Lovin' some America

I like Willie Nelson's version of patriotism--he can see the strengths in the country, but he certainly isn't blind to the flaws we have.  I especially like the line "..bring us your foreign songs, we will sing along."  We are so much better as a country when we can embrace the great things about people who come here into our own life together.  Food is a kind of trivial illustration.  Tacos and General Tsao's Chicken are pretty much American creations by immagrants.  Great song (though not a great recording) to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Rocky, but not the one with Adrienne.

Check out my buddy, Rocky's stuff: http://yorocko.com/

I think Rocky may be my other half, if once we were a single semi-evangelical presbyterian lazer, shot through a beam splitter.    He zigged left of center; I zagged right of center.  We are both about half a bubble off level.  He bounced to  Southern California; I bounced to South Carolina.  We are both bouncing off the walls.  He and a friend publish a monthly mix of new music.  I quote Johnny Cash cover tunes.  Neither of us is a musical genius.   Check him out, pass him on.

The Incomparable


The Incomparable is a great podcast for all things Geeky.  They actually have a bunch of different podcast that go further down the geek rabbit hole than I care for, but their main podcast--The Incomparable--is one I don't miss.  Jason Snell gathers a thoughtful and expressive panel for a variety of different topics: books, movies, comics.  I don't give a hoot about Manga, so I skip all those.  Comics get tiresome to me, but these jokers make them interesting to listen about while I'm fixing the fence in the back yard.  But I've been introduced to a pile of good books, and gotten a lot of pleasure in thinking about some great movies.

It is like listening into a thoughtful conversation by intelligent geeks, who I like.  It gives me a chance to listen in to how people outside my little church echo-chamber think, as well.  These folks are having passionate and considered conversation about things they care about, no holding back.  


Real Americans Hate Christmas

HERE'S AN INTERESTING BOOK: Stephen Nissenbam's   The Battle for Christmas.

Yes, I'm being contrary with this title.  And it is not true.  But is was once kind of true.  Our Puritans forefathers in New England were hostile to the holiday as part of their hostility to the Roman Catholic Church and disdain for excess.  On Christmas day of 1686, Magistrate Samuel Sewell was glad to record that most shops were open and people were going about their business.  It is strange to think of commerce as a sign of the dwindling of Christmas.  The Christmas season was an excuse for drunken violence and low grade extortion.  In 1679 four young men stopped by the home of the Rowdens, pushed their way in, sang a song, then demanded drinks.  They came wassailing among the leaves so green.  The Rowdens refused to serve the pushy and already drunk young men.  The men harassed this old couple and vandalized their home.  They broke into a shed and stole apples.  Some Holiday spirit.  Jump ahead a few centuries, and we find good, old Charlie Brown lamenting the commercialization of Christmas.  Blessedly, Linus give us the straight scoop on the meaning of Christmas: 

Christmas raises all manner of contradictions.  Many people find themselves blue or even depressed because it is the most wonderful time of the year.  I decry and get caught up in the excessive buying of gifts.  Perhaps these contradictions are inherent in Christmas.  The baby at the center of the holiday is a living contradiction.  He is both fully human and fully divine.  He is one person, but he has two different natures (that is the very old, traditional and trustworthy wayto describe Jesus).  Jesus is a living contradiction.  Even that claim carries the contradiction of Jesus.  He was crucified, dead and buried,  but now is alive.  Jesus is a little baby at Mary's bosom; through him all things in heaven and on earth were created.  Jesus is the Word that existed before creation; Jesus is a squawking, toothless, speechless baby.  We cannot make sense of the two things together, but there he is, a living contradiction.

You can join me in my contrary mood about Christmas with Stephen Nissenbam's The Battle for Christmas. I should admit, that while the book is interesting, I still haven't finished it.  Let me know if I should.  Or for more fun, jam out with the Peanuts gang:

Del Ryder and the Crystal Seed

Check out Del Ryder and the Crystal Seed by Matt Brough (a Canadian Colleague). My 12 years old twins and fourteen year old all liked it.  So did I.  Its a great story, and has key themes you can talk about with kids--friendship, trust, loyalty.  Or just read it because its a great book.  

Simple forms carry weight

Gillian Welch masters the beguiling simplicity of a gospel hymn.  Nothing in the song sticks out as robust or complex.  None of the words have more than two syllables.  The words touch on the most powerful themes of Christian faith: the crucifixion of Jesus, the cross as the key to the identity of the Savior, the foolishness of earthly wealth, redemption as an event in history.  The singing is easy to listen to, but Welch and Rawlings have carefully worked out their harmonies and timing to give remarkable depth of sound to their singing.  They start by singing the words of the first verse together, then begin carefully varied repetition in the chorus.  The variety keeps us interested without drawing attention to itself.  They manage to pull a huge amount of sound out of two guitars, without ever beginning to sound ornate or fussy.  Right after the two minute point Mark Rawlings lays into a solo that is quick and full of notes, but his technique allows him to pull each note out of the guitar as a single unique sound.  The sound never blurs or smears.  They have put a huge amount of information of various kinds into 3 minutes of old-fashioned simple music.

P.S. The name of the band is NOT simply.  Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch make up a duo called Gilliam Welch.  It's confusing, but who cares.  The music is great.