Monday, September 26, 2011

You... yes, you... are a bird of paradise.

Last night’s food for thought: a documentary called Bill Cunningham New York... it really turned my brain around! Bill Cunningham is an 83-year-old photographer who has two regular spreads in the New York Times – one featuring society parties, and the other, people in the street and what they are wearing.

Even though I am not particularly well dressed most of the time, I am fascinated by fashion. I love to have fun with what I wear, and ever since I was a kid I’ve watched how people dressed. Even when we were kids, if my sister and I were stuck somewhere waiting on our mother who, to put it kindly, likes to take her time... well, we’d pass the time watching the people’s shoes... We’d say the shoes under our breath as the people walked by... “wallabee... topsider... tennis shoe..." and, yes, we judged them. Because in our opinion it was really shoes that could make or break an outfit. Because when you’re a 12-year-old girl from a small tobacco town in North Carolina, you really know fashion, right? (In our defense, we did wear out our mom’s monthly copies of Vogue...)

Anyway, this guy Bill Cunningham, spends his time riding a bicycle around  – even at 83 – photographing the fashion parade that is New York City by day, then is off to balls and galas at night, taking snaps of debutantes and socialites...

You would think that as fashion professional, he would be picky... even judgemental about people’s fashion choices, but, as one of the people commenting in the movie says, Bill is  a true egalitarian. He loves the everyday people he sees on the streets, the socialites like Brooke Astor, and the drag queens that rule the night equally. And it is true that, while he covers the runway shows he has a discriminating eye that can nail it when a designer has shown true edge, and when a real trend is being created. In short, he is hard on the designers – but only in the sense that he wants them to be at their creative best... not copycats. Meanwhile, he shows tremendous grace to the people who are out there on the street wearing the clothes.

It reminds me of how Jesus expected a great deal from the religious leaders of his day, but showed great grace to the ordinary folks. (Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.) 

Bill Cunningham says he simply loves photographing beautiful women dressed beautifully, and is always on the lookout for some glorious bird of paradise... But he also snaps everyday people wearing everyday clothes in their own way. You can tell he loves every kind of person. 

A former colleague tells the story of his break with the fashion industry publication W. He had compiled a photo essay of designer fashions worn by models on the runway to be shown side-by-side with women he’s seen on the streets wearing the same clothes. His intent was to show how women made these striking pieces worked for themselves in the real world... The editors of the magazine, however had their own plan. They made it into sort of a “DOs and DON’Ts” column, making fun of the ordinary women. Well, Bill was livid... and that was the end of his relationship with THAT magazine!

Yes, Bill Cunningham is loaded with integrity, humility, kindness, enthusiasm, and ... eccentricities. Until recently he lived alone in his studio in Carnegie hall, sleeping on a cot amidst a forest of file cabinets and attending church every Sunday... And I learned a lot from the peek into his life that the movie gave me.

So... what did I learn? That EVERYONE is beautiful... Of course it’s more fun to be creative, and to see people who have been creative with their clothes... but every fashion choice communicates something, and everyone is worth listening to. Even if all they are trying to say is: “I value comfort” or “I like to blend in” or “I read fashion magazines” or “This is what they make me wear to work” or “I have great legs” or, a favorite: “I just don’t care.”

So, you, sitting there reading this... whatever you have on... you’re beautiful, and I hear what you’re saying!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Close your eyes and think of England...

A scene from Oliver!
"Please sir may I have
some more?"
Hi, my name is Julie and I’m an unapologetic Anglophile. I fully admit to being enamoured (British spelling) of all things that find their source in the British Isles.

It all started on my eighth birthday when my parents took me and a few friends to see the movie musical Oliver! at Oxford’s once beautiful but now shabby Art Deco movie house The Orpheum. (I think it’s a law office now!) The majority of this film is set in the grimy end of Industrial Era London, so... not pretty... But I couldn’t get enough of those little boys and their accents. I had to see it again. And again. I think that began my habit of viewing movies over and over.
The hot guys in Braveheart

And I have carried this love for Albion around with me ever since. I love Elton John, the Beatles, Van Morrison, U2, The Who, The Jam, Elvis Costello, Robyn Hitchcock, Julian Cope, and so many other of Britain’s musicians. I suck in movies from Braveheart to Trainspotting; Circle of Friends to The Field; Much Ado about Nothing to The King’s Speech. I drink deep of British television... Monty Python, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Luther, The Hour, Downton Abbey... I love Kenneth Branagh, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman... I have read Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Stephen Lawhead (not British, I know, but his books are full of Britain's mythic history), Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens... 
If only the Doctor could
take me there now!

A while back I was fortunate to visit England. I took a bus tour around from London, out to Wales, up to Edinburgh, down to Cambridge. I loved the patchwork quilt of fields, the omnipresent sheep, the quaint little cottages with their wild, fantastic gardens. Amazing how much a constant drizzle will do for flowers, right? And the history... going to Holyrood Castle and seeing where the private secretary of Mary Queen of Scots was murdered... In the U.S. we think a building is old if it's been around for, say, a century. "George Washington slept here" is a great boast around here. In England, there are (working) bars that go back to the 1100s!

Why the sun never sets on it: The red areas show
places that are or were British.
On another trip, I stayed in London for a week. I basically spent the entire time just walking around looking at stuff. And everywhere I went, there was stuff to see... Walk down nearly any street and you’ll see a marker, like... “this is where Charles Dickens wrote 8 books” or “this is the grave of Charles Wesley” or “Jane Austen used to live here”... I went to Buckingham Palace, Harrod's, the V&A Museum, John Wesley’s house, the British Museum, where they have, among other things, the manuscript of Yesterday (AKA Scrambled Eggs) in Paul McCartney’s own hand, a Gutenburg Bible, mummies and the Rosetta Stone.

No caption needed!
Sometimes I wonder why it is all so appealing to me... my heritage? Is it calling out to the WASPy blood that runs through my veins? Or have I just read too many fairy tales? I know Britain has its problems – all through history... I mean, they said at one time, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” What was that all about? Such a tiny island... and it climbed so high...? Of course, this makes for some really good movie villains... Bill Sykes in Oliver!, Longshanks and just about any English soldier in Braveheart, Colonel Tavington in The Patriot, Voldemort in the Harry Potter films and Alan Rickman in just about anything!
The last word.

And, really, I don’t even mind the food terribly much. You just have to choose carefully. If the blood pudding grosses you out, don’t eat it! Eat the good plain food they have, fresh grainy breads, creamy, rich dairy products... and the sweets. You gotta love a country where the wait person serves you a delicious dessert, then, unless you tell them not to, ladles pure, sweet cream all over it. As Rachel Ray would say, “Yum-o!”

And if you are still not convinced on the beauty and magic of the British Isles, I have one last word for your consideration: GUINNESS.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I have some other, random thoughts about my trip to South Carolina and Savannah GA, that I will share with you now:

1. I had forgotten what it was like to travel only with my husband (as opposed to family trips). Forget the sensible snacks that I pack for Bill – raisins, crackers, nuts – no, if it’s just us, we stop for cookies! Nice. Tom also likes to stop at Target sometimes when we spot one from the highway. I am always up for this. 

In addition, when we travel, I usually have to keep Bill talking and telling stories so he won’t get car sick. Instead, we listened to the BBC world news and an interesting audiobook about George Washington, who was, according to this book, kind of a climber.

Savannah, GA – part lady...
2. South of the Border – what’s up with THAT?! Trivia fact: One side of my family is descended from a man named McKellar who at one time owned the land SOTB is built on. I’m not proud of the fact that he is said to have terrorized the Native American population of the area. I apologize now for my ancestor.

3. On the way down a trucker honked at us. It took us both a few minutes to figure out why... He was actually expressing his approval of my legs, as I was wearing a short skirt and sitting with my feet up on the dashboard. It’s been a while since a dude whistled or committed a similar act of flattery towards me. It sort of made my day!
... part tramp.

4. Savannah is part Spanish-moss-draped, elegant Southern lady – with her gardens and stately mansions, part trashy tourist trap (or “tramp” if we’re going to continue the city-as-a-female theme)... lots of stores selling salt-water taffy and silly t-shirts that say stuff like, “I like to put ketchup on my ketchup” and “Does this shirt make me look drunk?”

5. I couldn’t walk by the Mercer Williams House in Savannah without drawling, “Libation?” like Kevin Spacey does in the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil movie.

Kevin Spacey with a
libation in Midnight in
the Garden
6. It was an hour wait when we checked, to eat at The Lady and Sons, Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah... We declined, but peeked in the window at the buffet. It looked not unlike the steam table at K&W.

7. The Hilton Head area must have even stricter signage regulations than Chapel Hill...! The highway boasted all the popular joints: Subway, Target, KFC, McDonald’s... but you could barely distinguish them from one another, with their uniformly tasteful sand-colored signs.

The Mercer Williams House
8. At the various wedding festivities, the bride and groom had stamped their brand on everything: napkins, water bottle labels, beer coozies, gift bags, hand towels in the powder rooms, souvenir cookie tins... They had so many printed pieces proclaiming their union, and helping guests navigate the weekend, that I wondered, “As a graphic designer, how can I get a piece of this action?” Know any wedding planners you could hook me up with?

People will wait for hours to eat
at Paula Deen's restaurant.
9. The guest book was a printed book of photos – professionally taken couple/engagement/bridal photos, and also vintage shots of the bride and groom – with space for people to sign and write notes. I could really use a lead on that kind of market, too! I’d be glad to put together photo books for people. I made one for my mom’s 80th birthday last year and it was a BIG hit.

10. I can’t think of a 10th point right now – I’m sure I will after I’ve posted. I wrote some things down in my notes, but now have no idea what they mean! Why did I write, “McDonald’s” and “magazine”? I guess you’ll never know.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yes, There is Such a Thing as Red Velvet Cake Shooters.

I’ve been away... did you notice? I was in South Carolina for the wedding of my husband’s cousin... and what a wedding it was! I am pretty sure you’ve never been to one like it... It began on Friday night with a big party - a “Low Country Boil.” Tons of seafood, two roasted pigs, great salads and breads, followed by peach cobbler and a s’mores station, plus all you could ever hope to drink. They had a live band, and a little kiosk of candy. They gave speeches, a few people danced, and we all left the gorgeous venue by the river stuffed and happy.

The place they chose to have the wedding and all its festivities was called Palmetto Bluff, a lovely resort by the May River in South Carolina – not too far from Hilton Head. I have really never seen anything like it... forests draped with Spanish Moss... cute little buildings among the ruins of an old country estate. 

Palmetto Bluff used to be a country estate, now it's
a place for rich people to vacation or get married.
But that was just the setting... Tom and I spent Saturday in Savannah, then arrived back at the Bluffs around 5pm for the “pre-wedding cocktails.” People in fancy clothes strolled around the grounds sipping on gimlets and champagne, waiting for the wedding... which lasted all of 10 minutes. It was a lovely ceremony, though, performed in the name of Jesus Christ and accompanied by a string quartet playing familiar wedding tunes.

The reception followed, of course, under a huge gossamer-y tent. Again – a full bar, really tasty appetizers (deep fried macaroni and cheese balls, antipasto, shrimp, sushi, bruschetta, little goat cheese tarts... I don’t even think I can name all the things we had.)

After this... dinner to a mellow jazz band. Steak and fish both... salads, vegetables, risotto cakes, wine... The bride and groom danced, the bride and her father danced, the groom and his mother cut a rug... they gave toasts and speeches... people cried. The groom told us all, “I know this is lavish, but consider it our thanks to you for all you’ve done for us.” Of course, I didn’t really know the couple well at all, so I was just enjoying the benefits of everything everyone else had done. But I’m not going to say no to that!

This is where we ate cake and watched the fireworks.
The cake was a beautiful tower of sugar and fondant - vanilla layers and chocolate layers, with pecan pie filling.... insanely delicious. So the bride and groom performed the traditional cake cutting ritual, we all applauded and... over the river... fireworks!! For about 5 minutes we all ooh-ed and ah-ed over the beautiful display, then milled around eating the cake, plus brownies, red velvet cake shooters(?!), pecan tarts, key lime tarts... and, of course, a full bar. 

So this all sounds... well, like how could there be more, right? But there was. Soon we heard rock music and were told to make our way upstairs for dancing... The band was one of those that plays covers for corporate events, but it was actually just right for what it was. We all danced and drank more and enjoyed being with each other... and that’s when it hit me...

It was a like a picture of heaven... the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. There were some unique things about this particular wedding that really resonated with me, made me think of our heavenly reward. First of all, the groom himself planned this amazing celebration. I heard one of his friends say, “He said he wanted to give her the wedding of her dreams... but I don’t think she could have dreamed of this...!” In the same way, when the bride, the church, finally meets her groom, Christ, at the altar, it will be more than and other than she (we) could ever dream of. Every time we turn around, something will happen that will surprise and amaze... like fireworks!

While we were dancing to hits like Tom Petty’s American Girl, Steve Miller’s The Joker and Ce-Lo Green’s Forget You, I looked around the dance floor and thought... “it’s just like heaven!” Not everyone was a good dancer, the music may not have been everyone’s favorite... but there we all were... friends and family, old and young, the Marine general, the attorneys, the car salesmen from the groom’s dealership... cutting our fabulous rugs and celebrating the union of the happy couple. 

Speaking of amazing surprises, while we were all dancing, waiters circulated with little plates of tiny hamburgers and fries, and little cups of tomato soup with a cube of grilled cheese sandwich on top... I’m not sure who had room for more food... but it was still amazing! We left around midnight, but I’m told that around 2am, just before the party shut down, they brought out freshly baked cookies!

My husband and I joked that they might have purchased a deluxe wedding package – most likely called, the “more-money-than-sense” wedding package. It reminded me of the story about the woman anointing Jesus feet with perfume and people judging her for “wasting” money that could be used to feed the poor. I told my husband this and he said something like, “Joe’s not Jesus!” And he’s right... the amount of waste involved at this particular event does seem kind of obscene... but the symbolism is not wasted on me at all... I have a huge hunch that Jesus, our groom, will not spare any expense when it is time for us to be united with Him. And as for the constant open bars... well, didn’t Jesus turn water into wine for the pleasure of some wedding guests?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

That's Right, I'm a Nerd.

If you haven’t gathered by now from my repeated Doctor Who references, I’m a huge nerd. And I’m cool with that. Even though I may have appeard to have a certain je ne sais cool in my distant past, as a proto-goth, member (okay, follower) of the eighties Chapel Hill music scene, I am going to go out on a limb here and say, I do not maintain one drop of that coolness quotient in this nerdy mom-bod of mine.

THE church lady.
But I am comfortable with being a church lady who cooks with cream of mushroom soup... Who occasionally teaches Sunday School and takes her kid to Cub Scouts... Who loves Doctor Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and willingly attends Comic-Con with her husband. Any hipness I may have had at any time, is gone, daddy gone...

I accept myself as someone who does not shun “classic rock” because it’s ubiquitous – and it’s just not cool in some circles. My husband (who wouldn’t touch classic rock with a ten foot pole – unless it was Neil Young, maybe)  teases me that I say, “this is a good song” about every song that we hear in the muzak they play in Five Guys... but that just isn’t true. I just have no artificial limits on what I will consider for my list of “good songs.”  I actually listen to the classic rock station in the car sometimes... and I believe there is nothing at all wrong with singing along with the Steve Miller Band or Queen. (Click here for a great scene in a recent episode of Louis where he was taking his kids on a trip and jamming out to Who Are You ... His kids are like, “Whatever, Dad...” It’s just like my life.) Sure, I draw the line at Journey or REO Speedwagon, but other than crummy 80s bands like that, I am on board with classic rock. 

Besides being a discriminating music fan, my husband has been a movie critic for a couple of different newspapers. As movies go, I like indy flicks, but am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy a Mel Gibson film  (I know, I know, the dude’s got problems) or a chick flick now and again. A really cool artist I know asked his Facebook friends, “What do you think of Tim Burton?” All the cool artsy people were saying deep stuff about his art and and how it’s too popular, but my answer was, “Johnny Depp. Yum.” See...? Very non-cool. It gave me an renewed appreciation for this Crash Test Dummies song about hanging out with artists.

Yes, despite appearances, this nerdiness of mine, has been lifelong – even when wearing my cool costume in the groovy eighties. My roommate and I would have parties and we would always bake a cake and have nibbles ... at first, people thought it was strange. (Imagine a bunch of goths sitting around eating cake.) But after the first one or two parties, people began to warm to it and walk straight over to the food table when they arrived. I would bake my boyfriend’s friends cakes on their birthdays... Okay, maybe it was a little odd... for that time and that group of people. 

And then I started going to church. How uncool can you get? And I’ve embraced the inherent uncoolness of it all. I love the Emergent Church – I truly dig what they are about, but occasionally a little judgmental demon screams in the back of my brain that those guys might as well just wear signs that exclaim, “I AM NOT UNCOOL!” Go with it guys, church is nerdy... and there’s nothing wrong with that! Of course we are talking about a definition of cool that is in the world, and not God’s definition of cool. I realized at a certain point that the lady who led our women’s Bible study and homeschooled her kids and wore church dresses every day of the week, and the spinster that lived with her mother were probably goddesses of cool at God’s nightclub... This is the kind of cool the church is. As far as most people's definition of cool or hip... NOT.

Don't let the beret fool
you – I'm super nerdy.
For a while I wavered... I listened to my “I gotta be cool” thoughts, but eventually I just got tired. I guess if I were truly cool, maintaining my hipness would be effortless. But it's just not... and I realized... it’s just too limiting. Why would I deny myself simple things like baking and certain songs just because they have negative HQ (hipness quotient)? I’d rather dance all over the floor than just in a tiny spot. 

There was a show last year called Happy Endings, which had an episode where one of the single women starts dating a hipster. At first she tries to go along with all his irony and apathy, but in the end, cannot contain herself and begins to yell out all the things she loves and exits a room crowded with his hipster friends tap dancing and singing show tunes. And that girl is me. There is just so much in the world to enjoy that I can only maintain a facade of irony and apathy for so long. And if that’s uncool... well, that’s me!

Sometimes Weird Al says it best:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line

I can tell already this is going to be a convoluted one... Since I’ve been working like crazy this week, I haven’t been able to write... So I’ve had a while to think about it. I got lots to say on the topic... which is a little hard to name. 

Will the Christian life turn 
me into this?
It’s just that, well, if you believe what you see on TV and movies, the Christian life looks like... Ned Flanders, the super sweet but incredibly naive neighbor and object of Homer Simpson’s scorn... Or like stiffly prim and judgmental Angela on The Office. She’s not just the moral compass of the show, pointing everyone in the right direction – she’s the moral spear, skewering everyone. Most extreme of all are the types of Christians on, say, True Blood... Militant and fanatic - not above using violence to achieve  their ends... Because, after all, “God hates fangs.”
... or this?

But it has been my experience that the Christian life is more like... Bruce Springsteen’s song Born to Run... An invitation from God to roar off wildly into the unknown... To “wrap your legs round these velvet rims and strap your hands cross my engines.” Going to see Bruce, aka the Boss, is a religious experience — each song is a prayer. But this song... I know its a classic and all, and everybody likes it, but for me, hearing it is like... getting a love letter from God... and He’s inviting me to escape the “deathtrap, the suicide rap” of ordinary life and ride through those mansions of glory... and go and walk in the sun with Him... I love the line that says, “I want to know if love is wild, girl I want to know if love is real...” Because, really, you’ll never know if you don’t hop on the back of that bike.

Or maybe it's a wild ride
through mansions of glory...
Or it’s also like the Otis Redding song Hard to Handle. Of course, when I think of it, I hear the Black Crowes... ‘cos I love Chris Robinson, but never mind that. I hear this funky number as an invitation to allow God to “light your candle...” “to prove every word” He says. That part reminds me of the place in Malachi where it’s actually talking about giving money to God’s work. It says,”Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” 

In my way of thinking,  it applies to life itself – as if God is saying, “Bring your whole life to Me and see if I don’t cause it to overflow...” And Jesus said this: “Truly I tell you ... no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age...” The reward is rich, but look, He is daring us to give our whole selves to Him! I guess in that way, He is “hard to handle” like the song says. (The Chronicles of Narnia books are always telling us that Aslan is not a tame lion!)

Not tame at all...
Sure it’s a scary prospect... riding this Lion who is very NOT tame. I mean, I remember being on the brink of that decision and wondering, what if he turns me into Ned Flanders or Angela on The Office? But I know now that it doesn’t work like that. Sure, i’ve changed in a lot of ways, but not in ways that I expected... Instead of going from regular person to super-nerdy judgmental person... I went, over time, from lonely super-broken person to on-the-mend person with a bit of help from His friends. It just made me more of who I already was... like in John Steinbeck's East of Eden when the Chinese man says that studying Genesis in Hebrew with a rabbi made the Chinese scholars more Chinese.

But I digress... What I am trying to say, is that, to me, the Christian life is not a tight, zipped-up way, but a crazy free adventure... Like riding in the Tardis with the Doctor... or riding on a wild lion's back... or jumping on the back of the bitchin’ motorcycle of the bad boy in the leather jacket...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Today is the day when sound curdles mountains

I have just come to realize something that is deeply disturbing to me. I think I must be tone-deaf. I mean, I have always thought I had a passing singing voice... not good, but passing. I mean, I always felt like my voice was okay when blending in with a choir, but that no one would want to hear me sing a solo. I even thought I was fair-to-middling at picking out harmonies... 

Sitting in the audience where I belong.
That is, until a couple of days ago. I was driving along, singing... which I LOVE to do, and I thought, “Damn, I sound good.” Then I started to wonder why no one ever wants to hear me sing... And then it hit me. Tone deaf people don’t know what they sound like... they think they sound good. Therefore... that’s right... I must be tone deaf. 

AAAAAAAAGH!!! You can’t imagine how devastating this news is to me. My illusion of even mediocrity has been shattered. I feel super sorry now for anyone who ever had to stand next to me in a choir... Blanket apology to all of you...

I am trying not to ask, why did God make me this way? After all, “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” (Rom. 9:20) I will ask this, though: what other things do I suck at...? that I love to do... that I THINK I am doing a fair job at...? The possibilities are endless... 

However, if you think this is going to stop me from singing, you are mistaken. I still plan to amuse myself by belting out whatever song comes to crazy mind even this one. Because this fact remains: to me at least, I sound awesome!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Got Chills. They're Multiplying.

So, I told you last week that our family doesn’t really do sports... well, now I’m going to tell you that for the second time in a week, we attended a sporting event. It was a strange week for us.

We went to the UNC v. JMU football game at Kenan Stadium, and boy was it hot. That’s not really what I’m going to talk about, though. I’m just going to point out one little tiny thing that happened: Mixed in with all the other crowd noise and band music, they played the opening riff of “Hark the Sound of Tar Heel Voices” as a searing guitar riff a la Jimi Hendrix’s version of the Star Spangled Banner” – kind of like this. And the odd thing was, it gave me chills... made the hair stand up on my arms.
Bono on stage at Kenan
Stadium, April 23, 1983.
A thing of beauty.

Now, I have to say, I am not one of those people who have a strong emotional bond with their alma mater... so why did it evoke a physical response in me? This happens to me at the weirdest times. Sometimes it's the chills thing, sometimes it’s tears. But it’s not exactly like crying at a sad movie — it’s more momentary and random. It’s like some odd combination of emotional plus physical. Here are some other times I’ve had a crazy kind of body reaction to stuff:

A lot of them have to do with music... Since I mentioned it, Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner sometimes gives me a shiver. Also, when I went to see U2 play in 1983 before they were famous — also at Kenan Stadium — when I saw the band members walking from the field house to the stage, in a line 4 across... chills... and tears.

Freddie Mercury
at Live Aid.
I toured the Rock Circus in London, which is part of Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, and when I saw the reproduction of Freddie Mercury at Live Aid and heard the “We are the Champions” music that went with it... well, he had recently died, so I started crying ... just a bit. I mean, I admit he had a great set of pipes, but I am not a huge fan... so why did this make me weep?

This one is a little embarrassing: the clip of Britain’s Got Talent where Susan Boyle made her debut... when she starts to sing... yep... chills. But I’m thinking this happened to other people too, otherwise they wouldn’t have been circulating the clip.

Tom and I recently saw the play Hair at the DPAC, and at the beginning when the gorgeous lady came out with her beautiful afro of hair, and started singing, “When the moon is in the seventh house...” You got it. Major shivers.

Apparently, some scientists have even tried to figure out why music gives people the chills... Here’s an excerpt from an article called “Why Music Gives Us the Chills” by Corey Binns on

In recent studies, scientists found that people already familiar with the music are more likely to catch a chill at key moments:

– When a symphony turns from loud to quiet
– Upon entry of a solo voice or instrument
– When two singers have contrasting voices

“Our results suggest that chills depend very much on our ability to interpret the music,” said Oliver Grewe, a biologist and musicologist at the institute. “Music is a recreative activity. Even if it is relaxing to listen to, the listener has to recreate its meaning, the feelings it expresses. It is the listener who gives life to the emotions in music.”

Pete Townshend getting music,
heat, glory and excitement
from his listeners. Bill swears
he looks like Gilligan.

I can dig that. So I’m giving MYSELF the chills. And this kind of goes with the theory that Pete Townshend has of how the music isn't complete without the listener. I think this song was kind of a tribute to his listeners: “Listening to you I get the music. / Gazing at you I get the heat. / Following you I climb the mountain. / I get excitement at your feet! / Right behind you I see the millions. / On you I see the glory. / From you I get opinions. / From you I get the story.”

But it’s not ONLY music that gives me the weird shivers. Like above, when I began to cry before U2 had even started to play... And then there was this one time a friend and I were visiting a Baptist Church in Roanoke, VA, and a very young boy went forward to be baptized. He was so little and cute and sincere, it made us both cry.

Bill and his mommy,
so excited about
Thomas they had to
look away.
And here’s the funniest, most embarrassing one of all: When Bill was very small, we took him to the NC Transportation museum to ride “Thomas the Tank Engine,” which is really just a diesel engine with a Thomas exterior. When the Thomas finally arrived, it chugged around the bend and came into view, and when I saw that silly face on the train I gasped and the hair stood up on my arms. What was up with that?! Maybe I was just sharing Bill’s excitement?

Are the chills the flipside of the heebie jeebies? Stuff that spooks you? Like when I was in the pioneer museum in Salt Lake City looking at the strange shadow boxes of... what looked like ... collars and cuffs made of ... lace? Then I realized it was human hair. And then they turned off the lights because it was closing time. brrrrr... talk about the creeps! 

There's a fairy tale about a man who was unable to get “the creeps.” He traveled the world trying to find out how, but never did, no matter what gruesome thing happened. Then when he came home, his wife poured a bucket of cold water with minnows over him while he was sleeping... and THAT gave him the creeps! Apparently one does not have to travel far to get the creeps!

I’m not really going anywhere with this... it’s just kind of fascinating to me – the random things that hit you and how they hit you... emotionally, physically... What gives you the chills? The heebie-jeebies?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Free To Be You and Me

Me and my big mouth
pursuing the happiness

of a funnel cake
My brother pointed out that this blog is aptly named because 1. It is the title of a Smiths song, and 2. People in our family tend to actually have mouths that are physically big.

Another reason is that, well, I tend to express out loud thoughts that I am having before they are fully formed. Instead of working out a theory in my mind and then expressing to others, I like to muse on it in plain sight in this here blog.

So here is what I was thinking about... And feel free to scoff or correct me because I am just working it out – it’s just thoughts, not fully formed theories.

I’m thinking about how some of the guys who formed the United States of America were “Deists” like Thomas Jefferson... people who believed in God, but didn’t believe that He involved Himself in human affairs. So... their concept of God was more of a “being” that was just watching stuff. 

YET, Tom J. also had a thing for the individual. Individuals all had rights that should not be trampled on by other individuals or by their government. So, if he was so into the value of the individual, why was his God so impersonal?

That's right, we know
Thomas Jefferson personally.
I’m sure there is some sort of point of unity to his thinking – I mean, he was a brilliant guy... politician, philosopher, inventor, foodie... So... maybe, since in his view, God wasn’t particularly interested helping or defending individuals, each person would need to claim their own rights... their life, liberty and happiness, that is.

But I do believe in a God who is into me... that He loved the world so much He sent His Son to save each individual person... But if we believe in a God who is involved in our every day lives, does that mean that we don’t need to pursue life, liberty and happiness? 

Or maybe , if we cling to this God, those things are ours anyway? After all, Jesus said He was the Way, the Truth and the Life. So... with Him we have life, and He also said, the truth would set us free... so there’s our freedom. As for happiness, I am not sure He is about our happiness as we think of it... But as the Christmas carol said, His coming did bring JOY to the word, right?

You can buy a bobble head of
anyone – am I right?
So it would seem that Thomas Jefferson and God have similar goals... but they differed regarding the source. Jesus claimed to be the source of our individual “rights,” while Thomas Jefferson said we should pursue them ourselves. Maybe Jefferson’s concern that we live in a country where each person could pursue his own idea of God.

And I do understand that Christ’s kind of freedom is an inner thing, and am grateful for it... But I can’t say I’m not glad that, due to the efforts of guys like Thomas Jefferson, we live in a free country... if no other reason than I can say “It’s a free country,” when someone questions what I’m doing.