Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Black and White, alternating and repeating in rhythm to a snappy, uptempo beat.

How we define progress, how we measure personal growth, says a lot about who we are.

On my accordion, I can play Fairest Lord Jesus, Be Still My Soul (aka "Finlandia" by Jean Sibelius), Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, This Land is Your Land, and the most hummable parts of Beethoven's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.  Both melody and chords.  

The key of C major is working best for me right now, partly because of some unfortunate sticky black notes in the upper register.  What can I say, it's a $50 accordion.  Also, it is a Major Diatonic instrument, which means that the left hand chord keys are basically arranged in a handy I-IV-V configuration, with the keys of G, C, and F represented.  That means it lends itself most happily to music in one of those three major keys with simple harmony.  Minor tonalities and jazzier progressions are possible, though, but not yet.  I've got minor keys figured out strategically, but they are not tactically practical at the moment (which means I can't play them yet). 

Now one might think that being limited thusly would be a drag, but it's really not.  Just because you've got the 16 Crayola box and not the 64 Crayola box does not mean you can't draw some great pictures and do some serious coloring.

On the list of things that are more difficult than they sound I now include the song Greensleeves, because of the minor key, and that boom-chick polka rhythm that everybody and their uncle Gunther from the old country does...can't figure that out yet, either.  I think there's a trick (uhm, I mean technique) to it.  Also, long, slow lyrical phrases don't come easy, but they don't really come easy on any instrument.

At the moment, I don't own any zydeco music, nor do I have any recordings of Astor Piazzolla, the great Argentine tango composer.  I shall have to remedy that soon.  By the way, I just learned that Astor Piazzolla's middle name was Pantoleon.  Translated, that means "lion pants", I'm pretty sure.  How cool is that for a name?  Anyway, he's supposed to be the Chuck Norris of accordion music, so I need to get up to speed.

And check this out:

Accordion Hero II is just being released, too, I understand.  It includes M.C. Hammer's Can't Touch This and also Ride The Lightning by Metallica.  Does that rawk or what?!?!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Clover - Innovations in Java

The video is from Wired.com so, naturally, there is a 15-second commercial in front of the feature.

Here is the interesting story to go along with it.

Yeah, I want one. How about you?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight, part deux

From Brant Hansen, to whom I obliquely refer in my post below, through Bill Kinnon, I found and now am happy to present this little tribute to The Dark Knight. Bill, who agrees with Brant that Batman ain't all that, found it at the amusingly named blog, "Waving or Drowning."

Now, with that lengthy list of hat-tips, weblinks, and obliging nods behind me, here you go:

On the one hand, I think Brant, Bill, et al, are simply demonstrating their membership in a club to which I myself belong, Contrarians International. And I'm fine with that. I am totally in touch with the notion that if everybody in the world thinks something is pretty cool, well then there is obviously something seriously wrong with it, whatever it is. This is America, after all, except in Bill's case where it is actually Canada, and everyone is entitled to their opinion, regardless of whether or not it's brilliant, silly, or just plain wrong.

Whatever. I liked The Dark Knight. It's not my favorite movie in the world, nor is it some kind of sophisticated and complex social commentary. Sorry, it's just not. It is pretty entertaining, though, if you like that kind of thing, and well worth the $8 to see it on a big screen.

The Dark Knight

Just saw the new Batman movie. The Dark Knight. Liked it, I did. It was visually compelling, action-packed, and a ripping good yarn darkly drawn.

Philosophically, there are a number of ideas that can be drawn from the telling of this tale. For me, principal among them is the observation that, in a fallen world, there will be and has always been a need for a few meritous, ethically-motivated men who willingly rise up to confront evil, even when doing so spins them into a difficult place, drawing from them morally compromising or ambiguous behavior. As the oft quoted Theodore Roosevelt sagely observed, "Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

One of the lines of dialog that I believe to be true is Alfred’s (Michael Caine) observation that the motivation behind the violent deeds perpetrated by some men is a perverse desire to see the world burn. This view, and it is one of the core values of the movie, signifies that Evil, with a capital E, does exist. It does not represent a “clash of values”, or some kind of situationally-dependent, relative evil rooted in a sophomoric understanding of contemporary culture, nor is it an evil motivated by a poor upbringing, or some kind of psychological disturbance that can be cured by therapy. No. It is the kind of pure Evil whose sole hunger is for destruction, chaos, and power, before which the only appropriate resistance is the unfettered full measure of action and unrestrained determination that results not merely in Evil’s surrender, but in it’s utter defeat. It is that uncomfortable, hard place where we unwillingly are forced to admit quietly, if only to ourselves and God that, in fact, sometimes the end does justify the means.

The movie also captures, with not much subtlety, the idea that, though we all know that sometimes our heroes must be ruthless and implacable to win the day, as civilized people, we must periodically scourge our warriors in the vain and failing attempt to, symbolically, cleanse ourselves of their blood sins.

For me, pretending that this dichotomy doesn’t exist is the greater of two deceits, for that embraces a lie. Personally, I am glad that somewhere, in a windowless inner office, deep within the bowels of CIA headquarters in Quantico there are a few good, rough men who compose secret plots of violence and assassination with the goal of keeping me, my family, and my country safe and free. No, it’s not legal. It’s ugly, cynical, messy work. But it is necessary and I hope they keep at it.

Another, not unrelated theme rests in the character of Harvey Dent, in whom we plainly see that even the best of men are capable of evil. This is not a subtle thing, but rather is painted in broad brush strokes so that it will not be missed by even the youngest or least attentive viewer.

That said, The Dark Knight is just a movie, not some deep social commentary. Unlike some folks, I don’t think it is a sign of the coming Apocalypse. We already have plenty of those.

So, if you’ve seen the movie, did you like it? What did you think?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Miraculous Healing

A friend of mine, Barry Garrett, whom some of you prayed for a few days ago, has had an astounding recovery from a very serious and debilitating medical emergency. He was admitted to the hospital last weekend with a terrific headache, nausea, and vision problems. It turns out there was a tumor surrounding his pituitary gland that was compressing the optic nerve and spinal column. There's much more to the story, but go to his blog to read about it.

And here is a picture of the pituitary gland, for those of you who, like me, need some help with your glandular geography:

Have a nice day!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


And out of the blue comes this installment of Music By People You've Never Heard Of.  This is Brooke Fraser singing her song "Shadowfeet" from her album, Albertine.  I really like the directness, the simplicity of the lyric and music.  And the video bears the same aesthetic, relying on the intrinsic strength found in the human face, portraits of real people.  

So what do you think?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

If I Have Not Love by Matt Redman (a different Matt than the one in yesterday's post.)

I am leading this song at church during the offeratory time this weekend. It is a song that really speaks to me and I am excited about it. Nancy and I were in attendance at the live recording of the album from which it comes a few years ago at the Facedown Conference in Atlanta. One of the things I like best about this album is how the idea of the mystery of Christ is so wonderfully explored in both lyric and music.

(We will be doing without it the foreign subtitles, but this was the best version YouTube had to offer.)