Friday, July 31, 2009

I don't want to work, I just want to bang on the drum all day.

After work yesterday, I went straight downtown because it didn't make sense to go home before the show. I decided to just hang out and kill time at Bookpeople, a nice bookstore in downtown Austin. I ended up getting into a long conversation with the worker who was in charge of the comic book section. I stopped collecting comics in 2007 when Quiet Company started touring full time so I'm pretty out of the loop now as far as what ended up happening with a handful of story arcs. The biggest bomb that Jerome, the Bookpeople guy, dropped on me was that Marvel has, essentially, hit the magical reset button on Spiderman's life. He's no longer married, and no one knows that Peter Parker is Spiderman. When I stopped collecting it was right after "Civil War" where Peter announced to the world on national TV that he was Spidey.

It just makes me sad because one of the things I've always loved about Spidey is that he matures. He actually grows as a character. Peter Parker today is not the same Peter Parker that appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15. I feel like that is what really makes him special and for them to just wipe away years of development for the sake of convenience is cheap, and totally devoid of real creativity and artistic integrity. Of course, I haven't actually read it so don't listen to me. I don't know what I'm talking about.

The show last night was really cool, especially since it was so last minute. I had a good time but was also really thankful that it was an early show and I still got to bed at a reasonable time. I'm also really glad its Friday and the day is almost over.

My beautiful bride and I are going to see Funny People tonight, so I'm looking forward to that. Partly because I expect that movie to be great, and mainly because I absolutely love spending time with my wife.

Friedrich Nietzsche said that “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” Truer words were never spoken. Leah is my best friend in the entire world, and there is no one who's company I prefer to her's. Its my greatest hope that Harper can always look at her parents and see two people that, genuinely, love being together and serving one another.

Have a nice weekend everyone.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


There are a lot of really shitty things about playing music. Number one on the list is having to leave your family to go do it.

But we persevere.

If you're in Austin tonight, we're doing an early happy hour show tonight and its free if you RSVP here. Also there's free Lone Star beer for the first 75 people through the door, and organic tacos will be available.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guns don't kill people, Chiropractors with guns kill people

Here is an article by Simon Singh. Leah went to a chiropractor once and my impression was that we were meeting the smarmiest snake-oil salesman ever. He actually told Leah that if he didn't adjust her 80 more times she would just become paralized.

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results - and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that "99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae". In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer's first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying - even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world's first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: "Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck."

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kurt Vonnegut and George W. Bush: Two people directly responsible for my Socialism

With all the talk on health care reform, I feel like Socialism is being used with a harshly negative connotation, to try and conjure images of Stalin and the like. You could fill volumes with what a typical American doesn't understand about Socialism. Hell, you could fill volumes with what I don't know about Socialism, and the reason is this: There are a ton of different kinds of Socialism. And just like Capitalism, its been used for good and evil.

So I wanted to talk a little bit about why I consider myself a Socialist. First off, I don't think that any reasonable person would consider themselves 100% affiliated with any political party. I would hope that Democrats and Republicans can find, at least, some merit in the other side. Second off, I should mention that I have a job that provides a health insurance benefit for my family, so we're very lucky. I say that so you know that I don't necessarily have a vested interest in a social health care program.

But what I don't understand is why people are so scared of Socialism. We already have several social programs that are huge parts of our culture that I doubt anyone wants to move into the private sector. The next time you need a cop, would you rather have to look through the phone book to hire the most affordable one? No, of course not. Everyone needs police, so everyone should own the police. The same is said for firemen, public schools, public libraries, etc. Hopefully, you'll never need a cop or a fireman, but I bet you're willing to pay taxes to make sure they're there if you ever do need them. I don't see a difference with health care. I may never need a doctor, but I'd be willing to pay taxes to make sure that they're there if I do need them. Every time I see a Socialist program in America, it seems to be improving life, not hindering it. They create jobs and they provide services, ideally, that don't discriminate against any human beings. Personally, that's the kind of America that I want to live in.

I don't vote Socialist Party though, or at least, I never have. Partly because a socialist candidate has no chance of even getting on the ballot in Texas, and partly because voting third party (especially in Texas) is effectively throwing your vote away. What I do do is vote for the candidate that seems most likely to share the principles of Socialism.

Its not about government controlling your life, its about putting power into the hands of the people and having a government that provides for, represents, and is accountable to its people...all of its people. Its about class free democracy and workers having control of their lives and doing away with wage-slavery. Its about equality. "From every man according to his ability, to every man according to his need." Or in other words, "we're all in this together, let's act like it." Doesn't anything Socialist just make you sick?!?

Is it perfect? Hell, no. But people aren't perfect, so how can anything we make be? But at the core of it are principles that I value, so I consider myself a Socialist. After all, "as long as there is a lower class, I am in it." And, after all, somebody has to help the meek inherit the earth. I'll part with a story from the "Socialism in America" Wikipedia about good ol' Eugene Debs.

In June 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Espionage Act, which included a clause providing prison sentences for up to twenty years for “Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty… or willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment of service of the United States”. The Socialists, with their talk of draft dodging and war-opposition, found themselves the target of persecution. Scores were convicted of treason and jailed.

After visiting three Socialists imprisoned in Canton, Ohio, Eugene V. Debs crossed the street and made a two-hour speech to a crowd in which he condemned the war. "Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder… The master class has always declared the war and the subject class has always fought the battles," Debs told the crowd.

He was immediately arrested and soon convicted under the Espionage Act. During his trial, he did not take the stand, nor call a witness in his defense. However, before the trial began, and after his sentencing, he made speeches to the jury: "I have been accused of obstructing the war. I admit it. Gentlemen, I abhor war… I have sympathy with the suffering, struggling people everywhere…" He also uttered what would become his most famous words: "While there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison, stripped of his citizenship, and disenfranchised for life.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I didn't get to go to Comic Con so I watched Justice League Unlimited for 12 hours instead

So I think I may have found a new favorite TV show: Justice League Unlimited. Boomerang had a marathon of it on Saturday and what I didn't watch, I recorded, and have been watching every chance I get. Even Leah has admitted that the show is actually pretty good. I think I've easily watched more than 12 hours of it this weekend.

I love it when any superhero show will have an episode where a b-list character gets featured, but JLU is like that in almost every episode. People like Green Arrow, the Question, and Booster Gold get equal screen time to Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman, which is really refreshing when you think about how DC Comics has a huge number of b-list characters that are really interesting if people would just give them a chance. This show has already been on for something like 5 seasons and I'm just now discovering it, which makes me feel stupid but better late than never, I guess.

I'm not surprised that its so good, though. Pretty much all of the DC cartoons have been really awesome and true to their characters and source material. JLU seems a little more mature than the others though. Its action allows more violence, and the characters' relationships are more mature and developed (even romantically).

I've still got about 7 or 8 episodes left on the ol' DVR know, looking forward to that.

ADDENDUM: I just learned that this show has already been cancelled. Lame.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My review of Surprised By Faith by Dr. Don Bierle

As you may have read in previous entries, I've been reading a book called Surprised By Faith by Dr. Don Bierle on my mother's recommendation. Yesterday, I finished the book and now I'd like to say what I thought about it. I already kind of reviewed the first chapter or two here, so I'll just pick up where I left off.

I've already pointed out how the book loves to flaunt the words "doctor" and "scientist" but never specifically says what field he specializes in, which is weird. All it ever gives away is the very general term, "life sciences," which I guess would be things of a biological nature. So lets give the doctor the benefit of the doubt and say he's a biologist. Biology is one of the most important types of science, I think, and its one of the more revealing when speaking on the human condition, so I'd be very interested to hear what a biologist says about faith. Well, that's not what you're going to get in Surprised by Faith. Science has a method, as Dr. Bierle knows. Its called the "scientific method" conveniently enough. Its, without a doubt, the most conclusive way to know anything because its not biased in any way.

"The scientific method was clearly the method of choice in observing the natural world. But it requires the experiment be repeatable in a controlled environment so it can be observed. History is not repeatable and does not lend itself to the scientific method...How do you prove something that is a one time event?"

So this scientist isn't going to use science in this book. So why do I give a shit that he's a scientist? Instead what he is going to do is try and build a case for faith like you would build a case for something in a court of law. Lee Strobel does a way better job at this, by the way, and for the record I would never hire either of those men as lawyers or detectives. So the "scientist" is going to need to delve into areas of science like archeology and anthropology, areas that he doesn't specialize in.

He starts strong in Chapter 2 "Can I Believe the Bible? The Issue of Historical Reliability" by showing how the New Testament stacks up against other ancient works.
The areas of concern are "Number of manuscripts," "the time interval between the date of writing and the earliest known manuscript" and "the rate of distortion of manuscripts due to copying errors." All three are very important indicators when testing whether or not what you're reading now is what was really written then and in all three areas, the New Testament stands up. In fact, it stands up tremendously over the other works being compared to it, i.e. the Iliad, the writings of Caesar and Aristotle, etc. The difference being that no one is trying to convince people to worship Achilles.

So the NT is popular, and has always been popular, this is true though its not really news. That being said, in my mind, being popular doesn't make it true, necessarily, but I can see why this chapter is important as a building block in the case for faith.

But that's it. He, essentially, rests his proverbial case there. The NT was written, it was popular and we can verify that a handful of the cultural events mentioned therein can be verified when cross referenced with other secular writings of the times. Also, all the disciples, but one, died a martyr's death, which they wouldn't have done if they hadn't really believed that they had seen these things. To me, that's the most interesting evidence but at the same time, how many people drank the kool-aid or gave up their lives for any number of religious leaders? People are willing to die for a lot of reasons, that alone doesn't make their cause just and true.

The next 2 chapters are just telling me what Christians believe about Jesus. Having grown up and believed the way I did, I already knew this stuff. He didn't offer me any reasoning, evidence or theory that I hadn't already heard and heard a lot so I didn't get much out of those chapters.

I took issue with Chapter 5 though, "Where am I? Analyzing unbelief, belief and doubt." According to Dr. Bierle, there are only 3 types of unbelief and they are:

1. IGNORANCE - unknowing, blind
2. DOUBT - distrust, skepticism, unsure, wavering, indecision
3. DECISION - willful, hard-hearted, rejection, rebellion, arrogant

Really? Those are the only 3? Where does "unconvinced" fit in? What about people who have heard everything there is to hear about Jesus and say, "that's not conclusive enough to warrant a belief in things I know to be impossible." Is it arrogant to be Jewish and not Christian, or Hindu and not Christian? Are all atheists hard hearted? The last two chapters of the book are spent essentially telling me that its only my ego and pride that keep me from Christianity and assuming that the New Testament's popularity has been enough to convince me. It was, at best, a little insulting. So I wondered, if this guy really has a mind trained to think scientifically, why is he content with this type of thinking? Why would he draw such drastic conclusions from what evidence is available?

And then he told me.

"It was during sophomore biology lab that I met a girl who saw life differently...Her influence set me on a spiritual search that lasted several years."

His wife, of course. Oh, the things we do for love. I get it, though. When Leah and I got together, she knew how important my faith was to me and even though she'd been raised in a secular Jewish family she felt a pull to share my faith, even though I swore to her that it wasn't important to me that she do that. Whenever we did go to church, it was very obvious how weird it was to her and that she didn't, or more likely couldn't, accept a lot of what was taught. Its a feeling that I now understand. When you're on the outside looking in, its a very different scene. Whenever I hear people speak in depth about their faith now, it almost feels like they might as well be talking about Santa Claus. And I, honestly, don't mean that to sound insulting or belittling but only to illustrate how much my perception has changed.

The other day I saw one of those car magnets that was obviously a parody of the Christian fish car magnets that people have, only this one had wings on the side of the fish that made it look like a rocketship and inside the fish it said "SCIENCE." I chuckled at that but when I thought about it, I don't think its that good of an idea. It makes it look like that person, probably an atheist or some kind of "freethinker", worships science, which no one really does. Science isn't a religion and while I put a lot of trust in doctors and scientists, its not a place for blind faith. It produces its best results under the most intense scrutiny, and that's the way, I think, it should be for everything.

Here's some scientific data that troubled me so, when I had faith.
The earth is over 4 billion years old. The human race as we know it (Homo sapiens sapiens) appeared on Earth over 150,000 years ago. Salvationist religions appeared less that 10,000 years ago. Why is it that we existed for more than 140,000 years before we needed saving? Dr. Bierle points out that, as Peter said, "He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." So either God is really bad at math, or something (else) is wrong here.

As for Surprised by Faith, I found that it is short on evidence and logic, big on guilt and very adequate with regurgitating F.F. Bruce and C.S. Lewis. People looking for support of beliefs that they've already decided to hold despite contradiction will find a lot to like about this book, but true skeptics won't find anything of real substance, I'm afraid. I did read it with the same amount of bias that anyone else would have, since I do already have certain thoughts in my head, but I must confess that when I was finished with it, I actually felt disappointed that he didn't have more to offer. Lee Strobel's Case for Faith came up short as well, but was still considerably stronger than this.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Do you think Gavin Rosdale will ever publish a book of poetry?

Some days, you just want to spend your morning looking at pictures of giant squids. Today is, apparently one of those days for me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"the dragon's awake..."

One of my favorite things in the world is when you rediscover records. The two records above are two records that everytime I put them in, I think "Why don't I listen to this all the time?" The first time I heard Kasabian it was on some late night show and I wasn't impressed but I picked up Empire on a whim on a trip to Toronto and it blows me away every time I listen to it. I bought GBV's Do the Collapse on a friend's recommendation and because it was produced by Rick Ocasek but, past a handful of songs, they never really grew on me too much. However, I heard Half Smiles of the Decomposed playing in a record store in Austin and had to pick it up immediately. I think it was their last official record, if I'm not mistaken, which I could be.

Today I took a Harry Potter quiz and got 75 out of 75 questions right but somehow, still didn't get on the leader board. I guess it was timed and I stopped and talked to my coworker for a while in the middle of it.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through Surprised by Faith and about 60% through reading Half-Blood Prince for the 6th time. Surprised by Faith is only 110 pages but its taking longer than it should. I'll talk a lot more about it when I'm completely done with it but suffice to say that its like watching a movie that you've already seen and didn't like but the people you're with insist that its a great movie and you just need to see it again. So you go, only to find that its still the same movie and you're out another $8 and two hours of your life. Maybe he'll wow me at the end.

As always, I miss my wife and daughter today and can't wait til 5 o'clock.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I can't believe I went as long as I did without owning an Ipod. Can you? No, I really can't.

I've been making music for a long time. Not Johnny Cash long but for over a decade. In that time I've met a lot of other musicians, some cool, some not so much. One band that I am incredibly happy to count as friends are The Rocketboys. They've just finished recording their, much anticipated, full length record 20,000 Ghosts and last night at midnight they posted a song from the record on their myspace page. I haven't heard it yet but their record is produced by Louie Lino, who you may remember produced 3 songs on our record, so I'm pretty sure its going to rock your entire ass off. Go listen to it, if you want to have a good day.

Our band has been fortunate to fall in with a sort of clique of bands that play together a lot and really enjoy and respect each other's music. I would say that our clique consists of:
The Rocketboys,
Jets Under Fire,
Magnolia Sons,
and until last year
The New Frontiers,
Ethan Durelle,
and Consider the Source (who all broke up).

Its nice to be friends with bands that you don't have to lie to all the time. You can actually say, "Hey your new record is fantastic," and mean it.
When I first started being in bands it was the late 90's and you couldn't play a show without there being at least one band on the bill trying their hardest to sound like Creed. It was kind of exhausting because they were usually nice guys and you'd get to be friendly before the show and before you actually heard them play. So after the show you'd feel obligated to say something positive even though the truth was that you'd rather hear a puppy's death rattle than listen to them play anymore music.

Now those bands have been replaced by what I call "Mall-core" bands. Luckily, at least in Texas, we don't have to play with a lot of bands that we don't already know and like, so we don't have to share the bill with bands like these as much nowadays. But for a while there, if I'd heard one more band trying to be My Chemical Romance, I was just going to run towards the nearest living thing and kill it.

That's why I'm glad to run in the crowd that we do. I feel like everyone's doing something different from everyone else but we all still love and understand what each other are doing. Good times.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Can he be president now?

This weekend started with some Friday night recording at Matt's studio, where I laid down some guitar and scratch vocals for "Jezebel," and another drum track for "Things You Already Know." Tommy had done some guitar earlier in the day but was already gone by the time Leah and I put Harper to bed and I made my way over. Matt did a rough mix of "Jezebel" and I'm really pleased. That boy's good at recording, yo! Every time we record I regret hiring Matt just a little bit less. Maybe one day I'll actually be glad he's around. I'm kidding, of course, he's easily the most talented person in the band and a real sweetheart to boot.

Saturday, Leah had to shoot a wedding (and by that I mean she participated in a drive by) so it was me and Harper all day. I got up and mowed the lawn, showered, put back on my pajamas and stayed in them for the rest of the day. Leah thought that I should be depressed after staying in my pajamas all day but how often do I get to do that? Not often. It was nice, and I was not depressed.

Harper is smiling a lot more now, which does wonders for a parent's self esteem. Whenever we go to get her out of her bed, after a nap or in the morning, she smiles really big when she sees us and it feels like we actually matter to her now. I love it. It doesn't hurt that it is, without a doubt, the cutest smile I've ever seen.

Sunday, Leah and I bought a propane grill and I spent more time than I would've liked putting it together. We made plans to use it but after the frustration of putting it together, I just wanted to get away from it and more importantly, get away from this 100+ degree heat. But Leah had already started preparing the food so we went ahead with the grilling and it was pretty delicious. I'm really proud of Leah. She's really putting a lot of effort into making our eating habits better and learning to cook. With the exception of some tangy chicken last week, everything she's found and tried has been awesome, so much so that fast food is starting to look much less appealing to us nowadays. Good job, wife.

Also this weekend I watched Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire and then just to remember how good Richard Harris is at being Dumbledore, Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets, which may be one of my favorites and I think a lot of people overlook it. I also watched The Shawshank Redemption while I was home with Harper. Oh what a world it would be if every movie was as beautiful or as good as The Shawshank Redemption.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My review of the Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince film

I'm not one those people who demand that movie adaptations be 100% true to their source material. I, generally, feel that if you want the book, read the book, if you want the movie, watch the movie. The simple fact that the medium is different makes it understandable that the plot will be shaped differently according to what does or does not work on film. So I haven't had a problem with any of the changes made between the Harry Potter books and movies, thus far.

Until last night.

Its weird, I don't really know how to write this review because there are so many great things about the movie but to me the few bad things ruined the experience. I'll start with what I liked.

1. The movie looks great. The cinematography, and effects are all amazing and I love how these movies just get darker and darker to reflect the atmosphere of danger that the characters are living in.
2. The performances are the best yet. With every HP movie I feel like the kids show improvement but this was the first one that made me actually stop and take notice that, hey, these people are really great actors now.
3. Its funny. Easily the funniest Harry Potter movie and with all of the teen romance going on, it lends itself easily to comic relief.
4. Its all about character development and when you care as much about the characters as I do, its really interesting. However, the real question is will all the humor, character development, and cinematography be enough to satisfy?

Now what I didn't like:
This was the first HP where not only did they hack out huge parts of the story but they supplemented the film with completely original and almost always pointless scenes. They took a lot of liberties this time that I didn't understand the need for because everything they did was less cool than the original story. My biggest qualm is that it pulls all of its emotional punches. So at the end of the movie I'm thinking, it was funny and well made but it didn't move me at all. Its not epic, its not intense and it really should have been. Its like being handed cotton candy when you ordered a steak. Really, all of this doesn't become apparent until the end of the movie where there is supposed to be a huge, crazy battle that the movie has very clearly been leading up to and then it just doesn't happen. What you get instead is the weakest possible version of what has to happen to set up the next movie. All in all, its a great movie that leaves you completely dissatisfied. I was so disappointed and it was the first HP that I didn't leave the theatre ready to see it again as soon as possible.

Also, why did Richard Harris have to die? And why did they cast Michael Gambon as Dumbledore in his stead? Over the course of the four movies that he's had the role, he's done so many things that make me go "Hey, Dumbledore would never do/act like that." I keep thinking that he'll grow on me, and I think Order of the Phoenix is the closest he's gotten to doing so, but he never does, really. He's just not Dumbledore. He doesn't embody the kindness, courtesy, and omniscience that Richard Harris very effortlessly displayed. When I saw those first two movies, the thing I was most impressed with was the casting. Every single person was exactly as I pictured them and Dumbledore especially. Half-Blood provided him ample opportunities to show that he really got the character of Dumbledore but instead, like always, he gave a performance that really makes me wonder if he's ever read a Harry Potter book. I find myself wishing that Sir Ian McKellen had deemed it prudent to portray two white wizards in his lifetime.

So, my overall opinion is that this would have been the best Harry Potter ever if it didn't go limp in all the wrong places. Still worth seeing, still worth owning, still a million times better than Twilight.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rejoice, all ye half-bloods and mudbloods! All ye muggles and squibs!

Not too terribly long ago, my wife made me go see Twilight. We went on opening day and ended up sitting at the front of the theatre because we only got there an hour early. At one point I turned and looked at the audience and counted maybe 5 other guys in a sea of women (we went to the Alamo Draft House to avoid the legion of 14 year old girls sure to populate the normal theatres). I don't mean to offend if you're one of those intense Twilight fans, but that movie is awful. Painfully awful, in fact. I haven't read the books but from what every person I've talked to about it says, the story is addictive but the writing is shit. I wasn't impressed with the story in the movie and I don't think I'd like to subject myself to writing that is shit even to the fans, so I've remained an active non-fan of Twilight. Anyway, as I was sitting in the theatre watching some of the worst special effects and acting I'd seen in a long time, all I could think was "I should be watching Harry Potter right now." The two movies were supposed to share a release date but HP was pushed back to summer so they could make more money.

But at long last, my day has arrived. Tonight, I will finally get to scratch the magical itch that has been plaguing me. I'm hoping we get good seats because, again, we'll only be able to get there an hour early. Paul and Gina will be joining us so it will be extra fun. I really can't explain how excited I am about this. I barely slept at all last night, which I don't know if its because of the movie or just because I happened to get a shitty night's sleep.

I've said it before, but for my money, Harry Potter is the single greatest work of fiction in the history of recorded story telling. Yes, I realize how bold of a statement that is. I've just never felt as connected to any fictional character the way I am to the characters in the Harry Potter series. We're already reading The Sorcerer's Stone to Harper every night at bedtime but I really can't wait until she's old enough to understand the story.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

For better or worse...the soundtrack of my life.

Here's another list of songs. This time, its a list of songs that have strong memories attached to them. They're not, necessarily, my favorite songs or bands, by any means.

Another Day In Paradise - Phil Collins
Phil Collins was the first singer that I can remember loving. My parents weren't terribly musical people but we'd listen to the radio and Phil was all over it in the 80's. There was just something dark and mysterious about his voice that I was enamored with.

All I Need Is A Miracle - Mike & the Mechanics
This was my first "favorite song." I caught the last half of it on the radio one day and instantly decided that it was my favorite. I actually bought this whole record not too long ago and its horrible. Oh well, that song's still catchy as hell.

No Treaties - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Coming Out of Their Shells Tour)
I loved anything Ninja Turtles, so when Pizza Hut was selling this promotional cassette my dad consented to get it for me. I listened to this tape way more, and for way longer than I really should have.

The Devil Went Down To Georgia - The Charlie Daniels Band
Country music became the rage in east Texas and my family was no exception. I loved songs that told a story and there aren't a lot of songs that do it better than TDWDTG. I bought a tape of Charlie Daniels greatest hits and there was a lot of cursing on the tape so my mom didn't know if I should be allowed to listen to it. Luckily, she gave in.

Time - Bride
I became obsessed with a plethora of Christian hair metal bands and Bride was the cream of the crop. Scarecrow Messiah was the first CD I ever bought, though I already had a lot of Bride tapes.

Adonai - The Supertones
My brother was more into this band than I was, but when I hear this song it definitely takes me back to the summer that Tooth and Nail records saved Christian music. Whatever I may think about the label now, they really were the first label to discover and bring relevant Christian music to the church mainstream. My youth group was obsessed with The Supertones and they even came and played at our church. The came with one of my favorite Tooth and Nail bands at the time, Stavesacre. However, after meeting Stavesacre that night, I never listened to them again, but I did make a promise to myself about how I would never treat fans, if I was ever lucky enough to have any.

Love - The Smashing Pumpkins
This is my all time favorite record, and when I hear this song I immediately think of carefree days in my room in White Oak, TX, playing Vectorman on Sega Genesis.

Fire Maple Song - Everclear
Another song that reminds me of sunny days in White Oak. When I hear this song, I can almost smell the pine trees.

Can't Stand It - Wilco
In the summer of 2002, I broke up with a long time girlfriend and Summerteeth is the record that I obsessed over during the debacle.

Baseline - Bleach
Bleach came and played at my church when I was 14 or 15 and they were amazing. They had just released their first record and my youth group was really into it. After the summer of 2002, I moved to Nashville and through mutual friends, got to know all the Bleach guys pretty well. I can, honestly, say that they are some of the most kind and genuine people that I've ever had the good fortune to know and I miss them, both as a band and as people.

Window - Damien Jurado
I'd never known a more beautiful sight than my wife walking down the aisle to this song.

Mr. Blue Sky - ELO
I'll always associate this song with the time that we played it for Harper while she was still in the womb and she jumped comically high.

Dear Prudence - The Beatles
This is the first song that Harper ever heard, outside of the womb.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My gayest post ever

A while back, an Austin gay & lesbian fashion magazine called L-Style/G-Style, did a feature about their top five gay friendly bands to check out at the South By Southwest Music Festival. Quiet Company felt very privileged to be included in the list. I'm not sure how they found out how gay friendly we are, though, since no one in the band is gay. The only thing I could think of is that I posted on the band's forum about my support for equal marriage rights a while back. Whatever it was, it made me feel good to be recognized as a friend of that community.

Last summer, the band went and played at the Cornerstone Music Festival in Illinois and if you don't know anything about Cornerstone, its the biggest Christian music festival in the U.S. that I know of. It was a great experience where we met a ton of really lovely people, several of which we still keep in close contact with. As it turns out, Cornerstone gets protested every year by a group of fundamentalist crazies that hang out outside the gate with signs that aren't too far of a cry from the kind the Westboro Baptist Church (the god hates fags people) use. One day at the festival, we decided to open a dialogue with one of these kooks and he didn't really want to talk to us but we got some pretty amusing video of the interaction, all the same. While I spent the better part of an hour trying to get this guy (a pastor) to specify what kind of music was actually OK with Jesus (its the Star Spangled Banner, and anything with bagpipes by the way...yeah, that's what he said), Tommy got anxious and walked on into the festival. As he walked he passed another protester holding what was probably the worst of the signs and it included a list of people who were, most definitely, hell bound. Of course, the list includes "gays, lesbians, liars, adulterers, fornicators, drunkards, drug addicts, prostitutes, thieves, liberals, etc." It may have even said "democrats" but I don't remember. As Tommy passed this person, the guy actually had the tenacity to ask Tommy "What do you think of my sign?" I love Tommy's response so much, largely because it came from Tommy, who thought the whole week was full of strange people doing strange things. But when confronted aggressively, he actually responds in a vernacular familiar to the oppressor, and says "I think you just cast the first stone," and didn't even break his stride. Classic. I don't understand people like that, that use their Bible as a weapon. I think the book has plenty of stories of "god's people" doing awful things in His name, but I just don't get why, in this day and age, you would have the desire to use it for those reasons.

While we were at Cornerstone, we made friends with a really lovely guy, who's name I won't mention. We spent almost all week hanging out with him and about halfway through the week, he and I were sitting on a hill talking and waiting for a show to start and I asked him if he had a girlfriend back home. He got visibly uncomfortable and told me that he had been gay but was trying not to be. My reaction was to instantly reach out and hug him, because my heart really went out to him. He's not the first friend that I've had that was told there was something wrong with him that could be fixed, when he confided in someone. So here's my opinion, no, scratch that, this is a fact. If there's anyone reading this that is struggling with their sexuality, there is nothing wrong with you, don't let anybody tell you different. You are just as normal and just as abnormal as everyone else. I don't, honestly, know if god loves us, but I figure you've got just as good a shot at it as anyone else. (I know the scriptures call it "an abomination" and all that but it says that about a lot of things. Here's a test: type "Bible abominations" into your google and see how many things that you do come up. Joe's Crabshack is full of people committing abominations 7 nights a week.)

This is really on my mind today because last night I watched a documentary called For the Bible Tells Me So.

It was one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. It tells the stories of 5 deeply religious families that have gay children and has really insightful interviews with a lot of church leaders. I would especially encourage anyone who thinks that the Bible speaks clearly on this issue to see this movie.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The purpose driven strife

Harry Potter week is finally upon us! Rejoice, true believers! We're seeing the movie Thursday night and I know you're all thinking what a poser I am for not going to the midnight showing on Wednesday, but I've got a kid now and that sort of thing just doesn't happen as easily nowadays. This movie looks AMAZING though, and I totally expect it to Avada Kedavra my ass.

Leah and I took Harper to east Texas this weekend. My brother and his family got to meet her for the first time, and I got to spend a lot of quality time with my niece and nephew. It was really great and Harper travelled well, which we were nervous about. But like a jackass, I accidentally left my computer, phone charger, and Harper's Baby Einstein mat at my parents house. Leaving my stuff sucks a lot but that mat is really the only toy Harper plays with so we're going to have to just buy something else for her.

A lot of you may know that I'm a huge proponent of the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, and for my money, its the single most powerful and transformative philosophy book that I've ever read. I've gotten a few people to read it and typically, there reaction is similar to my own. My brother is reading it now, on my recommendation and judging from his blog, I don't think he's going to be as affected by it as I was. Oh well. He is correct about what he says though, that the book does hinge on the reader already accepting certain facts. For instance, if you don't understand or just don't accept evolutionary theory then you will probably not agree with the rationale of Ishmael because the bulk of the ideas therein stem from humankind sharing the same humble origins as everything else in nature.

I also got my mom to read it not too long ago but I think one of the only reasons she consented to do so was so that she could get me to read a Christian book of her choosing. I'm not sure how even these scales are though: I ask her to read one book and then I have to read another one on top of spending almost 30 years obsessing over the religion of her choice. I'm kidding and I digress, I'm happy to do it. After all, if there is a viable reason out there to jump back into the fold, I'd love to hear it. That being said, if 26 years in the church isn't long enough to have heard all the arguments in favor of Christianity, then what are we doing in church so much?

The book she's chosen for me is Surprised by Faith by Dr. Don Bierle. My problems with the book start early, with the front and back covers. They advertise that Dr. Bierle is a "scientist" but never say what kind. They talk about how he studied life sciences but never say which ones; he's a doctor but what kind? It does say that he holds M.A. and Ph.D degrees in life sciences and an M.A. in New Testament studies. In the preface he talks about how much education he's had which is impressive to me, who has very little education past high school, but he also talks in detail about how devoutly religious his family was and how he was somewhat groomed for the ministry as early as age 14. And with that admission his arguments become somewhat tainted to me. He's been indoctrinated from a young age just like most religious people and that gives him a motive: a desire to return to the comforting religion of his family. I know because I feel it too, and I'm not saying that this is definitely how he is but just that it seems probable to someone like me. Somewhere between 14 and college Dr. Bierle became a skeptic and that's where he starts Chapter 1. I was actually really impressed at the beginning of this chapter because he really seems to get how I feel and understand the problems I see in the plausibility of it all. I guess he was a skeptic after all. A persons perspectives on religion and spirituality are really contingent on the question "at what point are you satisfied?" and pretty quickly, it becomes apparent that Dr. Bierle is far more easily satisfied than I am, at least on the topic of the first chapter which is, essentially, "what is the meaning of life?"

He poses the question "Do we have a purpose in life?" That's a good question, and I say "yes." He agrees but he thinks that the only way to have a real purpose in a finite universe is to have an infinite god give you one. I disagree. He postulates an analogy which essentially says that all the world exists for humankind's eventual benefit and therefore an infinite god must exist. Because there's soil, and soil's only purpose is to grow grass, who's only purpose is to feed cows. And why do cows exist? It can't possibly be for the sake of existing because that doesn't go along with our romantic idea of human purpose. Cows exist to give us meat, but don't tell the cows, they'll just lose all hope. I'm oversimplifying and paraphrasing, of course, but I think I'm giving you the broad strokes. I think that its far more reasonable to say that because soil exists, its possible for grass to grow, and because grass grows, its possible for cows to eat, and because cows die, its possible for grass to grow, etc. Its a system that sustains itself, see?

In the first chapter, for Dr. Bierle, he's satisfied with a god as long as it meets two requirements:
1: God must be infinite.
2: God must be personal.

He has to be infinite because he's the one thing that is OK without a purpose and he has to be personal because he has to be able to reciprocate affection. Why we NEED god to be personal to be relevant, he doesn't say. "Eastern" religions' gods are infinite but not personal and "western" religions' gods are personal but not infinite but there is one bowl of proverbial porridge that's just right. Somehow, just because Christianity meets the needs that this "scientist" has laid out for himself, that is proof that it is the religion that 3 out of 3 celestial beings prefer.

I'm only about 1/4 of the way through this book and I'm not sure if he's building evidence for a big picture or if he's attacking skeptical issues one by one. It certainly seems to be the latter as all the chapters are titled and geared towards a particular problem. So far, the section "What am I here for? The Crisis of Purpose and Meaning" fails to make any headway in proving or rationalizing anything other than the fact that the good doctor can't fathom a world where things simply exist.

I know that there are religious people out there who live every day like they're on a mission and spend their time and their money working towards a better world, and they feel like they're doing god's work and believe that god gave them purpose in life and rightly so. Most people I know aren't like that though. They get up, go to work, come home and hopefully spend time with loved ones or work on whatever it is they're passionate about...or maybe just veg out and watch TV until its time to do it all over again. This is the day to day for people of faith and people without any, alike. If god gives us purpose, I have a hard time seeing what it could possibly be, unless its just to do this: exist. I said that I believe we have purpose, but I believe we make it for ourselves. I love being a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend and I love making music. Those are the things I'm passionate about and I feel like those are the things that give my life purpose. It really makes me sad when religious people that I love say that without god we'd have no purpose.

We'd still have each other.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

No, as a matter of fact, I don't think "Harry Potter & My Left Nut" is an appropriate title for a book.

Maybe its because we're a week away from the movie or maybe just because we've been reading The Sorcerer's Stone to Harper every night, but either way, I've fallen back into my Potter addiction. I've spent all day reading The Half Blood Prince and looking at fan sites. I don't know what the point is, really. I know, generally, everything interesting there is to know about Harry Potter. I think I'd give my left nut to be a wizard for a day. I'd probably start that day by using my powers to regrow my left nut, though.

Another thing I did today was take a Bible quiz. Its made by the Freedom From Religion Foundation so obviously, the questions are cherry-picked to make the scriptures look strange and sick. That being said, those things are actually in there and sometimes the scriptures are just strange and sick. So it goes. Chalk it up to cultural relativity if you want, but, unfortunately, there's only so much you can account for with that explanation.

I did really well on the quiz (48 out of 50 questions correct), but I'm really curious to see how well the people that read this blog would do, particularly the Christians. The trick is, when you don't know the answer, just pick the weirdest one. I had to do that a few times.

Lastly, this is a reminder that if you haven't called your state senator about Cynthia Dunbar yet, you really need to. With Don McLeroy, it was all about Evolution vs. Creationism, the right vs. the left. But I think that, in Cynthia Dunbar, we've all found a common enemy (assuming that we all care about the education of our young people). This is a woman who openly hates the very idea of public education. To borrow an analogy, its like hiring an arsonist to be fire chief. For Liberals, she represents a lot of what we hate about stereotypical conservatism, for Conservatives, she's an embarrassment, making ignorant statements on par with a drunk Sarah Palin. The fact that she's even on the board of education is gross, the idea that she could be put in charge of it is flat out depressing. Find your senator, tell them what you think. Let them know that globally competitive education is important to you and your tax dollars. THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Deuteronomy 25:11-12

So today, I am feeling patriotic again. I just got off the phone with my senator's office and now I want you to pick up your phone and call yours. If you don't know who your senator is then go here and find out. There's a "find my senator" widget at the bottom of the page.

Remember a while back when Rick Perry nominated Don McLeroy, an ultra Conservative dentist, for chairman of the board of education? Well, luckily, he was defeated. But, remember how I said that I was concerned that Perry would just nominate someone worse? Well, its not official yet but its looking like he's going to. Her name is Cynthia Dunbar and she's very open about her disdain for public education, which to me is a giant red flag when you're looking for someone to be chairperson of the Board of Education.

In a book published last year, Dunbar argued the country’s founding fathers created “an emphatically Christian government” and that government should be guided by a “biblical litmus test.” She endorses a belief system that requires “any person desiring to govern have a sincere knowledge and appreciation for the Word of God in order to rightly govern.”

Also in the book, she calls public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.”

The Establishment of public schools is unconstitutional and even “tyrannical,” she wrote, because it threatens the authority of families, granted by God through Scripture, to direct the instruction of their children.

Dunbar home-schooled her own children.

First off, there are few things more annoying than when right wingers imply that our founding fathers were saintly men who wore their devout faith in Christianity on their sleeves. It takes about 10 minutes of research to figure out that most of our founding fathers were Deists, and had quite a bit of disdain for religion. Take the George Washington approved Treaty of Tripoli, for instance. "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;..."
Here's a quote from Ben Franklin's autobiography, "But I was scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns several points as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of the Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of the sermons which had been preached at Boyle’s Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them. For the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to be much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist."
And then there's Jefferson who called himself a Christian from time to time but only because he got down with the moral philosophy of Jesus. However, he took a pair of scissors to his bible and hacked out all the things he considered to be superstitious, miraculous or mystic. When speaking of god he was known to, more often than not, use the popular Deist term, "Nature's God."

I digress. If you want to get a clear view of our founding fathers religion and skepticism, its pretty easy to find.

The real problem at hand is this Dunbar lady. Can we not, honestly, find someone better for this job? Someone who doesn't already think the very idea of public education is morally wrong? Someone who isn't, very clearly, intending to use the position to push their ideals into the education system?

It doesn't matter if you have kids now or not, because this is a fight that will affect how our nation's future leaders are educated. The biggest, most important thing that parents and schools can teach children is how to think, not what to think.

ps. Here is some more crazy shit Cynthia Dunbar said. Apparently, Obama is plotting with terrorists to attack the U.S. and he's going to institute martial law. Yeah...that sounds reasonable.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I used to enjoy smoking tobacco but my wife really hates it, so I quit. Its not a big deal, I doubt I could afford it now anyways.

Tonight, after Harper goes to sleep, I'll be going over to Matt's apartment/recording studio to do some more work on the new Quiet Company EP. This will be the first thing we've released where I've actually allowed myself to play the drums on an entire song. I played a tiny bit on Everyone You Love... but just enough for us to sample. I'm still hoping that Jeff plays the bulk of the drums but its difficult because he's still living in Waco for a little while longer. Luckily, Matt's really good at making my bad drumming sound acceptable so none of you will notice how unskilled I really am...probably.

I'm really excited about this EP, even though its clearly comprised of songs we didn't think were good enough to put on Everyone You Love... I think its going to sound terrific, in fact, I think it may be the best sounding thing we've done. Also, new recordings allow me a certain kind of relief. I'm always writing songs and by the time I get to record those songs, I'm kind of sick of them and excited about a whole new batch of songs. So every recording clears out a handful of songs and lets me get on with my life, at least until I'm frustrated by a different batch. Perhaps it would be better if I could just fully appreciate the work we're currently doing and not be so anxious about the work on the horizon, but then, perhaps it wouldn't.

I'm not a planner, really. My wife is, and she's very good at it. When I try to be, history has revealed that I am not good at it. There is one area of my life where I tend to be able to plan and carry through pretty well, though, and that is with music. I had the songs and the title for Everyone... decided two years before we actually got around to recording it. I knew that I wanted it to have certain themes and to pull heavily from Vonnegut and loosely from Ishmael, and I knew that I wanted it to portray a progression in my personal life and my convictions. I think I did OK at all of those things, for the most part. With the new EP and inevitably the third full length, things are no different. I've already got most of the songs and themes and titles worked out or at least started on. This is how I see the progression going:

Shine Honesty - A young Christian man in love sings songs about his future, and he has a few qualms with his faith.
Everyone You Love Will be Happy Soon - The young man gets married and sings songs about it while his concerns about his faith and his mortality distance him from his religion.
Songs For Staying In (tentative title) EP - The young man sings 4 songs about love and love-making and one song about how his friend dated a tramp once.
We Are All Where We Belong (tentative title) - The young man has become a father and sings songs about that. He completely separates himself from his former faith while celebrating love and life.

While writing for the third record, its becoming apparent what the themes will be and so we considered the idea of basically trying to make a record that pulled on all the same emotions that a praise & worship record would, but have the lyrics centered around Humanist ideas. We just wanted to see if we could do it and make it equally powerful. However, after some thought, it occurred to us that if we tried to do that, we'd, essentially, just be trying to make a U2 record and we decided against it. I love U2 but I'm not trying to recreate The Joshua Tree, although sometimes I wish they were. I've spent a lot of time in and around praise and worship bands and if we're being honest, 90% of them are just trying to make another U2 record but I doubt any of them will ever pen another "Where the Streets Have No Name."

Monday, July 6, 2009

People say we monkey around...

Leah and I had a great weekend. Took it easy, cooked a lot, had friends over. Jen and Jarrod came over for dinner on Saturday and Leah and I made fettuccine Alfredo and some sort of baked tomato with bread crumbs and cheese all over it. Last night Paul and Gina brought over more ribs than I could possibly eat and then we all played with their two year old son, Ryan, in the sprinkler. It occurred to me that if there hadn't been a toddler in the mix, no one would've had a clue how to have fun with a sprinkler. Its weird to think about how you see things as a kid that you just don't see as an adult. I look at a sprinkler and can't fathom on my own how you could possibly derive fun from running through it. To me, it gets you just wet enough to be annoying, but Ryan obviously looks at it and sees a miraculous invention that simply must exist for his enjoyment and no other purpose. But when we watched him playing in the water we found ourselves remembering, at least a little, how sprinklers can be fun and everyone got pretty soaked.

When I was a kid, I'd see a tree and the only thoughts that occurred to me were about how amazing it would be to climb it and all the ways to go about doing so. Now, I still think those things but my thoughts of adventure are more often than not strangled by thoughts of all the different ways I could bust my ass, doing irreparable damage to my body and/or dignity. Maybe its because as a kid you have less invested in the world. As an adult I am conscious of the fear at all times. I can't let anything happen to me because I've got people that count on me and tons of shit I need to get done. Aside from leaving my loved ones, my greatest fear about death is dying before I get to accomplish everything I want to. I would be so pissed if I died in the middle of making a record. Timing is everything.

Harper is pretty much sleeping through the night now, so I'm feeling better rested than I have in about 2 months, which is nice. She loves her mother so much. Leah doesn't agree but I think she smiles way more at Leah than she does at me. I don't mind so much, Leah's pretty great and I certainly understand why someone would prefer her.

Leah and I watched our wedding video yesterday and it was pretty awful. So boring and my brother in law, who filmed it, shot the floor as often as he shot anything else. When it got to the part where Leah was telling me her vows I started tearing up. I didn't cry at the actual wedding, mind you, just while watching a horrible video of it. What is that?!? That was a great day, though. I had so much fun at our wedding and I remember exactly how I felt about my wife on that day. I remember it so well because its still the way I feel about her today, only now I think I respect her a lot more. Not that I didn't respect her then, but watching your wife through pregnancy allows you to see her in a different light, and its a beautiful thing.

Friday, July 3, 2009

OK but this is seriously the last one...

PZ Meyers posted this and I just thought it was so appropriate that I decided to repost it here. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The only magic I believe in is love / The only religion I belong to is music.

I've realized something about myself today. Something that I've known for a while but today, chosen to embrace. Everyone has something that they don't like about themselves and I think I've figured out what my least favorite trait is.

As you may or may not know, I was raised in a devoutly Christian home that was full of both love and support. My parents, believing in Christianity themselves, obviously thought it best to make sure my brother and I were in church as often as possible. I completely understand why they thought and did this so I'm not in anyway questioning their intentions or love for us, its just part of the story. So from an early age, the church teaches you that nothing in the world is as important as your salvation and faith. Only you can be responsible for your salvation and it is more important than your friends or your family or, literally, anything else in life. Because it lasts forever, right? Its the one thing that you'll have forever. The importance of faith was so ingrained in my mind, that by the time I was in high school, I was constantly thinking about religion. It made sense though, because I believed that it was that important and I lived my life by it.

Now its several years later and I don't believe it anymore but now I just think about how I don't believe it all the time. Its maddening and I really hate it about myself. But I guess if we've learned nothing else from the apostle Paul, its that zealous people will always be zealous no matter what side they play for.

I think its admirable and necessary for the faithless to be vocal and if I've made anyone question their faith by what I've written here then I'm very proud of that. I started this blog because I wanted to try my hand at writing and knowing that I would talk about religion because, as I said, I think about it way more than I would like to. Also, religion provides me with a seemingly endless supply of topics with a lot of different angles to discuss. But the Internet is a strange place to talk about heavy issues, and its especially difficult to try and talk about things with a bit of dry wit and have it come across the page the way you intended. Things I write and think are funny, someone else reads and thinks they're inflammatory. So it goes.

So people get offended and while that was certainly not my intention, I'm not a moron, I knew it would happen. Most of the people that get offended are my family, but I told myself (now I'm not so sure), that in the long run this would be good for us all because I haven't felt like my family has really known me in a long long time. Which is my fault. I act differently around them because I know that I think and say things in my normal life that would be gravely offensive to them. So its a labor of love, this censorship. Its the same reason I never told them when I was having faith crippling doubts or flirting with suicide because god's silence had convinced me that he had abandoned me. You just don't want to trouble them, you know?

So I guess, if I have any resentment towards the church, or god, or Christianity, its not towards the people, its towards the belief system and the years I feel like I wasted thinking that god had a plan for me. But I don't think I'm going to write about religion anymore, at least for a little while. I don't feel like I've said too much, in fact, I don't feel like I've said enough but I'd like to try my hand at being a normal person for a little while. I'm not the only skeptic in town though, so if you feel like you'd really like to be offended or agreed with, might I recommend PZ Myer's blog Pharyngula.

One of my favorite songs from 2006 is "Rise Up, Rise Up!" by Cursive, where at the climax of the song Tim Kasher sings "Do you want to hear my confession, my greatest sin? OK, here it is: I wasted half my life on the thought that I'd live forever."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Who do you like better, Belle or Sebastian?

I've heard a lot of people say that the birth of their children solidified their belief that humankind is so beautiful that it could only have been intentionally designed by some higher power, i.e. god. I certainly understand the sentiment when I think about how amazing and beautiful my daughter is. That being said, since she's been born, its only served to further convince me of our evolution from the same family that produced the ape. She's adorable as hell, and sometimes, especially when she's sitting up kind of slumped over, I think she looks very monkey-esque.

Once, when we were on tour in Washington, D.C., Leah and I visited the zoo there and spent the lion's share of our time at the gorilla exhibit. Everything about them, from their facial expressions to the way they move and interact with one another, is so "human" and amazing. I don't understand people who are, essentially, insulted by the idea that we could possibly share almost all of our genes with them (incidentally, their indignity doesn't stop it being true). I guess they would rather believe that god instantaneously created us in his image, because we're arrogant and that belief elevates us above nature. That's one of the biggest problems in the world, if not the single biggest problem. Here's the god's honest truth: if god exists, then you are no more important to him/her/it/them than the mice in the field or the termite in the wall. He/she/it/they don't care if your basketball team beats someone else's basketball team, and it doesn't matter how much you pray for that victory. There's probably someone on the other team, who may or may not have more faith than you, praying for the same thing. When you get badly injured in an accident and seemingly miraculously pull through, its the doctors that worked tirelessly on putting you back together that are the heroes. God's not hanging out above the hospital bed, impressed with himself about how dramatic its about to be when he saves your ass.

The flip side of that, of course, is that while we're no more important, we're certainly no less beautiful.

Our culture has made us so insecure that we have worked diligently to convince ourselves that we exist outside or above nature, but in actuality, we most certainly do not. For some people, the idea that god isn't particularly interested in your day to day is disheartening and they might say that religion is good because at the very least it gives us purpose. Well, I say that I've got no religion and oodles of purpose. For instance, tonight my purpose will be to have a nice dinner with a beautiful lady. As my personal hero, Kurt Vonnegut, so elegantly put it, "We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anyone tell you different."

Also, I haven't heard it yet, but our friends Jets Under Fire released their second free EP and its available for download here. As I said, I haven't heard it yet but I'll be downloading it as soon as I get home. Their last one was fantastic and was a notable improvement from their impressive debut record.