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My short-term goals, circa 2002.

Just found this little gem on an old CD. Upon finishing my seminal 2001 mission trip to Asia, Europe and Africa, my new boss asked me to put down my short-term goals:

  • Find a wife. (It took 8 years; 2010)
  • Get an article published. (I did a few interviews that were published, but not what I had in mind.)
  • Help my father retire. (Sorta, I made a nice website for him and offered mostly un-headed advice. He’s nearly there now.)
  • Become an upper-level manager at a small, growing business. (Put in 3 dreadful years at aforementioned boss’s startup. Not upper-level.)
  • Teach or speak to groups on business ethics or strategy. (Nope, too chicken, hate business chit chat mostly.)
  • Visit South America and Australia on business/vacation or as a missionary. (2002 to Japan and Australia; 2004 to Paraguay)
  • Read the Bible 4 times. (Not even once after an intensive 3 month course that required it in 2001.)
  • Become conversational in either Japanese or Spanish. (Nope)
  • Be a leader/deacon at my church. (Led worship for a few years; got burned out.)
  • Have a child. (Trying now.)
  • Own a home. (Condo, 2008)
  • Buy a piano. (I have a couple synthesizers)
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Doing favors for God.

This last year my music/art group attempted a change of posture and purpose: Instead of hosting events at whimsical intervals and mostly for our own sake, we felt it time to create something that would serve our community–to host regular, sacred meditative spaces for people to rest, receive. It would require more work but the result would be worth the effort.

Attendance is usually a good indicator of demand (duh), and such a metric has deemed our product unsustainable in its current format. We are sad. I am sad. Perhaps promotion of the event was not up to snuff, or we played too much original material, or too loudly, or we should have printed all the lyrics for clarity. We can be weird. A best effort was made to solicit feedback, make plans, use our resources wisely, and still we didn’t find viability after a half season run. I am not entirely surprised, I wouldn’t go to a Radiohead concert every month.

And so here and now I know the pang of a failed church planter; a believer who set out to do something for God, for neighbor, and found wanting. This happens all the time, in all spheres of life. I don’t like pity parties. I don’t like having my well being attached to my creativity, and my creativity attached to my faith. And when Christian charity doesn’t work you have peculiar bitterness to spread around. If I failed at making tiles my disappointment would be relatively brief and simple and who cares what God thinks, I’m just crap at ceramics. Or something like that.

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Fireproof vs. Avatar

I’m supposed to love my enemy. Very well, let me take inventory. My immediate ancestors weren’t grossly wronged by anyone (to the contrary actually), I’ve never given much worry to Arab terrorists, the Chinese economy, immigrants, Nancy Grace, Nickleback, Tim Tebow, that guy in Florida who threatens to burn holy books. Homophobia is an enemy of sorts. Monsanto is quite evil, but they can’t hate all farmers that takes too much effort and they seem too idiotic. Of course, massively rich investment bankers are monsters—unless they pay for the new SuperSonics. Rush Limbaugh is literally a jackass. Bill Maher is obnoxious as well, just so you know I’m fair. Kirk Cameron is probably the chief enemy of Christian taste now that the Painter of Light drank himself away. I actually enjoy Kirk’s propaganda films as a chance to externalize my disgust with Christian camp. Thanks to bit torrent I don’t have to feel guilty about supporting his mission. (I’m ambivalent about bit torrent, I do want Kirk to make more films but only for my enjoyment, and not to discourage Christians to the tune of $35M). Mark Driscoll is a local undesirable and an enemy of the worst sort in that he is mostly indistinguishable from me. We are WASPs who wear nice jeans and watch TV. Oh, I think he is grossly wrong on very many things, but I have to believe he is also doing much good—I have to. This isn’t meant to sound like a patronizing defense, but the friends and family who attend and believe in his church are all fine people. I mean they all paid ten bucks to see Avatar, despite direct, informed counsel. No sycophants.

Which brings me to an enemy I can’t shake: my former church. I loved it so, once upon a time. I joined early; a true believer. Knowing each others’ stories was the priority. That was soon secondary to growth, which cost many staff, myself included, who couldn’t keep up the facade that our love was real. It wasn’t. Being cool was real. Popularity was real. Being a “Quester” was real. I’ll admit, going to a cool church for the first time felt nice. It wasn’t uncommon to cut and frame newspaper articles about ourselves, brag about a particularly popular church blog post from the pulpit, or note any other celebrity cachet. They had me convinced Bono was a good role model for socially-minded Christian pastors, I don’t think that anymore.

As it is, I am still bitter. I still want them to fail. I ride my bike past their new bigger building on the way to work. Pedaling by, I mumble half-hearted words of forgiveness. I know my bitterness is far worse than the truth of their transgressions. It often is with prolonged resentment. I wish I didn’t care, but they say apathy is akin to hate. Perhaps this spewing forth is a move towards healing.

As such, my music community would be what it is, born from such experience and disappointment. Our ideal wouldn’t succumb to the temptation of being cool, being relevant. Fuck relevance. (Not easy, of course I want to be liked.) The modus operandi: rotating venues, limited promotion, no biography, no formal pictures, no church affiliation, no denomination, we wouldn’t even have a Facebook page. (We have a Facebook page now.)

So, just this month, we begin a residency at a single venue; a partnership with a church, a denomination, a leadership team, structure, format. Granted, they aren’t a massive, encroaching, Seattle institution who will bruise our fragile artist egos, they are a small congregation in a very big building, who are most happy to have us. Point being, while I still don’t care much for big, popular, religious things, I think this partnership is a healthy act of submission to something that is not all bad, that may still hurt us, confuse us, or ask us to do things we don’t love. We think it is worth the risk.

And then we will become popular and cool and ruin someone else’s hope for community. We never said we were perfect is the rejoinder, if I recall the last words as the door hit my ass on the way out. Ech.

University Christian is also open and affirming, which is sadly not the case in my community. Oh delicate priorities.

I forgive you church.

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I used to call people faggots.

Just last week I became a proponent of marriage equality. A very tiny proponent. What the hell happened?

First gay siting: The comically stupid gay bar scene in Police Academy. Homos. Gross. Creepy. To-be-avoided.

My pastor said we should take our money out of Seafirst Bank because they were giving money to gay causes. There wasn’t much theological or moral discussion on the matter in 1986, obviously anal sex is perverted, despicable  (Yes, just gay men found scorn. I don’t remember being afraid of lesbians–Penthouse magazine made them out to be quite awesome actually and transsexuals might as well have been unicorns in my 10 year old world).

My Mom told me about the first time she saw two guys kissing and how it made her feel sick; she doesn’t have a hard time calling it an abomination.

My Episcopal priest uncle came out gay to the dismay of his wife and kids. Fortunately he lived in Guam so we could mostly ignore him and the issue. Wouldn’t you know, a few years later he got straight again or something.

In 2002 I met Vanessa, a Christian doing mission work in the same city and organization as myself. She is a lesbian. I had a lot of questions for her and she was patient and kind. I prayed for her a lot, especially when she would text an account of her depression and loneliness. I prayed that God would cure her of her sexuality and she would find a good man. (Yes I was on the list of possible good men). I don’t pray that any more.

George snatched up Al’s Florida votes and I had my own kind running the show; not so coincidentally the term “Christ Follower” emerged within Christian circles. Oh you’re evangelical like “W”, no I’m a Christ Follower like no one ever. I barely pulled the lever for the halfwit in 2004, the chief reason being Kerry’s aggressive exit strategy in Iraq—if I knew one thing, Bush was highly motivated to see his crusade end and those 150,000 dead Arabs to make good on getting killed. In that sense I was a one-issue voter.

Of course I would worship Barack Obama: intelligent, generous, articulate, a man of plain, informed, unspectacular faith. How is it that the competition for the most important job in America barely gets one good applicant every four years. I’ll admit he was under-qualified but after all the qualified people in the Bush Administration were indicted, resigned, recused, redacted, it was easy to forgive someone’s qualifications as long as they had a sense of care for those on the margins. To Bush’s credit, he did spend more on African relief than any previous POTUS. He is a complicated decider.

I began to accept that not all laws and lawmakers had to align with my own spiritual-morality; that public policy had to submit to universal codes of justice and not biblical (those should be the same). The Christian Nation is a bumbling myth and I don’t need the Senate to open with prayer to show whatever it is mostly insincere people praying shows. When people prop up anything from the Old Testament theocracy or Founding Father claptrap as justification for law X, I assume they have arrived at this point: I know there is no real reason for us to require a courthouse to post the Ten Commandments on a plaque in the hallway but it seems important to a bunch of nervous people in my district. Henceforth notwithstanding apropos, I often quip: “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.” Yes, that’s in the good book.

So, is anal sex beneficial. It doesn’t make babies, but it can induce pleasure and intimacy. Those are important things in a relationship. Oral sex doesn’t make babies either. And soon you’re dicing up sex matters with the Vatican and condom use, masturbation, and natural law. (Catholic leadership and sex are an impossible subject, I’ll leave it to Sinéad.) It may be that in our present society two men are not the ideal to raise children, but that doesn’t make it wrong or immoral, it just means it is difficult. (And as Tina Fey put it, gay couples watch their kids play hockey just as well as straight couples. A finely un-nuanced assessment of the matter). It is also difficult for people of different ethnic, economic, or generational backgrounds to partner, but that is no argument for outlawing them. For that matter I think loveless married heterosexuals should not have children—that is plain misery.

On the matter of intersex (which WordPress is underlining with a red squiggle): 1 in 1,666 births are neither XX nor XY. What are we to do if someone has both or neither functioning reproductive parts or is biologically not male or female? You will have to wear a dress and grow your hair long and marry someone who wears pants and keeps their hair short, otherwise people are uncomfortable. Sometimes, loving your neighbor involves discomfort. It is probably more than sometimes. Chances are you know someone who is neither man nor woman.

And all this arguing about the historical institution of marriage—that Western society would crumble once heterosexual marriage is extended to homosexuals. Is our society really that fragile? For all the progress as a civilization: democracy, the end of slavery, child labor laws, workers’ rights, valuing people with disabilities, education for everyone, the right to a fair trial, caring for the environment, wearing seat belts and crash helmets, and the moment two women are legally given the right to see each other in the hospital or retain property after death, everything comes crashing down. I can’t recall why I ever thought that, but it was somehow justification against the large, faceless, threatening, scary, gross, perversion of gayness. It sounds like the same crap we were slinging at the American Civil Rights Movement. And never mind that Solomon had 1,000 women at his disposal, Mary was 13 when God impregnated her, and a dozen other patriarchs practiced polygamy with mostly no comment from anyone writing Bible verses.

Last week, President Obama is interviewed and confesses support for marriage equality as an extension of his Christian faith.

The final straw (of course it is my ego): A poll about non-Christian’s conceptions of Christianity, the results were telling and disgusting—”anti-homosexual” was the top response. The unbearable shame. Ok, that is enough. I am not against non-straight people. They’ve been hated almost forever and now most vocally by those who share my faith. Time for something else. Time to get off the sidelines. Time to help non-straight people enjoy a full life with someone they love.

That’s not mostly what happened.

http://godluvseveryone.com

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Being on this list is bothersome.

Afghanistan (2)
Bangladesh (5+)
Belarus (2)
China (2000+)
Egypt (1+)
Iran (360+)
Iraq (68+)
Malaysia (1+)
North Korea (30+)
Palestinian Authority (3)
Saudi Arabia (82+)
Somalia (6)
South Sudan (5)
Sudan (7+)
Syria (1+)
Taiwan (5)
UAE (1)
USA (43)
Vietnam (1+)
Yemen (41+)

*Countries that carried out capital punishments in 2011 according to Amnesty International.

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Nashville you’re much too safe.

My dear friend is a music director at a church here in the greater Seattle area. I asked him how he finds new music of the sacred/church variety and how he learns of concerts that may interest him. His answer was nuanced and difficult to enunciate as one would expect. He did, however, send me this gem as an example of the marketing noise I have to compete with as I hope to communicate The Opiate Mass to people such as himself. It is one of many unsolicited, faux-personal emails from Nashville promoters he receives in the inbox. He has never engaged with this person. I’m a few hundred exclamation points from making an impact.

 

Hello again!

Great speaking to you briefly earlier!  I just wanted to check in and give you a few updates of artists that are slated to be up in Washington over the next few months.  I’d love to work with you on something!  So whether one of these seems like a good fit or if you have something else in mind, I’d love to hear from you!

Silverline (www.silverlinemusic.com) – I have Silverline in your area and available on August 7th.  They are also bringing along Loftland to open.  So you get an awesome package with this one!

Phil Stacey (www.philstacey.com) – Converge’s newest signing Phil Stacey (American Idol) is going to be in your area and we have a date to fill on August 24th.  I’d love to get him out to you!

Sixteen Cities (www.sixteencities.com) – Sixteen Cities is going to be spending much of their fall on the west coast and it looks like we’ll hit Washington the first week of October.

Luke Dowler (www.lukedowler.com) – Have you had a chance to check out Luke’s latest video?  If not you need to quickly jump onto his website and check it out.  It’s the first step in a powerful campaign to help end slavery, Check it out!  I’d love to get him over to you live as well, best times would probably be September 14-16 (band) or anytime surrounding November 11 (solo).

Andy Cherry (www.andycherry.com) –  At this point I have no direct plans to have Andy up in Washington, but I’d love to make some!  Andy is an incredible artist and worship leader!  Hopefully you already got my newsletter talking about him already, but we are really excited about his new album and I’d love to get him up there!

Hopefully these updates are helpful to you!  Looking forward to finding something that makes sense!

Andrew Jones

www.convergemusic.com
666.369.7797

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Today in stupid intellectual property.

Now it is as simple as protecting the in$ightful words you use to describe your stupid product.*

*I propose that the dollar sign be used to indicate sarcasm. I don’t really think these words are “insightful” so I have indicated my exaggeration with the good old $. It is perhaps the most commonly mis-communicated form of speech, we need a shortcut to save us from confusion. Like when Rush called that birth-control-popping woman a slut, in his apology he told us he was being absurd. Absurdism is like sarcasm. If only he had told us he was ab$urd in context he could have saved himself a lot of apologizing—well, that one apology he coaxed out of himself. He is $uper.

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The Christian Worship Industrial Complex.

They say most people don’t pay attention to the lyric, well here are thousands who do; on glorious display, carving up scripture, celebrating their disdain for the planet they’ve been given (see Jesus). To the songwriter’s discredit, he admits he is not a theologian. This humble self-awareness didn’t inform his choice to base a song on the crap belief that tsunamis are blessings that remind us that “this place is not our home”. This is bad theology. This is not helpful. This stadium is not where you belong. All theologies are a work-in-process; I too have penned songs espousing unhelpful ideas and opinions. Fortunately, I was not esteemed as mouthpiece for thousands of un-curious, frightened youth at the time. Maybe Christian Rockers should go through some formal theological training before they sign deals with Sparrow-Dove Records. Just enough so they know how dangerous the field is. How unlucky that Christian youth entertainers have near-zero standards for admission (good hair, ragged jeans, fists, Bible study experience) and are propped up higher than those in the clergy. I didn’t realize this industry still had any relevance—I thought the Bush Administration killed this off like everything else Poli-Culture-Evangelical (one of their greatest achievements really). Aside: he seems to think that “governments being overthrown” (the Arab Spring) are confusing godless disasters on par with earthquakes. Or perhaps he is just bad with rhetoric.

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Oh delicate muse.

Bon Iver won two Grammys that he didn’t want. Awards for art are dumb he said. I agree with most of his views and what Nick Cave said here to the MTV Music Awards back in 1996. Of course I’d love to win a Grammy but right now I tell myself that awards are not helpful or appropriate or necessary and that I’m too dignified to compete for recognition from a bunch of stranger-peers. George C. Scott is one of only a few people to ever refuse an Oscar outright, he said that acting wasn’t a competition. It is not. I’m ok with top ten lists, I’m ok with art criticism. Maybe nominations and winners and important two-minute speeches are the problem. Just name your winners and quit horsing about with pomp and circumstance and making claims that your awards are bigger than the rest or that you got it right because democracy is true and Forest Gump is better than Pulp Fiction.

As Mr. Cave put it: “My relationship with my muse is a delicate one at the best of times and I feel that it is my duty to protect her from influences that may offend her fragile nature.”

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My music is not my own.

I can’t recall what initially convinced me to open license the music I make. I create songs which are meant to be enjoyed and used; this includes having it married to other amateur, personal creations. Once my music is purchased I have released control over how and when it is played. Perhaps it is playing at a strip club or Rush Limbaugh’s birthday bash at Rick Perry’s Niggerhead Ranch. Fred Phelps’ kids apparently love Mumford & Sons—how disgusting to have your music encouraging a team of professional gay-bashers. I briefly considered adding this to The Opiate Mass masthead: “If you hate gays, Arabs, immigrants, atheists, please do not buy our records,” but that would have precluded me a few years back. By nature, art is generous.

From what I can tell, this kid is not a gay-basher (as good a music video for this song as we ever could have done).

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Organs vs. Synthetics

I finally met with the Music Director at St. James Cathedral. I was nervous, he said he was apprehensive if I recall. It was a discussion of tradition and modernity, purity and progress. Dr. Savage is twice my age, and has created beautiful sacred moments for thousands of people every year. His palette is the cathedral. I asked him to tell us his vision for contemporary music at St. James, which was code for—why don’t you let us bring in some loudspeakers and worship at volume, the kids will like it. They don’t have much use for amplified music, and for very good reason, they don’t need amplifiers. The space is a perfect acoustical environment, designed for choirs, orchestras, and their unmatched pipe organ (which, I learned has a real 32 foot pipe, not a synthesized one). All that is ever put to mic is the homily and perhaps a solo voice for the liturgy. Dr. Savage told us about the moment every Christmas Eve that a single boy sings from the loft and is heard in the ears of all 3,000 congregants. I wept. Me, I want loud massive chords filling every crevice. I want to feel the music and be emotionally gripped by immense overtones, tweaked oscillators, and rattling sub-woofers. I want cinema. (Well, sometimes. Our greatest achievement each set is the time of silence in the middle. To get there and back is no easy feat. It is exhilarating the few times we’ve done it right.) He mentioned the aesthetic divide that occurred in the 1920s when organs were slowly becoming electro-mechanical, and not just mechanical. Industry was impeding on humanity. It meant something for the space to serve the lone human, singing unaided to God; for an instrument to echo purely down the hall. Of course this is beauty. Of course this should be guarded. There are plenty of sacred spaces in Seattle for us to amplify and indulge our synthesized, high volume fetishes, why must we insist on converting St. James into another electronic venue. If years from now, St. James is hosting amplified music once a week at the expense of a full brass ensemble, I would be very sad. If all the soundtracks were produced on state-of-the-art string machines, films would be less lovely. One of the newest churches in Seattle is Bethany Community. They spent a mint on a board, speakers, microphones, effects, and wall treatment. We sound quite good there. Never mind how flat the space is to the eye. When will our city build another grand cathedral like St. James? I’d still like to play there, if just once. It is the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen. Maybe I’ll lock down an exclusive contract—one day a year they allow speakers through the doors, and of course we only use TicketMaster™. Surprisingly, I think I have a new hero. He wouldn’t let me apologize for my digital approach to sacred music and space. He insisted that I teach him something. We hugged. I think Tara stepped on his toe.

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Sport Aesthetics: The Kit

Sport is primarily a visual medium, and as such, sport production values should be placed alongside film and print and attended to with care and discretion. The Academy Awards rate and reward great work in costume and set design because how the actors look and where they act are important to the experience. Gotham City must be dark, and Batman cannot have nipples. The MLS policy that encourages the development and use of new (and ugly) kits every couple years, to me, indicates a lack of this understanding; a lack of care for a team’s legacy and identity. Certainly, jersey sales account for significant income for the teams and a new kit will sell better than an old one, but when this comes at the expense of class and custom, more is lost than gained. Case in point: the Sounders FC new third kit below. This kit causes eye strain. This kit is not going to be enjoyable to watch. People smirk when they see it. A kit should never be a distraction.

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I have an emotional connection with my beloved team’s kit. My mental replays of goals and tackles and saves are dressed in that shade of green and blue. My memories of this kit should not be how bad I felt for the players who had to wear Skittles. The Lakers haven’t significantly changed their kit and logo since the 1960s. The legacy of that highly esteemed franchise is classy, not insecure and hokey like the Warriors who incidentally have changed their logo/kit six times in the same period. We voted against those trivial names they offered us—Alliance and Republic if I recall—because they had no meaning, no history. If the Seattle Alliance had orange kits there would have been a few thousand less fans on opening day. (It seems the MLS is learning that a fresh start for a club and city is not necessarily best; Portland was allowed to use the Timbers name straightaway). When a new player sits down for their first interview they almost always remark on their new surroundings, the city, and the legacy of the club. I am emotionally joined with our new starting striker the moment he dons the green and blue scarf and the flashbulbs pop. I love that shit. I have no idea what team Mauro is playing for here, but I am sure they are cheap and sucky.

An attention to aesthetic is not only for the kit, but the field, the stands, the scoreboard, the graphics, the advertisements, which all serve the beautiful experience of the beautiful game. When a soccer team plays on an NFL branded pitch, it looks wrong. When Sigi is wearing a sweatsuit to a match, I wonder what he makes a season. When the team hands out 10,000 inflatable noise-makers, I wonder if we know how to cheer. The NBA has rules about the players’ attire when they walk from the bus to the locker room. They look classy and expensive, not like junior highers. The NBA understands this (too bad they have little sense of game flow experience as seen in the obnoxious scoreboard cheer-leading the Sonics were dropping between every possession change). Now, before I err in the direction of draconian measures, I put equal expectation on Sigi to look good. Just because the league doesn’t enforce attire doesn’t mean he shouldn’t want to appear professional. And credit the Sounders organization for acknowledging the gaff with those damn noise-makers, and letting us write-in “Sounders” for the name.

I’ll get over this SuperCyan™ kit; it will only be used a dozen or so times ever, sadly in CONCACAF play.

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Recording life.

George Clooney in an NPR Interview made the case for shaking Brad Pitt’s hand instead of taking a picture of it.

SNL makes the case for keeping your head out of your own ass with their Headz-Up app.

A friend was tweeting every three minutes over sushi and I felt bad asking him to stop. Maybe I won’t feel bad. May the cultural shift begin.

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