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Dec 2010
 Mark Twain

Samuel Clemens (that wily trickster) decreed in his will that his autobiography not be published until 100 years after his death, so that he might feel free to "speak his whole frank mind" about a wide range of topics, situations, and contemporary personalities. The release of volume 1 (of 3) earlier this year sparked quite a literary stir as folks scrambled to secure an original copy of their very own.  :-]  Seeing racks upon racks of these tomes available at the time, I gave it no thought until, nearing the holidays, I added it to my Christmas wish-list (as prevailed upon by my children), but by then all the stores were wiped out! ~ Imagine writing something today which wouldn't be published for a whole CENTURY, which would make a splash like THIS a full 100 years after your passing...  Even more astonishing, imagine how untouchably futuristic the long-away year '2010' must have seemed to this steamboat-pilot/author when he concocted this scheme in the first place. And what a world it is where his 'latest efforts' have finally found purchase, shot across time like a cannonball... As forward-thinking and open-minded as he was, I doubt he could have imagined the commonplace sci-fi realities we take for granted today. Entire world-wide businesses have not a single storefront on any Main Street he would recognize, sporting instead Virtual Presences accessible through wireless portable uplinks.  Killer-cool!

My chicklettes & i made a pilgrimage to L.A. to visit our dear family of friends for New Year's Eve. After a quick visit to Santa Monica Pier, we cruised up Santa Monica Boulevard, straight through Beverly Hills, and on up to Grauman's Chinese Theater . . . you know, that spot in Hollywood where decades of famous actors have mashed their hands and shoes into cement to create durable impressions for all time! Given my girls' affinity for Gene Kelly and entertainers of yore, I thought they might dig it the most.  :-)

The semi-enclosed forecourt area is choked with people on any given day, but what a blast! Straight away, the girls found where the original cast of Star Trek had made their marks 20 years ago. Andrea dropped , grinnin' like a monkey, to fit her fingers into William Shatner's handprint. We wound our way leftward through the crowd, folks all around pausing to take pictures as their companions squatted down to test their fingers in this print or that. I noticed how Johnny Depp's square suffers a constant barrage of attention these days. (Long Live Jack Sparrow! ~ 'Captain'.. Jack Sparrow, if you please...) In no time at all, we found Robin Williams, Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, and hey, Natalie Wood! Then the girls found Julie Andrews, and Judy Garland, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, of course our Gene Kelly, then Dick Van Dyke (their new TV favorite), and Tom Cruise. Danielle found Donald O'Connor (and his Mom), we found John Travolta, Donald Duck, George Lucas & Steven Spielberg, and relative noob Hugh Jackman (aka 'Wolverine'). One of the notable things for me, personally, was discovering how * small * these people's handprints are! I mean, you see all these actors in movies and just automatically think they're Bigger Than Real Life somehow. That's the hallmark of Being A Star! They transcend the blasé everyday existence the rest of us must grind through day after day, week after week, year after year.  :::  The only prints that fit my hands perfectly belong to Will Smith, for which I am glad, because he's about as cool/fun as they get. He wrote "Change the world" across his cement slab . . you can't beat that!  :-)

 Dick Van Dyke  the Harry Potter kids
 Gene Kelly  Tom Hanks
 
 Hollywood sign

Equally as entertaining are the 'creative types' parading around in costume hoping to nab a few bucks posing for pictures with tourists. Where else can you find Darth Vader, Spongebob Squarepants, and Bumblebee (a la 'Transformers') just all hangin' loose together? Not to mention Spiderman sneaking around lamp posts, and Venom perched atop a hydrant giving a thumbs-up to a quizzical little boy . . . and who knows who else lurking around in the shadows there. All the way back to the car, we dodged photo hounds and street dancers, and strolled over the myriad stars of Hollywood's 'walk of fame' .. . all under the white-bright world famous "HOLLYWOOD" hillside sign.  :-)

 Harrison Ford (star walk)  Beach Boys (star walk)  Winona Ryder (star walk)
   
  "Yellow Submarine"
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
"A Hard Day's Night"
"Here Comes the Sun"
"Ticket to Ride"
"Twist and Shout"
"Octopus's Garden"
"I Want to Hold Your Hand"

For years now, no matter where any of us have lived, we've upheld the tradition of celebrating New Year's Eve with our lifelong friends who, as it so happens, now own the 'Beatles Rock Band', along with the semi-realistic instrumental props necessary so that *YOU* can become the Fifth Beatle'! (or 6th or 7th..) So we tromped around the sandy California hills behind their house for a while, hit a local sushi bar, and of course attended their way-cool church.  But outside of that, we spent most of our time singing and playing along with these pseudo-plasticine Beatle avatars on TV, performing classics like those listed at right . . . and many more . . .  It's so cool to pass the guitar, bass, or microphone back and forth with your kids and best friends, singing along together with all these great songs. Personally, I didn't sing much, but gravitated more toward the drums.  :-)  And they had other friends over, and then someone made deep fried Oreo cookies! Seriously..! Can you just imagine that .. ? A heart attack on a greasy napkin just sitting there looking right back up at you *daring* you to eat it . . .. and so wickedly addicting . . I'm sure there's a law against these things in some states .. but we didn't get caught here in California this New Year's Eve!

 Jessi & godfather Ant  Plasticine Beatles
 the Beatles Rock Band
   
 Xbox 360 Logo
   
 Plants vs. Zombies (logo)

My super-cool sister and parents (also cool) conspired together and gave us an incredible Christmas gift this year: a 6-month membership to Netflix and a brand new XBOX LIVE (250GB), complete with a CNT [Crazy New Technology] KINECT, which is this flat sleek device that sits atop your TV, nods up and down every so often, and literally watches you move. You have to use your *body* as the game-control interface... meaning that you had better scoot all the furniture outa the way because you're going to be leaping all over the place trying to jump nitro-powered river rafts, smack down flaming dodgeballs, plug sudden undersea leaks, and flap your arms to levitate and pop basketball-sized floating bubbles. On top of all this, we were also blessed with a dozen or so XBOX games, such as "Pirates of the Caribbean", "Lord of the Rings", "Harry Potter", "Prince of Persia", "Spiderman", "Indiana Jones" (Lego), "Blazing Angels 2" (WWII flying) and of course, the latest "Tomb Raider" title.  But wait - that's not all!  I then discovered an online horizonless expanse of downloadable games - and immediately fell prey to the mesmerizing spells cast by the likes of "Plants vs. Zombies" and "Limbo".  And as if this wasn't already Quite Enough, thank you, we fired up our Netflix account . . .

 Limbo kid

Back when we had cable TV, we generally avoided the tripe shoveled into our living room under the guise of 'regular family viewing'; however, I was virtually addicted to the Discovery and History channels.  ~ Ah.. but now, thanks to the modern miracle of NETFLIX, we can play any adventuresome documentary, National G special, or hip movie (old or new) that crosses our collective radar, watching commercial-free * any * time * that fits our family's schedule.  Television Bliss: wonderful!  Amazing!  Dream-like, almost ..  I . . I can put down the controller any time I want - really, I can . . . I just choose ~ · not · ~ to for the moment . ..

I wonder if there's an "Xbox Live Anonymous" support group that meets here in the valley somewhere.. .

So between hanging with our friends, and the Plastic Beatles, visiting Santa Monica Pier, and sidestepping the weirdness around Hollywood Boulevard (only to turn around and get addicted, Borg-like, to our XBOX), we enjoyed a super great holiday season this year!  And hey, we even prayed together . . and went to church . . as good Christians should... ~ Yes, all well and good – But there are moments when I cast a pensive glance toward what GOD might really want me to be about in this world, all while I'm busy Mario-jumping from one dazzling delight to the next, enticed as it were by this vast neon, all-you-can-eat smorgasbord. ..  *BOING!* *BOING!* *POWER-UP!* *PLAY AGAIN!*  In the first of the Ten Commandments, God declares: "You shall have no other gods before Me." We, all of us, can waste all of our resources and these precious earth-dwelling years pursuing so many 'good' things – things that are not intrinsically bad . . . just . .. diversionary.  Kind of reminds me of that zonko 'junk lady' in the movie LABYRINTH who carries a veritable mountain of useless junk on her back, eager to adorn Sarah in like manner, burying her under So Much Stuff . . .  What really matters through all the pixels and noise is FAMILY, and the loving relationships that grow naturally from, in, through, and around that rich, safe, miraculous firmament:

 

 red mushroom

 

 Andrea & Brianna  ye Romeros
 Friends for  like  ever !    Cool Couple  (and some kidzoids)

 green mushroom

 

 

 

Back in blog·post #7 I mentioned a couple of books ("Crazy Love" and "Forgotten God") written by another wonderful brother-in-the-Lord, Francis Chan. In an interview (HERE), he explains how, at the height of growing popularity resulting from his deeply impactful books and sermons, he chose to step down from leadership at his church, and away from the sometimes compromising accolades (the irony) of becoming 'Christian famous' in today's global marketplace. The more he felt the lure of that limelight, the more convicted he became to Just Not Go There. Instead, he turned away from it all and led his entire family (6 kids!) in the genuine pursuit of unglamorous Christ-like service rendered to people outside of the U.S. who face real persecution as part of their daily lives. He blogged about his discoveries a little bit THERE, but this one particular paragraph really caught me off guard, capturing my imagination in a shocking new way:

 From update #5:

Speaking to underground church leaders in China was equally enlightening. Most surprising to me was their response when I told them about “church” in America. I did not expect the response I got when I explained how common it is for people to switch churches if they find another with better child-care, better music, or a more gifted speaker. They laughed really hard. It was weird. It was like they thought I was joking. It opened my eyes to the uniqueness of our situation. Remember that India and China combined represent almost 40% of the world’s population. The U.S. represents about 4%. Too often I have looked at other cultures as being strange. I forget that we are the minority.

I grew up in the United State of America, and have only ventured out of the country to Canada, Mexico, and once to Germany... and most of that two decades ago. Though I relish exploring other cultural paradigms, it just never dawned on me that all my life, growing up and wandering abroad, my standard I'm-OK-you're-OK Caucasian take on things represents a mere 4% of what the rest of the world thinks of as normal and ordinary. I used to think it fun and exotic to meet someone who embodied a distinctive ethnic heritage. Nowadays, I wonder at my own place in the world and think I had better shift gears a bit to understand the vastness of God's magnificent pattern woven through humankind, and my pale place within its multi-hued currents. I wonder how white people came to corner such a vast share of the public eye in TV, movies, politics – everything?  Honestly .. what magic elixir did our forebears unearth making us leaders of global industry, captains of the shipping lanes . . deciders of other people's fates?

 

·                    4%                  ·

 

Bono is not the spokesman for the world . . . he's just a privileged white dude with a microphone. (Talented and hard-working, yes .. U2 rocks!) But do you see what I mean? If you're reading this blog, chances are good that you (along with millions more of every stripe and color) look to Western Fashion and Entertainment as some high mark to embrace and/or aspire to.   ~  How did * that * happen?

One of the things i * DIG * about guys like Francis Chan is the honesty and authenticity with which he views the world and communicates the Truths he discovers, unveiling the Reality that God spoke into being ~ currently tarnished by the sin-soaked choices of mankind, but ultimately redeemable through His Divine Time-spanning Plan. Such integrity demonstrated in just this regular guy's life inspires me to rally my own resources to do the same: Reflect and Magnify the Glory of GOD Almighty, Ruler of Everything, LORD of All! . . . Ah.. but i do love me some XBOX, and so much else in the endless flood of material blessings in which we drift. I'm certainly not 'rich' by any stretch of the imagination . . the American imagination, that is... But compared to the incomprehensible poverty endured by most of the world's population, I am sickeningly, disgustingly wealthy . . . as are so many others . . .  On a travel show we caught the other night, a salesman presented what looked like a simple ordinary dress. With a straight face he smiled and named the price of $3,000 for that strip of material. I nearly fell off the couch. Yes, I understand that there are people somewhere out there in the world who can spend thousands on a single item of common clothing and think nothing of it . .. But it staggers my mind to imagine such incredible wealth just squandered so that their shops have popped up all around the world to pander to such rich clientele. What unfathomable waste! ~ And then I consider the comfy couch upon which I recline, in our air conditioned living room, surrounded by goodies and toys, watching our TV (not hi-def.. can't afford such things), with enough leisure time in my life not only to watch this stuff, but then turn around and blab about it on a web page! – What decadence surrounds us, when a large part of the world would hold their $1 or $2 monthly income and view my commonplace life with the same sense of shock and dismay as I view the ultra-rich. It's . . humbling, when you begin to realize just how well off you really are, compared to the plight of most people in the world . . .

A time comes for every maturing soul when one must decide exactly what s/he will Take Seriously, then consider what role s/he might play in forwarding that cause, preserving that truth . . or just succumb to squandering away a lifetime of opportunities. I am a firm believer that God leads those who seek after Him, guiding them with His inspiration and a sense of wonder, a sense of outrage, a sense of duty - anything that might motivate our naturally lackadaisical souls. I believe He distributes gifts and talents among His people, encouraging and expecting them to exercise those liberties for the benefit of others - all to His Glory in the long run, which is nothing but good every which way when you really study it up. Considering my own abilities, I find a more diverse 'artist' today than the young man who used to just write write write all the time. This one ministers through music, teaches in various capacities, and (much to my surprise) has learned how to raise kids to aspire to their greatest potential, all in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I'm just as shocked as the next guy that this has all worked out so well for us, but still wonder what to do with these gizmo's and skills I find at my personal disposal.

Everyone has such inborn and/or practiced talents. Take Francis Chan, for instance. A great teacher, speaker, Bible scholar, writer .. and not a bad surfer, from what I hear.  ;-)  His most recent passion has been to call Christians to set themselves to the task of learning how to fear God again... and I find that I heartily agree with his vision. We take *FAR* too casually the relationship this powerful, almighty, timeless, Creator/Being has so graciously provided for the crumbly bits of attitudinal clay we are. As he puts it, "we just don't take God seriously enough!" That is Good Healthy Talk right there, worth every second of time spent considering in depth what that really means . ..

So what is *your* gift(s)? What kind of 'flower in the field' have you been created to be.. to beam and reflect God's glory out into the world, and ultimately back to Him as the highest praise and worship? I'm a specialized web developer... play piano at church . . and try to write some now and then. In considering my place amid the ocean of wondrous abilities God has spread out across this diverse throng of humanity, I wonder what I could possibly do with this set of tools that might .. well .. matter at all .. to anyone (outside of my chicklettes, of course, who tend to thrive on just about every avenue we explore)?

By way of an answer, I happened to hear about a radical and timely kind of 'meditation tool' (I'll call it.. just go with it) created by a team called 10:31 Sermon Jams. Their mission is to "make Jesus Christ famous" (ha! cool!) by threading sermon snippets into a hip blend of music and multimedia. When I first heard of this, I thought, "whatever . . Sounds like any other hopped-up hyped-out youth oriented spaz-fest."  But check this out:

 
CLICK HERE TO VIEW A SERMON JAM
 

 

Seriously – take 3 minutes and check out something *WORTH* checking out!  

You would sit through a 2 hour movie, wouldn't you?  Why not 3 minutes here?

 
 

Isn't that just crazy-cool?  Something so simple, just a few lines from one of John Piper's zillion messages, but delivered in such a visually-arresting way . . . Man, I dig that floating-letters-in-the-real-world effect! Fun and crazy - yet TRUTH packed through it all – – THAT is a timely use of their talents in today's world-webbed culture!

And just consider the preacher they sampled from for a moment . . John Piper. Another godly church leader (Bethlehem Baptist Church, MN) more concerned about pleasing God than seeking success — even that seemingly safe, strangely American-stanking 'Christian success' — that he also stepped away from the spotlight for fear of drawing attention to himself rather than to Jesus Christ through his efforts. Wow! This is a guy who, daunted by the magnitude of truth to be found in the book of ROMANS, determined to systematically craft an exhaustive study series through it all, resulting in 224 messages!. TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-FOUR!  Not like, you know, just 50 or so . .. .  It took years, obviously, but he did it. And why? Because he could think of no better application of his time and talents than to shine the Truth from the "greatest letter ever written" to everyone who might listen to what he had to say. (John Piper's sermon series on ROMANS) By the way, this minister is one of the few I know of who offers his sermons FREE OF CHARGE, without so much as a suggested "love offering".  THAT's the way God's Truth *should* be shared out in the wide world!  ( I wrote about his book "Don't Waste Your Life" in blog·post #16 )

In considering where to invest my young life after graduating from high school, I decided to pursue seminary training at a Christian college. ( Yeah, I know - a big shock. ) But I couldn't afford it, so I joined the military to raise college funds. At age 17-18, however, it turns out I wasn't so well suited to the military mindset. Seems they don't have much patience for some punk recruit who regularly took the 'initiative' to question most orders given by his commanding officers. In other words: at that age, the military and I didn't get along too well. It's kind of a shame, because at *this* age, I'm all about what I couldn't then appreciate about Authority . . . Ah, but so goes the Lessons of Life!  Anyway, before I knew it, I was back on the street with no money for college, wondering where to go from there. (Tune in to 2010's last blog post to see what happens next, kids!) The point is, sometimes life can really wallop you off course from where you thought you were bound. But it's really OK! Because God is BIGGER than our missteps and our bone-headed mistakes! And He PROMISES to guide us as we lean into Him. ◄─ Is this a ·lie·? - From GOD, our Loving Father?? Or is it The TRUTH! ? The Bible is chock *full* of real-world accounts of people just stumbling all over the place, sometimes listening to God, more often not, and *STILL* He provides loving care and clear direction in their lives ... Amazing .. . . (yes, and discipline.. but that's another topic entirely)

 1990 Anyway, the world as we know it is scheduled to squeak out of existence on December 21, 2012.  In case you didn't know . . well, now you do and "knowing is half the battle" as they say . .   :-]  Seriously though, please keep in mind that this is no Biblical prophecy of any kind. Not at all. It's from an ancient Mayan calendar that predicts 'the closing of this age' and 'the beginning of a new age' on that day. Yes, that fateful day (just three days short of Christmas - bummer, eh?) is now less than two years away!  < [ INSERT HAUNTING THEATRICAL SHUDDER HERE] >  So I got to thinking about what I might do in the last remaining few hundred days of 'this age'. After cobbling together some fun stuff here during 2010, I thought back a decade to the year 2000 —( remember the big Y2K scare and how goofy that was?! )— decided to skip it, and continued on back to 1990, one of the best years of my life. I spent the first half of 1990 focusing exclusively on learning music – composing, transcribing, playing publically – and the second half focused almost entirely on Writing, acing some classes and outlining my first novel as the year waned. It was a wonderfully creative time - and now that 2010 is over, I think I shall model 2011 after 1990, aim to really focus on one thing or another just for months at a stretch. Sometimes the best way to learn/create/produce some things is to take some long mellow strides. In today's TV & popcorn pace, spending some months on one thing or another might seem positively medieval! But it will be grand just to glide for a while in a cool Psalm 46:10 vibe, and learn, and play, research and apply . . .
 2012
I may blog some more - or perhaps not. Maybe I'll get back into playing piano more & composing some new music .. hit a few coffee shops or bookstores just for kicks. Or maybe I'll finally blow the dust off of my stash of instructional animation DVD's, crack open those tutorial books, install ToonBoom [at long last!] and Get Busy – or not.  I have often considered writing another novel . . but really . . for what?  Why waste the effort when so many more worthy pursuits beg attention: time spent with my children, family and friends, engaging one and all in sweet relationships all to the glory of God! . . . This may certainly include some creative measures, like Animation, Music, Writing .. or even more traditional art, such the many different styles at which Jessi excels. Maybe she could teach me a thing or two about character sketching, or watercolors.. Danielle could drag me to some more community dances . .. And Andrea can school me on how best to navigate past the tigers and traps in "Tomb Raider: Underworld"!

Back in 1990 (Aug 1), I pedaled my mountain bike 100 miles from Prescott to Flagstaff... up over Mingus Mountain, down through Jerome, then back on through a hail storm - no lie - before hitting the switchbacks in Oak Creek Canyon a dozen or so miles outside of my destination . . . just to see if I could do it.  About a week later, a buddy and I took his battered blue Ford pickup in the opposite direction from a hairpin turn up in the woods near Hassayampa Lake to discover a long, surreal, hidden-in-the-netherlands passage to a funky little hiccup in the middle of nowhere, called Crown King. (I bought a neon green day-glo cap to prove it) Later in the year, I made the bold step up from my 1929 Smith-Corona typewriter to a Mighty Commodore 64 so I could "move text around on the page before typing it on my dot-matrix printer!" My first novel was forged on that thing - in WordPerfect 5.1, blue screen and all. (Yeah, I soon beefed things up to a powerful 286 PC) That was such a great year . . . I'm really looking forward to 2011!

HOWEVER, if things really *do* go wonky in the months ahead, we could always join the crowds descending upon poor little Bugarach these days. According to this article (and another here), people are flocking to this tiny village in southern France because they believe there's some kind of secret, super-safe cavern beneath the mountain Pic de Bugarach (pictured below). There they hope to weather out THE END OF THE WORLD along with some friendly aliens. (no kidding)

 Bugararch, France
     Bugarach  •  southern France

One way or another, I think my chicklettes & I are going to eventually end up in France, anyway. That or Scotland, what with my kids learning all these different languages & stuff . .  — you haven't lived until you come home from work to hear your daughter address you in Gaelic. — But before we make any such move, before the 'ent'off de erdt' (as pronounced by the skanky 'Calypso' in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN), one last endeavor may be launched before the end of this year . . .

I hope to cap this eclectic 2010 blog collection with a rather unique homage to years of artistic struggle by indexing my journals.  (W00T!!)  I know.. sounds really exciting!  But it's one of those things I've been meaning to Get Around To for years . . and since deciding a month or so ago that I've pretty much written all the 'adventures of daily life' about as much as I can stand, it's time to nail those suckers down in a definitive list of some sort. I understand that nobody in their right mind just surfin' the web would care to peruse such a list... It's intended more as a central repository that may be referenced as I/we have need in years to come ... a resource for my kids, perhaps . . or maybe even their kids. (I'd better pay my web host provider waaaay in advance for this) Anyway, it should serve a home-centric purpose if nothing else, and ought to keep me out of trouble for a while, preoccupied enough so I *still* don't get around to any of the Fabulous & Fun Creative Ideas I kicked around above, for yet another year . . .   :-)   But come what may, most importantly of all: I need to finish raising my incredible daughters! So I bid you a Grand 2011, Thank You for reading, and I hope we 'meet again' here in cyberspace again sometime soon!

 

           What it's all about for now . . .

 · chicklettes ·

 
23  (2010)
24
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