Tag Archives: writing workshop

Wells Fargo: We’ve Made All The Money We Need, And Do Not Want Your Business

We shot the pilot episode today for a new reality show, called Wells Fargo: We’ve Made All The Money We Need, And Do Not Want Your Business™. Since it will take a few months for the show to air, I’m posting the transcript here for your entertainment pleasure.

Scene 1: In Which Michael Finds A Car He Wishes To Buy

Gretchen: We should sell your truck and buy a car that can fit our growing family.

Michael: I agree. Also, you’re sexy. Look, here’s the exact car we’ve been talking about, for a reasonable amount of money. It is an environmentally-friendly clean-diesel 2006 Jetta, with low milage. We should buy it.

Gretchen: Let’s buy it.

Michael: Rather than spend the money we have earmarked for a down payment on our first house, let’s go get a car loan to purchase the vehicle. That way we can put more money down on the house, and qualify for a lower interest rate on our mortgage.

Gretchen: That’s a sound financial decision.

Scene 2: In Which Michael Applies For A Car Loan from Wells Fargo

Michael: My wife and I would like to apply for a car loan, so that we can purchase a vehicle for our growing family.

Wells Fargo: OK, let me get some details. How much money do you make annually?

Michael: (an amount that is 6x the purchase price of the vehicle)

Wells Fargo: Excellent. What are your monthly expenses for rent and outstanding loan payments??

Michael: (an amount that is 1/4 of our gross monthly income)

Wells Fargo: Great. It looks like you and your wife have established a sound financial footing for yourselves, one in which your income exceeds your expenses by a reasonable amount.

Michael: Yes, we have.

Wells Fargo: It also looks like you pay all of your bills on time, don’t bounce checks, and have generally conducted yourselves like responsible adults.

Michael: Yes, yes we have.

Wells Fargo: Great! We’re not loaning you the money.

Michael: Excuse me?

Wells Fargo: We’re not loaning you the money.

Michael: Why the $#%&* not?

Wells Fargo: You don’t have enough credit history.

Michael: … credit … history … ?

Wells Fargo: Yes. It shows on your credit report that you haven’t borrowed enough money to qualify to … ya know … borrow money.

Michael: Does it show that we took out a loan on a brand new Saturn 6 years ago, and that we paid it off 3 years later, just like we said we would?

Wells Fargo: Yup.

Michael: I don’t understand

Wells Fargo: Well, you paid it off.

Michael: Yes …

Wells Fargo: So it no longer counts. It doesn’t show us how you will manage your current debts.

Michael: WE MANAGE OUR DEBTS BY PAYING THEM OFF!

Wells Fargo: Yes, it sure looks that way, doesn’t it.

Michael: Does it show that we have a platinum credit card that we pay off every single month? Does it show that the credit limit on that card is high enough that, if we wanted to, we could just charge the car to our card?

Wells Fargo: Well, technically, since you opened that card up under your business, it doesn’t count toward your personal credit history.

Michael: Would you like to guess whose credit record is going to get f’d up if I stop making the payments?

Wells Fargo: Sir, don’t get snippy with me.

Michael: Sweetheart, I haven’t even started to get snippy yet. So, we’re not getting turned down because of bankruptcy, late payments, bounced checks, felony convictions, or bad dental hygiene; we’re getting turned down because we HAVEN’T BORROWED ENOUGH MONEY?

Wells Fargo: Yes sir. We have no way of knowing if you’ll pay back the money you’ve borrowed unless you’ve borrowed lots of money already, and paid some of it back.

Michael: Ok, let’s review. My wife and I will make more money this year than 80% of the people in the county.

Wells Fargo: Yes.

Michael: We pay less than 1/4 of our monthly income in rent and other fixed expenses.

Wells Fargo: Yes.

Michael: It’s not like we’re buying an Bentley here; we’re buying a family sedan for under $20,000 dollars. The payments will be less than $400 a month.

Wells Fargo: Yes. Not excessive at all.

Michael: We have our accounts here with Wells Fargo, and you have the balances in front of you. You know that we could pay cash for this car.

Wells Fargo: Yes.

Michael: And we’ve paid off every dollar we’ve ever borrowed in our entire lives.

Wells Fargo: Yes.

Michael: Can I ask a question?

Wells Fargo: Of course.

Michael: If you aren’t making car loans to people like us, who the hell are you making them to?

Our Father: Sermon Final

Posts in the Sermon Prep: Our Father series

  1. Our Father, Who Art In Heaven
  2. The Weakness of God
  3. Our Father: Sermon Final

So, I finished up the sermon for last Sunday, and I’m posting it here, along with the manuscript and the slides, for anyone who is interested. The audio cuts off the first 5 minutes of the message, so it’s kind of an odd jump in, but you didn’t miss much of the content.

07-29-2007_service.mp3

Download the manuscript: Our Father, Who Art In Heaven

And the interactive Quicktime file of the slides: Our Father – Slides

Previous in series: The Weakness of God

Worst first line contest

“Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you’ve had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.”

This was the 2006 winner of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest…aka, the worst first line of a novel contest. I heard about it on NPR yesterday morning and remembered it this morning when I heard a song on my ipod begin with “I write mostly on hotel paper…”

This is a 2006 runner-up in the adventure category: “She looked at her hands and saw the desiccated skin hanging in Shar-Pei wrinkles, confetti-like freckles, and those dry, dry cuticles–even her “Fatale Crimson” nail color had faded in the relentless sun to the color of old sirloin–and she vowed if she ever got out of the Sahara alive, she’d never buy polish on sale at Walgreen’s again.”

C’mon Aly…you know you want to enter!

Road Journal

We’re going out on the road with Agape this week.

I am taking my trusty, four year old Powerbook with me. I want to get a little writing done this week, and one of the things I am going to do is jot down a few notes, a little road journal.

When we return, one week from today, I will post my thoughts from today, and so on and so forth, that you may relive my week in real time… just… a week late.

I know that you all would be distressed if I went an entire week without a brain dropping from Chad on ole’ Addy.

See ya’ll in 168 hours.

Ish.

Moral Theory: Introduction

Posts in the Moral Theory series

  1. Moral Theory: Introduction
  2. Moral Theory: Divine Command Ethics
  3. Moral Theory: Natural Law

An Introduction

Well, now that the Music and Ethics course has been approved here at APU, I have to get serious about actually teaching it. That means brushing up on some of that good old philosophicating. Good practice for me, fun for you, and safe for the whole family. Unless Uncle Jimmy is a nihilist, in which case, probably not safe for him.

I’m going to write a series of posts, each trying to answer the question “What makes an action right?” Each post will look at how different schools of thought, different moral theories, answer this question. My goal is to discuss these theories with a minimum of technical philosophical language, in a way that invites everybody to be part of the conversation. I can’t promise that it won’t involve some heavy lifting, but I will try to make sure that the ideas are presented clearly.

the property of ought

This question, “What makes an action right,” the starting place for thinking about ethics, requires a little bit of explanation before we can understand what it’s really asking. There are a few assumptions buried in the question that we need to tease out before we can really ask it.

The most basic assumption of the question is that actions can have properties, features about them that can be talked about in the abstract. If I’m holding a red apple, it has the property of “redness”, and I can talk about the redness in the abstract, without having to talk about the apple itself.

What does it mean to say that actions have properties? Well, think about someone who steals candy from a child. In addition to talking about the facts of the event (at a certain time and place, this person caused this series of events that affected this person, blah blah blah), we can also say, “That act was selfish.” It identifies something about that act, some quality or group of qualities that can be identified, and discussed in the abstract. “Selfish acts cause one to become embittered” is a statement about abstract properties, not about any one act.

So, the first assumption in the question “What makes an action right” is that an act has properties (not all philosophical systems will agree with this point – more later!).

The second assumption is that some property, or set of properties, about an act can together cause that act to be ethical, or unethical. In other words, we can evaluate an action for abstract qualities, and those qualities will determine if we have an obligation to perform that act, or to not perform it.

Let’s assume we determine that selfishness = unethical. We can then look at an act, and ask whether or not it contains the property of selfishness. If it does, then it’s unethical. We establish a standard for measuring actions that is separate from any one action, which all actions can be evaluated against.

If this works, we can then say that the act has an additional property: call it the property of ought. Action that have it, we are obligated to do. Actions that contain it in the negative (ought not), we are prohibited from doing.

So, the conversation in ethics centers around this question:

What property of an action determines that we ought to do it?

In the series of posts to follow, I’ll try to show how that question is answered by Divine Command Theory, Natural Law Theory, Utilitarianism, Kant (how awesome do you have to be to get on this list with just your last name? Pretty awesome), Moral Relativism, Moral Pluralism, and (my favorite, which is why I put it last) Virtue Ethics.

Hang on to your protractors – it’s about to get nerdy up ins!

Next in series: Moral Theory: Divine Command Ethics

Ooh-ooh, Me Too!

1. I get intimidated by other people’s lists, because I don’t feel interesting enough.
2. I obviously care what other people think about me.
3. I tend to be a people pleaser.
4. I have 10 nieces and nephews and they’re still coming.
5. I don’t really care about politics until they start affecting me personally.
6. I like being able to do a lot of things well, but feel inadequate when I think I should be a “master” of at least one of them.
7. I love hospitality and entertaining, but sometimes I like the idea more than the reality.
8. I began to love teatime when my mom would have it set out for me when I got home from school. It was a special treat when she’d bring out my grandmother’s china patterns.
9. I’ve always been girly.
10. I loved dressing up when I was little and pretending. I still do.
11. I didn’t like red wine or fish until I met Mike.
12. I love reading for pleasure. I find non-fiction interesting, but would much rather lose myself in a great fictional work.
13. I was scared that I’d been caught as a fraud when a parent asked me my “professional opinion” on my first day of teaching.
14. I thought my ideal man would be a lot like my dad and work a nine to five job. I’m so glad I married someone who is creative and able to have a flexible schedule to fit our family and its’ needs.
15. My brother taught me how to do laundry, cook spaghetti and change the tires on my truck. That’s all he thought I’d really need in life.
16. I have always been in awe of my brother’s call to the mission field. I can honestly say that I do not have this calling. The only time I came close was when I was visiting him in Tanzania and I walked by a run down school where 200 village children were playing and hanging out, not in school because the 3 teachers had decided not to show up that day. I had a strong urger to “save” each one of them.
17. A pastor in Nzega, Tanzania prayed the blessing of 10 children over me. Oh dear.
18. My most memorable singing experience was when I was the “guest choir” at the Majahida church in Bariadi, Tanzania and got to sing Amazing Grace while the packed church of men and women sang along with me in Swahili. After, they gave me a shrill and wonderful trilling, a sound better than any applause.
19. Going to Africa reminded me of how big and awesome God is.
20. I’ve always wanted to be a mother, and for about 3 years thought that God had played a cruel joke on me by giving me a desire that I would never experience.
21. I truly smile every day because of my daughter Sophia and my husband Michael.
22. My mother in law called me different names every time she saw me for the first few months while Mike and I dated. I was offended at first, but then I learned she introduced my father-in-law to her parents by the wrong name too.
23. I used to wear my sister’s clothes to school and put them back in her drawer before she got home, thinking she’d never know. I was in elementary school and probably had B.O.
24. I started helping my mom do flowers for weddings when I was 8 years old. I got to clean flowers and wire roses for boutonnieres and corsages. I loved it.
25. Starting my own business has been one of the scariest and fulfilling things I’ve done in a while. I now believe Mike when he says “you are what you call yourself”
26. I tend to exaggerate my stories to make myself sound better than I am.
27. When I took the career test in High School my number one job suggestion was a funeral home director. Number 2 was Physical Therapist and number 3 was teacher. I tried number 2 until I flunked out of college chemistry and am pretty pleased with how number 3 is working out.
28. I broke my arm in the third grade doing the dead man’s drop on the bars at recess. The next day my mom broke her ankle and leg while on our tide pool field trip. My dad came home from a business trip the following day and wondered what had happened to his family.
29. Ferrets give me hives.
30. I swam the IM and 100 backstroke in High School. I was in really good shape back then.
31. I used to pretend to be Mary Lou Retton on my bars in my backyard.
32. I took ballet for two years and had 4 different teachers while in the same company. The first two actually died, and I can’t remember what happened to the third one, but I quit because I was scared that all ballerinas died.
33. I took 2 years of gymnastics and a year of jazz.
34. I can’t dance.
35. My dad took my sister Heather and I to the Nutcracker every year when we were little in matching Christmas dresses that my mom had made for us. I would dance all the way down the theatre stairs and dream of becoming one of the Sugar Plum fairies.
36. I am the youngest of four. I was definitely more privileged than my siblings, but I don’t think I was spoiled. They would probably disagree.
37. I was five when my oldest sister left for college.
38. I’m envious of my sisters’ homes, but I’m not envious of the fact that they are in League City, Texas and Ferndale, Washington.
39. My favorite place in the world is reading on the deck of my parent’s cabin in Santa Cruz, CA.
40. I almost drowned when I was a Sophomore in High School. We were in Snelling, CA gigging for frogs in a small boat at midnight and it capsized.
41. I give great backrubs.
42. The first professional massage I every received was by a really creepy hairy guy who breathed way too loudly. I thought I was supposed to match my breathing with his, and almost passed out.
43. The most fun I’ve had in acting was playing one of 8 personalities in “The Outer Chair” by our own Carrie Reisser. She wrote a play about one of her mom’s clients with multiple personality disorder that we later tried to make into a film.
44. I loved playing “M’Lynn Eatenton” in Steel Magnolias, but could never get Sally Fields incredible funeral scene out of my head to make it my own.
45. I doubt myself often.
46. I am better at things then I usually give myself credit for. And that was kind of hard to say.
47. My favorite car was my cream 1989 Volvo sedan.
48. My first car was nicknamed “the Little Blue Poop”. Yeah, I wasn’t much into swearing in High School either. It was a royal blue Toyota Tercel hatchback, handed down to me by my brother after it had gone through 5 other college students.
49. I love singing full voice in the car, but can’t do it in front of people.
50. I’m a fan of Sudoku.
51. My beloved Volvo stalled while I was on the Bay Bridge, scaring the crap out of me. I started and stalled it, started and stalled it all the way to the first exit and coasted down the off ramp.
52. Aly broke the key in the lock of the same Volvo at 2 am at a rest stop on the 5 freeway while on a ladies’ weekend road trip to the cabin. Luckily we were able to stay warm in the car while the locksmith came, and read and analyzed the first Valentine’s poem Michael had written me that very day. I remember he used the word “diurnal”.
53. The electricity went out during the pictures before our wedding because of a fire two blocks away. They came back on when Mike strolled into the sanctuary an hour later for the guys’ shots. He bowed when everyone started cheering.
54. We had a sit down tea reception for 350. Each place had a china teacup, silver pattern, and complete tea foods- chocolate dipped strawberries, tea sandwiches, and the 3,000 cookies my mother in law had handmade.
55. I like details.
56. I lived in the same house my entire childhood.
57. I was in my first fight in the 7th grade, with a boy, in the hallway after school. I actually made contact with his jaw before a bunch of 9th grade boys stood up for me, telling him he shouldn’t hit girls. I “won” because I showed up to school the next day and he didn’t.
58. I had a piano recital that same night. My mom told everyone my scratch on my cheek and black eye was from the cat.
59. I chose to take German in Jr. High because I heard the teacher didn’t assign homework for the first semester. 5 years of German and I probably couldn’t ask for the bathroom in Germany. German has done me no good as a teacher in Los Angeles.
60. I grew up with family game night. When I helped my parents move last week, I filled 5 large boxes with board games and cards from the past 30 years. We had a lot of games. I still love playing games. Settlers of Catan anyone?
61. I can quote the entire Anne of Green Gables movie.
62. I usually like the books better than the movies made from them.
63. My dad read the entire Narnia series with me in the 4th grade. It was my bedtime ritual and I loved it.
64. My middle name is Leigh. That’s right. Gretchen Leigh Lee.
65. Almost every Christmas my dad would write a scavenger hunt in poem form for my sister Heather and I. The gift at the end was always identical (all needing to be fair between us) and usually rocked big time; new dorm size stereos, tickets to Phantom, furniture. Yeah, my parent’s gave us furniture.
66. I got an antique hutch for my 16th birthday. It now holds our television in our living room.
67. I love the theatre, musical or drama. I love to lose myself in the story, see the incredible sets and costumes and be placed in a new setting for a couple of hours.
68. I’ve always wanted to be a better actress than I am.
69. When I was little, I would act out the entire Annie movie while listening to the sound track on the record we had. I had all the parts memorized. My favorite scene was hanging off of the bookcase or fireplace mantel as my drawbridge calling out to Punjab to save me from certain death.
70. I’m six years younger than my next sibling. I spent a lot of time playing by myself.
71. My music repertoire and listening enjoyment have increased ten fold since meeting my husband and APU friends. For this I am grateful.
72. We were not allowed to date until we were 16, (group dates aside). My first date was with my dad for my 16th birthday. He took me to dinner and a play, and talked to me about what I should expect from guys, and the right way they should treat me. I love that man. I didn’t listen to his advice though, until I met my husband.
73. Mike was an incredibly creative dater when we were going out in college. One of my favorite dates was when we talked about our ideal home and drew out the plans. He then “gave” me $50,000 in which to fill it. We “shopped” Colorado Blvd. in Old Town Pasadena, going to Z Gallery, Restoration Hardware etc. and wrote down everything we would buy for our house. Then over dessert, he drew a small box shaped apartment and wrote $50 at the top. “Okay, this is more of the reality for a while” he told me. I was okay with that.
74. A cop almost ruined our engagement night. Aly almost assaulted said cop.
75. My mom would buy pomegranates and coconuts as a just for fun food. I still get them every once in a while, just for fun.
76. My dad makes the best popcorn. On top of the stove style.
77. I get frightened when someone is right behind me on the staircase while going up. My brother used to grab my ankles and trip me as I would run up the stairs. It probably has something to do with that.
78. My paternal great grandmother lived to be 106. Her son, my grandpa was 98 when he died, even though he had brandy in his coffee every morning and took his liver pills with a beer. We have longevity in our genes.
79. My parents have been married for 45 years. My in-laws for 30+ years. Mike and I have a lot of great examples of married people in our life. This is a truly a gift.
80. I’m becoming more like my mom as I get older, and I’m realizing that it isn’t as scary as I thought it would be.
81. I loved watching the Smurfs when I was little. My friend and I drew the entire Smurf village (mushroom houses and all) on her driveway with sidewalk chalk one long Saturday afternoon. I always thought it must be great to be Smurfette. 99 to 1, not bad odds.
82. I was a big flirt in High School and College.
83. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 16.
84. Australian Rules football is an incredibly rigorous and athletic game. The players make our football pros look like wimps. I got to see a game live in Melbourne on Anzac Day. It was sweet.
85. I met my best friend when I was 2 years old. She is always a sunny spot in my life.
86. I quit taking swimming lessons because I was scared to go under water. My brother Scott spent the rest of the summer teaching me. We pretended to be fish and frogs. Yeah, he’s a cool brother.
87. My mom got shingles and Bels Palsy in 2001. It paralyzed the left side of her face and basically wiped her out. It was a jolting wake up call to me, that my parents are getting older, and that one day I’ll need to care for them, and they won’t always be there. I don’t like that thought.
88. When I turned 21 my dad had me go out and buy him a 6 pack of beer. I thought that was so cool.
89. I drank one of my dad’s ales when I was six years old. I poured the rest out and went and told him that his ginger ale had gone bad.
90. I’m a sucker for a White Russian.
91. Mike and I started our marriage with absolutely no college debt. This is a huge testimony as to how hard our parents work. What a tremendous gift they gave us.
92. I express my guilt and anxiety through my dreams. I usually wake up feeling guilty about what I dreamt. Viscous cycle.
93. I talk in my sleep.
94. My husband and I are going on our first real vacation together this summer since our honeymoon. Yet we’ll still be with 45 other people. Still, I’m stoked.
95. I have a first grade vocabulary. After teaching 1st and 2nd grade for 7 years and having to simplify my language to be understood, I find that I no longer have the “big words” to speak with adults. I have a hard time proving that I actually have a Masters Degree.
96. My friends and I would play a game called “Madame” where we each had a role, the Madame, the cook (the best job), the nanny and the maid. The best part of our role-play, was that “Richard the Rapist” would always call to say he was coming over. Yeah, at 7 and 8 we had no idea what a rapist was. And why on earth would he call first?
97. My maternal great grandfather spoke 56 different languages and dialects. He escaped the great San Francisco earth quake and fire with my great grandmother and grandfather on a horse and cart with all of their possessions in one trunk (which we still have). He received a medal of honor from the Mayor of San Francisco for his help in interpreting at the evacuation centers for the next 4 days. He was also a phrenologist. He read the bumps on many famous heads, including the Duke of Amsterdam. We still have 3 human skulls from his collection. Eew.
98. I can remember the words of a song after hearing it once.
99. I love to be outside.
100. After writing this whole list, I have to revert back to number 1 and worry that no body really wanted to read this whole thing. I was fun doing it though.

100 Things – JC

Well, we’re venturing into new territory here.

One of the regular readers and posters here is a friend of mine from church named John. Even though we’ve been at the same church for a number of years, I’ve gotten to know John and his wife better in the past few months, as he has become an avid and vocal supporter of The Dailies, and his encouragement has meant the world to us, in more ways then one. I like him a lot, and its not for the obvious reasons. He’s a straight shooter, and extremely low key, which may mean more to you as you read about where his life’s journey has taken him.

Those of you hoping that the title, 100 things – JC, represents the Savior might be disappointed, but that would be a very interesting read.

#45:  Sometimes I got really frustrated when the pharisees would approach me during meal time.  I mean, perfection is a falafel and red wine, back off man!

#67:   Judas had a twitch that really weirded me out.  I created it and all, but still.

Without any further ado, I surrender the microphone and hit copy and paste.

_____________________________________________

1. I sing through big Peavey speakers in my house with the door open hoping that some record producer walking by will discover me. I have been doing this for years. The interesting thing is that I now live in a place where someone in the recording industry could actually walk by.

2. I love to sing. It is probably the thing that I think I am best at…yet afraid to find out I’m not.

3. I don’t have the patience for learning how to play an instrument. I own a piano, a bass guitar, an electric guitar…they sit around like idle exercise equipment. I just like to sing.

4. I was a “jock” in school. I played football, hockey and ran track. I earned 10 letters and captained three teams.

5. I was the fastest white kid in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1969.

6. I once scored four goals against an arch-rival in a Minnesota State Hockey Tournament regional play-off game. It also happened to be the school of my ex-girlfriend.

7. I always had a girlfriend. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t dating or married.

8. I have been married for 22 years. Five years the first time, five years the second time, and 12 years…and counting…currently. I am not proud of the first two facts; I credit the Lord for the third.

9. My 9-year-old daughters are not yet aware of #8. I will tell them some day. I am so worried that they will be disappointed in me that I can’t imagine this conversation actually happening.

10. When my wife sings…. I almost always start to cry.

11. My twin 9-year old daughters know all the lyrics to the Broadway play “Wicked”. They are marvelous singers. When they sing…it makes me cry.

12. When Erica sings “Loved” …I…well, you get the picture.

13. My father was the baritone soloist in our church growing up. He loved to sing. He had a beautiful voice. He was also the most honest man I ever knew. I think he was physically and emotionally incapable of telling a lie.

14. My dad was a real character. He loved people and he loved being the center of attention. His life provided great material for the memorial I did for him when he passed away in October 2000. I have done hundreds of presentations in my life. This was my best.

15. My mom’s father was the first orthodontist in Minneapolis. He had to go to Berlin to do his orthodontic residency, as there was no such thing in the U.S. at that time. He put braces on Kaiser Wilhelm’s children. He put braces on me when I was 13.

16. I got hit in the face with a baseball when I was 13. I had to literally pull the inside of my mouth away from the tangled mess it made with my braces.

17. I played hockey through college and never lost a tooth.

18. My mom was an alcoholic when I was growing up. She was totally functional and never abusive, just depressed…clinically, as it turns out.

19. Mom got sober during my senior high school years…and never again took a drink. I can only hope to have that kind of courage if I need to call on it.

20. Praying for my mom to get sober was probably the closest I got to God in my early years. God allowed me to be with her when she died in our house. I literally held her in my arms when she took her last breath. It was an unbelievable blessing for me. I am still afraid of dying, but I’m no longer afraid of death.

21. My wife, by the way she lives her faith, showed me the way to the Lord.

22. I met my wife while she was a financial analyst and I was the Marketing Director at the Dial Corporation in Phoenix.

23. I worked for Johnson & Johnson for ten years. I was brand manager for Carefree Panty Shields and o.b. Tampons. I know more about menstrual cycles than most women.

24. Over nearly 30 years of my marketing career, I have managed the following brands: Carefree Panty Shields, o.b. Tampons, Stayfree Maxi-Pads, Serenity Incontinence Pads, Parson’s Ammonia, Sno Bol Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Brillo, Starburst Fruit Chew, Skittles, VO2 Max Energy Bars, Combos, Kudos, Pedigree Dog Food, Whiskas Cat Food, Sheba, Cesar, DentaBone.

25. Skittles is a $300 million annual business in the U.S. Pedigree is over $1 Billion.

26. I was running the Skittles brand when we created the “Rainbow” campaign in 1996. One of the first actors we hired for a :30-second spot. was Ron Howard’s dad.

27. I don’t sing in the shower. I actually do some of my best thinking in the shower. Some of my most creative ideas came to me while wasting gallons and gallons of water!

28. I got divorced for the first time in 1981 when I found out my wife had been having an affair with a guy she worked with.. They are still married to this day. After a few cocktails, he still hits on all of her friends.

29. I lost the pinky finger on my right hand while going over a 6-foot jump on water-skis when I was 16. It got caught in the rope handle and was pulled completely off. We didn’t look for it.

30. When adults notice I am missing my little finger they rarely say anything. Children always stare at it, then ask what happened. I love that about kids.

31. My brother is the nicest person I know. My father-in-law may actually be even nicer.

32. In my circle of acquaintances, there is a direct correlation between love of music and love of God.

33. I thought Ricky Nelson was the coolest guy on earth. I bought every Ricky Nelson album I could get my hands on. I still know all the words to “Travelin’ Man”, “Lonesome Town”, and “Teenage Idol”. I never missed an episode of “Ozzie and Harriet”.

34. I was 33 when Rick Nelson’s plane crashed and he died. I heard it on the radio and wept like a baby. Before then, I had always thought I would meet him some day. Given my career and associations with advertising agencies and living in L.A., had he lived…I probably would have.

35. My musical tastes are directly linked to great melodies and vocalists.. As a result, my tastes have jumped all over the place over the years. My favorite artists over time: Rick Nelson, (interestingly, not Elvis), Michael McDonald (Doobie Bros.),Chuck Negron (3 Dog Night), Jeffrey Osbourne, James Ingram, Luther Vandross, Kenny Rankin, Steve Perry (Journey), Kenny Rogers, Colin Raye, Steve Wariner, Leroy Parnell, Vince Gill, Phil Vassar, Michael English, Steven Curtis Chapman. The Dailies.

36. Ok, I left one out because I thought the music snobs among you might laugh at me…Michael Bolton

37. …and Barry Manilow..

38. My favorite sandwich is peanut butter and honey.

39. I drink Mt. Dew for breakfast.

40. We have a tortoise. She is still growing, but will outlive me and grow to be 60 pounds or so. Every day I lift her out of her little house and take her over to her pen on the grass so she can graze. I hold her out in front of me with her nose pointing forward. I wonder if she thinks she’s flying.

41. I scored 1200 on my SAT’s in 1969. My math and verbal were the same.

42. I taught math in a private school in Maine right after college. I also managed the hockey arena. I sharpened skates and ran the Zamboni.

43. Driving the Zamboni was really cool.

44. After several beers one night, I actually took the position with several friends of mine that I might be one of the best all-around athletes in the world. If you just grabbed people and didn’t give them time to practice, over the course of, say, 50 events, I would rack up more points than anyone else, because I am competent to excellent at every sport from horseshoes to ping-pong, water skiing to snow skiing, archery to running, ice-skating to swimming, baseball to high-jumping, skeet and trap shooting to badminton. Part of me actually believed it….

45. Over my career, I have spent almost $750 million in national advertising campaigns.

46. I once produced a :30-second ad for Starburst Fruit Chews that cost over $1 million…and only ran once.

47. I played on a NCAA Div. 3 hockey team that was ranked #1 in the country.

48. To this day, I have a recurring dream about having a final test in college for a class that I somehow managed not-to-go-to all semester.

49. I dream a lot more now that I’m not working. I must be catching up on lost sleep. I easily sleep 8-9 hours a night now, after 30 years of 6 hours or less a night.

50. Sleeping next to my wife every night is one of the great pleasures of life.

51. God must see each of us like I see my girls at night when they are asleep. That is the only explanation I have for His grace.

52. God knew what he was doing when he created the faithful dog. My first golden retriever kept me sane after my second divorce. I don’t know what I would have done without her. To this day when I think about her I tear up.

53. My wife Julie is the best thing that ever happened to me.

54. Julie has Multiple Sclerosis. She found out years ago when she was running in the desert one day. Her legs just stopped working. She is now 46 and is pretty much symptom-free. I worry about it more than she does. She trusts the Lord so much. It makes me feel selfish that I don’t.

55. Over the past 10 years I have learned how to receive feedback gracefully. While I always struggle with it, I try to find the truth in it that will make me better.

56. Apparently my willingness to accept feedback must be visible…like an aura…because everyone seems very comfortable giving it to me.

57. I’m really good at fixing things around the house. I have a curiosity about how things work. I love to take things apart. More often than not, I can find out what’s wrong in the process. Computers are the exception to this rule.

58. I am really good at finding things around the house. My daughters and wife don’t even bother looking any more…they just call me. Before that, the first place I always looked was where they had already searched. My secret is that the missing item is almost always in the open, just underneath, behind, or in other stuff. The exception to this rule is a retainer.

59. “What It Is” deserves to be successful.

60. It bugs me when politicians say…”the people have voted and they are against the war” or against the fill in the blank. Is that really an argument for leadership to change course? The average citizen isn’t capable or motivated to determine the correct strategies and tactical decisions for the country any more than the average football fan should make the decision to go for it on 4th and 1. We always vote for what is best for us with little regard for what is best for the country… and fans always vote to go for it on 4th and 1. Citizens have the power to elect leaders. Hopefully we elect good ones. We should let the leaders do their jobs and not spend all of our time second-guessing every decision.

61. Living in a Democracy is not always easy.

62. With very good grades and decent SAT scores (way back in the day when they really meant something, which was before Mike’s day when they really meant something) I got into a highly selective college in the northeast. It was a wonderful and broadening experience for a kid from St. Paul, Minnesota where I only knew one black person and no Jewish people.

63. My roommate freshmen year was a Jew from Manhattan who smoked Kool’s.

64. I nearly flunked a class freshmen year. Public school in Minnesota did not prepare me for the academic rigors of a highly selective northeastern liberal arts college. Where were the multiple-choice questions? What’s a blue book?

65. Despite my mediocre grades in college, I was still accepted into one of the top business schools (Northwestern) in the country. Thank you Bowdoin.

66. I agree with Mike’s point about college. I was not prepared nor interested in the learning experience when I was 18. At 54 years old…I am now ready!

67. I often find myself on the opposite side of the argument with the intelligentsia.(see #68, #70, #72)

68. The popular sport these days after beating up the President about Iraq, is piling on Big Business. Well, I worked in Big Business and I am here to tell you that there is no sinister conspiracy amongst companies to keep medical cures out of the market so we can keep making money on people’s illnesses., etc. I am not going to tell you that I think every company is ethical. Making profit and meeting Wall Streets expectations are serious challenges and does not always make CEO’s et al the most altruistic people on the planet. But big companies like Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, GE, Ford, etc. are trying to do the right thing. I firmly believe that.

69. Meeting Wall Street and shareholder expectations and trying to do the “right thing” do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.

70. The free-enterprise system works if you leave it alone. If you meddle with it, it throws it out of balance. We may not like high gas prices, for example, but legislating gas prices is not the answer. If fuel gets expensive enough, some entrepreneur will invent an alternative energy source or mode of transportation that will steal the market away and make him/her a multi-billionaire. It may not happen fast enough for our liking, but it will happen. It always has.

71. It is really tempting to meddle when things aren’t going well.

72. I may be one of the few people who actually think, in principle, we are doing the right thing in Iraq..

73. Iran is a potentially much bigger issue than Iraq.

74. I think “Whose Line Is It Anyway” is the funniest show on TV. Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie make me laugh until it hurts. I watch it with my daughters and they laugh as hard as I do.

75. I love to run fast.

76. My knees don’t like it when I run fast

77. I can’t believe I have owned a Porsche for almost 3 years and have yet to drive it over 100MPH.

78. The lease on my Porsche is up in June.

79. The house I live in was once owned by: Kenny Rogers and before him, Cindy Williams (Laverne and Shirley) and Bill Hudson. It is quite likely that Kate Hudson actually slept in this house.

80. We bought the home from Howie Mandel.

81. Howie Mandel’s wife could not tell us how to operate the oven…she had never used it.

82. Howie Mandel actually shook my hand…no knuckle punch for me.

83. We paid close to asking price for the home (see #81).

84. I have a TiVo and don’t use it.

85. I love a good margarita.

86. I gave up drinking for Lent…and actually don’t miss it that much.

87. Since Ash Wednesday, my voice has been the clearest it has been in years.

88. I am still friends with my best friend from 3rd grade…Greg Johnson.

89. After a night of significant drinking, Greg offered to cut off his little finger to replace the one I had lost. Greg would have cut off his little finger if I had accepted the offer. There is no doubt in my mind. Greg slept in his car that night with a foot on the brake and his manual shift car in neutral. When he awoke the next morning with a start, he took his foot off the brake and started rolling down a very steep hill toward the St. Croix River.

90. I thought I was not going to like living in SoCal when we got transferred here 9 years ago. I think it is a great place to live and have enjoyed it immensely.

91. We have purchased 156 acres of beautiful land in Colorado. We are moving in June. We will have horses and a view of the Front Range of the Rockies.

92. My wife and I used to be soloists on the praise team in our old church. One of the great joys in my life is singing a duet with my wife.

93. Most men have no clue when it comes to women.

94. Many women really don’t understand men and the amount of time we think about sex.

95. I would like to be involved in some kind of ministry that helps men be better prepared in a relationship/marriage. I am out of my league here, but have great life lessons and a real heart to help men to not walk away from relationships because we don’t have the tools to deal with some frustrating issues. Grammy, can you give me a crash course?

96. I ran the LA Marathon when I was 40. I averaged 8-minute miles and finished in 3 hours and 28 minutes. If you want to know what it feels like when every energy source in your body has been tapped into and there is nothing left but to basically burn the furniture….and you still have 6 miles to go…run a marathon.

97. We totally renovated our kitchen and it was featured on “Designer’s Challenge” on HGTV. I can’t believe how many people say they were flipping channels and “heard this voice” and realized it was me blabbing away about our silly kitchen. I thought it would be on once and no one would notice. They have run it about 15 times.

98. My family loves the RV. We rented our first one when the girls were about 5. There is just something really cool about hitting the road and basically taking your house with you.

99. I sang on stage at the House of Blues in Las Vegas and opened for Hootie and the Blowfish.. OK, we had the place rented for a large (1,000 people) sales meeting and we were the “company rock band”. The crowd loved us so much it turns out that Hootie got ticked and booted us off 15 minutes early because he didn’t like the competition.

100. I am blessed.

100 Things Mostly About Chad, but Also a Few About Erica, and Most Likely a Few About My Kids.

I’ve enjoyed Mike’s and Stick’s posts so much I had to do my own. Forgive the “Me-Too-Ness” of this post. The length, also, will require forgiveness.

1. There are only a few times in my life where I feel like I have applied myself fully to a project, and the results always surpass my expectations.

2. This is perhaps my favorite corner in the world. I have spent more fun times here with family and friends than in any other public space.

3. Often I get genuinely frustrated that no one really sat me down and told me how difficult it is to raise children.

4. Other times I am glad that no one really sat me down and told me how difficult it is to raise children.

5. Both of my grandfathers flew B-24 Liberator bombers during World War 2. One instructed cadets in Nebraska, and one flew combat missions overseas, including the famous raids on Ploiesti. He was shot down in 1944, and spent the remainder of the war in a POW camp. I only heard the story one time, and I remember this most of all: he said that he didn’t fear the Nazis, who regarded American officers as misguided peers, but the he feared the fellow Russian prisoners, who he recalled as reckless and indifferent to human life.

6. Only one of my grandfathers liked to talk about World War 2.

7. I grew up on CCM music. I did not purchase a secular CD until my Sophomore year of High School. It was Bonnie Raitt’s Luck of the Draw. I still love that CD, which was also the first CD I ever purchased from the thing that would become what we know as The Tubes.

8. A pure coincidence, my father took piano lessons with Bonnie Raitt when they were both children.. We are SoCal through and through.

9. If my grandparents still owned home that they purchased in the late 1950′s, it would be worth nearly 2.7 million dollars. I’m glad they sold it in 1989 and moved to Thousand Oaks after they retired. I knew them well. I believe our family still own the offshore oil drilling rights for that property. When I was a younger, I used to resent environmentalists who legislated against such things. I no longer resent environmentalists.

10. In order of preference: Beach, urban, mountains, desert.

11. I do not know specifically why, but I strongly dislike California’s Central Valley. I have only enjoyed driving through it one time, returning from Stick’s house, disc-jockeying between the freshly mixed Dailies record and the new John Mayer record that I bought at Starbucks that morning before dawn.

12. Echoing the sentiments expressed by the Stickman, I have never voted for a Democrat, but that might change. I know many lifelong Christians and dyed-in-the-wool Republicans who feel betrayed and disenfranchised by the administration of George W. Bush, myself included.

13. Pound for pound, I believe Ghostbusters might be the funniest, most quotable film ever made. I dare you to read through this link and not giggle.

14. My wife loved me when I was fat. This is one of the most important things she has done for me.

15. I find the speaking voices of both Joel Osteen and Dora the Explorer equally irritating.

16. I am an extremely competent snow skier, but when I was 14 I broke my left forearm and my right clavicle with one truly spectacular fall.

17. I am acquainted with someone who’s a minor legend in the porn industry, albeit recently retired. His family lived on our street when I was young. Now, they live three doors down from the most prominent Mormon family in town, a fact that pleases me no small amount. Connecting Ron Jeremy with Dr. James Dobson requires only four degrees of separation if you go through me, and only three if you go through my dad.

18. In 1997, I spent Thanksgiving weekend staying with my friends Matt and Liana at our friend Rob’s dorm in Manhattan. Our final night was a long stroll from Greenwich Village to the World Trade Center, where we paid our money, rode to the roof, and made a sweet memory at a place that no longer exists.

19. I do not believe the official story of what happened on September 11th, 2001.

20. The best argument I have ever heard against any conspiracy theory came from a family member who is also an employee of the FBI. He said that the a combination of ego, bureaucracy, and incompetence keep the federal government barely functioning as it is. Someone still needs to explain why building 7 fell down in a neat little pile.

21. There was a double murder on my parent’s street on Memorial Day, 2005. We drove past the scene about 45 seconds after it happened, and neither the police or the paramedics had yet arrived. The shooter hid in the hills overnight and killed a mother of three the next morning before stealing her car and driving to the Wal-Mart in Simi Valley, where he shot himself once the police arrived. I have not once driven past that house without seeing it’s former owner lying in a pool of his own blood on the lawn. Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley consistently vie for #1 and #2 as the safest city in the United States with a population greater than 100,000 people.

22. My wife still never locks her car.

23. I think the first and second seasons of Alias were some of the finest examples of writing in the history of episodic television. I also think seasons three, four, and five were some of the worst. I wish I knew what happened to that writing staff.

24. Perhaps the most interesting, interactive, engaging tour I have ever taken was of the Taylor Guitar factory in El Cajon, CA.

25. Famous People I have met, or encountered in everyday life, in no particular order: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Heather Locklear, Richie Sambora, Mark Hamill, Denise Richards, Will Smith, Geena Davis, Avril Lavigne, Jodie Foster, Jim Caviezel, Don Henley, Will.I.Am, Keith Green, Brandy, Kelsey Grammar, David Hasslehoff, Pat Boone, Norman Lear, Kirk Cameron, That Chick Who Played Small Wonder, That Dude Who Played Newman in The Fugitive, That Guy Who Played The Shrink In The Terminator Movies, Hugh Hefner (See Mike’s list #88).

26. Famous People I have seen via ticketed events: John Mayer, Adam Duritz (Counting Crows), Sheryl Crow, Bill Cosby, Sting, Annie Lennox, Stevie Wonder, Nickel Creek, Garrison Keillor, James Taylor, Santana, Alicia Keys, Fantasia, Jaime Foxx, more CCM artists then I care to admit including Carman.

27. I have a friend who claims to have been slapped in the face by the aforementioned Carman. He probably deserved it. Bobby can confirm or deny.

28. Reflecting back on #26, the list of musicians that I have seen live only vaguely reflects the music that I listen to on a regular basis. I find this somewhat sad.

29. Current Musical Obsessions, in order of preference: The Weepies, Ray LaMontagne, Imogen Heap, Anything Ben Gibbard touches.

30. Speaking from an aesthetic perspective, as well as the witness of two childbirths, I will say with some assurance that the vagina is the single most wonderful thing God ever created.

31. Speaking as a man who prides himself on not being a racist, I would like to ask every Asian female driver in Los Angeles to please stop trying to kill me.

32. Speaking of stereotypes, here are two that I believe are accurate: 1. Christians have too many hangups about sex. 2. Non-Christians have too few.

33. I cannot believe I am only 1/3rd of the way through this project.

34. For the life of me, I cannot decide if The Stand or Ender’s Game is my favorite novel.

35. Wolfgang Peterson has directed some terrific movies, as well as some turkeys. If he blows the movie version of Ender’s Game, I will hunt his German ass down.

36. I’ve been completely burned out on church life twice in my life. The first was in High School, where my experience echoed Mike’s and Stick’s, and the second is right now. My time at Azusa Pacific University helped me survive the first time, and I am hoping that resigning my job as a worship pastor will do the trick this time.

37. I was elected “Most Likely To Appear on Star Search,” my senior year. I was offended until I found out that my female counterpart was an extremely popular cheerleader.
38. The kids in my youth group were cruel, and punished me for taking a very public stand on sexual purity. My habitual mistrust of Christians is rooted there.

39. Cut and Paste alert! I grew up believing that losing your virginity before marriage was just about the biggest sin any child could commit. In order of severity, it was above assault and battery, just below murder, tied with smoking.

40. I wish cigarettes contained vitamins and promoted good citizenship.

41. I am going to find a new way to talk to my kids about sex. I think I’ll start with the truth. For the record, I think my parents did a pretty good job, but were conspired against by a community whose sexual values are pretty FUBAR. Please refer to #32 and #38.

42. The older I get, the more I dislike chain restaurants. In-N-Out Burger violates this rule.

43. I miss 70mm movies. They sounded bigger, and you had to drive to Westwood or Hollywood to really see them right (please refer to #2). In 1994, after a couple of years of the digital revolution, True Lies was the final major studio film released in this format. It sounded huge.

44. When things go pear shaped, I can be a very aggressive consumer, particularly in restaurants and movie theaters, which often embarrasses friends or family. Sometimes, I think they actually like it, because they get what they ordered and didn’t have to take care of it themselves, and once I’m done, the server always pays proper attention to us.

45. I always feel guilty afterwards, no matter how polite or impolite I was. I feel like I should be grateful that I have the opportunity to see a film or eat a meal without complaining about it. It’s my distaste for the impersonal nature of businesses with off site corporate management that drives me to it. I rarely chew out a waiter at a family run business, because I rarely have to. Their boss makes it his or her business to make sure the customer has hot coffee once in a while.

46. I have an abiding love and talent for deadpan irony and satire, oft to the dismay of my wife, when I engage strangers in public spaces or with our daughte, who is three. Toddlers don’t get irony, it turns out.

47. One of the things that I like the most about myself is that I cannot remember the last time I hurt someone’s feelings on purpose. Literally. I cannot remember the last time I was purposefully cruel, even when dealing with a waiter with an attitude.

48. One of the things that I like the least about myself is that I manage to hurt people’s feelings without meaning to.

49. I think the fact that red meat, cigarettes, potato chips, McRib sandwiches, fast cars, unprotected sex, skydiving, polka music, internet dating, movies starring Freddie Prinze Jr., and alcoholic beverages are legal and marijuana is not to be absolutely absurd.

50. I firmly believe that if abortion rights advocates had full intellectual honesty with themselves that they would fight for the right to terminate children up until the age of about seven.

51. I have a bad habit of throwing provocative statements out in a conversation without making justifications for them. See #19 for another example.

52. Roles I have played on stage, in order of preference: The Major General – The Pirates of Penzance, Nicely-Nicely Johnson – Guys and Dolls, Judge Hathorne – The Crucible, Aslan – The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Yes, I know Aslan should have been first, but by heavens it was a terrible production.

53. I have been to Europe one time, in a pre-children, If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium sort of whirlwind tour. English food is truly bad. French people were warm and helpful across the board. Dear Italian men, my wife is not interested in sleeping with you, but your country is lovely. We were strolling in Amsterdam and a man approached us from behind and asked if we were interested in purchasing cocaine. We politely said no, and he said thanks and wished us, and I am quoting here, “A pleasant evening in our fair city,” leading me to observe that that average coke dealer in Amsterdam is more polite than the average waiter in Venice.

54. In order of preference: impressionistic, 20th century, romantic, baroque, classical. Copland’s Appalachian Spring almost reverses the order of the first two. My memory of hearing to Esa-Pekka conduct the L.A. Phil through Ravel’s Bolero keeps them as they are.

55. I think Silverado is the most underrated western of all time.

56. Sometimes I wonder if fundamentalists actually read the Bible.

57. One of my grandmothers was a consummate hostess, a joyous giver, and a lover of children. I only have one memory of my other grandmother doing anything kind for me in my entire life, and it was fixing an authentic crawfish etouffee dinner at her home for our APU small group in the summer of 1997. She recently lived with my parents for three years, and I am certain that one of God’s purposes in that was to help me understand how far my mother has had to journey to become the wonderful human being that she is.

58. Why yes, my distaste for fundamentalism (and the South, for that matter) is rooted in non-objective, totally biased personal experience, thanks for asking.

59. In an effort to make personal growth strides in regard to #51, a brief anecdote: When my sister and I were small, trips to visit family in Baton Rouge included a long speech about, “Yes ma’am, no sir, and speaking when spoken to.” We were poor at it. I was a compliant and tender child, and there was little rebellion in my heart (which is, I believe why my heart is now full of it), and we still got in trouble every single visit. My cousin, who was a southern gentlemen in front of his parents and grandparents, and was regularly used as an example of proper behavior, often told me stories about sneaking beer and smokes from his friend’s parents. I remember, at age eight, thinking that southern culture was total bullshit.

60. I would rather make $1,000,000 from writing a hit song then $10,000,000 from the lottery.

61. I love it when my children fall asleep in my lap, or on my shoulder. I find their breathing soothing, and their limp weight as a sign of total trust in their father.

62. One of my concerns about marrying Erica was the fact that I didn’t find her regularly funny when we were dating, a fact negated by her hotness. She now makes me belly laugh more then any other person I know, remarkable because I’m not a cheap date in this area, and also because we hang with some pretty funny people.

63. My father-in-law is currently the second oldest active Navy Seal in the history of the United States of America. He is also one of the most gentle spirited men I have ever known. Go figure.

64. In order of preference: going to sleep and not waking up, in a plane crash, cancer, drowning, at the hands of violent and unreasonable men. (Link will not cause nightmares, but it should.)

65. Repeat after me: I’m ok, you’re ok. Good! Ok… one more, ready? Chad’s opinion of my musical ability is not a big deal. Don’t you feel better now?

66. I got an 1150 on my SATs. If my memory serves, about 760 points came from the reading comprehension half of the test. Thank heavens musicians only have to be able to count to 3, 4, and 6.

67. Stick holds two friendship-related distinctions in my life: fastest friend (tied with Zack), and the only friend based mostly on time spent on iChat. Sometimes I think that he, Mike, and I were separated at birth.

68. Most of my male friendships started with some pretty heavy-duty rivalry.

69. I have never found a friend’s wife sexually attractive, which is not an indictment of the tastes of my friends, but more a statement about the goodness of God in regards to my own marriage.

70. Remember Matt and Liana from #18? The sweetest summer of my childhood was the summer of 1993. I played the Major General. Matt played the Pirate King. Carrie, my sister, played Ruth. Liana played a female pirate, and was hilarious with absolutely zero spoken dialog. Rob played the police captain. The show killed (who’s ever heard of a teenaged community theater production that sold out every performance?) We met Zack at the end of that summer. Jurassic Park blew our collective minds.

71. I consider my friend Liana to be my “Pre-Erica,” because she loved me as I was. The fact that our friendship never turned romantic (a factoid that frustrated me to no end at the time) means that these two wonderful women can enjoy one another’s company with no baggage. Erica had her as a bridesmaid at our wedding, although I wanted her in a tux in my side. I actually think Erica might have gone for it, but then her friend Ty would have had to wear a dress on her side. That would have been weird.

72. Aly played a similar role in my life, but our friendship began at a time when I was more secure in who I was. She also holds the distinction of being the friend with whom I most often disagree but whose opinions are impossible to write off.

73. Related to #71, Erica has almost a pavlovian distaste for cross-dressing men. When she was a child, her mother’s favorite movie was Tootsie.

74. Nominees that should have won best picture, in order of moral outrage: Saving Private Ryan, Lost in Translation, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Right Stuff, Witness, Beauty and the Beast, Jerry Maguire, The Insider, Traffic, The Aviator, and I’m sorry, but L.A. Confidential and As Good as it Gets are both superior to Titanic, which is not aging well.

75. The professors at Azusa Pacific University are responsible for my love of Scripture. One time, Dr. Joel Hunt referred to King Josiah as “The Roy Hobbs of Jewish Kings – He was the best there ever was,” and I knew I was home.

76. I believe in both heaven and hell, but I don’t think the decision as to who goes where will be as simple as I have been assured it is.

77. In the fullness of time, I believe that the Book of Revelation will provide an accurate guide to the apocalypse, but literal end times interpretations drive me insane. In the history of our faith, dating back to it’s Jewish roots, we’ve never, ever once (as a collective) correctly interpreted the movements of God, even when He provides us with prophecies. How arrogant it is to think we will this time. Sheesh.

78. In the year 3000, I believe the church will have many of the same problems it has now. (HT: Philip Yancey)

79. I believe that Genesis chapters 1-3 are not a literal telling of our beginnings, but a poetic one. On the other hand, I love asking people who don’t believe in the Bible how it is that Moses accurately managed to correctly record the fossil record. Was he psychic?

80. I have never expressed the ideas contained in #s 76-79 aloud on a church campus for fear of being marginalized as a heretic, or weak in my faith. This fact makes me never want to set foot on a church property again, even to pick up my paycheck. We are searching for the truth, right?

81. Climate Change fervor strikes me as something akin to a religious revival for the secular left, and I think it’s kind of cute.

82. I’m scared to death that the conservative right is as wrong on Climate Change today as it was on Civil Rights in the 60′s.

83. Sometimes, I put honey on Honey Nut Cheerios. Did I mention I lost 80 pounds last year?

84. For all the strong opinions I hold, I cannot think of anyone I know who’s undergone as much significant personal change as I have in the past ten years.

85. Nothing makes me angry faster then someone who tried to talk me out of my own feelings. This statement does not refer to measurable facts, but only my feelings, on which I am the world’s leading expert. Please feel free to tell me how you feel in reaction to them. Please tell me about experiences you’ve had that either echo or contradict how I feel. Whatever you do, don’t try and talk me out of them, because then you’ve told me that you care more about feeling comfortable then knowing who I actually am. I promise to do my best to return the favour.

86. I like it when English people spell words with an extra “U.” It looks cool.

87. I cannot decide which is my favorite quote, or which one applies more to my life: “Do I contradict myself? I am large. I contain multitudes.” Walt Whitman. “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” Eric Liddel, in the film Chariots of Fire.

88. As much as I love the film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s worth noting that it was not included in the list compiled in #74. Chariots of Fire is a hell of a good film.

89. My family has sung together as a mixed quartet since my sister and I were very young. One time during a particularly testy rehearsal, my mother turned to me in frustration and said, “Do you think that you can do this better then your father and I can?” I answered truthfully, and said no. Many years later, when I was acting up during a Male Chorale rehearsal, Rod Cathey looked at me and asked me the same question. I answered the same way. To my mom’s credit, she told me once how much it pleased her when my musical abilities surpassed her own. I’m not holding my breath for a phone call from Rod, and if he asked me again, my answer would still be no. In a totally fair world, I should cut those two a percentage of every paycheck I’ve ever received.

91. When they grow up, I hope my children are better musicians then I am, but I won’t be offended if they choose not to be. One thing I did learn from my folks and my in-laws is to celebrate who we are, and not to punish ourselves for we wish we were.

90. I wish I had a deeper relationship with my sister. I believe this would be easier if she would start drinking coffee. It would also be easier if I had been a better big brother.

92. This is the best song I have written so far. You should download it right now. It’s really, really good, and the reason it’s so good is because I have great friends. Also, if there was any doubt in your mind that my wife is a brilliant singer, this track should also help you deal with that sin in your life.

93. Salespeople who succeed with me are the ones who seem to genuinely believe in their product.

94. My son is a tank, and my daughter is dainty and likes princesses. People who say that gender roles are assigned by society are full of crap, because they emerged from their mother’s womb that way. Boys and girls are different, kids, and ideology doesn’t change biology, like… ever.

95. I think that the church should be ashamed of the manner in which it has historically treated homosexuals. We totally deserve the beating we’re currently taking in the media.

96. I do not believe homosexuals were born that way, and have no choice in the matter. Most of the time, I choose to remain silent about this belief, as I truly believe what I said in #85. Apparently, I am still guilty of #51.

97. My friend Chris is gay, and taught me early in life that gay people are not the enemies of God, no matter what that asshole Fred Phelps says.

98. I wish I had a more sunny topic of discussion to wind this amazing little project down, but as long as it has taken me, I don’t have the heart to cut, paste, and renumber.

99. Zack has introduced me to more music that I love than any other of my friends. Someday, when Mike, Stick, and I run a label, I am gonna make him the head of A&R. (interested, JC?)

100. I’d rather be in a recording studio with my friends then anywhere else in the world, even The Village (see#2).

101. (Pot Bonus) Several times throughout the writing of this list, I have thought to check my usage of then vs. than. I didn’t, and I’m pretty sure I got several uses wrong, but my kids are up from their nap now, and it’s time to be done.

The End of Childhood

I may be 30 something. I may be a wife and mother. I may have graduated from college, graduate school and have my own business, but just this last week I had to face the end of childhood.

After almost 40 years, my parents are selling their house. My childhood home. The only home I ever knew until leaving for college and starting out on my own. It’s the home where all my memories are from. The place where I brought friends home from school, so we could play dress up in the playhouse in the backyard. It was the place I first learned how to ride a bike, roller skate and put on makeup. It was where I learned that matches hurt if you let them burn down too low, that crayons melt in the heater vents on the floor, that you can slide all the way down the steps on your stomach to save time if you don’t feel like walking. This is where I helped my dad almost build a doll house. This is where I cried over my first crush, where I got ready for my first dance, carved pumpkins, learned to cook and had slumber parties. This is where I learned to drive, had a curfew and late night talks with boys. This is where I proudly brought friends home from choir tours so they could have a restful night at “home” and hot fudge sundaes. This is where Mike nervously asked my dad for my hand in marriage and where I spent my last night before becoming his wife. It is home.

Weiss House

But this period of my life and that of my parent’s life has come to an end. And it’s okay. Actually I was in the party that encouraged them to do so. It’s not as if my parents are settling for anything less than what they’ve known. They have an incredibly gorgeous home in Northern Washington on 10 beautiful acres, complete with 3 ponds, a horse pasture, wine in the making and a forest to get lost in. A grandkids’ paradise. Oh yeah, and a new playhouse that kicks the old playhouse’s butt.

But this past week I’ve been nostalgic. I came up to the Bay Area for the week with Sophia, to help my parents pack. Now, many of you readers have actually been to my parent’s home in Oakland and know that this is no small task. As I have said, my parents have lived there for almost 40 years. My parents, especially my mom, are what you call “collectors”. They have incredible antiques, and more collections than one can count, or would even want to. My mom is an entertainer, and has all the dishes, service wear, linens, and centerpieces to go along with it. This past week has been exhausting, but gratifying. I accomplished a lot. I got to go through memories. I got to throw things away! (Something I’ve always secretly wanted to do ☺) It’s been an emotional time for my parents, who are not only moving their lives, but having to make difficult financial decisions along the way as well. It’s hard to have painters, realtors, stagers and more come in and tell you all the ways that your house is imperfect or not quite right for the cliental who will want to buy it. It slowly starts becoming a building and less and less your home. It slowly starts becoming some one else’s home, even though you don’t know who that might be yet. And that feels weird.

Then there are all those projects that are finally being done, that you just never had the time or money for. Now you get to see them through, for someone else. Oh well.

Having Sophia with me was great. True, she could unpack a box just as quickly as I could pack it. But man, my parent’s house was a paradise for a curious 20 month old. She had a great time exploring. It helped rejuvenate my mom and dad to have her around. Nothing like taking a break from hauling boxes to zerbert a little tummy or help color the boxes in the living room with crayons. I loved watching her explore my old toys, my old haunts. I loved bathing her in the same great bath tub that I used to sit in with my sister Heather as our dad would sit at the doorway singing old 20s songs on his ukelele. I laughed as she discovered the joy of dropping coins through the slots in the railing up stairs just to watch them land on the steps below. I loved watching her climb up on the big couches and chairs and just sit and look at her books while the hustle and bustle went on around her.

I needed this time. I needed to let go, to say goodbye. I needed a chance to sort through life, memories and unnecessary necessities. In saying goodbye I could be excited for what is ahead for my mom and dad, and for my own kids. I’m glad I could have this week with Sophia here in my childhood home, even if I’ll be the only one with the memory of it. I’m excited that she and peanut 2 will have new memories in Washington, of adventure and family. I know that home is where my family is, not just this structure. I love that my family has become more than my mom, dad and siblings. I love that Mike and I have a chance to one day have our own home to help build memories in. That my own children will have to go through all my junk and ask me why I kept it all. I’m excited for all the life there is ahead of us. I can let go of the past 30 years without losing any of the memories. I don’t need the building to help me hang on to those. I don’t need all of my childhood toys or old letters to help me recall the love and compassion that was shared under this roof.

100 Things, mostly about stick

(Ed: Stick left this as a comment on a previous post, but we have a house rule about comments not being more than 93 pages long, so I bumped it up to make it a post.)

Ok, so June wrote this for me. For the most part it’s very accurate. This is a good marriage excercise. Of course, guys, if you can only get to like #12, maybe it’s not such a good thing.

1. I started playing the piano because I was six and my parents decided I should take lessons.
2. If I hadn’t gone into music, I would’ve studied architecture.
3. I lived in the same house growing up – my parents didn’t move until I went to college.
4. I got really sick on a trip to Poland and on the endless flights home, was nearly brought to tears by a Herbie movie.
5. I really like technology….just for technology’s sake.
6. Eating is ok, but I’d be ok with not eating too…like, it would be handy if I could just take a pill like they did on Star Trek.
7. I’m 35 and feeling it. I feel alternately young (and like it when people think I am and are therefore especially impressed at how good
8. I am at what I do) and old (and hate it when my body hurt when I think it shouldn’t and I know that the main reason I’m good at what I do is because of how long I’ve been doing it.)
9. I can paint straight lines. No taping necessary.
10. I’m handier than most: if it’s broken, I can probably fix it or at least figure out why it needs to be fixed.
11. I wasn’t allowed to listen to pop music or even CCM as a child.This is not especially handy now that I’m a record producer.
12. For years, my first instinct, when asked a question, was to give a fairly positive, fairly vague answer. Because of my wife’s influence, I’ve learned to think about what I really think/mean and now give more accurate answers to questions asked of me. She still says that I’m not as in touch with my feelings as I could be. She’s probably right, but man, it takes so much energy…and golfing is way more fun than thinking about how I feel! Hey….I feel like golfing!
13. I attended Catholic church through my first communion. My parents then started attending an Assemblies of God church. I’m hyper- sensitive and overly critical of anything even remotely resembling spiritual coersion thanks to the Assemblies folks. Because of this, I’m rarely, if ever, comfortable being in the congregation during the “worship” (music) portion of a service. I pretty much have to be playing an instrument as part of the worship team or I’m fidgety and distracted and dissecting the music in every way. It’s partially a vocational hazard but might have some spiritual aspect to it as wellin that perhaps I’m not comfortable with music in church unless I have some control over it. I don’t know.
14. I can read really fast. I like reading almost anything but self-help books. Especially if they are Christian self-help books. (Yes, I realize the irony of that last sentence. You know what I mean.) I would really be content to eat a total of 10-20 foods. (see #6)
15. I don’t like listening to music when I’m not working. It’s what I do all day. When I’m not working, I’d prefer it to be quiet.
16. I once brought a very new girlfriend two dozen roses because when I stopped off to get just one rose for her, they were having a sale on a dozen and then there some special deal thing where you could get two dozen for an amazingly low price. She thought I was REALLY into her. I wasn’t. Oops.
17. When I was in high school, I performed a few concerts for my friends and family where I talked and sang from the piano. I wrote all the lyrics and all the music.
18. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of times spent with my grandfather in Montana.
19. I took a class on National Parks in college and can tell you a lot about any given one of them to this day.
20. I like rocks. I can tell you about different kinds of rocks and how they got to be where they are.
21. I had straight A’s almost always.
22. I dated a senior girl when I was a freshman in high school.
23. Sometimes I literally can’t think of a single thing to say to people in social settings.
24. If I could, I would golf every day.
25. I seriously considered becoming a ski bum after I graduated from college.
26. The car I had in college got flooded…along with the parking lot it was sitting in.
27. A good friend of mine (we were later business partners) and I alternately dated the same girl in college. We remained friends throughout.
28. I nearly break out in hives if I have to go in a Christian bookstore. I’m a Christian and I like books but I find that usually when Christians create environments for other Christians I feel like…I dunno. (See #11)
29. I love my children but at their current ages, they also drive me nuts.
30. Whenever people learn that I’m a music producer they almost always say, “Oh!” This is usually followed by a pause and then one of the following: “So, you do that full-time?” …”Have I heard anything you’ve done?” ….”What does a producer do?”… “What kind of music do you…uh…make, er, do?”
31. I have a birth mark on the iris in one of my eyes.
32. When I scored a highly lucrative national jingle my first year out of college, I thought that making money in the music industry would be no problem.
33. The piano teacher I had when I was in junior high and the beginning of high school took me to a music camp in Colorado that affected me greatly. I saw the Rockies for the first time, heard Steve Taylor talk about contemporary Christian music before it was called CCM and collected McDonald’s monopoly game pieces for thousands of miles. (No purchase necessary…we’d go through the drive-thru and ask for them.) [These were actually two separate stories with the same teacher.]
34. I’m not great at sight-reading.
35. I seriously impressed my wife-to-be by playing her my senior recital of Pictures at an Exhibition while driving her to see the sights in Chicago. The fact that I played that piece and could tell her about each “picture” is, perhaps, why she decided to marry me.
36. I think I could make a decent to good solo cd. I just need 30 hour days.
37. I can hardly remember a thing from before I was around age nine.
38. I really liked my high school nerd herd. I wonder what they’re each up to now.
39. I grew up believing that losing your virginity before marriage was just about the biggest sin any child could commit. In order of severity, it was above assault and battery, just below murder, tied with smoking. (This is a direct copy of #39 from a friend’s list. Apparently, there are many of us from the same tribe.)
40. Golfing and hanging out with my wife or skiing and hanging out with my wife is a perfect day to me.
41. I have trouble taking people with a Southern accent seriously.
42. I don’t drink coffee.
43. I feel like I should be able to quote more Bible verses than I can.
44. I find relating to people to be fairly exhausting.
45. I find musical history fascinating.
46. I like modern art, even when I don’t get it. I don’t think “getting it” is crucial.
47. I couldn’t fall asleep while laying on my back if you paid me but I’m told that I end up in that position frequently.
48. I’m currently preparing for my third trip to Poland where I produce an Irish recording artist in a Russian-built studio. [Actually, he’s Scottish and would be HIGHLY offended if you called him “Irish”.]
49. The most alcohol I’ve ever consumed in one sitting is half a glass of wine. [I had a whole glass of Dom Perignon once.]
50. I’ve never smoked a cigarette.
51. My wife thinks I own a lot of gear. There’s always room for more.
52. When my wife was in labor with our first child, I threw up.
53. I like movies. Because they are the quintessential cheap thrill to me, my expectations for them are low and I’m therefore content if there is anything even remotely entertaining/thought provoking/funny/ weird or different about them.
54. I can’t stand talk-radio shows with callers. The lack of intellect and logic of the average caller makes me want to hurl myself off a cliff.
55. My wife and I spent more money on our honeymoon than we did on our wedding.
56. If I had the means, I’d probably drive a really fast car.
57. I’m sure I’d be a better pianist if I’d grown up with more music happening around me.
58. I can run countless computer programs at the same time, whilst simultaneously IMing and talking on the phone but when my wife is trying to talk with me while the boys are making a ruckus, I seriously can’t focus on what she’s saying.
59. I love my parents and admire how they raised me…but I’d go seriously nuts if I had to live much of my adult life as they lived theirs.
60. Sometimes I’m jealous of other people’s money/skills/opportunities.
61. I want to go to Alaska.
62. Even though working in the music industry has not been how I expected it to be, I’m still glad that I do what I do.
63. I like almost anything made out of wood.
64. Right after I proposed to my wife, I bought her a car. Always good to seal the deal.
65. I might pursue a spot on The Champions Tour someday.
66. Looking at art in galleries is fun only because I married an artist.
67. Attending a Pampered Chef party is akin to getting kicked in the crotch.
68. I took two college courses—Interpersonal Communications and Calculus— the summer before my freshman year of college. I got an A in the communications class and a B+ in calculus. The prof in the interpersonal communications class would urge me on, saying things like “Yes, what Brian is saying is right on!” This is perhaps The Most Ironic Fact of my entire life. And, if I weren’t so honest, my wife would simply not believe it to be true.
69. I make barely audible scoffing sounds in my throat when bad musicians/ vocalists perform at churches.
70. I know my wife will always tell me her honest opinion about the music I create.
71. I think most people assume I make more money than I do.
72. I still cringe when people around me use swear words. It’s a remnant of my conservative upbringing. (Again, a copy. See #39)
73. Reading, in order of preference: spy novels, science fiction, anything golfy, historical fiction. [I’m not sure I’d use the term “golfy”, but the sentiment is right.]
74. I’ve always voted Republican, but at this point, I’m at somewhat of a loss.
75. I sometimes like to wash down a heap of cookies with a soda.
76. I remember my dad’s 30th birthday party.
77. I can’t wait until my sons are old enough to go golfing, mountain- biking and skiing with me. And they stop whining.
78. I’m surprised at how often in life one is simply winging it.
79. Sometimes I’m not sure whose family is weirder: mine or my wife’s.
80. If I lived alone, there would be a lot of blue in my house.
81. I have no desire to be a runner.
82. I basically didn’t listen to pop music until I was in college.
83. I’d go a little nutty if I had to live in a giant city.
84. When I was ages 6-8, my mom gave me a new Hot Wheels if I practiced the piano every day for a week. It was a sweet gig.
85. I’d rather give piano lessons to an advanced teenager than to a child who is just beginning to learn. Maybe that will change.
86. If I got to ski with any regularity, I’d get good at it fast.
87. I admire Michael W. Smith.
88. I don’t get the appeal of porn.
89. I’m grateful for my in-laws and their abilities.
90. I think my grandfather was one of the coolest men ever.
91. I’d do just about anything to help out my parents.
92. I suffer from allergies every stinkin’ spring.
93. I like telling my sons things like: “The car is making that sound because it’s powered by giant lizards and right now they’re really hungry!”
94. My wife thinks I could play nearly any instrument in the world.
95. I’ve learned how to build great fires.
96. I rarely feel anxiety about things I can’t do anything about.
97. I know I should generally be more ‘up on things’ but it takes more will power than I usually have to wrap my mind around anything that I don’t naturally find interesting. Basically, I could live a fairly simple life and be quite content with it.
98. Even though I love what I do, about half the time I’m still stressed about income and partially annoyed with how my career has gone thus far. But, being partially annoyed only about half the time is not so bad really.
99. I’d buy almost anything made by Apple.
100. The inside of my dresser looks like someone shook it.

100 Things, mostly about me

Blogging is primarily about prolonging adolescent narcissism. That being the case, I’ve decided to spend an entire post talking about my favorite topic, me. This works out well for you, the reader, since I happen to be a fascinating and utterly important person.

With apologies to TAN for the idea, here are 100 things, mostly about me.

  1. I started playing the piano because I couldn’t stand the fact that my brother could do something I couldn’t do.
  2. I’ve voted in every election for which I was eligible to vote, excluding a few local city elections.
  3. I lived in the same house growing up – my parents never moved.
  4. The longest I’ve ever spent sitting in one place doing the same thing was 48 hours. It was a video game. Morrowind.
  5. I really don’t like technology. I view it as a necessary evil that stands in between me, and the things I love to do.
  6. In order of preference: whiskey, beer, wine.
  7. I cheated my way into the state science fair. Not in the usual, have your parents help you way, but in the “elaborately faked the entire experiment” way.
  8. I am an Eagle scout.
  9. Give me any substance, and I can probably find a way to set it on fire (see #6, #8).
  10. I was introduced to Tower of Power by a guy named Rosy, after which I listened to them for 3 years straight.
  11. If I don’t know the answer to something, my first instinct is to bluff. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve learned to overcome that impulse.
  12. I was adopted as an newborn, and raised by wolves. Ok, they weren’t wolves, but they were fundamentalists.
  13. I regularly claim to have read books that I’ve really only skimmed.
  14. I love new foods. I’m willing to try almost anything once.
  15. I don’t like listening to most jazz. I’d much rather play it than listen to it.
  16. In high school, I once very publicly made out with a girl that I knew was using me to get back at her ex-boyfriend. I didn’t care. I liked the kissing. This is really funny if you think about it – I can’t think of a worse person to use for your jealousy-inducing schemes than a chess-playing drum major.
  17. Oh yeah, I was the drum major in our high school marching band.
  18. My bloodlines are Irish, and my family lines are Norwegian. (see #12. and probably also #6.)
  19. I’ve camped in over 50 national parks. As a kid we used to drive in a big green van all summer long, just camping and fighting, camping and fighting.
  20. I can calculate gas mileage in my head to 2 decimal points. My dad used to make us do it when we stopped for gas.
  21. I went to college at APU because I didn’t have the grades to go anywhere else. Back in the day, with a high SAT score and a 2.2 GPA, you could still get in.
  22. The movie “Amadeus” was a significant event in my young musical development. For the first time I realized that music could help me with the ladies.
  23. I can’t do small talk. My one trick for surviving social situations is to constantly ask questions about the other person. They either find me fascinating, or they fake their own death until I wander away.
  24. In order of preference: B3, electric guitar, drums, bass, rhodes, piano, woodwinds.
  25. Corey Witt is the fastest friend I’ve ever made. 30 seconds after I met him, we were practically making out.
  26. I bought my first car for $50. It was a Chevy van. I bought it from the police chief of Camarillo, who was also one of the leaders in our boy scout troop.
  27. I’ve only been in two serious romantic relationships in my life. The first was an unmitigated train-wreck, from beginning to end. The second seems to be working out.
  28. I prefer to be contrary in debates. I’ll defend a position I don’t really believe just to be on the other side.
  29. I constantly joke about how advanced my daughter Sophia is, but the truth is, I really do think she’s a freekin’ genius.
  30. Sometimes, when students come by my office just to hang out, I just want them to go away and leave me alone. It’s hard to hide when you have a window in your door.
  31. There’s a growth under the skin on my back that I’ve been ignoring for 9 months.
  32. The two musical projects that have made me the most money are also the two that I’m the most embarrassed of.
  33. My 7th grade teacher died the summer after we were in his class. He spent summers on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska, his boat capsized, and he died of hypothermia. He was 30. I had nightmares my whole 8th grade year.
  34. I’m not very good at directing vocalists.
  35. While finishing my master’s degree, I took a post-graduate reading course in systematic ethics. It was the only time in my life that I sat in a class and thought, “I’m the dumbest person in this room. I actually might not have the raw mental horse-power to get through this with a passing grade.”
  36. I still believe that if I ever give it an honest shake, I can make a career as a singer-songwriter.
  37. You have to go three steps removed from my immediate family before you’ll find anyone who has been divorced. I’m proud of that, even though I don’t have anything to do with it.
  38. I hated youth group. It was a continuation of the social humiliation of high-school, but with some Jesus sprinkled in.
  39. I grew up believing that losing your virginity before marriage was just about the biggest sin any child could commit. In order of severity, it was above assault and battery, just below murder, tied with smoking.
  40. The patio at the Getty might be my favorite place in the world. We’ll see if that’s still true when we get back from Rome this summer.
  41. My senior year of college, I co-led a small group with Jud Shelton. It was one of the best creative partnerships I’ve ever had.
  42. My first jazz gig was for $20 and all the coffee you could drink. I had 12 espresso shots in two hours, and didn’t sleep for a week.
  43. I have a little crush on Susan Sarandon.
  44. I can’t tell if I have a massive inferiority complex that I overcompensate for with false ego, or if I’m a raging ego-maniac who masks it with false humility. Either way, I’m pretty much a disaster.
  45. I think I might have been born 20 years too late. I would have liked to have been a musician in the 70s.
  46. I find most post-WW2 visual art to be pretentious.
  47. My depression usually manifests as insomnia.
  48. I’ve written 9 books. And by written, I mean I started the forward and dedication, and then left it at that.
  49. I have a criminal record that was expunged when I turned 18.
  50. I take baths. Very, very hot baths.
  51. Jeans and a black T-shirt is pretty much my uniform.
  52. My blood type is O-negative. That makes me a universal donor. Anyone can drink my blood.
  53. The movie Philadelphia, the scene where Tom Hanks is explaining the aria to, I dunno, some other character? That was the first time I understood why people love opera.
  54. I listen to Public Radio, but I’ve never become a financial supporter. It’s a political thing. They can’t manage to get that condescending tone out of their voice whenever they talk about conservatives.
  55. The rehearsal dinner for our wedding was one of the most wonderful nights of my life. We are blessed with great friends, who also happen to be witty and engaging public speakers. This makes for a perfect rehearsal dinner.
  56. Anytime I’m about to call myself a fan of something, I stop and think about Ash his all-consuming love of U2, and then I don’t call myself a fan.
  57. I still get nervous every single time I walk through the door into my classroom to teach.
  58. I once struck out in T-ball. Do you know how bad you have to suck to strike out in T-ball? Three swings and I couldn’t hit a stationary target two feet in front of me. This was a pivotal moment in my sports career.
  59. I make up quotes, then attribute them to Benjamin Franklin, because it sounds more true if he said it.
  60. My mother is a nurse, and my father was a high school math teacher, and they own a million-dollar home, with no debt. I don’t think there will ever be another time in history when that will be possible.
  61. When my jeans don’t fit, I blame the dryer. I don’t think that’s the appliance that’s responsible, though. I think it’s the fridge.
  62. Age 21 was a good year for me. I think I came into possession of my own mind at age 21.
  63. Decorative styles, in order of preference: Shaker, Japanese modern, Restoration Hardware.
  64. When Gretchen was pregnant with Sophia, I sold my character in a text-based online role-playing game for $600, and bought a video camera and a nursery rocking chair. You might think it’s crazy that someone would pay me $600 for a character in a game with no graphics, but you have to keep in mind that it was a high-level archer / mage team with a complete set of elvish armor.
  65. I think most people who go to college shouldn’t. This is doubly true for graduate school.
  66. Jeff Buckley’s version of “Broken Hallelujah” might be the perfect recording.
  67. It’s hard for my to explain how important JP Moreland was to my rediscovered faith. I listened to him give a 2 hour lecture on the Kalaam Cosmological Argument for the existence of a creator, and I decided that night to go to graduate school and get a degree in theology.
  68. I scored a 1450 on my SATs. Just so you whipper-snappers know, that was back in the day, with the old SAT, back when 1450 really meant something.
  69. I once heard a worship leader describe the song “Shout to the Lord” as the new Amazing Grace. It made my stomach turn.
  70. I almost never go out of my way to listen to live music. I figure it it’s any good, it’ll eventually end up being played on MTV, and I’ll hear it during their Supa Jamz Remix Hour.
  71. I’m always mystified when people ask me, “How do you know that?” in response to some random piece of trivia I happen to know. Are there people out there who actually remember where all of their knowledge comes from? If so, they must be freekin’ geniuses.
  72. I still cringe when people around me use swear words. It’s a remnant of my conservative upbringing.
  73. Reading, in order of preference: science fiction, philosophy essays, historical fiction.
  74. I call myself an Evangelical Christian, but that might not mean what you think it means.
  75. I don’t have a sweet tooth. I would rather have something sour or salty, most of the time.
  76. I seem smarter than I really am when I’m chatting on IM, but it’s just because I’m really fast at googling.
  77. I was part of the beta-testing for Facebook, and was the first person with an apu.edu email account to sign-up.
  78. Writing for strings is one of my favorite things to do.
  79. At the beginning of this year, I deleted my myspace account. I don’t need that kind of pressure in my life.
  80. I think most people like talking about art more than they like experiencing it.
  81. I’ve never run a mile in my life.
  82. Our family didn’t have a television in the house until I was about 13.
  83. The mountains and the ocean form the quotation marks around my view of the world. I could never live in the mid-west.
  84. When I was younger, I used to ride my bike over the hill to the Catholic church, and sit in the back to pray, or play the piano if nobody else was in the sanctuary.
  85. I once played keyboards while wearing a pig-tailed wig and gingham dress on live television. It was for a Korean star-search type program, and I was in the house band.
  86. I can ski double-black-diamond runs without falling. As far as I can tell, this has zero potential as a crime-fighting superhero power.
  87. I picture the internet as a web of blue streams of light.
  88. At Ash’s bachelor party, I watched Hugh Hefner and his 7 bunnies step over the body of a drunk man who had just been tazered by the bouncers at The Barfly. It was a very LA moment.
  89. I became an Angel’s fan during their 2002 run-up to the world series.
  90. My parents kept a bookshelf of their old college textbooks right next to my bed when I was growing up. I fell asleep reading about things like economic theory.
  91. I learned a lot of what I know about how to be a man, a husband, and a father from my father-in-law.
  92. I have no allergies. At least, none that I’ve discovered. We’ll see if that’s still true when we get back from Rome.
  93. Writing parts for, in order of preference: altos, baritones, true basses, tenors, sopranos.
  94. A list of instruments that I have received money for playing professionally: piano and all manner of keyboards, saxophone, bassoon, electric bass, acoustic guitar, shaker, congas, voice, and accordion.
  95. I’ve never taken any illegal substance, but I would be curious to try marijuana, if it’s ever legalized. Like in Vegas or someplace.
  96. I believe that when the history of the United States is written in 500 years, there will be only 3 things that get discussed: our constitution, the civil rights movement, and Jazz.
  97. The most awkward meal of my life was sitting at a table across from Melissa Etheridge.
  98. I feel a little guilty about how easy my advancement in academic life has been. Don’t get me wrong, I believe I am qualified for my job, and I think I’m pretty good at it, but there are many people of whom that can be said, and most of them wait a lot longer than I have to find a full-time faculty position at a University. I owe Phil an enormous debt for his faith in me, and his belief that I’m the right person for my post. You all have no idea how big that guy’s guns are around this place. He could probably get Charles Manson an interview for the Professor of Ethics position, if he really tried.
  99. I am a mac fan-boy, and unashamed of it. It is beautiful technology.
  100. I rarely finish projects that I start, so I’m pretty proud of getting to #100. Beers all around! (but not for you APU students – when you drink it makes Baby Jesus cry. But when Professor Lee drinks, that’s perfectly fine, because … well, it just is. Deal with it.)

A note to my young songwriting friends

Do me a favor. Take that heart-felt emotional ballad you’ve just written, and place it in the hands of a trusted friend. Ask them to read the lyrics, and circle any metaphors they’ve heard before.

Then, cut them out. Do it now. Show no mercy. Think of a different way to say whatever it is you want to say. You’ll thank me 6 hours into the recording session.

Sincerely,

The guy

beth orton
photo by Neil Wykes

Episode 39, In Which I Save The World

… from having to endure one more hackneyed network sitcom.

I got a call last week from a company called “Audience Studies”, offering me the chance to win valuable non-cash prizes in exchange for giving my opinion on a new show. I thought to myself (as I often do), “I watch television. I like valuable non-cash prizes. My opinion is valuable. I’ll do it!”

The DVD arrived. We popped it in ye olde laptope.

And, for the next 15 minutes, sat through the most miserable train-wreck of a sitcom ever. Stop me if you’ve seen this one:

GUIDO: husband, mouth-breathing moron with excessive back hair whose only skills seems to be figuring out mathematically the most offensive and inane thing to say in any given situation, and then saying it. Think New Jersey Italian trashy, but with a bigger beer gut and less hair.

BETTY: wife, peppy, fashionable, and oh so quick with the witty one-liners. We assume that she married Guido in a fit of youthful rebellion, and has been sticking it out for the last 16 years for the sake of the kids.

GREG: best friend of Guido, single, constantly getting Guido into trouble with Betty by suggesting horrible ideas, which Guido then acts out with simple-minded obedience. Serves as intellectual foil for Guido.

JILL: teenage daughter of Betty and Guido, more emotionally stable than either of them. (casting note: should be played by a short 26-year-old, unhealthily obsessed with her own cleavage)

RICKY: preteen son of Betty and Guido, socially awkward genius. With computers, and whatnot.

INT. BREAKFAST TABLE – MORNING

JILL: So dad, what did you get mom for her birthday today?

GUIDO: Same as always, a box of chocolates and a coupon for a free oil change.

(audience laughs)

JILL: Daaaaaaad!

(audience laughs)

GUIDO: What? No good?

JILL: No, dad. The art of gift giving, or Futakaido as the Japanese call it, involves selecting an object that suggests the thematic subtext of the relationship. It should say something about the giver, and something about the receiver, eliciting an unspoken acknowledgement of the relationship between them. (sticks chest out)

GUIDO: Right! That’s why it’s perfect – I know her car needs an oil change, and she likes chocolate!

(audience laughs)

JILL: Daaaaaaad!

(audience laughs)

GUIDO: I’ll never understand you broads!

RICKY: Here Dad (shows him laptop screen). I built a cross-indexed database of mom’s personal preferences, by price and seduction potential. I then hyper-texted a link to the internet shopping, so you can e-buy something for her.

GUIDO: Computers! (throws hands up)

(audience laughs)

JILL: Daaaaaaad!

(audience laughs)

INT. SEEDY BAR – MORNING

GUIDO: … so, anyways, I gots to get something for Betty for hers birthdays.

GREG: The oil-change didn’t work out?

GUIDO: Nah, Jill says I gotta get her something Japanese, like a Futa kaka, or whatever.

(audience laughs)

GREG: Jill said that? Huh. (Pause) Great set of cans on that kid.

(long pause – audience laughs awkwardly)

BARTENDER: Another round?

GUIDO: God yes.

GREG: So you need to get her something Japanese, that symbolizes the relationship, expressing something you like, and something she likes, and you need it by tonight?

GUIDO: Yeah

GREG: I got it! Get her a …

GUIDO: Don’t say stripper!

GREG: … nevermind.

(audience laughs)

GUIDO: Can you for one minute stop thinking about cans and help me out here?

GREG: Sorry – yes. (pause, then abjectly) No.

(audience laughs)

GUIDO: Well, yous clearly ain’t gonna help much. I gotta get to work anyway.

BARTENDER: Here you are, gentlemen.

GUIDO: Can I get that to go?

INT. LIVING ROOM – EVENING

GUIDO: Hey everybody, I’m home!

(Betty, Jill, Ricky enter)

BETTY: Hi sweety! How was work today?

GUIDO: It was good – that new receptionist is such a flirt. She’s hot too. Man, I’d love to just …

JILL: Daaaaaaad!

(audience laughs)

BETTY: Jill, it’s fine, honey. It’s been years since my sense of sexual identity was tied to your father’s interest. Now, my self-perception is constructed entirely from bits and pieces of sexual innuendo cast my way by anonymous gawkers in public places. Why do you think I wear these tight velour sweat-pants with the word “Juicy” on the butt whenever I run errands around town?

GUIDO: Haha! Broads!

(audience laughs, but in a pitiful self-loathing way)

RICKY: So, dad, what did you get Mom for her birthday?

GUIDO: Well, I did like you said, and got her something Japanese (reaches into pocket, pulls out two fistfuls of raw salmon fillet). It’s Sushi! Happy Birthday, baby.

BETTY, JILL, RICKY: Daaaaaaaad! (Jill sticks chest out)

GUIDO: (to camera) What’d I do?

ROLL CREDITS

We actually turned it off after the first 15 minutes, because we couldn’t stand to finish it. It was that awful. When they called back to ask my opinion on the show, I did the only honorable thing: I suggested they buy 3 seasons, and run it opposite Studio 60.

You can thank me when the fall line-up comes out.

My Dearest Schmoopykins

Well, Aly and Ash have demonstrated how devastatingly awesome good poetry can be, and I’m starting to feel like my own poetic abilities are under-appreciated. In order to regain the love of you philistines and plebeians, I hereby present a work of unparalleled beauty and rhymyness. Hopefully, this will make my wife’s little heart spin in a tizzy.

You are always on my mind
Here you will find my thoughts, outlined
Gretchen my dear sweetheart
I really feel my life did just start

Gretchen, you are unbelievably beautiful
Not having met you earlier makes me feel like a fool
I’m not sure you will like my poem
But know that my heart is overthrown

Being with you makes everything else so futile
Being with you makes life really worthwhile
My love is so strong it makes me fly
I love you immensely, that I cannot deny

I hope you can put this my funky jams to use
Being with you still blows my fuse
I look forward to our next moment together
Even when it is raining it feels like the best weather

This work of enduring poetic genius brought to you by …

love poem generator

The Accidental DJ

So, here’s how we spent our new year’s eve. It’s an epic tale, a veritable odyssey of awkward fun. It started like this:

“What are you doing for new years? Yolanda and I (the names have not been changed to protect the innocent, as this story is deeply entrenched in affection) are throwing a huge bash and I would love for you to come and play a few of your songs for a couple hundred of our closest friends. It’ll be so cool!”

Sounds good, Anthony.

Remember Anthony? He’s the cat who convinced me that I could lose 1/3 of my bodyweight. I’m there, dude.

The phone call comes about three weeks ago. “So… we’re still good for New Year’s. It’s gonna be so awesome! We’re gonna rawk the 70′s rock, and the theme of the party is love. I want you to do that song you did in church about love, man (more on this in a moment) We have the tent in the back, bartender, I’m doing a whole video and picture montage for the party guests, and I’ve got everything just totally set up for you, and all you need to get is a piano and a sound system.”

Oh… is that all?

“Don’t worry… money’s no problem, just lemme know.”

You got it man, we Dailies aim to please.

Phone calls go out to friends who rent that type of gear. I hit him back with this a day or so later, “Ok, it’s gonna be $400-$500 to rent the piano, and I’m still working on the sound system. They’re strangely all booked for New Year’s Eve.”

“Ok, well that’s a lot to rent a piano. I think I could buy one for like two grand. We’ve been looking for just the reason for awhile anyways. I’ll just buy one and have it delivered. Oh, and also, Dave from church said he could set up sound, so just call him and tell you what you need.”

What I need is the same thing that I’ve needed since time began, homie, 88 keys and (2) 58s. Reverb is optional. Delay is recommended, because we put down is worth hearing at least one more time.

A few days later: “Ok, so, we’re gonna have to go to plan B on the piano thing, there’s just no way I have time to buy a piano before Sunday.”

Plan B (schlepping Erica’s digital piano from her teaching studio) is already in effect, as we Dailies saw this coming.

“Oh, and my friend Bruce is going to call you. He sings jazz, and I want you to do something together. He’s the coolest, you’ll love him”

Anything you say, brother man. It’s all good. Peace and love in the ’07.

Couple of days pass. Ring, ring. “Hey, it’s Bruce! I hear you’re a magnificent pianist.”

Sure man, I know all the Chris Tomlin songs and I can do them in all of God’s approved keys, which are, of course, D, G, C, E, and A in a pinch. I am not, under even the most generous and, for the sheer sake of argument, intoxicated, circumstances, a magnificent pianist.
I play piano like a frustrated guitar player, all major sevenths and angst.

“Well, how about ‘Fly Me to The Moon’ in C, you know that?”

Dude, I can fake nearly anything in C, as long as it has those handy dandy little chord symbols. Send the sandwich, bring da funk.

I call Anthony a few days later.

So, we’re gonna do our song Loved for you guys, as per the theme of the night. What else you got in mind? (Thinking about the other nine songs on the album we’re trying to promote.)

“What about that song you did in church a few months ago. You sang love like a bazillion times. Could you do that song too? I asked you about it that day, but you said you didn’t write it. Can you think of it?”

The strange thing is that I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out which song he meant. I had to bust out my service order file at work and thumb through the services of the past year to figure out what he was taking about. I found it and called him.

I remember the tune, it’s called “After the Last Tear Falls,” and it was written by Andrew Peterson.

I sang him a few bars, and he shouted with recognition. “That’s it, man… that’s the one.”

Ever the service planner, I think to myself… So, lemme see here. We’re gonna have 150 people with an open bar and the most gregarious host I know. By the time 10:30 rolls around, they’re gonna be in a pretty lubricated mood. We’re gonna then sing them a love song about our children and then a song that describes God’s love at the end of some achingly beautiful and heartbreaking lyrics. Then some dude named Bruce is gonna hand me a chart for “Fly Me To The Moon,” in C, and we’re gonna swing away.

What could possibly go wrong?

I arrive at their house in the afteroon to begin setting up our gear. Dave from church, the biggest servant-hearted cat in town, brings over the Church’s little portable system. We get set up and sound checked, and Yolanda (Anthony’s wife) says, “So… Anthony has all these CDs ready to go for background music. Can we play them through the system?”

Yes.

Then the question that will eventually turn my night hilarious. “So… you have an iPod or something you could bring? I might want to have something more… modern… to dance to later in the night. You got any Beyonce?”

Girl, you must not know ’bout me, cause I’m all up in that.

I return home to hang out with the kiddos, and get ready for the main event. Turns out Erica hadn’t done the Andrew Peterson tune with me before, so we had to… you know… learn it. It helps with performance, you see. We turn over the kids to the ‘rents, and set out.

The house is great. They have the tent, the space heaters, the big balloons, the bartender, the whole shebang. We stake out a spot close to the rig and make small talk. We don’t know… anybody.

The party fills up. Anthony’s having a great time. He introduces us to people, he wants us to feel included. It’s sweet. All I can think about is those freaking unrelenting 8th notes in Loved, and wishing that I’d hired Mike. Bill and Becky from church break the drought of familiar faces. We hang out with our friends and wait for the big moment.

Now, as per Yolanda’s request, I put together a little playlist for the occaision. I was shooting in the dark, here, and keep in mind that my MP3 collection is light on top 40 dance tunes. I get some requisite Beyonce, and yes, I did bring sexy back. I also threw in some Beck and Gnarls Barkley for a little indie cred. Add a little Marley and Steve Miller Band for some old school flava. Prince and D’Angelo for funk, Gavin Degraw and Sheyrl Crow for rock, as we white kids still just wanna have a little fun before the sun comes up over Santa Monica Blvd.

It was a pretty hip mix, if I do say so myself. Yolanda loves it. She actually has a bottle of Cristal. We’re big pimpin’ like hova himself.

10 minutes later, Anthony comes in. “Dude… play this, they’ll love it, I guarantee.” It’s Clapton’s greatest hits. You got it, boss.

10 minutes later, Yolanda comes back in. “Play some DANCE MUSIC!!! And TURN IT UP!” You got it, boss.

And so it continued… During this time, at one of the swings back to my iPod, I noticed that Sheyrl Crow sounded about a half step flat on “Soak up the Sun.” I turned around to see two drunk girls doing impromtu karaoke with one of the live mics I had set up. Fantastic. You sound beautiful. And by beautiful, I mean ****faced.

At about 10:30, Anthony finds me. “Ok, you’re on, guys!”

Cool man… cool. So… this is gonna be one hell of a transition. Are you going to introduce us? He’s already on the mic. He does a pretty good intro, welcoming people officially and explaining that he’s asked us to share some music with them. He introduces us as recording artists, which I suppose is technically correct.

We do our two tunes. I do a little banter, thanking Anthony for having us and jokingly warning people that the evening is about to take a serious left turn. Our songs are actually pretty well received. All things considered, enthusiastic applause at the correct moments is usually a good sign, methinks. So far, so good, right? Anthony’s back up. “Welcome to the stage (dark corner of the tent) my good friend Bruce to sing for you all.

Now… Bruce has not a simple jazz fake chart in his hands, but a full blown book of Tony Bennett arrangements. “Fly Me to The Moon,” is not in the accidental free key of C as promised, but in the moderately unfriendly key of Eb. Oh yes, I need to tell you this: you know what helps when reading (and performing) a chart for the first time in a key that you weren’t expecting? Light!

Yes friends… It was a dimly lit place. Erica hovers behind me, trying to get my iPod light to stay on long enough for me to see what the next change. “A flat major 9!” she hollars, saving my bacon. Bruce is all over the place. He wants it faster… he wants it slower. “D diminished 7!” she shouts.

Oh god please let this be a substitutionary dominant going to Gminor7! Yes!!! I ROCK!!! THANK YOU PHIL SHACKLETON, wherever you are, for my theory training, because I cannot see butkus. I friggen hate flat keys.

I actually do alright, and the song ends. To my impending misfortune, the crowd applauds heartily.

Bruce turns to me. “Let’s do ‘I Left my Heart in San Francisco!’ It’s in C, and it’s on page 72″ It was in Bb, on page 54. I’m in trouble. I don’t even remotely know this song. Bruce doesn’t know “Here I am to Worship,” unfortunately.

I’m floundering, and the iPod light goes off every five seconds, as I have instructed. Oh no, a page turn. Erica goes in for the turn, and we’re both starting to giggle uncontrollably. She grabs like… six pages. We’re so done. I’m audibly snorting and guffawing at this point. Bruce actually turns around mid phrase and goes, “What’s so funny??!?!”

Dude. What’s not funny? I swear on the grave of Old Blue Eyes that I am not laughing at you. Well… a little, but this just gets more insane by the moment.

He’s trying to be gracious. “You know what, no worries. I’ll go acapella.” He sings… “When I fall in love….” Erica just looks at me with the most classic look. Keep it together… keep it together. I fold my hands until he finishes a verse and a half or so before Anthony makes his way to the front to stop the entire trainwreck-tacular.

“Thanks Bruce! Well, let’s all move into the living room, I’ve prepared a little video for you….”

We slink back to our seats. Our friends have gone inside to watch the video with the majority of the crowd. I get a glass of wine and Erica grabs a gin and tonic. The bartender, having witnessed the performance, made it a GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN and tonic. When the hell is midnight, again?

I’m not really in a terribly foul mood, at this point. I am more amused then anything, but still a little annoyed. I don’t do music badly on purpose. I prepare. We are professionals. I don’t like getting hijacked. Oh well. Time to get buzzed and surly, and kiss my girl when the big ball drops.
Erica suggests I fire up the iPod again. Aaah… yes. Let’s do that. Beck’s funky beats always put a smile on my face. Oh yeah, Gorillaz, bring me that funky stuff. My mood improves. The video ends, and the partygoers return to the tent. I’ve got the mix working pretty well at this point, enjoying playing DJ with my eclectic yet dance-able mix. Bootys are starting to shake. Lauryn Hill pours her soul into our bones. Erica and I sing and dance along in excessive abandon, glad our part of the night is over, our church friends starting to look at us a little sideways.

Anthony returns. “Dude, you’ve gotta play some disco!” Dude, this is my personal iPod. I don’t really have disco. “I’ve got a CD.” Let’s spin it, then!

Now freed from the DJ duties, we make our way inside in a quest for finger foods. We make small talk. People seem to be genuinely interested in us and our music… turns out we made an impression after all, so that’s good.

We’re closing in on midnight at this point. Yolanda comes screaming in. “If I don’t hear Crazy in Love RIGHT NOW, I’m gonna freak out!!”

Well, we can’t have that.

I’m back at the stereo. Now, mind you, all of this is happening with an 8th inch to RCA adapter that I’m physically alternating between my iPod and the headphone output of the CD changer. It makes a huge crackle and pop when it’s removed or inserted. Erica fades the inputs on the little mixer like a pro. “Gimme gain!!” I yell, and beat drops. The crowd goes nuts and another Christmas miracle is made by Chad and Erica. We make magic happen, darnitall.

It’s about 11:58 after the song is over. Champagne us poured and Anthony is back on the mic. “Now… We have just a few minutes before the new year and I want to open up the mic to anyone who wants to give us a prayer or a blessing, but not too personal, ok?!”

Uh oh, I think. Fear the Open Mic.

I look at my wife. We’re beyond delirious at this point, a pair of giggle junkies. A guest drunkenly rambles on the mic. I look at my cell, and it’s 11:59. Anthony invites more people up, as we have, “Just a few more minutes until midnight.” Yolanda hands me a CD and says (shouts), “The last track is Auld Lang Syne, so we have to play it at midnight (it’s 12:01 and I just kissed Erica happy new year.) More guests speak. At about 12:06, Anthony cuts it off and starts the new year’s countdown.

“Happy New Year!!!!” Everyone yells, everyone kisses. I push play and hear something that sounds a lot like an 80s love ballad and not anything like Auld Lang Syne. Yolanda comes up, “Uh oh! What can we do?!?!” iPod to the rescue! Erica fades, I swap inputs, and furiously dial up James Taylor’s beautiful arrangement of the same song. This arrangement kills. It’s so sweet. The first 10 minutes after midnight are always the best. Strangers hugging, lovers kissing. Sometimes strangers kissing. It’s like everyone gets reborn for a few perfect minutes before reality comes back in with sunrise and a hangover.

This guy grabs the mic from Anthony, and actually proposes to his girlfriend. He has the ring and everything. She cries, they kiss, it’s a beautiful moment. His friends start screaming at me, “We need some special music!!! Do you have Romanza by Andrea Bocelli?”

No, I don’t have Andrea Bocelli, because I am not either (A) gay, or (B) warned that I needed to be equipped to DJ this party. How about Norah Jones?

“Chad!”

Yes?

“WE WANNA DANCE!!!”

Done.

We’re cookin’ now. Floor’s packed, beats are bangin’. I’m starting to have some fun now. Drunk Admonishing Lady comes over next. “You havvve to play thisss CD, track 12 nessst. It’ssss the best…” Sure… we aim to please here at Improvisational DJs, inc.

Erica swivels out of the small space we’re sharing behind the keyboard to let this lady get in with her music. Unfortunately, she catches the cord coming out of the iPod and yanks it clean across the room. We go from bangin’ beats to dead silence. I’m still in an uncontrolled giggle fest, so I think I started shouting at Erica in an olde English accent talking about disaster and chaos whilst frantically searching the floor for the one cable out of 12 that I need. Did I mention it was dark? I keep on shouting and laughing and Erica’s laughing (because she knows I’m delirious and not really angry) and searching and meanwhile it’s… dead silent.

Dead silent, except for… “You ssstttoooppp talking to her like that!” Admonishing Drunk Lady says, “Ssssheee didn’t mean to… you stop that. You tell her you’re sorry. Tell her you’re SORRY!!!”

But I’m too hopped up on red wine and surreal experiences for apologies!

We find the plug, finish the song, and I put her CD on. The song that we HAD to hear was, no joke, Just Can’t Get Enough, by Depeche Mode. Not a bad song, but a total vibe changer. I’m all about the smooth transitions, so, I was struggling a little.

Erica looks at me, “We have to go.” My folks are hanging out at our house with our kids, and they’re sick (my folks that is.) I told them we’d be home by 1ish. “After this song ends, you spin up the Disco CD again, take the iPod and run!” She’s a smart one, my lady.

We make our way to the tent exit / house entrance and the door’s locked. Anthony is showing the video again, and I think he wanted to keep the sound down. We sigh, and retreat to the yard, where people are smoking cigars and sipping on REALLY expensive tequila. An old italian dude was trying to light a cigar and failing. Erica offered to help and lit the match for him and he started puffing away. He kept at it until he nearly choked on a big puff and doubled over in a fit of coughing. “Imma sorry,” he says, “I wassa transfixed-a by her eyes. How did you ever get-a such-a beeeauuutiful woman?”

Dude, I have no idea.

We try and escape around the back, as there’s a small corridor between the edge of the tent and the retaining wall in the back yard, but some couple has decided that the retaining wall looks really comfortable, if you know what I mean.

We wait. More giggling.

Finally, the video ends, and we slip into the living room, say our goodbyes, hug our hugs, and we’re gone.

I cannot remember a more memorable New Year’s Eve celebration. Hope yours was as exciting as mine. Cheers to the ’07.

The Dementape Letters: Six

Posts in the The Dementape Letters series

  1. The Dementape Letters: One
  2. The Dementape Letters: Two
  3. The Dementape Letters: Three
  4. The Dementape Letters: Four
  5. The Dementape Letters: Five
  6. The Dementape Letters: Six

[Ah, Aunt Dementape...how we've missed your misanthropic take on the Emerging Church. It's been so long since we've had the horrific pleasure of your correspondence that some of us may need to refresh our feeble memories here, and thereby relive the dark magic of your virtual poison pen.]

To my dear niece, Gutrot:

Please accept my apologies for my long absence. As you probably know, I was on a Special Covert Assignment — handed down directly from Our Father Below — and was not able to communicate via normal channels. I cannot reveal the details, but I will tell you that all’s well on the sub-Saharan front. Be assured that I’ve been kept abreast of your progress.

I’ve lately been perusing your most recent reports on the local Emerging Church (yes, my Assistant Under-Head, Swellgore, has kept the files meticulously up-to-date), and I am pleased with the newest developments. You really are out-darkening my lowest expectations, Niece. Never in my wildest nightmares did I imagine you would prove to be such a valuable contributor to my Department of Kingdom Thwartation. Keeping on your current track, your descent down the ladder of success will be swift indeed, and the buffet of souls virtually endless. (If my magnanimity makes you apprehensive, never fear…I had such success with my CovertOp that I’m finding it difficult to be my usual malevolent self, but I’m confident I’ll regain my equilibrium presently.)

The confusion you have sown in your local E.C. with regard to the concept of “Righteousness” is delicious. I can almost taste the Chaos. However did you think of such an ingenius approach? You’ve masterfully suggested they pay special attention to certain books and theologians which explain that “Righteousness” is best understood as related closely to “Justice.” And while we know it couldn’t be more true — though not quite in the way your Subjects imagine — this “new” idea has certainly stood them on their heads.

Does this mean personal Holiness is a paranoid idea birthed by the evil, obsessive Puritans and now we can stop being so concerned with our behavior?, they ask with frantic fervor…half-hopeful, half-afraid. Does this mean we can do whatever we wish, so long as we don’t oppress anyone, so long as we’re passionately active in setting the captive free?

Oh yes, Gutrot. Sumptuous. They’re positively titillated by the possibilities, blinded to the Truth that Justice is never truly Just when divorced of good old fashioned Morality, and that Morality is never really Righteous if not married to a prophetic demand for Justice. Hell knows why The Enemy’s Children have always found it so difficult to hold these concepts in tandem, to see how fundamentally akin they are. How can they not sense in their miserable guts that “personal” Immorality is necessarily oppressive, that a Moral Righteousness is the warp upon which the very fabric of Justice is woven?

Well, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. (I realize I’m preaching to the demonic choir, as it were…you’ve done remarkable work.) I encourage you to continue your twin attacks in this arena, as they are proving most effective. On the one front, persist in allowing them to be enthusiastic about Justice For All — so long as you keep up the second front (tempting the individual Subjects toward unHoly thoughts and acts of all kinds), it can’t hurt. If we are lucky, their feelings that their “personal Holiness” is wholly irrelevant to the dratted Kingdom will undermine all their Just pursuits…and wreck their lives and relationships in the process, which is always nice.

Keep up the Evil work, my dear. You are a credit to your Mother.

Your vile and affectionate Aunt,
Dementape

Previous in series: The Dementape Letters: Five

The Uncoolest Cut of All

I had a moment.

It was one of those moments where you can see into the future.

And the future is sassy.

bath timeThree or four nights a week, I do Sophia’s bath. The main goal of bath time is for Sophia to move large quantities of water from the tub out onto the floor of the bathroom. Her mother and I, in our infinite wisdom, have seen fit to give her several brightly colored plastic toys, such as cups and buckets, that serve to greatly amplify her ability to move that much water. Every once in a while, she pauses just long enough for me to quickly scrub down some part of her with soap, then she’s off again making a tub-tsunami.

One of her favorite bath-time games is “Ducky Bombs”. This is a very complicated game, which I will try to explain simply, so that you can understand the subtlety and complexity. Sophia pics up her rubber ducky. She holds it high over her head, and looks expectantly at daddy. Daddy then, in a very loud and very, very silly voice, yells out, “DUUUUUCKYYY BOOOOMMMMBS!” This is Sophia’s cue to thrown the rubber ducky down into the water with as much force as her little 1 year old arms can muster (hint: a lot of force. A surprising amount of force. Like she’s a robot-child or something). When the ducky hits the water, daddy does his very best explosion sound, and we both fall over laughing. Rinse. Repeat. Maybe 5 or 6 hundred times in a single bath.

So, I say this just to let you know that bath-time is silly time, completely unrestrained, joyful play time. One of the other games we play is called “Putting things on my head”. Again, within this game there is a subtle interplay of meaning and motion to rival even the oldest Noh play. Basically, it works like this: Sophia takes something, and puts it on her head. Sometimes, she can’t quite figure out how to get it to stay on her head, so daddy puts it on her head for her.

She loved this game. She would play it endlessly, with anything that was within her grasp. She even got the shampoo bottle to stay on her head for a second or two, to our great delight. For a while, this was her favorite game – even more than ducky bombs, if you can image such a thing! Then, suddenly, two nights ago, something changed, and I saw into the future.

We were doing bath time. We were playing “move the water out of the tub”. We were playing “Ducky Bombs”. We were playing a new game that she just made up, called “I pull the drain plug out and daddy has to put it back in 50 times”. Then, I reached into the tub, grabbed a plastic fish-cup (the red one), and I put it on her head.

Everything stopped. My daughter looked at me, fish-cup still on her head, and said, “Dad, that is so lame. I mean, who puts things on their head anymore? I’m 14 months old now, you know, not some little baby who likes to put things on her head.” The fact that she said all of this with just a look in no way diminished her ability to clearly communicate her meaning.

Suddenly, I was transported 12 years into the future, and I was standing in the doorway to her bedroom holding tickets to go see a band that had stopped being cool, like, weeks ago, thinking how I was the awesome dad that was going to drive and chaperone her and her friends to the concert, and she’s thinking about how she’s going to have to explain to her friends that the mildly retarded ape-man in the front seat is just the chauffeur, and in no way actually related to her.

I, of course, will not be allowed to speak during the evening.

Pure Audio Drivel

So, today I have to write a whole series of syllabi for the classes I’m teaching this fall. I figured the best way to get in the right mindset would be by creating one minute and 12 seconds of pure audio drivel. Enjoy. Or not.

tappy_clappy.mp3

Those of you who have been following the 30dropframe.com madness will recognize some of the sounds as a straight rip-off from the song 10 days.

Telling Lies to Tell the Truth

I just watched V for Vendetta. One of the best quotes — which is somewhat beside the point of the film — is “Writers tell lies to tell the truth.”

This idea resonates with me. When you make up stories about people who only exist in your imagination, you tell lies. But they can be honest lies, lies that ring so true that you can’t help but believe them yourself, despite the fact that you know you made them up one night sitting out on your patio, two glasses into a cheap bottle of cabernet. The characters you create rise up out of the mist to face you, eye to eye, and you can’t help but gaze deep into their souls to see what they’re made of…and you can’t help but see your own reflection and judge what you are made of.

What stares back at you is the truth. Sometimes you see a coward who is afraid of life and the danger of love. That is the truth of the present. Other times you see a hero who faces her fears and loves with abandon and trust. That also is truth. It is the truth of possibility, no less true because it is a truth that is not yet realized. As you stare down both truths, you must grapple with the fact that the journey from the present truth to the realization of possiblity is a long one, and the only way to make the pilgrimage is one step…followed by another…followed by another…followed by another, until you can look back and see the present truth as the past: still true, but true only for a bygone age.

This is the journey all people must make, true people whether real or imagined. Stories are the chronicle of people travelling from Point A to Point B to Point C and beyond, and the lines may not be straight, but the points are all connected, the points are what form the outline and the guts and the truth of the person who stands alone and shining when the Writer finally types the words “The End.”