Monday, July 31, 2006

On the way home

I haven't written for a while because I've been in India (yes, India - in Chennai) for the past week and, while there, I had lots of cool things happen to me. I met some amazing people, saw some unforgetable things and got my personal clock really really messed up. To top it off I got to spend yesterday in Paris being a tourist. I'm writing this from the Paris airport waiting for a plane. I hope to post my journal of the trip on this blog over the next week or so.

I'm really anxious to be home.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

50 albums that changed music

Click on over to The Observer to see their list of 50 albums that changed music. I have a decidedly biased view of such things so the first thing I look for are the albums I know and love and, sure enough, there are many that I don't know. That might make the list suspect but I don't know enough about The Velvet Underground and Nico to say that they messed up by putting it at #1 and Sgt Pepper at #2. The only mention of U2 on the list is in #15 where Brian Eno's Discreet Music (1975) comes in and they mention the impact on U2 that it had. Do we really have to get down to #36 before we hit a Who album - and not Tommy or Who's Next but My Generation.

I should make a list of 10 albums that changed me. Here is a start (this is, of course, subject to revision and these are in no particular order):

1. Meet the Beatles - the Beatles first Capitol album in the US changed my musical life.

2. More of the Monkees - the first album that I remember getting in Stereo. I listened to it a lot.

3. Sgt Pepper / The Beatles - I think it influenced everybody that summer.

4. Blind Faith - my first Clapton album.

5. Tommy / the Who - I still hear more than a bit of Townshend in my guitar playing.

6. Allman Brothers Band Live at the Fillmore East - the duel guitars and melodic leads were the soundtrack to my freshman and sophomore years in college

7. Emerson, Lake and Palmer - taught me that progressive rock was cool.

8. War / U2 - started me on the U2 bandwagon.

9. Love Broke Thru / Phil Keaggy - introduced me to Christian Music that mattered to me.

10. Crosby, Stills and Nash - I discovered three part harmony.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Stephen Colbert plays Nicea

I'm not a huge Stephen Colbert fan but once in a while he does something that I see on the web and I think he's pretty good. Here is an example where he recites the Nicene Creed.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Modest proposal

I went to a wedding this weekend with my family and it was a wonderful event with lots and lots of members of my church there. At the reception we were considering the cost of a wedding and I was thinking that with three daughters I could well be spending a lot on parties over the next decade or so and then I came up with an idea that might just help: corporate sponsorship for weddings.

This is an idea with potential. Imagine, just before the vows, the pastor says “and now I’d like you to face each other and recite your vows, these vows are part of the Blockbuster Video wedding series.” We could use product placement. Before he introduces the couple he could say “before the couple leaves for their honeymoon in their Ford F-150 pickup truck, it is my great pleasure to be the first to introduce…” or you could just make sure you have a can of Coke casually displayed on the organ and next to the unity candle. You could just have notes in the program like “tuxedos sponsored by taco bell” or “this wedding sponsored by McDonalds, official fast food of the happy couple.” The rings could have corporate logos on them. The slide show at the reception could have ads placed in them. The list just goes on and on.

In fact, churches could get corporate sponsors for their worship spaces. Fourteenth street church could be the United Airlines 14th St CRC. We wouldn’t have to change much – just push all the seats closer together and start everything about 20 minutes late.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Phil Keaggy Podcast

As a fan of Phil's music I like to at least make sure people are aware of new PK things - and this one's free. Look here on itunes for the official Phil Keaggy podcast.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Avalanche - Sufjan Stevens' new album

Bright and early this morning I downloaded the Avalanche from itunes and I’ve listened to it on and off for a while today while I was writing. I haven’t had time to really hear any of the words but sonically it covers a lot of the same ground as Illinois which isn’t surprising since it is an album of outtakes and alternate versions from that album. What it does do, however, is show that the huge amount of creativity that Stevens displayed on Illinois was only the tip of the iceberg. His wacky intricate understated arrangements on some beautiful melodies are juxtaposed with sonic experiments to give this album a vibe that, while clearly stemming from the Illinois sessions, is really unique to this album. I can’t wait to really dig into it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The GM Futurliner

On our recent family vacation to Ludington we had a couple of days of just not doing much and relaxing. it was very nice. One unexpected treat was that we saw The GM Futurliner waiting on the back of a trailer. It was getting ready to go across Lake Michigan on the S.S. Badger, which we also saw. The Futurliner is a very cool vehicle built in 1953 which is undergoing restoration. It was a lot of fun to see it. After we got home I did a little on-line searching and found that it had recently been displayed in Holland, MI! I guess I didn't have to travel very far to see it if I had really wanted to.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Making your ipod nano shuffle

As I mentioned previously, I recently got an ipod nano. I thought about getting a shuffle but Laura talked me into spending the extra to get a 1 GB nano and I’m glad I did. The only thing the shuffle can do that the nano can’t do is “autofill.” Autofill is a cool feature that allows you to fill up your shuffle with a random selection of tunes from your library with each sync that, for some reason, does not come on the nano. Since I have way more than 1 GB of music on my itunes I thought that was a cool feature. So, being resourceful I have found a way to simulate that on my nano. For those looking for a cool way to do it, here it is.

Create a smart playlist in itunes that you can call “nano shuffle.” Tell it to only take things not played in the last 30 days and limit it to 1 GB. This way each time you sync your ipod you will take off all the things you listened to and will add new things to it. (You actually need to sync twice – once to tell itunes what you played and then again to replace them with new songs. Of course if you just sync once it will be one sync behind but you’ll be replacing anyway.) There is nothing magic about thirty days but it is a good number to use to make sure that you replace your songs with a certain amount of frequency.

Now I didn’t want to stop there – there were a few albums that I for sure wanted on my ipod so I made a list called “ipod selections” and added a few albums or songs that I for sure wanted on my ipod, looked at how much room that was taking and subtracted amount of space from my “nano shuffle” list.

I also decided that I wanted to make sure that I heard a certain amount of U2, for example, so I made a separate list called “U2 random” that makes sure I have 50 MB of U2 on my ipod at all times. This smart list has two rules: artist is U2 and song not played in last 30 days. This way I also get a perpetually refreshing U2 selection. I added a few other artist specific lists as well (Clapton, Beatles and McCartney) to make sure that I get what I want in my shuffle play. And also, because I’m going to India in three weeks, I needed a good dose of George Harrison so I added him.

So now, when I listen I get the stuff I want to hear, I’m surprised by what comes up and I have fun making playlists.

The 4th of July

I’ve railed more than once over the past five years about confusing patriotism with faith. The two are not the same and a flag-waving rally does not belong in a worship service.

But, that’s not to say that flag waving rallies belong nowhere. They do indeed have a place and a time and today may be that time and almost anywhere other than church might be the place. I truly appreciate the freedoms that we have here in the United States. Perhaps the most important of which is the freedom to worship. It is a real blessing to be able to worship God as I believe His spirit is leading me. It is a blessing to be able to travel anywhere in this country without having to show identification or without being tracked. It is a blessing to be able to sit and write what I feel like without fear of governmental reprisal. My grandparents and great grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from the Netherlands and from Ireland and I’m glad they did. God chose to put me here and for that I’m grateful.

So, on this Fourth of July I thank God for the U.S.A.