Dude, this video. Watch it through. It's not just an amazing song. Lyrics below the video if you want to follow along.
Are we the ones left behind
by those who weave cords that bind
They draw the marrow from our very bones
And we in-turn turn on our own
Stood in line in horse-hair shirts
We cued up to eat the dirt
We traded lumps on narrow streets
And bite the hand when you've no teeth
And it's a standing ovation for the shadow of a stone
As we dig into the soil beneath our homes
The future's further day by day, as our father's turn away
And he was clinging to a mother who eats her own
The granite gaze upon us now
A skulking mass recalling how
To plant a secret and tell no lies
For now we own those same-stone eyes
And it's the last gasp of wonder for a cretin on a throne
As our daughters sneak away across the phone
The future's just a thing we say to keep the sordid past at bay
And still we cling onto the mother who eats her own
We are the ones left behind
In swaddling bound with baling twine
They stole the marrow from our very bones
And we in-turn turn on our own
I'm testing the idea that listening to a song too much makes you eventually get sick of it. So far, I'm failing.
My daughter discovered Misterwives recently and said I might like them. As a snobby audiophile I clucked my tongue, listened with arms crossed, and then listened again and again and again. Now I'm almost dancing in my seat at my coworking office and avoiding eye contact.
Check out Misterwives - "Reflections." They have a newer album, but this song from a couple of years ago is my jam right now...
Any reader of this blog should know I love the music of Brandi Carlile. One of the most talented singer-songwriters in the world.
A new album with artists like Pearl Jam, Old Crow Medicine Show, Adele, and the Avett Brothers covers the songs of Carlile's The Story album. Everything about this has me completely interested.
Here's Dolly Parton's cover of the title track, which is amazing.
Watch, and then listen to the rest of the album streaming free thanks to NPR.
There are a few times every year that I hear of a good music review and check out an album and become entranced. Michael Kiwanuka has done that to me with his album Love & Hate. Only $5 to download, or enjoy on a streaming service you use. Here's the song I can't stop playing, "Cold Little Heart." The opening is 6 1/2 minutes long and then it gets into the song and I never want the opening to end, and then it does, and I'm so glad because it's this whole other thing. What an epic this is. Hope you enjoy it.
I've been pretty busy this year, so I have a long list I could give but I don't feel like I've listened deeply enough to do 30 albums justice. But I can give you five that I think are the bees' knees. My lists all the way back to 2006 are below. Enjoy! And please let me know your favorites!
5. Pinegrove - Cardinal
4. Frank Ocean - Blonde
1. Bon Iver - 22, A Million
Hands down, the bestest of the bestest. Yeah, I know, it's quirky and weird and whatever. It's almost perfect as work of art depicting the messy clamor through darkness and struggle in the search for something more. It's longing and wanting and waiting and a whole bunch of things that should make the thoughtful listener think and seek alongside Vernon. It's the kind of spiritual pursuit that I want from art. It's not easy. But it's really good.
Try: 33 "God" | Full Concert
Previous Years -- Best Albums
When my kids or my wife have a birthday, I stay up the night before until they are in bed and then I hang up streamers and sometimes other decorations in the kitchen and living room. I've been doing it for years because my wife tells me to and because I'm tall enough to do it without any help. It's a neat tradition, to awaken on your birthday and have a festive house just for you.
Today is my birthday and THIS is what I got...and it proves how much my family understands my sense of humor and how much they love me. I couldn't have smiled any wider!
Bon Iver's new album, 22, A Million, is frontrunner for album of the year for me. This lyric video for one of my favorite tracks, "8 (circle)," is all it needs to be. Provoking and confounding and grappling for something. Will he find it?
After 12+ years pastoring at Doxa Fellowship in Woodstock, Illinois, I've accepted a new job working for Ed Stetzer and his Mission Group. I'll be doing work as a Content Strategist for Mission Group to help develop resources to equip the Church for the mission. Molly and I, along with our four kids, are very excited about this new chapter of life and ministry.
Our plan, God-willing, is to stay in Woodstock for Jack's senior year and to move near Wheaton, Illinois soon after that. My last Sunday at Doxa is this Sunday, October 2nd.
Thanks for your prayers during our time at Doxa and we ask that you might ask God to help us through this transition, for our needs as we hope to stay local for a while longer for the good of our kids, and for our church as we leave.
Here's this year, as well as all previous back to 2006.
This hasn't been a great year of music for me. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm getting old, maybe I'm out of touch. Or maybe I haven't been looking in the right places because the new album (and last album?) by Slow Dakota has moved me.
PJ Sauerteig (Slow Dakota) is headed to NYU law school but not before giving us a thoughtful and Christ-haunted album called The Ascension of Slow Dakota (or Spotify). Check out "The Lilac Bush" with the lyrics also posted below. Wonderfully done.
One day I came close
To giving up my ghost:
I put my chin inside
A mouth of knotted rope!
But instead of stopping,
My heart began to fly.
A dove perched on my shoulder
And whispered in my ear:
“Each day God comes home
With lilacs from His bush;
He picks them all for you,
His chosen darkling thrush!”
Around 1992 the African Nobel Prize winning poet, Wole Soyinka, spoke at Southern Illinois University campus and I got to attend my first poetry reading as a budding poet and undergrad. After hearing of the death of Muhammad Ali the memory of that reading and the refrain "ohh Ali, Ali" from his poem "Muhammad Ali at the Ringside, 1985" has been ringing in my ears in Soyinka's remarkable voice. I want to introduce it to you. I believe this is only a part of the poem (I can't find the text online), but it's wonderful.
Audio Download: Muhammad Ali at the Ringside
UPDATE: Nick Roark posted the text in the comments so I added them here. Thanks Nick!
The arena is darkened. A feast of blood
Will follow duly; the spotlights have been borrowed
For a while. These ringside prances
Merely serve to whet the appetite. Gladiators,
Clad tonight in formal mufti, customised,
Milk recognition, savour the night-off, show-off
Rites. Ill-fitted in this voyeur company,
The desperate arm-wrap of the tiring heart
Gives place to social hugs, the slow-count
One to ten to a snappy "Give-me-five!"
Toothpaste grins replace the death-mask
Rubber gumshield grimaces. Promiscuous
Peck-a-cheek supplants the Maestro's peek-a-boo.
The roped arena waits; an umpire tests the floor,
Tests whiplash boundaries of the rope.
The gallants' exhibition rounds possess
These foreplay moments. Gloves in silk-white sheen
Rout lint and leather. Pack Rabane rules the air.
A tight-arsed soubrette checks her placard smile
To sign the rounds for blood and gore.
Eased from the navel of Bitch-Mother Fame
A microphone, neck-ruffed silver-filigree,
As one who would usurp the victor's garland-- stabs the air
for instant prophesies. In cosy insulation, bathed
In tele-glow, the distant homes have built
Their own vicarious rings-- the forecast claimed
Four million viewers on the cable deal alone;
Much "bread" was loaded on the scales
At weighing hour-- till scores are settled. One
Will leave the fickle womb tonight
Smeared in combat fluids, a broken foetus.
The other, toned in fire, a dogged phoenix
Oblivious of the slow countdown of inner hurts
Will thrust his leaden fists in air
Night prince of the world of dreams.
One sits still. His silence is a dying count.
At last the lens acknowledges the tested
Hulk that dominates, even in repose
The giddy rounds of furs and diamond pins.
A brief salute-- the camera is kind,
Discreetly pans, and masks the double-talk
Of medicine-men-- "Has the syndrome
But not the consequence." Promoters, handlers
It's time to throw in the towel-- Parkinson's
Polysyllables have failed to tease a rhyme
From the once nimble Louisville lips.
The camera flees, distressed. But not before
The fire of battle flashes in those eyes
Re-kindled by the moment's urge to centre-stage.
He rules the night-space even now, bestrides
The treacherous domain with thighs of bronze,
A dancing mural of delights. Oh Ali! Ale-e-e...
What music hurts the massive head tonight, Ali!
The drums, the tin-cans, the guitars and mbira of Zaire?
Aa-lee! Aa-lee! Aa-lee Bomaye! Ali Bomaye!
The Rumble in the Jungle? Beauty and the Beast?
Roll-call of Bum-a-Month. The rope-a-dope?
The Thrilla in Manila?-- Ah-lee! Ah-lee!
"The closest thing to death" you said. Was that
The greatest, saddest prophesy of all? Oh, Ali!
Black Tarantula whose antics hypnotise the foe!
Butterfly side-slipping death from rocket probes
Bee whose sting, unsheathed, picks the teeth
Of the raging hippopotamus, then fans
The jaws' convergence with its flighty wings.
Needle that threads the snappy fangs
Of crocodiles, knots the tusks of elephants
On rampage. Cricket that claps and chirrups
Round the flailing horn of the rhinoceros,
Then shuffles, does a bugle, tap-dances on its tip.
Esu with faces turned to all four compass points,
Astride a weather-vane; they sought to trap him,
Slapped the wine each time. He brings a message--
All know the messenger, the neighborhood is roused--
Yet no one sees his face, he waits for no reply,
Only that combination three-four calling-card,
The wasp-tail legend: I've been there and gone.
Mortar that goads the pestle: Do you call that
Pounding? The yam is not yet smooth--
Pound, dope, pound! When I have eaten the yam,
I'll chew the fibre that once called itself
A pestle! Warrior who said, I will not fight,
Yet proved a prophet's call-to-arms against a war.
Cassius Marcellus, Warrior, Muhammad Prophet,
Flesh is clay, all, all too brittle mould.
The bout is over. Frayed and split and autographed,
The gloves are hung up in the Hall of Fame--
Still loaded, even from that first blaze of gold
And glory. Awed multitudes will gaze,
New questers feast on these mementoes
And from their shell-shocked remnants
Re-invoke the spell. But the sorcerer is gone,
The lion withdrawn to a lair of time and space
Inaccessible as the sacred lining of a crown
When kings were kings, and lords of rhyme and pace.
The enchantments is over, but the spell remains.
-Wole Soyinka, "Muhammad Ali at the Ringside, 1985" in The Muhammad Ali Read, Ed. Gerald Early (New York: Harper, 1998), 227-229.
Our Woodstock poetry group, Atrocious Poets, was brought in to interact with our local and amazing art show, 4th Fridays. Artists come from far away to show their stuff.
We read some poetry inside, some outside. Some poems were our own and some from famous poets. Our fearless leader, Sophie, was sitting at an old Royal typewriter and writing "Atrocious Poetry While You Wait." The response blew us away. She wrote dozens of poems. My specialty was reading outside at an entrance point where everyone who entered funnelled in. I wrote one poem in particular I was excited to use and it really only served the purpose of this event. Here it is for you, and it should be read aloud in the style of a carnival barker.
For an event like this I wanted the poem to be quick to grab attention but not for long. It's an introduction to the rest of the show.
Ladies and gentlemen
boys and girls,
welcome to the greatest show
Come one, come all
come short, come tall
step right up and pay the price
to see these wonders captured
by untamed imaginations,
by hearts enraptured.
Enter the scenes
these artists have made,
leave the week’s work
and worries behind
and find in what
you see displayed
beauty and truth
for heart and mind.
Now go, enjoy,
drink deep this night
we hope in art
you may see light.
The night was a huge success and it was really just us dipping our toes in the water in preparation for a few other things we want to do the next show we participate in. Can't wait!
Carl Sandburg: The great Chicago poet who looked carefully at his city and wrote everyman sort of poetry about them. Here one about the "Clark Street Bridge" which is near the famous corn cob buildings and a hundred other urban wonders. This bridge is only a few blocks from where we stay in Chicago during Elijah's crohn's treatments and was directly on our path back to the train station. Sandburg was the first to call Chicago the "City of Big Shoulders."
DUST of the feet
And dust of the wheels,
Wagons and people going,
All day feet and wheels.
Now. . .
. . Only stars and mist
A lonely policeman,
Two cabaret dancers,
Stars and mist again,
No more feet or wheels,
No more dust and wagons.
Voices of dollars
And drops of blood
. . . . .
Voices of broken hearts,
. . Voices singing, singing,
. . Silver voices, singing,
Softer than the stars,
Softer than the mist.
What poems do you write about your city, your streets, the people you meet and see along the way? Don't just go where you are going. Truly see the marvels around you as you go and then sit and write something beautiful about it.