Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Bard come to Phoenix

The BardThis is the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. From Frank DeFord: In Fair Glendale, the Bard's Super Bowl Play

Upon this line-ed greensward set within
A desert the Almighty fixed but for cactus
Will be this, our strange stage for Sabbath's pigskin war,
Waged by mesomorphs come from green Blue States afar.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Music Review: Steven Delopoulos Straightjacket

Steven DelopoulosI feel a little bit late, like I'm copying some from Andrew Peterson's post in The Rabbit Room last week. But I had been working on this one in my head for a few weeks now, so I'll share it anyway.

Some of you may remember the popular Christian band Burlap to Cashmere, active in the late 90's and known for their world-music sound. The lead singer for that group,
Steven Delopoulos, has gone on to do solo work and recently released his second album, Straightjacket.

Following in the pattern of his first album, Me Died Blue, Straightjacket is a collection of thought-provoking modern folk music. Borrowing heavily from his Greek heritage (and even overlaying audio from the Greek Orthodox liturgy), Delopoulos' guitar work is driving and pulls you through the music.

Read more . . .
The first song on the album, "Ruin of the Beast", is an amazingly complex song. (Another) Stephen commented on The Rabbit Room, "I’m hoping to figure out a little of what it means within a couple of years." I would have to agree. In this song, and many others, Delopoulos paints a canvas so deep and intricate that, while stopping to admire the beauty of one section, we may still miss the whole of the artwork. Below is the video for this song, which has been released on YouTube.


Other highlights of the album include "Work to be Done", a song about lending into the great work which God has set for us, and "She Held My Hand" about a man being lead away from a self-styled path to fame to find Christ. The songs "May I Always Keep My Feet Upon the Ground" and "Halt" are stylistically very different from the other songs, having more of a call-and-response or gritty chant feel (respectively). "Open Your Eyes" is perhaps to most hauntingly beautiful song I have heard in a long time - listen to the clip on iTunes and enjoy the mornful beauty of the song.

Many people may not be so interested in listening to songs requiring this much thought to fully understand; as a people who predominately listen to music on the radio while hopping in and out of the car and rarely able to listen to a song in its entirety, this can be understood. But at times it is well worth the escape from the normal routine to make time and absorb great artwork. Delopoulos' Straightjacket is the perfect offering for such a retreat, and I would recommend it highly. Currently, it is only sold as a
download through Delopoulos website or on iTunes, but at $10 it is well worth the price.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Full Disclosure: FYI

Get SmartOkay, so I feel I should come clean a little bit here. Honesty is the best policy, after all. You may have noticed that I've done a few album reviews lately, months before the album is due in the stores. You've possibly been wondering just how I was able to get hold of this music so far before it's release date. I mean, does Euphrony have connections? Is he really an inside man? A double-agent, planted by a label to promote their music after having spent years building "natural" relationships with other bloggers? Does he really have an iPod implant and ear buds surgically attached to his head?

The answer, in short, is: Yes. But no.

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As with all things, there is more of a story than just a simple one sentence answer. I feel, for various reasons, that I should share this with you (since, you know, you presumably read my reviews). Last fall I came into contact with a very nice lady at INO Records. Through conversation with her, I obtained the pre-release of Sara Groves' new album, Tell Me What You Know and reviewed it for you here. She liked it. I don't know if it was because my review style and writing are, in her opinion, good; maybe it was because I gave a complementary review to an easily complemented album. In any case, she liked my review well enough that they even linked to it from Sara's MySpace.

In fact, she seemed to have liked my review enough, and my willingness to distribute it a bit over the blogs, that she later asked me if I would like to be put on a list of their online/grassroots media partners - getting pre-releases and other info - give them a listen, and do some more reviews. I said yes, and last week I found a stack of pre-releases in my mailbox. The first that caught my attention was
Addison Road, as I had been hearing some good things about them for a few years but had not really heard their music. Thus you ended up with Monday's review

What do I get?
So, what do I get out of it. I get a free CD, weeks or months before it hits the shelves. I get traffic to my blog. I potentially get (indirect) access to the artist for interviews, which can posted here or over on
I2A depending on the focus of questions. And, well, that's about it. No big, fat paycheck in it for me. And no real motivation to give easy reviews, except to keep the free CD's coming.

What do they get?
What they get out of this is mostly free publicity for their artists. I'm sure that positive reviews would help, but I don't promise them that. When I review and link to the artist, it lets people know more about them. Viral marketing. That's all.

Why am I even mentioning this?
Well, I bring it up to say this: I will have reviews that are less than flattering, and I will be reviewing music that I don't often listen to or necessarily recommend. I'm not a mean person, and my reviews will reflect that. I think every person's music has a market, people who would enjoy it no matter my opinion. When I review music, I try to give an idea of some similar artists (good for comparison when the the artist is relatively unknown) and I will try to address the target audience for which the music is aimed.

This is relevant as one of that stack I received last week is an album of contemporary praise and worship music. For those having read my blog for a while, and my comments on other blogs, you will realize that I am not such a fan of this genre. Okay, in full disclosure, I pretty much hate what it has done to CCM radio. But I'm a little conflicted here, because that does not equate to my not liking praise songs. I sing them every Sunday, some of them hundreds of years old. I find them to be a huge part of my Christian experience and worship to God. But I can get sick of even a great thing when I'm severely overexposed to it. Take, for example, Chris Tomlin's "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)": according to
Radio and Records Christian AC chart, it had 1546 plays to an estimated audience of 3.757 million in the last week. By comparison to their AC chart, Plain White T's "Hey There Delilah" had 1595 plays to 13.067 million listeners. Relatively the same number of plays, but Tomlin's song hits about a quarter the audience, which translates into more plays per station.

Now, because I am conflicted I don't know just how to approach a review of such an album. Having thought it out, I think I'll do just what I do for any album. That seems fair, right? I'll listen to the music, and write on its merits and who its target audience is. I'll try to separate it from the genre as a whole so that I can speak to that artist and that album rather than speak to the whole genre. Does it have a good sound? Are the lyrics good? Is the music memorable, and does it distinguish itself from similar artists? Also, since this is music with a purpose, does it accomplish that purpose? Does it draw the listener into praise and worship of God? These are the questions I'm going to ask myself. I'll do my best to keep personal prejudice out of the reviews and speak to the music itself.

I just thought I'd let you in on my thoughts. Do you think I'm taking a good approach? How might you do this differently? And do you know anyone else who wants to give me free music?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Confessional Questionnaire

I know it is what you've all been waiting for:

The Official Euphrony Confessional Questionnaire:
January 2008 Edition©

Thank you for joining me in this little adventure into complete honesty and total humiliation. You will answer promptly and truthfully. Employing the mysteries of the internet and quasi-legal surveillance technology, I have included a lie detector in this post - you will be found out. Feel free to mock those who answer before you, with full knowledge that you will in turn be mocked.

1) Have you ever, as an adult, gone to public places in your pajamas?
2) Have you ever fallen asleep at a live event (movie, theater, concert)?
Uncle Sam wants you to floss your teeth3) When was the last time you flossed you teeth? (Remember: be honest!)
4) Have you ever stalked a famous person, in person or on-line, even for just a minute?
5) When did your teachers finally decide that your handwriting was acceptable? (Bonus points for those who were critiqued through college.)
6) Have you ever watched PBS without contributing? "And if you watch one minute without contributing, you're a thief! A common thief!"
7) Do you know the source for that last quote?
8) Do you tend to associate these behaviors with others more closely than yourself? (Seek professional help, NOW!)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Music Review: Addison Road

Addison RoadThe Dallas-based band Addison Road has been around the block a few times. Since their inception in 2001 they have independently released three albums, toured frequently, and made a name for themselves as an indie band that would likely soon land a label home. I took notice of them a couple of years ago, and now find myself listening to the first album they will release (March 18, 2008) on the INO label (MercyMe, Sara Groves, Todd Agnew). The self-titled album, I think, lives up to the hype they have been given.

The band, fronted by Jenny Simmons (who maintains a
decent blog), has a sound that is at times similar to Plumb or a less ominous Evanescence. They have been compared to a more rock-oriented Superchic[k] - and that seems fair, as well. The music on Addison Road shows the maturing of their sound over the last few years, as they have become more comfortable with themselves as a band. Lyrically, the album explores the themes of Christian life and offering worship to God - at times overt, and other times more subtle, but never in your face or brash.

Read more . . .
One of the themes heavy in the music is hope. A few years ago, when in a troubled time as a band, they were told that they were being too negative and missing the hope: "Everything rides on hope now." Lead guitarist Ryan Gregg wrestled with this, and the result was one of the centerpiece songs of the album - "Hope Now".

Everything rides on hope now
Everything rides on faith somehow
When the world has broken me down
Your love sets me free.



The idea of hope crops up again in "Start Over Again", as the band explores the opportunity of renewal in God when we've sinned.
If you feel ashamed
Of the choices that you’ve made
You can be whole again
And return to your innocence

Every moment is a second chance
At starting over, at starting over
Move from the past to the present tense
You can start over, start over again

The first single off Addison Road is the song "All That Matters". Speaking to the common theme of the pressure to perfection felt by many, especially teens, "All That Matters" reminds that in God we are complete and without need. Combined with a memorable sound, this song will stick with you.



"Casualties" speaks the fruitless pursuit of the American dream, while the songs "This Could Be Our Day" and "It Just Takes One" are calls to seek out and care for those in need. Another standout song is "Always Love", which with a driving beat and hook in the bridge speaks to the need move beyond hate and violence in order to grow and mature.

The final song on the album is the pensive "What Do I Know Of Holy". A reflection of the feeling of separation from God, it confesses a self-focused religion and the distance it creates from Jehovah.
I’ve made you promises a thousand times
I’ve tried to hear from heaven
But I talk the whole time
I think I made you too small
I’ve never feared you at all, no
If you touched my face would I know you
Looked into my eyes could I behold you



Addison Road coverOverall Addison Road is a catchy album and good label debut for the band. Enjoyable listening, meaningful lyrics, and a general avoidance of the standard CCM formulaic writing make this worth listening to. While there is room for growth in the writing, Addison Road has found their musical niche and work well in it. The album, due out March 18th, can be pre-ordered through the band's website, with the incentive of being able to download mp3s of three songs off the album when you pre-order. (The band also has a history of encouraging fan support through their Roadies - which offers merch in return for promoting the band - taking a step beyond the usual level of band/fan interaction.)

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Friday, January 18, 2008

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Me

I was tagged a few days ago by Texas in Africa to do this. I've been slow because I've done this several times already, and I have a policy of full disclosure here on my blog (some may call it too much information). So, I would hope you already know me like the son your aunt's coworker's neighbor never had. If not, I give you this:

  1. I'm a man. I've had people confused over this in the past on the blogs, as my pseudonym offers few clues. (I've also had a waiter confused over this at a restaurant. While on a date. Is that TMI?)
  2. I live with two women and a cat. I have found myself occasionally daydreaming what to do with all the extra hair found around the house.
  3. I am currently coauthoring a couple of papers with an MIT professor.
  4. You would, in all likelihood, never read the papers I write. Unless you're, like, into rheology and tribology.
  5. I love music. Okay, no secret there; but I try to pass that love on to my kids starting in the womb by making CDs of favorite songs for each of them that Mrs. E played whilst pregnant.
  6. I like to use big words - like peregrination and indemnification. But not to appear important because I can use them properly in a sentence; I use them when they just best express what I want to say.
  7. I get migraine headaches. Let me tell you, it's a blast.
To complete the requirement of being tagged, I now tag everyone whose birthday is on an odd-numbered day (as is mine, a bonus 8th thing you didn't know about me).

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

It makes me so mad, I want to chew iron and spit nails

I've just added a post on I2A. This is something of a current events post, about an issue that seriously angers and saddens me. I've considered posting on this for some time, but had not (hoping someone more qualified than me would), but seeing this news article prompted me to go ahead and talk about the issue of sex trafficking and forced prostitution.

It's an ugly issue, but one that should not be ignored (as it too often has been). As a father with a four-year old daughter, I don't want to see her grow up in a world with this worry over her head. It's not just an issue for "someplace far away" - it's happening here in the U.S., and anyone could be affected.

Go
read the post. Consider how you can change the world, if only a little, and pray for those whose lives have been scarred by this modern slavery.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Music on my mind

Well, it covers us like rain
It washes and it stains
Poured out from heaven's cup
For you and me to drink it up
And in stubborn spite of my stubborn spite
I am loved nonetheless
I am loved all the more
And I believe there is love enough for the taking

From "Love Enough (or The Ballad of Hansberry Brown)" by Andrew Peterson

Especially the line "in stubborn spite of my stubborn spite / I am loved nonetheless". That line just repeats in my head the last few weeks. It is so descriptive of me. And so amazingly true. I am loved.

Wow.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Gutsy mom

Car ad
You can read more about this "mean" and "uncool" mom
in the Des Moines Register. If you have trouble reading from the picture of the ad, it reads:

OLDS 1999 Intrigue, Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love their teenage son are selling his car. He only drove it for 3 weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under the front seat. $3,700 obo. Call meanest mom on the planet.
Were this a first offense, I might label it extreme; but I don't know the background so I won't comment on that. All I have to say is it's pretty gutsy of the parents to follow through (the car sold in two weeks, they ran the ad an extra week because of the number of supportive phone calls they got). And the kid should've listened to the rules.

Mrs. E and I keep talking around this issue right now (proper discipline for the kids). We keep doing checks to see if what we try to enforce is legitimate character-building discipline or if it is spirit-breaking. When you harp on a 4-year old a million times a day on the same issue, you have to ask yourself that. Parental discipline is never easy.

What are some of the discipline techniques you use for your children? Are they effective?

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Shhhhh

Don't tell anyone, but I'm a sinner person of foibles. I may be the last one left these days, at least since the seven deadly sins were discounted to the status of mental disorders treatable through counseling. Don't let my friends know; they may mock me.

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(NOTE: I'm not at all saying that things like counseling, or treatment for mental disorders are bad. I probably need both just for posting this. This is more a commentary on the secrecy of our lives, and the excuses we make for our actions in an attempt to distort the reality of their import and shirk our onus to overcome them.)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Smackdown! OT vs NT

So, this is what I considered naming the class I began teaching on Sunday mornings at church. I was struggling to come up with a nice title, and that one struck a cord with me. Alas, knowing the class I would be teaching would not find it amusing (nor most other people, I suspect) I went with something different. A little more blasé, perhaps, but "From Old to New - God's Unchanging Word" goes a little better in the class schedule under Adult Class #4.

So, what I'm actually teaching about is this: God is eternal, He is the same. Though how He has interacted with His creation has changed, His word is the same throughout. We often refer to ourselves as New Testament Christians - this is a self-affirming statement, as Christ is the new testimony of Jehovah. Jesus' words and actions only exemplify and explain the same things that Jehovah tried to get people to understand for centuries before Jesus ever walked the earth. I will be leading the class through a study of several topics (probably one a week) and how our understanding of this topic from the New Testament (where, by in large, most Christians focus their study) is older by far. We will talk about how Christ's and the disciples teaching echo and clarify what we read in the Old Testament.

So, I hope it will be interesting. They're stuck with me until May. Poor people, don't know what their in for. I'm sure it wont be long until them discover my teaching skills a fraud.

Yesterday I centered the discussion around the ideas of social justice in the bible. From Jesus' distillation of the law, summed up as love God, love your neighbor (echoed by Paul in Romans 13) to His example of the saved and condemned in Matthew 25, it all points to being involved in the lives of others. When proclaiming His ministry (Luke 4:18-19), Jesus reads from Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
It seems pretty clear what Jesus intent for how God's people should live was (and is). And it is old, old. The simple fact that Jesus reads this from Isaiah, written some 600 years beforehand, says that. Read Isaiah 58:1-12, or Zechariah 7-8, and you will see just how fed up Jehovah was (and is) with self-centered worship. Don't fast for yourselves, He tells them over and over, but deal with people with truth, with justice, with compassion and mercy, with food and shelter, with hope for the oppressed.

This topic, of course, is easy for me to talk about; it has been so heavy on my heart for such a long time that the words flow. Further topics should prove interesting: grace and mercy, hope, peace/violence, . . . I'll probably post some of the more interesting discussions here.

One thing was raised in conversation after the class: a lady told me about a friend who married a Muslim man and converted to Islam. Talking with her friend, she was told that Ramadan ends up being a contentious period in the Muslim year. She was told that the daily fasting for six weeks ends up making people a tad grumpy and tempers more easily flare. Sitting in my class yesterday morning, she wondered if their practice of fasting is not comparable to the selfish fasts found in Isaiah 58: and Zechariah 7. I think that's a good question, and one not just applicable to Muslims, either. The fasting comparison is very direct, yes, but we Christians have many cherished practices that are at least as equally self-centered.

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One thing I told the class (stolen from Andrew Peterson) was that I did not want to spend time in there toasting marshmallows on the burning bush. I don't want to rehash the same conclusions we've reached a million times before, not learning anything new. Nor do I want to treat the words of God as old hat. It's not, and if I can't learn at least a little something new every time I hear His word then I've had blinders on and only saw what I wanted to see. This is a big struggle, for me and many others, because we don't like to challenge our beliefs and "knowledge". Anyway, I don't want to approach God and His word to us so lightly that it's like I'm ignoring something profoundly holy. Yeah, and I guess that was another reason to not go with the above title - a little too WWE for what I'm really trying to do.

Friday, January 04, 2008

I disagree

No matter what Google infers, Pierce Pettis' music is not just for old people's birthdays. Jeez, the things people search for, and the results that search engines return!

On the other hand, it's nice to come up in the top 10 on such a random search. Maybe I should just keep quiet, eh?

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Political Malaise

The following is from FactCheck.org. Is it any wonder that so many Americans are fed up with and disinterested in the current political climate? When even the "Christian" candidates cannot be trusted to be honest and not misleading in their statements?

The year 2007 wasn't a good one for political honesty. Though not even technically an election year, it provided a bumper crop of falsehoods and distortions nonetheless.

Presidential candidates kept us busy:
  • Republican Rudy Giuliani made false claims over and over about his record as mayor of New York, and even about England's health care system.
  • Democrat Bill Richardson also mangled the facts repeatedly, claiming credit for creating more jobs as New Mexico's governor than actually materialized and using a made-up figure about the performance of U.S. students, among other misstatements.
  • Republican Mitt Romney claimed undeserved credit for himself as governor of Massachusetts and made false or misleading claims about two of his rivals.
  • Democrat Hillary Clinton ran an ad claiming that National Guard and Reserve troops had no health insurance before she went to work, when in fact most of them did.
  • Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee repeatedly twisted the facts when talking about his record on taxes in Arkansas and other subjects. And there were plenty of other howlers from the large field of candidates.

As we start 2008, and the game is afoot with results coming in from Iowa last night, I can only hope that we end up with a president who will forgo demagoguery and deception. I'm not so sure we have anyone like this among the choices, and I seriously wonder who will get my vote come November. I'll definitely vote, it is an important thing to do and my personal discontent will not lead me to "check out"; but it will be a hard choice.

What are your feelings on the process right now?

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