I have six months to reshape my life. I can do this.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why Do I Care?

I am a person of varied interests and unusual distractions. My mind works in such a way that I find myself caring about things nobody else in my circle of immediate friends gives two thoughts to.

One thing I find myself spending too much time with is my music collection. I have a wide and varied collection, very eclectic. Music that ranges from polka, big band, lounge and folk to jazz, hard rock, 80's music, British invasion, 50's rockabilly, blues and even country. Sick isn't it.

One thing I find myself caring about WAAAAYYYY too much is that stupid Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I pride myself on having music from EACH member (including sidemen like King Curtis for example) of the infamous hall in my collection. I have problems, I know.

Each year when they announce who the new inductees are for the rock hall, I find myself getting either way too excited or way too upset. Here's why: there are people in the Hall who got in too early and there are way too many acts who NEED to be in there but aren't. It blows my mind all the time when I search the hall for certain inductees only to find out that they are NOT in the hall...wha???? So from time to time I feel the need to vent about that. I will do it here.

Here are a few people or groups who I am totally shocked are not yet in the HOF:

Chicago - Seriously? Does the Rock Hall just hate all non-punk music from the 70's? Let's see, Elvis Costello and the Attractions is in. The Talking Heads, Ramones, The Clash, Blondie, The Pretenders, The Velvet Underground, The Sex Pistols, Patti Smith and The Police (before Synchronicity they were punk) are all in. Have we FINALLY exhausted the punk movement that mercifully killed disco in the late 70's and early 80's? Do we need to put the English Beat in for good measure? And Chicago isn't? I can understand Reo Speedwagon or Styx not making it in. But Chicago? Really? Huge hits spanning the 70's and 80's? 25 or 6 to 4? Saturday in the Park? If they are not voted in the two or three years, the Rock Hall is just impotent. Peter Cetera's voice, those compositions, songs every teenager from the 80's danced or made out to...they HAVE to make it and soon.

John Mellencamp - He will get in. Once we flush out this backlog of over-important and over-hyped 70's punk bands and put in Run DMC. Check out this resume of music of which I will indicate its zenith on the Billboard charts: Jack and Diane (#3), Pink Houses, R-O-C-K in the USA (#6), Authority Song, I Need a Lover, Small Town (#2), Hurts So Good (#1), Crumblin' Down (#1), Lonely Ol' Night (#1), Rumble Seat (#4), Paper in Fire (#1), Cherry Bomb (#1), Hard Times for an Honest Man (#10), Check it Out (#3), Pop Singer (#2), Jackie Brown (#20), Martha Say (#8), Get a Leg Up (#1)...and there are STILL more #1's I have NOT included from the 90's. I assume the only reason Mellencamp is not in yet is because he is primarily and 80's and 90's success and they will wait a few years. But Prince is in. As is Michael Jackson. REM is in. U2 is in. Bruce is in. Mellencamp is the only one left. He will be in soon.

Rush - since every other culture defining and really unique group is in (heck, even The Lovin' Spoonful is in) Rush should be in too. If Percy Sledge can make it in for one song, you gotta let Rush in. YOU HAVE TO.

Boston - Sadly, they may be considered now that their lead singer has killed himself. Expect Boston to make it as soon as they induct The Boomtown Rats to help fill in that vague early 80's punk scene.

Cheap Trick - Again, another 70's band. Once the Rock Hall finally gets Iggy Pop and the Stooges in, they will have run out of reasonable punk influences. Then we will see some of these 70's bands make it in. There are PLENTY of lesser groups in the hall than Rush, Boston and Cheap Trick.

Genesis / Peter Gabriel's solo career - How is he NOT in? How is Genesis not in? You HAVE to put Genesis in NOW. And then, after a few years, put in Gabriel. Hasn't he done enough for poverty and trouble in Africa? Before Bono found Africa on a map, before Bob Geldoff parlayed one decent song into a career as rock's first statesman, there was Peter Gabriel. When Bono stepped off the plane into the black heart of that lost continent, Gabriel met him in the airport. These two acts have to be in. Everyone knows at least four Genesis songs. And at least three Peter Gabriel. Quick - how many Moonglows songs do you know? The Dells? Name two OTHER O'Jays songs...see?

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - Seriously, this woman rocks. If you put Patti Smith in, than you HAVE to put Joan Jett in. The good thing about Joan? She loves Rock and Roll and doesn't give a damn about her bad reputation.

KISS - Too bad they were so flashy and never really had big hits. They have only been one of the highest grossing rock acts of all time. If Gene Simmons had been more Paul Stanley and less himself, they would probably be in. But he is such a media whore and shameless promoter that he has really sullied and muddied up the whole KISS franchise. They may be the only ones on this list to NOT get in ever. Too bad. Cause last time I saw Ace Frehley, he looked awful. Like he had been snorting coke from a flaming bong bad. Ugh.

Pat Benatar - Again, she will get in. But I am afraid that this is an either or vote with Joan Jett. Either one or the other will get in. And that is too bad because they did not make that same deal with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bob Seger.

Steve Miller - Admit it...who reading this blog has not at one time owned the greatest hits collection of The Steve Miller Band? You can name five Miller songs right now...Joker, Take the Money And Run, Jet Airliner, Fly Like an Eagle, Abracadabra... and you had two or three others. Once the New York Dolls complete the brand new 70's punk wing, Steve Miller gets in. If Jackson Browne, Skynyrd and Seger can make it, you HAVE to let Steve Miller in.

The Dave Clark Five - How...never mind. They are the only great 60's band not in. And there are at least five more in who shouldn't be (paging The Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers, The Lovin' Spoonful, Del Shannon, The (Young) Rascals - your wake up call is here and it is called the DCF).

Alice Cooper - You have all this punk, all this heavy metal, no Alice? How? He has to be in soon. Has to be.

Todd Rundgren (he produced so many of the great punk albums of the 70's - NY Dolls, Patti Smith so you think he would be a mortal lock) but he also recorded some great stuff AND produced OTHER great acts (Cheap Trick, Badfinger, Hall and Oates, Janis Joplen, the Band, Paul Butterfield, Foghat, Grand Funk, Alice Cooper, Bad Religion...that is a partial list).

Anyone I left off? Anyone here you do NOT agree with? Comment a brother. And so help me, if any of you say The Monkees should be in there and are comparable to The Beatles, I will strangle you. Comparing The Monkees to The Beatles is like comparing Star Trek to NASA.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Quitter Never Wins

Back again. The title of today's post is a call back to a Jonny Lang song off of his album LIE TO ME. I think he was in his late teens when he released the disc. It is sort of becoming the theme to my life. Not just weight loss. Right now I am committed to lose weight but I am tired in a way of that being the totality of my existence and the only subject people talk about.

People week after week after week, all they talk about is the weight. I understand I have made a dramatic shift in how I live. But I am more than what I weigh now, what I used to weigh and how much I have lost. This past weekend at church I found myself sort of secretly wishing I could start over new some place where they never knew big fat me. That way we could talk about other things besides my weight. No wonder people develop eating disorders and have HUGE issues with self-esteem. Everyone is obsessed with how much people weigh.

Ironically here is my weight loss info for the past week. Even though I am tired of talking about it ad nausea with every Tom, Dick and Harry...I have lost seven pounds (!) since last week, bringing the grand total to...

105 pounds! I have FINALLY busted the infamous century mark. I am not obsessed with losing weight. But I do still get excited about hitting some of these important numbers. 25, 50, 75 and now 100. It does feel good. What doesn't feel so good is that I probably need to lose another 100.

So I keep at it. There are many areas of my life where I refuse to quit. If I am going to do something, from here on out I want to do it with my absolute best effort. Too many people shut off huge portions of their lives because they have bumped up against some problems, some struggles, some issues. That is just backwards living. I had job issues so I am going to settle. I had family issues so I am resigning from the family and disappearing. I had relationship problems so I am just not dealing with any relationships period.

That seems easy. I have been in all of those places. I assume everyone has or everyone will. But from now on I cannot allow that defeatist mentality to overwhelm me. I keep moving. Because, as trite as it seems, a quitter never wins.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Best Music About God You Won't Hear

I am a teen herder. Youth minister. Youth director. Youth guy. Minister to youth. However you want to say it, I do that. The only thing I really do NOT like about working in the church is being stuck in that church "culture" or in the Christian "ghetto" as many are inclined to label it. There it seems music, logos, shirts, shoot almost everything, has to be marketed to Christians. We seem to have lost the ability to think and make rational decisions informed by our belief in Christ and our knowledge of scriptures.

Instead if we could just slap the words "purpose" and "driven" on it or call something post-modern or even make something catchy into a cute little bracelet, effectively proving we have absolutely NO creativity on our part whatsoever, we are going to make millions in the Christian subculture.

Today I take Christian music to task. Christian music, I believe, can be divided into five basic groups:
1. Old people music (Gaithers, MWS, SCC, Amy Grant etc). These are people who have become so associated with Christian music that they can never break out, despite efforts in the early 90's to do so. I lump in DC Talk, tobymac, Mercy Me and any Christian music that I tolerate or semi-enjoy because at least these groups or acts have staying power and I can somewhat enjoy them.
2. Christian Rap - while just ten years ago, C-Rap was exactly that, CRAP, now it has blossomed into an interesting scene. Acts like Lecrae, Tedashii, John Reuben, KJ-52 and even my boy Cedenough are sort of staking out territory I feel that people like Flash and the Five started exploring years ago, becoming sort of a voice of their generation. They are not talking about drugs, hoochies and booty. They are relating their lives, their experiences. I really enjoy this stuff.
3. Christian version of whatever is popular in the general pop market. The Christian subculture word for this is secular. I hate those distinctions. And I hate this music. If I wanted to listen to the Chili Peppers or to Dave Matthews or John Mayer, I would just listen to them and then have a devotional time with God. I don't need both at the same time.
4. Praise and worship music. While there are many artists who do this well (Charlie Hall, Tomlin, Crowder, Redman) sometimes this is the genre people resign themselves to when they realise they need to make money or are passing their creative primes. If another regular old CCM artist relegates him or herself here, singing Charlie Hall's greatest hits in a new, somewhat tired-sounds-too-much-like-the-original way, I will leave the whole genre behind and sing chants.
5. Hymns. Old. Some are amazing. Some are confusing. Most are dull. But these hymns can give us a framework. Not a framework of FAITH, but one that leads us into what we NEED to be doing to reach a lost world dying without Jesus. Utilize music. Don't wander over to the dark side of the CCM industry. Instead, take music to the places where it needs to be. Many of our old hymns are just drinking songs, pub songs, re-written with God-praising lyrics. That is where we should be headed.

If you haven't noticed, in the past two or three years, there have been significant releases of faith. Artists have recorded albums that have outstripped ANYTHING that has come from the world of CCM. The depth of honesty, soul-searching and, YES, faith in Christ has been astonishing, surprising, encouraging and, most importantly, produced great music. Here is a shortlist of the best albums about God released in the past few years:

Honorable mention: Anything by Sufjan Stevens. Sufjan is a Christian folk-singer. Wait, he is a Christian who is also a folk singer. And he is one of the ten most influential musicians performing today. His influence runs deep on most college campuses. His long song titles even touched David Crowder, although most people stuck in the church probably thought those weird titles on Crowder's latest release were due to the fact that he looks like an alien and a corpse had a child and should be as weird as he looks. Sufjan's SEVEN SWANS album is great. Full of faith and you can see how God is working out Sufjan's salvation with fear and trembling.

Ben Harper. Sure, some of the lifestyles lived by people in this section may be a "turn-off" to the Falwell set. But that is a loss I can deal with. Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals play the best soulful R&B today. And there is a consistent string of faith, even leading Harper to try multiple projects with famed gospel group The Blind Boys.

Here are the albums I mentioned earlier. From fourth to first, these are the albums truly leaving an impression of Christ on my life.

4. BAPTISM - Lenny Kravitz - I LOVE listening to Lenny. You can really see on this album how Lenny battles his appetite for sin and the duality he lives every day. He knows there is a battle fighting within himself between his demons and better angels. Probably too much James 3 and 4 for most Christians to really enjoy.

3. HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB - U2 - How can you NOT think about Christ when you listen to U2? This album covers so much territory for Christ. It talks about God's place in society and in the club scene. Bono reveals how he is trying to nudge someone closer to Christ. And it ends with the most dynamic praise song written since U2 wrote 40 almost twenty years ago.

2. COLORBLIND - Robert Randolph and the Family Band - But wait Craig, you holler. They won a DOVE award!!! They are a CCM group! I declare not so. They do things that CCM bands never ever ever ever do or will ever get the chance to do. They perform in seedy bars. A lot. They really enjoy the music. They opened for Clapton and are consistently playing Bonnaroo and Crossroads Guitar Festival. They are even gonna open for Dave Matthews Band in the fall. They still sound like they stepped right out of the church. They are funky, rocky and just plain amazing.

1. TURN AROUND - Jonny Lang - Holy COW! This album is the album that every CCM artist wishes he was deep enough, connected enough to Christ, talented enough and brave enough to record. And they WON'T. Even in the safe confines of the CCM industry, they continue to record the same crapola they always record. Jonny Lang made a conversion a few years ago and this album is just...seriously, you will not believe what Christ is doing and how honestly and openly Lang talks about it. Not to mention the fact that the former blues prodigy is growing nicely into his amazing talents and developing a knack for song-writing. Honestly, this is the best album about Christ I have ever heard. And, probably, the best album about Christ you have never heard.

Change that. Check out these discs ASAP. I bet Dave already has TURN AROUND and will soon be singing the praises of Jonny Lang himself.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I do. One of the things you really have to give up, whether you diet or not, is sausage. I miss sausage biscuits and sausage gravy and sausage pizza. But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, about sausage I should eat. It is weird. Of all things to miss because of the diet, I miss sausage.

Well, it passed. Speaking of things passing, Monday night into Tuesday morning I was constipated for the first time in my life. That was the worst I have ever felt ever. I wanted to vomit or have a BM. Something. I was desperate. Regardless of how I laid in bed or sat in the chair, no position was comfortable. Eventually at about 4:30AM, I put on the slippers and drove to Walgreen's to buy some sort of laxative, for relief. I found that they have a rather extensive collection of laxatives. And I don't know about you but I did NOT want to just walk up and ask them which one is best.

Even though I was desperate, I was hanging onto a shred of dignity. I don't know why. It doesn't take a Monk or a Columbo to figure it out. Angry looking young man comes into 24 hour pharmacy wearing pajamas, ratty t-shirt and house slippers. He grunts his way back to the laxatives shelving (which, THANK GOD, is clearly labeled so you don't have to waste time searching or, God forbid, ASK where it is). At 4:30AM. Someone must need to poop.

So I find the liquid stuff that you can take to clean you out before surgery. It promises relief in anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours. That is better than the 6-12 hour range that the others promise. I grab it and go buy a bottle of water (need some cool water to rinse it all down). I get to the counter and the one dollar bottle of water and the four dollar laxative ring up to 15 dollars. At that point I didn't care. I was willing to pay it and go. But Trudie decided to figure out what the difference was. Apparently she had rung up a beanie toy and never took it off. So now I have to wait for helpful Trudie to re-ring it.

All I want to do is go home and give birth to this brown baby that is clinging for dear life to my colon. And Trudie is trying to cancel off Froofie the purple bear. AND SHE CANNOT DO IT. She calls Mr. so-and-so up. This has now turned into something wholly awful and embarrassing. I just wanted to sneak in, get the poop-juice and leave. Now we are calling in Mr. so-and-so from the back. And forcing me to switch registers. Dear Lord in heaven...eloi, eloi...

The pain at that point was horrendous. I had trouble walking. Finally she checks me out and I hobble back to the car. I get home and force down the maximum dosage possible (nine teaspoons) and then throw down the water.

About two hours later I do not feel the pain of the blockage. Another hour after that, it happened. This was a purging of Biblical proportions. If I were to turn back and look, I would have become a pillar of salt. This was a mass exodus of EVERYTHING inside of me. I expected Charleton Heston to crawl out of my belly button and raise his arms over my toilet. Unbelievable. And then, finally, about an hour of sleep. Sweet, pain-free, sleep. Then it hit me. That was TOTALLY my chance to get some chocolate laxative thing. Dang it. I could have had chocolate. Go figure.

After a rough and busy weekend, a weekend where food was used to celebrate friendships, I only lost two pounds. That is much better than I anticipated. Those two bring the total up to 98.

So, in all of this experience, I still miss sausage. And only chocolate laxatives from now on.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Used to Be Bad

Macca inspires this post too! I used to be a bad boy, eating all sorts of awful crap.

But this week I decided to bust out of the diety doldrums. I started keeping a journal on Saturday, logging all I ate and did as far as exercise goes. I also make sure that I drink my 64 ounces of water each day. So far I have had my vitamins, exercised, had at least 64 ounces of water a day, and eaten around 1200 calories each day.

And I have dropped some nice pounds. Down another four pounds. Brings the grand total to 96. Almost 100!!! If this weekend was not Freedom Weekend, I would be able to guarantee that next week I am hitting the hundred mark. But since it is a big weekend and some friends are coming in, I am going to allow myself some slack. But come Monday I am back on the stick in a hard way. I am SO excited. About myself. About losing. About Freedom. Should be a great weekend.

And I always have the Macca to walk to.

Macca is Back

This past week I was able to really take some time and load all of my favorite music onto my brand new iPod which I was able to buy after hitting my third goal weight a few weeks back. One of the key additions (after the Beatles of course) was putting all of my Paul McCartney (or Macca) music on there.

I have every album, I think, that he has released as a solo or as a Wing-er. He has a huge catalogue. Not all of it stellar. But much of it is really good. If you are the casual fan and are thinking about what Macca discs to grab, I would suggest the Wings: Hits and History collection. Has pretty much what you want. It covers, fairly extensively, the hits from all of the 70's and into the early 80's. It is not just a Wings collection, as much of his early 70's (McCartney, Ram) are on there as well as his solo stuff from the early 80's (Press to Play, Give My Regards to Broad Street, McCartney II, Tug of War, Pipes of Peace).

If you are more interested in his actual best stuff as far as individual collections go, beware. Many Macca albums are similar: two or three great hits, one or two other killer songs true Macca fans love, crap filler. But he does have five albums which are worth a look.

Ram - this album has held up surprisingly well over the years. I think it stands up better than McCartney the first post-Beatles release for any of them. Ram has some great stuff on it Too Many People and Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. It also has one of my absolute fave Macca tunes Monkberry Moon Delight. And it has two nice acoustic numbers Heart of the Country, Back Seat of My Car. Great stuff and not too much filler.

Band on the Run - perhaps the finest album released by any single Beatle. From top to bottom, by far the best Wings album, easily. Band on the Run, Jet, Let Me Roll It, Helen Wheels, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five, Bluebird, Picasso's Last Words... Just good music.

The other three albums are newer Macca. He has sort of hit a creative upswing in the past few years, releasing four albums that are all better than anything after 1980 and I think even better than anything since BOTR. Here are the best:

Flaming Pie - Great album. I think that Macca really achieved something significant. After working on the Beatles Anthology, he was inspired to challenge himself in the studio and really work out a cohesive album. He worked with Steve Miller some and even collaborated with Ringo for a few songs. And the songs...The Song We Were Singing, Young Boy, Calico Skies, Flaming Pie, Little Willow, Used to be Bad. Calico Skies and Flaming Pie are classic Macca and sound even better live.

Run Devil Run - After Linda died, Paul was quiet for a year or two. When he returned to follow up Pie he hit the studio with Chris Thomas (the sound man who started with the Beatles on the White Album). He also brought in some accomplished musicians to help him out. David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Ian Paice (Deep Purple), Mick Green (Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, the Pirates). All they did was hit the studio for two or three days and did covers of obscure rock and roll hits from the 50's. Only Macca knew the hits, they were that obscure. The Beatles prided themselves on playing not just the hits in Hamburg in the early 60's but also the rare B-sides and novelty and lesser known rock gems. Macca mines his past for these hits and they absolutely rock. He even writes three new songs that sound exactly right in this setting. This is my fave Macca disc of all time. To help him cope with Linda's loss, he reverts back to rocker Macca and it totally works. Great rock and wonderful walking music.

Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard - His latest release. A little more mellow. Macca basically played all the instruments on this one, produced by Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck). It holds some great tunes. Jenny Wren Macca describes as the daughter to the Beatles hit Blackbird. English Tea, Friends to Go, Fine Line, Follow Me, Promise to You Girl. Great stuff.

So check out this Macca tunage. You will not be disappointed.