Friday, May 31, 2013

Last Day of School

The Temple of Doom is closed for the summer

Band of the Week - The Walkmen

The Walkmen have been around since 2000. They are a straight up New York City rock and roll band. They don't put on airs. They don't glam things up. They play guitar driven songs with interesting lyrics. This song, Heartbreaker, is one of my favorite songs of the past ten years...comes off their newest release Heaven.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


My local PBS affiliate a few weeks ago finally brought back one of my favorite shows...Globetrekker. I started watching this show in the early aughts and have been hooked ever since. Produced by Pilot Guides in the UK the show features young backpackers trekking around the world. The difference between this show and most other travel shows is that the hosts get off the beaten path. Although they hit some famous tourist spots they do their best to interact with the locals.

Their travels seem more authentic. I'm not a fan of rigidly scheduled tours. I enjoy the process of discovery. I also don't like rushing around to check off things on some list. My goal is to enjoy the experience and allow the process of discovery to develop somewhat organically. Globetrekker does a great job of portraying that type of travel experience.

The show will sometimes disappear for months and even a year at a time on my local television schedule depending on the caprices of the PBS programmer. So it's always a nice surprise to see it back on the air.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Band of the Week - Local Natives

Having XM Sirius Satellite Radio has been great. Admittedly I spend most of my time bouncing between two stations: AltNation and XMU. Both stations play indie music. Listening to these channels has exposed me to some great bands. Some I had heard of but never given a serious listen. A few of the bands that have caught my attention and I really dig are: Japandroids, Tame Impala, Grouplove, Alt J, The Lumineers, The Walkmen, Best Coast, Dirty Projectors, Milo Greene and more.

But the band I'm digging this week is Local Natives. Yes, all you early adopting hipsters, I know they're not a brand new deal. They've been around a couple of years now and I had heard a few of their songs on KXT in Dallas. But Relevant Magazine gave them a big spread in a recent issue and both Alt Nation and XMU give them serious playtime. They recently released a new album, their sophomore effort, called Hummingbird.

Very syncopated rhythms and intricate vocal harmonies. Sometimes their music is hypnotic. Other times it rocks pretty hard.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Just Keep Quiet

The night of the Oklahoma tornadoes noted pastor John Piper sent out this tweet:

The tweet was met immediately with negative responses and Piper took the tweet down. The 140 character limit often makes it difficult to express complex thoughts. Not quite sure what Piper was trying to communicate that night. Here was his follow up tweet:

My hope and prayer for Oklahoma is that the raw realism of Job’s losses will point us all to his God “compassionate and merciful.” Jam.5:11

Okay, so whatever Piper meant to say he missed an important lesson from the book of Job about dealing with tragedy.

We often breeze right past Job 2:13. Job's friends come into the story and see Job in great misery and distress. What they did next was an admirable display of friendship and understanding in the midst of tragedy:

And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. Job 2:13 ESV

A whole week! They sat on the ground and didn't say a word for a week. They just sat there and let their presence be felt.

Unfortunately they couldn't keep their silence up. As soon as they open up their big mouths they quickly show what kind of lousy friends they are. They offer advice. They offer explanations. They offer guidance. They offer condemnation. And they are completely off-base in just about everything they say. God later excoriates them for their asinine speeches.

They were doing so well...until they started talking. This is a great lesson for us. In times of tragedy it's often best to simply keep our mouths shut and simply offer our support. Be there for those suffering and show God's love through our actions. In the midst of tragedy most aren't interested in theological explanations or questions of why.

When my wife was having emergency surgery and was near death our pastor came and sat next to me in the hospital waiting room. He didn't say anything for a long time. He just put his hand on my shoulder and sat silently. A little later he prayed with me and offered to get me anything I needed. But for the most part he sat there silently. His quiet presence was a great comfort to me.

A little later a layperson came who fancied themselves an unofficial pastor came and sat next to me. They yapped the entire time about God's goodness and quoted scripture and so on and on. They meant well but I found their words distasteful at the time. I was thinking: I am a follower of Christ, I know the scriptures, I know the theology but right now my wife is near death and I wish you would just shut up.

At that time in my life I didn't need a theological discourse. I just needed someone to sit with me in the hospital waiting room.

The two pastoral approaches were striking. They reminded me of Job's friends who did so well while sitting quietly but went completely wheels off when they started talking. If you don't know what to say don't say anything. In fact, even if you think you know what to say...don't say anything. You say a lot more with your presence and your actions.


My heart and prayers go out to all those who lost loved ones on May 20th.

I haven't lived in Oklahoma in sixteen years. But I was born there and spent a total of eleven years of my life there. That doesn't include the numerous visits to the state each year visiting my Grandparents and relatives. There will always be a part of me that considers Oklahoma home. It breaks my heart to see the suffering and devastation caused by this storm. God bless you all.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Summer Movies!

Summer movie season has begun! Here are three quick mini-reviews:

Iron Man 3: Good movie. Nice way to wrap up the trilogy...if this is truly the end of the series. Hopefully Robert Downey, Jr. will be back for Avengers 2. IM3 is full of surprises and lots of action. Still not as good as the first Iron Man...but very good nonetheless.

The Great Gatsby: A near masterpiece. Not sure what the negative critics are harping about. Virtually every line comes directly from the book. Only one or two minor scenes are left out. The visuals are stunning. This movie captures the feel of the book perfectly. I'm not sure how it could have been done better. My only gripe is Tobey Maguire. I don't like him in any movie. He was okay in Gatsby but he's such a doofus it's hard to take him seriously...which may be why he made an okay Nick Carraway. I wish they had included his story with Jordan Baker from the book. Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton who played Tom Buchanan were  perfect. Absolutely perfect. Great movie.

Star Trek: Into Darkness: Another great movie. I know some nerds out there wish it wasn't so action packed. I know some wish it was more cerebral. But this movie is great fun. The characters are explored with more detail. The casting is perfect. The way they played with the Trek mythology was brilliant. I'm very glad I didn't read any spoilers coming into this movie. The villain is one of the all time greats in the series if not in any series.

Whew! More to come I'm sure.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fred White, Rest in Peace

I was sad to hear about the passing of Fred White this week. White was the long-time radio broadcaster for the Kansas City Royals. Fred White and his broadcast partner Denny Matthews were part of the soundtrack of my childhood. Long before the ubiquity of cable, satellite and online streaming, radio broadcasts were often the only way to keep up with the Royals. I would listen to the broadcasts in the car with my Dad or on a cheap little transistor radio in my bedroom in the summer evenings of Kansas City.

Fred White's voice was evocative of the sounds of summer: locusts and the leaves gently rustling in the summer breeze as I lay on my bed looking out the window at the backyard every summer evening while listening to Royals games. White and Denny Matthews didn't spend a lot of time in conversation with one another. Often they traded off innings while the other worked the television broadcast. As a result they were often criticized for the long gaps of silence during the game. But I enjoyed those moments where all you could hear was the crowd. White and Matthews didn't believe in filling in space with nonsensical talking. That approach would probably not be well received in today's ADD world.

Fred White had a reputation of being a great guy who was always willing to help people out. He was an indelible part of my childhood. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What to Do When You Grow Up...

A lot of students spend years fretting about what they should do when they "grow up." How does one find their calling in life. Relevant Magazine posted ten ideas I think are pretty useful. Here are just a can find the rest on Relevant's website HERE.

- Fill in the blank to the phrase "If I had a million dollars I would..."
- When are you happiest?

- What bugs you? (enough to spur you to positive action)

- What do personality and strengths inventories say about you?

- What do your friends think you should do?

- What would you like someone to notice about you?

- What kind of jobs match up with what you learned about yourself?

Monday, May 13, 2013

For Beginners

A few days ago I blogged about M Ward without providing any music. Well, here is his track For Beginners from the album Hold Time. One of my favorites.

Thursday, May 09, 2013


So Vine is the latest social media trend hit the digital multiverse. Released in January the app, created by Twitter, allows users to create six second looping videos. These videos allow for quick edits and short bursts of creativity although most of the vids I've seen feature shots of people's meals.

Students are quickly jumping into the trend. I saw some that showed videos of students in teacher's classrooms while the teacher was in the hallway. So I made my first Vine video as a warning not to make Vines in The Temple of Doom.

Click HERE for my first Vine clip or direct your browser to this link:

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

M Ward

Perhaps my greatest musical discovery of the past year has been M Ward. I stumbled on Ward three years ago via his side project with Zooey Dechanel, She & Him. As much as I liked She & Him it took me a long time to give Ward's solo albums a listen. I regret waiting so long.

Ward's been releasing albums since the early aughts. I finally gave his solo work a listen when he released his most recent effort A Wasteland Companion. The music blew me away and I immediately took to YouTube and iTunes to give his earlier works a spin (figuratively, in these days of digital music).

Listen, She & Him are amazing and I can't wait for their newest release coming out in the next few days. But M Ward has been a true revelation. Some classify him as folk but his work is much more far-ranging that the designation implies. If I could pick someone to sound like on guitar it would be Ward. His vocals are understated but full of power. His subtleties are welcome in an age of bombast and simple-mindedness.

I have listened to all his records now several times and am just shocked that it took me almost ten years to find his music. I've always thought I was plugged into good music but man I sure whiffed on this one. He's been on Letterman, Conan, etc and I missed every performance.

I like all his stuff but if I had to choose a starting point I would go with his 2006 effort Hold Time. Every time I hear this record I want to stop what I'm doing and pick up a guitar and play. His music inspires me to greater levels of creativity. That is about the best compliment I can give a musician.

He'll be coming to DFW on tour soon with She & Him. Unfortunately I'll be out of pocket and won't be able to attend. Truly bad timing. I'm sure I'll see him around the bend sometime. He likes to play Austin quite a bit. He's worth the trip down I-35.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

The Sched

So these are the two courses I'll be taking at SMU this next fall (2013) in my graduate program. The Euro class is the second part of a History of Europe course. I took part one last fall and enjoyed the class immensely. Went right along with what I teach yet went so much deeper (as expected). The course added new dimensions to my understanding and really adds to my teaching. Dr. Mears is a legend and he is hinting this may be his last year before retirement. I'm lucky to have had at least two courses with him.

The Creating the Novel course is my attempt to finally produce a novel. Writing a novel has been a dream of mine since college. This course will hopefully serve as a motivation and a guide to actually getting the thing done. This will be my third class with Dr. Swaim and every time I leave his classroom I leave inspired. He is amazing and an encouragement to my amateur endeavors.

The Intellectual and Cultural History of Europe: Romanticism to the Present

Explores major trends in the development of European literature, philosophy, art, and music in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Primary attention is devoted to the role of arts and ideas in the shaping of our contemporary world. Part II of a two-part series; Part I is not a prerequisite.

Instructor: John Mears

Creating the Novel

This seminar focuses on learning the craft of writing a novel. Workshops will focus on writing exercises and analysis of novels (relative to structure, characterization, theme, plotline and its development). The primary intentions for this seminar involve writing in the direction of the completion of a novel. Work will involve the writing of some 45-60 pages as a ground beginning to a novel. Significant reading and writing will be essential to successful achievement in this seminar. This course may be applied to the following curricular field concentrations: Humanities and Creative Writing.

Instructor: Gary Swaim

Friday, May 03, 2013

Please No

There is seriously something wrong with this country if we even come close to electing this man to the White House.

Yes, that's right, Ted "The New Joseph McCarthy" Cruz is considering a run for the presidency.