Friday, September 12, 2008

Getting Closer

A favorite band of mine has been, since they first hit the national scene in 1995, Jars of Clay. I was in 8th grade and completely obsessed with CCM. That's contemporary Christian music for the uninitiated. A mighty subculture. (My high school senior thesis was entitled "Christian Music at the Crossroads," to help you understand how enamored I was.)

The captivating thing about Jars of Clay, from the moment their hit song "Flood" debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #37, was that this was a band made up of Christian guys who very clearly had a mission beyond the church. At the time, the idea of blurring the lines between sacred and secular - especially in the world of music - was still something that was dangerous in my insular little world.

Thirteen years later, I have, of course, experienced significant change in my beliefs about the sacred/secular divide; namely, that the divide is entirely invented and unnecessary - wrong and harmful, even. And thirteen years later Jars of Clay is still making music that continues to pull the veil off my eyes. Ingenuity, passion, creativity, and compassion are characteristics I would attribute to this band. Dan Haseltine and the boys just released a new EP entitled "Closer," and its title track has instantly become one of my favorites and an anthem for life now. I don't understand why we can't get close enough / I want your kite strings tangled in my trees, all wrapped up. Could double as my personal cry against the created chasm between "sacred" and "secular."

That song, along with completely reworked versions of the aforementioned "Flood" and "Love Song for a Savior," are proof positive that JOC is far from finished with their mission to sing spiritually about all of life. And the EP is just so darn good to listen to. Check it out.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

One Day

"I can be no bolder than to bite the bitter fruit of self-loathing right there in your face. Right in front of you.

I can be no starker. No more naked. No more true.

I can be no braver than to fill this empty space with an uttered hope: One day I will not need to spend my words like pennies in a wishing well. Instead I'll be plain and clear. One day the words I write will refer to 'what was' and not 'what I wish wasn't.'"

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Thursday, May 22, 2008

cartoon violence

Jude and Dana, my little creations for Citywalk, discuss violence & peace in their latest adventure.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

speedracer: movie review

What do car races, ninja fights, monkeys, and a funny fat kid have in common? They're all the best parts of the best movie I've seen so far this year.

A few weeks ago I scored free tickets to an advance screening of the new film Speed Racer, which opens this Friday. It showed last night and there were probably a little over 200 people in attendance here in San Diego. Which makes for great buzz & energy, especially when the crowd is comprised almost exclusively of people who are REALLY excited to be there. I love it when an audience erupts into spontaneous applause and cheers at the cinema, which is exactly what happened when the lights began to dim.

I was never a Speed Racer fan growing up for the simple reason that I never had the opportunity to watch it. So I didn't have a lot invested in this movie except for the fact that Christina Ricci is one of my top 5 favorite actresses working today. Also, while I was a huge fan of the The Matrix, its sequels left me disappointed. So you could say my expectations were just average for this new film from the Wachowski brothers.

Boy, was I in for a treat. First of all, the Wachowskis were very smart to make their first writing/directing post-Matrix effort in a polar-opposite genre from the R-rated Matrix trilogy. Because those films are so iconic, they really needed to work with very different subject matter in order to avoid comparisons and break the mold once again. And break the mold they did!

Speed Racer is unlike anything I've seen on the big screen before. The sensation is similar to what you may have felt during last year's Beowulf if it was your first 3-D feature film experience (as it was mine). But the Wachowskis achieve their adrenaline rush without asking their audience to don a pair of 3-D glasses. Visually, this movie is just as groundbreaking as were The Matrix and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in their day. The unrelenting bold colors fly across the screen and help to transport us to Speed's (Emile Hirsch) world, which is quite a virtual feat and spans the globe, from futuristic cities with hovercrafts and brilliantly-designed skyscrapers, to icy mountain slopes, to desert dunes - even the suburbs look exciting through the Wachowskis' eyes. And the races are amazing. You'll certainly see some of the same slow-motion tricks made famous by Neo and Trinity in 1999, but the brothers have taken their game to a whole new level here. My favorite was seeing the cars flip 360 degrees - sideways - and land on the other side of the track without losing a bit of speed.

But effects and bombast aren't the only reason to see this movie. It has great characters, humor, and heart. Andy & Larry even manage to eek out a relevant critique of corporate sponsorship burying the heart and soul of what makes racing (or any sport or human creative outlet) great. The stylized performances of the cast, who are all at the very top of their game, make for great viewing. Christina Ricci plays Trixie, Speed's girlfriend and air traffic controller, with spunk, spark, and sass, using her trademark big eyes to liven up the screen. John Goodman and Susan Sarandon, as Mom & Pop Racer, are pitch-perfect as a type of 50's-era squeaky clean parents while still giving the story, and Speed, the heart it needs to make this film more than just eye candy. And let's not forget to mention Paulie Litowsky, who plays Speed's younger brother Spritle, and his companion Chim Chim the Chimpanzee, who effortlessly provide the best laughs of the movie.

Not yet having made it to Iron Man, this was a great way to kick off the summer blockbusters of 2008. If you're still not convinced, all I have left to say is... go, go!

Monday, May 05, 2008

child, these are the days

A new song, with a prologue of useless chatter about the Padres, Simon Cowell, and my best friend and border collie, Winslow. Winslow, whom I love. (Song lyrics below.)

She keep her distance from strangers
Keep her eyes closed to block out the dangers
She should fight tooth and nail
To see truth prevail
These are the words that they told her
With the salvation they sold her
No refunds and no exchanges
This is how the game is played

These are the days child
When the whole world conspires
To steal away your innocence and freedom
These are the days child
When the whole world is wild
So heaven help us if we cannot beat them

She remembers a day when
They shut the door and wouldn't let her in
It was dark outside, but even still
The florescent lighting had lost its appeal
'Cause when the Bible is your congressman
Freedom is a work of fiction
But when you're fed, who would contest
That these days, child, are the best of the best?

Child, tell me are you sedated
Sucking the nectar of things you hated
For so long now, have you lost your taste
For anything real, has it been replaced?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

what are YOU talking about?

A quick little video I cooked up to advertise Citywalk's upcoming discussion series... Hope you laugh!

Friday, April 25, 2008

i don't get grace

Sitting here at Java Jones listening to a performance bordering on walk-out-able. Thinking about much more than the music and the art on the walls. Thinking about grace, and whether I've ever really experienced it. Whether I have let myself become acquainted with it in any realm other than the conceptual.

I don't consider myself judgmental. But I do hold myself to high standards. At least publicly. I have very stringent expectations for myself. (So many reasons. None to talk about without a glass of wine or two in me.) But because I'm so performance-driven, so consumed with standards and maintenance and doing what's right to please other people, sometimes there is part of me that looks at others and can't figure why the hell they don't own up to the choices they've made; why they shirk responsibility; how they can be so liberated and lively and free from the worry of consequence. Because I am decidedly not.

In fact, I'd say most of the life decisions I make are based on fear of consequences. And there's a big part of me that really admires people who can shrug off the whole "what other people think" thing. I mean, I can do that with strangers pretty easily. But with my close friends, the people I should be able to trust most of all, I am often wrapped up in fear over what they will think were I to live according to what I really believe instead of censoring or suppressing certain beliefs or hopes for the sake of not offending.

My uncle recently "replied to all" on an email forward (one of the many that get circulated in my family) that had a very ignorant and offensive message about "patriotism" and what kind of person deserves to be called an American. His response was simply: Please spare me this shit and remove me from your email list NOW.

I have no desire to be a jackass. (Sorry, Uncle T!) But I have a huge amount of respect for my uncle for being so open about his personal opinions & beliefs. He's always been that way, as long as I can remember - and it hasn't exactly won him a cherished spot in the hierarchy of our clan. But he has no fear about what other people will think. He knows what he believes and what he doesn't, and he has no problem being open about those things. I, on the otherhand, have been quick to retract statements I've made that have brought me the slightest amount of criticism from family, friends, fellow church-goers.

And I have been experiencing an unsettling realization that this is because I don't believe in grace. I don't really believe it counts for anything; instead, my status, the love I seek after, my place in church, family, and social circles, I believe are won and defended by what I accomplish, what I do (or more often what I don't do), and how well-behaved I am. According, of course, to the standards of others - standards that I oftentimes do not personally believe for myself. But I still choose to live by them. Because of fear. Because of obligation. Because I don't trust that I will still be received and accepted. Because I don't trust grace.

I'm going to pack up now and go home. The barely-listenable band is finished & gone. The coffeehouse is closing down. I have a 3 mile bike ride uphill until I reach the comfort of my bed and my border collie, who is the only one I never fear will leave me because I don't meet his standards.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

after school cookie & milk time!

Meet one of the roommates! We do a cover of "May He Poop on My Knee?" Also, help me pick a catchphrase, a la William Sledd. "Hello, little children" might be too creepy. Finally, I cover "Mistake of My Life," by Caedmon's Call (written by Derek Webb).

The music in the intro is "Sunshine Alley" by Stanley Turrentine from the album "Sugar." Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

video: new song

A new song, showcasing my first attempt at video editing and a random Brian Regan reference! Hope you like...

God, are you still listening?
Were you ever really there at all?
Maybe I was wishing
Maybe I was wrong
All of those desperate words I spoke
Are they just falling right back down on me?
When I am calling chaos home
Does it appease me to believe?

God, are you still speaking?
Have I ever really heard your voice?
Was it just something I was needing
To make some sense of all the noise?
I once believed that you were near
Whispering which way was best
But you are not a puppeteer
And I am not your marionette

God, are you awake now?
'Cause I don't know where I belong
I hear my friends tell me to pray now
Well, my prayer is this song
We think we've got you all exposed
But are you doing what we say you?
Is there even one remotely close
Interpretation of you?

Monday, April 14, 2008


There's a topic sure to grab a lot of readers... Reminds me of Reverend Lovejoy's sermon on "The Nine Tenants of Constancy" on the Simpsons. But it's something that has been troubling me lately. I grew up in a world that was rooted in consistency. It was very important to be true to one thing anytime you showed your face. Of course, this mostly revolved around one's commitment to faith. There was almost more judgment for a person who was duplicitous in his faith, easily morphing from Saturday night hedonism to Sunday morning sainthood, than there was for the person who consistently rejected a confrontation with God.

It became very important for me (and the judgmental streak I was to develop in my youth) to live consistently one way - to be always concerned with the same things, to carry on the same conversations from place to place, to look the same way Saturday night as I did on Sunday morning. This was no easy task for someone with a proclivity toward mischief who (not so) secretly enjoys watching the fallout from broad, polarizing statements that unsettle the status quo. But I managed - and quite well. I was a master of consistency.

But here's the thing. The consistency in which I was brought up was concerned mainly with the appearance of things. In truth, one could have as many inconsistent worldviews, lifestyles, and Saturday night romps as you wanted as long as they were well-compartmentalized and hidden from view. In that way, I was able to maintain consistency, or the appearance of it, while my alter ego dabbled in things that my Sunday self wouldn't dream of exposing! I stopped just short of actually developing a second personality. Each of my selves were true, or consistent, to the expectations under which I had placed them.

So this is where my gauges are now madly spinning and I'm unable to settle on a reading: my world today is one of inconsistency. Spiritual friends will jump from church to bar to community service to racy movie back to church again - all very publicly, in full view of anyone interested enough to watch! Conversations can turn on a dime, from sanctimonious to salacious, from excellent to X-rated. And I find myself merrily joining in, happily going along, and deeply troubled by a fear of being exposed as inconsistent.

There is a residual effect happening here in my life. Something leftover from days when I dreaded being seen as anything less than vigilant. It seems scandalous to be so cavalier about hopping from devout to degenerate in the same breath. But the reality of it is that, if I'm honest, I've been doing just that for most of my life. Just not in public. It's really the removal of walls that freaks me out. It's the exposure of what I've always believed should be hidden. It's the carnal no longer bowing to consistency. But who is really consistent? The ones without scruples or the one who just keeps it secret? Are my friends more authentic than I am? Am I simply being a hypocrite? (It wouldn't be the first time.)

I like to think I've long since stopped being a judgmental fool. There's no part of me that wants to call out my friends for their "inconsistency." But my biggest problem right now seems to be judging myself. I'm doing myself a great disservice by masking my own unholy ambitions in the name of "consistency."

Friday, April 11, 2008

tina turns me on!

Tina Fey is on the cover of my Entertainment Weekly today! I was really excited. There's something about her that I am just really drawn to. I think it's a combination of many things, actually - her work ethic, of course her humor, her passion for things beyond entertainment... she's just a standout. I absolutely cannot wait for Baby Mama. It's going to be hysterical.

This week my community here in San Diego is kicking off a new "campaign" of sorts - Do What's Right. It's going to be our schtick at Earth Fair on the 20th. I'm excited about it... the website is still going up, but should be running soon!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

update: template issue resolved

As you can clearly see! I don't like it as much as the "Mush Blue" blogger template I had, but so far it's far more reliable! Here's to grunge!

template trouble

My new template, which I LOVE, has been giving me a lot of trouble lately. If you've visited anytime in the past month, chances are you've seen a sorry excuse for a blog. The template I'm using seems to be down about 90% of the time. Bummer. Wish I knew more about how the whole process works so I could host it myself somewhere else... I'm gonna have to carve out some time to re-do it, I'm afraid. 'Til then, sorry for the ugly blog!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

what's right?

Borrowing from a friend's paradigm-shifting idea...

Americans are negative by nature. (And blanket statements are never helpful! Wait a second...) Really, though - we spend most of our conversation talking about what we don't like, the things that turn us off, excuses for not doing this or that. Even when we're excited about something, it's often in comparison with something else that we're not excited about. (A new restaurant just opened that's way better than that one!)

So it tends to go in relationships as well. Among friends and family, this tends to happen often:

"Hey, Andy! How's it going?"

"Oh, you know. Just another day."

"What's wrong? You seem down."

"Nothing. Just tired/stressed/anxious [insert negative adjective of your choice here]."

What's wrong? The question assumes a lot. It assumes, first of all, there is a standard "right." It also assumes that the questionee is not meeting the criteria for what is "right." Tone of voice, body language, even the 'look in your eye' all inform us as to an individual's status on the right-wrong spectrum.

There's nothing, ahem, wrong with being concerned for people who genuinely seem down. But when you meet a friend who genuinely seems to be doing alright, how often do you ask him, "What's right?" How often do we give each other a chance to talk about the good things? How often do we invite one another to share something positive instead of inviting a complaint? I wonder how much of a difference it could make.

I hope you'll read the entry I linked you to above, comment, and accept the What's Right? challenge.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

my ugandan boy

I sponsored a kid through Children's Heritage Foundation! His name is Joseph Ochola, he is 5 years old, and he likes to sing. I love this foundation for many reasons - the biggest being my friends Steve & Ali became connected with them a year ago, have now visited Uganda with them, and are hoping to be able to actually adopt their sponsored child this year! It's an incredible story that I'll write more about later... But here's Joseph, and his bio. What a cute little dude. :)

Joseph looks forward to Sunday all week long. He loves to go to church and sing with his friends. He prays for his parents to be well and misses his father very much, who recently abandoned the family. His mom supports the family selling food in a small town called Nasuti, earning about $1 per day.

Joseph loves drawing pictures in school and playing with his friends. He hopes to be able to stay in school but his mother's meager income selling pancakes is hardly enough to support Joseph and his two sisters. Joseph prays for a better future.

Friday, February 15, 2008

all is well

Apparently some of my friends get most of their news from me through this blog (because I am bad at returning calls) and so when I leave those life-is-oh-so-miserable posts up for too long, they start worrying about me. So here's a current picture, to assuage those fears that I am perpetually morose & brooding:

Ok, so maybe that isn't so reassuring. Nonetheless - know that the sunshine isn't the only things that's bright in San Diego.

(It's my perspective. My perspective is what else is bright.)

There have been trying times in recent weeks - I'm not gonna lie (about that, anyway) - but I'm reconnecting with my friends in really good ways. And I have been gifted with amazing friends. There's no better remedy.

So thanks for the concern. Sometimes this space feels like my sole outlet, and my tendency toward the dramatic (what? me?) is irresistible sometimes.


Friday, January 25, 2008


At least I know myself. Exactly when, where, and how I'll break. Exactly how long I can hold out. Exactly how I'll come to terms with the whole thing. But it does make you wish that once, just once, you had the balls to go through with something drastic. Not so much to prove a point to anyone else. More as a way to exhale. You breathe in so much, hold in so much, that eventually it just sort of settles in there somewhere. You thought you were about to explode, thought you couldn't take it anymore, and just when you think it's about to blow, fissure and crack and explode, you manage to pack it in nicely, tidy things up, expand just enough to keep it inside.

I've got nothing to prove to anyone. It's myself that needs convincing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Predictable as ice melting. Today is day 3, and so it's on to the feelings of loss, the sense that I'm missing out, the acknowledgment that I'm doing it to myself. The cracking of the exterior, the slow breakdown that will ultimately result in admitting my folly, admitting my mistakes and misperception, admitting to anything just to get back the thing I'm desperate not to lose.

It always starts with some sort of righteous anger - righteous, at least, from the perspective of my wounded little corner. I retreat, sure I've been living in a fairy tale, sure that I've been duped, satisfied with a pretense of love that was never actualized. "I am tired of being the first, the initiator, the one always asking and inviting and believing," I say. I want to be on the receiving end of some unsolicited message of approval, of love. Something that says, "You are a difference-maker in my world. I value you in a special way, different from how I value other things."

This something doesn't have to be words. It doesn't have to be a symbol, gift, or gesture. There are no specifications. It just has to be. That's what I think when I submit my proposal. But really, there are rules. I have to perceive it to be what I want. And my perceptions are impenetrable, even to myself.

Is it true what they say, that you can't possibly receive love until you know how to love yourself? If so, it's a lost cause.

At any rate, it's day three, and the exterior is cracking. Breakdown. Caving in. I was wrong, you are right. Please don't leave. The weakness I can't stand to witness in myself.

The temptation to be drastic - to up and leave, or to go screw anonymously - is tempered by the dread of permanently damaging something I believe I can't live without. Predictable. Day 1, righteous anger. Day 2, stubborn holdout. Day 3, cracking, lonely. Day 4, or 5, or Day Inevitable: breakdown. It doesn't matter how long. It won't last. Like ice in the sun.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Viggo Mortensen

A great interview with Viggo on his political views and why he supports Dennis Kucinich.