Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NYE Mixtape Blog

Hey folks. I wanted to drop in and say hey, give you an update, talk about a few things. So grab your noisemakers and paper hats...


"What are you doing New Year's Eve?"
I hope you have better plans than I do. I'm still sick. I've been sick for a little over a week. It's gone back and forth, but it's now settling into my chest. I'm on antibiotics and all manner of allergy and sinus medications. My accomplishments so far today: I cooked turkey hash, watched about 5 episodes of The Office, and showered. Plan for the rest of the rockin' NYE: watch the rest of Season 3 of The Office (thanks again, Netflix!), eat more turkey hash, and continue to sniffle/wheeze/cough/etc. No kisses for me tonight. So all you who are getting kisses, snag an extra one in my memory, if you don't mind.

Plans for tomorrow are still shaky, but they include more Office, more turkey hash (if any remains), watching the Red Wings game on TV (they're playing outdoor hockey at my beloved Wrigley Field), and maybe slaying some mythical beasties. Oh, and the ubiquitous sniffling, wheezing, et cetera, ad nauseum. In fact, you may go ahead and add nausea too, just to be prepared.

I'm sorry I won't get to see any of you this year. Kelly and Jill, and Trev and Amanda, I'll definitely miss hanging out with you folks. I'll do my best to drive up sometime in the next year and hang out.


"A long December and it's easy to believe /Maybe this year will be better than the last..."
This has been a rough year, hasn't it? Personally, nationally. It's been a beast. My family's taken some hits: job losses, personal crises, struggling like the rest of our city to get by without power and available supplies for a while after a hurricane hit. Financial uncertainty, global uncertainty. The political changes that face our nation, which bring hope to some and concern to others. It's been a rough and tumble kind of year.

But I'm going to tell you two true things in response to all this: 1) God is faithful, He hasn't abandoned His people, and He will not ever do so. And I put my trust in that. 2) It's still hard to be excited to wake up in the morning sometimes. It's hard to have faith sometimes. And while I cognitively always believe in the faithfulness of God, it doesn't make some of our struggles any less harrowing. But the fact that God is and that He has compassion on us, keeps me from giving up. So should it keep you from giving up.


"So this is the new year / And I don't feel any different..."

If you're a regular reader of PBB, you may be very concernedly asking, "Wait, Dave, what about your usual end-of-the-year posts? What about the PBB Book List? What about the Slackies?!? I MUST HAVE MY SLACKIES!!!!"

Well, calm down, here's the explanation: I'm sick. (What, weren't you paying attention earlier?)

Kidding aside, it's coming: the PBB Reading List, the 2008 mix tape, the Slackies, the whole shebang. You'll see them in the next week or two. I hope.

In the meantime, a holdover from last year: the entirety of "It's a Wonderful Life" posted online, for you to watch at work, at home, wherever. If you've never seen it, do me a personal favor, and make the time to watch it today or tomorrow. You won't regret it. Consider it a belated Christmas present from me to you.


"Is this the New Year, or just another night?"
It didn't feel like the holidays this year. There were moments when it was nice, no doubt about that. But it just didn't feel special. I don't know what's going on with me lately. A combination of factors, I suppose. But this holiday season wasn't special, so much as survivable. And I hate that I feel that way sometimes, because I have so much that I'm thankful for. But something just It still does.

Tonight's the end of a year, but it's still just the middle of a week. Tomorrow there's a Thursday and then a Friday, a weekend and then we're back to Monday. Nothing monumental. ...I'm missing something these days. Excitement. Hope. Verve. I'm going through the motions, but missing the abundance of life. Maybe my "resolution" for the new year is to find ways to restore the joy of life that seems to have been draining out of my days and weeks lately.


"Nothing changes on New Years Day..."
(I sometimes hear this as a song of hope...but this line always belies that. Thus, the topic below.)

All anyone is talking about on the news is the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Do I want to get into the ugliness here? Not really. This is the type of issue that fills up the comment box with anger and rhetoric.

But I feel compelled to comment, so here you go: War sucks. But terrorism sucks more. Hamas is a terrorist organization responsible for constant rocket attacks and suicide bombings that wound and kill Israeli civilians, and Israel needs to be able to defend itself. Are innocent civilians getting killed in the retaliation? Yes. I hate that. But I blame the cowards who are hiding amongst the civilians, hoping their deaths would provoke outrage against their enemies. Hamas is an army of cowards and scum. I hope the Israeli army and leadership can end this soon, but it should end with the defeat of Hamas, not with concessions and apologies.

There. Bring on the onslaught.


"We'll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne..."

It's getting dark. We're approaching sunset. I'm sitting on the floor of my living room, typing this missive into the "work" laptop on my coffee-table. When I hit submit, I'll go back to laying down and watching TV--I mean, recouperating.

Happy New Year, friends and family. May this one be better than the last. May it bring you peace, rest, renewal, restoration, and life in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

PBB Presents: Top Five Unassailably Cool Christmas Songs

Because so many of you are questioning if I have a heart at all, or any tenderness for the Christmas season and its music, here are five songs that I like every year. Enjoy!


#5: "Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley

Because Elvis is just plain cool. C'mon, you can roll your eyes, and make fun all you like, but you have to admit, deep down, you like this song. Here's a live acoustic version by members of Third Day and Jars of Clay, but if you're a purist, here's a link to the King himself.

#4: "Merry Christmas, Here's to Many More" by Relient K

A newer song, but it's quickly become one of my favorites. The first line captures my usual feeling during the holidays: "I made it through the year and I did not even collapse / I gotta say, thank God for that..." I'm the type of person who gets overwhelmed by the business of work and church and family obligations that it stops being about Jesus and is just about surviving until the next available day off. I mean, I don't even have a Christmas tree up yet. So the harriedness of Christmas is my experience. Yet the song isn't about worry or stress, but about celebration of God's blessings. Good stuff.

#3: "O Holy Night"

One of my favorite Christmas "hymns." I remember a few special occasions of singing this song. It just strikes the right chords in my heart. And I refuse to let South Park's hilariously-irreverent version ruin it for me. Here's an instrumental version of the song performed by jazz musicians who survived Katrina, from the TV show "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." I loved this heart-warming scene in this episode, so I'm including the version with dialogue and cut-aways. The instrumental-only version is here.

#2: "Drummer Boy" by Jars of Clay

Not even the song in general so much, as this particular version of it. I suppose I could go into how much the song means to me, the idea of bringing whatever gifts we have to Jesus, however humble, and using them to give Him glory. But that's obvious; so I'm just going to say, Jars of Clay is probably my favorite band, and I want Dan Haseltine's scarf. That's all. Enjoy.

#1: "O Come, O Come Emmanuel"

Probably my favorite Christmas song ever. There's just so much here; most importantly, it captures the urgency of Advent, of humanity itself, as it yearns for redemption. We didn't just need a new moral code, another prophet, a new flavor of religion. We needed a savior. We needed redemption. We needed to be made new. Jesus did that. He was "God with us." And He ransomed His people, captive to sin and death. So, rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel has ransomed us.

Response time: What are some of your favorites, and why? Drop your answers in the com-box. Have a good night.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So Simple, Even An Athiest Gets It...

(The title's meant in jest, so the easily-offended need to chill.)

You may be familiar with the comedian/entertainer Penn Jillette, either from his two-man illusionist act "Penn and Teller" or from his various cable shows and other speaking and writing events. Sharp guy, funny guy, intellectually honest, and hardcore athiestic. An athiest evangelist, if you will, but with enough of a head on his shoulders to recognize rhetorical/political nonsense (which puts him at the front of the line ahead of guys like Bill Maher).

I happened upon this video diary of his, about a man who gave him a gift of a Bible recently, and his reaction to it. During this video, Jillette explains what he believes about personal belief and "evangelizing" (he uses the word "proselytizing") for it. In this five-minute video, he grasps the urgency of spreading a faith message better than many Christians do. And I have to say, I was surprised. Listen to the whole thing, but pay close attention at around the 3-minute mark.

The other thing I get from this is how vitally important it is that Christians treat other people with respect and kindness, and use words seasoned with salt. Because if we treat non-believers, even (especially?) those out-right opposed to our faith, with that kind of dignity and love, we will be living lives worthy of the One whose name we bear, and some may even be won over by that love.

Monday, December 15, 2008

PBB Presents: Top Five Most Heinous Musical Crimes Related to Christmas (2008 Edition)

[Updated and Revised from Last Years list; Now with More Snark!]

It's ten days until Christmas, and you may have been inundated with Christmas music for the past month or so. It doesn't bother me as much these days. I used to be a real Scrooge when it came to Christmas music, but I think a lot of that was just posturing, trying to be "too cool" for Yule. Suffice it to say, if I had to pick a favorite holiday song in college, it would have been "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" by Sixpence None the Richer. (Which is a great track, by the way.)

I can now appreciate Christmas music a bit more. Age will do that to you. Plus, it seems these days like i'm losing touch with the excitement that the holidays always brought, so I try to hang on to it where i can. I'm not quite at the "non-stop carols from Thanksgiving to Christmas" level yet. (My mother lives at that level.) But I can definitely appreciate Christmas music a whole lot more.

However, that doesn't mean I like all Christmas music. In fact, certain songs still annoy and anger me--so much so that I feel it's my duty to unofficially indict these musical crimes and misdemeanors.

Here they are, then: PBB's List of Christmas-themed Musical Crimes.

[Disclaimer: If you like these songs, that's cool. If you think I'm being unnecessarily grumpy or negative, that's fine. Whatever, maybe I am, so what? These are the five songs that I avoid like the plague. Songs that make me turn the radio dial immediately, or off completely if they keep popping up. I'd rather listen to my truck engine idle than sit through these cheesefests ever again. But maybe it's just me, so whatever.]

Dishonorable Mention #1: "Jingle Bell Rock" by Billy Idol

Normally this song would be okay, but I take offence that it turned Billy Idol into this.

I hear he wanted to rewrite the first few lines:

Going broke
Going broke
I need a check
So many child support bills, I'm wrecked
Shredding my image
One song at a time
I'll do stupid things for a dime!

Dishonorable Mention #2: "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" by Dr. Elmo
Why is this song popular? Please, someone, anyone explain the appeal. Because what i've got is geriatric alcoholism and nearly-dead relatives. Not quite a laugh a minute. How has this song survived for almost 30 years?!?

Now the List...

#5: "Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano

I almost didn't list this one, becuase really, it's harmless. But the sad fact is that this song is the "Margaritaville" of Christmas carols--everyone knows the words, everyone sings along with the song, and then everyone is deeply embarrassed afterwards. No Christmas carol should cause this much shame. And honestly, the lyrics aren't that inspiring. No magnificent angelic host, no inspiring star, no world laying pining in sin and error, no captive Israel. Just some dude saying Merry Christmas over and over and over. He doesn't even wish us a prosperous New year "from the bottom of his heart." What's up, Jose? Did you run out of sincere sentiment halfway through?

#4: "Santa Baby" by anyone who thinks it's still sexy.

With this song, you get one or two possible outcomes: the singer comes off as trashy and/or just plain sad. (Or in Kylie Minogue's case, able to speak dolphin.) Seriously, this is just painful. Memo to everyone singing this song ever: You are neither Cynthia Basinet nor Eartha Kitt. You will never sound like Cynthia Basinet or Eartha Kitt. Attempting to sing this song as if you were Cynthia Basinet or Eartha Kitt only demonstrates how ridiculous and incredibly annoying this song sounds. Plus, it makes you look sad and desperate. Please stop. For the love of Christmas, please stop.

#3: "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney

First, take everything remotely awesome about 80's synth music. Okay, ready? Now smash it with a candy cane until it's completely unrecognizable and repulsive. Once you're done with that, let it rot for about a year, and then set it on fire. Put out the flames with old pondwater, and then smother it with about 15 gallons of watered down vanilla frosting. What you'll have will still be more palatable than this turd, produced by one-fourth of the greatest band of the twentieth century.

The video is frightening and may in some subconscious way be intended to dissuade kids from doing drugs during the holidays. The disembodied piano-playing hands and the star people freak me out. At about 1:45 into the video, the Spanish Inquisition shows up (unexpected, natch). There's duelling Pauls, some kind of fire, angels vandalizing buildings. I'm giving you the high points here.

What stinks is that there is actually a decent version by Jars of Clay, but I can't enjoy it, because Sir Paul's original is forever tainted.

#2: "Happy Birthday Jesus"

Now at this point, you may be taken aback. "C'mon, Dave, really? You're taking shots at a song sung by sweet little kids?" Yes I am, and I'll explain why.

The main problem is the age paradox. This song could only be sung by small children, because the thought of adults singing it is ridiculous to the extreme. On the other hand, you suffer from the cloyingly sweet little girl's voice, with the thlight lithp of mithing teeth--including one point when she ventures into "Junior-Asparagus" land. Then you have the sweeping orchestration over the children's choir, repeating the EXACT SAME LINES before coming back down into the shaky-voiced (oh, i'm sorry, i meant tender) solo finale.

Obviously, if I were this child's parent, I would be beaming with pride. But it's hard to beam with pride at other people's kids. Have you actually tried going to an elementary school Christmas production lately? It's painful. You only care, you can only stand it, if you have a stake in the endeavour. I don't know this little girl. I'm sure she's a sweetheart. But just like I don't make a habit of seeking out bootlegged soundtracks to every elementary-school Christmas production starring cherubic little tykes in construction paper and cotton ball costumes, I don't want to listen to this dear little child sing a birthday song to Jee-ZAHS, makes no difference that the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir produced it.

I'm sorry, that's just the way I feel.

And now, the biggest Christmas stinker is...

#1: "The Christmas Shoes" by Newsong

If there were ever a tune deserving of criminal prosecution, it's this one--and I say this with absolutely no exaggeration. I can't even express how much I loathe this song. Some of these tracks annoy me, or stick in my mind like a burr that I can't remove. But this one makes me angry, to the point of minor violence. Why? Because it's expressly created to make you cry. A little boy is buying new shoes for his mother, so she'll be pretty when she dies and goes to Heaven tonight.

Holy. Freaking. Crap. And the kid can't afford the shoes, and a stranger buys them for him. For his mom who's dying of some unspecified disease. Because apparently Daddy can't get his butt to the store with his young son to buy the frigging shoes.

The stage-whispery vocals. The telegraphed musical swells at the bridge. The FREAKING CHILDREN'S CHOIR SINGING THE CHORUS AFTER THE BRIDGE!


*calming breaths*

I still hate you, Newsong. I still hate you very very much.


Up Next: "PBB's Top Five Favorite Christmas Songs." Because I'll need to prove that I do actually have a heart, after this tirade...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Nose is Nearly Thawed Out...

The last six hours? Crazy. In point-by-point form:

  • Stayed late at work. Stupid work.
  • Snow flurries are lovely and awesome until it starts to feel really cold.
  • Missing my bus by mere seconds, and waiting an HOUR for the next one to show up. While leaning under a building overhang to get some relief from the snow flurries.
  • Random, sudden car trouble.
  • Crazy, bitter, muttering tow truck driver.
  • Still very, very cold.
I'd provide more detail, but it's freaking cold and i'm exhausted. Those of you who pray, pray I can figure out what's going on with my truck. My theory is that my clutch fluid/line is frozen.

Thanks for your patronage, and come again.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Linky-Love: A/V Club Edition

Mostly video links, but hey, it'll keep you busy on Friday.

  • Does it stink that Ben Folds Five reunited for a one-night-only concert in North Carolina, in which they played the entirety of their final album "...Reinhold Messner," and I missed it? Yes. Does it rock that MySpace posted the entire concert vid, with additional interview footage, online? You better believe it does.
  • Want to see a LOST-promo-slash-music-video? Sure you do.
  • One of my favorite Youtube channels is from TED, a conference of notable thinkers and speakers. In this video, the creator of Second Life talks about how it came about, how it functions, and the sociological trends it reveals. The video is 28 minutes, but it's worth it.
  • Oddly, it wasn't until I saw this that I started kinda wanting an iPhone. Because seriously, it could come in handy when I need to summon Epona or something.
  • BSGeeks worldwide are nearly trembling in giddy anticipation of the new season.
  • New Chris Cornell songs! (Brace yourself, because he's going in a...different direction.)
  • If you haven't been watching "Eli Stone," well, you're probably the reason it looks like it won't get picked up for the second-half of the season. THANKS, JERKS. Anyway, where there's a failing TV show with a cult following, there's always a "save our show" campaign.
  • Check out highlights from the Austin City Limits festival.


Don't want to give the wrong impression... I've been meaning to post something else, but haven't had time.

So leaving that poem as the top post for more than a few days wasn't an exercise in self-indulgence, I promise. It's just the result of a really busy and stressful work-week, coupled with time spent thinking and working on some other projects.

(I'm sure I'm just being paranoid about it. But the last thing I want you to think is that I'm still fishing for feedback.)

So here's a spacer post, to move the poem down from the top spot, so i feel less self-conscious about it.

And here's a spoken-word poem i like: