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The Vega, The Ghost, and the Rambling Old Man January 19, 2013

Well, we’re a few weeks into 2013.
I can’t count the number of times the world was supposed to end by now.
(Of course, this could all be an illusion created to satisfy us while we’re just being used as batteries to keep the machines running.)


I thought I should write something before the first month of the new year is over. Since I don’t have a specific topic in mind I guess I’ll just ramble.
I don’t get how some people blog every single day! I do think I’ll shoot for a couple times a month.
Yeah. Good luck with that.

58
Oh, I just turned 58 this month.
I’ll talk about that.
Ya know, I keep saying that getting older sucks, and many aspects do, indeed, suck.
But there’s plenty to be thankful for, as well.

Man. 58 years on this planet.
Fifty-friggin’-eight years.
That seems like a long time. Simultaneously, it’s like a flash in the pan.
I feel like I’ve lived a number of different lives in that time. I should write a memoir.
I’d need help from a good ghost-writer. But I know some of the things I’d include.
I’ll give a very, very small sampling.

So many experiences.
Experiences I shouldn’t even still be alive to…
well, experience.

I’ve lost track of how many wrecks I’ve been in.
Crashed into a tree. Into a bridge.
Rolled a car in front of a moving semi.
Flipped a motorcycle.  Just to name a few.

Hey! Ya wanna ride?


When I was younger, growing up on a farm, we used to play “pitchfork toss.” We’d see
how close we could get without actually impaling each other.
We really knew how to have fun, didn’t we?
I don’t know how the hell I survived childhood, let alone live to 58!

I got beat up a lot. (Something to do with having a “smart mouth,” I think.)
Still, they never shut me up.
There! I showed them, huh?

I’ve been threatened at gunpoint. That’ll get the heart pumping.

I had a rather odd (and not much fun) trip to the Grand Canyon.
(And, if I recall, the Painted Desert, Petrified Forrest, Royal Gorge, and the Rockies.)
Four people, camping gear, and a couple weeks on the road…chevrolet-vega-1
all in a Vega.
Yeah. A Vega.

It wasn’t my friends fault that I had a bad time.  It was just a personal thing.

I used to go camping. (OK. Sometimes that was fun. A little.)
I went spelunking once.  The kind where you start by slithering through a
hole you wouldn’t make your dog go through.  I can’t say that I recommend spelunking.
Sure, it had some interesting aspects. Just not enough bang for the buck from my perspective.


Fun Experiences:
White-water rafting. Para-sailing. Flying in a helicopter. Flying in little 2-seater planes.
Trips to the ocean. Trips to lakes. Multiple times sailing and other boating trips. Lots of trips to amusement parks. Trips to Las Vegas.
And many enjoyable memories of concerts (from Alice Cooper to The Monkees, to Marvin Hamlisch) and live theater performances (Like “Les Mis ”, “Cats”, “The Lion King” and “Wicked”.)

I’ve written, produced and recorded two CDs with my wife.
I’ve written (and been paid for) some articles for a magazine.
I was so happy to play a small part in bringing the movie “Blue Like Jazz”  to the screen, and be listed in the ending credits.


Changes.
A less than stable first five years of life.
Then adopted.
Loved, but grossly miscast as a farm boy. Not a lot of friends.
Got in lots of trouble.
Lots of trouble.
Seriously, I was ADHD long before they knew what that was.

I had a number of teenage crushes, and at least one long-term teenage love.
High-school dropout.
Convicted, incarcerated felon.
Late-teen/early twenties evangelical. Pentecostal/Charismatic Jesus-freak.
Right-wing. “Mostly” Republican.
Got Married.
Became a stepfather.

I’ve worked in a lot of factories. I really need to get back to that kind of work.

More changes.
Marriage troubles (mostly my fault.)
Divorced.
“Post mid-life” crisis.
Coke-snorting, multiple drug-taking, party-boy.
Trying hard to find my place.
Trying to distinguish what I know about myself from what I’ve thought I should be.
Trying to distinguish God from what I’ve been taught about God.

Grace.
Lots and lots of grace.
Re-married (same woman).
Became a grandparent.  Twice.
Co-pastor. Elder. Sunday-school teacher. Worship leader. Counselor.
Ex-co-pastor. Ex-elder. Ex-Sunday-school teacher. etc.
(Still a pastor and a counselor in a more “real-world,” organic kind of way.)
Ex-member of institutional religion.
Left-wing. “Mostly” Democrat.

Speaking of leaving the IC:
I tried hard to maintain some of the relationships I had there. Sadly, no one was really interested. Religion can so entwine some people that, to them, leaving a man-made organization constitutes leaving the friendship.
There was one man at the institution I used to attend who, I have no doubt, would have remained a close friend to this day, had he not already transitioned to the next part of eternity.

So, I went a few years without much positive social interaction. Recently that changed when I associated myself with a group called “Lifetree Café.” It’s a conversation cafe, which I’ve hosted a number of times.
We’re currently on hiatus.
A few friendships evolved out of that, as well as a 4-man discussion group/book club.

58 years.
So many changes.

Philosophical.
  World-view.
    Religious.
      Spiritual.
        Social.
          Political.

All of those areas of my life have seen more change in the last 3 to 8 years than I would have imagined or thought possible.
good-newsI’ve been freed of much of the horrible theology I used to accept and promote.
I learned that the “Good News” really is good.
I was pretty young in life when I was “born-again/saved/converted/came to know Christ,” or whatever you wish to call that form of spiritual awakening. I used to think that during all of the “troubles” I’ve mentioned that I somehow lost that “salvation.” A couple of the more important revelations in my life were, first of all “salvation” is not primarily about what happens after this life, and secondly, I couldn’t disconnect from God if I wanted to.
Ignore God; live out of selfishness and greed; Yes. But be separated from God; never.

2012 saw me more politically engaged than I have ever been, financially and actively.
This engagement was, for me, simply an extension of my faith and of my love for God.
I won’t go into much detail here because I’ve explored many of those issues throughout this blog.


Sexual/Spiritual healing.
I’ve learned to accept myself the way I am wired as a sexual being.
(If you haven’t already done so, you can read more about that aspect in my “Tribbles” article.)
I’ve learned to reconcile my sexuality with my faith, and with my life as a happily married man, without having to deny, dislike, or fight that inner part of my soul.

My wife, Kathy, is truly the best part of my life. I don’t recommend divorce as an avenue for making your marriage better, but it seemed to help us. I’ve now spent much more of my life with her than without her. Neither of us, of course, are the people we originally said “I do” with. We’ve grown together, and evolved together in amazing and unbelievable ways.
Sidelight: I can’t imagine spending all those years together – the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, and all the in between – while being told that our love wasn’t worthy of being called a marriage just because it was looked down upon by someone else.
Tragic.

Onward.
58 years, so far.
Sometimes I wish I knew how much time is left on my clock. Sometimes I’m glad I don’t know.
Some nights I call it a draw.”
One day at a time. Despite what we may try to believe, there’s really no other option. (That doesn’t seem to stop me from often borrowing tomorrow’s troubles.)

Kathy and I are discussing our retirement plans. We know we won’t be living high-on-the-hog, but we figure we should be modestly financially stable. We may still need part-time jobs, unless we retire in another country. That’s a real possibility.

I hope, in retirement, to spend more time volunteering for causes I support.
I have a deep desire to do at least one more CD.
I’d like more opportunities to put my multiple counseling studies to good use as I continue to “pastor.”
And maybe someday, I’ll connect with that ghost-writer.

– df
.                                                                             .  ghost-writer

 

BLUE LIKE JAZZ on DVD August 8, 2012

Order The DVD From LIFEWALK! CLICK HERE!
(It’s also at Walmart, Netflix, Redbox, Amazon, and likely on Mars by now.)

[I got a call from Donald Miller thanking me for my support of “Blue Like Jazz.” Yeah, that’s kind of pretty cool. Here’s a brief review of the movie.]

I expected to enjoy “Blue Like Jazz.” Yet, I must admit, after all the promotion and high hopes, I had some fear [just a teeny tiny bit] the movie might not be something I would be able to “brag” about.
After seeing the film, all fears have been laid to rest. I thought it was a great movie. My wife and I both really enjoyed it [and not just because our names are in the closing credits].
Good writing. Good production values. Good performances all the way around.
AND a great message! One I can actually get behind.

If you’ve read “Blue Like Jazz,” and listened to some old Steve Taylor records, you’ll have some idea of the creative power behind the movie. It addresses the hypocrisy of religion, while remaining very pro-faith. It’s real, raw, and avoids the clichés and pitfalls that seem inherent with most movies dealing with faith.
I will be seeing this movie again and again. We traveled a couple of hours just to see it. It was more than worth it.
Do yourself a favor: See “Blue Like Jazz.” It’s not just a movie. The background of its making, and the execution make it a piece of cinematic history.

UPDATED TRAILER with quotes from movie reviews:

READ MORE. Click Here.


DVD Special Features Include:

Audio Commentary with Author Donald Miller, Cinematographer Ben Pearson and Director Steve Taylor
Making Blue Like Jazz
Master Class: Directing Actors on Set
Deleted Shots
Photo Gallery
“Save Blue Like Jazz” Featurette
“The Cast” Featurette
“The Animator” Featurette
“This Is My Story” Featurette
“The Music” Featurette

 

The Kingdom, The Ship, and the Really Hot Days July 2, 2012

We weren’t home much over the weekend.
There were some pretty bad storms, and we lost power Friday afternoon.  As of now (Monday) our power is STILL out!
This during some record-breaking heat.
We stayed one night with our son’s family.
We also spent a LOT of time in stores, at the mall, in restaurants, and sitting in coffee shops.
And we went to the movies.
Two of them.

One was “Battleship.”

We figured it would be watchable, but didn’t really expect much. Turns out, we thought it was pretty good!
So much for Rotten Tomatoes. More and more I find their reviews unreliable.
I miss Gene Siskel.
Anyway, it was great to see Peter Berg, Taylor Kitsch, and Jesse Plemons working together again. Hamish Linklater provided additional comic relief.  It also starred Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, and  the always working Liam Neeson.  It was, as seems to be the norm, a bit too long, but Berg and the actors delivered the requisite “humanity” it takes to make a movie like this worth watching.


We also saw a movie neither of us had heard of before:

“Moonrise Kingdom.”
It was playing at the mainstream theaters, and is now, appropriately, at the local Cinema Center.
It introduced us to young stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.
It also had a star-filled cast, including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, and Tilda Swinton.
We didn’t really know, even after reading the description, what to expect.  What we got was one of the most quirky, off-beat, and unusual films we’ve seen in the last decade.  A different kind of story, superb writing, and strange-but-great performances make Moonrise Kingdom a movie that’s in a league of it’s own.
Highly recommended.

So, not really a bad weekend.
Still, it would be nice to have electricity in our home again.

 

Conviction July 27, 2011



Amazing. Inspiring. Awesome. Unbelievable. TRUE!
My wife and I just watched “Conviction.” Wow. What a movie.
I suppose it would still have been an excellent movie as a work of fiction, but by being a true story, it’s made all the more remarkable.
Strong love, faith, perseverance, and incredible sacrifice are all on display here.

“Conviction” stars Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis and Peter Gallagher.
It’s the story of Betty Anne Waters, who spends around two decades going to law school and becoming a lawyer for the sole purpose of proving her brother innocent of the murder for which he was convicted. Talk about conviction!
It’s also the story of a “justice system” that doesn’t like admitting to mistakes, as well as a story of the advent of DNA evidence and Barry Scheck’s “Innocence Project”.

Yes, there is a lot of profanity in this movie. But what is truly profane is the corruption of those who willfully twisted the facts, and procured perjury in order to get a conviction.

They don’t whitewash the fact that the man found guilty was often a short-tempered obnoxious jerk. Rockwell gives a performance that shows us a man it’s hard to be compassionate toward. But he is still a man falsely accused.
Had he been in a state where the death penalty was in effect, he would have been dead before his sister had time to exonerate him.

Hundreds of convictions have been overturned due to DNA evidence. We’ll never know how many hundreds or thousands of innocent people have been “proven” guilty but the lawyers, found guilty by the jurors, sentenced guilty by the judges, and put to death as guilty by the executioners.
There are many who think this “collateral damage” is acceptable in order to keep the death penalty in place for those they believe “deserve” it.
I am NOT among them. I’m pretty sure most of them would think differently were it their son or daughter wrongly sentenced. The possibility of even ONE person wrongly convicted and put to death is reason enough to abolish capital punishment.

All the performances in “Conviction” are top-notch. My favorite was probably the few, but excellent minutes occupied by Juliet Lewis.
I don’t recall hearing of this movie at the theaters, but I’m very glad I found it. It was time well spent.
Buy, rent, or borrow this movie.

— df

Buy the movie.  Click HERE.


Here’s a CBS news article about the real story: Read HERE.

 

The A Team June 12, 2010

Q: “Why are we in a falling tank?!?!”
A: “Because the plane blew up!”

We saw the new “The A-Team” movie today. I usually check out some reviews before going to any movie. This movie, at the site I was on, was given a C+. The reviews were mixed, with one reviewer calling the film “an incomprehensible mess.” Neither I or my wife found anything about the movie “incomprehensible” or a “mess.” In fact, we both really enjoyed the movie.

Liam Neeson was perfectly cast as Hannibal. Bradley Cooper was a lot of fun as “Face.” Rampage was very good as B.A. Actually, I liked him a lot better than Mr. T. I’ve nothing against “T” as a person, but I found his take on the character rather annoying. Rampage, I thought, was more audience friendly. Sharlto Copley rounded out the leads as the rather insane Murdock. Jessica Biel, and the always impressive Gerald McRaney also starred. John Hamm made an appearance at the end in what was an obvious set-up for a return in “A-Team II.”

The movie was produced by the Scott Brothers, who’s credits include such films as Alien, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, and on and on, as well as TV shows like “The Good Wife,” and “Numb3rs.”  Also at the helm, is TV series producer Stephen J. Cannell, who pretty much owned 80’s television.

As I said, my wife and both enjoyed this movie. Instead of the C+, I’d give it a B+. We expected to enjoy it, but we both liked it more than we expected. All in all, we found the movie to be a great blend of action, story, special effects, and the all-important sense of humor that is essential for this type of film to succeed.
Oh, and stay through the credits for a couple of fun cameos.

— df

 

A Million Miles In A Thousand Years May 2, 2010

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My review of Donald Miller’s
“A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life”

.

This is the 4th book I’ve read by Mr. Miller. I’ve learned from all of his books. I found his latest by far his best work since his huge best seller “Blue Like Jazz.”

This book was birthed out of his interaction with Steve Taylor and Ben Pierson, after they approached him about making a movie based on BLJ. Steve and Ben are in much of the book, but there are also many other stories and life experiences.

This book takes a look at what goes into a good story. It looks at what it takes to make an interesting movie. It looks at what it takes to write a interesting book. It looks at what it takes to live an interesting life. Don asks us to look at the story we are in. He asks if we’re living the best stories we can live. He shares many events that are a part of his life, all the while seeing what in those events makes his story, his life, worth sharing. Sharing in a way that will interest others.

Through this process, we’re given many great insights into life. Insights into how our story affects the stories of others. Insights into how our stories are just a small part of the greater story. Of how life isn’t just about “our” story. “I’m just one tree in a story about a forest.” At the same time, each tree matters.

I found this book a very easy read, especially compared to much of the kind of reading I enjoy. But, easy doesn’t mean superficial. It certainly doesn’t mean shallow. There is some deep stuff here. This book is one I recommend. I recommend it for fans of “Blue Like Jazz.” If you’ve never read that one, check it out first. But, this book is also for fans of good story. It’s for fans of learning a little more of what life is all about. And, of course, it’s for fans of Steve Taylor.

To buy the book, or read more about it, Click HERE.
Buy the KINDLE version. Click HERE.
————————
Some quotes from the book:

“Life has a peculiar feel when you look back on it that it does not have when you’re living it.”

“If you use this dishwashing liquid, people will want to have sex with you.”
(NOTE: You’ll have to read the book for the context.)

“We get robbed of the glory of live because we aren’t capable of remembering how we got here…
you could easily believe life isn’t that big of a deal, that life isn’t staggering…
I think life is staggering and we’re just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we’re given–it’s just another sunset, just another rainstorm…just another child being born, just another funeral.”

“But fear isn’t only a guide to keep us safe; it’s also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living boring lives.”

“She wondered why it mattered if Jesus hung on a cross and died. Since the world went crazy anyway…
‘See,’ she prayed, ‘you created us only to let us march around in our misery. You’re supposed to be good. What are you good for?'”

“You get a feeling when you look back on life that…all God really wants from us [is] to live inside a body he made and enjoy the story and bond with us through the experience.”

“Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller.”

“Life itself may be designed to change us, so that we evolve from one kind of person to another.
…humans are alive for the purpose of journey…
the point wasn’t the search but the transformation the search creates.
…we’re designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us.”

To buy the book, or read more about it, Click HERE.
Buy the KINDLE version. Click HERE.
——————————-

 

 
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