Monthly Archives: February 2015

Luther Allison Luther’s Blues

Front Cover copy

Luther Allison, Luther’s Blues, 1974, Motown

I believe this is another that I got from the radio station, and one that I remember listening to quite a bit back in the day. There’s something to be said about having a short stack of records and limiting your listening to just those records. You get to know and love those records. Of course there’s also something to be said for having easy access to almost every piece of music ever recorded just about any time you want to hear it. It’s the old depth vs. breadth tension. And like most of us, I don’t plan on going back to only a short stack of music. I think that’s why we enjoy the “What would you take to a deserted island?” game. We played it in the car just the other day. What records, books, television series, movies, restaurant’s menu? It’s fun to toy with the idea of going deep because we know we don’t have to.

Back to Luther. My research tells me that with this album, Luther’s Blues, Luther Allison was just beginning to hit his stride. I agree with one reviewer who wrote that there are hits and misses on this record. But the hits are amazing. I think my favorite is the opening track, “Luther’s Blues.” It opens in standard blues structure with what I thought was a classic riff. Upon a second listen, I don’t know if it’s a classic riff or if I’d just listened to it so often in my “depth days” that  to me that’s what the opening of a blues song ought to sound like. I’m not educated enough to describe musically what’s going on here. But it’s one of the most transcendent 50 seconds of music I’ve ever heard.

I love it when he’s having the conversation with his guitar. It totally works. For me this album works best when Allison is playing his own tunes. A couple of these are pretty funky like “Now You Got It” and “K.T.” But it’s the bluesy ones that I love. They just touch me somehow.Here’s another like that. “Let’s Have a Little Talk.” It’s a standard style blues tune, but Allison makes it his.

As of this writing, you can hear all of Luther’s Blues on Youtube. I would suggest that you take advantage of this amazing bit of fortune.  And if you can listen to the title track just once without returning to it, then, wait, you did what now, how did, how could, I don’t understand.

Plainview #14

It’s been a while since the last 10-year-old podcast was posted.  We had a little problem with our hard drive.  But given enough time and money, any problem can be solved.  So Plainview is back!  Enjoy.

We kind of go off the rails on this episode.  I was there a decade ago, and I don’t know what we’re talking about in most of this one.  I suspect I didn’t really know what I was talking about at the time. In this one we rant about Supreme Court, 10 commandments, women as deacons, and finish with a nice bit about Mare’s last day with the ladies.

Player Piano Kurt Vonnegut

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I love Vonnegut.  He wrote Slaughter House Five, which I believe is the only book that I’ve read more than once.  I used to read one of his books every year on his birthday as it is my birthday too.  So I almost gave Player Piano, his first novel (1952), 3-stars just because it’s Vonnegut. But while it had its moments, I didn’t enjoy it much. A bit dated and pedantic, and the ending isn’t hopeful or interesting. When I’d finished I even retread the last few pages thinking I’d maybe missed some final interesting point or idea. But nope, it just sort of ended. But if Kurt had to write this in order to write all the great ones, all is forgiven.

Number 1 Fan

This memory of my mom comes from a high school friend of mine. You may see a bit a trend here.  Mom is a sports fan, particularly high school sports.  She cries at the finish of a hard race even when she doesn’t know the athletes, just because of the hard work the kids put in.

Hey Man.  Your mom meant the world to me…and still does. I look at her like my own. When I was growing up and my brother and sister were making bad choices, I didn’t always want to be around my house. Your mom had me over and took me in like one of her own. Elaine, would always make sure we had fun by providing food, movies, games, etc… and many times she joined us. Not only was she an encouragement there, she was my number one fan…I can remember during the football games hearing her voice above the crowd. I know many times when I didn’t feel like going on, I was afraid to stop, because I didn’t want to disappoint Elaine. After all she thought “I was the best!” So I had to perform like it. And I’ll never forget coming home from college and she accepted all my crazy friends and made them feel welcome as well. She is a true Christ-like example! Even though I live far away now, I am close at heart. Every time I drive by the house when I am in town I have stories for my children, and feel as though I need to stop and say thank you! Make sure she knows I love her, and I am looking forward to seeing her again at the fair next summer!

Later Bro,

Live 4 Now

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I just got this one last year.  I have now idea what inspired it.  We weren’t working on satire, although that clearly seems to be going on here.  I don’t think it was a not-so-subtle hint for me to cut down on the calories.  I believe it was just one of those inspirations that happens when you should be working on yearbook pages. Maybe everyone should have a hobby that they hate.  That way when they tell themselves it’s time to get to hobby-ing, they will become inspired to make some great, or at least some fun, art.  In thinking about it, I guess we all have that.  It’s called housework, the chore list, the chore jar, etc.

Pork from Kansas

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Dad said later that it didn’t really look I wanted to catch that pig. Yeah. I didn’t want to catch that pig any more than the man in the moon. There I was backstage at the Abilene Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo, with a bunch of other 10-year-olds. We were being ushered past shoots and gates and into the arena along with a shoot full of greased pigs. How did I get here? I don’t remember how exactly, but as I’ve analyzed my life over the years, I see that with few important exceptions, I have followed the path of least resistance. So I imagine a conversation something like this between me and my parents. Them: You want to chase greased pigs at the rodeo? Me: I don’t know. Them: Sure you do! Me: Ok.

So there we were, being introduced. And there go the pigs, squealing madly, slicked down with lard, a herd of kids running after them. It took me no time at all to figure out that if I caught one of these things, I would have to grab and subdue the filthy thing and haul it to the pickup truck in the middle of the arena. Uh, no thanks.

I ran with a group of kids toward the pickup truck. Some of the pigs had run under the truck to hide. A couple kids had got a hold of a couple different pigs, one on one side of the truck, one on the other. The pigs were squealing like pigs do, sounding like their insides were being ripped out. I wanted none of this. I moved from one side of the truck to the other, acting like I was trying to reach a pig, but not quite able to do it. Darn it.

Finally one of the country kids, in his bright blue wranglers, white button up shirt and straw cowboy hat, dragged a screaming pig to base, winning the glory, and putting an end to the contest for the rest of us. Thank god.

Zombie Communion

This zombie metaphor from about three years ago I thought was pretty clever, which I guess I can say because I didn’t think of it in the first place.  I don’t know how well it holds up.  It might work better for a full sermon, but it seems a bit much for just a short messages. 

 

Whenever someone asks me what they should preach on, and it doesn’t happen a lot, I’ve always answered, preach the gospel.  Easy to say for someone not preaching every week.  Now, after doing a few of these communion meditations, I can see why a preacher might wander on to other topics-–like, for example, zombies in popular culture-–books, tv, movies.  But I’m not going to do that today.  Actually, I am, in just a minute.

But first, Preach the gospel.  So what’s the gospel? What is this “good news?”  I think it’s this.  People are broken, and fortunately God doesn’t care. He loves us anyway, and through Jesus he offers us an opportunity to help bring his kingdom of love into the world.

So what’s this have to do with zombies?  Zombies, I think, after listening to a theologian and youth minister named Tripp Fuller, are an interesting way to think about this human brokenness, what is sometimes called “original sin.” A zombie has one desire, and it will hurt anyone or itself to have that desire met.  It doesn’t reflect on what’s right or wrong.  It doesn’t think.  It wants what it wants and will kill or die to get what it wants. The scary thing about zombies is that they are us.  They’re not aliens or giant animals or ghosts.  They are us, gone wrong.  And it’s scary to think that we are not only our own worst enemy, but we are dangerous to our family and friends as well. Why do we do these destructive things?  Why do we hurt ourselves and the one’s we love?  The apostle Paul asked the same questions.  Why, he asked, do I do the things I know I shouldn’t and don’t do the things I know I should.

The question is, does god fix this?  Does god fix us?  I don’t think so.  Or maybe not the way I would if I were god.  I don’t have to look any farther than myself to see a believer that carries the zombie virus and occasionally exhibits all the traits of full blown zombie.  I don’t think of others all the time. I want what I want, and when I get it, I don’t appreciate it.

So what’s the point if we’re all just zombies.  Well, keep in mind that the zombie thing is just a metaphor, and it can only be stretched so far.  But god knows how we are.  God made us.  God knows what we’re capable of, both good and bad.  And like I said before, god loves us and has given us the opportunity to help bring god’s kingdom into the world.  But I don’t think I’m cured.  I’m still broken, still sick.  Fortunately god provides a number of tools to help me, a part-time zombie, with god’s work.  God sent the Holy Spirit. We have this community of believers.  And we have his Word – Jesus Christ, who is revealed in the bible, and in the body of believers, and in our everyday lives.  If we just pay attention, we’ll see him everywhere and in everybody.

So as we take the bread and the cup, and remember what Jesus did for us, and what he does for us, remember that no matter how messed up you think you are, you’re probably right, and communion isn’t the medicine that will make you better.  But it is a reminder that god loves you just the way you are, and that god calls you to love all the broken people around you in the same way.

Amen.

Middle School VBS

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For the last few years (not counting last year) I’ve been responsible for the middle school vbs at church. What we’ve done is serve the community in a number of ways. I think for the most part middle school kids know the basic bible themes that the little kids learn throughout the week–god loves you, etc; and they know the main bible stories that have been covered for years. And in my experience, they’re not up for more of that if it doesn’t mean anything in real life. Plus they can barely sit still for a bible story anyway. So in the past few years I’ve kept mine short–Jesus told us we were to feed the poor, so that’s what we’re going to do today. There might have been a bit more than that, but not much. In the past few years we’ve helped sort donations for the Joplin tornado, made and served meals for senior housing, collected cans for the food pantry, constructed and erected a peace poll, picked up trash at the park, made toys for shelter dogs, written letters to sick kids and soldiers. Maybe that’s it, or maybe that’s all I can remember. But it’s been good, and the kids have been great.

Norman Blake/Tut Taylor/Sam Bush/Butch Robins/Vassar Clements/David Holland/Jethro Burns

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Norman Blake/Tut Taylor/Sam Bush/Butch Robins/Vassar Clements/David Holland/Jethro Burns is a fun find in the record collection.

(Yes, I have records that I don’t even know I have or haven’t listened to.  And that’s not because it’s a big collection.  I bet I don’t have a linear yard of albums. (Yes one way to measure a record collection is by the number of albums. Another, which doesn’t require walking into the other room and spending 20 minutes counting records, is to estimate their width on a shelf.  Look it up.))

A 1975 release on the Flying Fish label, Norman Blake/Tut Taylor/Sam Bush/Butch Robins/Vassar Clements/David Holland/Jethro Burns is a recording of a bunch of bluegrass musicians getting together in the studio to play some bluegrass and to just jam. There’s not much better than improvisational bluegrass. This is a strange album with no liner notes or cover notes or any notes at all to let us know what’s going on here. At least my copy doesn’t have them. In searching the cyber webs, I haven’t come up with much more information than what I’ve already shared with you. Even a YouTube search doesn’t reveal any tracks from from this album. However, there are a couple by some of the same musicians that will give you a pretty good idea of the swinging bluegrass to be found here. Enjoy.

Aquaman #59

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Aquaman #59. 1977.

Well, I’m about convinced that the perfect number of stories for your standard 18-or-so-page comic book is one. This doesn’t necessarily apply to the horror anthologies, although I think in that case, the fewer stories, the better. But I’m saying a typical superhero comic needs the entire book to present a well developed interesting story. What happens when there’s two stories is the feature story gets cut short just as it gets rolling, and the “bonus” story never gets rolling at all. That’s what happened to Aquaman in this issue. However, I will say that both these stories are pure action from start to finish. So what we’re missing is a bit of variety in pacing and tone of the stories. They are basically nonstop grumpy/whiny action from start to finish.

This story starts with Aquaman being fired on by the NATO navy. Turns out they were just warning shots as the navy wants him out of this particular area of the ocean. As Aquaman boards the navy ship to discuss things, a giant squid, under direction of Aquaman, grabs the captain to make sure everyone realizes just who they’re dealing with (king of the freaking seas, that’s who). While they’re arguing,

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a giant waterspout booms out of the ocean dead ahead in the path of the ship. Falling debris from the waterspout damages the ship’s rudder, leaving everyone on board heading toward eminent death. Aquaman heads beneath the surface to investigate, leaving behind some helpful whales, and a snotty remark.

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At the source of the waterspout Aquaman find the Fisherman and his goons overseeing the reclamation of a sunken ship. The waterspout of rocks and debris was caused by the device they’re using to dig it out. Aquaman starts bossing everyone around. He doesn’t know what’s on the ship, but he figures if it’s in the ocean, it must belong to him. There’s a brief underwater fight, during which an explosion causes the ship to tip off the ledge it is sitting on. Aquaman sends a giant squid to catch it before it plunges into the depths. But it’s too much for the squid. The fisherman isn’t happy, and he yells at Aquaman for losing the ship.

Then swoosh, up it comes. But how? Because it is now in the possession of The Scavenger who somehow grabbed it with his giant scavenging submarine. The Scavenger and Aquaman somehow have an extended conversation about the rightful owner of the wreck even though The Scavenger is in the sub and Aquaman outside it in the water.  Aquaman once again demands possession of the ship. Scrapper just zaps him, laughs, and drives away with the ship.

At this point it seems that Aquaman is more the kind of guy who likes to act like he’s the boss of the seven seas, even if he’s pretty ineffectual. The Scavenger drives on, and Aquaman just shakes his fist. Where are your whales and giant squids now big guy? I guess I’ll chalk it up to the fact that the king of the seas is going through some tough times–his son is dead and his wife has left him. But it seems like he’s kind of a bossy jerk.  And it comes back to bite him when I needs help going after The Scavenger.

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Also, there are a couple of panels about some diplomat being kidnapped. But that’s never addressed again in the story.

The other story could be titled “Meanwhile . . .” It deals with Aquaman’s wife, Mera, having traveled back to her homeworld to retrieve a device that will revive her dead son. I’m not familiar with Mera, but I like her.  She’s got spunk.  The villain sends a big goon after her and asks if she’s tough enough to do what she’s come to do.  Her response . . .

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Thwack! The whole story is basically a hard water fight between her and the man who has the device. But not the kind of hard water that keeps you from getting suds in the shower. This hard water is more like what comes from Green Lantern’s ring. She and her opponent fight each other with giant blue fists and birdcages and such.

And while it seems to be a physical fight, it’s really and battle if the will and mind. So when Mera defeats her opponent, she accidentally shatters his mind. And you guessed it. He’s the only one who knew where the magic medical device was. Ohhhhhh snap!

Both these stories were pretty much nonstop action. And I’ll bet they’re setting up a pretty sweet story. But, again, if we didn’t have the Mera story in this book, we’d have time to not just set up a good story, but maybe to wrap it up satisfyingly as well.

Finally, it’s not hard to see Aquaman as a bossy douche in this book. As I said earlier, he’s going through a hard time.  But dude, chill. Ask a question now and then rather that issuing orders like a nerdy kid with the power of a hall monitor badge. And while I don’t want to raise the ire if the Aquaman apologists, King of the Seas, stop yelling at everyone and do something. Action, not words. You’re wife kicked more butt in her short story than you did in your long one. Ok, I guess Aquaman got on my nerves a little as well.  But I wish him luck in his future endeavors, and hope things get better for him.