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Bandwagon

April 17th, 2015

I grew up on Mark Price, John Salley, Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott and other NBA greats. The first NCAA Tournament that I remember was the famous 1985 one when Villanova beat Georgetown, but also in that tournament Georgia Tech made a run all the way to the elite 8 before losing to Georgetown. I had a giant piece of paper up on the wall in my bedroom with the brackets meticulously drawn out. In 1990, I watched Tech beat Shaquille O’ Neal and LSU and then watched Kenny Anderson hit a last second shot (after the buzzer maybe?) to put Michigan State out of the tournament on the way to the Final Four. I used to practice free throws in the back yard and pretend I was making a last second shot to win the NCAA Championship. I took classes with Drew Berry and Matt Harpring. I participated in revolt at a couples’ wedding shower to sneak all the guys downstairs to watch Georgia Tech get into the 2004 Final Four. I have followed a lot of basketball in my lifetime.

There was another team in Atlanta, but I didn’t pay attention to them. I knew who Dominique Wilkens and Spud Webb were, but for whatever reason the Atlanta Hawks did not capture my imagination. I kinda disliked The Omni, and didn’t really have much interest in watching games there. The Hawks had a pretty good run in the 80’s and then again under Lenny Wilkens, but they never made it to the NBA finals and never stirred my interest enough. Ten years ago, the Hawks were bought by the reprehensible Atlanta Spirit, LLC group who also bought the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team. My low interest in the Hawks reached an all-time low when Atlanta Spirit left the Thrashers to wither on the vine and then shipped them off to Winnepeg. I vowed to never put a dime into the Hawks as long as they were owned by Atlanta Spirit and I have not been to a home game since.

In the last year, Atlanta Spirit managed to show everyone what a horrible group of owners they were with a series of revealed group e-mails between them. The e-mails fretted over things like whether the crowd at Hawks games was “too urban” (read: too black) and how they could attract suburbanites back to Philips Arena, clearly lusting after the disposable income that the Atlanta Braves were about to rake in by moving to Cumberland. The national media caught on to what we knew in Atlanta, the Hawks were owned by an incompetent group that was only slightly more progressive than Donald Sterling. However, Atlanta Spirit did do two smart things; they hired two smart people. The new CEO, Steve Koonan, has worked hard to make Hawks games entertaining again and brand them with a new image that reflects what Atlanta is now, a tension of urban and rural that actually can coexist and enjoy each other’s culture. The new head coach, Mike Budenholzer, brought an attitude that reflected the coach he worked under, Greg Popovich, and created a team that played smart and as a cohesive unit and to everyone’s surprise, they roared all the way to the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference this year.

Then the news I have been craving came out this year, Atlanta Spirit would sell 100% of their ownership in the Hawks As of this post, the Hawks have not been sold yet, but once they are I will lift my boycott (and I look forward to the new owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Dikembe Mutumbo, at least that’s who it would be in my dreams.) In the meantime, however, I’m on board for these playoffs. I’m going to watch all the games on TV and openly root for them through this post-season. Cheering for Atlanta sports is an act of humility as they inevitably disappoint (we are still hanging on to that one lone World Series championship in 1995) and my fandom most definitely will put the stink on the Hawks, but my expectations are low. A series win would be fantastic and a ride to the NBA finals would be greater than anything I could hope for, but let’s do this. Let’s cheer for #eventhehawks.

My Favorite Music of 2014

January 20th, 2015

Now that the year has wrapped up, it’s time to figure out my favorite music of 2014. It’s impossible to talk about music in 2014 without talking about Taylor Swift’s 1989. The album dominated sales for the year and it some ways it reminds me of the year Adele dominated the music scene with 21. Much like there is no shame in an old guy like me listening to 21, I don’t think there should be any shame in listening to 1989. That being said, while it is audio candy, it misses the list. The album style fits the title perfectly, I feel like I could have been listening to “Style” on my car radio on Power 99 in my Plymouth Horizon. However, it’s not lyrically very interesting to me, and maybe it shouldn’t be because I’m not a girl in my teens/twenties. Much of the album sounds defeatist, the relationship is going to end poorly before it even begins. Maybe I’m too much of an optimist in my romance. So, great sounding album and very much hummable, but not on the list.

On to the list…

Kye Kye – Fantasize
A terrific sophomore effect that is simply hypnotic in sound. Paper Route’s Chad Howat has done an incredible production job on an album that excites and soothes.

The Choir – Shadow Weaver
I have really enjoyed the recent increase in activity by The Choir in the last five years and each album that they have released since Burning Like The Midnight Sun has been better than the album before it. This is the noisiest one with lots of Marc Byrd’s influence. Steve Hindalong’s lyrics are as quirky and creative as ever, no one does a turn of phrase like he does.

Jeremy Casella – Death In Reverse
Casella has near-singlehandedly created a gorgeous sounding album loaded with longing for paradise. It is an album that inspires. I think of joy when I hear this album and that is a rare thing in music these days. He has managed to make an album that is not cliched with Christian platitudes but it still loaded with a want and a need to connect with the Creator.

Coldplay – Ghost Stories
It seems like ever since Coldplay released Parachutes I have been wanting them to realize another one like it. This is as close to a second Parachutes as we have gotten. The album sounds so good even if it is so sad with Chris Martin’s very public separation bleeding into the lyrics and even if “Sky Full of Stars” sounds like every anthemic song they have done before, it’s not possible not to dance along to it.

Anberlin – Lowborn
I’ve already written a review about this album, but I’ll repeat myself a little bit. Lowborn is a fine swan song for a band going out on their own terms and the bittersweet tone fits the situation perfectly.

Lecrae – Anomaly
It’s past time to start taking Lecrae seriously. The album crackles with anger against injustice, sarcasm against social unbalance, and even gives some humor. Alongside artists like Propaganda, I am very happy to hear hip-hop artists taking on both their faith and social concerns in an upfront manner.

Steve Taylor – Goliath
The tour from this album was a whole lot of fun but the best part is that Taylor has moved back in the saddle with such ease reprising his role as the “clown prince of Christian music.” Taylor leaves no sacred cow unskewered on an album that snarls with loud guitars and drums and I hope there is more to come from this legend.

The Darkest Night of the Year at the Edge Of The World

January 4th, 2015

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We spent the Christmas week in Savannah and similar to last year, we left the girls there for a week at home without them. You would think we had a nice, lazy, relaxing weekend, but far from it, we spent five days cleaning out the house, throwing out junk and splitting the girls’ bedrooms up. We have thrown out so much junk, and even still we didn’t get everything out before they came back home. That’s an apt metaphor for this past year. It’s all been too much. I have been overwhelmed with too many things to do, too many things to think about, and too many things coming into the house to handle.

So, I am not really a person to make resolutions, but my goal in 2015 is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Whatever we decide to get the girls involved in during the winter and the spring, I am hoping it has less commitment than cheerleading and maybe allows me to take care of myself with a little bit of exercise.

This article about this year’s end of the year is, much like the rest of this year, late and succinct due to lack of time. However, we’ve arleady got the Christmas decorations put away and it feels like 2015 is open with some opportunity. I’m ready for a new start and a new year.

Steve Taylor and The Perfect Foil

November 24th, 2014

Steve Taylor

Steve Taylor hasn’t played a show in Atlanta in twenty years. The last time he was here, Bill Clinton was president and Nirvana was dominating the airwaves. While that’s a long time, it’s not as if Taylor has been slumbering. When he has not co-written songs for other bands, he directed Don Miller’s movie adaption of Blue Like Jazz, but Wednesday night he was doing what he does best. Taylor’s acerbic lyrics have always found home in a variety of musical styles, first in Bowie-esque New Wave and later the very grunge sound that the aforementioned Nirvana brought to the radio. He brought a new collection of songs from his new album, also his first in 20 years, to go alongside his classics. For me the new songs all sound a little bit the same, but Taylor’s wit has not diminished one bit and the sound, well it rocks and that seems to be an increasingly rare thing these days. The rocking sound comes from a band that is an all-star super group. John Mark Painter of the duo Fleming and John played bass, along with some saxophone (a long missed and vital part of Taylor’s music) and even french horn. Guitarist Jimmy Abegg has been associated with a variety of artists including Rich Mullins, Charlie Peacock, and even his band Vector in the 80’s. He may look like a homeless man, but he added a nice biting edge of guitar. Former Newsboys front man Peter Furler played drums.

The set list was a mix of the new album combined with some classics, including the cover-of-a-cover “I Want To Be A Clone” and “Moshing Floor” which was kinda funny because everyone in the crowd was too old to mosh. Taylor finished the night up with his newest epic “Comedian.” The encore of the evening was a tounge-in-cheek rendition of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” which led directly into “Cash Cow” and he finished the night with a serious song, “Hero.” All through the night, Taylor was ageless. He may not do cartwheels across the stage anymore, but the leaped and spun like a man who hasn’t aged in twenty years. I know I was more tired than he appeared to be at the end of the show.

Peter Furler opened the night with his three piece band. None of his new songs stood out to me, but it was fun to hear him cover some old Newsboys songs like “Not Ashamed” and “Shine”. The songs were fun to hear again and had a very different take with a raw power-trio with all of the drum machines and backing tracks stripped away. Perhaps the best old Newsboys cover that fit his new sound was “Lost the Plot” which remained powerful and loud. While the Newsboys have always seemed a little phoney, Furler was soft spoken and authentic, he seemed to enjoy the smaller crowd and simpler vibe.

So many of my favorite musicians have changed so much in twenty years, and many not for the better. Taylor however seems to be trying to pick up where he left off and while he does have some momentum to regain after being away for so long, his return to the music scene is a very welcome one and I hope there are more tours and more albums to come from here.

40

November 20th, 2014

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When I turned 30 I had something of a existential crisis. I wasn’t cool anymore. I wasn’t young anymore. My glory days were behind me. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. At 40, nobody has time for that kind of stuff.

I think I was prepared for life to change a lot when I turned 30, but I don’t know that I anticipated how much it would keep changing. I also don’t think I realized how isolated I would feel when all my friends moved away and parenthood and jobs prevented any of us from meeting up anyways. I wish I had a mentor for my 30’s. I had mentors in college and after college, but I’m not sure anyone warned me how hard the 30’s would be.

Football has finally wrapped up and our weeks are starting to relax a little. We were starting to buckle a little under the grind of practices and early mornings, but now that’s in the rear-view mirror and we can start looking forward to the holidays. Our kids are normally fun, but they are a special kind of fun at Christmas.

Today, a tow truck came and took away my Acura Integra. I donated it, and I don’t say this to make you think I am some great philanthropist, I did it for the tax write-off. I was a little sad to see it go, but it hasn’t operated well for almost a year now, so it was time to go. It is however, a tangible reminder that my 30’s are over. I bought the car when I was 25, but it has been my ride all through the 30’s, taking me to a Cornerstone Festival, all over the Southeast, and back and forth to work when I used to commute. I hope someone takes the car and gives it some love (and maybe a loud muffler, neon lights, and a big spoiler.) Just like other parts of my life, everything is changing again.