Tuesday, May 31, 2005

New Music Tuesday: Jazz Meets R&B

Soulful vocals have always put a smile on my face. There's just something about a musician who can really singthat excites me. In our pop-culture so many artists are given status who couldn't win a high- school talent show if their life depended on it. Because of this lack of talent in mainstream music, it is incredibly refreshing to discover smooth vocals coupled with quality music.

A few weeks ago, I was browsing the music section at the local Barnes & Noble. With a chai late' in hand, I put on the headphones that had no-doubt been used by hundreds of people before me. Now, I'm not one to share drinks or even wear someone else's clothes, but for some reason these communal headphones don't seem to bother me. So I started scanning a few CDs and went about my "listening to new music" routine: I listen to about 20 seconds of each song and if it sounds promising I'll stay connected through the chorus. After about 4 CDs with little to no redeeming features, I stumbled (figuratively) upon Amos Lee's self-titled debut album.

Amos Lee sings very real, intimate lyrics with great passion and conviction. His voice is so smooth and soulful and penetrates the thick layers of impersonalization that we so often build up around us. The album is an intimate look into the life of an artist. Themes of love, lonliness, friendship, and city life prevail throughout the album. The music is primarily guitar and piano providing both soothing ballads and more upbeat jazz/R&B songs. Lee has been described as the male version of Norah Jones, and even though there are several stylistic similarities, Lee's sound is fresh, individual, and unique.

Here are a few lines from the album. All lyrics written by Amos Lee.

"Some times we forget what we got, who we are and who we are not
I think we got a chance to make it right-Keep it loose, Keep it tight"

"Who’s bold enough to believeIn either love or war Both just leave you busted, and broken down, and wanting more"
"Nothing is more powerful than beauty in a wicked world"
"I see the trouble and all the loving that I’ve doneAnd the world ain’t no harder than it’s ever beenLooking for love in the lies of a lonely friend"

Monday, May 16, 2005

Holy Spirit Gatorade

So I've been home for a whole week now and yes, I have failed to keep up with blogging like I intended. FYI the past couple posts were a part of a short story I wrote in my creative writing class this past semester. No...those things didn't actually happen to me!

Coming home is always such a wonderful thing. I miss my friends from school terribly, but its so great to come home to such a relaxing atmosphere and to parents who love me unconditionally...just for being me! I have really enjoyed going to school away from home for many reasons, one of which is the break from being a PK (pastor's kid) - there are so many extra stresses and obligations that come with being in a pastor's family. I've also enjoyed going to a different church than my dad's - while in S.C. I attend Newspring in Aderson. The Lord has really used Newspring to minister to me and bless my life in numerous ways. I am so thankful to have a home church away from home.

So yesterday it was back to my home church, Hanover Friends. Honestly, I was a little nervous about coming back. The music is...well different from Newspring's and its a little different to listen to my Dad's sermons rather than Perry's. But as I sat next to my mom in the pew and looked around at many new faces I couldn't help but see a beautiful picture of the body of Christ. Our church has about 300 regular attenders...I guess that's average. We have grown quite a bit in the past year and I can definitely see God moving among the people here. I am very excited about being a part of this "body" for a few months.

My parents left today for KS, which means that I'm home alone! I'm excited about this week. Pray for me that I will fill my time with things that are benificial to me and not harmful. Temptations seem to gain strength when I'm alone. I'm feeling really strong, spiritually, right now. I've spent a little more time than usual in prayer and worship the past few days, and I can definitely feel a difference. It amazes me how I find time for so many meaningless and trivial things and yet fail to take the time to connect with the lover of my soul.

I think my spiritual life is a lot like the Gatorade commercial. I attempt to quench my thirst with water or soda (things of the world), but it does not satisfy. I desire to gulp some holy spirit Gatorade, so overwhelming that it overflows and pours out of me and comes out of my pores. I'm so thankful for a renewed thirst.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Day Two: A Little Sexual Frustration

It’s another beautiful night to stay in a hotel, but of course any night would be. There’s nothing more comforting to me than the retro seventies décor of a cheap hotel room. I guess it would be somewhat understandable if this were intentional; if there were some reasoning behind the lime green comforter and the burnt-orange, shag carpet, but rarely do hotels with a number in their name have any sort of aversion to faupas such as these. You would think with such an influential and world-changing job, I would be staying in a deluxe suite in some high rise luxury hotel. Oh no, not me. I prefer the grassroots, simple life version of a Saturday stay-over.

So I’m all alone in my hotel room, the smell of dust and bathroom cleaner linger in the air and my face involuntarily scrunches in disgust. I have come to the place of decision. To go out or stay in, that is the question. I settle on the latter, to go out would require more meaningless conversation and I am not up to the task. Here is where the real problem is revealed; alone in a hotel room - just me, 46 channels and a Gideon Bible. How does the saying go? Boredom is the root of all evil, or something like that. I decide to do what any single, thirty-something male in a hotel room would do. No, not that. I turn on the television and look for a good, light-hearted, chick flick. You know, the kind of movie you always want to watch, but are too embarrassed to admit to it. Sleepless in Seattle is playing on TBS. Meg Ryan, what a dream. I don’t think I’ll ever comprehend why the producers of the movie chose Tom Hanks over me.

There’s just something about Meg Ryan. She reminds me of my third grade teacher, Miss Parker, which makes the fact that I think Meg Ryan is incredibly sexy somewhat disturbing. Granted, Miss Parker had brown hair as opposed to Meg’s golden blonde hair, but other than that they are really quite similar. Of course now that I’m thinking about Meg, my mind wanders to the greatest novel of all time, Little Women. I think I could read Little Women a million times and never loose the emotion of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Every time Beth dies, I can’t help but cry, even though I know its coming.

Ok, so by now I’m sure you are thinking, “What’s wrong with this guy? He watches chick flicks and reads books like Little Women.” But before you get judgmental, consider this. Since when does it make a man less of a man if he is sensitive and can appreciate love and beauty? I’ve never understood why our society has allowed men to become so plastic, so emotionless and disconnected from their own selves. We value a man’s ability to be wild and rugged and play contact sports more than his ability to love or be loved. There are thousands of very talented young men working behind their computers in their cubicle who have very attractive outsides, but in reality, they are rotting away. I am one of these. I am in the ranks of a generation of pretty boys who are so dazed and confused by the messages of society that we are so desperate to sell out to something, anything.

The lights in my room are dark; the only light still present is that radiating off of Meg Ryan’s pretty little face. I turn off the television and close my eyes with only one thought in my head. What’s so special about Tom Hanks?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Day One: A Window Seat and Airplane Friends

It’s another beautiful day for business travel, but of course any day would be. The horribly replicated image of a seatbelt and the internationally recognized “No Smoking” sign are illuminated directly overhead. The sun is beating through the window and I am starting to sweat-not enough to cause distinguishable odor or stains under my arms, but enough to be uncomfortable. I am not one to be fooled by the romantic notion of a window seat. In fact, I hate them. I’ve hated them for a while now. The last time I was forced to give up my emergency exit row, aisle seat, 16C, I developed my theory. You see, there is not one thing that is universally accepted as the defining characteristic of an adult. Some say its age, but even still there is debate: 18 or 21? Some say its responsibility. You know...job, bills, house...all of the things we hate about being adults. So I decided that the only hold-fast way to tell if someone is an adult is their airplane seat preference. You see, kids love window seats; they get some sort of excitement out of watching the brownish-green colored earth pass below. An adult, on the other hand, prefers space over entertainment. If you’ve seen one take-off or landing, you’ve seen them all. So needless to say, my theory hasn’t caught on with the general public as of yet...I’m not holding my breath.

So I’m flying high over the armpit of the US, some middle-of-nowhere hell-whole in east Texas. Since I have to suffer the window seat, It would makes sense that I might as well take in some of the view, except, there is no view. So I’m stuck in the heat of the sun, sitting in a window seat with nothing to look at (someone must’ve stolen the complimentary airliner magazine). With all resources exhausted, I turn to my neighbor, 26B, and engage in some sort of meaningless conversation that neither he nor I really want have, and yet, we do. Airplane friends are such a phenomenon. We have next to nothing in common but we have been destined to spend the next few hours with each other. Our conversation goes something like this, “Hello 26B, I’m 26A. Where are you headed?”

“Oh, to some nowhere place that has to do with my nothing job”, 26B replies with a sort of imitation interest.

“Me too!” With these words, I’ve just offered our first commonality. Maybe our connection will be deeper than the routine, surface-level interactions that we engage in everyday. Maybe not.

“So what do you do?” 26B asks, attempting to keep the momentum going. I cringe when I hear these words. “What do you do?” as if explaining my job to someone will actually help them understand me as a person. Once before, when I was talking to another airplane friend, I asked them the question, “Who are you?” rather than “What do you do?”, and he couldn’t answer without talking about his job. I would like to know when what we do from nine to five starting dictating who we are as a person.

Who am I? That’s an easy question. I’m 26A, a baby-boomer and marketing executive. I’ve bought into the commercialism and materialism of our culture. I have 7 pairs of designer jeans, 4 pairs of khakis, 5 million polo shirts, 2 kids, and a dog...minus the kids. I am the quintessence of ideal. I live in an ideal city in an ideal apartment where I watch my ideal plasma screen while sitting in ideal IKEA furniture. I work at an ideal company doing ideal things...and I hate it. I’ve lost all sense of individuality and have become a carbon copy of the man who works in the cubicle next to me.

My conversation with 26B is unfortunately not turning into a deep, meaningful connection. These conversations rarely do. I am listening and speaking, yet my mind is somewhere else. Suddenly it hits me; 26B and I really are the same. We’re all the same. We’re a generation of pansies. We hide behind brand names and computer screens. We are afraid of being who we really are. We share the same meaningless existence and I can’t help but think, “There’s got to be more”.

The tires of the Boeing 737 screech as they hit the pavement. We have arrived at our nowhere place and must now go about our nothing jobs. Or do we? I say goodbye to 26B as I enter the crowd of people in the terminal with only one thought in my head. I sure hope I don’t have to sit in a window seat on my return flight.