Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Two Life Questions

This morning, Holly and I were chatting about a book cover we are designing. It's a book about living with questions. It prompted us to ask each other what our two life questions are...that is, the two questions that, if answered, would make things alot clearer...or perhaps easier.

It was kind of a knee-jerk, on-the-spot thing...kinda like a Rorschach Test.

Holly answered that her's would be...
• How will I die? (...thinking of Big Fish and how it afforded him freedom...)
• How can I, with the skills/talents I have, bring the most goodness into the world?

Mine were...
• What am I supposed to do with my life?
• How are we to pay for it?

Funny that our questions were so existential and not theological or philosophical. Perhaps this shows what is really important to us.

What are yours?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

House Show Next Weekend in Oakland

If you're around next Saturday night (Dec 2nd), please swing by Casa Burnett in Oakland. Map is here. It should be a nice evening of music and conversation.

Feel free and download this poster and put it up on your blog, MYSPACE account, or at work. Can you dig?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Trav and Borat

My brother-in-law and Borat...in Sydney...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Oh Lord.

Ckeck this out.

Losing My Freaking Mind

It's been a rough day. Honestly, it's been a rough six weeks of parenthood.

Some things that have typified my days...

lack of sleep,
lots of coffee,
raised voices (usually me or Pax),
screams (usually just Pax),
general craziness,
too little time to do anything really,
hopes for doing a great many things,
willingness to give stuff up, but wondering what to give up,
schedules,
friends and family from out of town,
sugar highs (and lows),
washing clothes/stuff every other day,
loading/unloading the dishwasher,
staring at a garden that is doing nothing but growing weeds,
reading,
not reading enough,
canceling Netflix because it takes us a week to get through a movie completely,
smelling cat crap every time I enter our front yard (which angers me more because I paid $40 for chickenwire to fix that problem),
driving a dirty car,
always cleaning the house,
making a little time here and there for wine,
picking up the guitar,
putting it right back down,
arguing with my wife,
telling my child that I love him,
telling my child to shut up,
etc.

I took a nap this afternoon and still woke up sour. I am frustrated that my time to get anything done is determined by the length of his naps...which is generally 30 minutes - 1 hour these days. Who can do anything in that amount of time?

And it feels like he is back to crying all the time. Good Lord.

I was told that everything with a newborn is a phase...everything...good or bad. So don't ever expect anything to last too long.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Fun To Have Friends In Town

Emma from Colorado/Waco/Bangkok/Seoul...

And Matt and Brooke Gonzales from Oceanside...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Cobalt Season on the EV Podcast

We're featured on the latest Emergent Village Podcast with Troy Bronsink and Melvin Bray. It's an interview from almost a year ago. It's kind of wild to hear our thoughts at that time...well, sorta interesting to me anyways. Is that narccisistic?

THE SEVEN SOCIETY

So I haven't really blogged too much about this, but it's something I feel I ought to share in the interest of showing you a somewhat "fuller" picture of us and our life...since we spend a good deal of our time involved in it...

Part of the reason we moved to San Francisco (I have blogged about earlier, I know) is to be part of a community of kindred spirits. It seems that in our short lives, we have been a part of several communities, locally and internationally, and we wanted to find a place where we could set down some roots.

We, of course, considered several places to live, but San Francisco just made the most sense for this season of life. And it continues to.

So, in attempting to put some structure around this Common Kingdom Life that we're attempting, we took vows a couple weeks ago. There are seven vows, all rooted in the Way the Master lived. We, along with a dozen or so others (who have been working at pounding these out way longer than us), drafted up and conversed for months about what sort of Common Rule (or vows) we would take as a community, how long they would be for, how we would encourage folks to honor their vows, etc.

It's been a beautiful thing. We were a little put off at the vows seeming "prescriptiveness" early on, but once a part of the community, we found them easy to embrace...and, in many ways, we were already embracing many of them on an informal level.

So, a couple weeks ago, a bunch of us met at Mission Dolores Park and took these vows publically, with friends and family present. It was a beautiful thing.

We've realized that taking vows is evolutionary, not all-at-once. That is, introducing these new practices into one's life requires time and adjustment. So we are attempting to spend several weeks on each vow, listening to other voices in the community, sharing, helping along, etc.

We call ourselves the Seven Society...we want to create a counter-culture of mutual encouragement, missional-artifact creation, rootedness, mission of healing, balance and integration...in short, Kingdom lives.

Right now, we are working through our vow of simplicity. We'll be meeting several times in November and December to share budgets and finances, we will inventory all our possessions, we will be getting rid of our excess, etc. It's a beautiful thing...particularly in a season like now.

I've said to friends that I hope my life is at least good prophetic theatre. Doing stuff like this is difficult for me, but it also feels true to me. So here we are, attempting to follow the Master in our unique time and space, amidst friends, in San Francisco. And that's all I have to say about that...for now.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Scratch Trax

Craig came over today, and we recorded scratch tracks for 10 songs. He was a wonderful engineer (and photographer).

I'm thinking that most of these songs will end up on the new album...but probably not all of them. About half are piano-based and half are acoustic guitar-based. I'm still planning on writing a few more in the weeks to come. And then I'll start recording the album in the end of Nov / beginning of Dec.

I uploaded one scratch track at The Cobalt Season MYSPACE account. It's called HOME. Check it out yo. And enjoy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You Might Find This Helpful

A Guide to Produce: Which Fruits and Vegetables are Better Organic as rated by the amount of pesticides generally on sprayed on them.

I printed one off and stuck it on our fridge so we can prioritize our organic purchases. Certainly it'd be great to go all organic, but when you can't find certain things or can't afford the full switch, this might prove helpful.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hegemony or Survival
Chapter 2a: Imperial Grand Strategy

See Chapter 1.

So far I have only read through page 36, which seems a good half-way point for this chapter. Geez this book is heavy...but enlightening as well. This chapter seems to focus on the US operating as rogue state and utilizing the UN for it's own ends as opposed to submitting itself to it.

Chomsky begins by quoting the White House's National Security Strategy:

Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.

He goes on to define the Iraq war (and really all wars on terror at this point) not as preemptive, but as preventive...very different. [Read that again.] In fact, he says that preventive might be too charitable a way of putting it.

Quoting from Arthur Schlesinger (historian and Kenedy adviser):

The president has adopted a policy of "anticipatory self-defense" that is alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl Harbor...The global wave of sympathy that engulfed the United States after 9-11 has given way to a global wave of hatred of American arrogance and militarism [and even in friendly countries the public regards Bush] as a greater threat to peace than Saddam Hussein.


Wow.

Chomsky goes on to show how the powerful write the rules. The US government has used international law when it suited them...and disreguarded it when it was inconvenient, often choosing military action over diplomacy or international law because it was considered expedient for "the national interest." When the UN fails to serve as "an instrument of American unilateralism" on issues of elite concern, it is dismissed.

After the Iraq war, the UN again proved "irrelevant," because its "complicated trade system for Iraq" caused problems for US companies granted contracts under US military rule.
Here's some recent information about contractors and oversight.

I wish to interact with these thoughts as a follower of the Way of Jesus, who seemed to have some things to say about retaliation...on personal, communal, and, I'd say, societal levels. He pointed to a higher way of being...a truer way.

Now I understand that different folks understand differently how Jesus' teachings intersect with culture. I still find a strong case for thinking that Jesus was calling humanity (not Christianity) to a higher way. This Kingdom (the way the world could work if truly right/good) was for all, his temple a house of prayer for all nations.

The ideas of preventive war seem nothing more than empire-building to me, amassing unmatched power and exerting it through force...how can these things be ethical? I understand that self-defense is being called into question (How did Christ respond to that?), but not just self-defense. It is going after anyone who the US government would consider a threat to their position as head of the human household. Can this really even be called self-defense under any sort of ethical definition?

And what of setting up democracies? One principle remains invariant: the US must end up in effective control of Iraq, under some fa├žade of democracy if that proves feasible.

The US will "enforce the just demands of the world" even if the world overwhelmingly objects.

Could things change? Perhaps the US is at a place to take stock of its place in the world. Dr. Bello has some interesting thoughts about where we could go from here.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Some Updates

It has been a crazy past few weeks...adjusting to life with Paxton, having family in town, attempting to get work done, writing for a new album, looking forward with schedules, getting plugged into our community here.

For stuff about Pax, click here to check out his blog. I'm updating it every day (which is why posts have been more infrequent here).

Holly and I have committed to be here for at least a year (or so it says on our lease). But seriously, we did just commit to some common vows with other friends in the area. We are part of a small community of folks who want to discover more fully what it means to live in a truly good way, as the Master has called us to. We'll be launching this site as a place for discussion and news about any upcoming events, like our "Giving Stuff Away Day" which will be on Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving.

This group of people have become dear friends in the area...and are a good part of the reason we moved here.

On Monday, some of us are going to make an early morning start down to Burlingame for the Business of God seminar. It sounds like a cool deal...discussions around doing business with Kingdom ethics.

On Thursday, Craig is to come over to help me record scratch tracks for the first 10 or so songs for the album. I'll hope to post a song or two around here or on MYSPACE.

Also, we've a friend coming into town next weekend, Emma. She's someone we met in Thailand...and she spends her time between Nepal, Bangkok, Cambodia, and soon S. Korea. I just pitched to her the option of going to the Alemany Farm (just down the street from us) and harvesting for the afternoon (and getting some of the bounty!). Anyone else interested?

Later this month, we'll be a part of another Emmaues Road Cohort, hoping to connect with others who are wondering some of the same things we are about life, God, spirituality, economics, and the like.

Some Cobalt Season shows are coming up...that's pretty exciting for us. One in Oakland on Dec 2nd, one in Sacramento the following Saturday (Dec 9th), and then one in SF (possibly at our place) on Dec 10th. All free. All with Deccatree and Brett Bixby.

Please download the image and post it on your blog or print it out and put it up at work or places you frequent. We'd be mighty obliged.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Holy Zinfandel, Batman!

These guys make a lovely estate-grown Zinfandel. They have a small 6-acre crop of 16-year-old vines just miles from Yosemite at the foothills of the Sierras. I am really bummed that we didn't visit their estate. We will plan on making a trip out there soon enough...anyone care to join? Husband and wife team who decided to start a new life in Mariposa County as wine-growers and vintners. Brilliant!

We have only had their 2004 Zinfandel...and it was amazing. Spicey and fruity, with subtle sophistication. Tasty. It was so good I called the owners to tell them so and to see if SharpSeven could design their next wine label. We shall see about that.

Have I told you about my dream to some day own land with a vineyard on it and make the best Zin around? And I spoke with the owner for a half an hour or so today on the phone. She tells me that land prices in and around Mariposa County are down. Perhaps now's the time to buy? Live in a yurt until I could build some sort of earth-shelter or eco-home? Commune? Anyone out there feelin' me?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Honesty and Relationality

Well, Holly and I (and Pax) just got in from a 2-day, 1-night trip to Yosemite with my Dad and Stepmom. It was a good, albeit tiring, time. I tasted some of my newly favorite zinfandel. I'll find their site and blog about that later.

The last few days have been searching for me, being with my father and stepmom. We are on very different (yet sometimes very similar) paths. It's always interesting to attempt to engage in conversation with them. It's as if we speak different languages, but share some common words. The words mean different things to us though...and that's difficult.

In the last couple days we discussed the tragedy of Ted Haggard. I also heard about yet another pastor who had "fallen" and had been let go of by his faith community. I also heard about a 1-800 number that Dobson (or someone else?) set up for pastors to call in to anonymously report their struggles with infidelities or homosexuality or whatnot. Apparently, like 600 pastors a month have been calling in.

It really got me thinking. That's really sad that the solution for all this crisis is an anonymous hotline. I hate to be a critic of a solution, but honestly...anonymity? Is that really helping anything? As I said in the last post, Craig reflected on how this Haggard situation indicts the whole system. I think that a call to real, honest relationships with people is the only way that stuff like this can be properly "dealt with" and that people possessing that sort of fame and power are products of a system where you are more honored and perhaps even "Godly" if you keep all your shit to yourself.

So, that being said, let me share an alternative.

For the last several years of my life (back into High School even), I have always remembered struggling with pornography. It's always been there.

I thought when I got married this would change. It didn't. I soon met others who said the same thing. Holly has known about this for a long time...even her knowing didn't necessarily cause me to change my behavior (although it always pained me to report it to her).

This last year for Holly and I was a year of attempting community in experimental ways. If we really believed that we could not journey through the most difficult parts of life without community, why not explore the boundaries of that. I shared my struggles with so many of the guys I saw along our pilgrimage. It was amazing to hear others' stories of struggle, addiction, pain, emptiness...and sometimes hope. It was both freeing and salvific.

You know, I don't mean this post to paint me in some sort of saintly light...a Pauline "follow me as I follow Christ"...but I must report how healing those conversations with real friends were. It was in real relationships that we are healed...not in some 1-800 anonymous hotline.

I feel bad for all these pastors who slept with whoever. Really, I feel for them and their family. Who likes to have their past catch up with them when there are skeletons in their closet? But can I speak frankly? Some of us would propose that a person given that sort of "power" amidst a community might be a bad idea. Elevating the pastor (as so many in this tradition do) to the status of God's Interpretor is just plain dangerous. And stages do nothing but promote double-lives. Trust me. This I know to be true from personal experience.

So what are we to do? Begin to honestly engage with each other about how fucked up we are...and remind each other about how beautiful we are...and realize that that sort of honesty is a good place to begin...even if it's way messier.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Heavy Weekend.

As many of you know, this has been a heavy last few days in the news. Ted Haggard was officially dismissed from his duties for immoral conduct. Craig's latest podcast regarding that whole incident is quite thoughtful. Will's post was great as well.

Also, I read this...

Associated Press:
Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced Sunday to hang for crimes against humanity in the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shiite town, as the ousted leader, trembling and defiant, shouted "God is great!"

As he, his half brother and another senior official in his regime were convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal, Saddam yelled out, "Long live the people and death to their enemies. Long live the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!" Later, his lawyer said the former dictator had called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and refrain from revenge against U.S. forces…


Wow. I wonder what the backlash of this will be. It's amazing how certain people can become heroes with enough time passed and the right conditions.

Also, filmmaker Robert Greenwald was on Bill Maher as captured here. Good interview discussing his latest film entitled, Iraq for Sale. You might remember Greenwald's last film on WAL-MART called The High Cost of Low Prices. I'm excited to get my hands on this latest film and do a film night at our place. Perhaps pair it with a book club around Confessions of an Economic Hitman?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Looking for Some Executive Producers

Well today is a brand new day, I'll start again...

So, as I said, I have begun writing for a new album. I have about 7 songs done thus far...and I hope to work with some other musicians to get this album created. It will be a largely piano-based record, still with the same folky feel of But I Tell You. I had thought about going in a different direction, but Holly says, Ryan, you're a really good folky singer-songwriter. Don't try to be something different. Damn, I think she might be right.

So, I have started down this path. Next week, I'll begin recording some scratch tracks of the first few songs. But I have already run into a dilemma. This album is going to cost me more than I have currently...and being that we didn't really profit off the last album (which was never the goal anyway...although it did help offset some of the cost of travel), we don't really have a pool to draw from. It's caused me to wonder if there might be some sort of community-supported artistry that we could conceive of.

I wonder if you would you be interested in partnering with me in this album as an executive producer? All it means is saying that you believe in what I'm doing and want to help get this album created without me going broke. You would be part of a community that would help get this album produced. I feel a bit lame posting this on my blog and not emailing friends that I think might be interested, but I also feel lame asking for financial support, so this seemed the best bet.

Would this be of interest to you?

Costs involved...

• Used MacBook - Purchased by selling iBook and some gear
• Used Studio Monitors - Purchased by selling some gear

• Mastering
• Duplication/Printing

Incentives would include...

• An executive producer credit
• Several copies of the album when it comes out
• And a rare :) copy of the scratch tracks in the weeks ahead
• Oh, and a house show (which are always free of charge, but I'd bring some of my homebrew perhaps)

And you'd get the gratification of supporting and partnering with an artist in a unique way. I am not looking for one single "sugar daddy (or momma)", but rather a few people who would partner in this together. And there would be no financial incentive for you in this (just to be clear!).

What do you think? Would you be interested? If you are, email me or call and we can chat about details. Or comment here telling me how much of a moocher I am for asking of this...and then I'll just delete this post and never recall it if you bring it up in future conversation.