If I were a character on LOST, I’d want to be a guy who told Sawyer that if he wasn’t prepared to actually kill me, he should shut up and be a man instead of a little crybaby who misses his mommy.

Got some stuff to talk about.  But no one ever wants to talk to me.  It’s unpleasant.  As such, I have a blog.  Enjoy!

  1. Forgot to mention that Liz Taylor died last week.  So RIP, Cleopatra.
  2. There was a Deadliest Catch marathon on Saturday.  I love that show.  I was so engrossed, I was almost hoping the gig we had that night would be canceled so I could keep watching.  But, as it stands, I just went out and bought the Season 6 DVD on Sunday.  🙂  Can’t wait for Season 7 to start up in April.  Really want to see how the Harris Boys are doing and how Sig’s getting by with Edgar on leave.  And the two new captains seem promising, too.  Should be a good season.
  3. Venture Bros. Season 4.2 came out this past week.  One of my favorite shows on TV, and I love it on DVD even more because of the commentaries.  (Seriously, those are some RIDICULOUSLY fun commentaries!)  This wasn’t my favorite season, and I’m not alone on that…but I still love the show, and even a season I don’t like as much is still better than the best season of a lot of other shows I also like.  (That didn’t make any sense…but screw it.)  Plus, Jackson Publick (aka Christopher McCulloch) has announced that they’ve officially signed on for two more seasons and at least one 60-90 minute special.  So that’s super-exciting for us fans!
  4. I’ve had a variant of the same argument about 10 times since the announcement of the iPad 2.  It basically begins with me saying, “I just think it’s stupid that they released a new one less than one year after the initial launch.”  Then the friend, well-wisher, or complete dickbag (depending on the setting) on the other side of the conversation will say something to the effect of, “Nuh, uh!  The first iPad came out in 2010, it’s 2011 now!”  So, let me put it in print once and only once…  The first iPad came out (in North America) on April 3, 2010 (or April 30, if you were smart enough to wait for 3G).  The second one was released on March 11, 2011.  THAT IS LESS THAN ONE YEAR LATER.  Sorry.  I know I’m a jerk for being right about that and being able to prove it, but I am and I can…so there!  (Here’s the Wikipedia link, if you don’t believe me.)  And this isn’t about my blind opposition to Apple products.  I don’t CARE if it’s your favorite gadget—whatever.  Doesn’t matter to me at all.  You’re entitled to your fun as much as anyone.  But the new one that made your first gen iPad obsolete came out LESS THAN ONE YEAR later.  (And actually, from what I’ve seen, it’s got some really good improvements, so I’m not judging the product…just the timing.)  There.  Now I’m putting that to bed.
  5. We’re having a surprise Winter in St. Louis.  It snowed on Saturday.  It’s being forecasted (or is it just forecast?) that it will snow tomorrow, too.  People are complaining non-stop…except for me.  I save my complaining for Summer/too-hot Spring.  🙂  I couldn’t be happier with this weather!
  6. I listened to Doc Hammer (who is involved with the Venture Bros.) expound on his love of David Bowie for ten minutes on YouTube.  He made the suggestion that the best way to get into Bowie is to buy “Ziggy Stardust” and listen to it without pants on (because you’re going to need the extra room), then pick up something from the super-coked out era of Bowie (like “Station to Station”) then pick up “Diamond Dogs.”  After some consideration, that’s not bad…but I’d do it like this instead:
    • Begin with “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” because it’s foundational.  It provides a capstone to the “Old” Bowie and serves as a primer for almost everything that came afterward.
    • Move from there to either “Aladdin Sane” or “Diamond Dogs” to further explore the “Glam” era Bowie.  This was the peak of his success, and it’s fun rock music.  Enjoy!
    • Grab something from 2000 or afterward, to experience Bowie at his musical best.  Personally, though it’s a STARK contrast to the glam stuff above, I recommend “‘Hours…'”  It’s my favorite Bowie record, and has some of his most lush arrangements on it.  Or shoot for “Heathen,” maybe.
    • THEN you grab something from the super-coked out era.  “Station to Station” is a good choice.  “Black Tie White Noise” is also a good choice (even though he was probably off the coke by then.)
    • Then pretty much focus on whatever you liked, and/or get some Greatest Hits/Live stuff.  At some point you have to pick up either “Aladdin Sane” or “Diamond Dogs” (which-ever one you didn’t pick up before).  Personally, I love “Outside” and particularly recommend it to people who don’t like the glam stuff, but want to be able to say, “Yeah, I love Bowie.”  And I maintain that you’ve GOT to listen to “Reality.”  It’s a great record, to begin with…but beyond that, it’s a little bit of a mystery.  The touring behind it was extensive.  Bowie repeatedly spoke of how much fun he was having on the tour.  Then he had a heart-issue that cut the tour a little short, and he pretty much walked away from the business.  He didn’t make a formal announcement of retirement…but he seems to have quit.  Rumor has it that he now introduces himself to people as “Hello, my name is David and I have two children.”  He seems to have walked away from being David Bowie and is just a family man now.  “Reality” might just be the last Bowie record…and that makes it interesting.
    • …and that’s my David Bowie primer.  🙂
  7. Two Hangmen EP is almost done in the “post-production” stage.  Which basically means I’ve got a mix that I think I can live with and that Dave seems to like.  (Or we’re close, at least…I’ve got a couple of SMALL fixes to make, still.)  We’re going to do a photo shoot soon, and then we’ll finish the thing, I guess.
  8. Work is fine, but exhausting.  Been doing a lot of extra stuff, and the office mood is weird (not bad…weird).  But who wants to talk about work?
  9. Feldman gig over the weekend went fine.  Snow probably kept a few people away, but we had a decent crowd.  The drunks were a little irritating at the end of the night (they didn’t want to leave and at one point some girl ended up crying and screaming in the parking lot, yelling at a guy who was no longer there…that’s how drunk and mad she was)…but they basically clapped when they were supposed to.  So yay.  And the bar people were nice and make a pretty good burger.  Had fun and played well.  That’s pretty much all I ask for.
  10. Side-effect from the gig, though…my back hurts a lot.  I’m sore all over and it kinda sucks.  My own fault for getting this out of shape.  Might have to do something about that.  I’m not likely to though.  It’s my way.

And that’ll do for now.  If nothing else, I’ll talk to you when I buy new comic books this week.

So this is kinda fun…

I’ve been thinking about picking up some stickers for my guitar cases and car.  Somehow, I’ve had my car since 2008 and I’ve never put any stickers on it…and also, I’ve got a bunch of guitar cases with no stickers on them.  So here’s a list of stickers I’m going to have to pick up.  (They’re all bands.)  I have a whole bunch of them that I want to get.  So many that I’ll have to decide where they go!  I won’t have room on my car for all of them (if I want to keep it tasteful), and there are some I’m going to want on the car AND on cases…possibly on multiple cases.  So this will be a fun venture for me!  (It’s incredibly geeky that I’m actually looking forward to this, isn’t it?)

Anyway…here’s the list, and I’ll indicate which ones I KNOW need to go on the car, where space is limited…

  • The Who (Car—Gonna need more than a COUPLE Who stickers, in fact…)
  • Drive-By Truckers (Car—Again, gonna need a few)
  • Misfits (Car—Might need two or three)
  • RAMONES (Possibly Car—Probably need a few)
  • Sex Pistols
  • The Damned
  • Motorhead
  • Dropkick Murphys (Possibly Car—Probably need 2 or 3)
  • Flogging Molly
  • David Bowie
  • Descendents (Possibly Car—Probably need 2 of ’em)
  • Black Flag
  • Reverend Horton Heat (Car–and I actually already have a couple sitting around I just haven’t bothered to put on the car or cases yet)
  • Pixies (But I’m not sure any legit stickers exist for them, or at least I can’t find any)
  • Pearl Jam (Car—Might need 2)
  • Iron Maiden (Possibly Car—Probably need a few)
  • Cheap Trick (Possibly Car—Possibly need a couple)
  • Zappa (If one exists…and if it does, I’ll need a few…)
  • Johnny Cash (Almost Certainly Car—Almost certainly need a few)
  • Kinks
  • …and you will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

…and maybe a few others.

See?  It’s fun.  (For those looking for some awesome stickers, check out Interpunk.com.  They’re pretty good!)

————

Comic Books Purchased:

  • Alan Moore’s Neonomicon – Issue # 4 of 4 — I’ve been VERY disappointed in this series, largely due to just how un-Lovecraftian it’s been in the displays of sexuality involved (particularly the total of about 10 PAGES of rape sequences).  However, this last issue had a pretty big change in tone and actually created a decent story.  If you could get by with just the first and last issues, this would have been GREAT…but issues 2 and 3 were unnecessarily dark and could’ve made their point with—y’know—less rape.
  • The Sixth Gun – Issue #10
  • FF – Issue #1
  • Captain America – Issue #615.1 — I don’t know what this “.1” thing is that Marvel is doing right now…seems kinda stupid…but whatever.  Always good to see Cap.
  • Justice League: Generation Lost – Issue #22

Make up your own title. I’m a little tired of trying…

Here’s some random stuff, because that’s what I do.

  1. Quick DKM Review — “Going Out in Style” came out a couple of weeks ago (or at some point earlier this year, anyway…whatever…).  I talked about it briefly last week…but I’ve more fully absorbed it this week.  I like it.  First thing of theirs I’ve really liked since “Sing Loud Sing Proud.”  The records in-between haven’t been bad or anything.  This one’s just better.  It was a daunting challenge for them to even follow “Sing Loud” at all, since it was pretty much a masterpiece.  The records following didn’t suck…but there was just no way they could live up.  This one, however, comes pretty close.  It’s so good, I almost want to join a union.  (And, shockingly for someone who defines himself as a Democrat, I usually think unions are a waste of time, money, and otherwise perfectly good picket signs.)
  2. New banjo is working out pretty well.  Stuck a microphone in front of it on Saturday and recorded a version of myself singing “Nancy Spain.”  (It’s kind of an Irish tune.)  Sounds good on the recording, and it plays smoothly.  So I’m happy.  Just gotta buy a new strap—the one that came with it only goes to about the bottom of my ribcage, so it’s kind of useless.  Also need to figure out where to buy strings thick enough to handle the Irish (GDAE/EADG, however you like to think about it) tuning.
  3. Work was ridiculously busy today.  And it will be tomorrow.  Good thing I only took off two days and didn’t take a FULL vacation!  (I kid, I kid…)  It’s good to know they need me though.  I don’t mind the work, as long as there’s work to do.
  4. The Two Hangmen thing is nearly done.  I think I have a mix that’s pretty close.  I don’t really care what else needs to be changed on it…whatever Dave suggests, I’ll probably do, because at this point I’ve lived with it a little too long as an engineer and I don’t think he’ll suggest anything that endangers the integrity of the project.  (I say that now…but if I write anything about him wanting to add a clarinet or a slide whistle or a fart-track or something, someone please tell me to stop.)  So, look for that to “drop” soon-ish…
  5. IT’S TOO DAMN HOT!!!  My body can not make the change from 40 to 80-degrees in a day.  All of you happy for the warm weather can bite me.  (It’s cool though.  I’m delicious.  I taste like cream soda and shame.)  I’m sitting on the couch right now, the laptop isn’t on my lap, it’s on the arm of the couch, and I’m sweating so much I’m actually DRIPPING and my shirt is wet.  This is hell.  (And yes, there are fans going and windows open.  I’m not an idiot.)
  6. In other news, I missed the Super Moon.  I think my brother said something about it to me…but I didn’t see it at all.  Oh well…
  7. The house church I go to was interesting this week.  The guy leading it was remembering a friend of his who’d passed away a number of years ago (a tradition) and sort of did a day of remembrance thing, where we all shared a little bit about people we knew who have died.  I think I began my comments with, “Well, I’m Irish…all we DO is talk about death.  So settle in…”  It was a nice night, with no one completely breaking down into tears.  Mostly just nice hearing about people who were apparently good people while they were alive.
  8. In a complete change of pace…  I’m playing bass with the Michael Feldman Group this weekend (on the 26th) at Mimi’s Bar and Grill in Ferguson (46 No. Florissant Rd. Ferguson, MO) from 9-1 (pm to am).  Come on out and see us, if you get a minute.  I’ll be singing a couple of tunes (probably in set one or two).  The place has good food, was recently remodeled to be a nicer-looking establishment, and I think it’s even SMOKE FREE…so no excuses from you wimps with pink lungs!
  9. Gas prices suck.  Even I’M thinking of voting against Obama because of this bullshit.  I can barely afford to GO to work.  I’m spending about $10-15 a day just on gas.  This has to stop.  I don’t buy that we’ve got a shortage on fossil fuels at ALL, much less so bad of one to necessitate a (possibly?  I haven’t looked this up) record-breaking rise in gas prices.  Just further proof…no matter their political affiliation, politicians just don’t CARE about the middle and lower class.
  10. I watched the Rebecca Black “Friday” video that has the Internet so pissed off.  I don’t see why everyone’s so mad.  It’s stupid.  The lyrics are horrible.  The auto-tune is obvious and unnecessary.  There’s a 35-year-old rapper for no reason that feels a little bit creepy…  But I’ve heard worse, and so have you.  It seems like the Internet reaction to it has been mostly just against the fact that it’s simple and catchy.  As though getting a song stuck in your head is somehow the equivalent of mind-rape.  But it just seems like good marketing to me, and I don’t see where it’s any worse than anything else of its ilk.  In fairness, I could go a lifetime without hearing it again, but the same can be said of “My Humps” by The Black Eyed Peas, “The Stroke” by Billy (Ripped-Shirt!) Squire, “In Da Club” by 50 Cent (aka – “Iss Yer Birfday” by Fiddy Cenn), or even “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by the Beatles.  Plus…she’s 13 and recorded something a 13-year-old would like.  Climb out of her ass.

…and that should do it.  It’s too damn hot to write any more.  I need air conditioning.

St. Patrick’s Day Wrap-Up…and also an answer to a question I posed last time…

St. Patrick’s Day is gone and in the books.  Once again, the world returns to drinking flavorless beer (or in the case of a lot of you, you’re continuing to drink flavorless beer, but now it’s not dyed green) and people go back to finding Irish folk songs irritating instead of charming.  I don’t quite get that.  I’m a Guinness guy all year round, and any time someone wants to play “Rare Old Times” or “Finnegan’s Wake” or something like that, I’m in for a sing-a-long.  But to each their own.

I had a good time yesterday.  Shipped up to Dogtown with my Dad and met some folks there.  Hung out listening to The Irish Aires all afternoon.  Ate some decent corned beef at the church where the band was playing.  Talked to the guys in the band a little bit.  Noticed that their banjo player/guitarist Gerry wasn’t with them.  Apparently his sister suffered a serious stroke and he went home to Limerick (Ireland).  I don’t know if that’s a permanent move or not…but it was serious enough that he made the call to go back to Ireland, so it doesn’t really matter if I missed his banjo playing yesterday.  I just wish Gerry and his family well as they’re dealing with a hell of a bad time in Limerick.  The band sounded great even without him, but I do hope he’ll be back when this time rolls around next year.

After the Dogtown festivities ended, I wanted a bite to eat and a Guinness…so we went to a little pub/restaurant near my home.  They had WAY better corned beef than we got in Dogtown and I like the atmosphere of the place.  And then there were a couple of episodes of Father Ted, and the day pretty much ended.  All in all, not a bad time.

I did try to order the DKM banjo I mentioned in the last post, by the way.  You may remember that I posed the question of “How the hell am I not supposed to buy it?”  Well, the answer to that is fairly simple.  I COULDN’T buy it because the Deering (music company) website sucks.  They have coding errors all over the place, and you can’t even view your cart, much less make a purchase.  And calling their 800-number just went to an answering machine, with no return call to the voicemail left asking for help with their interface.  They suck pretty hard.  So I didn’t get that banjo…

…I got this one:

That strap's kinda neat looking, but it's like two feet too short for me. But hey...blue plush lining!

It’s a 1929 Vega Tenor Banjo.  I got it at Music Folk here in St. Louis.  The people there are nice, well-informed folks.  One of the guys behind the counter gave me some tuning tips (that were REALLY handy!)  The other guy made a couple of jokes and was friendly and personable.  Good place to shop for otherwise hard-to-find folk (and not so folk) instruments.

…but there was something that kind of freaked me out when I saw the case.  Take a look.

This case is just BEGGING for some punk stickers. I'm thinking Misfits, Ramones, DKM, Descendents, Reverend Horton Heat, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks...

In case you can’t read them (somehow), those two stickers are from the St. Louis Banjo Club, of which I am a member!  Apparently this used to belong to one of the club’s members.  I don’t know anything about the guy (lady?).  I think I might have the name of the previous owner on a slip of paper that was inside of the case…but I’m not sure.  I might ask around at the next club meeting.  Total coincidence!  Small word, huh?  Took it over to my brother’s place to show it off tonight.  Dave and Valerie seemed to like it just fine.  Tessa mostly just thought it was too loud.  🙂  (I still say it’s her fault for standing too close, though!)  Patterson and Melody, on the other hand, seemed more interested in (scoff!) eating their dinner than anything I had to show them—silly babies!

Anyway, that’s how my little vacation has gone so far.  Tomorrow I just plan to sleep in, go to church, and record an installment of Empty Checking.  Should be a nice, light day.  Hope yours is too!

————

My Favorite Song of the Minute:  The Irish Aires’ recording of “Nancy Spain.”

Irish Things

It’s officially St. Patrick’s Day in St. Louis!  Here are a few thoughts about it…

  1. This is one of my favorite times of year.  I get to drown myself in corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and Guinness, and no one says boo!  And I’m very proud of my heritage.  I like that there’s at least one day where we get to acknowledge it.  I’m a little bummed out that to most people that just means getting rip-roaring drunk (on Budweiser products, no less! Ugh!) and making an ass out of themselves…but you take the good with the bad.  Not every cousin is a good one, y’know?
  2. So I’m heading down to the Dogtown parade with my Dad.  Should be good.  Good food.  Good music.  Hopefully we’ll wander off at some point to see something other than the inside of the church this year, though.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d be content enough to just hang out there all day, but part of me feels like I’m missing the spectacle by doing that.
  3. My brother noted on his blog that it’s possible that the last name Brink was, as he put it, “believed to be a popular European derivative of ‘O’Brieren.’ Can’t get more Irish than that folks.”  Sounds like crap to me…but I’ll take it!  It’s the kind of crap I like.  🙂
  4. The Dropkick Murphys (one of my favorite Celtic Punk bands—and yes, there’s more than one—have released their own signature banjos.  As you know, if you’re a friend of the blog, I’ve been in the market for a new banjo for some time…  How in the hell am I NOT supposed to buy this?
  5. I’m taking tomorrow and Friday off work, partially in honor of St. Pat’s.  (And partly because I haven’t had a proper vacation in about six years…so a couple of days off in a row sounded pretty good!  And fortunately, my bosses are good folks and were glad to give it to me.)  I’m excited about sleeping in on Friday.  I get to sleep in a LITTLE bit tomorrow, but we’ve got to leave a kind of early to get a decent parking place for the thing in Dogtown…but Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (keeping in mind that I now go to church on Saturdays), I’m going to sleep and sleep and sleep.  I can’t tell you how excited I am about that!

And in closing…I leave you with this, which the industrious among you can probably translate via Google:

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! Pionta Guinness, le do thoil.

————

Comic Books Purchased Today:

  • Morning Glories – Issue #8
  • Fear Itself Prologue: Book of the Skull – One Shot — This is the new, title-spanning thing Marvel is doing.  So far, it at least looks like it’ll be better than the “Civil War” fiasco of a few years ago, anyway.
  • Batman “Irresistible” 100-Page Spectacular – One Shot  — I stand by my boycott of the Batman main title and the “Incorporated” crap…but the 100-Page one-shots have been pretty good.
  • The Unwritten – Issue #23
  • Darkwing Duck – Issue #10

Beware the Ides of Whatever…

As I’ve mentioned, I’m running a little low on ideas for stuff to write.  So I’m going to post something I wrote a while ago.  A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) recently wrote to me about a crisis of faith, and I replied.  I like what I wrote, even though it’s a little long, and thought it might be worth sharing on the blog, since I have so little else to say at the moment.  So I’m posting that.

Now…of COURSE, I am removing all personal references and anything I think could identify the friend in question.  I have even eliminated references to the person’s GENDER.  Hopefully the only people who would be able to guess at my friend’s identity from this would be me and him/her.  I have also done some light editing.  Anything I’ve added will be highlighted in red.  Anything I’ve subtracted is probably best left unmentioned in the first place.

Anyway…I think some of you will find this interesting.  Or tedious.  Whatever.  Either way, this post was written with the “Serious Face” tone, so don’t look for my usual inanity.  Sorry about that.  I’ll try to post something about farting next time or something like that to make up for it.

…until then…here’s my most recent treatise on Life, the Universe, and Everything, particularly focusing on why bad things keep happening despite God’s existence, and an explanation of why I think it’s okay to have fun in this life and not take everything so seriously.  Serious Face ENGAGE!

————

[Begin with a personal address you all don’t really need to read…mostly an apology for taking so long to answer the original message…]

…part of the reason it took me so long to organize my thoughts is that it’s been a while since I’ve been asked to say anything about my faith.  As such, it took a little bit of reexamination to arrive at anything useful. 

Since you did me the honor of being honest with me, allow me to do the same.  Ever since I left my job as a minister, I’ve been struggling with my faith as well.  Not so much in the concept of God, but more in the concept of the church.  I won’t go into too much detail, because there are two sides to it, but suffice to say, my exit from the job was under bad terms—especially as it pertained to the Eldership/Leadership of the church.  I walked away very disillusioned and reluctant to trust a church-body again, and I have not actively practiced ministry since, save for performing a couple of weddings.  (To my knowledge, I have not in any way disqualified myself from the conditions of my ordination.)  So in many ways, I want to thank you for sending me that message, because it has allowed me to reexamine some of what I think about The Church, and my own relationship to it.  (Short version on my conclusions: When I find one that is more concerned with my spirituality than with the music, movies, beverages, and style of language I enjoy, I’ll be home. – Update: I may have found that in the Saturday night group I’ve been attending.)

Now that I’ve got that out in the open…  I can honestly say that I do not doubt the existence of God, no matter how shitty some of His creation can be sometimes.  Humanity is flawed.  God is not.  I can’t blame the painter if he didn’t expect the paint to turn toxic.  But, I do have my moments where I need to reassure myself, and I want to share a few things that help me affirm my belief when I’m struggling.  These are not necessarily infallible proofs of the existence of God.  But they seem to help.  I’m going to do this numerically, so I don’t have to think of creative transitions between topics.

  1.  I will sometimes look at world events and wonder why God isn’t doing something about it all.  In my weaker times, I wonder if He exists at all.  In those times, it helps if I remember that the world has always been in upheaval.  Things have always been difficult, in every generation, and every society has thought it would see the End of Days.  Honestly, I do not think that the world is any more screwed up than it’s ever been.  There was hostility, hatred, racism, famine, flood, and all kinds of evil dating back to the first day out of the Garden of Eden.  I don’t think the disease is any different.  I just think we’re broadcasting the symptoms across 4G connections now, in real time.  I know that sounds a little bit defeatist…but somehow I find it comforting to think that the world is the same as it’s always been.  I guess it just makes me think that if the world’s the same as it’s always been, and that God’s in the same place doing the same thing He’s always done.
  2. If you sit and read through the parts of the Bible that tell us what life is going to be like, we’re not really guaranteed a good time.  In fact, when Jesus spoke to Paul, He said to him, “Come, I will show you how you must suffer for me.”  At every step, God warns us in the Bible that life is not going to be easy.  He doesn’t promise us a free ride…He just promises us a reward at the end of it.  That’s why He tells us to enjoy the good times when they come in so many places in the Bible.  I believe there’s somewhere in there that the Bible calls the joys we have on Earth a “glimpse of Heaven” or something to that effect.  I tried looking for it, but my brain is failing me at this hour and I’m not finding the words I’m looking for…but it’s in there…somewhere.  (Update – Didn’t bother searching for it before writing this post…but I still maintain it’s at least implied!)  🙂  Again, I know this probably sounds a little bit contrary to the assertion that “God exists and He is GOOD!” but stay with me.
  3. It helps me to remember the journey of the Apostles of Christ.  When Jesus died, they RAN.  They scattered and assumed it was all over and they’d need to fear for their lives.  I don’t think there was one of them that came to his defense in those moments.  Peter most notably denied even KNOWING Jesus three times before the sun even came up.  …but they came back.  There is, of course, good evidence that a man named Jesus with the same basic chronology of events as stated in the Bible did walk the Earth, as fact—whether He was indeed divine or not.  The Apostles were very close to Him—be He man or Messiah.  They knew Him, and sadly ended up running from Him at his death.  But something brought them back.  Each one of them (and I count Judas Iscariot in this) realized that there was more to this man than just charisma.  They each turned around and started telling His story.  Each one became SO committed to that story that he was martyred.  People don’t die for something they don’t think is worth believing.  Those closest to Jesus knew there was something significant about Him.  They’d seen things.  They believed enough to die for their convictions.  Only the very right or the very insane are willing to do that.  And sure, maybe a few of 12 might be nuts…but all of them?  All of them dying for a lie?  I don’t think so.  The faith of the followers does a lot for me.

…which allows me a segue into another area…and abandon the numbers, for some reason…

 The Bible, in the Old Testament particularly, refers to the concept of a “faithful remnant.”  This is an important term.  It refers to those who maintained faith in Yahweh God when the rest of the world gave up and fell into doubt and disbelief.  They are noted to have been a small group—their stories make up many of the Old Testament books.  They are the ones who saw the world going to hell and yet still praised God.  These are important people.  They are the ones to whom we owe the entirety of our religious heritage.  I submit that the world has always needed these people, and continues to need them today.  After all…we’re still fighting the same disease.

But…how did things get so screwed up in the first place?  How did God—who is all powerful—allow the world to fall apart?  Why does it seem so badly arranged, if it was so intelligently designed?

I find a fairly simple answer, which is so simple it may even seem dismissive.  (It is, of course, not my intent to be dismissive.)  I think things have ended up this way because God gave us a gift.  He gave us the gift of freewill.  What a hellish gift!  The worst thing anyone can do to a human being is to say to them, “You are not obligated, but I trust that you will do the right thing.”  It’s a nice thought…but most times, we’ll do the wrong thing.  We’ll take the wrong turn that was supposed to be a short-cut.  We’ll take the nap instead of fixing the leaking sink.  We’ll inevitably make a mistake—then we’ll be stubborn enough to convince ourselves it was the right thing to do.  Humanity is weak, frail, and perhaps most of all selfish.  But God, knowing the nature of human beings, allows us to choose to do as we wish.  Why?  Well…if we didn’t have a choice, it wouldn’t be commitment.

That is not to say that we have to all turn into Ned Flanders.  Of course there is a responsibility to behave as well and as faithfully as we can—and most people who make the 9:00 news seem to avoid that.  However, I don’t think there is a moral imperative stated anywhere in the Bible that indicates that being a Christian means you have to stop doing the things you enjoy doing.  In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite—and herein is how I manage to live my life with one foot in the spiritual and the other in the corporeal. 

I think I’m in good company.  The Bible is filled with examples of people who drank, cursed, enjoyed the company of other people over a sermon, and yet still managed to get into Heaven.  In fact, some of the Biblical starting-lineup would likely be drummed out of most churches today—Jesus being principle among them.  (I mean…He did have a side career as a wine-maker for parties at one point, ha ha…)  Peter was a mess, to the point that Jesus even seemingly developed the nickname of “Little Faith” for him.  Paul slaughtered Christians before the scales were removed from his eyes—and even then he used some coarse language at times.  (The verse where he says, “I consider it all rubbish that I may gain the Gospel” is possibly more accurately translated, “I consider it all shit.”)  King Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes (chapter eight) says, “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.”  All OVER the Bible, we are given example after example of people, including God incarnate ENJOYING what this world has to offer.

If nothing else, I find comfort in the fact that Jesus was a human.  God could have chosen to come to Earth in any form He wanted.  He could have been a rock, a tree, a monkey, a fish…  But He chose to be human.  And if God was a human being, then being human can’t be all bad, can it?

Now…  Just a few loose ends.

I suppose when it comes down to it, these days I lean slightly into being a Deist…but I say that with a somewhat liberal definition of Deism.  A Deist chiefly believes that God created the Heavens and the Earth, etc, etc…  Then He set it all in motion and said, “You’re on your own.  Good luck.”  They believe in a God who is there, but is uninvolved.  I lean a little bit toward that, hence my embracing of freewill as a mixed blessing.  However, I do believe that God listens to the prayers of His people, and acts accordingly.  But the key is that I think God only affirms the prayers that are requests for things that were already within His will.  I think a lot of people pray for things that just aren’t God’s will (so the prayer seems to go “unanswered” when the answer was really just “no”), or just plain pray selfishly.  I think God’s ear is turned when the faithful (the faithful remnant, if you will) pray within His will. 

Basically, I don’t think every situation carries quite the same weight in God’s plan.  I don’t think God’s quite as concerned that I get over my cold before New Year’s Eve so I can go out to a bar as He is—say—the Haitian earthquake.  (If you like, you can change that to “bad teeth before St. Patrick’s Day” and “Japanese earthquake.”)  I don’t think God caused the earthquake—and if He did, He’s a miserable old bastard that can suck it as far as I’m concerned.  I do think, however, that God moved in the hearts of humanity to make humankind display what it can do at its BEST when things are at their worst.  He didn’t cause the quake.  But he was there in the cleanup.  He’s there in the hearts of the friends I have that have gone there since, to help.  (I have one friend, of whom I am very proud, who uprooted her entire life and moved to Haiti as a missionary in the months following the earthquake, and has been there since, at least twice delaying a scheduled trip home because there was work she did not want to leave.  Update – She is currently in the US getting medical treatments for a baby left with the orphanage at which she works, and you can read about it starting here.

And I guess that’s one of the main things that keeps my faith in God strong.  On the intellectual level, I can come up with apologetic statistics and Biblical references…  But if you threw all of that out, I can still fall back on one thing.  No matter how bad things get.  No matter how dark, how lonely, how fallen this world seems to be.  There IS good out there.  Sometimes there may not be much…but it’s there.  And you learn to find hope in the little things.  It’s there in the heart of the missionary who sees a devastated country and goes to pull people out of the rubble.  It’s there in the heart of the guy who sees someone slip on ice on their way into work and helps them to their feet.  It’s there in my nieces and nephews who have no real intellectual understanding of how the world works, but were born happy and smile for no reason at all.  Good exists.  And that’s all the proof of God that I need.  It’s a shallow, indefensible, completely irrational reason…  But I think that if He weren’t there, those things wouldn’t be either.

And that’s where I’m going to end this thing.

[Then I had a paragraph with some personal things you all don’t need to read.]

————

And that’s it.

Lacking Inspiration

Sorry I haven’t been writing more.  It’s really been boring lately.  Nothing much to say.  Or maybe I just don’t have the energy to write…oh well…whatever…nevermind.  (Sorry for the Nirvana reference.)

Got a few things I can talk about anyway…so let’s do just a small random thing.

  1. Went to the dentist yesterday and got a couple of fillings.  I’ve got about four more that need fillings, and three extractions.  The problem is that I’m pretty much out of insurance money.  So I think the extractions at least will have to wait until next year when the insurance renews.  The fillings are less expensive though.  The four of them will probably be like $400-500, if I pay for them out-of-pocket.  That’s a lot of money (to me), but it’s probably worth it.  For the moment, I’m waiting for the insurance money to come in and they’ll send me a bill for what I owe so far…then we’ll see how soon I can feasibly schedule an appointment (or two) for the remaining fillings.  One step at a time…but things are better in there than they were a couple of weeks ago.  I can even eat sandwiches again, if I want!  🙂
  2. A few weeks ago, I made my pitch for who I support in the Florissant (MO) mayoral race.  Well, I figured that I should probably post a link to his website as well, in case anyone wants to read up. So, please visit Tom Schneider’s campaign site, if you get a chance.  He’s a good guy, and I’m proud to have his sign in my yard.
  3. Did some St. Patrick’s partying last night at the home of my friends Andy and Tara.  Good food (I had about five plates full of corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes!) and good people.  Spent some time chatting about Doctor Who and WWE Wrestling with one of the women there (but not like that…she’s married—also my friend Larry was in on the Wrestling conversation).  Played some old-school Nintendo games.  Watched the Brit-movie “Exam” (which wasn’t bad, but I don’t think I’ll buy the DVD).  And in general just enjoyed the evening.  Someone other than me even drank a bottle of the Guinness I brought!  🙂  Thanks for being such good hosts, Andy and Tara!
  4. Speaking of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m very much looking forward to the actual day (for those of you who thought it was yesterday, it’s actually the 17th).  I’m taking a small and much-needed vacation in conjunction with it.  I’m taking off Thursday and Friday.  On Thursday, I’m headed down to the Dogtown Parade and hanging out in the St. James the Greater church eating corned beef and cabbage and listening to the music of The Irish Aires (then probably stopping by some other bar or restaurant for more food on the way home, if the past couple of years have been any indication).  And then I’m pretty much taking it easy for the rest of the weekend.  Should be good.  I actually like celebrating my heritage (it’s not just an excuse to drink.  I don’t NEED an excuse to drink!) so this in one of my favorite times of year…even though it’s also when the weather starts warming up, which I could do without.  🙂  Until then, I’m just marathoning Father Ted on DVD.
  5. Progress is being made on the Two Hangmen EP.  We’re in the process of choosing a logo/designing art work.  I’m doing some fixes in the mix.  We’re beginning to casually talk about websites, etc.  Things are moving forward.  Not at a hugely fast pace…but moving.  So that’s good.
  6. I recently re-found my Grandpa Herweck’s old ring and I’ve been wearing it around.  I wore it for a few years around my neck in high school, then stopped for some reason.  Now it comes pretty close to fitting me…though it’s a little loose.  The jewel in it is pretty beaten up though.  Fortunately, I’ve got a brother in the coin/jewelry business who can probably help with getting a new stone in there and re-sizing it, if need-be.  It’s got his birthstone in there right now (assuming he was born in March…wouldn’t know…never met him, much less celebrated his birthday).  I think I’ll keep the same stone, rather than change it to mine, so it’s still basically HIS ring.  Plus, my birthstone is the Emerald…and green looks tacky in a man’s ring.  Most women seem to pull it off okay…but I don’t like it on men—especially when I’M the man.
  7. Bought the new Dropkick Murphys record last night, on impulse.  Only about 75% of the way through it so far…but it seems pretty good.  I’m sure I’ll give a full report on my podcast sooner or later.

…and that’s all for now.  Hoping for some excitement this week to report here on the blog.  If not…then I’ll make something up, I guess.