Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thankful for Good Music

After commenting last week that the Kottke concert wasn't in my top 10, I wondered which ones would be there. On further reflection I decided it might be difficult to come up with the 10 best concert experiences and it would be better to list the 10 music acts I've appreciated the most:
1. David Wilcox (not the Canadian blues guy) - best overall performer, his concerts are 'magical'. He feels the music so deeply and invites us in, to experience it with him
2. U2 - seen twice in Toronto, it's a powerful and moving experience
3. Bob Bennett - wonderful memories of listening to him play around southern Ontario as I drove him around on a mini-tour I helped promote
4. Steve Bell - one of the most engaging performers/storytellers, seen him I'm sure a dozen times over the years. Never disappoints. Seen him twice with a full orchestra, which is awesome
5. Bruce Cockburn - lots of concerts, prefer solo acoustic ones, he's a master songwriter and player, not a great stage presence though
6. Pierce Pettis - love his voice, a great guitar player, his songs are wonderful, engaging manner - ie. he's the complete package. Brought him to Kitchener in 2009, so disappointed I could only get 25 people to come see him. Helped me realize promotion is not for me
7. Jars of Clay - seen at least 3 times, the first back after their initial release when they were a very unpolished bunch of college kids (I wasn't too impressed with their stage presence, or lack thereof) but they have come a long way and are a great act
8. Tommy Emmanuel - maybe the best (acoustic) guitarist I've ever seen and a nice stage presence.
9. Brian Doerksen - best worship leader ever and his electric guitarist Brian Thiessen plays wonderful fills
10. The Choir - my favourite by far was the intimate (like 2 metres from the guys) acoustic house concert last fall in Windsor
Honorable Mentions (because there are obviously way more than 10 great performers I've seen)
Brooks Williams, Michael Card, Carolyn Arends, The Lost Dogs, Phil Keaggy, Fernando Ortega, Jason Gray, Square Pegs Alliance, Bill Mallonee, Larry Norman, Daniel Amos, The 77s, Steve Taylor, Buddy Miller, Alison Krauss/Robert Plant, Martyn Joseph, Pat Terry, Andrew Peterson, Andrew Smith, Pierre Bensusan, Jay Calder, Caedmon's Call, Derek Webb, Mike Roe, Glen Soderholm, John Gorka, Mavis Staples, Jacob Moon, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Bob Dylan (big disappointment), Paul Baloche, Phil Wickham, Don Ross, Sufjan Stevens, Steven Delopolous, Sara Groves, Mark Heard, John Austin, Downhere, Starfield, Lost & Found, Adam Again, Sam Phillips (and Leslie Phillips if that means anything to anybody), Nathan Rogers, Doyle Dykes, Steve Howe, Kerry Livgren (A.D.)
Other Concerts I've attended:
CCM Oldies: Paul Clark, Kelly Willard, Barry McGuire, John Michael Talbot, Randy Stonehill, Chuck Girard, Tom Howard, Isaac Air Freight, Resurrection Band, Daniel Band, D.C. Talk
Real Oldies: Genesis, Yes, Styx, Sparks, Patti Smith, City Boy, Queen, Rush, Supertramp, Budgie (my favourite rock band as a teenager)

Wow! When you see it in black and white like that you realize that's a lot of music and a lot of concerts. I count 78 in total and it's not even an exhaustive list!! Plus many of those artists have been seen more than once. I guess you can cover a fair bit of ground by the time you get to be my age. If it wasn't obvious before that I'm a music fan, it sure is obvious now. Looking at that list I realize I've had a deep appreciation for almost every one of these artists. My life is richer for making contact with their music. And I'm glad that Beth has gotten to know and appreciate so much of it as well. What can I say, she's got good taste;)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Kidneys

We went with some friends to see guitarist Leo Kottke in Toronto last Saturday. I had at least one of his albums from the 70's and a few others along the way - he's well-known for his instrumentals, especially on the 12-string guitar. It was a good show but doesn't rank in my top 10.
Sunday morning Beth helped me lead some songs with the children's program at church. It was a lot of fun and went really well - the kids were engaged and I didn't forget anything, even with just a little practise. I guess those tunes are pretty ingrained from repetition over the years. It's neat that they still work - even did the old standard "This Little Light of Mine".
Monday I had an abdominal ultrasound in the morning and then my annual checkup with my nephrologist (kidney specialist). I was diagnosed with PKD (polycystic kidney disease) about 9 years ago so they keep an eye on how they are functioning. It's pretty unpredictable how this will affect me - I've been told that it can amount to nothing, or it can kill you. There is the possibility of needing a kidney transplant at some point, but since nobody knows for sure how the disease will progress in any individual, I figure there's no point in worrying about it much.  However it is hereditary so my children do also run this risk. There are 5 stages of kidney function and apparently I'm right in the middle of stage 3, which is apparently okay according to my doctor. Met with a nutritionist a couple of years ago and have since cut back on pop containing caffeine or phosphoric acid (I drink mainly root beer now) as well as taking a naturopathic green tea pill twice daily. I feel it has helped. Have had a couple of incidents with kidney stones in the last few years but passed my last one on my birthday in 2009 and have been fine since.
Still plugging away at "The Count of Monte Cristo". A friend said they quit after 600 (of 1000) pages and I'm beginning to see why - loads of (unnecessary?) description and many characters to keep track of. I printed off a chart I found through Wikipedia that is helpful in keeping relationships straight.
Got a lot of snow today, and it's still coming down 12 hours later. Unfortunately it wasn't a day off, though they did cancel music practice for tonight. Alison woke me up at 5:30 saying I should check the radio as she couldn't get into the parking lot for her early shift at the pool. Need to go out and do some more shovelling (and put the liner back into my coat!).
Our labrador retriever Josie goes in for surgery this Friday - she has a large cyst on her back leg as well as a couple growths around her left eye that need to be removed. She'll need to be put under for this (and I'll need to sit down when I we get the bill I'm sure). She's a good dog though (7.5 years old), not very demanding and just fantastic with people. She's been getting more opportunity it seems to hang out in the living room, especially when we have company, so she loves that of course as she's usually confined to the kitchen and family room.
Started listening to some Brooks Williams again this week, planning to go see him in Guelph on April 8th. He's a very good acoustic blues guitarist and I've seen him live quite a few times, including one gig I promoted/hosted here in 2006 (his only appearance in Kitchener so far). Also played a bit of Christian parody band Apologetix (got a couple CDs while in Florida) - a lot of their stuff is very creative and some of it is pretty hilarious, especially if you're familiar with the original tunes they base their songs on.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


We got back yesterday from our trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, where we visited with mom and dad at their trailer park (and slept on their pull out couch!). It was a wonderful week with lots of sunshine and warmth. Relaxed on the beach, did some reading (I'm part way through 'The Count of Monte Cristo' - what a great book!), and played some games in the evening (learned a new one that's interesting called 'Hand and Foot'). We got to meet some of mom and dad's many friends that they've made down there - they've been coming to that park for 8 years now and been going to the Baptist church in the area for even longer. Dad and I went golfing one morning and he only beat me by 3 strokes - neither of us did very well but at least I parred one hole. I didn't take my computer along though I had my iPad with me - but there was no internet around so a couple of times we walked for 30 minutes (each way) to go to a Starbucks where I could check my email, etc.
I always find flying interesting - so many people seem to take it for granted but Beth and I do it so infrequently that it's like an adventure for us. The comedian Louis CK has some great insights into the phenomenon of whiney people always complaining about plane delays, etc. instead of appreciating the miracle that we're actually sitting in a chair in the sky flying like a bird! Anyway I don't mind hanging out at airports reading or doing puzzles (or eating - there was a 5 Guys hamburger joint at the Washington airport - Yum!). However I guess I do have one (legitimate I think) complaint this time: on our way south we had a 3 hour layover, but we landed in Baltimore (Maryland) and our next flight left from Washington (D.C.)!! That was a one hour taxi ride that cost us over $100! I'll be calling up the Air Miles folks this week to get some compensation I hope.
Didn't listen to as much music this week but did give a better listen to the new Bruce Cockburn and I think it's growing on me. Also got into 'The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter' a bit - this guy's good! The clip on my iPod case broke so I've had to search hard for a replacement - think I found one that will work, hope the order gets to mom and dad before they leave on the 28th.

Friday, March 11, 2011

20 Pounds

So, yeah, that's how much weight I've taken off since the beginning of the year. And I feel pretty fantastic about that (but I ain't braggin'). Simple combination of no dessert or junk food and lots of walking, gym workouts. I plan on gaining a bit of that back next week while in Florida (I want to enjoy my holiday after all) but will recommit to taking off more when I return. It's been a busy week at school so it's helped the time fly more quickly - but still not fast enough, as I've been counting down to our flight on Saturday. Today the grade 4 classes led a spirit assembly on 'dealing peacefully with others' and it went really well. We had everyone join in the singing of 2 songs that people seemed to like: "Let's Celebrate (the Human Race)" and "Don't Laugh at Me". Overall the assembly was a bit stressful with lots of potential for things to go wrong but in the end it all came off smoothly (and I only made a couple guitar errors).
Finished Ken Follett's "Fall of Giants" and thoroughly enjoyed it. Whipped through it pretty quickly in fact. Here's what I wrote in my database review which I use to track my reading:

Over 1000 pages you can really develop a relationship with the characters, even though there are many of them. Basically follows 5 fictionalized families (Welsh miners, British aristocrats, Russian peasants, German soldiers, U.S. diplomats) and their interesting (but contrived of course) interactions and viewpoints during World War One. The only issue I have with Follett is his emphasis on sex as a major motivator of the human species (and his unnecessarily detailed descriptions of these acts). Beth wonders if this is a European or British mindset as we’ve run across it before with some other writers.

Musically I ended up listening to Chagall Guevera early in the week. What a great rock album! It got me listening to lead singer Steve Taylor's first and last releases ("I Want to Be a Clone" and "Squint" respectively). Picked up Bruce Cockburn's new "Small Source of Comfort" on Tuesday and gave it a first listen - didn't blow me away but I'll give it more careful attention next week. Also bought Buddy Miller's "Majestic Silver Strings" but not very impressed on the initial spin. He only seems to sing on a few songs and there are way too many country hurtin' songs on it. Listened to his (& wife Julie) on their "Written in Chalk" to remind myself how much I do like his other stuff.
I'm so looking forward to being in Florida starting tomorrow - got my books, iPod and iPad ready to go, along with a new puzzle book for some brain exercise. I don't really know what we'll end up doing while we're down there but I'm sure there will be warmth and it will be nice to be with Mom & Dad. And, of course, it will be wonderful just to have some relaxing time to spend with Beth. I'm even kinda looking forward to the flight - lots of opportunity to read or listen to music. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Random? Thoughts

So the countdown is on - we leave in one week for Florida. I find that I'm thinking about it a lot, and really looking forward to it, but also wondering why that is, since I'm very content with the way things are going at this point in my life. I think I'm just excited to be taking a real break and just relaxing (well I sure hope it's relaxing). Or maybe I just want to feel some warmth and sunshine.
Took in a couple of movies this week - 'Small Town Murder Songs' was a real disappointment, very amateurish, slow-moving, stilted acting. 'The Adjustment Bureau' was okay but seemed pretty weird and too mysterious, plus I didn't really care about the characters the way you should with a good movie. I'm almost halfway through reading Ken Follet's 'The Fall of Giants' - it's a well written fictionalized history of the WWI era but man that guy likes to write about sex (in just too much detail).
Went skating with our class on Wednesday, which was fun, and had music practice for Sunday morning service that night. Sometimes we go over the songs so many times that I get a blister under my callus on my little finger - ouch! It's great to be part of this though.
Today (Saturday) I started staining wood for a few house projects - trim under the living room windows, a shoe rack, trim for window frames (to be attached by window installers). The pieces needed to be sanded first and just setting everything up takes a lot of time. I'm working in mom and dad's basement while they're gone.
Followed a bit of the internet controversy about Rob Bell's upcoming book. Lots of people speaking out inappropriately, and I guess my problem is I kind of like the guy and really appreciated his first release 'Velvet Elvis'. A good point was made I think by Scot McKnight (another author I like, though I've only read his 'Blue Parakeet') when he said that Bell is to be commended for having the courage to wrestle with issues like heaven and hell (especially as they reflect how we view God). It really made me stop and think about the number of times I'm willing to let some theological issues remain a mystery. The problem with that approach is that there are many sincere seekers out there who really are looking for answers and we should be prepared to provide at least some guidance by coming to a personal conviction after careful and thorough study. I need to think more carefully about this concept.
Had a real musical treat this week as I was able to download a demo copy of some new songs by a favourite artist from California, Bob Bennett, who also became a friend when I drove him around southern Ontario to perform a few years ago. Listened some more to Josh Ritter's "The Animal Years" (I'm now a fan), Adam Again's "Ten Songs", and Leo Kottke's "One Guitar No Vocals". After our study of Ephesians 4 on Thursday I was inspired to pull out John Michael Talbot and Michael Card's "Brother to Brother", especially thinking of the song 'One Faith'. Man, that is some amazing music - John Michael is a phenomenal guitarist and the orchestration on these songs is beautiful. Pulled out Talbot's 2 early releases - his self-titled first album has always been a favourite of mine for its intricate guitar work.