Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Music 2: a reminder of the beginning of new

It is almost December 1st. It's officially okay to listen to Christmas music, though I have been listening to it constantly for over 3 weeks now.

A friend reminded me this week of a great collection of Christmas songs. In fact, I would say that they are the standard and the foundation for my Christmas music collection.

When the songs first came out they were free for the taking. Now, you can go to the link and buy all 42 songs for 12 bucks. That's a great deal! Almost as cheap as stealing them, but with less guilt and more yuletide.

Anyways, of all of the songs included, my favorite is Sufjan's version of "Holy, holy, holy". The fact is that most people would not consider it to be a Christmas song at all. My response to this is that any song can be a Christmas song if it's got the kind of falalalala that comes with Christmas songs.

I am a big fan of The Trinity; Father, Son, and Spirit in one. Most Christmas songs focus on the Jesus part of the trinity, but what is so beautiful about Christmas is that it came about in cooperative fashion.

3 in 1 usually leads to people talking about the components of an egg or the different states that water can form. These are curious metaphors and, to me, are cute at best. At their worst, they attempt to label and leash the mysterious like a puppy.

I prefer to ignore these explanations and simply try to sit in the wonder and beauty of it. It's comforting to know that even though I am small, there is something much bigger out there and, in fact, that big, mysterious thing out there that I can wonder at loves me.

Jesus is the one that we can get a glimpse of this love. I am guessing that this is why we sing all of the songs about him at Christmas. It's really great to look at his birth as the beginning of something. It's the beginning of the new creation. The beginning of the new way of living. To steal another quote:

"In Jesus, the gospel tells us, a fundamental break has been made in the human situation, in view of which scepticism, vacillation, indifference, uncertainty, fear, hopelessness and joylessness have all been taken care of, set aside as things which do not match up to the new situation in which the whole creation has been placed." - John Webster

It was a new day. It became a new age. The age of trading sorrows. Hope came to us, and people didn't even know it, many still do not know it. The secret is still very hush, hush even after all of these years; the situation that we all find ourselves in has been shifted to a hopeful one.

"There is a sign at the sight of thee; merciful and mighty."

It is through the Christmas revelation that we have a faint idea of what this lyric means. Merciful and mighty aren't typically traits that go together. It's like that verse about the lion and the lamb hanging out by the river together; it's beautiful but how does it work?

"Though the eye of sinful man, thy glory may not see."

I'm reminded of that scene in "Field of Dreams" where the sceptical fellow looks up at the seemingly empty baseball diamond and says, "When did all of these ball players get here?" The new situation we are in is something that is not thrust upon us. We are allowed to ignore it and wallow in the old ways; the fear, the loneliness, the hopelessness. Even though I believe in the new creation I still find myself stuck in that fearful state a lot of the time. Or I forget about the Trinity and fill up my life with emptiness. I am thankful that Christmas is a constant reminder that there is good and it is really, very, honestly good like we hope it would be.

Christmas is a time to be together with loved ones and to forgive old debts and to celebrate jubilee. At least, that's the way I see it. I am thankful for the Blessed Trinity and it's desire to share the joy of their communion with us. I am thankful for the reminder of Christmas.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kind Sounds: an evening of good music

The thing that sucks about society is that it tells us to accept empty, hollow entertainment as something that will sustain and satisfy the things that call out from deep inside of us. Society taps it's foot and the beat is steady, echoing from the inside of the dance clubs. After a few hours of mindless trancing, Society spits us out onto the sidewalk. Later on, we get our friend to pull over his car so that we/society can puke out all of the alcohol and trashy music that we force fed ourselves all night.

To combat this evil, it was with agreeable consideration that we decided to go out and watch a few acquaintances perform their latest songs this past evening.

We may have won the battle but the war goes on.

The evening was made possible because a couple of dudes opened up their business's office so that their friends could play music for more friends that wanted to listen to it. It was a beautiful thing. There was a spirit of community and friendliness flowing the whole night. Hotdogs were on sale the whole night and the good people at the refreshment table were very kind to make sure we were always aware of it. They also had wine, beer, and scotch available for 2$. The drinks came in plastic glasses, which was nice because it meant that no one needed to stay too late to do dishes.

Baby Driver opened up with some nice tunes. The band played a nice, tight set and the main man of the group was charming and inviting to the 100 or so people that had gathered at a safe distance in front of him. It is kind of awkward to watch a show standing on the same eye level as the singer and only a few feet from him, but everyone did well in this make shift situation.

Paul Fuellbrandt was nice to listen to. From the last time I had seen him perform, at the old High Level Diner, I remember his strong voice and splashy piano keys. It turns out that my memory was spot on. It was a great set.

After Paul, some of the crowd seemed to disappear. It was about 11pm at the time and people have kids and dogs to attend to, so it is kind of understandable. At the same time, those sorry sacks of souls missed out on Brock Tyler and his band. It was fine too, I mean, we were all pretty tired but Brock let us all sit down on the floor to rest our legs. I discovered that the blood must have settled in my legs during the long night of standing. When I finally sat down I realized that I was going to have a hard time crossing my legs because of the snugness of my pants caused by the collection of blood and the fact that I have gained some weight in Canada leading from the fact that my "tight fit" jeans have a hard enough time dealing with me in the first place.

But other than that, everything was nice. The band played some songs off of Brock's new EP titled You Can't Keep the Sun Down. I've tried, and it's true.

However, there were other songs as well. About 4 or 5 beautiful little songs that were nice to listen to late at night. I look forward to hearing those songs again sometime soon.

All that to say, go to Brock's website and buy the EP for 4 dollars. There is also a new single on there that can be downloaded for free. Go there. Go now. Go often. Tell your friends and your dog's friend's cousin.

If you are new to his music, then also pick up his first record, Unclosing, for 12 bucks. It is good to listen to. I've listened to it in many different situations for many different reasons and, in the end, they all were justified.

So, a great night it was. Do yourself and the artists a favor and support them. They get a few dollars and you get some nice music for your collection or library or whatever you'd like to call it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dashing through the Snow

Some things I've noticed in and around:

Businesses are marketing things now that are complete lies. I understand that they've always been lying about things, but it used to be creative. Now they just seem to think that the lying is good enough. Some examples:

McDonald's McCafe. The commercials invite you into some sort of 'dream of escape'. The beans being crushed, the milk being stirred. Go to McDonald's and they'll serve you a cup o' trash latte or the fudge sundae's equivalent of a mocha. It's trash; they know it and you know it, I know it. Yet, they keep telling us it isn't so we all just agree and buy it once in a while anyway. I mean, hey, when Starbucks gets a children's play place then we can finally commit to abstaining from silly McD drinks.

That being said, the regular coffee at McDonald's is not bad, and pretty good when you get to play the monopoly game with it.

I was watching the hockey game the other night and the commercial was for Boston Pizza. It said something like, "There is nothing quite like bringing together that timeless combo of hockey and pasta." Since when was that a timeless combo?! I, for one, have never purposely eaten pasta while watching hockey.


Anyway, I seem to whine and complain a little too much these days. Let's move on.

Barbara, the boys and I have been listening to Christmas music pretty much nonstop for the last week or so. She pointed out that it's still a month until Christmas, and I pointed out that that is awesome. I love Christmas music! Sometimes I think that I'd like to listen to it all year long, though I doubt I'd ever want to try.

To me, listening to Christmas music is like eating food during the holidays; you indulge a little too much, but by the next day you're ready for the next round. I get sick of the songs, but when I wake up I'm ready for more Rudolph.

My favorite Christmas songs at the moment are:

1. Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney
The synth in this one rules!

2. White Christmas by Bing Crosby
I'm already dreamin'! Though Xining will not be white this Christmas.

3. Jingle Bell Rock by some lady

The boys like this one and argue about it's title. Miles calls it by it's true name while Jonas screams that it is in fact just called Jingle Bells. Another week or so will set him straight.

"No! It's Jingle Bells!"

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Unused used car lots.

These are in no way original thoughts. Basically, I just wanted to get this down so that I can look at it if I ever think of buying a new car. I can pull up this blog entry, hold the computer up to my head, and punch myself in the face with it over and over again.

Being in Canada for a few weeks, I've had the pleasure of being able to watch a lot of sports on TV. During that time I have seen that there are a lot of car commercials. The main message for the viewer seems to be that things are getting cleaner on the streets.

There is one commercial in particular that I found interesting, yet misleading. You can watch it by clicking in this area.

I'm not a genius at all. Nobody pays me to think. There is no "I" in "team. But from what I can gather, most of the things in this commercial are made out of plastic and it takes oil to make plastic. Hence, everything in that commercial really is "running on gas" if you want to get technical.

So, if we really want to stop using oil and gas, I guess we can just stop making things altogether.

"Stop making things."

That is silly talk. We need things. I love things! I use things all the time, you say. Well, yeah, that's pretty straight forward. But back to the car...

The other day we were on our way to the football game when I realized that there are 50 billion used car lots between Londonderry and Commonwealth Stadium. There are a lot of used cars in this city that are not being used.

I also heard that at some car lots, they will not accept cars that are older than 10 years, no matter what condition they are in. I am told that cars such as the one I am driving at the moment, a mid-ninety's Nissan Maxima, are sent straight to the scrap yard when they are traded in. Yup, sent to the scrap yard to be turned into scrap. The machines that do this dirty work are actual things. These things contain plastic and run on oil and gas in some cases.

I also hear that people are really into leasing cars, rather than buying them. Then, in a few years, they upgrade. Some folks are getting new cars every few years or so. But don't worry, they say, they only lease hybrids. Well, now you have the Leaf and all of the other low-emission/electric cars are being manufactured by the thousands so that people can lease them to save the environment.

I wonder how much good they are doing, building all of these new factories to build all of these new cars. Probably not a whole lot of good, I think. Meanwhile, the used car lots fill up with "old" cars that no one wants to drive anymore because they are bad for the environment.

Well, I think that the whole picture needs to be looked upon at a little further distance. Someone in this whole scheme is trying to trick us all into thinking that making use and taking care of the cars that we have now is a wasteful and dirty idea. The truth seems to be that they just want you to buy a new car now, and not only that, but to get a new one again in a few years. Sneaky little fellows, aren't they?

So, future Brett, please remember that there are a lot of cars, enough cars for everyone, already in existence. Please, please buy one of these cars. There are enough to go around.

Monday, November 14, 2011

More SN thoughts

Challenged by the book Flickering Pixels, I wrote here about some of the problems with Facebook. After being continually bombarded with confusing status updates, I think that there is even more there than I had initially thought.

Everyone knows that, to some extent, things are getting worse on Facebook. The way they "upgrade" the site could have something to do with it as it seems like Facebook has it's very own Facebook it the top right corner of the page. This is only skimming the surface of the problem. Every time I sign on to my page, which for everyone now is an everyday addiction, I cannot seem to find too many things that make any sense to me.

A big problem since the beginning is this. Everyone has problems, personal problems, and a ineffective way of dealing with those problems is to post them in a non-specific and vague way on their Facebook status. This brings momentarily but ultimately empty feelings of being loved and needed when a few friends ask for more specifics. Their questions are never answered, at least not publicly, leaving everyone else to imagine the worst possible scenario, making the situation, for the initial poster, that much more confused sympathy. And, most of the time, it is left at that.

"What am I going to do?"

"Why did this have to happen?"

"Really, God?! I cannot believe this!"

The roots of these problems range from being diagnosed with a disease to a barista getting your drink order wrong. The real problem is that no one ever knows what the problem is. Even when people ask for elaboration, they are usually left with their inquiries unanswered. Sure, maybe the victim sent private messages to a few close people, but the other 400 people are left to wonder as to what's really going on. Speculation fills the air and that leads to all kinds of unhealthy things.

I think that the problem here is that we shouldn't be telling people our deep, dark issues or concerns unless we lay it out clearly. Some people want people to pray for them, so in that way it is a good idea to clearly communicate the issue. Yet, others obviously don't want everyone to know the issue, they just want sympathy for the speculated circumstance.

"Oh, that's too bad that they got your order wrong. That happened to me last week."

"Sorry to hear that. We are praying for you."

Who knows what people are really thinking? This system that allows us to teeter on the brink of spilling all of our hurts and needs to everyone is a system that confuses us and brings about even deeper feelings of loneliness and isolation.

It's a situation of constantly 'beating around the bush'. Without any clear, direct communication, the whole situation gets frustrating and ultimately annoying. At least this is the way I see it.

I would hope that people would take advantage of this great way to communicate; use the Facebook addictions to your advantage. Personal messages can be sent to a group of people, just like how email used to work in the old days. Actually, you can even send email to someone's inbox on Facebook. Apparently, my Facebook email address is

I diverge and digress. The point is that I would hope that people would still have the desire to actually connect with their friends. I know that people are hurting and I know that people are angry that McDonalds has run out of chicken nuggets, I just can't tell the difference.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Must Mention Dan Mangan

Before it gets too yesterday's news I must mention this fellow. Last Thursday, we caught his show at McDougal United Church here in Edmonton.

I had heard a few of his songs before, even covering one at Open Mic in Xining. But in general, I was not very familiar with his music, so my expectations weren't that high.

I must say that he killed it. His band played the seemingly slow album on stage like it was on fire. I made up a term in saying that they "Wilcoed" every song that night. They built up the pace and then they tore it down. It was beautiful.

A few days before the show I purchased his new album, Oh Fourtune. The first song caught me off guard after one listen; these were some of the best lyrics I'd have heard in a long time. It emotionalized me, after just one listen... on my iTouch... without the headphones... just that crappy little speaker.

Here is the song:

Here are the lyrics:

Both feet together, slowly progressing

Always in time, don't count the feathers, just count the wings
Everyday counting, everything's changing
I almost forgot it, but then I remembered.

I was thrown in the boat
Cast out to sea friendly with waves, there were sharks below
Hungry for me
So I dangled my legs
And I lit up like a match, coz I bled gasoline
Made a torch of myself, to the moon was mine
Stars made of me, oh I lit up that sky

Both feet together, slowly progressing
Always in time, don't count the feathers, just count the wings
Everyday counting, everything's changing
I almost forgot it, but then I remembered.

I'm not sure what it is about those lyrics. There is a challenge there somewhere. I feel that at times it seems like I'm learning to walk again. There is a helplessness in almost forgetting and an unstoppable force in suddenly remembering.

The sea is angry, but the waves are friendly. The images I see when I think of the stars being me. Everything changing for a melancholy chap such as I, it's hard to look forward when so many things behind me are stuck in my mind.

For me I think of my life and the confusion that bottles it every day. The frustrations mount up and I wonder what I'm doing it all for... but then I remember.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Something isn't right here

The news is multifaceted. If it wasn't then we could probably label it as just plain old head scratching and "what are the odds" jargon. But the facts are facts and we're wondering who made up these crazy rules in the first place.

So, I could come at this from 3 different angles. Since I am Canadian and just came back from a CFL game last night I will attack it from the one I am sitting in. If you are an NFL fan and you enjoy Thanksgiving football then you have your own angle. If you are a Winnipeg Jets fan then you're on board as well. Here is the the question of the hour...

Why the &#@% is Nickelback being hired to play at all of these sporting events?!

The other obvious question that goes along with this one is...

Who the blank likes listening to Nickelback anyway?!

And finally...

What in Sam Hill's name is going on here, dag nabbit?!

I understand that a mass of misguided fools liked listening to a couple of their early hits about 10 years ago, but what the crap are we doing getting them to play at the Grey Cup now?!

The truth is that they apparently opened at the Winnipeg Jets first first game in 15 years. And just when you think that that was weird and somewhat disgusting we all find out that they are playing the halftime show at the Lions-Packers game on Thanksgiving Thursday. To top it off? Well heck, they've decided that we'd all love to seem them on TV one more time a week later at the 99th Grey Cup in Vancouver.

Yes, organizers, please fill up the sporting world's schedule with this bag of expired excrement. Please let Chad and the boys "Cowboy Up" onto every stage so that they can "git 'er done" for us all with their droopy, lopsided post grunge diseased mess of a performance. And why stop there, I am sure that we can get them to play the Christmas special as well.

The fact that every one of these proposed events has been met with an online petition to stop them is a good testimony of the fact that this crap from Alberta needs to be shovelled out with yesterday's trash.

Is there one soul, one football or hockey loving soul over, let's say, the age of 13 or over that actually likes this band?

It angers me. It saddens me. It nauseates me. And if I had more time I'd tell you how I really feel about this. In a word, abused.