Friday, December 28, 2007

Sweeney Todd

Deb and I had seen the stage production of "Sweeney Todd" several times, but it has been a good while since the last viewing. Still I consider it one of the most fascinating, even courageous musicals ever written. Who would have thought such a story would capture musical theater audiences. So we were anxiously awaiting Tim Burton's big screen production. Still I must say I had a bit of an "approach/avoidance" think going, after hearing about the blood and gore and knowing how dark Tim Burton can get. (Danny Devito's role of The Penguin in "Batman Returns" still creeps me out.)

After a delightful sushi lunch with our friends Jeff and Cyndi, we ventured into the local cinema to take in the flick. And it was rather mesmerizing, I must say. I've appreciated Johnny Depp in many rolls, but can't say I've been a huge fan - now I am. He was fantastic in the title role - I thought his speaking and singing voice captured the part perfectly. The singing voices of some of the other cast - Helena Bonham Carter, and Alan Rickman - were less notable, but these were the only weak links in an otherwise amazing film. The blood did flow, and I turned my head a couple of times. But the film adaptation gave more depth to the characters, and made the story that much fuller of possibilities and tragedies. I actually didn't recall the specifics of the ending, so there were still elements of suspense up until the final frame.

Deb and I both picked up on one element that hadn't been predominant in the stage productions - how we consume one another metaphorically. The film in conjunction with the sad assassination of Benazir Bhutto were sobering reminders of how far we still have to go as a human race.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My favorite Christmas present

If you look at my iTunes collection, classical music reins down at the bottom of the ranking, along with heavy metal rock. Opera is non-existent in my collection. I did spend my first two years of college as a voice major, and had to sing my share of arias in stride, but haven't touched the stuff since changing my major to psychology. The closest I come in my own musical collection is in the guest appearances of Luciano Pavoratti with U2 and Elton John. So I'm still mystified as to my own visceral reaction when I first heard Paul Potts via a YouTube clip several months back. Even pasting the clip into my blog this morning, I'm still moved to the same tears, even without watching the "Britains got talent" audience and judges doing the same. It is certainly the rags to riches story of the year in my opinion. (He was barely making it as a cell phone salesman with some recent health problems at the time he came into the limelight.) Visiting his blog on the website, it is amazing how many people have had a similar reaction to my own when hearing him for the first time.

When I first saw the clip, I immediately distributed it via email Like many things in life, I tend to forget about them in the midst of the daily living routine. I had seen references to Paul's first CD being released, but just never got around to picking it up (or more likely downloading it). My dear wife remembered, so my favorite gift of the year is Paul's CD "One Voice". I put it in the player and Deb and I both just sat on the couch and listened to the whole thing, speaking very little except to comment on arrangements or linguistics.

In reality, the album probably blends the classical and pop genres, perhaps in the way Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli have done. (I say probably, because neither of them are in my collection ). The highlights are "Nessun Dorma" and "Con Te Partiro (Time To Say Goodbye)", but the album also has a mix of some popular songs done in an "aria" style. For a couple of these - songs I could normally live without hearing again in my life such as My Way and You Raise Me Up (the latter from too many wedding gigs) - Paul and the producers had the good taste (IMHO) to perform them in Italian, so that the music is the focal point. He also performs "Cavatina", a song I've considered one of the most beautiful ever written since hearing it in the soundtrack to The Deer Hunter back in the 1970s.

So I'm thankful this year for my Paul Potts CD, which will always remind me of the surprising beauty that can emerge from chaos. It makes me think of the title/opening line of an old hymn I've heard only a few times in life - "Sometimes a Light Surprises".

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Holiday Slam

Coming up this Saturday, December 29th. Come hear the words and music flow...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

FreeSlam with smoked turkey

Yet time for another slam - this time with potluck starting at 6:30. Gonna fire up the backyard smoker and smoke some turkeys this year. Should be a tasty alternative even to regular turkey.

We had some great artists - musicians, poets, painters - last month - many connections are being made. Come join us as the Thanksgiving weekend winds down.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

October Free Slam

Come one, come all - October 27 is the date. We plan to continue these on the last Saturday of every month. You can find Tanze directions here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

New widgets and features

I haven't posted anything new for a couple of weeks, but my blog has been changing nonetheless. I spend as much time thinking about my sidebar as I do the actual content of postings, and over the past month or so I've been tweaking the sidebars to make use of tools that provide a more "seamless"way for me to track my activities. Specifically:

  • LibraryThing is an amazing site for avid readers like me. I'm using it to populate my "currently reading" and "desert island" book lists in the sidebar. All I need to do is add books to my personal library (up to 200 titles are free, beyond that you can pay - with $25 being enough for a lifetime/unlimited subscription). Then I tag them as either "current" or "desert island". When I'm finished reading something in the current list, I just remove the tag. The wonderful thing about LibraryThing is the ability to find other readers with similar tastes, locate reviews, participate in forums where the titles are mentioned, search for more info on authors, etc. My LibrayThing library is located here.
  • LastFM is a similar site for music, but especially excels in tracking and reporting listening in real time. I removed my "currently listening to" category, and replaced it with two LastFM widgets. The first one reports individual songs I've listened to recently, either from within iTunes or on my iPod. (I believe it will also integrate with WinAmp and other players). The second is the "artist quilt", which keeps track of my listening habits over time and generates a clickable patchwork image of those artists. LastFM gives many options for generating widgets within different categories. My next step is to replace the "desert island" music list with info from LastFM. My profile is here.
Along with these changes, I've also enabled Snapshot previews, which brings up an image of the website associated with various links. This morning I did some tuning to eliminate links to things like photos and sidebar sites, so the Snapshot usage is now cleaner. And all of this becomes very easy to manage due to Blogger's new layout scheme which makes it much easier to add widgets and other content via drag and drop features. I had briefly considered trying a pay blogging service, but with the layout manager features, I see no need to move.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Teilhard revisited

Teilhard de Chardin continues to be a primary influence in the development of my own world/universe viewpoint. I was fishing for some Teilhard quotes the other day and ran across an interview with physicist and mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme. Deb and I heard Dr. Swimme speak at the 2005 Teilhard convocation in New York, and I also recall reading an earlier version of this article. It is a good introduction to Teilhardian thought and the effect it can have in the development of any world view. A good reminder for me of my initial encounters with de Chardin's writings.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Narcissism of Fundamentalism

Not sure what precipitated this thought, but it struck me this morning that fundamentalism of any ilk is essentially a narcissistic phenomenon. At the core, fundamentalists seem profoundly uncomfortable with anyone being or believing differently, and are willing to fight for that conformity to their ideal. That such ideals are often attributed to divine revelation or other subjective sources is almost secondary.

Not much time to develop this right now - feel free to share some thoughts/reactions and perhaps I will expand on this later.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Joe Zawinul, 1932-2007

One of the world's greatest musicians (IMHO) died yesterday at the age of 75. Joe Zawinul was a pioneer in the jazz and especially jazz fusion (no - not smooth jazz...) world. He played on early electric Miles Davis sessions that set the stage for the whole fusion movement. He founded Weather Report, which remains my all-time favorite band of any genre, even 20 years after they disbanded. In conjunction with Wayne Shorter they produced what I consider the two most beautiful songs every written/recorded - namely "Blackthorn Rose" (on Mysterious Traveler) and "A Remark You Made" (on Heavy Weather). Probably his best known song was "Birdland".

His keyboard abilities were singular and astounding. Recently while watching some archived concert footage from the late 70s, it was amazing that a 5 piece band - keyboards, sax, bass, and two percussionists - could generate the quantity and quality of sound using the tools available in that day. I would dare anyone to listen to any album beyond their first and identify the era - the recordings are flawless and timeless. Zawinul was a master of multiple genres of keyboard music - classical, traditional jazz, funk, contemporary jazz, anything. He even inverted the keyboard note order on one of his Arp 2600 synthesizers - so that the ascending musical scale was played right to left. Said it gave him "more ideas" to work with. Like he needed them.

His compositions were more like tone poems - strong attention to melody, but equal attention to sonic inventiveness and surprise. He didn't write too many melodies that one would easily sing in the shower (besides Birdland, perhaps). My "currently listening to" list has had his most recent release - "Brown Street" - in place for a couple of months. It is a phenomenal blend of his keyboard pyrotechnics in a big band setting. I'm not usually a big band music fan, but this set of music is an exception. Anyone that can sit still through the "Badia/BoogieWoogie Waltz" medley needs to have a full physical exam.

Zawinul remained active musically with his band Zawinul Syndicate until he was hospitalized in mid-August with a rare skin cancer. His web site tribute says it best:

Joe Zawinul was born in Earth time on 07 July 1932 and was born in Eternity
time on 11 September, 2007. He, and his music, will continue to

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My Hometown

Even though I've been in Cincinnati since high school, I still consider Harriman, Tennessee my “home town”. I was born there in 1956, and lived there until 1970. In recent months I've been increasingly aware how that town continues to influence me at conscious and subconscious levels. Many of these influences have no “good” or “bad” label attached to them – they just are filters applied to my perceptions, mental images, and expectations. For example when I read a book who's scenes remotely have parallel environments, my first involuntary inclination is to place those scenes in the neighborhoods or wildernesses of that area. When I go hiking, my standard against which I measure the current trail is usually one of my childhood hiking experiences. Indeed, when we bought our home in Fairfield we first fell in love with the sense of “living in the mountains” that the location gave us, and Deb has continued to say that you can't get the mountains out of the man.

No one has a “perfect” childhood. My own was largely colored by the “life in the fishbowl” sense I had as the son of one of Harriman's more prominent ministers in one of the more prominent churches. (Harriman had around 10,000 people, and 27 Baptist churches alone! You couldn't get away from church no matter where you went.) When you combine this fishbowl with my natural introverted temperament and religious beliefs that at an early age (10 or so) tended more toward atheism, you had the recipe for a somewhat isolated childhood. But I never doubted the unconditional love of my parents, a great gift that should never be taken for granted.

In addition to family and a few friends, the strongest images I have from those years are of the home and neighborhood where we lived for most of those years. We always lived in a home owned by the church where my father was employed. When I was 4 years old, the church was given an enormous house (4700+ sq feet I have recently learned) by one of the prominent lawyers in town. He had built a new home high on the ridge that overlooked the town – a place where we often visited. I don't know any of the background or motives for this gift – all I know is that this house and neighborhood have played a huge part in my life. My love of books and reading began here, and I was only 3 blocks from the local public library funded partly by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. (We actually walked places “back then”.) I delivered newspapers and had several other door-to-door “business ventures” throughout the neighborhood. And I was free to roam the town business district as I wanted – spending my hard-earned money on records, photo supplies, and other hobby gear. The house itself had enormous rooms, including my own bedroom with a walk-in closet big enough to play in. And the multi-level basement provided the perfect environment for my increasing scientific curiosity. I was able to lay out my chemistry sets, microscopes, and electronic kits without worrying about leaving a mess around the house. The huge, terraced and partially walled yard was also a place of many childhood "adventures".

Fast forward to this Labor Day weekend. Deb and I visited East Tennessee, and I felt some strong urges to visit Harriman. In particular I wanted to walk around the old neighborhood and take some photos. It had been 10-12 years since we had visited Harriman. The last I knew our home on Walden Avenue had been turned into a multi-family dwelling of some sort, and many houses in the neighborhood had been in some stages of decline and abandonment. I don't recall being inside this home since we moved some 37 years ago.

Not wanting to alarm anyone, I decided before snooping around the yard that I would at least ring the bell and tell whoever answered why I was taking pictures. Answering the door was someone clearly without the expected southern accent. To make an already long story somewhat shorter, turns out the current residents, Michael and Donna, had grown tired of living in Florida, began traveling through the southeast (at least North Carolina and Tennessee), arrived in Harriman, and stopped their search when they found this house. They are two years into the task of restoring/reviving this home to the spirit of it's 1923 origin. Michael is a nuclear systems analyst and Donna is a professional photographer, and Harriman has become home to them. It was amazing to see a place as familiar as Harriman and this house through the eyes of newcomers who had chosen to be there, versus those of us who's birth had placed us there.

We spent the better part of an hour touring the house, with them showing the updates they had made, and asking me what it had been like when I had lived there. They had discovered the race car wallpaper under some other layers of paper in my old bedroom. Michael is a Maserati collector - in fact, is president of the North American Chapter of The Maserati Club, and is building a garage in the huge back yard to house his collection - so he seemed especially excited to have found the wallpaper. And I enjoyed showing Deb around. I had told her many tales about this house, and she agreed that I had not exaggerated its size and character. The house is just on the edge of the “Cornstalk Heights Historic District”, which has facilitated placing as many as 150 homes and buildings on the National Registry of Historic Places. There are still a number of empty homes in this tree-lined district, but apparently a number of local and out-of-state residents have decided to call it home and dedicated themselves to the long process of revitalization.

At age 14, I couldn't wait to leave Harriman behind. “Bigger is better”, the appeal of cultural opportunities and educational options were already taking hold of me. At age 51, I can't seem to detach myself from that town, and indeed don't really want to. I am fascinated by the general growth and development that occurs during early years among all of us – even more so as my own patterns and influences become clearer to me.

The rear view.

A nearby house where some childhood friends used to live.

Weekend getaway

Deb and I spent the weekend in Tennessee, visiting several new and familiar areas. We stayed at Wildwood Lodge near the Big South Fork National Recreation Area. Awesome hosts, grounds, and breakfasts. We also visited my hometown of Harriman, Tennessee - I'll have more comments on that visit in a separate post.

Here are a couple of memorable photos. The green guy on the window really wanted inside - and gave us a great view through the window. Sorry, double occupancy room only.

The area did not have many choices for dining - in fact, the most popular spot seemed to be the "Hanging Hog Bar-B-Que" restaurant, a concrete block building with a double wide mobile home attached as the dining area. Fine cuisine indeed. (The Bar-B-Que was quite good, and we know Bar-B-Que!)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Free Slam photos

Gregg Brekke took some wonderful photos at the Free Slam event we held on August 26th. It was jointly sponsored by Tanze and Nexus Church, and sprang from Bekka and Randy's gifts and visions. Gonna try to do another very soon. The full slideshow can be seen here.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ken Medema in Concert

Sunday afternoon Deb and I traveled to "inner city" Indianapolis to participate in a Ken Medema concert. I use the word "participate", although we were just a part of the audience. But there is no way to attend a Medema concert without becoming a participant.

Where to begin...I've been a huge fan/follower of Ken's music and approach to performance since my college days in the mid 1970s. It had been probably 8 years since we last attended a concert - he doesn't tend to get close to our area often (hopefully something we can remedy). Ken has always moved mostly in church-related spheres, yet he has transcended the narrow categories that most musicians of that "genre" fall into. Deb asked me the week before why I was so drawn to his music, when I tend to not give a lot of room to corporate "spiritual" talk. (I believe spiritual experiences and opinions are so subjective that most attempts to normalize people around them tend to divide rather than unite.) I retorted that Ken's compositions rarely mention God in overt ways - they tend to talk more about relationships, community, dreams, heroes, pain, healing, work, and play - very tangible, relevant things in my opinion. About 3/4 of the way through the concert, I leaned over and pointed out to her that he had only mentioned Jesus once, in a song retelling the biblical story of Zaccheus. He has composed e a number of songs that retell similar stories, but they don't tend to be my favorites from his reporitoire. And they always pull a new dimension/perspective from those stories. You don't have to say Jesus/God over and over ad nauseum in order to speak to and call out the image of God that is in all of us.

Musically Ken is a phenomenon. He has been blind since birth - I believe only seeing some shapes and degrees of light/dark. Yet he moves on stage between the piano, synthesizers, and drum machines like he has eyes in the back of his head and on the ends of his fingers. His keyboard performances are virtuoso level technically, and he constantly merges varied musical styles into his compositions - jumping from classical to modern jazz to rock to world music motifs within the same song. On Sunday I especially enjoyed hearing how some familiar songs - especially "Color Outside the Lines" and "Bound Together" - had morphed over time to include new stylistic and lyrical aspects. I could go on and on about the musicianship at work here - suffice it to say I'm glad Ken lets us all into the musical ideas that are in his head.

A special treat on Sunday was to hear his road manager, sound engineer, and visual navigator (she has a seeing-ey dog t-shirt that says "Don't bother me, I'm working...) Beverly Vander Molen perform on the 60-rank pipe organ that had been installed at Broadway United Methodist Church just a few years back. They played together on "We'll Walk No Longer" which does some great rhythmic morphing throughout it's course. Wish we could have spent a little more time around Broadway church as well - a very unique mix of high-church architecture and community focus - at least those were my impressions.

Speaking to the audience experience, Ken makes eye/heart contact through body language, vocal nuances, and constant attempts to encourage the audience to participate in his songs - singing along, completing sentences, and many other seemingly spontaneous actions. His academic training was in music therapy, and this element has continued to fuel his compositions and performances. No where is this more evident than during the segments where he invites members of the audience to tell personal stories and he responds with instant compositions. This past Sunday the two standout compositions were in response to an elderly woman talking about her work for the past 15 years with HIV/AIDS patients and a man sharing experience of he and his partner adopting a young girl with a horrific past. Both of these songs were "final quality", rather than just doodling. Many songs on his recordings start out as responses to stories, speeches, and events. (Ken will write/record personal songs upon request - for any occasion, person, subject - see details here.)

To my knowledge no one else does what Ken Medema does. That's a real shame - I wish it could be cloned or bottled so that communities all over could experience the dynamics and interactivity on a consistent basis. Short of that, he certainly provides a model and approach that many of us can learn from as we explore how to relate to ourselves and each other within our families, communities, churches, and world.

Deb and I were able to spend some time with Ken and Beverly back in July while he worked on his new recording project in Louisville. I'm listening some of those tracks as I post, and can't wait for the release in September. I'll post more about that release when it becomes official - let's just say it's as great as I would hope/expect from this musical phenomenon.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Great music this weekend

Saturday night we are going to see Bela Fleck and the Flecktones at Fraze Pavilion in Dayton. They are definitely one of the most innovative groups in music - and have been since I first started listening to them back in the 80s. Their current incarnation marries banjo acrobatics, "Roland Kirk-esq" sax stylings, and the innovative musical hijinks of the Wooten Brothers rhythm section.

Sunday we are heading to Indianapolis to experience a Ken Medema concert. He is one of my musical idols, and we use a lot of his material at our church. In addition to being a formidable pianist/producer/arranger, he has an amazing ability to listen to stories and immediately improvise really good songs about the story. He's frequently asked to do this to summaries/solidify speeches by fairly well known folks - Desmond Tutu, Lynn Redgrave, Jim Wallis, and Brian McLaren among others. I've known Ken since my college days in the 70s, and he's gotten better with time. Deb and I spent a few days with him in Louisville back in July, enjoying watching his next recording come to life. It should be released soon.

More comments and hopefully pictures after the weekend.

More Wendell Berry books

After reading Jayber Crow, I ordered more Wendell Berry books in the Port William series. So those will start showing up in the current list at the right. I opted to order used copies of the hardback versions (through Amazon merchants) where possible, since hardbacks are so much better in quality and longevity, as well as being easier to read leisurely. Jayber Crow was such an earthy tale, it almost felt as if I should search the highways and byways for old book stores (which probably don't exist anymore) rather than ordering copies via the Internet.

I plan to read the collection of novels and short stories in chronological order when possible. That Distant Land is a collection of 23 short stories and contains the beginnings of the saga, circa 1888. And I've been spending a little time at this web site, which is a hub for online information about Berry.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Free Slam

Click on the image for more details. (And doesn't Jeff do great work!)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Desert Island Lists

When I first started blogging, and restarted blogging a few weeks back, the most important task was to attend to my music and book lists. Making sure these lists are available was more important than actual blog entries - kind of like when I make sure the stereo is set up first in a new residence - then I can get on with the work at hand.

I've always loved the notion of "desert island" lists, even though it's unlikely that I'll be appearing in Castaway any time soon. But for some reason I am drawn to books and music that I know have more to offer than one reading or a few listenings will yield. When I was writing computer games for a living, an industry/consumer publication (I don't recall which one) asked some game developers what one game they would want if stranded on a desert island. One developer said "Visual C++", which was the programming language and tool most widely used at that time for developing new games. I thought it was a profound answer. I'll take the one thing that is renewable, able to be looked at freshly each day - the one that has enough raw material for a lifetime.

So perhaps I'll take the opportunity to occasionally write about items on my list. In fact, why not start now. I'll pick an easy one from the book list - Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. This is probably the most entertaining book I have ever read. It was sheer fun from start to finish - sort of a combination of computer hacking and swashbuckling adventure spanning a 60 year timespan. The computer episodes were detailed enough to seem authentic and challenging if you are a true tech lover like I am. And the adventure segments were highly imaginative, yet totally believable. I still carry strong images of two particular themes/scenes- a daring Japanese POW escape from a Pacific island via tunnel, and a running thread where a familiarity with pipe organ mechanics leads to mastery of various computing and decoding devices. The book is over 900 pages long, and I nearly read it in one long sitting!

Currently Reading - Jayber Crow, Part 2

I finished this beautiful book a few days ago. It still creeps into my thoughts and actions, calling me to slow down and not be so dependent on external stimuli for wellbeing and survival. I will be reflecting on this one for a long time. And I'll be searching for more books by Wendell Berry. It will probably make it to the desert island list shortly.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Currently Reading - Jayber Crow

I've heard the name Wendell Berry referenced in numerous places over the past few years - primarily in conversations and writings dealing with sustainable practices and the connection with spirituality. But I had not read any of his works other than portions of online essays, until I ran across Jayber Crow on my local library shelf.

The full title is "Jayber Crow: The Life Story of Jayber Crow, Barber, of the Port William Membership, as Written By Himself" - whew. This is one of the most lovingly written books I have read. No other words describe the prose here. Every page - nearly every paragraph - is quotable, as Jayber describes life in the Kentucky River valley. When reading fiction, I'm usually drawn to mystery and intrigue, with complex twists and turns. This book is the opposite, but I don't want to put it down. I'm only halfway through, so will post more when completed. But I had to point it out. From researching more on Berry's writings, it appears he has written seven other books based on the Port William community, and uses it as a prototype for what works and what doesn't in societies we build and evolve. Growing up in a small southern town as I did, many of the characters come alive with faces from my childhood. But the images go beyond nostalgia, into a realm of evaluating those things in my life that have worked and have not, even as Jayber looks back over his life span. This is just a beautiful book

Here are a few phrases from the section I'm currently reading:

The local foul-mouthed church janitor talking about his proper wife...

the madam goes around committing virtue left and right
When describing a late-night encounter where he stoically and wordlessly sat with a grief-stricken father who was dealing with the loss of his son in WW2:
After a while, though the grief did not go away from us, it grew quiet. What had seemed a storm wailing through the entire darkness seemed to come in at the last and lie down.
I feel that I could find worthwhile quotes in this book as easily as the old game where one opens a book (phone book, bible, whatever) to a random page and points their finger at a random spot. It is rich in wisdom and humor, and transcends the local community to provide universal ideas.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Adler and Hearne Concert

Last Wednesday evening close to 30 folks joined together for an "enhanced house concert" with our friends Lynn Adler and Lindy Hearne from Texas. Lynn and I have been close friends since we attended college together back in the 70s. We worked on numerous musical projects together during college years, and our friendship has stood the test of time since those days. She and Lindy did a house concert a couple of years ago at our place, and they decided to do another northern tour to beat the Texas heat for a short while. Their final destination was northwest Michigan!

The concert was a wonderful blend of humor, creativity, and direct communication with the audience. This time we held the concert at Tanze Performing Arts Studio. Susan Moser was gracious to let us use the space, and it was perfect for the event. Everyone walked away with one or more songs on their mind. My favorite from two years ago is still my favorite this time around - "You Pierce Me", a story of love within the Goth/pierced community. (Why, I don't know - I'm neither Goth nor pierced...).

Here are some pics of the event, straight from Lindy's new camera. Later in the evening, as we drank martinis at home, Lindy entertained us all with photo mashup slideshows of ourselves from back in the 70s - lots of bell bottoms, polyester, and puffy hair! Sorry I don't have any of those shots - NOT!

Must Not See TV

One of the networks used "Must See TV" as their motto several years back. This derivative fits a new show that we had high hopes for. Saving Grace features Holly Hunter, who tends to be entertaining and surprising in most roles. I don't recall the first film I saw her in, but she is one of the actors that draws my attention to a project. We gave the TNT show a couple of weeks to sink in, but in spite of positive critical reviews, it just doesn't work for me. I didn't expect the "angels among" us story element added to the usual crime drama fare. This time, the angel is a tobacco-chewing southerner with bad teeth and hair. The net result reminds me of a really bad church play with sex and violence. Sure, Hunter's character is supposed to be impulsive and unstable, but she's mostly just incoherent. The show is so disconnected that by the end of last night's episode I could barely remember the particular crime that was supposedly consuming the main characters. Nuff said...don't bother with it...

End of a frisbee era

Our 7-year old red tri-color Australian Shepherd, Rudy (on the right), has been an incredible Frisbee dog over the years. He never seems to tire of catching it and giving 110%. I've seen him do mid-air 360 degree turns a couple of times. We noticed a few times this summer that moderate amounts of exercise (especially when company had been over swimming and playing with him) resulted in limping the day after. Deb took him to the vet today, and the X-ray showed fairly severe hip dysplasia at work. The doctor said surgery wasn't called for yet, but he did prescribe Rymadil for arthritis, and said his frisbee-catching days are probably over. So we are sad - it was a wonder to watch him catch, and to see how intensely focused he would become when waiting for the next throw.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Technology-assisted reading

So I was reading Stalin's Ghost recently. All of Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko novels feature Russian culture and characters. I was curious about the lay of the land in an area called Tver. Well, I have Google Earth, don't I? So I started it up, hoping to just find a map and some satellite images. The image was full of blue dots. Clicking on one, I discovered user-uploaded photos - each dot connected to a unique view within the town - many along the river that played an important role in the novel. The images were served via Panoramio - many from a user nicknamed Rush. So I looked in my own back yard of Fairfield, Ohio, and found lots of photos from our area, including shots of the park we frequent. What an amazing way to connect with others within my own community and the world. And what a great way to read a book!

Still I do love technology!

(If you've watched the film "Napoleon Dynamite" and didn't stay past the credits, you've missed this line in Kip's hilarious wedding song.)

So what's been happening on this end during the blog silence? Let me's a few...

  • Deb and I have been a part of a new church startup - Nexus Church - affiliated with the United Church of Christ denomination. We meet on Sunday mornings at Tanze Performing Arts Studio in Fairfield. It's an interesting experience - first time we've been connected to a new church. Got some very creative people in the community, and I'm challenged with directing the music and band. We use very little church-based music - preferring stuff from folks like Joseph Arthur, Todd Rundgren, Van Morrison, Depeche Mode, and many others. My friends Yvan (percussion) and Steve (bass) make up the core of the band, with Steve's wife Janet often playinig cello. We are still finding our identity as a "progressive" community of folks who connect with the Christian story to varying degrees. Several folks bring their creative visual abilities to the table - check out Jeff and Cortney.

  • Early in the year I hooked up with a great local guitarist named Gary King. He had a new CD worth of original jazz/rock fusion music and was hoping to put a band together to play out in support of the CD. We later found David Yates and Kevin Ross and had our quartet in place. But after a few months rehearsal and great creative juices, Gary's wife had a sudden job transfer. So our group was short-lived - Gary and family have been consumed with the task of moving this summer. We hope to figure out some ways to continue our project remotely once things settle down. Advances in software in the past few years will at least allow us to record while living in different areas. Meanwhile, you can catch Gary's latest CD, "A Life of Its Own" at CD Baby or listen to tracks on his MySpace page. Well worth your while if you are into fusion music. Pretty accessible even if you are not into that style.

  • Deb and I traveled to Greece, Italy, and Turkey back in October - been a goal for many years. You can catch our pics here. A map of the area we covered along with photos linked to locations can be found here.

Blogging Redux

Gonna try to resurrect this blog - it's been a long time. I don't find time to post as often as I'd like, but have found some tools recently that help keep track of things that are important to me - primarily books and music. For current book lists, etc., LibraryThing seems to have most of what I want:

  • Ability to easily update current reading sidebar
  • Link with others who like the same books
  • Multiple editions supported, with lots of cover options.

For music lists, I'm trying out Listal. So far, so good. I'll try to be more consistent, so hope you'll stop by occasionally, or hook me into your favorite blog reader. I personally use GoogleReader.