Speechwriting: Corporate, Weddings, Retirement


Michael Pfleger Used to Be Respected

Once, in the early 1990s, when I first became aware of Michael Pfleger in a Catholic theology course, I thought, "Finally, someone in the Catholic Church apart from scandal, who feels his faith, yet thinks his faith, while living his faith." What would the Catholic Church look like if someone as keyed in as Billy Graham was speaking out?

As the years went on, we in Chicago learned that he, like Jeremiah Wright, was a pompous neo-racist. We watched him devolve. No, neither is racist in the way the Nazi Party was. Both men believe they are doing the right thing, but both men have put social justice before Jesus Christ.

Before I go on, I believe Jesus Christ likes social justice. He wants us the fight for babies to be, widows, orphans, and the alien. He wants us visiting those in jail and feeding the hungry. It is also true, many Christians have failed here. Many have also stepped up and done the right thing. Which motivates which?

Michael Pfleger has used his pulpit much the way conservative Christians are accused of doing so, to take a social gospel into being a political gospel.

Sorry, Mike. I don't swing that way.

What should Cardinal Francis George do? Not my business. What should Mike Pfleger do? Look back to the beginning, remember who you serve.

Should I remember what my ancestors did? Why not? My ancestors were in Ireland and Central Europe until recently.

Michael Pfleger unashamedly supports Barack Obama. Fine. That's not it. It is not his political leanings that should disgust us. Many respectable people are Obama fans, just as many equally respectable people prefer Hillary or John McCain. My problem is not his politics, nor his views (farther left than what the Catholic Church supports, but that's Rome concern, not mine). It is his abuse of the pulpit, and, more importantly, his leaning away from the saving grace of Christ. Lean toward Jesus, and vote for whomever you like.

Conservatives (of which I'm not) will jump on this to yell foul, as if they ever supported Hillary Clinton in the first place. Liberals (of which I'm not) will scream back, claiming that this kind of leadership is justified.

In the end, just as Jeremiah Wright incendiary comments made no impact on Obama's campaign, nor will this controversy. By November, this will be forgotten. Look for a Wright-Pfleger book within the year.

Listen and find out what Pfleger said.


Youth, a poem about finding life in the woods

Anthony Trendl

Lonely days or thoughtful days, or just darkish days
filled with clouds and mist, I’d search the woods
and find my dreams bubbling from creeks and sloughs
only I had seen. Crows, blackbirds, ducks, herons and hawks
watched or waded through milkweeds, cattails and algae,
hoping to find a meal of toads or shrews before the geese ate them.
Monarch butterflies guard the flowers until the cabbage moths leave their cocoons,
and the cecropia moths are waiting with me for the sun to set.

Born in the suburbs of Chicago, I also lived on the cusp of a forest preserve, with the Little Red School House. I spent many blissful days in these woods, whether running or hiking, or just wandering in the nature preserve. This poem is many years old, but that's me there last weekend, much older than the days I am remembering.


John Fawcett ~ 1961-2008

I never knew John well. He was the roommate of Brian Carron, a friend, the worship leader where I attended church, and made an impact on the lives of those I knew well. We met once for a long coffee in his office at Wheaton College years ago.

What I knew, was good, what I saw, was holy. A godly man is now checking out his new digs in Heaven.

See you soon, John. We'll have time enough to get to know each other then.
Friday, May 30
3:00 – 9:00 pm
Hultgren Funeral Home
304 N Main St
Wheaton , IL 60187
Childcare is not provided.

Saturday, May 31
10:00 – 12:00 pm
Glenbard West High School
670 Crescent Blvd
Glen Ellyn, IL 60185
Childcare is provided, nursery through 5th grade and will be dismissed at the Peace.

After the funeral service, those who desire to do so can follow the funeral procession to the Internment at Assumption Cemetery in Winfield.

Sunday Night Service
Sunday, June 1
7:00 pm
Pierce Memorial Chapel, Wheaton College
Wheaton , IL 60187
Childcare is not provided.
This informal liturgy will allow for time for family and friends to share memories of John.

In Lieu of Flowers
Donations may be made to the John Fawcett Memorial Fund. You may make your check payable to the Hultgren Funeral Home (see address above) with John Fawcett Memorial Fund in the memo line. Gifts will be used to provide for Margie and the children.


Karitos Arts Conference 2008

Karitos Arts Conference 2008
...providing Biblically-based artistic and technical growth experiences to Christian artists.

More later, but I have justed been signed on to manage/edit their blog.

See the fledgling blog:

And the full site:


Vegetarians and Prolifers

It occurred to me - and I doubt I am the first - how similar vegetarians and prolife people are. There are differences, but the similarity is strong.

There are two basic kinds of vegetarians: ones who see it purely as a quality of health issue, and those who see it also as a concern for the life/quality of life of the animal. Several levels of commitment also exist, but this discussion is not about that.

Look at the prolifer (several kinds of those as well, but dealing here, in this discussion, just with those who oppose abortion). He or she sees the life in the womb as sacred as the life outside of the womb. By 'sacred' I am including both the secular and theological concepts, that it has great value worthy of being respected to the point of saving, or not hindering.

How does the vegetarian who sees a chicken's life as sacred differ?

To accomplish meat eating, or abortion, the object in question must cease existing. The vegetarian sees this as reprehensible and unethical, just as the prolifer, as they see it as the killing of a life. Both people will fight to defend that life. Both see any negotiation as still resulting in death. Both mourn when there is such a premeditated killing.

Too often, vegetarians are lumped in with 'liberals' and prolifers are dumped in with 'conservatives', even though they share this fundamental respect for life. This is a political convenience used as an effort to demonize and manipulate the other, and, philosophically, erroneous.


How to Parent a Savior: A Guide for Mary - poem

How to Parent a Savior: A Guide for Mary
Anthony Trendl

To feed:
often, as needed, whenever --
For He will grow to feed 5,000,
and all who are hungry for good things.

To clothe:
swaddle with the softest blankets --
For He will be a tough warrior,
whose battle is greater than ever was.

To clean:
with water, especially around the ears --
For He will hear our cry for mercy,
and will cleanse us of every sin.

To discipline:
with love, always --
For He alone will be righteous,
as only He will fully know the Enemy from the Father.

To love:
with abandon, as your child He is --
For He will leave your care inside a tomb;
to His care you return when the tomb He leaves.


David Cook Wins American Idol

David Cook Wins American Idol.

12 million votes over David Archuleta.

His victory song, "Time of My Life"

David Cook Songs - American Idol

David Cook Songs - American Idol

(What David Archuleta faced)

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (U2)

Dream Big (Amy Shackleton)

The World I Know (Collective Soul)

David Archuleta Songs - American Idol

David Archuleta Songs - American Idol

(What David Cook faced)

Imagine (John Lennon)

In This Moment (Ryan Gillmor)

Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me (Elton John)


American Idol: David Cook or David Archuleta?

Who do you think won?

If American Idol needed a savior, which is it? David Cook or David Archuleta?


Who Coaches Your Run to the Father? Lordship in an Era of Individuality

On A Runner's Dilemma, my running blog, I talk a lot about training. Recently, my training took on a big change: My workouts are now written by Jim Spivey. He ran in the Olympic three times in the 1980s and 1990s.

As his running career came to a close, he got involved in coaching. Privately, he's been heading up a running club since 1990. I joined that last year.

This week, I went from working out with his club once per week to daily workouts. I do the daily ones alone, just as before. The difference? I'm not writing my own workouts.

I have been around running a long time, since I was 13 (I'm 41). I read everything I could, and can, to a degree, hold my own in a bar after a race and talk shop.

Am I an expert? Not in the slightest. Writing my own workouts has been a hodge-podge of guesswork and randomness. I don't know what I'm doing. Relinquishing control of my coaching here is an easy call. No second thoughts about it.

The workouts don't look like much. They are coded and customized for me. Here are seven days' worth:

5.16 F 30 m’s f, 4x100
.17 S race
.18 S 60-67 m's vf
.19 M nt
.20 T 42-52 m’s f
.21 W 35-40 m’s f
.22 R 15 m’s wu vf, 6x100
2x1000 f (300)[400] 4:16-4:28
3x250 gfg (150)[400]
2x1000 f (300)
So What?
I looked through upcoming workouts. Yesterday, I was supposed to run 60-67 minutes slowly. 67 minutes? What kind of time is that? Why not 65 or 70? Next Sunday, 65-72 minutes. Short distances are as odd. For 1000 meters, in a track workouts, I'm to aim for 4:16-4:28, not 4:15-4:30. Crazy, man. Ca-razy.

Or is it?

What If I Do Nothing?
I have a spreadsheet with a month of Jim's workouts. On one hand, it is very valuable. I have running goals, and those workouts might be the difference. What if, though, I do nothing, or if I ignore what it says? The value drops to nothing.

There is no value having a copy of a workout if it is not applied, but if applied, it has tremendous value. In my case as a runner, I race faster. In my case as a believer, I glorify God.

Doing something is not necessarily the answer. Today, according to my workout plan, is a rest day. Why? Outside of the general need for rest, I don't know. I can guess, but exactly the need to rest today, instead of yesterday or tomorrow, hard to say. Still, that's what it says. Even so, I am itching to hit the road for a few miles. My coach sees something important about resting today, so I will rest.

Sometimes God says, "Cease striving and know that I am God." (from Psalm 46). There's more going on than resting in that Psalm, but the point is the same. Sometimes we want to strive (usually a good attitude), but there are times when that's not what needs to be done. There is nothing more active than waiting on God.

God's My Coach
One thing I know about Jim: he's serious about running well. If he says 67 minutes, you can bet he has a good reason for it. Formulas met by stats and experience, applied to my unique running needs. 45 minutes, nor 90 minutes will do.

Try to follow the metaphor. Work with me. It isn't perfect, but I think there's something to it.

Jim -- he's got a 3:49.80 mile in his back pocket. That came from working hard and good genes. Not just that, though. It came from good coaching and trusting his coach.

Isn't that the way with God? Not everything He does, or asks us to do, makes sense, but He is omniscient. Where else could we go? Who else knows better than God?

I do not need to understand Jim's coaching theories to run well. I'd like to, but, if I trust him, and do as he suggests, the result will be the same no matter what I understand.

God tells us all a few things: love Him, love our neighbor. There is more, but you know that. God tells us things individually as well. Knowing when that voice is God, and when it is not, is a hard thing, but when we know it is Him, what should do?

Exactly as we are told.

In real life, on the track, this has been hard. I too often take off too fast for my own good. It is not out of belligerent rebellion. Why would I do that? I can do what I please on my own time. If that were the case, why show up for the workout?

No, I do it because it feels right, or the competitive bug gets me. And that's wrong. It means that, for a brief moment, I have tried to become my own coach.

God knows what is best. His timing and pace are right-on. Yet, we do something else. Maybe we know it, maybe we don't. Either way, something else is something else.

What if God wrote my track workouts? Would I have any reason to believe that I could write a better plan? With Jim, his off-the-cuff plans will be better than my hard-thought ones. God is never off-the-cuff. He is always perfect. Jim's not God. A human coach is just, and only that -- not perfect, bound by this Earth. Whether I run faster, in the big picture, really does not matter. The condition of my soul, however, does matter eternally.

Check out Noah. Did he understand why he should build a big boat a certain way, to be filled with a lot of animals? No. Did he do as he was told? Yes.

Where Does This Leave Me?
Same as it leaves you. Who is your coach, and what is he telling you? Do you write your own workouts, or does He? Are you running the race to win or just playing around?

It might take time to figure out we cannot coach ourselves into a sinless life, let alone a sanctified one. Until then, do not expect to race your best. Your best is His best. Period. That's where we need to be, tearing up our own plan and following His.

What's a Workout?
For starters, Scripture, prayer and obedience. If you're skipping that, the rest does not matter.

  • Are you reading?
  • Are you praying?
  • Are you doing what you know? (Loving God, and loving your neighbor)

See you at the track.


120 Miles Away, and I Still Got the Blues

wglt bluesDelta Frank. He sounds a little like Dr. Demento or Rick Browne from PBS's Barbecue America. He loves the blues the way Rich Koz (Chicago's Svengoolie and host of Stooge-a-Palooza) loves the Three Stooges. He gets it as a fan, but talks about it like a historian.

Frank's just one reason I love WGLT. Blues. Lots of it. All of it. Moderns like Koko Taylor, but also the classics, including Robert Johnson (of course), Blind Willie McTell, Son House, Leadbelly, John Lee Hooker, Robert Cray, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Pinetop Perkins and anyone else who is worth playing.

wglt bluesWGLT is the radio station hosted by my alma mater, Illinois State University. The school is a mix of Chicago-area kids, and cornfed country people. Smack between Chicago and St. Louis, both blues centers, it is not itself an urban community, or so country that a banjo gets whipped out for some bluegrass. It is more like a white-bread suburb. Who knew blues would thrive in a land of drunken fraternity parties and academic liberals?

I'm listening now: http://www.wglt.org/. I will listen again. Open the blues URL in Windows Media Player if you've got trouble. You want to listen to the blues, not have them (special thanks to WGLT's Travis Meadors for helping me with this).


Amazing Grace Sung By Zoei Toh

Quite possibly the cutest version of Amazing Grace I have ever heard. How old is she here? Four? Anyway, this toddler gets it right. I don't get care what Simon Cowell thinks. This girl won the night.

See the rest of Zoei Toh's songs.

Why (and How) Four Sheep Had Their Hooves on Backwards: A Tale

Why (and How) Four Sheep Had Their Hooves on Backwards
Anthony Trendl

Cherise came by my table, where Paul and I were sucking down water after a run, at the Farmer Bill's Petting Farm. "You know, Jason, the sheep aren't right," she said. I nodded.

Cherise was a sheep freak. One of those collectors: sheep everything. Sheep toys, keychain, magnets, all kinds of doodads. It was her identity, as feeble as that is. That she said anything about sheep, even something offbeat, meant nothing.

"The sheep are fine. What could be wrong about a sheep? Look at them. They're fine. They wake up, eat, walk around, take a dump, then they sleep."

"No. Look at them. Their hooves are on backwards," Cherise argued.

So they were. How do hooves go on backwards? That made no sense, but there it was. Four sheep, wandering around their corral, with their legs working fine, but with their hooves just the opposite way they should be.


There is no Farmer Bill. It was a name the Community Foundation people thought would be fun and easy to market. They hired Mike Marcherek, a retired English teacher, to guide the kids around, explaining the ways of farming. He conveniently looked like Mr. Green Jeans from the old "Capt. Kangaroo" TV series, but this resemblance was lost on eight year-olds who never heard of the good Cap'n. and certainly not Mr. Green Jeans.

He always began the tour by saying, "Howdy Little Pardners, I'm Farmer Bill, and we're gonna take a look-see at the wonders of a living, working farm. We've got goats, and cows, and a couple of horses, and over there, we've a few sheep. And, woo-wee, you know we've got old Lou, our prize-winning pig. No question about that, and she needs a bath!" The kids, almost all raised by soccer moms and overworked dads, loved his easy-going, tongue-in-cheek shtick.

weird sheepWhen there were no tours, Mike managed the coffee kiosk where Paul and I would rest after running a few miles around the property. He liked the kids well enough, but didn't know much about farming. He played the role, said 'yup', 'howdy,' and had the perfect one-leg-on-the-fence lean. With a few days of an nurtured beard, he could sell anyone he grew up in the middle of Illinois, all the while with a blade of hay between his teeth.

"You see it?" I asked Jason.

"Uh huh."

Cherise panicked. The stench of a fresh farm may have been too much, or seeing her precious sheep (all sheep, by her account, were, in some way, hers) in an incorrect state of hoof.

"We need to tell someone," she suggested.

"Sure we do. Mike already knows," Jason said, "Hey, Farmer Bill, whatcha know 'bout these sheep?"

"What about them? They smell bad, don't bite, and… And that's about it. Aren't you too old for the farm tour?" Mike called back from the coffee kiosk.

"No, Mike. The hooves are wrong."

"Say what? What do you know about sheep? You grew up in the burbs." Mike said, though, he himself grew up in nearby Laderville, voted by American News and World Chronicle as one of most beautiful suburbs in the USA.

"See for yourself."


Water tastes great after a hard six miles. Jason's the better runner, with a 37-minute 10K under his belt. That's pretty good at 40. He's barely 40, but no longer 39. Me? I'm just a 45-minute plugger. We run just once a week together as a result. I run hard, he runs easy, and it evens out.

The farm's a good place to begin and end the run. A system of crushed rock trails reaches out from it. Tuesday mornings have worked out well for us mostly. Good jobs let us work from home half the time, and these are the perks. We hit the trail at 10 a.m., run until almost 11, then kick back until around noon. A quick, early lunch, and back to work. We've been at this a few years, and never really noticed the sheep before.

Cherise worked the kiosk with Mike. Kids would come through, and Mike would don his Farmer Bill hat, and go off to the farm tour. Cherise took over the kiosk, pouring coffee, Pepsi, and Slushies. This was a hobby job for her. Her husband, Marty, was an engineer for HighwaySoft. Good money. For her, this was fun, and fed her sheep need.

"Weird," Mike said, not sure what else to say.

Cherise began a diatribe about hooves, and why sheep are more advanced animals than commonly given credit.

"Smarter than dolphins, that's for sure," going on that they came from similar genetic pools, and the sheep evolved more than the dolphins by surviving on dry land, while the dolphins remained waterbound. I could have pointed out worms and rats live on dry land too, but she was not the sort to listen.

"Merinos. That's what these are. That's a type of sheep. The best kind," said Cherise. "Good looking coats. Great wool. They can remember other sheep too. I have a sweater of super fine merino wool…" She kept talking, forgetting that we had four sheep with their hooves on wrong.

Mike was on his cell, trying to explain to the CEO of the farm what was going on.

"Listen, I'm not sure what to tell you. The hooves are pointing the other way. No. No. This isn't possible. Hooves are stationary. They should not move," he explained with the patronizing tone of a seventh grade science teacher.


We went to the gate to meet the CEO and his assistant, and when came back, the hooves were fine, just like they were the day before.

"Rich, the hooves were…" Mike trailed off. It was pointless. What could he say?

Rich Lanier, the CEO, and former rural veterinarian, looked at the ground, and noticed the pattern in the dust, "These prints are out of sequence. They switch directions. See. Here. Good catch. Thanks."

After his assistant took a few pictures, Rich said, "It's my birthday. I'm taking the rest of the day off. There's nothing to do here."

Mike went back to the kiosk to help a customer, shaking his head.

Jason looked at his watch, noticed it was noon, "I should go. I've got a one o'clock call. Come on Paul."

Dumbfounded, Cherise just stared blankly at the corral. "I have got to put this on my blog. But what do I say? Why?"

"Why? Today is the big anniversary of the wool monger," said the sheep standing in the northeast corner, "we were naked before this, and he clothed us," he went on.

"We always do this. Where we're from, the switching of our hooves means we are remembering where we've been while going we're going. It is a sheep thing." He turned his head, stuffed his face into the trough, and that was that. Nothing more.

Really. The sheep said that. I heard it. Cherise heard it. Paul heard it. Mike, of course, missed it.

"See you next week, Cherise," we said, getting into Jason's car. There was nothing that could be said. After all, these were just sheep.

The following Tuesday, Jason and I pulled into the lot at Farmer Bill's, Mike was giving a tour, "And, right here, just last week…" Mike stopped. He couldn't continue. Showing 30 third graders where four sheep, briefly, changed their hooves, would only cause more trouble than he could manage. What happened could not have happened, so, as far as telling the story was concerned, it didn't happen.

"Tiger lilies are blooming," said Cherise, not mentioning anything about sheep.

"Hi Cherise. See you in an hour."

That's the end. You can go to the farm, but the sheep look like sheep.



Trumpets in the Air Sound Only the Noise of Cackling Hens

chickensThe need to be significant is a hard tale to live.

One friend feels his ministry efforts require validation from others in order to worth doing. Otherwise, he gets discouraged.

Another sees what he's doing as more valid than what he does not see others do and wants me to know.

Another is wrought of a broken heart, knowing there are those who thinks he is doing less than he is doing, and so, often succumbs to bragging.

One guy wants to be in ministry so badly that he is crushed inside because he never took the risk of investing himself. He is making less than $30K, yet the scrutiny of others holds him back.

Another, one person with the gift of giving, is so burdened by guilt -- he makes double or triple what his friends do -- that he quits his job whenever the guilt weighs more than he can handle.

All of these people like that what they are doing is seen, known, and appreciated. What's new there?

Another works under the radar. No one knows what she does, or, rather, very few people. She gives tremendously of her time and money for missions and international relief.

One friend recently told me how he and his wife received significant money from an unknown person. That money kept them from having to sell their home.

One guy, who could have much more, chooses to make less in order to serve in college ministry with its necessary requirements for flexibility.

Another friend asked for my assistance to anonymously deliver a gift to a third friend.

I've known many men who have quietly unwritten personal ministry efforts of missions. No one sees what they do. In fact, on the outside, they look so suburban you might think they are all about indulgence. The wealthiest guy I ever met (worth mega-millions), also a Christian, wore secondhand suits and gave away millions.

Myself, I have benefited from several secret, or semi-secret gifts. One was a car so that I could more easily travel to teach in a jail. Another was for that ministry itself: a continual supply of Bibles. A third and fourth were cash gifts so that I could afford to attend graduate school.

Pride. Ego. Narcissism. Kindness. Love.

That's the bad and the good, but to Christ, familiar. He sees it all, and knows that whats-what in all cases.

Justice Carmon asks about heroes who quit and why, "It casts you out from your community to serve others. It makes you an alien to your own family and friends." In other words, the right thing is to do the right thing, not to dwell on the approval of men, nor scorn their complicity as a personal slight. He knows it is not the sight of men we covet. The Christian hero rarely wears red cape.

Nothing's new under the sun. For me, my name is in many places. A quick Google search will show you my name is attached to all sorts of things on the web. My book reviews, running adventures, my professional work, and my poetry all can be found instantly. That's not the half of it. If I am not careful, I'll, as they say, believe my own press.

Ego meets insecurity, or professional branding? My name is on this blog. No pseudonym. If you read this, and know me, I am hoping the two versions of me match.

I second-guess my motivations so much it is practically a theme in my life. That's not good either. False humility can kick in.

How many churches make sure the pastor's name is on the front? How much harder better known names have to stay humble. Joel Osteen makes sure you not only see his name, but, just like Oprah Winfrey, his picture is the first thing you see. The growing trend to make sure people see who we are, what we do disturbs me, even as I am replete with the same thing.

Of course I want to be known, but not by men. Too often, that's not true. As a writer, my name means something. It does not mean what Steven King's name means, or Michael Jordan's. It means what Anthony Trendl's name means. If at any point, that name tends against the name above all names, then I have it wrong.

Jesus Himself saw this often enough to mention it.
Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:1-6

Anita Renfroe on Motherhood - William Tell Overture

Anita Renfroe on Motherhood - William Tell Overture.

Happy Mother's Day


Complaints of Rainy Sundays While Other Suffer for Their Faith

Bird nesting on a pipe in a Wheaton, IL parking garageMy original title was witty, or pithy, if you will: It's Raining, It's Pouring, I Awoke to My Own Snoring.

However, in considering the situation, it too easily dismisses the reality others across the globe encounter for their faith.

Rain has been gently flooding my lawn for hours. The gutters are overwhelmed, as is the grass below.

I am wondering how church will go, as our parking lots are too small for the size of the congregation, and so people park along the street, or in a large parking garage normally used by train commuters during the week. All the water might cause reconsideration for church attendance and/or parking.

We usually parking nearest the door, but I suspect more people will give that a try. Where will we park?

Whatever moaning I might have about a few tricklings of water, there are those who face much greater challenges getting to church. There's no blogging about Jesus there, or worries about church parking lots too crowded on a raining Sunday morning. They are truly persecuted, most often by Islamic forces in power, or a Communist form of atheism. See the link below for a list of countries, with links to each's situation.


A little rain looks pretty good in light of what struggle really means. As I sit here, sipping coffee, with every need met, I am glad God has reminded than my abundance should not be taken lightly, or help too closely.

What can I do? I don't know. I will pray for an answer. Offer yours, if you have one.

picture: Bird nesting on a pipe in a Wheaton, IL parking garage. Found on Picasa. Jesse's Public Gallery » The long commute


David Archuleta on American Idol Gets My Vote

Is it because David Archuleta stands humbly, not caught up in the glitz? Or is it because he is boldly stepping away from his father's controlling efforts and becoming his own man? Might it be that he gracefully sang John Lennon's beautiful song, "Imagine," yet left off Lennon's foolish, "imagine no religion" lyric?

It could just be that this kid is taking on American soul, and doing it right.

His competition is not as classy or talented. Syesha Mercado has turned into trying for the sexy image thing in her Tina Turner lounge act. David Cook has trained his tired image into a one trick alternative pony. What's there to say about Jason Castro? He's a peanut short of a brain.

Sure, American Idol fans culled out the lessers, but only David Archuleta has got depth of character, and skill. I was not a fan of him in the beginning, but now, I am won over.

Ben E. King - Stand By Me

Elvis Presley - Love Me Tender


Movie Sequels I Am Itching to See

Sequels of hits invariably do well in the box office, often better than the first movie. As the term presumes, it usually means a story happening after the first one.

Not so, of course, with the Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings came later, but the movies were first. That's a prequel.

Sometimes, the sequel is less of 'later' or 'before' and more of 'also', meaning it follows another storyline, but standalone from the original. Either way, below are movies I want to see.

Incredibles 2 (never going to happen)
Iron Man 2 (scheduled) (Iron Man review)
Iron Man 3 (likely)
Iron Man 4 (in my dreams)
Spiderman 4 (scheduled)
Spiderman 5 (no idea)
Spiderman 6 (no idea)
The Hobbit (scheduled)

Narnia - Sequels to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia (scheduled)
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (scheduled)
The Silver Chair
The Horse and His Boy
The Magician’s Nephew
The Last Battle

I loved Rocky Balboa (Rocky 6), but think Sylvester Stallone is done with the series. Great finish.

Ambivalent about the Batman series. Heath Ledger is overrated, so I am expecting that as the Joker, he's all makeup, and entirely replaceable. Anyone who died as young as he did is a tragedy, but, as far as Hollywood talent goes, he will not be missed.

Indiana Jones 4 (scheduled)
Indiana Jones 5 (in my dreams)
Monsters, Inc. 2
Superman Returns Sequel (Untitled)
Wallace & Gromit 2 (I'll watch these all day long)

X-Men 4? Maybe, but X-Men 3 was awful as far as story goes. The actors got in the way. What helped Iron Man be as strong as it is was that Robert Downey Jr, though a star, became Tony Stark. He wasn't just a famous actor playing Tony Stark, but, instead, owned the character. Should Marvel Studios need to replace him, they will have trouble.


Coffee House Gospel Comes Through - Weavers' Gospel reviewed

Gospel by the Weavers
The Weavers are folk music. Like Woody Guthrie, their name is synonymous with what folk music is. They did not sing for money, but for what they believe.

No one ever thought of the Weavers as a faith-driven group. They are nowhere on the Larry Norman-> Michael W Smith-> Sara Groves Christian music continuum. What they have done, though, is collect the most popular Christian folk songs and play them well.

This is a coffee house collection. This is crowd pleasing and not always obvious as spiritual songs ("If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song)"). There are none of the great hymns like "Amazing Grace," "How Great Thou Art," or even, "Be Thou My Vision." Too bad. I can only dream of what Peter Seeger and company could have done.

I love "Go Where I Send Thee," and suspect I am not alone in my appreciation of "When The Saints Go Marching In". The Weaver's version of "In That New Jerusalem" is so part of our public consciousness that it is easy to forget it is laden with lyrics drawn from the Book of Revelations.

Michael Row The Boat Ashore
Follow The Drinking Gourd
On My Journey
I've Got A Home In That Rock
In That New Jerusalem
When The Stars Begin To Fall
Run, Come See, Jerusalem
If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song)
Sinner Man
You Made Me A Pallet On The Floor
True Religion
Twelve Gates To The City
Go Where I Send Thee (One For The Little Bitty Baby)
When The Saints Go Marching In

I fully recommend The Weavers "Gospel" as a fun addition to both folk and Christian music collections.

Anthony Trendl

Oh Sinner Man - A tribute concert to Harold Leventhal.

When The Saints Go Marching In - The Weavers

Home School Speeches

I'm soon to help judge a home school speech tournament. No, I was not picked because of my background as a writer, or as a speech writer specifically. That's a coincidence. Instead, the NCFCA prefers to find lay people who live in the area.

I helped judge one of these a few months ago, and was astounded at the quality of forensics and oratory. Sure, some kinds have absolutely no business in front of a microphone, but there were several who blew me away with skill and intellect.

Next week, I will hear speeches from the next step up. These kids qualified to be there by winning before.

Home schools are often debated against by close minded, intolerant crowds frenzied by how an exodus of students might impact public schools. Supporting quality education should be their goal, not an idealogy or system.

While an argument that any kid should be home schooled is built on foolishness, equally foolish is the belief that a public school always has the student's best interests in mind. This tournament's participants are an example of what home schools can do. In 25 years, these kids will be leading companies, making a difference.
NCFCA National Qualifying Speech and Debate Tournament

The National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (NCFCA) believes that formal speech and debate can provide a means for home schooled students to learn and exercise analytical and oratorical skills, addressing life issues from a Biblical world view in a manner that glorifies God. To provide these opportunities to home schooled students, NCFCA shall facilitate qualifying tournaments throughout the country and the annual national tournament.


"Amazing Grace" sung by Wintley Phipps

Amazing Grace History and "Amazing Grace" By Wintley Phipps

Phipps provides a fun look at negro spirituals, with a solemn reminder why John Newton wrote it.
see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Newton

A shout out to Catherine McNiel (Everyday Life as Poetry: The Beauty of Life, Faith and Family) who pointed me to this one.

Simple, Smart Premise No Longer Ignored - review "Long Tale"

The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More
"The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More" by Chris Anderson claims that thar's gold in them thar hills. He tells us it is not a few big chunks we want, but many small nuggets.

Modern examples are Amazon.com and NetFlix, both of which sell plenty of Harry Potter products and the like. They also (or rent, as is with NetFlix) lots of less popular products. They hit the niche market hard. That's the gold.

The long tail is the curve's far end. At the top of the curve is Harry Potter, for example, along with other New York Times Bestsellers. These products certainly represent a significant amount of sales. However, so do the accumulated number of books and movies which might sell only a few copies a year. Add those up, and there is serious profit. While the tail in the curve is not high, it is long. One copy of, say. The Love, a Hungarian film, and one copy of The Very Best of Ralph Stanley, a bluegrass CD, might not sound like much, but the tail is long. Those, with thousands of other products sold each month, would make their seller very happy.

My own business is built on a long tail method. The market for Hungarian products is not like the Billboard Top 40. It is like the Billboard Bottom 20,000, if there were such a thing. It works.

Anderson's principles can be applied by small businesses like mine, and massive Fortune 500s looking to reach where few are reaching. The markets are there, and, by considering Anderson's ideas, so is the process.

I fully recommend "The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More" by Chris Anderson.

Anthony Trendl
editor, http://www.hungarianbookstore.com/


The Mission (Movie Soundtrack): With or Without the Movie, Superb

The Soundtrack: With or Without the Movie, Superb
The Mission: Original Soundtrack From The Motion Picture
Passion permeates each cut, and each cut will bring you back into the scenes of DeNiro crawling up the slippery hill in penance, or of Irons walking with the cross held high toward attacking soldiers.

You'll close your eyes and see the children wading through a shallow creek picking out floating violins. You'll hear them singing while the leaders approach the mission for the first time.

For fans of soundtracks, you'll find it richly enhanced with tracks subtle in the movie. Though classically influenced, listeners will find that it transcends standard orchestral music and easy to enjoy in the car as much as the home.

I fully recommend "The Mission: Original Soundtrack From The Motion Picture" (and the movie).

Anthony Trendl

Review: Iron Man: Redemption?

I saw Iron Man. I loved it.

Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., owns a weapons manufacturer. On a trip to demonstrate a new missile, the Jericho, which knocks out a wall of defenses with many small bombs deployed from a single shot, he is captured. His captors are essentially killers Al-Qaeda. They want him to build this device.

In a cave, he realizes he cannot escape on his own. He'll build the bomb, and then, they'll kill him. Bad deal. He secretly builds the Iron Man suit and gets back home. Fellow captive and engineering genius Dr. Yinsen cautions him, "Don't Waste Your Life." Yinsen gives his life to save Tony's.

While in captivity, he sees that his weapons are used by the enemy. Why? How?

He had been a sleazy, rich, indulgent womanizer. Now, he sees the light. Not only is he a new man with his morals, but, with his view about weapons. His Iron Man suit will be used for good, by him. Specifically, he will use it to take down the enemy's stock of Stark Industry weapons.

One problem. His partner, Obadiah Stane, is in cahoots with the enemy. He sanctioned Stark's capture, and is the one selling Stark products. He double crosses the enemy, and acquires the Iron Man prototype suit and plans.

Meanwhile, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), previously seen as a plain assistant, starts looking good to Tony Starks. Both realize they are nowhere without the other.

What now?

Do I need to tell all? No, no. On with you. Go see it. Surprise ending.

We need a hero. When Captain America was killed off to make some political point by Marvel, we lost something.

When you do, look for Stan Lee. He's the Hugh Hefner lookalike.

The acting is solid, with Downey spot-on for the role. Paltrow is replaceable. Jeff Bridges, as Obadiah, is excellently cast. Shaun Toub as Dr. Yinsen carries the role impressively, though we only see him in the beginning of the movie.

Terrence Howard as Lt. Colonel James "Rhodey" Rhodes is the weakest link, as he comes across too feminine and insipid to be the kind of leader he should be as the liaison between Stark Industries and the military.

The movie's messages: heroes are men who do the right thing even if it means sacrifice, and, bigger guns do not necessarily lead to peace. The message is conflicted, however, as it is bigger guns which save the day (with some good ol' experience thrown in).

The idea of not wasting one's life -- having purpose and vision -- comes through well. This brings the movie from sheer pulp to something with depth. Tony Stark is not perfect; some of his faults are indefensible. He is, though, a man on a mission. That's a pretty good idea for all of us.

Violent at times, horrific at others -- the terrorists here are put in their proper light, but as they murder, it is very realistic and frightening.

Sensuality -- Tony Starks is a womanizer, and we see evidence of this, especially as he seduces an equally arrogant Brown University graduate and magazine writer Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb). When Pepper Potts is escorting her out, she refers to her as trash.

Would I bring kids? Probably not. PG-13 it is rightly rated.

Look for a sequel.