and so I, uhm, appropriated it. It is a very small, very old 4-string banjo. It is 21" long from stem to stern and the head is a mere 7.5" across, about the size of a mandolin.
It is presently strung with nylon strings and I may leave it that way. It is difficult to keep in tune and the action is decent only down in first position near the headstock, but it has a really cool sound. The head is genuine cowhide and, although the quality of the construction and condition is quite good, there is no identifying maker's mark.
3) This is a little bit of found art in my office. As I walked in today, what normally would pass for clutter and mess struck me more as a collage.
It consists of a framed poster that we got at the Leopold Museum in Vienna a couple of years ago, featuring one of Egon Schiele's landscapes. I also have a Gustav Klimt poster downstairs which we got at the same exhibition. We had the most wonderful time in Vienna and visiting the art museums there was one of the highlights.
Propped up against this poster is an interesting primitivist original work entitled The Winter Lands (how appropriate!) by an artist named Dick Shoemaker. It is dated 1965 and, I'm sorry to say, I don't know the name of the technique used to created it. Most of the image appears to have been first drawn on the paper with some kind of sharp object, perhaps a stylus, and then filled in and expanded with some kind of thick black ink. Perhaps I will scan this and dedicate a separate post to it, soliciting an expert opinion, perhaps, to tell me what might be known about this technique.
Below that is a map taken from a 1959 National Geographic entitled "Lands of the Mediterranean". It includes the Holy Lands, Turkey, most of northern Africa, and the Middle East. I love maps. I keep meaning to frame and hang this one.
There is also a book of Vineyard worship music and an audio cable in the lower right hand corner. The whole mess is atop an antique glass case that houses my modest collection of (mostly) antique knives.
4) The coolest thing we did, musically, at church this weekend was a song called Bread by Ginny Owens, from her album Beautiful. A very simple, very funky, sparsely orchestrated tune. My wife sang it beautifully, nuanced and soulful. One of the coolest things about it was the fact that the whole song required that I play no more than 4 simple two-note chords...unbelievably minimalistic, but a very fun, expressive vehicle for some great R&B poetry about Jesus as the Bread of Life, and what that means. We got to hear Ginny Owens play piano and sing at the NRB convention in Nashville a couple of years ago. Exceptional. Here are the lyrics:
Man cannot live
By bread alone,
He needs something stronger
To feed his hungry soul,
So he'll try everything
Under the sun,
But nothing will end his hunger
Nothing but Your love.
He'll acquire treasure,
But it won't amount to much,
He'll fall in love with pleasure,
But none will fill him up,
And when he has exhausted
All this world can give to him,
Still he'll not grow weary of chasing after the wind-
I looked in the mirror,
Just the other day,
I was so surprised,
I hardly recognized the change,
So restless and so hurried,
I've spent so much time,
Running after things
I'm gonna have to leave behind
Good stuff, that. My son, JLP, played keys with us this weekend, too, which is always great. The kid's got it goin' on. He sounds better every time I hear him. Even though he never updates his blog these days
5) Heather has an interesting, thought-provoking post on her website about how certain books, music, film, and art experiences seem to resonate with us in an especially personal way, while others do not. And I left one of my annoyingly long comments over there already so I'm not going to elaborate. Just go check it out.
Listening: "Old Wells...New Wine", an album of contemporary piano improvisations on classic hymns by my friend, Mark Bovee. Mark is a world class jazz and gospel pianist as well as a gifted arranger, composer, and worship leader. While I hate making these kinds of comparisons because its just soooo lame, if you like George Winston or Jim Brickman, you will like MB's album. Guaranteed.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
This (above) is a picture of our garden at sundown one day last week, before the smackdown we got on Tuesday.
This is taken from our front yard looking down towards the mouth of our driveway onto US Hwy. 27, the road we live on. Our driveway is a deep cut in the side of a steep hill. Typically, the sides rise up to 12 feet or so on each side. In this picture, it is full of snow. We don't leave the house when it is like this.
Here's a picture of the back side, accross the driveway . The door on the left is the one we normally use to enter and exit. There are three steps there, completely buried in snow at the moment. The handle of the shovel, visible near the door, is a portend of the labor to come.
Snow removal is interesting to me, too. In spite of mankind's sophisticated technologies, there is not much that we can do about it when snow falls where we don't want it. When snow falls in great quantity, the world comes to a standstill. Snow dictates its own terms. There are no really effective snow elimination systems. The only thing man can do with snow is move it somewhere else. There are snow blowers, snow plows, and snow shovels, but the only really effective snow eliminator is the sun.
You might think that there should be some high-tech laser evaporater device that would quickly clean off the driveway and make the roads and sidewalks safe, but no. Its the most elemental laws of physics at work. When you melt snow, you get water. When you heat water (with your laser), you get steam. Well, if its still cold outside, and it obviously is or you wouldn't be out playing with the snow laser in the first place, then the steam will become ice again and fall back to the earth. And there you are, only now its worse. Because now you have to figure out how to get rid of the ice that you made. Ice is a much bigger pain than snow to get rid of. That is why there aren't ice shovels, ice plows, and ice blowers. You should have just moved the snow somewhere else.
With ice, you can use salt or chemicals, but that only works to a point. The melting catalyst works with increasingly less capability as it dilutes and, eventually, if the cold temperature continues, the liquid will refreeze. You have more ice.
The sun is really good at melting snow and ice. Its not fast, but it is relentless. Sometimes we're not as smart as we think we are. And I don't have a problem with that.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
A lot of folks in the pro audio industry marvelled at the effort that was put forth to make Prince's half-time performance so unbelievably successful in the midst of a downpour.
Here is a link to an article from Front Of House magazine's online edition that gives some of the detail. This article ultimately points to a press release on Sennheiser's website that gives even more detail, if you are interested. They make the wireless mics that were used.
Yeah, I know, this is another geeky techo post, but some folks like that kind of thing.
Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!
p.s. I hate the way Blogger does photos.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I apologize for calling Jimmy Carter "a tool".
While I do bear a deep disappointment in and distrust for the man, I should not have referred to him in that manner. He is an ex-President, after all. Upon reflection, I realized that I have been rightly raised to respect our nation's leaders no matter what they do, including and up to the time they resign in disgrace or are indicted and perhaps subsequently pardoned for egregious offenses. By no means does this mean I have to like them or the things they do, but it does mean that I should treat them with the full measure of respect that the office deserves.
It is unlikely that I would have referred to President Carter so disparagingly had he been in the room, consequently it is not right for me to have used such a demeaning term "behind his back", so to speak, in print. And it doesn't matter, really, that only 12 people are going to read this and only 2/3 of them speak English. It was still wrong, and I'm sorry I said it.
But if I do meet President Carter some day, on this side of the great divide, and should engage him in conversation, I would not fear to tell him what I think of his post-Presidential career. He's done some very good things, but he has also done some very bad things. He is profoundly wrong in a number of areas but, as far as I can tell, he is still one of God's children.
And as long as he didn't start calling me names first, we could probably keep it civil.
For the record, I'm not at all convinced that this same level of required civility applies in reference to lesser politicians and I'm pretty sure when it comes to loudmouthed leftist actors and knuckleheaded musicians that all bets are off. I'm not even certain that it applies to Al Gore at this point.
So there. That's that. Now you kids get out of here...
The name of this site is Bird's Eye Tourist, and it is an online collection of satellite imagery. It is similar to Wikipedia and other interactive websites in that the owners invite reader participation and submittals. Many of the entries, like the one for the Coliseum in Rome pictured here include historical footnotes. The entries are tagged and carefully arranged into into collections or categories based around location or theme, which makes browsing or searching productive and fun. Some entries are quite detailed and specialized, like the fascinating collection of retired military aircraft, the architecture collections, national landmarks, prisons, or the views of carousels from all over the US. There are also, of course, celebrity homes, crimes scenes, and such, as well as noteworthy historical locations, like the site of the great Hindenburg zepellin crash in 1937.
Monday, February 12, 2007
For a very long time now, my artistic and musical tastes have tended away from the mainstream towards the eclectic. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that as I get older, I simply care less about and have become increasingly immune to the nefarious efforts of the entertainment media and the pop culture it serves to sell me on what "the industry" thinks is great and wonderful. I have been a performing musician for most of my life and over the years have been actively involved in many different technical and artistic capacities. I listen to music with an open mind, but I do bring several decades worth of experience and personal preference to everything I hear.
The main point is this: I like what I like, and in my world, I get to decide what is good and what is bad.
So here are some passing opinions, in no particular order:
Dixie Chicks: Great players, decent singing, very good engineering and production, and gifted songwriting. Not sure how popular they would be if they weren't 2/3 gorgeous, though. I can't stand their politics. And politics is why they won the gold last night...
Ludicrus: Honestly, I don't like anything about his music. Rap/Hip-hop is not my favorite musical genre anyway, although there are other artists I like. His post-show comments, though, are telling. To paraphrase, he said that since this was the fifth time he had been nominated and he hadn't won a Grammy, when he set out to make his most recent album "Release Therapy", he was determined to win this year, no matter what. So...it's not about the art, then, it's about the award, the glitz, the money, the fame? Okay, that may be entertainment, but its not art. (Like I said, in my world, I get to decide.)
Carrie Underwood: I like her very much and was glad to see her win a couple of awards, including Best New Artist. Country is not my favorite genre, either, btw. She was my favorite in last year's AI competition because of her voice and because of her personality. She has great songs and great performances on her album, which is co-produced by Dan Huff, one of my favorite producers. My prayer is that she stays good and will somehow, miraculously, remain unbesmirched by this great early success. I hope she has good people with level heads around her. I will cry if she goes all Britney on us in the next couple of years. I like two of the other nominees in this category, too, Imogen Heap and Corrine Bailey Rae. My son introduced me to both of them and he has a very good ear for new and interesting music.
Rick Rubin: He won as non-classical producer of the year and he totally deserves it. He is one of the most gifted guys in the industry. While it was his work on the Dixie Chicks album that put him over the top, he is also responsible for all of the great recent Johnny Cash albums, including two this year. I was pleased that T-Bone Burnett was also a runner up in this category, principally for "Walk The Line", the superb soundtrack to the Johnny Cash bioflick (which was really, really good, too).
Jimmy Carter won in the Best Spoken Word Album category. Give me a freakin' break. So, do you think the entertainment industry leans a little towards the left? This unbelievably asinine award barely merits a snort and a spit from a thinking man, but it says something that Carter had to beat out Bill Maher and Al Franken. What a tool.
Red Hot Chili Peppers: I'm not a fan of their music, and I've never liked their vocals, in particular. But there are good things about them. I guess I somewhat grudgingly acknowledge their efforts.
Christina Aguilera: She is a great singer. Really good. I can't wait to hear what she is doing 10 years from now, actually, since she is one of the few female popstarts on the scene that I think really could have some serious staying power. I do find her persona annoying. I have heard the song that she won for, but not much else, lately.
John Mayer: Another gifted performer. Both of his recent albums, Trio and Continuum, deserve more attention. If he doesn't burn out, he is another artist that could and should continue to get better with time.
Don Henley: Yeah, okay, I guess so.
Michael Brecker: A great sax player. I've been a fan for many years. My formative years were spent playing in funk bands and we did several Brecker Bros. tunes. He deserved the recognition, for sure. An excellent jazz player, a lot of his music in the 70's and 80's was really progressive for its time. I have not yet heard the recent tribute album, but I need to pick it up. As I look across the jazz category in general, I see several interesting releases that I have not yet heard.
In the Gospel categories, a genre that I like, I am surprised at how ignorant I am of some of the entries. I have not heard Yolanda Adams' song from The Gospel soundtrack that won Best Gospel Performance. But she is a great singer in a category teeming with great singers and I'm reasonably sure it is probably great. I bet that Randy Travis album is good, too (no really, I'm not that into country), because his work is always impeccable. The only album listed that I've heard is Chris Tomlin's See The Morning, which I do like a lot. I would have liked to have seen The Vineyard's Sweetly Broken nominated. It is definitely one of the best worship albums of the last year, I think. Also, as a rule, anytime Sarah Groves is not nominated somewhere for something in some category, justice has been pretty much denied in my opinion. Tommy Walker could have been in there, too, with either of his last two albums. I think, though, in general, the music industry doesn't really understand worship music...most of the world doesn't understand worship music, really.
The thing is, there is music being made all over the world, in places and by people most of us have never heard of. I don't believe we need Hollywood, New York, or Nashville to tell us what we need to be listening to or who the best artists are. Some of the best music is made by folks who have day jobs, by college kids and senior citizens that record their own original music in their garage on the weekends, and by people who find their joy playing and singing at their local church, or at the blues bar on the edge of town. They may not be as polished as Justin Timberlake or as virtuosic as Celine Dion, but so what? Is that what is important? There are, of course, many medium-to-high profile artists who are also very dedicated, gifted artists, and we should gratefully enjoy their art, but they are the tip of the iceberg. Often, today, performers are promoted and sold to us as a colorful, exciting package when, in fact, there is little of real lasting, artistic merit underneath the superficial veneer of glitz and bling. Look instead for those works which inspire, which speak of life, beauty, spirit, and value.
If you like it, then its good - keep it. If you don't like it, then move on. You get to decide.
Friday, February 09, 2007
I can't decide if this is really cool or incredibly stupid. It could be both, I guess. Maybe I'm not the target market. Don't think I want one, but I can think of a few folks that I might buy one for.
The ad copy is pretty good, too.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Okay, so Madame Speaker didn't actually say the last part in this article, as far as we know, but still. Yeesh! Wonder what the Democratic party faithful think about this. I hope they are embarrassed. Talk about your "inconvenient truths."
h/t Instapundit, of course. Duh.
And I look pretty spiffy there in my matching Dallas Tornado band shirt, too. One of my first professional musician jobs was playing trumpet for the Dallas Tornado, a pro soccer franchise. It was kind of a cross between a typical sports "pep band" (I've always hated that term) and a kind of ersatz Dixieland jazz group. They couldn't afford real musicians so they hired a handful of high school and college players along with a couple of wheezy has-beens who had let their union cards drop. It didn't pay very much, but it was fun at the time, I'm sure, and good experience. Nowadays a gig like that would be torture. Although, it might be fun to play electric guitar in an NHL band, if there were such a thing... How things change.
I've been mostly offline the last couple of days with connectivity problems. Even now my cable modem connection seems tenuous. Consequently I am behind in my professional obligations. Business seems to have slowed up a bit, too. Back to work, we've got mouths to feed and tuition to pay for.
Monday, February 05, 2007
I do like hockey and was an avid Dallas Stars fan, for several years. That is one of the very best sports to see live and in person. But it's hard to keep a long-distance love alive, as they say. The closest NHL team to where I live now is the Columbus Bluejackets. And, I'm sorry, but that is simply too stupid a name for me to get excited about. I am not going to drive 2 hours, pay $200-plus, etc., to watch a team named after a monochromatic outerwear garment.
But, hey, that was a great football game yesterday. I've only been following the Colts since the playoffs began, and casually at that. But, with the game against the Patriots a couple of weeks ago and the Super Bowl yesterday…I think I’m becoming a fan. And yes, Hoosierland is partying like it was 1999.
Which brings me to Prince’s performance at half-time. To even attempt what he did in that downpour shows exemplary professionalism, first of all. The staging, the lighting, the pyrotechnics, and all of the technical stuff seemed to work flawlessly, as far as I could tell. And musically, it was so right on that it was shocking. Always a gifted composer, producer, and performer, Prince demonstrated why he remains at the top of his game after all these years. To the casual observer, it may have looked like just another super-cool Super Bowl rock show, but the focus, the intensity, the skill, and the resources necessary to make that happen in the middle of a football field in the rain are staggering. And I am referring not only to Prince, his band and his backline staff, but whoever the production company was that actually did the design, the engineering, and the grunt work to make that show work. Bravo! Those guys absolutely rock.
Most of the commercials were fun, too. Some were mind-numbingly stupid, like GoDaddy.com’s and the one where the guy got hit in the head with a rock. But the fan-produced Dorito’s commercial was great, I thought, and I liked the CareerBuilder.com commercial, too, with the business guys in the jungle.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Delivering mail for the USPS (my part-time/keep-the-kid-in-college gig) out in the remote parts of Randolph County's witness-protection territory should be loads of fun. That is how I will be spending my Saturday.
How are you spending yours?
Update: That's Fahrenheit, for my international friends. And it is now an hour later and -6 degrees.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
The first treatment of the concept in my memory was the movie Tron, from 1982, starring Bruce Boxleitner and Jeff Bridges. I loved that movie. Of course, since then, there have been a myriad of virtual world scenarios explored in sci-fi literature by authors such as William Gibson (who invented the term "cyberspace"). My favorite to date is Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.
Clay Shirky has written a penetrating essay on the pyschological and sociological forces that drive this segment of computer technology and he offers some prognostication on its future. His piece then points to an interesting article on SlashDot, that goes into eBay's recent decision to delist and eliminate the buying and selling of the virtual assets acquirable in the course of playing virtual games such as World of Warcraft.
This article in turn points to another article, this time on CNET, that discusses some of the complex legal and commercial issues surrounding the ownership of these virtual assets, including whether and how virtual earnings may somehow be taxable. And so the virtual and actual worlds begin to overlap. Will the world's governments one day soon consider virtual dollars as tangible currency? Will they levy taxes and demand a share?
Phew! Why would I want to have a "second life" in a virtual world if all of the problems that I have with the actual world are just as real there?
This article from MSNBC.com explains who profits and why, and it is quite surprising.