Friday, March 28, 2008

Arts & Culture Roundup

So we took in the "Andy Warhol - Larger Than Life" exhibit at the MacKenzie Art Gallery on Saturday. The best part of the experience was being with the Ashton family, especially Beth who is their "arts" child - now living in the BC lower mainland - who was back to visit for the Easter weekend. We miss her but it was good to catch up and fun to see art together and discuss it. I like Warhol because, for me, he made modern and abstract art more accessible. When it comes to fine art and visual stuff I'm pretty much a philistine in a trendy t-shirt. I will say that the exhibit is quite good, well conserved and displayed with interpretive tours available. I say it's worth the $12. So check it out. (BTW the pic on this entry is attributed to Warhol but it came from the World Wide Weird Web so who really knows.)

The CBC just took their radio orchestra (the last such ensemble in North America) out behind the barn and shot it according to a report I heard on CBC radio this morning. My fav quote was from an emotional and understandably upset orchestra member, "They're taking this away so they can pay banjo players!" (This isn't verbatim but it's the best my shaky memory can do.) I love all kinds of music, and music is supposed to be the universal language of acceptance and peace, but take away an oboe player's meal ticket and it's every sensitive artist for themselves. Banjo players vs. cello players, the brass section vs. the percussion section, vocalists vs. the strings, rockers vs. folkies.... Oh, the humanity! Where will it end?

And once again the CBC management manages to live down to the reputation they have earned for being insensitive, heavy handed, myopic and artless. As a final point, the annual budget for the radio orchestra is under one million dollars. That's about what Rick Mercer has in his spare change holder on his bedroom dresser. Let's add managerially inept to the descriptive list above. Monkeys could figure out a plan to keep the radio orchestra going inside the CBC budget. If the CBC worked like public TV does in the US - even just a little bit - the listeners in Canada could be approached to help fund this and I bet they would.

As most of you know my real love is music, and usually popular stuff, by I am an eclectic listener so here's an overview of what I'm listening to and looking forward to listening to:

The Luther College High School Choirs Home Concert is taking place on Sunday, April 20th at Christ Lutheran Church, 4825 Dewdney Avenue, Regina at 7:30PM. Simply put this is an exceptional night of music from a program that always impresses and delivers a truly musical experience.

Nils Lofgren, guitar virtuoso and perennial member of the E Street Band is the source of my favourite quote about "The Boss". In the 1996 video released to support the EP "Blood Brothers" Lofgren says something to the effect that, "He (Springsteen) always has half an album in his back pocket. He's always got a few tunes he's working on and they're always good. Really, really good! I hate him." Obviously tongue-in-cheek, yet poignant and truthful from someone who should know and who has suffered and benefited from a long-running and tempestuous relationship with the guy I like to call the "rockin' Dylan". Still, Lofgren and the rest of the E Street Band has come together on Bruce Springsteen's latest album, "Magic", and my friends, it is.

I'll simply say this, if rootsy rock 'n' roll infused with cinematographic lyrics, virtuoso musicianship, killer production and acute social sensibility is your cup 'o' tea then this is it. I got mine for $9.99 on sale at HMV and frankly it was a steal because there isn't a bad tune on the whole disc.

The unlikely pairing of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss for the making of "Raising Sand" was one of those musical experiments that I was frankly a bit dubious about, despite all of the critical acclaim. I was wrong! (Does admitting that make me a 'bigger man', and will that question be a source of schadenfreude-based humour for many of you at my expense? Wait, why do I care? Nobody's reading this anyway. Whew - relief!) Anyhoo, the "Raising Sand" CD has been one of my recent happy discoveries and it also suggests to me that not every current music critic is a vacuous gasbag bent on shameless self-promotion or the pursuit of the sound of their own voice. (Hey, am I in that group? Naaahhh!) "Raising Sand" - try it, you'll like it.

Susie and I just purchased tickets to see Mark Knopfler in concert at the Conexus Arts Centre on Wednesday, July 9th. We saw Mark once before in Edmonton when he was still doing the "Dire Straits rock 'n' roll band" as he described it. All I could say to anyone who asked me about the show was, "Oh yeah! The boy can play!" If you want to see one of the greatest living guitarists and a fine, fine songwriter doing his thing then get on board. Mark may not be the "top of the pops" these days, but that might actually be a GOOD thing!

Months ago we also obtained tickets to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in Edmonton in August. We've been listening to Tom and the boys since we got married, so this, like the Knopfler concert, will be a nostalgic experience. I guess we're just a couple of middle-aged rockers now. (Hey, Hey, Hey!! No jokes about furniture here! I heard that!)

So we're getting some art into our lives. I am always moved, and amazed, and challenged, and disturbed, and inspired by these artistic encounters. I truly, truly believe that if an artist - whatever kind of art they do - is honest and steadfast in pursuing the truth they will necessarily encounter God, because ALL truth is God's truth. And so I find God playing with His children and intimately involved in their process of making art in the most unlikely and likely of places. I hope you find Him around you too.

"Coming Soon" - a review and discussion of "Horton Hears a Who".

Shalom people.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

And Now A Word From Our Sponsors...

So I have recieved two emails asking me if I want to allow 'advertising' on my blogsite. I track my numbers using Statcounter so I KNOW that I am staying very close to maintaining the truth of my tagline - "writing for an audience of one - reaching even fewer". It has to be a scam of some type.

Never the less, and I have received no consideration at all for this, I am going to exhort the 3 of you reading this to check out a dental hygiene product I have begun using.

I have always had trouble flossing. My teeth are tight, crowded and crooked (especially on my lower jaw). I have a small mouth (OK guys - yuk it up to your heart's content on that one), and I have short, stubby fingers attached to meaty palms. I shred regular floss and it gets stuck between my teeth so I have to use extra slippery stuff that is even harder to hold and control. Sheesh.

Well enter the new Reach Access Flosser. If you've tried other flossing tools and given up, take heart, this sucker works! It takes me less than a minute to floss completely down to my gum line and between each tooth with no shredding, gagging, slobber or muttered cursing.

If flossing is difficult for you, or simply inconvenient, then get thee hence to thine apothecary's shop and purchase this modern marvel of applied technology. And what's more, we really need the help as our dental coverage has been "adjusted" and cleanings are covered only every 9 months for us now. So hopefully this will help us keep our teeth and gums healthy until we can visit our hygienist.

There! I've done my good deed for the day/week/month/year/decade/century/millennium.

'Nuff said!

Another "Cover" for The Savior

So Jesus has made the cover of Macleans magazine again for Easter. He gets Time, Newsweek and Macleans covers with startling regularity. After 2000 years he's still newsworthy and good for a bump in reader responses if not in circulation.

The article isn't very flattering. Another thing that hasn't changed much in 2000 years. Jesus hardly garnered much positive press during His ministry and of course has gotten consistently bad reviews ever since, so I'm not surprised by the article's content. The really sad thing is that today's reporters are presenting this material like it's somehow new and earthshaking - when in fact, the basis of the criticisms against Jesus in this article are as old as the New Testament.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

And the question still remains - who do you say He is?

Whatever you may say you can't say He is insignificant. Love Him or hate Him, you have to deal with Him and make up your mind, unless you're of the habit of letting others do your thinking for you. And still the basic approach it seems is to try to categorize, control and contain Jesus.

I suggest contemplation, cognition and communion.

As for me and my house - we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)


It's Quiet. Too Durn Quiet.

So the dialogue has come to a deafening halt over at the 'other' blog I contribute to. Nothing now except the sound of crickets chirping.

Was it something I said?


Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I can really get stuff going sometimes. I don't mean to, but it is always an irresistible urge in me to ramp up any irony I find in a situation - even more so it seems if I have a personal stake in it. The reason I'm saying all of this is because a discussion has been going on over at "At The Master's Feet", a blog I contribute to.

I'm working towards my ordination and something popped up at our recent Association meetings in this regard. It has spilled out into emails and our blog and I may have made things worse. You can read and decide for yourselves.

The point I want to make here is this: I'm a Christian and a pastor - and I sometimes have no idea whether or not I'm actually helping when I say stuff or ask questions or make observations. I love and respect everyone who is posting on "At The Master's Feet". They are my brothers and I would never want to disrespect or hurt them. But even so, it seems I may have contributed to the creation of a potentially out of control spiral.

It's a good lesson for me, and I want to share it with you. Most folks think "Christians" are folks who believe they have all the answers, are always right and are never confused. "Monkey Feathers!" Says I!!

We struggle with our understandings, our issues and our doubts as much as anyone else does. What keeps me staying the course is that I really believe that Jesus wins! I really believe that grace and mercy and love and forgiveness wins. I am confident that even though I may be confused and uncertain sometimes, if I fight for the loving, gracious, positive choice then I will have glorified God and it will work out.

You can go to dozens and dozens of websites on the internet and read the writings of the confident and assured Christians who have an answer for everything. I love being involved with the wonderful guys on "At The Master's Feet" because they are willing to 'get into it'. And maybe that means that we will occasionally ride an out of control spiral to somewhere. But Christ is everywhere so.....


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Only Giant Shadows

"Any reasonably advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic."

That is my gloss of a quotation attributed to the renowned author Arthur C Clarke. You'll notice that I didn't write "science fiction" before the word "author" above. It's my own personal rejection of the common practice of relegating certain writers to the artistic ghetto of the genre they write within. All of my life "Sci-Fi" has been relegated to a status below "literature". Now Clarke is gone, passing away last week and we are just beginning to discern the vast landscape his artistic shadow occupies.

I've been becoming uncomfortably aware recently of an increase in the number of artistic and culturally iconic persons who are shuffling off this mortal coil and this had led me into musing as to who, if anyone, is moving forward to occupy the void such losses create. Perhaps that is a misbegotten question, having more to do with my rising angst about my own mortality - which these passings are seeming to make keener in my mind. Still, I find myself looking for new shadows cast by new artists that seem to measure up to the ones cast by the giants I have encountered thus far.

I suspect that each generation asks similar questions, and that these questions become more personal and poignant as the one voicing them perceives they have truly passed the halfway post in the race they are running. It is our human perspective to ever view the world and events through the lens of self, even if we say we strive for empathy. We are hopelessly wrapped up in ourselves at times, especially at those time when we feel the Grim Reaper's breath cold upon the nape of our neck.

Still I am grateful for Clarke and his generous, creative energy that has so infused my life and thought with ideas that are at once wildly fantastic and deeply human. Indeed, it seems to me that the fantastic is often a better place to observe the truly human moments of truth we are all heir to. The fantastic can often provide a sharper sense of contrast, irony and inconvenient truth than we perceive amid the familiar. It was, and still is Clarke's uncompromising commitment to look straight into the human condition that has lent the ring of truth and the air of worth to his great canon of work.

But new fantastic revelations will flow no more from his mind into ours. We are left with only his giant shadow it seems, but perhaps something more as well. Shadows only appear in the light, and the bigger and more distinct they are, the brighter and more focussed the light must be. And the light draws us all, doesn't it?