Saturday, December 31, 2005

Highlights of 2005

Here are a few of the things that made 2005 special for me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dark Angel

It was a DVD Christmas at my house (again) and one of the DVDs that I got was the first season of the show “Dark Angel.”  I’ve actually never seen the show before and suggested that I get it for Christmas because it was $17.88 at Meijer and I figured that it would cost me more than that to rent it at Blockbuster so I got it.

I watched the two-hour pilot episode (which in TV time is actually only about 90 minutes long) on the day after Christmas and really enjoyed it.  I was looking forward to watching the next episode when I woke up early (as I typically do), long before anyone else got up only to discover that the DVDs were gone.  Meredith thought it might be fun to watch the DVDs in her room late at night on her new laptop computer so I haven’t seen past the first episode.

However, so far I’m hooked.  The last time I was hooked like this was when I saw the first episode of Alias so I have high hopes for this show!  Now if I could only get my DVDs back…

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Lazy Blue Tunas 5th Annual Chritmas Show

The Lazy Blue Tunas 5th Annual Christmas Show at the One Trick Pony on December 22 was a smashing success. The house was packed and people were unfortunately turned away. We’re sorry some of our friends were unable to hear the show because the place was so full but those who got inside heard the following songs:

Set I:
Good Lovin’
This World is Not My Home
Jingle Bells
I Feel Fine
Snoopy’s Christmas
Pleasant Valley Sunday
It’s All Been Done
O Holy Night
Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End

Set II:
Chipmunks Christmas
Change the World
No Matter What
You Were On My Mind
We Three Kings
I Want You Back
Hotel California
Go Tell
Handle With Care
Some Of My Lies Are True

Got You on My Mind

Sunday, December 18, 2005

My lawn

Last summer I took more than a little bit of grief from friends over the state of my lawn. My decision to trust the natural process rather than expend time, money and energy on artificially watering my lawn seemed, to the unbelievers, like a bad idea. True, my lawn was not lush and green then but I had faith that it would be OK in the long run. This picture, taken this week, shows that my lawn looks just like the lawns of my neighbors.

I stand exonerated.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Alias goes on hiatus with a Bang!

I’m a TV watcher rather than a TV viewer.

In my own personal definition of these two terms, a viewer is someone who has the TV on while he or she does other things and gives it some attention. A watcher is someone who, when he or she has the TV on, is watching with more or less full attention. If I have the TV on I am almost always fully engaged in what I’m watching. Of course I’m not the only person in my house so the TV is on at times that I don’t really care much about what’s on but if I put it on I want to really watch something. That’s why I love DVD’s – I’m not bound to someone else’s timetable, the picture quality is very good and there are no commercials.

There are only two shows I watch without fail whenever new episodes are aired. In fact, even if I’m sitting in the room watching it I run a tape just in case the phone rings or somebody needs me for something or in case I want to watch it again. I also sometimes need to bail out friends who aren’t as careful about making sure they have their VCRs programmed. Those won’t-miss shows for me are Alias and The West Wing. (Full disclosure: there are a few other shows I watch on DVD that I don’t watch when they’re broadcast like The Simpsons and Arrested Development.)

Last night Alias had its last show before the show goes on hiatus for a few months so that Jennifer Garner could give birth. When the show returns in March (or whenever) they’ll crank out the last few episodes of the series. As I’ve mentioned here before, it’s been cancelled and this season is the end.

Not only have I watched every episode of Alias as it has been broadcast (either live or on tape soon after – OK, occasionally I’ve done both.) I have also been watching the DVDs pretty faithfully and I’m now a bit over halfway through the season four set right now. Even when the show has been less than stellar I have found that it plays even better on DVD. I got excited last season about halfway through because I felt that they started to get back to the original form of what made it great. Many reviewers have felt that it seemed a little lackluster this year with the new characters not really taking off. I actually have really enjoyed the new characters, especially good spy Rachel Gibson and bad spy Kelly Peyton.

Last night’s episode was touted as the return of Michael Vaughn and, indeed it was. He returned in a dream sequence so he’s still dead but there were all kinds of hints that maybe he wasn’t. And the way they’re doing it is not in an I-feel-ripped-off kind of way but rather in a here’s-what-they’ve-been-planning-all-along kind of way. And the way his return was handled was a huge shout-out to the serious fans bringing back new versions of scenes from nearly all the previous seasons. This episode had me completely hooked and loving it and then Lena Olin showed up. (For the uninitiated, she plays Syd’s mom, Irina Derevko and is universally acclaimed to be really really good at this role. Fans go nuts whenever she shows up, which has been rare since season two.) Her appearance was, as far as I can tell, completely unspoiled. The fans – especially this one – didn’t see it coming or hear about it ahead of time. So we had a great episode with a wonderful surprise twist. Does it get better than that? I don’t think so. This was, pretty clearly, the best episode of the year and one of the best of the last couple of years.

Now I’m geeked about what J.J. Abrams has in mind for the series finale!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More on Bono and "Coexist"

There has been a great discussion over at a posting I made from way back on October 12 and I notice that the topic gets a fair amount of hits from search engines so I thought I’d bring it up front and see if we can generate more discussion.

My October 12 entry was about a change in the lyrics to “Yahweh” that Bono made when I saw U2 in Chicago this past fall but the discussion soon changed to include other things, most natably the use of Jewish, Musilm and Christian symbols both on Bono's headband and on the images on the screen behind the band. I have reproduced some of the comments and my responses almost exactly as they appear in the earlier posting (with a few typo corrections):

Anonymous said...
I saw U2 at Auburn Hills last week and was unprepared for the Coexist portion of the show. I have been a little intrigued and maybe a little more troubled with the Coexist theme, as it seems to equate Mohammed, Jesus, David, as all equals. From what I take from pluralism, is it disrespects all religions. Christians don’t believe Mohammed is equal to Christ. That is offensive. Muslims do not believe Christ is God. That is offensive. Jews don’t believe Christ is God either. So to say they are all theologically equal is folly. But maybe I am reading into that too much. I certainly agree that the religions should "coexist" without killing each other; bloodshed or ignorance in the name of religion is folly as well. How do you see beyond the apparent pluralism and misdirection of the character of God, "in the name of love" - have you read any other helpful links or articles?

Bob Keeley said...
to johnny5 - Here is what Nathan Hart wrote: "Bono actually says "Jesus, Jew, Muhammad, it's true: all sons of Abraham." it's an attempt to find the unity in the people of the religions of the world, in order to find peace instead of war among them." Similarly, in "Yahweh" the pictures of the symbols of the other religions seem to be saying "we don't hate Muslims and Jews" rather than "they're all the same." So, I think Bono really wants war in the name of religion to stop - or as he says "people are more important than ideas."

Anonymous said...
To paraphrase an earlier entry "I saw U2 in Cleveland last week and was unprepared for the Coexist portion of the show..." and I share the sentiments of that blogger. Interesting is the later entry......Similarly, in "Yahweh" the pictures of the symbols of the other religions seem to be saying "we don't hate Muslims and Jews" rather than "they're all the same." Where does that understanding come from? I would not ever get that idea from what I saw in concert. The mixing of the symbols seemed to say "equality," not in the human rights sense, but in the "all religions are the same" sense. I hope Bono's not into this mushy universalism. It pretty much ruined the concert for me. Maybe I just expected too much from only listening to lyrics.

Bob Keeley said...
I hope the previous anonymous poster looks back here again. First of all, thanks for reading and commenting. I really appreciate the dialogue.A read of The recent book by Michka Assayas (Bono in Conversation) makes it pretty clear that Bono is no universalist and his "Jesus, Jew Muhammad - it's true” is pretty clearly referring to "all sons of Abraham." That became even clearer to me when I watched the Vertigo Tour DVD. Just like you use the Bible to interpret the Bible, I think you need to use Bono to interpret Bono so the COEXIST theme, which is so strong, is the one that I think is what is meant here.Of course, someone could ask him outright but his Christian subtext is SO obvious in other places that I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Top 10 Beatles Songs

Top 10 Beatles Songs – Terry Ott gave his top ten list of Beatles songs and, I think his list is great. That inspired me to make mine. Mine is quite different from his and leans quite a bit more towards McCartney than his does. I also realize that by tomorrow, things might change. Of course, tomorrow never knows. And yes, I know that my top ten list has 13 songs on it. Big deal.
1/ Penny Lane
A brilliant melody combined with a killer arrangement. My all-time favorite Beatles song.

2/ Hey Jude
The song that reminded all of us in 1968 that these boys could write.

3/ I Saw Her Standing There
Was there ever a more brilliant opening to a debut album?

4/ Can’t Buy Me Love
One high point among many of the Hard Days’ Night era.

5/ We Can Work It Out
A song completely unremarkable except that it is pop music perfection.

6/ She Loves You
Just what America needed to convince us that “I Want to Hold Your Hand” wasn’t a fluke.

7/ Yesterday
I'm sick of hearing it but can’t deny that it’s still one of the greatest songs of all time.

8/ Let It Be
Paul at his piano-ballad best.

9/ Something
George has a hit. A beautiful melody, well performed with a nice arrangement even if the title was nicked from James Taylor.

10/ I Feel Fine
Another brilliant pop song. This is from the era when it seemed like the Beatles could churn out this kind of pop wonderfulness avery three months, which, of course, is what they were doing.

11/ While My Guitar Gently Weeps
George nails the writing, Eric nails the playing.

12/ Back in the USSR
The Beatles show that they can do Beach Boys music.

13/ Taxman
A wonderful example of great early George Harrison. A great opener to what is perhaps their best album, Revolver.

I list my favorite Beatles albums here.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Christmas War

Nathan Hart, a former neighbor and student of mine and now a pastor in NYC has made an excellent post over at his blog.

Nathan also touches on something I talk about in my classes - department stores, our government and the public schools are not churches and we shouldn't expect them to act like it.

I had a bit of fun in my class this week by asking some of my students if they knew the exact phrase from the NIV that the innkeeper says to Mary and Joseph. They all got puzzled looks on their faces, a few reached for Bibles to quickly find the quote. I didn't wait too long before I told them that there is not innkeeper in the Biblical Christmas story. The commercialization and assimilation of Christmas into our culture have caused us to lose focus on what Christmas really is. Fighting about the President's Christmas card or what we call the tree set up in a public place is just a distraction.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lennon remembered

Over at MSNBC you will find The Beatles - Great Disc Debate -, an ongoing feature where a critic rates the albums of a particular artist. In this case, the Beatles.

I knew it was the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death before any media told me about it. I remember the day pretty well. I'm probably like most people in that my listening goes in stages - I listen to a lot of Beatles sometimes and then I don't listen quite so much at other times. I will often focus on a particular artist or style of music for a while and then move on to other things. There has been one group, though, that I have continued to listen to and come back to over and over again since I was old enough to buy records - The Beatles. I remember seeing John on the Ed Sullivan show and thinking that playing the guitar and singing like that was something I wanted to do. And I have ever since. Because his album Double Fantasy had recently come out I had been listening to a lot of solo Lennon in the weeks just before he was shot. I went to the Dakota building in New York the summer afterward just to see the place where he lived and died.

Lennon stood for many things, sometimes inconsistently, throughout his life but I prefer to not think of his activism or his performance art with Yoko - frankly, I merely put up with much of that. It's his music that stays with me and, while he did some fine work as a solo artist, clearly his work with Paul, George and Ringo stands above it all. So it is in that spirit that I will look at the MSNBC top five Beatles album list. It's actually a pretty good list:

  1. Revolver
  2. Abbey Road
  3. Sgt Pepper
  4. Rubber Soul
  5. A Hard Day's Night

(They also call the original Yellow Submarine "the dud." Even though they have the more recent Yellow Submarine Songtrack pictured they refer to the original album with only four new songs on it. They're right. While the four new songs are OK, the album simply doesn't live up to the standards of their other albums.)

My quibble with this list is that I would probably put A Hard Day's Night at number four and The Beatles (the White Album) at number five. I've made my appreciation of the White Album known on this blog before (both here and here) but it really is an unparalleled collection of wonderful songs.

So my list looks like this:

  1. Revolver
  2. Abbey Road
  3. Sgt Pepper
  4. A Hard Day's Night
  5. The Beatles (White Album)

So, John, your music is missed. I think I probably wouldn't have liked you as a person - a bit too acerbic for me but, man, you wrote some great stuff.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Mere Marketing: Did Disney Pay For Your Sermon?

This article, Weblog: Did Disney Pay For Your Sermon? - Christianity Today Magazine, shows a remarkable and troubling trend - using the pulpit for product placement. It seems that there is a contest for pastors who preach about particular topics related to the film and book The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Just the latest in a series of product placement for the impending opening of the movie - and your pastor might get a free trip to London.

A friend at school recently asked me if I was sufficiently geeked about the upcoming Narnia film, remembering my excitement over the Lord of the Rings and figured I'd be a fan of these as well. I hadn't really thought much about it, thinking that the films would probably be pretty cool but I wasn't chomping at the bit to go see it like I was all three Lord of the Rings films. (I did manage to go to all three films on opening day with my good friend Ron Rienstra - a wonderful time of fellowship and orcs! I also remembering seeing the the people gathering for the opening day of the movie and thinking "it's the swarming of the geeks!")

So why am I not as intrigued by these films? I enjoy the books and I dipped my toe back into them a few years back and picked up the Silver Chair (one of the Narnia books) again and enjoyed it even more than I had the first two times. (Come to think of it - I reread The Silver Chair because of a sermon Ron preached. Thanks, Ron.) As I did the appropriate amount of soul searching I realized that the enthusiasm of the Christian media has tempered my enthusiasm for the film. I've been disappointed too many times by so-called Christian art. When I see the film (not "if") and when I enjoy it (and I really do expect to) I'll probably come around. But my lukewarm reaction so far says more about Christian marketing, like the sermon contest - do I really need to go into why I think this is a terrible idea? - than it does about the film itself.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Dont Give Up - Peter Gabriel, Bono and Alicia Keyes

Bono and Alicia Keys have done a remake of Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” which you can listen to here (direct link to quicktime stream). Listening to it (which, on first listen didn’t get me real excited but it’s growing on me) did make me want to go back and listen to one of my all-time favorite albums, So by Peter Gabriel. This album was given to me as a Father’s Day present when Bethany was very young. I have a pretty clear memory of making a tape of it for my car and listening on a short trip when I was concerned that Meredith and Bryan might be born early (the link shows you what they’re up to these days).

The album itself is, simply, a masterpiece. I haven’t been a close fan of Gabriel’s work but other things of his that I’ve listened to haven’t come close to matching this album in excellence. “Don’t Give Up,” sung as a duet with Kate Bush, is simply stunning in it’s beauty. “Red Rain,” “In Your Eyes” and “That Voice Again” are perfect examples of Gabriel’s ability to make a moody piece that has a melody that doesn’t leave your head for quite some time. Then there is the mega-hit “Sledgehammer” and it’s twin “Big Time” that shows that Gabriel knows how to craft songs that have a groove as deep as the grand canyon.

The playing, especially by bassist Tony Levin, is outstanding and the singing is emotive and exceptional. Peter Gabriel shows that emo is not a new thing. If you haven’t heard this album do yourself a favor and find it and listen.