Thursday, October 07, 2010

And They Said "Shhhhhh!"

So I'm "closed" because some folks were talking about using content on my blog(s) against me. I was warned from a credible source and now only "invited" readers may see my musings.

The two harshest words in the English language?

"Shut up!"

No Shalam
No Shalom

Friday, September 10, 2010

John Hiatt & Los Lobos

On Sept 3 I was privileged to enjoy an evening with John Hiatt & "The Combo" - his touring band and the guys who recorded "The Open Road" with him earlier this year - and the indefatigable Los Lobos at the Regina Casino Show Lounge.

It was a wonderful concert as far as I was concerned.

My main reason for attending was to see John live for the first time since I became a near-rabid fan of his music in the '90's (and yes, I was a bit late to the dance). John and The Combo were all I had hoped for and more. The ten song set list they played included the requisite hits like "Thing Called Love", "Drive South" and "Slow Turning".

John was in fine voice, often treating us to extended gospel-infused vocal runs at song's end with wild swoops from his gravelly alto up to the heights of his falsetto and back again. The Combo was tight, spare and focused, but also able to leg it out with authority too. Perhaps no more so than on their masterful accompaniment of John's newest blues tour de force, "Like a Freight Train". I can honestly say I've never experienced such a stunningly well-played blues song before, and that includes a night in the presence of no less than B.B. King. King, had he been with us, would have smiled his trademark grin and clapped for joy. The boys did it RIGHT!

Exit John after a guitar soaked but still moving rendition of "Have a Little Faith in Me" - a new reading that won me over even as I missed the gospel choir of what is still the best version, as far as I'm concerned, of that classic Hiatt tune.

Enter Los Lobos.

Why I haven't been a constant fan of these guys is a mystery to me. I blame commercial radio for pummeling us all with Los Lobos' version of "La Bamba" in 1987. I left the band behind after that. It's a shame because I didn't know what I was missing. Well I'm making up for lost time now.

Their new CD - "Tin Can Trust" - is a fantastic album. I like every song on it and I'm starting to love a couple of them. Nearing the top of my list is their deft cover of The Grateful Dead's "East L.A. Fade Away". While it might be too easy to call Los Lobos East L.A.'s answer to The Grateful Dead, it is (and was at the concert) obvious that these two bands are linked by more than mere genre and influence. Call them the two best sides of the Southern California experience.

It is also no small feat that the four original high school buddies are still together, along with their add-on friend, Steve Berlin, who joined them for their highly acclaimed 1984 LP "How Will The Wolf Survive" - which has earned a spot on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums list. I own a copy that I picked up at a garage sale a couple of years ago for a toonie. That might explain some of the context for what I'll be ranting about in a minute. In any case Los Lobos has stood the test of time, weathered the ups and downs of the music biz and come out better, stronger and more creative for it. Such longevity is beyond rare in their world. When it happens magic does too.

I said before that the concert was wonderful "as far as I was concerned". My only problem was the crowd. They were almost to a person




Now I've been to dozens of shows in my life and I've seen shows where the audience wasn't into it - for good reason! The artists weren't into it either. But this is one of the few times, if not the only one, where the musicians were working their butts off and the crowd was either too old, too distracted (by WHAT I wonder) or too uneducated to know what they were missing. Maybe I should have been worried when the lady DJ from 105.9 FM took nearly 5 minutes to introduce John Hiatt. This is the man who recently won the "Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwiting" from the American Music Association. He shouldn't need an intro to anyone who can call themselves a music aficionado with any level of self respect.

I know Regina has recently sprung up on the music tour map after the Rolling Stones, AC/DC and Bon Jovi all had successful shows here, but if all we are going to be able to appreciate is the juggernauts of the corporate music biz because that's all we know - outside of a fairly well-rounded appreciation for country artists thanks to events like the Craven Country Jamboree - then our future entertainment landscape is going to get pretty bleak pretty fast.

Here's a tip - if you don't like, love or even know who the artist is that you're going to go see - DON'T GO! If you wanna be seen "stylin'" go to The Drink. Those of us who want to be entertained, want to be so in the presence of like-minded folks. We want the love in the room to be palpable. We want the artists to know their fans are with them. We want to be a part of something special.

John Hiatt & Los Lobos were very special in Regina on the 3rd of September, 2010. The audience was nothing special.

'Nuff Said!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Year Since...

My friend Perry died last year - July 5.




Today would have been his birthday. Facebook reminder - weird. Such is the world we live in now.

My post from a year ago no longer plays the song that helped me mourn because the soulless music corporation that owns the copyright is now blocking the video. Thanks for nothing Sony.

It still hurts.

Perry was a man of deep faith in Jesus Christ. I'm supposed to be, too. But it still hurts. And my pain is nothing, I'm sure, compared to what his wife and daughters feel today.

Faith is belief in what we cannot see. I have faith in God's plan. But I can't see it. Maybe one day.

But not today.

Today I see the hole left by my friend's absence. But I don't believe in the hole even though I see it and feel it. The feelings are real. But the truth is stronger. One day it will make me stronger.

Jesus said,
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20b

Jesus is here, but so is the hole. Jesus makes it bearable.

Shalom my Brother, Perry.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Theme Song for This Week

I'm Still Breathing

Just a note to say life has been busy. We are grandparents. We will soon be permanent "empty-nesters". We are seeking new directions. We are dealing with old issues. All is change. Christ is constant. 50 is nearly upon me. Goals, dreams and aspirations remain doggedly fixed upon the horizon. Life has been - very "life-like" of late. I cannot be any more specific.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Read This - If You Dare

This is a preview of Michael Spenser's "Mere Churchianity" available on pre-order at


Friday, April 30, 2010

Great Expectations

Well I've recovered from the loss of Michael Spenser as much as I expect I can for the foreseeable future. Time to get back into the flow.

I guess I'm going to cement my newly acquired "curmudgeon" status with this post. I never really expected to "win friends and influence people" with this little spasm into the blogsphere, but this should surely keep me true to my tagline - "writing for an audience of one - reaching even fewer".

I just can't get excited about much in the pop music world these days. What is passing for excitement and new directions just falls utterly flat for me. Shakira and Rascal Flatts on American Idol on Wednesday night kinda became my poster children for what's wrong with the industry at this point in time. That the Brazilian diva actually had the temerity to quote Franklin D. Roosevelt provided the non sequitur icing that topped the ironic pop culture cake the show's producers had attempted to bake. Ostensibly celebrating the music of Shania Twain as interpreted by the contestants of the show, the performances of the American Idol hopefuls and the guest "artists" laid bare the irony of how talented she was is as a songwriter and artist, and how utterly insane it seems Robert "Mutt" Lange had to be to divorce her.

Oh, and to the guys in Rascal Flatts - you're not a "real" band if you don't have a permanent drummer. You're just a vocal trio who can maybe play some. Thanks to Gary Le Vox (seriously?!?) for at least appearing to be slightly embarrassed to either be on the show or singing with Shakira or both.

Yet, in spite of the cultural wreckage all about us I am filled with hope and great expectations as I see The Corporate Music Machine (TCMuM) slowly grinding itself into the dust it so richly deserves to be. Radio, the once-proud herald of TCMuM has long ago relinquished its claim to be the voice of "good new stuff". It has fallen to the hosts of late night TV to fill the gap - at least a bit. David Letterman did so for me recently when he debuted John Hiatt's newest tune - Highly recommended BTW! But more and more I'm getting my news from the 'net.

So it is for two new upcoming albums from two established artists. They won't get radio play because - well - radio mostly plays crap. Even the so-called "we play everything" stations (Yes, I talkin' to you JACK FM!) have woefully narrow playlists, and don't venture much away from top-40 hits of yesterday and today. Sheesh guys! There's more to Fleetwood Mac's catalog than six tunes, OK!?!

Hooo....OK, I'm calm enough to get through this (I hope). Meat Loaf and Jimmy Webb both have new albums in the offing and I think they will both be worth your while to check out.

Hang Cool Teddy Bear is Meat Loaf's tenth album. Yes, gentle reader it's been 35 years (!) since he sang "Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul (I Really Love That Rock 'n' Roll)" in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its been 33 years since he and the "Mad Genius of Rock", Jim Steinman, brought us Bat Out of Hell. Meat (or should I refer to him as Mr. Loaf?) has been up and down and up and down and mostly up lately. And HCTB could be just the thing to keep it all rolling for the Texas troubadour. The guy is always thinkin' and the single is - well - just what you might (or might not) expect. I'm thinking he could have been one heckuva pulpit-poundin', Bible-thumpin', go-to-town, tent-meetin' preacher. I guess we'll never know - but he still is pretty young. OK - he's 63 this year, but old rockers never die.

Jimmy Webb is the guy who writes the songs that make the whole world sing - forget about Barry Manilow. With immortal gems like "Rhinestone Cowboy", "By the Time I Get To Phoneix", "Up, Up and Away (In My Beautiful Balloon)", "Wichita Lineman", "MacArthur Park" and "Highwayman" plus many, many more produced during a career that started in 1967(!) it is certain you have heard more than one Jimmy Webb song in your life if you listen to music regularly. His latest release, due later this year, is called "Just Across the River" and will showcase a number of his best songs recorded with guest stars as diverse as Mark Knopfler, Billy Joel and Lucinda Williams. Here's the full story.

So there's life and music beyond radio and TCMuM. And I think the best is yet to come. So keep on listening.


Monday, April 05, 2010

In Memorium

Michael Spencer helped me to be a better follower of Jesus Christ. His crown will be great. I will miss him. I quoted him in last Sunday's sermon. Some folks got it. Some didn't. Such is life and ministry. Michael never gave up. So I am encouraged.

The news is here.

Also, please read the tributes and Chaplain Mike's post.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Together We Stand

For some time now I've been contemplating how social networking and collective intelligence can be and is being applied in a variety of life situations. My niece found this video and posted it on Facebook. I have also recently been listening to this book by Bill Kinnon.

Social networking occupies a measurable portion of my work and private life now. When it comes to interacting with my community of friends and family who are not in my immediate geographical area, or who I cannot see except infrequently due to time constraints and schedules, Facebook has become my preferred tool. I have been able to reestablish connections to friends and acquaintances from decades earlier in my life as well as know much more about people I am in ministry with but cannot be face to face with daily.

I have done ministry for some through social networking and had real life events begin in the crucible of the social network. I have observed how my children and their friends use social networking to communicate and add to their relationships, and how in some cases they are already either taking this powerful medium for granted or even disengaging from it because of the demands it can place on them. When disdain or rejection of a widely used technology appears one can assume it has become ubiquitous enough to be pushed back against.

What I'm observing now is that the generational divide between social media users and non-users is blurring faster and faster. My middle-ager, baby-boomer group is one of the fastest growing segments, but so is the generation just before ours. The drivers seem to be family issues and ease of communication.

While this type of networking is still called 'virtual', I am personally regarding it more and more as 'actual' - even as telephone conversations have been considered 'actual' communication instead of virtual for decades now. Texting, chatting, using video/audio communication like Skype, text communication like Twitter are all becoming considered to be 'actual' interactions and the 'virtual' label is losing its social meaning - now referring simply to the mechanism of the communication rather than imparting any judgment of the relative value of that interaction. Less and less is 'virtual' interaction being seen as less desirable, valid or useful as compared to accepted 'actual' interaction.

We are solving real problems through applying the power of collective intelligence and collaborative work connected over 'virtual' platforms (MySpace, Facebook, etc.). We are expanding, maintaining and continuing our personal networks through the same media. We are connecting and making community and these new technologies offer powerful tools for us to make positive differences for ourselves and others.

A church I heard about changed its policy making structure from a top-down executive model to a congregation engaging work group model. At one of the first meetings where they implemented this the people attending were broken up into work groups and given aspects of the issues being addressed to discuss and report on to the larger group. There was some resistance to the change, but one elderly member in her 80's simply stated, "This is the way we do things now."

And I think Scripture encourages us to use these various media to bless each other.

Social networking - this is the way we do things now (or it will be very, very soon.)


Friday, March 05, 2010

When Everything Old Is New Again - It's Great!

I promised a word on Eric Clapton's & Steve Winwood's 2009 live collaboration "Live From Madison Square Garden". Recently Clapton has been going this route more than flying solo. Beginning - as far as my collection is concerned - with the stunning 2004 "Crossroads Guitar Festival" DVD, his triumphant live concert reunion with Jack Bruce & Ginger Baker as Cream in 2005 and then the utterly superb "Road to Escondito" CD with J.J. Cale in 2006, Clapton has been indulging himself in playing with whomever he wants whenever he wants. I say indulgence is very good in these cases. "Live From..." is no exception.

I was fortunate enough to see Winwood live in 2008 in Edmonton, AB as the lead act with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. What surprised me was what an accomplished guitarist he is. My previous experiences with 'the man, the myth, the legend' were firmly planted in his string of relatively successful albums in the '80's including "Arc of a Diver" (1980), "Talking Back to the Night" (1982) & "Back in the High Life" (1986). On those recordings Winwood performed primarily as a vocalist/keyboardist. In Edmonton he wowed me with his guitar prowess, but I can be forgiven as I was still largely ignorant of his earlier career, of course with the obvious exception of "Gimme Some Lovin'". The bits I did know about via television always had Winwood seated behind his ubiquitous Hammond B-3 organ. So be it - at least I'm still learning.

To say Winwood keeps up with Clapton on this superb double CD doesn't even come close. Opening with the wondrous trilogy of "Had to Cry Today", "Low Down" & "Them Changes" with nary a fulsome organ chord in any of them, Winwood goes chord for chord and note for note with his old friend. When the organ finally comes to the fore in "Presence of the Lord" we all understand why the Hammond instrument left the dusty confines of the local church to enter the smokey environs of the local club. And it just gets better and better as the album goes on.

Clapton is as smooth, relaxed and on target as I've ever heard him. Sliding from bluesy authority to incendiary riffing to meaty rhythm to chunky punctuation he is always in the groove. He makes space for the other players to contribute better than I've heard before, yet holds the spotlight - when he is called on to - with a deft touch that speaks volumes of how he has mastered his art and his demons. Assurance, accuracy, emotion, investment, connection, soul, truth - these are just a few of the descriptors that apply to his playing on these songs

Speaking of the 'other players', the contributions of Willie Weeks on bass, Chris Stainton on keyboards and Ian Thomas on drums are all more than up to the task of constructing the foundation that Clapton and Winwood stand on while they spin their magic. Showing the innovation that set them apart originally in Blind Faith comes across particularly well in their version of Buddy Holly's "Well All Right" - a treat worth the whole purchase price of the CD in my never-to-be-humble opinion. The new players become a part of that song as if they were there when their leaders first tangled with it in 1969. But in the case of this version, time and better recording techniques plus love and appreciation have done very good things for the music. Indeed that combination has infused the whole recording with something quite special.

The set is sprinkled with songs from both Clapton's & Winwood's solo careers plus most of their Blind Faith songs. It is a well crafted set list that shows all of the dimensions of this duo's musical prowess, highlighting clearly why we and so many others love what they do. The result transcends the past, their separate journeys and previous successes and re-frames the music within the new context of their amassed skill and experience. Their obvious respect for each other and the songs brings reverence and joy in equal parts to their playing and making this much, much more than it might have been in the hands of lesser artists.

As live albums go, this one is at the top of the heap from a production standpoint. I suspect this is so because the boys new this was going to be a one-off event and the decisions that needed to be made to ensure a sterling outcome were made early on and without flinching. The technical & production staff and crew deserve a big 'thank you' for helping to get it right.

So this stuff isn't "contemporary" by most standards, but it is timeless. In may ways it should humble current artists who strive to make music that is emotional and rooted in the long-standing forms of the blues/rock genre. There really is something to be said for the results of artists who practice their craft long and well. It just "keeps getting better all the time" (thanks Paul & John). Although it is a long set, it doesn't wear thin anywhere along the way and once on the iPod one is inclined to cue up both CDs in succession and just let 'er rip.

Most of us won't get to witness something like this magical set of concerts - the live moment being relegated to the affordability and exclusivity of owning an exotic automobile or luxury yacht. This is why it is such a miracle and blessing that microphones and other recording equipment exist. And why it is such a miracle that we can experience the next best thing to being there - maybe a better thing than being there because we can visit it time and time again. And as a final thought, very often projects like this can lead to a "wish I was there" nostalgia for times past. I think in this case, could we send a copy of this recording back to where it all began in '69, the folks there might wish they were here. Time and patience can result in wondrous things.

I think I'm gonna have to buy the DVD, too.


He Plays a What?

"Unique" is a word often thrown around the music biz that stands in for phrases like "not commercial" or "we can't categorize it so we can't sell it" or most usually "doesn't play by our corporate rules so we hate it". As any of you who have been perusing this blog know, I often comment that the cognoscenti of the music world wouldn't know a good recording if they were struck across the noggin with it tied to a Fender Strat. But that happily doesn't stop good stuff from getting made. And so often it takes the hand of another artist to get it going - like in the case of this blog entry's featured artist.

In 1981 I had no idea who David Lindley was. As it turned out I heard his nitro-fueled version of "Mercury Blues" at a show in Edmonton during their summer exhibition - then called "Klondike Days", now called "Edmonton's Capital Ex". Although "Klondike Days" was a fairly ghastly name, the new name sounds like it's an ode to the ultimate ex-partner. Well living that far north does strange things to a body - but look at me, I lived there for 25 years so who am I to talk?

Self-serving digressions aside, I'm sad to say that I didn't see David and his band El Rayo-X live. The aforementioned song was the soundtrack to a synchronized water fountain and lightshow that preceded the main act - who may have been "Teen Angel and the Rockin' Rebels" - sort of Canada's answer to "Sha Na Na". They were, in my fuzzy recollection, quite good as a '50's/'60's cover band. But that David Lindley driven water fountain lightshow - that really stuck in my mind. I suspect the designer/developer of that little demonstration went on to be involved with the design of the fountain at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, or at least was one of the first to use the technology - the fountains and lights were wicked fast for their day. But it was the song that got to me.

My only previous experience with "Mercury Blues" was the California-slick and slightly swampy version done by Steve Miller on his equally excellent but nothing-at-all-like-Lindley album, "Fly Like An Eagle". That version had been firmly burned into my brain for at least 5 years, including a run in 1976/77 when I'm pretty sure I listened to the whole album once a day for at least 10 months. In 3 minutes and 33 seconds Lindley shredded my connection to the Miller version and I was hooked, never looking back. Sorry Steve - I still like the rest of "Eagle".

The very next day I had me a copy of "El Rayo-X" and the rest is future history. It turned out I had been hearing Lindley before - I just hadn't noticed. Thanks to Jackson Browne, whom Lindley had done session work for, and who co-produced the album, I was getting the pure source. It also turned out that Lindley was connected to another west coast wunderkind - Warren Zevon - who also was connected to Browne. I was listening to a lot of California produced stuff at the time, but David Lindley sounded like he had dropped in from another planet. By now, you've probably noticed the meandering style this post has taken - well that's just a metaphor for what David Lindley does with a tune.

I'm going to recommend two albums for you and I'll bet that the third one I'll mention is a keeper, too - although I don't have it - yet. The first I've already named above - the second is "Win This Record" (1982) - both originally released on the Warner/Reprise label. The third "El Rayo Live" will satisfy the completists reading this - and while those three don't encompass even a tenth of Lindley's recording career, they do represent the sum total of the El Rayo-X period. And it was a wonderful and all too short spasm of creativity the music biz couldn't categorize, control or contain.

To say that Lindley's arrangements of tunes - especially covers he did - were "different" would be like saying "Nickelback's" music is only slightly formulaic and predictable. But Lindley, for all his unique approach (how about a reggae version of "Bye Bye Love"?) is one of the most musical players I have ever heard. Some of my ab-so-lute-ly personal favs are "She Took Off My Romeos", "Twist and Shout", "Talk To The Lawyer", "Ram-A-Lamb-A-Man" & "Make It On Time". You'll need both albums to hear all of those. But in every case you will be confronted by a man and a band who know exactly what they are doing - even as you are trying to figure out just what it is.

Lindley plays pretty much anything with strings on it that can be plucked or strummed. The fact that he uses an electric steel guitar to create the power chords on "Mercury Blues" was a revelation when I finally saw Lindley and most of El Rayo-X (at least percussionist extraordinaire Ras Baboo was there) on the TV show "Later...With Jools Holland" hosted by the ex-Squeeze keyboardist.

And even though Robert Randolph - the newest proponent of a very un-traditional sounding approach to the standard and pedal steel guitar - never heard of Lindley or other 'secular' bands when he was growing up, I like to think that it was Lindley who was in the vanguard of breaking down some of the barriers that relegated certain instruments to certain genres of music and made Randolph's career an inevitability.

Anyway, you owe it to yourself to give Lindley a try. He takes a bit of listening to get full value from, but it's well worth it. Just start with the tunes that grab you and give the others a chance, and then you'll find yourself hearing those same sounds in other musicians' repertoires. And that brings us meanderingly to the point of why David Lindley matters - he made those sounds first, and then others followed him. And that is the best definition of "unique" I can think of. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

Imitated, yes. Bettered, never!


Monday, March 01, 2010

How Do You Feel?

Recently I have become increasingly aware of health care and its associated costs through the illnesses of people I am connected to through the internet and personally. Michael Spencer, my fav Christian blogger - who is a real Christian goshdarnit - has been struck with cancer and has lost his income and health care coverage and is in real jeopardy, financially as well as physically. Kaja Foglio of "Girl Genius" had knee surgery and as a self-employed artist/entrepreneur she and her husband Phil have had to face these issues. In a circumstantial quirk that beggars description the Foglio's colorist, Cheyenne Wright, was struck with a viral infection that affected his heart. Cheyenne is even further out on the seemingly non-existent health care limb than Spencer and the Foglios as he is a free-lance artist.

Their friend and fellow web cartoonist/entrepreneur/writer and neo-Renaissance guy Aaron Williams, creator of "Nodwick", "PS 238", "Full Frontal Nerdity" and the recently and sadly demised "Backward Compatible" comic strips as well as the highly excellent, more traditionally delivered "North 40", linked to an archived American NPR broadcast of "This American Life" from October of 2009 on the subject of health care and its attendant costs. If you want the rest of this post to make any sense you must listen to this program next. Thanks to the "majick of the internets", the rest of my scribblings will patiently await your return. Hoy, Technology!

As a Canadian, and "lucky" recipient of nationalized public health care, it may seem that I don't have a dog in this fight, but I've been spending a lot more time in hospitals and being concerned about health care lately. After my mother-in-law destroyed her right shoulder in a frightening tumble down her basement stairs in October of 2009 - yet another coincidence beggaring description when juxtaposed with the date of the NPR broadcast - and that in the middle of dealing with her husband's rapidly deteriorating condition due to Alzheimer's, we were forced to pay much closer attention to such things - at least north of the 49th parallel. More recently, due to experiencing my wife suffering with an undiagnosable ailment, I have realized that many of the pressures, mechanisms and infernal internal workings of health care delivery as outlined in the "This American Life" documentary are also part of "This Canadian Life". I live in the "True North, (not so) Strong and Free (for sure not free as in 'free lunch')".

Many of the situations described in the broadcast had an all too familiar feel to them, particularly how my wife and I evaluate medical decisions based on how information is shared with us by doctors, nurses, therapists, politicians, medical insurance providers and drug companies through advertising and the ubiquitous media. These multiple streams of information have created and sustained many of the same false beliefs and unproductive ideals we see demonstrated in the US health system. The real reality check being that neither a public nor private system - nor any hybrid of the two - will solve the basic issue of a demanding public that wants what it wants - now - costs be damned.

Solutions will hopefully come from more education and understanding of the forces driving health costs worldwide, and hopefully a sober re-evaluation of our expectations of the system alongside a maturing acceptance of our mortality. OK that last part is really unlikely, but it would help us gain a better perspective. But we cannot maintain "business as usual" in America or Canada for much longer, if at all. In the meantime, folks like Michael Spencer, Cheyenne Wright, the Foglios and many, many more will be at the mercy of the system and upheld only by the mercy of the community that supports them. That's the gracious, loving adaptation that has been made as a response to the inequities and shortcomings of the health system. People who care and are caring have stepped up to help these folks - meeting needs we expect government, industry and community to address, but have spectacularly failed to do. And we all shudder at how expensive mercy has become - and that it has become a commodity at all. As a leader of a faith community, all of this impacts deeply on my work and calling in ways I am struggling to understand and deal with.

If you visit some of the links above you'll find PayPal links for some of these folks. If you're feeling OK you might send them a few bucks to tide them over. After that, you might want to get control of your own health care understanding, process and start engaging with the system in your local area. Do some work while you're up to it - while you feel healthy. It's a lot easier than having to deal with it from flat on your back in a hospital bed. But more than anything it seems we all need a network of people who care for us and will care for us when we and the system can't (or won't). No amount of money will ever purchase care that is as good as what is given freely in love. That is why I am so involved in the community God is creating through Jesus. Real hope and security lies there.

Find His community - it's the best medicine.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Perfect Album

In 1994 Mary Chapin Carpenter released "Stones in the Road" the follow-up to her highly successful pop/country crossover album "Come On, Come On". It is much to my chagrin that I only just ordered my CD copy of this remarkable recording this week, having spent the last 16 years content to listen to my pirated cassette tape recording of the original CD. (Please forgive me Mary!)

This 13 song tour de force extends beyond 45 minutes by two songs - I know because I had to put them on the "B" side of the tape along with some Eagles tunes from their "Hell Freezes Over" CD, also released in '94 (and yes, I DO own the CD of that album so calm down Glenn!). I cherry picked the tunes from the Eagles CD, but I couldn't from Carpenter's recording because they were - and still are - all exceptional songs.

"Stones in the Road" is one of those rare "perfect storms" of music recording were the songwriting, musicianship, recording and production all are as near perfect as God allows in this world. It remains among the very few albums I would absolutely have to take on my desert island exile and it would, I am sure, be listened to in its entirety on every occasion even under those circumstances - even if my stash of albums was quite meager.

The music and lyrics on this album are so mature, so assured, so honest and so believable that I suspect younger listeners will not be able to fully appreciate them. Some experiences are complex and nuanced and cannot be fully enjoyed until personal experience and maturity makes it possible to access the deeper truths they contain. For instance, before I was a father I could watch TV-borne pleas for aide on behalf of disadvantaged children feeling little emotional impact - this is not so anymore. "Stones in the Road" is that kind of album - like a truly fine wine or accomplished painting or sculpture - the depth to which it can be appreciated is directly proportional to the depth of the person experiencing it. And then miraculously, it takes you to deeper levels of experience and understanding as you resonate with its honesty and truth.

Carpenter infuses her songs with brevity - "the soul of wit" - honesty and delivers each song with a fluidity and grace few artists can muster. Her dusty alto is perfectly suited to the folk/country/rock arrangements and instrumentation. Each song - with the possible exception of "John Doe # 24", which is more like a jazz/tone poem - has a strong melody and, in the majority of cases, a captivating musical hook. It simply must be said that this album is one of the strongest ones I have ever heard in 40+ years of listening when considered from a purely musical perspective. Every tune is "right" and is played and recorded "right". It seems impossible to imagine anyone covering any of these tunes without owing much to the original.

She covers the gamut from loves lost ("House of Cards"), to coming of age in historically significant times ("Stones in the Road") and facing the adult ennui that ensues, to the humor and anticipation of new romance ("Shut Up and Kiss Me"), to spiritual and relational healing ("Jubilee") - all without ever succumbing to being the slightest bit maudlin or overweening. If there is anything that is to be called disarming about this set of songs, it is in the way Carpenter opens herself up and allows us in with such easy grace that we might find ourselves overwhelmed by the immersive intimacy she creates.

If you are mature enough to engage this music - and well read enough as it does require knowledge of mid to late 20th century North American history and culture to be fully appreciated - then dive in and immerse yourself in the experience. It is truly a blessing that this album is still available, as it was popular but not in the extreme sense.

My wife and I listened to it in full last Monday at the end of an extended music session wherein I had covered playing a lot of songs by artists whom we have listened to and appreciated over the years as well as some newer stuff too. After the last song on "Stones in the Road" it was time to end our session and as I commented to Susie I said, "I don't know if we own a more perfect album than that one. I can't believe we still don't have it on CD." She agreed and it was understood that this gross oversight was to be corrected immediately.

In the song "Why Walk When You Can Fly" Carpenter writes:

In this world there's a whole lot of trouble, baby
In this world there's a whole lot of pain
In this world there's a whole lot of trouble
But a whole lot of ground to gain
Why take when you could be giving, why watch as the world goes by
It's a hard enough life to be living, why walk when you can fly

When the Amazon order gets here we're gonna hook up the iPod in our car and fly away.


Music & Faith

As a person of faith I constantly find wonder in the world because I see the hand of God in action everywhere. For whatever reason I was created to be particularly sensitive to music - and I know I'm not the only one. My appreciation of music has undergone several times of rediscovery as I have been able to integrate personal experience, emotional understanding and a widening perspective into my experience of enjoying music.

Perhaps this whole process is becoming more poignant as I develop difficulty in hearing. Time and some audio abuse seems to have worked its harsh consequence upon my sense of hearing. I strongly suspect that I will outlive my ability to hear properly - but there are no hearing aides in my ears yet. And while that is not yet the case, I have decided to keep on listening.

Music reviews were a staple of my earlier pursuit of this life long love. Finding a reviewer whose taste and sensibilities complimented my own while still being able to introduce me to new musical experiences was a discovery that I would savour. Radio DJs were also useful before playlists were corporately programmed - designed to meet content requirements (thanks sooooo much CRTC) and reach advertising demographic groups (NONE of which I belong to!). These days corporate media hustling, narrowcasting and the proliferation of musical genres, which most folks seem to strictly confine their listening within, have pretty much killed most of the good reviewers.

I am convinced that a good recording can - when the artist honestly pursues the truth - bring us an appreciation of the divine and the human and the place they intersect. It is no coincidence that the Psalms (songs of the Bible) are among the most quoted ancient Scriptures in the New Testament. I find I cannot memorize more than a few lines of prose - the post-modern equivalent being reciting movie catch phrases - from important sections of Scripture, speeches or books & writings. But I can easily commit to memory a large catalog of songs, poems and music. Ideas wrapped in music have a staying power beyond the mere spoken word.

So I'm going to spend a number of posts reviewing the very best recordings I have ever experienced. Some will seem quite old - what the HECK IS old anyway? - some will be newer. All will, I hope, hold the common thread of having the air of truth about them, even if they make the list because they are essentially just great fun as opposed to being deep and transcendent musings on the human condition.

I hope to cover a wide range of genres, but I won't cover everything because there are some music categories that I just don't - and probably never will - appreciate. So be it. I am biased, as we all are. I hope my bias is a useful bias. Anyway, I'm not too worried - Perez Hilton I'm not, THANK GOD - so my little scribblings will not in all likelihood do much damage or cause much of a groundswell. Never the less - enjoy!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Owl City - Ocean Eyes

Adam Young had insomnia while working for a Coca-Cola warehouse. Coincidence?!? We think not! However, this affliction turned into a creative stream of self-produced music videos that Adam recorded in his parent's basement in their home in Owatonna, Minnesota. He uploaded them to his MySpace page, building a steadily growing fan base and allowing him to self-produce and release his music. Creative therapy for his insomnia, indeed!

The practical outflow of this was that he was 'discovered' by Universal Music and released his third CD, Ocean Eyes - his first major label release - last year and saw his tune "Fireflies" climb to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and in the UK charts as well.

As I have said before, I'm not a great fan of electronica/dance but there is an engaging and infectious quality to Adam's music that I believe is universally appealing. Then there is the fact that the CD is currently on sale at HMV for a mere $9.99 and you have an irresistible musical antidote to the winter blahs.

The reality of pop music like this is that it often has a short shelf life, but Adam has something real and substantial happening here and I think this CD might yield a couple tunes that will climb into my medium rotation. The real potential lies in the fact that Adam is so young and has so much more time to develop as an artist. The mind boggles at the possibility. I'm not given much to predictions, but this man has possibly a very bright future in scoring movies. A Grammy might be hard to achieve, but an Oscar may definitely be in the future for Adam Young one day.

As long as he can still dream and realize those dreams into his unique musical vision - insomnia notwithstanding.

If you haven't heard/seen "Fireflies" then here you go:




Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood created a live concert CD/DVD package of their 2008 collaboration concert series in Madison Square Gardens. It's on my "to buy" list and will be the subject of my next review.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A Cup of Water

Michael Spencer has been a clarion clear voice in the post-evangelical wasteland for some time now. In addition to posting blog articles that have been elevated by the Drudge Report and caused comment on mainstream media (dubious though that accolade may be) he has also moderated the most civil, engaged and thought provoking conversations in North American Christianity to date on his blogsite.

His blog output is prodigious, he creates a regular podcast, teaches (his "real" job) and preaches. I am in awe - and I am also blessed by his boundless energy, thoughtful application and unwaivering love for Christ - and His church.

Michael has a new book on publishing pre-release on and I agree with Bill Kinnon in that it will be both very good and very important. Ordering it would be a great source of encouragement to Michael and wouldn't hurt y'all one little bit either.

Michael has recently been diagnosed with cancer and his job at a small, private high school has ended for now along with his limited medical coverage. As he is a citizen of "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave" he has no medical coverage in a country where band-aides distributed by HMOs cost, on average, $19,000 plus tax. If you have a few spare bucks you can send him some here. That link's gonna take you straight to PayPal.

He's a brother. The least you could do is pray for him.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I belong to an evangelical baptist church that belongs to a group that has a 100+ year history in North America. OK, I pastor said church (we ain't 100 yet, but we will be 50 in 4 years).

In a recent update from our national leadership it was revealed that "membership" issues will be discussed at our next national conference. I know that local churches have been debating this for some time now. Doctrine is difficult to change.

Here's my position:

I'm a Christian - specifically a Protestant, and I'm a convinced baptist. I am in favour of adult believer's baptism by full immersion in water as the best way to follow scriptural instruction.

However, I know several folks who were not "immersed" although they were baptized (my wife is one) who are as devout and authentic as you can find in the faith. I was baptized by my United Church Minister parents (yup, both of them) as an infant.

As a teenager I sinned my weaselly little butt off - and I did a fair amount of that as an adult, too. When I realized - really realized who Jesus is and what baptism meant I, and my wife, were convicted and convinced about our need to willing be obedient in baptism. No problem. We were baptized by immersion but we understood that we were already "in". What was needed was an act of obedience and worship that would stand against our former disobedient witness and mark for ourselves and others our new direction. We needed it.

But I know folks who haven't strayed as we did since they openly confessed Jesus as Savior. As a note: all churches that practice infant baptism also require that young adults (or older ones if it takes longer) make a full public confession in keeping with Scripture. "If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." - Romans 10:9. Martin Luther would have called that act "receiving your baptism properly". And some of these folks need no new "marker" as we did. Their lives have already been a better testimony that ours, even if we live another hundred years.

So I believe that anyone and everyone who follows Christ will have to be obedient to the command to be baptized. But I am becoming more convinced that the method and mode can be understood and accepted in a wider vein.

I still will teach, preach and recommend believer's adult immersion baptism, but I recognize all who belong to Jesus and are my brothers and sisters. Now to help my conference, association and local church recognize the same thing and find a gracious way to deal with it. Pray for us.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Join the Conspiracy

Conspiracy from "conspire" from the Latin - "to breathe together".

This is an important audiobook: A Networked Conspiracy: Social Networks, the Church and the Power of Collective Intelligence

Open up your mind, listen and join the conspiracy.

Bill Kinnon is the author.


Thursday, January 21, 2010


All of my life Haiti has been the poorest of nations in the western hemisphere. It has struggled continuously and endured the dismissive and reproachful attitudes of her neighbours in North, Central and South America. Haiti has always been a disaster waiting to happen.

Only relatively recently (in the 1980s) did we intervene, when the stench of the atrocities perpetrated by "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" Duvalier became too much of an offense to our righteous sensibilities. Then, when the military committed a coup and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was exiled to Africa, we did little. The fate of Haiti once again fell into internal disarray and our relationship with them was relegated to the bureaucratic morass of international diplomacy. And the country languished without proper government, institutions, social services or effective international support.

Haiti as a nation was/is the "homeless street person" of the Western Hemisphere. We all continued to go about our daily business, averting our eyes whenever our pursuits led us to pass by them. We watched Haiti's sister nation, the Dominican Republic, raise itself up from its own poverty and comforted ourselves with the thought that "a rising tide lifts all ships". But we believed lies and would not look at the truth. Denial is the strongest of human sins.

On January 11th, 2010, our "homeless person" fellow nation was on fire as we went to work in the morning. Our neglect and indifference over the decades resulted in establishing circumstances that compounded the difficulties of attempting to help Haiti. Our shock and dismay is now mingled with our shame and regret as we trip over one another to rush to aid the wounded and dying - cursing the circumstances that hinder our benevolence. Circumstances that we could have changed if we had chosen to be engaged with Haiti rather than ignore her.

In "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens the ghost of Jacob Marley retorts strongly to Ebenezer Scrooge when the miser offers an excuse for their mutual disinterest in human affairs and benevolent causes. Scrooge says, "It's only that you were a good man of business." "Business!" cries Marley in reply. "Mankind was my business! Their common welfare was my business!"

I read Dickens' brilliant words every year - and every year I am personally convicted by those lines and compelled to reassess my own engagement with those who have less than I. While I am aware that many, many people and organizations exist to do good and caring works - many already in Haiti before the earthquake - I am also aware that many, many, many injustices lie unattended because political, social, economic and spiritual leadership fails.

In the light of events in Haiti we are - at least I am - sickened by our recent (and not so recent) history that testifies how we will go to extraordinary lengths to address issues in foreign lands, especially when - at least from the perspective of our corporate and political leaders - there are compelling economic reasons to do so. We will send our sons and daughters to die - and they will go willingly - when the stakes seem most likely to threaten our luxurious lives. But we will not sacrifice even a small portion of our opulent lifestyles to lift another people up so they can be stronger, safer and have greater dignity if there seems to be no immediate benefit for us. At least not until they are on fire.

Haiti is a hard lesson. I pray fervently that we, who are blessed beyond what words of any language can adequately describe, might learn this lesson well. That addressing the needs of others is always in our best interests, for when we do so we help ourselves - so intimate is our connection to one another on this tiny planet that we share. And that we might come to realize that when we do offer comfort to others we act in love that touches the very face of all we hold most sacred and good.

In speaking of charity, benevolence and simple care Jesus of Nazareth said, "Whenever you do this to the least of my brothers, you do this to me."


Tuesday, January 19, 2010


NASCAR definitions that sound like life lessons:

Understeer - hitting the wall with the front of the car.

Oversteer - hitting the wall with the back of the car.

Push - description of a car that won't turn in smoothly.

Lynyrd Skynyrd - official band of NASCAR events - also the only band ever who failed to be able to buy a vowel on Wheel of Fortune.

Hitting the wall - the result of over driving a car that "pushes", or - trying too hard.

Spin - missing the wall entirely when pushing the car. Also something much worse than it sounds. Also (ironically) to go for a leisurely drive.
Eg. "Experienced NASCAR drivers would all like to take Danica Patrick for a "spin"."

The pits - a place to stop to refuel, change tires, adjust the car's setup or (ironically) the place you find yourself after "hitting the wall".

Racing under caution - doing what you do while it is more dangerous than normal to do - no passing allowed. Also a very good time to visit the pits voluntarily.

Trading paint - bumping other cars to get a better position. Almost all paint swaps are considered unfair by at least one participant.

Penalty - something inexplicable that affects the standings.

Danica Patrick - the ONLY NASCAR driver worth watching/interviewing/photographing.

Crash - the primary reason 30 to 50 thousand fans will attend a NASCAR event is to see at least one. Ironically, to hopefully be involved in one is also the reason 30 to 50 percent of all NASCAR drivers enter any given race.

Sponsor - persons and corporations who pay to have their names and corporate logos painted on the cars - also a NASCAR slang term that means "has more money than brains".

Rookie driver - someone in immanent danger of experiencing a crash.

Bill France - God, on Sunday afternoon AFTER church is done.

Richard Petty - The Holy Spirit of NASCAR. Possibly also a member of the Osmond clan (dental records need to be checked).

Budweiser - sponsor and lubricant, but not a lubricant manufacturing sponsor. Also the official fuel of all NASCAR fans.

Corner - the place the crashes happen.

Straightaway - the place you prepare for the crash.

Talented driver - a driver who mostly causes other drivers to crash.

Lubricant - see "Budweiser" also "sponsor".

Wrench - Verb: (1) to violently pull, twist or sever or (2) to repair a car. Noun: a mechanic. NASCAR mechanics perform #2 while Canadian Tire mechanics mostly perform #1.

Experienced driver - multiple crash survivor.

Pace car - the one car on the track that really doesn't belong there and wouldn't be if it wasn't for the sponsors.

Standings - mathematical mysteries.

Color commentary - unintelligible utterances or homespun advice delivered exclusively in a West Virginian drawl.

Cockpit - the place to find a rookie driver when he is experiencing a crash, a talented driver when he is causing a crash and an experienced driver when he is avoiding a crash.

Checkered flag - end of the race - start of the sales pitch.
Eg. "The KINKOS/OUTBACKSTEAKHOUSE/SNAPONTOOLS/WONDERBRA/CHEVYMALIBU was running perfectly today thanks to our PENNZOIL/GOODYEAR/MONROESHOCKS/MASTERCARD pit crew. I want to thank God (Bill France) and my Savior Jesus for letting us run so well today and I hope y'all will come out to watch us at the BUDWEISER/HOOTERS/STARBUCKS/WAL-MART 500 next week at the FORDCUSTOMRACING Speedway in East Podunk, Nebraska. God (Bill France) Bless America and all our Armed Forces Everywhere! GO ARMY!"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Failure, Forgiveness and the Future

This past week Flatlanders were focused on the fate of former Rider GM Eric Tillman. Mr. Tillman failed morally, and this ended his work with our beloved football team. It's a team that has known this kind of failure before - from players mostly. They are much more expendable than management - with the exception of coaches, who often are changed as frequently as defensive linemen change their lucky socks - which is to say at least annually. Losing Mr. Tillman has seemed to hurt people more and shaken hope and optimism deeper than any of the player dismissals I've witnessed in the last 7+ years.

The recent feelings in Flatland regarding this are, I think, rooted in the sense of disappointment created because Mr. Tillman was supposed to be part of a change in the organization's policies and culture that was intended to deal with these very issues. Rightly recognizing the very public nature of sport and the lives of those involved in it - even those charged with the off-field tasks necessary to operate a professional franchise - the Rider organization drafted a new policy on these matters, and Eric Tillman was a proponent of having that policy adopted by the Riders. Now he is - most sadly and ironically - the first one it had to be applied to.

I think such a policy is an important thing for any organization - not just in this day and age, but in any day and age. Personal character always influences professional behavior. Our recent history is littered with examples in every area of endeavor - finance, politics, manufacturing, religion, entertainment. We have always known that this matters. Now with an insatiable 24-hour-a-day-365-days-a-year media industry that craves grist for its mill, there is no life that is immune from scrutiny and, because of the internet, no issue that can escape public opinion and reaction.

And there is no place for forgiveness and restoration. All is retribution and hard, cold justice - or justice denied - depending upon your perspective. Few organizations give thought to the path of repentance, recompense and restoration, even though many organizations recognize the significant investment that lies in employees - even employees who fail. A broken machine might be repaired or restored if the investment seems fiscally sound, but people are more expendable it seems.

But would the public accept the repentant, forgiven and restored person? Would they allow time and space for healing and change or would they demand their same voyeuristic position they enjoy during the accusation and conviction stages. My guess is that they would clamor for this right, and little healing or change of any true consequence could come in such a bubble. Reality TV shows notwithstanding, there is an overwhelming list of failures who have shown change and progress in the eye of media scrutiny only to end up wrecked in life's ditch for the same reasons they were so fascinating to watch in the first place.

True character needs to be developed out of the public eye. If the only time you can behave is when someone is watching you then you need to be in prison.

Will Mr. Tillman repent and offer restitution? Will he seek forgiveness and reconciliation? Will he find redemption and restoration? We shall see, but it remains that these possibilities will happen - if they happen - elsewhere. And the benefits of those efforts, hard won, will be enjoyed elsewhere as well.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Fine Print

I read Post Secret every Sunday morning.

This morning this postcard got my attention.

It's pretty personal because we just faced this same situation, but as the recipients of the work this person does. And it's personal because God does not say, "Thou shalt not kill." His Word says, "You shall not murder."

I've done a little work on this and I can say that the Hebrew word used in this passage is best translated as "murder" rather than "kill". I won't go into getting too technical here, but I will say that this is one of my favorite reasons for suggesting that it is well past the time we retired the King James Version of the Bible.

To put it simply, every copy of the Scriptures not in the original languages is a translation and that in itself poses some difficulties because of the limits of human language. We always think of our native language as being up to any communication task we may put it to, but we all need a little bit more humility in this, I think. After all, it is an accommodation of the highest order that God Almighty should acquiesce to allowing something as pitifully limited as human language to attempt to encompass His Truth - especially a language as pitifully limited and downright weird as English. As Dave Kellett of Sheldon puts it on a t-shirt I am definitely going to buy, "The English Language - carefully cobbled together by three blind dudes with a German dictionary."

But I digress - one of the few things I do well.

Elsewhere on God's word it says there is "a time to kill". If "killing" is utterly forbidden by God then it would be beyond strange how Jesus dealt with at least one soldier who came to Him for help. He never berated him for his vocation. He did not deny him. In the end He asked His Father to forgive the soldiers who crucified Him.

Sometimes killing is necessary. Sometimes it is a mercy. But we must be very cautious because it is so very, very easy to do. When it comes to pets and the time has come for them to be "put down" in love rather than suffer - it is "a time to kill". When it comes to the thousands upon thousands of animals destroyed by humane societies and animal control agencies all over North America - let alone the rest of the world - because they are abandoned, neglected, the offspring of animals left by their "owners" to breed indiscriminately or otherwise uncared for - it is a sin that offends the nostrils of God. But the executioner doesn't bear the guilt of it. We all do because we allow our selfish lifestyle to create such a problem.

I get a bit intense over this both because of the recent pain of taking responsibility for our own pets and because when I was around 10 years old I spent a week in hospital for a post-tonsillectomy infection and there was a 6-year-old boy in the bed next to me whose face was a horrific road map of stitches because he had been mauled by a pack or roving dogs in our northern Alberta town.

What we do and allow is bad enough without adding to the angst of those who must clean up after us by handling the "fine print" of God's Word and Truth poorly.

I'm a bit frustrated because I can't figure out how to send a message to Frank Warren at Post Secret to let this poor person - who does this thankless and unfortunately necessary work for us - know that their soul is most definitely NOT in jeopardy. So I'll console myself with my little rant on my little blog and pray that someone who is actually thinking will speak the words of encouragement this person needs to hear.

"Thank you for showing mercy and grace every day in your work and for being willing to do what must be done because so many of us are unwilling to live lovingly and responsibly. Your reward will be far greater than any of us can imagine."


Saturday, January 02, 2010

We're # 2 - We Try Harder!

It's the 2nd of January in the second decade of the third millennium since Christ shook the pillars of Heaven & Earth by audaciously embracing the human condition.

No resolutions - just plans to embrace our changing human condition and to interact with it in increasingly hopeful ways.

We moved Steven to Moose Jaw yesterday for the last time. In 4 months he'll graduate and burn his "school furniture". I hope he keeps one or two pieces. Susie and I have a stack of purloined N.A.D.P. (Northern Alberta Dairy Pool) plastic milk crates that once stood as the foundation to the bed we loved on and slept in. These tough plastic boxes that proclaim their allegiance to their owner - "Property of N.A.D.P" - with enduring words embossed on their sides, have moved our meager sticks and stones from Jasper, to Edmonton (and around that Town) to Saskatchewan and our current Flatland Home. They predate our vows, our children, our current careers and remind us of our humble beginnings.

Occasionally I ruminate on how our illegal possession of these items will be dealt with in ultimate terms.

"Now Brian," the Lord rumbled, "about those milk crates."


But we can't recompense their owners - the N.A.D.P. is long gone, either defunct or absorbed by another corporate entity - so we're stuck with them and their dubious provenance. I console myself with the thought that their rightful owners never made the type of deep, emotional investment in them that we (or most likely only I) have. My practical wife might blush at the pixels I've squandered on such mundane items, but so often it is the mundane, the utterly pedestrian, the commonplace that marks and holds the connection we have to the historical and the profound.

You can't say Stonehenge is just a bunch of rocks - even if that is just what it is.

So why did I use a title that was the corporate slogan of Avis Car Rentals in the '70s? Because, the two days of 2010 have served to remind me that we are not first, or primary, or most favored. We are average, second string, among the masses. But we TRY!

We are all growing, learning and reaching forward towards a future that will likely turn out to be something quite other than we imagine - and we are so like so many others who do the same. And within that trying is the genius and glory of being human and living.

From humble beginnings including a bed laid upon purloined milk crates to a home that has raised three young men and launched them into the world with their own meager beginnings to tell their own stories of struggle and strife, triumph and truth, we are standing on the cusp of the next chapter in the "great adventure". It ain't on the front pages or burnin' up the blogsphere - but it's a ride we are enjoying.

Hang on! When you try harder you sometimes go faster!