Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Music with No Lyrics

"Call it aura. Art always has had to do with aura -- spiritual aura in the past, individual aura in modern times -- and this applies not just to visual art. Religious music, for example, was written to express piety and honor the church. Court music was composed to compliment the king. But in the modern era, secular symphonies arrived. What were they supposed to celebrate? The temperament of the composer. As the pianist Charles Rosen has written, pure instrumental music came to have 'its own law, its own reason for existing: it [was] produced by the artist not for a purpose but because he must -- out of an 'inner necessity'"

Source: The Accidental Masterpiece by Michael Kimmelman

Gluttony, Gifts and Good Will

What a Christmas! It was a whirlwind of activity. Quite the change from last year. The difference is finding a church where we're forging friendships with some good folks. It's a welcome change, believe me.
On Christmas Eve, we went to church that morning and grabbed a light lunch. We then went home, watched Home Alone and got ready for the evenings festivities. We started off with a nice get-together at the Cox's. We had a big turkey meal with all the trimmings and it was good. Knowing we had another get-together after church, Sarah and I held back. We then headed off to the Christmas Eve Lite Brite Service at our church. True to the name, they had what looked like a giant Lite Brite in the sanctuary with different Christmas pictures displayed. The kids did a Nativity presentation that was hysterical. (the two young divas fighting over the one microphone was classic) After church, we headed to our second party of the day at the Douglas home. As we entered, smoked salmon was thrust upon us and we dove in heartily. After a little while, we sat down for a 5 course dinner featuring prime rib. It was a fantastic meal and even better company. We had a wonderful time. Later that night, we wobbled home, swallowed every antacid known to man and went to bed.
Christmas morning arrived and there was much snoring. We slept until about 9 and slowly pulled our creaky bones out from under the covers. After we were successful in waking ourselves up, we commenced with the gift exchange. Sarah got me a belgian waffle iron and the complete set of Monty Python's Flying Circus on DVD. I gave her Creature Comforts Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD and a gift card to go get some funky star lamps she wants. We also got each other several of our favorite snacks but they were met with a lackluster 'thank you' and tossed aside. We talked to our parents on the phone and then ate the Stollen (a german fruitcake and Sarah's family tradition) we had gotten for the occasion. Later we had Christmas lasagna (our new tradition) and went over to some of our new church friends house for games and more food. (we didn't eat much over there)
As you can see, it's been a busy season but a good one. Going back to work wasn't fun but there's hardly anyone around at the theatre so it's kind of quiet. I hope your holiday was as fun as ours. I just hope I fit into my clothes once the new year rolls around.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Len Sweet at the Kindlings Muse

"We are supposed to be closest to the Creator and for the church to be the least creative place around...is a scandal." - Len Sweet

"The Bible has this phrase: Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold. Don't let the church squeeze you into its mold either because the church can squeeze you alot harder than the world can into certain conventions and molds." - Len Sweet

"...there are certain times in history where God is more active in the world than in the church and I think we're living in one of them right now. I think God's doing some incredible stuff out there but I don't think alot of it's in the church, I think alot of it is in this culture and I think our job is to join him in what he's doing and in whoever he's appearing in." - Len Sweet

"To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed is to be a pilgrim." - Mark Nepo

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Stroll and Some Scrolls

Sarah and I finally went to see the Dead Sea Scrolls down at the Pacific Science Center. We had free passes since she helped them in the planning stage with some costuming issues. I found it to be a very educational experience. I really enjoyed reading the placards and listening to the audio provided. I loved seeing the arts and crafts of the day; a comb, a basket, some cloth, pots. Then when it came time to see the scrolls it was pretty amazing. Words can't describe my thoughts so I won't even try. It has prompted me to perhaps do a little more research. Even the little room at the end with the sacred texts from different cultures was pretty awesome in and of itself.
After exiting the exhibit, we made our way to the monorail. After last years accident where two of them collided, they've been shut down most of the year and have only recently been running again. Well, when we got over there, they were shut down again. I guess we'll never get to ride the stupid thing. As we said last night as we walked away, "Stupid, stupid monorail."
Since that didn't work out, we ducked into Center House to get change for the bus and discovered a Christmas Village with working trains. It was pretty cool. After taking a few pics for my Uncle Jerry (he loves trains) we scooted out into the rain to catch the bus down to the shopping district. We spent some time finishing up Christmas shopping and ate dinner at P. F. Chang's. It was fairly bustling downtown. Actually it was a madhouse. Nordstroms has a Santa Claus house built on the corner and the line to see the Jolly Old Elf (and get pricey pics) was down the block. We got tired out pretty quickly and took a cab back to our vehicle at Seattle Center. Once home, we enjoyed some dessert and watched some Battlestar Galactica. It was fun to get out but it's so crazy at Christmas. I'll be glad when it slows down after the first of the year. Then we can trek back downtown and enjoy it without the mobs.

Booklist

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The premise is simple: A young boy and his father trek across a post-apocalyptic landscape, surviving day to day in an inhospitable environment. It's a plain story told plainly yet I found myself rooting for these two lost souls. Actually, not much happens in the story. It's actually pretty cliche. They journey, they find food, they run out of food, all seems hopeless, they find food again, etc. And yet, I kept with it. I was compelled to see if things would turn out alright for the man and the boy. Do they? You'll have to read it yourself to see.

Art is Discovery

"I think that part of the artmaking process...is that it's often about discovery. It may start out with a kernel of an idea but eventually it'll move to something larger and you don't know where it's going but you know how to respond and shape." - Roger Feldman (Artist and Professor of Art at Seattle Pacific University)

Source: The Incarnation: An Artful Evening, a podcast from The Kindlings Muse

A Poem of Incarnation

Made Flesh
Luci Shaw

After the bright beam of hot annunciation
fused heaven with dark earth
his searing sharply-focused light
went out for a while
eclipsed in amniotic gloom:
his cool immensity of splendor
his universal grace
small-folded in a warm dim
female space—
the Word stern-sentenced
to be nine months dumb—
infinity walled in a womb
until the next enormity—the Mighty,
after submission to a woman’s pains
helpless on the barn-bare floor
first-tasting bitter earth.
Now, I in him surrender
to the crush and cry of birth.
Because eternity
was closeted in time
he is my open door
to forever.From his imprisonment my freedoms grow,
find wings.
Part of his body, I transcend this flesh.
From his sweet silence my mouth sings.
Out of his dark, I glow.
My life, as his,
slips through death’s mesh,
time’s bars,
joins hands with heaven,
speaks with stars.

Dag Quote

"God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason." - Dag Hammarskjold

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Poems About Jesus

Comic poet Jude Simpson has written some interesting poems about Jesus. You can find them all here. Make sure you also click on the MP3s which allow you to listen to them read by Jude herself.
There are also some poems by journalist Steve Turner. Check those out here.

Art and Beauty: Urinals, Tattoos and Nudity

"I realized recently how frustrating it can be to fail to see what others find beautiful. If...you have ever walked into a museum or gallery or looked at a picture in a magazine...and wondered how anything so ugly and lacking in taste had come to be considered art, you might recall the moment in 1917 when Marcel Duchamp acquired a porcelain urinal from a plumbing equipment manufacturer...signed it "R. Mutt," and submitted the now infamous Fountain to the Society of Independent Artists exhibition...The society...found the urinal beyond the pale.
"You mean to say, if a man sent in horse manure glued to a canvas that would have to accept it?" asked the artist George Bellows.
"I'm afraid we would," replied Walter Arensberg, Duchamp's patron and champion, who had shopped with him for Fountain.
Arensberg...went on to defend the work aesthetically as a "lovely form," which was going too far even for Duchamp, who later said he was horrified that his readymades...had come to be admired for their beauty. "I thought to discourage aesthetics," he said. "I threw...the urinal in their faces as a challenge, and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty."

"Immanuel Kant...saw engravings of tattooed native New Zealanders and announced that the tattoos did not enhance the beauty of the human figure. That was just one man's aesthetic opinion. It seems never to have occurred to him that the tattoos may not have had an aesthetic purpose but were the consequence of a ritual or religious passage: through the painful process of tattooing, the tattooed New Zealander achieved power. What was a question of beauty to one man was something entirely different to another."
So how to define the beautiful? The ancient Greeks...devised a mathematical scheme for the proportions of the human body that set an abstract ideal of physical beauty, which has little to do with real life. As Kenneth Clark wrote, "It is widely supposed that the naked human body is in itself an object upon which the eye dwells with pleasure and which we are glad to see depicted. But anyone who has frequented art schools and seen the shapeless, pitiful model that the students are industriously drawing will know this is an illusion."

"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in its proportion." - Francis Bacon

Source: The Accidental Masterpiece by Michael Kimmelman

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Joe Barbera: 1911-2006

With his partner William Hanna, Joe Barbera is one of the pioneers of animation. The Jetsons, the Flintstones, Yogi Bear and countless other creations have blessed our lives with much needed humor. Their greatest gift to the world was the Tom and Jerry cartoons. These early MGM toons stand timeless along with the works of Disney, Fleischer, Jones and other giants of the industry. They also created my favorite cartoon of all time, Jonny Quest.
Thanks, Joe, for all the great toons.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Another Sick Cat

Max is doing better but now Mickey is sick. Fortunately we know what his problem is. Over the last couple of days, he's eaten every bit of food we've left out for Max and now his tummy is upset. I'd accuse him of being jealous of all the attention we've been giving Max but the evidence is mounting. I'll tell you...I've had about enough with the cat emissions over the last couple of days. I just hope these two get better soon. It's heartbreaking to see these little guys not feeling well.

The Call: A Wild Ride

When I was a youth minister in SC I took a group of young people whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River in NC. I had been rafting once before, on a guided trip down the Ocoee River in TN. On this particular trip, we had a family with us that were, all of them, expert rafters. Because of this, I was told we didn't need to have guides for the trip. It ended up being a big mistake. Once we arrived at the river, I found out that the family each had their own individual conveyances for the trip. None of them would be with us in the rafts. Too late to do anything about it, we jumped in the rafts and took off.
I knew it was going to be a long trip when, on the first turn, I was thrown off the raft into the cold water. After the initial shock of hitting the water, I immediately got my body into the position taught to me on my previous rafting trip. The position is designed to minimize injury. It worked to some extent, although my behind dragged the rocky bottom and made it uncomfortable to sit for a while. I lost my shoes, hat and sunglasses on that dunk and we had barely started. I finally rejoined the rafts and we got on our way again. Things went smoothly for most of the rest of the trip and I assumed our troubles were over. I was wrong.
Near the end of the trip, our group hit a trouble spot. We came around a corner and saw many people in the water with empty rafts surrounding them. The people on the shore were yelling at us to do something but I couldn't hear them over the noise of the people in the water and the river itself. The next thing I know, our raft hits and rock and goes completely vertical. Our entire group was thrown into the water. Having been there already, I remained calm.
Unfortunately, others did not. When I surfaced, I came up near one of my girls and she was, in a word, freaking out. I reached out and grabbed her and, while trying to speak words of comfort to her, started dragging her to shore. Once we got everyone out of the water we found that everyone was safe and sound. The rafts were secure and waiting for us to return to the trip. At that point it was made known that the end of the journey was right around the next bend and that it could be walked. With that revelation, half of our party chose to hoof it the rest of the way. They had had enough of the water.
The few that decided to join me in finishing in the rafts mounted up and we headed for the finish line. We were tired, sore and still had a 3-4 hour drive back to SC. Needless to say, it was a memorable day. Despite all the drama that ensued that day, I can't wait for another opportunity to do some whitewater rafting.
This past Sunday, our Sunday morning class at church is continuing its discussion about the Call of God on an individuals life. Our instructor has begun to talk about the Holy Spirit a lot of late. He is concerned that we, as Christians, are not tapping into the power that is available to us. He is concerned that we are too terrified to fully submit to the Call that is on our lives. I would have to say that he is 100% correct on that point.
Fully submitting to the will or call of God on our lives is like rafting down a raging river. Sometimes you hear the instructions of the guide and sometimes it seems as if there's no guide at all. Sometimes you feel confident you are conquering the river. Sometimes you fall out of the raft and into the dangerous rapids. You have no control. There is no steering. The water takes you where it will. It pulls you under and then lets you up for air. The rocks bruise and scratch your body as you continually fight for life. Death, at this point, is a very real possibility. Finally, the current lets up and you are able to crawl to shore a battered heap of wet exhaustion.
These thoughts are incomplete and I may visit them again sometime. I guess what I'm trying to say is do we stay safe on the shore or jump in and see where the current takes us? Right now, I'm on the shore. I've nearly drowned in the past so I don't trust the guide anymore. But every now and again, I stick my big toe in the water and wonder if I really should jump back in the water.

Booklist

Flaming London by Joe R. Lansdale
In this sequel to Zeppelins West, Ned the Seal returns to team up with Mark Twain, Jules Verne and an odd assortment of characters in their fight against the Martian tripods.
I mentioned earlier that Zeppelins West was a strange book and I didn't know if I would read the sequel or not. Well, I caved and read it. It was short so what the heck. This one had a bit more of a plot and more interesting characters but I'm not about to put any of these books up for a major literary award.
Reader beware! These books contain offensive language and, as I said before, just plain weird. Read at your own risk.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sick Kitty Report

Max is doing much better today. The day started with us thinking he was about the same but he's been eating some and been very clingy, wanting lots of attention. (which is good because he's been hiding alot the last few days) We had a bit of an episode with kitty poop tonight. If you have a weak stomach, do not read on...but it's too funny not to share.
Sarah and I kinda lazed around and watched a movie this afternoon. Afterward, as we prepared to give Max his medicine I noticed something brown on the back of Sarah's shirt. I told her about it and then stuck my finger in it thinking it was chocolate cake (which we had just eaten). Thank God I sniffed rather than tasted. It was poop. Poor Max's pooper isn't working quite right yet and he had gotten some on the pillow on the futon which Sarah had been laying on. YUCK! Well, we stripped the futon and all other contaminated materials and had a pretty good laugh about the whole thing. (especially the part about the possibility of me sticking my finger in my mouth to taste the "chocolate") To top it all off, Sarah had made brownies. It's funny. Neither one of us had a craving for brownies tonight. And again, I say YUCK!
So, Max is better and we're pooped! Pray that Max continues to improve over the coming days. These cats are our kids and it hurts to have one be under the weather.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Art is Out There...

"Art is out there waiting to be captured, the only question being whether we are prepared to recognize it."

Source: The Accidental Masterpiece by Michael Kimmelman

Churchill on Painting

"...he (Churchill) recalled the first time he tried to paint a landscape out of doors. The great man of action felt paralyzed by indecision until a friend grabbed his brushes and started splashing and walloping paint 'on the absolutely cowering canvas. Anyone could see that it could not hit back. No evil fate avenged the jaunty violence. The canvas grinned in helplessness before me. The spell was broken. The sickly inhibitions rolled away. I seized the largest brush and fell upon my victim with Berserk fury. I have never felt any awe of a canvas since.' Churchill therefore found painting 'complete as a distraction. I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body, completely absorbs the mind. Whatever the worries of the hour or the threats of the future, once the picture has begun to flow along, there is no room for them in the mental screen. They pass out into shadow and darkness. All ones mental light, such as it is, becomes concentrated on the task. Time stands respectfully aside, and it is only after many hesitations that luncheon knocks gruffly at the door. When I have had to stand up on parade, or even, I regret to say, in church, for half and hour at a time, I have always felt that the erect position is not natural to man, has only been painfully aquired, and is only with fatigue and difficulty maintained. But no one who is fond of painting finds the slightest inconvenience, as long as the interest holds, in standing to paint for three or four hours at a stretch.'"

Source: The Accidental Masterpiece by Michael Kimmelman

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Sick Kitty

Our cat Max is still sick. He's lethargic, dehydrated and won't eat. The vet took blood and gave him an injection to help with the dehydration. He also has some food he's supposed to eat. We won't hear the results on the blood work until tomorow. So far, he won't eat. I picked him up and held him and he purred a little bit. That's the first time he's done that in 2 days so it was encouraging. If you don't mind praying for a sick cat, say a few for Max. We want our little guy to be well.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Booklist

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells
A shipwreck survivor is rescued and brought to a mysterious island where strange experiments blur the line between man and beast.
I am trying, from time to time, to read some of the classics I've missed out on over the years. Although I knew the basics of the story of Dr. Moreau, I had never read it before now. I'm glad I did. It's a great yarn that has implications for today's culture. H. G. Wells was truly a visionary writer. I wish someone would do an updated movie of this story. I think it could be fantastic if done well. Of course, the one with Marlon Brando was a fiasco. I haven't seen the one made in the 70's but I'm going to rent it. I'm terribly interested in the seeing the one made in the 30's. I hear it's the darkest and best.

Sleep Deprivation

Neither Sarah nor I are sleeping very well. Coming off the Christmas production at church we were very tired and thought we would catch up on some sleep. NOT! And as if insomnia wasn't enough, last night we had to take our cat Max to the emergency vet. Turns out he was severely constipated and they had to do two enemas to get him cleaned out. The poor doctor came back after the ordeal with a different pair of pants on. I wonder what happened?
So, we get Max home and we're back in bed by 1am. I decide to sleep in and come in to work later. Forget that! I still woke up relatively early and finally just got up and came in to work.
Max is traumatized and refuses to come out from under the bed and every 8 hours I have to lift the bed up so Sarah can pull him out so we can give him his medicine which traumatizes him further. It's a never ending cycle. Tonight we go to the show at Taproot with friends. After that, let's hope the Sandman visits us. He would be a welcome guest in our home for sure.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

White Elephant

Today was Taproot's Christmas brunch down at the Edgewater. After chowing down on some delicious Eggs Benedict, we had a white elephant gift exchange. It was quite fun. The first gift I opened was the Jesus and Mary Clock. (the pic of Mary on the right side morphs into Jesus) I loved it which meant, of course, that someone stole it. Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to steal it back later and it became mine. It's so kitschy. I'm going to hang it in the studio.
Guess I'll have to genuflect every time I sit down at the computer.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bob Ross and the Power of Art

"This is your world on this piece of canvas. You can do anything that your heart desires here. You have absolute and total power. This is the only place in the world I have any power. Here, here I am a dictator--boy, I can do anything here, anything, and you can, too." - Bob Ross

"Ross thereby touched on a basic reason for making art--to have a place to indulge your id and comfort your ego, an area of authority, where perhaps, secondarily, with luck and a little effort, you might make something good enough to hang on the wall or show to strangers. Ross's message was: You may feel hemmed in by work or by family, but before an easel (or, by implication, at a piano keyboard, or in a dance studio, or typing your novel) you are your own master."

Source: The Accidental Masterpiece by Michael Kimmelman

An Artist

An Artist is like God, but small.
He can't see out of God's creation,
For it includes him.
With the seas divided,
All the animals named, and the sun and moon and stars
Set in their tracks, an artist spends his life
Not only wondering,
But wanting to work like God
With what he can command: his paints.
He tries to copy God's creations.
He tries to shape beauty with his hand.
He tries to make order out of nature.
He tries to paint the thoughts and feelings in his mind.
An artist is like God
As God created him.
Small, strong, and with limited days,
His gift of breath is spent
Over his paintbox.
Choosing and brushing his colors,
He tries to make paint sing.

This poem is from a children's book by M. B. Goffstein. I heard it read by Nigel Goodwin on the latest podcast from The Kindlings Muse. If you are an artist of faith, you simply must listen to this show called An Artist is Like God.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Aunt Pookie and the Wrong Pastor

Here we are in our "get-ups" from the play. Aren't we cute?

"Nothing Worse Than Bad Christmas Plays"

Which is not the case at our church. The title line is actually a line from the play itself...a zinger for all those churches out there doing bad Christmas plays. Believe me...I know. I've been in quite a few of them myself. Thankfully, this was not one of them. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
Last night was the last performance of The Creche Collector and it was bittersweet. On one hand, Sarah and I have had the time of our lives. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to finally feel connected in a church and to be doing something you feel gifted to do. Over the course of these last few months of preparing this play for production, Sarah and I have come to feel more and more at home at NW Church. During the final week of rehearsals and performances, I really feel that new friendships have begun. Yesterday was especially memorable as we sat around the table with our new friends talking and laughing. I haven't laughed like that in a long time and it felt good. Really good. I told a few of our new friends how I was feeling and that it really felt good to be in this place. They reiterated with kindness and basically said, "You're stuck with us now." The other side of the coin is that we are just dog tired from the whole thing and it's good to finally get some rest.
This experience has also been different in that it's been amazing to work with the director/writer Jeff Berryman. We've been attending his Sunday morning classes (which are challenging and just awesome) and we've been meeting with him as members of the church's artists group. This was different. I've worked under many directors but I don't think I've learned as much as I did working with Jeff. He teaches as he directs and I learned alot. I hope to hang out and learn a whole lot more before it's all said and done.
Tomorrow night is our cast party. It's been good to rest today but I think we've missed seeing these good folks that we've basically been living with for the past 2 weeks (although we did run into a couple of them at church this morning). I'm looking forward to the party. I am also looking forward to seeing where these new relationships lead. Sarah and I have been lonely for friends here in Seattle. I hope that these will be healthy and happy relationships for all involved.
PS: The picture I've included is of Sarah as Aunt Pookie trying to get her lighter to work as she deals with Cole about the stolen creche.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Pierre Bonnard on Art/Life

"I had been attracted to painting and drawing for a long time, but it was not an irresistable passion; what I wanted, at all costs, was to escape the monotony of life."

Source: The Accidental Masterpiece by Michael Kimmelman

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Creche Collector

The church Christmas production has kicked into high gear. This week sees us rehearsing from 6 - 11 every evening with performances running from Thursday thru Saturday. Sarah and I are both in it. We have small parts. I am playing "The Wrong Pastor," a transplanted Southern preacher with a craving for chicken fried chicken sandwiches. Sarah is playing "Aunt Pookie," a mean old biddy. Here's a synopsis of the story.

When young Will Callus, a seventeen-year-old foster child brings his créche collection (nativity sets) to the Leffermann home, Cole Davis, a cynical newspaperman with a weakness for a good story, gets curious about Will’s past. As the Leffermanns and their small church community prepare for another Living Nativity, Cole traces the mystery of this young boy’s obsession with Christ’s birth through a menagerie of offbeat characters, and in the process finds what both he and Will have been searching for all along.


This experience has been and continues to be a whole lot of fun. It has really given us a chance to get to know folks at church (being the newbies) and it's a really good play. Kudos go out to Jeff Berryman. He's the writer/director of the play. I give him big props for writing a church Christmas play that is not cheesy and even bigger props for being one of the best directors I've worked with. It's been a pleasure. If you're in the Seattle area and want to see the show, c'mon out. I guarantee an evening that will be well worth your while.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Booklist

Church: Why Bother? by Philip Yancey
"Philip Yancey asks the question that haunts many believers: Why should I bother with the church? From growing up in rural Georgia in a fundamentalist church to his experience at LaSalle Street Church in inner city Chicago, Philip reflects on the church, his own perceptions of it, and the various metaphors the Bible uses to describe it. Yancey's own early church experience set his faith back by many years. In Church: Why Bother? he offers us a glimpse of his pilgrimage back to faith and to the church as a place of real community and spiritual vitality. This honest and insightful book will help you explore your questions about the place of the church in the life of faith and how to find spiritual connection and community." (from the publisher)
Even though this book doesn't give me the excuse to stop going to church, (kidding) it does give some great answers to burning questions for those who are slightly fed up with church in this day and age. And, of course, in the end I find that while pointing fingers at the church I have three pointing back at me. The church is comprised of people and people are pretty flawed. There's a reason why the Bible refers to us as sheep and it's not because we're fluffy and cute. It's because we are dumb. We screw everything up...even church.

Zeppelins West by Joe R. Lansdale
"The Wild West Show travels by Zeppelin to perform before a Shogun, soon to be emperor of Japan, only to discover the Frankenstein monster is being whittled down slowly and ground into aphrodisiacs by the would-be ruler. Buffalo Bill, who, due to a recent accident, exists only as a battery powered head in a jar of liquid manufactured from the best that modern science and pig urine has to offer, along with Wild Bill Hickok, Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull, and a cast of historical as well as literary characters, rescue the monster, only to be shot down over the Pacific, where they are saved from sharks by Captain Nemo and his intellectual seal, Ned. And then things get weird." (from Amazon.com)
And then things get weird. An understatement if I've ever heard one. This is, perhaps, the strangest book I've ever read. How do you describe a book that mixes legends of the Old West, the sci-fi writings of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, and a healthy dose of irreverent humor. You can't. And the fact that there's no plot to speak of doesn't help the situation.
So, what drew me to this book in the first place? Well, I love Lansdale's book The Bottoms. I like some of the alternate history fiction that's out there. This seemed like it might be a fun read. It was kinda fun but also kinda just odd. I think Lansdale could do well with this genre if he would think of a plot. It's one thing to thrust historical and fictional characters together and hope something interesting happens. Perhaps he thought the juxtaposition of said characters would provide all the entertainment necessary. I don't agree. These characters needed a call, a quest, a goal to strive for. Some had them but they were weakly developed.
Now, my quandry is that I also read this because I was more interested in the sequel, Flaming London. Do I take my chances and read that one as well, hoping for more of a plot this time? I don't know. I'll let you know if I do.

Update on Mark Driscoll

In a nutshell, Mark met with leaders from around Seattle and the situation has been smoothed over. The protest has been called off. If you'd like to read more about the resolution of this situation, go here.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I Like My Slushies in a Cup...

The temps are increasing and the ice is melting. Walking in to work from my car was like taking a hike thru a field of slushies. Yikes! Oh well, at least the ice is gone. I am a bit sad that the snow is gone though. I love snow. Here in Seattle, when it snows, it gets messy and the snow just isn't that pretty. We live in an apartment on a busy intersection so there are no picturesque vistas to view the snow. I miss living in a place where there's a yard or a field that gets covered in snow and no one walks on it. Just pure snowfall. There's nothing like it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dave Cockrum: 1943 - 2006

Dave Cockrum helped bring the flagging X-Men comic back to life in the 70's. Relaunching the franchise as The New X-Men, he introduced characters created by him (Storm, Nightcrawler, Mystique, Colossus) that are known the world over today.
I discovered the X-Men during John Byrne's run on the comic but eventually had to go back and read all the Cockrum books leading up to Byrne taking over. This was the Golden Age for the X-Men. The best bar none. You young whippersnappers can stop trying now.
In my opinion, there are 3 guys that are responsible for the popularity of the X-Men today. Those 3 guys are Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Dave Cockrum.
If you'd like to read more about Cockrum, go here.
If Wolverine were to deliver the eulogy, it would go a little something like this: "Rest in peace, bub."

Have An Ice Day!

Well, the ice and snow saga of Seattle continues. Everything is still frozen and there's more snow on the way. The good news is that it's supposed to turn into rain late tonight and start warming up tomorrow. I love snow but ice is another puppy altogether. I walked to work today and I had to take major baby steps to get here. It is so slick in places. Main roads are pretty good but side roads and parking lots are still ice rinks.
So, it's been quite the post Thanksgiving adventure here in Seattle and winter hasn't officially begun yet. I look forward to what's in store. Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Smashing Pumpkins

Actually, it's more like rotting. Sarah and I have a new tradition (since last year) of carving our pumpkins at Halloween and then letting them rot until Thanksgiving. I like seeing the changes that the Jack O'Lantern face goes thru. This year was rough for old Jack. With all the rain we've had, the rot set in quick and the poor guys just melted like the Wicked Witch of the West.
What's bad is that they are still sitting out on our balcony. We've been so busy that it's been difficult to find a time to scoop up the pieces and take them to the trash. I wouldn't mind just dumping them over the side accompanied by an easily heard "oops" but I don't think my bride would take kindly to that. She keeps my mischievous ways in check these days. Translation: I don't get to have fun anymore.
If you want to take a look at a before shot, go here.

Snow Business

Seattle is an icy mess right now. North of here is much worse. I walked to work this morning thru ice approaching an inch thick in some places. It was so quiet since there's not much traffic on the road. I slipped a couple of times which didn't help my back (pulled a muscle on Sunday...been laid up on the couch ever since). The forecast calls for temps to stay low meaning that the ice will remain and more snow is a possibility.
Our rehearsal for A Christmas Carol was cancelled last night. Our performance is supposed to be tonight. I rather doubt it will happen...which doesn't break my heart. We're not ready and, to be honest, some of the folks wouldn't be ready if we worked on it for a year. It's been a frustrating process for me and, as I understand it, for the director as well. There was no screening process for the actors so we have folks with lots of experience and ability and some with virtually none. It makes for a shaky production. My heart is not in it and I have not given 100% and I feel bad about that. I hope we don't have to cancel tonight for other folks sake...but for my sake...cancel away!
The Christmas production at church is coming along nicely. Sunday was a good rehearsal with some fine performances already peeking thru the rough edges. My part is small but I want it to shine. I don't feel like I'm there yet. I believe Jeff (writer/director) and I are going out for coffee sometime this week so I'm hoping to pick his brain about how to improve what I'm doing.
So, a week of snow and ice for Seattle. It's too bad it's not this quiet more often. I miss the quiet.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Booklist

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue - "Inspired by the W.B. Yeats poem that tempts a child from home to the waters and the wild, The Stolen Child is a modern fairy tale narrated by the child Henry Day and his double.On a summer night, Henry Day runs away from home and hides in a hollow tree. There he is taken by the changelings—an unaging tribe of wild children who live in darkness and in secret. They spirit him away, name him Aniday, and make him one of their own. Stuck forever as a child, Aniday grows in spirit, struggling to remember the life and family he left behind. He also seeks to understand and fit in this shadow land, as modern life encroaches upon both myth and nature.In his place, the changelings leave a double, a boy who steals Henry’s life in the world. This new Henry Day must adjust to a modern culture while hiding his true identity from the Day family. But he can’t hide his extraordinary talent for the piano (a skill the true Henry never displayed), and his dazzling performances prompt his father to suspect that the son he has raised is an imposter. As he ages the new Henry Day becomes haunted by vague but persistent memories of life in another time and place, of a German piano teacher and his prodigy. Of a time when he, too, had been a stolen child. Both Henry and Aniday obsessively search for who they once were before they changed places in the world.The Stolen Child is a classic tale of leaving childhood and the search for identity. With just the right mix of fantasy and realism, Keith Donohue has created a bedtime story for adults and a literary fable of remarkable depth and strange delights." (from the book jacket)
Although a bit slow in the middle, I enjoyed this book on it's ends. There are many submerged themes in the book that I failed to examine. I was just reading it as a story. The themes of loss and identity play a big part in the plot. It truly is an updated faery tale for adults.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Snow!

What started as a slushy, no stick mess this morning has turned into a respectable bit of snow...for Seattle that is. The forecast calls for flurries and such over the next few days. After a long day of church and rehearsals, I am home. Sarah, however, is in Tacoma for rehearsals for The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge at the Tacoma Actors Guild. I hope they will knock off and come home early. It's going to get icy as the temperature drops. I'm so glad tomorrow is my day off. I wonder how this will affect the performance class rehearsal on Monday night and the performance on Tuesday? Only time will tell.
For now, I will curl up on the couch with a movie and wait for Sarah to call. I'll post pics tomorrow if there's anything worth photographing.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Zuzu's Petals

Last night was the opening night of Taproot's It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. The production stars Grant Goodeve, famous for his role as David Bradley in the 70's dramedy Eight is Enough. To celebrate the opening, Karolyn Grimes, the actress that played Zuzu in the movie, made an appearance at the theatre. After the show, she fielded questions from the audience and posed for pics in the lobby. It seems she's quite busy during the holiday season. You can check out what she's up to at her website here.
I thought it was very cool that I got to see Zuzu in the flesh. Now, if only Clarence would pay me a visit.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thunder, Lightning and Hail...Oh My!

Yesterday marked one of the few times I've witnessed this type of weather out here. We just don't get this stuff in Seattle. The hail was tiny and the clamour over it made me laugh. I remember the time in Texas my car got pelted by hail so big it left 1/2 inch deep dents in my car. Others lost windshields. I don't think I've ever experienced stranger weather than I did in Texas.
Anywho...isn't this a cool pic of lightning striking the Space Needle there in the distance? Glad I wasn't up there for that.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Chuck Close Quotes

Chuck Close recently sat on a panel for the Global Creative Leadership Summit. Here are a few nice quotes from the full article found here.

“artists are notoriously poor organizers; we normally don’t join groups, and when we do, it’s a disaster. We work alone in our studios. The stand-in for an organization for us is the [artistic] community: We send what we produce into the world and that’s how we exchange ideas with other artists.”

“I try to remove anxiety. It’s almost like raking gravel in a Zen monastery—when I commit to a painting, I know it’s a four-month project, and I tell myself, today I’m going to do what I did yesterday and tomorrow I’m going to do what I did today. ... You have to back yourself into a corner where you are asking questions that no one else has asked, so no one else but you has the answers. That forces you to be more creative.”

“a contrarian attitude is key to rising to the top. If money is your end [goal], you’ll make all the wrong decisions; you’re doomed to failure.” Close continued that if money had been his aim, “I wouldn’t have painted a nine-foot painting of someone else; I would have painted CEOs or college presidents, at a size that fits over the couch. If I’d done anything [career-wise] that made ‘good sense,’ I wouldn’t be sitting here.” The irony, Close concluded, “I don’t care about money and [that’s why] I’ve made a whole hell of a lot of it.”

Close...also stressed that creative success often depends on having the right mentors, especially in school. He noted that schools need to add a fourth “R” to reading, writing and ’rithmetic: art. He observed that only art had made him feel special growing up in a “poor, white trash town” and that art had made the difference between his “going to Yale and going to jail.”

“Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up.”


Source: artinfo.com

Luther Quote

"What is our work in field and garden, in town and house, in battling and in ruling, to God, but the work of his children. Our works are God's mask, behind which He remains hidden, although He does all things." - Martin Luther

Monday, November 20, 2006

Back in the Saddle

This fall finds me "back in the saddle" when it comes to acting/performing. Yesterday, Sarah and I performed a reading in church...a Seussian intro to the sermon. Our pastor has been preaching on Ecclesiastes. Several years ago, I wrote a script based on Ecclesiastes. I thought he might like to read it so I sent it to him. He asked if the first couple of pages could be adapted into a sermon intro. So...it was nice to be doing creative stuff in church again...even if it was on a small scale and it was very well received.
Sarah and I also have small parts in the Christmas play. It's been a great deal of fun, a good way of meeting folks in the church and wonderful working with Jeff Berryman (writer and director).
Lastly, I've been taking a performance class at Taproot. Next Tuesday night we will perform a brief version of A Christmas Carol. This has been the least enjoyable of all the experiences and I will be happy when it's over so I can concentrate on the Christmas play. I had hoped the class might provide more training (which is what I really need) but, alas, that has not been the case.
I talked to Karen (Associate Artistic Director at Taproot) the other day about being available for acting. She told me that they are working toward reviving their church touring and that I could be a part of that. It would be different from the Company in that we would travel but be back to sleep in our own beds at night. (a wonderful thing) Karen's family has been visiting our church of late and she was there to see our reading on Sunday. After church she spoke to me briefly about writing scripts for the new touring group. I sent off samples of my work to her and the director of the touring groups yesterday.
After a long season of no opportunities in the area of acting/writing, I can now see the possibility of more opportunities arising in the future. For me, it's a welcome "light at the end of the tunnel." I hope at least some of these opportunities materialize. It's been a long, frustrating, dark tunnel.

Hard Questions

Questions posed during our NW Arts Ministry discussion.
  • If someone says to you that you are called to create truthful works of art, how do you understand this call?
  • How do you understand the truth of what you are doing?
  • Are you presenting a particular view of the world?
  • Are you asking questions?
  • Are you communication?
  • Are you expressing?
  • What is the relationship of fiction to truth?
  • What are the standards by which we can judge our work? The work of others?
  • Can a piece of work be called Christian and be false?
  • What is the difference between what we "like" and what is "good?"
  • How do we cultivate spirits that are willing to ask the hard questions about our own work, receiving the criticism that is ultimately necessary?

Last night, after bouncing around in a fog of discussion, Jeff announced that next time we meet we need to tackle the question...

  • What is art?

...before we can move on. Well, that should be easy. No problem. The answer I like the best is one that was given by one of my art professors in college. He said,

"Art is a little boy's name."

I know that discussing all of this is good for me but it is painful all at the same time. There are no easy answers and sometimes the thinking makes my head spin. It's like watching a time travel movie where the man goes back in time and fathers the kid who will grow up and save his life...or something like that. These things breed headaches. But they are good headaches and it is good to be stretched and challenged. I suppose I'll just have to stock up on Ibuprofen.

Yancey Quotes

"As I reflected on my pilgrimage, I can see that several barriers kept me away from church. First was hypocrisy. The atheistic philosopher Friedrich Nietzche was once asked what made him so negative toward Christians. He replied, 'I would believe in their salvation if they looked a little more like people who have been saved.'"

"The next hurdle to overcome was cultural in nature. I identified with one of Flannery O'Connor's inlaws, who started attending church because the service was 'so horrible, he knew there must be something else there to make the people come.'"

"O' Connor also said that she took care to be at her writing desk each morning so that, if an idea came, she would be there to receive it...Nancy Mairs writes...that she returned to church in somewhat the same way. Even while uncertain about belief in God, she began attending Mass again to prepare 'a space into which belief could flood.' She learned that one does not always go to church with belief in hand. Rather, one goes with open hands, and sometimes church fills them."

"My identity in Christ is more important than my identity as an American or as a Coloradan or as a white male or as a Protestant. Church is the place where I celebrate that new identity and work it out in the midst of people who have many differences but share this one thing in common."

"The church is composed of equal parts mystery and mess."

"The church is like manure. Pile it together and it stinks up the neighborhood; spread it out and it enriches the world." (summarizing evangelist Luis Palau)

Source: Church: Why Bother? by Philip Yancey

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Driscoll Protest News

Even though Driscoll has posted a response (hardly an apology) to the current controversy of his past comments, the protest is still on for Dec. 3. A couple of folks have written open letters to Driscoll and other leaders in the Mars Hill/Acts 29 organization. Here are the links.

Why On Earth Would I Want to Picket a Church?

Open Letter to Mark Driscoll

To be honest, I'm not so much offended by what he's said about women as I am by what he's said about men. Apparently, in his eyes, if you're not a frat boy, sports lovin', spittin', scratchin', cussin', macho he-man, you are not a real man. Well, as an art lovin', sports hatin', theatre attendin', shoppin', singin', bloggin' sensitive man, I take offense. Driscoll's comments are hateful and he needs to be accountable for his words.
C'mon Mark. Take it like a man!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Booklist

A Short History of Christianity by Stephen Tomkins - This one requires no synopsis. The title says it all. I've been working on this book for a few months now, reading a page or two during breakfast every morning. This little book has whet my appetite for more history. This one skims over everything pretty fast. The next history book I read will go into more depth. This was good for an introduction though. I wish now that I had taken Church History at seminary. I think it would have been an interesting class.
Since this book is at an end, I'll leave you all with a last post from it.
"And so the varied mission of the church across the world continues into its third millenium, as does its mixed record in getting God's will done on earth as it is in heaven. The church of Jesus has been an affair of genocide and jumble sales; of heroic self-sacrifice and self-defeating hysteria; of holy mysteries; of philosophers and philanthropists; of crusading geese, charismatic animal impressionists and high-rise, maggot-eaten monks; of charity and chastity; and, above all, of men and women - good, bad, indifferent, extremely different, wise, wonderful and simply incomprehensible. And, it is alleged, the house of God. Mysterious ways indeed."*

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs - "...is the beginning of the story of Mercedes Thompson a coyote shapeshifter who is also a pretty decent mechanic. Mercy's world looks a lot like ours except that the Otherworld is begining to be forced out of hiding by our modern technologies. Mercy shares her back fence with the local Alpha werewolf and works evenings on the vampire Stefan's VW bus. She's safe and content -- which doesn't make a very story, does it? So, of course, matters begin to change on the first page. In this book Mercy faces trolls and gremlins, old boyfriends and older vampires. I hope you enjoy her story."**
I've gotten a little tired of the urban fantasy genre but I had reserved this book at the library and it came in so I decided to give it a go. It's pretty good.
I guess I'm getting tired of the genre because the market is flooded with books now. I guess there's only so much you can do with vampires, werewolves and the fae without dealing with a little repetition. I think I'm going to jump into some other genre for a while. Woah. I'm kinda sick of thrillers and urban fantasy. What do I read now?

*Source: A Short History of Christianity by Stephen Tomkins
**Source: www.patriciabriggs.com

Monday, November 13, 2006

Down with the Cuteness

My in-laws are downsizing so they've been sending a bunch of stuff to Sarah. This picture (Sarah at 5) came with the latest batch. Isn't she adorable as she stares at you from her cute little block house and thinks, "What the hell are they doing in my house?"
I also like the storybook written by and illustrated by Sarah at age 10. Tales included in the lofty tome are The Enormous Foot, The Mind Reading Berries, and my favorite title, Katrina and the Weasel. Seeing all this evidence, it was inevitable that Sarah would grow up to be a cute and creative adult. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The New Catholicism

"The second Vatican council met in 1962 to deliver the greatest revolution in Roman Catholicism since Luther...The results were extraordinary. The mass was edited (GASP) and translated from Latin into local languages (GET OUT); the priest had to face the congregation (NO WAY) and laypeople were allowed both bread and wine (REALLY?). Catholics were allowed, even encouraged, to read the Bible (WHAT?) in translation (OH), including Protestant versions (YOU'RE KIDDING), and to cooperate in making more (PROTESTANTS OR BIBLES?)...Protestants and Orthodox became 'separated brothers', division a tragedy and a sin (GASP II) that must be ended; their churches are defective (HUH?), but still part of God's plan of salvation (OH OKAY). Even Muslims and Jews became siblings on their way to heaven. (FRIENDS ARE FRIENDS FOREVER...)"

And it only took 2000 years, give or take...

Source: A Short History of Christianity by Stephen Tomkins
Parenthetical statements are mine. Duh!

Protest of Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle, has recently come under fire for comments he made on his blog after the Ted Haggard situation broke. In particular, folks seem to have a problem with this statement:

"Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either."*


Frankly, Driscoll is known for his fundamental views towards women. In a nutshell, he believes every woman should quit their job, stay home and have babies. Those of you who believe Mars Hill to be an emergent church are sadly mistaken. It's a fundy to be sure.
I understand why people are upset. Sarah and I visited Mars Hill a couple of times and she left feeling as though she had been attacked as a woman. I didn't understand at the time but it's starting to come through loud and clear now.
Well, someone has decided that they are going to protest Mars Hill and Driscoll on Sunday, December 3. Will it do any good? No. Will I be there? I don't know. Originally, it was planned for Nov. 19th but it got moved back. Part of me wants to go and see how it's handled and another part of me wants to stay far away. Anyway, there's alot more to it and, if you're interested, you can read about it for yourself.

Driscoll's comments are here.*

The conversation is here.

Protest links are here and here.

*Source: Resurgence: Mark Driscoll's Blog

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Spirit Stuff

I stole these two quotes from God's Artist in Residence. My wife and I both love Philip Yancey's stuff. We have been finding his stuff at thrift stores. We buy them up when we find them. My wife devours them slowly, taking meticulous notes in her journal. I really, really like these quotes and want to preserve them here so I don't forget them.

J.I. Packer chides the church: 'With a perversity as pathetic as it is impoverishing, we have become preoccupied today with the extraordinary, sporadic, non-universal ministries of the Spirit to the neglect of the ordinary, general ones. Thus, we show a great deal more interest in the gifts of healing and tongues- gifts which, as Paul pointed out, not all Christians are meant to partake anyway- than in the spirit's ordinary work of giving peace, joy, hope, and love, through the shedding abroad in our hearts of knowledge of the love of God.'

"The Spirit cannot be kept like a personal pet, living in a small compartment somewhere inside us to be brought out at will. The living presence of God inside us should permeate everything we see and do... The Spirit does not act on us so much as with us, as a part of us- a God of the process, not a God of the gaps."

Source: Reaching for the Invisibile God by Philip Yancey

Join the Tribe

I love this quote that my friend Mark put up on his blog. Go here to read it. It basically says the same things I've been saying about conformity over the years...only better.

The Second World War

"Probably the only person who had any chance of hampering him (Hitler) was the Pope, who had the ear of 40 million German Catholics, but he barely said a word. When German forces occupied Rome, he opened his sanctuaries to give refuge to many thousands of non-Aryans, but he was committed to neutrality in his search for peace and feared provoking Hitler, so he opened not his mouth.
As their armies liberated the death camps of eastern Europe, the allies realised what a good cause they had been fighting in. But the fact that 6 million Jews had been systematically killed left the church with some terrible questions. Where had God been? Can the omnipotent watch the most unthinkable atrocities in the history of inhumanity without lifting a finger? Then again, where had the church been? For all that some individual Christians did, the church as a whole did disgracefully little to stop the Holocaust. In fact, was it not positively responsible?"

Source: A Short History of Christianity by Stephen Tomkins

The Pentecostal Explosion

"Charles Parham...was telling his students....about being filled with the Holy Spirit, when it occurred to him that in the book of Acts, those filled with the Spirit at Pentecost all spoke in foreign languages. So he told them this was a sign of being genuinely filled...and encouraged them to ask God for the gift. On the first day of the new century, Agnes Ozman started 'speaking in tongues', and others soon joined in. Parham took his discovery on a nationwide revival tour, sending his students to find out what language they had been given...Unfortunately, their 'tongues' bore no relation to any languages on earth, so they concluded that it was a language of heaven."

"In 1910, the Tennessee Pentecostal George Hensley, preaching on the text 'They shall take up snakes,' ended by grabbing a rattlesnake and commanding his flock to the the same or be 'doomed to eternal hell'. They obeyed. He kept at the snake handling until 1955, when he died of a snake bite. Today, he has 2,500 followers."

"A group of rich American businessmen, dismayed by how many of their ministers had become liberals, printed a twelve-part book, The Fundamentals, and sent out 3 million copies, one to every church employee and theology student in the USA. It outlined the fundamental doctrines of Christianity...The Fundamentals helped evangelicals see themselves as fundamentally anti-liberal, and it gave us the word that dominates twenty-first-century talk of religion, 'fundamentalist', which originally meant 'conservative Protestant' and now, if anything, means 'someone more religious that I approve of'."

Source: A Short History of Christianity by Stephen Tomkins

Joey "The Lips" Fagan

Last night, Sarah and I went to see Waiting for Godot at the Moore Theater. It was performed by the Gate Theatre from Dublin, Ireland. Neither one of us had ever seen it and we were curious. We knew it was a weird play but we went anyway. We left at intermission.
The night wasn't a total loss for me though because playing one of the characters was Johnny Murphy (the fellow with the mustache) who played Joey "The Lips" Fagan in one of my favorite movies, The Commitments. I love his character in the movie. Although a bit strange and not entirely truthful, Joey's character is the heart and soul of the band. Nice to see that ol' Johnny's still working.

Monday, November 06, 2006

How to Be Creative

Found this over at Gaping Void. I'm just putting the list over here. For the long version, go here.

So you want to be more creative, in art, in business, whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for me over the years:

1. Ignore everybody.
2. The idea doesn't have to be big. It just has to change the world.
3. Put the hours in.
4. If your biz plan depends on you suddenly being "discovered" by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.
5. You are responsible for your own experience.
6. Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.
7. Keep your day job.
8. Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.
9. Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.
10. The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props.
11. Don't try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.
12. If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.
13. Never compare your inside with somebody else's outside.
14. Dying young is overrated.
15. The most important thing a creative person can learn professionally is where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do, and what you are not.
16. The world is changing.
17. Merit can be bought. Passion can't.
18. Avoid the Watercooler Gang.
19. Sing in your own voice.
20. The choice of media is irrelevant.
21. Selling out is harder than it looks.
22. Nobody cares. Do it for yourself.
23. Worrying about "Commercial vs. Artistic" is a complete waste of time.
24. Don?t worry about finding inspiration. It comes eventually.
25. You have to find your own schtick.
26. Write from the heart.
27. The best way to get approval is not to need it.
28. Power is never given. Power is taken.
29. Whatever choice you make, The Devil gets his due eventually.
30. The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it.
31. Remain frugal.

The Returning

I found this in one of my old journals today. It was written in October of 2003 on a lonely beach in NC. In reading it, I decided that it had great significance to my present spiritual journey. It seems that even way back then I felt that God's presence had left me. This story was written as a prayer for a returning, a sweet reunion between myself and God. I have given the story a bit of a spruce from its raw form but the spirit is intact. I offer this up as a prayer of hopefulness that this returning, this reunion will occur very soon.
___

I have traveled countless miles across the burning sand trying to find you. My body has begun to consume itself. I am in need of sustenance on many levels. My body needs food and water but my soul needs you. Your absence has taken a toll on me. That is why I seek you out.

After so many days I cannot keep up with them, I see, in the distance, an ancient place of worship. It has been so long since I have been here that I do not recognize it. It lies in ruins, neglected for an amount of time I can no longer recall.

I reach the doors and open them. They part slowly with an ear shattering creak. As I enter the main chamber, I look across and see what must have been the altar of praise on a level rising above the floor. Below that, at floor level, is a fountain. There was once a time when this place was filled with songs and shouts of praise, the fountain filled to overflowing. Now, the fountain is empty, as dry and dusty as the sand caked on my feet.

My body aches from walking and from the emptiness I have lived with for too long. For a time, I am too frightened to move. This ancient place mocks me with the ghosts of the past. But I must shake these apparitions that haunt me and move forward. Slowly, I make my way to the altar.

Climbing the steps, I falter. My knee scrapes the steps, releasing a small amount of blood. I wipe the wound with the rags of my clothing and continue up to the altar. The memories flood my mind. At one time, I stood here. It should be familiar but the familiarity is faint. Overwhelmed, I speak the faintest of words across my cracked lips.

“Where are you?”

The words escape as a dry rasping sound. Vocal cords unfamiliar with speech rebel against the attempt. But once the words are said, others begin to follow. I speak them to you, although there is no evidence that you are here.

“Where are you?

My voice falters and I fall to my knees at the foot of the altar. I am spent and broken. My mind begins to wander and the old doubts begin to fill my mind. Every emotion imaginable is coursing through my veins, begging for some kind of release. If I were not dehydrated, tears might flow but, as it is, my face remains dry.

Suddenly, through the confusion, a song enters my memory. The last thing I feel like doing is singing and yet, there it is. I try to ignore it but it will not be denied. My lips part and the words escape into the air.

“Have mercy on me…”

I laugh as they come out. It has been so long and I am amazed that I remember them. I repeat them to make sure I can do it again.

“Have mercy on me…”

They come easier each time I repeat them. Over and over, I sing them again and again. At first, they come out as barely a whisper. After a few moments, my voice builds strength and the volume grows. Before long I realize that I am not so much singing them as screaming them. I sing until my body has nothing else to offer and I collapse into a heap on the floor.

As I am lying there, feeling like death may overtake me at any moment, I hear a faint sound. At first, I believe my imagination to be playing tricks on me, but no…there it is again. I laugh, thinking this must be the end because I am hallucinating, but my laugh dies as I hear the sound again. It is stronger this time. It is the sound of drops of water hitting stone. With all the strength I can muster, I pull myself to my feet. Peering over the altar, I see that the fountain is filling with water.

Forgetting myself, I race down the steps to the edge of the filling pool. I dip my filthy hands into the water to find that it is real. I put my palms together and fill them the best I can, bringing the water to my dry lips. I drink down the refreshing water and it begins to revive me. The fountain is now beginning to flow like a river. The basin fills quickly and I take delight in plunging my head into its cool embrace. I fill my mouth again and again until I can drink no more. Feeling clean and satisfied, I lie on the floor and stare up at the ceiling. A smile forms on my face as I whisper,

“There you are.”

© 2006 by Marty Gordon

Booklist

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury - "Dandelion Wine takes us into the summer of 1928, and to all the wondrous and magical events in the life of a 12-year-old Midwestern boy named Douglas Spaulding."*
I grabbed this book from the library thinking it was another coming-of-age story in the tradition of To Kill A Mockingbird. It's actually nothing like Mockingbird but that's okay. This story is simple but the writing is superb. Bradbury's prose is elegant and charming in what has been called "a love letter to his childhood."* In the book, the only thread of a storyline concerns the Spaulding boys and the eldest's desire to record the events of the summer in his notebook. Each chapter deals with a different situation involving the citizens of the town. As the book ends, you find that summer is over and the magic of childhood is about to give way to school and such.
I enjoyed this book although it did take a few pages to get used to Bradbury's style of prose. I guess I read so much "junk" fiction it takes a while to get used to the good writing. I suppose I should pick up the classics more often.
Polly and the Pirates by Ted Naifeh - "Polly is caught between the prim-and-proper boarding school set she's grown-up with and the legendary legacy of the Pirate Queen that she never knew she was a part of! But which is the cruel, cold world and which is the care-free paradise? And does it even matter when there's a dashing pirate prince involved? Hoist the sails and batten the hatches on this brand new adventure!"*
This is a graphic novel I picked up from the library. I had read the first three of Naifeh's Courtney Crumrin books and enjoyed them so I thought I'd give this a try. It's not as good as the Crumrin books but enjoyable all the same. I especially enjoyed the accents employed by certain characters being spelled out phonetically so that you knew exactly what that person sounded like.
I will certainly be on the lookout for more of Naifeh's books. He is a very talented artist who spins a pretty good tale. I must say that I am impressed with the material I've read lately coming out of Oni Press. Not well known but good stuff all the same.

*Source: Amazon

Friday, November 03, 2006

Reaction to a Fallen Preacher

I don't have to tell you the news
Another betrayal amidst the pews
Besmirching Christianity
And lowering it's integrity
When we practice to deceive
It's makes it harder to believe
That God is good and God is kind
When his disciples lose their mind
I know forgiveness is the key
But grace is not so easy for me
So all you pastors, bishops and priests
Treat your calls responsibly
Lest you lead the sheep astray
And watch them swiftly fall away

© 2006 by Marty Gordon

300 Letters to God

"A U.S. man who found 300 letters to God floating in the Atlantic Ocean said on Friday he will donate them to a church instead of selling them on eBay following protests from religious people."

More about this here and here.

Source: Yahoo News

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Moron Church

"Inspired by US camp meetings, Joseph Smith was told by God not to join any existing church but wait for something better. In 1823, he discovered that the native Americans were the lost tribes of Israel who came to America in 600 BC, when one of them, Moroni, returned from the dead in New York to tell him. Moroni told Smith that he had written their history in a mysterious, ancient script on gold plates before their faith died out, that it was the third testament of the Bible and where it was buried. Smith dug them up, and four years later, he was allowed to take them out of the box, whereupon Moroni gave him a pair of magic glasses allowing him to understand the hieroglyphics. Then the Moronial visitations, for want of a better adjective, stopped, and Smith got down to the job of translation and organising his disciples in the Mormon Church."

Why didn't they just call it the Moron Church in honor of Moroni?
What? I'm serious!

*Source: A Short History of Christianity by Steve Tomkins

Trunk or Treat

On Halloween night, Sarah and I participated in Trunk or Treat at our church. As you can see, we chose a pirate theme and having access to a theatre costume shop didn't hurt. It was fun and we got to meet some more folks from the church. Sarah made all the kids say "Arrrr" before she would give them candy.
As the night progressed, we got colder and colder. The boots we had on were very uncomfortable and had no insulation in them. By the time we got home, we were freezing and tired. We're pretty wimpy pirates.
We brainstormed a little with one of the staff members and laid the groundwork for a bigger and better Trunk or Treat next year. We all agreed that the concessions area should be extended to include coffee, hot chocolate and spiced apple cider. Sarah and I will be sure to come up with a theme that requires sitting or at least comfy shoes.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Who Am I?

Who am I
I am me
How else to explain
My identity
The when and the where
I can answer that plea
But the who, what and why
Is what eludes me
Am I the work that I do
Or the heart I possess
Am I who I am
When I’m strong or a mess
Am I a student
Or teaching the class
Am I a genius
Or am I an ass
Am I what I eat
Or perhaps what I’ve eaten
Am I a victor
For the foes I have beaten.
Perhaps I’m an actor
In need of a stage
Or maybe a bird
Who’s stuck in a cage.
Am I the art
That I make with my hands
Or am I a builder
In need of some plans
Am I judged by my friends
And the company I keep
By aquaintances shallow
Or relationships deep
A husband, a writer,
A poet, a priest
Am I this more
Or am I that least
These words could continue
For a year and a week
And I’d be no closer
To the answers I seek
At the end of the day
In the mirror I see
the answer quite simply
Who am I
I am me

© 2006 by Marty Gordon

The Call: Identity and Cultural Pressure

"Only when we respond to Christ and follow his call do we become our real selves and come to have personalities of our own."*

This statement may be true in a perfect world but, as we all know, this world is less than perfect. I responded to Christ in 1979. It is now 2006 and I know less about my "real self" than I ever have. Part of the reason for this is culture.
Can anyone truly have a personality of their own? Perhaps if dumped on a deserted island and left to develop unhindered by culture...maybe. What I am trying to get at is that no one is untouched by their surroundings. Everyone succumbs, in one way or another, to their environment and culture. And, whether for good or for bad, it shapes us.
Growing up in a Southern Baptist church, I was severely affected by that culture. My ideas about God and faith have their foundations in that denomination. The culture of the 70's that surrounded me during my high school years shaped many things about me that are still within me. College art classes had a particular culture during the 80's that I was a part of. Some of that is still with me today. Attending a Southern Baptist seminary in the early 90's exposed me to a culture that, like it or not, still affects me to this day. Being a minister, first in a Southern Baptist church and then in a non-denominational one, placed me in cultures that, inevitably, would shake my faith to it's core. While in transition from the single life to marriage, I've attended a few churches whose cultures made me more than a little uncomfortable.
As a result of all this and more, I wonder if the quote I have posted can be true. Is it Christ that shapes our "real self" or is it our family or our work environment or is it culture or is it a synchronicity of all those things? I believe it's the latter.
As Christians, Christ is, of course, the ultimate model for us. But we're human beings and we can't help but be affected by what surrounds us. Even the greatest Christians in the world (whoever they may be) can't help but be altered by it. My wife and I once attended a church where people talked and looked and behaved a certain way. Alot of the men and women were becoming little clones of the pastor and his wife. My wife related to me an instance where someone she was shopping with picked out an outfit based on the fact that it looked like something the pastor's wife would wear. This is a severe example but these churches do exist. They are what I call "Stepford Churches."
So, how can we surrender our lives to Christ, follow his call and become our "real selves" without becoming baby Osteens? If you have an answer, comment away. I'm not an Osteen but I still haven't discovered the "call" and my "real self" as of yet. I'm still seeking.

*Source: The Call by Os Guinness

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Halloween

It's my favorite time of year. It's so nice to not be in the Bible belt where so many folks adhere to the doctrine that Halloween is evil. For me it's a time when adults don't need an excuse to be a kid again. I wish we had more opportunities during the year for that.
Sarah and I will be celebrating in various ways. Today, we are carving pumpkins. Starting last night, we started watching horror movies. We're watching the oldies because Sarah can't handle the gore. It's cool though. The old horror flicks are quite fun.
On Sunday night, I believe we're going to walk the neighborhood and look at the decorations. The picture I have posted is from a yard about 4 blocks away. The Reaper is quite a complex sculpture of metal. He's about 12 feet tall and towers over the corner of the street. I want to go back and get a shot of the Reaper and the giant Scarecrow after dark.
On Tuesday night, we're participating in Trunk or Treat at our church. Sarah and I have adopted a pirate theme and since we work at a theatre, our costumes will be pretty cool. I will post pics from any and all events as long as they turn out okay.
Last year, I wrote a Halloween poem and posted it here. I'm working on another one and hope to post it before Halloween is over.
So, to all you ghosts and ghouls out there...have a happy, happy Halloween!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Doubt vs. Conviction

"Doubt requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite--it is a passionate exercise." - John Patrick Shanley

Sarah and I saw Shanley's play Doubt a few weeks ago but I failed to read the essay in the program. Jeff recently saw the play and quoted the essay on his blog. The quote above really struck a chord in me.
If you've been reading my blog, you know that I've been experiencing a lot of doubt. Doubt about God and what he's up to. Doubt about whether he really does love us all or even if he really exists at all. I don't know that I agree with the quote when it calls doubt courageous. I feel no courage in me these days...only fear. But I do agree with the idea of conviction being a resting place. For years I trudged though this world standing on the Southern Baptist convictions that were so entrenched in me. It was a bit of a resting place for me although there has always been a tinge of doubt residing in my soul. But the last couple of years have been a rocky, roiling turmoil of doubt. A storm at sea with few eyes for a brief respite. Despite all that, I am glad that I am not in a place of resting when it comes to my faith because that would indicate that I feel that I have arrived (as Paul said). Quite the opposite is true of me. I am constantly in a state of learning and also in a constant state of realizing that I know exactly nothing.
So give me the stormy seas of infinite doubt over the rock solid Sabbath of conviction. If, through doubt, I continue to seek answers, then that will encourage growth. That also means that I can expect growing pains. Instead of resisting, perhaps I should embrace this doubt and ride it's everlasting waves. Through doubt, perhaps I will regain my faith and find God again. And if so, let's hope it's a new level of understanding and not the old comfort zones I left behind. Growth hurts like hell but I guess it's time I accepted it.

Harper Lee on Writing

"To be a serious writer requires discipline that is iron fisted. It's sitting down and doing it whether you think you have it in you or not. Everyday. Alone. Without interruption. Contrary to what most people think, there is no glamour to writing. In fact, it's heartbreak most of the time."

Booklist

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields - It was nice to delve into the life of the author of my favorite book. Since Lee is somewhat of a recluse and hasn't granted an interview since a couple of decades ago, culling the information was quite the challenge for the author (which he states in the introduction). The book is an interesting read except for the middle portion where Lee assists Truman Capote with his work on In Cold Blood. At that point, it's tough to tell whether it's a book about Lee or Capote. In all fairness, Capote does play a major part in Lee's life, having grown up together in Monroeville, AL. Later in the book, the author probes the question of why Lee never wrote another book. That question, it seems, doesn't have a solid answer and Lee isn't telling. All in all, this was an enjoyable read which shed, at least, a little light on the life of Harper Lee.
It's interesting to note that where Lee grew up (and lives still) is only a couple of hours away from my hometown of Pensacola, FL. I've been there, shopping at the Vanity Fair Outlet before it closed. It's a shame that I never sought out the courthouse that was the model for the one in To Kill A Mockingbird. Through this book I also found out that the town does a play of the book once a year in the actual courthouse. That would be something to see. Next time I get home, I may have to travel to the sleepy town of Monroeville. Who knows, maybe I'll take my copy of To Kill A Mockingbird in the hopes that I might run into Lee and get an autograph. I could say Boo Radley sent me. I'm sure she never hears that.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Call: Eyes of Love

With my new iPod, I've been listening to some music I've let lay dormant for a while. Today I've been listening to Trevor Rabin's Can't Look Away. The lyrics hit me differently today than they did a couple of years ago when I used to listen to this CD all the time. These lyrics certainly reflect my "seeking" mode at the present time. I guess this could be my prayer for the day, week, month, year, decade...ad infinitum.

Are you searching for an answer?
Are you questioning it all?
I can reach you
But I can't feel you
Are you living in surrender
Or just waiting for a call?

Eyes of love look
Down on me
When you gonna see
Eyes of love send down the key
Will you deliver me

Eyes of Love by Trevor Rabin and Bob Ezrin

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Call: Leonardo da Vinci

"...da Vinci would have been wiser to concentrate on a few gifts rather than the many that comprised his genius. This lack of focus, they said, was why he 'procrastinated' while others, like Michelangelo, 'produced.' 'Alas,' Pope Leo X exclaimed dismissively of da Vinci, 'this man will never get anything done, for he is thinking about the end before he begins.'"*

I am not putting myself on da Vinci's level but I do relate with this statement. Many times I am cowed to inaction by the many different things I like to do. Most days I'm am uncertain whether to work on a painting or a collage or to write some prose or a story or to start one of the novels I have ideas for or to write a play. I went through a phase where I was writing music and I am a bit glad that has subsided because it was one more thing competing for creation. I also need to find time to practice on the djembe and to start memorizing lines and working on character for the two productions I am in. It would also be great if I could find the time to read these wonderful books that I have piled up everywhere in the house. Let's face it, I enjoy too much stuff: writing, music, art, acting, reading...where will I fit it all in.
Perhaps I should do as I did several years ago and give up television. Granted, Sarah and I are taping everything and watching it at our convenience but still, it eats up some time.
I suppose it's not bad. I could be one of those people that I hear every once in a while say, "I wish I had a hobby."
Here, take one of mine.

*Source: The Call by Os Guinness

iGot an iPod

I got a black Apple 30 GB iPod yesterday...and I love it! I took it to work today and listening to tunes made the time fly. It's going to take me a while to get all my favorite tunes on this thing. It'll hold around 7500 songs. That is, what they call in the industry, a buttload of music!
Of course, it's going to take a few days to really see what this baby can do. (in other words, I gotta learn how to use the thing) Last night while it was going thru it's set up deal, it put a bunch of stuff on the iPod I didn't want and then I couldn't figure out how to get them off. I sorta discovered it by accident. It's all good. I learned enough to get some tunes on there for today. I am now working on importing some of my favorite music.
Man, I wish I'd had one of these when I travelled with the Company. Back then I had a portable CD player and you had to hold it just right so it wouldn't skip. Then I had a CD case that held about 50 CDs because I never know what mood I'm going to be in. This little baby would have saved me so much room.
Sarah makes fun of me for all my "expensive toys" as she likes to call them. Hey! I love music and I gotta have my tunes. She wouldn't say anything if there was one of these things that held all your shoes. The shoePod from Apple.
I love the way my mind works...don't you?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Call: Flow

I found this quote in an interview with a fellow named Benjamin Ady on a site called Conversation at the Edge.
"Dr. Csikszentmihalyi talks about this lovely self forgetful thing that happens called “flow” which is when one’s skill set and the challenges one is facing meet in this lovely synergistic way–like I suppose what totally happens for Lance Armstrong when he is cycling."

I can totally relate. I am still waiting for this to happen to me.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Glory Bugles

Years ago, a youth minister played a song for me called "If Your Hair's Too Long (There's Sin in Your Heart). At the time I had long hair and I thought it was hysterical. I don't know why it crossed my mind today (probably because I'm playing a southern pastor in the Christmas play) but I went online to find it. What I found was this. Make sure you listen to the sound clips. I love the "Hair" song and "Peter's Rooster." There's also some video clips on the video page. The blonde is actually Bonnie Keen who used to sing with First Call. I saw her singing backup for Russ Taff many moons ago.
I also found a video of The Glory Bugles singing live in at a Nashville radio station. View it here.
Come heck or high water, I am going to have to order this CD.