Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Each year Forbes releases its Fictional 15, profiling the world's wealthiest fictional characters. It's good to see C. Montgomery Burns, Springfield's favorite billionaire, sitting at the penultimate position on this year's list. Other notables include Bruce Wayne, Willy Wonka, Lucius Malfoy and Nigerian spammer extraordinaire Prince Abakaliki. (Sadly, Lex Luthor joins the list of those who have dropped off the list in the last year.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lost Winter Break Got You Down?

Lost addicts, are you having trouble enduring the long winter until the show's triumphant return? Here's IGN's list of the Top 50 Lost Loose Ends to keep you theorizing until February.

(H/T to Mark T.)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Hey folks. It's been busy round these parts lately, but instead of hashing out the details, we're going to abandon the blogosphere in favor of eating well with various relatives in multiple locations. I'm sure you can understand.

So Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and whatever you do, keep alert for the "Thanksgiving Break Alert."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fine Art Friday

In honor of my 9th grade English classes:
"Ulysses deriding Polyphemus - Homer's Odyssey" (1829)
Oil on canvas
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851 )
National Gallery, London

Strange Conversation

I'll admit it. I'm a closet NPR junkie. I mostly listen to snatches of Morning Edition and longer segments of All Things Considered in the afternoons when I'm on my way home from work. (And sometimes, if I'm out and about at 11:30 on a Saturday, I've highly enjoyed "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." Gaines *might* admit he enjoyed listening to it once.)

Yesterday, I caught the majority of an NPR interview with folk/singer songwriter Kris Delmhorst, who might just be one of my new favorites, if I can get my hands on a copy of her most recent CD Strange Conversations. She must have been an English major, or at least she has the soul of one. All the songs on her new album are taken from or were inspired by famous poems -- e.e. cummings "Pretty How Town" and Byron's "We'll Go No More A-Roving" as well as verses by Herrick, Eliot, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, among others. According to her website, "Some of the poems are set verbatim to music, some dismantled and reassembled in significantly new renditions, others merely used as the jumping-off point for Delmhorst's own literate lyrical take." Her sound seems to be a mix of folk, bluegrass, gospel, and everything in between.

In particular, this little ditty-- a song about a poem about listening to a song-- captured my attention immediately. It's catchy, upbeat and clever, and the opening reminds me of something Randall Goodgame might write.

Galuppi Baldassare

Oh Galuppi Baldassare, though I never knew your name,
it’s thanks to Mr. Browning you are with us just the same.
Thanks to Mr. Browning, blowing on the flame…

Well here you come with your old music, and here’s all the good it brings-
you say they lived like this in Venice when the merchants were the kings,
and though I never left old Boston, still you showed me everything

Did the young folks take their pleasure? Was the ocean warm in May?
Did the parties start at midnight, did they roll until midday?
And did the ladies bloom like bellflowers, every time you’d start to play?

Well I bet that they all loved you, I bet they stood around and cheered,
saying “that’s what I call music, good for joy and good for tears,
now let’s stop all this talking, and let it fill our ears.”

And the minor third so bitter, the six chord like a sigh,
suspension, solution, asking must we die, must we die must we die?
And the seventh says well fellas, life might not last, but we can try…

So were you happy? I was happy. You still happy? Yes, and you?
Then more kisses! Why’d we stop them, when a million seemed so few?
There’s something in that music, lord it must be answered to.

Then they left you for their fortune, in due time one by one.
Some had lives that came to nothing, some did things they’d better not have done,
and then death stepped up and took em where they’ll never see the sun…

Oh but you you ghostly cricket, singing where the house has burned,
‘dust and ashes, dead and done with, Venice spent what Venice earned,’
but what’s left behind I wonder, when the kissing has adjourned?

‘Dust and ashes,’ so you tell me, and I cannot say you’re wrong,
still those dear dead dancing ladies with their hair so soft and long
stir a little in their slumber, every time we play your song.

‘Cause the minor third’s still bitter, the six chord makes us sigh,
suspension, solution, asking must we die, must we also die?
And the seventh still says well, life might not last, but we can try…

Here's a link to the original poem, in case you're an English geek like me. Enjoy discovering a new artist. And thank you, NPR!

Cognitive Dissonance

The other night, the local news had a segment on Atlanta's own Creflo Dollar, properity-peddler extraordinaire. However, the piece also featured a couple of Dollar's critics: the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jim Wallis (who actually referred to Dollar's teachings as "heresy.")

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Santa Claus is Coming! Hear the Banjo Strumming!

One of my pet peeves is the way that savvy marketers have begun promoting Christmas earlier and earlier each year. (One Atlanta radio station started playing Christmas music during the first week of November.) Now, I enjoy Christmas music, but I'm also a fan of the liturgical calendar. For eleven months of the year, I'd prefer not to listen to Christmas music. Certain exceptions exist, though, like Andrew Peterson's excellent Behold the Lamb of God. Sufjan Stevens' newly-released Songs For Christmas now joins that list of Christmas music worthy of year-round enjoyment.

Simply put, Songs For Christmas is a wonderful collection. Several years ago Stevens began recording short compilations of Christmas tunes (mostly traditional, with some originals) for friends and family. Naturally, they ended up on the internet. Songs For Christmas includes all five of Sufjan's Christmas EPs (the last two of which had not been previously available). He definitely has an ear for breathing new life into familiar tunes, from the glory of "O Holy Night" to the campiness of "The Friendly Beasts." The earlier discs are charming, despite being basement recordings with blemishes preserved for posterity. The last two installments (especially Volume V) are considerably more produced and display Stevens' knack for layering instruments and voices to great effect. (I also noticed that he uses quite a bit more electric guitar for texture on IV and V, even compared to his studio albums. It sounds great!) Sufjan's original compositions are great, as well, from the wistful "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!" to the peppy "Come on! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!" to the eerily-dissonant "Jupiter Winter" to the flat-out amazing "Get Behind Me, Santa!" (As you can see, he also has retained his penchant for "unique" song titles.)

But the music is just the beginning. The collection is packaged in a cool little box, which is overflowing with goodies. The liner notes booklet is a trip. Who else includes credits like "banjo, guitar, that Creepy Christmas Feeling"? Plus, it includes a few short stories/essays, which are kind of neat, especially one where Sufjan describes the genesis of his Christmas album project and his consequent transformation from Christmas Curmudgeon into true celebrant. The best part, though, is that the booklet also contains lyrics and chord charts for all the (non-instrumental) songs to assist with the inevitable Christmas Sing-A-Long.

Highly recommended for all, both for Sufjan fans and also for those just burned-out on boring old Christmas music. Order yours today!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Weekly Rewind

Is it already Monday again? Where does the time go? Here are some brief glimpses of notable events from the last semi-fortnight:

  • On Election Day, I was in and out of the polling place in less than 20 minutes (closer to 15, actually).

  • Free pizza (deep dish!) at work on Wednesday.

  • The fall finale to the Lost mini-series was quite enjoyable. Great cliffhanger ending, leaving us anxiously awaiting the February run of the remaining episodes. Curse you J.J. Abrams et al, for keeping us obsessed with your little island!

  • Our friends Tex and Melissa shared some free tickets to the orchestra ... the Trans-Siberian Orchestra! It was pretty awesome. Wailing guitars, pretentious lyrics, lasers, pyrotechnics ... oh yeah! Plus, the seats were in a corporate lounge (via Melissa's company). Needless to say, we had a lot of fun.

  • Cason Cooley (formerly of the Normals, and friend of the Square Pegs and other cool folks) was on Conan O'Brien. Granted, he was playing bass for Matt Kearney, so he was mostly in the background. But it was a surreal intersection of two seemingly-separated worlds.

  • My company had a Thanksgiving observance on Friday, and it was pretty good. We had an off-site corporate meeting, followed by a big lunch shindig. The venue was at a park by the river, which was quite scenic. And the food was quite excellent. (One of my co-workers has a side catering business, and he is quite the chef. He also played football for both the Jackets and for the 49ers. But that's another story.) Most importantly, I didn't even have to go to the office, and the festivities were only a half-day.

  • We watched the Spielberg remake of War of the Worlds. This wasn't exactly a highlight of the week, but I mention it only to lament the film's squandered potential. It was building up to something great and ... nevermind.

  • Georgia Tech clinches the ACC Coastal Division with a 7-0 win over UNC. It wasn't a pretty win, but we still got the job done. Hopefully, we'll roll into Jacksonville on December 2nd with a 10-2 record.

  • Some dear friends threw a joint Baby Yellow Jacket Tailgate Party/Shower for us and for our friends Tex and Melissa (who are expecting their first in December). As the name implies, we watched the Tech game, ate some tasty treats, played some silly games and eventually opened some baby shower presents (many of which were GT-inspired). There was even a Bulldog piƱata that was summarily pulverized by some of the kids in attendance. What fun!

    All in all, not too shabby.
  • Monday, November 06, 2006

    Perfect Weekend

    ... for college football!

    Georgia Tech beats NC State, 31-23 - Beating NC State may seem like a minor feat, but these guys always seem to manage the occasional upset. But not this weekend. Both Tashard Choice and Calvin Johnson had personal best games (164 yds rushing and 168 yds receiving, respectively). Most importantly, though, the Jackets are all but guaranteed to play in the ACC Championship, needing only a win against either UNC (1-8) or Duke (0-9) to seal the deal. Tech also inched up a spot to No. 19 on the AP poll.

    Georgia loses to Kentucky, 20-24 chalking up yet another unexpected (humiliating?) loss for the Dawgs this season (the first being against Vanderbilt). Plus, the 6-4 Bulldogs still have to play No. 5 Auburn and (fingers crossed) Georgia Tech.

    Auburn rolls over Arkansas State, 27-0.

    Alabama chokes against Mississippi State, 16-24.

    Sunday, November 05, 2006

    Happy Birthday, Gaines!

    We've had a fun weekend celebrating Gaines' birthday-- by relaxing at the lake house and then celebrating today, the actual date, with family. I made the slightly messy "banjo cake" that we enjoyed Thursday night at the Bible study with some friends and his grandmother made the beautiful caramel cake pictured below.

    Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband and awesome soon-to-be dad!

    Friday, November 03, 2006


    Eugene Peterson offers the following comments on Revelation Chapter One:

    The Son of Man vision is presented in a familiar context: "I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man." The lampstands are identified a few lines later (Rev. 1:20) as churches.

    It is impossible among people familiar with ancient Israel and early church to glamorize communities of faith. Churches are characteristically poor, often sordid, frequently faithless. It is precisely in this environment that God chooses to show the Christ in the splendid form of Son of Man. But this procedure should be no surprise by now: the site of his birth was a manger, and the palace of his coronation was a cross. God deliberately set Jesus among the common and the flawed - the historical situation just as it was. Jesus is never known in any other context. The revelation of Christ is not embarassed or compromised by association with the church; quite the contrary, it insists on this context.

    (Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, pp. 36-37)

    These thoughts are comforting amidst the seemingly endless parade of Christian failures, both individual and corporate. Thankfully, God uses even our darkness to magnify the shining brilliance of Christ.

    (Peterson's book is really good, by the way. More on that to come.)

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    New Mars Hill Audio Podcast

    The latest installment of Audition, the monthly podcast from Ken Myers and the fine folks at Mars Hill Audio, is up and available. This edition looks at Christian writers, artists and mythmakers, with segments on W.H. Auden, J.R.R. Tolkien, Flannery O'Connor and C.S. Lewis. The portion on O'Connor's "sacramental art" is especially good. Do check it out.

    New Lark News!

    The November edition of Lark News is up.

    I especially enjoyed the article on Flannelgraph-asbestos lawsuits. Check it out.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    All Saints

    For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
    Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
    Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
    Alleluia, Allelu…

    Thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might;
    Thou, Lord, their captain in the well fought fight;
    Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
    Alleluia, Allelu…

    O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
    Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
    And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
    Alleluia, Allelu…

    The golden evening brightens in the west;
    Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
    Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
    Alleluia, Allelu…

    But lo! There breaks, a yet more glorious day
    The saints triumphant rise in bright array
    The King of glory passes on His way.
    Alleluia, Allelu…

    From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
    Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
    And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
    Alleluia, Alleluia!