Thursday, June 30, 2011

Owl City at the Fillmore

So my twelve year old Beauteous Maximus and I went to see Owl City last night at the Fillmore in Downtown Detroit. This was after a day spent together at the Get Motivated seminar in the Palace (where the Detroit Pistons play) with some other leaders from my church. We saw Bill Cosby. It was cool.

But Owl City was cooler. Unwed Sailor and Mat Kearney opened, US was interesting. Mat Kearney was superb. I have to look into his music a little more. But the sound was great at the Fillmore, except for the sound guy pushing the db’s on occasion to the point of distorting some of the speakers, and some poor mixing here and there as well. And the house music between sets was some of the worst ever played and completely out of place at the show. Still, the Fillmore was good. It was once the State Theater, and before that it was the Palms Theater. It’s one of those movie palaces born in the early 1900's that’s now used for concerts. I saw Travis there a while back and some other artists over the years.

Owl City is very sweet, bright music. It’s not for people who like to be depressed. And some would consider it a kind of bubble gum music, which it is, except that the lyrics are much more interesting and complex than typical bubble gum pop stuff. Adam Young is a bit of a poet in that he likes the sounds of words and the individual images that words can bring to mind. That’s what he plays with, and he has a pretty good sense of humor about the whole thing. He writes songs about anything and everything from getting pepper sprayed in a parking lot by an paranoid but beautiful girl to expressions about God and faith to songs filled with simple imagery of summer or outer space or you name it.

Owl City is an interesting case, music wise, in the sense of what works live and what goes on in the studio. Owl City is actually an individual named Adam Young who does musical “projects.” Owl City is one of those projects, which happened to take off and sell millions of recordings. So there ya go. But in the studio, which is in his parents house, or was, or still is, I’m not sure – in the studio Owl City is pretty much an electonica “band.” Almost everything is done with keys and sequencers and vocoders and software. And that accounts for the techno quality of the music, which is very polished and fun to listen to, especially with headphones.

But live it’s a whole different ball game. He certainly has a lot of keyboards on the stage, and almost every musician on the stage plays one from time to time. But Adam himself mostly plays guitars and a few leads on a keyboard. He has a live drummer who is pretty intense, but more importantly is spot on tempo and beat wise, and he carries a lot of energy onto the stage. There are also a couple of string players who are excellent, a talented main keyboardist/vocalist/female singer, and another guy who does all kinds of things, guitar, keys, acoustic drums, electronic drums, and he occasionally sports a Darth Vader mask.

The thing is, the live band is very good. They aren’t the tightest band in the world, but his vocals are better than one might expect given all the treatment they get in the studio. He’s a very good singer with a sweet, high range, who is obviously good natured and a bit of a nerd. He seems to be having the time of his life, which is always fun to witness. Some day I’ll tell you about when I first saw Bruce Hornsby. Similar kind of thing. But, anyway, the live band was pretty good and they sort of did “versions” of what is on the studio recordings. Some of the loops and key parts were obviously still there, but a lot of the rest was filled in with the live instruments and it gave the whole things a much more organic feel. I really enjoyed it, but you had to adjust a bit to the fact that it was quite different than the recordings. And it left me wondering what his philosophy about live versus studio are.

The twelve year old and the dad had a blast. We ate at a BBQ joint. We talked about stuff and we rocked with Owl City, even though she is a bit more reserved than I am. Go figure. I faithfully embarrassed her in front of the whole place.

Not really. The truth is she loves me. And I love her.

Peace to you.
© LW Publishing 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Massively Massive

From what I’ve read, the amount of atoms in one molecule of DNA is pretty close to the same as the number of stars in a typical galaxy.

Is there any way at all to actually understand that reality? I don’t think so.

Creation is massive, both in the macro and the micro sense. Massive, massive, massive. Mind bogglingly massive.

There’s something about the scale of the Universe that messes with my mind. And it keeps messing with my mind. Not just that it’s so big or so small, but that it’s so big AND so small. Like, on any beach, there are countless grains of sand, but there are also these single grains of sand that make up the whole thing. The single grain has its complexities, and the whole beach has it’s complexities. It seems to me that being human isn’t much different in some ways. It’s estimated that there are nearly 7 billion people on the earth. I am 1 of 7 billion.

Seven. Billion.

And how many mosquitoes are there? And how many ants? And how many birds? And leaves? And flowers?

In my front yard there is some grass. It’s not the nicest grass in the neighborhood. That award would go to my next door neighbor, Jerry. But it is a marvelous layer of grass, nevertheless, simply because it is massive in it’s way. How many blades of grass are there out there? A million? Who knows. And yet, each blade has it’s own beauty and complexity. The whole thing boggles the mind. At least it boggles my mind.

And then there is space. Outer space. The galaxy. The Universe. It is massively massive. How many rocks are there in the universe? How many packets of light? How many stars?

Just our galaxy, the Milky Way, if you were to drive across it at around 60 MPH, it would take you about a million billion years to cross it. It is approximately 620 million billion miles across. Million billion? But the universe makes that look like a drop in the bucket. They say it’s around 90 billion trillion miles across (if “across” even makes any sense with curved space).

So. Why do I mention all this?

Just because.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lama Sabachthani?

Do you have problems and challenges and personal issues that make you crawl?

I know I do.

I have some pretty good days. I have some not so good days. And the bad days can be really bad. Only God and my wife know exactly how bad. But even on the worst days, when I feel abandoned and alone, I know I’m not.

Jesus said this thing on the cross that is often quoted but not really thought through. He quoted King David from Psalm 22:1. He was claiming the words for his own life. He said, “"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In a very real way, Jesus was experiencing the tortures of Hell in that moment. If Hell is anything, it is a place that is God forsaken. And the point of the cross was for Jesus to take things on himself so we wouldn’t have to have those things put on us. Things like the wrath and punishment of God. But, also, I think, is this thing about being forsaken.

We have every reason to feel forsaken sometimes. We do things wrong. We cling to sins. We make huge mistakes. We hurt the people we love. We do things and we can’t even figure out why we’re doing them half the time. And I think we realize that these things rob us of our innocence.

Or other people rob us of our innocence.

And we feel forsaken because that’s the feeling that goes with these things. Sin should cause God to turn his face away...


If sin is taken care of – if what is broken is made whole – then there’s no reason for God to turn his face away. This is one of the reasons I trust Christ. Jesus has taken care of things. He took God’s wrath so I wouldn’t have to. He was forsaken by God so I wouldn’t have to be. He said he could do this and I believe him. I can accept that some people don’t want to believe him, but I do. And, because of this, no matter how I feel, I can know that I am not alone. I am not abandoned. I am not forgotten.


Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

POTA Redux

My brother, Dan, told me that there is a new Planet of the Apes movie in the works and that I should check it out. Which I did.

I’m an invested Planet of the Apes fan. It all started in my elementary school days. Get out of school, grab some grub and hit the floor in front of the TV for Planet of the Apes week on “The Channel 7 4:30 movie (I think they changed it to 4:00 at some point, I’m not sure). Sometimes you’d get Elvis Presley week or Monster week or Vincent Price week. Dinosaur week. It was great, and if the theme was something you didn’t like (think Jane Fonda week) you could take the week off and find some trouble in the neighborhood.

But, the point is, I’ve been a fan for a long, long time, and any news of something that might be good is always welcome. And this time around, my first question was what I’d been thinking for a while: will they do makeup effects for the apes or will they do computer graphics? And the winner is? Computer graphics. Which is troublesome.

Hair, fur, call it what you will: it’s very hard to do correctly with computers. It just is. And then there is the issue of “intelligent” apes. In what way does intelligence affect physiognomy? Getting that right is anyone’s guess. But I bet you know when they get it wrong.

I’ve watched the film trailers and there is much left to be desired in this film that is supposed to be released in just a few weeks. In some of the shots, the apes look pretty good. But in others they have a quality, especially in the faces, not much different than the apes in Jumanji. And that’s not a compliment. Of course, story can win out if it’s done exceedingly well. But, if you’re going to do a CGI movie, it needs to look very good or everyone walks out of the theater with that bad CGI taste in their mouth, where the brain is trying to reconcile how everything sort of kind of almost looked real. Sort of. Kind of.

Anyhyoo. It’s out on August 5. If you want to see some of the trailers for yourself, go here:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Common

I’ve actually found some music that both I and my 12 year old like.

Owl City.

The new CD just came out, and we’re going to see the concert together this coming Wednesday, just us, as we’re the only real fans in the house. And the tickets cost too much for the whole clan to go anyway.

Thing is, we’re going to share something we both enjoy and we’re both looking forward to it.

I’m just trying to enjoy this while it lasts.

And the new CD, All Things Bright and Beautiful, is great.


I’ll tell you about the show next Thursday.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


My buddy Joe called yesterday. “Hey, what do you think about going to the Henry Ford at midnight?” Which is not a question you normally hear around here. The place normally closes at five. The Henry Ford used to be referred to as Greenfield Village, but now that’s part of the larger Henry Ford complex, and at the Museum they were featuring, for thirty six hours straight, one of the very rare public displays of a few pages of the original Emancipation Proclamation. By rare, I mean, it’s only out around forty to sixty hours a year. Period. So this was it. This was the annual display, and it was in Michigan, and it was near our house. Unlikely to ever be repeated. So we went.

There were people everywhere. It was crazy.

We waited in line for five and a half hours (yes, five and a half hours) with a lot of other people wanting to feast their eyes on a piece of history. And this being such a rare display, everyone had a pretty good attitude, even thought there were a lot of people laying around on the floor sleeping, waiting as the line crept forward.

Joe and I were in line between two very nice women, one was named Liona and the other Bonnie. You could say that the Emancipation had special meaning for them, given their heritage. And they were great to talk with for 5 hours. Also, about a hundred feet behind us in line was our friend Hazel and some of her family. Joe, being Joe, set up one of the security people to confront Hazel and tell her she had to leave the museum for cutting in line.

It was priceless.

We laughed with our Junior High maturity for about ten minutes while Hazel threatened to kill us, which we deserved.

The clock kept ticking past. We shuffled along. We finally made it up to the door where a man dutifully asked everyone to move quickly through the exhibit that they had stood in line for five hours to see. No irony there. But it was hard to move quickly. Looking at the amazingly straight lines of text, trying to read some of the old script as quickly as you could, it was kind of mesmerizing. At that moment, Bonnie looked at me and said, “Don’t those words just give you a chill?” And she was right.

Pages two and five were original, pages one, three and four were facsimiles. But page five is the home run anyway because that has Lincoln’s signature on it. Cool stuff, to say the least.

Those of us who were of European descent walked through the exhibit with those of African descent, and Eastern and so on, at peace, on equal terms, observing many of the documents that made it possible for us to do so.

Once again my buddy Joe opened the door for a great experience.

Thanks Joe.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Missed What?

I’m pretty sure I was fifteen years old. My drum teacher, Jim, offered to take me to see this new movie that’s supposed to be pretty good. The movie is called “Alien.” Science fiction mixed with a monster movie mixed with a horror story, or so people said. How could it lose, right?

We ran a little bit late and got there just as the movie was starting, so we went in without popcorn and such. The movie started off okay. Dark and moody, but a bit slow. People rambling about a ship. There was this brief thing where the little long tailed creature was captured. But it seemed like I just had time to get some popcorn and pop.

So I head out to the lobby and get my stuff, and go back into the theater. As I’m walking in, I can just tell, somehow, that the mood of the entire room has changed. It was weird. So I take my seat and Jim says, very quietly, but with a lot of energy, “I can’t believe you missed it! This thing busted out of that guys stomach and ran across the room! It was wild! I can’t believe you missed it!”

Ahhh, but I could. And it was very disheartening.

I missed a lot of things. Not just movies, but lots of different experiences and events. It was a kind of talent. The “you shoulda” and “you coulda” moments have been many. So when I hear people say, “Timing is everything,” it strikes a chord with me. It might not be everything, but it seems to really matter a lot. And it’s hard to be at peace about this sometimes. There’s a part of me, an immature part, that always feels like I might be missing something important or that I might be doing the wrong things.

You can see how this might be a challenge for a person of faith.

I have gained a kind of peace over all of this. It’s less about me and more about trusting that God knows what he’s doing. But sometimes I still imagine I’ll get to the afterlife and there will be this room where you can watch film clips of what life would have been like if you had been at this place or that place at a certain time instead of where you were, or what directions life would have taken if you had made this choice or that choice instead of the one you did. Perhaps it will be called the potentiality multiverse viewing room, or something, I don’t know. But, in that room, people would sit and watch, some with a sense of relief and others with a sense of regret.

I think I’ll stop now before I get any more stupid. But I’m sure this reveals some flaw in my psyche. And yet, it’s not really about my beliefs. It’s more about my feelings. Feelings are hard to make sense of some times. They tend to do what they want to.

And, by the way, I eventually saw the part of Alien I missed, but by that time I had already heard what happened and the experience was gone. There was no getting it back.

Sad but true.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It Sounds Like...

So I was working on some songs with some musicians and one of them sent me a note saying that the tag on this one song of mine reminded him of the Raconteurs. I’d heard of the Raconteurs but I’d never heard the Raconteurs, at least not while knowing it was them. So I picked up a Raconteurs CD and he’s right, it does sound a bit like that.

Come to find out, Jack White is in this band, the guy from the White Stripes, which I am pretty familiar with. Think heavy Robert Plant influenced singer, filtered through Detroit scene, swirled around in a little punk and avant garde and there you go.

I remember the first time I saw Jack White live was on this sort of “command performance” thing that Obama put on in honor of Paul McCartney. It was different artists playing Beatles and Wings songs, that kind of thing, then Paul came up at the end and played a few things.

Jack White was way out of place in this gathering. He’s extremely talented, but not in conventional ways, except for, maybe, his guitar playing, which is pretty amazing if you ask me. But he seemed shy and uncomfortable, and his scratchy off kilter rock voice was quickly followed up by some country singer who had pitch perfect pipes. It just wasn’t a good showcase.

But, so far, I like this Raconteurs stuff. Maybe better than White Stripes. I don’t know. I haven’t listened to it enough yet.

Jack White is actually from the Detroit area. And it’s weird how that gives musicians in this area a little hope. “If he can do it, maybe...” But this is Motown, baby. That alone makes me feel part of an important tradition as a musician. And if you’re born anywhere near it, you can claim it. Stevie Wonder was born in Saginaw, but he’s from Motown. Bob Seger was born in Dearborn, but he’s Motown too. Jackie Wilson, like Jack White, was actually born in Detroit. Now that’s Motown.

And now, back to our sponsor...

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What To Do?

I wanted to take the kids to the movies the other day to see Kung Fu Panda 2. But the timing didn’t work out to go to the early show, which is the only one I’m willing to pay for, and I'm only willing to pay that price because it’s 3D. So we skipped that and I thought we’d go to the dollar show, which costs more than a dollar now. It’s a dollar fifty or two dollars, I’m not sure. But the only movie showing that was kid friendly was one my oldest daughter had already seen with a friend, so that was a no.

As for me, I have been entrenched in deep study. I’m preparing some stuff for church that is labor intensive and it’s eating my days alive, so I just wanted to get out and breathe a little. But it was soooo hot outside, in the high nineties, which meant we had to go somewhere indoors. I was getting tired of trying to figure out what to do. It was too late for the zoo and that kind of thing.

Spur of the moment adventures are hard to muster up with a big family.

So this is where I made my mistake. I said, “How about we go walk around the mall, not to buy stuff, but just to look around. Maybe we can get an ice cream or something!” Which sounds great on paper, but in real life it’s a fantasy. My four fems don’t do the “look but not buy.” At least not very well. And they always have a good reason to buy whatever they want to buy. Clothes for summer. Things they really need. And they probably do. Money is tight around here and we’ve been cutting back a lot.

But, see, if I hadn’t taken us to the mall in the first place, there wouldn’t have been this urgent need to get that stuff. The option wouldn’t have been on the table. They would have been blissfully unaware of how unhappy they would be without buying that stuff.

This conundrum is lost on them like water through a screen door.

Right now they’re in their room with their mom organizing and putting away their new summer clothes and putting away the winter stuff. They’re all chatty and girly and at one with the universe.

I don’t know. Maybe it was worth it.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I haven’t had much to laugh at lately. I’m not down or depressed, but everything has been kind of flat.

I’ve done some work with bipolar people in the past, and some of them have really hungered for some flat emotions. Most of the time they were either going through the roof or the floor. But then, after getting on some decent meds and leveling out, it's common for them to start missing the strong emotions they had before. As a result, they're tempted to go off their meds, which leads them back into the vicious up and down cycles.

But I understand the conflict. I don’t much like feeling flat all the time. After a while, it's like you’re just floating along, pushed by whatever currents happen to be around you.

It’s also not a very good frame of mind for creativity. Most good art arises out of strong emotion, one way or another, so being “even keeled,” as they say, is kind of an enemy of the creative. At least according to most of the people I’ve talked to.

Some creative people appear to be even keeled, and I think the reason why is that they work out their emotions through their art and craft. If they didn’t have an outlet, many of them would probably have to be institutionalized.

But, whatever. I can’t say I’m feeling particularly strong about it either way. Which makes sense because I’m feeling flat.

Flat as a pancake.
Flat as the bread on a falafel.
Flat as a cat on a hot tin roof.

Sorry. Just trying to be creative. See how bad it is?

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


 I’ve been listening to a lot of different music lately and have been trying to pay attention to what grabs me while I’m listening.

You’d think the words would be the thing, but the words have more potential to push me away than draw me in. As long as the words aren’t so stupid or corrupt that they drive me away from a song, I find that I’m looking for something more complex.

Even in the simplest songs that have more than one instrument, there is a combining of rhythms and tones that are crisscrossing, moving and changing. And I find that this causes a really strong response in me both emotional and, I think, physical.

It can be something classical, like Bach’s Goldberg Variations. I have a recording by Dmitry Sitkovetsky where he arranges this keyboard music for strings. It is, in my opinion, some of the best music ever recorded. Hearing it on strings is almost like hearing it move from two dimensions into three. I always go back to listening to it over and over again because the interplay in the music is endlessly compelling and profound.

But it doesn’t have to be classical. The music of James Brown or Tower of Power, Thelonius Monk or Chick Corea. The complexities of the drum programming that Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produce. David Crowder’s melodic twists, stringing out against changing patterns. The counter melodies that some country and folk and pop artists craft between the instruments and voice.

There is a math to all of this that rises above numbers on a page or musical notes on a staff. It’s like finding the answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.

There’s an old hymn from the 1800's called “This Is My Father’s World.” And there’s a line in the song that says, "This is my Father's world, and to my list'ning ears all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.”

This “music of the spheres” is a very old idea, basically that the planets and universe figuratively “sing” with their interplay throughout creation. And I find a similarity there, between how I feel when I look up at the night sky and see the stars and planets, and how I feel when I hear the interplay of music.

I don’t know if you can relate to any of this, but I felt like trying to express it. I think I have not done it very well, but some things are not done much justice with words.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

For Your Consideration

Has anyone else noticed how almost everything in life these days is up for critical review? Seems like everyone has their own score card at the ready. Thumbs up. Thumbs down.

People like things. Why? Well, they just do. They can’t really explain it. It’s usually more of a feeling, sort of, you know, an emotional response. They don’t like to think about the details of why they like something. And that’s fine. I get that. I’m the same way sometimes. But it’s also true that...

People dislike things. Why? Hold onto your butts. If you open the door to it, they’ll spend hours and hours telling you why. They have lists. They have categories. They have euphemisms and metaphors and griefs and grudges. They are suddenly articulate and emotional. You can tell they’ve really thought about the things they dislike. They’ve thought about it a lot.


Why do you like this person or that person? [I don’t know. They’re just nice. We just clicked. It was fate.] Why do you dislike this other person? [How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways. Let me show you how many adjectives and adverbs I have memorized. Let me enumerate their worthless attributes.]

We need to ask ourselves why it’s so easy for us to condemn, and so hard for us to praise. Why is it so easy to see what’s wrong and so difficult to see what’s right? Why are we so willing to tear down, and so uninterested in building up?

Ephesians 4:29
Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2011