Tuesday, March 20, 2007

conversations in a public restroom

I swear a saw a 60+ year old man yesterday with a proper mohawk and a limp. I’m talking about a wrinkled 60+ year old man, who was walking with a limp, and who was sporting a proper six or seven inch long mohawk. It was unbelievable and I had to do a double take just to make sure I had just seen what I had just seen. My hat’s off to you sir. For all I know, you were the original punk!

I was grabbing dinner at a pub the other night when I decided to go into the wash room to wash my hands. Public transport is where dirt and germs go to find new homes. So I washed my hands and then decided that I also needed to use the bathroom. So I made my way over to the latrine and that’s when one of the strangest conversations I’ve ever had in a wash room began. First the guy who was standing beside me asked, “you wash your hands before you go to the toilet?” To which I replied with the sort of stupid joke that a guy in a pub wash room might respond to another guy with (I like to keep it clean, for instance). But then the guy went on to give me his discourse on germs in wash rooms. About how they multiply there and then get blown around for people to breath in when somebody uses the hand dryer (I actually share this guy’s hate for hand dryers). But then he said something to me that I’ve found puzzling ever since. As if to verify the fact that he knew what he was talking about, he informed me that he had AIDS. Now listen, I know that we’ve come a long way when it comes to the discussion and the public’s understanding of HIV and AIDS, but have we yet arrived at a point where it’s perfectly normal to share that kind of information with a complete stranger in a public rest room? I didn’t think we had, but evidently I was wrong.

The guy didn’t seem saddened by the fact, nor did he seem to be looking for sympathy, so I didn’t quite know how to respond. I just kind of shook my head and continued to listen to him talk, finally washing my hands and joining my table mates with the apparent news that any topic was now on the table between strangers in public rest rooms.

Incidently, thank you to all who contributed to my last post, and Danielle, never write in my comment section again!

Monday, March 12, 2007

alphabet of greatness

So, for whatever reason, I started thinking about making a list of the greatest artists and/or bands at each letter. Below is what I came up with. Bare in mind that it is an extremely biased list and I’m happy to hear your own thoughts on anybody I might have missed. Before I begin, I have to point out the tragedy of letters like B, J and T which had, to say the least, stiff competition.

At letter A we have Aretha Franklin. This is a popular vote, for obvious reasons, but I chose her because of an aria I once heard her sing on short notice. She was unbelievable and I knew that night that she was among the greatest singers in the world. Having said that, honourable mention goes out to Al Green, Annie Lenox, and AC/DC. Somebody will want to mention Alanis Morresette here and, while it’s true that Jagged Little Pill is one of my all time favourite albums, Alanis has had only a handful of good songs since.

At letter B I’ll break my own rule and choose an artist who was actually in a band, Brian Wilson. I went with Wilson simply because he was The Beach Boys. He wrote all the songs and did all the arrangements. It wouldn’t have mattered who the other members of the band were, they’d have sounded just like The Beach Boys did. That band might as well have been called The Beach Boy. Having said that, honourable mentions go out to Barry Manilow (completely underrated and the KING of sad songs), B.B. King, Billie Holiday, Billy Joel, Billy Idol, Bob Marley (if only for his political importance), and the Beastie Boys.

At letter C I’ll go with Curtis Mayfield and throw shout outs to Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, Coldplay, and, the greatest voice in modern day rock n’ roll, Chris Cornell.

At letter D I’ll take a relative newcomber, but one whom I think will probably be recognized as the new Frank Zappa, and that’s Danger Mouse. I do have to throw out honourable mentions to Dire Straights, however.

E for Elvis.

At F we have none other than Fleetwood Mac. Sigh. Why can’t these guys just get along?

G is for Guns N’ Roses.

At H I’ll risk abuse and take Hall & Oates, another couple of underrated song writers. Honourable mention goes out to Hank Williams and, in my opinion, the greatest female group and one of the most underrated groups of all time, Heart.

Next I took Isaac Hayes. I’m not an Iggy Pop fan.

And then there was J. Sigh. Let me start off by saying that I’m not going to pick John Lennon. To me Lennon and McCartney were never as good as when they were in The Beatles. A few others I really considered were Johnny Cash and James Taylor. I’m also a Jackson Brown fan, a Jerry Lee Lewis fan, a Joni Mitchell Fan, a Journey fan (Steve Perry is Chris Cornell’s only competition), and I recognize Jay Z’s skills. But you really can’t take anybody over James Brown can you?

At K I went with Kermit the Frog, and if anybody mentions anything about KISS in the comment section, your comment is getting deleted!!! If Heart is one of the most underrated bands of all time, KISS is absolutely THE most overrated bands of all time!!! Kermit wins hands down!!!

At L I’ll take Little Richard but throw props to Led Zeppelin and Lauryn Hill. I’m not a big Lou Reed fan. Props to LL Cool J.

At M I’ll take Marvin Gaye on principle, but admit that Michael Jackson is clearly the front runner, followed by Madonna. Special shout outs to Mariah Carey (remember when she wasn’t crazy and slutty?), Mary J. Blige, Mindy Smith, Metallica, and, of course, MC Hammer.

At N I’m actually going to shock the world and take Neil Young. As big a fan as I am of Nirvana, we’ll never know just how good they were. Kind of like Jimmy Hendrix, in my opinion. Honourable mentions go out to Nas and Notorious BIG.

At O I just don’t know enough about Otis Redding so I took Oasis. I might just be a slacker for that pick.

At P I just have to take Pink Floyd. Ridiculous. But I really wanted to take Pearl Jam. As a child of the 80’s I also have to mention Phil Collins, the Pretenders, and Prince. I’m also a big Pete Yorn fan but don’t think he quite qualifies yet.

At Q I struggle because I’m not actually a big Queen fan, but couldn’t think of anybody else besides Quincy Jones, who’s solo music I don’t actually know a whole lot about.

R is easy with Ray Charles but I will mention both Radiohead and Run-D.M.C. I don’t actually think that Run-D.M.C. were that good, but I loved them as a kid and they did usher rap into the suburbs.

S is another easy one with Stevie Wonder but Sam Cooke is no slacker. I also loved Sting, and, of course, Stryper!

At T you have The Beatles. Enough said except that you also have The Beach Boys, The Eagles, and The Rolling Stones (in that order!).

U2. C’mon.

At V I couldn’t think of many artists besides Van Halen, so I’ll go with them but only during the Sammy Hagar years.

At W I’ll take Willie Nelson. The guy just has too many hits as both a solo artist and writer for other people. I’ll also mention the White Stripes, the Wu-Tank Clan, and Waylon Jennings.

At Y the only band I could come up with was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I’m a moderate fan at best.

Z was tough because I’m not actually a Frank Zappa fan and would be embarrassed to go with ZZ top. Discuss this one amongst yourselves.

And finally there are the bands with numbers in their names. For this I went with 10,000 Maniacs. How awesome was Natalie Merchant?

So there you go. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

simply christian

Remember when I used to do this religiously? Those were the days.

I’ve just started reading a book by Tom Wright called Simply Christian. I got two paragraphs into the introduction and had to stop and contemplate on it for the rest of the day. It was the following sentence that caught my eye;

“I have explored four areas of contemporary concern: the longing for justice, the quest for spirituality, the hunger for relationships, and the delight in beauty.

Wright goes on to suggest that none, on their own, can do anything more than enable us to deduce that the world is a strange and exciting place. Can I then assume that together they point to something beyond the world? Yes, I think I can.

I can’t help but think that Wright sums up, very well, the longing of all mankind and found myself wondering if that is what we offer people through our churches; a place to fight injustice, a place to explore spirituality, a place to find relationships, and a place where we can experience and delight in beauty? If that is the only thing that I get out of this book, it was worth picking up.

I also just finished up a book that Becca passed on called Killing Yourself to Live. It was written by Chuck Klosterman and is basically his narrative of driving across the U.S. seeking out the locations where different rock stars have died. In it he discusses past and present relationships and manages to compare each, and all of the circumstances surrounding them, to different albums, songs, and even lyrics from rock n’ roll. Very interesting and entertaining read.

I don’t ask for prayer much on this blog, but I will share one prayer request with you tonight. In recent months, things have finally begun to get pretty interesting at our project in Tottenham. Muslim parents have begun getting involved in different daytime activities, a Russian church planter has asked to use our facilities to start a Russian speaking church, and over 300 Polish people walked through our building this past Saturday afternoon, just to name a few. Sadly, however, we are well short on funding. Well short to say the least. So short, in fact, that we are actually having to discuss the very real possibility of closing our doors. We could really use your prayers right now. I’m not one to exaggerate the potential of a church plant. I’ve been a part of several church plants throughout the course of my life and ministry, and I think that I am very willing to admit when one isn’t working or, at the very least, isn’t showing a whole lot of promise. That is not the case with our project in Tottenham. While we have enjoyed support from the local school system and many local families since our start a little over two years ago, we are only now beginning to see a real influx from the community and many local agencies. We are beginning to talk about real programming opportunities with the local police. We have just started up English and computer classes for the local immigrant community. And we have found a new and very viable target population within the Polish who have recently started taking over our neighborhood. Now seems like an awful time to have to stop. Plus, on a more personal note, Jamie and I have really fallen in love with the ministry. So your prayers would be greatly appreciated. And, if you happen to be rich, donations wouldn’t be a bad thing either.