Raise The Banner

I’m a big fan of a quote that Martin Luther King Jr. once used, “…the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” but implicit in that statement are two things. First, is that at some points the arc is disrupted so that the naked greed and lust for power that men have is laid bare to remind us how far we have come and how far we must go and we are living in such a time. Second, while the statement is true it is not a passive one and requires us to do work to continue to bend the arc towards justice.

Happy MLK Day. Raise the standard. Follow the banner. The tortoise always wins.

Reclaiming My Time

I don’t like to get very political but social media has seemingly foisted it upon all of us, so one of my favorite moments this year was during a House Committee meeting was when Rep. Maxine Waters was interviewing the Treasury Secretary. As he dodged and wheedled his answers, Waters forcefully responded “Reclaiming my time!”, she was not about to let someone run out the clock on her without giving her answers and she had no time for nonsense. Now, I have a feeling Rep. Waters and I probably don’t agree on much else in politics but I’m taking her phrase and applying it to social media. I have no time for this nonsense anymore.

I’ve been a part of “social media” since before it was even known as social media. I participated on Bulletin Boards via modem in the early 90’s. I was an active participant in USENET groups in the later 90’s and I had a “journal” on a web site before “blog” was even a word. I dipped a toe in MySpace and was an early adopter to both Facebook (2005) and Twitter (2006). I’ve made a lot of friends and cultivated a lot of relationships, I’ve met up with people I met online at music festivals and even invited them into my house!
That was in a culture when the hosts of the social media were more interested in our participation and less interested in selling and molding us.

Elections have always had quite a bit of rancor online. I still have archives of e-mails of hundreds of lines of text from friends on how the Clinton (Bill, not his wife) Administration will ruin us all and most of it is (thankfully) lost to the mists of time but the arguments of “hanging chads” filled my inbox at one time. Even by those standards, the 2016 election might have been the most noxious of all. To top it all off, our country elected a fool completely unable to govern but completely content to wade into every aspect of my life on social media. Even sports and music are no longer refuges as he picks fights with athletes and celebrities. Every day I get a blindingly stupid tweet and then people on Twitter queue up to see who can be outraged the most.

Well, I’m not going to be a part of it. The year 2017 generated a lot of noise and there were positive moments. The #metoo response by women revealed to everyone something we knew but denied, sexual harassment is widespread and generally unpunished. Racial inequality is still very much a thing and the gap between the poor and the obscenely wealthy only grows wider. Unfortunately, most of the rest of social media was just noise and too much of it. Even on issues I agreed with, the constant drum beat of misery and anger was overwhelming. I was dismissed as racist and sexist when pointing out nuances by people I didn’t know. I’m no longer giving the outrage my time. People will sneer at me and say, “it must be nice to be so privileged as to ignore these issues” and I won’t deny privilege as it’s a status not a sin. I will leverage mine to be more effective to those I can help. Social media is not interacting with people in real life in my community. I’m still going to follow voices from different political perspectives but it will be friends that I trust and value who thoughtfully consider important problems. I’ll discuss politics with friends online in restricted environments but I’m not interested in a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend wading into the discussion with their terrible opinion any more. I’m also no longer giving this nonsensical government my time, I’ve blocked our president’s tweets. It’s impossible to miss his buffoonery and I’m sure I’ll hear about it through other channels.

So, in addition to that, I’m reducing my footprint on sites that get my content for free and return the gift with advertisements. I’m going to be posting here on the site that I own more and less on Facebook and Twitter. My goal is to figure out the best way to share items that are semi-private (like pictures of my children) with those that want to see them without sharing them with the Internet at large or making it so prohibitive to access them that no one bothers. In 2018, I’m hoping to shape my social media usage so that I can positively affect others better and have less of anonymous or second-hand and third-hand contacts shaping me.

My Favorite Music of 2017

Closing out the 2017 year. I haven’t blogged much, but I’m going to address that in a separate post. For now, let’s review the music that I loved the most in 2017

2017 Album of the Year
Propaganda – Crooked

I’m not sure if there is any album that summed up the year of 2017 better for me. This was a year where a lot of terrible things about my country and my culture were long whispered about and finally uncovered in harsh and unyielding light. There have been some prophets calling out both overt and subtle racism and sexism for a while now and Propaganda stands out among the truth-tellers. One of the things that makes his album this year the strongest is his ability to combine systemic awareness and self awareness. While some of his lyrics read like my Twitter timeline raging against the wrongs in our land, he is also painfully aware that he brings his own problems to the table. He works with Copeland’s Aaron Marsh in “Cynical” which I can identify so much with, sends up some love to his hometown Los Angeles with “Do Know Wrong” and old school hip hop with “Slow Cook” but the song that hits me most is “It’s Not Working (The Truth).” Propaganda lists a litany of wrongs against his color but comes to the stark realization that even if all of these issues were solved it would not free him, it would not satisfy him, it would not redeem him. “Hoping in a broken system to fix what’s broken in us. It’s not working, is it?” That to me, sums up 2017 and gives me something to think about in 2018.

The other albums that were so good in 2017…

Colony House – Only The Lonely
A perfect album for a long drive in the summer. I love how much fun this album is. I love that it reminds me of their father (Stephen Curtis Chapman) but it’s very much not him. It’s a nice connection to the past that’s fresh and new.

Eisley – I’m Only Dreaming
With Chauntelle and Stacy exiting the band, I wasn’t sure how good the band would be with Sherri DuPree-Bemis left as the only DuPree sister in the band, but it turns out that Sherri’s songs have generally been my favorite anyways. “Brightest Fire” and “You Are Mine” are sweet songs tinged with just a little bit of snark about a long term relationship that are my favorites.

Sean Michel – You Don’t Know (What the Lord Has Done For Me)
A joyful exploration of gospel music. Sean Michel rollocks through a set of new songs that sound like old songs. It’s the kind of album that makes you want to stand up and clap your hands and maybe even run up and down the aisles of the church.

Lecrae – All Things Work Together
Lecrae made an album that is both thankful and also calls people to justice which was an interesting mix in a year when people didn’t particularly feel like counting their blessings. He didn’t pull any punches though, when he’s not musing about how far he’s come and how thankful he is, he’s reminding the evangelical culture that’s he’s not their mascot and to keep listening. If I have any complaints about the album, it’s that he doesn’t really cover much new ground on this album musically but it’s otherwise a strong addition to his library of work.

Violents and Monica Martin – Awake and Pretty Much Sober
I was familiar with Jeremy Larson’s work under the name Violents but I had never heard of Monica Martin before. She’s a great addition to the list of great vocalists that have worked with Larson such as the aforementioned Dupree-Bemis and Kye Kye’s Olga Yagolnikov. Her vocals are smooth and Larson provides lush instrumentation over former Mute Math drummer Darren King’s beats.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell Live
If I’m honest, I didn’t particularly love Carrie and Lowell but in a live setting Stevens’ anxiety about his childhood vibrates and is just a little more intense. I didn’t really expect to have much interest in this live recording but I found myself coming back to it time and again.

U2 Deep In The Heart of Texas

Most of my early pop musical choices were influenced by girls. Of course they were. Once in middle school I asked a girl that was sitting across from me what she was listening to on her headphones. “Kansas,” she said, “do you like them?” YEAH I DO. *goes out and buys The Best of Kansas on cassette the next day.* I remember in middle school there was this one girl that exuded coolness. She wasn’t pretty like the cheerleaders but she had an aura around her of someone who was confident in who she was. She had a denim jacket and it had all of these buttons on it of all these bands that weren’t really on the radio much but had these crazy names. The Cure. The Alarm. Midnight Oil. She had a button with a white flag and the two characters “U” and “2”. I wanted to know about these bands.

The album The Joshua Tree came out and the band U2 went from being “the band the cool kids knew about” to “the band everyone knew about” and their songs were all over the radio. I loved the album. I was on board. I was with them until the 90’s when I drifted away. It took another girl, my wife, to pull me back in and appreciate Achtung Baby!, Zooropa, and Pop. All That You Can’t Leave Behind was released just a couple weeks before our wedding and we played the album driving around in our rental car on our honeymoon. The Elevation tour wrapped it’s arms around us after September 11 attacks. We were five feet from the stage on the Vertigo tour. Then, the U2 360 Tour happened and I had a gnawing feeling in my gut that maybe they were getting a step slower, maybe they had finally peaked.

Nagging feelings aside, when U2 announced a tour to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of The Joshua Tree I knew I wanted to see it. I wanted to be there to hear the whole album, the one that got me hooked on U2, from beginning to end. There was no show in Atlanta so Adriene and I had to figure out if we could make a trip somewhere work. As it turned out, many of friends from my days of going to Cornerstone Festival decided to meetup at the show in Dallas since that was close to where many of them lived in Austin. We hadn’t been to a concert together and made terrible jokes in some five years. It didn’t even matter that our seats were in the upper deck, some five rows beneath the rafters of the gigantic stadium for the Dallas Cowboys.

What a gigantic stadium it was, the sound echoed and bounced all around the cavernous stadium, particularly during the openers, The Lumineers, when there were more empty seats. By the time U2 started though, the stadium was full and the sound improved a little bit. The band started out setting up the Joshua Tree album with a couple of old hits playing on a small “b stage” shaped like the tree in the middle of the crowd. Up to this point, the gigantic video screen behind them had gone unused, but once they started into “Where the Streets Have No Name” the background went red and orange bringing back memories of the moment the “Rattle and Hum” video went to color and then the screen exploded into life behind them. I have to admit it was a little weird to have the climax of the album at the front and it did feel a little like this section of the show peaked with the first song, but every song on this album is a classic. There were some interesting arrangements, “Red Hill Mining Town” and “Trip Through Your Wires” were songs that were rarely (if ever) played in concert were changed up. “Bullet the Blue Sky” was played a little more straightforward. I expected Bono to summon down fire during this song with a sermon, but he was in a unifying mood tonight, more interested in bringing America together than taking it’s faults head on. “Exit” brought forth some fury but “Mothers of the Disappeared” was the most emotional song of the night for me as it brought the album to a close with some beautiful imagery on the screen.

Bono then announced that the show was moving into “the future” and “women are the future” as the screen told the story of a Syrian refugee girl during “Miss Sarajevo” and then pictures of famous women flashed on the screen during “Ultraviolet.” I have to admit though, I try to do a decent job keeping up with current events and many of the women (I’m guessing by their names involved in politics in the Far East) I did not know. I’m sure it was not a coincidence though that in the deep red heart of Texas the image of Hillary Clinton was accompanied by Laura Bush. Before the song “One”, Bono made special mention of the Bush family and George W Bush’s efforts as president to provide funding for AIDs medication which has saved an estimated 18 million lives in Africa.

A second encore followed with a brilliantly colorful “Beautiful Day” followed by “Elevation” before the band called an audible. Normally this was the spot for their new song they had been doing on their tour but they decided to play “I Will Follow” instead. Afterwards, it seemed like there was a little confusion, I was sure they would come back for another encore but awkwardly after a few minutes the house lights came up and that was that for a little bit of an unsatisfying conclusion.

I can’t really complain though, the band was a tight as ever. Adam and Larry were in lockstep for the show, not really showcasing too much. Larry got his traditional intro at the start of the show with “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and Adam thudded through “Exit” with some intensity. The Edge seared through solos, probably his high point of the evening was “Bullet the Blue Sky” for me. Bono sounded better than I’ve heard him in a long time. He didn’t take on some of the screaming high notes in songs like “Red Hill Mining Town” but otherwise he hit everything he intended to.

The Joshua Tree came out near the end of Reagan’s term as president and many of the songs tackle America at that period, both the good and the bad. I thought U2 might take on our current America with some updating of the songs and to some extent they did, but Bono was more interested in unifying the crowd tonight. He made sure to mention that as Irishmen, they were guests in our country and still appreciated it. He didn’t mention our current president once, but made sure to thank George W Bush as noted earlier and made nods to the women’s march and the Syrian refugee crisis. The band didn’t deviate from the plan much, my friend Jerry who was on the floor for the show noted that almost everything was read from a teleprompter so this was a U2 that was unusually scripted. But who can complain? A band nearing their 40th year that usually doesn’t dwell on nostalgia too much can be forgiven if they look back on the time when the became the world’s biggest band and want to share some good memories with us.

Sunday Bloody Sunday
New Year’s Day
The Joshua Tree
Where the Streets Have No Name
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
With or Without You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip Through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Mothers of the Disappeared

Miss Sarajevo

Beautiful Day
I Will Follow

Atlanta United


When I was in school at Georgia Tech Bobby Dodd Stadium, the football stadium on campus, had artificial turf and was more or less indestructible. So Georgia Tech didn’t care much that us students used it during the offseason. When I was a freshman, we would have pickup soccer games on the field. I was never a particularly great soccer player, I stopped playing organized soccer when I was 8, but I did enjoy playing a lot. I would run up and down the field and look up at the stands and wonder what it would sound like if they were full of chanting cheering fans.

Some twenty odd years later, this little dream became real. Atlanta has a real soccer club playing at the highest tier in the United States. Atlanta United originally intended to start their season at the new gigantic cavernous Mercedes Benz Stadium, but it’s not finished yet. So, the first half of the season is at my old stomping grounds, Bobby Dodd Stadium. My awesome wife bought me tickets to the first three games of the season at home so I was there to witness history in the making.

The first game was already going to be a special event but it was made even better when my friends, the Hampsons, traveled from New Jersey to stay with us and also go to the game. Atlanta United would play their team, New York Red Bulls, in the first ever MLS game in Atlanta. Predictably, the whole night was a little bit of a logistical mess as everyone tried all this for the first time but if it hadn’t been Adriene and I wouldn’t have experienced the quintessentially Atlanta moment of getting into an Uber car while the driver was listening to Migos’ “Bad and Boujee.” In a city that was still stinging a little bit from a catastrophic Falcons loss in the Super Bowl, I suppose it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that New York came back and defeated Atlanta United, but it didn’t matter. The wheels had been set in motion and 55,000 people showed up for a soccer game. It should be noted the only clubs that had more people at their game that weekend were Borussia Dortmund, FC Barcelona, and Manchester United, pretty good company.

Since then, I’ve gone to two more games. One with my good friend Genay and one with my daughter Grace and both were a lot of fun. The crowd is finally starting to settle into a unique identity and chants are starting to form. It’s a strange thing to be in a totally familiar location with a totally unfamiliar crowd. This is not Tech alumni and students (though there are certainly some of us in the crowd) and this is just a temporary home for them, (Sorry it’s not all cushy seats and air conditioning. We’ve been using this thing for 104 years. It’s just FINE.) but it is a totally new thing and it is admittedly pretty exciting to be part of something new. We’re a city with a bruised ego right now. The Braves are still painfully rebuilding, the Falcons are recovering from an epic fail in the Super Bowl, and the Hawks are the same old Hawks. It’s good time for a new team to step into the scene in Atlanta. I don’t have high expectations, a competitive team that fights for a playoff spot would be nice and it looks like that’s what we’re going to get. I can’t wait to see how this all moves a couple blocks downtown in September.