Thursday, July 26, 2012

Check this out

I've recently had the pleasure of becoming reacquainted with an old friend - Liz was in the first youth group I ever youth pastored. Her dad was our associate pastor, so in a way was my boss. Then they left for Amarillo and I eventually left for Oregon and, since Facebook didn't exist yet, we lost touch. But a couple months ago we did reconnect on Facebook. Turns out she's all grown up now, married, with kids. And it also turns out she's a wonderful writer, a deep thinker, and a prolific blogger. You should go check out her blog. She says some good things. Tell her I said 'hi.'

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Our good friend Tweed Meyer is a wonderful artist. She has an amazing ability to catch the energy and vibrancy of life around her; her paintings are a celebration of light and color. Yet upon inspection, what appears to be random splotches of color resolve into incredible detail - to look into her paintings is a voyage of discovery as all the little pieces slowly reveal a full picture of the captured moment. I have one of her paintings on my office wall, and we have a dozen or more adorning the walls of our home (most on loan). She finally has an online presence, so let me encourage you to go check her site out. Enjoy what's there, or, better yet, support local art and buy something.

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I've begun watching Stargate Universe over on Netflix. It's good sci-fi fun with intrigue and romance and not a lot of aliens, although it's a little hard to see MacGyver (aka Col O'Neill) getting old and dumpy. The best part, though, has been discovering Flogging Molly, whose "The Worst Day Since Yesterday" was used as an intro and outtro on one episode. How did I not know about them?

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Jesus said it plainly. “I gave you an example that you should do as I did to you.” He was looking for action, not a sermon outline.

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"I’ve often marveled at how visceral these discussions can get. Older Christians can imply that if you add one praise song to the bulletin, you might as well just harvest their remaining healthy organs and send them out in the woods to die alone. Younger Christians can give you the impression that when Jesus ascended, he ordained the drum set as the primary vehicle of the Holy Spirit."


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Because Ann Asked

I briefly referenced this over on my Facebook page, and my friend Ann asked me to elaborate. So I apologize for another fishing story. . .but she did ask, after all.

The day started ominously. Two signs portended disaster even before we were out the door. First, the wife turned to me and said "Now don't drown on me." (that's called a foreshadow). Second, we were out of whole bean coffee, and I had to use instant (the horror!). It was a fine espresso roast, so at least I wasn't stuck with cheap instant. But still. . .the day was off to a bad start.

In spite of the warnings, we headed off for a day of fishing on the Nisqually - Bob, Wes, and I. Early reports weren't favorable; the salmon weren't quite running yet. But it was a day of fishing, after all, and maybe we'd get lucky. Or so we thought.

Arriving at the parking area below the Union Pacific Nisqually River trestle, we found another fisherman who had the same story - the salmon weren't running yet. One or two had been seen heading up, but nothing more. Ah, well. Nothing to do but get our lines in the water and see if we can be the lucky ones. And I should mention that, this being our first trip to the Nisqually, this was as much an exploratory trip scouting the area out for the future, as much as it was an attempt to pull anything in.

So Bob and Wes pulled out their salmon rods and went to work. I decided to pull out my fly rod and go after some of the trout that most definitely were in there. We all fished off the parking area, but it was a little crowded with the three of us and one other guy parked right beneath the bridge. I headed downriver a bit, below the flood-control bulkhead, to try a promising spot.

Got out in the water - did I mention it was kind of high and fast? About waist-deep, dropped a fly in, and worked the river for 10 minutes. No luck. But I turned around and noticed a nice line along the bank behind me, that worked out into the main channel around a large snag. It looked right. So I threw the fly into that line, it floated down the bank, ran around the snag, and zing! Fish on. Between the fish and the current, it was a bit of a fight. So I began to reel in line while maintaining tension, trying to keep that fish on the hook.

Only, I took one stop downriver too many. The bottom dropped away and I found myself in up to my chest. And the current was pushing hard. So now I had a problem. The current was too strong for me to back up. To the right, the river only got deeper. To the left, it was flowing too fast. And ahead was the snag in the middle of the river. All that, and I had a fish on.

There was nothing to do but leap forward and make an attempt at a hefty branch hanging off the snag. Which is what I did; I was able to get me feet down, taking a firm grip on that branch, all while playing that fish. By this time my waders were filling with water, too. Not a good situation. And, of course, in my memory I kept hearing Karina's admonition to not drown. Everything was stacking up against me.

It took a lot of effort, but I was able to pull myself up onto that snag, and then work across a pile of logs in the rapids to the shore. At some point I realized this wasn't really an amusing situation - that fishermen drown every year, doing just this sort of thing. I was fortunate to get up on that log and extricate myself.

And all with only one hand, since the other was still playing that trout. Which I pulled in once I was safely on shore.

So I was cold and wet and tired and drained. But I knew there were fish in the river, so what to do but get back at it?  Only, this time I stayed firmly in the center of the gravel bar, and didn't get so close to the edge.

And sure enough, 15 minutes later I thought to myself, "If I was a fish I'd be sitting right past that concrete block in the middle of the river." Threw the line in, floated the fly down a ripple around said concrete block and bam! fish on.

All in all, it was a good day fishing. Caught a couple trout, didn't drown. Got to know the area better, so we'll be ready when the salmon come in. Got out of the office and hung out with good friends.

Oh, and Cabela's for lunch on the way home.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Our Day at the Fair

The Down Home Band playing at the 2012 Key Peninsula Fair. One notable item of note - that's my daughter Olivia sitting and playing to my left. This is the first time we've played a gig together.


Friday, July 06, 2012

A Brave Review

My, how the times have changed.

Back in the day, the standard animated movie plot went like this: Princess is put into mortal danger/state of suspended animation/the dungeon, is saved by the dashing, manly, heroic Prince; in the process they find love, get married, and live happily ever after.

In recent years, attempts have been made to show stronger female characters who don't necessarily find their total salvation in men (think Pocahontas, The Princess and the Frog, even The Little Mermaid), but most often, in the end, they still find themselves swooning into the secure arms of an emotionally healthy alpha male type who sweeps them away into a lifetime of bliss.

Pixar's newest release, Brave, will have none of that.


Brave tells the story of Merida, a Scottish princess who doesn't exactly want to be a Lady, marry a prince and fulfill royal tradition. Instead, she wants freedom to run through the woods, practice her archery, and let her hair down. Her unwillingness to conform leads to a series of rebellious acts that threaten the peace of the kingdom, and the lives of her mother and brothers. A backstory of her father's feud with a dangerous bear adds to both the humor and tension of the story. Throw in a mysterious witch, forest fairies, and the breathtaking Scottish scenery, and you have the makings of a brilliant fairy tale.

There is much to like about this movie. As the father of two daughters (one with the same curly red hair as Merida) , I appreciate healthy role models portraying women as capable of so much more than existing to make their husbands happy. This is a healthy alternative to the helpless maiden in the castle, sitting around waiting for a true manly man to rescue them. Merida is headstrong, but she knows who she is, and isn't willing to settle for everybody else's expectations. This is the daughter I would love to have - the girl who enjoys the woods, the girl at peace with herself and the world, the girl with her own skills, talents, and the vision to use them. I would be happy if my girls saw in Merida a role model to follow.

On the other hand, when flipping one cultural trope on its head, the makers of Brave fell right into another one. This movie falls into a long line of movies and television shows that prop women up at the expense of men. In Brave, whereas Merida is strong and resilient, and her Queen mother is wise and resourceful, every man is portrayed as an idiot. A buffoon. A mindless mass of muscle. A dimwit. A quivering coward. A drunk. Unable to control themselves without a woman cracking the whip. Yes, her father is kind and generous, and his love for his family is evident, but it's obvious that he's also incapable of leadership without his wife there to set him straight. We have in this movie a healthy message - women are capable of great things in and of themselves. Unfortunately, the reverse message is also there - men are stupid. Strong, but stupid.

And then there's this: there is, in the end, no prince for the princess. Nobody to win her eye even as she saves everybody else. Merida doesn't actually need love to make her complete. Should she find love on her terms, that's fine. But if she doesn't, she still has her horse and her archery and her beloved woodlands. While the marriage of the king and queen is shown in a positive light (although, again, it often seems more of a burden to the queen), any other reference to marriage and love is shown negatively. Just the thought of marriage drives Merida mad; she deserves her freedom, not the pain and misery of being attached to some buffoon of a man. So take that for what it's worth; the old story of "and they lived happily ever after" has been replaced with "and she lived happily ever after." Individualism is the highest good.

If you can get past all that, Brave is an exciting movie, with breath-taking visuals, a rich soundtrack heavy on Scottish themes (Enya, anyone?), some slapstick comedy to keep things light, and just enough terror to keep your heart thumping. The kids all seemed to love it, as did the adults sitting around us. I'd say it's a winner; it's just unfortunate that in the midst of all that beauty Pixar chose to continue the ongoing cultural attack on men. It's hard enough teaching your kids to respect you without the entertainment industry continually undermining you.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Andy Griffith (1926-2012)

Although the Andy Griffith show first aired before I was living on this earth, I still grew up with it. Somehow I missed most of the more popular shows of the day - the A-Team, Simon and Simon, Riptide, and the like. Instead, I was drawn to the simplicity of Andy, Barney, Gomer, Opie, Aunt Bea, Floyd the barber, and all the rest.

You probably all know what I'm talking about. There was, and is, a lot of noise and chaos on television. Lots of excitement and duplicitous characters. To watch Andy Griffith was always like leaving all that behind, and returning home to sit for a spell. Joining Andy and Barney on the front porch, singing a simple tune, waiting for Aunt Bea to come out and announce her hot apple pie.

At the risk of baring too much personal information, in the late 90s I was fired from my youth pastor position, and went about four months unemployed before finding new work in Oregon. I spent most of that time either working at finding new work (you know, stuff like sending our resumes, going to interviews, working contacts and the rest), or doing the occasional substitute teaching job that came along. It was a depressing time, a time of grief and fear and doubt. And the one constant during that time was watching the Andy Griffith show, every morning at 10 a.m. (well, unless I was called to be a sub that day, but you know what I mean). And for that 1/2 hour, the world was a good place, problems were manageable, people were predictable, and you know that good things were coming.

What always stood out the most to me about Sheriff Andy Taylor was his unflappableness. You know what I mean. Barney is bouncing off the walls spouting gibberish about the current crisis, bullets are flying through the windows, hardened criminals are on the loose, Thelma Lou is upset about their cancelled dinner plans. . .and Andy would just sit there, waiting for it all to calm down. And then he'd go out and deal with the problem in his own way. Almost always without threat or violence or force. Just his wit and folksy wisdom.

Somewhere in the recesses of my soul, I've come to understand that perfection must be sitting on Andy's porch, sipping lemonade, watching the world go by.

And the best part of it is this, from Mark Evenier: The best thing I can tell you about Andy Griffith, who has just died at the age of 86, is that I never saw or heard any reason to think he was not like the characters he played on TV. I never saw that.

 Truly, he was one of a kind. Sadly, that world is passing with him - a world if innocence, of friends just sitting and talking, of fathers who love their sons (for that matter, of fathers who seem to have a clue), of hanging out at the fishing hole, of having time for the stranger who comes along.

So thanks, Andy, for your sense of humor, your love of the craft, and for being a good guy in a cutthroat world.

For the moment, I think I'm going to go fishing.