Sunday, October 22, 2006

Mike Hauenstein

My blog has been dormant for too long. I have some posts in mind, but they are all overshadowed right now by the passing of our friend Mike Hauenstein at age 27. My wife Deb went to high school with his mother Debbie, and I've gotten to be good friends with his father Tom via our musical interests. Debbie and Tom are some of the most compassionate, giving people we know. Mike's cancer surfaced about 3 years ago - a rare form that produced numerous tumors throughout his body. Mike fought against it using any means they could find - chemo, radiation, diet, physical therapy. The doctor's initial prognosis was poor, and he did outlive their expectations due to his courage and the love and care of his family. The last couple of months had been rough, but things took an especially serious turn early this past week and Mike passed away early Friday morning.

All our love and tears go to Debbie andTom, Ann (his wife), Tyler (his son) and Sara (his sister). He left a huge legacy in his blog, entitled "My Fight to LiveStronger". It allowed people from all over the world to walk with him, share advice from firsthand experiences, and share prayers. The link will stay on my blog for a good while. We will miss him.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Good news/bad news - all in perspective

Good news - I was elated to receive an email letting me know that Joseph Arthur would be at the 20th Century Theater in Cincinnati on October 3rd. His CDs are still on the top of my listening list (it's not just gathering dust in the sidebar ), and I've played a number of times at the art deco 20th Century. Arthur is an amazing artist, and his live performances get rave reviews for his use of looping and found sounds to create textures and layers as a one man band. Just up my alley.

Bad news - I can't go :-(

Perspective - we'll be on a Mediterranean cruise at the time. And I guess I'll just have to settle for local shows with Steely Dan/Michael McDonald, Cirque du Soleil, and the Blue Man Group in September and October. I'll still be looking to find one of Arthur's shows that I can attend within driving distance.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

United by the Net

Sunday evening Deb and I had a wonderful time getting to know some folks who have met and been assembling "virtually" for a while via the internet. Several of us live in Cincinnati, and we've gathered once for happy hour at Applebees. We all share a fascination/obsession with notions of God and spirituality, and have often found ourselves outside the orthodox thinking of mainstream Christian expressions.

Julie Bogart has some details on the formation of this motley crew on her blog, but we are currently all subscribed to a Yahoo group entitled "Pomoxian" for "Postmodern Christians". Dave Blakeslee is the founder of this virtual group (circa 2002), and he and his wife Julie were in southern Ohio for a wedding, so the Bogarts (Jon and Julie) hosted a real-life gathering, which also included Brian and Tywana Smith. Deb and I had met Brian through the area Emergent Cohort, and he shared our enjoyment of all things theological.

Although most of us spent former years in fairly conservative or moderate religious groups/denominations, our individual past experiences are not that similar. But we do find ourselves presently at a similar place in life where we still are seeking to be the best we can, and believe that spirituality and God have something to do with that. We just can't express things in the same fashion as we once could, and are much more open to other ways of experiencing God.

Conversations flowed freely and honestly, as if we had known each other for years. We plan to continue our conversations online and in person whenever possible, providing a safe yet challenging environment in which to work out our faith and lives with fear, trembling, hope, and joy.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Blue Man Group is Touring!!

A good portion of my DVD collection is dedicated to music - documentaries and concerts. By far the most played DVD in my collection is "Blue Man Group - The Complex Rock Tour Live". Deb and I went to Las Vegas a few years back, largely to take in a couple of Cirque du Soleil shows. On the spur of the moment, we also decided to see Blue Man Group. Cirque du Solel was fantastic, but I was even more captivated by these blue men. It was a communication experience, with the voiceless men allowing the audience to vicariously experience the event through their eyes and senses. I immediately bought the DVD, and found it more immersive than even the stage show. I'm still unpacking why, but I'm convinced there are important lessons for communicators - churches, organizations, artists - to learn by experiencing their show. "The Complex" is all about deconstructing our experience of attending a rock concert - examining the physical actions, mental games, etc. And the music is downright tribal and exhilarating.

So I was excited to see in the local newspaper this weekend that the Blue Man Group is touring this fall, and will be hitting Cincinnati on October 8th. Tickets go on sale July 31. This will be the show of the season as far as I'm concerned (even though we also have tickets for Steely Dan/Michael McDonald and Cirque du Soleil). The fall tour is titled "How To Be a Megastar - Tour 2.0". Highly recommended!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason

I've been a moderate Bill Moyers fan for many years. Most probably it is partially connected with growing up in the south and appreciating that intelligent commentary and reporting can come through a southern accent. So I was excited to see info about his newest PBS series, "Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason". Moyers took advantage of the PEN ((poets, playwrights, essayists, editors, and novelists) World Voices Festival 2006 gathering to interview contemporary writers on issues of faith and reason (the actual topic of this years festival).

An interview with Moyers appeard this past week in the San Francisco Chronicle, and he discusses the background of the series. Several quotes in the interview appealed to (and apply to) me:

"I practice what the Italian philosopher [Antonio] Gramsci called 'the pessimism of the mind' and 'the optimism of the will'. As a journalist, my job is to see the world as it is, without whitewash or illusion. But as a husband, father, grandfather and citizen, I don't know how to be in the world without expecting a confident future and getting up every morning to do what I can to help bring it about."

Speaking of his famous series "The Power of the Myth" and Joseph Campbell, he says:

"What [it] did for me, David, was to awaken me fully to the power of metaphors. 'Change the metaphors,' Campbell told me, 'and you can change the world.' "

I consider myself a "metaphor-driven" person. With a strongly intuitive temperment, I'm more often than not motiviated by inner or hidden meanings and metaphors rather than hard facts or single events.

The DVR will definitely be set for this series. It begins June 23 on PBS. You can find out when it can be viewed in your area here.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Brangelena Baby Pics

So I havn't posted for a month, and here's what I pick to post on - what gives???

I've just been struck by how "right" it seems for the lucky parents to secure 4 million plus for African charities by taking advantage of the general public's appetite for vicarious living. It's almost Robin Hood-like - a great one-off approach for redistribution of wealth.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

New music

Sorry for the long absence - life has been full and busy. (In fact this post has been in an incomplete draft format for a week now.)

Well, one release is brand new and the other two are new to me. My musical tastes are all over the map, but I'm much more inclined to listen to songwriter types than I have been in the past - as long as the arrangements and production are interesting and creative. Hence, I'm still listening a lot to Joseph Arthur - just trying to decide which of his most recent releases to put on my Desert Island list. I'm not sure I've listened to any other musician quite as consistently for a long period of time - perhaps Astor Piazzolla and Todd Rundgren at various points in time. I'm slowly putting together a YouTube video list that I'll post soon.

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris have been working on material for the last seven years, in between other projects. Their new release, All The Roadrunning, is just plain wonderful. I really started getting into Knopfler after Dire Straits had disbanded - especially when his solo release Golden Heart came out. Last summer we were able to see him at the Fraze pavilion in Dayton, and his band was basically Dire Straits minus one plus Matt Rollings, one of my favorite piano players. At any rate, the songwriting, arrangements, and performances are first rate on this duo release.

My appetite for some music from Leonard Cohen was whetted recently when I added several Jennifer Warnes CDs to my iPod. Famous Blue Raincoat is from back in the 1980s and is a tribute to Cohen - after spending several years as one of his backup singers. (It is also still recognized as one of the best produced/arranged/engineered recordings to date.) So for my dose of Cohen, I chose his first post-Zen monastery release, 2001's Ten New Songs. I'll say at the outset that I enjoy music that blends electronic and acoustic sounds. This release does a good (not great) job at that, primarily at the hands of producer/arranger/singer Sharon Robinson. It's a pretty mellow collection. I really like the smooth textures of her background vocals juxtaposed with Cohen's gruff voice. "The Land of Plenty" is my favorite tune on the set.

Finally, I needed quick, legal access to some songs in prepping an informal "band" for a party this past weekend. So I decided to take advantage of the free trial at eMusic claims to be the largest online distributor of independent music, so in only one case was I able to find the original artist performance ("Blister In The Sun" by the Violent Femmes). But I still had 21 free songs, so I started looking through for items on my wish list. My first find was Buddy Miller's 2004 release, Universal United House of Prayer. Miller has long been Emmylou Harris' guitarist/band leader, and I've seen him in concert with her and on his own. I'm not a huge fan, but that's partially because I'm not into roots rock as much as I used to be. But several people have recommended this release to me, and the price was right. This is a driving collection of tunes, and the icing on the cake is the soulful vocals of Regina & Ann McCrary, daughters of one of the founders of the Fairfield Four gospel group. My musical favorites are the extended and timely version of Bob Dylan "With God On Our Side" and the opener "Worry Too Much".

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Crawfish and Jazzfest

Still running short on time for thoughtful posts on New Orleans, etc. - it's a gorgeous day outside and I have many spring chores and some music projects queued up. But here's the last of my Louisiana photos - lunch on Monday.



I'm so glad we have Pappadeaux's in Cincinnati to handle my Cajun food addiction in between visits :-)

Also, MSN is netcasting music and interviews from Jazzfest. There's a great interview with Edge on the musical instruments program he and others set up for displaced musicians. Also a clip of him doing a New Orleans version of "Vertigo" with the New Birth Brass Band. I couldn't get the link from the Jazzfest web site to play the videos, but this link works well.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

New Orleans post edits

I cleaned up the titles and bad character translations for my cellphone posts from Louisiana. I couldn't give the picture emails a unique title. Now they will make a bit more sense in the archives.

I hope to post some New Orleans reflections in a couple of days. We had a great trip - a really educational experience, and relaxing as well.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Yvan's Extended Family

This one is for Martine and Gini. Within the first block of the festival in Lafayette we ran into the Fruges`, who were part of the Cajun club and host family network for Belgian teachers in southwest Louisiana back in the mid 1980s. They had visited Cincinnati in 1998 for Yvan's daugher Gini's high school graduation. Beautiful people!

Festival International de Louisiane

Moroccan roll in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Jazz Fest Cameo Appearances

Based on weather reports we went back to New Orleans today. Good decision. Jazz Fest surprises included Edge jamming with Dave Matthews and Terrance Blanchard playing the Miles Davis part on "TuTu" with Herbie Hancock!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday at Jazz Fest

Bob Dylan at Jazz Fest - not quite 3 feet away like last night, but a great performance. Also Yerba Buena was awesome - Gypsy Latin music.

Breakfast In New Orleans...

(...dinner in Timbuktu - with apologies to Bruce Cockburn)

Breakfast of the gods! Beignets and chickory coffee at the Cafe du Monde - Cafe of the World.

Hanging out with Bob Dylan!

Thursday night in New Orleans - went straight from the airport to Mullates' post-Katrina grand reopening featuring Beausoleil (pictured). Bob Dylan walked in and stood right next to us! We were too surprised/polite to speak to him. If i had spoken to him, I would have asked "When is Chronicles Vol 2 coming out?"

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Louisiana bound - music and more music

I'm packing tonight for a long weekend getaway to Louisiana. My friend (and former bandmate) Yvan and I are heading to New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival, then on to Lafayette for the Festival International de Louisiane . Yvan and his family lived in Louisiana (Lake Charles) for about ten years, teaching primarily in French immersion programs within the public school system. He tries to get back for the festivals each year, and this year I decided to take him up on his invitation. Should be a musical adventure. We plan to hear Bob Dylan, Keb' Mo', Ani DiFranco, and others on Friday. If we hang around New Orleans on Saturday, we might catch the Dave Matthews Band and Herbie Hancock.

I'm sure there will be some sobering sights as well, due to the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Testing out blogging from my phone

Check out Josh in the "30-hour famine" t-shirt at the buffet - talk about disonnance :=)

I'm going to Louisiana soon for some music events, and just configuring and trying out this blogger feature before I go.


My wife keeps bugging me to post something on my blog. But I've been a bit preoccupied with a new musical toy - a Yamaha Motif ES7 workstation. I've been shopping around for at least 6-8 months, comparing what's available and what's anticipated. And the Motif just kept bubbling to the top of the stack. So I've got a bit of a learning curve ahead in order to scratch the surface of it's capabilities. I've played in bands of all sorts for many years, and mostly enjoyed doing arranging and performing of other people's music, as well as exploring new musical genres. But lately I've been having the urge to create some original music. Not sure what shape it will take, but I've already gotten some good frameworks down after only having this keyboard a few days. The Motif has some amazing sounds and tools. It is also the best option for interfacing with computer-based Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software. What would normally take 16 audio/midi cables can be connected with a single firewire cable via Yamaha's mLan protocol.

I'll have some less self-indulgent content in a day or two. Julie has some interesting comments on Karen Armstrong's appearance at Xavier that I'd like to respond to. Also Deb and I have been inspired by some of Joan Chittister's on-line writings, and I'd like to pass those on.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Another tag from Tammy Jo. This one seems a bit like a test...without a perfect score. Actually after filling it in, it's almost like a verbal rorschach test...what's the first thing that comes to my mind by:

I AM: what I am (thanks to Popeye and Joseph Arthur)
I WANT: more time
I WISH: I could be healthier (lose weight mainly)
I HATE: my laziness
I LOVE: my wife, house, and life
I MISS: my mom and dad
I FEAR: dying (not death)
I HEAR: panting dogs, chirping birds
I WONDER: what God is like
I REGRET: wasted years
I AM NOT: too old to be young
I DANCE: much too infrequently
I SING: almost all the time (usually internally)
I CRY: when "love comes to town"
I AM NOT ALWAYS: patient
I MAKE WITH MY HANDS: music and food
I WRITE: because I can
I CONFUSE: those around me
I NEED: focus
I SHOULD: exercise regularly
I START: lots of books
I FINISH: fewer books

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Religions and Truth

So now that "holy week" is over within my faith community, I'm going to try to find time and words for a few posts that have been brewing in my mind for a week or so. They are a bit broad in scope, so might have to be split up a bit. You can tell by the title of this one that I have all the answers - aren't you glad you stopped by?

I recently read "The Heart of Christianity", by Marcus Borg. The author has been (not sure if currently) a member of the controversial "Jesus Seminar", and an outspoken advocate for allowing our views of the world to influence our approaches and beliefs surrounding spirituality. I found a lot I agreed with in this volume. I found myself immediately rereading a few chapters, because I needed the first readings often to challenge my preconceived notions of certain terms like "born again" and "salvation" - terms that in many ways have lost their meaning to me. At least they had lost the meaning I attached to them growing up in a Christian subculture - a subculture that I left for many years.

I especially liked Borg's equating being "born again" with the natural process that we each need to go through when moving from the self-centered nature of a child to the (hopefully) less self-absorbed nature of an adult. My "takeaway" was that the experience of religious faith had the goal and potential in the past of providing a framework for this natural life process within communities that shared religion and culture - even though the reality of many religious settings has been far from successful in this regard. Our natural rites of passage that carry us to adulthood are best experienced within a caring community. And in spite of all the blemishes and distortions, I think the church could fill this role for those with or without "traditional" family structures. (Unfortunately, finding such churches is far from easy.)

Borg continually returned to his version of a statement that I've heard from many lips in the past few years - "all religions are the same", or "all religions lead to the truth". I usually rebel against this blanket statement. My version would be "all religions are similar in that they probably have some mixture of truth and distortions". And I'm certain I allow the fundamentalists of various religions to magnify my naturally cynical view - they are indeed (and unfortunately) the loudest voices.

In Borg's case, he chose to say that the purpose of all the "major" religions was to mediate the sacred, and provide "sacremental" access to the mystery of God. I do believe he tried too hard at times to not offend any religious traditions, and also tried to "overload" the word "true", just has he attempted to overload the term "born again". So I would balance his emphasis on the natural growth process with a (hopefully) healthy cynicism about any specific religion having a corner on or understanding of all the truth.

I have certainly found more than enough truth to last a lifetime within my own faith community of Christianity. It has little to do with doctrinal certainty, and much to do with a realistic sense of hope that can fuel my time on earth. And hopefully there is something more after that. I'd be very interested in learning more about how other faith communities or religious orientations have nurtured this "natural" growth in their constituents. Any experiences to share or sources to recommend? Do you agree or disagree? Or am I talking in circles?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

PoMoXian: "Touched or Tickled?" - Tagged!

PoMoXian: "Touched or Tickled?" - Tagged!

Dave linked to my Friday Fives tag on performing arts concerts. The dude has had an interesting life indeed - and he made it thru alive!

This post is partly to experiment with/demonstrate how the "links to this post" feature works in Blogger. It's a bit backwards from what I expected - seems like the goal is to create a new post that is linked to a post on another blog, rather than linking an existing post via the comments - which I would prefer. Anyone know of other tools for trackbacks, etc?

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Deb and I journeyed up Mt. Adams last night to take in the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park production of "Company". I'm not necessarily a big musical fan - I prefer to keep my theater experiences segmented into plays and concerts. But the word on the street about this production had me intrigued. The actors performed quadruple duty. In addition to the normal singing/dancing/acting roles, all instrumental accompaniment was provided by the cast members. I had to see what this group of overachievers was capable of doing.

And the show did not disappoint. While none of the instumental performances were in the "virtuoso" category, the "orchestra" sound was solid and well balanced. Each cast member except for the lead male role had a rotating stool at the back of the stage upon which they perched when not involved in an acting/singing role in a particular scene. And most of the (12+) cast members were multi-instrumentalists. The choreography of the show included using the instruments as props and foundational elements. If there was anything negative about the show, it was that my fascination with the instrument integration (what will they play next) probably distracted me from paying attention to the finer details of the story. It was a very enjoyable evening.

Director John Doyle had already used this approach with "Sweeny Todd", another Sondheim musical (and one of my favorites in the musical genre). I was intrigued to read the story of how this approach was taken as much due to economic necessity as to artistic expression. (He first used this approach in economically depressed Liverpool, England). It has obviously caught on, as the current production is Broadway bound in the fall.

It's been a busy week - Company, improv rehearsals (yes, they do rehearse...), taxes. I hope to have some more thought provoking posts over the weekend. I have a few religion topics mulling around in my head.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Still getting the basics of my blog together. I finally put my Blogroll together - see links on the sidebar.

Also added a new release to "Currently Listening To" - Lunatico by the Gotan Project. Tango meets club/house/hip-hop. I loved their 2003 release Revencha Del Tango.

I have a few new books on the shelf - just need to decide what to dig into next.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tag, I'm it - Friday Fives

The RevGalsBlogPals have a FridayFives tradition, and today the subject is "name five experiences of the performing arts that have touched or tickled you". TammyJo tagged me, and I love this topic, so here goes. Update - I had to go with 6 - had several in mind and forgot an important one when I originally posted, and I can't see removing anything. I guess I won't get to play the game anymore...

  • Touched - Todd Rundgren's "No World Order" tour (circa 1993-1994). I didn't see this in person, but have several videos from these shows. It epitomized the integration of technology, arts, and audience immersion in a performance setting.
  • Touched - The Blue Man Group. Deb and I saw them in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. A major purpose of our trip was to catch Cirque du Soleil, and seeing the blue dudes was a last-minute decision. I found myself more excited about that show than Cirque - perhaps because of the surprise element, certainly because of the tribal rock beats, which I love, and definitely because of how the mute blue men take on our personas - self-discovery, awe, jealousy/competition, creativity, etc. etc. etc. I immediately bought the DVD "The Complex Rock Tour Live", from their summer arena tours a few years back, and have enjoyed it even more than the live show - highly recommended (and cheap!).
  • Touched - Civic Music Series in Harriman, Tennessee. My parents took me to these shows consistently - some pretty sophisticated music/performances for our small Tennessee town. It transformed the well-worn high school auditorium into a venue for opening my preteen eyes to the wonders and diversity of music. I can't remember a specific show, just the general impact they all had on me.
  • Touched - Mark O'Connor with Doc and Merle Watson at Parrish Auditorium, Miami University Hamilton (Ohio). O'Connor is probably the most incredible musician I have seen in my entire life. This particular concert was in the mid/late 80s when he was only 19 and was a "sideman" for Doc. He apologetically thanked Doc for letting him play a solo, then proceeded to transport the entire audience to Heaven and back while playing a medley of "Midnight on the Water" and "Bonaparte's Retreat". (Thanks to Howard Epstein for bringing this and many other fine concerts within 5 minutes of my house. I've truly seen some of the best concerts in my life in this auditorium - Michael Hedges, Liz Story, Charlie Hayden, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Arlo Guthrie, Los Lobos, Mark O'Connor solo, and many more)
  • Touched - "Jazzdance by Danny Buraczeski", sponsored by Cincinnati's Contemporary Dance Theater. Deb and I happened to take in this performance the weekend some of my own spiritual convergences were underway (largely involuntary). This show featured dance to music from Astor Piazzolla, my favorite composer, as well as classical, jazz, and blues influences. The combination of movement and music reached me at a deep level that I'm still unpacking. I wept after coming home from this performance. Sheer beauty and transcendence.
  • Touched - Any time I hear Ken Medema. I've been a huge fan since first experiencing his unique musical and story-telling abilities in college days. He manages to cut to the heart of crucial life issues in ways that have you laughing as often as crying, but leave a lasting impression. He's also one of the best keyboard performers and improvisers on earth. I've seen probably 8 of his concerts, and each one is unique - he usually composes several songs right on the spot, and they are keepers.

I tried thinking of something in the "tickled" category, but I can't come up with any - I must have a gift of repressing painful memories :-)

Now it's your five experiences of the performing arts that have touched or tickled you. Post on your blog and link back to here.

Dave - here is his post (testing the link to post feature)





Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Live at the Improv

Improvisation is definitely one of the things I love most about life on earth. Jazz improv is just about the most amazing thing ever conceived. My favorite movies are the Christopher Guest mocumentaries like "Waiting for Guffman" and "This Is Spinal Tap", which have very little in terms of scripts and plot directions. Life is an improvisational experience, if you ask me. So I ran into my friend Bekka Eaton at the grocery store on Sunday night. Bekka is a wonderful actor/musician/director - formerly with of The Second City troupe, The Daves, and film/TV work, and now back home in Fairfield and Assistant Professor of Theater at Miami Hamilton. She asked me to do the Paul Shaffer piano thing (sorry, I'm not shaving my head) for an improv show she is directing/producing next weekend. So I spent this evening with her troupe of college and community folks figuring out how to plan for improv -kind of an oxymoron if you ask me. We had lots of laughts together and I think it's going to be great fun. If you like "Whose Line Is It Anyway", you should enjoy this evening. Who knows, even Big Red might show up.

The show is entitled "Improv-Ing Our Lives" and will be in the Studio Theater (Phelps room 307 - same building where the most excellend Parrish Auditorium is located) April 13, 14, and 15 at 7:30PM. Details are here, except the link erroneously says two nights only - trust me, it's all three nights.

Hustle and Flow

Over the weekend I watched "Hustle and Flow", featuring the Oscar-nominated performance from Terrence Howard and the Oscar-winning song of the year, "It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp" (my favorite Oscar comment from Jon Stewart - "For anyone keeping record, Martin Scorsese, zero Oscars. For Three 6 Mafia, one.") The movie also paired "Crash" castmates Howard and Ludacris for a tense scene.

I enjoy rap and hip-hop music for the most part, except for the profanity-laden stuff (well, that reduces the field considerably, I guess.) So I enjoyed that aspect of the film. But the main impact of this film was the way it transported me into the life and especially the household of Djay (Howard). These scenes, and in many ways the entire movie, felt like a stage play in a cramped theater. I'm not a claustrophobic person, but that's the operative word for the lingering sense of this film. It is set in Memphis during a long hot summer, and pimp Djay along with his crib sweltered in this environment. The effect of heat and drugs deadened them to most attempts at civility, except for a few soliloquies from Djay on the meaning of life, God, and their place in the world. Rage was the main tool in their relational arsenal. Music became their escape and salvation, even thought the ultimate path of musical "success" veered from the path Djay layed out. I have volunteered in inner city settings for some years, but I don't believe I ever felt transported into the home setting like I did watching this film. That impression will linger and hopefully will impact my work in the future.

The theme song continued to stick in my head for a couple of days as well. But I noticed it slowly mutated. Influenced by a well-known song from Annie (why, I do not know...) it became "It's A Hard-knocked Life For A Pimp" :-)

I realized this morning that I probably need to have a films section in the sidebar. And I'm also looking for solar power for my iPod - to support the "Desert Island" media requirements if ever needed :-) I'll try to get the film section and a blog roll in place within the next few days.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Religious Satire

My usual monthly ration of religious satire comes from LarkNews - should be an April issue any day now. However, the April fools issue of the SojoMail newsletter from Sojourners will really give Larknews a run for their money this month.

Music - Joseph Arthur

Music is a major (and hopefully healthy) obsession of mine. It always has been. I watch concerts like many watch sporting events. Improvisational jazz is just about the most exciting thing in the world. Consequently, much of my life has been spent playing and listening to music. I've become rather picky in my "old age", and it's rare for new music to come along and knock my socks off. So after a long dry spell, I have a new musical obsession in the works of Joseph Arthur.

He's not new on the scene. About the time I found a reference to him on Bob Carlton's most excellent blog, "The Corner", I discovered his music had been in the episode of Grey's Anatomy we had watched recently. Bob's reference was to the digital EP release of 5 different mixes of Arthur's song, "In The Sun" on iTunes. All funds from this release go to Gulf state Hurricane Relief. Also apparently Joseph has a tune in "Shrek 2", (which I have not seen). He was "discovered" by Peter Gabriel and Lou Reed, and his first three releases were on Gabriel's Real World label. So I'm hardly the only one who likes his stuff.

You can easily sample his music by going to his home page - The embedded music player plays 3 full songs from his latest release, "Our Shadows Will Remain". I've passed this on to some folks over the past month, and had about 50/50 response between those who like him and those who don't get into him. Obviously I'm in the former group. His self-described role is "someone struggling to heal over experimental folk-rock". I'm not sure that I can isolate a single aspect of his music that appeals to me the most. He certainly blends acoustic, electric, and electronic sound sources effectly. His songs contains some of the freshest hooks and sonic/melodic surprises in my recent memory. And his lyrics simultaneously puzzle, challenge, inflict guilt, inflict hope, and generate joy in the midst of this multifaceted existence of ours.

I've acquired all four of his full-length releases (he also has a couple of EP and vinyl releases), and my favorites are the two recent ones - "Our Shadows Will Remain" and "Redemptions Son". I'm certain one or both of these will soon make it to my desert island list (in the sidebar). From what I've gathered through articles and a couple of video downloads, his live solo concerts are unique, in that he creates paintings during each show. (His latest release contains a 36 page booklet of his art work - assuming you don't download it...) Through the use of a variety of guitar pedals and digital effects, he creates percussion and musical loops on the fly, and adds layers of his own vocals dynamically. So each song performance becomes effectively a new orchestration. (He also sells CDs of his concerts after the show and via his web site).

I could go on and on, but it is best to just give a listen and check out his lyrics for yourself. Let me know what you thing.

Friday, March 24, 2006

First post

Better late to the party than never. Some folks have been bugging me to blog, and I've had the itch for a while. Just hadn't found the time to get things set up. When I've moved into a new apartment or house in the past, the first things that always get set up are the stereo system and bookcases. Why should my blog be any different. So I had to get the book and music lists hooked in...they are important.

I still remember my first time...first time using a web browser, that is. I've been a library nut since my early years. Spent many preteen hours in the Cumberland Mountains community of Harriman, Tennessee (population 8000) public library - one of the almost 3000 "Carnegie Libraries" built by the industrialist Andrew Carnegie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. My reading appetite was so voracious I had to lobby for an adult library card at around age 9. One of the first books I read after getting it was Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood". They also had an unusual record collection, at least for the time - I first heard The Jefferson Airplane and Miles Davis courtesy of my small town library.

So the first time I took Netscape's predecessor Mosaic for a spin - probably around 1992 - I thought I had rediscovered the library. I even began to favor a text-based browser called Lynx because of it's speed and ability to easily bypass distracting images. And even though I've been making my living developing software for over 20 years, I'm still like a kid in a candy store when it comes to using the internet. To think that all these resources are now at my fingertips - incredible. (One of my favorite recent offerings is being able to checkout secure audio books from my local libraries and download them to my MP3 player. This certainly makes the drive to and from work more pleasurable.)

About 5 years ago I began reading the works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit priest/paleontologist/philosopher/theologian. Since I grew up as a minister's son, spirituality was always something to reckon with one way or the other. My life had been a mixture of belief and atheism - the first atheistic phase began at around age 11. My "belief" periods had always been tinged with a notion that things still didn't make enough sense for me to really buy into at least the more conservative to moderate expressions of faith that reflected my upbringing and environment. I had run across exceprts of de Chardin's writings, but the impetus to bein reading him in depth came via Wired Magaine's December 2002 issue on Science + Religion. (The crucifix image above is the cover art for that issue, and was created by Kenn Brown of Mondolithic Studios.) Through the writings of Teilhard, I finally found a grammer for spirituality that respected all the things I did believe in - science, hope, love - and integrated it with the faith of my childhood and culture. While I'm still usually at odds with the "popular" expressions of faith and belief, at the core I now have sufficient faith in God and the world to at least provide an energy and a hope for the future.

Teilhard advanced the notion of the "noosphere" (pronounced no-sphere), which represented the third sphere or envelope of the earth. The geosphere contains the inorganic foundational material of the planet. The biosphere contains the organic substances and organizms required for (hopefully) self-sustaining life forms. This third envelope - the noosphere - was for Teilhard representative of the connections that were inevitably and inescapably required (he was a strong evolutionist) for humankind to connect and communicate across cultural and geographic boundaries. As the complexity of the human condition increased, there was a need for an interdependency of thought, just as there were symboitic physical relationships required at every level of physical existence. Teilhard wrote mostly in the early part of the 20th century. His writings were censored from publication by the Roman Catholic church during his lifetime, so the first appeared a few years after his death in 1955. He barely knew of the existense of primative computers, but his vision certainly anticipated this self-organizing system we now know as the World Wide Web.

So it is important for me at many levels to make time for a blog. It fulfills social, spiritual, and creative needs. Most of my posts will deal with music, books, spirituality, and science, since those are the places where my head usually lives. I hope you will bookmark this place and come back to visit often. I'll do my best to keep things interesting.