blogging

spoken words of magic…


as i’ve taught my students about spoken word the last few weeks, one of the cool things is to find fresh poems for them to have as examples. i’ve shown them my good friend James Wilson and slam poetry sensations Taylor Mali, Sarah Kay, and Buddy Wakefield. this is a wonderful poem by Buddy. by the way, i’ve been careful to edit for the students. enjoy…

 

Hurling Crowbirds at Mockingbars (Hope is Not a Course of Action)

By Buddy Wakefield

If we were created in God’s image
then when God was a child
he smushed fire ants with his fingertips
and avoided tough questions.
There are ways around being the go-to person
even for ourselves
even when the answer is clear
clear like the holy water Gentiles would drink
before they realized
forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.

I thought those were chime shells in your pocket
so I chucked a quarter at it
hoping to hear some part of you respond on a high note.
You acted like I was hurling crowbirds at mockingbars
and abandoned me for not making sense.
Evidently, I don’t experience things as rationally as you do.

For example, I know mercy
when I have enough money for the jukebox.
You know mercy whenever someone shoves a stick of morphine
straight up into your heart.
It felt amazing
the days you were happy to see me

so I smashed a beehive against the ocean
to try and make our splash last longer.
Remember all the honey
had me lookin’ like a jellyfish ape
but you walked off the water in a porcupine of light
strands of gold
drizzled out to the tips of your wasps.
This is an apology letter to the both of us
for how long it took me to let things go.

It was not my intention to make such a
production of the emptiness between us
playing tuba on the tombstone of a soprano
to try and keep some dead singer’s perspective alive.
It’s just that I coulda swore you had sung me a love song back there
and that you meant it
but I guess sometimes people just chew with their mouth open

so I ate ear plugs alive with my throat
hoping they’d get lodged deep enough inside the empty spots
that I wouldn’t have to hear you leaving
so I wouldn’t have to listen to my heart keep saying
all my eggs were in a basket of red flags
all my eyes to a bucket of blindfolds
in the cupboard with the muzzles and the gauze
ya know I didn’t mean to speed so far out and off
trying to drive your nickels to the well
when you were happy to let them wishes drop

but I still show up for gentleman practice
in the company of lead dancers
hoping their grace will get stuck in my shoes.
Is that a handsome shadow on my breath, sweet woman
or is it a cattle call in a school of fish?
Still dance with me
less like a waltz for panic
more for the way we’d hoped to swing
the night we took off everything
and we were swingin for the fences

don’t hold it against
my love
you know I wanna breath deeper than this
I didn’t mean to look so serious
didn’t mean to act like a filthy floor
didn’t mean to turn us both into a cutting board
but there were knives sstuck
in the words where I came from
too much time in the back of my words.
I pulled knives from my back and my words.
I cut trombones from the moment you slipped away

and I know it left me lookin’ like a knife fight, lady
boy I know it left me feelin’ like a shotgun shell
you know I know I mighta gone and lost my breath
but I wanna show ya how I found my breath
to death
it was buried under all the wind instruments
hidden in your castanets
goddamn –
if you ever wanna know how it felt when ya left –
if ya ever wanna come inside –

just knock on the spot
where I finally pressed STOP

playing musical chairs with your exit signs.

I’m gonna cause you a miracle
when you see the way I kept God’s image alive.

Forgiveness
is for anyone who needs safe passage through my mind.

If I really was created in God’s image
then when God was a boy
he wanted to grow up to be a man
a good man
and when God was a man
a good man
He started telling the truth in order to get honest responses.
He’d say,
“I know.
I really shoulda wore my cross
again
but I don’t wanna scare the gentiles off.”

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it was an accident…


“The truth is that nobody knows what that magic combination is that produces a first-rate piece of work….

All we can do is prepare the groundwork that allows for the ‘lucky accidents’ that make a first-rate movie happen.” Sidney Lumet

 

“Most of the good things in pictures happen by accident.” John Ford

 

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i typed those quotes wanting to talk about preparation, but then i decided to write about accidents. how many miraculous things come out of things that happen which are outside of our control. accident is often a negative word, because of the nature of accidents. often in an accident people are hurt or things are damaged due to them. but every once in a while, something accidentally happens that is a great thing. if it weren’t for accidents, we wouldn’t have Velcro, microwaves, post-it notes, or potato chips. also there are people who are famous by accident, including Mel Gibson, Evangeline Lilly and Marilyn Monroe. not that they weren’t talented or hardworking, it’s just that their big breaks came by being the right place at the right time.

lots of accidents happen on movie scenes and end up being left in the final edit, from Viggo Mortensen breaking toes, dodging knives and nearly drowning in the Lord of the Rings trilogy,  to beer cans being thrown at John Malkovich’s head as he had just come out of John Malkovich’s head. and one of my favorites from Midnight Cowboy, where an actual taxi nearly ran over Dustin Hoffman and he reacted by uttering the famous line “I’m walkin here!” the ultimate Sanford Meisner moment where an actual reaction was caught on film and became one of the most memorable lines in movie history. i’m sure it’s still quoted to new york cab drivers many times a day.

so sometimes accidents can be a good thing. i guess it depends on how you look at it.

excuse me a sec. what are you babbling about?


 

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain …and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal… Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club”

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this past tuesday, marked the 30th anniversary of March 24, 1984. the day that The Breakfast Club convened for saturday detention at Shermer High School. i’ve always loved this movie. who can not like the premise of these kids who start from all different walks of high school and by the end of one day forge friendships. we can only hope that they didn’t go back to being in their cliques the following monday. i like to think that Bender and Andrew spoke to Brian the next week. i like to think that Claire and Allison were able to acknowledge each other in the hall or even have a conversation. and i think that’s why John Hughes leaves us with the end the way it is. we have hope that the typical high school garbage can be overcome. we want to believe that, and that is why we love this movie. the scene at the end as Simple Minds anthemic “Don’t You, Forget About Me” plays while Brian’s character reads the essay Mr. Vernon tasked them to write is probably one of the impactful scenes for me from a movie. i mean, i was Brian in high school. so, maybe go watch The Breakfast Club sometime this week. and remember who you are.

play at your own risk…


“I want to risk hitting my head on the ceiling of my talent. I want to really test it out and say, ‘Okay, you’re not that good. You just reached the level here.’ I don’t ever want to fail, but I want to risk failure every time out of the gate.”-Quentin Tarantino

 

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that is an interesting quote from Tarantino. he’s one of my favorite directors and i love that he is talking about risk. i find it fascinating that he seems to be saying a failure is an end to his talent. i would say that if you are a risk taker, then failure is the beginning. you’ll never know how good you are until you’ve failed numerous times. but maybe i’m not grasping the context of the quote here. maybe he’s talking about failing at the very height of the ceiling, or maybe he is just saying he doesn’t like to fail. i don’t think any of us do, but i think we need to learn to embrace it if we are ever going to reach the apex of what our potential is. and there is a huge difference between failing and wallowing in that failure. i’ve been there. failure shouldn’t define us, it should inspire us to drag ourselves back up and do it again. so push through. allow yourself to create ceilings that you can bust through so that failure is the launching pad for the greatness within you. if you never take the chance, you will have a whole bunch of maybe’s and almost’s to talk about someday.

a book i picked up….


filmmaker

 

called “the Film-maker says” has been of enjoyment to me as of late. it’s little snippets and quotes from movie directors. i’ve used a few of them here as i write. they make great conversation starters, and i’ll use them in my classes as the year winds down.

i love a good quote. and this book is brimming over with not only great words, but contradictions on side by side pages. there are some quotes that are funny. some are sad. some are very thought provoking. it gives a little bit of insight from behind the camera that you might not always get. i recommend it for something to break the ice, or provoke thought.

“With some pictures, people leave the theater and it’s forgotten. If people see a picture of mine, and then sit down in a drugstore in a neighborhood or have coffee and talk about it for fifteen minutes, that is a very fine reward, I think. That’s good enough for me.” Billy Wilder

on writing…


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Give me a good script, and I’ll be a hundred times better as a director.

George Cukor

I read somewhere that David Mamet said there are no good actors, only good scripts. fitting coming from a playwright. i believe there are good actors. great interpreters, but i also believe they have to have great words to speak. i’ve seen so many great actors in plays and movies alike be horribly under-utilized and the limitations had to do completely with the story and the script.

so i say to all of you that write. write well. and i will say to all of you that act and direct, interpret well. the world needs better stories and better performances.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”  John Keating-Dead Poets Society

a dream of sorts


daydream

i have a few dreams for the creative things in my life. i want to make a record of songs written or co-written by me, and i want to make documentaries. i’ll be 43 this summer and sometimes i feel like the window is closing to do those things. there are a lot of songs, but i don’t know how many of them are album worthy, there are some great ideas for movies, but i often put those aside because of time and equipment contraints. i’ve written about fear before and that is a factor as well. i guess my question is, why haven’t i already started to make these dreams a reality? there can be a ton of excuses, but it really comes down to me just doing the things i need to do. not to worry about the money aspect of it. i could easily do a kickstarter campaign. not to worry about the creative part of it. i could easily ask a lot of my friends to contribute. not to worry about the equipment part. i have a good camera, all i need is a sound rig and a lens, heck i could even film on my iphone.

i wonder sometimes why God would allow me to have such great ideas, and not let me finish them, and i think it’s because He wants me to make them happen with other people. i realized this last week that creativity and the work can very easily be about one person. i naturally want the credit for greatness and i don’t have all of the tools to be great by myself. i have some of the components to make something great, but those components need to be shared with others while allowing others to share their greatness with me. i think that is why we need community. i love people, but often i will isolate myself from community. haven’t figured that one out yet. i do know that i am not an island and i need to create in the confines of community. i need to make the time to work with other people. i need that and so do they.

I tend to put down the auteur theory because a lot of people embraced it as a one man/one concept kind of thing, and making a movie is an ensemble.  Clint Eastwood

recovering a post


i wrote about my top 5 bands last year, and the post got lost, so i thought i would recover it today and add a band making it my top 6.

so here they are:

6. The Black Keys
black keys

if lo-fi is your aim then Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have you covered. lyrically they are prolific. musically and rhythmically they always keep me wondering where they will go. i love their scaled back approach and gritty sound. also anyone who would name an album after my favorite classic automobile has to make the list.

5. Travis
travis band

i first came across these Scottish rockers in about 2003 when i was living in the Houston area. i heard a cover of Britney Spears “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, and i was sold. many people describe Travis’ music as a soundtrack to park a running car in a garage, but they haven’t heard “Sing” if that’s the case. i’ve always thought that Coldplay just wished they were Travis.

4. Ben Folds Five
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Ben is one of my favorite artists ever, and when you put him in this power trio, magic happens. Robert and Darren’s bass and drums are the perfect complement to Ben’s keys. it’s like a jazz trio from the 50’s except they play balls out rock and drop the F bomb a lot. Ben calls it “punk rock for sissies”. they are known for pranking their audience at shows, and the Nashville concert from Ben’s studio that was broadcast live on myspace was pure magic. their live album is one of the 4 cd’s i keep in my car. it’s that good.

3. Gungor
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i met Michael Gungor in New York in 2006. he had won a grammy for “Friend of God” and “Say So”. he had a guitar strapped on his back and was a genuinely nice guy. fast forward to 2010 and the recreate conference in Nashville. Gungor debuts the album Beautiful Things live at the conference. mind. blown. i had not seen such artistry and musicianship in a long time. i’ve seen them about 6 times since and have not been disappointed. their live show is absolutely not to be missed. go buy their records now. now.

2. Wilco
wilco

my friend Todd bought me “A Ghost is Born” in 2005 and i never looked back. i had to have every record by this Chicago alt-rock outfit. Jeff Tweedy is just a genius and has surrounded himself with a most amazing band. lyrical perfection coupled with controlled musical chaos is how i would describe Wilco. they unleash tasty musical fare followed by 2 minutes of frenzy. i got to see them live in 2011 and it still stands as my favorite concert of all time.

1. Radiohead
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if you follow me on instagram, it says i like radiohead, you should too. i discovered the band as many people do with “Creep”, but knew there was more as i dug deeper. Thom Yorke has infected me. i can sit and listen for hours upon hours to their music. it wavers between melodic perfection and trancelike repetition. i hope someday to see them live. it’s a bucketlist item for me. and no i’m not pretentious.

so there you have it. my top 6 bands. go check them out.

i was ACTING!!


these top 5 lists are fun. i needed a fun break as i write.

so today, i’ll go with my top 5 actors. i don’t know if my list is on par with others, but it’s my opinion, and i like what i like.

5. Jack Nicholson

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just the incredible diversity and body of work he has done makes him one of my favorites. he’s been nominated for Academy Awards 12 times and he has won 3. he’s played the entire spectrum of roles from the Devil to a Marine Colonel. i mean he was the Joker for goodness sakes, and a great one at that. it really comes down to 5 words for me. “You Can’t Handle The Truth”. Brilliance. Genius.

4. Johnny Depp

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reclusive and just strange is how a lot of people describe Depp. i’ve been a fan of his for a while, Edward Scissorhands is personal favorite, long before his turn as Cap’n Jack Sparrow (which is a brilliant character). if you haven’t seen his work in Ed Wood, Donnie Brasco, or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, you’ve missed a master actor in some of his best moments. the character George Jung in Blow is unreal and his 3 Oscar nominations are way too few for this versatile and amazing actor.

3. Bill Murray

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a brilliant comedian, his delivery and demeanor early on probably cost him some serious roles, but when you think of iconic cult classics like Stripes, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and What About Bob, his characters take front and center. then add in his collaboration with Wes Anderson and you begin to see his brilliance. it’s a shame he has only been nominated for one Oscar and has never won. his portrayal of Franklin D. Roosevelt was overshadowed this year by another presidential performance. i think we might not have seen his best yet. “It’s in the Hole!!”

2. Morgan Freeman

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the man who could make a living on voicing Visa commercials alone is one of the most brilliant actors of his time. i mean he played Nelson Mandela. he was Easy Reader. he’s been nominated for five Academy Awards with one win, and how he didn’t win for Shawshank Redemption is beyond me. that might be one of the most brilliant and convincing performances i’ve ever seen on film. all amazing performances aside, the one line that sticks out to me is from his role as Lt. William Somerset in Se7en.  “There are seven deadly sins, Captain. Gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, pride, lust, and envy. Seven… You can expect five more of these.”

1. Christoph Waltz

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pretty much an unknown Austrian actor who spoke German until he was featured as SS Colonel Hans Landa in Quentin Tarrantino’s Inglorious Basterds. i remember leaning over to my friend after the opening scenes of the movie in which he masterfully flushes out a family of Jews being hidden under a farmhouse, and saying, “that is an Academy Award winning performance.” Waltz is 2 for 2 in Oscars with his second win this year for Django Unchained. i can’t explain how i just love to watch him take over a scene. his attention to craft and accuracy is amazing. it is frightening to watch him as he brings a calm, almost comedic presence to very dark characters. he is also probably one of the best interviews you will ever see on talk shows.  an amazing character actor who will probably never be a leading man, but it doesn’t matter.

who are your top 5 actors? honorable mention on my list are Kevin Spacey, Robert DeNiro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.

reading is FUNdamental


the other day i wrote about my top 5 worship songs. i like top 5 lists. top 10’s are very David Letterman, and top 20’s can be exhausting, besides a top 5 makes you really examine your favorites to get them down to the best.

so with or without fanfare, i present my top 5 books.

5. Fargo Rock City-Chuck Klosterman

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i actually checked this book out of the library and it was my first exposure to the genius that is Chuck Klosterman. his sharp witted essays about his love of Motley Crüe and the bleakness of North Dakota are brilliantly written and connect with the teenagers of the 80’s. he loves this genre of music and you can feel that passion come out in the book.

4. High Fidelity-Nick Hornby

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what? books about music that are my favorites? i wonder why? if you know me, then you know that i love all things English and this extends to my literature. Nick Hornby is as inventive a writer as i’ve read. his characters are so very flawed and very British that you can’t help but hurt with and pull for them. actually the idea for “top lists” comes from this book as it is a theme that weaves throughout. the main character, Rob, is an audiophile and has an extensive collection of vinyl and that makes me smile. he continually ascribes songs to feelings and ideas. music is rich throughout this book and Hornby writes from a level of expertise in a wonderfully relational style. side note, i like John Cusack in the movie version, but i hate it when Hollywood takes English novels and “Americanize” them.

3. No Country For Old Men-Cormac McCarthy

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oh, how i love Cormac McCarthy. i actually read a few of his books from the library. i started with All The Pretty Horses.  i picked this one up on a return trip and was mesmerized from the title page. Anton Chigur is the embodiment of evil. the character was so scary in the book that i had to remember that i was reading a work of fiction and not a real crime novel. the inner dialogue that Sherriff Ed Tom Bell provides in the interludes of action are beautifully rough and simple. i grew up in the region that the book is set in which makes it all the more real to me. when he describes the sheriff’s office in Sonora, or the open range where the drug deal gone wrong takes place, i can truly see it. masterful prose from a reclusive genius.

2. Chasing Francis-Ian Morgan Cron

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this book was recommended by Randy Elrod and i actually got to sit with the author at a SuperBowl party in Nashville in 2010 and talk about how awesome Led Zeppelin is. this book details the journey of a pastor named Chase who becomes disillusioned with his church and accepts an invite to visit his uncle in Italy where he has some supernatural experiences in the areas where St. Francis of Assisi lived and worked. it is a rich novel and Cron weaves beautiful ideas about life and God into the fictional story of this man who is struggling with who he thinks God is. you might also want to check out Cron’s book Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me (a memoir of sorts)

1. The Chronicles of Narnia-The Last Battle-C.S. Lewis

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i fell in love with this series at a young age. there was an old linen bound collection at the Dublin Public Library, and i spent the summer between fourth and fifth grade becoming well accustomed to the wilds of Narnia. actually the whole series is precious to me, but this book especially has my heart. because in this book, Aslan, my favorite literary character of all time, reaches the culmination of who he really is throughout the series. don’t laugh, but i seriously cry when Aslan appears in the books. some of my favorite prose that Lewis wrote is in this book.

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

so tell me your top 5. what do you like to read? and give me ideas for future top 5’s.