Friday, December 12, 2008

Billy Collins - "Ballistics"

Ballistics: Poems Ballistics: Poems by Billy Collins

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Billy Collins continues to add to his impressive body of poetry. His use of language to create several layers that grab the deep thinkers as well as the casual surface-type dwellers make this book hard not to read several times through.

Being a big fan of Mr. Collins, I found it hard not to speed through each poem just to consume it. I like to let each poem soak and ponder the various meanings that get conjured, but also could not wait to get to the next "painting" to see where it leads me. It is similar to buying a new album from your favorite musical artist. The first listen is just to absorb the experience. The second time through plants the seeds much deeper.

Well done, Mr. Collins. Well done.

View all my reviews.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Rook

The Rook (The Patrick Bowers Files, Book 2) The Rook by Steven James

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Steven James has built a compelling storyline (Continuing on the story of Patrick Bowers in "The Pawn") based on deep character development, high tech know-how, and being able to convey the fine-line walked between being a criminal and knowing how to catch one.

My favorite line in the book is: "Love that's too timid to ache isn't love at all"

Can't wait for "The Knight" coming out Summer 2009.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Shack

I heard some talk about The Shack and wanted to read it before any spoilers wormed their way into my head. Much like when The Golden Compass came out on film. I distrust the media, not so much because of how they portray (spin) art, but the condescension that comes from their need to explain to me what I should be feeling/thinking/seeing.

The revelation of God being portrayed as three separate entities with different human qualities is not news. Frankly, the God portrayed in the book is the one I currently have a relationship with. What really struck me about the book is the slow set up and then gut punch simplicity of God's love for ALL of His children.

I enjoyed the fact that laying out the basic tenets of Christian beliefs was done so in the guise of a parable and not from a soapbox. Most complaints I have heard since reading The Shack comes from either the portrayal of God as one or any of the three characters, or that non-Christians will think that God will send them a letter.

My response to both of these lines of thought are exactly what has been taught within the story of this book: Who are we to judge who God is, what He can do, and why He does anything? I thought that was the point of the Emergent Church. To break conventional thinking about God and his message within the organized, institutional church.

Christians, non-Christians, and those hurt by institutionalized religion that do not understand the relational aspect of being a Christ follower should read this book.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Summer Reading Club - Homestretch

This is part of Mark Lee's Summer Reading Club.

    (1) The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch: Good book to read if you want to face the reality that the wages of sin is death. Makes you want to squeeze every ounce of goodness out of this life. The fact that Randy died earlier this week was what prompted me to pick this back up and finish it.

    (2) The Freedom Manifesto, by Tom Hodgkinson: This dude is trying to resurrect the beatnik generation by rebelling against everything. A few good ideas about eschewing wealth and living a happy life. From my perspective, I didn't take it too literally...more as a satire. To each his own.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer Reading Club - Weeks 4 & 5

This is part of The Prophet, Dr. Mark Lee's Summer Reading Club.

    (1) Everlost, by Neal Shusterman: Dark tale of a freak accident that causes two teens to not quite make it to where they were supposed to go in the afterlife. Quick, fun read with some interesting concepts (skinjacking, Afterlights, dead spots) about what happens after you die. The concepts could easily be turned into some cool special effects for a short film or made-for-TV movie. Worth a read for something summery.

    (2) Strength for Life, by Shawn Phillips: Fundamentals for anyone wanting better health. PERIOD. This commonsense approach to understanding the need to build muscle in order to continually burn fat has changed how I exercise and eat. The first step is a two week process of resetting your body by doing very basic exercises and clearing all of the junk out of your diet. The real deal is a 12 week (just in time for a 20th year high school reunion) program of weight training with high intensity targeted cardio. Combine the the workouts with knowledge on how to eat AND in what order to eat your carbs, protein, fruits, and veggies for the maximum energy, and you've got yourself required reading for anyone who has failed at dieting programs. I've always had problems losing that last bit of fat on top of my abs, but with this change in lifestyle (not a diet) and exercise program, it's melting away.

    (3) The Frog Who Wanted to See the Sea, by Guy Billout: Yeah...I know it's a kids book, but I read it to my five year old son who is into frogs, turtles, any anything reptilian and he loved it. For anyone who has ever wanted to travel or move and once you finally got there, longed to be back home...only to want to go back after you were satisfied that home would always be there for you.

WEEK ONE UPDATE: Off to a great start but fell into old habit of reading several books at one time which means my list will EXPLODE here in a few weeks, but remain the same for a while until my book snowball gains momentum.

WEEK TWO UPDATE: Look to finish two books this week since my wife has a girls' night out.

WEEK THREE UPDATE: Got wrapped up in reading The Pawn and The Last Lecture. Decided to put them aside to read Everlost on a tip from Mark Lee for a quick read.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

'95 Civic Demand

Just read an article about the '95 Honda Civic being the most stolen car in America and has been in the Top 10 for Most Stolen four years in a row.

That news is not so great now that mine is no longer taking a spot in my garage. I recently bought a 2003 Honda Accord Coupe from a friend and have relegated my '95 Civic to the end of the driveway. I'm hoping that the interest in this year and model will help me to sell mine faster without having it become another statistic in a news story.

My Civic has few things going against it: 240,000 miles, no dashboard lights, CD player doesn't work, paint is faded on the roof, and there are a few spots on the lower doors that are starting to show rust.

But the one ace-in-the-hole: It's a Honda. It's probably got another 250,000 miles in it, and has never needed anything other than tune-ups, oil changes, and tires.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Reverse Food Chain

We awoke this morning to tears and anger. My five year-old son’s largest anole had died. The tears were for the anole. The anger was for the crickets who consummated their delicious revenge by eating the anole’s eyes out of their sockets. Rigid and weighing a fourth of his original self, I took him from the position of his last breath and walked him to the trash. The trash seems like such a low place to rest for a loved pet, but mistakes made are never repeated when it comes to pets and death.

My seven year-old daughter’s fish died a couple months ago. I decided to “plant” the fish in the garden. Having a “Green” wife and myself with Cherokee blood, this seemed like the most eco-friendly course of disposal. The thought of Cinderella, the Chinese Fighting Fish, pushing up a green pepper plant felt like a fitting end to a life trapped behind plexigas. Unfortunately, during a replanting of my garden due to torrential floods, my daughter found her once-buried fish. The mourning process is rather tedious (for an adult) the second time around. I’m thinking about how Lazarus’s family felt upon his second death and burial. Did they say, “Okay, Jesus is not around. I think it's safe."? or “I hope this is the last time we have to bury this guy.”?

One smaller anole remains. My son has been pining for a fire belly toad, so he’s not pulling very hard for the little lizard to survive much longer in a cage with a couple dozen crickets licking their chops. One lesson I hope he’s learned is that you need to keep those lower on the food chain happy (or fed) if you want them to respect you when you’re all dried up.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer Reading Club - My List: Week 2

This is part of Dr. Mark Lee's Summer Reading Club.

    (1) Go With Me, by Castle Freeman: Grabs you from the beginning. Sharply written, dark, funny, keeps you guessing. Can see this being a short independent film.

    (2) The Ezekiel Option, by Joel Rosenberg: Political thriller in the style of Tom Clancy injected with prophecy. Amazing in its parallel to what is happening today in the middle east and in the world. Ends each chapter with a hook to keep you reading this fast-paced, action packed summer gem.

    (3) Napoleon's Pyramids, by William Dietrich: Historical fiction based around the time of the French Revolution about an American who finds an ancient trinket and tries to find its purpose (without being killed). Indiana Jones with a taste of The Mummy wrapped inside a history lesson about France and Egypt in the late 1700s.

WEEK ONE UPDATE: Off to a great start but fell into old habit of reading several books at one time which means my list will EXPLODE here in a few weeks, but remain the same for a while until my book snowball gains momentum.

WEEK TWO UPDATE: Look to finish two books this week since my wife has a girls' night out.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

old stuff, but fun

While cleaning out a drawer stuffed with unlabeled CDs and DVDs, I came across one with "special" music from July 8, 2007.

I believe this was the next to last time I sang at our old church. Over nine years at that church I probably sang close to half of the songs on Third Day's albums. My best work is still to be written and sung, but this was fun anyhoo.

Up until Saturday, I have always just watched vids on YouTube. I'm a contributor. Here's a link to the "special" music from last summer:

Monday, April 28, 2008

"back in the sadde again..."

WOW...what a great time leading worship this weekend. I haven't "technically" done it since July 1, 2007 at my old church, so it has been a while. It was just so comfortably exciting up other way to describe it.

The first couple songs rocked: "The Difference" and "You Are Good"

The morning crowd was hard to get juiced up. When you're doing a song that involves congregational participation, it helps to have people participating. The second celebration was off-the-hook. To be able to just hold the mic out and really feel the people worshiping is something I'll never get tired of experiencing.

The Crowder song "Wholly Yours" is great in the chorus, but parts of the verse and the pre-chorus are tough for folks to sing unless they know the song really well. "Once Again" probably wouldn't be in my short list of songs to select, but it was a perfect fit during communion.

Since I have started taking guitar lessons, I notice my left hand moving into chord positions while I'm on "Wholly Yours" during the chorus fingering the "D", then to the "A", then "E". It probably looked strange, but I'm starting to feel it!

Looking forward to doing it again soon and rocking out with my new friends.

Monday, April 21, 2008

muscle memory

My fingertips are numb now and forming callouses. I play an hour every night and my muscles are getting quicker about changing keys and remembering where G, C, D, Dm, A, Am, E, Em, and F hide.

Our worship pastor asked me to lead this weekend, so I'm going through the songs making sure it's all within my range. Excited and anxious about it since I haven't lead worship since July 1 last year at my old church. Maybe this will be the last time I lead at our new church!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

1st Lesson

I made it through my first guitar lesson. The format is going to suit me just fine. The plan is not to walk through beginner lesson books like Mel Bay or Hal Leonard, but to work on getting me to play songs as soon as possible. So, I learned two chords (Em and D-6/9F#) which are two finger chords. The very cool thing about these two chords are the fact that they are the only chords in the song "A Horse With No Name" by America (one of my favorite songs).

My instructor has been playing for many years, has a few albums out, and is also into Christian music. He taught me a couple other chords that are used in many songs, so this week I am working on G, D, and C. I think 90% of Neil Diamond's songs use these three chords, so my brother will be pleased!

I spent the past couple nights working out "This Is Love" (Terry Butler/Mike Young), "You Are So Good To Me" (as done by Third Day), "Communion" (Third Day), and "You Are Worthy of My Praise" (Jeremy Camp). There are some books and DVDs at the library I have put on hold to supplement my lessons with, so I'm psyched about absorbing as much as I can.

My brain is already changing. I typically will either sing or watch the drummer play during the worship set. Today at church was different. I found myself watching all four of the guitar players looking at their hands and checking out techniques. Hopefully the light will pop on in my head (and hands) and playing will eventually be second nature to me.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

i bought a new friend

I finally did it! It took two shopping trips a more cash than I thought it might, but I finally found my new friend. I bought a guitar!

Not just any guitar. It's an Art & Lutherie. Made in Canada, eh? I looked at Taylor, Takamine, Ephiphone, and Seagull. The Art & Lutherie is made by Godin who also makes Seagulls. Not high end, but in came down to feel and sound quality. I'm not sure why, but I was drawn to it.

A man came in with his two young sons, had them strum a couple (they didn't know how to play) and bought a $1800 Epiphone. I bet they shopped for a total of 6 minutes. Maybe I was being a bit analytical or over thinking the whole thing, but I took my time.

The store is also where I'm going to take lessons, so I'm waiting on a call today for them to pair me up with a teacher. I can't wait to get to know my new friend.

Monday, April 7, 2008

...the call

i had prayed boldly about my family's health
and all of those things that so easily
fall from my lips

a continual stream of the familiar
having seen Him come through time and again
afraid to challenge something new

the weakness was in me bound in silver chains
of my own inability to see the treasure just
outside my cell door

even behind my eyelids in my dreams i felt His hand
but in my physical shell where numbness barely
allows a tug from the supernatural i heard the small ring

awoke to sunlight, smiled and lifted my face to the Son
turned my head and as I glimpsed the phone
it rang

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Robe Rules

Not sure what category this thread falls under. It should probably go with personal hygiene, fashion, or perhaps personal consideration of others.

As the alluring title suggests, I am in need of either formulating or being made aware of some rules regarding robes. I understand and have adhered to certain rules such as not drinking (heavily) before noon, not wearing white before Memorial Day, and not filling up the pool until after the first frost. Having the opportunity to work from home typically four out of five days per week, I find myself rolling out of bed, grabbing a cup of coffee, and spending most of the day sitting in front of my laptop in my robe. The issue comes from the looks I get and sometimes the feeling of scumming around.

I like showering as much as the next guy, but I typically work out in the afternoon or very late at night. Showering in the morning and again later just seems like a waste. I'm fairly new to the Green Living movement, so I can use water usage as an argument for staying in my robe.

One of my Twitter pals @Worshipcity suggested that a robe can be considered an "indoor jacket". According to him, "you can wear it all day long...inside. You step one foot outdoors in 1 and it's to the Looney Bin!". I like that rule...except it gets broken when I go to grab the paper or the mail at lunch. Look left, look right, look left again -- then sprint to the mailbox before the neighbors catch a glimpse of a green flannel blur.

Rules are made for breaking. ROBE WEARERS UNITE!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Guitar Shopping

God has removed every excuse from my repertoire not to push forward on my music project. After starting my own business, I now have time and money to burn (so to speak).

I'm looking for a new guitar. I've got one circa 1987 from Sears. I think it was about $100 at the time. It's a killer - finger killer that is! I'm not sure why they make learner guitars so hard to play. Maybe they do it to weed out the wannabes. The ones I have seen on-line that I'm willing to invest in are between $200-$400. My bro has an $800 Epiphone, but until I get to the place where I think I can invest a decent amount of time to learning, I'll stick with something on the lower end.

I can read music and have self-taught myself the Hal Leonard beginner books. I pick them up and play for a couple weeks until my fingers can take no more. That's when I set the guitar down for a while. Typically a few years at a time. Then I start all over again. I've been writing some songs and I'm ready to put them to music.

The place I'm at currently is frustration at not having an outlet to sing. Whether it's being under-used or not knowing how to use me, I'm not quite sure. So God has made it uncomfortable enough for me and fired me up so that I'm ready to create opportunities to use my gift.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

real treasure

you cut me
adding insult to injury
cologne ripped from the pages
of a magazine

you mock me
the muffled sound of bubbles
magnifies the cheapness of champagne
in sterile styrofoam

you control me
with relentless mind dulling pictures
broadcast for days upon days
through the dish on the trailer

you taught me
that each person holds treasure
in their eyes based on want
but needs are filled by the heart

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

my addiction

the curve of your yawning trap
filled with steaming essence
from Brazilian earth and sun

poured out for the forgetting of sleep
staining clothes, teeth, and attitudes
injecting your jittery goodness

allowing me to speak with dullness
on my tongue with neurons firing
faster than I can blink

by the third cup i have gone from
luxury to need - unhealthy habit
sending skull crushing pain in its place

Monday, January 28, 2008

green mile

the wry smile
with the bony leg of a cricket
wedged in the corner of your grin

eyes shut tight as you take
another hard swallow of
crunchy exoskeleton

heart racing, thorax squeezed
looking down the abyss of the lizard
through one thousand lenses of your compound eye

Friday, January 18, 2008

simple systems

our stars cross
sharing dust
our trajectories
forever changed

our new shape
gaining mass
spins off
three little moons

watching our rotation
orbits change
eventually breaking
free from gravity

trio of planets
eventually creating
a new cluster
in our space

Thursday, January 10, 2008

nothing for sure

the steady cascade of rain
from a faucet left on by
an absent-minded God
rather than the worn gray blanket of clouds

slowly fading the weathered
gray fence to a deep rich burgundy
i could have told you
it would happen

just as when i see the once wind-lodged branch
lifeless - an amputated limb - broken
and know its future will take it
to the brush pile beside the retired shed

As sure as each kernel of corn
will be delivered from the cob
to our year-round resident
squirrel's cheek

The rain's predictability mocks my ability
to know so much...spending my days
searching for answers
except for knowing my future

perhaps the fence, the corn, maybe even the squirrel,
but especially the rain
look at me knowing only one thing for sure
what will become of me

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mix it up

So I originally intended this to be a site exclusively for giving my poetic creative side somewhere to dump. Though I have several poem buds started, they are taking some time to bloom, so while I work through the details...

I have been reading Ted Kooser, Poet Laureate of the US and former Pulitzer Prize winner, most recently. His poetry reminds me of Billy Collins, but in a more matter-of-fact, slightly depressed, and less humorous tone.

Ted Kooser's The Poetry Home Repair Manual is my current read. I hesitate reading any "how to make your poetry better" books because I don't believe there are any formulas needed for expressing yourself if you truly want to define your own voice. However...Ted's advice for reading as much as you can thereby understanding language and how to better communicate to an audience by standing on the shoulders of others is priceless. I agree with his notion that, "we teach ourselves to write the types of poems we like to read". It's the same with music. If I am interested in jazz, I wouldn't go out and pen a heavy metal rock anthem. So I am enjoying his book.

I'm putting the finishing touches on a poem about Zippy, my son's anole. Hopefully by week's end.