Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tis the Season

Last year I played softball with our church team.

It was a great time.  Mostly.  I hadn't swung a bat since little league and it took a little adjustment but soon I was into it.  Really into it.  I was the lead-off batter.  My job was to get on base, steal second; steal third if they lost a pitch and stroll into home when the opportunity came.  I managed to steal home once.  Reading a softball is much faster than reading a frisbee but I was soon able to cover my fair share of the outfield.

The problems.  Ego, Pride & Competition.  Some people get very involved in the game and take it very personal when things aren't going right, or are less than gracious when things are going right.  The league had its share of hot-heads.  Our team had a few as well.

There was one game during the regular season where things got heated.  Reminds me of a song - Church League Softball Fistfight by Tim Wilson.  Not a fist fight, not even pushing; but too much battling for a CHURCH league softball team with adults.

Then there was the playoffs.  We were in the B-division which was appropriate and through some fancy math of runs scored vs. given up we edged our way into the B-division finals.  This put us against a very chippy team that just beat the game before.  It isn't that the team was chippy, one player was mouthy and chippy.  Henceforth - Mr. Chippy.

We had a few players return since the first game and it really changed our whole team dynamic.  We were a better team this time.  We played a very clean game and churned our way to a comfortable lead late in the game.  Mr. Chippy ended up grumpy and on second base.  He had a nice swaggerin' way of leading off after pitch (allowed) and slowly strolling back if our shortstop or 2nd-baseman was not covering the bag.  Slowly strolling to the point of delaying the game.  We get it, you're a superstar who can toy with us and pretend like your creaky old bones will carry you to third.  If we covered the bag he was back in plenty of time to not get caught.

Well I was in deep left center and told the right-center to go stand on the 2nd after the pitch.  Mr. Chippy did his usual and our guy scooted onto 2nd unseen by him.  Our catcher did his job with a nice toss back to second for the easiest and most pleasant out of the game.  Mr. Chippy was out due to his own swaggerin' arrogance.  Justice was served.  Mr. Chippy turns to our thirdbaseman and goes off with insults worthy of a middle school bully.  Our guy on 3rd was our potential powederkeg who had behaved the whole game. Somehow the tempers got diffused and everyone went away.

I did enjoy that season.  I look forward to this season and the fellowship that can happen.  We may need to work through some ugly games but bring on the good ones.  It really is great fellowship.

I few lessons (ponderances) that I've gleaned from church softball:
1.  Why does it feel so good when Mr. Chippy gets his come-uppance?  -or-  When the guy in the HOV lane is pulled over driving by himself?  (that used to make me smile when I drove into Pittsburgh)
2.  Why can every church in town pull together that much for a sports league?  Yes it has great fellowship (between teams as well) but little to nothing for service and outreach?
3.  Why can't we pull together this much for other things (worship, concerts, events)?
4.  Why are polyester pants so stinkin' hot?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Another concert - W&A and EP

We had our best concert so far - (a small clip)

W&A with Eric Peters from James Witmer on Vimeo.

My church has continued to be an enabler to me and supported another concert.  There are a handfull of artists that I enjoy greatly and would love to have play in my living room for us and a few friends.  I'd invite more than my house can hold so the church works very well.  I generally spring this idea on our church and they say run with it.

So this is attempt #3 at a concert at our church.  We had Phredd play in Novemeber '10, Randall Goodgame in February '11 and now Eric Peters this past week (May '11).

Concerts are an emotional roller coaster. 
Stage 1 - Nervous through the first interactions and getting everyone on board. 
Stage 2 - Joy once everything has a greenlight and you can go full bore into planning. 
Stage 3 - Frustrated at the lack of anyone else reflecting your enthusiasm as it gets announced, posters get hung, other venues are sought to fill the weekend for the artist.

C'mon Grove City College!  Independent musicians should be bread & butter stuff for college kids.  I'm trying to give food to starving folks and you're not sure if you can setup a buffet with an outsider.  "Me thinks thou doest protect too much."
(there I feel better)

Stage 4 - The Day.  Now the real ride begins.  The artist(s) show up, go through soundcheck and wait as ppl trickle in.  We struggle with attendance.  There were 55 in attendance so it is getting better, but still a struggle.  Every bit of this keeps me edgy.

Stage 5 - The Show.  Will the sound come through okay? will everyone have a good time?  About 4 songs in I've been able to relax and enjoy.

Something helped this time.

I rejoice that James Witmer came along part way through this process; Stage 3 to be exact.  He had so much energy and it was great to have a partner in battle.  We bounced ideas back and forth seeking to get the best concert out there for as many people as we could.

Also Stage 4 and 5 would leave me crying in a corner if not for support from my wife and our great church.  As I scramble to check the food, water, kids, tables, etc - it is already doing it or has it done.  I have no experience behind a soundboard so Mark "the evening" Hughes is the man who makes the buttons go to the right place to keep it all sounding good.

James and Vince Anastasi  helped HUGE with a 3-song opener.  Double blessing here.  First, it was great music.  Second, they brought there own crowd to the show.  If any future shows happen (Gully, AP a guy can dream) I will certainly seek them out to do it again.  I want to hear more of their stuff, I want them to have an audience for their music.

They were followed by EP.  Eric Peters is a unique singer.  He is influenced by some good classic music (Mammas & Pappas, Turtles, Simon and Garfunkel) and some 80's rock for a very nice sound.  The sound is tricky in that you don't realize how deep he is being with the writing.  I find myself enjoying the song immediately and 4-5 listens through I understand what it's about and sometime later (10-15) I get slammed by the beauty of what I'm hearing.

The concert was fun.  It was a great time at the show; and a great night hanging out as nearly middle aged men, as dads, and as Christians wrestling to be of use in our vocations/locations.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

He can write too - A review of "The Monster in the Hollows" by Andrew Peterson

"I'd rather be sick for a week than read a book." - Anthony Tongin

I can relate to that sentiment; and had I been clever enough for the comparison it would have well described my childhood through college reading; instead I lifted a quote from a college Bible study some years ago.  Currently I can't find enough time to finish off my stack of "to be reads".

I had a work trip to Canada which gave me a nice chunk of time to read a book that showed up at my doorstep - The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson.  Available via the Rabbitroom.

This is book three of the Wingfeather Saga.  It is aimed more towards the 10-14 y/o market but they'd have to rip it from my cold dead hands.

No secret that I am a fan of Andrew Peterson music going on 13 years now.  When he wrote the first book (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness) I was sceptical.  I didn't want my favorite singer to be tarnished by a lousy book.  My fears were for nothing.  The story was funny, great twists, and just a roller coaster that I never wanted to exit.

I also greatly enjoyed the created world.  I place this firmly between "Chronicles of Narnia" and LOTR.  It has the imagination and detail of LOTR without being heavy or overwhelming.  It doesn't come off as convenient as Narnia sometimes felt to me.  Then add two scoops of humor and you're in for a good time.

Then second book (North or Be Eaten) was another roller coaster that was very enjoyable.  Picks you up just after catching your breath from the first ride.

Onto the latest installment - The Monster in the Hollows.  Basically it was the easiest 300+ pages I've ever read.  Even on 4hrs of sleep and stuck in a tin can at 30,000ft for 2 hours, then 3 hours; I was reading rather than sleeping.  I tried reading 1-2 chapters and then putting it down.  Didn't work.  This thing was as addictive as yummy popcorn.

I was expecting a good book (well written, tight) and it did not disappoint.  What I was not expecting were the continual plot twists.  I had one of them pegged but the others were just stunning.  And they just kept getting shot at you.  I kept thinking "okay, there can't possibly be anything else to toss out there" and then like a never-ending quiver of arrows +3 out comes another shot that strikes its target.

I think the story has matured with each installment and the emotional battle of the characters are compelling. I felt wrapped in the anguish and joy of each of the Wingfeather children.  I was hooked in the story, not just reading it.

The story seems written to be read out loud.  Most chapters wrap up leave you hanging for one more sentence.  I can imagine my brood yelling for me to read another chapter, then another.  I know the feeling of tension.  It'll probably be another year until the next book.

So if you can't tell.  I liked it.  I think it is best as a third installment (i.e. read the other two first).  But there is plenty of background where I didn't need to brush up and it is probably sufficient that the story carries on its own.

Also these would make wonderful cinema.  Now, who could do a soundtrack for such a movie series?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nastalgia ain't what it used to be

The public does not like bad literature.  The public likes a certain kind of literature, and likes that kind even when it is bad better than another kind of literature when it is good.  Nor is this unreasonable; for the line between different types of literature is as real as the line between tears and laughter;  and to tell people who can only get bad comedy that you have some first-class tragedy is as irrational as to offer a man who is shivering over weak, warm coffee a really superior sort of ice.  -GK Chesterton.

I caught the last 5 minutes of Batman Returns yesterday.  The second of the Micheal Keaton Batman films.  I remember liking it at the time and now (especially after the latest comic book films) - WOW it was terrible.  I was expecting the dudes from MST3K to show up.  Then it would have been tolerable.  There was a thirst for comic-book films and it was filled with bad attempts.  I'm glad things have improved (mostly - I'm ignoring Fantastic Four  part II even existed).