Monday, May 30, 2016

Best Anti-War Movies

10) Full Metal Jacket (1987)

9) Apocalypse Now (1979)

8) Saving Private Ryan (1998)

7) The Deer Hunter (1978)

6) Platoon (1986)

5) Dr. Strangelove (1964)

4) Empire of the Sun (1987)

3) The Hurt Locker (2008)

2) All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

1) Paths of Glory (1957)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Best Jesus Movies

1 - Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

2 - Ben Hur (1959)

3 - The Passion of the Christ (2004)

4 - The Miracle Maker (2000)

5 - King of Kings (1961)

6 - The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)

7 - The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

8 - Jesus (2000)

9 - Son of God (2014)

10 - Son of Man (1969)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Easter letter 2016

"Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again;
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death he died, he died to sin, once for all;
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin
and alive to God in Christ Jesus."

- Romans 6:9-11

The Lent-to-Easter journey is the journey from death to life, from alienation to love, from darkness to light, from despair to hope. During Lent, we reflect upon our own sinfulness in the shadow of Jesus’ suffering and death. We do this not to punish ourselves but to prepare ourselves to celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter Sunday and, more importantly, to allow the Holy Spirit to form us into more faithful disciples of Jesus in the year ahead.

It is a journey out of sin and into holiness. That’s not easy! Sin, after all, is quite attractive! It is the ultimate self-service!

But Easter calls us to something greater than serving ourselves. Jesus’ Resurrection calls us to put “self” aside and seek God’s ways, which we call holiness. We are called to see others as God sees them, to offer mercy as we have been shown mercy, to forgive as God has forgiven us, to love as we are loved by a God who gave everything to be with us.

This does not mean we simply ignore sin, evil, and injustice; quite the opposite! Easter calls us to recognize sin wherever it exists and to name it as sin. But we are called to offer life in the midst of sin, rather than offering condemnation.

We are called to BE the Lent-to-Easter journey for people in our lives. Through holiness (living as God calls us to live, not according to our own opinions or whatever “feels right”), we are called to lead persons from death to life, from alienation to love, from darkness to light, from despair to hope.

This is what it means to be “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”. This is the Easter hope for all creation!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Considerations for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

If I were given dictatorial powers over the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I would surely not induct all of these artists, but these are artists with significant cases to be made for induction. The exclusion of a few (marked with an asterix) is a real shame & serves as an indictment of the Hall of Fame voters.

Possible inductees as Early Influences:
Charley Patton
Roy Brown
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
WC Handy
Wynonie Harris
The Carter Family
Lightnin' Hopkins
Sonny Boy Williamson II
The Clovers
Chuck Willis
Big Mama Thornton
The Penguins
Lonnie Donegan

Possible inductees as Artists
(* means this is long overdue;
# means female possibility):

The Five Satins
Johnny Burnette & the Rock & Roll Trio
Slim Harpo
* Larry Williams
# The Chantels
* Link Wray
# The Chordettes
# The Marvelettes
Chubby Checker
* # Patsy Cline
The Tokens
Jr. Walker & the All Stars
Ben E. King
Big Walter Horton
Dick Dale & His Del-Tones
Arthur Alexander
# Mary Wells
# The Shangri-Las
The Zombies
Tom Jones
# Sonny & Cher
Aaron Neville / The Neville Brothers
* The Monkees
Procol Harum
The Bar-Kays
* The Moody Blues
Joe Cocker
* Tommy James & the Shondells
The Guess Who
Quicksilver Messenger Service
King Crimson
# Joan Baez
Ravi Shankar
T. Rex
Three Dog Night
Jethro Tull
Harry Nilsson
The Spinners
* Yes
JJ Cale
# Dolly Parton
Donny Hathaway
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
# Delaney & Bonnie
Todd Rundgren
Barry White
* Bad Company
* Billy Preston
The Doobie Brothers
Gram Parsons
Roxy Music
Glen Campbell
Thin Lizzy
The Commodores
Jimmy Buffett
# The B-52s
Warren Zevon
* # Chic
Cliff Richard & the Shadows
*# Pat Benatar
Electric Light Orchestra / Jeff Lynne
Kool & the Gang
Judas Priest
Willie Nelson
The J Geils Band
Dire Straits
# The Go Gos
Rick James
# Stevie Nicks
Culture Club
Iron Maiden
Herbie Hancock
"Weird Al" Yankovic
# Eurythmics
Steve Winwood
# Chaka Khan
Joy Division / New Order
# Cyndi Lauper
The Cure
# Tina Turner
The Cars
Phil Collins
Mötley Crüe
Bon Jovi
Los Lobos
# The Bangles
The Smiths
# Janet Jackson
Traveling Wilburys
Nine Inch Nails
# Sinéad O'Connor
Jane's Addiction
Garth Brooks
LL Cool J

Not eligible yet but should be considered when eligible:
Pearl Jam
Alanis Morissette
Smashing Pumpkins
Amy Winehouse
Taylor Swift

Possible inductees as Non-Performers:
Jerry Ragavoy
Boudleaux Bryant & Felice Bryant
Don Cornelius
Bob Crewe
Geoff Emerick
Brian Eno
Jimmy Iovine
Casey Kasem
Lorne Michaels
Norman Petty
Barrett Strong & Norman Whitfield
Bernie Taupin
Wolfman Jack

Possible inductees as Sidemen / Award for Musical Excellence
(perhaps the Hall's most neglected category;
* means this is long overdue):

Lee Allen
Richard "Pistol" Allen
Kenny Aronoff
Fred Below
Gene Chrisman
Merry Clayton
Ray Cooper
Jim Gordon
Johnny Griffith
* Nicky Hopkins
Jim Horn
Joe Hunter
Bruce Johnston
* The Jordanaires
* Carol Kaye
Jim Keltner
* Bobby Keys
* The Memphis Horns
Maceo Parker
* Mick Ronson
The Spiders from Mars
* Sam "The Man" Taylor
Tammi Terrell
* Tommy Tedesco
Earl Van Dyke
Robert White

Bands to induct retroactively
(as done with the Crickets, the Comets, etc)

Big Brother & the Holding Company
The Belmonts
The Revolution
The Wailers

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The Dilution of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

When the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame began inducting artists in 1986 & 1987, it was obvious that the first to enter would be the "founding fathers (& mothers)", those who were most responsible for creating this wonderful music. It was easy to choose Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin & others. They established the foundation upon which all others have built.

Once those originators were inducted, it was time to move on to other god-like figures who helped further the music & our culture - the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, etc. The list of the first 20 years of inductees (1986-2006) is a list of the greatest of greats.

A curious thing happened after about 20 years of enjoying (for the most part) stellar choices for induction. In 2006, Miles Davis was inducted. A truly iconic jazz great, many fans wondered what impact Miles Davis actually had on rock & roll, if any at all. Two years later, Leonard Cohen, a fine songwriter, was inducted as an artist rather than as a non-performer, which seemed a puzzling decision, given that similar inductees such as Carole King were inducted as writers not as artists.

In 2010, things really began to baffle. For the first time, a class was inducted in which no induction was really necessary to tell the story of rock & roll. ABBA, Genesis, Jimmy Cliff, the Hollies & the Stooges were all fine artists who surely belong in any "Hall of Very Good", but none were as truly impactful as those inducted in the first 15 or 20 years of the Hall of Fame.

2011 saw the induction of perhaps the most unworthy class of all-time. Again, Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John & Tom Waits all had admirable careers, but, with the exception of the truly great Darlene Love (who should have been inducted decades ago), none forged a résumé or developed an influence anything close to those inducted in the Hall's first 20 (or so) years. I have been at the Hall of Fame in Cleveland & have watched the film of the inductees list, and I can say without hesitation that when this class was displayed, there was bewilderment.

Since then, each year has seen the induction of several artists who simply lack the cachet of earlier inductees. Guns n'Roses surely belong; was Laura Nyro necessary? Rush & Heart are fine bands; they are hardly Cream or the Who. Randy Newman & Donna Summer...fine careers, unnecessary inductions. The same is true for Hall & Oates, KISS (a fan favorite, admittedly), Cheap Trick, Chicago & Steve Miller. Of this year's class, Deep Purple may be worthy, but only NWA is a must.

I say this not disparage any of the above named artists, some of whom are among my favorites. But we have seen in recent years a dilution of the excellence of the Hall of Fame. At one time, it contained only immortals. Now, as my own generation prepares (one would think) to take over the induction process, it has been significantly watered down.

Some have said that the induction process is tainted by a desire to have a star-studded evening on induction night. I sincerely hope this is not the case. I hope that those responsible for the process are simply more responsible than that.

The truth is that rock & roll music is not the force it once was and the music made from (roughly) 1955-1970 serves as the high water mark for rock & roll. Great artists are simply not as plentiful as they once were.

I would rather see an induction night once every 3 or 5 years than further dilution of a Hall that should truly only contain immortals.

(For a complete list of inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, go here.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Best Thanksgiving movies (& TV)

10) Spider-Man (2002)

9) Home for the Holidays (1995)

8) The Blind Side (2009)

7) Seinfeld: The Mom & Pop Store (1994)

6) Alice's Restaurant (1969)

5) The Last Waltz (1978)

4) Pieces of April (2003)

3) A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)

2) Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

1) A Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A "No Pharisee" Holiday

Each year, as the holiday season approaches, the Pharisees come out.

Many of them have been largely dormant since last year, but when the temperatures cool down, the Pharisees awake from their slumber and begin to spout their "holier-than-thou" platitudes about how the holidays ought to be celebrated.

I'm sure you've heard them:

"Stores shouldn't be open on Thanksgiving!"

"Christmas is too commercial!"

"I hate when someone wishes me 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas'!"

"No one should listen to Christmas music till after Thanksgiving!"

And so on.

In the Bible, Pharisees were folks - often well-meaning - who believed that they knew the only proper way to keep God's Law. Their interpretation of culture and faith were, in their minds, the only legitimate interpretation. Anyone who deviated from their views were condemned, often loudly.

Jesus came along with good news for the general population that the Pharisees too often majored on the minors. Many of the things which the Pharisees held of high importance and were often loudest about were minor at best. Jesus freed people to focus on things that really mattered, not the minutiae of Pharisaic arguments.

It's easy to see that in reference to the holidays, Pharisees abound in both Church and culture. Perhaps you are one or you've been one. I have, and I've repented!

I have a few simple suggestions to help us to avoid being Pharisaic at a time of year when people need to hear hope and positivity from the covenant people of God:

1) Before the "holiday season" proper, don't be angry about Halloween. It's harmless. Kids enjoy it. Have fun with it. It's not "the devil's day"; the devil does not get a day. Jesus alone is Lord. Smile, give out candy, let children know they're loved.

2) Good music is good music regardless of how old it is or when you listen to it. Don't be angry when you hear Christmas music before Thanksgiving. It makes people feel good; it makes people smile; it brings back lovely memories; it often puts people back in touch with the best parts of themselves. And, very often, it's well written, well performed music which also in some small way shares the gospel. Just enjoy it.

3) The American economy is in pretty bad shape. There are more people out of work today than ever before, and it doesn't look to get any better any time soon. Don't be angry about Black Friday, stores opening on Thanksgiving, or even stores beginning the shopping season early. Many businesses (and the people they employ) are desperate. If you don't want to shop, don't shop, but don't begrudge other people making money for their families at holiday time. Doctors, nurses, law enforcement and military personnel work on Thanksgiving, too, and their families adapt. Be thankful that in a less-than-robust economy, these persons have jobs.

4) Don't be angry if someone wishes you "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" instead of "Merry Christmas". It's not like they told you to stick it or flipped you the finger. They said something nice; respond politely. And if you wish to respond with "Merry Christmas", fine. Additionally, it should go without saying that disciples of Jesus don't really care how their coffee cups are decorated.

5) Finally, it's a wonderful time of year to witness to God's grace in Jesus. Don't blow it by being angry, nasty or mean. Always be polite, courteous, and helpful...with a smile. Perhaps your most powerful witness during this season is simply being positive and merry. Practice a little extra patience. Forgive a little easier. The King James translation of the Holy Bible contains a great word which may be helpful: be "longsuffering" at this time of year or, in the words of Bishop Thomas Bickerton, "Lighten up, loosen up and have a little fun."

We don't need more Pharisees in today's Church or today's culture. They're all around us.

It's a simple rule: don't be a jerk. If that simple lesson is all that we learn this year, it will have been a very fruitful, very merry holiday season.