Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Christian Books I Actually Like

Normally I hate Christian books.  Thought I'd put up a few that I do like, just so people know about them:

 I like this book because it isn't a self-help book, and it isn't either  an anguished tale of growing up without a Christian upbringing, nor is it an earnest story about growing up with a (Baptist) Christian upbringing, and finding something more, something deeper.  It is a funny, unpretentious, both-feet-on-the-ground, artistic musing work about growing up with a Christian upbringing and looking for more, and learning to deal with the whole world and all of life, rather than just living a ghettoized Christian existence.  Funny, and with an aptitude for Kurt Vonnegut-grade "wording things in such simple terms they seem ludicrous" technique.  

 I like this book because it also isn't a self-help book, and it's about a (Plymouth Brethren) Christian upbringing really not working out.  I don't think I've ever seen this story told before.  It's about gradually losing faith in Christians and churches, but not in God, and trying to live a life, and about reaching forty, childless and without a wife.  It is very honest and occasionally rude and very funny.  It actually is a story, a real-life story, but told to tell a story rather than to make a point, and not because there was cancer, or work done in Africa, or a child born with a tragic defect, or a family member crippled by a debilitating accident, but still praising God.  There is none of that.  He's not a pastor, either.  Just a dude, trying to live his life in North America, believing in God but having lost all faith in "Christians operating in groups."

I like this book because it again isn't a self-help book, and it's not by a pastor explaining about how he learned what he learned, and what he thinks is important, and how he helps people until tears run down their cheeks.  It's a woman's story, and it's about the (Lutheran) Christian upbringing not really working out, and, at therapy having a shrink who was bright enough to know he needed a really clear picture of what kind of God she actually believed in (a snappy, sarcastic, cold one, it turned out) so they could talk about that.  She alternates personifying God for her therapist with real-life anecdotes about growing up in California as an aspiring actress, playing the photograph of John Candy's wife in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and a friend of Mallory's on Family Ties, and reaching forty, knowing it wasn't getting any better than that, and childless and husbandless to boot, and losing faith that God wasn't altogether too much like her father.

 I like this book because it is about growing up in a Plymouth Brethren group that was so much stricter and meaner than our group was that it actually makes me grateful.  This book is about a woman being ritualistically shunned by her birth culture for using birth control, and having her husband somewhat grudgingly refuse the church's pressure to divorce her because of her misbehaviour, and then trying to deprogram and live a life in the world outside that soul-crushing pressure cooker.  This is the second edition, as she had to remove some stuff that was in the first edition, under threat of lawsuit by the litigious Exclusive Brethren of New Zealand and Australia, who are, without exaggeration, a cult, by any definition.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Leathery Wings

  This one was about what happens when you try to repress the angrier, darker side of yourself and follow only your best intentions (that builds up like pus inside until eventually you are sick with it and you really need to be lanced like a putrid boil and/or given some kind of cataclysmic enema of the soul). I wanted kinda punk, and got Jay to do a White Stripes kinda guitar to it to make it sound less like Green Day, as it used to sound uncomfortably like "When I Come Around." Jay also sang the highest notes in the chorus. I'm handling  vocals, bass guitar, and "thickening" drop D snarly guitars on the choruses, along with an end "solo" and some percussion. Again, would like Tyler K to do a bass line that's more varied, if he feels up to it.
  This is designed to follow a virtuous, "good intentions" kinda song on the album, which is all sappy and pretty, and then gets rudely "interrupted" by this song knocking to get in.  The "trick" in this one is that the rhyme scheme, oddly, involves rhyming the first word of every line with the last word of the previous one.

Leathery Wings
I envy the sought-for, the hunted, the wanted
Flaunted the attractions that make life a game
Lame house of memory seems to be haunted
Cries from the roots of the mountains again

Leathery wings batter my ribcage
Leathery wings tear through my veins
Leathery wings disrupt my nightmares
Leathery wings sear my brain

Small parts go missing, the gears grind together
Whether the power is flowing or no
Go to the place where you stand in the weather
Rip it all open, let everything show

Voices hysterical shriek, laugh, they're frantic
Clinic for fear that has made you its own
Groan of black terror is swirling, gigantic
Stand on the stone and throw everything down

Open the iron door, let out the blackness
Cackles and hooting that rend the night air
Fair is the light that will transfix the darkness
Burnt to a cinder the dragon despair

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Eugene's Poem

  My Facebook status today said:  
has drank a Monster energy drink to shake the chilly, wet, grey lethargy, and has installed new, non-grinding-noise-making power supplies in two of his computers, vacuumed the dust out of said machines, virtuously bought reasonably-priced DVDs of things previously pirated, deleted said files and shuffled data among hard drives rather than merely buying a brand new 3 Tb external drive, as he was very tempted to do.

  Recorded another of my songs that George did drums on.  This was an odd one.  I set myself an odd task.  Back when a song tune came to me almost every day, I decided "I'll just choose any odd poem a friend has written, and surprise him by making it into a song."  And I did.  There are supposed to be Irish elements in it, some of which can still be added to the intro and two quiet verses.  Like everything I do lately though, this one seemed to get louder and louder, which felt great at the time.  One good thing: I'm not worrying about being too careful.  Obviously.  Makes me wonder exactly how much frustration and energy there is that I'm clearly using music to vent...  Mark is apt to write poetry that is a bit silly, so I picked one that I liked:

Eugene's Poem
I've often seen wonder, more often seen pride
And I've let down the trappings but never complied
I've seen little creatures in puddles of light
Sharing their colours with all of the night.

I look when I'm lonely, I sing when I'm free
And seaweed is only the weed of the sea
Come sing with me comrade, come fly with me friend
These heart-aches I've kindled are not going to end.

When I have a heart-ache I drink me some cream
And ride floating planets, go drifting downstream
But I work when I'm humble, I dream when I'm sane
And I never rely on Rememory's Lane

But hunger is peaceful and lifetime is long
Loneliness lovely and sadness a song
Quack quack quack-quack quack quack quack quack quack quack
Quack quack quack-quack quack quack quack quack quack quack

The small fuzzy creatures with mint on their fangs
Will warble of pickles and lost hunger pangs
We'll wake up in hunger, we'll feed us on doubt
And dream on the light 'till it radiates out.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

As Country as They Wanna Be

  I grew up with parents who thought rock and roll and jazz and pop were evil, and that one should properly listen to old hymns only, but a delight in old country music was understandable.  I prefer louder music, though I like a bit of wood in my rock.  I also have a baritone voice which would be better for singing country.  Normally I fight this, but this one song of mine is supposed to be country.  It's based on a bad pun.  I had written the song "Who Are You Anyway?" which admitted the realization that I really didn't know God like I thought I did.  Didn't get Him at all, actually.  I wanted a song which allowed Him to respond.  I dared to write one.
  It's called "Promises (God's Country)" and is mainly about things I always believed God had promised, but which, actually, He seemed to want me to know He hadn't.  The hard one was that, I was always taught that when the apostle Paul wrote to one specific group of people and said "As you supplied all of my needs, so my God will supply your needs," that this meant that if I never needed anything at all, God would get me that.  The idea was that if I didn't have it, I didn't need it.
  But then one has to ask: What about all the Christians who starve each day?  Didn't they need food?  The answer I've always been given to that one (that what they needed was to die and go to be with God in Heaven) never seemed to me to be satisfactory.  So I had a look and thought "Just because Paul said that one thing to that one group of guys, given how they'd treated him personally, what makes me feel that God has Himself promised to get me anything I need at any given point in time?"  This version needs Tyler to do me some real bass, and other Tyler to do me some piano.  A country fiddle would be great, too.

Promises (God’s Country)
 I didn’t promise that you would never hunger
I didn’t promise that you would feel no pain
I didn’t promise that the sun would never beat down harshly on you
On the just and on the rest I send the rain

I gave you life to live and I won’t say how long you have
I refuse to make your life decisions for you
Because they’re part of what I put you in this big world to explore
But I promise you that I don’t plan to bore you

I didn’t promise I would give you daily bread
You will see I won’t supply your every need
I didn’t promise things would work out in your lifetime
But I often add some growth if you plant a seed.

I didn’t promise that there’d be someone to hold you
I didn’t promise there’d be folks to understand
I didn’t promise to reward your good behaviour
But if you look for it, now and then you’ll see my hand

I didn’t promise you would live to see old age
I didn’t promise that you’d have somewhere to sleep
I didn’t promise that I’d keep you free from cancer
But not a tear falls down uncounted when you weep

I made a lot of things that I really hope you go check out
For everything there is a time and season
Enjoy the things you can and if you can, survive the rest
      I don’t promise you will always know My reasons

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Even More Heavy

  I now have a handful of songs I need to record to the shiny new drums George played for me.  This weekend I was supposed to work on music more.  So far, I went out to Moxie's with Leiffster, pottered around on the Internets, formatted and reWindowsed my piracy computer, took an abortive trip home to my folks' (my brakes in the van aren't, well, braking so much as breaking right now.  Garage time.) and came home.  So, looking through some stuff Derek gave me about compression, I remixed "Proud Someday," posted last week, to make it EVEN HEAVIER.  My music isn't generally heavy, but this is 21st Century heavy, almost, yet still with the Neil Young in it.  Turn it on, turn it up, sandblast your frontal lobes and comment to let me know you did that.  Otherwise I won't know anyone anywhere ever heard it's triumphant, messy cacophony.

Two Kinds of Stuff or Something

  People usually screw things up by going to one extreme or another.  When it comes to Christianity, this has historically always been part of it.  Some people emphasized that Jesus was the son of God to the point of believing that he "wasn't really" human.  Like maybe he was a ghost or apparition or angelic being of some kind, masquerading as a man.  All of his miracles were about "Look, I'm glowy magic!"  Others, of course, emphasized his humanity to the point of believing that he was merely the best of humans, with no particular connection to God.  Just a good man, a prophet, a teacher, who was misquoted or mistranslated every time he suggested otherwise.  All of the accounts of miracles were embarrassing lies, and every bit of his teaching or prophecy or humanity which revolved around them was mistranslated, quoted out of context, or was more embarrassing lies.
  When it comes to the modern Christian, the two basic extremes I'm dealing with are:

 -people who think Christianity is all about the Kingdom of Heaven/God/Jesus having come to earth and us continuing to spread goodness, healing and magic to it as Agents of the Kingdom, on the one hand, 

-and people who think Christianity is all about the Cross, and about the irredeemable horror that is the world in which we live, and how Jesus had to die to spirit us away to Heaven so we wouldn't have to deal with it anymore.

  One question as to these two views is "Which one is right?"  That's kind of a dumb question, actually, which reveals an insistence upon polarized thinking, about it needing to be one or the other, and not both and/or neither, kinda.  The belief that one of these two opposites is actually in the middle, and that only the other is "off to one side."  This is the kind of thinking which causes the characteristic church divisions and compartments in the first place.  The Mona Lisa: Right or Wrong?  Obama: The New Messiah, or The Beast, AntiChrist and False Prophet of the End Times Rolled into one?  Stupid.
  Another question is "Which parts of the bible are they glossing over to overemphasize their preferred half of the story, and what do those parts say?"  Yet another question is "What kind of person does it make you/which kind of person chooses to overemphasize the one or the other side of the message?
  I listened to this today.  Tom Wright. Up to his usual shenanigans.  More perspective than one can comfortably hold in one's head at one time (if, like me, you are lacking sufficient intelligence to take it all in like this) and no practical application.  Ridiculous words like "salvific" and "narratival."  Terribly valuable, though.  A thing to remember as one goes on living one's life, rather than a thing to "get" immediately.

  I was raised with "All Cross, no Kingdom" Christianity, and am now finding the company of "All Kingdom, no Cross" people equally ungratifying.
  In my upbringing, the gospels "led up to" the cross.  In other words, the whole point of history, and therefore of course the whole bible (including millennia of Jewish history) and the gospels and epistles "pointed to" (were really actually about) the cross.  The whole story of humanity was about how God created the molecular universe on purpose with a plan, and intended human beings to have a stewardly, participatory role in it, and we betrayed him, fell in with a bad crowd, and let them take over what God had put us in charge of, so it could be ruined and subverted, kinda ruining but maybe not ruining, God's plan.  The world was therefore, irrevocably ruined, so Jesus came to rescue us from it by dying on the cross.  The Christian job was to not get too enamoured of anything or anyone which might SEEM nice, as we were in enemy territory, awaiting airlift out.  When bad things happened in the world, it made us feel better, righter, smugger and more comfortable that our world view was the one everyone should have.  Right now some very shrill and certain people are preaching that Jesus will come May 21st, 2011, and that this world will at long last, by October at the latest, finally, and blessedly burn.  Hallelujah!

  The other view is quite different.  the gospels "led up to" the kingdom of God being reasserted on earth.  God is setting the world to rights and wants us to take part in this.  In other words, the whole point of history, and therefore of course the whole bible (including millennia of Jewish history) and the gospels and epistles "pointed to" (were really actually about) Jesus coming and "thy Kingdom com[ing] on earth as it is in heaven."  The whole story of humanity was about how God created the molecular universe on purpose, and intended human beings to have a stewardly, participatory role in it, and we betrayed him, fell in with a bad crowd, and let them take over what God had put us in charge of, so it could be ruined and subverted.  The world was therefore, needing to be put, once again, under the rule of heaven, so Jesus came to set that right.  He is the King, and he has come.  The Christian job is to work as the agents of the King, spreading news or and demonstrating for others how the Kingdom of God works and is run.  When bad things happen in the world, it just means we have a LOT more work to do.

  People raised as I was have a lot of death and gloom to them.  A lot of resigned acceptance that things are "just terrible" but that, so long as we focus on the there and later rather than the here and now, we can, sort of, be happy, in our imaginations at least.  Too much reading verses about the Kingdom (or the Holy Spirit) made us wiggy and made us worry that the bible might prove the Kingdom folk to be right, after all.  We glossed over them quickly, didn't quote them much, and spent more time explaining them away than explaining them.  But then we citizens of Heaven behind enemy lines would quite often find that we really liked some good stuff that really seemed to exist in the world.  The Olympics, House, Macbeth, Pink Floyd.  And people we liked too.  People who, as near as we could tell, were wrong about stuff.  And either we felt guilty, or we tried to Christianize it, or somehow argue that this thing from the world is actually from God, so it was ok to enjoy it, and not a form of consorting with the enemy.

  People focussed instead upon the Kingdom smile and hug people a lot.  They are always eager to set the world right. They want to reach out and connect with human beings we treated like enemies.  They believe, as Wilton Knight on Knight Rider did, that One Man can Make a Difference.  They tend to have to go to Africa to do it, too, or the poorest neighbourhood they can find.  Mostly they don't, feel guilty about that, and salve their smarting consciences by being something-pastors, on something-teams, or giving money or time to people "serving abroad."  Because it's usually abroad. They can't make their fellow countrymen and women see that things need to change. They can't deal with the complacency in their own culture, so they go to people whose lives are undeniably fucked so they can help.  I've seen and talked to many of these people.  I've seen that they sometimes burn out on well-doing.  They get weary of it.  They get disillusioned about how much good they can maintain any belief that they can actually do, and about various eventually disappointing people they'd trusted to get good done with, about how much of a difference a group of people, let alone one man, can really make in any measurable way.

  Once again: the dumb question:  Which is the right way to think and live?

  N.T. Wright is pretty smart. He says you should read the gospels and Paul (most people don't actually do this, but settle for "Significant Quotations" bits, like that's the same experience), and that you should simply let them actually say what they want to say, and actually be about what they are actually about, rather than slanting them to the one side or the other, to "History until now has been a prolonged introduction leading up to the cross" on the one hand or "the kingdom has begun and we need to not focus unduly upon the fact that Jesus died, because that's actually perhaps somewhat confusing/depressing and those gloom and doom folk have been sucked into that vortex of old-fashioned crappy Christianity" on the other.

  Easier said than done. Most people just don't read the bible at all.  I mean today, I read Ezekiel 14, and it said in verse 16 (speaking to Jerusalem, Ezekiel says there) "she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts."  Now, should I view that in terms of pointing forward to the cross?  Or in terms of being the sad state of affairs that existed while Jerusalem was awaiting the coming of Jesus to proclaim the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven?  Maybe it's about both of those and neither, and about other things besides.  Maybe "Which side is right?" is a dumb question.

Sunday, 10 April 2011


  Embarassingly, I overscheduled myself this week.  Dentist appointment.  Last minute marking before report card mark calculation.  Making some form of parental contact for kids who aren't doing work and want to pass anyway.  Taking the Reach for the Top (Canadian high school trivia show like Jeopardy) team two hours away all day to play on TV.
  Friday was the worst (as I'm sure Rebecca Black would agree).  A day of teaching school which was the deadline day for work counting toward the report card, a three hour session recording George's drum parts on my songs (which he had to learn, and I had some weird ones for him.)  Then off to the school to stay all night chaperoning a fundraiser (30 Hour Famine.  The kids take pledges to not eat for 30 hours, and Friday night is like a huge campout/sleepover in the school, ending with a breakfast Saturday morning.  XBOXs and iPods as far as the eye can see).
  So today I slept until midafternoon (after getting in at around 8am after having stayed up for the whole night), ate really nothing besides some muffins left over from the breakfast, and eventually got the energy together to tackle the song George had recorded a drum part for me, about which I was most excited.  I found myself hitting a beer bottle with a drumstick, singing girlie vocals, played dropped-D crunch chords on what was formerly an acoustic song and otherwise doing the whole thing myself, mostly with first-take stuff, just to find out what it would sound like.  I am now shockingly exhausted, and, foolhardily have put up my rough mix on the Internets though I'm not fit to type words, let alone decide if the mistakes are fixed enough. (in the song AND the blog entry)
   The song is called Proud Someday. It was about how once one starts to grow, to change, to take one's life in a new direction; family, friends and others around suddenly get looks of disapproval and discomfort, and start a lot of sentences they don't finish. ("Don't you think..." "You used to be so..." "You know we worry when you..." "Why can't you just..."). This was a surprisingly snarly little acoustic song and now that I got George to do some quite aggressive drums to it, a barking, roaring managerie of crap joined the acoustic to make this cacophony. I struggled with how to try to make the incomplete sentences clearly be that.  Putting sentence fragments into a song structure means they sound oddly OK.

Proud Someday
You know what?  You can't, can't just…
It's not that… 'cause you need to, have to…
Because you should just stop the… and then go back to…
You know there's nothing quite so…as never doing anything that…
Anyone could ever…or feel that it's too…
We thought, we thought, we thought, we thought
We thought you'd make us…
We thought, we thought, we thought, we thought
You'd make us…
We thought, we thought, we thought, we thought
We thought you'd make us…
You know we worry when used to be so…
We're concerned about your…you're doing things that…
There's a look in your…and we just don't know any…
Why can't you stop the..come back in and try to…
Please just, please just…and we could all be…
We thought, we thought, we thought, we thought
You'd make us…
We thought, we thought, we thought, we thought
You'd make us…
We thought, we thought, we thought, we thought
You'd make us proud someday, but now you're…

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

What Does Wise/Spiritual Look Like?

  Christianity is an Eastern religion.  It comes from Asia and is the work of Oriental thinkers and writers, by strict definition.  We have westernized it, of course, and in so doing, we have robbed it of much of what makes it unique.  We've all heard this.  We've also done the opposite: we've taken this one specific Eastern philosophy/religion/path to wisdom/approach to life, and we've failed to see what is different about it when compared to the others.
  For example, our view of what a wise, holy, spiritual person looks like.  Our view can be seen in a hundred movie characters.  Mr. Miyagi, Yoda, Splinter.  Galadriel, Elrond, Flynn.  Neo, Paul Atreides, Spock.  The movie versions of Jesus are the same.  These guys don't sweat.  They don't have any big facial expressions.  They are detached, uninvested, distant. They observe and see much, but from a place higher or a bit removed from the action.  They teach serenity, a lack of attachment, emotional investment or passion.  In fact, they teach that giving into emotions is the path to failure or even evil.  They counsel against frustration, anger, sorrow and eagerness.  They have blank, sometimes slightly bemused faces.  (except Jesus, who is too stoned to be bemused.)  So, wisdom and spirituality are connected with detachment, and a lack of emotional reaction or investment.  Jedi aren't to love women.  Minds are to be cleared until they are empty so the body may act.  The turmoil of the heart is to be stilled and made quiet.
  Thing is, the Jesus of the bible sweats.  He groans in frustration or sorrow. He expresses rage, eagerness, and disappointment.  He loses his temper, he calls people names and kicks over tables, he cries, he shouts, he groans, he berates, regrets, dreads and anticipates. He pleads with God. 
  That makes him different.  I can relate to that person a whole lot better than stoned Jesus in the movies, or perennially wise, rubber Yoda.  I take comfort in a role model who isn't afraid to both feel and publicly express (on record for millennia) the full gamut of human experience without suggesting this is weak, foolish or a path to evil or failure.  Because feeling and participating fully in the full gamut of the human experience, and painting your life with the full palette of human emotional expression?  It's part of being human.

Saturday, 2 April 2011


  Apparently my energies work mainly only in opposition.  Too much comfort, complacency and a lack of anyone knowing what I'm up to or nor caring?  Lethargy.  Opposition?  We're good to go.  Opposition to other people's doubts and quibbles, opposition to looming deadlines, budget problems, people flaking out and letting one down, and technical problems.  Jack White would be in strong agreement.
  I vented, got it together and did another song.  Did a bunch of "Neil Young with Crazy Horse loud" guitars which seemed to blow a winter's worth of soul-crap straight out through the wall of my apartment and all over the cars in the parking lot.  Also did shakers, acoustics, bass guitar, fiddly leads and backing vocals, because once again there was no one here but me to do that.
  This song when I've recorded it in the past has been a bit church-music, cheerful, cheesy acousticky, or a bit lazy, Rolling Stonesey.  I took it straight down sludge street this evening.  Actually broke a sweat, too.  The B.C. Rich Warlock was roaring through the Vox tube amp.  The neighbour, fortunately, wasn't home, so I could turn everything up to 2 and flail away.  Her cat (sounds Siamese) was screaming through the door at me as is his wont when I went into the hall on my way to get a sub from Subway across the street.  I decided to stick a mic in front of her door and record the cat screaming and put it in the background throughout the song.  I could picture that being awesome. Typically, as soon as the mic was brought, he shut right up and wouldn't make a peep.
  When I wrote it, the words were in deadly earnest, and I can't say I don't feel like this anymore either.  Obviously, it's to God:

Who Are You Anyway?
I know you're not like Santa Claus, although you know who's naughty or nice
I don't say "I've been good all year, so give me this."  You don't have a sleigh, do you have advice?

'Cause I can't help but wonder because I just don't understand
I don't know who you are anymore I don't even know who I am

But I've been bad all year.
I know you're not like Jupiter. You're more than Zeus in one of his bad moods
Sometimes you help, sometimes you smite, most times I don't get a reason why
Although I don't wish to be rude, sir

The calves are bloody.  Guess I tripped and fell.
I know you're not like my father, although your standards are almost as high
If I'm your son, I'm more prodigal than prodigy, I'm scared to come home and I don't know why

This all sounds like teenaged angst but I need some answers now
I didn't get too many then, but I'm asking you anyhow
Who are you anyway?  And who am I?


  Do you know that I lack? Do you know what the "deal" was in my church?  It was about confidence. You had to check with them all the time, and the idea was that, if they had confidence in you, you got to feel confident too, and do your stuff. I'm not wired (or trained or raised) to be able to just go ahead and do things I've thought of unless a collective of people has said it's good and I should. I can get a little burst of outrage or the like, and go ahead and do something once in a single uncharacteristic afterburner blast, but I pretty consistently lack motive power to go ahead and do any good thing I can think of. I'm old enough to know better, and I do, but I AM not better and do not function any better than that.
  You can't move forward without confidence. It's connected to faith, to the belief that what you are doing is, in fact, worth doing, and that you can DO it at all. When I moved in those circles, I was never allowed to speak or do anything at all in groups of Christian people, though they were always complaining that young men were not doing that stuff, and there were begging young men to do something, anything. In that kind of circle, people went to great lengths to step around me and ask other people to speak. I stood in Ottawa while a guy tried his damnedest to try to convince my cousin (standing just past me, me standing between the two men) to do a bible talk for everyone. My cousin doesn't do that. I was standing there, and I did not get asked to talk. It wasn't a question of knowledge or brains or talent. It was a question of trust. So, the guy who absolutely can't talk in front of a room full of people, and who has given few signs of having opinions of any kind is futilely begged to speak. Professional public speaker is always, every single time without exception, sidelined. Most of my life I have been paid to explain things to people. Yet in "Christian circles" great steps are always taken to shut me up.
  So, will my songs get recorded? Will I write things? Will I finish my first book? It's always a matter of confidence. If the idea, the inspiration takes hold of me hard enough, I slap something together in a flurry of work before I lose my nerve (that's why my second book got done), put it online or wherever it is, and then, usually...silence.  The hit counters go up, people seem to know who I am, I get ten friend requests on Facebook and two or three friend requests on YouTube every single week from people I have no idea who they are, yet not a single word is spoken or emailed personally.  Just numbers on my computer.
  A couple of times a year someone tells me I shouldn't do what I'm doing, and that I'm a bad person, a sick person who needs to be medicated, or someone who needs counselling for "anger issues." And every year or so someone tells me what THEY would have done, had they been me, and had my idea, and still, for some reason, wanted to do it their way, to suit them, for their reasons and their audience. How could my piece be made more accessible to pastors? (you know what, FUCK pastors. I've lost my belief in them.  They can all die of AIDS.) How could my song be more like what Casting Crowns are doing? I have learned that this is probably the nicest backhanded compliment I can be offered. "I like the intention behind what you did enough to tell you you did it kinda wrong and it doesn't work."
  Well, confidence is the fuel. Recently I got the confidence to not only endlessly record other people, but to get some drums recorded for my own stuff. "Why are you doing that?" people want to know. "Entering a song contest? Trying to get signed by a label? Putting together a live show?" "Why did you do it?"
  No. I wrote these songs and said these things. Maybe that stuff should be out there for people to hear. Every now and then I get a little surge of confidence (there's certainly no one in my life who "blows smoke up my ass" so to speak) and I decide to record or write something. A song is up on the Internet. Then the silence, broken, perhaps by:
  "embellish it like jim steinman would. y'know; break it up more, toss in female support vocals, and dramatize the "you've got to change" ...possibly with a children's chorus or something."
  But I don't want to do what Jim Steinman would do. I don't want it broken up more. I might get female support vocals, but would prefer high male ones. I really don't want a children's chorus or anything.  And you know what? Recording one song? It uses up that tiny puddle of confidence that collected like condensation. It has to grow back. Puts one in an Elijah frame of heart. "I only I." Other work remains to be done. Why am I sitting not doing it? The engine is out of fuel. I sit without any motive power to move forward because of an overwhelming cloud of "Should I/Can I/Will I and Why?"
  You know what would make it easier to be confident? If someone said something I did was good, or said out loud that I was good at something, instead of just asking me to do things for them.  You know?  Not just have me record them for free (and win contests with what I recorded for them), but also say something to me about me being good at recording, or that I did a good job.  Are people afraid that praising me will be like feeding Gremlins after midnight?  Will I hit critical mass in terms of confidence if I am praised, and take over the world?
  People are listening, sometimes. A brethren kid emailed once to ask if what I wrote could be used in a bible study. I don't know if that happened. I said yes and he didn't respond to my subsequent email. A (hardcore) Exclusive brethren man asked if he could adapt my website content to a "text only" format allowed by his brethren group (graphics are evil, I guess, including fancy fonts and logos) so he could share it with Exclusive brethren who'd be less challenged in terms of conscience if it were text only. I don't know if that happened. I said yes and he didn't respond to my subsequent email.

  So yeah.  The world if full of people putting stuff out there.  It is not all equally good.  One thing though: if you don't have support from others and/or confidence?  It's not ever going to get out there. You know who's confident enough to get things done?  Fred Phelps.  Mark Driscoll.  Ghadaffi.  Saddam Hussein was confident until we had him killed.

Friday, 1 April 2011

New Recording of an Old Song

  As you may know, I wrote many songs and things in my twenties and some in my thirties, but mostly the songs sat mouldering in half-finished forms on cassette tapes, ADATs and in hard drives.
  I have bucketloads of recording gear now, but the one thing that I'm not wired for is recording drums. My recording interface only takes two inputs at a time, and for drums I'd want at least four.   Using samples and electronic drums just isn't the same for me.  A human drummer adds some english to the moves of the song, feels where it's going and also adds some human error, which sounds real.  So when I played at the open stage a couple of weeks ago, and George, who owns the local music store, offered to record drums for me in his back room studio, at a ridiculously reasonable rate, I went for it.  
  I had to get off my lees and charge up enough confidence and soul and ambition to record some rough versions of some songs, to metronome.  I went to the darkened music store after hours, sat at George's recording desk while he fooled with drums and switched cymbals and snares and mics around quite a bit between songs, and pressed record and gave him my impressions of how well his parts were complimenting the three songs we tackled.
  As is fairly usual, George wandered slightly ahead and behind the metronome in place, coming back to it fairly quickly, but meaning the voice/guitar were not 100% lined up with the drums.  You don't want them 100% lined up, necessarily, but you want them to be close.  So all the next week I went home with the best intentions of charging up that confidence, soul and ambition, and recording new vocals and guitar, edified and reflective of the new drums, and covering their slight variances in tempo.
  After a nap, I did it Friday evening.  Would have been good to have a genuine bass guitar player, someone better at playing fiddly acoustic lead bits, or singing higher than I can.  But I made do.
  The song is called A Bigger Frame and if you click it and hear it and derive any pleasure or interest from it at all, it would be just dandy if you'd comment and let me know that happened.  It's from back in the day when my room-mate Bill wanted to collaborate, and neither of us were very good at that, being rather "Roger Waters" in our mentalities and methods.  With this one, I wrote the words, and let him make music to it, and then finessed it a bit to my liking.
  The idea behind the song is that when you decide to make changes in your life, and find you are growing into a bigger, (better, stronger, faster) person, it's not really about painting over the old picture in the frame, so much as getting a much bigger frame for you (the painted canvas) to sit in, and painting more of the picture, so to speak.  The words go like this:

Bigger Frame
Is feeling old
Nothing much will change
Nothing new or strange
Body still does what it must
But with reluctance and no capacity for joy.

You've got to change but strange to say
Some's got to be some more of the same
More than yourself but still yourself
Paint more of the picture and fill
A bigger frame
Feels like a bolt
Of liquid lightning, always tightening
Stuck inside a dusty Mason jar
Once out it could go anywhere at all

Will feel bewildered
A tearing cloth, sewn to both
Body doesn't feel like being naked
but the heart wants to run free.

Push out the boundaries, be sure of this
They sure won't want to go
How much is there to you anyway?
If you don't break out of where you are
It's sure you'll never know.