As much as Iād like to be that guy who sets goals and powers through to the finishā¦Iām not that guy. I get distracted. I have too many interests and no control of when one or the other (or something new) might rear its beautiful head. So Iād like to think that Iāll be able to do everything I want to do, but realistically I know that isnāt going to happen. I have to focus on a few things and let the others be little side-trips. As time goes on Iām sure things will move around a bit and maybe some new things will join the list, and some others will slide down the priority scale. But for nowā¦
It may be a bit surprising to see photography listed among the āother stuffā as important as it has been to me for so long. But there simply isnāt the time to put toward photography and music and, at the present time at least, music must take priority. Still, when the opportunities arise, I would like to do more night photography and more with people. Iāve also got a thing for car photography, so weāll see what comes of that.
I love to read. And in times past I would make all kinds of plans for which books and how much and even the order to read them in. However, between the 10 and Day and the music and recording and mixing and all of that, well, you can imagine that there is little time left for reading the sorts of books I like to read. However, when I do read, I am going to make an effort to write a decent review.
Thereās a video from one of the Ted talks in which the speaker says, contrary to a popular theory, you donāt need to practice something 10,000 hours to learn it. In very competitive fields and in order to be one of the very best, that is indeed the case. But the vast majority of that time is between learning something and mastering it. So, he says, you only need 20 hours to learn a skill. Iām not sure I completely agree. There must be some skills that take longer. But perhaps knots are one of those skills that I can work on a bit and learn well enough. Instead of devoting a ton of time to it, what if I put in enough time to learn 5 or 6 very useful knots and then, as I find time add one more knot to my arsenal? That, I think, might be doable.
I was reminded again recently that there are some theological issues that I donāt really understand well enough. For instance, what exactly is my theology of the atonement? In the near future Iāll make a list of topics that need more study, but for now letās just say, ātheology.ā
Over the past couple of years I have spent more and more time recording and mixing music. Most of the recording has been my own music, but I have also been working at building up a portfolio of songs I have mixed.
As Iāve said before, music is something you have to do in order to improve. There are tons of videos and articles written about recording and mixing techniques, but until you try them thereās really no way to know what works in each specific situation.
Recording and Mixing Music
1. Network. Iāve never been very good at the networking, generating contacts, sales kind of relationship building things. But Iām going to need to in order to find people to record. After all, it gets a little old just recording myself. And as much as I love recording with Demetrios, he has his own studio, so it’s a completely different (albeit rewarding) experience. Recording others and mixing other projects will open up new doors and will ultimately make me a better recording and mixing engineer.
2. Set deadlines and time limits. This is a repeat from last time. The idea is Joe Gilderās and itās a good one. I found it very helpful in focusing on the task at hand and also not overmixing, which is a tendency of mine.
3. Learn the mic. Iāve got a couple mics ā several, actually ā but pretty much one primary mic for vocals and guitar. So the idea here is to learn the best way to use the mic and where to place it and what sounds best. I listened to a mic āshootoutā yesterday ā basically a comparison of 20 high quality mics ā and I hate to admit it but I couldnāt hear much difference. I know itās there, the mics have different qualities and strengths and Iāve read all the reports but I simply canāt hear it. Soā¦maybe that has something to do with my ear training too.
4. Learn the equipment. Outside of just the mics, I need to get better with my chosen tools – Studio One, a couple of interfaces, a variety of virtual instruments and of course effects plugins. I’ve got plenty. In fact, some folks would say you don’t need any plugins but the ones that come standard with the DAW. Which is true, but I like the sound of some of the other plugins I have. I just need to learn the ins and outs a little bit better to be more comfortable with them.
A cursory glance at the category list will tell you that music is a big part of my life. Somewhere along the line I realized that I was going to have to choose between music and photography ā that I couldnāt put enough time and energy in to both to have a chance to grow and get better at either. I chose music. Not that I donāt take pictures or have any interest in photography, as youāll see. But the majority of my time and attention is on music. Iāve decided to break the huge category of āmusicā up in to two sections ā āplaying and writingā and ārecording and mixing.ā
Iāve been playing music for more than 30 years and writing music for probably 20 years or so. But in many ways I still feel like Iām just starting out with so much to learn, so many ways to get better.
Piano is my first instrument, having started lessons when I was 9. But I feel like I was a better piano player 10 or 15 years ago than I am now. Most of that has to do with my finger strength and related timing issues. I find myself playing unevenly too much. Iām not sure what to attribute that to, but I do know that there are finger exercises designed to improve those two specific issues.
My poor guitar. It must think, āafter all the love and craftsmanship that Del put into making me, and with all the incredibly talented guitarists that buy his guitars, how did I get stuck with a hack like this?ā Iām so sorry, my friend. I promise I will try to get better, to play more fingerstyle and less bombastic strumming, to play more melodically and less boisterously. Learning scales better will be a good place to start. And Iād like to learn to read TAB and play solos and songs from great guitarists. Or good guitarists. Might take a while to work up to Phil Keaggy and Kerry Livgren music.
Hymns are still an enigma to me. Thereās something about the way they are structured that just gives me fits. Iāve managed to play a few hymns here and there by writing out chord charts and just playing them that way. However, they become over-simplified and you lose so much of the movement in doing so. Iām afraid thereās nothing for it but sitting down and practicing them.
In addition to the timing issues I mentioned on the piano, Iām also seeing as I record that I am often ahead of the beat. I donāt hear it when Iām recording, but itās obvious when I listen back. So, it must also be happening when Iām playing live. Iāve still got to dig into a bit to find ways to help that. Maybe listening exercises, maybe playing to a click more.
More and more Iām interested in using orchestral instruments and writing vocal arrangements. The problem with this is that I have no background at all in either. So Iāve got a bit of catching up to do. There are some materials out there to help, but I think the most helpful thing would be to find people who are skilled at it and learn from them.
Every time Demetrios and I have spend time intentionally writing music good things happen. Even the unintentional times. Maybe they arenāt all hit songs, but thereās always something good that comes out of it that neither of us would have found on our own. More of that, please.
One of the problems with playing piano the way I have for so long is that I often find myself doing the same things. This is true on the guitar as well. I have found with the guitar that playing in DADGAD [warning: the DADGAD.org website autoplays musicā¦itās very niceā¦itās just, how do I turn it off? Why do people do that on their website? I mean, I know itās pretty and all, but what if I was listening to something else while surfing the internet?], as I was saying, playing in DADGAD as I have for the past 15 years or so helps me think outside of the standard chords, but still thereās not of ādifferentā in the music I write. Not that thereās anything wrong with having a style, but Iād like to try other styles and see what I can learn from them and what I can incorporate into my style. Active listening to a variety of styles is going to be very important in that respect.
A little every day
Well, maybe not every day. But as often as possible. Iāve got the studio set up, so itās easy enough to sit down and open up Studio One and record whatever is on my mind. I used to be much better at that, and Iāve got pieces of dozens of songs to show for it. Some of them never went anywhere, some I thought interesting enough to warrant more time and energy. So I need to get back to putting musical thoughts down as often as possible.
We are in the midst of a series from the book of Galatians. This weekās sermon was from the last part of Chapter 2, which will be familiar to a lot of people for verses 20 and 21, āI have been crucified with Christ and I myself no longer liveā¦ā Some of the themes from the sermon were union with Christ and dependence on Christ. In talking with Mike earlier in the week he suggested that something about Christ being our all in all would be appropriate.
The Highest and Greatest
In Christ Alone
You Are My All in All/I Stand in Awe
Despite the vagueness of the lyrics ā they never actually mention Jesus ā I chose to start with The Highest and Greatest to introduce the idea of Christās sufficiency. Itās still a relatively new song for us and the tempo doesnāt make it a natural āfirst song.ā However, I thought it would do well to start us focusing on Christ and who He is and then we could use other songs to develop the ideas further throughout the service.
Forever Reign is becoming a favorite at Communion. Weāve only started singing it in the last year but the congregation seems to respond well to it. Again I wonder as I read the lyrics again why it isnāt more specific throughout ā are we singing about God the Father or Jesus ā or some combination of both in that often confused evangelical way? I take the entire song to be speaking of Jesus as that makes the most sense. Again, most of the purpose here is to move the theme forward. A note on the music itself, I find the key to be a bit troublesome. If we go any lower itās too low in the verses. But as it is itās way too high for most people if you go up an octave on the third verse as they do in the recording. When we sing this song I often vacillate between staying down and going up for the high part. This week I felt strong so I sang it high. Iād like to hear from others if they think it is conducive to worship or not (for the lead singer to sing an octave above most of the congregation).
Cornerstone is a reworking of the hymn On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, which ironically replaces the original chorus the title was taken from. But the verses remain untouched and carry the idea of dependence very well. Originally I had Cornerstone before Forever Reign, but as I played through the set it just didnāt seem to make sense that way. Again thereās a part in this song that, in the original recording, goes up an octave. However, I chose to let Suzy take the high part. I think part of me just didnāt feel comfortable doing that on two songs in a row.
āHere in the death of Christ I liveā seemed especially appropriate for the passage about being crucified with Christ. Iām not going to say that I look for ways to insert In Christ Alone into my set lists, but I will say it finds its way there more often than most. The lyrics are strong, the music fits well and the hymn like feel is a welcome sound to most in our church. I do have some questions about the seeming mixture of atonement theologies (āthe wrath of God was satisfiedā and ābought with the precious blood of Christā) but the theology of atonement is something Iām working through myself at the moment and I donāt think itās so egregious that it affects the power of the song.
As far as I know, I hadnāt used You Are My All in All in a service since leading the youth worship team almost 15 years ago. But that doesnāt mean itās not a good song. And when Mike mentioned that phrase my mind naturally went immediately to that song. As I was preparing the set list I thought about trying to find something more recent that had the same kind of theme. But I kept coming back to it. I decided to put the chorus of I Stand In Awe together with it. We went from āJesus, Lamb of God, worthy is Your Nameā to āI stand, I stand, in awe of You.ā Back to All in All for the second verse and then the combined chorus again, ending with the chorus from All in All. We also had Suzy sing phrases from The Highest and Greatest while Carol and I sang the chorus from All in All ā so her part was something like āYou are the highest/You are the greatest/worthy is Your name/Angels will worship/nations will bow down/worthy is Your name.ā I really liked the way it flowed and I liked tying it back together with the first song. I think it worked well, but honestly I didnāt get any feedback to know if it was okay or if it was too much.
Reading through the Bible in a year sounds a bit daunting. But rather than being satisfied with reading through the Bible in a year, the Ten Chapters a Day program essentially doubles that. So it would be easy to say that I didnāt follow through the last time I tried it because itās just too much. Well, I did fine for a while but just couldnāt keep it going. This time around I intend to do a few things differently. Since I gave a fairly thorough overview before, Iām not going to go in to detail on how the program works.
Ten Chapters A Day
As a review, the program consists of reading 1 chapter each from 10 lists every day. When you finish a list, you start that list over. Since the lists are not equal length youāll end up reading some books more than others. For instance, if you follow the program without modifications, youāll end up reading Acts and Proverbs every month while only reading the Pentateuch twice a year.
For more information, please see my introduction for the Year in Preview 2012. Also, Tim Challies has written an excellent explanation of the reading program (which he calls the 3650 Challenge) and compiled a nice list of useful tools.
Allow me to reiterate a few points from my previous post:
1. This is not a Bible Study program. There simply is too much reading to be able to stop, study, and meditate on what youāre reading.
2. It doesnāt end in December. Because the book lists rotate unevenly it doesnāt have a natural ending point.
3. You donāt have to play catch up. This appeals to me because every time Iāve tried a āread through the Bible in a yearā program I got behind and gave up once I saw how much I had to make up. This program is not date oriented. You can miss a day or week and start where you left off. You can even start today!
Looking back, I think there are two primary reasons I did not make it through last time. And these are probably true of any reading program:
1. I didnāt have a good place to read. Because of my living situation at the time, I ended up doing all of my reading (Bible and otherwise) in bed. As you might imagine, thatās not ideal. And even moreso with a book that has 10 bookmarks in it. Itās just awkward. A good comfortable chair in a well lit living room would be a much better idea.
2. My chosen reading time was not conducive to success. Iām a night person. So Iāve always found it easier to read at night. However, the combination of reading in bed and reading at nightā¦wellā¦letās just say the obvious struggles came into play. The nice thing about this plan as opposed to most 1 year plans is youāre not left reading 2 or 3 chapters of Numbers at a time. Stillā¦a little common sense about when you read might go a long way.
If this sounds interesting to you and you think you might want to do something like this, let me know!
Iād love to hear other peopleās thoughts and ideas on how to make it work well.
Iād love to hear other peopleās thoughts and ideas on how to make it work well.
I donāt know if itās a western thing or a human thing, but it seems that as we mark time, we look for milemarkers. Places along the road that tell us where we are, how far we are from where we were, and (to stretch the metaphor) how far we have yet to go. I wrote some time ago about my personal āyear in previewā ā rather than looking back I could pretty much copy everything from then to now. Which is a bit depressing considering that was 3 years ago.
The benefit of looking back is to see what could have been, what needs to be done differently, and maybe even to be reminded of your successes and what is possible (assuming, of course, you had some successes). I donāt see a lot of success as I look back (still not married. Still heard that one name way too much). So why would I want to go through this again? How is this any different than those blasted New Yearās resolutions that nobody keeps (other than the fact Iām starting in February, of course)?
If you still listen to the radio or watch TV (do people do that?) you know that at the end of every year they do a review. And resolution makers seem to do the same thing. Every year they make resolutions and then at the end of the year they look back to see how they did. Why? Why not review more often. Every six months maybe. Or every quarter. How about every month? Donāt you (read: me) have a better shot at following through if you pause from time to time to re-focus?
So over the next few days Iāll be detailing things I want to be working on in the coming year. But rather than waiting until next December to look back and see how things went, Iām going to revisit these posts at the beginning of every month and adjust and adapt as the year goes on.
Like last time, Iām going to start with what I think might be the hardest: the blog
There was a time I thought about changes designed to āimprove the blog.ā Iām not so much concerned about the kind of traffic I get here or what people think about it, but I am concerned about how I feel about it myself. This is why you wonāt see āfocusā listed among this yearās goals. Itās something every blog that aspires to a large following must have. But since I really donāt care about that, I donāt think I care about focus, either. So, following are a few ideas that I do want to address concerning the blog.
1. New Name. āā¦what I once found acceptableā¦annoys me to no end.ā After 3 years it hasnāt gotten any better. Iāve thought about it on and off for the past 3 years and havenāt come up with anything. Soā¦this one apparently is going to be a challenge.
2. Design. After 4 years of the same design, it needs refreshing. I could probably just pick a stock theme from WordPress and be done with it. But the reality is Iām too picky about little things that no one else cares about, so Iāll spend an unreasonable amount of time and energy on this.
3. Write more, better. Not āwrite more betterā which would be ironical. But write better articles more often. So maybe I should say āwrite better more.ā If you read the 2012 YIP you know I just copied that word for word. Pretty much everything I said then still applies. I want to write more substantive articles. However, at the same time, in order for me to keep up with this thing, I know Iāve got to include the other less thoughtful and thought-provoking topics like baseball and music and the āwhat are you, drunk?ā kinds of things as well.
4. More book reviews. I read a lot of books. Well, okayā¦I read more than the average person. I know there are book review sites out there and blogs out there written by people who are reading 2, 3, 4 books a week or more. Iām not quite there. Iāve unfortunately got other things I have to do as well. However, Iāve been remiss in not writing more reviews of the books I have read. I like the exercise of thinking through what I read and trying to convey to someone else its strengths or weaknesses or even generally how I felt about it.
Over the past several days several people have asked me who Iām rooting for, or if Iām ready for the big game. Which is always an interesting question, because I essentially gave up on the NFL several years ago when I could no longer stomach the Cowboys. I tried, I really did, to pick a new team, but nothing stuck. So I simply quit caring about the NFL. But that doesnāt mean I donāt care about the Superbowl. So in honor of that great tradition, I present my Top 4 Reasons to Love the Superbowl.
1. Katy Perry. What says āgladiators of the gridironā more than a Katy Perry concert at halftime?
2. Commercials. Almost always the best. Some might even say better than the game. And of course there will be a few head-scratchers, so thereāll be something to talk about on Monday morning.
3. Someone has to lose. Imagine how great it will be to make fun of them and their fans.
Note: This picture should in no way indicate I believe the Patriots will lose. Itās simply that Google gave me much better options for āTom Brady loserā than it did for āRussell Wilson loser.ā
4. Two weeks ātil pitchers and catchers report!
Was a time when young people went to work at McDonaldās expecting nothing but some job experience and some spending money. As the economy got worse and worse youād hear people talk about not finding jobs. Inevitably someone would say, āMcDonaldās is hiringā as a way to say, āsomething is better than nothing.ā So imagine my surprise when I heard last week that a person is supposed to be able to make a living working the line at McDonaldās.
But apparently people who work at McDonaldās, Wendyās, KFC and Burger King and who are making $8 an hour feel like they should be making more. Like double. After all, you canāt live on $8 an hour (and believe me, I know that). So workers in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Flint, Michigan are striking. Interesting group of cities, isnāt it?
Allow me to vent a bit. Because itās my blog and I can. Go listen to some music or look at some pictures (on my blog, of course) if youāre not interested.
āFast Food Forward director Jonathan Westin told CBS New York, āThe workers are striking over the fact that they canāt continue to maintain their families on the wages theyāre being paid in the fast-food industry.āā
To which I say, āumā¦seriously?ā (which is really just a kinder way to say, āyou, sir, are an idiot.ā Are you seriously telling me that there are people working at McDonaldās or Wendyās or Burger King and trying to support a family? And expecting somehow that they should be able to? Itās called āunskilled laborā for a reason.
And then thereās this winner: āRobert Wilson, Jr., a 25-year-old McDonaldās employee in Chicago, told The Washington Post that he makes $8.60 an hour after seven years on the job.ā
Um. 7 years and youāre still making $8.60/hr? That says one of two things ā you have absolutely no ambition, or you have absolutely no ability for something better. If youāre 25 and youāve worked there for 7 years you should at least be a manager making $13-16 an hour. I guess I would ask, āhavenāt you thought, at some point in the past 7 years, that you want to do something else? Havenāt you ever thought, āman, I need to find a better jobā? And after thinking that, havenāt you ever, in the past 7 years, actually done something to find one? I mean, find something you want to do and learn what you need in order to do it. I know, I knowā¦itās so hard.
Look, I understand. I worked for over a year in a job that didnāt pay enough to actually live on. It was hard. It was frustrating. It was maddening. But at no point did I think, āyou know, they should pay me $15 an hour to drive this van around. And provide insurance. And paid holidays.ā It is what it is. Itās an unskilled job that virtually anyone can do (although I did it better than most). So rather than complain about my job paying me an unfair wage, I looked for another job. And eventually I got one. And now I can live on what I make. And Iām not satisfied there. Iām trying to learn to be able to move up from where I am. After all, when someone is hiring for an entry level position and they ask āWhere do you see yourself in 5 years?ā (if anyone asks that anymore), why would they hire anyone who said, āyou know, I donāt really have any ambition and I really donāt want to learn anything new or have to work hard, so I think Iāll probably be happy just doing this same jobā?
So. Bottom line: grow up. Be a man (or woman, you know what I mean). Take responsibility. Stop expecting everything to be handed to you. Anyone who tells you that you should be able to live on a āfirst jobā wage is lying to you and trying to appease you. Be better than that. If you like working at Wendyās, fine. Work to be the best so that you can move up in the store. Stop being satisfied with mediocrity.
Anyway, I know Iām preaching to the choir, because no one who reads my blog (does anyone still read this?) wants to pay $10 for a burger and fries.
Iāve seen this in several places on the web, being talked about by several people. But in the unlikely event you havenāt seen it already, I present it here for your edification. This excerpt and all the ones Iāve seen online are from the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas. I assume that talk of belief and religion make up a fairly small part of the book. Nevertheless, it is an interesting part.
Hereās one exchange that I find particularly interesting (but you really need to read the whole thing):
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.
Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.
Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.
Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
Thereās plenty here, even in this little exchange not to mention the rest of the excerpt, to provoke thought about Bonoās personal faith and where he fits in the continuum of Christian belief (and isnāt that the whole point of reading other people talking about faith ā to judge them based on how closely they mimic your own faith/walk?). Iām sure there are some evangelicals thrilled to hear that Bono is one of them (after all, he quotes C.S. Lewis, and whatās more evangelical than that? (Iām being ironic, by the way)), but Iām pretty sure he doesnāt fall into any easy category. But to his credit, whatever the details of his theology, he gives a clear defense of the basics of the gospel: that Jesus is the Son of God ā God incarnate ā and that he died to take the sins of the world, without bending or hedging.
Pond5 is āthe Worldās Stock Media Marketplace.ā At least thatās their tagline. There are other places that sell stock photos, videos, music and whatnot. But Pond5 is one of the big ones with over 1.5 million videos, 8 million photos and 100,000 songs, all available for royalty free use. For a price, of course.
I mention this only because writing music is one of the things that has taken much of my time recently. And many of those songs are currently on Pond5, waiting to be listened to, loved, bought and downloaded. Some people are making decent money doing this. One I looked at tonight has sold over 1300 downloads of various songs over the course of three years, netting him roughly $30,000.
Iāve sold 2. But Iām actually pretty excited about that because I havenāt been on the site for very long and the fact is, Iām not sure how anyone found those songs to download.
Which is what makes today even more exciting in many respects. Because today I discovered that one of my songs, āKells,ā is featured in a Pond5 promo which offers 50 files (a variety of media) for free. This is something āartistsā such as myself can opt in to, hoping to get seen and heard. Hoping that giving away a song will lead to sales down the road. So. Check it out. I meanā¦listen to it, download it (itās free for the time being). Click on it (lots), and you can also follow the link to my profile and hear the other songs Iāve uploaded so far. Some may sound familiar if you were around for the 30 Days of Recording. Here’s a preview of Kells.
You can also click on this button and buy lots of stuff and Iāll get a cut. Sounds like a great deal.