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On Losing Heroes

April 19th, 2014

I don’t want to go into all the lurid details, but within just the last month I’ve had more than person that I’ve looked up to been exposed for infidelity. People that I’ve respected that spoke strongly about the bonds of marriage have been exposed as liars. In my 20’s, I think this would have sent me into a bit of an existential crisis, but now that I’m in my (nearly) 40’s I don’t know what to do other than shrug. Maybe I’ve been around too long and seen too much of the human condition.

It’s been a very rough month to have heroes. I’m not one to idolize people, but I do like to draw characteristics from various people to emulate and it also helps my cynicism that maybe not everyone is a horrible person. Yet, the pattern seems the same for people around me. The idealistic twenties descend into the depressing thirties,forties, and even fifties and whatever standards existed are bent, eluded, and eventually broken in our weaker moments.

I think about my children and now that they have started becoming more aware of the world around them, I am still one of their biggest heroes. At least for now, daddy can do no wrong and that is a terrifying thought that someday that won’t be true. I’ve tried my best to be honest and answer “I don’t know” to questions that I don’t know (and I get a lot of questions, so I say “I don’t know” a lot.) but I fear one day I will exposed as a fraud, too. I’m going to fight as hard as I can to keep that from happening.

All of these thoughts come bubbling to my head on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. The disciples’ hero was dead and gone. What was there worth living for? It feels much the same as this dark time in my life and I am quietly waiting for the sun to rise when our hero, our Savior will make all things right.

Spring (Online) Cleaning

March 20th, 2014

It’s the first day of spring and winter is thankfully, mercifully over. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, in fact you can probably find this opinion echoed a million times across social media, but I hated this past winter. This winter was awful. Good riddance winter. I was hit hard with a sinus infection between two snow storms in the middle of February and it took me weeks (weeks!) to recover to full strength. I felt rotten for several days and operated at about 80% for a couple weeks, it was the longest-lasting illness I’ve ever fought. I also had several days of caring for children (which, honestly just meant re-filling their drinks while they watched TV now that they are six) who were stuck home because school was cancelled while I tried to work at the same time. This is not a prescription for getting back to health.

Thankfully, we are done with all that, at least until next year and it is now spring. That means it’s time to do some spring cleaning. We will likely been sending the children to the grandparents for a couple of days and doing some actual deep cleaning of the house soon, but here in Internet-world I’m going to be doing some spring cleaning of thedirtroad.net over the next month or so. I’ve got a little more free time than normal, so I’d like to work on the following projects:

  • Re-architect the NIT Pick-em web site. FOR REAL. I’m using the same architecture designed and written around 2005. Every year I think I ought to redo the NIT site, but I always forget about it when the tournament is over and then by the time I think about it again I realize the tournament is upon us again and I have to go with what I have. This year I’ve got access to a couple more resources and I’d like to redo the site with a real back-end database using MySQL and rewrite the site code with something like PHP or Ruby on Rails. Then I’ll use some new front-end Javascript to make a nicer looking bracket that’s better than current ugly model. I’ll start on this soon as this tournament finishes.
  • Relaunch The Instant Family. Now that the girls are six years old, I don’t feel as comfortable sharing as much about them as when they were young. On the other hand, we do have fun events and pictures to share about them, but I’d like to do it in more of a “gated community” style, so we’ll be looking at restricting access to the blog and maybe tying it in with Flickr authentication. I’ve been using Facebook to share photos of the girls and that’s fine I guess, but I want more control over the content.
  • This blog. What should I do with it? It’s always been a hodge-podge of topics and I feel like I waste my best material on Facebook or on pithy comments on Twitter. What should I be doing here? More video links to old Cornerstone concerts? More sports commentary? I don’t go to concerts as much anymore, but I’d like to keep doing concert reviews here. Photography discussion? I’m not sure. Of the three topics here, this is the most undefined goal, but I’m thinking about how I want to improve this site.
  • So, let’s move on into spring and see how much of this actually gets done!

My Favorite Music in 2013

December 29th, 2013

Adriene’s parents were here for the entire week of Christmas so I wasn’t on the computer at all and my inner introvert nearly died. Then they took the girls to Savannah with them and let us home along for a week. A week, y’all. This much freedom is crazy. It feels so weird not having my daily schedule determined by my children. Most days I have to cram anything that I want to do into the hour between 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM before I pass out from exhaustion, but yesterday I lounged around and went to bed at 11:00 PM and woke up relaxed. Crazy. Hopefully this means I’ll have a little time to add some year-in-review posts to this here site.

So, before I leave tomorrow to head off to the Music City Bowl, I’m going to look back on the year in the music. This was the first year in a while that I didn’t come home with a bunch of CD’s from Cornerstone so I wondered if I’d have anything interesting to listen to. Thank goodness, there was still some really good music that arrived at my house. These CD’s weren’t necessarily released in 2013, but I “discovered” them in 2013. I’ll break it down into the Top 5 and the next 5.

THE TOP 5
The Lone Bellow – self-titled
It seems like a really long time ago that this album was released, doesn’t it? It’s withstood a lot of claims to the throne, but it might be the album of the year for me. Produced by Charlie Peacock, this is what I like more than The Civil Wars and I enjoyed Zac Williams solo release so I knew I was going to love this album as well. It’s a vocal tour-de-force with some beautiful harmonies.

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
This is the competitor to the Lone Bellow album for album of the year. (This album also feels like it was released ages ago.) I love that Daft Punk zigged when everyone expected them to zag. Fun danceable disco songs with some clever electronic pieces in between and lots of guest vocals.

Anberlin – Devotion
The original Vital made my top albums list for 2012. Is it possible for a re-release to top the original album? In this case, absolutely. Normally, I don’t go for “deluxe re-releases” or whatever that also seems like money grabs to me, but in this case the additional songs are great and the remixes and great, too. This album was totally worth buying twice.

The Oh Hellos – Through the Deep, Dark Valley
Some friends of mine introduced me to this band this year and I am so glad they did. There’s a simplicity about the sound, it’s kinda like Mumford and Sons, but with a little more pop sensibility. Their Christmas EP was my favorite new Christmas music this year as well.

Derek Webb – I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry, and I Love You
I’ve already written a review of this album, so I’ll just link it here.

THE NEXT FIVE (in no particular order)
Sandra McCracken – Desire Like Dynamite
Leagues – You Belong Here
Beautiful Eulogy – Satellite Kite
Sleeping At Last – The Atlas EP’s
Over the Rhine – Meet Me At the Edge of the World

Meet Me At The Edge of The Year

December 16th, 2013

Like most college relationships, my association with Over the Rhine at first was a hot, sweaty mess. Since then, though, we have both settled down a little bit and like most relationships that have lasted well over a decade we have become a little more calm. I don’t have the euphoric highs I used to have with Over the Rhine, but there is a lot of comfort in familiarity.

I supposed it’s appropriate then, that Adriene and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary at an Over the Rhine Christmas show. For our first anniversary, we flew up to Cincinnati to see a Christmas Over the Rhine concert. This year didn’t involve as much travel, but we did have to get grandparents involved to watch our children and that’s a least as much logistics and planning as a flight to Cincinnati.

The band is touring as a six-piece these days. Aside from the main members of the band, husband and wife duo Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist, the only band member I recognized was Nick Radina who had toured with them before on percussion, but tonight he mostly played the little cuatro guitar. Eric Heywood played slide guitar and electric guitar and liked him better on slide than the standard electric guitar, though he was very good on acoustic as well. Jennifer Condos and Jay Bellerose held down the rhythm section and are a romantic couple as well as I understand it. The drummer was more much subdued than Mickey Grimm’s long flashy solos, but used a variety of brushes, mallets and such and spent a lot of time on the toms instead of the snare. All of the members were involved in creating the music for Over the Rhine’s latest album, Meet Me At the Edge of the World.

Most of the songs were from the new double album and they played mostly the half of the songs that I like from Meet Me At The Edge of The World so that was good. I was hoping they would do some Christmas material and they did do some songs off of Snow Angels and a couple from their new upcoming Christmas album next year. There was nothing from The Darkest Night of The Year which was a little disappointing. I was hoping for at least one traditional Christmas song since they sounded so good on The Darkest Night… but no luck.

We were sitting in the middle of the theater, directly under the slightly terrifying “Big Ass Fan” which was keeping the place nice and cool during the opener, Ben Sollee. Sollee, a proud Kentucky resident, informed us the fan company was also from Kentucky. He was a nice change up for openers as he did everything solo on a cello. Unfortunately, The Variety Playhouse decided to turn down the fan during OTR’s show and it started to get a little warm and as I remembered from Cornerstone OTR + warmth + dark = sleep. Adriene and I fought it off but it wasn’t easy.

All in all, though, it was a fun show even if there wasn’t much there for an old Over the Rhine fan (when Karin said they were going to go back and play an “old” song, it turned out to be “Cruel and Pretty” from Ohio which even she admitted was only going halfway back through their catalog) the full band treatment gave a many of the new songs a little more life. I swore I’d never become one of those fans who always wanted only the old stuff from a band in a concert and we’ll see if I can hold that at bay. Much like I enjoyed celebrating a long and happy marriage (so far) I’m okay with celebrating a long and happy career (so far) from a great band. Thanks for all of the music, Over the Rhine, new and old.

Page CXVI – Advent To Christmas

December 5th, 2013

I saw Page CXVI in one of their early forms way back at Cornerstone Festival in 2007 and I’ve been following their music ever since. The members of the band have done albums together as The Autumn Film, worked with one of my favorite artists, Derek Webb, and also worked together as Page CXVI, which is more focused on hymns and liturgical music.

Earlier this year they launched a Kickstarter project to do EP’s for each part of the liturgical year and now the first part, the Advent season is done. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Christmas music so I’m excited to include a preview of their album here for you all to check out and enjoy: