Sunday, April 27, 2008

An Hour Walk Upon The Strand

Twilight hour
And the ocean waves whisper my name,
For a walk along the strand.
I take leave of my friends--
One hour
With their blessing to return.
The damp sand cooling
With each muted step
That leads my mind to visions
Within this present world.
Sun fades--
Shadows creep to meet its cousin
My thoughts go creeping with them
Over lives I've never seen nor heard before.
Endless lives
And dreams--
What thoughts lie hidden in each head?
Infinite possibility!
Each thought, one drop within an endless sea!
I hear them whispering back to me.
Walking out beyond the bend--
A craggy shore where sands end.
Two lovers sit upon the rocks,
Arm in arm,
Staring out to sea.
The crescent moon--a floating sail
Rises up within the sky,
Smiling back upon the sea,
Sparkling in a never ending line
Like a thousand silver-fish jumping in the waves.
I climb the rocks--
A distant space--
So not to interfere with lover's longings.
Seemingly alone.
The sea-swell speaks so softly
On a calm night,
Summoning the stars
That one by one appear,
Gazing on the earth below
Like silent angels hovering over newborn babe
As it sleeps in its comfortable cradle, unaware.
I close my eyes
And breath in the moment,
Making it my own--
A part of me. . .
Sky, sand, and sea.
A gentle wind,
The salt spray,
Evokes a feeling inside of me
That I have felt before but feel anew,
As if for the first time.
I open my eyes.
The lovers have disappeared in the night
Like the foam upon a wave's crest
That suddenly appears, ghost-like,
Then vanishes within its swelling.
As I stand and walk away
The jagged rocks tear at my feet
Reminding me I am human--
A visitor to this scene.
My return to the cold, damp sand is inviting--
A soothing balm that relaxes both body and mind.
Among the night air.
The salt spray,
The flowing tide,
And moonbeams dancing toward the shore!
All of my cares washed with the ebb far out to sea.
And in the darkness
People gather close to one another.
A large group in a circle prays.
A couple walking hand in hand
As their young son sprints ahead
Into the night,
Then sprints ahead again.
A group of friends
Seated on the sand
With elevated discourse on the moon,
Upon the soul,
Upon some comedy seen the night before.
I see a castle in a barren waste,
Built no more than a few hours before,
Yet in likeness of some thousand
Years of ruin.
Wind and waves promoting life and death.
Such is my being--
Refreshed by all I see--
Withering in the minutes
That leave me eroding as I drink
The bitterness of life with a joyful tongue.
Ah, the sweetness of an hour!

(September 2007)

Wandering Between Two Worlds. . .

I have recently revisited some of the poetry of Matthew Arnold and was struck by many of his lines that seem to mirror my own thoughts (of course, not all of his lines are a reflection of my own thoughts). One such line is from his work "Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse." Arnold writes: "Wandering between two worlds, one dead, / The other powerless to be born." In context, it is easy to comprehend that he is referring to the old pagan religions of the Greek and the Norse when he speaks of the "dead" world. The one that is powerless to be born is a modern faith in the age of science and reason. Arnold's personal struggle was that he was not able to believe in the religion of the past and was unwilling to accept the secular values of the present.
As for myself, my struggle is a bit different. Like Arnold, I am unwilling to accept the secular values of the day. Unlike Arnold, I value the religion of the past (at least the religion of the prophets and the means by which it has been restored in the present). Sadly, Arnold had no knowledge of such a restoration. Nevertheless, I too feel as if I am wandering between two worlds, but in a different manner. On the one hand is the secular world, which I believe is too selfish and full of itself to truly lead humanity in a positive direction. On the other is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, which I know to be true yet I feel seemingly powerless to live according to it.
Let me explain. I do not believe that I am a bad person by any means, but if I am honest I am not a good person either. I have certainly avoided the "bad" things in life, but I haven't really been doing the "good" things either. Hence I am wondering between two worlds: doing "bad" things is dead to me, but doing "good" things is seemingly powerless to be born.
It all stems from selfishness, my attitude of being "good enough." I figure that I am alright by not contributing negatively to society. I earn my own living, I am not a burden to others, I even donate to charities, but I am not really "doing" good beyond that. When I get home and complete my work I spend the rest of my time in selfish pursuits--the pursuits of pleasure. There is nothing wrong with using some of one's spare time for oneself. But to use all of it for oneself. . . perhaps I listen to too much music. Perhaps I watch too many shows. Perhaps I spend too much time on the internet reading about sports, or politics, or news, or blogs. I have been spending relatively little time improving myself and improving the quality of life of those around me and throughout the world. In truth, I've lost sight of who I am and what is my real purpose in life. Pleasure is good, but it is not the end-all, be-all.
I suppose that what I am getting at is that I am selling myself short on eternal progression and trading it in for present pleasures. How can I justify in the life to come the amount of wasted time and opportunity that is mine in the present? I feel as if I am suffocating on my own indolence.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Alright, it is time to get caught up in a sandstorm in the middle of Finland. . . not that I've ever heard of sandstorms in Finland, but I have heard of Darude, the latest artist that I shall feature on our tour through Scandinavian music. The music is a bit older and very recognizable for any sports fan, particularly if you are into hockey. The genre is also getting switched up as we turn techno. Anyhow, enjoy the beat as you pass through Suomi (Finland).


So I recently made a deal with my students that if they would promise to try their best on the STAR examinations that I in turn would allow them to design my beard and come to school one day with the design that they had voted upon. My students voted for a half-beard. So, this past Monday I made a fool of myself and came to work with half of my face shaven. Needless to say, observing the one class of students that does test with me. . . all of my students have the appearance of making an honest effort on the exam.
For those of you that are curious as to what type of ugliness exists with a half-beard (and let me be the first to admit that it is quite ugly), you may view the aberration below. I must forewarn you, however, that by looking at these images, you may have nightmares. As such, I include this disclaimer that I am not responsible for anyone soiling the bed in the middle of the night as a result of some half-bearded creature that is roaming about one's dreams.
Best wishes to you all. . .
*Note: This entry will only be posted for a limited time. . . I can only handle so much public humiliation! Nevertheless, there are a few friends who have inquired as to the look, so here is your brief window to check it out.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Am I Wry? No

Our tour of Scandinavian bands continues. Today I shall introduce you to a band from Denmark: Mew. "Am I Wry? No" is a song that might sound a little more mainstream, but in reality isn't. I have yet to come across an American who is familiar with this band. Anyhow, I hope that you enjoy the music.

My Lucky Day?

So, we are all familiar with the fact that life can be superficial at times, or rather, our perspective on life can be superficial. So it is with dating and relationships. I will admit that attractive women tend to attract me (correct me if I am wrong but I suppose that is why they are referred to as "attractive"). Beauty is a nice feature, but it is certainly not what matters most (in truth, I have had a couple--not a lot mind you--but a couple of really attractive women who have had an interest in me, but if looks is all a woman has, it holds my interest for all of about, well, lets say until the conversation begins--hardly long enough to make a single date worth anything--I'll take connection over beauty any day, though both would be nice).
Anyhow, on the superficial level, about a week or so ago I came across an article by Jeanna Bryner titled, "Why Beautiful Women Marry Less Attractive Men." My initial thought, of course, was, "Wow! This is my lucky day! I'm less attractive than a lot of women, so there is hope!" Among other things, the article states: "Women seeking a lifelong mate might do well to choose the guy a notch below them in the looks category. New research reveals couples in which the wife is better looking than her husband are more positive and supportive than other match-ups." What guy would not be happy with this statement? And just when I thought that this was my lucky day, I got to the end of the article and discovered what it is that women ARE looking for in a man which allows them to marry a guy who is a notch below them in the "looks" category. Essentially, while men place a priority on a woman's looks, women place a priority on "men's height and salary."
What? Height and salary! Blast! So much for my lucky day. . . of all things for women to look for. . . the only two categories that my looks outweigh. . . height and salary. . . O that I were born an ugly giant with deep pockets full of cash! But no, all the tall genes were used up by my older brothers and my parents' reproductive DNA was scrapping the bottom of the barrel by the time I came around. Height. . . grrrr! Strike 1. But there is nothing I can do about that, so why worry. But then there is what is in my control. . . career. And what do I choose. . . out of principal I choose something I feel will be rewarding and something that will be good for family life over something that will be financially lucrative. The result, low salary. Strike 2. I don't even want to know what strike 3 will be. . . probably something silly like "personality." :)
Apparently, I am going to have to find some primitive island of pigmy women who will view both my height and salary as being large. In America, this is simply not the case!
So, what was looking to be my lucky day (the hope and promise of a wife who is better looking than I) turns out to be anything but lucky. Bummer deal. :)
Needless to say, I have struck out with superficial women. Wait a minute. . . I have STRUCK OUT WITH SUPERFICIAL WOMEN!!! Hey, it is my lucky day after all. :)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Remind Me

So I'm a little late in getting this week's music video posted. Last week featured Emiliana Torrini's "Heartstopper" (Iceland) and the week before that was Club 8's "Jesus, Walk With Me" (Sweden). Today we continue our Scandinavian tour of music as we swing over to Norway. I figured that we would switch up the genre of music for this week, moving away from the use of soothing guitar sounds into the realm of electronica. I really like both the song and video for "Remind Me," a song by the Norwegian band Röyksopp. I hope that you enjoy it!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Temporary Defense of Beards

So, I have finally made it into a post by Rachel due to my current growth of a beard. Obviously I am not one of the minority that is spoken of by several of the ladies that actually look good with a beard. O no, I am one of those gnarly-wanna-be-mountain-man-looking guys. But that is alright. I really do not mind being placed in that category and I will explain why it actually works to my advantage. But first let me explain, briefly, the history of my annual beard.
It all began once I started teaching English at Charter Oak High School (2001). One of my sisters taught history at a Junior High School and created her own costumes that reflected the traditional wardrobe of specific times and cultures. I thought it would be nice to borrow a few such costumes for my teaching of The Odyssey and Shakespeare, both of which had a more authentic feel with a beard. When I went to Norco High School a year and a half ago, I discontinued the practice of dressing up for a specific unit (I no longer live near my sister who has the costumes).
Nevertheless, last year I grew out the beard once again but this time out of convenience. Rachel is absolutely right that beard may be associated with laziness, for this was exactly my intent when I ruptured my achilles tendon and was in a cast and on crutches for several months. Everything about my life slowed down--I had to begin waking up extra early in order to awkwardly bathe myself, get dressed, hobble down the stairs to my car (driving manual was quite fun--painful pushing in that clutch for the first few months), and the likes. It is important to note that I am not a morning person, so getting up extra-early was not a valid option. . . I had to begin figuring out ways to cut down on preparation time. The shaving of my head and the growing of my beard saved a good 15 minutes in the morning by not having to shave and do my hair (laziness, yes--but justified laziness in my opinion).
So, why the beard now?* Well, it is a tradition for me to grow it out this time of year now, and perhaps I will continue in this tradition until I am in a serious relationship in which the woman asks me not to grow it out--I will surely comply under such circumstances, but while I am free and single, who cares? It actually works to my advantage in being single. According to Rachel's poll, most women do not like men with facial hair and according to the comments left there are a small few who are able to pull off the look, but let us look at the advantages that the beard, even a gnarly one, offers to single men.
(1) Warmth in colder climates, (2) Food storage for a temporary time of famine, (3) An expression of masculinity in a world where the two genders are merging (the overlapping of roles and what is deemed as acceptable and appropriate for the sexes--there isn't a whole lot to distinguish between the two these days, especially with hairstyles, piercings, tattoos, and etc.), (4) Once it is long enough (ZZ Top Style) it makes for a nice leash by which wives may lead their husbands in tow to whatever event or task they desire (an actual, physical leash rather than the invisible one's that the rest of the wives of the world have on their men:), (5) Reverting back to childhood (beards are the adult version of dressing up to play that we did as a child--we would look lame running around in cowboy suits, frontiersman costumes, or cavemen garb--but the beard allows a grown man to "play" exactly that in his own mind, (6) A hand dryer to ensure that a man washes his hands after using a public bathroom (how many men fail to wash their hands after using the bathroom--it is a disgusting phenomenon, but I am sure that it is due to the fact that the paper towel dispenser is empty and the guy simply doesn't want to walk around with wet hands--if he has his beard, not an issue!), (7) Emergency preparedness. What happens when the apocalypse arrives and all modern convenience is destroyed? One is going to need to provide heat and a means to cook somehow, and a man with a beard simply needs to cut off the beard in order to provide kindling in order to start a fire, (8) Family time with the kids. What about those families that cannot afford to buy their children cool little toys like velcro dart-boards? It is much cheaper to create your own little "fuzzy objects" that will stick in dad's beard--kids can have hours of fun with their fathers that they could not have otherwise if it were not for the beard!
Okay, so these reasons are getting really stupid and I will be surprised if you have managed to keep reading to this point. But in all seriousness, having a temporary beard does work to my advantage, being a single man. I'm just an average looking guy, nothing to really get the ladies excited about, but by growing a beard I truly become repulsive to them. The idea is, once I have had a beard for a couple of months, the ladies become accustomed to it--they do not like it, but they become used to it. Then I shave it off. Suddenly, I am looking really good in comparison to what I just was. . . my lady friends begin to notice and for a brief time, I actually look better than what I really am. Everything in life is a matter of perception and perspective. I'm simply using this concept to my advantage.**

*Actually, in a scheme to get my students to try their best on STAR testing (standardized testing required by the government by which schools receive a rating, yet it has no impact on the students personally so many of them don't even try to do well) I have made a deal with them, that if they promise to do their best on the test (I have had them sign a contract), I will allow them to design my beard for a day before I shave it off (I have had some interesting designs come in so far that students will get to vote upon).
**So this really isn't in all seriousness as I claim, but it sounds good in theory.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


I have just finished watching the most breathtaking music documentary that I have ever beheld. The experience is amazing and other-worldly. The music transports one to a mystical realm and the scenery is nothing short of marvelous. "Heima" is profoundly beautiful. The Icelandic band Sigur Rós, upon completing a world tour, returns home (Heima) to Iceland where they travel through their own country putting on a series of free concerts in small towns and in the most obscure and beautiful places on earth. It is an amazing experience to listen to and watch. I'm sure that there are plenty of people out in the world who would not appreciate this film, but there are countless others who would recognize within it the amalgamation of music, art, and nature in one enlightening experience. I must admit that with my next major trip I will certainly be considering heading to Iceland.
Furthermore, the members of the band appear to be some of the most down-to-earth musicians that I have ever seen. They have a connection to their country, people, and the landscape that is brilliant. Furthermore, one can see within the musicians the love and connection that they have to the music itself. Although I do not speak Icelandic and cannot understand the lyrics to the songs, I can truly feel the passion with which each member of the band plays and the emotion that is expressly seen through the lead singer. I've never seen a performer more engaged with his work than what is written on the face and actions of the lead singer. Simply put, I am impressed and awestruck with the simple beauty and feeling associated with the music, the photography, the nature, and the humanity that is portrayed within this film. While the film may be suspect for others, I know beyond a doubt that Liz Long and Liz Wolf would surely appreciate it, and countless others would too if they would simply give the film a chance. so if you haven't seen it yet. . . do so (it is now out on DVD).
I'm posting the trailer so that you may all get a little taste for yourself.