7.26.2015

Gun Up or What?!?

Another day another shooting. Am I right?

Ugh. That sounds horrible. Callous at best, sadistic at worst. It is, however, an honest assessment of American life. Not even two months since the attack at the AME Church in Charleston, and we've seen at least a dozen more mass shootings grab headlines since then.

Motivated by one form of hatred or another. Racism. Misogyny. Islamic extremism. Xenophobia. Gang rivalries. Revenge. The only other common element in these incidents is the weapon of choice: firearms.

The political aftermath of these shootings follow a predictable approach ad nauseam providing endless fodder for 24 hour news outlets to argue in the days that follow.

One side says that the appropriate response is to enact stricter gun laws. The other wants to loosen gun laws. One side wants to restrict access to guns. The other wants everyone to get a gun. Forgive my bluntness, but both of those responses are utterly ridiculous.

We can debate these opposed ideals until modern society collapses but such an endeavor would only prove fruitless. It would solve nothing while the body count increases at a rate that would discourage the most cheerful optimist in America.

We as Americans have a problem with guns. Denial of such problem is either foolish, willfully oblivious, or perhaps both.

However, it is not the guns themselves that is the source of our woes. Our problem with guns is our attitude toward guns. The idea that an armed society is a polite society is hyperbolic nonsense; apprehension and civility are not synonyms. The claim that anyone who open-carries a side arm is a nut with violent tendencies is nothing more than fear-mongering. The belief that any attempt at gun control regulation is a ruse to take away our guns is a slippery slope fallacy. Thinking that better gun control will eradicate all mass shootings is wishful thinking.

The arguments on both sides of the second amendment debate are so mired in rhetoric that everyone needs to sit down and shut up.

Our problem is one of attitude. We live in a culture that glorifies violence. We view our personal collection of firearms as an idol but no one is brave enough to admit it. We are so caught up in our own personal liberties and the pursuit of self preservation that we no longer give a damn about our neighbors. We mask our faults with weaponry and label it security.


These mass shootings are not the fault of gun availability alone. It is a cocktail mixed from entitlement issues, family dysfunction, greed, jingoism, generations of people turning a blind eye to injustice, unwillingness to support the underprivileged and at-risk members of society, and constant political vilification. Toss a loaded weapon into that volatile concoction and bad things will happen. It is inevitable.

Same thing but shorter: Our attitude problem with guns is a moral dilemma. Unfortunately, it is impossible to legislate morality.

We need to enforce existing gun laws. We might even need new laws. Still, neither of those options will solve the issue. They are nice gestures but will only serve as a band aid on a gaping gunshot wound.

If the problem is our attitude, then the solution would be a changed mind-set. What we need is a massive cultural shift. That is something that the law is powerless to enforce.

There is a funny thing about social shifts: culture can shape the government, but the government cannot shape culture. It is a one way street. Yet, in order to make those changes, it requires culture to make an effort.

If we are to fix this gun problem, it means the responsibility for change belongs to us. To me. To you. Our friends, our family, our churches, our neighborhoods. It is time we live out the biblical commands to love our neighbors, to forgive freely, and reconcile this broken world in which we live. We need to love our kids unconditionally and teach them to love others in the same way. We need to rebuke any semblance of hatred.

That is a power that belongs to individuals and if we were to wield that power, I guarantee we would see less nuts with guns killing in public places.

So, maybe – just maybe, we need a little less “F-yeah! Guns! Whoooo!” And a little more, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?

7.24.2015

My Top 5 (+1) Musical Movie Moments

From my previous post, one of the podcasts that brings me joy is the Deucecast; it's all about movies. I thought I was a film buff until I started following David Dollar's blog and podcast; he makes me look like a casual fan in comparison. It is satisfying to listen to someone so passionate about something I enjoy. Additionally, I don't get out to the theater as much as I used to, so David and his friends provide insight to movies that I probably will never have the time to see.

A few weeks ago, The Deucecast had an episode about their favorite musical moments from film - the best I have heard from them so far. Music is one topic over which I will gleefully geek out. They combined two of my favorite things and that awesome Deucecast episode, so here is the countdown of my favorite musical moments in cinema.

Honorable mention: Mariachi lessons from Desperado. Desperado is a dude's movie. Shootouts, explosions, guitar cases filled with guns, and Salma Hayek. The Chicano rock and Latin music infused soundtrack helps make this one of my all time favorite movies. The movie's premise is simple: a man on a quest for revenge. On the way to the Tarasco bar to confront his enemy's goons, El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) meets a kid who is struggling to play a guitar. El Mariachi provides some tips and a quick lesson to help the kid improve his technique. It is a tender moment in a hyperactive movie, a glimpse of kindness and compassion from a man preoccupied with violence.

Now ...

Five. "Step in Time" from Mary Poppins. If I am honest, I strongly dislike this movie. It and the Sound of Music are two of my mom's favorites; I cannot count how many times she forced me to watch them when I was growing up. Even though I cringe at numbers like "A Spoonful of Sugar" or "Let's Go Fly a Kite," there is a certain oddness to the rooftop dance routine and the pub-like quality of "Step in Time" that I do appreciate. It is the one scene from Mary Poppins that I find entertaining. It's a daft blend of absurdity and danger with a dark streak that suits my preference for scarier and more action filled movies.

Four: "Johnny B. Goode" from Back to the Future. Seeing Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travel back in time to meet his parents is the stuff that inspired the wildest dreams of my 80s era imagination. If I ever found myself transported back to a time when my parents were in high school and was thrust upon a stage at a school dance to play with the band, I would play a song they've never heard. It wouldn't be "Johnny B. Goode," perhaps "Wonderwall" from Oasis or "Today" from Smashing Pumpkins. But I would not be able to resist doing what Marty did: get a little carried away.

Three: "You Make My Dreams" from (500) Days of Summer. This quirky movie is both depressing and optimistic as it traverses the highs and lows of a dysfunctional romance. And somewhere in the middle of it, between the butterflies and the heartbreak, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has a moment of bliss. Along his walk to work, a tune from Hall & Oates plays. There is an extra pep in his step as he starts dancing. Then the crowd on the sidewalk dances with him. A little cartoon bird perches on his shoulder. He walks into his office; the elevator doors close to end the scene. Just about every guy I know has felt like this at some point in their lives. I know I have.

Two: “Sweet Caroline” from Beautiful Girls. This is my favorite movie ever. From the melancholic title song by Pete Droge to the bittersweet tone of the movie. So many memorable scenes: Rosie O'Donnell’s anti-pornography rant; Michael Rapaport’s creepy monologue about the power of a beautiful girl; the conversation between Timothy Hutton and Natalie Portman about love, The Wizard of Oz, and Winnie the Poo; the argument over champagne colored diamonds. It’s endlessly quotable and bits of dialog from this film have worked their way into my conversational repertoire. When I tuck my daughter into bed and give her a bedtime kiss, I tell her four words from this movie: “Good night sweet girl.” The one musical clip that stands out above the others is when the guys gathered at the bar convince Willie (Hutton) to play the piano and it devolves into a group sing-a-long of the Neil Diamond classic. Everyone is off key and reveling in the moment. This scene demonstrates the best that a good group of friends can offer.

One: I Want Joe's Money from Empire Records. Of course, a movie set in a record shop would be filled with great musical moments. Most of it centers around the store staff dancing and singing while cleaning or stocking shelves. Then there is Rory Cochrane’s banishment to the couch, Ethan Embry’s breaking of the fourth wall, Robin Tunney shaving her head, the shoplifter chase, and subsequent mockery of the shoplifter’s musical tastes. The soundtrack is as much a part of this story as much as the characters. You can see it in Embry starting a mosh pit during a Suicidal Tendencies song, The Cranberries playing in the background as AJ (Johnny Whitworth) confesses his feelings to Corey (Liv Tyler), or Renée Zellweger and Coyote Shivers singing Sugar High in a rooftop concert at the end. Most of the music is there for flavor but one song serves to further the plot. That is Flying Lizards cover of Money (That's What I Want). The song and an employee’s lyrical change prompt Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) to inform his staff of the impending transition to a big-box music retailer. Everything about this scene is the kind of thing we would do when I worked in a record store.

Those are my favorites. What are yours?

7.21.2015

Podcasts - Stick It in Your Ear

In pursuit of better mental health, I have improved my learning habits. Reading more. Writing more. Actual study. Another learning tool is found in consuming podcasts. This is a deviation from my natural inclination to spend my day listening to music. I still believe in the therapeutic benefit of hearing a collection your favorite songs, but podcasts are something different.

I am using podcasts to keep my mind active. These are opportunities to learn something, to challenge and inspire myself, to support my geekier tendencies, and stimulate thinking beyond my daily routine. And occasionally, these podcasts provide much needed reason to laugh.

Here is my list of Podcasts - divided up in three sections.


Group 1: Thinkers

  • Live Your List: A leadership podcast from Ryan Eller and Jerrod Murr with an emphasis on bucket lists and intentional living.
  • The BadChristian Podcast: Matt and Toby of Emery with their friend and pastor Joey talk about church culture and taboo topics through irreverent conversations, interviews, and bizarre news stories in hopes to challenge the church to talk about stuff that actually matters.
  • Never Was: Former Stavesacre vocalist Mark Salomon reminisces over his career while interviewing his friends and fellow 90s era musicians.
  • NPR's TED Radio Hour: A showcase of TED keynote speakers with interviews and clips from their TED talks.
  • Ask Science Mike: Mike McHargue answers questions about science and faith submitted by show listeners - grounded in both scientific and biblical study.
  • RELEVANT Podcast: The weekly podcast mixing indie music, culture, interviews, and faith from the group that publishes RELEVANT Magazine.


Group 2: Nerds

  • Fat Man on Batman: Kevin Smith discusses his Batman fandom and general geekery with filmmakers, comic books creators, and other Batman fans.
  • The Weekly Planet: The two Australian guys behind comicbookmovie.com chat about movies, TV shows, comic books, and related geek news.
  • The Deucecast Movie Show: David Dollar and some of his friends talk about their favorite movies with topics ranging from romantic comedies, to musicals, summer blockbusters, and Disney classics.
  • You Hate Movies: Josh Dies of Showbread gather friends together to argue about movies.
  • It's a Duck Blur: A husband and wife team from Australia spend an hour to an hour and a half talking about each 22 minute episodes of Duck Tales - all 100 of them.
  • Doug Loves Movies: Comedian Doug Benson performs with his comedian friends before a live audience in a show that is equal parts stand-up comedy and trivial game show.


Group 3: Preachers

  • The RobCast: The weekly podcast from Rob Bell featuring interviews or topical discussions to connect Jewish traditions of the ancient world and our modern society.
  • Daily Audio Bible: Daily scripture reading from Brian Hardin that goes through the entire bible in a year.
  • Hillsong: The weekly sermon from Brian Houston's Hillsong Church in Sydney Australia.
  • Bethel: The weekly sermons from Bethel Church in Redding California.
  • North Point: The weekly sermons from Andy Stanley's Atlanta area church.
  • Beautiful Struggle: B3ar Fruit artist Octavious interviews hip-hop artists about the origins of their faith and artistry.


That is what fills my ears and brains, and I am always up for suggestions.

What podcasts do you enjoy?

7.17.2015

Room for Doubt

Within the hero's journey, you will find a myriad of under developed traits, flaws and weaknesses, and imperfections making the hero unlikely - or at least undeserving. Through that varied slop of characteristics, there is one trait that surfaces frequently enough to be believable.

Self-doubt.

Despite the mantra that great responsibility comes with great power, Peter Parker/Spider-Man constantly questioned his ability to accomplish what he felt was his duty. Daredevil confided in his priest, wondering if his actions were either noble or evil. Harry Potter considered his victories as a matter of luck and clueless blundering. The Doctor referred to himself as "just a madman with a box." Sam never really understood the importance of his presence and thought Frodo was mocking him when Frodo called him the chief character, Samwise the Brave.

Then there is my favorite. In the How to Train Your Dragon movies, Hiccup (the main protagonist) embodies the role of a hero filled with doubt. He is the scrawniest of his peers, has no interest in fulfilling his father's imposing expectations, and thinks himself unworthy of ruling the land of Berk. Awkward, dorky, and oblivious to the feelings of those who love him. Overly reliant on sarcasm and self-deprecation to mask his insecurity. He knows he is destined for greatness yet he is hyperaware of his shortcomings.

Modern Christianity has painted doubt as a horror as grievous as great sins like pride and lust. Any who question their faith, themselves, or their salvation is branded as an apostate. This has created a culture where Christians are afraid to ask tough questions and express reservations, fearful that they could be denigrated for challenging the sacred order. Because of this, good people are walking away from the church - a place where honest seeking has become unsafe.

This is a sad state of affairs. I do not think this is what God had in mind for His people. I do not believe that God is afraid of our doubts. Neither should we.

In Matthew 25, Jesus told the familiar parable of God separating the sheep and the goats on judgment day. To the faithful, a message is given that they fed the hungry, clothed and housed the underprivileged, cared for the sick, and visited prisoners. "I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me." The unrighteous did not do any of those works. As a result they are told, "Depart from me, you who are cursed ... whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

This passage is often interpreted as a command for social justice. This is Jesus challenging his followers to act on behalf of the most vulnerable members of society. This is instruction to perform good deeds. Of course it is all of those things, but there might be more to this story.

Dig deeper.

The reaction of both the sheep (those who did good deeds) and the goats (those who refused to do good deeds) are identical. "Really? Us? When did that happen?"

Peculiar.

God recognized the good works of one group of people who didn't realize the grace of their actions. It's almost as if they're saying, "Who me? I'm just a normal person. There is nothing special about me."

Yet the other group is incredulous. "How dare you accuse me? I am special. I demand a second opinion."

Both groups are surprised by their judgments. One unaware that what they did actually mattered, the other unaware that what they didn’t do mattered. One questioned their own validity, the other assured in their own power.

The sheep were never sure if they were making a difference. They were imperfect heroes. They were humble yet filled with doubt.

The goats thought they'd be a shoe-in. They assumed they were the people who pleased God. They were puffed up with arrogance yet callous toward others.

This is important because we have more in common with characters like Daredevil, Samwise Gamgee, and Hiccup of Berk. We also find ourselves plagued with doubts. If we believe that such feelings are inherently evil, then we believe something about ourselves that cannot possibly be true: that there is no room in God’s kingdom for messed up people like us. Within the parable at the end of Matthew 25, we see room for doubt, and that should be good news.

So maybe it’s OK to have doubts. Perhaps we should stop thinking we must have it all together. We should stop insisting on unattainable perfection and unquestionable understanding. We should stop dictating who gets to go to heaven and who will be sent to hell because that is not our job.

And maybe, just maybe we should give ourselves the liberty to ask tough questions.

7.10.2015

The Complete Gospel

A little over three years ago, Marvel Studios released The Avengers – the movie shattered box office records and remains one of the best superhero movies of all time - adored by both fans and critics.

The characters had all been introduced in earlier films. Now Earth's mightiest heroes are assembled after an attack from the demigod Loki in a culmination of previous interconnected stories. They chase and capture Loki. They bicker and splinter. Loki escapes and uses alien technology to open a wormhole above Manhattan which allows a Chitauri army to begin its invasion. The Avengers reassemble to fight off the alien horde in the Battle of New York. In the end (spoilers) Iron Man carries a nuclear missile through the wormhole and destroys the Chitauri mother-ship, Thor escorts Loki to be imprisoned in Asgard, and the heroes quietly gather in a deli to eat shawarmas.

That is my brief synopsis from opening sequence to post credits scene. Considering its theatrical success, popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and general demographic of people who read my blog, I realize that most of you have all ready seen this movie and don't need an explanation of the plot. We all could probably recall our favorite moments from the film: the epic fight between Thor and Iron Man, the witty banter between egos, when Hulk smashes the crap out of Loki then calls him a puny god.

Pretend for a moment you have not yet seen The Avengers until now. (C'mon, it's been three years. Where have you been?) The first scene is the moment Loki connects the Tesseract to the machine on the roof of Stark Tower and aliens begin to pour from the sky. You see the iconic image of the five superheroes gathered in a circle with their backs to each other, prepared for war. The film plays through the climactic battle. At the moment that the missile is detonated to defeat the invading Chitauris, the screen goes black. End of story. Roll credits.

image courtesy of Marvel Studios

If that is all you got, you are missing something. Sure, you saw some action. But there is more to the story than the fight and the winning explosion. You missed the exposition, the initial conflict, the rising action, and the long dark night of the soul. You witnessed the climax, but received no resolution or conclusion. This truncated version of The Avengers would be hollow, an ultimately unfulfilling lack of entertainment.

Watching an incomplete third act of a three act play creates unanswered questions. Who are these people and how did they get here? What is going on? Why should I care? You have no vested interest in the characters and given no incentive to see any sequels.

We may not do that with our favorite movies, but Christians tend to do that to the Gospel.

When we try to explain the basics of our beliefs, we start right before the final showdown and end with the climatic deathblow. Then we wonder why no one is listening.

Having grown up in evangelical culture, I have seen this minced version of the gospel presented so many times I have begun to wonder if these people even read their bibles.

Ninja ministry style seems to compact God's story into a five second snippet to be dumped on bystanders with minimal effort: "You're a sinner and Jesus died for you so you can go to heaven the end."

Is that the best we can do?

That is an incomplete gospel. It lacks substance. If that is the only story you have to tell, your listener will be left with the same questions as they would with the hypothetical version of The Avengers described above.

"You're a sinner." Who am I and how did I get here? "Jesus died for you." What is going on? "You can go to heaven." Why should I care?

A truncated gospel fails to answer these questions. It provides no vested interest in discovering God and no incentive to pursue a deeper faith. Skim through the gospel, pick out a couple of soundbites, and wonder why no one listens.

There is so much more. A complete gospel answers these questions because it starts at the beginning and ends at the end. Mankind's sinful nature is not the first part of the Gospel story, and hope of eternal life is not the end.

The complete gospel begins with exposition. God created us to be in a perfect relationship with Him. The initial conflict is failure damaging humanity's connection with the divine through which sin enters the world and infects everyone. In the rising action, we see how God offers methods for people to reconnect with Him, but humanity is so broken we continually screw it up until God sends His Son to restore the damaged relationship. His Son, Jesus, is executed in the long dark night of the soul. The gospel story climaxes when Jesus conquers death through resurrection.

Still, the story isn't over. We are given a resolution that Jesus’ sacrifice gave us the freedom to truly live here and now. This is where God's original intent for a perfect union with Him begins. The future hope is the conclusion but that element of the story hasn't happened yet. This is when God has given us life in abundant measures. This is when we share our story and invite others to participate in our adventure.

The purpose of the gospel is not about how we will someday go to heaven. Such simplistic view misses the point. Eternity begins now. What we say and do matters because we are a part of the gospel story.

So if the only version of the gospel you know to tell is a five second blurb, please stop. God's story is bigger and better than that.

ps: If you still haven't seen The Avengers, what are you waiting for?

7.08.2015

Dear Apple

Hello people who designed and created my phone. You are like the friends whose names I can never remember. I know you by proxy and tell everyone your awesome. Until I see you and I say "Hi ... " awkwardly trailing off in hopes someone else will fill in your identity on my behalf.

Ever since I first slid the 3G into my pocket to claim as my own, I felt as if I had purchased a shiny glimpse of the glorious future. I was time traveling without a Delorean and it was awesome.

Do you remember the tiny phones from Zoolander? For a while I thought that was where y'all were headed. Each new model of phone being slightly smaller than the prior version. Had you continued with that trend, we would all now be debating whether or not there is more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. Then you released the iPad and everyone realized your vision for the future: iPhones for giants. As much as I would love to herald Ben Stiller as a prophet of science fiction, you went a different direction.

Now your iPhones are getting bigger, your iPads are getting smaller, and it is only a matter of time until no one will be able to tell the difference. Of course, no one will care either because your unveiling events are always an act of dazzling theatrics melting the hearts of any iPhone devotee, turning us into swooning 13 year old girls attending their first One Direction concert.

Granted, I am not an Apple enthusiast. Yes, I feel naked without my iPhone. My home computer isn't an Apple product, but I do use iTunes on it because iTunes is far better than any other media player I have tested. I adore my iPod. Why? If you've ever tried to use a Zune you would know why. If I could afford one, I would probably use a MacBook for all of my writing. (Until my budget allows such a purchase, I am wishful for some benevolent family member to bestow upon me the gift of their never used MacBook.)

But I'm not an enthusiast. More like a fan. It is for that reason I write this open letter blog post that I doubt any Apple employee will ever read.

I have a valid complaint tempting me to switch to Android or even a Windows phone. Until now, I have resisted that change despite the multitude of friends and family that have all ready blazed that trail before me. Might be because I am lazy and do not want to learn a new mobile OS. Too much effort. But this issue of mine is pushing me closer to the edge.

What is this irksome defect I have found? Well, if you don't mind me saying: whoever decided the Lightning connector was a good idea was wrong. Horribly incorrect.

Please don't misunderstand me. I appreciate the fact that I don't have to worry if the cord is right side up or upside down. Both ways are acceptable. It is nice to have a tip that is significantly smaller than the 30-pin-connector. Such a difference would be necessary if you were still producing smaller and smaller phones, but you are not. We do not live in a Zoolander world, and the next iteration of your iPhone is not the iPaperThin. The tiny tip might be pointless, but still nice.

I will not complain about the lost compatibility to docks or speakers when I upgraded to the 5s because I did not have any of those fancy accessories. I only needed a phone and a power cord - you delivered.

However, of recent times it has become increasingly difficult to charge my phone. One day I plugged it in and nothing happened; after shifting my hand in a few degrees of rotation, the device vibrated and the little green charging image appeared on the screen. All was well, or so I thought.


Over the following days and weeks, the connector progressively felt looser inside the jack forcing me to discover new ways to coax my phone to charge. Tilting the phone. Twisting and bending the power cord. Using the weight of gravity to pull pull the connection in the optimal direction to spark the flow of power from outlet to hardware. I sometimes felt as if I had been transported back into the 80s, adjusting the bunny ears on top of my television so that my family could watch the Mariners game without static and fuzz.

My breaking point came when my efforts to charge my phone felt like an act more worthy of a Vegas magic show than a step in my bedtime routine.

Thankfully, I am not an idiot. If Google is to be trusted, I found this stressor is one shared by many of your customers. The Apple discussion boards are filled with consumers complaining of loose Lightning jacks and phones that will not charge. Within those boards, I found a culprit.

Lint.

Stupid, annoying, pesky pocket lint.

An easy fix and my phone has been returned to its normal state, happily accepting the union between connector and jack.

I know what you're thinking, if my gripe has been resolved then why mention anything? I do so for one simple reason: I never had this problem with the 30 pin connector. I still have my 3G. I use it as an mp3 player when I work out. Despite its age, it still charges with ease. It looks at lint and laughs.

Your research and development teams are currently working on rolling out next year's iPhone 7, and probably planning iPhone 8 designs. That's business and I understand. But I hope they figure out the lint flaw. Your phones are not Nintendo cartridges; we should not have to blow in them to get them to function.

ps: I really do want one of those tiny Zoolander phones. You should make that a real thing.

7.04.2015

When in the Course of human events ...

These are perhaps the most famous words spoken within the course of American history: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

We could argue about which rights are unalienable all day long without resolution, but the founding fathers were plain in their text: Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness. Even those words have come possess debatable meanings. I find it sad that in our America, many who claim to believe these words from the Declaration of Independence as the truest form of patriotism somehow translate them through their actions as if to mean my Life, my Liberty, and my Happiness.

Regardless of how you translate those three words: Life, Liberty, Happiness, there is qualifier in our founding documents to whom those rights apply. It is this, "all men are created equal."

All.

This is an all inclusive phrase. Despite the gender specific terminology, we accept the definition of man to reflect all of mankind - both male and female. Nor did the men who authored this document intend it to portray American exceptionalism that concluded we were better than anyone else. By saying all men, they granted that the American colonists were created as equals to the citizens of the British Empire. We must accept that either all peoples of every nation were created equals - even if their nation does not grant them the same legal rights and privileges.

This can be a tough pill to swallow. Because, if you truly believe this, then you must live as if it is true. That means you cannot treat anyone as if they are lower class persons. Every person is a human individual deserving of decent respect and courtesy. The Syrian refugee, your gay neighbor, the Mormon missionaries who proselytize in your neighborhood, the homeless person you ignore on your way to Starbucks every morning, the Latino immigrant busing tables at your favorite restaurant, the kid at the grocery store who stutters while she bags your groceries, the school yard bully. Each and every one of them carries the same worth as you and me.


So when we talk about these unalienable Rights endowed by our Creator, even when we cannot agree on the definition of those rights, we must remember that all men and women were created equal.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. Including those with different socioeconomic backgrounds. And those who do not share your political beliefs or religious convictions. And those whose skin color, national origin, or sexual orientation is not the same as yours. Even those who annoy the crap out of you. Like it or not, they are your equal.

7.02.2015

The Practical One

My daughter is the most practical of my three kids. When presented with new information, she approaches it with reason and logic in a way that is admirable for any elementary aged kid. At her best, she is calm and collected and almost diabolical in the best way possible.

This trait will serve her well as she grows up and faces teenaged drama. But for now, she delivers eight year old wisdom with pluck and grace. It has its downside though. She has the tendency to apply her sense of practicality to my daydreams.

Perhaps I should explain.

We were out running errands and stopped at a traffic light. While waiting, a Porche Carrera slipped by in the lane next to us and joined us in the line for a green light. It was a couple years old and had a freshly detailed shine.

I whistled, perhaps even purred. "That is a beautiful Porche," I said.

"What's a Porche?" JJ asked.

I gave the simplest answer that I could think of. It is a vehicular work of art. They're expensive, fast, and stylish.

Then Zu came in with her logic. "Is there a back seat in a Porche?"

"Well, no." I answered.

"Ugh." Zu expressed instant judgement. "Then you can't have one, Daddy."

Her practical mind recognized that she and her brothers would not be able to ride with me if my budget magically allowed me to own a Porche.

image courtesy of Top Car Rating

Zu repeated this practicality a little later. We were on our way home from church and passed a new Mazda MX-5 convertible. Once again, I made a remark about the attractive car and Zu instantly noticed the problem. "No, Dad, there isn't a back seat. You can't have one."

That Mazda reminded me of an item on my bucket list. Someday, when the kids are grown and on their own, I want to rent a sporty little convertible like that Mazda and drive the entire length of the 101 from the Olympic Peninsula, down the Pacific coast through Washington, Oregon, and California to Los Angeles. If I'm married, it is the kind of trip I would want to take with my wife. We would stop anywhere along the road that looks interesting and enjoy the sights and flavors of the quintessential left coast experience.

I am always looking for opportunities to inspire my kids and encourage them to dream big. So I took the opportunity to share my dream with them. I explained it in a brief summary, taking care to explain this is something that wouldn't happen until they were all adults.

Zu was not supportive. Her first concern is that she wouldn't get to go with me. I stressed again that this is something that I would not do while they still lived at home. I would wait until they were grownups and had their own families and careers. I told her that I believe it is important for us to set goals and dreams - even if it is something that isn't going to happen for another 20 or 30 years.

That helped her feel better, however she was still not convinced. "But dad," she objected, "what if JJ still lives at home?"

"Oh, Zu. I would wait until all of you have your own life."

"But what if JJ doesn't?"

She was serious. My daughter was legitimately concerned that her younger brother will never move out. With that assumption, Zu's practical mind could not accept the idea of daddy leaving little bro behind.

6.29.2015

Here Comes a Gay Wedding (Part 2)

Gay weddings are legal. You do not like it. So now what?

To begin, I ask that everyone – both supporters and opponents of gay marriage consider the tone of anything they post about the topic. There is a point where celebratory remarks become gloating. There is also a thin line where voicing dissent morphs into disparaging criticism. However, this request is more for those who share my faith than those who do not.

As a Christian, the stamp of love should be the impetus of everything we do. I know this is not easily done and it is something that I struggle with every day. Regardless, this is what God has asked of us. Jesus told his disciples “All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.” The way we treat those within our own community should be an example that reflects the love that God has shown us. If we can’t get that right, how can anyone outside the church expect to be treated any differently?

Beyond loving other Christians, we are given the same command in reference to those who do not share our values. When Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment, he said to love God. Then without any prompting, he answered an unasked but essential question. “The second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” Paul also encouraged Christians to expand the scope of their love beyond themselves: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else.” The definition of everyone else mirrors the term neighbor that Jesus used. This means other people who you may not like or whom you may not typically associate. It means that your love must extend to those who do not share your religious beliefs, social stature, political persuasion, and sexual orientation. You don’t have to agree with someone or even support them to demonstrate love and common courtesy.

This kind of love is opposition to selfish ambition. It is the kind of love that looks out for more than just your own good: “always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.” This is a love that aims for the greater good – even at the cost of self sacrifice. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” I realize what you deem good and I deem good may not be the same thing. In these differences of opinion, it is essential that we consider views of others and the possibility that we could be wrong.


I would also caution against dwelling in fear. All of the comments worried about the future of America or predictions that the church will now enter a new era of persecution accomplish nothing. God’s favor is no more upon us than the Christians of any other nation. We must remember that God does not have a covenant with the USA. At the end of his life, Jesus gave his followers the commission: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations.” We are included, but not exclusive.

Even if we are plunged into a darker era, why is this a concern? Isn’t this what Jesus told us would happen? He said, “All people will hate you because you follow me.” More than just a prediction, Jesus also told us “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” We shouldn’t fear persecution – but expect it.

Furthermore, an attitude of fear betrays the love that God has shown us. “Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear. It is punishment that makes a person fear, so love is not made perfect in the person who fears.” As I have watched the news over the past weekend, I have observed people claiming to be Christians, spreading a message of doom and gloom. I cannot comprehend how anyone can possibly express the love of God while simultaneously preaching fear.

Finally, we must recognize what this change in law is and is not.

The Supreme Court made a ruling changing man’s law, but they did not change God’s law. Whatever you view as God’s commands remain unchanged. No court on earth has the power to revise that. We live in a culture that is constantly evolving yet we worship an unchanging God. Regardless of what you think of Friday’s ruling, please don’t forget that God is still the same today as He was Thursday and will be tomorrow.

The ruling dictates how the government views marriage, but not how the church views marriage. Despite clarion calls from FOX News, Mike Huckabee, and your distant relatives on facebook, we do still have freedom of religion in America. You are still free to attend whatever church you desire and those churches are still free to operate with whatever doctrine they desire.

This ruling changes the way the government treats the LBGT community, but it won’t change the way you treat them. If you want to be homophobic, that is still your right. If you want to believe that gays should not be allowed to get married, go ahead. If you think that homosexuality is a sin, you can continue to do so.

The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, but it did not mandate it. No one is going to force you to attend or officiate a gay wedding. You will not be required to send gifts to gay couples that are getting married. No one is going to compel you to be gay.

The Court’s ruling may (as Franklin Graham alleges) be endorsing a sin, but it is not the government’s job to dictate what is sinful or holy. That role belongs to the church. When Jesus told Peter “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven,” He was giving that authority to Peter and the other disciples, rather than the government. Just because the court says something is OK, doesn’t mean that it is moral or religiously permissible. It only means that the law allows it. The law is also imperfect. We are told, “no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law,” and, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming — not the realities themselves.

While we are on the topic of sin, we tend to forget other acts considered sins that are legal according to American law. Pre-marital sex, cohabitation between unmarried partners, divorce, extra-marital affairs, pornography, gossip, alcoholism, cussing, eating shellfish. To judge members of the LBGT community, we do so with a plank in our eye.

I’m not asking you to change your opinion about the Court’s ruling. All I ask is that you respond with grace.

6.28.2015

Here Comes a Gay Wedding (Part 1)

When I first saw the news on Friday, I knew heads were going to explode. Figuratively speaking. The Technicolor glitter wars that ensued in social media from then and through most of the past 60 some odd hours have been entirely predictable.

Battle lines are drawn between those celebrating this cultural shift, and those decrying it as the saddest day in American history. Between those changing their profile pictures to a rainbow infused portrait and those engaging in Levitical pearl clutching, there were a few consolatory posts trying to reconcile the differences. These were the Christian equivalent of Switzerland refusing to pick a side and hoping to portray reason and temperance through neutrality.

While the Skittles crowd indulged in a victory for gay rights, the conservative (and mostly Christian) critics have been acting in ways that are disheartening even if expected. When I read through these antagonistic opinions, I noticed a common theme. The reasoning behind the opposition to the Supreme Court's decision has a predominantly emotional or religious basis. Legal arguments against gay marriage have been rare.

So much is based in Old Testament scripture describing homosexuality as detestable or an idealization of what God intended. The oft referenced "traditional marriage" (which is rife with logical fallacies) is the standard these conservative voices are trying to protect.

Through this tension, I find myself in step with the Switzerland personalities. I see and understand the evangelical views, but I recognize and value the experiences of my gay friends. However, if you insist I pick a side, then I want to know your perspective. Do you see marriage as a religious institution or a legal institution?

If you believe that marriage is a religious practice, then the government needs to get out of the process. Let the churches decide who can and cannot get married. If a church chooses to officiate a gay wedding, then let that be between them and God. If you don't agree with that church, you are free to attend elsewhere. But if we took this route, those who cling to the notion of traditional marriage would have to forfeit the privileges they have enjoyed in their state sanctioned union: tax deductions, next of kin access, hospital visitation rights, insurance beneficiaries, combined incomes for home loans, and release of medical information. In the event a couple chooses to divorce, it would have to be approved by the church instead of the courts. Once the government is no longer involved with the issuing marriage licenses and recognition of marriage certificates, then they will no longer involve themselves in the dissolution of marriages. That means the church would be the authority in the division of property and custody issues would be frustratingly more complicated.

But if marriage is a legal issue, the arguments about what God wants or intends has no bearing. If we legislate civil matters on religious convictions, we push ourselves closer to a theocracy in violation of the separation of church and state. If marriage is allowed as a matter of legality between a man and a woman, then denying that right to homosexual couples is nothing more than government sponsored discrimination. At this point, we are not defining God's law; we are modifying man's law. This is where we confirm the American ideal that all men and women are created equal and deserve equal rights.

Now let me be clear, I am good with either option. If you want marriage to be strictly religious, fine. Let's do it. But if you want the privileges and protections of a legally recognized marriage, then those rights must be afforded to the gay community. You cannot have it both ways.


For now, the Supreme Court of the United States of America has ruled that homosexual marriages are legal in all 50 states. The court's decision will not erase homophobia, much the same way that electing a black president did not eradicate racism. Public opinion is clearly divided and practically irreconcilable.

It is too late to stem the tide of reactionary tweets and facebook rants. If time machines existed in this magical world of ours, I would use it to go back and urge everyone I know to tone down the angry rhetoric. Unfortunately, we can’t undo – or even redo what has all ready been done. People got pissed off, hurtful things were said, and now we are left to figure out where we go from here.

I cannot tell you what to think or feel or even believe. Just the way you cannot impose your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs upon me. I know that opinions are set on gay rights and are as likely to change as hardened concrete. So I do not wish to force anyone to accept or even approve of the actions of the Supreme Court. Instead I only hope to mold how we react going forward. In order to do so, I am going to get biblical. But I will do that tomorrow.

6.24.2015

Father's Day interview

I spent the this last Sunday playing with my kids. Playing at the park and in the splash pad. Walking around downtown including lunch at Zips and a stop in the sweets shop. When we got home I interviewed each of the kids. What better way to finish off Father's day that finding out what my entourage thinks of me. By the end of the day, I was too tired to actually do anything with answers they provided and spent the rest of the evening talking to my dad.

So here they are. I now present to you the interview I had with my kids.

What is your favorite thing to do with me?
Christian: Playing Lego Lord of the Rings.
Zu: Going swimming.
JJ: Going to different parks.

What is my favorite thing to do with you?
Christian: Playing video games.
Zu: Cuddle.
JJ: Making dinner.

What do I like to do when you’re not around?
Christian: What YouTube videos that are not appropriate for kids.
Zu: How am I supposed to know? Goof around?
JJ: Watch movies. You know, the ones you get from Netflix that we can't watch.

What do I do that makes you laugh?
Christian: Weird jokes.
Zu: Make silly faces.
JJ: Tickle me.

What do you do that makes me laugh?
Christian: No matter how hard I try, you don't laugh. You only laugh when I don’t try.
Zu: Do this? (She uses her fingers to pull down her bottom eyelids and rolls her eyes upward.)
JJ: Sometimes, I make jokes.

What do you like most about your dad?
Christian: You're funny, you're smart, and you're awesome and a ton of other stuff.
Zu: You're fun to be around.
JJ: You love me.

What is the best thing you have learned from your dad?
Christian: You have taught me a lot of life lessons like don't steal.
Zu: To be myself.
JJ: Make good choices.

What is something I am good at doing?
Christian: You're really good and making me laugh.
Zu: Cooking. The best cook.
JJ: Playing video games.

What is something that I am not good at doing?
Christian: Not good at guessing.
Zu: You're good at trying to put my hair in a pony tail, but not good and actually putting my hair in a pony tail.
JJ: You're not a good swimmer. You said that last week.

If you had to describe my job, what would you say I do at work?
Christian: You work with numbers.
Zu: Tons of boring stuff.
JJ: Type on a computer.

What is his favorite place in the world?
Christian: Where does Aunt Janda and Uncle Aaron live? Oh, yeah. Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Zu: Seattle!
JJ: I don't know. This one is hard. Blogfest. You took us last year.


If I was famous, what made me famous?
Christian: You would be famous for being the best dad EVER!
Zu: Imitating Batman.
JJ: Inventing a robot person. (Me: A what?) JJ: You know, a robot that's a person.

If I was a fictional character, which one would I be?
Christian: Grumpy from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Zu: Mr. Fantastic. (note: the stretchy guy from Fantastic Four) (Me: But I'm not flexible.) Zu: Not your body, but the way you act is flexible. You always stretch to do things that we need.
JJ: Thing (note: the big guy made of rock from Fantastic Four)

What was I like when I was a kid?
Christian: Like me, made some of the same mistakes.
Zu: Skinny. I saw pictures.
JJ: Skinny.

What do you and I have in common?
Christian: I’m your clone.
Zu: We both like candy.
JJ We both need glasses.

What makes you different from me?
Christian: You'd rather shiver than sweat. I’d rather sweat than shiver.
Zu: I don’t wear glasses.
JJ: You're way taller than me. (Me: You're six.) JJ: Uh-huh.

What is your favorite food or meal that I cook?
Christian: Skillet fried potatoes and veggies
Zu: That thing with potatoes and veggies.
JJ: Spaghetti with sauce.

What is your dad’s favorite food?
Christian: How am I supposed to know. (Me: Guess) Christian: Spicy stuff.
Zu: Pizza.
JJ: Those rolled up taco things. (Me: Taquitos?) JJ: Yeah, those.

What is something that I frequently tell you over and over again?
Christian: Don’t let other people control your attitude.
Zu: Stop jumping on the furniture.
JJ: Be nice.

What makes your dad happy?
Christian: When we are happy.
Zu: When I cuddle with you.
JJ: Me being funny.

What makes your dad sad?
Christian: When we aren’t happy.
Zu: When I get hurt.
JJ: When we make bad choices.

How do you know that I love you?
Christian: I don’t know, I just feel it.
Zu: Because you tell me that even when I make mistakes, you still loves me. No matter what.
JJ: You hug me a lot.


6.23.2015

Are you OK with hate?

Over the weekend, I was skimming through the news while the kids were in the middle of their morning routine: eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth. My oldest son was distracted by the shininess radiating from my desktop monitor so he wandered by to look over my shoulder.

His inquisitive nature showed up just as I was scrolling past a story from the Charleston shooting. The picture of the racist gunman had just disappeared into the top of my screen in search of other news stories when Christian spoke up.

"Who was that, Dad?"

"A very bad man," I answered.

"What makes him so bad?"

"Well, he killed a bunch of people."

"Why would he do that?"

This is a difficult question answer. You and I know that he targeted the Emanuel AME Church due to their historical significance. We know that he harbored hate for Jews, African Americans, and minority groups in general and this motivated his decision to kill. Adults understand that evil exists in real and tangible human form that plays out in horrific and violent methods.

But how do you explain that to the kid? How do you provide a safe shelter without being over protective? How do you describe the truth of a broken world without decimating their youthful optimism?

I gave him the simplest answer that I could think. "Well, he really hated them."

Then Christian asked a question that I was not prepared to answer. "How could anyone hate someone else that much?"

"I don't know kiddo. I don't know."

On an intellectual level, I understand how hate taken to its furthest extent ends in destruction and death. I get it, but I don't get it. Recognizing that it happens does not explain why. I cannot tell my son how anyone could hate someone else enough to murder them because I do not understand it myself.

Image courtesy of The State

I can rationalize the same evil that motivates a Muslim jihadist is the same evil behind Westboro Baptist Church, white supremacists, and genocidal dictators. I can see how man can commit some disturbingly depraved acts. Yet, no matter how hard I try I cannot begin to comprehend how any individual can allow their heart to be so consumed with hatred.

And I'm not OK with it.

I am not OK with kids killed in their classrooms and cafeterias. I am not OK with parishioners murdered in their houses of worship. I am not OK with police forces so quickly resorting to lethal force or the responding riots and looting.

When will American culture get fed up with it? For now, it seems like our society has a 'no big deal' attitude. These tragedies are being exploited to score political points while the pain of personal loss is forgotten.

While pundits argue about whether or not racism still exists, minority communities fight against systematic discrimination. While the gun control debate is waged between those that believe all firearms should be banned and those who long for a well-armed society, more and more innocent lives fall victim to gun violence.

I am sick of it. The United States is a nation that is far from united. We are divided by hate, unwilling to admit our flaws and failures, and we portray those who disagree with us as enemies hell-bent on destroying America.

I am not OK with it.

Are you?

6.19.2015

Why Grunge Matters (part 2)

After reading the news of Dave Grohl's injury, I watched a few clips of the show after he returned from the hospital. They played an unplugged version of 'My Hero' while Grohl balanced on crutches - defiant of the orders to keep his casted leg elevated. The song was dedicated to the medical technician that helped in the aftermath of Grohl's accident. I was enraptured by the simple spectacle of it and the crowd’s echoing vocals, "There goes my hero, watch him as he goes. There goes my hero, he's ordinary."

The dedication reflected the original intent of the song, lyrics written as a tribute to the average working man. Unfortunately, that message was lost when first released. Recorded three years after the death of Kurt Cobain, many fans (myself included) assumed that Grohl wrote the song as a tribute to his former friend and band member.

While watching the Foo Fighters performance in Gothenburg, and later listening to Pearl Jam's performance at Pinkpop, I was hit with waves of nostalgia. Within those memories, my mind deliberated why grunge matters. Not just why it was important 20-25 years ago, but why it is relevant today.

1. There was a power behind the grunge era that had rarely been seen in earlier generations and has not been replicated since. I realize that most everyone will claim music recorded and released during their junior high, high school, and college years as the best music ever recorded. I am not that naïve. While some of my favorite songs are from the 90s, I will not dare to say those songs are the best of all time. I recognize and give credit to far superior musicians: renaissance era composers, old hymns and spirituals, early 20th century delta blues, The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Even today, there are phenomenal musicians creating some amazing music.

However, musical revolutions are rare. We don't often see the birth of a new genre completely change the landscape of popular music. Elvis did it. He brought black music into the forefront of the predominantly white masses. Lennon and McCartney did it and heralded the British invasion. The CBGB did it, giving a platform to countless punk and new wave bands. Then there was Grunge and the Seattle music scene. It arrived with feedback from Marshall Amps, abused drum sets, and growling vocals. It demanded attention and the world complied. Everyone took notice. New grunge bands were signed to lucrative record deals with major labels at a rate that was previously unheard of.

What has happened since then? Post-grunge styles followed one of two paths: the radio friendly jangle of bands like Hootie and the Blowfish and Counting Crows, or the underground alternative that eschewed mainstream appeal like Sunny Day Real Estate and Built to Spill. We have seen new genres appear and disappear (nu-metal, dubstep) but none have matched the grandeur and widespread acclaim of grunge.

2. My kids will never understand what it was like to come of age in the middle of the grunge era. Granted, there are certain things that I will never comprehend. I will never know what it was like to drop several coins into a jukebox diner and program it to repeat The Surfaris' Wipe Out over and over again like my dad once did in the mid 1960's. I will never experience the feeling of bringing home a brand new Black Sabbath album like my mom did back when Ozzy was still young. I can only view the performances of Woodstock through historical lenses. The day Elvis died was two years before I was born and I was too young to remember when Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon. Likewise, there will be events and musical landmarks that my kids will live through that their kids will never understand.

But grunge is the hallmark of my generation. We are the ones who can recall where we were when we heard the news of Cobain's suicide. We are the ones who sat in awe when we first heard the opening notes of Yellow Ledbetter and insisted everyone around us shut up so that we could decipher the mumbled lyrics. We are the ones who attached correlation between Interstate Love Song and our first experience of heartbreak. We are the once who still get chills when we hear the line "That's one more kid that'll never go to school, never get to fall in love, never get to be cool" from Rockin' in the Free World. We are the ones who claim Nearly Lost You and Far Behind as personal anthems and were reduced to tears the first time we heard Hunger Strike. We are the ones who wanted to swing from the rafters like Eddie Vedder, who wanted to scream like Chris Cornell, who identified with the Man in the Box.

These are the moments and emotions that I will never be able to explain to my kids. I can teach them to appreciate the music of a time before they existed, but I can't show them how it felt.

3. Within the ugliness of the distortion, violent drum beats, and lyrical release of pent up rage, there was a beautiful simplicity to grunge's style. It kept the minimalist structures of punk rock with the dissonance of metal. The fundamental basic power chords and fuzzy tones gave it an allure that the novice musician could appreciate.

Sure, there were complexities within the genre. Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins both had guitar solos that would punish the fingertips and fret boards any anyone brave enough to replicate their sounds. Technically proficient compositions aside, there was something out there that anyone could play. I am not a talented musician, but I can pluck out the intros to Today and Come as You Are, I can play the main riff to Smells Like Teen Spirit, and I will occasionally strum along with Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.

4. They looked like us, dressed like us, and acted like us. Cargo pants and flannel shirts. Uncombed hair. Slightly crazy expressions. Angsty, alienated, disenchanted, skeptical. Actually, they weren’t just like us. They were us.

Prior to the grunge explosion, popular music was divided into four categories. 1. Glam metal. Even if we enjoyed the music, we couldn’t imagine strapping on spandex and teasing our hair into gravity defying structures. 2. Rap. Even though Run-DMC and Beastie Boys created hip-hop for suburbia, rap music was still an urban art form. 3. Country. Prior to the crossovers of Shania Twain and Lonestar, country was the music of rednecks, not something those of us in the Seattle suburbs understood. 4. Lite rock. This was the music our parents listened to: Phil Collins, Paul Simon, Eric Carmen. Grunge was a needed deviation from the norm.

5. They made us believe that we could do it too. Grunge was easy to play, easy to learn. You didn’t need to be a good musician or pleasant sounding singer to be in a grunge band.

I’ve mentioned before how singing along with Pearl Jam was the only time I felt like I could be a rock star. And I’m not alone in the sentiment that we could do what they were doing. We could relate to the themes, the style stirred our emotions, we could play the music, and they looked like us. This is why so many of my friends in junior high and high school started their own bands. Never before had we seen something that made us believe that we could do what they were doing.

This is an anomaly that has not yet been recreated.

We still need grunge. We need music that will remind us of the magic in creating art, that convince us we could be famous too.

photo found on fanpop

6.16.2015

Why Grunge Matters (part 1)

Twenty five years ago, grunge took over the world of pop music and put Seattle on the cultural map. It rode out the wave of popularity with a wall of noise for a few years then disappeared, replaced by new trends in the recording industry. The reason for the waning of the grunge movement is hard to pin down. The possible culprits are many. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) killed himself. Layne Staley (Alice In Chains) and Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots) both lost themselves to drugs. Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) went crazy. Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) boycotted Ticketmaster and effectively removed his band from American markets. In 2009, ECW Press released the fatal prognosis with their book, 'Grunge Is Dead.'

The genre may have faded from regular radio rotation, but I reject the notion that it died. Instead, grunge has evolved and I believe it is as essential to our modern landscape as it was in in the first half of the 90's. While classic rock stations are beginning to play some of grunge's most accessible tunes - evoking both feelings of nostalgia and 'holy crap I'm getting old,' this last weekend reminded me a vibrancy within the genre that will never grow up and will never die of old age.

During a performance in Gothenburg, Sweden last Friday, Dave Grohl fell off of the stage and broke his leg. After getting medical attention, a cast, and some crutches, he returned to the venue and finished performing his band's set. In the process, he reminded us all how to rock n roll properly. His playing though pain was also a great lesson in fulfilling commitments - even when it might be personally inconvenient.

If you're not familiar with Dave Grohl, he is a vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, and possibly one of the hardest working men in modern music. However, when I was in junior high, Grohl was the drummer for another band - Nirvana. This placed him right in the center of the hype of the grunge explosion. After Cobain's suicide, Nirvana disbanded and Grohl formed his own group: Foo Fighters. Their debut album was released 20 years ago at the tail end of grunge's dominance; since then, they have released another seven LPs. Between those albums, a handful of EPs, and some contributions to movie soundtracks, they have released a grand total of 32 singles - one of which (Times Like These) is on the lullaby playlist on my daughter's mp3 player.

I was listening to Foo Fighters Saturday afternoon when Zu asked "Are they one of your favorite bands?" I answered affirmatively. JJ asked me what style of music that they played and I told him that it was alternative rock. JJ responded, "Daddy, you know that's my favorite kind of music, right?" If my kids are any indicator of the world around us, Dave Grohl is now influencing and inspiring a second generation of fans.

The reminders of grunge's impact didn't end with news about Grohl's injury. On Sunday, I heard a familiar melody while walking through the WinCo parking lot. As the drum beat and guitar riff became louder and more defined, I eventually found the source and realized why the song sounded so familiar. An older gentleman, roughly my dad's age, drove by in an older Chevy pickup. Windows down, music up, the old man was bobbing his head along to Pearl Jam's Evenflow. These songs carry meaning for more than just the gen-x kids that were in junior high and high school when these songs were first released. Even our parent's generation appreciates the soundtracks to our rebellious years.

Then yesterday, one of my favorite cartoonists (The Oatmeal) released some artwork paying tribute to another Pearl Jam song: Black. (see it HERE) Seeing that panel with one short lyrical snippet got the tune stuck in my head and I soon found myself humming that line "I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a star in somebody else's sky."

These haunting words are a permanent fixture of my memory. I will loudly sing along with every word anytime it is played on the radio or takes its turn in one of my iTunes playlists. No shame. But as with any song that digs its way into constant mental replay, the only remedy is to listen to it for real. Which I did. I played the track from Ten. Then the acoustic version from their appearance on MTV Unplugged. Then the version from Live on Two Legs. Yeah, I'm a little obsessive at times.

From there, I stumbled upon a recording of Black from their set at the 1992 Pinkpop Festival in the Netherlands. Rather than listen to the one song, I listened to the entire 45 minute set. In the middle of the show, Eddie marveled at the sea of people in front of him. He said that they were the band’s biggest audience yet (60,000 people attended the festival). “We never played for this many people before. Never thought we’d ever play for this many people.” In hindsight, his commentary is laughable. They were one of the biggest bands of the 90’s – of course they would play for huge audiences.

But this was the beginning of a movement. This is when their first album, Ten, was less than a year old. This was their first summer tour with massive festivals. This was a young band staring into the face of the future.

image found on pinterest

As I listened to the music of Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters these last few days, I found myself pondering the impact of an era that is now a part of the history books my kids study at school. The end of the cold war, the LA riots, American military in Somalia, and the rise and collapse of a musical force that captured everyone’s attention.

My parent’s generation, my generation, and now my kids’ generation. Each of us impacted and influenced in different ways. And today, grunge is still needed. Still vital. Still alive. ("You’re still alive she said. Do I deserve to be? Is that the question? If so, who answers?")

Of course, the answers are complicated than generational appeal. And I am only scratching the surface.

6.09.2015

Adventures in Public Restrooms

Today, I watched some dude wash his hands by quickly alternating each hand (palms flat, fingers outstretched) underneath the faucet while rotating his entire upper torso in rhythm with his arms as if he was trying to increase the velocity of each swing toward his target. Left, right, left, right, left. It was like he was attacking the water with the most ferocious karate chop he could muster.

This continued until all of the soap suds had been rinsed free.

It should be mentioned I waited until he was done practicing his ninja skills before stepping up to the adjacent sink to wash my hands. It seemed prudent to avoid collateral spray from his flailing appendages; I prefer to be completely dry when exiting public restrooms.