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Jazz tune: blues by five

Posted on July 16, 2012 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

"Blues by Five" is a piece I love. Probably mostly because it's a blues, but it's really up tempo. You can listen to it here. I have simplified it, and I think what I've come up with works well.

This is the melody, or lead sheet. Give it a minute or two to load - it's a 3 mg file. I've included a couple sheets showing the original changes (chord progression) and the original bass line.

Here are two things I came up with: different changes along with a bass line I like much better than the original.

This last bit is a supplement they provide to go along with the lead sheet.

So knock yourself out. I hope you enjoy yourself with this.

You are a teacher

Posted on July 9, 2012 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Jesus didn't say, "Theology will set you free." He did not say, "Knowing the ways of God will set you free." Good as those things are, they aren't what Jesus put his finger on. He said the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).


Part of the theology package is truth. And certainly, knowing the ways of God is yet another way of knowing truth, since he himself is truth (John 14:6), and by natural extension, his ways would be truth, too. But Jesus singled out the truth, not just as part of the way we should worship (in spirit and in truth), but as that raw, transformative thing that we must learn to love (2 Thess. 2:10). Truth cuts at times. Maybe theology does too. Truth can make you angry.


Consider that we all teach, in some way. By our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and by our words, we shape ourselves and those around us. This is, well, true. Whether we actively teach somewhere or not. Even the fool is an instructor.


There is a passage we think of as an admonition for teachers: they should rightly divide truth. When Paul said "rightly divide truth," just what did he mean? The Amplified Bible gives us this take on it:



        Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing - rightly handling and skillfully teaching - the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15 Amp.)"



Dividing the truth. I can't help but think of all the divisions in the Creation account (He divided the earth from the waters, day and night, light and shadow). Divisions abound in the Gospel (Matthew 10:34). Christ's cross divides - it runs counter to our "self." A beam splits the beam and you have an "x," a place of crossing. The cross needs to inform our handling of the Scripture "rightly" and teaching with skill.


The verse also says we present ourselves to God as having been "tested by trial." Our words that come out of those testings and from our activity in general return to us after we speak them (Ecc. 11:1). They come back and "ask" us if that particular truth is something we know in our heads. Or are they something we have walked out, experienced inwardly and outwardly? Are the things we know in our minds something alive and resident in our hearts and ways? For all of us, there will be a test. There will be a test today. Want to be study partners? If we get an "A" (or who knows, maybe even a "B" or a "C" or a "D," perhaps even an "F"), the truth can liberate us.


So that's it. Your challenge today: rightly handle and skillfully teach. Set people (and yourself!) free. Whether you have a pulpit ministry or not. God wants to use you to teach and bless others. God wants you, period. Give yourself over to the truth, and to him. Love the truth. Serve it. Let it fill your heart.

Lord of the Flies and The Body Snatchers

Posted on July 2, 2012 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Here is my analysis of The Body Snatchers and Lord of the Flies, with a particular emphasis on comparing and contrasting the endings of each book.

Toward the end of the book, Ralph hides from the mob (197). So do Bennell and Becky. There is a very real threat to all of them. If they are found, they won't survive.

Ralph listened as “(b)ehind him the ululation swept across the island once more and a single voice shouted three times (193).”

Ralph is trying to escape from Jack and his band. The shouting voice is pausing the line that is combing the island. If they find Ralph, they will kill him, as they feel he is dangerous. Ironically, two boys have died, and Ralph had nothing to do with either death.


In The Body Snatchers, Doctor Bennell says,


          I realized, suddenly, what would happen...(t)hey were simply waiting for us; hundreds of silent figures strung along together in a solid line hidden in the wheatland between us and the highway we had to approach...(183)


For Ralph, the line is advancing, scraping through the thickets and brush to find him. At this point in the book, Golding is calling the antagonists “savages.”


But Doctor Bennell would be the one to advance in Body Snatchers. The line was in front of him, blocking access to the only escape path. He fears capture is an “absolute certainty (184).” Argueably Ralph does not (at least consciously) feel the same way.


Ralph understands “(s)ooner or later he would have to sleep (196).” This is a concern in The Body Snatchers, as well, but for a different reason. They would not be speared to death, like Ralph would. Their bodies, should they sleep, would disappear, copied and taken over by the body snatchers.


The necessity of thought is found in both texts as well. Bennell says,“We had to think, be certain, and make sure of what we were doing...(172).” Golding puts it this way: “If only one had time to think! (195)” This idea is expressed again in Flies, but this time as the single word “(t)hink (196).”


Jack and his band burn everything on the island. In a second irony, that which the “savages” intended to flush Ralph out soon brings the restoration of order. “Smoke,” says one of the kids (195). Ralph hears the incoming boat, but doesn't recognize the sound (196).


Ralph runs from the oncoming line, and ends up in a field. The field, in fact, that the pig's head on a pole is in. It is no longer “ridiculing a deep blue patch of sky but jeering up into a blanket of smoke (197).”


Both texts feature fire: “They had smoked him out and set the island onfire (197).” So the protagonist is hindered. But in Body Snatchers, the fire is on the protagonists' side: “six great metal drums” of tractor gas await Bennell and Becky when they reach the barn. They tip them over, letting the fluid run through the irrigation ditches set up for the field of pods. After a moment, Bennell lights them (186). And Bennell thinks he has won – some of the flames are higher than a man (186).


But the fuel burns up quickly. Then comes the crowd, not angry, but resolved to get Bennell and Becky. The unburned pods lift off, returning to space and presumably to another planet to infiltrate. So Bennell and the rest of the earth do win – although the ending does little to resolve the fate of Bennell and Becky. It gives us no clue, except pointing out the rising pods (187). It seems Bennell and Becky have saved the earth.


A naval officer answers Ralph's attempted “cry for mercy” simply by being present (200). This authority figure, come from the adult world, will see to it Ralph will live.


He sobs, and so do the others. Golding tells us, “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy (202).” "Piggy" falls down through the air, but the pods "fall" upwards. Body Snatchers does not conclude with a lament for fallen man's heart. There is an explosion, smoke and fire. The pods retreat into the sky, following the ascending smoke.


Lord of the Flies is definitely darker than The Body Snatchers. It is a lament of the human condition, containing as it does the awful “need” to dominate, to control, and ultimately, to kill. The outlook in The Body Snatchers is also dire, but the enemy is not man. The enemy is the "other" who have come from another world. It is easier, maybe, to deal with evil when it is not our fellow man who is perpetrating it.

There is death in both Lord of the Flies and Finney's Body Snatchers. Death in The Body Snatchers comes when the victim sleeps, the doppelganger being formed right in their home. Perhaps the pods' threat to earth is enough to motivate Bennell and Becky. They run blind back to the city, no plan as to how to stop the creatures. They don't even understand what they are dealing with until they are in their enemies' clutches. Though the pods are rebuffed, it's not clear how things end for them. Golding gives us a figure at the end of the text who will balance things once again. In fact, Bennell himself is the one who must restore balance. It seems he does, but is it at the price of his life, and that of Becky?








Intro to the Snowflake Method

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

I have decided to write my first novel. Or book, if you prefer. It's a big step, especially because the longest piece I've written was just over 8,000 words. You go from that to 90,000 - that's a massive step.


I'm going to take my time with it. I may not have a chance to do that in the future, but I will this time.


What I wanted to show you today is something called the Snowflake Method. Its creator is Randy Ingermanson, Ph.D. He also credits some others at the bottom of his page. It's here in its entirety. Part of me hangs against it, because Sol Stein talks about stories being character driven rather than plot driven. His idea is that plot driven pieces tend toward weak characterization - I think he says something about them being cardboard cut outs. I suppose you might get characters and their ways into this compressed form of planning a book. Try it and see. I realize some readers read for plot and others read for character. It's a good idea to have both, as far as I can tell.


The quick version of the Snowflake Method is you write out one-sentence summary of your novel that describes the whole book in a nutshell. Think in terms of the one-sentence summaries they give you when they are advertising a movie. Or go over to the New York Times page of hot selling books and look at the lines they give you.


This done, you write out the main three conflicts of the book, each of them a single sentence under the main one-sentence summary. Ta da! You're practically done! Now you go back and fill in each area - I'm just giving you an overview so you can see if this appeals to you. Ingermanson has much more detail on his site.



So what methods do you use for writing books? What's helped and what's sent you astray? Hit me up below with your experiences and ideas.


Be well today.

Haiku I enjoy

Posted on May 28, 2012 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Basho (1644-?)

In my new robe this morning -
someone else

Fusei (1885-?)

Cat dozing on the stove -
is there one thing
he doesn't know?

Kasho (20th century)

I live with Buddha,
but when cold
I long for mortals.

 John Zuck

Igniter of stars!
lies naked, bawling on rough straw
God in the manger.


Old friends meet
snow-melt streams
into the river

Issa (or Yataro Kobyashi)
(pronounced EYE suh or ee SAH)
(19th century)

4 line poems are from The Year of My Life. These 4 liners are waka, not haiku.

From his hole
the snake pokes his head...
the cat slaps it

Autumn wind --
red flowers she wanted
to pick

The wind gives us
All the dry leaves
We need
For our little household.

Tonight, in the sky,
Even the stars
Seem to whisper
to each other.


Characters want

Posted on May 14, 2012 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I've read that there are four ways to show the reader what your characters are like: how they dress, their words, their actions (as well as actions they would never take), and thoughts. I add to this list, "foods." You know, a coffee with a low-fat cream in it says something different than a martini.


Sol Stein (yes, I'm talking about him again) says your character must have a want. It has to be reasonably important, enough so the reader can sympathize with (or hate) him.


I read a psyche book(1) this morning which said people "may have a number of simultaneous wants, some of which are implicit (45)." I like this, as it breathes a bit more life into the characters. Certain wants will have priority. But if the character doesn't know what her primary goal is, she may pursue the wrong one (46).


Maybe the character wants his roommate to go with him to the store. You can "ask" the character, "What do you want most from (your) roommate with regard to this trip to the grocery store?" The character might answer, "company," or wish the roommate would volunteer to come along. He might say, "I want him to entertain me," or even desire to assert his authority (46).


Expectations and wants drive "the bus." Sadness, anger, or happiness can come out of unmet expectations (ibid.) Characters can be angry if they want something, don't get it, and still want it. Sadness can come of wanting something, not getting it, and then giving up hope of ever getting what they wanted. Happiness in not getting what they want can come from making some sort of adjustment in how they think about the situation.

(1) Bedell, Jeffery R. and Shelly S. Lennox. (1997). Handbook for Communication and Problem-Solving Skills Training. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

My piano lessons

Posted on May 8, 2012 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (0)

I had to be encouraged to take them, but I'm at piano lessons again. My teacher is the very competant Patrick (we're not on a last name basis yet) who graduated from the Dana School of Music.

He has taught me a lot about Roman Numeral Analysis. I thought I knew a lot about chords and how they worked together until I started looking through this lens at them. FYI, there's not much helpful material online about this subject. I should check my local libraries next. I asked him about a good book on it, and he mentioned the textbook he used, but said it was pretty expensive. I thought maybe I could get an earlier edition of it cheaper.

Also he tolerates my forays into jazz. What I'm working on right now is "Blues by Five" by Red Garland. I've set the melody as single notes with a Bb jazz blues progression in the left hand. It runs as follows:


Bb7 / B7 / Bb7 / F-7 b5   bE b5 b9 /


Eb7 / E dim / Bb7 A7 / Ab7 G7 /


Eb7 F#7 / F13 / Bb9 G7 / F#7 F 7 /



I didn't care too much for the bass line they had transcribed, so I wrote a bass line for it. I'm pretty pleased with it.

 My current assignment is to put the chords back in my life by switching them to the left hand and doing some soloing over them with my right. I don't know if I'm sufficiently jazzy enough to pull that off, but you have to start somewhere. I'm liking the Bb blues scale and the C whole tone for the solos at this point.

 Solfege syllables came up in one lesson, and I decided I need to learn more about those - I know the "Do, a deer" song, but not much more beyond that. So I'm taking the bass line I was just talking about and rendering it in solfege syllables.

So, I've learned (and am learning) a lot. The bitter pill (should I take the blue one or the red one?) is he leaves after this summer. He's going to grad school which will take him out of state. If all goes well (for me, not him +smirk), I'll have his influence until August. We'll see if I continue lessons after that. I've probably missed church several times because I was tired after what I had to do that week and the piano lesson on top of it.

Just felt like sharing what I'm working on right now and so I did.



Jesus and John the Baptist

Posted on April 23, 2012 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

It's interesting that John seemed to live in the desert, but Jesus only visited it.

Paul was somehow able to say, “I die daily.” Paul went through a lot of things, but as far as we know, he never lived in the desert. Not in the sense John the Baptist did. Why is one life pattern so different from that of another? I have a feeling that if Jesus or Paul had tried living in the desert (Well hey, this is what's happening. John's doing it. It works for him, it should work for me), their results wouldn't have been as good as they were.


It is possible to be in a wilderness setting without physically being in one. Imagine Jesus going around, explaining things to his disciples, and yet in John 14 you have them totally oblivious to what was going on while he was comforting them. Must have been a hard three years for Jesus. Nobody got him (apart from Peter's “aha” moment), and worse than that, they fled, leaving him to face his most horrible hours alone. One of the Gospels has Christ looking at Peter when the cock crows. I wonder what Jesus felt at that moment. Maybe mixed in with what he felt, there was comfort in seeing one of his men at that point.


John4:1-3 “Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed (although his disciples, not Jesus, did the actual baptizing). They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee (MESS).”


Jesus' reaction to this perceived competition was to withdraw from it. There's no hint this observation by the Pharisees was backed up by the facts. An alternative would have been for Jesus and John to join forces, baptize together. What got Jesus' disciples baptizing in the first place? I don't know.


In our own lives, we might strive against another person who, roughly, is doing the same thing we are: “I'll make our building bigger! We'll offer breakfast and baptism, two for the low low price of one! I'll show him how to really preach!” Jesus was the bigger than all that. Perhaps anything there was to be done, he could have done better than anyone else. Yet he was the one that withdrew.


It was him who heard the Father's voice intimately, and did the things the Father was doing.


Also interesting is Jesus and his disciples did not take up baptism again after they relocated. There was that stop in Samaria, but it seems they did no baptizing, and then on to Galilee. Once there, Jesus heals the son of a court official simply by saying it is so. Again,no baptizing.


The Elements of Style

Posted on April 3, 2012 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)



I bought a copy of Strunk & White's Elements of Style. Someone I talked to said it wasn't all it's cracked up to be. So I did a little digging. The first result I found on Google treated it very harshly. The next one I looked at was positive. My sense from looking at a half a dozen sites is that I've not made a misstep in purchasing Elements.

Apparently there is an illustrated version.


There's also a rap.


While we're on the subject, here's something else you can look at. You may have read my earlier post that I'm now a part of the editing team at Bewildering Stories. I'm just disclosing where my bias lies. Here is the link to their Style Manual.


Reading Through One of the Lists of Names

Posted on March 27, 2012 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

So I'm reading through Exodus 6:14, one of the name lists, and I'm counting how many kids Reuben had, because, frankly, I don't know how else to interact with lists of names. Charles Haun demonstrated in a name list found in Genesis 4:17f that the names, when translated, spoke of the time they were written in. But that hasn't worked for me the several times I tried it.


Then I see Kohath, under Levi's sons, and remember his son Korah rebelled against Moses in Numbers 16 (I had to look that one up).


Levi's life (137 years) is listed, the first age/date I've seen in this list.


It takes a turn after that, and you are reading about Kohath's sons, and some of the other sons of Levi. Then Moses and Aarons' origin from Amram and his wife Jochebed, Amram's aunt. I wonder if they had any of the disabilities that can come along with incest.


We then get a parenthetical insertion of a couple of Kohath's boys. Then back to Aaron. It tells who his kids were, then concludes the list saying “These are the heads of the fathers' house of the Levites by their families.


The next paragraph reminds us that this Moses and Aaron are the ones who were among the principal personalities in the escape from Egypt.


After that, the Harper Study Bible “new paragraphs” and picks back up with the narrative, saying Moses heard from God, refused the call, and then is told how Pharaoh’s heart will be hardened. It states God will be glorified in the Egyptians' eyes. Here, God does not get mad at Moses, nor does Moses mention he is unequal to the task. Just says that they went and spoke to Pharaoh.


Maybe you have something to add.




Posted on February 27, 2012 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Ecclesiastes 3:1 TO EVERYTHING there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven...(7) a time to keep silence and a time to speak,


I lean toward the first half of verse 7: “a time to keep silence and a time to speak.”


By this I mean I may say too little when it comes to witnessing. I don't know why.


My friend Bob Lake e-mailed me recently, with this thought: “The perfect has not yet come. So until then, SPEAK.”


But what about the quote that is often attributed to St. Francis? “Preach the Gospel; when necessary use words.” What's necessary is that we love each other, and act accordingly. But maybe the quote suggests something useful to me: Jesus can be shown without any words through our actions.


 I guess I figure if I've found something in Jesus, people will see it and express interest.


I've never felt comfortable with my approach, however, and I don't now, either.


Jesus as he is vs. the Jesus of my experience

Posted on February 21, 2012 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

There is a tension between focusing on Jesus and us “focusing”on him by shoveling all our need at him (Jesus be my guide, Jesus the one who makes me feel good again). I venture to guess the Psalmists did both.


How does he feel about that? It seems to me declarative statements run the risk of being so selfish that we're no longer moving toward Jesus anymore, but rather our version of him projected on him. (Which maybe we're doing all the time anyway.) Are we here to worship Jesus, or for some other reason?


And now the obligatory section where I try to balance what I'm saying so you'll listen to me without tuning me out. I know there are times when we need to identify Christ as the Lamp we walk by. Whatever we're going through, knowing he's in it with us helps us get through it. Does our personalizing him so much diminish who he is to us? That would be ironic.


I guess anytime you say to someone, “you're so great," it is coming from your perception of that person. They've helped us out, maybe, or nudged us see to something we didn't. We can appreciate the Lord ministering to someone that we couldn't have reached, and think kind thoughts about him because of it. Is it possible I could locate Christ where he belongs without reference to my own experiences with him? "My Lord and my God," Thomas said, in response to Christ showing him his scars. Christ showed Thomas himself as he was, and this moved Thomas to make this declaration. So now I'm saying it's up to God whether we locate him appropriately or not? Not sure I'd go that far. Things to think about.