Thursday, May 27, 2004

Another comment I thought was right on. This time from Stephen Shields.

k, here's what I think: i think that lecture, book, sermon, conference, learnings are *great* as long as we operationalize them. as long as we turn them into actions. as long as we make the propositional transpropositional. evangelicals (and others surely) tend to be addicted to mere propositionalism and emergers can easily be infected by the same disease if they aren't careful. jesus said the dual bottom lines are loving God and others so all that is learned *must* end up doing that or it's a waste of time. [stephen descends from soapbox]
Very excited today. i am giving some serious thought to doing this:

Graduate School of International Development, Nagoya University...

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I heard this twice today. Must be divine...

A few days ago, I was listening to my 12-year-old son play Get Back on his electric guitar and marveling once again at how a 40-year-old band can continue to inspire.

It's worth reflecting on how the Beatles created their phenomenal body of work. Paul McCartney, describing the song-writing process with John Lennon (from Many Years From Now by Barry Miles), says:

"John and I would sit down and by then it might be one or two o'clock, and by four or five o'clock we'd be done. Three hours is about right, you start to fray at the edges after that. . .We always wrote a song a day, whatever happened we always wrote a song a day. And after that I'd pack up and drive back home and go out for the evening and that was it."

The lesson to draw from this is that a creative breakthrough -- or any great work, for that matter -- doesn't come from working non-stop, even at something you love, any more than it comes from waiting around for lightning to strike. The secret is putting in a few consistent, quality hours, every day.

via worthwhile and dan

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I have said before that I am intrigued by the Orthodox take on hell. Here are some quotes from the Orthodox tradition on the subject:

Saint Peter the Damascene writes:

"We all receive God's blessings equally. But some of us, receiving God's fire, that is, His word, become soft like beeswax, while the others like clay become hard as stone. And if we do not want Him, He does not force any of us, but like the sun He sends His rays and illuminates the whole world, and he who wants to see Him, sees Him, whereas the one who does not want to see Him, is not forced by Him."

God is a loving fire, and He is a loving fire for all: good or bad. There is, however, a great difference in the way people receive this loving fire of God.

Saint Basil the Great: "The sword of fire was placed at the gate of paradise to guard the approach to the tree of life; it was terrible and burning toward infidels, but kindly accessible toward the faithful, bringing to them the light of day."

Saint Isaac the Syrian: "Those who are suffering in hell, are suffering in being scourged by love.... It is totally false to think that the sinners in hell are deprived of God's love. Love is a child of the knowledge of truth, and is unquestionably given commonly to all. But love's power acts in two ways: it torments sinners, while at the same time it delights those who have lived in accord with it"

Especially that last one... I mean, if God is Love, I really think that is the way it is. It just makes the most sense.

You can hear the echo of these thoughts in the character of Zossima the priest in The Brothers Karamazov.

From a comment by Karl Thienes...

Monday, May 24, 2004

Me and this guy are thinking of starting a rock band...

Sunday, May 23, 2004

So I hear that people back home are pretty happy about a Canadian team being in the Stanley Cup. I haven't watched much hockey for some time now, still a little mad about that whole Jets thing, but, curiosity got the best of me and I wondered over to Yahoo sports to check out the actual Canadian content of the teams in the finals. By my rough count, 17 out 28 players on the Flames' active roster are Canadians. That is 61%. For the Lightning, it is 15 out of 25 players, 60%.

Oh yeah, go Flames. Don't let those nasty Americans take the cup away from us again...

Friday, May 21, 2004

Wow. Here is something I am putting on my decade-at-a-glance planner for a time when my kids are old enough to take care of themselves: The Peace Boat. It is a ship-tour of the world which came in response to some students unhappy revelation that Japanese textbooks did not tell the whole story of Japan's pre-war and WW2 interaction with its neighbors in Asia. So they went to those countries to collect stories first-hand.

Now you can go as a volunteer teaching English for three months. And the trip looks like this:

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Yesterday Simon said to Andrea as they were walking to nursery school, "Mommy, I don't like going to school. I can't talk to the kids or the teacher..."

Ugh. Now I am stressed. Please some ex-pat kid who grew up speaking two languages tell me that everything is going to be ok...
Good article from Brian McLaren. He points to some George Bush quotes that I had not yet heard. I am obviously aware that he likes to tie Christianity and the American state together, but I didn't really realize to what extent:

In September of 2002, he said, "This ideal of America is the hope of all mankind. That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness. And the darkness has not overcome it." For of all of us who know our Bibles, our President is associating America pretty closely with Jesus. This seems to be what he believes. And perhaps many of us do too?

...In his State of the Union address in 2002, for example, he said, "The need is great. But there's power, wonder-working power... in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people." He was borrowing from a popular hymn well known to nearly all Evangelical Christians, but he substituted "the goodness... of the American people" for "the blood of the Lamb." Does that turn of phrase bother you?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

For anyone studying Japanese, you are going to want to know about this site: it is called popjisyo, and though it doesn't translate things, it explains the pronunciation and the meaning of the kanjis. Very useful.
Today I discovered Eva Cassidy. I would recommend picking up a CD of hers if you come across one. She is gone now (cancer) and she didn't write her own songs, but she is another argument (like Holly Cole) of how some people can just simply take somebody else's songs and make them better. I especially recommend Fields of Gold.
Hey, I am supposed to be writing a little music report once in a while for a friend of mine at the University of Winnipeg radio station. I wrote the first one a while ago, and it is high time I got started on installment number 2. So anyway, here is the first one...

How appropriate. The first entry of my reports to Bruce is being written on the train. I spend a lot of time on the train in Japan; most people do. I am sitting on the bench with lots of room around me (while a number of people stand) because, as it appears, my fellow commuters have not yet gotten over an ancient nervousness about gaijin. Gaijin means foreigner. Well, more accurately it means outside-person. And it is not p.c. anymore either - only us foreigners use it, like friends of mine at home in the North End who call themselves Indians. In the newspapers and on T.V. they've gotta call us gai-koku-jin. That means person from an outside country. Thank you. I feel much less foreign. Now if somebody would just sit beside me.

A little introduction: I am John Janzen, and I have split the last ten years of my life between Japan and Winnipeg. In both places I was supposed to be a teacher, while trying to be a musician. That is a little easier to do here. The teaching pays you more and works you less, leaving you more time to play around the hundreds of small clubs in the city. Well, they don't say clubs, they say "live houses"and that comes off more like "raibu hausu" And your gigs aren't gigs, they are "raibu"s, hence performed in a raibu hausu... Anyway...

Being a foreign performer in Japan has its plusses and minuses. Though perhaps on its way, Japan is not exactly a multi-ethnic society. Especially in my city of Nagoya, the percentage of ethnically Japanese people would likely be in the high nineties. So being of oddball ethnicity definitely increases the stop-and-look factor. But it can also mean that you can't even enter some music venues. You don't have to look that hard to find a "no foreigners allowed" sign.

But I would say that good outweighs the bad. Generally, the America-worship so prevalent in Japanese culture means that most foreigners come out with more good stories than bad.

And hey, someone just sat down beside me on the train. And he is falling asleep on my shoulder.

The band page is over here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Sunday, May 09, 2004

I haven't said anything yet in May. Wow. What inspires these long blog silences I get into? I think this time I will blame it on busy-ness. It is spring, and we bought a generator, so we are spending free moments in the centre of town singing our lungs out. Here they call it a "street live" which would sound more like sutoreeto raibu, but hey, it makes sense, we sing live on the street. I mean what the hell does "busking" mean anyway? But boy are those hit and miss. One night you are singing to six people and a hundred the next. Last night was good because about 50 people stopped by to listen, and CD's sold left and right. So my wild mood swings are swaying to the positive side today.

Though there are moments when we feel like musical prostitutes. For the most part we sing our original tunes, but we throw in covers of songs we really like. When things get really desperate and nobody is stopping, we have been known to abandon any sense of artistic integrity, launching in to one of the five or six foreign songs that every Japanese person knows and loves. For example, last weekend at one point we couldn't get a crowd to save our lives. So we kicked into an off the cuff version of the Carpenters tune, Top of the World. Bam, 20 people. Yes, they came for the Carpenters but they stayed for Jason's lyrically complete rendition of Country Roads. I didn't have a clue what they words were so my harmony pretty much consisted of la la, but that is not so vital in Japan anyway. Though Diana did point out afterwards that a lot of people were mouthing the words, so I guess I better learn 'em too.

Those two are probably the biggest hits. Other than that, any major Beatles tune is safe, and, more recently, Bon Jovi. But most Bon Jovi anthems don't translate that well to three voices and two acoustic guitars. Though we did play around with a jazzy version of You Give Love a Bad Name once.

So that is why last night was so good. We sang primarily our own songs, and the crowd just kept growing. And I clearly stated that the CD was all originals, and people still lined up to buy them. It must reveal something about the pathetic insecurity of a songwriter, just how much joy he gets when somebody actually wants to pay money to listen to his songs. Fact is, if nobody buys them, at the end of the night I usually just give whatever is in my bag away anyway (though I suppose publicizing that could really hurt sales) just so somebody will be listening. Hurting, I know, but I'm just being honest.

Afterward we went to a Motown bar where the band is really tight, to listen to what, genre-wise, would be on the far other end of the pop spectrum of anything we do. After being all intense for an hour is nice to being able to go "shake it like a polaroid picture". We talked to some of the musicians there and I couldn't decide if they are living a great life or a crap life. Gigging from 10 til 3 am, sleep til 2pm, then up and do it all again, 6 nights a week. But they looked like they were having a good time, so we were too. Anyway, there's a blog post.