Thursday, December 17, 2009

favorite books of 2009

another year of steady traveling meant more time to read, which was fun. and for this list i don't hold myself to books released this year as i do with a favorite music list. sure it's arbitrary, but who really cares. so in no particular order i give you 10 books that i have thoroughly enjoyed this year.

- indignation by philip roth: i discovered roth for real a few years back (very late to the party, i confess), and always feel that i'm in good hands with his writing. how he maintains a level of quality and consistency year after year(he's 76 and seems to publish at least one novel a year) is remarkable to me. this book, set against the backdrop of the korean war, recounts the life of the character marcus messner, a jewish new jersey native who travels to ohio for college to escape his over bearing father. it's an off-kilter fish-out-of-water story that is both hilarious and wince-inducingly harsh, moving but not overly sentimental.

- the sacredness of questioning everything by david dark: david's latest is a grab-the-rails-and-hold-tight ride that synthesizes serious academics with keen insights into pop culture. in the book he celebrates the sacred process of questioning our assumptions about most everything: faith, religion, politics, commerce and underlying motivations. i would say that he asserts that an ongoing examination of all of these things leads us down a path of a more vibrant and expanding life of faith. many of the references are familiar to me (radiohead; william gibson; arcade fire; philip roth; johnny cash; etc.), and yet david's insights into these references are ones that i'd like to think i could have and explain as well as he does. i'm fortunate to know him, even at a distance, and am consistently inspired and challenged by his tough and gracious thoughtfulness.

- fool by christopher moore: one of my favorite writers tackles shakespearean dramedy with another cast of bizarre, profane and hilarious characters, including Pocket, the story's hero, a diminutive court jester, Drool, a bumbling, slow-to-think sidekick; a weakened King Lear and many others. as with all of moore's books, this is a fast-paced freak fest of episodic comedy with as many quotables as a classic bill murray or chevy chase movie, and research on the subject matter that also reflects moore's intelligence at melding post-modern sensibilities with respect for classic thought.

- gentlemen of the road by michael chabon: chabon may be my favorite writer alive right now. i was sickened to learn that he write his debut novel, the mysteries of pittsburgh, between the ages of 22-24, as i still wish i could write one sentence that measures up to his skill. he's only gotten better, imho, over time. what's been fun in recent years is the way that chabon jumps from genre to genre, and even mashed them together. a prime example would be the yiddish policeman's union, which combines an elmore leonard pulp-crime-noir murder mystery with philip roth's political what-if, a la the plot against america. in gentlemen of the road chabon tells a grand road adventure story set along the silk road of the 10th century, with swindles, cheaters, warring tribes and attempts at sex and love into a quick-reading 224 pages.

- christianity for the rest of us by diana butler bass: one of two books i read this year by diana butler bass (the other being a peoples' history of christianity). this one is a study of progressive mainline congregations that are growing and thriving, primarily by being present to their local communities and intentionally pursuing a variety of spiritual formation practices. what's more, many, if not all, of the churches she researched actively served and embraced marginalized communities and committed to being places where those communities were not only welcome, but cared for and embraced as part of a community. to be sure, many of these congregations experienced the pains of growing and changing, but the stories that butler-bass tells are not only encouraging, but prescriptive of what many communities in similar situations can explore for their own progression.

- falling man by don de lillo: de lillo is heralded as one of the finest literary novelists around, but the first thing of his that i read, the body artist, underwhelmed me and i struggled to finish it. a friend urged me to give de lilo another try, and i'm glad i did. this post-9/11 story follows a number of manhattan-ites whose lives were upended, and how a few of them connect with one another. recurring throughout the story is a performance artist who re-creates the image of "the "falling man", the iconic picture of a twin towers victim falling to the earth, and who continues to trigger memories, emotions and responses to peoples' experiences. the writing lays bare their emotions and moods without being voyeuristic or patronizing, and leaves them each in situations unresolved and intriguing.

- spook country by william gibson: gibson, author of neuromancer, tells another futurist's tale of spy culture and post-9/11 intrusion by the rich and powerful. what could be a litany of conspiracy theory type gripes displays a realists look at how technology can monitor the behaviors and actions of many, as a former indie rock cult hero-turned journalist enters an adventurous trek that, on the surface, is merely an interview piece of an artist utilizing new technology. it spirals into inclusion of crime syndicates, mysterious, eccentric millionaires and a culture of planned un-ease that keeps people from trusting one another. gibson sees the foreshadowing of how power reacts to progress and tightens its grip to assert control. realism without paranoia crafted by a fantastic writer.

- the medium is the massage by marshall mcluhan: mc luhan's prescient 1967 tome on how messages will be delivered through design is uncanny in its predictions for how technology will shape communication (commercial, inter-personal, cultural, etc...) as it progresses. correlations between the printing press and the internet are easy to spot here, yet remarkable in their ability to envision such a future. as music, publishing, tv and film are all undergoing their massive shifts, this is a fascinating read to spark more imagining for where we are headed.

-----alert: the next two are business books. some like 'em on lists like these some don't. you're now informed-----

- the designful company by marty neumeier: neumeier gives a timely reminder that how an organization is designed to work affects, and to large degree, dictates, how that organization functions, communicates, innovates and progresses. for me, this was an affirmation that all marketing / messaging starts from the design of what is being messaged. most everything else is cleverness and smoke and mirrors. but when intentional design is enacted, the rest of the storytelling flows from that. for anyone that thinks that that sort of thinking is too esoteric to work, neumeier has some things to say to you. it's a quick read, so take the plunge.

- what would google do? by jeff jarvis: jarvis, an avid blogger, reporter and media professor, delves into the core values by which google has built its web dominance. much of this comes as counter-intuitive thought to 20th century top-down, command and control thinking, and jarvis shows how this new model of doing business offers amazing opportunity and potential for those willing to look for the niche first, and then get deep and wide as required, with real-time feedback from customers. jarvis crafts what-if scenarios for how a google mindset would look in various industries (book publishing, automotives, telephone among them), and while it veers into fawning territory at times, the overall lessons are worth a read for anyone wanting an overview of how the web's most influential company is thinking.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 Favorites: Music

It was another interesting year in music, and for everything that i liked i know there were 10 more that i haven't yet discovered. despite the complaints that there isn't great music anymore, i have to disagree wholeheartedly. while fewer and fewer things are ubiquitous, the number of great releases in their niches is astounding. i continue to love amiestreet, the downloading service / community that, aside from word-of-mouth, continues to be my favorite place to discover and buy new music. so in no particular order, here are 10 of my favorites from 2009:

- St. Vincent: Actor. I was sold on the first listen of Annie Clark's 2007 debut, Marry Me, and feel no less emphatic about album #2, Actor. Smart arrangements, great personality in the vocals, and sharp-as-all-getout lyrics are the things that make me think that St. Vincent is one of the most compelling new artists around.

- The Veils: Sun Gangs. This was a record that seemed to be on everyone's Facebook status in the same week, and thanks to the early tip-offs i was able to get this one on amiestreet before it went to full price, though full price would have been well worth the price of entry. epic, self-serious stuff with heart and soul and great flexibility in vocals. it gives me the feeling of a collision with echo & the bunnymen, radiohead, and rufus wainwright, though rougher than all of them.

- Animal Collective: Merriwether Post Pavillion. After several years of hearing about Animal Collective, this was my first trip into full album land, and i have not been disappointed. freaky, rootsty, atmospheric, experimental - a great addition to mixes that can hold deerhoof AND fleet foxes together. and the cd cover's optical illusion is one of the cooler design gimmicks i've seen this year.

- The Mountain Goats: The Life Of The World To Come - i confess i'm late to the party on the mountain goats, since this is record #17. but wow. it's a beautiful song cycle that uses as titles various verses from the hebrew and christian scriptures, and launches into emotional territory that few religious artists come close to touching. the price of admission is justified by matthew 25:21 alone. mountain goats mastermind john darnielle creates a number of stories of peoples' passings set against the verse that reads, "His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’" one of the settings involves a story i later learned was based on darnielle's mother-in-law's cancer journey, and i cried like a baby remembering friends in years past who have succumbed to it, and then thinking of them in the light of that verse. every song has an illumination to it, and this one should probably top the list for emotional impact if not crank-it-up for repeated listens status.

- Deerhoof: Offend Maggie. i know, i know, it came out in october of '08, but i didn't buy it til '09 and i love deerhoof, so i must do something to spread the word. this band has become a favorite in the past 4-5 years, as they fly their freak flag, take big risks with noise and dynamics and generally keep my co-workers on their toes and on the lookout for noise bursts and unexpected twists and turns.

- Doves: Kingdom Of Rust. Doves are, to me, sort of like elbow, in that they have great success abroad, a low profile in the us, but continue to knock out consistently great albums with confidence. they have enough of a template to feel familiar, but take enough liberty to stay interesting and push their sound forward. so while other brit-bands can court tabloids and build empires, a band like doves can continue to grow a community that welcomes and keeps its members.

- Mew: No More Stories Are Told Today... and the rest of the pretentious and overlong title of the album can be read elsewhere. mew make unapollogetically dramatic music, bordering on pretentious, though i find it stirring and beautiful. how's that for borderline pretentious? but really, mew is music that creates an atmosphere that requires and creates space, something i have little of day to day, so perhaps i love this record because it takes me somewhere more open.

- Speech Debelle: Speech Therapy - my favorite hip-hop record from this year, though i confess i haven't had time to dig into mos def's latest, and i always loves me some mos def. this mercury prize-winning record from the uk finds the jamaican-born rapper in an amazingly transparent emotional space, all the while displaying a toughness that the hard-posturing caricatures that populate much of hip-hop can only aspire to. it's subtle, powerful and rewarding stuff from a voice that i'm glad amiestreet tipped me off to.

- Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - because they do classy things with pop music (pop in the traditional way, not american radio pop), and seem to be building their sound and following with each record. like doves, they have a foundation to build on, but keep taking risks, and aren't afraid to let us in on experiments like remixes and creative publicity-stunt-like performances that make them seem accessible and the kind of guys that would sit and have a drink after the show.

- Passion Pit: Manners - this one is a late entry to the list, but it's a synth-rock type of record that is just so much fun. it gives me the thought of human league, the noisettes and polyphonic spree all crashing into each other. there's joy, winking ironic-hipster stuff, but with conviction and skills. i'm glad i found this one and it continues to open up nuances with each listen.

there are many others that i liked as well but didn't get on here, so for posterity's sake i'll list a few more:

- deas vail - birds & cages
- monsters of folk - self-titled
- asobi seksu - hush
- muse - the resistance
- the xx - xx
- elle macho - !es potencial!
- au revoir simone - still night, still light
- arctic monkeys - humbug


Monday, November 30, 2009

one-hit wonder theology

so my awesome pastor, mary sue brookshire, pointed out to me last week that advent was coming (it started yesterday). and that the lectionary reading for the first sunday of advent always starts off with apocalypse - where jesus is talking about all the things that will be made right, all of the things that will be restored and reconciled.

i started looking into this and found this cool blog post about that very idea. as it turns out, the blogger is author jan richardson, whose book sacred journeys is one that michele has used with a group of friends.

anyway, sucker that i am for things like restoration and reconciliation (in most areas of my life ... most), that assurance that a season of waiting and preparation is all about the coming restoration of things. there's plenty to be anxious about, to freak out about, and to force me into making decisions that are out of line with who i understand myself to be, but the opportunity to step back, breathe, and remember that this is a chance to lean into the things i confess to believing is one i don't want to squander.

so perhaps there's some hint of decent theology in the one hit wonder from 1972 by stealer's wheel.

Monday, September 07, 2009

I'm ready to trade my car for a bike

Every year, New Belgium Brewery does an event called the Tour de Fat. It's a bicycle parade / party. This year, San Diego is one of 11 cities that the tour is visiting (10/3 in Balboa Park).

One of the things they do is a contest called "Trade Your Car For A Bike", whereby people can submit videos and stories of why they want to trade their car for a supremely cool custom New Belgium bike. Michele and I have flirted with being a one car family for most of our time here, and particularly since our '98 Bravada had a new transmission put in, though the shop also messed up the engine big-time.

Anyway, I just submitted a video to the fine folks at New Belgium making my petition for them to make us the bike recipients in San Diego.

Here's the video, including a shameless shot of my family on their bikes:

Here's hoping... I'll keep you updated if I hear anything.

Friday, July 24, 2009

oh, hello blog, i'm still here

got on a roll, and now it's stalled. i don't really have time for this now, but i don't want to forget that my good friend keri rankin-scalet was talking about our more hyper-attenuated faith practices in college, and told michele bluntly, "well, we were a little self-righteous." true - and i've got reems to write about that, though i prefer to think of myself as self-righteous but well-intentioned. certainly misdirected in how that was lived out. anyone else have those memories?

oh - the picture has nothing to do with this - i just wanted to put a picture in here. on second thought, a wiener is probably appropriate in some way. talk amongst yourselves.

Friday, May 01, 2009

interesting book review

here's an interesting look at british author terry eagleton's new book, "Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate". The reviewer gives an interesting overview of the book which covers some ground that strikes me as particularly poignant. mainly, that the "new athiests" - richard dawkins, sam harris, chirstopher hitchens - have put on blinders in terms of what roles are played out by religion, belief, science and myth, and how they address different issues.

religion and myth are really about the search for meaning and purpose, which of course can be distorted in any number of ways by interpretation, whereas science is more concerned with absolute answers and definitions to replicable, observable things. neither treads the same ground, and while they can inform one another, their base purposes are different.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

i've heard people say that going to church is like torture, but this is ridiculous

this is one of the most heartbreaking and infuriating things i can imagine reading. i mean look, i understand people facetiously talking about going to church as torture, or when kids say things like church bores them to death. maybe that's what i'm missing here: that so many people view their own churches as torture that torturing others can't seem to be that bad, because it's like going to church.

ok - not sure if that level of sarcasm is quite right here, because this is disturbing stuff, but it seems so preposterous that the most avid church goers would be the biggest group of people supporting torture. to be fair, the survey does show a significant disparity between white evangelical church goers (the biggest torture supporters) and primarily white mainline churches (least likely overall to support torture). perhaps this signals the opportunity to have a broader discussion, and i don't want to demonize or even make assumptions about groups with differing opinions, as i have stereotype-shattering friends across the spectrum on this.

but really, what does this kind of survey do for peoples' perceptions of people of christian faith? particularly after this other story on the shifting religious paths of americans. in some ways, spectacular stories like this don't seem to drive people away from deeply held beliefs, but i do wonder how they affect those looking at it from a vantage point that isn't insider-y? we have friends of myriad backgrounds that don't want their kids going to a church-run pre-school because they are concerned about the kind of indoctrination that their kids might receive. other friends were skeptical about an organization like invisible children because of their christian foundations, and were relieved when they found that ic really was about serving the people and not just doing a bait and switch to proselytize.

i'm rambling at this point, but here's the thing. torture is what happened to jesus, and now a large % of jesus' followers advocate torture. that is messed up.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

amazing commercial & making of

wow - what a week! i need some time to backlog some posts, and more music recommendations are on the way, but in the meantime check out this amazing commercial for the new honda insight hybrid. the producers created the world's largest led screen out of about 1,000 cars. there's also a making of clip that is awesome.

Honda Insight - Let It Shine from Honda on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

ahh, this may be why borders is having trouble

when it comes to a bookstore chain, i like borders, really i do. i prefer great local indie shops like powell's or davis-kidd, but in our new space here in san diego i haven't found a store like that yet, so i like to look at borders. i like their design better than barnes & noble and they used to have a music aesthetic that fit me better than others.

but the reason i was shopping there last week was that i had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket and decided that i needed some fun new reading for an upcoming trip. i went for christopher moore's new book, fool, dan kennedy's rock on: an office power ballad, and one of the 33 1/3 books on radiohead's ok computer.

so i got a voice mail from a local store telling me that my order from had arrived and i could pick it up anytime. huh? i'd ordered it to come to the office so i could get it fresh in the middle of the day. i called the store, and after being on hold for 5 minutes while they checked, someone came back on the line and informed me that it was a bummer that my order had gone there, but my only option was to drive to their store and pick it up. it's not all that far, but for a one car family, heading another 10 minutes from where we generally traverse is a pain, and the store's nonchalance about it struck me the wrong way. so now i need to figure out when i can get to a place i don't normally go for something that already bugs me.

it got me wondering about how my expectations shape my mood, and how what others may expect from me shape their view of me - as a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor, etc. i'm a pretty flexible person and prone to be able to improvise and find solutions on the go. but that's me, and if i unfairly measure others by that yardstick, or assume that they measure me that way, well, i can see some conflict there.

so i'm still not happy with borders and will revert back to another online store that gets things right or makes me happy making up for it. i'll also have a little voice in my head when i see the borders name somewhere making me ask some questions of myself.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

happy earth day!

today is earth day. i'm hoping that we'll be able to take a little time as a family and talk about how we can take some further steps to reduce our carbon footprint. i did a small post for the youth specialties blog today that talks about it a bit. i'm inspired by the challenge to take small steps to cut 10% of our usage in a year - a totally achievable goal, yet one that takes some intentionality.

i remember my college band, suedehead and the pop tops, playing at the valparaiso university earth day festival in 1991, the spring after i'd graduated. at the time earth day seemed like an obscure thing that was fairly parochial, limited to big cities and college campuses. it's amazing to see how prominent earth day celebrations are today, and aside from the good it does in reducing waste, it's a fantastic opportunity to think about and plan for steps that help us lead more intentional lives, thinking about others and how our actions affect each other.

happy earth day everyone!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

tuesday music - the veils

my co-worker jay howver dropped a blank disc on my desk yesterday afternoon and said, "check this out", with no explanation. i popped it in the drive and laughed when i saw what came up, because about two weeks ago i went to amiestreet after having seen a number of people posting about the new album from the veils - sun gangs. that's what jay had given me.

i've been digging this record a ton and am still finding a lot surfacing on repeated listens. touch points here would be echo & the bunnymen, arcade fire, nick cave, and in a couple spots, like the closing song "begin again", that are very rufus wainwright-ish, which to me can only be a good thing.

this is a band that can go from straight forward, brit-infused indie rock to some pretty epic stuff, like "larkspur" and then bring it back down to a simple song like "begin again", all within what i'd describe as elegant brooding, melodic atmosphere. "sit down by the fire" is a great way to launch the record, and other favorites include "killed by the boom" and "the house she lived in".

leader finn andrews comes from smart, incisive music naturally, as his dad played keys for both xtc and shriekback. this is the band's third album, though the first i've gotten, and i anticipate diving deeper into their catalog based on this record. if you enjoy your sweeping brit-infused stuff with some added heaviness of tone, this is record for you.

Monday, April 20, 2009


yesterday i discovered a series of video interviews on faith posted on the washington post's site. it's an interesting mix of people, from elie weisel to td jakes, gene robinson and joel osteen, jim wallis and christiane amanpour, and this interesting clip of lorne michaels, creator of saturday night live.

plenty to go through and a fun mix of people.

Friday, April 17, 2009

record store day! support indie record stores!

tomorrow is record store day, a celebration of independent music stores around the country. there are artist appearances, free stuff galore and great deals on music from the kinds of stores that have been the heart and soul of breaking new bands for years. i'll likely be hitting lou's recordsin encinitas, and there are hundreds of other great shops around the country that deserve your support.

I totally understand the changing face of music retail, and online destinations like amiestreet, noisetrade, pitchfork, filter, pandora and of course itunes have all made music easier to find and purchase. but i still love the feel of a place that allows for true community to form and people to recognize other like-minded music maniacs. i remember heading to uncle albert's records in my hometown of arlington heights, il to buy a copy of wls djs larry lujack and tommy edwards' (uncle 'lar and little tommy) animal stories records, or when i was on the dj committee at my junior high and buying 45s of j. geils band "freeze frame" and "centerfold" and csn's "southern cross", barely realizing that i was also immersed in the nw suburbs' prime a head shop and meeting place for incense afficionados.

in nashville, grimey's new & pre-loved music is the place to go not just for great music but for a great hang and a room where music lovers are celebrated. there's also a great little venue downstairs, appropriately called the basement, where you're likely to hear great music most nights, and certainly some surprises through the years.

so go to the record store day site and find your local record store and be sure to spend a little scratch with them not just on saturday, but throughout the year, and know that you're contributing to the lifeblood of great new music. amen.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

macbook still out. if i'm missing a call with you today email me or call 619-440-2333
Ping test 4: listening to the surprising sound of michele looking for her keys

spike jonze: king of the kids' book adaptations

check both of these trailers for legendary kids book movie adaptations, with a special thanks to rob mitchell for tipping me off on the second.

where the wild things are:

everyone poops:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

tv weatherman - failblog

thanks to rob mitchell for this one

what am i interested in?

about 6 months ago i was evaluated by a group of co-workers (anonymously, so the info was straightforward ad very helpful). one of the items had people rate me on the statement, “has hobbies or interests outside of work.” i scored high. when that came back i shared with the leadership team at ys that i felt that i did have those in nashville, but in the midst of a cross country move, settling into a new neighborhood, getting kids in school, traveling 7 out of 10 weeks during one fall stretch and having michele’s parents move in with us, i didn’t feel i had those so far in san diego, though i must have duped the raters convincingly.

i told michele a few days ago that i was feeling a big gap in that area, particularly with the amount of hours i’ve been putting in at work and trying to be more intentional about time with the kids, which is another topic entirely. she asked what hobbies i thought i had in nashville, and i wasn’t sure what to say. so many of them were social hobbies as much as anything: browsing the bins at grimey’s record shop or talking about anything at all at the 12 south taproom was another, and i worked out quite regularly, which i haven’t done at all in san diego. i have myriad interests, though i haven’t spent focused time on anything in the last year, and i’m seeing the result of that in several ways. my intellectual curiosity is still there, but not acted out in any social way. in nashville we were blessed to have an amazingly large network of friends, and i could count on fairly regular social interaction with people i knew and who knew me, not to mention new friendships that popped up regularly.

so i’m re-examining those things. i must work out again or i’ll get back to my maximum density years of my late 20s. and while this is sure to counter balance those efforts, i’ve been thinking regularly about doing some more home brewing, which is fun to do solo and in a small group. i’m sure michele is thrilled by the memory of the scent of a brew kit in action, but the windows will be open, and i’ll look forward to unveiling something. i’ve mentioned it to a couple friends and it looks like we might have our own little club here in la mesa. stay tuned for the brew of the month.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

tuesday music update

each tuesday i'm going to try and write about whatever music i've been listening to. and because tuesday is new release day it seems a good time to make mention of it in case you're looking for something to check out. today it's all about the band farewell flight and their fantastic record, "sound. color. motion."

full disclosure: i had the privilege of working with farewell flight during my time at gotee records / mono vs. stereo . what's more, the record has been finished for well over a year, but after a lot of juggling, the band and mvs parted ways very amicably, and they have continued to be one of the hardest working and touring bands i know of. they're constantly on the road, and in february made their inaugural west coast trip after 8 or 9 east / midwest tours. seeing the band again made me remember just how much i love their music and take on things.

"sound. color. motion." is a record that fits neatly in line with bands like death cab for cutie, doves, even pedro the lion at times. luke foley is a wonderfully emotive singer who kicks things off with "a lullaby for insomniacs" with a nice set up of a character that to me has shades of the hold steady in it's descriptions. other favorite songs for me include "indianapolis", "begin again", the usual vernacular" and a standout track, "america will break your heart". the last one has even more resonance for me knowing that the guys read shane claiborne's first book the irresistible revolution and that some of his views on consumerism are echoed in the song's lyrics.

after seeing the band in february i messaged a number of friends in towns where the band was going to be laying and got several replies that they had checked it out and bought immediately. i hope the same happens with this post, as i couldn't wish for a band to get some breaks more than this one. enjoy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

the lightning fast transition from sublime to ridiculous

easter sunday
morning: meditation on redemption, second chances galore and the beauty of slowness to anger.
afternoon: max on back patio, buck naked, soaking wet with a chocolate easter bunny in hand and chocolate smeared all over his torso.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

great easter song (in my twisted mind)

i've been delving into the back catalog of one of my favorite bands of the past 4-5 years,the hold steady
the end of their fantastic record, separation sunday, closes with the track, how a resurrection really feels
this song caught me off guard a couple weeks ago, and i'll post the lyrics, which you can also find here
i'd also recommend you listen to the song that serves as a sort of prequel, which is called
crucifixion cruise
this isn't your standard triumphant hymn by any means, but the first half of the song in particular gets to me. it's a great scene to picture in my mind. hope you enjoy - here are the lyrics:

how a resurrection really feels - the hold steady
her parents named her halleluiah, the kids all called her holly.
if she scared you then she's sorry. she's been stranded at these parties.
these parties they start lovely but they get druggy and they get ugly and they get bloody.

the priest just kinda laughed. the deacon caught a draft.
she crashed into the easter mass with her hair done up in broken glass.
she was limping left on broken heels.
when she said father can i tell yr congregation how a resurrection really feels?

holly was a hoodrat. now you finally know that.
she's been disappeared for years. today she finally came back.

she said: st. louis had enslaved me. i guess santa ana saved me.
st. peter had me on the queue. the st. paul saints they waved me thru.
i was all wrapped up in some video booth. when i heard her say i love you too.

she said i've laid beneath my lovers but i've never gotten laid.
some nites she felt protected. some nites she felt afraid.
she spent half last winter justa trying to get paid.
from some guy she'd originally thought to be her saviour.

they wrote her name in magic marks. on stopsigns and subway cars.
they got a mural up on e.13th. that said halleluiah rest in peace.

halleluiah was a hoodrat. and now you finally know that.
she's been disappeared for years. today she finally came back.

walk on back. walk on back. she said don't turn me on again. i'd probably just go and get myself all gone again.
holly was a sexy mess. she looked strung out but experienced. so we all got kind of curious.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

fantastic new book

i'll do a larger post on david dark's fantastic new book, "the sacredness of questioning everything" soon, but as i finished the post on the sd reader story i recalled a favorite thing that david writes about. it's that he and his wife talk with their kids about going to "church building" as an intentional way to reinforce that people are the church, and buildings are where some of those people meet some of the time.

i've tried to start that with syd and max and it's an interesting conversation.

Friday, April 10, 2009

why do people go to church?

today i picked up the latest issue of the san diego reader, an alternative weekly paper, and read this really interesting story. the headline is provocative enough, and i expected something different than what the story held, but it was a great read nonetheless. i had expected more word on the street kinds of things, interviews with people abut why they did or didn't go to church, and it really turned into more of a piece on an orthodox priest who had travelled to that place from beginnings in a presbyterian church and a lot of time with campus crusade for christ.

it's interesting in that i've become aware of a decent number of people who have found themselves drawn to eastern orthodoxy (be that greek, russian, serbian, etc.) in the past few years, as well as many more who have gone from conventional evangelicalism to anglican, catholic and other more liturgical traditions as they have delved deeper into the roots of their faith.

growing up in the chicago area i was fully aware of catholicism, and my mom, though she was raised to believe that catholic=bad, never conveyed that thought to me, for which i am thankful. i don't think she believes that either, by the way - something she overcame from her youth.

anyway, it's a fascinating read and i need to go revisit karen armstrong's a history of god,particularly for its passages on the divide between the easter church and what has become catholicism.

still to come this weekend, a new favorite song that fits right in to easter, albeit in an unconventional and sloppy, salty way.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

you mean the pc "laptop hunter" commercial is a fraud?

being a mac fan i was of course skeptical of the new pc commercials, but here's one of my favorite cranks, bob lefsetz, to debunk the commercials. For the uninitiated, bob lefsetz is a music business thinker, gadfly and blogger. while he can be gruff and given to an abundance of hyperbole i find a lot of truth in what he writes, though i still can't figure out his love for modern country music. don't hold that against him. his posts on the music he loves are as passionate and indulgent as they come. here's a short burst on lying to customers:

Stop lying.

The Web has a zillion sleuths just waiting to be activated, like that worm on your computer delineated on "60 Minutes" last night (, (PC-only, in fact), in order to verify the veracity of your statements.

Latest example?

Microsoft's new "Laptop Hunters" TV campaign, in which an uber-attractive girl professes she's not cool enough to buy an Apple laptop and goes for a cheaper Windows machine.

Within moments, it was revealed that "Lauren" was not an average person, but a member of SAG (Screen Actor's Guild) recruited from Craigslist (

Then, it was revealed that the computer she purchased was an old model (,2817,2344017,00.asp) with bad reviews:

Then a Mac user offered to GIVE HER his own Apple PowerBook so she could see what she was missing:

In other words, if you think you can pull the wool over the public's eyes, with your lame excuse denying the truth, you're wrong. The twenty first century is about transparency. Reveal the facts, admit the truth and move on. People today know life is complicated, mistakes and failures are part of the game:

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

one year anniversary

one year ago today i started work at youth specialties. i knew i was in the right place when i found my office decorated as the picture show - floor to ceiling covering in aluminum foil. i quickly dubbed it the foilarium and have collected the majority of the foil into a single, massive ball of foil that sits on a shelf here.

i'd had a long standing friendship / love affair with ys before coming to work here, and have some amazing relationships with ys employees past and present. a few stories that have shaped my perception of the kind of poeple that i've encountered at ys through the years:

- mike(y) atkinson being sure to invite me to a gospelcom web seminar when i was at reunion records and fighting through the skepticism of "this internet thing" and whether anyone would actually use it. mikey encouraged and educated me on many things, and also provided a framework for working through the square peg feeling of being in christian media but not fitting into the stereotypes that i was encountering.

- i recall calling marko very early one morning on a weekend trip with the ebpc youth group when will penner stuck with me a number of on-medication-but-not-taking-meds junior high students. i laid into marko asking him how he could possibly like working with middle schoolers and to call me as soon as he got this message for some ideas of how to not kill them. of course, he waiting until monday morning and asked me, "so, how was your weekend, sunshine?" with a grin so wide i could see it 2,000 miles away. i'm a high school guy, but marko has always modeled a consistent love for middle school kids, and i can't help but respect that.

- when squint entertainment was shuttered and our whole team got canned, mike yaconelli called me the day it happened asking if i was ok, if i needed work, if he could help in any way. i was floored. at his memorial service i must have run into half a dozen people with pretty much the same story.

- pretty much any time in the past year or so that i've reverted to junior high type behavior or language, michele asks me if i've been around or talked with ys publisher jay howver. i guess there's just something about jay that brings that out of me. in addition to the work relationship, jay (and marko) have been part of a group of guys that gets together annually to be present to each other in our lives, and that group has meant a tremendous amount to me.

- not long after i started last year we were at a july 4th party at tic's house (though he was on vacation and allowed michele, the kids and me to stay there during our time in exile). it was a fun and not very raucous time, but we watched fireworks on the hillside of tic's house and shared a few beers and cigars, along with some great conversations. several ys folks were there, including marko and his family, mindi godfrey, bethany marvin and beth slevcove along with her husband joe and their daughter. my in-laws were there as well and i remember my father-in-law expressing his appreciation for the welcome that he and my mother-in-law had received from the group. he said something to the effect of that if his generation in church life had been as welcoming he thinks people may have had a closer connection to faith and real life, and be less concerned with legalism.

so while ys goes through a period of re-formation and re-alignment, i'm still thankful for the chance to be a part of it. getting to work with and for youth workers who pour their lives into the lives of teenagers is an awesome opportunity and i'm convinced that it helps me stay young. well, that and the cool hat i wear to impress amy gilchrist here into thinking i'm young.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

my favorite new music site

i may have posted on this before, but i don't care. i love it's a fantastic way to discover new music and purchase at a price that rewards experimentation, as songs start at a lower price which increases as popularity and recommendations increase. it also serves as a great means of going deeper into bands' catalogs when they were on indies.

i discovered the hold steady a few years back with "boys & girls in america", and their two previous records, "separation sunday" and "almost killed me" are at amiestreet for about $5-$6 each. want pre-"friend opportunity" music from deerhoof? amiestreet is the place. what's more - there are scores of free tracks and albums to browse and sample.

amazon is a minority investor in this site, which was started by three friends from brown university. nobody knows where online music is going, but for the time being i loves me some amiestreet. enjoy.

justin nozuka is talented ... and has short fans

last week i surprised michele by taking her to the famous belly up tavern in solana beach to see a fairly new singer-songwriter named justin nozuka. michele had seen him on a direct tv concert special and was blown away by him, so i was able to keep the word that he was coming to san diego from her.

usually when i work on some "aww, that's so sweet" type of thing for michele something happens in the process that aggravates or just plain pisses her off, because i'm doing something irrational to keep it a secret and it's not until there's a "reveal" that she puts it all together. this one went remarkably smoothly, and the only way that even guessed that it had to do with live music was that our friend moira showed up at the restaurant we had dinner at before the show.

nozuka is in that john mayer / david gray / jason mraz vein, which i find pleasant if not entirely satisfying. he's got a great voice and a more soulful approach than any of the others i mentioned, which helped me go along with the show much more. his band was good. great guitar / keyboard guy, and a solid rhythm section that i wish could have stretched out some more.

at many, if not most shows, my 6'1" frame gives me a good view of things, and michele has hit or miss experiences. well, this night even michele towered over his adoring and diminutive fans. i'm not sure what that's all about, but it was strikingly obvious and really humorous. so if you're 5' or less, justin nozuka may be the dreamboat singer-songwriter you've been looking for.

recent read: what would google do

i just finished jeff jarvis's new book, what would google do?. it's an insightful study of how google's core principles have re-imagined myriad industries and means of doing things, and jarvis takes time to imagine what other industries would look like if they google-fied themselves. a few themes that were predominant and that make such sense, imho:

- trust your customers and they will trust you: open up information, process and rationale and customers, constituents, etc. will find new ways to utilize things as well as trust you more.
- determine what business you're really in (ex - zappos is not a show selling site but a customer service company), and then build platforms for others to do that.
- do no evil. even with a mind-numbing amount of information about their users, there is a challenge at google to utilize that for good purposes, to leave some money on the table and define what is enough.

there's certainly an almost worshipful tone that jarvis expresses toward google, and about 3/4 of the way through the case studies started to get repetitive, but it all makes great sense and reflects many conversations i've had in the music world, in talks with non-profits and certainly at ys. i also appreciated his quick chapter on the two things you can't google-fy: god and apple.

aside from the business side of this book, the overall study of how people are using resources like google and their suite of products to build creative and commercial outlets is a fascinating look at participative and collaborative trends of connection and expression.

i was given the book to read for a group of marketing folks at zondervan and i've gotten copies for my team at ys as well. certainly a recommended read.

Monday, March 30, 2009

a coffee shop without wi-fi? really?

if i were to open a coffee shop, i have to think that one of the basics, aside from say, coffee and a source for lots of clean, hot water, would be a wi-fi setup for customers. i mean, i'd probably need it for business anyway, but for the $50/month it would cost i have to believe that it would be a sensible investment to find some local customers who would set up shop and more than pay for the investment.

so surprise when, early this morning when i needed to find a space for an hour or so, the new shop that opened 3 blocks from my house has no wi-fi at all. and this isn't some neo-luddite, principled stance, they just had not even thought of it, and i think they looked at me like i was an alien when i asked.

shame, because it's a nice little spot, super-convenient and i don't need change to fee a meter, but for now they have ceded the space for my business to other, less convenient places.

it was good to jar me into asking what basic expectations i have of sites, businesses, etc. and whether or not my role in them (ys, specifically) is helping to exceed those expectations. well, at least that's what i was thinking of as i drove away.

pillow fight!

i just read about the nashville group, "optimist manifesto", and the public pillow fight they staged last week in centennial park. unfortunately this grass roots gathering to have public fun in the midst of such ongoing bad news was shut down mid-stream, as the group had apparently not secured the proper permits. with all due respect to public officials, this seems like the kind of thing that should have been allowed to go on for the sheer good will of it all. here's a fun and nicely edited video piece of the goings-on:

Monday, January 19, 2009

obama is being called the "first internet president", and something that struck me today in thinking about that was the correlation between the way that bush's administration operated (and how mccain campaigned), and how the music industry has shifted during that presidency.

you see, music has shifted almost entirely to a pull economy, from what was historically a push economy. no longer do music lovers have to sift through what the more powerful components push to radio stations or video channels. we go out and find what we like, engage with it and go deep if we really like it. anything else rolls off like water on a duck's back. the popularity of gift cards for itunes and the post-christmas digital rush shows that no longer are people accepting the blockbuster releases that well-meaning family and friends give them on cd. instead, we get gift cards, load up our account and get what we want, how we want.

the bush presidency and mccain campaigns ran like old-school, push-delivery media. control the message, control the information, control the campaign workers and volunteers and believe that they actually get to set the tone and pace of the campaign. obama, in contrast, spent a great amount of time distributing the campaign info to passionate volunteers, and the listened to them when they communicated what was working and what wasn't. what's more, they then had those volunteers go find others and train them, allowing for greater involvement of people, not just in numbers, but in ideas.

for a fascinating view on this, read zack exley's article here

what really strikes me about this is the sense that trust and confidence have been placed with the quality of ideas, of music, of content. if a band can make a connection and keep an audience engaged, they have to place a certain amount of trust that those fans will stay with them, which offers far more freedom than relying on the music being given as a gift and the end listener not having any investment in them. similarly, for a candidate to do things like let their supporters run with ideas and tactics when all history says that they should control the message is astonishing.

the implications of this across so many areas are huge, and while it is disruptive, destabilizing and downright terrifying for some, it is a signal of things to come, and i embrace that. best of luck, mr. president-elect - thanks for trusting us.