Spicer Digest pt. 1

Wow, well, i found this today, i think it was supposed to be posted mid April.  What was i waiting for?  Photos?  Making hyperlinks?  Oh well, for posterity:

Oh, the tyranny of the urgent! I had so much that I’ve wanted to write about since the Andrew Bird Show—A house concert I sponsored for the amazing Tom Conlon, some changes to my family’s future plans, some things I’m reading on Trinitarianism, reconnecting with an old friend, what I’ve been listening to, etc. And now, in order to clear my mind well enough so I can blog on some new stuff, here comes the digest!

House Concert featuring the dulcet tones of Tom Conlon:

Tom is a cool guy that I met a few years ago when a friend of his was hosting a show in Manhattan and asked me to open up for him. We’ve kept up since then and this was his 3rd show in Manhattan since. Tom is a singer/songwriter who, in every way, is the real-deal. An amazing voice, a great guitarist, and brilliant lyricist, Tom always does a great show. He prefers to play intimate venues, like big living rooms, and spends a lot of time with the audience. The show was great, as usual, and Tom played all the songs we all wanted to hear (most of us know his all of his songs by heart). It was my daughter Sophia’s first concert ex-utero, and she did great. Only once did she break out into a cry, and that’s when I left to go to the little boy’s room! When I came back I felt like a rockstar, as all eyes were on Sophia and I as she stopped crying as soon as I picked her up. One of my proudest moments, and a first for a Tom Conlon show. Thanks again to the Gorman’s for letting us use their awesome den for the show! It was a great success.

A change in future plans:

Those of you close to us or those who have been following our path know that our plans were to finish seminary this May and come on staff with the seminary soon after. Since we accepted the job-offers with the seminary, a lot has changed regarding the future and operations of the seminary. Angela and I sought the Lord fervently over a couple of months, and after our re-evaluation, came to the conclusion that it was no longer as good of a fit for us and our family in this stage of life. Don’t fret; Emmanuel House will press on and continue to provide excellent ministry preparation and spiritual enrichment for the surrounding communities. If anyone is interested, Angela and I are more than happy to gush about our love for EH and what it has done for us. So, we are looking toward the future and our options seem pretty wide-open, and we are pumped. Right now, I’ve been thinking a lot about being an associate pastor. I feel like I still have a lot to learn about Church bidness and would love the opportunity to work alongside and be mentored by a ministry team. I feel good about this being my first official post-seminary ministry assignment. Please pray for us as we embark on this journey and that we find a good fit. Alright, that’s all I’ve got in me for the time being.

Stay tuned for the second part of the Spicer Digest, brought to you by “I Sing of Olaf Glad and Big (it’s a rocknroll cheeseburger that you read).”


BSG–It’s Over?

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? My thoughts and opinions, I guess…

I am a die-hard fan of the re-imagining of BSG and plan on staying that way. I will continue to refer to it as the best series ever made for television (until that is no longer true), and it will hold a special place in my heart forever. It did sci-fi so well—it asked us the timely questions and made us think. Thanks Ron!

It was more than a show in my household, though. It was something my dad and I could talk about together. It was one show closer to making my wife a sci-fi convert. It was also a great time for some of my favorite people to get together and make an exciting supper of sushi or you-name-it-wrapped-in-bacon, and then discuss the implications of such a well-written episode.

And so we had the finale. I knew I would be torn. Finales are just that, and they never live up to hype I create in my head. The show had to end, and it did, and I was very entertained. Some of the story was wrapped up nicely; it had love, violence and humor. Alas, I was unsatisfied. Of course I was! This was my favorite show and now it’s over. Still, there were some of the elements of the finale that made me say, “huh?”

Natural curiosity makes me want to know what is Kara Thrace? A human? A hybrid? A physical manifestation of the “angel” sort (like “head” Caprica 6 and “head” Gaius)?

Did Gaius go all Nietzchean about God there at the end in his speech?

Does Galen become King of the Britains?

Am I supposed to believe that the humans all came to Earth and had the agricultural/hunter/gatherer skills to drop their tech and become Earthers?

Despite my questions, I still think it was an amazing piece of work that I hope lives on and is re-watched over and over in syndication and DVD boxed-sets.

BTW—there’s a sweet BSG pencil and paper RPG…;-)

(sorry for no sweet links today, folks.  its a bear to trying not to violate copyright.)

There has been so much to blog about recently—so much that i’ve had a hard time deciding what to write about first. So, i guess I should do it chronologically…

Andrew Bird Concert in Lawrence, KS @ Liberty Hall, 3/16/09, w/ my reflections on music-making

First, lemme say a few things about my devotion to Andrew Bird: The first time I heard about Andrew Bird was on the music download site eMusic, as his disc “Armchair Apocrypha” was a much lauded download. When I checked out the few 10 second snippets I could listen to, I thought it sounded novel and I was impressed such an artist had found his way onto one of my all-time fave labels, Fat Possum Records. That Oct ’07, I decided to buy the record because he was going to be opening for the greatest touring band alive, Wilco, when we would go see them in Omaha, NE.

We gave Armchair Apocrypha a casual listen on our drive to Omaha and thought it was pretty decent, and gave us some idea of what to expect from Mr. Bird. When he opened for Wilco that night, he was solo: Bird, voice, violin, guitar, glockenspiel, and some nice looping and octave pedals.

He played and we spent the rest of the evening trying to get our jaws from off of the floor. He was simply sublime AND transcendent 😉 One man filled the Orpheum with such beautiful sounds. Truly, a performer you don’t want to miss live.

When I listened to the record again the next day, realizing that this wasn’t just a guy with a great backing band (apologies to Dosh), but an auteur with help from Martin Dosh on percussion, the record really came alive for me and spent the next few months in the CD player with Wilco, Nels Cline, Dinosaur Jr. and Weird Tales by Golden Smog (some pretty good company).

I love that about live performances. They can bring your appreciation of a recording artist to a new level. I would’ve frozen Andrew Bird  as a songwriter of novel songs and nice melodies instead of revering him as the brilliant multi-instrumentalist, purveyor of beautiful and mellifluous vocabulary, and guy I would like to sit and have a dinner-that-turns-into-a-jam-session with.

Anyway, accompanied by my musician friends Tim (go check out Tim’s band here) and Crocker ( a violinist who can appreciate Bird in a way I can’t) and my lovely wife (who blogged about the performance here), we got to see Mr. Bird and his new backing band. I was a little worried that something would be lost in translation from on-man-band to guy-with-a-stellar-backing-band.

Fears? Quelled. He started out and ended the show solo, doing his looping thing. Awesome. Then the other players came out, including the brilliant Martin Dosh, and it was really something to behold. The virtuosity mixed with showmanship and low-art-crowd-involvement was great.

But it was more than a great show. It was a lesson to me as a musician. When the Birdman first showed up, he went into one of those rapturous string-and-whistle loops that I had never heard before in any of his catalogue, but proceeded to use the loops as the bedrock for one his most familiar songs. A song in which the core of the song is held in place by a strummed guitar now is completely being held together by ambient strings and reverb-drenched whistles.

This is something that I am constantly marveling at when I listen to Bird (cue “need for a psychologist re: my attitudes toward music creation”). The seemingly complex can be broken down into very simple parts that can stand on their own. The chord voicings are common, as are the progressions. Most songs vacillate between only two or three chords, which are almost unrelated to the melody. And, while in one of his compositions there may be many tracks contributing, there still seems to be sonic breathing room—one never feels like they must come up for air from the ultra-dense frequencies (ala My Bloody Valentine, or any number Phil Spector recordings, both of which i adore). He makes the mundane interesting, and bends the simple into the captivating. I want to do that.

So, confession: while I love making and writing music, I really have no clue as to how to do it with any coherence. I have no formal training, and all of my music theory comes from what (little bit) I understand about the guitar. I used to think this was a valuable component when writing music, as my options would be limitless because I had no regard for the rules of music I didn’t know.

I don’t feel that way anymore. I am reminded of Stravinsky who saw freedom in the rules, and Cummings, who knew the rules of poetry so well that when he broke them, he did so with such virtuosity that it could really move the reader’s spirit.

But learning how to make music the “correct” way seems too hard, like an old dog learning new tricks or a person in physical therapy re-learning to do something that used to be second nature. But great art can come from traveling through adversity. Like my current-state’s motto: “ad astra per aspera.”

So, this may be old news to many of you, but only recently have I gotten around to watching the final episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien.  Now, I won’t profess my undying love for Conan, but I will say this, though he is hit and miss for me, when he hits, he knocks it out of the park.  He’s a sharp comedy writer, a smart guy, I like his sense of what is funny, I like his self-deprecation (is that sadistic?), I like his interviews, his band, his guests, etc.  So, as I learned of his show’s demise, I mourn it a little bit.  I wonder if he will translate well to a different time slot and if he will gain or lose an audience, etc.
So, like I said, Ange and I just got around to watching the final episode.  There were some great parts like the Old Time Baseball interview, Andy Richter, and the John Mayer song making fun of Conan.  There was also a very touching bit at the end where Conan gave shout outs.  But there was a glaring bit of awfulness—

I nearly cursed.
You see, I LOVE the White Stripes.  I have all of the records, the concert videos, imports, etc.  I love Jack’s way of running you through the entire history of rock and roll in one record, while being turned up to eleven.  I love his devil may care guitar playing and then his unleashed hidden solo-chops.  I love his ethic for buying guitar gear, his philosophy of old and simple recording techniques, his reverence for his weird brand of trinitarianism, his weird Catholicism, his made-up life-history with meg, his obsession with Orson Welles and Loretta Lynn…
So, anyway, I like Jack white and his band the White Stripes.  But the Conan appearance was just shameful.  I wish the camera had been on Conan instead to see him, as I imagine it, vomit into his wastebasket.
Jack white was relevant, reminding rocknroll what rocknroll was built on and about.  He brought a teenager’s intuition to a master’s hands and knowledge of the past.  He was shaking rock and roll to its core…
Then he became Charles Foster Kane.  He became a caricature of himself.  He became a tyrant as a producer, beating up his bands, he began wearing ridiculous suits part matador, part zoot suit.  He was in a movie playing a hick musician and began dating Hollywood starlets and wrecking expensive cars.  Then he married his super-model/doppelganger girlfriend.  Sweet Moses.  Those stupid costumes…
And now this.  First off, why give Meg a guitar?  Part of the lovely charm of the Stripes is Meg gleefully banging away like the Muppet Show’s Animal, not learning how to play guitar in front of an audience of who-knows-how-many.  Second, let’s all get real for a minute, Meg’s singing is a lot like Stuart Murdoch’s, its quirky and can be fitting in some contexts, but it’s not why you buy the record.  Meg’s voice added nothing to the performance.  She appeared to not even know the lyrics very well.  Next, the ridiculous, cut-time version of “We’re going to be friends” just doesn’t fit the content of the song.  It sounded more like a dirge than a song about blossoming friendship between children!

So, it is with much sadness i mourn the end of two great eras, the end of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and then end of a viable version of the White Stripes.  May Conan re-emerge like a phoenix with his new show, and may Jack salvage his career by the way of the Raconteurs.

Good night, sweet princes, good night.

The Wrester

The Wrester

Last night I finally was afforded the opportunity to see Darren Aronofsky’s “the Wrestler” (Aronofsky did one of my favorite sci-fi movies, “Pi”).

Now, I’m not going to run out into the street and tell everyone to see this movie (it deals with some very mature issues and has content that is inappropriate for many viewers)—however, that is not to say that it wasn’t a well made, very moving, meditation of a movie. It takes a look at many things that are really interesting in this context: aging in the various “flesh” trades, in this case pro-wrestling and exotic dancing, people who live in both the real-world and a fantasy world, once again, wrasslin’ and strippin’, and other things as well. But afterward, I realized that it is also asking us to look at ourselves as members of a culture that participate and necessitate these fantasy scenarios. In this way, it could have been about any job as an entertainer in show business—“they (the audience, patrons) love you today and forget you tomorrow.”

I’ve been pretty excited about this movie since I saw the trailer online. It had some things that drew me like a moth to the flame—Mickey Rourke, a gritty look at pro-wrasslin’, Darren Aronofsky, a Bruce Springsteen song– I mean, need I go on?

In a lot of ways, it did not disappoint. Great performances, great dialog, compelling story that tied your guts in knots, plenty of hardcore wrestling, unflinching in its realistic portrayal of the trade…But, it was the most depressing movie I have seen in quite a long time.

Now you won’t normally hear me decry a movie for being depressing. I believe that art should imitate life and in this case, it did a fine job. I feel like my criticism of the movie bumming me out is not a criticism of the movie nearly as much as a comment on where I am in life. You see, real life is tough enough for me right now. I feel like we as a nation are faced with tough things every morning. Beyond our personal struggles with relationships, money, jobs, health, planning for the future, we have to come face to face with some things that are much bigger than ourselves—global economy in crisis, starvation, war. And, like the denizens of Sartre’s Hell in “No Exit,” every now and again, I need to blink, I need to shut my eyes, I need a respite from the present. So, am I making a case for escapism?

I sure hope not! Escapism’s cost is one of the main themes of the movie (and believe me, it only really showed one side of that equation; it barely began to reflect escapism’s toll on the “escaper”). Still, (I can’t believe I’m gonna type this) I would have preferred an allegory to Aronofsky’s direction; I needed the movie to end well. The movie did what a great movie should do—it made me feel. For this I am glad to say “bravo, well done.” But truly, I feel very deeply and plenty already, and by the time this movie had begun, I was already emotionally exhausted.

So I’m curious, dear reader—am I alone in how i feel, or do you feel this way as well?

God is Love

seriously, i can't get enough of these photos!  Thanks, Jenni!

seriously, i can't get enough of these photos! Thanks, Jenni!

Well, I’m going to use a pretty juvenile but incredibly fitting word to describe the past week: yucky.

I have been ill since last Sunday evening, and Lady Wisdom has been ill since the Friday before. We have hacked, sneezed and expectorated, cried, our skin and hair has hurt, we have been feverish and, at times, been nearly inconsolable.

Dear reader, we were/are a mess. The weeks before had been quite stressful with the pressure (and inability) to make some decisions about our future: work, location, etc. As I was really pulling my hair out over these things—this stuff hits! It seems like when it rains, it really is monsoon season.

But the Father has never left me in such a lurch that I have not been taken care of. These days, the Father best shows me his love and care in the person of my wonderful wife, Angela.

With two sick babies, I never heard a complaint, I never saw her waiver, she never asked for anything. She was constantly making soup and tea, wiping noses, and making us comfortable. I didn’t want for anything.

(I started writing this on Fri 2/13)

Sophia and I are doing much better, her nose is still running and I still have the uncanny ability to spit wallpaper-glue, but we are in a better humour. After a very nice Saturday with dear friends (from time now forward known as “wrapped-in-bacon-day”) Angela began feeling poorly that evening. I was so afraid! I thought we simply couldn’t emotionally/physically handle another full week of illness. I prayed like mad. I prayed until I fell asleep that night, and when I woke up with lung-butter issues, would get a glass of water and keep on praying (God, heal my family, we need some rest! We need to catch our breath!) until I dozed again.

We woke and she felt horrible. I felt powerless. I began to do my best to take care of Soph and let Ange sleep. My poor wife has been caring tirelessly for Sophia and I and now she is ill? No rest for the weary.

I’ve done my best to take care of them today, and I am pretty spent. I’ve still not recovered, and I think this stress could’ve done me in.

But it didn’t! And it didn’t do Ange in either! I think I understand some things better, now, in retrospect.

Love will make you do some crazy things—like keeping going when you really can’t and being more loving and compassionate than what you have the capacity for. This is how Angela does it.

Angela, my wife and excellent mother to my child, is full of love.

Thank you, baby. You’re amazing. I love you too!

A beautiful amazing woman with a lucky guy ;)

A beautiful amazing woman with a lucky guy 😉

update, fatherhood

First things first:  i am done with the “6 things you might not know about me” posts that i was “tagged” into doing.  After i posted my last i got stifled and didn’t write for so long because i couldn’t come up with anything more interesting things for that series that i wanted to write about.  So, “tagger,” do not be offended or discouraged, it just wasn’t doing me any favors–

–because there is so much to write about right now, that the overwhelming amount of stuff could be stifling.  So much is going on right now and has happened since the last post, the least of which everybody is sick, including my lovely 8 month-old daughter.  I have recently heard of new parents who are in much more dire straits (may God keep you and give you peace, C.M.), and in no means would i say that my grief can compare with theirs, but observing my ill child is just plain upsetting.  that poor little body and mind have no idea about what is causing them so much discomfort; they only know they are so inconsolable.  Sophia cannot tell Angela and i how she feels, what may make her feel better, etc.  She must feel quite alone.  Very sad.  You want good things for your child, but sometimes you are powerless.  This is sobering.

Will and Sophia

Sophia in better health

Fatherhood has been sobering.  There is so much joy that having a daughter has brought into my life.  She and Angela have saved my life a few times lately.  There is no feeling like the love from your family.  Knowing a loving family is at home, waiting for your return changes a guy’s life in so many good ways.  But there is also this very real responsibility that is serious as a heart attack–my wife and my daughter need me, they deserve my best, and i must strive to give them my best.  Giving them my best will only become more challenging as Sophia ages, as i change jobs, if we change geographic location, and i get thicker-headed.  😉

There is a lot about fatherhood that has been good for my theology, specifically, my spiritual theology, that is to say, the theology that bears out in my behavior despite my intellectual understanding.  There are lessons that i learn deeper and deeper about how great THE Father’s love is for us.  Today, the sermon preached featured Luke 11:

11“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

So this lesson, is to help us understand how great God the Father’s love is for us in contrast to our love to our children.  This means so much more to me now.  I want to give Sophie so much, how much more does God the Father want to give to me?

There are other situations i have been in recently that have made me feel paternal and think, “this must be what God feels like when…”  And i’ve got to tell you, those are some bittersweet times.  I have had to look at some in my life and i say to myself (and sometimes not to myself!):  “Really?  Is that how you’re going to play this?  Do you not know there is a more excellent way?  Of course you do.  Then why are you going about it in this less-excellent way?”  And then, the most painful part is when i respect them as human beings and/or adults, and let them make their decisions (like i could stop them?), for good or naught.  And that’s when it hits me–i want to love these people in my life enough to let them make decisions, and i guess, i want to love them and respect them enough to allow/watch them fall and scrape their knees, as badly as i would like to protect them from bumps and bruises–i want to love them enough to let them live their lives, and i want to love them enough to love them through the ramifications of their good or bad decisions.

And i can only guess this is how God feels about me–this is how i imagine God thinking, “Really, Will?  Is that how you’re going to play this?  Do you not know there is a more excellent way?  Of course you do.  Then why are you going about it in this less-excellent way?  Well, son, while that’s a poor decision, you’re a grown man, and I love you enough to treat you like someone made in my image.  But no matter what, I WILL NOT STOP LOVING YOU.  you may not be able to feel My love, you may not always want my love, but I LOVE you so much that that won’t stop Me.  You may fight Me, turn a deaf ear to Me, try to run from Me–but you cannot stop My love.”

Man, is that ever amazing.

The thing is, i’ve always known this stuff.  This is in my brain as much as my name and birthday are.  But, as i continue to walk with the Father, and as i have become a father, the truth of this gospel has further penetrated my heart.  A father loves his children, period.

Oh, holy Father, who is rich in love and grace, continue to show us just how rich you are, and, by so doing, transform us into the likeness of your son, Jesus.  Amen.