Friday, January 22, 2010

In Praise of the Chordettes

Last September St. Mark's had a 50s party and I downloaded a few tunes to play at the event. One of them was "Mr. Sandman" by the Chordettes. What a GREAT song! Hearing the precision of the harmony and rhythm of these women is really a revelation. This tune went by thousands of times on scratchy AM radios, and people loved it. Listen to it now on CD in full fidelity and it's nothing short of amazing.

The Chordettes' other big hit was "Lollipop." Remember? "Lollipop, lollipop, oh, lolly, lolly, lolly...."

It Is What It Is

This morning I was thinking about the contemporary mantra "It Is What It Is," and I revisited my previous post about it.

As logically ridiculous as this expression is, I find myself using it from time to time. It usually comes cascading out of my mouth after I have worked myself into a near-frenzy while emphatically and conclusively demonstrating that somehow what is, isn't. Or what is, isn't really, though maybe sometimes.

It's as if I try to convince myself to not trust reality. Rather, I must shift reality somehow. The thing about trying to shift reality is that it never works. But I keep doing it. It must be entertaining.

The theological equivalent of the statement "it is what it is" is "is is." We should be able to say just "is." But we need to somehow fortify or clarify, and so we say "is is" or "God is." There is no blank to fill in after "God is." At least not logically. We do say things like "God is love" to help explain what God is like. But theologically, there is no word after "God is."

This why I say "I believe in God," rather than "I believe in a God" or "I believe in the God." God is not a being. God is being.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thumpa but No Bumpa

For some reason, lately I have little patience for radio yakking in the car. Even NPR, though I devoted 26 years of my life to it. I can't even take cool alternative-yaking on alternative radio stations. (Alternative to what, you may ask. Good question.)

So I listen to CDs. Different stuff, but lately I've become quite fond of dance music while driving. Lately it's a double CD of mixes by Benny Benassi. I'm going to get huge subwoofers so I can drive by your house and entertain you. Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa. thumpa, thumpa-thumpa.

It's fun music, kinesthetic. My mind is not taxed--I can think and enjoy the drive and the scenery on my way to work. I like driving. Especially after the car dealer informed my that my car could corner at 130 mph. Please understand that I'm not dangerous, though I do love leaving large speeding SUVs way behind around curves. With the dance-floor pulse surging through me.

In our confusing world, one must enjoy what one can. Mustn't one?

Monday, January 18, 2010

20 Minutes and the iPod Backlash

It's raining in San Diego. We've spent the day inside, reading and listening to music. We have listened to nothing but records. I'm up every 20 minutes or so to turn the record over or change it. I like this experience. It makes music-listening intentional. I select the record, look at the cover, take it out of its jacket, put it on the turntable, and listen to 20 minutes of music by the same artist or artists.

I also like shuffle on iTunes, but it's different. Shuffle is great because you don't know what's coming next--listening is full of revelatory surprises. Under critical listening, it can sound superb. And it's very easy to use shuffle for background when you're doing other things.

But record-listening is unique. It's very analog--you are putting on a black disc with grooves that cause a stylus to vibrate to the tune of the music. If you want to be totally analog, you can send that through tube amplifiers to your speakers, and there's not a single conversion of the signal to ons-and-offs or ones-and-zeroes. Transistor amplification uses ons-and-offs, while tube amplification depends on waves, like a theramin, translating small waves into bigger waves.

More important is the tactile and visual nature of records--touching and looking at the cover art, feeling the disc, watching the turntable spin. It's a many-faceted experience, all supporting listening to music.

I think lots of folks are discovering this, which is why record and turntable sales are growing again, and why so many artists are releasing new music on EPs and LPs.

It makes life good.


We are 2 hours into 24. The formula has begun again.

It's not right to call this show predictable. There are regularly surprises in the plot. Maybe it's predictable that there will be surprises.

The show is both entertainingly unpredictable and entertainingly predictable. When last night's show began, I was wondering how long it would be before Jack Bauer threatened mortal injury to someone in order to extract information. Remember the classic moment last season when he was ready to jam a pencil in someone's eye while screaming "TELL ME!!!"? These moments are predictable.

So there we were, 21 minutes into the first hour. Jack has a gun against the head of the informant and he screams "TELL ME!!!" I will enjoy watching the show, anticipating when the next of these will occur. I also enjoy the pauses during Jack's task of saving the world from catastrophe while he resolves some personal or family issue.

While I was watching, it seemed to me that the show is more self-aware than ever. You know, this show might benefit from a foray into camp, or at least some self-referential humor.

A unique aspect of 24 is that it has no sense of humor. You'd think that Jack Bauer and his nemeses had never watched the show.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

American Idol

Yes, we will be watching American Idol tonight. I am making excuses, as usual.

I just want to check it out. I probably won't watch many episodes. It's a stupid show. But I am curious about Ellen DeGeneres.

Those sort of excuses. I'll probably use them next week, too. And the week after that.

Want Jesus on your Jury?

"Court officials in Jefferson County, Alabama, were skeptical at first when they encountered a potential juror who said her name was 'Jesus Christ.' But the 59-year-old Birmingham woman, who had her name changed in probate court, assured the residing judge that was her name. Christ was called to jury duty for a criminal case but was excused because she was disruptive. Instead of answering questions, Christ was asking them. Efforts to reach Christ were unsuccessful." from Religion News Service.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Where, Oh Where To Put Our Hands?

Great Shots of San Diego Architecture

Here is a website of visual splendor. It is chock-full of excellent shots of significant San Diego architecture. Among many other things are photos of the first Jack-in-the-Box, and the structure on the site of of the Kumeyaay band--among the most-ancient North American Indians. Some of the photos range around Southern California. A delight!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Monday night is dysfunction night on A&E. Merrie and I watch regularly. The show Intervention has become so popular that most everyone who is selected for the show already knows the interventionists from watching them on TV.

There may be people who dismiss it as simply voyeuristic and intrusive. The intrusion part is true to a point (although participants sign up for it). But Intervention is different from most reality TV in that it documents so clearly and persuasively two central aspects of addiction: first, that it is a systemic (family and friends), not an individual problem; second, that it is VERY difficult and painful to deal with. Most of the addicts on the show relapse.

Hoarders is also on Monday night. The show displays this statistic each time it airs: that 3 million Americans are hoarders--they have a compulsive need to acquire and keep things. The show makes it clear that it really is a sickness--in every case, it points to some kind of underlying problem.

I really like Hoarders. I'm planning to get the first two seasons on DVD. Also, there's a Hoarders bobble-head that I'm buying. Their website offers eight different books about hoarding. I've ordered all of them. There's also a model 1-800-GOT-JUNK truck on its way. And this morning I saw a pair of latex gloves autographed by one of the show's psychologists on ebay. I hope no one outbids me.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Are We "Mad As Hell" Forever?

Lots of media commentators and writers have been making predictions about the new year, and the new decade. While it can be fun to read them, history shows that most such predictions turn out to be wrong. This morning I read that Fortune magazine’s Top Ten Stock list for the last decade, published in 2000, was down 44%. Two of the companies on the list went bankrupt.

With most predictions being so far off, I have a lot of respect for those who seem to have insight into our direction--whether that direction is positive or negative. One such prediction was made by Paddy Chayefsky, who wrote the screenplay for the 1976 movie Network.

At the time it came out, Network was considered an outrageous satire of the TV business. Indeed, it is entertainingly over-the-top in places. But, sadly, a basic premise of the film has come true over the last ten years.

In the film, a TV network discovers the power of anger to entertain people and hold their attention. At one point Faye Dunaway, who plays the network’s chief programmer, screams at her staff that she wants “programs about anger.” At another point she takes control of the network’s news division.

I don’t know about you, but I often find it distressing that I can tune up and down the AM radio dial, or across several cable TV channels, and hear angry, irrational voices at any hour of the day or night. The reason these voices are on the air is that they attract listeners and viewers. We listen to them and watch them.

Maybe all this is harmless. I certainly hope so. But I keep getting the nagging thought that anger is being celebrated, rather than information being shared.

In 2010, I hope for a new birth of solution-finding, justice-serving and peace-making, in the media, our communities and our governments.

World's Tallest Building Opens

What a way to start the decade--with a very, very, very tall building. Not in China. Not in Malaysia. In Dubai.

Here in Sn Diego, we're starting the decade with a very good football team that's on a tear. Fans here are ecstatic. Me, I'm very calm. As usual.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Every Sunday Morning, Early

I'm awake at 6 a,m, every Sunday morning. Not any other morning. Just Sunday. Early Sunday morning is the quietest time of the week. The birds aren't at the feeder yet, and the sun rises above the canyon in the back.

Friday, January 1, 2010

One 2010 Thing, One 2009 Thing

We like watching the Tournament of Roses parade on New Year's morning. I like it because it's not dominated by cartoon-character balloons. It's still primarily a parade, not a television event. I've grown tired of over-produced television events. But why, oh why does the commentary have to be so deliberately and consistently unctuous?

Don't finish saying goodbye to 2009 with looking at the best protest signs of the year.

Rationality and Jazz

As we start the year, here's hoping that the sense of general rationality will continue. In that vein, David Brooks is great.

As always, we listened to tons of music during 2009. Perhaps our best "discovery" of the year was Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, whose 1950s records with Shirley Scott are sensational. I also learned this year that Billie Holiday recorded in the 1950s, and some of those performances and recordings are extraordinary. There is a beautiful John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman record on Impulse that's been very well remastered.

2009 was the year we had an FM antenna put on our roof so we could listen to KKJZ in Long Beach as well as Jazz88 in San Diego. We're also enjoying LA's KUSC. More about classical music later.