Monthly Archives: November 2014

Is it in


I picked up a Eddie Harris album at a thrift store the other day. I’d never heard of him so it was kind of a risk. On the other hand, it was a jazz album on the Atlantic label. On the other hand the album title is pretty obnoxious, and the cover art even more so.  On the other hand the names of the tracks were intriguing.  And he plays a sax, my old instrument.  And it was only a buck.  So I got it.

I’m glad I did.  It’s kind of a mixed bag.  It’s all good.  But it’s all kinds of good.  It starts out with a funky electrified tenor saxophone jam called “Funkaroma” This is followed by “Happy Gemini” and “Is it in.” Both of these tracks are pretty funky and will having you bobbing your head.  “Is it in” reminds me of a slightly dirty version of the Cosby Show theme. Then comes “It’s War,” a track that starts out with crickets, and  an indistinct invocation by Mr. Harris.  This is followed by layer upon layer of various percussion.  It’s like trance music.  Great.  Side A mellows with the last track “Space Commercial” featuring synth-sax. This song is like what the saxophone solos of 80’s movies wanted to be–chill and funky, and not cheesy, just good.

When we flip the record we get another groove that makes me dance a bit more, “Look Ahere.” At “These Lonely Nights” we’re back in space, a dissonant electric piano kind of space. It’s Tron crossed with an old Vincent Price movie vibe.  Then Harris comes in with his saxophone and clears your nightmares and tucks you back into bed.  This song gets so pretty it’s ridiculous. Eventually he leads you back to space, but this time is nice a peaceful and floaty.  I think it ends with whale song.  Next is “House Party Blues.” Thirty seconds into this one and I knew I didn’t want it stop.  And it doesn’t for about eight minutes.  Good old foot stomping piano & guitargan blues.  The album ends with its most challenging piece, “Tranquility & Antagonistic.”  There’s some Charlie Parker type stuff here.  The kind of thing that might remind some of a junior high trumpet player having a go at his friends sax, pushing buttons as fast as he can.  But you know, there’s got to be songs that you can’t dance or make-out to out there as well.

I’m glad I have this album.  I’m glad I listened to it a few times.  It gets better each go.  I’ll definitley keep an eye out for more of Eddie Harris. Here is most of Is It In.


Cardboard Escape


What is it about us that has us pick up a long piece of cardboard and need to put down some clouds, a sun, grass, birds, and a flower? I’ll posit that in this case it was escape.  That flower is our entry into this work.  It is us, and maybe more importantly, it’s the artist.  Stuck inside, institutionalized seven hours a day, a piece of gray discarded packing material laying ignored on the floor, a great metaphor for the mood of another Tuesday.  But with a few strokes of the markers, the trash is now a window, a way out.  And the artist is no longer trapped, an unsure teenager surrounded by four walls.   She’s a beautiful purple flower, outside in the sun, away from everything,  on a lovely spring day.

Wilson Daze

wilson daze

In the 4th or 5th grade Mike P. and I started collecting stamps. Doug’s grandpa was the postmaster, and he came to the school and did a little program about stamps and collecting. (Ah, the days of a well rounded education and exposing kids to as much as possible, even if it’s not on a standardized test. But I digress.) So we started collecting, and it was fun. As I recall, the Arcade, where we got our comics, for a while had a guy with a stamp area. And if he was there he would buy or sell old stamps. I bought new stamps at the post office. I signed up with the outfits that advertised in the back of comic books. And they’d ship me a pack of stamps, foreign and domestic every few weeks, and I’d keep what I liked and could afford, and send the rest back.

But the by-far most consistent source of stamps to a young collector, and at the same time by far the least valuable source, is a few old aunts who hear that you’re collecting stamps. And then tear every stamp off every letter they receive (and this was back in the day of sending mail) and send them to you on a regular basis. Envelopes stuffed full of the generic little flag stamps that businesses and other people with no imagination used by the kazillions. Just to be clear, not a lot of interest to a collector, or really anyone. “Did you get those stamps I sent you.” “Yes I did, Aunty. Thank you very much.” I know, I could have had family that didn’t care about me at all.

Anyway, that’s what this button strikes me as. “You collect buttons? Why I came across one just the other day. Here you go.” Who knew someone could be so snotty about buttons, right?

Epilogue. I have a pretty good stamp collection at my folks’ house. It has some interesting and fun stamps. When I got an estimated value on it a few years ago, it wasn’t very much.

Yeah, I just used the phrase “interesting and fun stamps.”

banana stamp

Living in Fear

This one is from just last week.  But I like it and it seems kind of timely.


I hope everyone had a happy Halloween. It’s fun to have a good scare–to go to a haunted house, watch a scary movie, and laugh and cringe at the unsettling costumes.  In the end there’s really more laughing than fright.

But lately I’ve talked with a lot of folks who are finding it difficult not to let fear get the best of them. We’re afraid of Isis. We’re afraid of Ebola. We’re afraid of Muslims, except maybe Malala. And we’re afraid of Christians who aren’t like us. We’re afraid of what the democrats are doing to this country, and we’re afraid of what the republicans are doing to this country. We’re afraid of the Russians, again. We’re afraid of school shootings, and we’re afraid of someone taking our guns. We’re afraid of the poor, and we’re afraid of the rich. And we watch tv and read things on the internet that stir up our fears. And we walk around full of fear and hate and dread.

And it makes sense to be afraid sometimes. We know that Jesus was afraid. He had good reason to be. He was so scared of being crucified that night, that he sweat blood as he prayed for a way out. But his actions that night were not based on his fear. John writes that love casts out fear. And that night Jesus didn’t act from a place of fear, but from a place of love.

And it’s hard to get that. We get Peter. We get picking up a sword and striking out at our enemies. We get wanting to send our bombers to the Middle East to kill them all and let god sort them out. But Jesus tells Peter to put down his sword. He tells his disciples, he tells us, to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. And maybe we try. But like Peter again, this time walking on the water, we want to follow Jesus, but the storms are so scary, and we pay attention to them instead of to Jesus, and we sink.

It’s not easy. Before he was beat and crucified, Jesus himself prayed for the strength to do what had to be done. So we’re in good company struggling with our fear. But it’s important, I think, to join Jesus in letting it go. Jesus, who on the cross prayed for those who put him there, Jesus who, as he did  throughout his ministry, offered love and grace to those who didn’t deserve it and didn’t even ask for it. That Jesus calls us to follow him, through our fears, to live out the love that he demonstrated, the love he’s offered us though we didn’t deserve it, the love we’re to bring to the world, even, or maybe especially, for those who scare us.


Thank You Mister Reagan

If you are one of those good Americans who is concerned that the educational standards of today are lower than those of yesteryear, let me present Exhibit A to the contrary.


Yes.  That is my name, along with the words “Outstanding Academic Achievement” (and the signatures of William Bennett and Ronald Reagan so you know this is tots legit). The fact that yours truly received an award for academic achievement at some point in the 1980s, is as good an argument for some sort of parallel universe as any. It’s possible that the words “outstanding” or “academic” or “achievement” meant something different in the 1980’s than they do now, but I don’t remember any sort of definitional shift in the past decades. The most logical explanation is that kids are smarter now than they were back in the day. Occam’s Razor and all that.  So feel better America.  If this trend continues, today’s academic achievers will be tomorrow’s knot heads.  Hmmm. I wonder if the corollary is that today’s knot heads will be tomorrow’s raving idiots.  I can’t wait.  (Yes friends and family, it could be argued that tomorrow may already be here.)


Mark’s #75 game is Stimmt So!  I’ve never played this game.  But I do own (and have played (not true for all the games I own)) the game that grew out of Stimmt So!, a game that Mark is kind of well know (in gaming geek circles) for disparaging every time he talks about Stimmt So!  That game is called Alhambra.  It won the German Game of the Year back in 2003.  That’s probably why I bought it.  Having not played it’s predecessor, I can’t speak to the greatness of Stimmt So!  But I can say that we’ve enjoyed Alhambra quite a bit in our house.  In fact, one of the things that my daughter first liked about this game is the building of your pretty little Alhambra as the game progresses.


If you come into this game thinking you’re going to play a stock market game, I can see where you could be confused and disappointed.  But if you know you’re going to be playing a game about building you fortified palace using four different currencies to, I don’t know, pay four different nationalities of carpenters (you know the theme on some of these Euros can be a bit thin), then I think you’ll enjoy it.  And it’s another of those that can be played with the whole family.

Greek Button

greek to me

I was going to guess this button said Jesus Loves You, or something like that. But the back says, Avis features GM cars and trucks. So that didn’t seem to make sense.

Then my friend Danny, trained in a bit of Greek, came up with this translation: “Greater effort for the better!”

Next time I toast with ouzo (it doesn’t happen very often), this will be the toast.

The Hunters

I don’t know whose poem this is.  I don’t think it’s mine.  But I found it in my google drive.  It might be by my friend Angie.  Maybe one of my students wrote it.  Anyway, I liked it enough to save it. 


The Hunters:

Out past curfew


Driving without a licence

all blowed up

weekend get away

weekend gotaway

riding with

making it up

keep the family together

keeping the family together

Don’t Panic

dont panic

I wonder if this button came with the old Infocom game Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that we played on the Commodore 64. The Infocom games (we also had Zork and Deadline) were a couple steps ahead of the old text adventures because they allowed you a little more leeway in the commands you could type in–that is, the game was a little smarter. That didn’t keep things like this from happening.

>You enter the dinning hall where you see remains of a recent meal. The long dining table is covered with wooden plates and cups.

–take plate

>I don’t see any plates here

–you just said there were plates here

>I don’t understand that comment

–look at plates

>You must tell me how to do that with plates some time

–i hate you

>Are you having a bad day?

As I recall, we didn’t make it very far into the Hitchhiker’s game before dying. Deadline we did even worse at. We always ended up searching the house and then standing around waiting for something to happen, but it never did. Zork was my favorite. I died a lot, but I also got through much of the game. I enjoyed uncovering the storyline and solving the puzzles. And the writing was always smart and funny in these games.

I programmed a couple simple text adventures of my own on the Commodore 64. Mine had a pretty small map and few possible outcomes, and was probably more fun to write than to play.

I think you can still play these games online. I’d recommend giving Zork at try, both for a historical perspective on computer gaming, and because I think you will enjoy it. Beware the grue!

Friend Bryan: Augh Zork. It is dark here. You will be dead again soon. You hate yourself. My personal favorites in those sorts of games came later with the Space Quest series.