MAAM: February 4, 2019: Kickin’ It Old School

Nothing local this week, I had a bout with anxiety over the weekend. So I went back to old stuff. There is something about going back to stuff that you used to listen to, not for nostalgia purposes, but for the uplift.

Also, it is fun to introduce your kids stuff that you used to listen to around their age. My daughter requested Queen in the car. I obliged for a bit and then decided I wanted to listen to David Bowie instead. She had never been introduced.

I realized that I was listening to him twenty years ago and at that time the music was already pushing thirty years old. Pretty much everything I listened to at her age was already thirty to fifty years old. It’s pretty incredible that some music has lasted fifty to seventy years and still resonates.

My favorite David Bowie album, and the one I got her listening to is ChangesOneBowie. It’s not technically an album but a compilation but it was the first music of Bowie’s that I ever really listened to. My best friend’s dad had it on vinyl and I swear we wore it out trying to learn the “Rebel Rebel” riff.

Those were good memories but even without them the album still picks me up. Also around that time I was listening to “Earthling” which I thought was pretty epic. “Hours” has also made its way onto my Spotify list as well. All the old is new again.

Another album I’ve been listening to for the first time in forever is the 1967-1970 compilation from The Beatles. The “Blue Album”, as I would call it, is what I used to listen to while cleaning the kitchen when I was thirteen or so.

I listened to it so many times that if I hear the songs on their original albums I get frustrated because I got so used to the order on the compilation.

Another good blast from the past is Pink Floyd’s Delicate Sound of Thunder. It is probably the only live album (other than “Wings over America”, another album that I’ve been listening to again for the first time in 10 years) that I can tolerate. Most live albums are sloppy versions of the studio songs, but these actually stand up on their own.

Anyways, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Hopefully next week my brain will be functioning correctly and I will be able to dissect something new for you. But for now you should go check out these “ancient” albums that bring me such pleasure to listen to.

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Some Thoughts On A Saturday

Again my brain is too ADD to focus on one topic at a time, so here are a few to chew on:

Outrage Porn and Social Media:

I was kicked off Facebook for a week last week. Not by Facebook mind you, but by my wife. She changed my password and I was only allowed on to share my blog posts. As grumpy as I was at first I’m glad she did it.

I did not realize just how much time I spend on there. Every spare moment is spent mindlessly scrolling through the newsfeed blindly clicking reaction buttons. And for me most of what shows up in the feed is nonsense trolling or posts designed to stir irritation. Or click bait.

So much of what is out there is nothing but outrage porn. Someone posts some video or article or screenshot of a Tweet that has something horrible in it. Everyone else jumps on board and rants about it. They too share it and on and on it goes. Outrage porn is not quite click bait, it’s more akin to virtue signaling.

Basically outrage porn is designed to outrage who ever views the content. People who post it are basically saying “Look! Look at me! Look how outraged I am! Aren’t I special?!” Well, no, you’re not really special if you’re angry about something that most people are angry about.

It’s not just Facebook where you find toxic people. Pretty much everywhere you look you can find them. Go to work and people are disgruntled. All they want to do is gossip and complain. It gets old quickly. I could very easily be dragged down into the office politics and misery of these people but I prefer not to.

Productivity:

Not being on Facebook gave me the perfect opportunity to put energy into productive pursuits. I managed to write more. I engaged in some of the creative activities that I had been neglecting. I got on Instagram, which is wayyyy better than Facebook in terms of posts to get angry about.

Who knows, I may self-impose the next hiatus!

Like this baby right here!

Posts and Editing:

In the past I would just write my posts and never look at them again. I might tweak a few things here and there before posting, but heavy editing to ensure clarity? Ha! My thinking was “If you read it and don’t get it, you just don’t get it, there is no helping you.”

Then my wife started reading my posts and critiquing them (not mean critiques though, helpful ones). She offered to edit my posts from now on. You will notice that she edited the post on Wednesday. That post turned out to be a very successful post. Who knew that someone who knows me so well could interpret my words better than me? She does a much better job than I do of understanding me sometimes. Now that I think about it, she is often my translator when people have no idea what I’m saying.

I think I will go back and edit some of my old posts for clarity. From now on, with the exception of this post, I’ll have her look over my posts before I subject others to them.

Righteous Indignation:

Since I was on the topic of outrage. There are some things in the world that you should legitimately be angry about. The latest law in New York and the push for a law in Virginia allowing abortion up to birth is something that we should be outraged about.

However, I’m not sure the best way to share my opinions on the subject. I could make posts on Facebook about it which would lead to endless arguments and the anger from my friends who mostly don’t know what they’re talking about. Or I could post it here and maybe ten people will read it. I have written about it before and the stats are pretty sad.

Let’s just say I oppose all abortion and I find the latest developments pretty disgusting.

That’s it for now. There are other things bouncing around in there but they will have to wait. Soon, brain, soon…

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What’s Up With Marie Kondo?


There’s a new craze going on. People are going “KonMari” on their homes and tidying them up. Lives are changing, with every cymbal flourish and Marie Kondo Coo, rooms are being magically transformed from dumps to habitable spaces.

I knew nothing of this show until it started appearing in my newsfeed. Then my wife watched it…

My wife has spent literally the last ten years trying to KonMari our house without knowing she was doing it. She has emptied her closet onto the bed several times and whittled down the clothes to a manageable number. She has sought to create spaces for the objects that she loves to be on display to bring joy to her house. She emptied and rearranged kitchen cabinets, she disposed of piles of things that no longer meant anything to anyone (and a lot that she still loved).

But because of me, this labor was in vain. I am a hoarder, or at least a recovering one. I have held onto papers and books and random objects from my youth for odd and unhealthy reasons. It’s been a process, slow and painful (yet cathartic), to get rid of my stuff and only keep what really makes me happy.

So seeing the craze, and hearing my wife’s reviews, I decided I should watch a few episodes myself and see what it was all about.

First off, skip the first episode unless you want to know why the rest of the world dislikes Americans. Stereotypes exist for a reason, sadly. The one upside to the episode is that it normalizes breastfeeding.

But episode three was great (we accidentally skipped episode two), especially for us, because we live in a smallish house with seven people in it. Seeing another family downsize from a huge space to a tiny space was uplifting and gave me some hope for this household. Plus they were just so dern wholesome. The kids were polite and the parents well spoken. They seemed like normal people trying to get by, just like most of us.

There was another episode with a couple just like us, the wife (in our case, me) just couldn’t bear to get rid of her clothes, books, and miscellaneous items. We had to laugh because if we didn’t laugh we would cry. This woman said many of the things I do. It was humbling to see someone else do it. She kept things for  various reasons, usually utilitarian in her mind. I completely understood what she was saying. And her husband? The words he spoke could have been stolen from my wife’s mouth.

So what do I think of Marie Kondo?

Well, first off, she seems like an absolute sweetheart. She doesn’t come into her client’s home like a wrecking ball, deriding them for having stuff. Instead, she sweetly reminds them of some pretty common sense stuff like you’re all in this household together, so you have to work as a team to keep it tidy and only keep what brings you joy. Common sense frequently escapes me, so her reminders were well needed.

Other shows of this genre show you “horrible” people and build up drama around their horrible addiction to materials. They literally guilt you into cleaning up your house, because only “horrible” people live in messy houses. Not “Tidying Up”, this show shows you average people who are just trying to get themselves out from a completely relate-able situation. It’s feel good TV.

People will mock Marie because of her Shinto beliefs, saying she does odd things like “waking up books” and greeting the house. Sure, there is a bit of superstition involved, but that doesn’t make everything she does incorrect. Watching her talk about her beliefs got me to thinking, what is the correct way for Christians to think about the objects in their house?

So many Christians in America just go along with the materialism of our culture. We buy stuff we don’t need, we collect things with no intrinsic value, we hoard and take pride in our displays of wealth and blessings. Most of us are able to keep our material possessions manageable, but there are more than just a few of us that are drowning in them.

Wealth is not bad. Having material possessions isn’t sinful. Buying stuff you don’t need or having collections are not intrinsically bad behaviors. But, like all things we do, we should examine our motives and the effects the behaviors have on our lives and the lives of those around us.

Watching the show encouraged me to ask myself a few questions:

Does my home or the objects in it hinder my ability to share the Gospel?

I can’t share the Gospel when I can’t invite anyone in to my home. My home is an extension of my life, and the best way to spread the Gospel is to let others into it. But I am too embarrassed by my chaos to let others in.

Does my home reveal a lack of self-control, a Fruit of the Spirit?

My home definitely reveals some lack of self-control. There are places for things, but things are not put away. Clothes are not put in hampers, dishes are lost in far corners, the tables are used as catch-alls. Habits are not maintained.

Is there peace in my home, or is it chaos?

There is no peace. While training to be a bus driver I was told that having a clean bus actually encourages good student behavior. This is obvious even in my home. My kids aren’t bad, but clutter stresses them out and can lead to grumpiness, sloppiness, and laziness. How much more relaxed would they be if they knew where their stuff was? How much more willing would they be to keep up with their chores if they didn’t have to shift around mounds of stuff?

What does my mountain of stuff and my inability to get rid of it say about what me and what’s important to me?

What’s more important to me: this stuff that I’ve been dragging around for years, or the health and well being of my family? Stuff, or my ability to have friends over to share my life? Stuff, or my ability to do the things I love instead of wasting my time moving sand dunes of clothes and papers around?

Do these objects rob me or members of my family of joy, also one of the Fruits of the Spirit?

Joy is the one thing that Marie brings up more often than her love of tidying. Objects can rob us of our joy. Mountains of material possessions can drag us into depressing and awful places.


We should only keep what brings us joy. We should not hold on to the stuff that robs us of joy or inhibits our ability to share the Gospel. We should use our home to bring joy to others. Keeping a house full of clutter often means keeping a home empty of friends.

Go check out the show, then go KonMari on your house, you won’t be disappointed.

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Music and Art Monday, January 28th, 2019: Jacksonville’s Visual Artists

This is “Music and Art Monday” , not just “Music Monday”. So where has the art been?

Jacksonville is not just a city churning out great bands and soloists, visual artists are also busy creating beautiful works every day in this town. This week I decided to take a break from my local music reviews to introduce you to some of the local visual artists that I have the pleasure of knowing and frequently working alongside of.

Trough Happiness

First up is Annelies Dykgraff, from The Art Center Cooperative. She organizes the figure drawing sessions that first got me hooked. She grew up with missionary parents in Nigeria and much of her work shows that influence.

https://www.instagram.com/anneliesdykgraaf/

Self portrait

Second up is the artist who organizes the current Wednesday night figure sessions at Raindogs. Kevin Arthur is a part of the Art League of Jacksonville and has done extensive work within the Jacksonville art community. He specializes in portraiture and figures and has a style I find particularly pleasing. https://www.instagram.com/kevarth/

Jef Taylor’s Life Drawings

Jef Taylor is another member of The Art Center Cooperative. He is fun to watch work and is always quick to joke that his work is “just squiggly lines”. Out of those squiggly lines come some pretty cool images though!

 

Kevin (Arthur), stolen from Marji’s Instagram 🙂

The next artist is a self-described amateur who I think does wonderful work, especially given that she’s only been working on her technique for a few short years. Marji (I have no idea what her last name is) works mainly in pastels doing awesome portraits. Her son is also the horn player for Viewers Like You, a fact that she is quite proud to tell. https://www.instagram.com/marjiol/


From the series “Vibrations”
Anna Miller not only makes great art, she also breeds adorable puppies. And she is a great conversationalist. And eventually I will get some lessons in drawing hands from her.
https://www.facebook.com/amilarte/

Mother and Child, Oil on Canvas

Last but not least is Justin Drosten, whom I only recently became acquainted with. Justin draws a lot of inspiration from Medieval works. He claims not to be too good at figures. I beg to differ. https://www.instagram.com/jdrosten/

Prone, Acrylic on Paper, 2018

Actually, I will be last, go check out my art site: https://driptorchstudio.wordpress.com

All of the works above were snatched from the interwebs. If you are mentioned above and prefer me not to share these, please let me know. But I admire you all and your work as well.

Next week is a gamble, could be art, could be music. Stay tuned!

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Growing “Old”

You can’t see them well, but they are there!

Yeah, I know. I’m not that old. But man do I feel like I am. Not all the time mind you, there are hours and days when I feel my age or dare I say a little younger. In my head I’m still in at least my early twenties. My body? Ha, that’s a different story.

I have gained a considerable number of grey hairs in the last year or two. I say two, but my wife would say one. It’s been a stressful one to be sure.

I fall asleep at 8. Mostly because I am up at 4:30. That’s for work. No telling what time I would fall asleep if I was as young as my age tells me. Let’s just say the night life would still elude me.

I can still run! Not as fast as I once did, but it’s all about the stamina right? Ah, who am I kidding? I can’t run as far or as fast as I could in high school. But I’m definitely beating my twenties.

Speaking of one’s twenties. What’s with 20 somethings nowadays? Waiting around until their 30’s to really start their lives? Start young, 30 is too old to be chasing kids and trying to keep up with a crazy schedule. Be like me and have grey hairs by the time you’re 32.

Oh wait, it’s been two years since I was 32. Where does the time go? How am I almost in my mid-30s? Eek! Slow down already!

They say you’re only as old as you feel, my question is: Is that how you feel mentally, physically, or emotionally? ‘Cause I’m all over the place!

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Pre-Posturous Humanity

peacock

Ever see a peacock strut around thinking he’s hot sh-tuff? Ever see a man doing the same thing?

Much of our culture is posturing. I don’t know why I never noticed it before. From rappers to politicians to kids on the playground, we put a lot of value in posture.

The problem is, it’s all a facade. I act tough to make the middle schoolers I drive around behave, but honestly I’m not the ogre I pretend to be. But when you’re getting stared down by three 13 year old girls, you have to out-mean-mug them to gain any semblance of respect.

Pretty much all the “urban” culture I’m exposed to daily is about posturing. Renting a Lambo for your rap video is a cliche for a reason. Being boujee is a lifestyle to so many people you’re almost weird if you aren’t. Those who can’t afford the appearances resort to physical posturing to make themselves larger than the next kid.

Social media and the blogosphere are perfect examples of posture over reality. Nothing is real online. Every post is carefully crafted to give the best impression of the poster. Even humility isn’t real online, we are too good at the humble brag.

Politicians are masters of the practice of posturing. Party squabbles are nothing but posturing. Nationalism is itself the biggest peacock. Everything in politics is about the appearance of being the bigger, badder character on the block. Get the biggest bomb, have the biggest economy, have the biggest army, anything you can do to make your homeland the biggest.

But posturing is silly. You are not that big. In fact you’re probably just as shattered and broken as the next guy. Most of the time the more extravagant the peacock the more fragile the ego. The higher the mountain the harder they fall so to speak. This applies to bullies on the bus, to politicians, and even to nations.

Perhaps the better policy is less posturing and more honesty. Perhaps we should all start admitting our weaknesses and help each other with our strengths. Perhaps we could all posture a little less and be humble instead.

But that, to the world, is preposterous…

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Detoxifying Humanity

Has anyone not seen the Gillette commercial? I’ll wait while you watch it.

It’s pretty amusing to see who is getting triggered by this ad. Many are acting like this is an attack on masculinity.

But I didn’t hear that word in the ad except for a few background overlapping voices. Is this ad really an attack on masculinity or is it an attack on terrible people in general?

To be fair, the ad is aimed specifically at men. You don’t see ads like this aimed at stereotypes of women being catty or nagging. Instead, you see ads which tell women they are ugly and not good enough, which is just as bad if not worse. Not to mention the classic “sex sells” concept in advertising, use women as bait and people will line up to buy your products. Even the ads that claim to stop shaming women for their choices carry the subliminal message that they really should choose Product X instead of doing Y.

While some may say it’s a bad PR move to imply most of your customer base is aggressive and rapey, there is absolutely nothing wrong with what they are trying to tell men. In fact I see no reason to be triggered at all by this ad. As one of my friends joked, he was only bothered by the fact it “barely scratched the surface of” human depravity. Ads like this should force introspection. You should ask yourself “am I like that?” If you are, change, if you aren’t, be glad and help others to change.

So why aren’t men just being introspective over this ad? Why are so many of them fussing and claiming their masculinity is being attacked? Definitions are important. Words don’t mean much anymore. “Masculinity” means different things to different people. It’s a cultural concept with a moving definition. Most of the left wants to define it by vices. The right by virtues.

None of the vices I have seen associated with the term make me think of the male gender exclusively. A jerk is a jerk is a jerk. A female jerk is just as horrible as a male one. Being a domineering, tyrannical adult-child is also horrible (but you never see the term “adult-child” just “man-child” do you? Hmmm…). Even though there are some hormonal influences that predispose the two sexes to different levels of aggression there is no logical reason to assume it’s a purely male tendency. Women can be and are frequently just as aggressive as men. Just this week I have witnessed an equal amount of bullying from girls on boys as boys on boys and boys on girls, it’s a universal problem. Being aggressive is a bad quality in anyone.

Unwanted sexual advances are just as awful from a woman as from a man (trust me, I’ve experienced both). Despite common myths, men, especially young men, do experience sexual assault and rape. The numbers are not as great, but the crime is just as egregious.

Likewise, all of the virtues I see attributed to “masculinity” are virtues we should laud in all people. Where but in the most tyrannical and oppressive places in the world is bravery, courage, strength, nobility, intelligence, and a desire to defend righteousness considered bad traits for a woman to have? Who decided character traits are dependent or associated with genitalia and chromosomes?

Being a good man means being a good human being. It means channeling one’s passions into productive and creative pursuits. It means building others up with love. It means being humble enough to admit you have feelings and emotions and you are capable of empathy, sympathy, and compassion for others. Being a good man means using your strengths for good, not evil. Do not harm others. Do not worship violence and destruction.

To praise the fact that men are “destroyers” and conquerors of nations is merely praise for worldly vain-glory. Destruction and enslavement of others is hardly something to be proud of. We should be working for a more peaceful world, not a more violence prone one.

Defending sexual aggression from either gender is pretty disgusting too. To act like words and actions are merely joking around and those hurt by them should lighten up is an attitude for thugs and tyrants. God created sexuality to be a wonderful thing, do not cheapen it by making it a joke or a weapon (or as advertising). Our sexuality is one of the most vulnerable characteristics of us humans, one that is easily damaged.

Instead of trying to detox “masculinity” specifically, why not work to detox all of humanity of it’s vices and sins? Instead of getting triggered by an advertisement that is trying to tell you to behave better, why don’t you look at yourself and ask if it’s true?

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Music and Art Monday, Jan 21,2019: El Clásico

Putting a giant rooster head on your album cover? I’m sold!

“El Clásico” is the only album by the St. Augustine band The Young Steps.

Even though it’s two years old, it’s new to me in my browse through local music. I must say, it’s a trip!

The album starts out strong with Baby You Know, a raucous and repetitive tune perfect for blazing down the interstate. Gonna add that one to my driving music list.

Nature Man will have you dancing in the kitchen, and that little whistle will be stuck in your head for days.

Dire Straits is channeled in The Weather, another back beat driven song for the road. It’s subtle, but when you listen you’ll know what I mean.

After this is where the album starts to slip. The songs aren’t bad, but you begin to realize the repetitive nature of the lyrics. I needed a bit of a palette cleanse at this point. Might I suggest the “This is Christina Perri” playlist?

Ahhhhhh, refreshing!

Now that you have stepped away and been refreshed, “El Clásico” comes roaring back to life with Yoga, When I Was Young, Will-O’-The-Wisp, Of Your Love, and the exceptionally fun Dark Side of Town.

It’s a short album, and great for when you need something musically interesting, but I can’t listen to it over and over again. To me it required a break, even in the middle, to quiet my highly alerted neurons.

Perhaps it’s a little too exciting?

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Toxic Stupidity

inferno

I was going to write about the Gillette commercial. I was going to write about what a real man is and what good people are. But you know what? There is enough of that out there.

There are enough voices shouting at us, telling us what we should be, how we should act, and even what we should look like. The world shoulds all over us every minute of every day giving us impossible standards to live up to. Even if they aren’t impossible to attain, it gets old to be reminded day in and day out how horrible we are.

“Suck it up, buttercup” is a phrase frequently intended to toughen up the weak. But the concept that the world is rough and the best way to survive is to develop an equally tough skin is lacking. Numbing yourself to the world’s awful is not a way to make the world better.

We don’t make the world a better place with “righteous aggression” either. Carrying signs, shouting slogans, yelling at people online, and living our life in outrage at the crap does not make the crap better. Attacks merely result in equal and opposite attacks, and the peacemakers are caught in the middle eating all of it.

I might still write about the Gillette ad next week. Because the discussion is a needed one. But for now I just need to go cool off and let go of my righteous aggression.

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Music and Art Monday, Jan 14, 2019: Loretto

After last week’s post, I decided it might be fun to run down the Spotify rabbit trail of local Jacksonville bands and review one each week. Lest you think I’m going to start pining over local bands, here’s a review that’s not so positive. Loretto is a self described “rock n’ roll band”, as such I expected some more classic type rock. What I got on their only album so far, Sleeping In The Pines, was a mixed bag of experimentation and indie noise with a few gems hidden here and there.

Honestly I didn’t like it at all at first. But when I turned it on at 5 am this morning I realized that it’s “mood music” meaning you have to be in the mood. This album is perfect for my 5 am mood. It is messy and disheveled, slightly grumpy, but optimistic about the future.

Ordinarily rejecting commercial appeal results in complete garbage, garbage that hipsters will lap up and pretend to like, because “they are not part of the system!”. Kinda like IPA’s. But this album is more a sour than an IPA.

Once you have more than one you begin to like it. Once you listen to this album a few times the intricacies begin to come out, and your palette is pleased to find a bit of depth, not just bitter hoppy nonsense. Wait. This is an album review, not a critique of beer flavors. Best tracks?

“Alaska” is by far the best song on this album. If you download one song on Spotify it should be this one.

“Things We Said Today” and “Pick Me Up” are also pretty decent.
The rest. Well, the rest is “mood music”. Give it a go, and if you don’t like it immediately, try again later.


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