Speechwriting: Corporate, Weddings, Retirement

3/31/10

683 Classical Songs and the Numa Numa Kid

Met a man today about a horse, and, as his organization is focused on promoting sacred music, I wondered how much of my iPod music is dedicated to classical. Apparently, a lot. Or, a lot from the perspective I heard very little of it growing up.

We weren't a musical family. My mom listened to talk radio. My dad never really played the radio except to hear the weather.

My brother and I did listen to WLS until FM happened to take hold, then WLUP, WXRT and others like them. In college, I decided I needed to expose myself to classical music, and started buying things almost randomly.

The category is iTunes' designation. And, as anyone with a fair number of songs knows, those categories can be misleading. Gospel and Religious, for example, includes lots of rock and pop.

What was my recent download? Dragostea Din Tei (Original Romanian Version). Huh? You know it. It was made blazingly famous by a kid lip syncing it, known as Numa Numa. It must be great to run to if a teen can extract that much energy from it. See video below, so onto my running playlist it goes. (my running adventures are blogged here)

Alternative & Punk 65
Blues 251
Books and Spoken Word 87
Children's Music 141
Christian & Gospel 1
Classical 683
Country 92
Dance 2
Easy Listening 50
Electronic 4
Electronica/Dance 19
Folk 358
Folklore 1
Gospel and Religious 1313
Holiday 71
Jazz 165
Keyboard 14
New Age 28
Pop 323
R&B 89
Religious 1
Rock 568
Singer/Songwriter 1
Soundtrack 320
Vocal 1
World 156
Uncategorized 77

3/27/10

Pope Benedict - Resignation or Revival?

Anne Rice, on her Facebook page, asked,
"Should Pope Benedict resign? I'm not the first to ask this question. I would love your thoughts on it. Excuses being made for Benedict regarding the clergy abuse scandal strike me as worse than the crime." (source)
I responded, adjusted here to provide context.

The problem is at the local level. The local parish priest, as well as deacons and other leadership. 

The seminaries need to change too. Who are they accepting? Who are the graduating? Priests, or men with degrees in theology? 

Schools like Loyola, DePaul, Notre Dame too are a joke when it comes to teaching Christ is the only truth. They are quickly joining the ranks of Harvard and Yale as universities that have become spiritually impotent. Intellectual rigor is only part of what's needed. A student can get that at he University of Illinois without the pretense that faith is part of the school's foundation.

At the Catholic high school I attended my freshman year, Marist High School of Chicago, true faith was a joke. Teachers privately contradicted the teachings of the church on sexuality, salvation, and personality morality. The Marist Brothers who taught many of the classes were "nudge-nudge, say no more" kinds of guys. No one respected them as spiritual leaders, but as either well liked or well feared. Good education? Did some nice things for the poor? Occasionally. Yes, but that's it. There are, no doubt, good Catholic schools out there, but don't look to Chicago's southside.

If this is merely a management problem, toss the managers, but it is a spiritual issue first and foremost. It is a greater tragedy that there is sin, not that there is crime. Sinlessness is not possible until Heaven, but we cannot see this as simply an organizational problem. It is a crime and needs the related attention, but the Church needs revival from the soul up, not from the top down.

Are Only Catholic Priests Failing? What About Protestants?
The myth that Protestant scandals aren't covered by mainstream news is misleading. Ted Haggard (pastor of a major church) for example, was trashed in the news for his insurrections with Mike Jones. (source) He quickly resigned. However, it is true that the individuals are hammered, while when a priest fails, the entire Catholic Church takes the heat. Haggard's individual church felt a huge impact, but the struggles are not nationwide.

The Catholic Church's challenges are a combination of truth, half truth, and exaggeration. In Chicago, we've seen a couple 'victims' recant after the priests were crucified. This does not justify the guilty (of which there are horribly many), and I content the issue is far, far bigger than the Pope. The guilty should be prosecuted, the victims need to be cared for, but the cause must be addressed. I believe it is a systemic spiritual breakdown in which for too many, their faith is not wrought of God, but of Man.

Average Leaders
That is, men like St. Francis, St. Patrick, and women like St. Claire are rare today. Protestants have their Jim Elliot (martyr) and Hudson Taylor (first significantly impacting missionary in China) and so many others in modern times, as well as thousands upon thousands of young people following their footsteps. The Catholic Church need a spiritual, soul crying revival. When this happens, the sociology will follow. If the individual Catholic is waiting for a pope or priest to lead the way, they are missing a deeper truth. Sure, the Pope seems to have erred gravely (facts are still coming in), but do we reject a life lived only for Jesus because he is sinful? What about our life? Godliness isn't just the clergy's domain, is it? Is the lack of their godliness an suitable excuse for our dismissing of it in our lives?

Health Care Fiasco Creates Cubs World Series Scenario

1908 Chicago Cubs World Series Champions 11" x 13" Plaque from Healy ProObama Care. It is now the law of the land. I am unconcerned. I have heard sweeping charges that it will be the downfall of humanity, enter us into Armageddon, and open the door to a Cubs World Series. Hell will not freeze over. I don't care what your Republican friend says. Of course, I didn't care what your Democratic friend said about how Americans have an inalienable right to health care either.

That said, it isn't my idea.

I don't begrudge those who want it. Why wouldn't they? If I hurt myself, I will do my best to get the care I need. If I have a child whose health needs are costlier than I can afford, I do whatever's necessary to help him. If it takes money from my neighbor to do it, and the government makes this legal, I would do it.

It is, as I see it, a result of the failure of churches to care for the orphan and widow, the hungry and the homeless. The door to bad decisions is left open when Christians do not act.

Government was not the solution, yet it is trying to be. Why? Because people want it to solve the problem. As we move from Big Corporate dominating our health care choices with their so-called death panels, we will now endure Big Government doing the same.

Now, conservatives' outcry is to have Big Government solve Big Government's problem of health care. Same as the liberals, pretending to call it fixing the problem. Both camps want aspiritual solutions and calling it deemed from God. John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning to have that the law can be repealed.

Laws for or against abortion have not stopped a mother's malice against her unborn child. Churches are again the solution. Help the father, the mother, before the decision to have a child (or unwittingly, through teen passion) is conceived stop their action. Not through fear, but love. Help the same couple, and child, throughout pregnancy. Help still longer after the baby is born, and as long as necessary.

Sure, bad laws need repealing. Abortion need outlawing. But when the Christian fails to act with mercy, the government will step in. Caesar will get his.

Now what? Work hard, help those who need help. What needs to be done hasn't changed.

3/24/10

Ken Taylor's Donut Habit

Jerry Jenkins, best-known to most readers as one of the authors of the Left Behind series, posted on his blog, One of My Giants, about his relationship with and respect for Ken Taylor, founder of Tyndale House Publishers.

I'm not a famous author. Two kinds of people read my blog: those who know me personally, and those who accidentally landed here thanks to the wonder of Google. Still, I live close to Tyndale, and have done some minor freelance work there. Friends write and design there.

I had the honor of having donuts with Ken Taylor several times. As it turned out, in his later years, he could often be found reading the newspaper at the Dunkin Donuts close to Tyndale (just south of Geneva, on Schmale, for those of you who know Wheaton, IL). His donut dining schedule mirrored mine. He'd sit alone on the far right end of the counter, and I sat near the middle, not quite sure how to approach, as Jerry refers to him, this giant.

Though we never spoke, I saw in him an average guy, thumbing through the paper just as I did, and realized God uses who He pleases to do His work. What's a giant but a man who obeys the Lord?

NASB Thinline BibleWhile my Bible translation of choice is the NASB, what the Living Bible has done for Bible reading is amazing. And, how Taylor used its sales and prominence to slowly vault into what Tyndale is today -- how Tyndale remains on the forefront of careful, yet bold publishing for Christians -- is an example of steadfastness in a world filled with the temptation of greed. They've had some big sellers, but they still publish Bible reference books and commentaries that make little, if any money. Taylor could have named his company The Ken Taylor Publishing Empire, taken the money, built a palatial home with a fleet of autos and declared, "I am holy, for the Lord has blessed my life." He didn't. He pressed on. He wasn't done.

Nowhere on their back list are books that say, "God wants you to be financially wealthy," but there are at least 22 books listed under evangelism, 23 books listed under apologetics, and 86 devotionals. Jerry's books are in there somewhere, doing work directly for the Lord, and helping support the less profitable but crucially important spiritual development books.

All thanks to a guy I saw eating donuts.

3/10/10

Happy Birthday Chuck Norris!

  • When Chuck Norris was born, everyone else cried.
  • When Chuck Norris goes to someone else's birthday party, the host gives him a gift.
  • When Chuck Norris wishes someone, "Happy Birthday," they are happy... all year.
  • Chuck Norris doesn't get older. The world gets younger.
  • No one throws Chuck Norris a party. He throws it... far.
NEWS: Won "Chuck Norris Birthday Facts" contest hosted by Tyndale House Publishers with these five suggested facts to win an autographed copy of The Official Chuck Norris Fact Book: 101 of Chuck's Favorite Facts and Stories. According to Adam Sabados, Tyndale's PR person, Chuck Norris will not sign the book. He will tell the pen to sign.

I personally hoped he would sign it with his fist, but the book probably would not survive impact.

Happy Birthday Chuck!


3/9/10

Bad Poetry in a Digital World


Why is it so many poets say they are influenced by Yeats, Wordsworth or Auden, but they write like MTV, Oprah or Simon Cowell?

I've started submitting my work to major publications (including Poetry Magazine). To understand where I am sending, I am reading through literary magazines. I'm not impressed. So much of it ignores rhythm, and reads more like prose chopped up into short phrases, as if William Shatner is reading it.

It is more than the form that lacks. It is the subject matter. Highly personal, the topics tend to be more about the poet's view of themselves and their interaction with an immediate world rather than a sense of what the world is like apart from themselves.

Like a high school literary journal, so much eeks of bad boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, except without the emotional insight.

Is good poetry out there? Of course there is. Not enough. Poets need to learn phrasing, punctuation and, above all forms. They can go free verse if they like, but without the basis of forms, free verse is just street poetry without the authenticity.

What made the best of the Beat Poets' work was they knew the classics. Jack Kerouac was not against the so-called "dead poet's society," but read them regularly. Likewise with the predecessor to the Beats, Carl Sandburg. Neither of these guys wrote free verse because they hated the classic forms, but because it was the best tool for communicating what

I recently Tweeted:
The most interesting poets are ones outside of academia and publishing. Their view is unadulterated by the literary culture, fresh and innocent.
There's a enduring trouble with poetry right there. Much of it comes out of the university setting, chosen by doting students who do not realize their professor's work is mediocre. Politics revolves around all of this in some cases. Not necessarily vindictive, butter, Chicago-style politics, but the kind that is built on relationships. Say you meet an editor at a conference, you connect, and viola! The bond is made, and poems are published. Some of this boils back to the Emperor's New Clothes.

Can a poet outside of academia be published? Absolutely. The MFA or PhD helps in greasing the wheel, however. To the defense of the editors, there is a safety in using those who you know. Deadlines will be met if the piece is commissioned, and the end product will be, for all intents and purposes, soundly constructed. In short, it won't suck. It might even be very good. Finding the same consistent quality among those outside of the inside is hard work, and that takes time. Editors at small press have neither time, nor the money to chase the poets. With press runs at 1,000 or 2,000, much of which goes unread, stuck on library shelves or purchased by benevolent subscribers who merely want to support the publisher, getting things done well and quickly is no small matter.

Writing overall seems to have taken a hit over the last few decades. Maybe it is because I live in this moment. Maybe if I lived 50 years ago I would have said the same thing (minus the modern pop culture references). Fiction is drawing from a similar lot of ideas, with just as little creativity. Except for James Frey. He writes fiction, but calls it truth (sources like at Wikipedia).

Star Trek Trailer (Spoof): William Shatner shows Chris Pine how to be Captain James T. Kirk (FrankTV) (more Frank Caliendo on WGN here)

3/8/10

National Health Care - I'm Against It

National Health Care. I'm against it. Simple as that.

Will I bow to the guilt trip that comes when friends ask, "Would you deny me health care?" That question is faulty, and structured as a lie. I'm not denying anyone health care. I might, if I can, personally help pay for whatever they need, but I do not want the government involved in the process.

Why?
I believe it is counter to a free market society and capitalism. I do not believe that health care is a fundamental right. 

I've seen it go wrong in Hungary. Bribes get the job done there. The problem remains: the rich get the best care, everyone else goes to the clinic. 

The solution? I don't know. I do know a bad idea does not solve a problem. I hope churches are responding to this, knowing they are part of the solution. I think mine is. We has an entire sermon on this on Sunday. The Book of Acts and James and others get down to business in addressing this from a non-political perspective. 

Well-read friends will be in an uproar, I suppose. They might think that my only reason is because President Obama wants to include baby abortions in his bill. That's a horrible thing, but my reason is at a higher level than government-paid pre-birth infanticide.

Yes, yes, I know the government pays for some health care already. I don't like that either.

If the bill goes through in any form against my liking, I'll vote for whomever did not support it.

3/5/10

Hot Showers - My Political Platform

If I could change the world, I would ensure a shower for every person in the home, and unlimited hot water. Unlimited, I say -- unlimited!

Think of how many ugly mornings would turn quickly to bliss. Marital squabbles would reduced to half. It is unclear what impact this would have on the correlating coffee consumption's economy.

If the King of the World position opens up, just know that's the platform I will be running on. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have demonstrated they can do this. They have both presented that they can, in fact, reside in hot water, but not as it relates to showers at 5:45 am. They have already countered by showing off their capacity to blow hot air, but I already own a hair dryer.

3/4/10

Fear is Excellent Strategy - Everyone Is Doing It (But Shouldn't Be)

An article in Salon (Republican Party's 2010 fundraising strategy: fear
Leaked document gives look into way RNC thinks of its donors; what's revealed isn't pretty.) looks at a disgusting process of fundraising. Nasty, damning stuff. As they say, it "isn't pretty."

It is easy to poke at the Republican Party for this. They deserve it. However, if any reader thinks they are lonely in this strategy, think again, before you can say "teabaggers."

My thoughts as posted at Salon:

Fear is Excellent Strategy
Reagan used our Cold War fear to win. Clinton used our fear of a failing economy. George W Bush used our fear of terrorism. Barack Obama successfully used fear of world backlash, the impact of continued war, and of whatever Bush represented to Democrats.

Each presented their campaigns to their followers as 'hope' but the hope was that the dreadful something (big enemy, status quo) would be avoided. Each demonized either the candidate or the candidates followers through name calling or categories ('Shrub', 'liberals', 'fundies' 'neocons' 'socialist' etc.)

As a successful strategy, the history is strong. While it is hardly an honorable strategy, the RNC isn't the only party to employ this wickedness.