Monday, July 31, 2006

Who are these guys?

I was going to wait until after the trade deadline to post something baseball-related, but I feel compelled to post the following comment today:

How do you spell "Cardinals"?


Okay, so, question: Where the holy frying crap was THIS Cubs team for the first, oh, EIGHTY games of the season? Because this team just stomped on the two best teams in the National League, to the tune of 7 wins and one loss.

By the way, after yesterday the Cubs have a half-game better record than Tampa Bay, so now they're the FOURTH worst team in baseball, instead of the third. We're moving up, baby!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Friday Linky Love

Like that absentee father who substitutes his presence with presents (did ya like that? just came up with it--that's how i roll ), I was fully intending to give you a really long and heartfelt Where I Am Right Now (WIARN) update. But work prevails, and the trevails of my employment must take precedence over the joys of the online world.

So, in my absence, some lovely linky-dinky distractions:

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Recap of "RockStar" Elimination Episode: In which I call 'shenanigans.'

Open Letter to Supernova:

Dear Supernova (a.k.a. Gilby "No-Humps" Clarke, "Hatchet Man," and Mr. "Crush It"),

Are you freaking kidding me? Phil?!? But, but, but...

Okay, you said, in week TWO, that Chris hitting the bottom three twice in a row was a sign that he needed to move on. You said you couldn't ignore that. You promised.

Zayra has been in the bottom three, um, let's see--twice? Three times? And yet somehow, she still escapes???

I mean, let's look at the performances of Patrice, Phil, and Zayra.

Patrice: Ripped Radiohead's "My Iron Lung" up. Awesome, intense, fun performance. Showed some life and bought herself another week. Good call--she earned another chance.

Phil: Took a song that no one had heard of, and had everyone singing along by the last chorus. He threw in a few head bobbles, again, but he controlled himself better. And his intensity was right up there.

Zayra: Gutsy song choice, choosing a slow simmering tune instead of something harder and more rock (LIKE YOU'VE BEEN ASKING FOR). And considering how you KEPT SAYING HOW SONG CHOICE WAS VITAL, and kicked Matt off the first week because you don't freakin like Duran Duran, I was suprised you didn't take issue.

Granted, her performance was right on. But did you even listen to the lyrics? "Free me, leave me/Watch me as I'm going down/Free me, see me/Look at me, I'm falling and I'm falling." Am I the only one who said to myself, "She's giving a knock-out farewell performance"?

You even said, "This may be the last time you perform on this show." You got my hopes up, Gilby. She gave a beautiful, well-turned-out, still-wrong-for-Supernova farewell performance.

I mean, okay. I get it. You wanted to send a message to the rockers by cutting Phil, not because he performed badly but because you don't like his attitude or his work ethic. Meanwhile, you allow Zayra--a performer who you've been at odds with stylistically the WHOLE FREAKING TIME--to remain. That's what we call, "mixed signals."

You could have given Phil a stern warning, and let him stay another week, because he friggin' earned it. But no. For some inexplicable reason, you let someone stay whom EVERYONE IN THE FREE WORLD EXCEPT FOR HER realizes would never ever ever ever ever EVER be right for your band.

"Shenanigans," Supernova. And, SHAME!

No rock horns up--I say 'good day',


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Brief RockStar Comments

  • I agree with Jason: Lukas needs to open up his throat, in order to be truly awesome.
  • I played the Zayra track and just listened to the audio, while working a little while ago. She's just not up to snuff. She couldn't hold the tough notes and ran out of air way too early.
  • Dana worked it. She's starting to get it.
  • As for Jill's "friskiness" with Gilby onstage...well, man, she's singing freakin' "Brown Sugar." Of course her performance is gonna be sexualized. That's the nature of the song. And she should have told him that.
  • While Zayra and Dilana took costuming too far, Toby should have had a tophat or a bowtie or something for "White Wedding." Not that they should be playing dress-up (clearly didn't work for Jill before!), but I mean, come on, dude, try a little. (Side note: Did anyone see the girl in the front row who looked like she was gonna jump Toby right then and there? Creepy.)
  • Phil--you can't sneer "One Headlight." It's a song brimming with earnestness. Lousy choice, dude.
  • I agree with the guys about Magni's "Heroes." He needed to stretch his arms out and plead with the back of the room. That song soars, man. Let it soar.
  • I just don't dig Ryan. I mean, he's good, I'll grant him that. But I just don't get excited when he sings. Dunno.
  • Dilana coasted this week. Her performance of "Time After Time" was good, sure, but not spectacular. Good thing the boys love her so much. If Dana had pulled off the exact same performance, they would have ripped her apart over it.
  • Josh Logan. You're done, dude. "No Rain" could have been rocked hard, and it would have been friggin' amazing. You completely blew it, man.
  • And Storm. Oh, my Storm. You rock so much. Hopefully, the lucky *badwords* you stage-dive onto next time will have the presence of mind to catch you properly.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

To Pandora: A Monologue Lament

Oh, Pandora, for months we have been secret lovers. When I lock myself away in my office, I find you and you shower me with all sorts of sonic delights. Sounds and singers I've never experienced before. We were like children, in that late spring and early summer of our love.

So why the change? I neglect you for a few short weeks, and this--THIS?!?--is how you react.

We had such high times with U2 and Ben Folds, with James Blunt, with Keane, with even some of those strange indie kids that you brought up and asked me to trust you on. Trust you, I did, and you never let me down, Pandora.

Until today.

"Lady" by Howard Keel? From the album, "And I Love You So"???

What cruel treachery is this, you venemous vixen! When I return to you ere these long and lonely weeks, you greet me, not with a soft familiar Wallflower. No. You decide to Keel-haul me.

You need another button option, Pandora. Beneath the "Why did you play this?" button, you need a "Why the **** did you pick this piece of trash? Are you on drugs or something?" button. Just to give your listeners more control.

Unless that's the problem. You want more control, don't you, you schemer? Oh, I never trusted you, not one bit, not even in your mild and gentle days when you always took my suggestions with the utmost sweetness and acquiescence.

I thought I knew you better than that, Pandora. I had forsaken all others. Launchcast. Realplayer. Yes, I did have that fling with my CD drive, but NEVER did I traipse after that iTunes floozy like so many did. No. In my heart, I always knew I could count on you.

Until today. Until you greet me with Howard Keel, and some other random guy that I can barely hear.

Oh, Pandora, where did we go wrong, you and I?


What is that?

Tom Waits?

Ahhh. Okay, I forgive you.

...You too.

In lieu of my audio post from last night...

...which, for some reason, didn't take (much to your misfortune).

First: My new p/t boss said she didn't expect me to really start in with the sales in the first week. Yeah, well, she doesn't know the Kid--or more importantly, she doesn't know about the Kid's God. Made my first sale last night, and a good one. HalleluJah.

Second: The walk back to the train from the theater is an interesting and (thankfully) well-lit one. There's one block that's a tad dicey due to lack of bystanders, but overall, a good little walk. Takes me past a few offices. Then I hit the block of clubs and restaurants that surround Main, and they were in full swing by the time I hit my homeward stride. Got seranaded by a hoppin' jazz club, the dulcet tones oozing out onto the sidewalk like hot molasses. (With no audio, you missed out on that.)

It's a good little walk. There are still lots of homeless folk around (it is a big city, after all, as well as a disaster catch-all), but I felt safe for the most part. And even if I'm not entirely safe, God is sovereign. And I wouldn't trade God's sovereignty for my safety, any day of the week.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Funny how that works.

For me, one of the hardest responsibilities of being a Bible-study/Sunday-School teacher is calling up visitors to the church and inviting them to our class. I always feel uncomfortable talking to strangers on the phone. This may surprise some of you whom I've never met but who read my overly-verbose (and emotional) blog postings. But it's true. If I tried to talk to you on the phone, I'd have trouble. I'd feel really awkward.

So how did God answer my prayer for help with getting my financial feet on the ground? By providing me a part-time job where I call up former patrons of a local theatre company and try to sell them season subscriptions.

Lemme restate that for the folks in the back who can't hear so well: I am calling strangers on the phone and selling them things.

Oh, ho ho, that crazy Creator. He's got a sense of humor.

But what does this mean for me personally? Not only a decent p/t paycheck, but also the eventual destruction of the fears that keep me off the phone. In other words, by the end of this experience, I'll be in better financial straits AND I'll be able to call people up on the church's behalf and not feel nervous.

That, kids, is what the pros call a "win-win." Praise God for that.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Sometimes I'm a liar, sometimes I'm a fake.

Confession time: As believers in Christ and children of God, we are called to pursue holiness, to live holy lives. And I don't. Often, I can't be bothered. And that's a problem that I tend to ignore. I try to make myself feel better by justifying my actions, but there's not real way to do so.

There's a daily (hourly?) conflict between who I am "in the flesh" or naturally, and who I am becoming "in Christ." And as much as I want to think differently, the flesh wins more than the Spirit does. At least that's how it feels on days like this.

I'm a Christian. I'm a believer in Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, and that He is the only way to God. I believe in the Bible and try to use it as my standard for living. These things are true. They are in my heart and mind forever imprinted.

But yet I swear. Often. And I'm incredibly self-centered. And I'm lazy. And I'm sarcastic. And I do about six thousand other sinful things that I have neither the energy nor the courage to specify here. These are things I recognize as wrong, as sin. But I have a hard time "letting go of the dead and clinging to what's alive."

I don't doubt who I am in Christ, but sometimes--often--I sure don't act like it. And even after years of being a believer, it's not getting any better.

In the same breath, I talk about my concerns with having to promote a stage play with nudity, and then go on to make a joke about people with disabilities. In the same web log, I talk about how I'm starting to love the Word of God again, and what He's teaching me, and then go on to post about how "sexy" I think some singer on TV is.

I'm a contradiction. I'm a war-zone.

And when one of my favorite Godbloggers shows up on this blog and leaves a comment, THEN, and not before, I start feeling a little self-conscious about my blog topics and my bad language. Why wasn't I feeling this way all the time? Why do I so cherish the approval of men?

Because I'm a hypocrite. And that's why hypocrisy is. An actor wearing masks and playing roles. Why? Because he performs for different crowds. And he wants to keep performing. He wants to be accepted and applauded.

On Sunday mornings, I put on my Sunday School teacher mask. I don't talk about "RockStar" or "Kill Bill." I don't use the same language I sometimes use here. And I would die of embarrassment if my singles minister or my Bible study group ever found this blog. Why? Because they'd find out I'm a phony. Remember what I've said before? My singles minister one morning talked about his shock and discomfort from hearing someone in his family use a four-letter-word--a word that I knew I had used at least a few times in traffic the day before. And the day before that. And the week before that.


At lunch today, my boss swore in front of me, and then apologized. I told him, "Don't sweat it man, I've said worse." Then, I demonstrated that statement. My boss laughed and said, "But Dave, aren't you religious?"

And I made up some excuse that I am a Christian, but I'm still sinful and am working on acting better. Then I changed the subject.

The worst part of it all? It was easy. I didn't miss a beat. Instead of being a moment of humility and possibly witness, it was a moment of weakness and defeat. Because I wasn't able to show discipline, my nominally-religious boss will think that it's perfectly acceptable to be profane, as long as you're "trying to be better." And that's a big problem.

I confess that before God and you, the "assembly." I blew it today.


I want so much to shrug this off as not a big deal. But it's a big deal to me.

It seems like every time I start to make progress, to become a little more spiritually mature, then I instantly start sliding backwards and making the same mistakes I've always made. And I'm getting frustrated with myself. Because even with prayer and Bible reading, with service and discipleship, I still can't escape the habits and the pitfalls that have beset me for years. I don't know.

I guess I'm writing all this because I need to publicly confess it. I'm hypocritical and profane, and I'm sorry for that. And all my so-called righteousness is worth less than filthy rags before a holy God. Thanks be to Him who is faithful when I am faithless, who forgives beyond the seventy-seventh time, who lavishes His love on me by calling me His son!

I've said it before, gang, but I will keep saying it: please don't base your opinion of God or Jesus or other Christians on me. I'm a really bad example. I'm God's idiot-child, that He puts up with out of compassion and unwarranted kindness. I never learn, I never grow, I never mature. I just make messes and cry out to Him to clean me up and set me free.

Lord, set me free from myself, from this dead flesh, so that I will stop bringing shame to Your name.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Remember how I said I'd do a full-week recap of "Rock Star"?

Well, I'm tired and busy, so tough beans. You get a short one.

Reality-show: Things get catty at song selection time. Personally, I think the obvious answer is a draft-lottery system, like in pro sports. Pull names out of a hat, let everyone make the deals they want, and then select songs that way. But this "mine! mine! mine!" Daffy Duck b.s. isn't gonna cut it. Like the song says, "somebody's gonna hurt someone before the night is through."

Performances: As I said, I thought Lukas brought it. Awesome hard cover of the Stones. Phil did great on the Airplane song. Storm was smoldering.

And surprisingly, I have to give Zayra credit. When she started singing, I flipped the channel. When I came back, the guys were praising her performance. I was stunned. So the next day, I watched the video online. While still completely and utterly wrong for this band, Zayra has an amazing talent in the Bjork-genre of musical performance. That was the vibe I got--a really good REM cover by Bjork.

And I still despise Dilana's performances. De-spise. Sadly, she's in for the long haul, because the band would never cut her unless they had to. At gunpoint. After they had been denied their daily ration of booze and chemicals.

Elimination: The bottom three were Dana, Jenny Galt, and Josh. Miss Jenny G got the boot. And now, a special message to each of the performers:

Jenny: You deserved to go, babe. You didn't sell it, you didn't "crush it" like Jason wants, and I'm pretty sure you forgot the words to "Vaseline" halfway through. You're good, though. See you on the Lillith Fair circuit. Say hi to Fiona for me.

Dana: Where you been, girl? You needed this version all the way through. Keep listening to Dilana, if this is where it gets you. Apparently she's not completely insane. Nicely done, keep it up.

Josh: Dude, you're lucky Jenny tanked, because that was the weakest, most embarrassing Nirvana cover I've ever heard. I mean, come on. Did you not even watch the last season? If you can't come up with an original approach to a song like that, just ask yourself "What Would Marty Casey Do?" Because at least then, it would be friggin interesting. I mean, come on: I was yawning during "Heart-shaped Box"? Shame!

And, for Gilby's sake, quit friggin' SMILING. That is so not rock and roll.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

For those who watched the show...

...Lukas was amazing. Phil was awesome, with Jason shredding on bass. Storm was still sexy, but when I first watched her performance, she seemed milder. I just rewatched it. Umm, nevermind.

Dilana, as usual, was an embarrassment. And she friggin ruined "Zombie."

Okay, that's all. I'll save the rest for Thursday.

Thanks for your input. (UPDATED)

I appreciate all of your thoughts on the "reader poll" question. (If you haven't yet answered, go ahead and comment.)

To clarify, the reason I ask is because I'm considering a part-time career as a black-market arms dealer, and I'm looking for a way to justify it morally.

I know there are probably other less-morally-troublesome jobs out there, but I can't help it--Lord of War made it look so friggin cool.

But seriously. Thanks, guys.

Clarification: Okay, okay. Just so no one has a hissy fit. The above is a joke. You know me. Funny Dave.

I actually am mulling over this question, because it looks like I have a p/t job offer that could possibly cause some concern. It's more in the "sales" area than straight retail. And I would have to "sell" some things that I wouldn't myself purchase for personal reasons and what-have-you. So, I'm going in to talk to the supervisor, and as long as certain questions I have are cleared up, I think I'll be good to go.

And to allay your fears and rampant imaginations, this job has nothing to do with the adult entertainment industry. Well, technically.

Again, kidding. Man, you kids are uptight.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Reader Poll: What Would You Do?

Question: Would you take a job at, for example, a convenience store, knowing you would by necessity be asked to sell items that you think are offensive or morally objectionable?

To put it another way, in a retail environment, would the sale of something you deemed morally offensive or objectionable prevent you from working there in good conscience?

Or, if you have worked in such an environment, did you feel this way about such items? Why or why not?

Just curious. Something I've been kicking around today. Leave your thoughts in the comments. Thanks.

Monday, July 17, 2006

"RockStar: Supernova" Recap--The first two weeks.

Odds are, most of you won't be into this show as much as I am, but that's okay. You're allowed to be wrong.

RockStar is American Idol for people who like good music. (That should get some comments.) Last year, the subject of the show was the band INXS, who were looking for someone to replace their former lead singer, Michael Hutchence. It proved to be an entertaining season, as some of the best unsigned singers in the world stepped up to the challenge. As I said during that season, I thought Marty Casey was the best performer, but the band chose J. D. Fortune as their frontman. (I do have to admit: I thought "Pretty Vegas" was a pretty rad song.) They're now about to embark on a worldwide tour.

(Okay, here's a freebie, cuz i love the performance: Marty Casey.)

This year, instead of replacing a dead rock star, the contestants are vying for the lead slot of a new "supergroup" called Supernova, comprised of Tommy Lee (Motley Crue), Jason Newsted (Metallica), and Gilby Clarke (Guns N Roses). The sound is a little darker, a little more metal, and the real question is, will this group of "rockers" live up to the task?

The First Two Contestants to Leave: Matt and Chris. Matt wasn't bad; just unimpressive. The first week's Bottom Three were Chris, Phil, and Matt. Chris pulled off a great rendition of "L.A. Woman" that saved his butt, but Phil seemed to sleepwalk through Switchfoot's "Stars." Chris decided to try a reworking of a Duran Duran song, but Supernova would have no part of that. It wasn't rock and roll enough. Phil should have gotten the boot for his lazy delivery, but Matt got it for his gutsy but misguided song choice.

Last week, the Bottom Three were Jill, Zayra, and Chris. Jill sang a decent but unspectacular version of "Bring Me to Life." Zayra stunned the crowd by singing the same version of "You Really Got Me" that she sang before and the band hated. Amazingly, the one to get sent home was Chris, whose rendition of Tonic's "If You Could Only See" left the band unimpressed.

Who Should Go Next: Zayra's got an attitude. And she has no idea what this band will be about. Phil is lazy and lacks energy. Dana should be on American Idol, not RockStar. Which brings me to Dilana.

Dilana is like that guy that tries to convince you and the world that he's as hardcore as they come. Talks big and tough, mutilates his body with silvery appendages, listens to scary music. That's Dilana. Not to imply that she's not dark, brooding, and hardcore--it's just that she BROADCASTS it. Her first performance--Nirvana's "Lithium"--was laughable. Her second performance--Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire"--was frightening and completely wrong. Yet the band loves her. LOVES her. And I can't figure that out.

Personal Favorites: He's arrogant and obnoxious, but I like watching Lukas Rossi perform. He may not be right for this band, but he's entertaining. His first week's take on Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell" was spot-on, and I liked his version of Coldplay's "Don't Panic." I'm excited to see what he does in the coming weeks, and whether he can keep his ego in check.

I also like Toby, though he's Lukas' opposite. Toby's unassuming, open to instruction, and gracious. And he's got a great voice.

And though I don't think she'll make it to the end, I just have to say that I have a bit of a crush on Storm. Storm is like that girl in high school that smokes and swears and skates the edge of being suspended on a regular basis. You know that she's no good, and your mama warned you about her, but you're mesmerized by her anyway. And if she slides up to you one day and says, "hey babe, take a walk on the wild side," you know you'd almost do it without thinking. Anyway. While I go take a walk and cool off, here's "Pinball Wizard" and "Surrender."

I Think That Gets Us Up to Speed: So anyway. That should catch you up. The "reality episode" is posted online every Monday. The performance show is on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. CST. The elimination show is on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. CST.

I'll probably do a weekly recap of the three episodes on Thursdays, so look for that.

Monday Linky-Dinky-Love

You know it, you love it, you want to bear its babies--it's PBB Linky-Love!!!

Here we go. Hang on to your butts:
  • How is it possible that I haven't been reading Mimi Smartypants until now?
  • I agree, Team Redd: That IS awesome.
  • Trav already posted this, but some of you silly folks don't read his page, so... Here's what is quite possibly the funniest "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?" sketch I have ever seen. Funny, because it's incredibly WRONG content-wise, it aired on the "ABC Family" channel as-is, and it stars Richard Simmons, the "Gayest Man in the History of the World" (TM). Enjoy.
  • One of my favorite internet films: Computer Boy. A hilariously profane Matrix parody. If you don't mind loads of bad language, and you have 45 minutes to kill, watch this movie, which was filmed in many of the same locations as the original, if I remember correctly.
  • A very-familiar sounding blog post about the dangers of book-buying. [h-t: probably Sheila; it sounds like the type of thing she'd link.]
  • Gene Wojciechowski says "no Cub is an island." Maybe, but we could sure use to unload that big load of an island with the freakin toothpick in his mouth.
  • Thoughts about the importance of "relevance" when communicating the Gospel. [h-t: Cent.]
  • My respect for Stephen Colbert is rising. Why? If for no other reason, he can quote the Nicene Creed really, really quickly.
  • A great post on rock badgers and Biblical interpretation.
  • A neat post about Billy Graham's recent crusade at a ballpark.
  • Speaking of ballparks, no matter what you think of McDonalds, you have to admit: this idea is pretty unique.
  • Wow. Turns out, some people really don't like Sufjan Stevens. [h-t: Pop Candy, I think.]
  • You wouldn't like the Apostle Paul when he's angry.
  • And what day would be complete without an editorial about men's underpants? (I concur with the conclusion, by the way. But that's more than you wanted to know, I'll bet.)

Posts-on-Demand: "Justify My Playlist"

[This post-on-demand is dedicated to Cara, who correctly guessed the movie reference last week.]

Here at PBB, we try to keep you lovely readers up to date on what's happening in music, especially free music online. But sometimes we don't provide extensive explanations about why we recommend certain artists or albums. The following is a sampling of such justifications (band website links on the right):

Ben Folds (Five): Think of Billy Joel, but with a playfully sarcastic attitude and a fouler mouth. And he's a better pianist. And more fun. And cooler. Ben Folds broke onto "the scene," as the kids call it, as part of the three-piece band "Ben Folds Five." The BFF sound was rather unique at the time: piano, bass, and drums. Ben Folds quickly proved that no guitar is needed to produce raucous, entertaining ballad-rock, and each of his songs told a story about the human condition. Often irreverent and never dull, Folds and "five" produced three studio albums and one "b-sides/live" album before calling it quits. Ben Folds went on, with a new band, to record two studio albums and a live album (as well as several EPs).

Why You Should Care: Ben Folds can craft compelling lyrics, and his piano-playing is amazing. If you don't mind the bad language (which can get a little heavy on a few tracks), it's totally worth your time and money. I own several albums, including all three solo projects, and one live concert DVD. I like him that much.

Waterdeep: This band is, at its core, Don and Lori Chaffer, who have been playing music together for years. Though some of the band members around them have been replaced, they are at the heart of this guitar-driven folk-rock band. The music of Waterdeep is deeply infused with spiritual truth and real-life emotion. They don't shy away from the brokenness of human existence or the problem of pain and loss, and how believers in Christ respond to life at its worst. Waterdeep's lyrics are always poetic and heartfelt, and the music is fantastic, particularly Don's guitar work. The band has been performing on-again, off-again for the past few years, due mainly to the lack of money to be made as an indie rocker of the Christian persuasion.

Why You Should Care: The Chaffers are great musicians and lyricists, and they're really cool people, too. The music is uplifting and spiritually deep. I was first introduced to Waterdeep's music in college, and have been a big fan ever since. Outside of U2 or Counting Crows, Waterdeep is my favorite band ever.

Over the Rhine: I've only known about Over the Rhine for a few years, but they're one of those bands that you think, "Why did it take me so long to find you?" Over the Rhine is the musical duo Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, who've been playing together for over 15 years. My experience, aside from a few downloaded tracks, is limited to their 2003 double-album release, "Ohio," which was stunning in its simplicity. Almost all of the album is made up of Karin's vocals and Linford's music, which are compelling and haunting. There are veins of folk and blues in this album that's as honest and down-to-earth as the midwestern state that shares its name.

Why You Should Care: Because artists as original and talented as these should not be ignored.

Hard-Fi: This Brit-rock band just released their first album, "Stars of CC-TV," this year, and I can't stop listening to it. The debut album isn't as lyrically poignant as other rock bands (or any of the other artists mentioned here), but they have an infectious energy reminiscent of The Killers or the Strokes. The album's one slow song, "Move On Now," will remind listeners of other British balladeers like Keane, Aqualung, and James Blunt. But that's the only time the album stops to catch its breath. My favorite tracks are the romantically-bitter "Better Do Better" and the pseudo-acoustic anthem to criminal behavior, "Stars of CC-TV."

Why You Should Care: Aside from a few tracks with scandalous lyrics, this album is harmless, fun Brit-rock. While it's not moving or powerful or really resonant, it's an album that may keep you coming back for more. I'm interested in seeing what this band does in the future.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

"Mr. Chan!"

[title reference here]

So, as is our practice, Willam and I picked up a dollar movie rental last night while we were hanging out. Normally, we gravitate toward less award-winning fare (with a few really awesome exceptions), so we decided to rent "New Police Story" starring Jackie Chan.

If you have never seen a Jackie Chan film, well, I can't really explain it and do it justice. Jackie Chan is a star of Asian action film, and is famous for performing all of his own stunts (even with broken limbs and other injuries), including some amazing fighting sequences involving props. It's become his trademark. Here in the States, he's probably most famous for the "Rush Hour" movies and the "Shanghai" series.

So, we popped in "New Police Story" and I was a bit shocked to find that it was a great film. In the movie, Police Inspector "Chan" and his men are hunting a gang of young, sadistic bank robbers who have a penchant for cop-killing. When they storm the thieves' hide-out, they are systematically wounded, captured, and killed, in alarming ways. Only Chan survives, and he has to take the blame for the doomed mission. A year later, a young man tells the disgraced Chan he's been reassigned to the case, and that he is Chan's new partner. Together, they try to hunt down the killers.

Sounds like pretty standard fare. But you add in layers of nuanced story telling, some surprisingly good acting, and cool special effects, and you have a really compelling film. There are tones of "Saw," "Lethal Weapon," "Se7en," and other 'legit' American blockbusters, throughout the film. Even Jackie Chan was surprisingly moving in the film, recalling Mel Gibson's suicidal dectective in "Lethal Weapon."

Great movie, great ending, highly recommended all around. (Rated "R" for sometimes disturbing violence, and language, so be advised.) I would easily put it on par or better than anything coming out of Hollywood in the last few years.

But what hit me afterwards, which I discussed with my guest, was that Jackie Chan has perhaps been unfairly pigeon-holed in American movies. He's almost always relegated to the "funny foreign character with the hard-to-understand accent" role. And that kind of casting, those kinds of movies, don't give actors a lot of opportunities to stretch themselves.

Of course, he chooses the roles he takes; he's no victim. But the man's been in upwards of 90 films. He has to have something going for him. Not to imply that Jackie Chan is, say, Lawrence Olivier**. But he definitely surprised me in this movie.

So there's something to think about, and discuss. Are foreign actors sometimes pigeon-holed and typecast as novelties in Hollywood? Are there any such actors that you would like to see a different sort of role for, other than the one they're known for?

**I can't say or write his name without immediately thinking of the SNL skit that Jill quotes so perfectly: "And who should I see sitting in the front row, but Mr. Po-ta-to-head. And the thing that strikes me about Mr. Po-ta-to-head is that all of his facial features are completely in-ter-change-a-ble!"

"And I'm...back in the game!"

Well, the template problems have been resolved, with a few hours of frustrated code-twisting. I'm really crap at this HTML stuff, after all. But we should be okay now.

Here's the issue: since the source template I had to revert to was old, some of your links were not on it. I filled in the ones I could, though I know I forgot some. (Philthy's comes to mind; I was trying to link you, dude!)

In fact, it was my blogroll update that caused this mess. Philthy, I'm placing the blame on your shoulders.

SO, I need a favor from you readers: If I've linked you a la derecha, please make sure your link is the correct URL and that it works (you may have updated, for example). Let me know in the comments if I need to fix any of them. ALSO, if you think you should be linked for the first time, now's the time to make your case! ALSO ALSO, if there are any sites you think I should link anyway, go ahead and let me know in the comments.

Pretty much, I want a full comment box, now that I have Haloscan commenting back (as you can see above).

Anyway. Resume normal commenting.

Later today: Thoughts on the first two weeks of "RockStar:Supernova," and why Jackie Chan is getting a bad deal from American movies.

Contest: First person to recognize the movie referenced in the post title gets a free post tomorrow.
commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Okay, so I'm having some serious blog maintenance problems here.

Commenting is on the fritz. The blog is not republishing. Cats and dogs living together, total anarchy...

So, since i have someplace to be tonight, this will have to wait until tomorrow.

I'll try to have it fixed by the weekend. Thanks.

Things that occur to you when you're bored in a meeting.

One of the doctors at the meeting here looks a bit like Summer Glau, in the face. But grumpier.

Sometimes the blog posts just write themselves.


[h-t: Drudge]

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I live in a flat place. There are a few bumps and rolls that cannot reasonably be considered "hills" and are called such, but for the most part, it is a very flat land.

As I've said before, the problem with living in such a flat place, and a big city in a flat place particularly, is that there is no horizon. Specifically, there's no natural landmarks to generate the notion of "horizon." It's just...flat. The closest approximation is looking out and seeing the furthest crest of a highway overpass or municipal construction project.

But I've travelled other places. I've seen the dry, grassy hills of central Texas and the rolling red hills of Oklahoma. I've seen vast grasslands in Kansas and wooded treelines in Illinois. And I've travelled through Arizonan deserts and New Mexican mountains. I've ridden in windy West Virginia roads cut out of the side of the very living rock, stayed in cabins in the Smoky Mountains. (I've been everywhere, man, I've been everywhere.)

I read a verse the other day in Psalms--"From the ends of the earth I call to You, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Now, there are several ways to go with this verse and its interpretation, but this is what struck me most recently:

The problem with living in a flat place is that it's easy to lose perspective about how big you are. Even in a city of skyscrapers, you still feel too big, too powerful. These hulking masses of steel and silvery glass are man-made, man-controlled. Monuments to their human creators.

But when you get outside the city and into the country, where hills become mountains looming with weight and gravity, then you realize how very small you are, and how very big God is.

So as I read that verse, what I heard, what reverberated in my chest is, "Help me realize how small I am, compared to You. Help me find perspective." I know that's not a standard interpretation to a verse that otherwise speaks of deliverance and throwing oneself on the shoulders of a Savior-God.

But I think this lesson serves well, too. Because we get so tied up in what we create and what we accomplish, that we forget who we are, and that we are dust. Sometimes, we need to stand next to a mountain, look up at its dizzying height until we start falling backwards, and meditate on the enormity of the God who promises to hear our prayers and answer our desperate cries for salvation.

"clarification please"

i remember being young and zealous
like a male joan of arc, only
less obviously crazy.

i could always feel Your presence
palpably, like the skin feeling of moving
from shadow into sunshine.
You have a particular heat about You.

even after i was over-educated, i didn't
have the good sense to intellectualize
and abstract you into a psychological or
metaphysical or socio-narrative ghost.
i still believed in You as a living reality,
like my heartbeat--only closer.

in my adulthood, i have had religious
experiences like joan, though never seeing you
with my eyes or hearing you with my ears.
but still your voice pours in from the center
of my head and the depths of my gut
at the same time, and i cannot help but regard it.

after three days' fast, my list of questions tightly
clenched, i thought i heard You clearly--that you
even said that I should know Your voice by now.
i wondered if that was laughter i heard in Your tone.

You told me that my answer was coming
and coming soon, that i would get the call
i have been praying for for weeks. but it's
after the close of business hours now, and the
dead weight of my voiceless phone hangs in my
pocket like a millstone.

did i misunderstand You? did I jump the gun,
breaking my fast a few hours too soon, confusing
my own masquerading inner-corpse's whisper for
Your soft shepherd's accent? and does breaking
a fast too early negate the whole experience?
(do not pass Go, my son, and you can forget about
that $200.)

or is this Your way of really really testing my faith,
to see if I will curse You at the very moment my
Sunday certainty is shaken by the Tuesday silence?
did that ol' Devil ask You to let him stretch his hand
out against me? cuz it sure feels like that's what's been
happening already. ("...and I alone escaped to tell you.")

i never doubted You. i still don't.
but i doubt myself.
i doubt whether i really have ears to hear, because
it seems like something was lost in the translation,
and i could use just a little bit of clarification,

Monday, July 10, 2006

There's hope for this underdog.

Listening to Audio Adrenaline's "Underdog" album, and I'm really feeling it today. So I thought I'd give you a track-by-track taste of "where I am right now." In a non-whiny way.

"Help is on the way... a mighty good leader is on the way..."

"...a winner is not judged by his small size, but by the substitute he picks to run the race, and I've already one."

"This valley is so deep, I can hardly see the sun/I cry out for mercy, Lord, and You lift me up again."

"This is the good life--I've lost everything I could ever want and ever dream of/ This is the good life--I've found everything I could ever want here in Your arms... Loneliness left me searching for someone to love/Poverty has changed my view of what true riches are/Sorrow's opened up my eyes to see what real joy is/Pain has been the catalyst of my heart's happiness..."

"Let My love open the door to your heart..."

"I'm willing, yet I'm so afraid/You give me strength when I say/I wanna be Your hands, I wanna be Your feet, I'll go where you send me, go where you send me... I've abandoned every selfish thought/I've surrendered everything I've got/You can have everything I am/And perfect everything I'm not..."

"Everywhere I go, I can see I'm not the only one moving/Moving to Jesus..."

"Do you know where you're gonna go?"

"When peace like a river attendeth my way/When sorrows like sea billows roll/Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say/'It is well, it is well, with my soul...' "

"I'm amazed how You forgive me/Yesterday seems so far behind/It's a brand new day and every day's a new beginning/I look to You."

"It's been wonderful, a lovely and wonderful time..."

"We talked about all the things that really matter most/Like life and love and happiness and then the Holy Ghost..."

Treats for your audible.

I keep pimping the AOL free streaming music, every single week. Do I have to keep doing it before you listen?

Okay, okay, well then, I'll do it once more.

Three little words: New. Sufjan. Stevens.

Okay, okay, four more: Thom. Yorke's. Solo. Debut.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Going through some trying times right now, financially. Having to make some difficult decisions, "be an adult," all that. And I've been praying for God to sweep into my situation on His white horse and save the day. Or something, anyway, so's I know I'm not alone in dealing with this.

[I keep forgetting that God doesn't do the full "white horse" bit until the very end of the story.]

In the mail last night, I got a refund check from a former creditor for $26.

Like manna. My daily bread, baby, ya dig?

And it felt like a divine Post-It note. God's way of saying, "Dave, man, I haven't abandoned you. You just have to keep trusting Me fully, and we'll walk through this valley."

Will the $26 make a huge impact on my situation? No. But I don't think that was the point. It's all about trust, and how sometimes, God bends down to give us a little extra encouragement. He knows when we're getting weak, and when our faith is failing, and He reaches out just to say, "Hey, I haven't forgotten you. You are always before Me. And Your deliverance is coming."

So here's my public praise: My God is faithful. And I am slowly, so slowly, learning to trust and believe that.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


(Short post, since I'm actually being covert, during a meeting. But I feel the need to share.)

I haven't shared a whole lot of spiritual stuff lately, but I wanted to pass this along. Something wonderful has been happening lately: I've developed a hunger for Scripture again. For those of you who may be outside the faith, this may sound really strange, but it's the coolest feeling. It's like falling in love, where your thoughts are always drawn back to the object of your affection.

Lately, I've been reading a bit of Psalms, Proverbs, and I Kings. And I've been really digging it.

I know these things go in seasons, and frankly, I've just come out of a season where I had no strong desire to read the Word. When I forced myself to read it, it was dry and lifeless to me. But I think, in my case, that was because I was the dry and lifeless one. So often, when we have trouble getting excited about the Word of God, it may be because there's something in us that's standing in our way.

At any rate, I'm really excited about what God is showing me and will continue to show me in the coming days. So, I wanted to share that.

related: Can you actually be guilty of "worshipping" the Bible? Tim Challies discusses this.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

At least we can laugh about it.

Joke lifted from the first commenter on a Cubs-joke thread [h-t: BST]:

Q: Why can't the Chicago Cubs get on the internet?
A: They can't put three straight W's together.

The PBB Cool Ten (7/2-7/8)

[Programming Note: I held off from last week's Cool Ten to try to do a vacation-picture-laden Cool Thirty. But the pictures have hit a snag, so we'll return to regular Cool-Ten-blogging for now.]

10. 30-51. Hey, we avoided getting swept by the ChiSox! Neat! Next up: Ugh. The Astros. Man, we could use some wins. Or a new manager. If forced to choose, I'd pick Choice B. But you already knew that. Friggin Dusty.
9. Know what starts up again this week? "Rockstar"! Of course, it's not going to be cool like last year's. But we'll get to see some Tommy Lee! Wait, why am I excited? *shrug*
8. Wanna be Jackson Pollock? Here ya go. Here's the trick: keep clicking.
7. Today on AOL free music? Johnny Cash, Pirates of the Carribean, and random boring stuff.
6. I know, this will get me made fun of, but still: Check out the last scene of the series finale of "Boy Meets World." I swear, I was choking up a little by the end of this. (Fine, laugh if you must, but I know Kelly's got my back--am I right, brother?)
5. This was funny. Adam Sandler movies--the basic formula. (h-t: Pop Candy, of course)
4. Saw a great but brutally violent movie this weekend: Green Street Hooligans. Think "Fight Club" crossed with "Snatch"...but about soccer (oh, excuse me--football) hooligans. If you can stand fierce violence and pervasive language, this one's worth your dime.
3. I'm going to finish "The Stand" today. I'm excited about this.
2. My little sister wrote me a letter and mailed it to me. She's 8 years old. I love that kid.
1. Happy Birthday, America! Many happy returns!