Gratitude and the Rock of Ages

Gratitude is priceless. Norman Rockwell’s 1951 painting Saying Grace, however, sold for $46 million in 2013.

I can still faintly visualize it. Many years ago, I was watching the first game of the NBA Championship series when it was announced that the rock band U2 would be performing for the half-time show. U2’s concert was in Boston while the basketball game was being played in Los Angeles. When the cameras suddenly switched from one venue to the other, television viewers saw Bono praying on his knees.

“What can I give back to God for the blessings he poured out on me,” he asked. “I lift high the cup of salvation as a toast to our Father. To follow through on the promise I made to you.” The lead singer of one of the most popular rock band on the planet was loosely reciting a prayer from Psalm 116 (The Message) on nation-wide television in the United States.

Most viewers probably would not have known what he was reciting. However, it was kind of a startling opening shot of a rock star on bended knee quoting from an ancient psalm about gratitude. Those with eyes to see, saw it. Everyone else enjoyed the show. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I Spent Years Searching for Magic – I Found God Instead

Photograph by Joshua Davis/Unsplash

A few beautiful selections from Tara Isabella Burton’s fabulous piece in Catapult:

“The faith I found proclaimed a sanctified world, and a redeemed one—an enchanted world, if you want to call it that—but one where meanings were concrete. It offered me not just a sense of emotional intensity, but a direction in which to channel it. It contained magic not  for the sake  of magic, but rather miracle  for the sake  of goodness. God died and came back from the dead not because magic was real, but because love was stronger than an unmagical world.”
“One of the many odd things about Christianity is that it trades not in grand narratives but in their subversion. Christ the king comes into Jerusalem on an ass.  An ass!  This unprepossessing carpenter from Nazareth (can anything good come out of Nazareth, people ask) who confuses the hell out of everyone around him is actually the promised Messiah. He has a Passion and a death and then a few days later he’s alive, because death doesn’t matter, because death has been defeated, because the way you think the story is going to end isn’t the story at all. Also, you never get to be comfortably, certain of Not-Nothing, ever again. You never get to be certain of anything.  Blessed are those who have not seen and believe. 

“The claims magic made on me—grandiose, vague, extravagant—were incompatible with the person I was becoming, who I wanted to be. The person who learns to love not just The Story, but also the human being telling it, and the parts of the story the human being is not ready to tell, just yet.”

Read the entire article HERE

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday, Wanda Jackson!

Wanda Jackson, Queen of Rockabilly

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

God, Drugs, and Rock n Roll: Greg Laurie interviews Alice Cooper

Some Alice Cooper fans might be surprised by this interview with Pastor Greg Laurie from Riverside, California. After all, Alice Cooper is considered to be the original full-scale “Shock Rocker” and has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide. Despite a tongue-in-cheek horror rock show and a over-the-top stage persona, Alice Cooper is a family man, top-notch golfer, and a committed Christian.

The interview is conducted at The Rock (a Teen Center created and started by Alice that I visited a few years ago), Laurie asks about Cooper’s faith and his desire to help at-risk young men in his community.

To watch the interview, click HERE 


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back Row America

Chris Arnade

Chris Arnade earned a PhD in theoretical physics and spent 20 years on Wall Street making piles of money as a bond trader. In a season of disillusionment with his lucrative career, he began walking around New York City to relieve stress and take photographs of graffiti artists, Schwinn bike clubs, and pigeon keepers. That hobby led him to eventually become an irreplaceable photojournalist and chronicler of the down-and-outers and drug addicted in our ferociously polarized society. 

For three years, he went in search of those who “lived under bridges, in abandoned buildings, in sheds, in pits, in broken-down trucks, on rooftops, or, if they scored enough money, in per-hour motels,” he writes in Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America (Sentinel 2019). Traveling more than 150,000 miles to has-been communities struggling to survive, he photographed and interviewed the poor and strung out in places such as Buffalo, New Haven, Cleveland, Selma, El Paso, and Bakersfield. “In each of these places, people have a sense of being left behind and forgotten – or, worse, mocked and stigmatized by the rest of the world as it moves on and up….” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Has Kanye Lost His Jesus Complex and Found Christ?

If you find it challenging to sort out the spiritual impulses of Kanye West, a recent story by Kate Shellnutt for Christianity Today may be of interest.

Perhaps you have heard about West taking his “Sunday Service,” a religious weekly hangout for celebrity friends and family, to the Coachella music festival on Easter Sunday. Or you may have read the recent Forbes cover profile about West’s creative process and his upstart Yeezy shoe dynasty.

“I’ll be working on home designs and looking at references from three thousand years ago and reading the Old Testament at the same time,” West said in a video interview with Forbes. “It’s like a soundtrack to the visuals and the shapes and ideas and ideals of what we are creating. A lot of my creative friends, I tell them the Bible is better than Pinterest. You can bring something into space and time we exist in, while reflecting thousands of years of truth.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘More Fun in the New World’ follows L.A. punks into the ’80s

I devoured Under the Big Black Sun (2016) because X was one of my all-time fave bands as I grew up in Southern California. Compiled by John Doe of X and Tom DeSavia, a writer and record industry veteran, the book goes a long way in helping tell the story of the origins of Los Angeles punk and roots rock.

The new volume from Doe and DeSavia, More Fun in the New World, is just as compelling to midlife retreads like myself who still summon up happy memories of punk rock and rockabilly shows in the 1980s.

“This was never going to be a simple story; and Doe and DeSavia aren’t looking to simplify it,” writes Jay Gabler in The Current. “As the ’70s bled into the ’80s, life for the stars of Penelope Spheeris’s era-defining 1981 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization — bands like X, Black Flag, and Circle Jerks — was a mix of agony and ecstasy. … DeSavia says telling the story that way would be depressing, even if it might be accurate. So instead, Doe and DeSavia corralled the usual suspects — some contributors to the past book, some new ones — to write about what happened to all of them when the MTV era dawned.”

I saw X a few months ago while on their tour with the Violent Femmes.  Their show was fabulous. Their longevity is notable — and appreciated.

“X has weathered many battles, successes, and failures and, to this day, remain a working, touring band — one who celebrated a fortieth anniversary in 2017 by playing over one hundred dates in the U.S.,” writes Doe in More Fun in the New World. “In those forty-some years Exene and I married, divorced, and stayed friends; Billy Zoom beat cancer twice, quit the band, and rejoined ten years later; and somehow DJ Bonebrake continues to be known as ‘the nicest man in rock ‘n’ roll.’ We can’t play casinos or state fairs because we never had a bona fide ‘hit.’ If you ask Joan Jett or Blondie, they may say that can be a double-edged sword. I’ll admit that sometimes we wish we had the bank account or luxury to reach the masses like they have. But at every X show I see some twenty-something or younger in the front row, losing their s–t and getting schooled in original American punk rock. In that way it’s the best job anyone can have.”

To check out Jay Gabler’s review of More Fun in the New World in The Current, click HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ken Burn’s Country Epic

“They connected every dot,” said musician Rosanne Cash, “from Appalachia to Bob Wills to Bakersfield to my dad. It was artfully done, and so moving.”

Cash was referring to Ken Burns’ new 16-hour, 8-part documentary on country music that will be begin airing on PBS on September 15. According to Rolling Stone, it will distill 101 interviews, more than 700 hours of archival clips, and 100,000 still photos.

“It’s really important people know country music is a hybrid, a creolization that comes out of African and European cultures mixing,” Rhiannon Giddens told Rolling Stone. Giddens is an award-winning vocalist and musician, as well as an early-American-music scholar. “Also, most importantly, it comes from working-class people mixing,” she continued. “That’s the thing that’s often forgotten, that where people made these interactions musically was in the fields, on the riverboats, or wherever – and that this music is our music, all of us together. It’s very dangerous to subscribe to it as ‘white music,’ or as this monolithic thing, because it’s not. And that’s the beauty of America, I think – all the positive stuff comes out of that aspect of the mix.”

“This is the history of an art form whose roots are dark and complex and part of our collective unconscious,” says Cash, “rooted in our migration and history and who we became as Americans. It’s all there in this story. All these songs came from Scotland and England and Ireland into Appalachia, and the slave songs and work songs that came from Africa, the melding of that: That’s our history. And it’s important to know your history.”


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Long and Surprising History of Roller Derby

More than 27,000 fans flocked to Shea Stadium for the 1973 world championships. Michael Evans/The New York Times

By Jennifer Harlan, The New York Times

It sounds like a human freight train: wheels clattering around the turns, bodies thumping against each other, toe stops shrieking against the track. A rainbow of hair and wheels goes by in a blur, shouts and grunts punctuating the din. It’s part endurance race, part wrestling match, combining strategy, athleticism and camp. And it’s all done on roller skates.

At first glance, roller derby seems like a feminist punk fever dream. It is unapologetic and aggressive, a full-contact whirlwind populated by characters with names like Carnage Electra, Miss U.S. Slay and Bleeda Kahlo. But the blood, sweat and mascara that seem so essential to the modern sport have roots stretching back nearly a century. …

Now in the throes of its third renaissance, roller derby is making yet another comeback. Since 2004, the W.F.T.D.A. has grown to include 463 member leagues in 33 countries. There are now roller derby leagues on every continent except Antarctica.

To read the entire article, click HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Behold, the millennial nuns

By Eve Fairbanks, Huffpost

When I asked Tori what made her stray from this path to become a nun, her whole demeanor changed. Her face got pinker, and she looked almost shy. She asked if she could read the full story to me from her prayer journal. This was too important to discuss extemporaneously.

One afternoon when she was a senior at her all-girls high school, Tori found herself drawn to the chapel. She wasn’t deeply religious growing up, and the chapel was a space she usually avoided: small and dark and silent, with uncomfortable knee-high prayer stools. But on that day, as she sat to pray, a thought occurred to her that was so unbidden and forceful “that I stood up from my seat and physically ran. I mean, I ran out of the chapel. I was so filled with fear.” The thought: What would it be like to wear a nun’s habit?

She didn’t want to be a nun, she explained. But in the ensuing years, she just couldn’t get the vision out of her head. In the goalie box, putting on strapless dresses for dances—she kept seeing herself in a black veil.

And then one day, at a chapel on her college campus, she heard His voice.

“What does it sound like?” I asked her.

“It doesn’t sound like anything. I just knew it was Him,” she said. And His message was clear: “Evangelize.”

Tori put down her prayer journal, looked up and started to laugh. She said she expected this story must sound “crazy” to me. She didn’t seem to mind. Discerning the religious life, she explained, is “a process of falling in love.”

To read the entire essay, click HERE


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment