Friday, January 25, 2008


As I posted on Wednesday, Wes and I saw the U23D movie.  It was quite the experience.  Best 3D I've ever seen and what a concert!  The Argentineans make a great audience too. I loved it.  Really loved it. The Edge is such a great guitarist. Larry really brings it on the drums too. After the movie, Wes said Adam is his favorite member. I think the highlight for me is when Bono puts on the "Coexist" bandana and then sings about "Father Abraham" and how Jesus and Mohammed are both sons of Abraham.  It was very powerful. I recommend this film.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Came out today! I've got tickets for 5 pm tonight. Going with my son. Very excited!

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Five Sentence Tribute: Heath Ledger

His role in MONSTER'S BALL was like a sucker-punch to the gut. Got a nomination for playing Ennis Del Mar in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN which, despite all the hype and flack, was a good movie. I'll always think A KNIGHT'S TALE is very watchable and a lot of fun! His upcoming Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT looks like the best Joker ever. So young, left a daughter fatherless, such a horriblly sad and tragic loss.

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Oscar Nominations!

I can't remember back far enough to a time that I was more excited about the Academy Award nominations. This morning they were announced and I'm jazzed because this year I can actually pull for something. Why the excitement? One word: JUNO.
That the movie would be up for best original screenplay was a given. It is. So, then, I would have been happy with a best leading actress nomination for Ellen Page for playing the title character. She's up. But, to have Jason Reitman up for best director, what a joy. Then, the shock of all shocks: it's up for best motion picture of the year too! Amazing. A small wonderful film like this up against the big boys! Way to go Academy! Very pleased. Very pleased.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

What could be better?

This morning I read this and it hit me like never before:


"Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers."

Does that really sink in? God "the one who makes us holy" and us "those who are made holy" are of the same family. Jesus is God's son; thus, he is happy to call me brother.

Amazing! Cool. What could be better?

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hole in the Ice

Listening to Neil Finn's album ONE NIL from 2001.  It's such an amazing album.  This one line from the song "Hole in the Ice" is just resonating with me so much.
He sings:
I want my love to burn
Hotter than a comets tail
I want my bed to cry
And I never wanna let you down
Man, I wish I wrote that.  I want that too!  I'm thinking of my lovely wife Chrisy and I just want to sing to her really loud, "I never wanna let you down."
Neil Finn makes me feel joyful.  I wish everybody I knew "got" Neil Finn like I do, really.
And, that's all I wanted to say.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Two Ways

Back in August 2007 I posted a poem called "Reverie" that some folks have said is one of their favorites. My wife commented on the poem which really made me feel good; however, up to now I declined to answer the question she posed. "Who were you thinking about when you wrote that?" is what she asked. The reason I didn't answer is that I've always had this aversion to the artist providing interpretations to the art. But, Chrisy was on to something in not being certain as to whom I was writing about. I wanted it to be ambiguous even though to some it is not ambiguous at all (read to the end for more on that).

I cannot believe I am going to talk about one of my third grade lessons, but I am. In my class we are currently reading a fantasy story titled "The Cat Who Became a Poet." It's from the book "Nonstop Nonsense" by Margaret Mahy. In the story this cat eats a poet mouse and then against his own desire, he turns into a poet himself! Poor guy.

My favorite part of the story is when the cat is chased up a tree by this dog Max. In order to defend himself, the cat tries to hiss and spit at the dog, but a poem comes out instead. The poem contains these lines:

"Colonel Dog fires his cannon
And puts his white soldiers on parade."

The dog loves the poem and then goes away flattered. After that, the cat is stupefied and says, "If only he knew. I wasn't meaning to praise him. Poetry is very tricky stuff and can be taken two ways."

You see, apparently the cat viewed the dog as a hostile warlord, the cannon being barking and the white soldiers being his teeth. The cat thought the dog was mean! The dog took it as a compliment, an admiration of his power.

The cat has a point, poetry is tricky and it can be taken two ways. For me, a good movie is the same way. I've often said that I don't like movies that "spoon-feed" me the ending. Usually, I love films that are left open for the viewer to interpret the ending. One example could be a love story. If it is not "spoon-fed" then the pessimists in the crowd can walk away saying, "They don't stay together" whereas the romantics can say, "They live happily-ever-after." Perhaps those somewhere in the middle might add, "They make it, but it takes years of counseling." The antithesis of this would be the PRETTY WOMAN ending: There is no need for counseling if you're a hooker with a heart-of-gold!

In my opinion, many great works of art are left open for the viewers to place their personalities, beliefs, and "baggage" upon the art itself. Therefore, two of us might walk away with two different views. DEAD MAN WALKING is a good example as I noticed my friends who are "pro-death penalty" though the movie supported their view AND my friends who are "anti-death penalty" thought it supported their case as well. Forget two, a good movie, painting, poem, or song might have three or four possible interpretations!

I once went to my friend's art exhibit and my favorite painting there fell into this category. One person thought it was a lake of fire. Another thought it was a volcano. I thought it was the Holy Spirit moving into action. Could we all be correct?

Another classic example that comes to mind is the song "Obvious Child" by Paul Simon. It contains this line:

"The cross is in the ball park."

Once I saw the great interviewer, Bob Costas, question Paul Simon. He asked him about that line. He wanted to know what it meant. They noted that it could mean "ball park" as in "a close distance." For example, "That's not the correct answer, but you're in the ball park." It could also mean a place where you play baseball such as "We had a great day at the ball park on Sunday."

Given the word "cross," Costas obviously thought the song had religious imagery. Costas offered Simon the first two obvious interpretations of the line and then added a third one which is what the line meant to Costas. Paraphrasing, here they are:

1) Actualization or full maturity is within reach, "The cross is in the ball park" as in the end of my life is close.
2)Redemption/salvation is possible as in a true religious interpretation speaking to Christ's suffering for us.
3) "Salvation" or joy or what matters is actually found in our national pastime: baseball.

Given Costas's love of sports, baseball in particular, it would make sense for him to say the cross is at the baseball stadium. What is good, what is right, might be found with your kids on a Sunday afternoon at a the Dodger game. Personally, the closest thing I've ever had to a religious experience at Dodger Stadium is when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played there in 2003! But, I digress.

For the record, Simon essentially said that Costas was right and so was everybody else. It was supposed to mean whatever it meant to you, not Paul Simon. He refused to spoon-feed.

Back to my poem, "Reverie." It too can be taken two ways. My good friend put a much appreciated comment on the poem that read, "You're not your dad. Period!" Obviously, there we are talking about my earthly father and his behaviors. She was correct. But, now in an effort to address my wife's question, I invite you to think about my Abba, my heavenly father and then reread the poem. What meaning does it now have? Read it that way, thinking of the ver last line, "father's reflection," in a divine way and you just might see that, indeed, the cross is in the ball park!

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

We Enigmas

In the 2007 edition of my very long annual Christmas letter I talked about people being enigmas.  Along those lines, I quoted author Brennan Manning from his book THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL.  There is another Manning quote that I considered using to make my point about humans being complex.  This one is from his book ABBA'S CHILD which I actually like better.  The quote that follows is from chapter nine, "The Rabbi's Heartbeat."  This is one of my favorite passages:
"Whom can I level with?  To whom can I bare my soul? Whom dare I tell that I am benevolent and malevolent, chaste and randy, compassionate and vindictive, selfless and selfish, that beneath my brave words lives a frightened child, that I dabble in religion and in pornography, that I have blackened a friend's character, betrayed a trust, violated a confidence, that I am tolerant and thoughtful, a bigot and a blowhard, and that I really hate okra?"

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Poetry Review III

It's been awhile. Below you can check out all of my poetry that I've posted since my Poetry Review II last March. Let me know if like one more than the others.

Role Models
Foretime Son
Easter Birds
Is That All?
Self-Conscious Bigot
Bacchanalian Rhapsody
staff meeting
Trabajar en el hoyo
Aurora Staples Inn

That's all of them. The first Poetry Review was posted back in September 2006. Hope you enjoyed them. Thanks for reading.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Two Become One

Lyle & John at our still-under-construction gathering site.

A few days ago a local newspaper ran an article about my church TerraNova.  The piece appeared in the Orange County Register.  I couldn't be prouder of my two pastors, John Reed and Lyle Castellaw.  I hope you give it a read here:

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

They're watching you . . .

I'm reading this book on raising children.  Here's a great quote:

"Don't be too concerned that your children don't listen to you.  But be very concerned that they see everything you do."

--S. Truett Cathy 
from "It's Better To Build Boys Than Mend Men"

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Music in Photography?

Andy Summers, the guitarist of The Police has a new photography book out. It's titled "I'll Be Watching You: Inside The Police, 1980-1983." In yesterday's LA Times he was asked this interesting question about two different art forms: "What's the relationship between photography and music?" I found his answer very compelling:
"In my own primitive way, I'm looking for harmonic content in a photograph. When you look through the lens, you're seeing a chord with all its harmonic extensions and its asymmetry. Going out in the street and shooting, just following your eye, you are improvising in the sense that a musician improvises."
The idea of "harmonic content in a photograph" is especially intriguing to me. At least theoretically, even an amateur could search for that while they are shooting say their kids around the house. My mind immediately went to this shot that my wife took of my son with his new guitar two days ago.
This also reminds me of the song What Light that I posted a couple days ago because the spirit in both that song and the Summers quote would say, "If you want to do photography and you're not sure what to shoot, just shoot what you see. Don't let anyone say it's wrong."
It all makes me want to get a little bit more adventurous.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Time On Earth

This one is a "reunion album."  Back in March 2005, Crowded House drummer Paul Hester committed suicide.  Apparently, that loss was largely responsible for getting the remaining members of Crowded House, along with a new drummer, back together to record the terrific album TIME ON EARTH.  One might think this all sounds pretty morbid.  You might be asking, "Is this some sort of dark depressing album?"  The answer is a resounding, "No."  Instead, as the title suggests, this entire album reminds us in a very lovely and profound manner that we only have a short time on earth.  It's really like a great movie, no not "Talladega Nights," more like "Dead Poets Society," a film that makes you want to live differently, be a better person, follow your passion.

It all seems very fitting really.  Our first treat was in 2006 with the well done, well packaged fantastic live album FAREWELL TO THE WORLD.  That was the very famous  November 24, 1996 final concert for the band at the Sydney Opera House. Why finally release that just one one year after your drummer's death? Why reunite a band and make your first album together in 13 years? Why follow it up with a grand tour?  From this writer's perspective it's just to make their fans' time on earth a heck of a lot more meaningful.  So, yes, the death of a friend/bandmate permeates the album, but it's not in a depressing way.  Rather, as is usually the case with the Crowded House leader and poet Neil Finn, we're reminded that we'd better be busy loving because time is short.

Consider the final line of the delightful song, "Heaven That I'm Making."  Actually, it's a song about surfing. But, much more, maybe it's a song about just living in the moment, enjoying God's creation.  Finn sings:  "And the big wave that I'm taking, it feels like I'm just waking up," and then the closing lines:

"If there is hell on Earth
There must be heaven too
Both in one place
And not a second to lose"

Right here in this moment I can create a heaven or a hell.  The same theme appears in the very popish "She Walked Her Way Down" too:

"And I know what the answer is
And I'm happy to be here tonight
And when you're in the moment
Everything you want is right"

I for one love good pop music and the there's a lot of that on this album.  There's "Don't Stop Now," "Even A Child," "She Called Up," and "Transit Lounge," all songs that musically grabbed me right off the bat; they hooked me with their lovely popish sound.  But even within those, there's the very SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION theme of "get busy living or get busy dying."  Consider the line from "Transit Lounge" here:

"Dream about the things you meant to do before you die
Break him out, the one whose waiting for his moment to shine
All the stupid things I said will haunt you, will linger, I guess"

Back to the first track on the album.  "Nobody Wants To" is such a powerful opening.  It's about people that don't want to get real, people that rather live in pseudo-community than walk through the pain and chaos and talk about reality.  Its narrator has realized that even though "nobody wants to talk about it" life is too short so he's going for broke, he'll head down to the ocean floor, he'll "hold on to a sinking stone, until the worst is known."  Why?  Because then we can really live and because "I found out if we open it up we could work this out."

I honestly could write a post on every song on this album.  I love "Don't Stop Now" which is the follow-up to the aforementioned first track.  In this one his partner has agreed to open it all up and, unfortunately, "Another pleasant day in the countryside has ended up in tears."  Yet, this man wants to take everything his partner has to offer. he pleads:

"But I hang on every word
So don't stop now
Gimme something to write about!"

I can imagine the lines from "English Trees" are meant for Paul Hester. In this contemplative piece Finn sings:

"Like English trees in my garden
Summers missed you my darling
All your crimes are forgiven
All your crimes are forgiven"

Maybe he's letting a friend off the hook for suicide or maybe he's just reminding us listeners that forgiveness is a key ingredient for a live well lived.

In the post Can't Contain Myself I already wrote about hearing and seeing the songs "People Are Like Suns" and "Silent House" at two different live shows.  I cannot properly express the importance of these two TIME ON EARTH songs.

When I first heard that Crowded House was putting "Silient House" on the new album, I was underwhelmed. That's because the Neil Finn/Dixie Chicks song had already appeared on The Dixie Chicks 2006 release TAKING THE LONG WAY HOME.  (By the way, that's an album that, despite Dr. James Dobson's ignorance, deserved all the Grammy awards it received.)  I love the song, but I was like, "Been there, done that."  Then, I saw Crowded House do it live and realized their arrangement was much better!

I previously wrote that the live version was a euphoriant.  It's about Alzheimer's disease and watching a loved one's progressive loss of mental capacity.  I can't say more than the lyrics do:

"It's true
I'm missing you
As I stand alone
In your room
Everything that you made by hand
Everything that you know by heart
I will try to connect 
All the pieces you left
I will cary it on
And let you forget
I'll remember the years
When your mind was still clear
All the flickering lights
Filled up this silent house"

The first time I heard "People Are Like Suns" it was unreleased.   In it we are cautioned that we'd "better take all the love that you got in a single hand."  As Neil sang it, my eyes filled up with tears and my heart filled up with joy, I literally grabbed a cocktail napkin and borrowed a pen from the waitress and started scribbling the poetry down:

"In the fullness of time
People are like suns
They are burning up inside
People are like suns
Breathing into life
All that's good in us
To saints become
And they come and they go"

This past year, in the moments I was wise enough to put this album on, it reminded me that everybody around me, my wife, my kids, my students, everybody, they are like suns, like Paul Hester, they will not always be around.  What will we do with our time on earth then?


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

What Light

Yesterday I posted my top 5 albums of 2007. The order doesn't matter too much, depending on my mood any of them could be number one. I wanted to comment on the one I listed as fourth though. SKY BLUE SKY by the band Wilco is such a fantastic album. That's the cover pictured above. I adore the guitar work, vocals, and songwriting. Wilco has an alt-country sound in a vein that, to my ears, traces back in a line that includes artists like The Eagles, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, and Neil Young.

Obviously, I really like the entire album, but I wanted to draw your attention to a particular song, track #11, "What Light" is a really special song. Here's a bit of the opening lyrics:

"If you feel like singing a song

And you want other people to sing along

Then just sing what you feel

Don't let anyone say it's wrong

And if you're trying to paint a picture

But you're not sure which colors belong

Just paint what you see

Don't let anyone say it's wrong"

Want to sing, want to paint, want to write, dance, worship? Then do it. Just do it and don't care what people think. That's what I get from the song. Toward the end of this hypnotic song, as part of the chorus, Jeff Tweedy keeps singing these words: "There's a light, white light, inside of you." Indeed. This song helps me find the light inside of me.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Joy Makers

Happy New Years Day to you! Here are the top five musical releases that brought me joy in 2007:

1. TRAVIS--"The Boy With No Name"
2. CROWDED HOUSE--"Time On Earth"
4. WILCO--"Sky Blue Sky"
5. MARIA McKEE--"Late December"

I know many will be surprised that Travis made it ahead of Springsteen for me. I just cannot escape the fact that the band's fifth studio album, THE BOY WITH NO NAME, seeped into my soul this year. I love "Battleships" about the ups and downs of relationships, presumably marriage. I can really relate to the song "My Eyes" about lead singer Fran Healy's baby son. But, most of all, it's track #9, a song so powerfully uplifting that it can take me out of any dark cloud moment. It's called "Under The Moonlight" and I just cannot express the joy I feel when listening to it. Ironically, "Under The Moonlight" wasn't written by anybody in Travis, but they execute the song so amazingly! The Travis boys' songwriting abilities have ample opportunity to shine on the album though.  I really do love the entire album.

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