Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mark Twain and Superman.

Cameron found another good Mark Twain quote about courage:
"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear." --Mark Twain

I'm reminded of something in one of my favorite movies, Angus. In one of the more touching scenes the protagonist's grandfather says that Superman isn't brave. Superman is invincible and therefor has nothing to lose. True courage is knowing you could lose everything and still doing what you think is right. Also the soundtrack kicks ass.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Why be an artist at all?

Maybe I'm feeling a little lazy today or maybe I just don't have many original words to write, either way, I've decided to post some of my favorite quotes from two of my favorite authors: Kurt Vonnegut & Mark Twain. I also threw in a few from Eugene Debs, who you probably don't know. He was the most successful person to ever run for President in the Socialist Party. He was always being arrested for protesting (peacefully) for labor laws and civil liberties, because socialism is evil (according to your tv) and that's the kind of thing that kind of riff raff get up to. People likes to send out email forwards about how it would be the worst thing in the world for the U.S. to adopt more Socialist policies (I say "more" because we already have several that work just fine i.e. the police, fire department, public library, public schools, etc). I love Bill Cosby, by the way.

"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
Eugene Debs

“I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.”
Eugene Debs

"I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did'."
Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake,

"A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved."
Kurt Vonnegut, Sirens of Titan

"I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.
So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries."
Kurt Vonnegut, I Love You, Madame Librarian

Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.
Mark Twain

I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.
Mark Twain

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
Mark Twain

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Why can't everyone just be cool?" or "Basketball Diaries"

I grew up in east Texas in a really small town called White Oak and I have a lot of memories of good times and great friends from White Oak that I wouldn't trade for the world. That being said, I also have a lot of horrible memories of awful people saying and doing awful things to and around me and that's why I left as soon as I graduated. White Oak High School was full of bullies, both physical and verbal, and being remotely different from their redneck view of "normal" was sure to make you a target. It probably goes without saying, but my best friend Jeremy and I walked around with what seemed like large red targets painted on our backs. I won't go into details about what it was like but I do want to use it as a jumping off point for a question. Why can't people just be cool?

I've never understood it. What character trait must you possess that makes it seem rational to torment someone you don't really know, who has never done anything to you? White Oak is a tiny town, so I used to hypothesize that it was boredom that must be the culprit. In the past year I've substitute taught in a lot of high schools in the area and I'm pleased to say that I never saw the kind of thing that Jeremy and I dealt with in the schools that our children will go to. So maybe there is a direct correlation between size of the town and amount of crap kids have to deal with. I also think that bigger schools allow for bigger cliques and that's a good thing. When Jeremy and I were given shit, we had no one but each other (and a small handful of others) to turn to. In a bigger school, we might've had some strength in numbers. I wonder what that would have felt like.

The Internet has become just one more place for assholes to fester. Last night someone tried to comment on Leah's blog saying that whoever they are and I slept together during Leah and I's relationship. Obviously, its not true. Not that its any one's business, but I've never had sex with anyone other than my wife nor have I ever cheated on her in any way. And just as importantly, I never will. I love my wife more today than when we first fell in love, and I'm sure that in ten years time, I'll say I love her even more. I've never felt, in any way, discontent with our relationship to the point that selfish men often justify looking around. When she read it, my mind started going through the list of band mates that I've shared a bed with on tour over the years and which ones might be stupid enough to think that this would be a fun joke with semantics. Anyway, the point is not to defend myself against a ridiculous claim, the point is to say, "WTF!?!" What does someone gain with this sort of behaviour. Leah, obviously, didn't believe it for a second but its still upset her, and therefore, upset me. Leah's been blogging for a long time, so, she has a lot of readers. Most of them are really sweet people, but some of them are just human garbage, so this wasn't altogether shocking.

Still, why can't people just be nice? Why does North Korea have to keep testing nuclear weapons when they know it makes everyone sad?

Inevitably, Harper will have to deal with undesirable people at some point and when she does I plan on telling her this story:

I've never been really into sports. True, I did go to state for tennis, but if we're being honest, it was kind of a fluke. I did play basketball in middle school, though, and every summer our school would have basketball camps that lasted about a week. I don't remember ever wanting to go to the camps but somehow I ended up there more often than not. The highlight of the camps, for people who actually wanted to be there, was the one on one tournament that they held on the last day. I never liked competition or confrontation and even more, I dreaded embarrassment, so to me, the tournament was the worst part of the camp.

In my school, there was a guy named Josh Verhoeff. He was really tall, regarded as a tough kid, and always reminded me of Vanilla Ice. I'm going to use some strong language now so if that's not your cup o' tea, you'd best skip ahead. I hated that guy. He was the biggest prick I've ever met and seemed to only exist to pick on kids smaller than him. He had nothing real to offer the world as people like him often do, and he's probably dead or in jail now. And if he is dead, then the world is better off.

My dad was a coach at the time and the morning of the one on one tournament, I asked my father, with butterflies in my stomach, who I was facing first. Of course, it was Verhoeff, so I begged my dad to let me stay home. I think Dad knew I was dreading it by the way he told me who my first opponent would be. I don't remember if Dad gave me any kind of pep talk but he might've. All that's really important is that he didn't let me stay home.

So when I walked into the gym that day, Verhoeff was already waiting for me with a group of boys who had all clearly decided my fate before my arrival. Verhoeff told me, among other things, that if I beat him, he would cry. He said it really loud so that everyone in the camp would be sure to associate embarrassment with a loss to me because, apparently, what could be more preposterous than me beating anyone.

The rules of the tournament were simple enough. Basic basketball rules, make it take it, first to 5 (win by 2). And so the tournament began.

I'd felt sick with nervousness all day leading up to this. In my head, I was cursing my dad for making me come, and thinking about how I never really even liked basketball. But all that aside, the truth was... I'm actually pretty good at basketball. A truth that Verhoeff didn't know or was happy to deny. Not only did I beat him, but I beat the shit out of him. He managed to throw up one lucky shot but didn't touch the ball again after that. He became so frustrated by the way things were going that he stormed off the court in a huff when I was one point away from victory and only came back when the coach sat him down and forced him to play. As soon as he came back, though, I threw the ball up for the final time and the game was over.

True to his word, Josh Verhoeff cried when I beat him.

Now, I'm glad my dad made me go face him and I think I learned something about myself that day. We are all as strong as we want to be.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why does the radio always sound so bad when I'm on it?

Well, I just listened to our radio show. It was certainly better sounding than the last one we did but still not something I'm proud to have produced. I don't know why every time we do a radio performance they mix the vocals about 20x louder than the rest of the music. Its really off-putting. I was going to say that I hope you guys all got to hear it but I really don't. I hope a lot of new people heard it and thought it was interesting enough to come to the show this weekend or buy the record, but hopefully, no one who already has an opinion about us heard it.

As I mentioned before I've been reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. In it, he postulates a 7 point scale of agnosticism, which I will reproduce here.

1. Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.

2. De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.

3. Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.

4. Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.

5. Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.

6. De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.

7. Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

Leah and I were talking about this list the other day, and I placed myself as a 3 leaning towards a 2, and she posed a question that I thought was interesting. She asked "How would you live your life differently if you didn't believe in god as opposed to believing in him?" I thought about it and said, "I don't guess I would do anything differently." She agreed.

Dawkins, himself, always says that a world with a god would look drastically different from a world without one, but I'm not so sure. I mean, how could we know since there's no experiment we can really do, as of yet. Dawkins argues probability, saying that while its impossible to disprove completely, he can prove that it is more probable that god doesn't exist, but so far I haven't read how he feels a universe with a god would look different, specifically.

I don't believe that morality is exclusive to or dependent on religion, spirituality, or a relationship with Christ (which is somehow not the former), and I think most people that read this blog agree with that statement, so my question to you, dear reader, is three-fold:

1. What number on the chart do you most closely relate to?
2. What, if anything, would you change about your life if someone, somehow, proved you wrong about your belief?
3. If you put yourself between a 3 and 7, why do you feel the need to live a moral life (assuming that you do)?

Keep in mind that we're not talking about identifying god as any specific one. For the sake of argument, lets just imagine that science somehow proves that god simply exists but past that, our knowledge of him/her/it/them hasn't increased. In other words, it could just as easily be Zeus as Allah.

Bonus question: How would you go about learning more about the character of this new found, completely provable god and/or would you even try to?

Applaud your Texas Democrats, they might actually care about your child's education

Last night we had our second practice after the "baby break" and it was great. We're playing two shows this weekend, though we're only advertising one. We're the secret special guests on the other. The show we're really pushing is on Saturday at Antone's in Austin w/ Alpha Rev, The Campaign, and Deadbeat Darling. This should be a big show so if you can go, you should get there early. Also we're playing first so definitely get there early enough for that. Also this week (actually today at 2pm), KUT 90.5 in Austin will be playing the in studio performance that we taped last week. I hope it sounds good. You can listen to it on their website if you don't live near Austin.

Band practice on weekdays is for the birds, though. I'm at work all day and then go home for just long enough to eat dinner and relieve Leah from Harper-Duty for a few minutes and then I'm back out the door. If anyone knows anyway where the government would pay me just to hang out at home keep things cool, please let me know.

As much as it sucks to leave my wife and child for any reason, I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to get to play music at all, and especially to play music with the guys I play with. I try to tell them as much as I can, but I love them all and feel honored that they've thrown in with me.

I even appreciate all the guys who've quit the band...well, most of them. The first drummer we had was a great drummer but he is total human garbage in every other regard. I mean, a real asshole. I don't think I've ever disliked a person with the ferocity that I dislike him.

Anyway, the Texas Democratic senators are saying that we've got enough pull to block the nomination of Don McLeroy for chairman of the Board of Education, so...yay! I don't want to sound pessimistic but the concern is that Rick "Texas could secede from the union" Perry will only nominate someone just as bad. Oh well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Here's a news article that I found stimulating this morning:
Radiohead denies influencing local band

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Where do the weekends go?

Leah and I planned to get out a little bit this weekend, but it didn't pan out the way we thought. Leah started feeling sick and we figured that she had caught something from our friends, the Davis family, but it turned out to be a breast infection. Thankfully, the antibiotics the doctor prescribed started working pretty quickly.

So this weekend pretty much just included hanging out at the house, getting my hair cut off, watching both Toy Story movies, and a Spectacular Spider-Man marathon on the Disney XD channel (which was excellent). I've also taken a liking to the newest Batman show called "Batman: the Brave & the Bold." Every episode includes Batman teaming up with another hero, usually a b-lister like Green Arrow or the Outsiders. Its a lot of fun.

I like to read but I hate it when it takes forever to get through a book. A friend of mine raves about The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, so I've been reading it, partly to satisfy him. I'm a little over halfway done and its not that I dislike it, I don't. He's a very elegant writer and pretty easy to understand, even though he's dealing with complex ideas. I guess its one of those that takes a little more effort to grasp everything he says so its taking longer. Last year I read the Harry Potter series all the way through about 4 times. Its literally all I read last year. I miss it now, and for my money, Harry Potter is the greatest work of fiction in the history of recorded story telling. After my year of Potter, I read the His Dark Materials trilogy (You know, the one with The Golden Compass. They made a movie out of it.) by Phillip Pullman. I thought the first book was definitely the strongest but the whole series is top notch, full of likable characters and a well developed plot. Its a little bit messed up at times, though, so maybe its not one for the kids as much.

I think this blog is pretty boring, and I apologize. Hopefully, someone will at least want to talk about books.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Do you think they teach evolution at Hogwarts?

Yesterday, I felt like a real patriot. I called my state senator to voice my opinion on an upcoming issue. The seating of Don McLeroy as Chairman on the Board of Education has come under some controversy and I told my senator to vote against him. I doubt he will because the senator for our area is Republican like McLeroy and I would imagine they would have each others backs.

If you haven't heard of McLeroy, he's the guy who fights tooth and nail for keeping evolution out of biology text books and putting Creationism in. Now, I'm a Deist, which to me just means that if I had to bet on it, I'd probably say there's a "god" who may or may not have sparked the big bang. Whether or not there was a plan or design that he/she/it/they guided, I have no idea. So that being said, the idea of a Divine involvement in the how and why we're here isn't entirely foreign to me. But that's philosophy, not science. Science is the study of things we know, not the things that some people in the class may or may not believe. Science is falsifiable or can be tested. Creationism and Intelligent Design (which is essentially the same thing) don't qualify, and therefore don't belong in biology text books. I'm not picking on believers, I have no problem with them discussing it in philosophy class, but saying its science is a falsehood. Its not a political issue, its just a matter of one thing not being another. Religion isn't science, doesn't try to be, has never been, possibly never will be.

(Please don't mistake me for qualifying religion and science as Non-Overlapping Magisteria. I don't. I agree with Dawkins that god's existence is a scientific matter and just because we currently have no way of testing it, doesn't mean that we never will.)

I was thinking about school this morning, as well, because I was listening to the Bobby Bones show on the way to work and Bobby was talking about how he gave a speech at a graduation ceremony yesterday. It got me thinking about what I would say if I were to be asked to give such a speech, for some unforeseeable reason. What would I want/need to hear? I don't know, honestly, other than to tell them that life is short and better spent filled with love and lived to the fullest. What I think I really needed to hear (assuming that Young Taylor would've listened), I needed to hear much earlier than graduation. I would've told me that education is less about learning facts and formulas(though they are immensely important) and more about learning how to think. Logic, reason, and creativity are the most important things being developed in our schools. Hopefully, those things are being taught in school, while at home kids learn kindness, humility, and responsibility. I wish I'd taken my education more seriously, now. I hope I can convince Harper how important it is, and how lucky she is to be able to go to the schools she'll go to. About a year of substituting in these schools has left me impressed. Compared to the school I went to, these are like Hogwarts.

So, personal rants aside, I just want my daughter to have as thorough an education as possible without anyone pushing their agendas on her. Our forefathers understood the need for separation of Church and State, so what could be more patriotic or American, than insisting that we keep the science in science class and the theology in church?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

When and if I ever die, I hope that its in some way that allows me to become a fossil

If you've been watching or reading the news, you're probably aware of the recent discovery of Darwinius Marsillae, or Ida, as she's been nicknamed. All of the science blogs I've been able to find are really frustrated with the media's handling of this find, and they all generally say, "yes, this is a tremendous find, and yes, it does support and inform what we know about evolution, but it doesn't 'change everything'" The news hype around this fossil is making it look like Ida is the veritable saviour of the fossil record.

I think the most interesting thing about it is how incredibly old she is. 47 million years old. That's ludicrously old, and we can still tell what her last meal was. How crazy is science?!?

I hope that one day, when I'm really old, preferably, I get caught in a toxic gas cloud and sink to the bottom of a lake and neatly covered in sediment so that my last meal can be noted by scientists 47 million years from now. I hope its Buffalo wings.

Recently in Canada they discovered another fossil that was really interesting and shows us how seals went from land to sea animals called Puijila darwini. Its interesting to me, at least. I'm wondering if we're going to name every fossil we find after Darwin from now on. If I found a fossil I'd probably name it something a little more fun. I would probably call Puijila darwini "Lazer Seal," and that's just off the top of my head.

The new mewithoutYou is fantastic and in constant play here at my desk. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My daughter apparently hates it when I sleep.

I'm really tired. Leah and I take shifts at night with Harper and it seems that on my shift she hates sleep and loves crying but then the next morning Leah insists that she was really good for her. That's some bullshit, there! I guess she's cute enough that I'll let it slide, though.

Quiet Company had our first practice in over a month last night and it went well. It felt good to play again and see my musical brothers, though it felt bad to leave my wife and child after I'd already been away at work all day. These are the lives we've chosen. Tonight after work isn't much better. I've got to go downtown to record an in studio performance for NPR that will play in Austin next Thursday I believe. I sound ungrateful, and I certainly don't mean to. I shouldn't say I've "got" to do that, I should say I "get" to do that. I'm very, very thankful for all the attention the record and band have gotten.

Kurt Vonnegut used to say that whenever you find yourself in pleasing circumstances its important to recognize it and say out loud, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is," so as not to take it for granted and whatnot. I find myself saying that all the time.

The new mewithoutYou album, It's all crazy! It's all false! It's all a dream! It's alright, came out yesterday and I went and snagged it on my lunch break. Just as I'd heard, the era of Aaron's talk-yelling is over and the era of singing has been ushered in. And just as I predicted, they've made a terrific record. The record sounds more like Neutral Milk Hotel than previous mewithoutYou, but the brilliant poetry and smart understanding of musical arrangement remain. I'm giving it a thumbs up.

Also, I was looking through Entertainment Weekly today and I found something I think is funny.

As someone who used to smoke, I feel like I understand what appeals to people in a cigarette ad. People start smoking because it looks cool. Anyone who tells you different is deluding themselves. To me, and I believe most people, smoking is one of the most effortless ways to look cool and it takes tremendous effort to make it look uncool, but congratulations, Newport, you did it. How does this even advertise anything other than looking like a dweeb who's clearly having trouble blowing out 3 candles. Maybe he has Emphysema? If anything this is an effective anti-smoking ad.

I'm not advocating smoking, just to be clear, I'm just saying that if you want to be cool and look cool the best thing to do is to smoke cigarettes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What choice do we have?!?!?!

In the recent weeks, in the discourse about my faith, someone referred to the "choices" I've made about religion. I was thinking about that word and how its used incorrectly in a few hot button issues. Are the things we believe or don't believe the result of us choosing to believe or not believe them? And if so, is that really believing? Where religion is concerned it opens up a lot of other issues about motives and why you're choosing to believe in the first place.

While you can certainly choose to shelter yourself from ideas you know will contradict what you believe, I don't believe you can choose your beliefs, really. There have definitely been times when I was confronted by a truth that clearly contradicted my belief and at the end of the day the only reaction really available to me was, "Well, shit, the damage is done." In my experience, for the most part, things either make sense to you or they don't. Simple.

You also hear the word "choice" thrown around when you're talking about homosexuality with people who don't know any homosexuals. While no one is sure (yet) whether gay people are born that way or if sexuality is shaped by experiences, or more probably a combination of the two, one thing we are sure about is that no homosexual will ever tell you, "I weighed my options and I opted for homosexuality." Its really quite absurd and ignorant to think anyone chooses their sexuality.

I think in the case of homosexuality people like to believe its a choice because it makes the gays responsible for what's "wrong with them," and therefore, easier to hate or at least be weirded out by. By the way, we're not the only animals that do it. Apparently, there's at least two penguins who are going straight to hell.

Anyway, if you believe that it is possible to choose what to believe then that choice is certainly necessary in the task of believing impossible things. I'm sure that believing in gravity is no chore for anyone, whereas, believing that a man fit at least two of every kind of animal on a boat or that a baby was born speaking requires some hefty faith. I guess faith is the right word for things we choose to believe. So why do we bother? I think "faith" is a word that gives a lot of intelligent people an excuse not to think about things that they can't explain. Why can't we just be OK with not knowing for sure?

Personally, I think the bulk of it stems from the whole "fear of death"/"what if we're wrong" thing. What if I'm wrong and Christianity is completely right? I guess that's as valid a question as any. I guess the answer to that is that I'll go to hell. Shit. Of course, that question begot other questions. What if Christians are wrong about Hinduism, or Buddhism, or Judaism, or Deism, or Islam, or Zeus, or Scientology? Better choose wisely.

Does anyone remember Columbine? One of the things I remember the most in the aftermath of the tragedy is the "She said 'yes'," shirts. If you're unfamiliar, a story surfaced about a girl who was confronted by the killers and asked if she believed in god. We'd all like to assume that if she'd said "no" then she would've lived, but she was brave and courageously said "yes." Who knows, maybe they would've shot her anyway. They clearly weren't the most stable of kids in the first place. I was in high school at the time and more Christian than I have ever been. I remember thinking, if someone put a gun in my face would I say "yes?" I felt secretly ashamed of myself because the honest answer was a definitive "NO." It made me think, do I really believe this or do I just want to, and is there a difference? If Christianity was right and I got to heaven would Yeshua be more likely to say "Hey there, friend! Great job with the faith!" or would my reception go more like, "Sorry man, sticking feathers up your ass doesn't make you a chicken. You pretended to believe and I knew the difference."

I maintain that nothing is my fault (with the exception of a lot of things).

Monday, May 18, 2009

I would go out tonight, but I haven't got a stitch to wear.

I'm back at work today. This is the first day since her birth that I've been away from Harper and I'm sad to say that I'll be away from her quite a bit this week. Tomorrow night we've got our first rehearsal in more than a month and Wednesday we're recording a live studio performance for NPR in Austin. All of that plus work adds up. Thankfully, my mom is in town to lighten the load on Leah, which is nice, but I'm sure Leah will be just fine on her own too. She's a strong one.

I'm was sitting here listening to one of my favorite bands, The Smiths, and trying to think of what to blog about, (my last two have felt a little heavy so I'm shooting for something lighter) when I remembered how much I hated the Smiths when I first heard them.

So now what this blog is about today: things you hate and then grow to love.
The ones that come to mind are:
The Smiths, Starflyer 59, Batman, Superman, The very idea of DC comics, South Park, buffalo wings, boxer shorts, the Beach Boys, Neil Young.
I can't think of any movies that I originally hated but I can think of some that I, initially, really didn't want to see and ended up enjoying such as, Fight Club, Gattaca, the new Star Trek (which I finally saw yesterday and is every bit as good as you've heard it is), American Beauty, etc.

Its weird how many of those things not only became things I enjoy but some of my absolute favorite things on Earth. What are yours?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Wherever my foot falls... "(in which we discuss Joshua)

I have a really cool brother in law named Brad. Right before I moved to Nashville in the summer of 2002 I went and hung out with Brad one night and as a going away gift he gave me a book he thought I'd enjoy. It was called "Skinny Legs & All" by Tom Robbins. I didn't like it and put it down pretty quickly. I was a very different person then (a republican even) and I had never really questioned my beliefs up to that point.

A year or two later I decided, for one reason or another, to give "Skinny Legs & All" another shot and this time I finished it. Its pretty good but this is not a review. In the book one of the characters, a rabbi, tells the protagonist that Old Testament Israel perpetrated what he considered to be the first Holocaust on the cultures of Phoenicia and Canaan. I thought this was interesting so I dived into my copy of the old testament for some investigation. I think this was the first big step in my de-conversion from Christianity.

I'm not going to go through the story in detail because you can find your own copy to reference, but I'll summarize the big points for you.
Moses had been leading the Israelites around in the desert for quite some time, because they weren't quite ready to enter the land that Yahweh had promised them. But then Moses died, and made Joshua their leader. Whereas Moses was content to wander around in the desert until Yahweh, in his wisdom, deemed it the right time to move into the promised land, Joshua wasn't so patient. Did I mention that the "Promised Land" already had people living there? It did. They were the Canaanites and Phoenicians and they had their own cultures with rich, creative, full lives and if our holy text can be relied on, they didn't pick this fight.

But Yahweh told Joshua that "wherever the sole of your foot falls, I have given to you." So big Josh decides its time to take the land they were promised. He sends spies into the city of Jericho to scope it out but the authorities get wind of it and start looking for the spies. Thank god for whores though, because one of them hid the spies in her house and lied to the cops for them. She basically sells out her own people to save her ass and makes a deal with the spies to spare her and her family when the onslaught comes. What character! What integrity!

So according to the good book, Josh and his crew march around the city seven times and then when they do their battle cry the walls fall down. Then they proceed to murder every man, woman, and child in the city. They also kill the donkeys and steal all the silver and gold because that's important to Yahweh. I guess the 10 Commandments should read "Do not murder.. except people that aren't Hebrew...I don't care so much for them."

Some people will say that the miracles are proof that Yahweh wanted this done. Oh yeah, he also parted another river so they could get there. But I say that history is told by those who win. Who was left to contradict them? They perpetrated genocide and infanticide on the opposing culture. They could've written that Yahweh himself came down and ended the fight with a sawed off shotgun and a flaming baseball bat, if they'd wanted to. And what was the Canaanites' crime? Not being Israelites? Living on land that was someone else's even though they were probably the first to inhabit it?

Then the book of Joshua also makes sure to mention how famous Joshua became and how everyone thought he was such a badass. Yeshua makes a big deal about humility and the meek inheriting the earth. I'm wondering how he would've worked this invasion.

I don't even honestly know if this happened at all. I mean, I'm pretty sure all of the miracles are made up to make it look like a mission from the Most High and not so much a crazy blood thirsty bigot leading his people to commit mass murder. But I think my biggest problem is how the church views this asshole. As a hero.

So to me there are two different ways to view this epic, each as distasteful as the next.
1. This is the story of a sick man who came into power over a nomadic people who were tired of being nomadic. They committed a holocaust and used a deity to cover their shame with arrogance and self importance. This was ethnic cleansing in its earliest incarnation and if we read about it anywhere other than the bible it would turn our stomachs and rightly so.
2. Let's suppose that every word of this is true and Yahweh really did request these things of his humble servant Joshua. If that is the case, then Yahweh is simply not a loving god. He is a monster; a primitive, sadistic, blood thirsty, racist, monster to whom we are all playthings. I wouldn't want him living on my street let alone bow to him.

The church could look at this story and say, "Let us never forget how we have inside us all a potential for evil, as Joshua did. Let us learn from his vanity." Instead they look at it and say, "He had to wipe them out or else their cultures would influence the Hebrew culture and they were God's chosen people, they had to stay pure. So its good that he did that. Yahweh has a plan." The whole thing is silly. If someone came up to you and said with conviction, "God has given me your house." What would you honestly think about that person? Would you move your shit out that day to make room for God's servant? Or would you call the cops because this person is clearly deranged and makes you feel more than a little uncomfortable? That's the one I'd do. If god wants someone else to have my house he should at least run it by me first. I'm sure the Canaanites would've appreciated the courtesy, as well.

I know a lot of the people that read this blog are Christians and Jews and it is certainly not my intention to offend you in anyway. It is my intention to share my journey in the hopes that it makes you take a little closer look at your god and your faith. I've talked to a lot of believers lately and to me it seems that the only difference between me and several of them is that they still have a desire to believe these things and I do not. But wanting something to be true or good and something actually being true and good are not the same things.

I hope we all find what we're looking for.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I find the Eucharist more than a little difficult to swallow....

I don't know why I was thinking about this, probably because PZ Myers touched on in on his blog a few days ago and it got me thinking. Thinking about communion. If you're not familiar with communion, the specific meaning I'm talking about is the church meaning, I.E. the ritual of eating a wafer and drinking wine during a ceremony, and more specifically, a Catholic ceremony.

I grew up in a Baptist Church and we certainly took communion. Once a month, I think. However, we had no delusions that what we were putting in our mouths was nothing more than unleavened bread and grape juice (Baptist don't like the alcohol). It was symbolism, you see. Something we supposedly did because Jesus asked us to, so we'd remember him.

The reason I was thinking about this is because I read that Catholics, or at least some Catholics (I especially don't expect the young Catholics to believe this), believe that when they put the bread and the wine in their mouth a miracle happens. And that miracle is that the bread ACTUALLY turns into Christ's flesh, and the wine ACTUALLY turns into his blood. Its called Transubstantiation but you and I might call it "fantasy cannibalism."

So my questions are:
1. Can I possibly be understanding this correctly?
2. Do people actually think this happens?
3. Why the hell would they want it to?
4. Has it never occurred to anyone to spit it out and test it?

To me this seems more like an idea that witches would have. I apologize if that offends any witches, I confess, I don't know much about you, save what I read in Harry Potter.

Now I hate to bash on religious rituals too much. OK, that's not true I'd love to, but I won't. When I was religious I used to say "Faith and Ritual are like love and sex. They're not the same thing though people often mistake the two. However, when they're together they make each other better." So I get it. I understand why people get baptized and raise their hands during worship, and even speak in tongues and handle snakes. We think it heightens the experience, essentially. But It really just makes me wonder if instead of heightening the experience, it IS the experience. I've had the typical church camp experience so I know what it feels like to have a professional band play the four right chords that tug on those specific emotions that are so vulnerable in teenagers (or just the downtrodden), to make us think that there's something wrong with us that only Jesus, Mohammed, Yahweh, Buddha, or Joseph Smith can fix. Hell, I've been in the professional band that knows those chords and exploits them. That's the power of music and I could post a whole other way-too-long blog about that, but I digress. Does anyone else feel like its possible that religion uses rituals of all different kinds to replace reason with emotion?

On a much better note, Harper is almost a week old and we had our first night that was just our little family last night, and we did just fine. I swear, she gets cuter everyday. She's so ridiculously expressive. We're about to take her to Target so we can get out of the house a little bit and so that she can learn to love Target, that's one of those really important things that we're trying to instill in her. I've made her 3 different mix CD's for sleeping to now. If you'd like a copy, let me know and I'll post a drop site for you to download them.

ADDENDUM>>> I made a "best of" from all 3 sleeping mixes and you can download it here and it includes such hits as:
The Golden Age - Beck
To Sheila - The Smashing Pumpkins
Christmas Song - Mogwai
El Condor Pasa (If I Could - Simon & Garfunkle
Georgia On My Mind - Willie Nelson
Lake Michigan - Rogue Wave
Mirrors - The New Frontiers
The Tower Of Learning - Rufus Wainwright
Lord Can You Hear Me - Spiritualized
The Film Did Not Go 'Round - Nada Surf
Hallelujah _ I Know It's Over (Medley) - Jeff Buckley
Say Yes - Elliott Smith
The Tourist - Radiohead
Summertime - Sam Cooke
The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us! - Sufjan Stevens

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

FACT: Babies smell like eggs...a lot of the time.

This is a fact that no one tells you. So here it is, for all you expecting parents out there...

1. Your beautiful baby will fart ALL the time.
2. Those farts will maybe/probably smell like boiled eggs.

Harper is doing really well and aside from some strange sleep schedules, so are Leah and I. We've been so happy these last few days and Harper's arrival has provided us a lot of really great opportunities to serve one another. Its been rewarding to say the least. But yeah, Harper farts a whole lot for such a cute baby.

Another great thing about Harper is that she's not easily disturbed by noise. In fact, she seems to sleep the best in the living room with the TV on real loud. When she's in her room and its quiet and peaceful she tends to wake up and cry more often. So I moved an extra CD player that we have into her room and burned her her first mix CD, and I think that that's helped her sleep better. Its got some great stuff on it: Beatles, Iron & Wine, Ben Folds, Simon & Garfunkle, Smashing Pumpkins, Mogwai, Death Cab for Cutie, Sam Cooke, etc... She has good taste.

Tonight Jen and Jerad are bringing us dinner and that's very sweet. I'm so glad that our lives have turned out to include the community of friends that it does. I'm really happy to have all the surrogate aunts and uncles that will have a hand in shaping our daughter. I only wish that her real aunts and uncles lived here too. Then our community would really be pretty damn near perfect. So Seth, Kara, Elana, Cameron & Jessica, all need to realize that their lives would certainly be better in or around Austin and get their collective asses here ASAP.

Leah's mom has been here for the last few days helping out. Its been very helpful and she's sure to be a very loving and beloved grandmother. She wanted to be called Nonnie, but I have been pushing for "Grandmonster" and its looking like I'm going to pull the win. My mother will be here next week. She already has two grandchildren and goes by "Gigi." I've told her that I don't care for that name so I'll probably go to work creating another one that I can convince Harper to call her. We'll see.

Yesterday, we took Harper to see Aunt Robin and Uncle Jeremy and she met her new best friends, Olivia and Estlin. It was lovely.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day, wife!!!

I got up on Friday like every other day. Leah mentioned that she was having some cramps and I smiled but didn't say what I was thinking. We don't like to make big deals out of things when we don't really know what's happening. So I went to work. Leah called me after she got up for the day and said she still wasn't feeling any better but wasn't in enough discomfort to stop her from going about her day. I believe she was running around with Robin, I could be mistaken about that though. I think it was around noon when she called again and said "Robin thinks I should go to the hospital and that my cramps might be labor, but I'm going to call first." She called and they said yeah, that's a possibility and that she should come in and get hooked up to a machine. Turns out she was contracting but she still didn't know if they were going to keep her or send her home as she was in very early labor. She told me to stay at work until we knew if they were going to let her stay or not so I did for a little while. Eventually, I decided that Taylor Muse doesn't stay at work while his wife is alone at a hospital, and I took off. By the time I got to the hospital, Leah was starting to REALLY feel the contractions and they were starting to come closer together. The on call doctor came in and said that if we didn't naturally have a baby tonight we would induce tomorrow morning. It was about 6 when he came in and said they would check on the baby at 10 and decide when to induce.

At 10 a nurse came in to check on Leah and in the process accidentally broke her water, we would definitely be having a baby now. Hearing the water break from across the room and the splash of it on the bed was one of the more disgusting things and it freaked Leah out because no one was expecting it.

A few hours later, another nurse checked Leah again and said "Well, you're ready to go." A few days ago if I'd thought about what my role in the delivery room would be, I would've said something like, "Holding Leah's hand, saying encouraging things to her and not in anyway helping or seeing anything happen." That's not how it turned out and I saw a lot of things. Leah had a similar idea of my role and didn't want me to see anything but when you're pushing another human out of your birth canal a lot of modesty related ideas that you may have seem to go out the window. I held one of her legs and the nurse, the other, and we helped her push for about 30 minutes before the Dr. came back and had her push three more times at which point Harper came out, purple, soaked in blood, with a head shaped like Alien, and strangely the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.

I never expect myself to cry because I never cry. I expect Leah to cry all the time because she cries all the time. This is good logic, I feel. When we had our first sonogram and Harper wasn't anything more than a large cluster of cells with a heartbeat, Leah asked if I would cry and I remember saying "Don't be ridiculous." But there I was that day, staring at a tiny blink on a monitor and wiping the water from my eyes like a little girl. And there was Leah, with her eyes dry and her smile wide. Friday, was a lot like that day, except this time I wasn't a little misty eyed, I was choking back sobs as the doctor wiped the blood off my daughter and put her on Leah's chest, her first minute in a world that I can't wait to introduce her to. Ten fingers, Ten toes and with the exception of a little bit of Jaundice, completely healthy.

I feel like at this point in the story part of me wants to rant about what a miracle the birth process is and ponder how long it must have taken nature to perfect it. It is pretty damn amazing, albeit, gross.

However, what I was more impressed with was my wife. I feel like I've been telling her non stop since the birth but I really can't get over how amazing she was. She never complained or whined about the pain and since we've gotten home we've discovered new levels of exhaustion that we didn't know were possible, and Leah is apparently built to handle it, whereas, I am not. I don't believe that people have destinies past what we make for ourselves but if I did believe that, I wouldn't have any problem saying that Leah was born to be Harper's mom. She is so natural and effortless in her love and patience with Harper and with me for that matter. I will love her forever. I will love them both forever.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Baby baby sweet baby...

So my daughter was born Friday, May 8th at 5:28 in the morning. We just got home today and we are tired as hell. I'll probably post a much longer version of this soon but because I'm so tired, I don't currently feel like it. So here is the general idea.

1. My daughter is perfectly healthy, and beautiful.
2. My wife is AMAZING, and my level of respect for her (which is already insanely high) has shot through the roof.
3. Her name is Harper Lennon Muse and we love her.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

natural selection at

I'll probably post again today especially since this is probably the last day I won't be a father, but I've been looking at pictures all day and I saw pictures of my brother's family at the Dallas zoo. I guess that put me in the mood to look at animals. So feast your eyes upon the smallest of the nocturnal primates...The Aye Aye.

Also, deep deep in the ocean where the water pressure is intense, nature has formed the Blob Fish.

Yeah...these are real.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Xanga for president.

I've been reading the news all morning and of course, as it always is, its largely about our government and what's going on. Most of the stories that I've seen today focus on the Israel-Palestine conflict and Iran and they're all pretty much reporting the same story. So I'm going to weigh in because...well, honestly, for no good reason. No one has any reason to read this and change your political standpoint, and I accept that. I recently went back through my old Xanga entries (yeah, its still there) and around the time that John Kerry was running for president my posts got really political. Somewhat militantly so. I certainly don't want a repeat of that now. I'm a few years older and hopefully quite a bit wiser and more mature.

I'll just say, with no intention of offence, that I believe that Obama is doing the right thing in forcing Israel to actually take action toward resolving the conflict and not just pay lip service to the notion of peace. Here is one such article.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

72 hours left...approximately.

We're now about 3 days away from, hopefully, being able to induce labor if we haven't arrived there naturally already. Only 3 small days stand between life as I know it and fatherhood. Shit. This is surreal. I'm not scared of fatherhood though, honestly, I'm not. If I can just get past the fragile infant part without breaking her I know I'll be fine. I know this because I believe that I understand what it means and what it takes to be a good dad, largely because I, personally, had a good dad. Still do, in fact. My parents taught me morality, responsibility, self awareness, and compassion. They weren't perfect and never tried to convince me that they were or that they always had the answer, instead they endeavored tirelessly to convince me that whatever happened, they would always love me. My brother is also a dad now, and he's doing his part to prove that the Muse men make for great dads. I have no reason to think that I'll break this tradition.

Leah told me that my blog today should be about how I wanted a boy and now I'm really glad to be having a girl. Its true, I really wanted a boy. Mostly, because I felt like a boy would be so much less work and no matter what life stage he was at, I'd be able to relate, having been there myself. Also, my greatest fear is that my precious baby girl would turn out like this:

or even worse, like this:

But I guess those fears are somewhat irrational. I'm sure the parents that produced those two monsters knew that the apples wouldn't fall far from the trees. Leah and I are both loving, intelligent and responsible people and my only hope is that Harper is kind, wise, creative, and as happy as she can be. I don't think that's asking too much. The best possible senario is that she ends up like this:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sports Illustrated

I know I've already posted today but my coworker showed me this and I just had to share it. Kurt Vonnegut is a personal idol to me yet I did not know that he briefly worked for Sports Illustrated. This was on the SI website today and its from the introduction to his latest book "Armageddon in Retrospect." This is what his son Mark had to say:

"He was not good at being an employee. Back in the mid-1950s, he was employed by Sports Illustrated, briefly. He reported to work, was asked to write a short piece on a racehorse that had jumped over a fence and tried to run away. Kurt stared at the blank piece of paper all morning and then typed, 'The horse jumped over the f***ing fence,'' and walked out, self-employed again.' ''

I've been laughing about this all morning.

Do I have to title every blog?

Tommy and I recently sat down with Josh Shepard for the Backline Show and talked about our new record and my upcoming fatherhood. I was really glad to have Tommy there because I've done the last few interviews by myself and usually by the end of it I walk away really unsure about whether or not I sound like a douche bag. This one went pretty well though and you can hear it here.

Back at work today, hoping Leah calls to say she's going into labor, but knowing that she probably won't. Here's a hint for everyone else though: Leah is really tired of people badgering her about when Harper's coming. We'll let you know.

Had a great weekend. Got a lot of recording done for some demos I've been wanting to finish and I'm pretty happy with what I've got so far. Leah, Jeremy, and I went and saw Wolverine on Saturday and it was OK. Parts of it really seemed to drag to me.

I've got another meeting today with a licensing company so hopefully, we can make some money for our music at some point in our lives.

Here's another interview I did recently. This one was for the local community college paper.

Friday, May 1, 2009

I met the new neighbors

Recently, our next door neighbors moved to another, bigger house a few miles down the road. Leah and I are really sad to see them leave because we got to know and like them quite a bit. Mike helped me out with a lot of stuff around the house that I, as a new home owner, was clueless about, and he lent me a trumpet so I could learn to play for our last record and he actually played on a demo for me. All that to say, we're nervous about someone else moving in next door. What if they are not cool? Its been really great and helpful having someone directly next door that you can count on and we'd hate to lose that.

Yesterday, I was outside doing some yard work, mowing and pulling weeds and whatnot, when I heard voices on the other side of the fence. I've been anxious to meet the new neighbors so although I was sweaty and dirty, and probably not in a great position to make a good first impression, I stuck my head over the fence and said "Hello, I'm your neighbor." They're a young couple and I'm pretty sure I scared the woman with my abrupt appearance, but they both seemed nice enough. They're both music teachers actually. He teaches band and her, choir. I think there's a pretty good chance that we'll all get along just fine.

Harper doesn't seem to be in any kind of hurry at all to be born. Leah is tired of being pregnant and I don't blame her at all. I would also like to take this opportunity to say how much my wife amazes me. She has been so strong and level headed and beautiful throughout her entire pregnancy and I don't think I'm the only one who has noticed and been impressed. She has always inspired me and seems to have no trouble finding new ways to do so.

We've been playing Harper music through headphones on Leah's stomach and so far the band that seems to cause the most movement is Electric Light Orchestra, but who doesn't honestly want to dance when "Mr. Blue Sky" comes on?