Tuesday, May 31, 2005

All I Need Is One Mic, And a Brick Wall

You know, I just noticed something. Chicago's got some kick-butt semi-pro teams. First, much love goes out to the local Arena Football League team (that my roommate worked with in equipment) the Rush. They're in the quarters, after winning the other day. Then there's the perennial favorites, International Hockey League champs the Wolves and Major League Soccer cats (although they have been slumping as of late) the Fire (also coolest Chicago-related name, much better than my alma mater's University of Illinois @ Chicago Flames). And of course, the number one Chi-town semi-pro team, the White Sox.

Ahhhh, the game yesterday. The raison d'etre for baseball. Starting pitcher, Mark Buerhle, is pulled one out into the ninth. Sox ahead by one. Relief pitcher gets the bases loaded and two runs in before the second out with a strike-out. Our closing pitcher is brought in to retire the side. Which he does. Quite a few fans (When was the last time Sox Park had nearly a sold-out crowd? In first place not just of the division, but in all of major-league baseball AND a holiday. Still barely full.) left early, but not as many as you'd think. (Yes, I pointed at them. And generally made an * of myself. People in front of me must've thunk me drunk. I was having a gay old time.) The rest of us hoped for one of those last-second miracles.

A single. A pop-up. Two pinch hitters, after the one who came to replace the once-mighty, and now just returning, and now freshly injured Frank Thomas. A steal. Which helped lead to a walk. A sacrifice bunt which led to runners on second and third. Two outs. A full count. And then a line drive that hit ground before the outfield could grab it and throw it to home. By then both runners were home. The place went bananas. B-a-n-a-n-a-s. Bananas.

'Cuz there ain't no holler back, girrrrrrrrrrrl, there ain't no holler back, girrrrrrrrrrrrrl!

Traffic was on NBC tonight, but it got preempted by a major whooping sound coming out of Detroit. Speaking of the realpolitik of Traffic, however, reminds me of a joke.

A bipartisan group of congressmen were presiding over a quarterly review of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The executive officer of the NEA was highlighting some of the more conservative and popular pieces while trying to blow over some of the more controversial pieces. One prominent senator, however, urged him to go over some works the officer had rushed past. It was a series of photographs that cleverly parodied and commented on Michelangelo's nudes.

The senator asked how the NEA can fund such blatant examples of pornography.

The officer, indignant yet trying to maintain a shred of sobriety, asked of his accuser, "Can you tell me, Mr. Senator, how you can make such a clear distinction between what is called art and what is called pornography?"

The senator ceded, "Well, now, I may not know much about art. But I know what I like."

Thank you, you've all been wonderful.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Que Bueno, Bono

OK, truth time. I'm not the biggest U2 fan. But that's kind of like saying I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan. Just because I don't dress like a bounty hunter or a wookie doesn't mean I haven't seen the original trilogy five kajillion times ("20 Trillion dollars? It's 1968, that type of money doesn't even exist yet! You might as well ask for a hundred cadrillion, quajillion dollars!").
And just because the music isn't as good as it was does not hinder the classics from being The Classics. The Joshua Tree and Acthung, Baby! are two of the greatest albums of all time, hands-down. Stevie Wonder has released a remarkable slew of duds since his mid-70's glory days, but Innervisions, Songs in the Key of Life, et. al. are great enough to keep him in the Pantheon forever. Ditto Jordan's pre-Wizard days.

And now Bono garners the attention and respect of dignitaries the world over for social causes. And he's becoming more and more articulate about his beliefs. Not that we should confuse Bono for Augustine or Bonhoeffer, but I found this post an enjoyable read this morning. He sounds like a decent Baptist preacher here, not too high-falutin' and not someone I would completely agree with (psssshh.), but someone with a bit of verve and a mission, to talk about and try to live under grace.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


I've been fairly busy with e'rything, yet in the words of Al Green, Muddy Waters and Joe Black (where did Brad Pitt pick up that accent?), "Everything's gonna be alright."
Of course. But I figured that I've been doing this blog here thang for about a month and a half and I wrote quite a bit. And some stuff I actually kind of like. So, in anticipation of the big day and barbeques (two of 'em, back to back) tomorrow, in addition to one today, and a Sox game Monday, I probably won't have a lot of leisure time to write the blog I want to on Steve Taylor for a little while. So, maybe it'd be good, I reasoned with the president of my fan club, to have a retrospective for all the throngs of fans laying outside the door in eager anticipation of any bits of meat that I may throw at their feet. If you have not guessed by now, of course, the president of my fanclub is me, as are all concurrent members. I tried to get Adam and Christine to join the club, but they felt the price too steep. I say the rewards are phenomenal and worth it.

Stepping way back in the day to mid-April, two double-Oh cinco, we shall begin with "One Day We Shall All Be Free," one of my first attempted - and somewhat successful, on a small scale - spoken words. Um, poetry, that is. "Constructs" is one of my favorite poems that still survive, although I need to work on the spacing. Like a lot of the other poetry here, it was done a couple years ago when I had a fire under my feet. I need that again. Hopefully, I'll discipline myself to publish a new poem a week. So that means a brand new one probably two out of every three weeks. But that's for later. Blah.

Because I'm sooo important, I'll include my first semi-essay in this. It was kind of a rant. No, no it wasn't. It was about communion practices and how I see them in my church and, again, hopefully tied into universal themes. it was all also written in smalls because that's how i write my emails, get it? and then the next day i read how nobody'll read your stuff if you don't puctuate properly. So I learned from my mistakes and I have my own fanclub. Ain't I swell?

Then there's my poseur environmentalist post. I got really ticked at this stupid, stupid email that my brilliant (literally, I'm not making fun of him) little brother forwarded from some stupid gas-drinking SUV driving *. Hopefully, you can read it. Maybe I'll change the colors. Then again, maybe not. Then there's Phoenix, which is about... Hah, fooled ya, ain't I? I don't like telling people what it's supposed to mean or whatever. They're short enough, and I think they're pretty straight-forward and accessible. Of course I'm talking about my poems, not my essays or even some of my comments, which are usually longer and more self-indulgent than a U2 concert.

Some of these posts are just some quotes or passages I stole from somebody else. Which is good, for me, because that's one of the reasons I wanted to create a blog, as a place to store some of these treasures before they are lost to my incredible, shrinking memory. And I know I complain about this more than Jeanneane Garafalo about being plump in showbiz (What? Am I lying??), but somebody took this book and a bunch of other stuff, so I'm glad I at least got these passages from Phillip Yancey's ruminations on the utter importance of the Old Testament on modern life. Then there's my one on the passing of the popes. David Dark, who I keep bragging about.

Practice writing is another huge reason I decided to try out and continue trying the Blog (Aaaaaahhhhh! Run children! Hide, mothers, hide your babies and your husbands before they get enveloped by the Blog!). This is an almost stream-of-consciousness meditation on the earth-shattering and eye-opening nature of Jesus. Too be quite honest, I like this one.

And then, for those fans who need to be reassured that I don't have a sense of humor but I only borrow it from movies and what I read in books (much the same my whole paltry existence is lived), Kung Fu Hustle is the number 1 recommended movie of the year so far. Wait, number 2 after Hotel Rwanda. Although I haven't seen a lot of other movies yet, it certainly beats the mess out of the Interpreter (crapaloozer). A few other movies seem good (the new Star Wars, Crash) but I don't think they'll rank higher at this moment. Or, at least that's what I read somewhere.

Ballroom Blitz

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I burned myself on autopilot again;
thinking I knew this route like flame knows gas.

Yet, touch tingles when it turns the engine
like old friends mingle every day they pass.
I’d love to switch on autopilot, but
I need to feel the terrain, to sieve the leaves
spend my time at the tip of the crust

gauge my air, wanderings, gas, and needs.
Air under, air over: hawks know what chickens guess.
Survey our course to purvey our way.

Vision parodies the sun spots’ depths.
I trusted machines,

my biggest mistake;
The air pressure dropped,
the engine gave way.
I almost backed up
into a mountain today.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Tell me what'd i say

Huh? Phoenix and (correction) Miami lose at home in the first game of the semis?


By himself tonight.

Haters, holla at a player. Or rather, two complete teams of 'em.

Destroyin' 'em like the Cookie Monster on confections.

Remember when Beaker grew to be 50 ft. tall? Still keeps me up at nights.

Did I ever tell you my brother's a nucular teknician? Yeah, little dude's setting fire to the scientifical world. Me no feel so smart around him.

I bent my wookie.

Speaking of which, Davy from the Navy was profiled in the Miami (Oklahoma) Register (motto: We're the Real Onion). I'll hit that story when I see a copy - my parent's only copy, which they got from a neighbor. Keep telling ya'll, we're a bit off-beat.

Speaking of which, what kind of argument were Paris and Nicole having that got so heavy that they parted ways? Could it have had two irreconcilable takes on such heavy, crucial arguments as war-for-oil, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the United Nations' role in intervening civil wars and genocide, Calvinist v. Arminian Reformation theology, free trade, free will and/or providence, globalization, variant strains of Buddhism in New Age philosophies? Or do you think it was about who's puppy is hotter?

Yeah, me too.

Speaking of doggies, going home to watch Best in Show. And House of Flying Daggers (notice I had to put that in a different sentance. Meee-ow.)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Church Patriot Acts

I was practically born at my church. It's my alma mater and fater in many ways. Not that I haven't been tempted to leave it, or to leave Christianity altogether. But I grew better for the wear in those areas. Not that I'm claiming any sort of Nietzchean "Whatever doesn't kill you..." statement of self-survival. God brought me out of doubt and selfish mire into a growing sense of community and into a relationship with himself. And not that I didn't actually wrestle with the concepts of life without church and God. I did. I eventually saw through their meaninglessness. And not that I retreat back to a crutch. Actually, I should say, that that's not a primary reason why I remain in the church. For I have come to realize that the whole world is in need of primary care and Jesus himself is the care-giver, the support, the life line. "Jesus is my doctor / and he writes out all my 'scriptions."

But through it all (although I haven't mentioned the 'all' at this point, it's there and I may mention some of it or reveal some of it later), for the last thirty years my church, my junto and in many cases my security and second home have been at 1137 N. Leavitt St. I am a true church patriot in the truest sense. Therefore, what I have to say to my church, to my brothers and sisters in the trenches of the West Town area of Chicago, is out of love. It is largely a calling, a passionate plea to follow the example of Jesus and not be satisfied with the things of the world or the feeling that, as Christians or as a church, we've arrived. What follows is my report (all reports are done in a 5 question outline form, so it made it a little tricky for me) for our quarterly business meeting, which was supposed to happen this morning. But in general, it's an essay (for you, Chris) on a calling of my heart. No, rather, the calling of biblical community, of the bodywork of the Body of Christ. There is no malice in the piece, although I wonder if it may be inferred. (Of course it can, which is why I took the time to write this intro and would have to give a similar intro during the meeting, allowing for time, of course.)

Quarterly Business Meeting Report for Glorify Christ Youth Ministry
Sub. by JasDye, interim Youth Ministries Director on this the 22nd of May, 2005
  • What are some roadblocks to goals that the youth ministry is facing?
The language that we use in this church to describe ourself is that of a family. But the imagery and language used in the Bible is more than that. We are, together, Christ’s bride. We are, together, Christ’s body. All interwoven, all interconnected, all intimately, deeply and fundamentally needing each other.
And I believe that we here at NHBC do a better job than most in recognizing that, even in practicing that. Yet, we still have the marginalized, we still have people within our church walls feeling outside of the church community. Quite honestly, if I were to come here on a Sunday morning and look for signs of interdependent community, I would probably notice three things: 1) The homeless are marginalized; 2) the children are marginalized; 3) the youth are marginalized.
As per evidence, I’ll write briefly on the first two.
1) Despite our in-roads, despite the good progress made in our church’s ownership of Street Hope and the relationships we’ve developed as a result of that, generally speaking, on Sunday the street-influenced sit alone.
2) Our children spend the entire service in a completely different building with a small staple of teachers and security team members, also physically ostracized week after week after week. While this may be necessary, how do we meet them and incorporate them into our church body on a regular basis?
I want to make clear, though, that in these areas, 1) I am personally complicit and guilty, am personally involved in not inviting; 2) again, we are better than many. However, Christ did not call us to compare ourselves to other sickly parts of the body but to himself.
And consider this, summer is fast approaching. Teenagers, being students by trade, will have a lot of free time. A lot. Yet, the church, this church, will not provide a role in healthily filling this season with meaning for them. Besides basketball, New Hope is only providing one (two at the most) retreat(s), bi-monthly discipleship gatherings and Sunday School. That’s it. Absolutely no form of outreach exists at this period of time. Not because the director nor the pastors don’t care for it or don’t want it. But, simply, there are no volunteers to fill the much-needed positions. Technically speaking, this church only has one youth worker. And he’s paid to do it. If you were in the shoes of the youth, wouldn’t you feel a little un-loved? A little outside?
Or look at the racial/ethnic make-up of our church. We say we represent all types of people in our local body. That is our vision and although we cannot say we are complete in this regard (how about some love for our Asian-persuasion brothers and sisters?), we are very progressive. But if you look at our youth – in terms of the youth group – that’s not the case. Almost all of the teenagers in the youth ministry proper are Black. The makeup of teenagers within the church, however, should attest to something different. Believe it or not, a core group of our youth joined this church because it is specifically racially-mixed. Can we not see that the practical racial and cultural mix – or non-mix – would lead to feelings of separate-ness?
Add these situations on top of the immense isolation, confusion and frustration that naturally occur during the period of adolescence – and especially so for the urban teenager – and we may have what some would call a crisis of the marginalized.
  • What are some milestones that the youth ministry is facing?
The good news is that people have risen up to fill in some of the gaps. When our pastor – out of concern for one of the ostracized youth – wanted to throw a baby shower for her, the party-incompetent youth director garnered the assistance of M DJ, who, in turn, enlisted her husband, E’s help. L P is presently discipling this same young lady. T S has innumerably opened up his home for young men and just as often challenged them in their walk with God. AJ Y and K B are in the midst of a years-long discipleship journey with several young ladies and the impact they have had and will reap – as well as the repercussions throughout the youth ministry – will be felt for years into eternity. I would also love to spread the love to V A for opening up her home several times, as well as to the coaches and what they’re planning on doing, the impacts they’ll make and to all those who go out of their way in the little ways, the smiles, the hellos, the occasional dinners.
The other bit of good news is that I have the immense privilege next week to be a part of a dedicated, radical group of followers of Jesus who are going to creatively challenge this local body of Christ to pull-out all the stops and love beyond borders, beyond reason. We are seeking to speak deep to deep, to – by the wonder-working power of the Holy Spirit – call us out of ourselves and our mire of selfishness, of which I know that I am the chief of sinners. This radical group of which I am speaking is, of course, the youth, the same marginalized group of which I’m focusing.
  • How can the church pray for the youth ministry?
It is my prayer, and hopefully your adopted one as well, that in and through and with the work of the Holy Spirit, the entire church will not be merely entertained or amused by the performances next week. We pray that a re-enlivening of the Good Samaritan story will take place and we, as a church, will have no choice but to accept Christ’s love, be transformed by it, and turn away from our selfishness. That the deepest, most treacherous, most fundamental sin of selfishness would be challenged and shaken. That we would see it the way Jesus sees it and as a church take off those dirty rags and exchange them for the fresh, clean robes of righteousness, of love towards God and others.
  • What actions are needed from the church toward the youth ministry?
The most important action of all is one rooted in love. Biblically, the most intense actions or talks that are not rooted in love are loud and full of fury, yet signify nothing. You may not have extra time in your – honestly – busy schedule. But love is free. It flows freely from God. You may not have extra time, but what you do have during that time is invaluable – the opportunity to love. I encourage, nay, challenge each and every one of us to do that to our marginalized. How we greet and treat them in the normal course of the week means more than we will ever realize. I know this because it did for me.
To those called, to those whom the Holy Spirit is speaking to now, come. The youth ministry as well as the children’s ministry is in need of extra help. Speaking again for the youth ministry, if we have enough volunteers, we could open up one or two outreaches a month during the summer and expand our ministries shortly thereafter. All you need to sign up is love. Love for God. Love for people.
Love is our blood. It flows through everything. Otherwise, the body does not function. It is tepid and dying.
  • What are some plans that the youth group has that the church may not be aware of but should?
Oh yeah. We are planning for a youth retreat on spiritual disciplines in late June or early July. I am also hoping for one towards the end of summer.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Holy Crap, Is It Comedy?

I found this passage on Looking Closer's blog. I'd cite the original reference but it's one of those conservative arguing sites. Oh, what the heck... here. The points he makes are both valid and thought-provoking (at least for me):

The riots caused by Newsweek's story claiming American interrogators were flushing the Koran caused many Americans to be amazed by the extreme reaction in the Islamic world. Ken Woodward, the long-time religion writer of Newsweek, tried to explain to Christians just how offensive Koran-flushing is to Muslims: "Recitation of the Koran is for Muslims much like what receiving the Eucharist is for Catholics -- a very intimate ingestion of the divine itself."

There's a certain irony here. If you wanted to see the Eucharist in the toilet, you needed only to watch the NBC sitcom "Committed" in February, when NBC played for laughs the idea that two main characters thought they accidentally dropped a communion wafer in a bar toilet.

Hollywood makes lame jokes and harsh satires of Christianity all the time, figuratively and literally tossing Jesus, the Bible and church figures into the toilet. Those alleged American interrogators are pikers compared to Tinseltown. They could learn at the feet of the masters of mockery.
I say it's thought-provoking because I am such an uber-slut. I did not see that sitcom, but I can guarantee my reaction: Was that funny enough to warrant a nervous laugh? Again, not Catholic, but I have strong feelings about the representative body of Christ. How much should I have of the representative animation of Christ?

Last Sunday I sat down to watch the two McFarlane comedies. Fairly original in that they combine dark, non-sequetorial comedy with the boldness of cartoons. Oh, wait, I'm sorry. Tex Avery, Chuck Jones and Ren & Stimpy did that first. But that doesn't preclude American Dad and Family Guy from being funny. Oftentimes it is. Oftentimes it's just crude. It's usually at its best when it's both.

Early in the first half hour, God made an appearance. As a type of aging cad, picking up young, impressionable ladies with lame self-references and lamer magic tricks. Later on, one of those displays kills a would-be date before setting off a fire that burns down the bar that he and "Jesus Christ" flee from in their yuppie car.

I don't know how that strikes you sitting there. But I'm a man of purported deep convictions. I'm a man in love with my Creator and trying to recover a meaning of what that means. And I sat there like a fat, insolent, stupid man trying to figure if that joke was funny. Funny enough to get a passing. I must have given it a passing rating because I sat and watched the entire episode and the tasteless one after that. No more. Dag, how could I put up with such crap in my Holy Father's face?

Don't know your convictions, but mine are made up. Muslims, after all, have them. They reverence their God, their holy scriptures. Why can't I? I'm smart enough to figure the difference between when someone's laughing at me and my stupidity and when they're laughing - satanically - at the Lover of my soul, at the crucified and risen Lord of all.

See what we've done?

Quote of the Day, ya egotists:

Being true to oneself, in the most vapid sense, might simply be a matter of being true to one's endlessly self-justifying ego... G.K. Chesterton famously observed that the highest concentrations of people who most intensely believe in themselves are to be found in mental institutions.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

got cable

I'm such a lame. But I'll get to watch the rest of the games (if I'm lucky. Dang. We should've gotten DVR with it or something. No, I'm fooling. True sports fans can't even spell rekording.)

Hopefully, I can talk my roommate to send it back after the Finals so I don't need to waste the rest of my summer watching Booty Entertainment Television.

I'm so weak.

Meantime, this is for you Revolt.

Reality V. Truth

In its annual pilgrimage the sun passes the vernal equinox - an imaginary line, a border of sorts set solely for that celestial body. Most ancient civilizations timed the start of their year in apprehension of the approximate period of the passing - all seasons and cycles were adjusted accordingly, as if nothing short of life itself depended on that passing.

This occurrence survives in our present-day collective as a cue. Always towards the end of March, we in the northern regions - certainly those of us north of the Mason-Dixon - look forward to the gradual thawing and greening, towards a Romantic and slow, slumbering Summer before the colors of Autumn befall us and we wrestle again with the hibernation that is Winter.

As the sun makes headway to its northern-most destination, warmth lags behind like a distracted child on a leash. The sun passing our imaginary line is a welcoming, like the ice cream man beckoning all children outside to his luxurious treats. We, in turn, answer that call. The clothes stay indoors. The feet, however, migrate towards the east in Chicago, toward the lake and our two massive public fountains.

Buckingham Fountain

Millennium Park Crown Fountain

But this year in Chicago, at least, that's not occurring. The green has made her appearances, but she shivers like a leaf in the cold. As a consequence of a very mild Winter, Mother Nature is calling in for her Faustian wages. It is Spring. Mid-Spring. And nary a hint of t-storms and BBQ's.

There is a substantial difference between truth and reality. Truth can simply be summed up as, what is. What is underneath it all, above it all, in it all, beyond it all. Truth is transcendent. It, simply, is what it is. Reality, on the other hand, is perception of what is. It is our grasp on the tenable.

Truth is, Spring has been upon us for nearly two months. Reality speaks that it's 10-20 degrees (Celsius) below what it normally is this time of year, that frost still lingers at dawn, that April was dry.

Reality says that there are people who are ugly as well as people who are pleasant. I do not refer to merely physical attraction, but of the grab-bag of personality, or social interaction, of the soul. Abuela calls it "the heart." There are those with whom conversation is nice, it is pleasant, it flows well, it grabs your attention, it produces joy. Then there's the others, wherein conversation employs the greatest skill, the utmost timidity, or inhumane self-control in order to redeem a time that doesn't seem redemptive. Through the lens of reality, they are nasty people with few good qualities. In truth, they are created in God's image and deeply loved by God.

Truth is also that the earth revolves around at least two axes (I'm not a geo- or astro-physicist, as you may have summized) - one being the Sun and the other being a line between its own North and South poles. But it never appears that way from the view down here. The sun - comparatively still relative to the planets rotating around it, but yet constantly moving in space away fro the center of the universe, away from its creation point - does not rise in the East as a new bride awakening her groom, nor is it comparable in size to any athletic equipment ever designed or dream-able. Nor does it actually cross any sort of border. Nor does it hide, betray emotions or betray anything resembling anthropomorphic sensibilities. It does not get hot one day and cold the next. It is a supremely massive ball of radioactive fire. Yet our sense of reality tells us otherwise. I am glad for the truth. The sun, unlike myself, can not take a sick-day, it cannot be late to work. It will not grow cold (well, not in the next few hundred million years or so). Millennia pass and yet it is faithful to its purpose, to its character. It remains. It burns. That's all it needs to do. The rotations of the earth are likewise true to science and faithful to their character.

In this instance, reality is more poetic, yet truth stands the test of time. Truth is the assurance. Faith, in essence, is being rooted and surrounded by reality, yet being able to look beyond the simple earth, above the mountains of reality and look past them to see a deeper glimpse of truth. Reality is truth, but it is not the whole part. And in many circumstances, it is not adequate.

This essay was triggered in part by a discussion I had with a friend the other night. He was mentioning how much stuff goes on in his life I may not look favorably towards - and he's right, for they are unhealthy and destructive - but that I need to accept them, because it's reality. No one needs to tell me of reality. No, scratch that. Even in my diverse, expanding and oftentimes humiliating circumstances I still have no idea what 2/3's of the world are feeling. But I know that what we experience and see at this present moment are only parts and parcel of the whole of truth. Babies having babies and children shooting each other and living apart from their captive fathers is not the way we were designed. It's not the way it's supposed to be. It may be real, but it doesn't have the essence of truth. It will not last. Unlike faith, hope and love.

Spring is here. In time, we will feel its presence, its sweet, reassuring presence.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Et al.,

Just reading Richard Roeper this morning. I haven't been keeping peace or pace with the news so much. Haven't been watching much tele either. I wish that meant only good things. Just too lazy and self-involved to have taken full advantage of that.

Meee-oww! "And girl I promise you / No substitute / oh-OHH"

Anyway, back to Roeper. (The more spry of the two of "Ebert & Roeper @ the Movies" - nee "Siskel & Ebert @ the Movies" until Roger took a skillet to Gene's head.) He was mentioning how he hasn't had a chance to watch the tube recently because life's just too exciting. So an acquiantance had to tell him that Homer made a barb at his expense this Sunday night. It was the first time I've watched my baby show in weeks, and the first time for a new episode in a couple months. I was laughing, but it only seemed reflexive. Which is better than I can say of Family Guy or American Dad, unconventional for prime time tv, but not really funny after some of the novelty's worn off. In better news, the always dependable Bluth family misfortunes return next year. Watch Arrested Development or be deprived.


Either way, it's all good.

Speaking of arrested development, late last week I was miffed, to say the least, about a story that Newsweek invented to garner attention, regardless of the consequences. Seems like that's a culture happening at that rag. Sources, my hairy arse...

And yet, the White House statement that Newsweek's actions were irresponsible and damaged our nation's reputation abroad as well as risked innocent lives, while true and serious and seemingly neglected by the staff at that mag, is a bit of kettle-calling.

Quote of the day, "The man who reads nothing at all is better informed than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." Thomas Jefferson, as quoted here.

"A game of horseshoes... /
Now I see the importance of history..."

Monday, May 16, 2005

Edited post

One thing I'm finding, if you start a post and then come back to it (which I'm doing in two different stages tonight) to finish it off some days later, you may need to link to it.

This one is based on some reflections I had while considering the dangers of "evil" think - in terms of the Pharisees, property developers and gentrification. Although the piece started out being about the little sweet kids I work with on Thursday evenings and the film we're making. I don't think I ever got around to that part. Sorry. It's a bit more non-sequetorial than I care for - well, in my formal blogs. Replies are a different beast all together.

Sand Castles & Snow Forts, part deux

Something about me that listens to other people's responses to my poetry and automatically starts thinking about other ways to work on the poems. Not that I don't hear their comments or opinions nor value them. They just get me to start thinking of other ways to work on them. Tangenital responses. I may agree with some of what a critic (in the best sense of the word: someone who interacts with the material, not in an anyways-necessarily negative manner) has to say about the work in question and some other stuff he or she or they (in this case, she) have to say may or may not register (after all, the art is the responsibility of the artist within the community, not the other way around and not irresponsive of the community), but usually leaves an impression.

Christine Barnes brought up a good point in that the first and most of the last stanzas look like they were written by two different people, a la Jeckyll & Hyde. In fact, they were written on two separate sit-down occassions. She mentioned a bit about considering the nature of my audience - specifically my core audience - in terms "of context and performance." Add that to a discussion (in a very loose sense of the term) we had on a post she did on her spoken-word performance (Yeeaaahhh!) the other day about the nature of performance as a whole and the necessity of the hook and simplicity, I made some changes to the performance peice you'll see below. However, for my own personal pickiness, perhaps, I decided to stick to my guns of the flowing prowess of the of.

Sand Castles & Snow Forts

I see spring surprising again
Timing its chimes with the rise & convergence
of pretty patterns of
Robins serenading each other.

I think I've a God who grants
grace - who plays in the
wind in my face,
Who loves me,
who loves me so
I can't BELIEVE the way he loves me so.

He made the universe and all its elements
colored the lines with splendidness
how can I resist his love in my stubborn form
It’s like throwing up cold shoulders, sand castles,
& snow forts.

my God,
he loves me,
Yes, he loves me so –
I can’t BELIEVE the way he loves me so.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Necessity is the mother of rushed poetry

The kids in my youth group and I are putting together an arts-spectacled worship service for our church at the end of the month. Two short weeks away. We're trying to put a different twist on love, starting with God's love for us, moving into our love for God and then centering on our love for our neighbors, the second commandment of Jesus. We are going to pinnacle with a slightly updated, slightly sensual (like with the senses, not sex-tinglies) "Good Samaritan" dramatization.

I'm really proud of it, so far.

But I don't want to speak too much of it too soon. The group still has a lot of work to do to prepare.

One thing that one of the core kids challenged me on is writing a poem for the first movement. I did a somewhat job in two sit-downs. Personally, I kind of like it, for personal reasons. I don't know if it'll translate into the larger church structure on a day directed by the youth, when one of them (with very little, if any, spoken-word experience) gets up to read this heavily alliterated, heavily natural and maybe heavy handed poem largely influenced by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Oh, well, it's worth a shot. Tell me what you think:

Sand Castles & Snow Forts

I see spring surprising again
Timing its chimes with the rise & convergence
of flight patterns of
Robins serenading each other
slipping in speech like lovely ladies
lapsing in the lowing sun

I think I've a God who grants
grace - who plays in the
wind in my face
who loves me,
loves me so
i can't BELIEVE the way he loves me so
He made the universe and all its elements
colored the lines with splendidness
how can I resist his love in stubborn form
like cold shoulders, sand castles
& snow forts

Friday, May 13, 2005

A horses arse, it's good!

Over the Rhine. I've had Ohio now for about a year. Loving it. I had Films for Radio a few years ago until I lost the disc (Before I found that you could copy music directly onto your computer. What's all this downloading music files I'm hearing about nowadays?). But this album, Drunkard's Prayer is the stuff. It's stripped-buck-nekked emotional and melodic music about a relationship being redeemed. Jeffrey Overstreet wrote a review about it here. I'm not too sure if or how much I agree with the review, but I thought it worth posting since it's so dang-gonned long. And I generally trust Jeff, although I don't always agree with him and, sometimes, I wish he'd have more fun. The real reason I haven't read it is because the HTML isn't Mozilla Firefox-friendly, so my copy of the review has a question mark for every quotation, change of font, space and crevice (Word of the Month, btw).

A much shorter review is here and a hopeful little interview with Karin B is here. Although I don't care much for the site as a whole, Farias is a pretty cool cat. And this is a pretty cool profile.

And I'll be a horse's ...

Friggin' Idiots

I was busy working on another post and simultaneously trying not to erupt while reading Newsweek's Top 1,000 Public High Schools in the Country list and story. It wasn't working. Who are these idiots that put this list together? Their sole criterium, their only measurement for whether or not a school fits the ranking is based on one single ratio: the amount of Advanced Placement (AP) and / or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests taken divided by the number of graduating seniors. Granted, the study doesn't allow for so-called cheating schools where the student population is picked based on scores, essays, etc. That would explain the exclusion of my alma mater and several other top-performing Chicago Public High Schools. But the very nature of the test also doesn't factor in economic factions, such as poverty-levels (of which the heretofore mentioned Whitney Young ranks high on) and amount of funds the school system is allocated. Of course, that may also explain why, on a cursory reading, I saw only five (5) schools from Illinois, the tenth most inhabited state with the 49th smallest education budget (Whether or not that's per capita, I don't know. I'm too lazy and tired to do some real research on it.) within the top 500. That's inhumanely low.

The criteria also doesn't factor in individual schools' own interior placements. Many of the schools listed here have several dungeon classes to clear the way for the better and brighter students (yes, sarcasm) to excel and breathe and shine and make the school seem better and brighter. Actually, that's systematic. My school had an extended ward of sorts for the hearing impaired, but besides that, everybody who got in had to meet the school's rigorous testing standards, some of the toughest in the city. Which kept out a lot of friends that I went to grade school with. Well, of all three or four from my graduating class that were invited to take the tests, I was the only one who passed and allowed entrance. The fact that everybody who was allowed to escape the academic 'dungeon' and gang-related nastiness of the local high school (Roberto Clemente, the one I now love and rave about so much in all its glory and gory) and was able to get to one of the finer schools in my graduating class was also in my classroom probably says a bit to you about even the elementary school culture back then and still today. We maintain that there is no more scaling (What's the word I'm looking for? It's not 'scaling.' Oh well, have to do for now.) in our school systems. That would be a bold-faced, butt-headed lie. The whole thing is scaling, curving our students so that the 'normals' are not held back by the 'specials' and the 'gifted' not held back by the 'normals.' All but one (Lincoln Park High, Chicago, which is also a testing school - although not all students are tested-in - actually ranked 31st on the list and is where I got the dungeon term from) of the schools I checked from the Ill are from affluent suburbs. Where the money roams. Now, if more money were to be allocated freely throughout the state, if say, the state rather than the county and provincial govs were to charge property taxes and were to apply them equally state-wide to primary through secondary schools based solely per capita, I can guarantee most of your upper-middle-class students would be moving out of Beverly Hills Centra High.

It's all very complicated and I'm making it seem like an 'us' v. 'them' issue. It never is. We simply want the best for our children, period. White, black, poor, middle-class-yet-struggling, rich, Latino, etc. It's just that some of us have better means to the ends. But a listing like this done by a supposedly reputable periodical like Newsweek (truth-be-told, no U.S. News & Weekly Report) is really unfair to the teachers, administrators, support staff and somewhat to the students and parents who really pour their all into their schooling environments. No, I'm not referring to the fantasies of Dangerous Minds or Stand and Deliver any more than I am those of The Substitute or School of Rock. I'm referring to everyday practitioners who put out day after day after day and are actually making a difference in their charges' lives, irregardless of whether or not the students get on their desks and call out to their "Capitain" or a slight majority of them have completed their AP tests.

These kids are so cute...

I wish I had a digital camera. Actually, I wish I had the money for a digital camera. Furthermore, I wish I knew how to use one. They didn't teach us that trick in art school (actually, digitals were just starting in their popularity) . But I wish I could show y'all how cute these kids are.

On Thursday nights I volunteer with Starfish Studios (the site needs to be updated; it's a year old). Starfish runs a movie class every year mostly consisting of students from a local elementary school in an "bad" neighborhood on the far north side of Chicago, just south of Evanston. I think the neighborhood is called North of Howard or something like that. The class itself takes place, this year, at Uptown Baptist Church, which is a Baptist church in Uptown... of course. Uptown itself I know a bit more about. Back in the '50s it was one of the poorest communities in America. It's a port of entry for a lot of people groups, and back then, those people groups were almost exclusively poor and White. More recently, the area - much as the neighborhood that I grew up in, Lincoln Square - became a sort of Ellis Island for all sorts of immigrants as well as for many life-long residents (Black & White) who established roots in the area. The difference is, Lincoln Square had a largely blue-collar, lower-middle-class pathos. Uptown never really did. However, younger people who work downtown and / or go to a college dowtown or near-by are moving in. Slowly. And why not? The area is served by a train line with several stops in the neighborhood. The housing is beyond affordable. The beach beckons at the border.

So, why not? I wish I had an easy answer. I'm not fully convinced that gentrification is a great evil.

Don't get me wrong. It's very roots are the wicked mechinations of the evil empire of the fast buck. But then again, are property developers really that evil? My landlord, who has buildings throughout and manages his own property, doesn't seem so. (Then again, we are in the middle of re-signing our lease. I may change my opinion tomorrow. He may have three horns, one for each hole.) And they tend to exploit fears and create rifts - if not exploit already existent ones, of course - in communities. Only to send the parts of the communities elsewhere, like free-floating debris never sure of the shore.

Maybe it's a sign that I'm growing up, maybe it's a sign that I'm mellowing, or that I was never into justice in the first place, that I'm just a poser. But I'm not thinking of people in terms of the language of good & evil, black & white (Quite a different thing than those who, God-bless 'em, consider themselves as color-blind. Godspeed ya. May you be fruitful.) so much any more.

In studying Jesus, I'm constantly confronted and confounded by the Pharisees, the religious ruling body - well, the conservative ones - of Jesus' era. I don't know as much of the history of that time as I'd like. I don't know when they came into power, I don't know how long - if they, say, had any voice or what became of their voice within the Jewish community after its violent dispersal circa 70 AD - or the circumstances surrounding their power struggles with the other members of the Sanhedrin (the whole of the Jewish religious ruling class), the local governing bodies, the empire, their puppets, etc. There's just so much I don't know. I think that's because, until recently, the Pharisees didn't register with me as real people in a real place in a real time with real concerns. They were the villains, the foils, the set-ups. And, in a sense, that's their operation in the Gospels. They were almost a combination of the straw-men from philosophical discourses and the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz.

Almost. A few years ago I discovered how like myself Jesus' funny disciples were. And how like a microcosm (a much loved and blessed microcosm) the stubborn and faithless Israelites of the Old Testament - of Moses and the Judges and Samuel and Daniel and Hosea - were. In lights of these alone (never mind the fact that the Hebrew were always God's chosen, that God became incarnate in the form of a Jew, from a Jewish woman and in a Jewish family where he grew as a Jewish man learning Jewish things, such as the Jewish canon of revealed scripture, that salvation is the power of God to all who believe, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile, that salvation is from the Jews, that it was my sins that put Christ on the cross), anti-Semitism never made any sense to me, at least not from a Christian perspective. But I wonder...

Luther was a true Christian. He understood the Scriptures, deeply. He also understood the need for constant grace in his life. He understood his own wickedness and need. Yet, late in his life he started a sort of pogrom. I merely say "a sort of" because I don't know exactly what he was thinking or doing or allowing or, most likely, spewing from the pulpit. I know it was violently anti-Jewish. Which is sad. I wonder if, at the end of his life, after being worn down by constant fighting within and without and writing and thinking and fighting even within those spheres, Martin Luther simply saw the Pharisees as simply symptomatic of the Jewish people, and not humanity as a whole.

Merely trying to hold on to their tenuous grasp of power, of self-identity, of the rightness of their cause and lives. The Pharisees saw Jesus as a threat not because he was a good person, but because they couldn't see what they didn't want to believe. He didn't match their qualifications for what the Messiah would look like. He was unsightly, born of lowly means, raised on lowly means, followed by sinners and uneducated rebel-rousers, rumored to be a bastard, fat and drunk. And this "Kingdom" he was speaking of was founded on foolishness. Turning the other cheek when someone struck you. The earth will belong to the intentionally weak. Divorce being a condemnable act forced by the wickedness of our hearts.

Sure Jesus performed many miracles. But they were performed all wrong. He was doing them on the Holy Day. And his recipients were sick and lazy, welfare mothers and beggars. He even destroyed property when he did it, plunging someone's literal pig futures down the river. Not to mention the ruckus he created at that anti-capitalist stir in the Temple during the busy season. It'd be like throwing the coffee down the drain at a church cafe and breaking the espresso machine. Or tossing the entire Family Bookstores clientele out while rampaging on a Sunday afternoon. "Hey, we're providing a service. A good, pleasant thing to do for the convenience of our congregants," we would argue. "Jesus, church people and seekers alike are supposed to come here and fellowship. Otherwise, they might have to leave the site or meet or consume on another day."

I'm not anti-Capitalism. Not anti-Communism. Not a moralist. I'm not much of anything. Not even a good follower of Jesus. But I see a bit of Pharisee in me. A bit of those dreadful property buyers and sellers who pretend that what they're doing is beneficial to the area even as they're just trying to do what they can to put food on the table, with the possibility looming in the back of their minds that maybe they really are doing good for the community in driving out the 'bad seed.' A bit of that mentality of the inevitable.

The scary thing is, the Pharisee and Developer mindset is epidemic of the Church as a whole. Because it's symptomatic of humanity.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Other music musings - Updated

Note: Slightly updated! Woo-hooo!!

I was regretting the fact that I haven't bought anything new in a while. And then I splurged. It's just not the way to go. Got Public Enemy's Greatest Hits or something. At 10 clams, I knew I had to get something PE and that's a deal. But I should've held out for a whole, real album or something. It's not like they're the B52's or something, a hit parade and nothing else.

On the other bend, Out of Eden was the pre-Mary Mary um... Mary Mary. I always thought this trio of sisters cute and their harmonies and music (most of which is written and handled by oldest sib Lisa) good, but their vox can sometimes, well, they sound kinda flat and nasally. So I took an Out of Eden hiatus. Now, there was a grassroots movement some years ago that led various artists within and around the Christian music scene to begin to release more and more worship songs, until they saw the response that was getting and released entire albums and basically started a cottage industry (or is it "cabbage industry"? Enough with the puns!) that catered towards those affluent, suburban youth groups? The positive aspect is that the Church now has a larger tapestry of praise and worship songs to pick and choose from for canonization. Now we can choose from a variety of good songs from the schools of Israel Houghton, Darlene Z., Fred Hammond (getting his own post sometime down the line), and Revolt's Maranatha Praise & Worship Band of Choice, Deliriou5? (How could you argue with a name like that?). On the negative side, there's just so many crappy covers and middling songs a lover of Jesus can put up with in his Savior's name. Well, now, again almost independently, the same is happening with classic and ancient hymns. Incidentally, the name of Out of Eden's latest, a sort of re-doing of the classics, sometimes working wonderfully with the old feel (the stand-alone opener, "Fairest Lord Jesus"), sometimes not so well with new arrangements ("I Know Whom I Have Believed," for me). But overall, for a man who will probably never fully regain the hymns experience in his contemporary (read: sometimes just blahh) church service, it's a pleasure.

I'm sorry. They are cute.

Switchfoot, who I've also always loved, right from the get-go with their smart lyrics and fun music is releasing a new album in August. They were produced by Charlie Peacock a few times, who basically discovered them along with David Dark's wife, Sarah Masen, and is the man that I consider to have founded adult pop in the 'Christian' industry. I saw Switchfoot in concert a year ago. Snap, crackle and pop. Jerome Fontamillo has always been fantastic and it just shows Switchies' coolness that they picked the guy from Mortal and Fold Zandura as their fifth man, the man to handle the keys, samples and - what was it? - a Rickenbacher.

I rebought Kirk Franklin's production of God's Property. Remember that album? O snap. "Stomp," "My Life Is in Your Hands," "He'll Take the Pain Away." That was an entire summer spent listening to that album, one of the first gospel records consistently played on WGCI outside of the Sunday Gospel Mornings. It pioneered the terrain for other successful Gospel artists to garner mainstream attention for a sister station and helped to pave the way for GCI and others to develop sister stations that are exclusively Black Gospel music. And it was and is just good music. Sylvia, my college crush, if you're out there, I still think The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin is his best work, but this album is phenom and a classic. And email me. Speaking of it, "Love" was referenced by that little boy in Lauryn Hill's Mis-education and we're using it for our upcoming youth-led Sunday service. As a dance, of course. I'll talk about that service later, after it's done. I don't wanna Cubs it.

Over the Rhine's Drunkard's Prayer is the album to talk about though. 'Cept it's after midnight and my shoes have already turned into pumpkins (Get it? I walk everywhere. See? Oh...). But it is exciting in a way that even Ohio wasn't for me. It just seems so alive and fresh and melodic. More on that if I ever get around to it.

Deepspace 5 just dropped their new album, Unique, Just Like Everyone Else, on Gotee Records and I didn't know? Aaaaarrrghhh! Too much music. Too few funds! Too much music. Too few funds! Too much music. Too few funds! Too much music. Too few funds! Too much music. Too few funds! Too much music. Too few funds! Too much music. Too few funds! Too much music. Too few funds! Too much music. Too few funds! Too much music. Too few funds! Too much music. Too few funds! Too much music. Too few funds!

Oh, My babies. Mijos!!

Monday I was subbing at Clemente High School, the place where I did my student teaching and all, and where I live across the street from. At the end of the day I went to see my friend and physics teacher, Tim P. Yes, my friends are nerds too.

On one of his walls, he had a flyer for a student-led show on Sudan. Something like "Uncovering Sudan: Genocide." I thought, "Hey, this is great. It's led by students in my community. It's about a subject that is increasing in attention. It's about social justice and an issue that, actually, I'm strongly considering doing with my youth in my church, etc., etc. I should go to this thing, at the very least to show my support."

So it was yesterday afternoon / eve. I came to the third floor, was kind of lost, but I heard a group of kids going, "It's Mr. Dye. Wow. He's here." So, after my initial embarrasment, I round the corner and - in my Superman black tee and knees-torn jeans - "Hey, are you guys running this?" It was students that I student-taught and tried to keep up with since. Many of those same students that Tim P. also has.

I'm so proud of them. The room was packed. Maybe close to 90 or so students and teachers / staff but definitely majority students. On a Tuesday evening - long after school let out. Freshmen to Seniors (my students, they're graduating this year). They did a good, albeit shy, job. And the audience was respectful, well, most of the time. The Windows Media Movie (is that what you call it?) that they put together was tight, minimalistic, and definitely upsetting, if not a little off-setting (Music tones to video were supposed to have a juxtaposing effect, I suppose. It wasn't so much). And the ocassional references to Hotel Rwanda, I thought, were in good company. I definitely hope more people see it and react to it (I'm still upset with my friends that haven't).

All in all: There's hope that kids aren't so narcissistic after all the media reports and bad days.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Dig Adam Again

"The earth is hard,
The treasure fine."

10 Songs by Adam Again

First, they were Lost in a World of Time (ref), trying to find their voice. Then 10 Songs by Adam Again were released as a triumph in dance-rock of the mid-to-late 80's. The first time I had heard of this band, a mentor had retrieved me this tape from the bottom of the bargain bin and figured that I might enjoy it. Thus began my slow-burn love for this obscure, underground funk-rock band from SoCal. I was probably 14 or 15 at the time and had grave misgivings about anything related to disco. I incorrectly tossed it aside, returning to listen a couple times for the next few years before the music started to grow on me like George Costanza. It was all over the map, stylistically. But drum machines and a lyricon were de riguerin this foray, as well as the gospel group adding backing vocals and some moody confessionals. The theme of the album - but not necessarily the tone of the album - was moralistic, advising against divorce on behalf of the children - the purported main victims. It also dealt with the relational subterfuge that is "The Trouble With Lies" on, I believe, two songs. It was the "10th Song," however, that would catch \the world off-guard if it was paying attention. Regardless, Mac Powell of Third Day (probably last time I'll refer to them in my Hall of Fame) was and brought along Gene Eugene (principal songwriter, lead vox, guitar and the most wonderful keys - more on that later) to re-cut it as "I Remember You" on the worship-centered - and masterful community experiment - City on A Hill. The lyric for that song was a sparse meditation that probably should be replayed in post-modern churches everywhere during the Lord's Supper. It is enveloped in a angelic chorus provided by dancing diva and AA harmonist Riki Michele and some post-apocalyptic helicopter blades. It was all very ethereal, eerie, and mesmerizing.

I remember you,
I remember that your body was broken
and I remember that your blood was spilled
And I remember that you
Didn't have to do it.


It was on Homeboys that Adam Again would emerge as a great jam band with tight songs added to their funk and R&B influences when they included Johnny Knox as their live drummer. It messed me up to learn that most jam bands don't know how to rock. I call Adam Again a jam band in the sense that they wrote and performed their music as a band. They would start from a chord progression or a musical idea, a riff or a melody, jammed on the spot and members would add parts and converse musically as it fit. But the song structure was tight and the albums did not serve as mere fodder to tide the fans over to their next performance. The concerts - as well as the albums - were few and far between so each one served as a stand-alone. Each record and show had to guarantee the biggest bang for the fewest bucks. Of course, it helped that Gene ran a much-utilized studio out of his basement, was fast-becoming a much-in-demand engineer, producer and keyboard specialist. Not to mention that he co-ran a studio that produced the biggest and best names in the early days of Christian alternative rock in Brainstorm (The truly good ones weren't gonna get any mainstream attention. Daniel Amos, the 77's, Undercover, not to mention the first-fruits of gospel rap, Soldiers For Christ, Freedom of Soul [Who guested Brainwash Projects on their second album. That's right, Pigeon John.], and Dynamic Twins as well as the country-influenced, Americana pioneering "super-group" Lost Dogs).

If my jam-band diss didn't upset you, maybe this will: Funk-rock bands tend to be a let-down (There were a few good tracks on Soulfood 76's debut, and Red Hot Chili Peppers will always be the exception to the rule - the funk-rock to end all funk-rock.) in that their funk doesn't seem to be legitimate, but rather a way to pass for some sort of White street cred. But this band has the goods without trying to exploit or flaunt them, without using funk as a novelty act would. The 70's influences were in the background, in the interplay between the rock elements of John Knox and Paul Valadez on the bass. But the spirit of '76 lived on in the clavs, Fenders, and Moogs Gene played like nobody's (Nobody's) business. "This Band Is Our House" is the best example of my inadequate description of a good jam band. Adam Again refers to itself as a house where - at the least - Gene Eugene feels at home. It all comes tumbling down (musically, that is) when Gene calls for a break-down and John mistakes that for a stop. Everything crashes before Gene laughs and explains himself. They pick up right where they left off (this is the released version, by the way) as if nothing happens. And the song is just fun rock&roll, not heavy, not necessarily sloppy, just the picture of some four guys and a girl having fun doing what they know God created them for.

"Homeboys" opens up the record as a sort of memoir of growing up in his early 70's mixed-race neighborhood, the sense of belonging ("He taught me how to write on the wall and I taught him how to play chess / Some kind of strange urban link."), and the trouble that entered and shattered their world in the form of a drive-by that killed Gene's best friend. The theme picks up half-way through with their cover of "Inner-City Blues." Not as good as the original, but really, who comes close? (And if you don't know...) On "Bad News on the Radio" they continue in that vein with a sort of gritty, urban take on an "A Day in the Life" concept with some modern jazz elements to boost. It's almost "Homeboys, Pt. 2 - What Could've Happened." Consider: "Homeboy tried to burn me / Had to give him what he had asked for... / I don't know the reason / the reason for my troubles... / I know you tried to warn me." The titular bad news concerns a helicopter chase on the expressway (I guess it's called a "freeway" out there. The interstate.) Gene would later say that after bringing in Doug Webb, who played with Miles back in the day, he asked what it was like to play with the legend. After pausing for a bit, he answered, "A lot like this." Gene must have taken that to his grave.

"Hide Away," written by the Choir's drummer and resident poet, continues in the band's confessional nature in addressing and questioning the reclusive nature of the partners within the marital relationship as well as the songwriter's own clumsy hands. The focus is on the melancholy and utter loneliness that results in her absence.

Summer is Winter
Flowers wither
Stars fade away
When you turn away
When you hide your eyes, love
Skies above become grey
When you turn away
When you hide away


Whereas "Homeboys" focused on the street level, Dig dug "Deep" into the recesses of the soul to produce a treasure worth treasuring. Although ostensibly about the divorce that Gene and Riki were heading towards, the music was about the emotional toll taken in the wake of the separation and the search for meaning in those dark times, not le divorce itself. The disc is filled with such archetypical images - digging, card playing (fate and relationships interplayed in fate and loss), water - as would make Carl Jung proud. It also helps to make the album universal. It's a work of pure art, taking specific, personal experiences and expressing them in an accessible language so that many can take claim these opuses as their own.

The disc starts with a barn-stormer. "Deep" begins the theme of this album with stream-of-conscience poetry and a funky start/stop second guitar, mediating the Author into the mystery of the story. "Girl ghost is in the stairway / She likes it when I rub my eyes... I don't want to / you don't want to / we don't want to know / And dying on the cross / for the sick and the loss / is the Lover that I long to know." "It Is What It Is (What It Is)" presaged the most common answer by NBA stars, maybe in an attempt to avoid questions a la Dylan (Probably about their indie rock within the bloated and convellent Contemporary Christian Music scene and the Christian bookstores they sold through.). "Ask a stupid question / you get a sideways glance." "Dig" begins with a pulsing Fender and slowly burns. Riki adds her sweetly melancholy melody on the second verse, Gene adds another vocal harmony slightly later and towards the end they fill in with guitars, drums, and bass.

Consult the cards to measure time
the earth is hard,
the treasure fine...
Will the eagle fly
if the sky's untrue
do the faithful sigh
because they are so few

Gene Eugene has a nasal voice often compared to REM's Michael Stipe. On this album, however, he wraps his vocals around the lyrics like a down blanket on a cold night and the additional harmonics of the Rhodes and Riki put him in a warm atmosphere, certainly in songs like "Dig." On "Hopeless, Etc." Gene stretches his vocals - some would say unconvincingly - to add dimension to the lyrics. "Hopeless, Etc." is ego-focused. Each verse begins with and expands on an elongated "I'm," holding at times for several bars and filling-out with 'hopeless,' 'useless,' and 'worthless' with a coda on the '-less.' It's a worship song for the Me Generation. And it's a rocker, albeit one that also carries thos song-building effects, this time starting fresh with every verse. "Songwork" is about the difficulty of writing that perfect song, or sometimes any song.

"Worldwide" &"Walk Between the Raindrops," apparently, is about the social ills that face us as a world. The murder of Headman Shabalala (of Ladysmith Black Mozambo) and the plight of the homeless are raised to question our incapacity to compassionately act, suggesting that if we can merely explain the situation without grieving alongside the Holy Spirit on this, we are as likely to walk between raindrops. And the jump-kick on "Worldwide" kicks butt. "Keep your holy hair in place / the wind is gonna blow / the humble and the poor keep breathing."

Rumored to be a big influence on Over the Rhine (who's brilliant new Drunkard's Prayer is a beautiful counter-point to the themes on this album and who played the screeching and haunting guitar coda from this song that was in itself stolen from Hendrix) "River on Fire" is the only song that seems to speak of the ensuing separation between husband and wife indirectly or not. The burning of the over-pollutted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland serves as the self-referential metaphor. The cello plays its part to leave the song druding slowly along, methodically pulling us to gaze at the inevitable crash and slow burn of a feral mass of water. After the guitar chord drops a chill in the spine, we are treated with a rollicking "That Hill." Lyrically, it's again about failure, but musically it's a blast with an engaging melody and riffs galore.


Honestly, I'm going to complete this review in a couple weeks. Perhaps longer if I can secure another copy of this record via eBay. I'll periodically come back to this. I probably shouldn't have started undertaking these essays by beginning with my ultimate favorite. Peace,

Dia de las Madres

* (This is one of those confessional, dry-at-the-mouth, write-it-as-it-comes pieces.)

Two things about Mother's Day:

1) I found out my little brother's engaged. I met the betrothed once. I don't remember her from the meeting, really. I don't remember how long she was around for. I and my next brother and his wife spent a couple days with our parents and grandparents (who decided to move to Oklahoma. They're displaced Chicagoans, not the other way around.) about a year ago when we met her. I don't even remember her name. I think it's Christine (no relation to Miss Re:volt... I hope.). And I didn't find out from him - the engagement, that is. Or the fact that he was thinking of going out on this. I didn't find out from mi padres ni mis hermanos. I found out a couple days later from my uncle. Who rarely talks to me. Or to anybody.

I don't know what to think. I hear she likes my parents. Which is, well... abnormal. They're (I love 'em, but honestly) weird. I haven't seen Meet the Fockers, but the analogy (not the types of people they are, or professions or whatever, just their abnormality in the face of other, mainstream people) is apt. Ditto the Munsters. The Addams Family. I love them to death. They're not bad people in the longest shot. They've been married for some 35 years now, and the only way I can describe that miracle of God is by comparing my mom to Marge and my dad to Homer. Real Simpsons-heads will know what I'm talking about. The rest of y'all, well... Jesus still loves you. And, believe it or not, she ("Christine") is attracted to that quality.

I knew Heidi - my sister-in-law - for quite some time before they got hitched. I didn't know her well the entire time. But I knew her and got to know her progressively from the time when she was sweating Brian (my brother) and he was just trying to figure her out (y'know us inner-city mixed-white kids, we always gotta go for a black woman. Oh... no? Ok, maybe just a few of us in my family.) to their *special friends* to plain-ol' bf&gf to engaged to standing in their wedding in beautiful Door County, Wis (We only got a night there. Had to return the rental [car] before I lost the apartment.). And quite a few Sunday eves, haircuts and bbq's in their West Side house, as well as times when we get together for church stuff or we mix up our youth groups (They're at a Cubs game right now, getting rained out.)

But Brian and I stayed in Chicago together. Even when he went to Ohio for college, he kept in touch and would spend about 1/3 his weekends back in the Chi. Now they live a few miles away. In a bad neighborhood. But who doesn't? (Oh, that's right. I don't anymore. Maybe I will soon. Decision's due about the lease on Saturday.) David, however, is in the Navy. And so is his beloved (to use Song of Solomon language). They barely see each other. He's got a couple years left, if he doesn't decide to re-sign. ("See the world," my asterick) I won't see him or her. And that's the problem. He's my hermano. I'm supposed to see him, to know about him, to know where's he going and what he's about. I'm the oldest. I was raised to raise my brothers and look after them. I changed David's diaper and made him blame the wall everytime he got a boo-boo (not to be confused with "boo boo") when one of us threw him at the general vicinity of the wall. Then he would punch at the wall and feel all better. Dummy. We used to tease him for being fat. You have to understand, we're a skinny family. Or, we were a skinny family. Now, Brian and I are the Kings of Lard (Yes, the opening band for U2). Didn't I make him drink vanilla extract, convincing him it tastes like ice cream (and I'd do it again in a heart-beat)?

I can't even imagine it. I'm fortunate in that I only have one brother in the services at this period. I'm fortunate that he won't see any real skirmishes nor be in a line of fire. David, one of the smartest people I know, is a nuke technician (another Homer reference). If he's hurt or lost, it's most likely because of a mistake he made. Which, in the long run, would be funny. But, still, he's not mine anymore. He's not even his. He's property U.S. Government, folks - like some stocked cheese (Poor people, unite. You know the reference!).

Still, congrats David and *Christine*. Love you dumb-dumb.

2) My moms. Twice in two weeks I lock myself out of my apt. Twice. I'm becoming like my roomie. So I get in a bit later and then later (note hesitancies) pull myself away from Le Chorises (sp?) to call my mama on my other roommie's cell. It's already 11. But we talk for a little over half an hour. My mother has bipolar disorder. When we first discovered this, it was called Manic Depressive. You didn't say someone has a particular disorder, you qualified the person as their disorder. Since then, the PC have taken over language and, amidst their guerrilla tactics and overbearing-ness, have shown that connotations can have negative effects on the way we view the disabled (or, differently-abled, which is just stoo-ped). So, out goes "manic" because of its inbred relation to "maniac." But sometimes I wonder, how far can you separate the disease from the diseased?

I miss my mama. The lady I talk to is not the same one I grew up with. It's not that she has Alzheimer's. I can't imagine taking care of mi abuela or mis padres under that situation. Again, I'm blessed. By comparison. But a rose is a rose is a rose... And not to be about despair or depression or negativity. I know and am assured that God works ALL things to the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. I know that tribulation and trials are par for the course in following Jesus. And I know that if I weren't a Christian, well, life's not fair and nobody ever told me otherwise. But the pain is still there. The hurt resides sometimes in the recesses of the soul. In the deep, dark corner pockets. And sometimes it just hurts. I cry. A grown asterick man. I weep. I want somebody to come out of hiding and hug me. I want my mommy. But she's scared.

I dread asking her how she is. She doesn't back down from telling anyone how she feels at any given time anymore. Heck, she'll tell you whether or not you ask her how she is. Anxious. Guilty. A couple weeks ago, she was in town to visit my uncle (long story, but he was in the hospital for about a month. My grandma came too. Had to cart both of them around the city for a bit. But nothing compared to B&H. Not that it was bad, just consumming. Then again, they bore us...) and came to church with me. It was bittersweet and kind of funny. My friends know her situation, but now they were seeing it first-hand. She would tell everybody within earshot how exactly she was feeling and her interpretation of why that was. The roots for her problems, in her consiousness, heck the Everything for her problems, the tree, the bark, the branches, and the leaves are from twenty years prior. Apparently, she did somebody wrong somehow and the grace period for forgiveness has long passed. It's the death of grace. She cannot accept that grace. I spend time with her everytime I talk to her about the fact that God loves her and he forgave her 2,000 years ago. She'll repeat it, but, for real, the devil is a liar a thief a robber a vagabond a murderer from the beginning. Mental diseases don't just exist on the physical plane, let's put it that way.

If you're of the frame of mind, please pray for my mama. And yours. That Joni Mitchell song is so flippin' true. "You don't know what you got til it's gone." I want to remind my friends of that. So many of them are still embarrassed of their parents. Pssshhh. They haven't met my dad (Daisy Dukes. Penny loafers. Calf-length tube socks. False teeth he'll pull out in an Kodak instant.). Love 'em while you got 'em.


Periodically, We All Come Together...

This is an introduction for something that's been brewing in my head all week-end long. Periodically, I will write about an artist or group that I love that either made or just-missed my Music Hall of Fame ("The place to be," Spin Magazine). Late last week I did a piece on Ray Charles and would like to try to piece something together on Hendrix by the end of this week. The musing herewithin are - obviously- the work of a fan untrained and ill-suited to be much more than a fan. I will never rise to the austere ranks of the augustine critic. My ears are not good enough (all that dang-on loud music), my knowlege of music genres, history and theory not complete enough and my library insufficiently supplied (I think I have 200-250 volumes since I started phasing out my cassettes [Old School alert! Old School alert!] some ten years ago) to be taken seriously as a student of the music arts.

But I love music in a way that I don't film or literature - both of which I specifically studied, and furthered in appreciation of, in college. This ocassional series of essays on music artists will continue with probably my favorite band of all time (definitely one of the under-rated and headed by one of my favorite songwriters), Adam Again.

Bon Apetit!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

15 Ways to Leave that Loser

sometimes i don’t know why
all my love seems so unsatisfied
and i imagine all the lovely ladies have losing lovers –
mean, arrogant, pushing shovers
certainly i can’t be all that bad,
i’m a gentle guy but sometimes i get so mad
i’ve got personality
i can make you laugh –
what can he offer that i can’t?

A full-bodied mustache?
see, i’m a true Christian;
i follow Jesus,
we can live forever
in the land of milk, honey
and cheeses

so let me offer these bits of advice
for the Jiff ladies who’re choosier
if you like ‘em just nod your head twice,
15 ways to leave that loser

i’m assured that you’ve heard
you can turn him off with the Word,
but i say to you
in this age of fools:
hop on the bus, or scrap him like rust,
jump in the van,
heck, make other plans
you can tell him he’s a jerk
you can tell him at Mickey D’s,
Wendy’s or call him from work.

no one likes long-distance –
you can turn hoosier
this is just another instance –
15 ways to leave that loser

and if he abuses you,
can you step aside
so that i
may take a bat to his face
knock a mase down his hat?

now it may be strange and deranged
to call out the bums
i never thought myself a challenge
or threat to anyone

see, Jesus is a threat to everything
i hold so dear
including my plans to protect and
choose her,
he’s got better plans and he holds me so near
Jesus died and supplied for this