Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year


 Hey!
Happy New Year!
It's 11:01, according to the clock on my computer. We're doing New Year's Eve with our kids and some of their friends. We've got food. We've got Family Game Night games on the wii. Everyone is pretty happy here, and I'm glad.

I hope you're having a good time right now without being to stupid about it. Stupid drives much of the behavior that happens on New Years Eve, and I seriously hope for better with you.

I want to say, right now, for the record, that I am very thankful. I'm thankful for today. I'm thankful for my friends and family. I'm thankful for all the blessings I have and most assuredly don't deserve.

I hope that you will treasure every moment that you have in this new year. There's no way to know how many moments any of us have left. So treasure them. Make the most of them. Make them count. And remember:

God loves you.


Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Time Is Here


I am trying to have a good week before Christmas. Like, on purpose.

Does anyone else have bad weeks before Christmas?

I have this history of not having a good week before Christmas. Frankly, it’s a little weird, but it happens. In fact, it has so routinely been a not good week, and I seriously mean “not good,” that I have come to somewhat dread this time period. But I have tried to set things up this year, on purpose, in a way that will reduce the odds of having such a not good week. I want to break the cycle, so to speak.

Don’t ask for details. I won’t be forthcoming. The reasons are too many. The details too personal. But I have tried to head things off at the pass by arranging things and stepping back from things to keep the pressure off and stay at peace.

If you have a tough time with the holidays, please know that you aren’t alone. A lot of us struggle because the idealistic nature of the celebrations don’t really match up with so much of the reality that we have to deal with each day. I don’t know how to solve all your problems. Only God, in Christ, can help you with that. But I do know that most of us are simply trying to do too much and it’s making us crazy.

I can only suggest that you trim some things off the edges. Think about what’s really important. Try to make better choices about what you do with your time and money.  Don’t fill up every moment on the calender. Leave some breathing room in there. Yeah, I know. It’s hard to do that. But if the way you are doing things now is making you miserable, then you need to change they way you’re doing things.

Don’t lose sight of what the holidays are. They are meant to be holy days. Days we set apart to focus on spiritual things. Sometimes we set them apart on our calenders, but not in our hearts. And that’s where things start going bad.

Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Almighty Christmas Dollars


Homer: I love you Marge.

Marge: I know that. You tell me that all the time.

Homer: Oh? Good. ‘Cause I do love you Marge. And I don’t deserve you as much as a guy with a fat wallet and a credit card that won’t set off that horrible beeping.

$$$$$$$$$$$$

Here’s the thing. Christmas costs too much. Not a little too much. A lot too much. Massively too much. It just does. All the way around. I know our economy depends on it. I get that. Whoda thunk that the birth of God into the world as a human would become the linchpin of western financial stability?

But it costs too much. It’s insane really. It's some form of cultural insanity. And the pressure on people who simply don’t have the money is immense. They have kids too. They have friends with all of the cultural expectations about gift giving. People say "It's the thought that counts." But they are lying. No one cares about thoughts.

I don’t know what to do about it. We try to cut back, but it's not as easy as you'd think. It really is bigger than all of us. It has very little to do with the real deal of Christmas, and I’m not saying it’s all bad.

It just costs too much.

That’s all I’m saying.


© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

LW Christmas Updated Update


It has been fun hearing different people talk about the songs they like on the Christmas recording. Women and young children seem to particularly like Away In A Manger. The teens and twenty somethings like O Come Emmanuel. And a lot of the 40 and 50 somethings seem to really like It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. It’s interesting to see what strikes different people.

I’ve listened to the recording now about 7.5 million times. I had to play each song over and over and over and over and over again while recording, mixing and mastering with the other guys. And I’ve had in on in the car. As of today, I think I like listening to Coventry Carol the most. It might be a different one tomorrow. But Coventry Carol turned out like a little chamber orchestra piece, in a way. It’s simple, but I think it’s cool how it turned out.

Some people have asked if In the Bleak Midwinter is an original song. It’s not. Coventry Carol and In the Bleak Midwinter are both standard carols in England/Europe. A friend of mine is from Scotland and he said he grew up singing those songs as a child. The only original music on the recording is By The Fire, which is based on a poem by Longfellow, and the bridge to Away In A Manger. Everything else is a traditional piece from the Public Domain.

It was very hard to get done, but now that it’s done and I get to sit in the car and listen to it while I do other things, it’s kind of fun to listen to it. You sort of forget that it’s your own thing. It just becomes its own thing. The music of the spheres.

Anyhow. It’s been doing well for the church. It’s helping a lot. And our musicians are pretty proud of it, which makes me happy. Now they’re talking about recording a worship set of original songs for summer, and then another Christmas one for next year. It makes me a little tired to even think of doing it, but we’ll see.

I’ll mention again that you can get the download for a donation of 10 bucks or more at the church website. If you want a CD you’ll have to contact me. We appreciate, seriously, how kind and generous everyone has been with this. You are a wonderfully amazing people out there.

Yep. This is the Link.

Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Like Hotcakes


I thought I’d share the good news that the LivingWater Christmas Vol. 01 CD and download is on it’s second print run today. Yep. We’ve gone through the first print, so if you want one of those, you’ll have to get one from the second print run because they are identical. No special editions here. Or you can get the identical digital download on our church website with a donation of 10 or more smackaroos.

Also, I’m happy to say that no one has had the courage to tell me they hate the recording yet. Or perhaps they are just being kind. Either way, I’m happy not to know if you hate it.

But I think you’ll like it if you don’t already. There’s a lot of different kinds of things on there. No two songs are really alike. Different styles, different singers, different musicians. It’s a cornucopia of music, you could say, if you use the word “cornucupia.” It’s not as common as it used to be.

Anyway. IF you want in on the fun, here’s the link to the download. If you want it on CD, pick it up at the church or contact me through the comments here or on Facebook or on the church website and we can figure something out.

All proceeds go to the church to help us find a home. I'm pretty sure it qualifies as a good deed of some kind. So, thanks. And don't forget to like us on Facebook.

YES, THIS IS THE LINK TO THE DOWNLOAD!

© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Where Are The Chestnuts?


People are asking questions about the new LW Christmas Vol. 1 recording. Here are some answers.

1. No, it is not me singing on all those songs. (And ha ha, by the way.) Those are women on some of those songs. My friends Katie and Janel sing the ones that sound like women are singing them. And the songs that are sung by a guy with a really great, very cool voice with a bit of an edge: that’s my young Padawan Jereme. He’s the bomb. But thanks for thinking I sing like a woman. And thanks for thinking I could possibly sing as well as Jereme. But I can’t.

2. We don’t have that “chestnuts” song on the recording, and many others that we might have liked to do, because we had to do original or public domain songs to avoid copyright infringement issues. We’re going to look into getting license to do some other things next year, but we thought the limitation actually helped us to produce a Christmas recording that was a little less trite than is usual these days.

3. Yes, that “first song” is one of mine. The song “By the Fire” is an original, based on an old poem by Longfellow. Another song writer did this with another Longfellow poem. It’s the song “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day,” which we did not record, by the way. And the bridge on “Away In A Manger” is also original. Everything else on the recording is traditional Christmas stuff arranged by our team of musicians.

4. The cover artwork for the recording was done by a local artist named Jim Pappas. He doesn’t have a website yet, but he’s wanting to get one going. If he does, I’ll let you know about it on my blog.

5. Yes, there are a lot of different musicians on different songs. We got as many involved from the church as we could with the time we had. And the kids singing on Jingle Bells are from our church. I used a hand held field recorder to record them at church then dropped the track into the mix, along with recording some of the kids in the studio. We plan to get even more of our people on the next one next year (if we do one, which we might). It was a pretty big group of people overall laying down tracks and getting it finished. They all rock. Mightily.

6. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.


Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

LW Christmas Vol. 01


I know, I haven't been very vigilant with the blog. I haven't lost interest, I've just been otherwise occupied.

I've been doing my first full production job for a Christmas recording. Using my small studio set up, I and a group of intrepid ar teests have been producing a set of songs to help raise money for our church. And it's finally FINISHED!! It is a grass roots production, but not as grass roots as you might think. We've got CD's and there is a download option at our church website. It's a ten dollar donation thing.

In case you don't realize it yet, today's blog is the first of many shameless promotions that I'm going to be involved with over the next few weeks.

Hundreds of hours of time and labor and kindness have been poured into this thing at zero cost for our church (dollar wise) and every single penny we manage to gather is going to the church to help get a decent building fund up and running. An artist/art teacher at the church did the cover art for us. Some of our musicians helped me get the mastering done. A bunch of people put their voices and musical ability on it, and we even have the kids from church singing on it. If we do another one, we're going to get more people on it next time. We just ran out of time this year.


Like I said, it's to help raise much needed funds. If you want a copy on CD you'll have to contact me, or better yet, show up at church and get one there. The easiest thing would be to get the download, which you will find at the following link on our church website:

LIVINGWATER CHRISTMAS V1

I thank you in advance for your support, and I hope you enjoy the songs. Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Missing Surprises


 I recently read a movie review. It was like many modern film reviews. It was annoying. I’m not talking about whether or not the reviewer liked the movie. I’m talking about this trend to do a long Cliffs Note on a movie, followed by a short, perfunctory explanation about how the movie did or didn’t “impress” the reviewer in the way the reviewer wanted the film to. They can tell you if they liked it. They can tell you what kind of bugged them about the film. But they can't much tell you why.

This is the trend. It's been going on for a while. Out of six paragraphs, four are spent recounting the film, followed by a mindless blurb about whether or not the movie made a good impression. Was it too gory or too silly or too whatever? Theme? What's that? Cinematography? What's that? Subtext? What's that?

And the teasers for the films are the same. Mindless. These advertisements for the movies that reveal the entire, tired, plot in 30 seconds, leaving you no real reason to actually see the movie. Gotta review that movie. Don’t have much to say. Guess I’ll spend a bunch of time spoiling the thing with a pointless description of the plot so I can get this review over with and get to what I really want to do.

The reviewers spend more time talking about the plot of the film than the merits/weaknesses of the film. It happens all the time these days. And they seem to be operating under the assumption that you won’t understand their review unless, what? Unless you’ve already seen the movie? Which you haven’t? So they have to tell you all about the movie so you can understand their shallow review?

And books are the same these days. A lady gave my wife some books she thought I would like. Some paperback “thrillers” which is a genre spearheaded by Tom Clancy and John Grisham. Some people call them “suspense” novels. Military thrillers. Medical suspense.Whatever. So I have this “thriller/suspense” book in my hand, I’m looking it over, and on the back it says this:

“As Tony and Anne begin to peel back the layers of Marissa Fordham’s life, they find a clue fragment here, another there. And just when it seems Marissa has taken her secrets to the grave, they uncover a fact that puts Anne and Haley directly in the sights of a killer: Marissa Fordham never existed.”

Oh. Really. And this element was so non essential to the enjoyment of this “suspense” story and how it played out that we could reveal it on the back of the book? And how long do we have to wait for the people in the story to find out this little tidbit? Well. Even if it's unimportant to the plot, it's dumb to print what even looks like a major plot point on the cover of a book. Especially a “suspense” book. It makes you feel like there’s not going to be any suspense.

It seems to me that the people promoting these movies and books and such either think we’re really stupid and need to be led along on a string, or they are the ones who are really stupid and somehow, unaccountably, don’t realize that they are ruining the experience for a lot of us. But, whichever it is, there is definitely some stupid going on somewhere.

Anyway. Bye now, and...

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Piles


I’ve been very busy. Nuttily busy. Life makes piles, miles and miles of piles, and I try to clean them up.

Verily.

Working on a big music project. Trying to get some preplanning for my work and family done for the coming months. Trying to do waaaaaay overdue cleaning and organizing. Trying to figure out how we’re going to get through the Christmas season without losing my mind.

It’s hard to keep track of things. And I don’t really like having so much on the table at once. It unsettles me. But what can you do?

Jesus said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

As always. He’s right.

Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Grimm


Speaking of monsters, I hesitate to mention this, but I saw the premiere of a new TV show called “Grimm.” I hesitate to mention it because it’s on opposite of Fringe, and I really like Fringe. It’s one of my favorite shows in a long, long time. I don’t want anything getting in the way of Fringe, but Grimm, man, it is good. Police procedural, forensics, monster show. The bad guy on this one creeps you out, makes you laugh at the same time. Not since X Files have I seen bad guys like this.

If these two shows were on the same channel, one right after the other, it would be a good reason to stay home and watch TV.

I don’t know how the show will turn out overall, but this first Grimm episode was an absolute blast, in my humble opinion. Creepy, funny, unpredictable, goofy, serious, the whole package worked for me.

I also watched that other show that’s supposed to be like it. It’s called “Once Upon A Time.” Let me just say: they are NOTHING alike. Once Upon A Time was NOT scary, funny, unpredictable, or serious. It is pretty much just goofy, but kind of okay in a chick flick sort of fashion. It’s better for a family audience, though not little kids oddly enough. Teenage girls will probably like it a lot. And, who knows, they might manage to make something good out of it over time. I don’t know. For that matter, they might ruin Grimm in short order.

But the first one was really, really good. I’m telling you. It totally modern, and yet it has the feel  of a Spielberg movie from the 80's, with the smarts of a J. J. Abrams thing, yada yada yada. I could go on. But it’s just kind of cool to find a show this fun in the morass of all that they release year after year that is almost unbearable to watch.

I highly recommend the first episode. We’ll see about the rest. If you want to watch it, you can see it on HULU here:

GRIMM ON HULU

Let me know what you think...

Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monsters


I really, really, really like monsters. Really.

More than anything else, I like the design and the creativity of them. Someone had to come up with that thing, whatever the monster is. Some prefer to call them “creatures” these days, but I like the word “monster.” Monsters literally have to be created by an artist of some kind. An author, a graphic artist, a film maker. It’s really amazing when you stop and think about it. If you think it’s easy to do, step away from the computer right now and go draw an original, cool monster. I dare you.

Trust me, it’s not easy. Especially the “original” part.

I like how creepy some of the monsters are, but only if there is some kind of fun through line in the story surrounding them. I don’t much like movies that only scare. GOTCHA. They’re fine, but that’s not really my cup of ectoplasm.

I like the idea of monsters, the notion, mostly because I know they aren’t real. The more real something is, the less you actually want to be scared by it. That’s my hypothesis anyway. If you think that death in a movie is anything like the real thing, then you are deceived. And monsters are the same way. Real monsters, which are almost always human (or, perhaps, an illness), are not something we really want to toy with. Some human beings are much more genuinely frightening than anything anyone has ever managed to put on a movie screen. Trust you me.

Much better, or at least much more fun, are the monsters we create with our imaginations. The ones who say something about the nature of being human. The ones that creatively reflect the things we feel inside, good and bad, but have a hard time expressing. I think the pretend monsters help us, in a small way, to cope with the threat of the real ones.

And, even if they don’t, they’re fun, plain and simple.


© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cheap Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes



I finally saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It was at the dollar show. I almost never go to see a first run film anymore. The prices have gotten outright stupid. So, I know this is old news for a lot of people, but I also know that a lot of people, like me, don’t see movies until they come out on DVD or Blu Ray. If you’re patient, you can see movies on the cheap. Used DVDs, cheap rentals, dollar shows and the like. That’s how we roll here in Money Doesn’t Grow On Treesville..

So. Back to the movie.

It was pretty good. Not a great film, but a well done film. It was entertaining and had a good energy to it, with a fairly compelling plot line. It dealt with questions of “science gone wrong,” and it was interesting because the motive of the scientist (at least the main one) is a good one, but it still produces catastrophe, partly due to the efforts of opportunistic investors and partly due to the passion of the scientist. Just this simple theme of motive not equaling out to good results is an interesting cautionary premise that has some moral weight and gives you a little something to think about when you leave the show.

The acting was good. John Lithgow is always good. But I’ve always felt like he wasn’t quite as on as he could be. Don’t know why. It’s just an impression from years of watching him in movies. But he’s a good actor. My only complaint might be James Franco, who isn’t a bad actor. He’s just not an especially expressive one. His face just doesn’t emote like some of the great actors. You spend time wondering what the guy is thinking and feeling when you know the director wants you to know. If you want an example of someone doing it right, watch Johnny Depp in Finding Neverland. He says so little with his mouth, but masterfully speaks volumes with his face and eyes.

The effects for ROTPOTA were good, but not great over all. In some set pieces they were phenomenal. In others, they seemed a bit rushed and shoddy. It was a big task that probably should have cost more time and money than it did. The main ape character, “Caesar,” has two or three basic phases in the film. He is shown as a baby chimp, as a young chimp and then as a full grown chimpanzee. Once he’s full grown, he looks pretty darn good. You can forget, for the most part, that he’s an animated piece of art. They had Andy Serkis (aka Gollum) do the motion capture acting. That was a good idea. But the earlier image incarnations are not nearly as well done as the final one. They come off plastic and stiff. I was worried about this from the trailers and they didn’t fix it. You really have to make an extra effort to suspend your disbelief for the “young” Caesar. I usually able to do that, for the most part, but it was a little tough with this one. It “pushes the bounds of credulity,” as they should say.

Anyway. Did I like it? Yes. It was fun. It was entertaining and had good pacing and acting. Was it a truly great film? No. Those have become more and more rare these days. If you like Sci Fi at all, you’ll probably enjoy this. Watch it for fun. Don't take it too seriously.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Time Pieces


I was so small that I could hide under the end table in the living room, next to the couch. I’d lay under the table and watch feet go by. My mom would play Marty Robbins’ Greatest Hits on our long stereo/TV unit. I was very impressed by this media device. It took up an entire wall and served as a table to put food on when guests were over. I stared at the speakers on the thing, with the green carpet soft beneath me. The green curtains flowing in the breeze. I could smell Windex in the air mixed with the smell of spaghetti sauce or some other thing going in the kitchen. It seemed that my mom was always cooking or cleaning. Washing clothes. Doing something in the yard. I’d sit under that table and watch the feet and listen to the voices. Hearing what happened in the house without me in the mix. Amazed sometimes at how long it took someone to ask where I was. I remember the light, the cast of it. There are many different kinds of light. Morning light, afternoon, evening. The light of bulbs in dark rooms. The light changes the colors. Deepens them or flattens them. Some days are days of deep color. Some days are grey. I remember.

The scene shifts and I am slightly older. I’m sitting on the inside of the house, looking out the window at the rain. I’m watching it trickle down the window. I’m impressed at how well the window keeps the rain out. It makes me feel more safe. I like the way the water looks, the way the light bounces off of it, as it rolls down the outside of the window. I like the sound of the rain on the window.

The scene shifts and I’m walking out the front door, completely encased in clothes and a coat and gloves and the snow is piled very high. The sun is bright and it is so, completely, white out there. It hurts your eyes to look at it. And I dive into that light and make tunnels in the bright snow. I want to be an Eskimo until I get too cold. I hate being too cold. It upsets my insides.

The scene shifts and I’m laying on my new bunk bed, staring at the slats above my head, holding up my brothers mattress. My brother is sleeping above me. Just before the light was turned off, I slid my glasses onto one of those slats, thinking that it’s great to have that little shelf there just for my glasses. The light is off. I stare at the light coming in from under the door. I listen to the voices outside my room. I can’t make out what they’re saying. I stare at that light until I fall into sleep.


Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Adventures with Joe - The Bubble Edition


My buddy Joe got tickets for the kids and dads (and grandpa Joe) to see Fan Yang, the amazing bubble man, who puts on his Gazillion Bubble show. And it really was a gazillion. The kids loved it, even thought it was a little hard to see the creations because they are made out of, well, bubbles. Which are, for the most part, transparent. He did add colored lights and smoke and some other things, and it was all pretty amazing.

On the way out, Joe commented on how impressive it was that this guy had managed to make a “thing” out of bubbles. In other words, a show and a lively-hood. Most people trying this kind of thing would end up doing it at birthday parties for little kids, but this guy is the big league of bubbles.

The bubble stuff was very impressive. But what impressed me more is the amount of air this guy had to blow into those bubbles, almost all with his mouth. I would have passed out. Seriously.

If you’re at all curious, you can see him on his website here:

Gazillion Bubbles

© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Don't Get Me Started


I am dealing with some genuine, real anger, and it has to do with my experiences over the past few days with businesses. I have been trying to find out what’s going on with a package that is coming through both UPS and the Post Office. It’s like a double whammy of “Oh no. Please no.” And I have been trying to buy groceries and do the normal things of life. But things have decayed to the point that you almost don’t want to leave the house or ever talk to one of these companies ever again. It is more becoming more true than ever before in human history that people are just numbers.

The only thing worse, these days, than not getting any customer service is actually getting it. Through the use of our wondrous technology, every company in the world is eliminating that dreaded problem of actually having to talk to the actual customers who are actually trying to use their actual products and services. For the customer it’s all actual. For the companies, it’s becoming more and more virtual. They put a virtual human beings voice on an answering machine, and if you don’t tell that virtual voice what it wants to hear, it says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that.” And they try to make the voice sound really sorry that it “doesn’t get that.” But the reality is that you either do it their way or you don’t do it all.

I have found that if you scream really loud at the virtual voice, “I want to talk to a real person!!!” then that sometimes trips a menu that they don’t tell you is there and a real person comes on the line. And this is where your problems really begin.

This real person does NOT want to talk to you. They know you were not happy with the virtual voice, they know your problem has some actual complexity to it, and they are now a mediator between you and their virtual, computer based problem solving information systems. Now it’s their job to deal with the virtual voice and they don’t like it. When you tell them what your problem is, they click on the virtual voice on their own little computer. The virtual voice tells them “I didn’t get that,” and so the real person says to you, “Hmmm. Well, that’s not supposed to happen.” So now you’re dealing with both the annoying virtual voice and an employee of some big company who is working hard to get you off the phone without really helping you, but hoping to make you feel better about it somehow than you did with the virtual voice.

And don’t get me started on the grocery stores (too late), where you are expected, more and more, to behave as if you are an employee of the store.  Last night I was at Meijers grocery, and as I was walking to the one and only human operated checkout, the girl turned off her light. When she saw me, two seconds later, she just shrugged her shoulders like, “Oh well.” I said, can’t someone ring these up for me?” I had quite a few groceries. But she just shrugged. Do it their way or you can just leave. You get to ring up your own groceries, solve pricing issues, bag your groceries and do it all with a disinterested employee watching from a distance, treating you like an idiot if you have a problem with their computer system. Pretty soon they’ll have us stocking the shelves and sweeping the floors for them and they’ll still act like they’re doing us a favor. And don’t think for a second that this is just at Meijers. K-Mart, Walmart, restaurants, gas stations, it’s all becoming the same beast.

Whatever. I’ve complained enough. But, seriously, it’s about to put me out of my mind.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dark Water


We slept in the car, on the road between here and that place of loss. To view empty bodies. Broken. I was empty headed and too young for my own good. Talking stupid came easy to me. But he was wise beyond his years. And kind. He took me to the door of death and stood with me while I peeked in. I didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t know how to process it.

I had seen the cost of this over the years, had lived with the cost, endured it, but I was too young to feel the pull of the waves. I was farther down the stream, where you can imagine waterfalls and oceans, instead of the dark flow from hard rock on the side of a moss covered mountain that no one can stop up.

Later, I saw the water rise, flood the hospital room where my grandmother was drowning in her mortality. It didn’t scare me but it disturbed me. It shook my spirit. And I have seen this wash of mortality again and again since. I have held the hand of people, soaking in it, waiting for the waves to take them under.

It makes me wonder how well I will tread this awful, dark water myself. How will I handle it as it fills my lungs. As I’m reaching for that strong hand on the other side to pull me up to safety.

© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Here


I’ve been trying to not think about God in an abstract way. I mean, very purposefully trying to not think of God in the abstract and, instead, think about God as the very present reality that God is.

I find this hard to do to some degree.

It’s so much easier to think about God as “out there” somewhere, or to think of God as an idea, driven by a set of definitions.

Not that these ways of thinking are totally wrong. God is out there. But God is also here, and it doesn’t matter where here is, he’s there. And God is definable to some degree because God has chosen to reveal some things about himself that are definable. But the fullness of God is more than we could ever imagine, and God’s fullness is present everywhere.

So, what if you considered the presence of God as just that? As just what it is? God is present where you are, right now, and where everyone is, right now, and he’s God. Everything that God is, God is that, right there with you, right now where you are. God is aware. God is present. Not ambivalent. Not unconcerned. Not apart, but present and active, right where you are. Where we are.

Does that change anything for you?



Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Things That Happen Too Often


I call someone.

They don’t answer their phone.

They say to leave a message.

I’m leaving a message.

While I’m leaving a message my call waiting beeps.

They are calling me back while I’m leaving them a message.

I flip over to them calling me back and tell them I’m leaving them a message.

They say, “Hmmm.”

Then we talk about what we needed to talk about.

Then we hang up.

Then my phone rings.

It’s the call waiting calling me back from when I was leaving them a message.

I realize what it is and I hang up the phone.

Fifteen minutes later the phone rings.

It’s the number of the person who I called before.

I answer the phone.

“Hello?”

They don’t answer, but I can hear them talking, to someone else, because they have accidentally hit the redial button on their phone.

I listen to hear if they are cussing anyone out.

I get bored and hang up.


The end.


Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

I Think I'll Pass


Some things that I recently checked out, gave a shot, patiently tried out, but I didn’t care for and am giving a pass:

1. Modest Mouse.

In case you don’t know, this is a band. You know how you kind of hear about this or that band? I’d heard a few people mention this band over the years. So I gave a listen. What I heard, and I listened to quite a bit, sounded like a not so polished garage band trying too hard to be the Rolling Stones with stream of consciousness lyrics that make you bored before the songs end.

2. The “Dots” game.

This is a pencil and paper game, maybe you’ve played it, where there are dots all over the page. You take turns trying to make squares out of the connected dots, and whoever makes the most squares wins. Me and my kids have never finished a game. Ever. After many tries. It’s just too boring and repetitive. Maybe if you were stuck on an elevator you could have fun with this game by comparison to what else you have to do, but otherwise...

3. Marinated Mushrooms

I like mushrooms. Not the psychedelic kind, but the kind you eat because you like the taste, if you like the taste. And I like the IDEA of marinated mushrooms. Seems to make sense. So I bought some marinated with garlic, which were so garlicky that they were practically inedible. I tried cutting them up and putting them in very small doses in some things and they stood out like pieces of glass in a mouthful of egg whites. But maybe that was just a bad batch? So I tried some other marinated mushrooms, marinated in I don’t remember what, but it was the same kind of thing: over powering scent and flavor. So I’m thinking this just isn’t meant to be.

4. REALLY Cheap Toilet Paper

Cheap toilet paper. You need it after the bad marinated mushrooms and, well, it gets the job done. But REALLY cheap toilet paper? Tried it. It didn’t work out. ‘nuff said.



Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sick



I’m sick.

I have one of those nasty, in your bones, muddle headed colds that invades and takes over. I felt it coming on Monday morning. It was giving me headaches Tuesday afternoon. By Tuesday night (last night) I was sneezing and hacking and now I’m in the numb, sore throat and body, runny nose phase.

I advise you to stay clear of me.

I spent some time studying the common cold once. It is a virus, hence it has no cure. No virus has a cure. If anyone tells you different, they’re lying. Viruses are like mosquitos. You can’t (or at least I can’t) explain them apart from the Fall of mankind and the corruption that followed the fall into the creation.

Mosquitos and viruses are a curse. A blight. And a nuisance. I hate ‘em both. Along with flies.

This summer was a big mosquito summer. I’m surprised there weren’t any West Nile outbreaks. Well. Maybe there were, but you didn’t hear much about it. That kind of thing stirs up a lot of noise when it first comes on the scene, then everyone realizes it’s not the end of the world (most likely), and they get back to watching TV. Which is what we all really want to do, isn’t it?

I’m sorry, am I wandering? I do that when I’m sick.

Did I mention I’m sick?



Peace to you.



© LW Publishing 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Reckoning



NEEDTOBREATHE''s new release, The Reckoning, came out yesterday. I normally buy the CD of my favorite bands, but I couldn't resist the price and simplicity of the digital download, so that's what I went with this time. Though I'm kind of sorry that I don't have the CD insert to hold in my hands and read through. I like the details. I'm going to look later and see if they posted it on their website to look at.

One thing about the album art. If you don't know the band, I think you would easily assume that this is a band called "The Reckoning. The band name is almost impossible to see in any online image you find. It's in the bottom right corner, saying "needtobreath no.4" because it's their fourth release. They seem to have done this on purpose, but it might not be a good idea in the long run.

Anyway. I thought it would be interesting to talk about the recording after only hearing it one time. Things change after listening to it a few times. You start to get it. But I was considering my first impression, and here's what I think.

It's very good. It has a more accomplished feel to it musically and the lyrics seem more complex, both in structure and in imagery. But at the same time, these same things make it less immediately accessible. It's not as hooky or radio ready as the last few releases. That can be good because you can listen to it more and it can stay with you longer. It can be bad because it might not grab you and make you want to keep listening.

Some of the best recordings, in my opinion, are a collection of some songs that work to draw you in quick, matched with some songs that draw you in deeper. This release has that immediate draw, I think, with songs like "Slumber" and "Able" and the opening song "Oohs and Ahhs" while other songs run a little deeper. So it's there. But it's not as bright as it might have been. So we'll see how I like it in a week or so.

On the very first listen, the song "Able" was the most intriguing to me. It made me want to stop and really listen and figure it out. But the recording as a whole is excellent, which is no surprise because this band is phenomenal. 

I suppose in the end it comes down to this: It's got a good beat and you can dance to it.

© LW Publishing 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rain


Woke up this morning to rain, with cool breezy winds blowing in the windows.

This kind of weather makes some people depressed, but not me. Too much sun and dry heat, with the grass turning into brown hay is what gets me down. Rainy days like this make me feel nostalgic and peaceful for some reason.

I love the smell of the air when it’s been raining. I like the way things look shiny.

I feel like a kid when I write the word "shiny."

It’s like God runs the world through a car wash to clean it up a little.

And it could use some cleaning up, don’t you think?



Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Overwhelmed


Everyday this past week, I’d get up and tell myself that I would post something here.

Shows you what I know.

I have been feeling kind of overwhelmed lately. Can’t get things done. Can’t concentrate very well. And I hate feeling this way.

I wrote a song called “Overwhelmed” a while back about being overwhelmed by the glory and beauty of God. That song was a bit of a response to feeling overwhelmed by lesser things and recognizing my need to be focused on the Creator.

Stuff just piles up. Too many projects and tasks and plans. All good and important. Everything seems important.

And people have very real needs and troubles. I feel so much sorrow and pain for the hurting people God has in my life. I want to take them and hold them tight until it starts to feel awkward. Not to feel awkward, but simply so that I’ll know I’ve held them long enough. But I realize that they need to know God is holding them much more. That’s what I want to communicate to them.

To you.


Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Days with Disney pt05


As would be expected, I spent a lot of time waiting while at Walt Disney World. Waiting in lines for rides. Waiting in lines for food. Waiting in lines for buses and monorails. But there was this one particular kind of waiting that was really tough to deal with: the waiting for my kids to come out of the facilities (a.k.a. “the toilet”).

I don’t get to go in there with them, being of masculine descent, so I can’t say with certainty what they do when they go in there, but I have some ideas. I’m thinking:

1. Secret planning for world domination.
or, perhaps...
2. Long conversations about the meaning of life.

I’m just saying that with the amount of time they spend in there, it breeds big expectations. But, while waiting, I had a little time to consider some things that you consider while you’re in Walt Disney World. For instance, what’s my favorite thing in Walt Disney World? That’s a question we ask the kids, “So what was your favorite thing?” “What was your favorite ride?” And I think I know what my favorite is.

My favorite thing is the architecture and design of the Disney Hollywood Studios Park. I know there were probably hundreds of people involved in this, but from what I’ve been able to find out, it started out as an expansion of Epcot, under the direction of Marty Sklar, a gifted and creative leader at Disney, and then Michael Eisner suggested starting the new park and putting the ideas in place there, which is what they did. The Disney employees I’ve talked to and read about over the years didn’t seem to like Michael Eisner very much, but this new park was a great idea. They used to call it “Disney MGM Studios,” but something didn’t pan out and they changed the name. My guess is that money didn’t pan out, as that’s what really drives Hollywood above all other things.

But when you walk into the Hollywood Studios, the buildings along the avenue and even the layout of most of the ride exteriors – like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – they all have a kind of fantasy Hollywood of the 40's and 50's vibe going on with touches of Art Deco mixed in and very California color schemes.

I wish the real world looked like that section of the park. Well, not exactly. But I wish that in our towns and cities we did things with the same sense of energy and design and attention to detail. Of course, we could never afford it, given the way we do things in the world, but it would be great if we could. They say that’s how Paris, France is. But I’ll probably never make it there.

So, call me weird, but that’s my favorite thing. Something about that environment just clicks with me. Don’t know why. It just do.


Peace to you.



© LW Publishing 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

Days with Disney pt04


On almost every ride we went on at Walt Disney World, the moment we’d get off the ride, my youngest daughter would say, “Can we go again?” She had, and I think still has, no concept of the size of the parks and how many things there are to do and see. This is true of all of my kids. They had no idea of the potential, and it created a kind of tension that I didn’t handle very well. I wanted them to see as much as possible, to whiz around and laugh and try to take it all in, like the kids you see in the commercials, which makes sense when you consider the cost of the venture and the quality of the attractions. But they just wanted to do whatever struck their fancy, which doesn’t work out well. You end up crisscrossing the parks, using up their limited energy and time. And when you add in all the bathroom breaks, food breaks, and all the rest, including simply getting them up and into the parks in the morning, you wonder how you manage to see much of anything while you’re there.

The sheer size of the Walt Disney World complex is staggering. It’s about 50 square miles of stuff. Just for comparison, the suburb I live south of Detroit is only about 7 square miles, and it's considered a fair sized city around here. The city of Detroit, which is the 11th largest city in the U.S., and just north of our city, is around 140 square miles. So the Walt Disney World properties in Florida are about 1/3 the size of Detroit.

Yow.

And there was me, with my wife and my sister, trying to rush three young girls through it all in a few days.

I must be crazy.



© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Days with Disney pt03


It was dinner time. We were at one of the nice, sit down restaurants in the Animal Kingdom park and, when we finished eating, everyone went to use the facilities (a.k.a. “the toilet”). It’s all very clean and nice. They had those nice paper covers for the toilets. And very modern. The toilets have those nice automatic flushers that flush for you when you stand up. So I put down the nice paper toilet seat cover and turned around, but before I could sit down, the automatic flusher flushed away my nice paper toilet seat cover.

Which leaves me, you know, thinking.

So I put down another nice paper toilet seat cover and turned around, but before I could sit down, it did it again. It flushed my nice paper toilet seat cover right down the drain. Which made me laugh. Which made me feel weird. You don’t normally laugh in the toilet of an amusement park. Well, maybe you do, but I don’t. So I went through it all again, but this time I moved very fast, trying to outwit the toilet, and it worked. Going fast apparently confuses the very nice, very modern Walt Disney World toilets.

And all was right with the world.


Peace to you.



© LW Publishing 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Days with Disney pt02


A man and woman were in line behind me as we moved through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree house exhibit in Adventure Land at the Magic Kingdom. They spoke with a Brooklyn, New York accent, which immediately drew my attention. Yes, I was kind of eavesdropping on their conversation, but not really because they were talking very loudly. I think it's actually part of the accent. But, anyway, in case you don’t know, the Swiss Family Robinson movie, based on a book, is about a family who are shipwrecked on a tropical island in the early 1800's.

Woman: So this was the kitchen?

Man: Yeah.

Woman: So how would they keep their ice from melting?

Man: Ice? They wouldn’t need any ice on a tropical island. They could get everything, fresh every day, right from the jungle!


Peace to you.



© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Days with Disney pt01


Me and the fam just got back from the always great Walt Disney World. Did you know that it’s very specifically “Walt Disney World,” not “Disney World.” Roy Disney, Walt’s brother, wanted to be sure Walt’s name was on it as a tribute because Walt had passed away with cancer before they could finish the park.

My sister went with us and put up with our insanity. For that she deserves a medal.

We spent a week seeing things, and I thought I’d do some posts on the experience, from my slightly twisted perspective. So that’s what you’ll see here for the next few posts. Our Days with Disney.

If you hate Walt Disney World, then you go on vacation for a while and when you get back, maybe I’ll be finished with this. Then you can post about some place I hate if you want.


Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Me and Mr. Poe


And so, in the darkest of dark nights, I stood at the precipice, leaning over the abyss, like Sisyphus at the base of his hill, mightily inverted, knowing this expanse must be mastered, but to what purpose? Another expanse arises. Always arises. And yet, in the dim twilight of my discontented musings, I knew that onward was the only way. Onward, on the way to the next onward, and the next. And, as she fluttered her ebony wings of misfortune, the bride of the darkest ruminate clouds, overshadowing my soul, she called out to me in silent prayers, like angels of anguish over the battlefield vanquished. She called to prayers the lonely moments of my wandering heart, and I heard in those dulcet tones the expanse, calling me again. Onward. Only onward.

***

Honestly, I’m sorry, sort of, a little, but I’ve been reading a bit of Poe, you see, and it just erupted onto the page. I’ve got this large, two volume set with everything he wrote, and I dip into it on occasion. And this is one of those occasions.

Have you ever read any Poe? Have you seen the Roger Corman “Poe” movies that have almost nothing to do with the writings they are based on? Some of the movies are pretty good. But Poe they aint.

Poe, by the way, was not just a writer of little horror pieces. He wrote a lot of things: fantasy, romance, myth and humor. He liked writing suspense and mystery too. He was a fairly well respected critic and editor, though he had a hard time putting food on the table with his writing.

So did van Gogh. And Mozart. And Schubert.

Oh, what Bedlam is art?


Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Progeny 2


 Went out on the town with progeny number 2. My middle daughter has always been an interesting kid. She has a strong personality and a huge heart. It was her turn, so we spent the day together, just me and her.

I try to plan something I think each kid will like when we do these daddy/daughter outings. And for her, the Detroit Science Center seemed like the right thing to do. So that’s where we went. And we had a great time too. Not that they made it easy. They wouldn’t accept my discounts, which I spent some significant time finding, for no good reason. The more you want to do, the less they’re willing to work with you on the discounts. Which is as stupid as you can get. And they have what could best be described as a lack-luster general presentation of things. Employees who reek of an “I don’t really want to be here” aura. So on and so forth.

But in the end, none of that mattered. We were there to have a good time and we did. When you’re with someone you love, that’s how it works sometimes. It’s amazing how you can be in some pretty nutty situations, but if you’re there with people you love, it just doesn’t matter as much.

So we looked at the dinosaurs and the exhibits and we watched an IMAX movie and we made these pop bottle rockets shoot up to the ceiling. It was great.

It was great because she is great.

And on the way home we ate at Applebee’s Restaurant. It’s not the greatest, but I like it. They have a tendency to way over season their food. Very salty. And if you start sending it back you’ll be there all day. But it’s better than a lot of other joints around here. And you can kind of tailor what you order a bit. They’re good about substitutions.

The Beauty had chicken strips and fries. And an ice cream with a brownie.

Then we picked up her sisters from grandma’s house and went to see a dollar show together. Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Which was okay. Not the greatest.

But who cares.



Peace to you.



© LW Publishing 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Crwth


I can’t remember if I mentioned this before, and I’m too lazy to check. But I was doing some research into my last name and I found out that my last name means something close to “the player of the Crwth.” The Crwth? Never heard of it. It sounds like something made up by Lovecraft, but it’s a real thing. Turns out a Crwth is a musical instrument. It kind of looks like a lute, or a guitar, depending on how you want to stretch it. It looks like this:


According to some of the things I've read, it’s a Welsh instrument, popularly used in music for about a thousand years. It was played with a bow, like a violin, but it had a flat bridge, so you couldn't play it one note at a time like a violin. That means it was probably used primarily to accompany a singer or another instrument. It’s probably the violin that killed off the Crwth because you could play melodic lines, so it was a more versatile instrument.

I thought I’d buy a Crwth and learn to play it. Makes sense, right? But the cheapest one I could find is a box Crwth for about $500 dollars. A real Crwth, carved out of a large piece of wood, can run you about $3000, and usually has to be ordered from England.

Yikes.

If you don’t know me personally, it is fitting that my name is about a person who plays a musical instrument. I have been involved with music almost my entire life. And it’s a big part of my heritage. My grandfather was a string player. He played violin, or “fiddle” as he would have called it, as well as guitar and banjo. The story goes, in the family, that he tried out for the Grand Ole Opry in Tennessee, but the pay wasn’t enough so he refused and took a job at the factories in Detroit instead. It’s stunningly frustrating to think about. I can totally relate to his situation. Music don’t much pay de bills.

So I’m thinking about taking my name back to the original. It would be something like “McCrwther.” I love that. But I wouldn’t really change my name. Another way of pronouncing it is the last name “Crowder,” which is from the same root, so David Crowder and myself might be related. Ya know. Talent running in the family and all. Heh heh. Maybe I can use that as a cheap excuse to get him to record one of my songs.

I’m reminded at this point of sir Michael Jackson, who said, and I quote: “You keep dreamin’”


Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How To Avoid Exploding


Suddenly I’m feeling creative. Not that I have time for it. The reality is that you make time, or your head might explode.

I’ve been writing some new songs, and I’ve got some story ideas. I’ve had an idea for a screenplay for quite a while that I’ll probably never get done. Who knows. I have a friend who has written a screenplay. I told him about the idea and he seems to think it’s a good one.

There is this weird energy that I feel when I’ve got the creative going on. My head buzzes with thoughts which it always does, but instead of having it all bottled up inside, causing distress, it’s like someone turns on the faucet, and you get to fill those glasses with nice, cool, clean water.

I realize that when I start to use these similies and metaphors, it can make some people scratch their heads in wonder. One time I was at a pastors meeting and I was trying to describe the process of getting ideas down on paper and I remember describing it as being like “bees buzzing around your head, and you’re trying to grab one.” That, to me, is actually a perfect image, but they just stared at me like I was crazy, and I get that. If I wasn’t me, I’d think I was a little nuts.

But what is creativity if it isn’t going a little nuts?

I’m a firm believer that everyone is creative. Some people have had it beaten down so they suppress it. Some people decided that someone else was better at something they liked to do, so they gave up on it. You see that a lot. Some kid decides that they like to draw. They draw everything in sight. Their parents and family notice and tell them how good they can draw. But then they get to school and some kid in their class can draw “better,” so they give up the idea of drawing because someone else is “better.” Which is extremely sad in every way.

There is competition in life, but life is not a competition.

Most people who say they “can’t” draw or paint or sing or write, simply won’t. It's not that they "can't." They spend too much time judging themselves, condemning their own efforts. Somewhere along the line someone made fun of them or they realized they weren’t the “best” singer in the room and they gave up on it altogether. Some people sing out of key, so they don't sing. Not even in the car by themselves. And that’s just sad. I’m not saying you should do it professionally, whatever it is, singing, dancing, drawing, basket weaving. Whatever. But why abandon it completely? Why not just enjoy your own experience. Stop worrying about how “good” it is and just enjoy the experience of doing that thing.

If you don’t your head might explode. And you’ll never catch one of those bees.


Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

So Tired


I’m so tired right now. It’s crazy. I couldn’t fall asleep last night. When I finally did, in the wee hours, I didn’t sleep well at all. I feel like I’ve been up all night. And I’ve got a lot to do today and tomorrow. And the next day.

I feel really drained. “Running on empty,” as Jackson Browne said. I think I might have to lay down for an hour or so and see if I can get back a little gusto. I’d probably save time in the end because when I get this tired I have a hard time thinking clearly.

There’s a Beatles song called “I’m So Tired.” I always thought it was kind of dumb. But on days like today, I get it. Sometimes you just can’t sleep, or you can’t sleep right and you stumble around half awake.

I find sleep to be a very weird thing to begin with. Why in the world do we have to go under like that? Do you realize how much time is wasted sleeping? And it’s kind of creepy being unconscious when you stop and think about it. You just lay there, unaware, doing nothing. Maybe you roll over a few times and dream things you can’t usually remember when you wake up. A Charles Manson wannabe could have been standing over you for an hour, holding a knife, grinning maniacally, considering his options with the light of the moon gleaming in his eye, and you’d never know it.

See what I mean? I’m drifting here.

Wannabes or no wannabes. I really need some sleep.

Not that I’ll get it.



Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Whitney & Such


I was at a wedding reception this past weekend at the Whitney in Detroit, on Woodward Avenue. It’s an old mansion turned restaurant that was originally built in the late 1800's. They say that Thomas Edison may have personally installed the electrical on the house. So there ya go.

We asked our waiter if we could look around and he gave us permission. They let us look in the different rooms at all the art and wall hangings and wood carvings and fireplaces. It’s a beautiful place, and it was a reminder of how much change has come into the world.

I checked into eating dinner at the Whitney and it’s not for the faint of heart. A couple could easily spent $100 to $150 to eat there. It’s supposed to be great food, but it better be for that kind of money. I could eat at a Chef Ramsay restaurant in New York for that kind of money.

They have a picture tour on their website, which you can see here if you’re interested:

The Whitney

Detroit has a lot of interesting places that are kind of incongruous. There’s this building a little west of Woodward that looks like a castle, with stone walls and turrets. It was apparently a war memorial built in the late 1800's or early 1900's for Civil War vets to spend time together and remember their losses. They’d hang out at the castle and play cards and checkers and spit their chew into spittoons. So on and so forth. No one is doing anything with it right now. There’s no parking and it’s all boarded up. It’s a shame, but finding people to invest is hard to do right now. It’s apparently not an easy thing to do. I took this picture of the castle on one of my photo jaunts downtown a few years ago:


When you walk through the Downtown Detroit area, you see lots of theaters and restaurants and office buildings, some of them towering into the sky. But here and there you also find small little surprises, like Harmonie Park, where there is a fountain and memorials in the pavement in honor of African American heroes. A little while back a friend and I were in that spot when we saw them filming for the TV show Detroit 1-8-7. Never saw the show, but it was cool seeing the set up and all that. Here’s a pic I took of Harmonie Park:


Detroit has some cool spots that you might not know about. It’s worth exploring on a summer day to see what you can find. There’s a lot more there than you might imagine.


Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Juggling


One of my kids, last Christmas, received a kit for learning how to juggle. It has a book and different items for juggling. Scarfs, small cloth balls, that kind of thing. I started reading the book and trying to show the kids how to juggle. And here’s what we’ve learned so far:

Juggling is hard.

Juggling is a set of learned motions that have to be repeated over and over again. It’s the routine that makes it work. The routine of the motions and the routine of the things you’re trying to juggle with. You get used to that thing, the shape, the feel, which is what makes it work. This is why it’s so amazing to see someone juggling different items with different shapes and weights. Sometimes you see a pro juggler juggling a bowling pin with a cup and some other odd weight thing, and it’s pretty impressive because we all seem to know that the imbalance is what makes it tough.

I’ve found that I’m not very good at juggling. I work hard at it, but it doesn't come naturally to me. Which is no surprise. I’m simply not good at it. Literally and figuratively. At least, not with the amount of things I’m constantly trying to juggle. Too many things, too many shapes, too many weights. People toss things up in the air with the full expectation that I will somehow just take it into my loop. And when I start dropping things I can feel pretty guilty. It’s difficult to juggle all of the things life throws at us. But juggling is necessary if we're going to live life.

When I see people who are good at juggling, it’s often true that they’re good at it because they juggle the right things. They’re selective. Balanced. They know the feel of what they’re keeping up in the air. They have the motions down pat. And it impresses me. But I can’t seem to narrow things down like that. It’s a weakness. There’s so much that needs to be done and it’s hard to be at peace when things are incomplete.

Sometimes you’ll see two people juggling together. It’s really amazing. One time I saw three or four jugglers all together. They can keep so much up in the air. It’s such a clear image of teamwork. There’s so much skill in passing things off from one person to another. But most people never think of stepping in like that. They look at you, juggling your heart out, with an empty expression and basically say, “Sorry. I don’t juggle. I just don’t. But I like watching you do it!”

Juggling really is hard. And it can be a lonely business.



Peace to you.




© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On the Town


I had a “date night” with my youngest daughter last night. I’m trying to do at least one night out with each of them, exclusively, over the summer. Only problem is that money is so tight it’s hard to do much. I’d like to have done something a little more elaborate, but we’re saving for our vacation, so there ya go.

We went to the dollar show.

The good thing about my youngest is that she doesn’t care about any of that. She just likes hanging out with dad. We watched Kung Fu Panda 2 with her cuddled up on my arm. What could be better than that, right? I got her a popcorn and pop and we had a good time.

We talked about stuff on the way there and the way home. She’s a pretty good conversationalist. She doesn’t just ask a lot of questions, like a lot of kids do. She has ideas and things she likes to talk about. Things she likes. Things she’s done or wants to do.

She thinks she might like to be a singer some day.

In case you don’t know, I have three daughters and no sons. Which is an interesting place to find yourself in life. It is very challenging sometimes. But there is this He Man thing some guys attach to having sons, which I find to be stupid. And not just because I don’t have sons. I’ve always felt that much of what passes for “masculine” in our culture is pretty stupid. What if the truth is that a “real” man knows how to raise daughters? What if the truth is that a “real” man knows how to humble himself and serve? I have daughters and I LOVE having daughters. If I had boys I’d love that too. But, as it stands, I wouldn’t change anything. My daughters are great.

My youngest is one of the most kind, fun loving, enjoyable people you could ever meet. She is a very straightforward person. She makes me proud. Like all my kids do. And if you want to know what kind of humor she has, just look at the picture on the top of the Blog. That’s her.


Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Motown Museum


So, as I was saying a while back, the Motown Museum leaves a lot to be desired. And it’s a downright dirty shame. It’s still a fun place to check out simply because of the history. If you admire the different artists, the history and the Funk Brothers, like I do, then going there is a very humbling experience. But the reality is that the place is deplorably lacking in funds. There is no energy or seriousness about it as an experience.

It’s inexcusable when you consider the people and the money that passed through the place. You could hand pick several individual Motown artists of the past or present who could single handedly amp up the place to something much more presentable. Not to mention the Gordy family. What about the Jacksons? Stevie Wonder? The list is huge.

The Motown museum should be a MAJOR attraction in the city of Detroit. It should have been for years. If it had been done right, and marketed right, the Baby Boomers would have flocked to it, bringing their kids. It could have been bringing massive amounts of income to the city, if handled right.

The biggest problem with the city of Detroit is not what has been done, it’s what hasn’t been done. The same is true in a lot of businesses and churches. It’s the missed opportunities. And Detroit has missed a lot with their failure to attract businesses and entertainment.

Mike Ilitch is the obvious exception to all of this. I know people have different opinions about him. I don’t know anything about him personally. But he and his wife have certainly invested heavily in the city of Detroit. They’re from the Detroit area and obviously have a personal passion for making the city shine while pursuing their business interests. It’s a great thing.

But where are the others? Are people being chased off by the city government? All of those Motown artists, producers and executives who moved west when Motown did and never looked back? I know that a lot of the artists were shafted by the payment system. Royalties were rare. But others have made massive incomes. And with a well planned effort, I think they could make even more with a carefully put together and promoted Motown.

And say none of that works out?

How about this? Find a way, whatever it takes, to move the Motown Museum, piece by piece if necessary, and set it up at the Henry Ford Museum complex. It could be a whole new section, with the history of Detroit tied into it. 12th street, with the positives of the clubs and other record companies, as well as the reality of the riots and their connection to it. Old Tiger Stadium. Sports in Detroit. Classic Jazz clubs. The theaters and Woodward Avenue. The possibilities are endless. It would draw the Baby Boomers. It would add huge value to the Henry Ford experience. And it might just help draw some people from Detroit to the Henry Ford.

What it comes down to is Motown deserves better. The historical impact of Motown records is both musical and cultural and political. It is massive and it needs to be promoted and respected.


Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

21 Years


For twenty one years her light has fought my darkness. Her flesh has healed my hurts. Her eyes are the skies that keep hope breathing. We rise again to the surface for another breath of cool, clean air. And she laughs anyway.

For twenty one years she did. And she still does. Having and holding is second nature now. It’s where we are. With three glowing gifts slowly reaching out, with beauty, into the world. They reach out with the same quiet fire that she possesses. The spirit of perseverance.

For twenty one years we have been carried across impossible places, through empty, lonely spaces, against the crowd and a world of growing discontent. We hold tightly, like a little child, to the hand of the Holy One. Trusting.

He has us. He will not let go.



Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

McCartney in Detoit


My brother in-law, Dan, called a while back to have us set aside the night because he had gotten tickets to McCartney at Comerica Park in Detroit. This is the same bro in-law that got tickets for the Rolling Stones a few years ago. Yes. Dan is awesome.

I’ve never been much of a Stones fan, but I recognize the talent and the influence.They are a piece of history from a musical perspective, so it was fun to see them and be able to say, “I’ve seen the Stones.” I can also say, “I’ve seen Stevie Ray.” “I’ve seen Queen.” (Yes, the Freddie Mercury Queen.) “I’ve seen E.L.O.” “I’ve seen Buddy Rich.” “I’ve seen Chick Corea.” "I've seen B.B. King." I could go on, but the point is that I've seen a lot of elemental, essential musical acts over the years. And now I can say, “I’ve seen McCartney.”

And boy have I. This show, I have to say, was unbelievable. Paul is in his late sixties, but he kept going and going like the Energizer bunny. It had a kind of Springsteen gung ho about the whole thing. And he took the time to talk to the crowd. He had gone to see the Motown museum during the day. Which, I have to say, is a bit embarrassing to me because the Motown Museum should be a huge, well put together, amazing attraction. Instead, it’s a bit of a dreary and uninspiring thing, almost entirely because no one seems to want to invest any real money into it. But I digress. I’ll post about that tomorrow so I can finish getting it off my chest. McCartney was kind in not saying anything bad about the museum. He just went on to play hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after...

I’m not kidding. He had a very tight band that played with a lot of energy. And I think he could have still been playing his hits as I write this the next day, but he had to stop because he had played for three hours and people had to get up for work in the morning.

It was interesting to me that people really enjoyed this show on a purely visceral level. It was an event. It was packed with, I don’t know, around 70,000 people? The atmosphere was up and expectant. And the sound, compared to the Stones a few years ago, was great. The Stones show was kind of cavernous and muddy, which I wrote off to the huge outdoor venue. But McCartney’s crew demonstrated clearly that you can produce good sound in the stadium. Not great, but good. I’m not sure great is even possible. They played their butts off and they played all these great songs that most everyone knew. People sang together and laughed at his every little joke and when he did the song “Live and Let Die,” with fireworks popping off all over the place, people were really charged up, and it was all a lot of fun.

But let me tell you what got to me.

Here’s this guy. His name is Paul. He’s a middle class kid living in a middle class town in England. And he really likes pop music. Buddy Holly. The Motown sound. Elvis. That kind of thing. One day he gets a guitar and starts to learn how to play. Then he meets a friend named John and they start writing songs together. John is extremely talented. A little more serious. Paul has better chops but he likes John and John is more of a push things ahead kind of guy. Together, they really have an ear for chord changes and the blending of different genres. They get a band together and play everywhere they can. They start putting a few of their own songs in with the covers at their shows. Eventually, some guy sees them playing, and while they’re pretty rough, not very accomplished, they have a certain energy that he likes, and their songs do have a sense of craft about them. So they get a manager, then a record deal and they release an album that in it’s day, market wise, was the equivalent of the Jonas Brothers releasing an album. They were a “boy band.” But within a few months, their song writing chops, their blending of styles and harmony, all of the careful listening and emulating, started to pay off. Their songs began to take on a very high quality of craftsmanship, lifting them out of the boy band crowd. And, for six years, they recorded those songs. Six years of massive output.

Then McCartney and the others went on to keep writing and recording. And they all had their strengths and weaknesses. But, from a craft standpoint, from the standpoint of being a dedicated and careful writer of popular songs, none of the others came close to McCartney. And the concert last night confirmed this in a huge way. People can argue about this, but the evidence is clear.

As a song writer, it is very humbling to sit through hour after hour of such craft and dedication and talent. And then, when it’s over, you realize he could have kept going with his songs, for many hours. Some lighthearted melodic writing with simple words. Some complex, movement oriented pieces with cryptic lyrics. Some very poetic things with strong counter point and thoughtfulness. All written by an extremely talented songwriter who never learned to read melodic music notation.

There is a reason Paul McCartney is the most successful and wealthy song writer in history. Some estimates are that he is “worth” around 1.5 billion dollars. Which is no fluke, it’s no accident.  It’s easy to see that, as an artist, he doesn’t care so much about the money. In the end, it’s the songs that matter to him. The man can write songs that stick to people like BBQ sauce sticks to ribs.

I enjoyed the show a lot. But, more than anything, I was moved by the sheer song writing talent. This is what can happen when a person, any person, gets passionate about art, develops it and respects it as a craft, and shares it with others.


Peace to you.


© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Losses


 My youngest daughter still has a few words that she gets wrong, and we’ve learned not to make a big deal out of this kind of thing. I actually enjoy it. They get it figured out in the long run. But when they do, when the particulars of childhood are left behind, it makes me sad sometimes.

The current word that I love, that she gets wrong, is when something grosses her out. She says, “That’s exgusting.”

Frankly, I think it’s a better word than the original. It has a little more bite to it.

There are lots of things that you hate to see go with the kids as time passes on. The way you can hold them when they’re really small. The way they mangle certain words and make faces and laugh about certain things. The moments when they first try to be funny. Those cute little baby teeth, all lined up so perfectly straight and even, which get ejected and replaced by over sized, out of place teeth that are way too big for their current faces. And sometimes it seems to take forever for some of the gaps to fill in their smile.

You realize that kids lose so much as time goes by. Sweet things, like the ability to hide under small tables and watch the feet of the grown ups go by or fitting completely in the arms of your mom or dad, wrapped up with your head tucked under, feeling safe. Or the simple joy of playing with an empty card board box or the feeling of running on the grass, barefooted, with the belief that you are the fastest creature on the planet.

Sometimes we also lose trust in the people we look up to at way too young an age, which can be very hard to get back. And sometimes, unfortunately, we lose our innocence.

When I stop to consider all of the loss, all of the things we can lose as we leave childhood behind, frankly it’s kind of...

exgusting.


Matthew 18:2-4




Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Squishing Out Songs


Late last night I was in the basement mixing a song that I’ve been working on. It’s a painful process in some ways. Some people compare it to giving birth, but that’s stupid. I have watched my wife give birth and suggesting that writing a song is comparable to that effort is the height of ignorance. But there is a kind of squishing, pushing, shoving, working to get this thing out of your mind and have it “work.” That’s my word for it. Some things “work” and some don’t. They fit, they click, they fill in the missing pieces: however you want to put it. There is this element of craft that is built on discipline, but it really blooms with the heart.

As I work on my songs, I have to compensate a lot for my weaknesses, and that can take up a lot of time. But things still come together. And when I hear them coming together, it makes me weep. I’m not kidding. I know it’s pathetic, but I have been a long time getting to this place.

Crafting songs is a challenge. I don’t think I would ever be totally satisfied, no matter what. I suppose I could have a world class producer, a multimillion dollar studio and a lot more ability than I have, and I’d still find things that just aren’t what they need to be. It’s kind of a curse. But I’m trying hard to learn to be satisfied, especially with my radically low end set up.

So far, I have three church songs that are basically finished. They need to be mastered, which I don’t know how to do. I also have a country song that’s been done for a while, but I frankly am not sure what to do with it. People I play it for like it, but I know nothing about the country market. And I have about 6 songs in the pipe, being developed and chipped away at, along with about 30 demos and some other pieces of things that aren’t whole yet. And then there's the backlog of probably 40 or 50 more songs that I haven't even started getting organized. Interestingly, so far they are all very different in a lot of ways. I don’t have a “sound” but I don’t especially want one. I’m not particularly looking to perform these myself. I’m hoping to have others do that.

When I say “craft” I really mean it. Not in the Harry Potter sense, but in the skilled trades sense. Like a carpenter. Like an artist who carves statues. Like a teacher trying to shape the mind of a student. Music and writing and a lot of other arts are, at their core, a craft that has to be developed and nurtured. Which takes time and patience and massive amounts of commitment.

Even the most absolutely pathetic pop stars are usually surrounded by excellent craftspeople. They wouldn’t ever release any music if they weren’t. I’ve got some people helping me that are way more than I deserve. Very gifted and willing to be there to get things done. Without them I’d probably only have one song up by now. And even with the great musicians, few of them have it all in themselves to get great things done.

Squishing out songs is a team effort.



Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Relevance


Everyone says it, everyone seems to believe it, in business, church work, teaching and communications: relevance is what matters. And it seems clear they’re right. If you aren’t relevant, then what are you?

Irrelevant.

Webster’s defines “irrelevant” as: not important or relating to what is being discussed right now.

All well and good. But the problem is, this is often used in a completely shallow and subjective manner, as if we’re discussing relevance on the Jerry Springer show. Businesses, churches, schools and non profits of every stripe sense that they need to be relevant. But there are some questions we should ask if this is going to get us anywhere. The first being...

1. Relevant to who? And why?

Relevance is extremely relative, and can be horribly short sighted. For example: A lot of younger people today have a hard time watching older, black and white movies. They think these films are irrelevant and, on a surface level, they make it true by their own preferences. It’s not intrinsically true, it is practically true for them. And the result? They miss out on over fifty years of film history, including some of what are arguably the best films ever made. It’s like going into an art gallery and saying, “I don’t like photos that are in black and white. Ansel Adams sucks.” Many things these days are dismissed out of hand, with no thought for, or serious attempt at, appreciation. And the individual responses must be what? Fate? Destiny? How about stupidity? I do know this: dismissing things out of hand because they don’t fit your narrow paradigm is a clear path to ignorance and mediocrity. And we can feed that mediocrity with blind catering to relevance.

And there are other related questions:

2. What if “what is being discussed right now” is a self indulgent, self aggrandizing pulp of cheap values? What if “what is being discussed right now” completely misses the point of life? What if we mistake relevance for meaning or value?

Trust me, you are surrounded by people who mistake relevance for meaning and value. It is how too many people do life right now. Paired with Materialism, it is the curse of the modern world.

The concept of relevance can be a powerful tool, or a very destructive force. Relevance can help you be heard, but it can also cause people to stop thinking. When you only hear what you want to hear, you stop thinking. Relevance is often the realm of the incorrigibly incurious.

And beyond these things, what if what matters to the Creator is not relevant to us anymore because we simply don’t care? What if what could really make a difference, to make the world a better place, isn’t accomplished in the world because no one thinks it’s important? What if we fill our lives with what we think is relevant – so much of which is driven by selfishness or self pity or hedonism or pettiness – and it ends up being a path to...

irrelevance?



Peace to you.



© LW Publishing 2011