Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jennifer Knapp Interview

I just bought tickets for Luanne and I to see Jennifer Knapp on 4/15. Very exciting. Somehow my friend David Kennedy scored an interview with her... Check it out on his blog.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cathleen Falsani: Grace, Eventually

As you know, I'm a voracious reader. One of the first places I go when I move into a new community is the public library! I can spend hours and hours there, perusing the books, discovering new authors, reading big-city newspapers...

When I moved to Houston last year, I spent a lot of time at the library closest to our house. While there, I discovered a great author named Cathleen Falsani. (You can read all about her impressive credentials here.) Her book, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace, really captured my imagination. Like Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace? and Manning's Abba's Child, it opened my eyes again to the wonders of God's grace and love. The book is part travelogue, part memoir, and Cathleen's strength lies in finding God in the most mundane and extraordinary circumstances.

I was really enjoying the book until tragedy struck. If you followed my blog last year at all, you know that our Houston Experience was challenging sometimes, especially during the times our rental house flooded. This library book was a casualty of one such flooding. We tried to salvage it, propping it open, blow drying its pages... but alas, we could not save it.

I thought perhaps its subtitle would score some points or something as I meekly walked to the library desk, looking for some sign of grace. I mean, the pages were still readable, even if the book would no longer fully due to ripply pages!

Nope. $24.00 later I was the proud owner of a severely water-damaged copy of Cathleen's book.

A year later, I was chatting with her on Twitter (follow Cathleen here) and I told her my story (edited down to 140-character chunks). She asked for my address, and a week later, this was in my mailbox...

Grace may not come on our timetable, but sooner or later it eventually comes. Thank you, Cathleen!

Check out Cathleen's other books, The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers and The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People.

Read her fascinating account of exploring Barack Obama's faith for the Chicago Sun-Times in 2004.

Check out Cathleen's official website here, her blog here, and her Facebook page here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

O Say Can You See?

I was a little rusty, and it was cold... but this morning I hauled myself over to the new ONEOK Field. They were holding open auditions to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at a Tulsa Drillers game sometime this season at their new ballpark (which is really cool). I forgot how high that song can get, but I think I did all right... Here's hoping I can get my family to a free game sometime this summer!

I've had a little experience singing this song, after all... It was November 2006 that I sang it at the 49ers/Seahawks game. In fact, it was the big Jerry Rice Retirement Ceremony, so it was packed! I don't know it I've ever been more nervous, but it turned out to be a thrilling experience, hanging out on the sidelines for two hours before the game watching the teams warm up (those guys are huge!), singing for 70,000 people, shaking hands with Bryant Young (watch to the end) and then watching the game (a 49ers victory!) with Luanne, Josh and Jake up in the press box. I think the boys may have been more excited about the free food than anything. A huge meal when we first arrived, then hot dogs at halftime, and all the drinks and chips you wanted.

Here's Luanne's video...

And here's Buck Ellis and VK Jones's video (I love their commentary!)...

Then in 2007, I sang it again for the "Battle of the Bay," San Francisco versus Oakland. My 12-year-old-at-the-time, Josh, filmed this one:

Come on, T-Town... Let me add another performance to my Youtube collection!

Friday, March 12, 2010

More Tulsa Awesomeness

Ever since moving to Tulsa, I've been pleasantly surprised at the cultural diversity and opportunities to experience high-quality performing arts. There are some great venues here:

The BOK Center is an impressive arena (No. 2 arena in the United States and No. 9 in the world in the number of tickets sold, believe it or not). Luanne and I saw Dave Matthew Band and Willie Nelson there last fall, and Josh went to the Winter Jam, featuring Third Day, NewSong, Tenth Avenue North, Newsboys and Fireflight.

Cain's Ballroom is a classic venue, spring-loaded dance floor and all. It was named by Paste Magazine as one of the Top 40 music venues in America. Josh and I saw Switchfoot there a few weeks back, and Luanne and I are going to see Jennifer Knapp and Derek Webb there on April 15! I am so excited they're coming to Tulsa!

The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a really cool and unique addition to Tulsa. Lots of great live music. In fact, my friend (and Redeemer pianist) Cheryl Bocanegra recently gave a brilliant performance at the 18th Annual Jazz Keyboard Concert. Awesome stuff.

Luanne and I saw the B-52s at River Spirit Casino.

We're taking the whole family to see the Modern Day Heroes Tour featuring KJ-52 and Group 1 Crew coming to The Otherside Club on March 25.

Just this week I discovered that I'm going to get to see a lecture by some legends of theater, Stephen Sondheim (the greatest living composer for the musical theater... think Follies, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, A Little Night Music, Company and so many more...) and Frank Rich (chief drama critic for the New York Times since 1980) are coming to The University of Tulsa's Reynolds Center on April 19. I cannot tell you how excited I am to see one of my all-time heroes. Stephen Sondheim is a genius. I'm going to have to do a separate post about him and how his career has impacted my life since I was 14 years old.

Here's a video of me singing "Giants in the Sky" from Into the Woods

I haven't been to the Mabee Center at Oral Roberts University yet, although I drive by it almost every day. There's a ton of great stuff going on there all the time. I was surprised to see all the "secular" music there, but I have come to find out that the City of Tulsa owns a large part of it. It all makes sense now.

I haven't been to the Brady Theater yet either, but a lot of great acts come through here including Bob Dylan and Norah Jones recently.

The SpiritBank Event Center is right down the street from Redeemer. I haven't been there yet, but there have been some cool shows since we've lived here... Really sorry I missed Hillsong United.

And I just discovered this venue: All Soul Acoustic Coffeehouse. Just this past weekend they had Lucy Kaplansky there! Can't wait to see some shows there.

So that's the round-up for today. I'm excited to live in this town... Good stuff happening all the time.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Super Cool Music Videos

I haven't been posting a lot lately because I'm swamped... But I will take the time to embed some videos here. Have you seen this one by OK Go yet? I know it made the rounds all last week, but if you haven't seen it, take a couple of minutes. It's magnificent. I've never seen anything quite like it.

OK Go "This Too Shall Pass"

And while I'm at it, I thought I'd post some other favorite music videos. These are videos that made me marvel at their inventiveness, their style, their visual effects, their mood... whatever. And these are just some that I thought of off the top of my head. (Can you tell I was in college in the early 90s?)

What are some of your favorites? Why?

Korn "Freak on a Leash"

a-ha "Take On Me"

INXS "Mediate"

Tracy Chapman "Fast Car"

Joan Osborne - One of Us

So frustrating! Youtube is currently disabling a lot of music videos. OK, label honchos... You are limiting the reach of your product and halting the spread of your music and artists. So stupid...

Well, I was GOING to embed these videos. Go watch them on Youtube, I guess.

Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U

Mute Math - Typical

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A New Kind of Christianity: The Jesus Question

This is the fourth post in a ten-week series on Brian McLaren's new book, "A New Kind of Christianity." I got the book as part of The Ooze's Viral Bloggers program, and I'm one of many bloggers currently working through the book and entering into dialogue about it. The subtitle of the book is "Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith," and I'm dealing with a different question each week.

It's been an amazingly busy week, and I don't have time today to dive into all of my thoughts around this question, but here's the video. See what you think!

Study questions for "The Jesus Question" here. Enjoy the discussion!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscar Predictions & Thoughts

Just for fun, here are my predictions for tonight's Academy Awards. These are not necessarily the winners I would choose. We'll see how many I get right. I'll just guess in 9 categories:

Best Picture: "Avatar," "The Blind Side," "District 9," "An Education," "The Hurt Locker," "Inglourious Basterds," "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," "A Serious Man," "Up," "Up in the Air."

This year I've actually seen six of the ten nominees: "Avatar," "The Blind Side," "District 9," "Precious," "Up" and "Up in the Air." (Compare that with last year's pitiful total.) My random thoughts about this category: "Up" can't win because it's nominated as an animated film. "The Blind Side"... Really? I mean, I liked it... Took the kids and all. Very uplifting and heartwarming, but it was more like a Hallmark Channel TV movie than a Best Picture winner. "Precious" was powerful, but so hard to watch and sad. "District 9" was cool and quirky, but it can't win. I really liked "Up in the Air" a lot... Excellent performances from the three leads, and the story was powerful. "Avatar" was amazing, and I loved it. I've seen it twice. But it seems like there is a definite backlash against it this year, and people would love to see Cameron's ex, Kathryn Bigelow, beat him. My prediction is "The Hurt Locker." It's got the momentum.

There are ten nominations in this category this year instead of the usual five. Roger Ebert snarkily says if you want to know what the "real" nominees are, look at the Best Director category.

Actor: Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart;" George Clooney, "Up in the Air;" Colin Firth, "A Single Man;" Morgan Freeman, "Invictus;" Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker."

I've only seen Clooney's performance, and I thought it was awesome. Earlier in the season, I thought this was his year. But it's looking more and more like Bridges will take home the trophy.

Actress: "Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side;" Helen Mirren, "The Last Station;" Carey Mulligan, "An Education;" Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire;" Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia."

I've only seen Bullock and Sidibe. Gabourey Sidibe's performance, honestly, feels like a once-in-a-lifetime thing. (I hope I'm not right, but I can't picture her in any other role... It may turn out to be a very challenging thing to overcome.) Like I said, I think "The Blind Side" is schmaltzy and not worthy of these accolades, but people genuinely like Sandra Bullock, and I think it's her year. This is such an excellent example of these awards, unfortunately, being more about the person (or the politics) and less about the performance.

Supporting Actor: Matt Damon, "Invictus;" Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger;" Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station;" Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones;" Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds."

Haven't seen any of these performances. I'm just going with the buzz.

Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, "Nine;" Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air;" Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Crazy Heart;" Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air;" Mo'Nique, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire."

I thought Farmiga and Kendrick were wonderful in "Up in the Air," and I didn't see Gyllenhaal or Cruz. Mo'Nique was awesome and awful in her role. She was evil and sad and pathetic and horrifying, and I can't imagine anyone else winning this aware.

Directing: James Cameron, "Avatar;" Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker;" Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds;" Lee Daniels, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire;" Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air."

I think Bigelow will win. She'll be the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar, and the Academy will love seeing her beat her ex-husband, James Cameron.

Adapted Screenplay: Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, "District 9;" Nick Hornby, "An Education;" Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche, "In the Loop"; Geoffrey Fletcher, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire;" Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, "Up in the Air."

This is mostly wishful thinking. I want it to win because I liked it so much. I think if it can win anything, it can win this.

Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, "The Hurt Locker;" Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds;" Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, "The Messenger;" Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, "A Serious Man;" Bob Peterson, Pete Docter & Tom McCarthy, "Up."

I'm just going with the mo on this one.

Animated Feature Film: "Coraline;" "Fantastic Mr. Fox;" "The Princess and the Frog;" "The Secret of Kells;" "Up."

"Up" is remarkable, and the Academy will honor it in this way. Then they don't have to feel guilty when they give the Best Picture Oscar to another film.

All right, there you have it. What are your thoughts? You can bet I'll be on Twitter throughout the show. Follow me at @mattnightingale and join the conversation!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

White Man - The Michael Gungor Band

Why have I not seen this before? What a great song...

White Man
Words and music by Michael Gungor and Lisa Gungor

God is not a man
God is not a white man
God is not a man sitting on a cloud

God cannot be bought
God will not be boxed in
God will not be owned by religion

But God is love, God is love, and He loves everyone
God is love, God is love, and He loves everyone

God is not a man
God is not an old man
God does not belong to Republicans
God is not a flag
Not even American
And God does not depend on a government

But God is good, God is good, and He loves everyone
God is good, God is good, and He loves everyone

Atheists and Charlatans and Communists and Lesbians
And even old Pat Robertson, oh God He loves us all
Catholic or Protestant, Terrorist or President
Everybody, everybody, love, love, love, love, love

La la la...
Yeah, I say God is love, God is love, and He loves everyone
La la la...
Stop the hating, please just stop the hating now cause God is love
La la la...

© 2008 songs/ASCAP. Admin by EMI CMG Publishing

Here's Michael talking about the song and performing an acoustic version. (Thanks, Tony, for the link!)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A New Kind of Christianity: The God Question

This is the third post in a ten-week series on Brian McLaren's new book, "A New Kind of Christianity." I got the book as part of The Ooze's Viral Bloggers program, and I'm one of many bloggers currently working through the book and entering into dialogue about it. The subtitle of the book is "Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith," and I'm dealing with a different question each week.

In Question #3, the God Question, Brian asks the provocative question: Is God violent? I have wrestled with this question for a long time. I know that my God is one of love and mercy. The Scriptures speak to this reality, and my own experiences with God have proven it to be true. So how do we reconcile this God with the Old Testament God who orders genocide? The Flood, a cute little story we tell our children when they are young, is really, upon further inspection, a terrible story of a God who decides people are beyond redemption, so he just kills them all. Or is it?

I am always interested in this topic, and I've read a lot about it and blogged about it before. A couple of years ago, Greg Boyd was dealing with this topic in a really interesting way. You can find that writing here.

Work, family and a sem class are really taking a lot of time these days, so I'm gonna let Brian speak for himself. I think his thoughts about this particular topic are important and add to the conversation in a meaningful way. Amidst all my troubling questions, I trust my God... I know He loves me, and I know He loves the world... all of His beautiful creation. In the end, no matter what, I know all will be well.

Fourteenth century English mystic Julian of Norwich was troubled by the problem of sin and evil. In her Revelations of Divine Love she asks Jesus about this problem. His response is simple, and I love it: "Sin is necessary, but all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well."

Study questions for "The God Question" here. Enjoy the discussion!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Curious Life of the La-La Song

It's happening again... My 14-year-old song is finding new life. It's certainly been the most "gregarious" of my children, as Joni Mitchell might say.

I've already blogged about how this song came to be written here, but I'll post it again:
Ah, the La-La song. This is my big hit, my radio single, my movie soundtrack song… Back in 1998, I had the verses written, but I had nothing to hold it together, so it just sat there. One night I saw Sarah Jahn in concert at Grace College, and she played a song where the chorus consisted of singing, but without words… I thought, “Who needs words? I could do that too!” Later, with 40 Miles North (back when they were still just Jeremiah and Marcie) jamming in my living room, Jeremiah played the progression while I experimented with melodies. When I hit on this "la la" progression, we all stopped and said, “Well, that was it!” A demo version of this song, with just Jeremiah on guitar and me on vocals, actually charted on WFRN, a large Christian radio station in Elkhart, Indiana.

When I re-recorded it for my album, Still Standing, it found some more success on internet radio through, charting at #1 for a short time on their charts and making it onto their first compilation disc. It was played on little indie stations all over the country. I remember being in Texas and driving by a station that was playing my music. I called them and did an interview right on the spot. It was also used for an indie film made by a Stanford student, Jessica Scalise, called "Cat Fight." Luanne and I went out to the premiere… It was so jarring to hear my voice bust out in the middle of the film!

And all this from a seemingly innocuous little ditty about an encounter with God.
I had forgotten about this, but a few years ago I was contacted by a Korean company who wanted to try to use my music in advertising in Asian countries. I gave them permission to pitch my songs. (I can only assume that this was a result of their efforts!) Anyway, I was recently contacted by them again, and it turns out that a Korean drama, Iris, is going to use the song when they re-dub the series and release it in Japan! How cool is that? I'm really excited about this opportunity, and my album is now going to be digitally distributed throughout Asia as well.

Here's a video of me doing the song at Hume Lake a couple of years ago (with a killer band - Ugur Taner and David Greco on guitar, Matt Henderson on drums and Carlos Silva on bass):

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