Sunday, July 31, 2005

road tunes

making artist specific mix CDs for the road trip:
- Beatles (1 - Revolver and singles from that era, 2- Sgt Pepper and singles)
- U2 (three CDs worth! Containing all of Achtung Baby, All That You Can't Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.))
- Clapton (Me and Mr Johnson mixed with Sessions for Robert J)
- the Who (the traditional Keeley family who mix - it's important to sing along badly with "Behind Blue Eyes" and our white van IS the "Magic Bus.")
- The Corrs (Forgiven Not Forgotten with some tunes from their latest added for good measure)
- Yes (excerpts from the Ultimate Collection)
- Coldplay (X & Y)

It's always good to plan for a trip.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A DVD Birthday

I scored three DVD sets for my birthday yesterday. All TV show sets. First my kids gave me the first season of Arrested Development, which I had never seen before. They were convinced that it was something that I would like after Bethany saw a few episodes and they heard my brother talk about it last weekend. I've seen the first six episodes now and it's pretty funny. It reminds me of the Office in that I think it will get a lot funnier when I've seen it a couple of times and start noticing the funny stuff in the background (like Gob shredding bread in a paper shredder).

I also got the first season of the Bob Newhart show, one of my all-time favorites. I watched only the first episode (not the pilot, which wasn't broadcast until about a third of the way into the season). At first I was a little disappointed that the video transfer wasn't crystal clear like I was accustomed to on DVDs but then I realized that I was watching 30 year old television and this was just the way it was. Then I watched and laughed through the first episode. Many of the characters I came to know and love were there right from the start. Great stuff.

Finally, I also got Season Two of West Wing. This is such a fine show that I just couldn't resist adding to my collection. I haven't watched any of it yet but I'm looking forward to it.

So Happy Birthday to me. I'll enjoy these presents for many weeks.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Christian Century writes about Joel Osteen

This article in The Christian Century, which was pointed out to me by Jamie Smith is excellent. I had wondered about what Joel Osteen was really about and, while it is usually wrong to base one's opinion on the what others say rather than going directly to the source, Jason Byassee peppers his review with quotes and seems to be even handed in his assessment of Osteen's book.

Have any of my readers read this book? Is Byassee accurate?

Why blog?

Bethany was in a meeting this past week and the Dean of the Chapel asked her why her coterie of bloggers blogged when they spent so much time together anyway. She and I talked about this in the car on the way home that day and came up with two reasons.

First of all, blogging expands the circle. I, for example, was not privy to the discussions in the worship apprentice office but I could take part in some of the talk by reading the blogs and by starting my own. I am grateful that this group of young people welcomed me into their loosely defined blog-ring and encouraged me (or at least didn’t discourage me) from participating in the discussions.

A second, equally important reason, though, is that writing and talking are different things and the act of writing can result in more carefully thought-out arguments or discussions. I like that notion of using my blog to think through some things as I write them. The fact that there is, apparently, an audience is an important part to helping me try to write better – I’m actually writing for readers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Jessica Simpson strikes back

The following is from today's MSNBC:
Jessica Simpson is telling some Christians to take a walk.

A group called The Resistance has accused Simpson of looking like "a stripper” in her video for “These Boots Were Made for Walking.” In the video, the “Dukes of Hazzard” star washes a car while wearing a barely-there bikini.

But Simpson, a pastor’s daughter, says that sort of attitude is why she didn’t pursue a career as a Christian singer. “It didn’t really surprise me because I grew up with a lot of that backlash,” Simpson said, according to World Entertainment News Network. “That’s why I didn’t end up going into the Christian music industry. I think that if they're really good Christians the judgment wouldn't be there.”

I really do have some sympathy for people who try to be Christians in the mainstream marketplace. I know that they are targets for anybody who has their own narrow view of the way Christians should act. I have referred to this in my previous post about Jessica Simpson's video for These Boots Are made for Walking. But is Jessica really being fair here? Is The Resistance being fair? I have never heard of the Resistance before today so I did a little research - it wasn't hard - and discovered that they are a very different group from most mainstream Christians. In fact, the way MSNBC characterises them, simply as Christians, is hardly fair to the rest of us. I am so in disagreement with their views that I don't even want to link to their site. Here is a sample. The Resistance's website says that "There is a Satanic pentagram clearly designed in the street layout of Washington D.C." So this is a group that isn't really on the same page as I am. What they wrote regarding Jessica is a lot more inflammatory than MSNBC lets on. I am willing to bet that Simpson really doesn't know much about this group other than that some reporter told her that a Christian group said she looked like a stripper. Given that I can understand her reaction. My initial reaction to her quote, without knowing any more background than the short MSNBC article has, is that Simpson is unfairly characterizing Christians as heartless critics who can do little but take potshots at people trying to be light in the world. However, it seems that more often than I'd like to acknowledge, that view might be more true than I think.

It is also worth noting, however, that even MSNBC characterises her wardrobe in the video in question and "barely there." I still think it was a mistake for her to make the video in that way. it's one thing to dance like that in your living room (see my earlier post for her father's response) but quite another when the whole world is watching. But, given these two choices, I'm with Jessica on this one.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

School of Rock

Just about a year ago my kids gave me the film School of Rock on DVD and I just watched it again. It is one of my favorite films of all time. Jack Black strikes me as the kind of guy who could very easily get out of hand. I think he’s probably hard to work with and perhaps a director’s nightmare but he is really on target in this film.

Black plays a rock guitarist who clearly is high on enthusiasm but certainly low on accurate self concept and maybe even on talent. He ends up as a school substitute teacher and teaches the class to form a rock band that goes on to play in a battle of the bands.

As a school movie or a teacher movie it doesn’t have much to add to the list of great school movies (although there are certainly things in the movie that teachers or future teachers could discuss!), it’s more about rock and roll. When Black’s character is teaching his students about how to rock he has some wonderful lines like “raise your goblet of rock” and “one great rock show can save the world.”

When I saw the ads for this film I was so convinced that I would dislike this as both a school move and a music movie that I didn’t see it until my band-mates convinced me otherwise. I’m glad I took their advice. School of Rock rocks.

Friday, July 22, 2005

things Bethany wrote: Types of Blogs Revisited

Go to things Bethany wrote: Types of Blogs Revisited to see the results of discussions that Bethany and I have been having in the car on the ride home about her previous thinking regarding types of blogs.

Nicely done, Bethany!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Teaching Worship

Look here for a report on the Teaching Worship seminar that I attended on Tuesday and a summary of their discussion of my manuscript on ministry to children. They read the first part of a book that I have been working on for two years and hope to finish and publish in the near future. I am grateful to John Witvliet and his seminar for taking the time to engage me in a discussion of these issues and also of my text. Here is what Carrie Steenwyk wrote about the discussion:

The last half of our session focused on excerpts of a manuscript by Bob Keeley on helping children develop faith. One of the participants pointed out a great line in Keeley’s manuscript that served as argument for the entire conversation: “Giving children a thin understanding of God can be a recipe for a broken faith later on.” So, in what ways can we help children have a broader understanding of God? One of the primary ways is through storytelling—both our stories and Bible stories. Bob emphasized the importance of having parents, grandparents, and other adult church friends share stories of God’s faithfulness throughout their lives with children. He also argued against using Bible stories as simply moral lessons. In the words of another participant, “Bible stories are always interpretative stories that give formation to the people of God and help them understand what it means to be a community that receives blessing and who are supposed to be a blessing.” In other words, Bible stories should help us know who we are and help us become who we should be. This is true regardless of whether we’re eight or eighty-eight.

More on U2 and Coldplay

I've written before about the comparisons between U2 and Coldplay but on the way home yesterday, X & Y by Coldplay was on the car stereo again. I’ve had that album in the 6-CD changer since I bought it on it’s release day. That is an indication that I like it a lot. But during one of the songs – and I’m sorry that I don’t know many of the song titles, an unfortunate side-effect of doing much of my listening while driving – I was struck for at least the second time by the drums and bass. Actually, I was struck by the absence of a particular type of drum and bass playing.

I’ve listened to more than a little U2 and Coldplay has made no secret of the fact that U2 has been an influence on them. Their grand sound is more than a little U2-like and many people have noted the similarities. They’re more than just U2 wanna-be’s, of course. They have their own groove and their own sound but, still, the lingering U2 comparisons are too many to avoid.

U2’s strengths are legion but their secret weapon is their rhythm section. It is amazing how often I find myself listening to the bass line as a key melodic player in a U2 song. As I write this, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” is on my itunes and, sure enough, the bass has a wonderful riff that goes throughout the verse and serves as an excellent counterpoint to the sung melody and to Edge’s wash of sound. Larry Mullins’ drumming is often the driving force behind the songs – the thing that propels it into the stratosphere, especially the way he leads into new song sections really helps the songs have a much greater emotional impact.

Coldplay’s rhythm section, while completely adequate, hasn’t gotten to that point yet. While the players might be really important to the creation of the songs, it seems to my ears that they could be pretty easily replaced. That is something that might give Coldplay less staying power in the long run. We’ll just have to see what happens.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Lazy Blue Tunas - setlist 7/19/05

The Tunas played at a private party in Ada, MI 7/19/05. It was a warm night and we played outside where we got heated up and a little bug-bit but it was a good show (although, typical party, it seemed like we were playing only to the bugs until it was all done and people raved.

Here is the setlist:
I'll Be Back
Handle With Care
Some Of My Lies Are True
Look Thru Any Window
I Feel Fine
New Kid In Town
Better Man
It’s Gonna Be Alright
Change The World
Good Lovin’
Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End

It’s All Been Done
Hotel California
Don’t Let Go
Your Mother Should Know
Friday On My Mind
You Were On My Mind
Part Of The Plan
I Want You Back
Got You On My Mind

James "Scotty" Doohan dies at age 85

Here you can read a report on the death of Montgomery Scott, the chief Engineer on the Starship Enterprise. As a fan of Science Fiction in my youth I was absolutely thrilled to have a new show which actually took science fiction seriously. I remember being in middle school at the time and watched every Star Trek episode and film through the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. It was only the recent Enterprise that really didn't capture my imagination. I've apparently moved on to more serious things. I watch a lot of Alias and the Simpsons now.

But Scotty was the quintessential engineer. The guy who made it all work, who could build a radio out of a couple of toothpicks and chewing gum, who made the ship "fly" no matter what the Klingons did to it.

He was a lot of fun to watch.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Another Tuna show

The Lazy Blue Tunas have another show tonight - a private party in Ada. We'll be playing pretty much the same set we played at the Museum last week - here is the setlist from the Grand Rapids Art Museum 7/15/05:
Handle With Care
Some Of My Lies Are True
Look Thru Any Window
I Feel Fine
New Kid In Town
Better Man
It’s Gonna Be Alright
Change The World
Good Lovin’
Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End

It’s All Been Done
Hotel California
Don’t Let Go
Your Mother Should Know
Friday On My Mind
You Were On My Mind
Part Of The Plan
I Want You Back
Got You On My Mind

Of course, what we actually play may be quite different but it looks like a beautiful night and we're looking forward to a great time.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Living Room Tour

Back in the early 70’s Carole King released Tapestry, an album that took the country by storm. Along with James Taylor, Carole King set the standard for singer-songwriters that has echoes even 35 years later. The amazing thing was that King, along with her ex-husband Gerry Goffin, had made tons of hits for other artists as writers in the 60’s. Suddenly (or at least it seemed that way) she was thrust into the limelight as a performer. The album sold a gazillion copies. Everyone, it seemed, had a copy of Tapestry in the seventies.

I was cruising the itunes music store and noticed that King had a new CD out, The Living Room Tour, that is mostly just her and a piano, singing the songs that she wrote. And not just the songs from Tapestry. A lot of her earlier hits too, like “Locomotion,” “Chains,” and even the Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” When I saw that Best Buy (the happiest place on Earth) had this double CD for $12.99 I was unable to resist it.

It’s great. At age 62 King’s voice has lost a bit and there are times when it feels like she’s straining but the intimacy of just her voice and her piano on these songs is just too good to miss. A highlight is the duet with her daughter on "Where You Lead I Will Follow", now with new lyrics so it could be the theme from Gilmore Girls. (I hear that a lot at my house these days, thanks to Lynnae.) And when she closes out the show with "You've Got A Friend" it brings me right back to high school.

Check out the reviews at Amazon to read more about it.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Quote of the day

One of the sites I check with my bloglines reader is the quote of the day. Today's quote is from Gracie Allen:
"When I was born I was so surprised I didn't talk for a year and a half."

Friday, July 15, 2005

I, Robot

I know this film came out a long time ago but I finally got around to watching I, Robot thanks to Bryan who found a cheap copy for me! Back in the 70s and 80s I was a huge Isaac Asimov fan and I, Robot is, perhaps, his best known book. What people who have not read the book don’t realize is that it’s actually a short story collection about robots tied together because of a few common characters (most notably Dr. Susan Calvin) and the three laws of robotics:
• A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
• A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
• A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

A collection of short stories does not easily become a film so I was curious what the film would be like. It turns out that the film is only based loosely on the book - Asimov didn't have nearly as much action in his stories. The film does include the three laws and Dr. Calvin but that’s where the similarity ends. I will say that the way the mystery wraps up (and I won’t give away the plot) is very much like something Asimov would do – having the three laws broken only to show that they really weren’t broken.

Will Smith is only somewhat believable as the main character (Detective Del Spooner) and Bridget Moynahan plays Susan Calvin in a way that makes you think that she is perfectly comfortable around robots. I’m not sure that was intentional. Don’t watch this for the acting. Asimov's Robot novels featured a detective, Elijah Bailey, but Bailey and Spooner have almost nothing in common. I'm not sure the film makers even thought about the Robot mystery novels despite the fact that this is a robot mystery based on Asimov's work!

However, the effects were a lot of fun and the movie hooked me. There are a few places at the end where the camera work is dazzling (in a special effects kind of way, not a Lord of the Rings awe inspiring kind of way) and the scene where the house is destroyed with Will Smith inside is really fun to watch. Overall, I'm glad I saw it and would recommend it to people who like Science Fiction and action movies.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Jessica's Boots

I have, for quite some time, been critical of people who are critical of Christians who operate in the mainstream of the entertainment industry. I think of the heat that Amy Grant took for her “Baby Baby” video which was completely harmless. Grant was shown in romantic situations with a man who wasn’t her husband. In this case, romantic doesn’t mean sexual – it means that they were shown taking walks, goofing off, hugging and other things of that nature. But some in the Christian community just couldn’t get past the fact that she was acting in a video with someone other than her husband. Other examples of this are the hassles that accompanied Michael W. Smith’s song “Love Me Good” or Sixpence’s “Kiss Me.”

I write all this as an introduction to what I’m about to write about what I saw on MTV this morning while eating breakfast. When Jessica Simpson first broke into the industry one of the few things that separated her from Britney and Christina was that she said she was a Christian. I actually remember looking at her web site early on when I heard this and, if I remember correctly, she even addressed the issue in one of her posts. She was trying to make it in the industry with her morals intact. I gave her a lot of credit for the stand she took on premarital sex. She seemed to be at least trying to be a person of faith and standards.

So this morning I saw her new video, “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, a tie-in to the new Dukes of Hazzard movie. She, of course, wears what one would expect – the Daisy Duke look of super short cut-off shirt and shorts but the dancing that she does goes pretty far beyond what I can see as what a person of faith would do. I was pretty stunned by the whole thing until, near the end of the video we, for some odd reason, get to see her wash the Dukes’ car in a bikini. At least I think it was the Dukes’ car – frankly it’s hard to pay attention to the car.

Is this video consistent with what Simpson professes?

EDIT: I found out I'm not the only one who noticed this. An article at inlcudes this quote from Jessica's dad:
Simpson's father Joe, the aforementioned pastor, isn't bothered by the apparent sexiness of the video.

"She is not trying to be sexy. If you watch her, she's laughing throughout the whole thing," he tells "Inside Edition." "She's dancing like a crazy thing, like her mother and sister would dance at the house and be stupid. This is not her trying to be a Playboy model, which is what we're hearing."

Is he watching the same video I watched????????

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tunas at GRAM

My band, the Lazy Blue Tunas will be playing at the Grand Rapids Art Museum this Friday at 6:30! Come on out!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Very Best Gift of All and Together All God's People

If you look here you can see the Christmas play that Laura and I have most recently published. So recently, in fact, that we haven't even received our copies yet. The Very Best Gift of All is the sixth Christmas play for children that we have published and there are two more waiting at Faith Alive to see the light of day. We don't know if they'll both come out next year or if they'll do them one at a time. We've really enjoyed our association with Faith Alive. They've been great about publishing many of our plays and asking us to write curriculum and other assorted things for them. This particular play had a different title - it was called The Gift of Grace, a title which I still prefer.

This will be the first time in eight years that Laura and I do not plan to write a new play for our church to perform for it's Christmas program. We are writing a short one-act play for the Banner to publish that is designed to be done at home with familes but no full-out play this year. we will recycle a program for the first time in over a decade.

Speaking of Faith Alive, I received in the mail yesterday a copy of Together All God's People which reflects some of the material which a team, of which I was thrilled to be a member, presented at a series of conferences on intergenrational worship. We travelled far and wide together and had a great time encouraging the church to think more intergenerationally. I'm please that a resource book came out of this. Thanks to Karen Wilk for putting it together!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Is It A Lost Cause?

I have been reading Marva Dawn’s Is It A Lost Cause. There are some things in the book that I like but the further I get into it the more things that annoyed me slightly at the start are getting to me. First of all, there is something about the tone of the book that sets my teeth on edge. We want authors to be authoritative. After all, no one wants to read a book that is so namby-pamby that it never really says anything. However, Dawn’s tone is both authoritative and bossy. She references her own books often – books that cover a wide range of faith related topics. I remember reading Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down and feeling that she had an attitude in the way that she wrote. It was almost as if all of her chapters should start with “OK, listen up. Here’s another thing that I suppose I have to teach you people about.” (It reminds me a bit of the lead actor on CSI Miami – the one who plays Horatio. He seems like every one of his sentences should end with “you stupid twit!”)

This particular book is about raising children. It is clear to me, someone who is raising or has raised four kids that Ms. Dawn has not. Many of the things she writes about I agree with – kids do need boundaries, for example. But I know that some things are easier to say than they are to do. It’s that hedging, that acknowledgement that this is hard, that I don’t hear in Dawns’ tone. She also tends to paraphrase research that she doesn’t actually cite giving the illusion of scientific backing where there is none.

My favorite gripe, though, is where she readily says she has seen no research but is sure that faith-based programs would be more successful in promoting abstinence and drug and alcohol than non faith-based programs. After all, she says, they can get at the spiritual root of the temptation (p 135). Apparently Ms. Dawn has not read that there is just as high a rate of alcoholism in the church as in the mainstream population or that Christian kids get pregnant too.

There are many good things in this book, just as there were in her books on worship. I just having a hard time listening when her tone speaks just as loudly as her words.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Saturday at the Rienstra house

Ron challenged me to a blog-off regarding the Rienstra-Keeley July 4th Weekend family get-together that we had yesterday at Ron’s parents’ place on Lake Michigan. It was wonderful. We got things off to a great start with lots of food preparation and discussion about grading and defending grades to students. Grading turned out to be a theme for much of the day – Ron is just fresh off a semester as a TA at Fuller so he had some students who were not happy with his grades and we spent a fair amount of time thinking together about the difference between criterion-referenced grades and norm-referenced grades (although I’m not sure those terms ever got mentioned). I’m a fan of criterion-referenced grading because I think it is more inherently fair unless the school at which you are grading specifically states that the grades are norm-referenced. Ron was told to be norm-referenced at the beginning of the semester and that was perhaps a big part of the issue. Bethany is soon going to be in the same position so she particularly interested.

Laura made some wonderful stuffed mushrooms with apparently only a few of us liked (the kids were not about to try them) so I had lots of them which is a great thing. Ron showed us his skill as the Grill Master and I took up the mantle as Assistant Grill Master (or is that Assistant to the Grill Master?) Either way, the burgers were great and so was the salad that Laura made (I was the assistant salad maker – or at least the assistant to the salad maker). After dinner and conversation (which included Ron’s mom and dad) about the Emerging Church movement and Debra’s work we retired to the beach.

A rousing game of Frisbee keep-away for some of us and a walk down the beach for others tired us out just enough that we went up to the deck and heard about Alexander the Great’s horse Bucephalus, and graduation ceremonies (focusing on rocks and presidents).

Back to Holland for fireworks (where Meredith joined us). It was a wonderful day. The best part was having our two families together again for the first time in nearly a year.