Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I will skip work and sell my first-born child to be there. Trust me on this one...

Once again, news concerning my one and only man-crush, courtesty of Pitchfork Media.

Morrissey Unveils LP Art, Confirms SXSW Appearances

Matthew Solarski reports:
Truly, what could be more bad-arse than a Tommy gun? How about a bloomin' violin? Fuck yeah.

On the newly-revealed cover for his forthcoming album Ringleader of the Tormentors, viewable in all its low-res glory to your left, Morrissey has cast himself as an impassioned concertmaster, yin to You Are the Quarry's gangster yang. Debonair, I dare say.

Our violin-savvy correspondents tell us Morrissey's bow technique could use some tweaking, and Paganini is probably rolling over in his grave, but Moz is Moz, kids. Question him not. Ringleader arrives April 3 in the UK and the next day here in the states.

And that tiny, illegible Italian inscription beneath the album's title? It reads "Registrato e Mescolato a Roma Estate", which our trusty Google translator says means "recorded and stirred to Rome summer". Yes we like fanciful new Morrissey music sound now! Yes!

In other Moz news, the man was recently confirmed to appear not once but twice at this year's SXSW. On March 16, he'll be interviewed by Rolling Stone bobblehead David Fricke during the day, and will perform at Austin Music Hall later that night. And all of the other bands who have to play at the same time will cry into their lapels.

Morrissey has also padded out his previously-reported UK tour with an extra London performance, tacked on a couple international dates, and announced support in the form of Scottish high-steppers Sons and Daughters and Cali psychobillies Tiger Army (wtf?). Get Mozzy:

04-04 Helsinki, Finland - Cable Hall
04-10 Amsterdam, Holland - Heineken Music Hall
04-13 Killarney, Ireland - INEC
04-15 Dublin, Ireland - Olympia
04-18 Salford, England - Lowry *
04-19 Llandudno, Wales - North Wales Theatre *
04-20 Leeds, England - Town Hall *
04-22 Aberdeen, Scotland - Music Hall *
04-23 Stirling, Scotland - Albert Halls *
04-25 Dundee, Scotland - Caird Hall *
04-26 Greenock, Scotland - Town Hall *
04-27 Glasgow, Scotland - Academy *
04-29 Whitehaven, England - Civic *
04-30 Gateshead, England - Sage *
05-01 London, England - Alexandra Palace *
05-03 Sheffield, England - City Hall *
05-04 Grimsby, England - Auditorium *
05-06 Manchester, England - Apollo *
05-07 Manchester, England - Opera House *
05-08 Manchester, England - Bridgewater Hall *
05-10 Halifax, England - Victoria Hall *
05-11 Blackburn, England - King Georges Hall *
05-12 Liverpool, England - Philharmonic *
05-14 London, England - Palladium *
05-15 Cardiff, Wales - St David's Hall *
05-17 Reading, England - Hexagon *
05-19 Portsmouth, England - Guildhall *
05-20 Birmingham, England - Symphony Hall *
05-21 London, England - Palladium *
05-23 Truro, England - Hall For Cornwall *
05-24 Cheltenham, England - Town Hall *
05-25 Oxford, England - New Theatre *
05-27 Kings Lynn, England - Corn Exchange *
05-28 London, England - Palladium *

* with Sons and Daughters, Tiger Army

Monday, January 30, 2006

Who wants to play??

Thanks to Mother Jones Magazine for this lovely bit of satire. Anyone interested?? Anyone want to volunteer to be the Suit??

State of the Union Address 2006 Drinking Game

Benediction -- 01/29/2006

(I want to extend thanks to Kelly Ann Hall for the use of her original composition. She's a great friend and a great poet. These words of hers spoken last morning and evening to conclude service truly impacted me.)

artist, architect, builder of being
You pinched up the mountains
Trenched out cool rivers
Pulled up trees into shady forests

packed Your greatness into garments of skin
splitting seams in poor man¹s rags
holes leaking holy love, leaking forever-life
and salvation bleeds as a truthful voice
calling out our demons into forgiveness-light.

Are we no better to obey then they?
Have we bound You God?
to a man
to a place
to a mountain¹s rise
before the chasing sun

to a pinch of bread
dipped in wine
on Sunday.

So shall we too then
nevermore be defined by skin¹s edge
but by the energy
that gathers up our gut
and moves us
beyond and over lines & limits.

Today, we bind ourselves
The power of God to hold and lead us
His eye to watch, His might to stay
His ear to hearken to our needs
The wisdom of our God to teach
His hand to guide, His shield to ward
The word of God moving in our speech
His Heavenly Host to be our guardŠ

Lord, hold us as we submit, to a will we will never understand.
Delight in us as we explore wonders that we can never solve.

Shine through us a love, that cannot be gained through knowledge,

You are the joy in all our beginnings and ends.
And You forever exceed our expectations of You.

Kelly Ann Hall
Copyright -- 01/29/2006

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Soul Economy

Parent-Teacher Community Gathering at The Harvest
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Dr. David Booth of Austin Waldorf School

((As a note of introduction, this essay was crafted from 2 pages of notes taken during a presentation given by Dr. Booth. In a technical sense, Dr. Booth has not sponsored or authorized the content of this essay. Thus, this essay that I have crafted represents my best possible understanding of what he spoke to the parents of The Harvest at our most recent Parent-Teacher Gathering. Enjoy....))

Economics, as a social science, is the branch of knowledge concerned with the production, consumption, and transfer of wealth. It focuses its study upon how a nation’s or the world’s resources are utilized and whether or not they are being utilized effectively. Comparably, Soul Economy is primarily concerned with how to gauge, manage, and take care of one’s inner experiences. This inner life is comprised of the many ways in which the soul processes the outer life – thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Thus, Soul Economy is concerned with how those key components of one’s soul are used and abused in everyday life.

As teachers and parents of children in a Waldorf school, we should concentrate our attentions and energies upon the Soul Economy of those children. These children as in our care, so we are the ones who should be most responsible for helping them conserve the energy in their inner life, maintaining and increasing the vitality of their souls. Children must have their Soul Economy conserved and preserved at an early age, since, as adults, we know how easily it is to feel drained at the end of a long day or week. And since children spend most of their day in a school setting, the classroom should be a place where their Soul Economy is strengthened and developed, not undermined.

A child’s teachers (especially lead teachers) serve as the primary conduits for the maintenance and healthy growth of Soul Economy. The primary means by which a teacher seeks to cultivate Soul Economy in a child is through the pictorial representation of concepts through imagery, conveyed through story. Whether a discussion concerns world cultures throughout history, ideas from science and literature, or concepts of a mathematical nature, a teacher brings them to life through illustration and imaginative narrative. The lesson being learned leaves the realm of abstract head knowledge so that it might become concrete principles laden with convincing truth.

Here is an example of this using the number one. Philosophically, there are two number ones, with both being around us at all times. In one sense, there is a one that is always much more than one: one always becomes two. One is always the sum of its parts. Cell division is indicative of this concept, as well as any social unit. There is one family, but that one is made up of many individuals; there is one body, but it is comprised of various systems, that are collections of various organs, that are all built of a great many cells. In another sense, one is all and all are one. This notion is best evinced by monotheism, in probability, and in Boolean algebra where the number one equals truth.

In the younger grades, ideas like this are taught mathematically by seeing math (beginning with addition) as more than solely an accounting practice. 1 + 1 does = 2, but a more holistic view of this problem allows us to see that 2 = 1 + 1. A teacher starts with the answer (10) and the students learn that there are many ways in which many parts (1’s) collect themselves to equal that answer (1+9, 2+8, 3+7, 4+6, 5+5, 6+4, 7+3, 8+2, and 9+1). All of this is graphically represented so that the child sees the problem and isn’t merely learning a collection of facts. The problem is presented so that the child is actively thinking and not simply recalling the answer from rote memory.

By 5th and 6th grades, teachers do move from the pictorial to the conceptual when presenting ideas, whether new ones or reintroducing older ones from past lessons. These ideas are now able, within the child’s soul and mind, to move from the paper and blackboard to the intellect. The student can now form thoughts from their inner selves, as they are old enough to engage in true independent thought.

By the 7th and 8th grades, with the onset of adolescence, students begin to personalize these concepts. With independent thought being utilized, rational arguments are springing up and conceived within the child’s soul and mind. They are eager to define “what’s me,” often doing so in regards to the ideas they are learning and have learned in the classroom.

As students enter High School, they are more eager than ever before to seek out who they really are and/or who they want to be. They actively engage in role modeling, doing so on a deeper level than the typical “I want to be a fireman/policeman/whatever Daddy or Mommy are” role modeling of childhood. Moreover, they want to be taken seriously and to have their ideas approached rationally and authentically by the adults that they consider important. They seek to be reasoned with as soon-to-be-adults and, in doing such, they will actively reach out to respected adults who will engage them in that reasoning process. As adults, it is our responsibility to reach out to them so that they do not sink back on themselves and their peers for justification too much or too often. For them to do so will dramatically drain whatever economy of soul they have built up by their High School years.

Soul Economy is the key to this progression. Without it, students, whether they are children or teenagers, will not be able to cope with these transitions. The Soul Economy of children and teenagers must be developed, grown, maintained, and constantly bolstered by their parents and teachers.

Here is an example of this that uses the order and rhythm of the class day. In Waldorf schools, there are class meetings that are internal and external in nature. The main lesson, languages, and chorus are all types of internal meetings, while woodworking, eurhythmy, and physical education classes are external meetings. Internal meetings are held at the beginning of the day, progressing until lunchtime, and then followed by the external meetings. This allows for the natural flow of a student’s energy and mental capacity as the day moves forward. Similarly, the main lesson patterns are coordinated so that students are constantly challenged to think and learn. Math, Science, Literature, and History are all arranged in order to minimize any chance for a student to become bored or driven into a learning rut.

This is Soul Economy. A student’s natural body and life rhythms must be reinforced. Parents and teachers must decrease any stress a student might come to feel before they are able to handle it. A balance must be achieved between any memorization/homework needs and the needs of a real, healthy life for that child. Thus, to accomplish that, parents and teachers should look for ways to create a balance between inspiring children to learn and giving them exercises for their growing intellect.

(Question-and-Answer Session followed.)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Now THIS is Some Quality Cultural Introspection...

Happy 100th Post!!

I hope that all of you fine folks have been enjoying my blog for the past 11 months, as I quickly approach my one-year anniversary. It's been a vast, yet somehow connected, smattering of journal entries, poetry, political writings, essays on creativity, commentary in general, and music/cinema items important to me. THUS, in honor of this historic event, I'm borrowing this essay from Pitchfork Media because I think that he's asking a good question about a community that I'm tied to, and he does so with depth. I give all credit for THIS essay to Christ Dahlen, the author of this essay, but I include it because his writing is similar in style and content to mine.


Get That Out of Your Mouth #21
Get Behind Me Jesus
by Chris Dahlen (Pitchfork Media)

I don't know why hipsters hate Jesus. I'm not here to explain how the guy behind the Sermon on the Mount turned into a symbol of our blue- and red-state divide, or to narrow down why it's desperately unhip to admit you're a Christian and then get on stage at a rock club. Almost no strain of music is as secular as indie rock: It's quaint when old men on 78s sing spirituals, and a rugged legend like Johnny Cash can pray however he wants, but if you're a scrawny songwriter with a 4-track, siding with Jesus makes you a leper.

A couple of years ago, you couldn't even find many indie rockers who identified themselves as religious. The Danielson Famile were always far out anyway, and 16 Horsepower almost count as a country band. But then came Sufjan Stevens. After Seven Swans' moving piety and his breakthrough with Illinois, Stevens became "the Jesus guy." New fans shared stories about how they learned to get past his faith and enjoy his music, while bloggers like Pitchperfect cracked that she likes "a little less God in [her] rock." And the journalists couldn't get enough of the God angle, until, as Nick Sylvester reported on his blog, Stevens' publicist started asking reporters not to bring it up.

The genre of Christian rock long ago split off of regular, Satan-friendly rock, so you could argue that dyed-in-the-wool faith rockers have segregated themselves. Yet the secular bands that pick up those themes run the risk of getting thrown into the same ghetto. It happened to Page France's Michael Nau, when critics-- including our Brian Howe-- focused on the religious symbolism in his album Hello, Dear Wind. The song "Jesus" celebrates a Lord who's all too mortal, clawing his way from the dirt to come back to us instead of hovering in the sky in a clean, white robe. And the album's blissful tone never sounds mushy or dreamy: It's confidently ecstatic, as if Nau has been tipped off to how it's all going to end.

It looked like Page France would be dumped in the "Christian band" bin-- but once again, a publicist stepped in to save the day, writing to tell us that Nau's not comfortable being pegged as a religious performer. So I contacted him to get his take on it.

If you get past the first impression of his music, Nau's take on religion is conflicted. "My immediate family, as well as the majority of my surrounding family, was always spiritual-- not necessarily conservatively religious, but everyone possessed strong beliefs," says Nau. "I was raised in the midst of it all, so I was able to view the positive as well as the corrupt aspects from more of an 'insider's perspective,' so to speak. I've since chosen an outside, unattached perspective. I see myself as a seeker, but I doubt more than I seek."

Religion "is definitely a theme in the record, but I don't feel like it is the record," says Nau. "People would be missing out on much more if that's the main focus. At the same time, I realize that there's a lot of spiritual imagery in there. But a lot of times, that spiritual imagery represents unspiritual things."

And, ironically, "Jesus" has earned Nau criticism from both sides of the fence. "I've gotten letters from Christian folks or Christian radio stations who were just like, 'What in the hell are you talking about, this is complete blasphemy.' And then at the same time, other folks will be like, "Why did you say 'Jesus', it really detaches me from the song." Today, he shies away from saying that it's strictly a song about the Messiah. "That song was just about an untouchable thing or being-- something that I couldn't relate to, but severely wanted to be able to. I used Jesus as the subject, simply because it was the first thing that came to mind. Maybe I should have used one of my close friends instead."

But the shame here isn't that people made the wrong assumptions about Page France, but that they would ever have dismissed him over his beliefs in the first place. Even a religious performer can convey doubt and conflict. Sure, the bands that rocked the Christian festival at your local speedway stick to celebration and sin, but consider the work of people who are described as "thinking Christians"-- a term that's about as patronizing as "intelligent dance music," but let's go with it for now. Take the quest for spirituality on Talk Talk's Laughing Stock, or the piety and humility of Sufjan Stevens' Seven Swans, or to widen the circle, the furious morality of the abolitionist preacher in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, or the scene in Kenneth Lonergan's You Can Count on Me in which the reverend asks Mark Ruffalo's drifter if he considers his life important. If we shun the religious content of these works, we're missing their emotional and intellectual power.

You can disagree with the church of your choice, but to dismiss religion altogether-- and to write off the best ideas, the best people and of course, the best indie rockers-- that come out of it, seems pointless. Why shoot the messenger just because you're scared he has a message?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Morrissey Unveils Ringleader Tracklisting, Release Date

Matthew Solarski (of Pitchfork Media) reports:

Suaver than the Fonz, more loveable than the Coz, the Moz (aka Morrissey, aka Stephen Patrick Morrissey, aka the reigning godfather of eloquent mopery) has a new record just for you. Scouring the moors of England far and wide, Pitchfork has retrieved all three quintessential components of a satisfyingly Mozzy news blurb: title, tracklisting, and release date. Actually, we just waylaid the NME after class and copped the stuff from them. It was a good waylay, a good waylay.

Ringleader of the Tormentors arrives March 20, 2006 in the UK courtesy of Sanctuary Records, and presumably March 21 in the U.S. If these titles are any indication, Morrissey's playing all his standard cards: king of ostentatious romanticism, queen of woebegone sulkery, jack of neo-chivalry, ace of bile, and level-three Charamander. Or he just used the Internet Morrissey Song Title Generator.

The royal flush:

01 I Will See You in Far-Off Places
02 Dear God Please Help Me
03 You Have Killed Me
04 The Youngest Was the Most Loved
05 In The Future When All's Well
06 The Father Who Must Be Killed
07 Life Is a Pigsty
08 I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now
09 On The Streets I Ran
10 To Me You Are a Work of Art
11 I Just Want to See the Boy Happy
12 At Last I Am Born

Portraying the wizard of Moz on his bloggy website, been-there-done-that producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T. Rex, Thin Lizzy) exclaims that he is "two thirds of the way through one of the best albums I've ever worked on, with...Morrissey at his best." Said site also features a photograph of Moz at the mixing boards sporting what appears to be a "Mozalini" English football jersey. Controversial!

Visconti also alludes to album-recording escapades with an Italian children's choir and legendary film-scorer Ennio Morricone. We already scooped you on how Moz and Vis are recording in Morricone's former studio, located in the catacombs of a seventeen-century church. Could there be more? For the answers to this, and the mystery of how Morrissey's new record can be both "balls-to-the-wall" and "perhaps the most gentle so far", keep your mice perennially stationed at the ‘fork.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

I probably should have made this post yesterday, but I really wanted to wait and see what Amy Goodman would be doing on "Democracy Now!" to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King. Thus, we have my post, comprised mostly of links to Amy's Monday broadcast on her website, providing people the opportunity to download the sections of Dr. King's speeches that she replayed yesterday.

If you are interested even further, here are two options for more information. 1) Please go visit the Pacifica Radio Archives to download & purchase more of Dr. King's speeches, along with the speeches of others. 2) I give credit to my blog-friend Erin with this link to Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

But regardless of how you listen or read along, join with me, though a day late, in honoring the life, legacy, and memory of this truly great American hero.

Only through non-violence.

Monday, January 09, 2006


O God,
much too often, we approach this time
with trepidation, not
wanting to violate this space with our

We think ourselves much too dirty,
our hands,
our minds, and
our feet tainted too greatly
with the dirt of the places we've been.

It seems that
we have allowed ourselves to recall
too distinctly all of our
and to forget perpetually all of the
You brings to us.

And yet, while we do fear the
entrance, we can still see the hand
you've always extended, as it
beckons us to please come in, so that
we can feel and share the love of
so that we can be led by the
Holy Spirit.

Might that we take Your hand tonight.

Copyright 01/08/2006

Friday, January 06, 2006

Genesis Now

Join me in reading my most recent selection from Genesis Now, the blog I've created to self-publish the Sunday School Lessons/Commentary I've been writing. I'm simply engaging in some shameless self-promotion. I hope you enjoy what you read, and, if you want to comment, I'd prefer you to comment at Genesis Now, so that I can encourage you to read there also. Again, I appreciate you being here and reading along with me as I write.

Strange Languages
“Hey! Let’s Build Something and Become World Famous!”

Genesis 11: 1-9

We have here the famous story of the Tower of Babel, a key scenario in the propagation of peoples around the globe. Many would say that this scene is a metaphor or a folktale, akin to something out of Aesop’s Fables, and I would be inclined to agree with them. It’s not that I doubt intentionally because of the content of this story, but because many other cultures around our world have similar stories and myths outlining the dissemination of languages and peoples.

Do not interpret this statement in a manner that might describe me as a purely inclusive universalist. I simply feel that there is much the reader & listener can learn from the tale described in these 9 verses. That is what makes this narrative valid, not whether it actually happened or not. The worlds of the historical fact and nonfiction description are not the exclusive purveyors of truth.

The events of this story are very straightforward. At the time, all of the people in the world were of one language, of one common speech pattern. And this makes much sense, as everyone was very nearly related to everyone else. That’s what happens when men and women have very long life spans and procreate very extensively. And with the advent of these large immediate and extended families, people were running out of livable land relative to the size of those families. Thus, according to this story, people moved eastward to the plain of Shinar, a region that will come to be known as Sumer, Babylon, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and Iraq. We aren’t sure where these people moved east from, though some feel they could have been living simply more to the west in the historical “Fertile Crescent”, in present-day Israel, or in eastern Africa. But regardless of their origins, they arrived and settled there.

What follows is an anthropological lesson in the development of cultures and their engineering practices. These peoples had made the transition from collecting and assembling rough stones to harnessing fire so that they could bake bricks and melt tar for mortar. This being the Middle East, there was lots of petroleum byproducts readily available. Moreover, they were choosing to build a city in which to live, deciding not to live in tents and wander about seeking their fortunes as hunter-gatherers.

This is actually fairly significant in terms of measuring a civilization’s status and progression. Not only had they made a long journey to settle a new homeland, they possessed the tools and knowledge necessary to inhabit the land. Kilns in which bricks were to be fired were not hallmarks of migrants; they were tools that befit a tribe/people/ethnic group that was set down long-term, stable roots. Also, their knowledge had progressed to where they were experimenting and researching in order to better their lot in life. One has to burn lots of clay to finally determine a process by which you achieve a building-worthy brick. These were not migrant peoples of the stereotypical Bedouin archetype; this was burgeoning civilization.

Where these people went wrong was when they decided to do more than just build a city in which people could live and start families. They openly declared that they were going to build a tower that would reach to the heavens so that their name would be known in all of the earth. You would think, by now, that humanity (especially the descendents of Noah) would have a pretty decent idea of what God, His judgment, His opinions, and His preferences would be throughout the Old Testament. But no, not humans – we always seem to choose what’s so very wrong for our well-being. This whole free-will thing is such a blessing and such a curse.

And I would say that the issue would not be the people’s desire to settle permanently as a civilization. I’ve heard it preached that God wasn’t pleased because these people were trying to do everything (building a city and/or building a civilization) on their own terms, not in God’s time. My response to that would be that the core issue is the blatant fact that the builders & organizers were building primarily for their glory, as opposed to building for God’s glory or for functional purposes by the city’s inhabitants.

In verses 5-7, God comes down from Heaven to see what the people of the city were doing, to what extent this building project was being pursued. And God was astonished at the scene, prompting a response that still rather confuses me. “The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’” (Genesis 11:6-7, TNIV) Why this reaction? Yes, I can see why God would have issues with people exalting themselves and attempting to achieve permanence, even though humanity has proven to be rather temporary & ephemeral. However, why God feels that it is necessary to create new languages in order to facilitate the dispersal of these people is beyond me.

And that’s why God is God, and why I’m not.

But here’s this thought – it’s not just how God dispersed the peoples of the world, but why God did so. I can’t quite wrap my mind around God’s reasoning – if people keep building and working together, they will be able to do just about anything. This flies in the face of God’s usual penchant for letting humanity use and abuse its collective free-will. God sent languages to confuse the builders of the city, dispersing them, and separating them purposefully because of their unified ambition. Did God feel they weren’t ready to work together? Does God think we still aren’t ready to work together? Does God only want people working on good things, ready to stop people if their purposes don’t line up with God’s?

Regardless of my questions and concerns, I must return to the discussing the fundamental lesson that anyone who reads this story should be able to intuit. The people of Babel were dispersed because they built and created with the sole purpose of immortalizing themselves throughout the world, in defiance of God being God. Whenever people try to exalt themselves to a position equal to or above that of God’s, they should realize that they are stepping outside of their role as created beings. I am not advocating that people should live in fear of God’s impending and imminent judgment upon our wrongdoing, but I do believe that too many people throughout world history have lived as if they were gods unto themselves, to typically tragic outcomes. God has promised many things to people throughout the Bible, and all of them are dependent upon people fully recognizing their status as the creations of God. I just hope that my life can serve as an example of someone who looks to God first in deciding what is best for my life, because I know that I’ve listened to myself too often and for too long.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More blatant, over-the-top affection for Walk the Line

I just wish I had some pictures and the true source/link for this article to post for you wonderful readers. Enjoy, nonetheless....

Phoenix Takes Cash Film to Folsom Prison
Thursday Dec 22, 2005 10:00am EST
By Todd Peterson

It's back to the scene of the crime, so to speak, for Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.

Folsom State Prison near Sacramento, Calif., has asked 20th Century Fox to screen the film for its prisoners, and Phoenix, who plays Cash in the movie, has agreed to attend the screening, Variety reports.

Folsom Prison proved to be a pivotal point in Cash's career when the "Man in Black" played a live concert there in 1968 at the request of many inmates. The show came at a time when Cash's own life was nearly in shambles.

"Only 13 days before the concert, (Cash's) previous marriage had completely dissolved, he was just kicking drugs, and it was the first time he was really able to look clear-eyed to June Carter as both a husband and father. And as an artist for the first time he was in control of the black horse that was dragging him down," Walk the Line director James Mangold tells Variety.

Cash's concert not only inspired the performer, it inspired many inmates as well. It's a tradition Phoenix hopes the screening can continue.

"John believed in the power of redemption and offered his unique gift to anyone who needed to find it within then, and in the process, he inspired millions," Phoenix said. "I can think of no greater way to honor him than to carry on his legacy of using music to connect to all people."

The screening, which will take place Jan. 3, is organized by the Folsom Prison Fellowship, which ministers to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families.

Top 5 Moments of 2005

In no order & inspired by my blog-friend Erin (aka Surface Ripple) and (as usual) Rob Gordon:

1) My 26th birthday: It had been years since I had collected my friends around me to celebrate my birthday. It just had never happened. I think that what sets my 26th apart is that it was diametrically & completely different than the depressed NOTHING that was my 25th birthday celebration.

2) The ever-developing cohesion of my small group: This is simple. My best friends collecting themselves once a week since June to talk about God, Jesus, faith, our struggles, our lack of faith, and growing so much as people, friends, and followers of Christ. Beautiful....

3) My current job: After 15 months of struggling to make things work at the bookstore and after leaving post at the private church-school, coming upon and securing my job as a teacher at a Waldorf school has been such a blessed event. It has been years since I have felt more loved, appreciated, encouraged and wanted in a work environment.

4) My level of involvement at my spiritual community: Getting involved with the missional community that is Ecclesia has been such an infusion of lifeblood into my spirit and my faith. Not only do I get to receive so much from the people leading the community, but I am blessed to be able to be involved, give, and serve.

5) It's good to have options: I have lots of possibilities and potential in front of me, such that I haven't had since entering college back in 1997. Much like Erin choosing to enter law school, I am weighing the benefits & drawbacks to either graduate school (MA/PhD in Political Science/History) or seminary (Regent in Vancouver, BC or Biblical in Philly, PA). It is good, though rather intimidating at times, to have options.

Granted, as my most recent post outlines, these Top 5 really have to be expanded to be a Top 7. Alas....


I would have to say that the past month has been one of the best in recent memory. Actually, the past month has been filled with some of the best memories and best times in a long while. To recount them all might take awhile, but I'm OK with that. I just hope that you're willing to read through them all and feel like sharing along with me. I have resisted returning this blog to more of a journal format, but I could not resist sharing my story through this medium, mostly because I know how powerful story (and narrative) can be in terms of effectively communicating with people.

As many of you know, things have been really that comfortable between my parents and myself since March of 2004. At that time, I chose to leave the church of 5 years and the Pentecostalism of 10-15 years in which I had been living. My mother did NOT take this well, did NOT understand it, and did NOT like what I had done. To be totally candid, my mother told me, on more than one occasion, that, since I had left "the truth," I was not saved anymore and that it hurt her that she wouldn't see me in heaven. Granted, as he is a observant Roman Catholic, my Dad (in the strict Pentecostal sense) isn't going to heaven either, but my Dad is mostly concerned with my mother's emotional well-being. He didn't weigh in on the issue really, but just simply loves my mother (and she loves him equally as much).

But, over the past few months, things have been on the upswing. I have been simply living my life in front of her, not getting into spiritual discussions, but trying my best to live as Christ would in her presence. Actions do speak louder than words and there is no better example of this than the scenario that played out on December 23, 2005. My mother was going through the phone numbers of old friends, making her annual check-ins with people from our family's past 25 years or so. She made a call to a friend living in the Alabama area (I think) to talk about what was going on in their lives, as both women had children very similar in age together.

My mother's friend recounted all of the rather tragic events going on in the lives of her two eldest sons -- 1) the eldest is convinced that he is either homosexual or a woman in a man's body, though he doesn't have any experience in the homosexual/transgendered community; and 2) the second son, due to his severe problem with alcohol abuse, never really started college, dropped out of a trade school, can't seem to keep a job of any kind, and has had run-ins with the law in regards to his behavior when inebriated. And all that my mother can say in comparison is, "N doens't go to church with me anymore."

My mother completed this phone call and immediately came to find me to talk about what had been discussed. She told me that, even though there are days when she still doesn't understand or agree with that I've done, she can't deny the fact that the conversation she just had with her old friend gave her some really important perspective on the situation. She told me that she couldn't even begin to compare or contrast our situation with her friends. Paraphrasing my Mom, she told me, "I had no way of even sympathizing with her over the phone. Her sons are going through and putting her through so much more than I could even imagine. All I can say is that you're not going to church with me and you're involved in a church in Houston. I just needed to tell you that my talk with my friend allowed me to see things through new eyes." And at that time, my Dad walked up and my Mom recounted everything to him, including our just-completed talk about it all.

All I could do as I drove to Houston that afternoon was thank and praise God for what had just happened. After 18-21 months of strange, harsh tension in the house, things just came to a beautiful conclusion, a lovely resolution that we all needed in our heart, lives, and spirits. I've shared this with several of my close friends and they all agree that, as tough as this time has been for me, it has been so necessary and it will allow me to be able to share this story with others, to be able to help others who are going through similar circumstances. And I can simply agree with that statement.

And on a much simpler note, but nearly as noteworthy, I am out of my parents' house and into a room at a friend of mine's house in the NW Houston area. My new locale completes my hard-fought and oft-sought sense of independence from my (self-imposed) tortured existence in a 10'x10' room at my parents' home. It also sets me in an equidistant location between work and church, saving on money for gas and allowing me greater opportunity to spend time with people important to me. I get to begin the year on a high note, with good spirits, and in possession of a great number of options to sift through in relation to how my future unfolds. Seminary anyone? Grad School maybe?

Happy New Year to you all.