Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Out of sorts.....

You've heard that expression, haven't you? "Out of sorts". It means to be out of sync, or not in your "normal" mode. It can mean being sick, or not being in a good mood, or not being in your normal "frame of mind". For me, I feel out of sorts right now.

Usually, at this time of year, when the New Year is fast approaching, I sit and think about my "goals" for the coming year. Goals for household projects, like new paint or improvements. Goals for what I want to do with the yard, like build a pond or replace a fence. Goals for myself personally, like more reading, more time fishing, more time with Lorrie and the kids. Goals like spending more time with my camera or in musical study.

But I find that at this time I am not motivated to do that. I am not thinking of "goals" for next year. I am not planning on what I wish to do with the house, the yard, etc. I'm more in a "I don't want to plan or think" mode right now. I find that I am not wishing for a New Year, but wishing to enjoy THIS year while I still can. Perhaps it's because I often never get to all my "listed" items, so perhaps I'm not wanting to list anything so I won't "fail" at those things.

Or maybe I just am allowing myself the freedom NOT to plan, and let the New Year present itself with all its possibilities, and promises.

Merry Christmas...

Growing up, Christmas for my family was the gathering of family on my mom's side, and then our quiet, very subdued Christmas morning. Pretty much after that day it was over with. Decorations came down on or before New Year's Day, and packed away for the following year. That was what I thought Christmas was. We never attended Christmas Eve church services (as active as my mom was in our church) ever, nor any other "religious" observances other than a simple Mary and Joseph on a donkey, and a creche in our living room.

As I began to be involved in church music the prep for the season started near Halloween, and culminated in the 11 PM Christmas Eve service. Usually I would then visit with the choir director and his wife, exchanging gifts and enjoying some Christmas cheer (usually a Scotch) before going off to my own home for some sleep before Christmas morning at my parent's house. It was during that time that I spent one of my most memorable Christmas Eve services, complete with a candle-lit church and "Silent Night" being sung by the choir in a darkened church as the congregation left. But, even with all that, the meaning of Christmas was not known by me.

I am blessed to have a wife who truly loves to celebrate Christmas. But she celebrates the day in all its meanings, from the festive decorations that she places in our house, to the gifts and entertaining that she likes to do. But more than that, she has never allowed the commercialism of the day to overcome the significance of the day.

With her guidance we begin decorating Thanksgiving weekend, which coincides with the 1st Sunday of Advent. For us, then, the decorating is the physical preparation of our house for Christmas, mirroring the inner preparation we make by observing Advent. The Advent candle is one of the 1st decorations out. And as we prepare for the holiday by shopping and wrapping, we also have Christmas music both sacred and secular, and hot cider, and other things that keep us in "The Christmas Spirit".

But for us, the "day" is not the focal point, but the beginning. For we do observe the "traditional" 12 Days of Christmas, keeping the decorations up and our outdoor lights on until Epiphany, which is the traditional date observed by the church to commemorate the arrival of the 3 Wise Men to see the baby Jesus.

And so, for us, Christmas is STILL going! We still say "Merry Christmas" to those we meet. Christmas music still is played, hot cider served, and the tree is still up in all it's glory.

So, Merry Christmas from the Protheros......

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What does fall mean to you?

I suppose that for most folk, especially those of us in southern California, fall means return to school, or the start of football (high school, college or pro). It means the end of baseball and the World Series. It means that it's time to shop for Halloween costumes, or even early Christmas shopping!

For me, after all these years, it means the time to pull out the camera.

In the fall of 1985 my dad and I took the 1st of many fall photo trips: trips where he and I would go somewhere in the western Unites States and do nothing but photography. These regular fall trips lasted several years, with the last big week-long trip in 1994. We saw all of California; we were in Colorado where he was born twice; we went to New Mexico, Arizona, and a couple of times to southern Utah.

So for me, that first week of October was always the target date - everything was planned. We'd scout out the roads, the hotels, and plan for our lunches from the back of the car. We discovered early on that that 1st week of October was the prime time for the turning colors in the area. Whether it was in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, or in the Dixie National Forest in southern Utah where Bryce and Zion reside. We found fall color in the Sangria range in northern New Mexico, and fall color in the Cascade Range in California. We found color everywhere......

For us, it was the best of times, doing photography together, and more than that, growing closer.

And so, as fall approaches, my eyes pick up the change of the light angle, and how clear the light is getting, and I look at my camera bag and suggest a trip.....

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Music for its own sake....

Lately, I've been playing with an idea in my head. The "what if" idea. The "What if I was a choir director and I wanted to improve the choir and they fought it" idea.

You see, I've sung in both church and professional choirs. And for some reason there is an arrogance on both ends of the spectrum. For a professional chorus, to be told "you sounded like a church choir" is a put down. Yet, in church choirs, there seems to be a fear of becoming good, lest you become a "professional choir", and Lord knows, you don't want a church choir to become like that! I think church choirs have an arrogance that's based upon their belief that theirs is a "calling" to praise God, and so therefore, they need not work hard or even SHOULD not work hard on the music, because to do so would be too "professional", and therefore, not glorifying God. Now, I am not talking about all church choirs, but I am referring to those that have enough talent to be better than they are.

And I find that to be just as arrogant as a professional chorus stating "you sounded like a church choir".

I was blessed to sing with someone, a gentleman by the name of Don Walker, for 7 years, and to have been his friend for 20 years. During those 7 years at a good-sized Presbyterian church we sang a wonderful mix of sacred works, ranging from Bach and Palestrina to contemporary composers such as Paul Manz, John Rutter, and even Jester Hairston spirituals. We worked hard in rehearsal. Don was an alumni of St. Olaf in Minnesota, and had worked with the son of the founder of St. Olaf's, so we were receiving a St. Olaf "education". But Don had the keen ability to build the choir and improve it, while always balancing the true importance of what we did and what we were: leaders in worship. We did not "perform" in the service. And so, the choir improved during those years, improved enough that on a few occasions, some of the greatest names in choral music would come to listen to us, and compliment us. That was not our goal, but an offshoot of the goal. We were still ministering to folk in the congregation, but we were doing it at a level of excellence that allowed the music to be so much more. And a few years later, when I was singing in professional choruses, all that I learned from Don I applied there.

Therefore, I KNOW that a good church choir can become better. And it can occur with good instruction in choral tone and intonation, and in expressive singing, and in basic musicianship, without it becoming "professional". It does require a sense of balance, and a constant reminder of WHAT the choir is really there for: to lead in worship, to inspire the congregation, and to edify and enhance the Word of God.

But to those would still argue that church choirs have a "higher purpose" and should therefore NOT work towards better choral sound and musicianship, I have two "arguments" to refute that logic.

The first is from our own Lord's mouth: the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25. We all know that parable: a man is leaving on a trip, gives his three servants "talents" or amounts of money (I did look this up to make sure that is correct), but I think we can easily assume that in the Parable, Christ's use of the word "talent" was the metaphoric Gifts from God. As the Parable proceeds, the man gives his 1st servant 5 talents, to the 2nd he gives 2, and to the 3rd, 1 talent. The 1st servant invests the money and returns with double, as does the 2nd servant. The 3rd servant, fearing the master, buries his talent. When the master returns, he rewards the 1st two servants, and chastises the 3rd.

So how do we apply that parable to a church choir? Easy. Those who sing in a church choir are using their God-given gift to sing for the Glory of God. But do we not, being given that gift, need to be a good steward of that gift? Do we not need to turn that gift into more, or use it wisely? And can we not apply that to a choir working harder on intonation, expression and musicianship? I believe so. If a choir does not, if it sits and does not strive to improve, than it is no better than the man with 1 talent who buried his talent. But if the choir decides to serve its purpose for Glorifying God by working harder, and being a better steward of that gift, does it not Glorify God more?

My 2nd argument comes off the 1st argument: for in working hard and striving to improve their musicianship, the choir is better able to communicate the text of the music, and better able to reach and touch the hearts of the congregation. Again, they're not looking for a better "performance" as much as looking to better praise God through their gifts. And is this not what Our Lord wishes us to do with the gifts we receive from Him?

Monday, May 31, 2010

To Remember....

Beyond the day off from work (for some), beyond the sales, beyond the ideal beach weather, beyond the grilling of burgers, hot-dogs, steaks, beyond watching endless marathons on TV, beyond all that.....

Today is Memorial Day, the day in which we as a country remember those who went to serve in our armed forces, and never came home. Whether they served in the Ardennes, whether they served on the beaches of Normandy or the hell of Iwo Jima, whether they served on the front lines in Korea, or the stifling jungles of Vietnam. Whether they served in the Gulf War, or Iraq or Afghanistan....we remember you and honor you with our gratitude.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother's Day

Despite the heavy commercialism that is created by the Greeting Card companies, florists, and restaurants, it was a holiday established by a woman who wished to have mothers and their contributions observed. In actuality, it can be traced back to ancient Greece, and their worship of the mother figure. On this Mother’s Day, I think of two mothers who have deeply and profoundly changed my life: my own mother, and my wife.

My mother, Shirley, is 86 years old this year, and going through dementia. She is forgetful of things you might tell her 2 minutes before, and needs to have a written calendar in front of her to know what she needs to do that day. But her contributions in my life have been vital. First off, she is a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ. Her spiritual influence in my life cannot be understated. As a child, Sunday School and church were mandatory. But we were fortunate to be in a church that was vital and alive, and full of wonderful music and preaching talent. I “found” Christ early in my life, and through my mother’s spiritual foundation building, I never really wavered from that foundation. Even when I started to attend churches that were not hers, her influence was still there, for I stayed within (for the most part) our denomination, and the love of traditional worship. My mother’s musical influence was important too. She was a singer, sang in the choir at our church before she met and married my dad, and sang to me nightly as a child straight from the hymnbook. My love and knowledge of old hymns of the faith were due to her love of them and her sharing them with her voice. As I turned into a youth and began to sing in youth choirs, she was there for our concerts. And when I sang in professional choruses as an adult, she was there for those concerts. As I began my tentative social life and dating, she would not give her opinion of the girls that I’d bring over, but she didn’t have too. Her actions spelt out clearly whether she approved or not. Finally, when I brought over Lorrie to meet my parents, she was pleased, and to this day, she and Lorrie are close. And now she’s a grandmother to my 3 kids.

Which leads me to Lorrie. Lorrie was a single mom when we met, which was a bit intimidating to me at the time. I had dated a few women, but no single moms. I didn’t know what kind of “baggage” I’d have to work with. But I kept seeing her at concerts, backstage and at rehearsals (we were introduced by a friend who had sung with Lorrie and was singing with me at the time, and he frequently brought her and Justin to events). So, I kept thinking “am I missing something by at least asking her out?” So I did. A year later we married. Colin was born before our 1st anniversary, and Audrey before our 2nd Anniversary. But I had already had a taste of her mothering skills before we even married. She was firm with Justin, but fair. And since then, I have seen her be firm with the kids, but very fair and even. She teaches them that their actions, both good and bad, have consequences. You break a rule, and there is punishment. But you do good, and there is reward. But the rewards are not toys or presents, or trips to Target. The rewards have meaning: going to get ice cream at Coldstone Creamery; fixing cookies; cuddle time on the couch, or at night as they go to bed; regular hugs and kisses. These things are what inspire the kids to do their best, and to do things that they want to do. Sometimes they make mistakes, but between Lorrie and I we have our own rules: we don’t punish them twice. For example, if Colin does something he shouldn’t and Lorrie punishes him, I don’t punish him as well. And Lorrie makes sure the level of punishment fits the offense. Leaving food out for Snoopy to get is a simple scolding. But lying, or stealing, or cheating, or hitting (Audrey LOVES to punch her two brothers) bring on harsher punishments. But through it all, the kids know that she loves them.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to the two most important moms in my life. My mom, and my wife.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth day...plagarized

One of my wife's (and my) photographer friends published some of his landscape photos in his blog for Earth Day. So, not to be outdone, here are some of my landscape images.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pleasure to meet you....

I will start to say that I've never been "awed" by actors or actresses, or celebrities. Over the years, and due to various circumstances, I've met a few: Linda Hamilton; Monty Hall; Sugar Ray Leonard; Smokey Robinson. Of course, the situations I've met these celebrities in has been non-public, like at church, or doing some photographic event. But there are a few actors, actresses and celebrities that I'd like to meet, and primarily because I think that they must be good folk to know.

Today I was watching "The Bucket List", which has two very fine actors, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Now, I bet there are quite a few thousand that would like to meet Jack, but I'd like to meet and have coffee with Morgan Freeman. I like pretty much everything he does: "Shawshank Redemption", "Glory", "Driving Miss Daisy", just to name the GOOD ones. But even movies like "Bruce Almighty" and it's spinoff, "Evan Almighty" have a certain quality due to his presence onscreen.

So, here's an open invite to Mr. Freeman for coffee, or a beer sometimes, just to shoot the breeze and become acquainted.....

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The EMPTY tomb....

Imagine seeing two men - one young, and one maybe in his 30's - running through the streets. The older, strong, with leg muscles built for lifting nets laden with fish, runs slowly. The younger, not much more than a boy, runs fast. The younger man gets to the tomb first. But he stops, and peeks in. The older, far more impetuous and overbearing, gets there shortly after the younger, but he doesn't stop at the entrance to the tomb, he RUNS IN!

Today, Easter Sunday, RUN into the tomb! Claim the news of Jesus' Resurrection with joy! Become one of the Easter People!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The tomb........

I cannot think of something to write that fits the mood of Holy Saturday, but the great Christian Apologist and thinker, C.S. Lewis, did. Allow me to share his words:

"On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the Life of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more. On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptized into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall. Death is, in fact, what some modern people call 'ambivalent'. It is Satan's great weapon and also God's great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered."
Miracles, chapter 14

Friday, April 02, 2010

The cross.....

Good Friday - what an ironic name. For on this day, Christians observe the suffering of Jesus on the cross. But sometimes I think Christians tend to sugar-coat what happened. It wasn't until Mel Gibson made his film a few years ago where the ugly details of the crucifxion truly came out. We have the Gospel narratives that tell us what happened, and historicl documents from that period that describe the Roman methods of capital punishment, and from those we can get a visualization of what happened.....

Jesus was stripped of his clothing, chained or lashed to a post or pillar, and then scourged. The cat-o-nine-tails was made of leather straps that containted on them bits of broken bone, pottery, rocks - designed to strip the flesh from the back of the intended victim. It was quite effective. The crown of thorns placed on his head were made from thorns from a local bush, and I've read and heard that there is a bush native to Palestine that has very long, very sharp thorns. Not short, rose-type thorns, but 2-3" long. This was forced down upon his brow. He was beaten, kicked, slapped, punched. He went from one mock trial to another, handed off from Pilate to Herod and back to Pilate, who ordered Jesus to be crucified just to placate the mob. Pilate, who as a practice released one prisoner at Passover, tried to get Jesus released, but the crowd, incited by the zealous religious leaders, called for a murderer instead. Finally, Pilate relented, and ordered Jesus to be crucified. And here was Jesus, probably clothed simply or naked, in front of Pilate and hundreds of people, during this charade, quiet, eyes downcast, and in incredible pain. The loose clothing congealing into the open wounds on his back. The sun beating on him. He was thirsty, probably dehydrated. Then he was pushed, probably knocked over, and given the cross-beam of his own tool of death, placed on his battered back. The pain of that heavy post of lumber must have been excruciating. No wonder, just after walking a short distance, he fell, and the Romans pulled out a man from the crowd to carry it. Jesus' fatigue, caused by loss of blood and incredible pain, must have made his journey to Golgotha long and difficult.

Then, when there, they place the post on the ground, stripping him of all his clothing. He was naked. They layed him on the ground, with those open wounds resting upon the rocks, and stretched out his arms on the beam of wood. Placing their feet on his hands to secure them, they nailed in these iron nails into his wrists, severing the nerves and tendons. They further secured him by tying him up with ropes, and then lifted the beam up and dropped it carelessly on the upright with a morticed joint, dropping it with a thud. The pain from that action would have been enough to make most men pass out. But remember, Jesus was a carpenter, he would have been physically strong. Then they nail his feet together - more pain.

But the suffering continued. The heat, the thirst, the flies. The blood dripping from his crown into his eyes. The constant need to push up with your feet (which have nails driven through them) so you can breathe. And to see your mother there.....

No wonder he died quickly. They pierced his side with a spear, the head of that spear reaching the sac around the heart, and released blood and water. He was dead.

And then the darkness.

And then, the curtain in the Temple, the curtain that divided the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. The curtain that ONLY the high priest could go behind, was torn.....from top to bottom.....

It was finished....

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A different perspective....

As a lifelong Christian, I have always known of Holy Week - the days from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. I have been in church countless times for seeing children carry palms fronds and sing. I have been in the Maundy Thursday service, which has been contemplative and quiet. I have been to Good Friday services where the last words of our Lord are read and reflected upon. And finally, I have sung at Easter sunrise services and regular Easter services, and been part of Easter Egg hunts with my niece, nephews and my own kids.

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day of observance primarily of The Last Supper. As a Lutheran, and as someone who's church regularly observes Communion, this is an important day of observation. However, I look at today, and specifically one event of this "day", as of primary importance. And that event is Jesus praying in Gethsemane.

For some reason this event is overshadowed by the Last Supper. It is passed over quickly as the Gospel narratives move on to Good Friday and the events leading up to the crucifixion. But for me, Jesus' praying is something to reflect on. For you see, I grew up believing that the reason he prayed so earnestly (and as Scripture tells us, with great drops of blood), and in his prayers pleaded that the "cup be taken" from Him, was due to his reticence about being crucified. After all, I'd not want to go through what he went through: the torture, the beatings, the humiliation, and then being nailed and tied to the cross, and dying so exposed.

But in the last few years I gained a different perspective on Jesus' time in the garden: He was pleading not to be saved from being crucified, but He was pleading not to be removed from God. For you see, on the cross, when Jesus cried out "My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?!" he was, at that instant, separated from God. God had turned his back on Jesus. God had finally taken out His wrath for man's sinfulness on Jesus at that moment. And in reading that plea from the cross, I see now that it goes back to that time in the garden, that time of Jesus' praying, to such anguish that He prayed in great drops of blood.

For me, THAT moment in the garden is so profound, and so important. And yet, Jesus finished His prayer "not my will, but THY will be done". And so, on this Maundy Thursday, let us reflect on Jesus' journey to the cross that started in the garden....

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I just don't get it....

OK. I just don't get it. I mean years ago, Hugh Grant, who was dating the gorgeous Elizabeth Hurley, got caught getting serviced by a hooker in Hollywood. Then David Duchovney, married to Tea Leoni, checks himself into rehab for sexual addiction. Then this past fall we read about Tiger Woods messing around while married to his former Swedish bikini model wife. Now in the last few weeks it's been revealed that Jesse James, the tattooed mechanic and reality show star husband to Sandra Bullock, has been sleeping around with strippers. As the news begins to unfold, there are more "revelations" of other women who he slept around with.

While I can look at the other celebrities who've done something stupid as Hugh or Tiger did and not really care, I just look at this situation and wish to ask Jesse James "Dude! What the HELL were you thinking?!?!?" I mean - Sandra Bullock?! Sandra "All American" Bullock. Sandra "America's Sweetheart" Bullock? Sandra Bullock, who had NEVER married before, and for whom millions of men would have loved to have been her husband. Sandra Bullock, whom any guy could take home for mom's OK. I just don't get it. What an IDIOT!

Of course, we don't know that WHOLE story. Could there have been elements of Sandra's personality that may have made him seek sexual solace elsewhere? Could she have the kind of personal foibles that drive men to go have their fun with someone else? Bullock's been portrayed over the years as wholesome, so perhaps there are things about her we don't quite know. And yet, at a cursory glance, and knowing that Jesse James' ex-wife is a former porn star, you have to give Bullock the benefit of the doubt.

I do feel sorry for her. I didn't for Grant or Hurley, Woods or his wife. But I do for Bullock. She deserved better....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Behold the King....

He entered Jerusalem, a city occupied by the Roman Army, the greatest army known at that time. He entered on the back of a borrowed ass. He entered to shouts of "Hosanna!" and "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord". He came in as a king.

He came in to only a few days later be rejected, spit upon, laughed at, scorned, slapped, scourged, questioned and questioned again, only to carry a large hunk of wood up to a hill, where he was nailed and bound to that wood, and brutally crucified.

What a difference a few days make.....

Friday, March 19, 2010

Getting the bug.....

Today, during the morning Production meeting, a couple of my coworkers were discussing the driving time and distance to Colorado Springs. Before someone else could pull up Google Maps, I told them about taking the 15 to the 40 east to Albuquerque, then north. As I discussed this I started thinking about the last time I was in Colorado, back in October of 1997. I started thinking about the trip I took then - a solo trip - where I did nothing but photography. And it also reminded me of the trips I took with dad to Colorado, and the special places we would photograph in, as well as the ranches that belonged to his mom and dad. And it truly did put a bug up my arse to go there - to go for a week, doing photography and fishing, and mapping in detail the family homes in Dolores (where my dad was born), Cortez and Arriola, where his parents lived when they were courting. So, perhaps this fall I'll go, and spend time in that gorgeous area of southwestern Colorado.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The beauty and resiliance of the human soul....

I am moved by the beauty and resiliance of the human soul. Whether it be the ending of "It's a Wonderful Life", when all George Bailey's friends stream into his humble home to help him, or hearing of someone who goes out of their way to help another human being - I get teary-eyed. I will unabashedly admit it.

And when I read this morning of Joannie Rochette, the Canadian ice-skater whose mother passed on Sunday, and how she decided to skate, and took to the ice last night in a program that was technically sound and beautiful - well, I choked up. To see the strength of her heart, to go on, and then to skate as good as she did (I did not see her skate, thanks to NBC's moronic idea to put the important events late at night), and to achieve 3rd place after the short program - it was overwhelming. Granted, she may not get more than silver. But she has proved she's a champion to the world, and to those of us who appreciate the beauty of the human soul.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The early mornings....

I really love being up early in the mornings. I don't lament the fact that I don't sleep in on a Saturday or Sunday. Waking up as the sun begins to shine, getting up to get a cup of coffee, sitting at my desk, which gives me a view of our backyard - all of these things are pleasant to me. To hear the mockingbird singing, using a different song than I've heard before. To hear the mourning dove dole out its song. To hear the sparrows chirp and flit about, and the hummingbird sit in the fountain, bathing - an act which adjusts the sound of the water, so you know that a hummingbird is in there. And the quiet of the house...still, serene. No kids up yet, no TV on, just me, my coffee, and my quiet reading...

Monday, February 15, 2010

A beautiful morning...

Yesterday was a glorious day here in Orange County. I had decided Saturday night that I was going to arise early and take advantage of the early morning light and do some photography. On my regular morning drive I take the scenic Santiago Canyon Road, the 2-lane road that goes from Orange, by Irvine Lake, past the Silverado and Modjeska Canyon roads, and finally ends at Cook's Corner. With all the rain we've had, the hills that cradle the road along its course are verdant green, with majestic oaks and sycamores spotted all along. As I have driven this road on my daily commute, I have seen areas that, in the early morning light, possess beauty and subtlety. So, it was to these areas that I brought my camera to yesterday morning.

It was not too cold, but chilly. I stopped just past Cook's Corner, at one of the spots I'd driven by and thought would be good. But as always, when seeing potential photographs at 50 mph, they look quite different when you are walking, or standing still, and the magic you feel at 50 mph is not the same as what you actually see. Part of doing fine-art landscape photography, particularly if you're using a large-format camera as I do (one that shoots a single sheet of film at a time), is that you are very selective about what and how you shoot. And you adopt a mind-set that requires you to be very selective, and you isolate only a part of the overall view that emotionally attracted you to the image in the first place. What it becomes, then, is a small area that captures the entire emotional aspect of the scene. This takes practice and self-discipline. I've been with photographers that would set up their cameras, and 45 minutes later walk away without having taken a photograph.

So, I set up my camera, saw the shot, calculated my exposure, focused and refocused and checked and double-checked, and then snapped the shutter for the 4-second exposure. All of that in 45 minutes. And I left, having only shot 2 sheets of film of this spot (one in landscape format, one in portrait format), satisfied and fulfilled.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Yet another old friend...

Years ago, on my drives into work, I would listen to "The Writer's Almanac" on KUSC. It was broadcast at 7:30 AM daily. I loved hearing Garrison Keillor tell us who's birthday it was, and then read a selected poem. One time he read Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address", and even though I'd heard it and read it for myself, he breathed life into it. Sadly, KUSC discontinued playing it...

But this evening, as I went to meet a friend for coffee, I found it again on KPCC, which is the NPR station out of Pasadena City College. What a joy to hear Keillor's mellifluous voice again....

Sunday, January 24, 2010

An old friend.....

I briefly re-acquainted myself to an old friend yesterday: my Zone VI Classic wood-field camera. I had first gotten to know this friend back in 1997, and subsequently this friend of mine and I took trips to Arizona and Colorado, up to Oregon, and several local trips to central and southern California. But when I married and started having kids, this friend became neglected: stored first in a coat closet, getting all musty, and then stored unceremoniously in a plastic tub in our storage facility.

But I have liberated my friend from that storage facility, and have plans to renew our friendship this year....

Friday, January 22, 2010

We don't need another hero....

Was listening to NPR radio this morning, and they reported on the upcoming trial of Scott Roeder in Wichita, who's accused of murdering a one Dr. George Tiller, who performed late-term abortions. This Roeder was the one who drove to Dr. Tiller's church, and shot him in the head while the doctor was performing his duties as an usher. Roeder is not remorseful for his act, and believes it is justifiable homicide to protect unborn children.

Now, I won't go into the arguments for or against abortion. But I will say that murdering someone in this fashion to protect the unborn children is NOT justifiable. We could go on and on that abortion is or is not murder, that it's a mother's choice, etc. But that is not my point in this post.

What bothered me, beyond Roeder's lack of remorse, is the fact that a ardent pro-life website, and it's webmaster/owner, consider Roeder a "hero". In my mind, that places Roeder up there with the Islamic extremists, who believe that by blowing themselves up, along with killing as many infidels as possible, they will be in Heaven, with a pack of virgins all waiting for them.

How can someone look at Roeder and claim that he's a "hero". I cannot fathom how far people can take the law, or the teachings of religious figure such as Christ or Mohammed, and twist them to justify their actions.

So, we don't need another hero, certainly one such as Roeder....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Politics as usual?

First off, I wish to state that I'm a registered Democrat. That does not mean, however, that I always vote on party lines. But after the recent victory in the liberal state of Massachusetts by the Republican Scott Brown, I started to think.

As I have spent more time reading and being on the web, I have discovered a certain truth: politicians do not truly care about representing their voting constituents. They remain true to their "supporters", the corporations or lobby groups that provide campaign funding. But they truly never listen to the people, the ones who actually voted them into office. For example, George W. Bush pursued a course of military action in Iraq that was actually very unpopular with the American public. And now we have had a congress that has provided great amounts of (literally non-existent) taxpayer money to bail out failing corporations, which was not popular with the voting public. We have a new President who's been pushing a health care reform package that has been shown to be very unpopular by the public. And we have that illustrious congress who again have shown their disregard for the voting public, and are pushing through this ill-conceived and very costly legislation.

So, it was a no-brainer for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to vote for a candidate - a REPUBLICAN candidate, who simply said he opposed the health bill. Now, is Washington listening? Do they hear that message that came in loud and clear from the voters of Massachusetts: do NOT continue to pass the health bill!

But no. They'll continue to force the legislation through, albeit a bit watered down. John McCain said today that they should not pass a watered-down version, but go back to square one, and I agree. But with all the other problems that we have right now, health care reform should be placed on the back-burner.

However, one element of this election that was true politics: Scott Brown said on Wednesday, AFTER he was elected, that there was a need for some sort of health care legislation. Go figure....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Holiness of the Bible

I was listening to NPR Radio this morning on my rainy drive into work, and they were discussing the accused terrorist who attempted to blow up the Northwest Airlines jetliner on Christmas Day. As they interviewed the Iman that taught him, the Iman commented that the accused bomber was a student of the Holy Book of Islam, the Q'ran. It made me think about the Bible, and how it is perceived and even worshiped in many Christian churches.

I will admit that in my belief the Bible is the "inspired" Word of God. It was written by men, written in the context of their times. I do have issue with the statements that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, or the literal Word of God. I find that hard to swallow. But today, as I was listening to this, why do we call it the "Holy Bible". Frankly, it's a book. The item itself is not what is important: the content is. But again, why such reverence for it? When I was younger, my grandmother taught me to be gentle with the book. As I became a youth and was involved in youth groups and youth Bible studies, I would highlight or write notes in the margins.

But my point is that, like the Muslims, many Christians seem to look at the book itself - the paper, the ink, the binding - as Holy in and of itself. Yet, to me, that's a touch of idolatry. We should not hold the book as "Holy", but the God who's content it is about. In that light, who cares if it is the Inspired, or literal Word of God. It is just a guidebook.

One other thing: I don't think God wants us to hold the book called the Bible in such reverence. But I think, if we look at the opening of John's Gospel, God intended the Word to be Christ, and the message of love and redemption. "In the beginning was The Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The holiness is not the book, but Him who inspired its writings. And the holiness is the Son of God.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


Like several folk, I spend the time around New Years setting up goals for the coming year. This year was no exception. I have goals for work that involve increasing my activity in business development for my employer. And I have goals at home as far as “projects” to achieve, like painting in the house and creating a new pond and waterfall out back.

But lately, I have been feeling some distinctive pulls to setting up goals that are not just projects, but are goals to increase my own feeling of self-accomplishment. Goals that are not easy to attain. And frankly, they are goals that will create a conflict inside of me, because they are goals that involve my creativity.

My first goal that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit since last fall is working on becoming a choral director, with the final goal of being a choir director at a church part-time. This has been on my mind since last October when I saw that a local church was looking for a director of music. I was too late for that position, but I did feel at that time (and still do) that it is a calling for me. I’ve been reading a book about choral directing, but I will need to do some private study in the areas of score reading and interpretation, conducting technique, and vocal pedagogy. I still have not figured out who will be sources for that, but I have some ideas.

The next goal that I recently decided to pursue for this year is returning to my photography - my large-format photography. I have been in contact with some folk on Facebook who are encouraging me in that, and have located a local lab that can develop my 4x5” black & white negatives. Now it’s a matter of pulling the camera out of storage, and refresh my mind on the various exposure systems used for large-format photography. This is simply a goal to give me some creative outlet. I know realistically that I cannot sell my work, so it’s simply for self-edification that I do that.

Another goal is to work on friendships, both with old and existing friends, and make new friendships. We attend a church in Orange that has a few families in our age-range, and I plan to make it a regular thing to have those families over for dinner. In addition, I wish to make time to meet friends for after-work drinks, or coffee, or just get together to chat. I have also talked to some of the men of the church about establishing a men's group.

My final goal is not so lofty, but will probably take the most self-discipline: to focus more on God. I want to spend more time in both private and corporate study of God, discussing God with like-minded and even possibly opposite-minded folk. I want to ponder and think about God, write about Him...immerse myself in Him. I believe by doing this I will improve not only the friendships that I wish to have, but my relationship with both my wife and my kids.