Friday, December 30, 2005

Traffic stinks.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

you gotta love ambrose

This is the man, the myth, the Martos. This is Ambrose.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

album review: paramore

actually, i guess i'm not reviewing an album here as much as i'm reviewing a band. paramore just released theri first album, called All We Know is Falling and it genuinely worth a listen.
I'm finding it more and more difficult to nail down what kind of music i "like" and what genre is my cup 'o tea. i'm just as likely to be listening to a U2 concert bootleg as to david crowder's new remix disc, as to lovedrug, as to death cab, as to the heartwood EP that nathan gave me. some days, brtiney spears could even weasel her way into the itunes shuffle, and there's more than a few indigo girls tunes on that list, too.
so, it should come as no surprise that i'm entranced by paramore right now.
this group of five kids [all 16-19] from nashville by way of mississippi have real chops. they are firmly planted in typical teen-angst-punk, but have a real knack for creating great hooks. haley, the 16-yr-old front-chick-singer has a set of pipes that made me sit up and listen immediately. the three boys backing her up all ably find their way around their instruments, with particularly string guitar leadership by josh on an old les paul and an AC30.
they're on the 'Fueled by Ramen' label, which is a good sign - they currently have Fall Out boy and TheAcademyIs... on their roster and are becoming a great home for creative new-rock and punk. the band itself shows signs of maturity - they started recording almost immediately and found a great home on myspace to show off their work. by the time they got in the real studio to record this album for fueled by ramen, they really knew how to wrangle what the need out of their lines. the fact that there's multiple voicings in each tune makes it all very listenable, but they also have carved out a nice niche in the lyrics department. they list their influences as being "from classic rock bands such as U2 and the Cure to such modern outfits as Sparta and Failure" which shows a littl depth [and makes me feel old - the cure is classic rock??]
anyway, the album itself hits its highest points in "Here We Go" and "Conspiracy", but is pretty consistent across the board. all in all, it's worth a listen. you can stream most of it on myspace, so try it out.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

long week, great christmas

it looks like there's a happy end to this story.
i just faxed the contract back to the seller of our sooon-to-be home, and that's makes it official. i'm happy with the deal we made, and i'm really excited to put my beautiful honey in a great little home in our favorite neighborhood in charlotte.
of course, the schedule to get us there is INSANE... i mean, we're supposed to close on JANUARY 25! [30 days - ONLY] and move in...
WOW.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

d-day on the house. where's the willpower?

i'm telling you, this whole house-buying-thing has turned me into an impatient ninny. while i've always considered my grandfather's lessons in willpower to be the hallmark of my upbringing, i find myself mired in the land of but-i-wanna-know-now-now-now! sad, huh?
we got a call from the seller yesterday, and he seemed to be open to our offer - said we're "in the ballpark" but didn't give us any specifics. looks like we'll hear something more definite today... but, wow, is my patience running low! i know most people struggle through the home-buying process for months and find nothing but frustration, and we are only a few weeks into this... but i just wanna know!
ah, patience. willpower. somehow are completely escaping me.

pop-pop would be so disappointed.
every saturday that we spent with my grandparents , he would walk us down to the market on high street in pottstown - about five total blocks from his old row home on chestnut street, and he'd buy me and jenni-lee a hot doughnut. [probably a fried fastnacht, or the like] we'd walk into the bakery part of the market, and the smell would be so overwhelming so as to almost knock me down. after the seemingly endless process of selecting the perfect glob of fried dough, he'd pay the 20 cents and hand one bag to me, and one to my sister. the bags were the old brown paper lunchsacks that got very soft with the rising heat and moisture thrown off by the treats inside.
with those beautiful bags [containing unfathomable tasty greatness] in hand, we'd walk back to chestnut street, talking about what we'd do for the rest of the day. all the while, we could smell the pastry inside, and feel the warmth. but the rule was simple - no eating, or peeking - until we got home and showed mom-mom what we got.
that walk was always excruciatingly long. we're talking waiting-in-the-dentist-chair, last-five-minutes-of-the-last-day-of-school, christmas-eve-in-bed, loooong.
granted, somehow we always survived. the doughnuts were always amazing. and yes, the waiting did make them taste better.
willpower, courtesy of pop-pop umstead.
think TC will let me use this technique?

Friday, December 16, 2005

hocoby corner. the new wilmore.

my hands are shaking in a "i'm-going-to-debtors-prison" kind of way.
no, nothing bad has happenned, only good. so far.
yesterday, TC and I put in an offer contract on a house in our wonderful hood of wilmore, and WOW - the economics of the whole equation blow me away.
this photo is from when it was a condemned piece of hmmm, and it looks a bit better now. long story short, we could very soon be looking at moving our whole existence into a little duplex where we'll be renting to someone else. we'll go from renters to slumlords all in one swoop. exctiting, no doubt, but daunting with a capital -aunting. the bank is about to own us, and we're both pretty creaky people.
all in all, i couldn't be more extcited, but i'm also really wary of the whole process of getting IN the place. there are so many pieces that need to fall into place for this to happen, not the least of which is moving our whole lot of stuff there - not an easy proposition when TC is growing a baby and i'm shaking a lot more lately. not a great recipe.
but it will no doubt be worth the effort to share a backyard with two incredible families.
HOCOBY corner is about to born.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

how flat is paper?

i've always just accepted that paper is, well, flat. i mean, i know that in reality there is thickness and actual structure to it, but i've never really considered that thickness to be relevavnt, other than when determining how thick a folder should be or something.
but this stuff, well, it blows my mind to think about the architectural nature of this stuff. the staircase in this pic is made ENTIRELY out of A4-sized [210mm x 297mm] pieces of copy paper. the artist, peter callesen somehow sees incredible structures made entirely of flat paper.
the truly incredible pieces are the ones entire from a single sheet of A4 paper. ONE sheet! like these:

it makes me ask myself how in the world someone can see that spider crawling across to trap a butterfly - from a truly blank page. i met with one of the genius artists from our 242 community last night, and as we bantered around ideas for a new installation to be used in an upcoming worship event, there came a time when he hit the 'zone' - and had left me so far behind, i couldn't even see him anymore. i kept up with him for a while, but then we entered a "but-how-flat-is-paper" kind of moment. i love seeing that happen. the pure thrill of watching an artist, a musician, a poet, enter that realm when they have allowed themselves to be posessed by Spirit - to be taken over by what could be - and trip through true creation.
i have another friend who uses language in a way similar to how michael jordan uses a basketball. if you were alive when MJ was playing, you couldn't help but notice the sheer abundance of posters of MJ rising above the court to dunk the ball with grace. on every one of these posters, the scale is maintained by having some poor schlep that looks nailed to the floor below him. there's always the guy there to give us perspective on how high MJ really is.
this type of flow / creativity / creation completely sucks me in. when i can sit and watch someone lift off the ground and enter a place i'd never known existed, well, i see a glimpse of how flat paper isn't.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

U2 in charlotte. gloria.

another day, another amazing U2 show.
last night was the second leg of the hopkins-whitby U2 tour of 2005. after seeing them from inside the ellipse in hotlanta last month, dennis and i got to jump around with some great friends in the rabble of the general admission section...
great show. great friends.
the boys were in top form, and aside from a little wigginess on the vox mix, the sound and light show was one for the ages. the set list changed enough from ATL to make it surprising, and we got to see them end on Yahweh and 40... two of my all-time faves.
i only took about 400 pics during the show... these two can't even give an idea of how good they are.

one of the best parts of the whole experience was the little bit of understanding that TC gave me about how amazing a woman she really is. she's always amazing me in this arena [i should just get used to it...] but last night took the cake.

we had tix to go to the show together, but after D&D sold their tix, she agreed to give her wonderful general admission spot to dennis so that he and i could have a good "date-night". [her words, not mine]
how amazing a wife is that?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

movie review: RENT

wuss alert.
as a warning, someone once told me that i know far too many show tunes to be straight. rest assured, i am 100% straight, but BOY, do i love me some show tunes.
and in the great land of showtunes that stretches from shall we dance to bring him home to tell me on a sunday, please, there's very few shows that shake my boots that way that rent does. now, if you're not familiar, please stop reading now and proceed directly to the movie trailer. do not pass go. do not collect $200.
go ahead, watch it now. that's ok, i'll wait...
alright, now, do you see what i mean? that tune that's in the trailer - seasons of love - doesn't even scratch the surface.
the long and short of it is, i saw the flick yesterday, and found myself in tears three times. granted, it's a pretty sad script - it's about a group of 8 friends in 1989 who are all dealing with HIV/AIDS in some way. some are infected, some are in love with someone that's infected, some are struggling through all of it.
but truthfully, the death that is inherent in the story is not what brings me to tears every time. the meat of it is these relationships that are built on knowing there is a worldly end at some point, but for them - that's not the whole story.

there is such beautiful simplicity in this lyrical line in my favorite song for the show:
"will i lose my dignity? will someone care? will i wake tomorrow from this nightmare?"
that's the whole song. REALLY. and every time, i cry. there is such grace in these friendships and love affairs. such simple and true grace.

overall, the film features nearly all the actors who pioneered/created the roles on broadway. so, the acting is brilliant - in a stage-to-film kind of way. jesse l. martin [law and order] is particularly strong, as is rosario dawson [one of the few not from the original broadway cast]. the direction is simple - they use real streets in the alphabet city area of NYC, but Chric Columbus doesn't let his feel-good nature [see Home Alone and Uncle Buck] get in the way of the solid writing. the voices featured are fantastic, but raw. they are the real voices of these actors, and whether it's rosario dawson graveling her way through 'light my candle' or taye diggs screaming in a very 2005 R&B voice, the reality of these is important.
overall, the film is well made, and allows for the opening 40 minutes to be slower and obsessed with the introduction of characters. because once the second act starts, there's no turning back.

solid movie. see it. NOW.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

video. U2. atlanta on the 19th. mmmm, good.

don't know if anyone is interested, but here's two tunes from the U2 show on Nov.19:
full video with good sound...

with or without you

bad - the finale

oh, and another pic:

the best day evah.

*gulp*
this morning was one of the best of my life.
without a doubt.
*gulp*

t.c. and i spent the morning listening to the heartbeat of our 3-inch-long-and-growing baby!
we have been a bit spooked, aprehensive, anxious, scared, you-name-it, because of the mutlitude of health problems that inhabit our families - and the prayer warriors have been running strong - but today, we feel nothing but joy.

there should probably be restricitions on how many whitby's there can be in the world, as we're a pretty strange bunch, but somehow we slipped past the procreation guards and have ourselves a swimmer!

everything looks healthy, and t.c. is feeling pretty good. now we just have to wait till june to meet her/him...
is it june yet?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

the methodist men of west blvd. know how to rock

i spent last night with my wife at the monthly gathering of the methodist men at the united methodist church that sits next to our house. it was their annual christmas program. there was barbecue, carol singing, prayer requests and a trio of senior lady singers. all-in-all, the same emeeting could have happened in 1968 - with no changes or difference.
there was no evidence of any technology, save for a microphone that probably dated to the mid-70's, and the youngest people in the room [besides my wife and me] were all pushing 70.
tami and i were there to play a few songs from the warehouse242-style of worship - a sort of exchange of methods. we did three very stripped-down and acoustic tunes that would be regulars in our worship environment. while they were pretty quiet tunes, it was obvious VERY quickly that we were waaaay outside the norm and comfort zone for these folks.
but that's where the surprises came. two big surprises. one that i could have anticipated, [therefore not a surprise, i guess], and one that really took me aback. seriously - the surprise was in the simplicity.
the first surprise: even though TC and i were offering tunes that were incredibly foreign to these 80-year-old christians, and they were completely unfamiliar with the format, there was an incredibly warm response. there were shaky feet tapping, heads nodding, and a woman in the back in tears. the response was not the polite accommodation that i had anticipated. there seemed to be an honest and earnest desire to engage. afterward, nearly every person there spent time with tc and me to express their appreciation and - more importantly - remark on some element of one of the specifics of the songs. these folks - that are my grandparents' age - truly connected to what we were doing, and seemed to understand the different style we work within.
the second surprise: as a christian who calls a very post-modern, emerging, first-church, rock'n'roll place my worship home, i have become a bit wrapped up in the thought that the post-modern movement is here to save the church for the future. shallow, i know. self-centered, for sure. real? hardly. the second surprise was that these old folks - folks that have been committed christians for longer than i've been alive - really invest in and enjoy their 1880's style of worship and gathering. this antiquated style that i have been sure is way out of date and completely irrelevant, is incredibly vibrant for them. the hymns of john wesley are every bit as living to them as the next incredible tune by david crowder is to me. they don't need to 'freshen' anything up. they have found God where he has shown himself to them - and they have felt no desire to twist that experience to fit something they are not.
i realize that this is really what we're trying to do, too. BUT, that we are only ONE element of the body. only ONE part of His coming and engaging us.
these 85-year-olds really rocked as they sang 'it is well'.
will we be able to say the same?

Monday, November 21, 2005

the second row U2 experience

so this is what it looks like to be in the second row of a U2 concert.
the weekend in atlanta was fantastic. we had general admission tix to see U2. my wife has never seen them live, and i have only seen them once, in spite of the fact that i have nearly 100 recordings of them in concert.
we weren't able to wait in line all day, so we were all prepared to stand way in the back of the GA section on the floor. we figured that they'd still be great "seats" and we would just soak in the experience. little did we know how cool the experience could get!!
all GA tix are scanned when you enter the arena for random selection of a few hundred fans to stand "in the elipse" - the best view in the house. the stage the U2 uses has a circular walkway that runs out from the main stage about 100 feet. inside that circle is a randomly-chosen group of people that get to see the whole show from the FRONT line.
the four of us went through the scanning process, and the three ahead of me were not selected for the eleipse. but my ticket scanned "V" for vertigo - i felt like Charlie finding the golden ticket to the chocolate factory.
the V scan entitled me to take one person in the elipse with me, but an unbelievably sweet security guard heard us talking about how to meet up with our friends afterwards, and she managed to get them V wristbands, too!
so we wound up - ALL FOUR - in the elipse. it's standing-room-only in there, and we staked out our ground about three feet from the stage directly in front of the edge's side. you can see from the pic just how close we were!
the concert was great. they put on amazing show, and the music remains challenging, broad, glowing, and energizing.

can't wait to see them again here in charlotte.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


U2. Inside the Elipse. 2nd Row.
Just no way to describe the experience!

Friday, November 11, 2005

death by caffeine

sitting here in St.Arburck's, there's some irony to this, but, plain and simple - it's just funny.
looks like the coca-cola won't kill me today, but it just might tomorrow...
Death by Caffeine

Monday, November 07, 2005

how we get people there.

Over at Amanda's Spot, there's an interesting post on the search for truth as idolatry. It's never too late to hear a new good perspective - especially from someone who works with youth, who can very easily get caught up in the cult or idol of who Christ is, instead of the pursuit of the actual person.

Amanda writes:
"His way is narrow and foolish. His way is confusing...he tells you to pick up a sword but then you get in trouble for using it. His way is offensive...he tells you to eat his flesh; or to be more true to the Greek, to gnaw on his flesh. Jesus is not the logical conclusion."

As I've been plowing through my new role on the staff of my faith home, I've come into direct contact with so many incredible perspectives on how we seek God on a daily basis. How we actually try to find Him. How we try to touch Him. How we try to experience Him in a way we can understand.
And therein lies the beauty of a fully God MAN. A person. He - who is really beyond our scope in every way - found the simplest way for us to interact with Him. To find Him.

He is a person. And that is who we seek. The person is the path to Him. And that path can be so simple that is actually difficult to comprehend.

My question then becomes, how do we, as emerging, post-modern, neo-acts, first-church, whatever-you-wanna-callit communities answer the call to lead normal people - the folks who have no idea who He really is - to Him in a genuine and creative way? What does it look like?

I love the way that UBC in Waco uses its direct connection with great music - a true leading competency for them - to show people beauty.

What are the best examples you have seen?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

embrace the dork within [aka magic music]

i love my wife. there's TONS of reasons that contribute to making this a simple fact, but let me outline just one.
for my birthday, she bought me tix to see the david crowder band in greenville, nc. the show was last night, and even though we had to drive nine total hours [4.5 each way] to see it, i have never encountered a more profound music experience.

now don't get me wrong, i've got a pretty solid frame of experience. i'm not a part of the christian music ghetto that only has amy grant, steven curtis chapman, and stryper concerts as my point of reference. i've seen coldplay [X&Y], U2 [elevation], nickel creek, donnie & marie, and the original genesis live. i have been to the mountaintop of live music. i have walked away from shows before saying WOW, THAT WAS FRIGGIN AMAZING.

but last night, i learned a little bit about what is possible with music.

david crowder has gone to the essence of who he is, and has been built to be from step one. as my beloved younger brother has told me for years: "embrace the dork within." david crowder has done so, and he has turned it into magic.
if you've never heard his stuff, seek it out. before you trash the thought, give him a chance.

and always remember, in bluegrass, you clap on the chuck, not the boom, of the boom-chuck.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

the language of a broken rib

ok, I need to admit my rising obsession with the weblog community called metafilter. it's basically a big collection of people that think they know the answers to everyone else's questions - and are willing to offer it without any reservation [or research, often].

there's actually some really solid questions and answers on here, especially in terms of quick lernin' [philosophy] or pop culture [ringu] or plenty of tech stuff. solid answers that sometimes are even right!

but the aspect of this brain candy that really intrigues me is wrapped up pretty well in this post: how much does a broken rib hurt?. [watch out for flying language...]
in short, we can witness a group of people attempting to agree on what it feels like to have a broken rib, and also diagnose whether someone's rib is broken - over the internet. simply put, it's pretty impossible to actually compare how much something hurts among people that have no other knowledge of each other. the "how much does it hurt" [what does 'a lot' mean] or "what does it feel like" part of the conversation just devolves into an unsolvable volley of opinions - all of which are valid, but not all of which make sense or come from the same origin or background of experiences.

i work in the land of post-modern christianity, and i love every changing day. my actual job usually revolves around integrating creativity, music, art, design, and all types of madness, into engaging and relevant worship gatherings. there is simply nothing about my job that i don't love. BUT... i find it interesting how often i find myself in conversations that are, essentially, "broken rib" questions. we all understand the concept of pain, but we all have different experiences that define it for US - and it is nearly impossible to communicate or understand the other side.

we all approach faith, and our interaction/service, from different and wildly divergent backgrounds, and this shows up in the ways we define who we are in faith, and how we believe others should define our interaction. these conversations are beautiful, but can be incredibly tangled in humanity.

well, sometimes we probably just need answers like this: witty songs

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

the tools we use are far too fancy

I make things way too difficult sometimes. Actually *gasp* I think we all do - especially the church as it "emerges".
Before you go reading anything else here, take a look at this music video. Trust me. The first 30 seconds are nothing special, and I'm not sure that i even liked the song at that point... but what happens next is a perfect example of how powerful simplicity really is.
Jed's Other Poem

What you watched was a short film/music video featuring the band Grandaddy. Now, in today's hi-tech world, there is probably an incredible way to use a $4,000 machine and software package to digitally animate the characters on the screen to match what you just saw. Any reasonably trained animator could do it with a few days of work.

The magic of the video, though, is that it was created on an Apple IIc that was built in 1979. The entire machine had less RAM than this text file would take up [48K]. It was programmed with a BASIC-esque language, and required about 15 minutes of learning to do it. I remember playing with BASIC back then, and being able to make some cool stuff.

The reason for this post? We make our lives [and our churches] too complicated in the way we create interaction with each other and Christ. It really doesn't matter what the newest-greatest toy is out there to guide us or complement our incredible worship experience. There were plenty of tools that existed in, say 60 A.D., to enable Christianity to spread thousands of miles in a few years. With no powered transportation and limited mass communication methods.

I'm not suggesting that we move back to pre-electric days and ditch the internet. In fact, I think that e-communication is essential in the future of our church. What I AM saying is: when does the pursuit of the next great method or format actually get in the way of what we're trying to do?

Nothing will ever replace face-to-face conversation. Deal with it.
Sure, we need to create new environments that foster those conversations, and find avenues to attract people into those moments, but in reality... won't the most simple tools work in most instances?
Try it, you might like it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

information gladly given?

I've ridden the MUNI in San Francisco many times on my visits there, and there's a sign on every MUNI bus that says this:


The first time I read it, I nearly broke out into tears laughing. At the time, I thought it fit perfectly with the job I was doing - working for a non-profit organization made up of male college students.

Now that I work in a Christian community, I wonder even more how well this applies to what we do in the "church." As someone who came from outside of the emerging community within the last few years - and in fact was a pretty stubborn dissenter - I am impressed that the SF MUNI system was able to so closely capture how so many of us interact with normal people.

What I mean is that when I started attending my current church community, I was really impressed by so much of who the people were, how clear the message was, how beautifully committed everyone seemed to be - but not by how open they were. I felt like I could get to the same point with everyone I met, but never further, unless I already knew them.
This has certainly changed for me at Warehouse, and I really believe we are wrestling with this symptom on a daily basis. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don't.
I've experienced the same thing in at least three other post-modern/emerging/non-trad churches that I've visited over the last year.
The key words in the statement are: "but safety requires". And I think we all believe that is true. So many if us believe [whether we admit it or not] that there is something distinctly dangerous, or just not safe, about freely admitting who we are to people who are investigating our communities. We all have skeletons in our closet - heck, our faith seems to be built on those skeletons some days - but the magic of our faith and the promise of Christ is that those skeletons liberate us. Our very flaws are essential to the story we live. Unless we openly remember on a daily basis how broken each of us still is we can't ever hope to speak into the lives of people who can only see their brokenness.

What should this look like? Beats me.
But I'm up for trying to find out. I'm up for the conversation. I'm up for the ten thousand conversations that need to happen every week. The turn we need to make to the newest folks in our lives to really ask what their pain looks like - and to share that ours is just as ugly, but the solution is beautiful.
Deb and Dennis did that for me a few years ago, and I'll never be able to repay that debt, unless I am constantly asking also.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

the allure of wide distraction

Over at 43folders [one of my absolute faves] Merlin brought together a pile of references to the very basic concept of distraction. Now, the guys over there are productivity wizards, and are mostly focused on personal and professional-type effectiveness tools, but I think this concept has particular bearing on our role in ministry.

Merlin quotes Paul Ford when he talks about the difference between wide and narrow distractions in our daily lives. The wide ones are those that are the dog toys - a piece of rawhide or a thrown bone - and the narrow ones are the things that take us down miles and miles of rabbit trails - farther away from where we started.

As we work in our daily interactions with normal people, how often do we let both elements of distraction (wide ones that show up as superficial red herrings - and narrow ones that allow for meaningless arguments we have with ourselves) prevent us from getting to the real depth of the conversation. I love the thoughts my friends are having right now [pat/jen/dan/crissy] of jumping off the ledge into church planting in london. While they are carefully planning and exploring, I get the real sense that the wide and narrow that run in our way will not trip them up. They are really listening to the base-level call of the gospel and they are investing completely and honestly.

That type of integrity in mission - the kind that overcomes the distractions we're dealing with every day - is sorely lacking in far too many of our christian communities.
The distraction of personality can be crushing some days, and i'm just wondering how often we let the wide and narrow nature of it get in the way of everything we say we do.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

sometimes you have to believe yourself

so i went to see elizabethtown over the weekend with TC, and was pleasantly surprised. i wrote earlier about how excited i was to see it, and i really have been pumped for a while now.
unfortunately, i read the reviews last week, and they tore it up!
i mean, without seemingly any exception, the reviewers called it an underachieving movie that just didn't hit the mark.
i can't disagree more. in fact, it was one of the first films in a long time that both my wife and i agreed instantly that we want to own on DVD.
the performances were solid - paula deen [the food network southern cook lady] was great, kirsten dunst got over herself just enough to keep from tripping on her own melodrama, and orlando bloom actually convinced me he's not a woman in men's clothing.
and, without question, the highlight of the flick was the most amazing use of Free Bird i've ever encountered. Cameron Crowe built a fake band [using My Morning Jacket as the basis] and created a tribute tune that is worthy of the ages.

the magic of the movie was built by cameron crowe's particular ability to meld acting and music into film. he never lopes on or manufactures with the crutch of a familliar song, and in fact used much more esoteric stuff this time around. somehow, he built it into a powerhouse of southern rock and wistful newcomers that constantly supports the story.
well done.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

wallpaper and pure, blistering magic


i'm amazed at what we let drift into the background.
my wife and i just got back from the nickel creek concert at ovens auditorium, and while it the most sterile environment we've seen them in, it was still an unbelievable show. the combo of those three kids blows my skull. newgrass, bluerock, alt.country, whatever you want to call it, the talent level in the room was blistering. there's three 20-ishs in the group, and they go off on their own for a few weeks, play with some of the best [read: oldtime] bluegrass musicians in the country, and come back together with a pile of new tunes that could create fourteen albums. they pick the best of that crop, jam on it for a while, and record their records 'live' - warts and all.
what comes out the other end is heavy magic, and i will never get enough of it.

but i digress.

in the midst of this group, made up of chris thile, a true savant on the mandolin [not many can woo successfully using only a mandolin], sarah watkins, a beauty who can create flames from her fiddle, and, well, that other guy, there is, well, that other guy.
sean watkins - that other guy - plays a killer guitar. he's not sexy in high heels ..sarah.., or reinvigorating a musical genre [hills music] ..chris.., instead, he simply plays a guitar like almost no one i've ever seen.
i mean, i've seen dave matthews, david wilcox, tim reynolds, phil keagy, and the edge - live. they are good. reeeeally good. but not one of them can match the finger skill - pure rolling grace - that sean owns when he's playing.
in nickel creek, he's the supporting act. he's the background. he's the simple grace that holds the tune together.
he fades into the background. he's wallpaper.

bu the wallpaper is magic. blistering magic.

Monday, October 10, 2005

$8.50 for a matinee. baaaargain.

the list of movies-to-see never gets shorter. proof:

1 | elizabethtown. there's no substitute for good music in good movies. cameron crowe is good like that.
elizabethtown trailer
music feature trailer

2 | walk the line. johnny. cash. you heard me right. johnny. friggin'. cash.
johnny cash trailer

3 | v for vendetta. natalie portman shaved her head for this. written by the matrix guys. c'mon. this is too good.
shaved head. still hot. watch the trailer.

4 | rent. yeah, i like showtunes, and i know which of the actors in this flick played the original roles on broadway.
rent trailer [the song is worth it]

5 | domino. there just aren't enough movies about bounty hunters.
domino trailer

Sunday, October 09, 2005

cameron crowe's gonna lose his job.

this has to be one of the most creative things i've seen in a decade.
find it here. it's worth watching.
i'm already drooling over the whole mash-up music thing, now i have to deal with this, too?

current fave on the mashup front: Sombody Rock Me

watch. listen. then tell me you're not addicted.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

well used. words.

the power of simple language amazes me. especially in "church". heck, even that word has an indeterminably large bag of twisted power associated with it. not the entity, but the word. how many faith communities/plants/worship arenas/gatherings, etc, do everything in their power to NOT be referred to as a church? as if people might not know, or might not associate their baggage with us? c'mon. really? you sticking with that story?

i'm amazed by the ability some writers/lyricists have in building truly beautiful creations using only very pedestrian and simple words. that is where the true power of words is seen. not in big rhetoric, but in small, simple syllables that dance.

chris caraba - the dashboard guy - Bend and Not Break
I'm talented at breathing / especially exhaling / so that my chest will / rise and fall with yours.

conor oberst - the brights eyes guy - Waste of Paint
I have a friend, he's mostly made of pain...
Your eyes are poor / you're blind you see / no beauty could have come from me

now that's words well used.
when we get all obsessed with big words, big meanings, big ideas that have no real explanation that will work - where do we get trapped? do we really enjoy being confined but a mutt of a language that can't decide whether its coming or going?

if you don't believe me, ask someone to define faith, Christian, worship, or Bill Clinton's "is" - it's just not gonna happen without a fistfight.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

i found a reason - by cat power

quick review: "i found a reason" by cat power
chan marshall, a 30-ish singer with no real pop credits, put out a record filled with relatively obscure covers in 2000, and the gem stuck right in the middle is an old lou reed / velvet underground tune called "i found a reason". the whole performance is only 2 minutes long, and feels even shorter, mostly due to the barren arrangement that seems to alternately employ voice OR piano, but rarely both in conjunction. together, they form a seamless line that never seems to pause, even though there is empty space dripping all over the place.
the original song itself is much simpler and choppy than her performance would allow, and Cat Power has accomplished the truly rare: they have updated and improved a lou reed song.
what makes Chan's [pronounced Shawn] track so good is the notion that not all "pretty" songs need to avoid musical tension or follow a tested beginning-middle-end flow. the abrupt stop adds grace to the poetry instead of feeling unfinished, and her play on the lyrical bounce of 'come, come, come, to me' manages to avoid becoming campy.
overall, Cat Power has taken a song that didn't need to be remade [it was so good already] and made it better.
worth 99 cents.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

iron and coke, chromium steel

sitting in a coffee shop has the allure of mental poetry. it just feels like creativity should flow beautifully as i smell the sumatra roasting and watch the pretty people walk by. unfortunately, that has rarely been the case lately.

sometimes i feel trapped in the reins of the expectations of Creativity with a capital Cr. you see, Cr is also the periodic table symbol for Chromium, a transition metal. Chromium is primarily used in the making of stainless steel, but is a strengthening agent used around the world. Transition Metals are a family of elements that have a very magical quality - they are malleable, meaning they can be formed into almost any shape, and they conduct electricity and heat. The interesting thing about transition metals is that their valence electrons, or the electrons they use to combine with other elements, are present in more than one shell. This means they connect with other elements on more than one level, creating an incredible bond [thus the strength of metals] and betraying any desire to break at the atomic level. Transition Metals are also the only elements that create magentic fields.

Cr, this often ugly but vital metal, is the essence of creativity to me.

i know that may seem to make very little sense, but there is a liberating freedom in its qualities. really, the purpose of integrating the core of creativity into any environment is that sub-level and unbreakable bonding quality that these transition metals posess. they conduct electricity and heat - passing on the passion - and bond deeply with the other elements present to form painfully strong substances and expereinces that allow for indellible effect.

like music.
pure music.

the kind of music that never allows one line or lyric to bore magically into skull, but rather begs you to understand the entire piece before you can remember any single element of it. the kind of music that, when asked, you can't sing a line from it to save your life, you can only beg the person asking to sit and listen to the whole piece - five times without stopping.

that kind of music.
that kind of chromium music

Monday, October 03, 2005

baffled and trapped. all in a song.

two times now recently, i've been overwhelmingly baffled by an amazing song - baffled to the point that i get trapped in it and can't seem to come up for air. it has the same feeling as when you're 11 years old and you run into an underwater stamina test that nearly breaks your lungs, and the feeling of fleeting life traps you and liberates you for a second that wraps you up for a year.
right now, imogen heap [the lead singer from frou frou] is lyrically seared into my ears with such a trembling grace that i'm now on a fifth-straight listen, with no end to the repeat button in sight.

i'm excited to hear the rest of her new album. josh a. turned me on to this one tune, and i'll be forever grateful.
there's a truly reminiscent quality to the performance, like a memory is actually skipping through while she sings. the lyrics are simply umcomplicated, but betray the depth of knowing where the pain comes from, or where she'll feel it next.

oh yeah, the song is called "hide and seek" by imogen heap. enjoy, just don't say i didn't warn you.

Imogen Heap Website

sweaty forehead & shaking hands

the gathering at 242 this morning was smooth, short, and in need of a solid push beyond our comfort zone. dave's talk was really a breath of fresh air. i love the conversational nature of our usual talk format, but dave really ratcheted up the intensity by presenting the message in a theatrical way. by relating a piece of the story of david so thespianically, he drove home the reality of this ancient example. it's so easy to compartmentalize old testament teaching because it feels, well, distant. this morning, by taking the story into our modern context, i was able to connect more fully.
response and worship was trying today. rachel's voice was fantastic, and the technique of the musicians worked well, but i felt pretty constantly off-kilter. my hands were trmebling to the point that an average A chord was a challenge. psalm 131 worked. it flat out worked, and i want to invest more in the truly worshipful nature of peotic music, without worrying about the technical crap the binds me into myself. one simple riff of five notes - not even built into a chord - holds so much power in that song, and david's thousands of years old lyrics really entrance me.
i had a pretty shaky morning. the tremors were absolutely annoying, and my back was wrenched to the point that it made me sweat. scary, but we made it through. in the midst of these physical challenges, i really am forced [sometimes unwillingly] to rely completely on God to build a intelligible line out of my hands. it always works, yet i seem constantly untrusting.
what will it take?

Friday, September 30, 2005

3am conversations tend to be one-sided

so sleep has now become the ultimate snodwrangle of this process. [yes, i like to make up words. snodwrangle - it's sweeping the nation]
i can take tremors and slowing down. even the freaky freezing doesn't really get me down, but wow. the sleeping really is starting to suck.
last night, i was still awake at 2:45am. i missed my window as the meds wore off around 10:45, and i really didn't feel like taking another pill just so i could calm down to go to sleep. what a mistake.
i was writhing pretty good by 11:15, and i couldn't even keep my fingers steady enough to use work the remote control kill the boredom as i waited for sleep. so apparently i did fall asleep at some point during the morning, because i woke up just in time to work through my 30-minute process of getting out of bed.
first, the pill goes down with a swish of warm water, or, like this morning, dry.
then, i wait for the glorious rush of "ahhhhh" to come - a solid 20 minutes later.
only then do i get to tug my withering butt out toward the edge of the bed so i can wobble onto two shaky legs.

when all goes well, i'm human by 6:45am.
when it doesn't, i'm cooked till 10.

and then it all starts again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

list #2 : the chain

LIST TWO: top five ways to yank my proverbial chain
1 | make me watch a movie with juliette lewis in it. it couldn't be any simpler. all movies with JL in them are terrible. just like all songs by natalie merchant (post 10,000 M) sound exactly the same. go ahead, test the theory.
2 | put tomatoes in my salad. i know that tomatoes seem to be a logical addition for most people, but for me, they are an invitation for a week's stay at county general. so, while i appreciate the care and concern you have for broadening my horizons because the tomatoes at your truly-unique-and-customer-broadening-restaurant really are something special... i ain't sayin' no because of taste. the little red bastards will kill me. so leave 'em off, just like i asked.
3 | point at your wrist when you ask me what time it is. i'm pretty sure i can find my watch on my own, and if not, do you really trust me to give you the accurate time?
4 | call your product new & improved. it's simple logic, buddy. it's either new, OR improved. can't be both. don't make me call the darwin squad.
5 | make me take brain medicine eleven times a day. ok, i know i can't avoid this one, but my neurologist still pisses me off when he says it's no big deal. trust me.
BIG deal.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

so this is how it's gonna be.

every day. and i mean it. every day. i will toss together a list of absolutely no consequence to the world, and do everything i can to ensure that it remains useless.
that combined with a healthy obsession with the progression of fruitball music and rock-n-roll church should keep us all busy.

LIST ONE: top five movies with lists
1 | high fidelity
i know, it's based on a book, and doesn't hold a candle to it, but nothing beats a music list that comes from the mind of jack black.
2 | 10 things i hate about you
ok, we'll soon all learn that my love of teen flicks is almost unhealthy, but sometimes, it is validated by a poetic adaptation of a shakespearean drama featuring julia stiles. ok, let the laughing commence.
3 | se7en
yes, it should be tossed from any list because of the way it features brad pitt and gwenneth in the height of their screwed up relationtrip, but it's rare to find a film that can work an ancient catholic morality device into it's serial-killer plot.
4 | footloose
how long is the list of stuff these poor oppressed country-dancers can't do? but damn, isn't john lithgow beautifully imposing?
5 | say anything
"A career? I've thought about this quite a bit sir and I would have to say considering what's waiting out there for me, I don't want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I dont want to sell anything bought or processed or buy anything sold or processed or repair anything sold, bought or processed as a career. I dont want to do that. My father's in the army. He wants me to join, but I can't work for that corporation, so what I've been doing lately is kick-boxing, which is a new sport...as far as career longevity, I dont really know. I cant figure it all out tonight, sir, so I'm just gonna hang with your daughter." - Lloyd Dobbler

and so it began.

and so it began

it seems everyone in america is blogging. and, contrary to the promise i make to myself each morning, it seems i read most of them. i don't really think i'm learning much, but heck, who is? i'm not really convinced that i have a tremendous amount to offer to the world in written form, but i'm more than willing to litter and see who picks up behind me.

in that vein, i have four simple goals:
1 | create a kick-ass list of lists
2 | force my brain to regularly expel the flotsam [i'll keep the jetsam] for someone else's use & enjoyment
3 | write down all the amazing reasons i love the folks that make my life interesting [take that how you may...]
4 | sound foolish about music

any objections?