Would Jesus Want to See a Cross?

A lot of Christians wear crosses around their necks. You think when Jesus comes back he ever wants to see a fucking cross? It’s like going up to Jackie Onassis wearing a rifle pendant.  - Bill Hicks

I’d be lying if I said I knew Hicks work that well, though I certainly have heard of him.  Mark, our saxophone player, tipped me off to this quote last night.  I have always thought it strange that many people’s symbol of hope is also a symbol of one of the most excruciating ways to die possible.  Do some reading on crucifixtions sometime, it’s horrible!  If you really wanted to follow Jesus wouldn’t it be better to wear some kind of symbol of love or peace or understanding?  That is why I find things like The Passion of the Christ so wrongheaded,  it dwells on all of the wrong things.  But then again, I guess most churches do the same….

A Little Bit of Magic

I have just put up over 900 posts since I started this blog in August of last year.  Slowly, but surely, the amount of people coming here has grown.  I can’t thank all of you enough for spending time here.

The first thought I have when I write something is, “Why would anyone care?”  I can only hope that there is enough people out there that have somewhat similar interests to me.  I’m throwing baseballs blindly over a wall and hoping that there are people on the other side to catch them.  I have only kept writing in public because of those of you that keep coming back.

Last night I played music in front of what looked like a couple thousand people at a festival in Conroe, Texas.  However, I have played plenty of nights where there were maybe five or ten people in the audience.  No matter what I try to always play my best.  When we read we read alone.  How many times have you gone to a movie and been one of the only people in the theater?  There is still that chance that that book or movie or album or live performance might connect with someone.  I can think of all the times that something connected with me in an important way when there was no one else to experience it.  Everyone matters.  If you do something and it even reaches even one person it has value.  That person’s life has as much value as your own or anyone else’s.  A connection with even one other soul has a little bit of magic in it.  As long as someone keeps coming back I will keep writing.

Thanks again to all of you that keep coming here.  If you would be kind enough to tell other’s of my writing I would be eternally grateful.

In the future when all’s well…

Jeff

New Haruki Murakami Book

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For those readers out there, another one of the world’s current great authors, Haruki Murakami, also has a new book out.  It’s called Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.  My favorite three books of his are probably Kafka On the Shore, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.  I think that The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is probably his masterpiece, but Kafka On the Shore is probably the best place to start as it is more accessible.

For anyone that has seen a David Lynch movie, Murakami has the same sense of the uncanny that Lynch has.  He has the ability to make the everyday seem strange and haunting.

I spent time in Japan last year and I have been interested in their culture for a long time.  After going there I read a little bit about their culture.  Because they have stricter rules than us concerning personal interaction they are more comfortable with ambiguity.  There is a certain amount of ambiguity and abstraction even built into their language.  Often what is meant is inferred by body language and facial expression, instead of being overtly expressed.  I’ve commented before that this plays a role in their art.  If you watch any movies that are wildly popular in Japan, they will seem much more surreal than our popular entertainment.  Anyone that has seen movies like Spirited Away can attest to that.  Murakami’s work, although it can be extremely realistic at times, also has many moments of this surrealism as well.

I love art that has a certain dream logic to it, as I often see the world as being dreamlike.  If this is something you find yourself drawn to then I highly recommend that you check out Murakami’s work.

More Thoughts on The Bone Clocks

I can’t stop thinking about David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks since I read it.  I can’t stress enough that if you really like to read, if getting lost in a book is one of your favorite pastimes, then this is a book you should check out.  This book is intelligent.  It deals with the big themes of our time.  It deals in both realism and fantasy with equal skill.  However, more than anything it is just a simply wonderful read.  This is a book written for people that love books.  This was one of those rare times when I felt like my mind and soul were expanded by reading, and at the same time every moment of reading this book was a pleasurable experience.  David Mitchell is that rare writer and magician that feeds the heart and mind in equal measures.

The Bone Clocks Review

I have just finished one of the best books that I have ever read.  That book is David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks.   Mitchell is as much a magician as he is an author.  He can take you anywhere in time and place, real or imagined, and not only make that world come alive, but keep your attention, making you want to see what happens next.

The book consists of six stories in which all but two are told by different narrators.  All of these stories take place in different time periods from 1984 to 2043, although there are flashbacks to much earlier time periods as well.  Mitchell can write with complete realism or dive into the world of total fantasy, and he is adept at both styles.

There are writers that can make you think and writers that can spin a yarn, but rarely do the those talents exist in the same writer.  Mitchell is one of the few that can write a page turner and make you ponder the larger questions of life.

Mitchell’s earlier masterpiece Cloud Atlas is worth reading as well.  However, I know that some people will not make it through Cloud Atlas because I have always seen the book as structured like a mountain.  It takes some work getting up the first half as you adapt to the different uses of language and style.  Once you get to the mountaintop, you won’t be able to stop reading and the second half is a breeze.

I think there can be a good debate over which book is better, Cloud Atlas or this one.  However, I do feel Mitchell was able to keep a lot of the sweeping themes and ideas from Cloud Atlas in this book and actually write something that was more entertaining from the start.  After about 20 or 30 pages in I simply could not put this book down.  Some people will rate this book lower because it is less of a challenge, and I myself am not sure which book is better, but I actually think a great book does not have to be hard to read.  I’m a huge fan of George Orwell because he was able to convey such complex thinking in such simple readable language.

To convey too much of the plot of The Bone Clocks would be to ruin it for those willing to explore its many worlds.  This book demonstrates the power of the imagination.  It is full of heart and heartbreak.  It will make you take a hard look at the world around you and somehow allow you to escape as only the best stories can.  Most importantly it is a book full of empathy for us flawed creatures called human beings. This book is for those that are willing to look at the hard truth of the world and at the same time dream of a better one.  For anyone that has loved being lost in a book on a rainy day, I can’t recommend any book more highly than this.

The Empathy of David Mitchell

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I am about three quarters of the way through the new David Mitchell book, The Bone Clocks.  Although there is always the possibility that Mitchell won’t land the ending, and the ending of anything matters, so far I can’t help but feel this book is a masterpiece.  At different times throughout the journey I was highly engrossed in an extremely realistic description of a journalist in the Iraq War, the life of a serf in Tsarist Russian, a dark comedy featuring a modern writer, and science fiction action scenes that seemed as if they came out of a blockbuster movie.  Those are just a few of the different styles and perspectives that Mitchell weaves seamlessly in this book.

Although I can’t claim to know exactly what goes on in Mitchell’s head, I feel that after reading all of his books, except for the small amount of this one to go, that there is a purpose to all of these different styles and characters.  I think Mitchell understands that the only tribe that matters is the human race.  Most of the time when human beings treat each other poorly, it is because they put their tribe first.  That tribe can be a political, religious, or ethnic tribe.  It is seeing themselves as being more important than someone else.  It is the ability to not be able to imagine oneself in another’s shoes, to feel enough empathy.  Mitchell takes us inside the head of many different kinds of people and he does so using many literary techniques.

Again, I want to hold off final judgment until I finish the book, but Mitchell might have just painted a masterpiece.  Mitchell uses many of the the same techniques that brought him such acclaim in Cloud Atlas, but if anything this book might actually might be more entertaining from story one.  I can’t put it down, and haven’t been able to since I started.  Stay tuned for more about this book in the future, but you might want to check it out yourself in the meantime.

Knockin’ On Mine

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Alright, you read common knowledge, stockpile your brain
You get burned in the sun, you get wet in the rain
What they teach you to fix, needs to be broke
I say, he who laughs first didn’t get the joke
Go on, untap your mind, quit knocking on mine

An English teacher from Vancouver
She asked me to write something for her students
I wrote knowledge adds, wisdom let slide
She says now really? I wanna tap your mind

Quit knockin’ on mine
Walkin’ on
Knockin’ on mine

Knowledge is power, got your books go read ‘em
Wisdom is ignorance, stupidity, I call freedom
Knockin’ on mine, get out

Comic books, the Bible, road maps, pornography
Anything you wanna read
Go out and sit in a field sometime

Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)
Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)

Power got your books go read ‘em
Wisdom is ignorance, stupidity, I call freedom
Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)

You read common knowledge every day
You’re as common as that newspaper you throw away
You get burned in the sun, you get wet in the rain
Won’t you ever change, won’t you ever learn?

Quit knockin’ on mine
(Knockin’ on mine)

Knockin’ On Mine by Paul Westerberg.  I remember hearing this song when I was around 13 or 14 and being surprised that there was a rock n roll song about reading, one that actually rocked no less.  I was used to the songs that were on the radio that were about having fun and partying all of the time.  As I grow older I realize that it’s ideas that are most subversive of all.  Anyone just singing about whiskey all of the time is selling you fake rebellion.