Archive for August, 2008

I’ve kept my love for the movie Once no secret here. Initially inspired by a song I heard from the film, I went out and bought this “modern-day musical” to find it irresistibly charming and its songs just plain good. I have played this soundtrack over and over and over again since I’ve picked it up and it hasn’t yet gotten old for me. While I think you should first experience the bulk of the songs from watching the movie I think I can get away with sharing one more here.

This is “Fallen From The Sky,” from the soundtrack to the movie Once.

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This is one of those examples where a song holds more value to me than my appreciation of an artist. I think John Mellencamp is a great artist who has written some great songs over time. I enjoy a great many of his songs. However, I’ve never fully connected with him as others have or as I have with other artists. I’ve never religiously followed his music though I’ve really liked most of what I’ve heard. I think I can say the same about Springsteen, in that I know he’s a fantastic artist with some great songs; I’m just not as hardcore a fan as others.

I checked out a DVD from the library several years ago that was the benefit concert that took place in NYC for the city’s firefighters after 9/11. It was a cool concert and, for me, one song stuck out, mostly because I hadn’t heard it before. There walked out Mellencamp, as cool as can be, with a band as cool as can be, and played this killer song, Peaceful World (from his album Cuttin’ Heads).

This is a windows-down, driving-toward-the-sunset song. I love the groove, I love the feel. It’s free, lifting, and other ambiguous terms you can insert here yourself. Cool song. I wish more songs felt this way.

“It’s what you do and not what you say, if you’re not part of the future then get out of the way.”

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I’ve exclaimed my love of The Weepies before here. I find them to be a band with a unique, lovable sound; whimsical and often hopeful. The two halves of The Weepies, Deb Talan and Steve Tannen, have each released albums of their own before their collaborative work. There’s magic when the two work together but there’s definitely something special about their individual musical contributions.

Here’s a beautiful song called “Comfort,” from Deb Talan’s album A Bird Flies Out. Oh, that voice!

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Every Saturday morning, after my ritual dose of cartoons, I’d race down to my parents’ bedroom where I could be alone with their radio and there I’d sit for hours tuned to the local (traditional) Christian radio station. This part of the morning was the station’s music request time and I’d stay glued to the speakers, armed only with a blank tape, ready to record my favorite songs and new tunes I’d hear and would want to keep with me/listen to all week long until the following Saturday. I was a committed 10-11 year old. There’d be times I’d hear a song I didn’t know and wouldn’t think to record it until after the first verse was over, completely bummed that I didn’t capture the song in its entirety. However, I became familiar with the song enough to call in a request the next week.

I may have mentioned it before but I love music. It’s been a huge part of my life growing up and continues to play in the background for most of my memories. A lot has changed since the days of my huddling in front of a radio, taping songs all morning long. For one, it was years later before I even discovered the Contemporary Christian Music station which took me in a whole new musical direction altogether. (The other station played/plays hymns, classic worship songs, songs re-recorded for a more traditional audience. It was all I knew – I loved it.)

From recording radio I moved on to actually buying artists’ tapes (hello, Acappella and Sandi Patty), then collecting CDs to currently stealing purchasing mp3s. The music has changed, my tastes have evolved, my musical appreciation has broadened.

Playing music has also been an incredible aspect of music in my life and one I know will constantly reinvent itself. While I miss that side of it (or playing as much as I did a few years ago) as Roommate Tanner reminded me yesterday, music is always playing around me.

In honor of the melodies that I hold dear I thought I’d share with you some of the songs or artists who have meant a lot on my musical journey. I’ll try and avoid some of the more popular choices because I’m sure everyone is already familiar with them, but some I can’t avoid so I’ll try and find some less popular songs to share. I hope in the process you can maybe discover some fun music that will play alongside your journey.


First up is Andrew Osenga. A little backgroud, first: Andy was the lead singer of the band The Normals until the band ran its course several years ago. I heard a couple of their songs on the radio (the Contemporary Christian station, of course) and I liked it and picked up their debut album from a Half Price Book Store. It was a decent album but I didn’t give it much credit so I sort of dismissed them. A couple of years later I read a review for The Normals’ second album Coming to Life praising the record as a great accomplishment. I decided to check it out. Consider me wowed. I played that CD to death, I loved it so much. There was a drastic leap in writing and performance between the two records that sold me as a fan of the band and of Andrew Osenga’s writing/singing. They released a third album, which was also excellent, and then split up.

One day, at a Caedmon’s Call concert I attended on a whim, who did I notice playing guitar with the band? None other than Mr. Osenga. Apparently he had taken the available spot in the band when Derek Webb left to pursue his solo career. I was thrilled he was back playing music but even more thrilled that he was playing a solo show that night after the concert. I learned he released his own record and was doing his own solo records alongside his day job with Caedmon’s. His four solo albums since have been played over and over and over again in my car. I can really go on and on about his music. In fact, I will.

Last year, Andy released a record called Letters to the Editor, Vol. I. What’s unique about this album is that all the songs were inspired by stories, pictures, lyrics – whatever – all submitted by readers of his blog. He took the audience interaction idea one step further: he calls it Webground vocals. He offered to anyone interested to record an assigned portion of a song and submit it and he’d try to include it in the track. A very fun idea. Very cool results.

Andy Osenga announced a few weeks ago that he was taking suggestions for Letters to the Editor, Vol. II and just yesterday he offered the chance to participate in Webground vocals, round 2. He’s expanded the participation to singing and playing now. This should be entertaining and impressive to hear him pull it off.

[Okay, I promise the next songs I share won’t be accompanied by such a long spiel.]

Here’s a taste of Andrew Osenga – “Swing Wide the Glimmering Gates” from his e.p. Letters to the Editor, Vol. I. The “choir” in the background at the end of the tune is the Webground vocals at work. Yes, I participated. Yes, I’m proud.

If any of these artists remind you of someone you love to listen to, please share – leave comments! I’d love to discover your tastes and favorites.

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The pens I ordered came in today. Very happy. I think the Pentels are going to need some breaking in but the Bic Cristal Gels write flawlessly. So nice. I feel like a kid in an candy office supply store!

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I mentioned in the previous post that The Dark Knight, though excellently put together, wasn’t my kind of movie. So what is my kind of movie? Beats me. I’m not kidding. By my typical standards I should’ve adored Batman. I suppose I’m just a puzzle.

But really, a wide range of movies interests me, as does a wide range or music (my love for Patty Griffin vs. my admiration of Radiohead, for example), or the spread in TV shows I like (The West Wing vs. Smallville) or just about anything else that’s a player in a diverse field. I admit, I haven’t seen a great deal of movies in general and the number of movies that I’ve actually seen in theatres is even smaller.

I can’t say I’m turned off by violence in movies because, if asked right now, I’d say one of my favorite movies is Shaun of the Dead, which has some violent tendencies. (How can a love story about zombies not be pretty violent?) Another favorite is Dumb & Dumber which is, well, dumb. Hilarious, too, and one of the few movies I know of that you can watch over and over and still find things to laugh about each time. But I’m not just about comedies, either. Life is Beautiful is a wonderful story (and yes, many times funny) of undying love and the preservation of innocence shrouded in the horrors of the Holocaust. A great, great movie.


A few months ago, Neil Miller showed me a YouTube clip of a song that was part of a movie that he had seen. The song was hauntingly beautiful and it stuck with me after that one viewing. I meant to watch the movie but never got around to it. A couple of months down the road, Kitt Bender told me he had just seen his favorite movie of all time for the first time, which just so happened to be the same movie Neil referred me to. I looked up the YouTube clip and found the song and knew I’d love the rest of the movie if I saw it. I went down to Best Buy soon after and purchased the movie and its soundtrack. Absolutely fantastic.

Once is a charming movie with bright characters and a simple story line, expressing the complexities of their lives in the only way they know how – in song. It’s lovable and the music throughout the film is seriously fantastic. [It might be important to some that it’s rated R – that’s for the use of language throughout the movie (he’s Irish and she’s Czech and they casually swear up a storm. Somehow, in this film, I write it off as endearing personality quirks.)]

It seems rare to find movies that are as lovely. Once in a while, though, they appear and whisk you clear away. Once is easily one of my favorite films.

To get a taste, here is the clip of the song Neil introduced to me. The song also won an Oscar, just so you know.

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It’s 4 a.m. and I’m sitting here, obviously awake. I had a great nap yesterday afternoon after church and it’s keeping me up now. So, I thought I’d write. I’m listening to what I thought was John Mayer’s Room For Squares album but which is actually a hodge-podge of tracks from early on in Mayer’s career that I happen to have in my iTunes library. The quality of the mp3s are terrible but the songs are pretty good.

—I have a dentist appointment at 8:15 this morning. That’s now about four hours away. I really need to sleep. I’m excited to one day get these braces out of my mouth. They aren’t terrible but they have been inconvenient on more than one occasion, like every time I eat food.

—I finally saw Dark Knight this weekend. I even saw it at the IMAX. I learned a couple of things after watching this movie: I don’t care for big, blockbuster movies. I don’t care a great deal about action movies and I think some violence in movies is slightly disturbing to me (though that wasn’t always the case with me). The movie was very well done. It was well-written, shot nicely and was full of great acting. But I didn’t really care for it. Well, I don’t know if that’s accurate. I liked it, I just don’t think I’ll bother seeing it again. I guess it’s not exactly my type of film.

—I love Amazon.com more and more everyday. Good prices on just about everything you could want. Aside from the mp3s I continue to buy, I found some pens that I’m pretty excited about. “Pens?,” you ask? That’s right.

I have this small obsession with pens. I always have to have a pen on my person at all times. I feel naked without one. When I leave the house or at various times throughout the day, I conduct a self-check, which has now become a mindless, mechanical habit and likely a strange sight for observers. I pat myself down to make sure I still have my possessions. I pat my back right pocket to check for my wallet, then my back left pocket to check for my phone, my front right to check for my pen, then my front left to check for my Chap-stick. I’m not always aware when I do this but I notice when I don’t feel one of the items I’m checking for. Lately, I’ve been dismissing the times my phone is strangely absent or when I forget my precious Chap-stick but I can’t get over when my pen is missing.

I don’t carry just any pen with me. I mean, I will if that’s all that’s available but I’m particular about my pens. Too many companies today are coming out with pens with all the bells and whistles they can cram on and I don’t really care for it. I like a simple, undecorated pen that writes cleanly and semi-fluidly. I don’t like them too inky and I don’t like too fine a point, either. Pentel had a pen several years back that had an ink called the Hybrid Gel. This was a pen with a very basic, plastic shaft, no rubber grip, a simple cap and an ink that flowed nicely but didn’t pour out. I loved that pen. I think I bought a pack every time I walked into an office store. Sadly, they discontinued that model and I hadn’t been able to find it anywhere. I even wrote Pentel a letter asking about it but they never responded. (Yes, I am pathetic.)

I jumped on the gel pen train and it’s done me well. I’ve had a hard time finding a pen that had as an unobtrusive design as the Pentel; every company seemed to think that rubber grips were essential along with crazy paint jobs on the pen itself. Oh well, right? I discovered the Bic Cristal Gel pens soon after. Here was a humble pen, cheaply made and undecorated with a smooth-flowing gel ink and affordably priced. Fantastic, I said. So, naturally, they stopped carrying them in stores.

I’ve been on a hunt for the perfect pen for the past few years to fill the void in my heart and my pocket. I discovered on Amazon.com that Pentel has a new Hybrid Gel pen that looks similar to the one I first discovered many months ago (but with a “cool” new design). I can handle that. But that’s not all – I found the Bic Cristal Gel pens as well. It was an unexpected reunion among lost, loser friends. So I bought ’em. I think I have 12 Pentel pens coming along with, um, 84 Bic Cristal pens… That’s how many that came in the pack, okay? Leave me alone.

Gosh, this post took a drastic turn for the worse. Surely someone out there understands the need for a pen you can identify with, one that writes the way you feel and connects with you in a manner you can’t fully explain. Anybody? Please?

—I miss playing music more regularly. I still play every week at church and I’m thankful for that but I miss playing as much as I did a couple of years ago.

—Has anyone else been shocked/disturbed by the news this weekend? First there was John Edwards’ admission of an affair, then Bernie Mac’s passing and now the loss of Isaac Hayes.

—Things have been busy around here, sort of in a rut as well. Not bad, just the way it is at the moment. This is why I’m really looking forward to the HYPF retreat coming up at the end of the month. It’s going to be three days/two nights at a camp an hour and a half away, full of having fun, relaxing and spending good time with good people and Jesus. I’m especially excited about being outdoors, being around nature and breathing some fresh(er) air. I’m excited about seeing some beautiful skies and seeing the stars out at night. I’m a sucker for skies. I love skies. I really love night skies. According to my calendar, the moon shouldn’t be visible that weekend or only very slightly so which should make for some nice star-gazing. I’m telling you, I love skies. I love skies more than I love pens.

—Okay, it’s time to go to bed. Or something. Dentist appointment is approaching.

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This is Sen. McCain’s appeal to the country to become her president and the leader of the free world. Hmm.

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