Thursday, September 30, 2010

taliban dan

Whatever your views are on divorce, alimony, abortion, or the Bible, here's a superb reason to vote Republican in this guy's district.

Watch the two videos back to back. Everyone furious about how Shirley Sherrod was treated should be furious about this sleazy maneuver. Grayson approved an ad that selectively edits the man to say the opposite of what he was saying. Laughable, almost. Almost.

Now, old "Taliban Dan" (Taliban! the new Hitler mustache!) does have an appalling track record. Regardless of what he wants to do about the economy, taxes, schools, and whatnot, the things he wants to pass regarding marriage and divorce alone are enough to vote against him. But, if I lived in Florida, I just might go with that something inside me that says that even if I'm more ideologically with Grayson, we just shouldn't let him get away with it.

It's scary that he thought he could, and it's scarier still that he just might.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

hot water

I've mentioned this before, but I like the sound of hot water as it pours. It behaves differently. Not boiling water, but very very hot water, maybe just after it's boiled. It has a distinctly clothy sound that I enjoy every time.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

good music and worship

Sometimes someone says something you've always thought, but the way they say it is so concise that you think, "Perfect!"

My friend David Justiss recently said, "Good music makes me want to worship God whether the lyrics are about him or not." That sums up perfectly my whole thinking about such things starting from when I was a teenager with fellow-Christian friends who manifestly didn't think that way.

What oft was thought but never so well expressed. Thanks, David. I think I'll say that one again:

Good music makes me want to worship God whether the lyrics are about him or not.

Friday, September 24, 2010

the power of the numinous

A friend was watching The Sixth Sense, and said that it still creeps her out even though she knows what happens and she's watching it in the middle of the day. Sixth Sense is great in this way, because (at least in this movie) Shyamalan understands the power of the numinous. So many moviemakers make the horrible mistake of making supernatural creatures dangerous. If a ghost with knives for fingers is chasing you so he can cut you up with them, then that's not much different from anyone chasing you with a knife.

On the other hand, when you have a ghost just standing there being a ghost, that's what makes our skins crawl and our spines tingle.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

keeping our standards high

...but it hasn't been approved for inappropriate audiences.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I've always read and heard that when you become a parent for the first time, you suddenly get this sense of the awesome responsibility that faces you: this tiny person, totally helpless, a life, a soul, totally dependent on you, and you've got to come through.

So, here I am, and I've got to say I don't feel it. It's wonderful, amazing, a miracle, but I just don't feel overwhelmed. I don't feel that "oh my goodness what have I gotten myself into" feeling that so many people have described. Or even the more anodyne version of that feeling. Last night Catherine said, "Don't you just look over sometimes and think, 'I can't believe I really have a baby; I can't believe it's real!'?" I said, ""

What I do feel is an amazing abundance of joy and love. It's not more than I ever expected; it's exactly what I expected. It's not more than I knew was possible; it's exactly what I've been wanting a long time. The piling up of that abundance, that heap, is exactly what our ancestors called a whelm. That's what I feel: a whelm.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

new gear

I've always been a late and reluctant adopter. Most of the music I've composed and recorded and produced has been done on equipment that is laughably out of date. (For The Dream of Skip I used a computer whose market value was around ten bucks. A friend actually made one into a fishtank at the same time I was doing commercials and soundtracks on it.)

Today, I just hooked up a new and rather advanced input device. You plug your microphones and instruments into it, and plug it into your computer, and you've got a real nice way to record. This one has the capacity to record 20 tracks at once, and it's got 8 gorgeous preamps, which might be overkill for just my home studio, but recently I've been doing more and more recording at various locations, sometimes including 17-piece orchestras, and I'll welcome the opportunity to get better control of all those instruments in a live setting.

Can't wait to put it to use!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

snuggling with greta

Friday, September 3, 2010

pictures and the past

I'm sitting here holding Greta to my shoulder, this little package of a girl in a yellow flowered sundress. I look down to the coffee-table, where there's a photo of Catherine and me on our wedding day. Over six years ago! We're closer to our tenth anniversary than we are to our wedding.

Already our hair and faces look just the tiniest bit different to me. But I realize that, while I'll see this photo as a reminder of the three-dimensional reality of that day, my daughter will see it as an icon, a symbol of a time that for her doesn't really exist. She'll see this one and others like it as representing a sort of prototype of the real me, the one she knows.

After all, she'll never remember me as I am now. The Barry Brake she'll have in her mind forever will be greyer-haired, crinklier-eyed, slower of movement. Will she puzzle over the pictures of my young adulthood, the way I puzzled endlessly over the pictures of my own parents? Those black-and-white photos whose inhabitants I worked to reconcile with the colored and fleshed reality of the parents I knew: some of them looked just like younger movie-star versions of Mom and Dad; others I couldn't reconcile at all, just couldn't see what there was of Mom or Dad in them. Looking at these same photos, my parents no doubt saw a day fresh in their minds as just having happened — as close to them as, say, my college years are to me — perhaps a truer incarnation of their Selves than what they see in the mirror, and yet I can hardly see their Selves at all there.

The mysteries of time and aging and recollection!

One day, when I was 23, Dad shaved his beard and moustache off. He looked entirely foreign to me. My birth marks roughly the beginning of a permanently bearded era in his life, for what reason I do not know. But I'd never known him without facial hair. Then I saw him, looking like an aged version of the young man I'd seen in the pictures, and it slightly freaked me out. For days I had to remind myself that it was him, and when he spoke it seemed like some kind of sorcery, this voice coming out of that face.

When his mother came over the first time after he shaved, he greeted her at the door and she came in as if nothing had changed about him at all, set down her purse, accepted a drink, and was partway through a conversation, when she suddenly started — her whole visage changed, as her Emmaus-road ended and she saw her son's real face as it was right that moment. She said, "Oh! Joey! You shaved your beard. For heaven's sake!"

The face I hardly recognized was the one she had on permanent record, free of the momentary contingency of the beard, a contingency that for me was axiom.


It hits me over and over again that the people we know we know only a facet of, and for only a snip of time. Their stories, begun before the foundations of the earth and lasting till beyond the crumbling of mountains, are revealed to us only by the page. The man I always knew as Dad (never remember knowing as Daddy), whom I knew was known to colleagues and wife and parents as Joe — that first intimation of a parent's external identity that dawns on a child — was now beardless and jolting his mother into calling him Joey.

So I'm sitting here, with my unremembering baby sitting by my side, looking at this picture of myself, thinking of that odd moment when a veil was lifted and I got a glimpse of reality as someone else experiences it. And I'm wondering what Greta will know of me, what we can ever know of each other, what we can ever know of God. And what will I know of Greta, what corner, what tassle on the end of the vast Persian rug that is my daughter, this person that I call Greta. What is her real name? What will her wrinkles tell? Who will she reveal herself to be to her grandchildren?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

transience and community

Susan McWilliams's article on hookup culture for frontporchrepublic not only punctuates the typical pieties about the phenomenon now known as "hooking up," but also, in the process, puts a perceptive finger on an aspect of the American culture that created it:

In a country where the average person moves 12 times in his or her lifetime and 43 million people (including 13 million children) move each year, it is hard to grow up without ingesting the idea that most relationships have expiration dates. In the United States, as teen movies like American Pie teach us, the culmination of compulsory education — high-school graduation — is a ritual of separation. Everyone who attends an American high school does with the expectation that it ends in the breaking apart of a community, not in integration into a community. (This probably explains why all teen television dramas fall apart when the characters graduate high school; for American audiences, it is implausible that a group of high-school friends would remain friends after commencement.) For young people who attend college, the cycle of separation repeats four years later.