Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A sad passing, but not without joy

A South African acquaintance of mine has reached the place he spent so much time telling others about: heaven.

Pastor Philip Mokson of Masiphumelele Baptist Church was shot to death Sunday evening during a Bible study at his church building by a young man who had been attending the church. From the press release posted on the CCFm website:

On Monday evening, 22 January 2007, at 8:05pm, one of the regular attendees of the Masiphumelele Baptist Church shot dead the Pastor of the Masiphumelele Baptist Church and injured a young woman attendee. He then turned the gun on himself and killed himself.

A group of young people were having a Bible study in the Church hall when this man left the group and returned a few moments later firing a gun. A number of shots were fired and Pastor Philip Mokson was killed at the scene in the Church. The perpertrator then fired on a young woman who is in a very serious condition in Groote Schuur Hospital. The rest of the attendees fled the building and then the perpetrator turned the gun on himself.

Pastor Philip Mokson had served this community from its inception, for 18 years. He was a much loved and highly respected man. He was an extremely active Pastor, involved in bringing peace and justice to the community over the years. He was to be found at every community emergency or tragedy, rendering help and assistance. The community regularly called on him for his intervention. He was actively involved in Living Hope Community Centre, a health based NGO in the area. Pastor Philip was a founder Trustee of Radio Fish Hoek/CCFm and has continued to faithfully serve the Radio CCFm Board of Trustees to date.

Hundreds of members of the community gathered around the church and kept vigil until the early hours of this morning. The community of Masiphumlelele responded with great dignity and quiet reverence for the man that they all loved dearly, as paramedics and Police did their work.

This tragic incident is in no way like many of the township crimes of which we are so familiar. It came about as a result of a severely depressed man who members of the community were seeking to help.

Pastor Philip and the church had been offering help to the young man, who suffered from severe depression, as best they could.

I've spent many hours in this little building in the township of Masiphumelele, in the Cape Town area, leading music and coloring with the kids during the Children's Clubs held there, as well as attending services. When I was there in Dec. with the Extreme Response team, Pastor Philip greeted me with a big smile and a hug; I was a little surprised he recognized me. African men can be hard to read, so you never know what impression you're making on them. From the above it's clear Pastor Philip made quite an impression on his community, due to his passionate love for God and people.

I'm sure he would not have chosen to go at the time and in the way he did, but I have to believe he would have no regrets about his choices to serve his Lord and his community that put him in harm's way that evening.

I don't want to make it seem like I think Pastor Philip was a perfect man, or someone to be worshiped; he was human, after all. But he did set a fine example just in being there and following God as best he could, and keeping at it, and recruiting others' help in the work. Makes me want to "trim the fat" in my own life, and do what's really important.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
Jim Elliot, missionary

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Hummer = The Mullet

Someone has to say it (OK, I have to say it): the Hummer is the modern-day automotive equivalent to the mullet.


One is a grotesque novelty hairstyle that even in its day was only considered cool by people who were obviously going to great lengths to be considered cool. And often failing. Substitute “vehicle” for “hairstyle” above.

For every person that has had to stifle an exclamation of admiration upon seeing said hairstyle/vehicle, there are at least 3 who have had to stifle a giggle.

People who wore mullets were trying to express rebellion…by following a trend. People who drive Hummers…I don’t know why people drive Hummers, but I suspect they think they’re expressing unity with our soldiers, most of whom wouldn’t have to be driving military Hummers abroad if so many people weren’t wasting gas driving suburbanized Hummers at home.

The words have a lot in common, spelling-wise: consonant, “u”, double consonant, “e”, consonant.

Billy Ray Cyrus has tried to turn all the mullet jokes into an opportunity by poking fun at it in a song: “I Want My Mullet Back.” Wonder how long it will take today’s Hummer drivers to ask themselves “What was I thinking?” I know I’m already wondering that about them myself. Only I have a feeling they're going to be singing something more along the lines of "I Want the Incredible Amount of Money I Wasted On Gas Back."

Cape Town Meets Music City, Jan. 31, 9:30

See you there!

Reason # 3,457 to live in Nashville

You get to see shows like this for free. In last week's taping of CMT's "Crossroads" Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs combined their formidable musical talents for one of the best unlikely combinations since peanut butter and chocolate.

When my friend and I first arrived we found it was standing room only (curses to my penchant for taking longer-than-intended naps!), and I thought "well, that's it, no way this will be worth standing up the whole time." I was wrong.

The music touched both ends of the spectrum from the ridiculous (bluegrass version of Rick James' "Super Freak") to the sublime (well, just about everything, but especially the minor-key and yet more introspective version of "Mandolin Rain").

They've done an album together already, so there was already a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect between the two. There was a moment of uncertainty after one of the fast bluegrass numbers, when Hornsby suggested they might want to do it again, since it had taken on a frenetic tempo toward the end. Skaggs' reply was basically "that's how it happens in bluegrass sometimes" and seemed happy with the first take, but he was open to Hornsby's opinion. After a slightly awkward and polite exchange ("what do you think?" and "well, if you want to"), they decided they would probably do it again, but after another song or two. Hornsby joked that he might as well take his pants off in front of everyone, given how exposed he felt having a conversation like that onstage in the middle of the show with the audience listening. Anyway, the 2nd time they did it, it was better though slightly less spontaneous, even though the crowd tried to recreate the enthusiasm as best we could. "Surprise" guest vocalist John Anderson got a better reception the 2nd time around (now that everyone realized who he was).

When it was over I felt the urge to go find a piano and write a bluegrass song. But since I don't have a piano I just went home.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Broken dolls, broken dreams

An essay by a fellow blogger (see her post called "Rubber Cement") made me think of a scene in the film "The Homecoming" (TV's "The Waltons" was based on the film, or the same book as the film). The kids go out to find a missionary in town who they hear is giving away toys to kids; the catch is they have to recite a Bible verse. Mary Ellen quickly feeds the younger kids verses, including one for Elizabeth, the youngest; it was either "Jesus wept" (John 11:35) or something inappropriate from the Song of Solomon or somewhere, I can't recall (feel free to correct me on the details here).

The other kids gather around as Elizabeth eagerly rips open her package to find a broken doll. Horrified, she screams "It's dead!" and sobs into her brother's comforting arms, and throws the doll down heartbroken.

Being the youngest, and having lived part of my life on a farm of sorts, I could relate to Elizabeth (despite the gender difference). As a grownup (more or less) I had--or almost had--a relationship that reminded me of this scene when it went bad fresh out of the wrapper (so to speak). These days, having lived with myself as long as I have--plenty long enough to be very familiar with my own shortcomings--I wonder which is worse: to receive the broken doll...or to BE the doll. Which we all are, in one way or another, at some point (Romans 3:23).

As my virtual acqaintance (also named Elizabeth, coincidentally) observed on her blog, sometimes things are broken beyond repair...dolls....dishes...relationships. Sometimes even after the attempt to fix it, the thing still has the cracks and chinks that remind you of the damage. I believe sometimes the best way to love someone is from a distance (with the aid of a restraining order, if necessary). Physical abuse is one of those situations. But it seems that our disposable plastic society has trained us to lean toward "out with old, in with the new" more often than "make do," with very little reason other than boredom or minor irritation with the person or object in question. "Irreconcilable differences" is often a crock. A very wise man once told me that ultimately the only valid criteria for a healthy relationship is a surrendered attitude; surrendered to God, surrendered to the other person.

So here's hoping for a healthy dose of unconditional surrender from--and for--all my "Elizabeths" this year.

And I'm not ashamed to admit it

My name in pixels! I'm Somebody!

I took time out of my busy schedule of blogging and checking e-mails to respond to a request from to review a recent CD purchase: "Magic: The Very Best of Olivia Newton-John." I know what you're saying; "So has she located her boyfriend yet? That'd be some magic right there." But let's stay on the subject.

I had fun putting my professional journalism training to use for a purpose that may not rate up there with mission work or serving the homeless, but I've had some good feedback on stuff I've written so maybe it'll bring a smile to someone's face. Plus it may just encourage all the other guys out there who are hesitant to admit they like music that may be perceived as schmaltzy, feminine or in any way not cool.

I'm at the point where I can like what I like because I like it, not because some 23-year-old with his first real job as a writer who happens to know 3 guitar chords tells me in a magazine I ought to like it. Fact is, ON-J was good friends with Karen Carpenter, and everyone's out of the closet on liking the Carpenters these days, so regardless I think I'm on safe ground here.

Can't wait to get that fat check from Amazon for the review; I assume they pay a standard rate, based on views or something. Right? Right? What?


She's no Celine Dion...

...and NO ONE is MORE THANKFUL than I am for that! And even though she sings country, Canada native Kelly Archer rocks. Tells funny stories about her family, too. Inspires other songwriters to write songs and blogs and stuff in the middle of the night. Will probably be responsible for reviving Jo Dee Messina's radio presence soon, and may very well be famous herself someday (unfortunately these things aren't based on talent alone). And I'm betting she'll still be a nice person. And I'll be able to say I knew her when.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sights and sounds of the workshop

Here are some quick highlights of the Summer Songwriting Workshop and concert we did at CCFm in Cape Town on Dec. 2, 2006. You get a quick glimpse of the group writing process and then the latter part of what they came up with together. I regret not getting the whole song but this video gives a sense of the enthusiasm in the room over their new creation.

My ego prompts me to explain that I do realize my broadcasting degree is not necessarily evident in the production values. I'm still learning to use a) my camera for video b) the editing programs (video and audio) in my new computer c) YouTube and d) Blogger for posting. Enough with the disclaimers. (In MY day, we didn't have any fancy schmancy mmblgghh....).


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tanned, Rested and Ready

Well, rested, anyway. That’s how I’ve started off 2007. I had 2 weeks off from the fulltime job (which at this time of year isn’t really fulltime, given the scarcity of print jobs that trickle through the department), so I devoted my time to rest. Which translates to allowing my sleep schedule to drift later and later until I’m so far behind that when I get back to the usual routine I have a case of self-induced jet lag (without benefit of pictures or stories to tell).

I read the Time Magazine issue that proclaimed the “Person of the Year” to be “You, the reader.” Mirror on the cover instead of a picture. Get it? If they didn’t have a valid point, this would be the ultimate in what has long been the standard marketing practice of appealing to what one professor of mine called “the big You.” And a clumsy, obvious & cheesy effort, at that. But of course they do have a point, and that is that the developments of blogging, YouTube, and the globally-distributed interactive network of culture, etc., make the average person (by first-world standards) as likely to be a mover and shaker as any political leader or cultural icon. ABC's 20/20 had a 2-hour special on the same topic (interrupted, frustratingly enough, by the real news about Saddam Hussein's execution).

The question is, is this a mostly-good thing or not. In journalism classes we were taught that certain people, by nature of their work or position or notoriety, are “public figures” who have fewer moral and legal rights to privacy than the average citizen. In other words, Britney and George W. and John Gotti are open targets because they’re famous, so have at it. It’s OK (by journalism standards) to say things about them and publish pictures of them that would otherwise bring a lawsuit to the journalist or the paper or whatever. On the positive side, this promotes a free press and progress through exposure of corruption; on the negative side, we get the National Enquirer and Entertainment Tonight.

For me, the best summary of the “public figure” policy is in an episode of “The Simpsons.” Homer tells Alec Baldwin & Kim Basinger after they complain about his invasion of their “love nest” by curious Springfielders: "If you didn't want people searching through your garbage and snapping photos of your private moments, then you should have never tried to express yourselves creatively!"

Of course the democracy-promoting nature of the Internet (“Web 2.0”) is obvious. The down side of all the uploading is that so many people don’t have the same respect for privacy these days—their own or others’. They (we?) also tend to act on emotion, and accept visual information as truth. Combined with the instantaneous and global aspects of the ‘net AND the technical potential for total manipulation of pictures and video to create things that never were, the potential harm to individuals is troubling. And I'm not just talking about embarassment. On the other hand, who can get enough of those videos of fat 20-something dudes jumping around and lip-synching techno songs in their bedrooms? Am I right?

That I was reading about all this in a magazine I got for free for giving customer feedback on an online CD purchase, and now I’m blogging about it (and now I’m blogging about how I’m blogging about it…and now…well, you get the picture); seems entirely appropriate somehow.

I think I need some sleep.