John Barry, 1933-2011

John Barry, the remarkable composer of memorable and enduring movie music, died today at 77. He is one of my favorite composers of pop music, listenable day in and day out. Most people identify him with the James Bond 007 movies, for which he wrote the scores. I fell in love with his music with his Out of Africa score. He produced music for decades, writing popular themes from the 1960s until his last score in 2001.

For many, the score for Midnight Cowboy, a powerful, breakthrough film, was their first memorable John Barry work. Dances with Wolves, an unlikely movie for great music, Chaplin, and The Lion in Winter also helped spread his legend.

But for me, the haunting score from Somewhere in Time, done as a favor for Jane Seymour, is his most memorable.

He was a giant at his musical craft. I shall miss his pen . . . but continue to enjoy his life’s work.

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Pride & Vanity

The late Fuller Seminary professor of theology and ethics, Lewis B. Smedes, makes a powerful point that’s worth pondering and acting upon:

“Pride in the religious sense is the arrogant refusal to let God be God. It is to grab God’s status for one’s self. In the vivid language of the Bible, pride is puffing yourself up in God’s face. Pride is turning down God’s invitation to join the dance of life as a creature in his garden and wishing instead to be the Creator, Independent, reliant on one’s own resources. Never does pride want to pray for strength, ask for grace, plead for mercy, or give thanks to God.  Pride is the grand illusion, the fantasy of fantasies, the cosmic put-on.

“The fantasy that we can make it as little gods leaves us empty at the center. Once we decide we have to make it on our own, we are attacked by the demons of fear and anxiety. We are worried that we cannot keep our balance as long as we carry no more inside our empty heart than what we can put there. We suspect that we lack the power to become what our pride makes us think we are. So we learn to swagger, to bluff, to use symbols to cover up our fears that we lack substance. We force other people to act as buttresses for the shaky ego that pride created by emptying our soul of God. In the words of God’s love song, we become arrogant.

“Vanity is emptiness. A person who is empty at the center of life is vain, and a vain person is almost always arrogant. Every new situation calls forth the questions: ‘What can I get out of this to support the need of my ego for power and applause?’ As he encounters new people, he wonders, ‘How can this person contribute to my need for applause and power?’ He projects his own anxieties onto other people, so when others come to him he wonders, ‘What is this person’s pitch? What does he want from me?’ Life becomes a campaign to use people to support oneself and a constant battle to avoid having others use oneself that way. Vanity creates the need to use people because we cannot keep our balance spiritually if we are empty at the center.”1

1 Lewis B. Smedes, Love Within Limits: Realizing Selfless Love in a Selfish World (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), pp. 34-35

Posted in Spiritual Journey, Values | 1 Comment

The Big Guy: Hoopster

Had some fun creating a video trailer from iPhone video shot at our grandson’s basketball game yesterday. Take a look at the hoop star of the future!

Landon Karrh: Hoopster

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Peaks and Troughs

Dr. Jim Denison, in his always insightful God Issues blog, quoted today from Peter Marshall, the Scottish-American Presbyterian pastor who became chaplain of the U.S. Senate. Marshall, a gifted orator and compelling figure, died at age 46 of a heartattack.Marshall was immortalized in a biography by his wife, Catherine, A Man Called Peter, which was later made into an Oscar®-nominated movie. Both book and movie are still in print/digital.

Here is what Dr. Marshall said:

“It is a fact of Christian experience that life is a series of troughs and peaks. In his efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, God relies on the troughs more than the peaks. And some of his special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.”

Lots of truth in that. Just ask Joseph, the Patriarch, and countless others.

Posted in Character, Spiritual Journey | 1 Comment

Looking Back on Looking Forward

Thought it would be interesting to repost one of my scattershooting blogs, this one from November 23, 2008, just days after Barack Obama was elected President. I note that I was wrong about Iraq, but pretty much on target otherwise. Take a read; not a word has been changed.

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Christopher Cross . . . Magazines and posters equate Obama with hope. It never ceases to amaze me at how people and pundits left and right continue to put their hopes in politicians. I pray that Barack Obama is a good – even great – President, but as the embodiment of hope he is certain to fall short, Oprah’s fawning description of him as “The One” notwithstanding. At the risk of sounding kneejerkingly predictable, hope is found in God alone. Not in politicians, pundits, or preachers. . . . It is also of interest to me that Obama is being portrayed as the next Lincoln or Roosevelt (FDR, not TR). More and more historians now believe that the New Deal of FDR was a failure at rescuing America from The Great Depression. The economy turned around courtesy of World War II. Lincoln without the Civil War is probably a forgotten President, for it is doubtful that he would have issued the Emancipation Proclamation were the war not going badly. Lincoln does leave us much to remember and even more to ponder. Today I hope President Obama can complete what Lincoln helped start, the freeing of African-Americans from slavery. Not from chattel slavery, but from mental slavery to victimhood embraced by far too many and harbored as reason to be insular and irresponsible. It is tragic that the growth of the Black middle class has not been pervasive enough to fulfill the aspirations set forth in the Constitution. There have been many barriers to this advancement – certainly not all self-inflicted, and I pray that more barriers are removed with the triumph of Barack Obama. . . .

Meanwhile, is it just me or do you notice how the reasons given by the business geniuses on CNBC and FoxBusiness for the ups and downs of the market seem to change day to day, if not hour to hour? Seems to me that were we living under Jewish Old Testament Law most of these false prophets would have been stoned to death long ago. Or maybe they’re just stoned. . . .

The choice of Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff continues to puzzle. Guess the new President was looking for someone to play bad cop to his good cop. . . . As many pundits have noted, we seem to be living out Ronald Reagan’s assessment of how Washington thinks and acts: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps on moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it.” . . . If, as the anti-Detroit crowd crows, “Americans would start buying American cars again if Detroit built what they wanted to drive,” then why are more than 50 percent of cars sold in America made by GM, Chrysler, or Ford? And why are Toyotas and Mercedes clogging the port of Long Beach, California? I don’t think it’s because Americans don’t want to buy Japanese or German. . . . I wonder what has made Bill Maher such an angry, sullen, sarcastic hater of God and religion. He wasn’t always that way. Reminds me of George Roy Hill, the film director, who did the charming Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KidThe Sting, and other smile-getters only to turn out dark and somber films like The World According to Garp and Little Drummer Girl.

. . . Time magazine’s Man of the Year? Shoe-in: Barack Obama. This time the award is well-earned and not a celebration of the bad guys. I’m still not sure it was wise to make Adolf Hitler “Man of the Year,” but Time famously did so. . . . Speaking of villains, how about Hank Paulson? I can’t get past the fact that as the head of Goldman Sachs he qualified himself as being a bigger part of the problem rather than the man with a good solution. Then there’s George W. Bush (43), who apparently skipped economics classes at Yale and Harvard. So we can now add the economic mess – greatest since the Great Depression and still not as bad as it will become – to his list of bad decisions. When he chose to invade Iraq I knew it was a horrendously bad decision: bad for Americans, bad for America’s standing in the world. Once in, we had  to win, but despite the surge that looks like an impossible dream. Rival factions within Iraq are unraveling things more and more every day, and greed and graft has siphoned billions into the hands of a relative few. This may have been the most ill-advised war in American history, making Vietnam look like a smart move (which it wasn’t) in contrast. . . .

Meanwhile, inspiring quotes from the 1920s: “I cannot help but raise a dissenting voice to statements that we are living in a fool’s paradise, and that prosperity in this country must necessarily diminish and recede in the near future.” – E. H. H. Simmons, President, New York Stock Exchange, January 12, 1928. Or how about Irving Fisher, a leading economist who told the New York Times on September 5, 1929, “There may be a recession in stock prices, but not anything in the nature of a crash.”  Of course, the market did crash in late October, 1929. . . . My thinking says that very dark economic times are ahead, and that even a new administration with a new philosophy won’t help. For all the credit given FDR, unemployment remained at record highs throughout the 1930s and the stock market remaining in the tank until the 1950s. “The Greatest Generation” handled it, but will we? . . . And then there was the elephant who loved to shop but was scared to death of trunk shows.

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The Journey Continues

There are times when the road seems to have more than its share of potholes, more twists and turns than one ever expected. Life since turning 50 has been just that for me . . . and Kathi. And that was more than a few summers ago (at least for me).

I am reminded of the powerful closing paragraphs of “the great American novel,” The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald writes:

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms out farther . . . And one fine morning ––

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

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mobile is 8x says Google founder

“Mobile Web adoption is growing eight times faster than the first wave of PC Internet adoption. There may be some limits, but we’re not anywhere near them.” – Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google

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Thoughts in Transition

Aviara Setting
while wondering whatever happened to colored toilet paper. . . .  Looking out at the
Aviara hillside in Carlsbad, CA with the Batiquitos Lagoon below. The air is clear and crisp after rain came through yesterday. Very beautiful, quite relaxing. . . . Hard to believe that December is almost here. This begins a time of transition: from Fall into Winter, 2009 to 2010, past frustrations to future hope. It’s hard to believe this is our first and only vacation week of the year. At my age I once thought vacations would run 2-3 weeks at a crack in exotic locations. But life has a way of finding paths of its own, our best efforts notwithstanding. . . .

Came all this way and could not watch SC-UCLA game last night. Fox Sports West showed the Kings hockey game instead of the football game. It ran on Fox’s Prime Ticket in Southern California, which the villas of Aviara (and many other places out here, apparently) does not carry. So, I’ll have to go back to Dallas and my DVR to see the game. As daughter Jennie would say, crazy. . . . Rick Neuheisel, UCLA coach, continues to show that he is an unprincipled jerk. Meanwhile, Pete Carroll’s charges showed up with apparently more resolve than they brought to the Oregon and Stanford games. . . . Meanwhile, Charlie Weis appears to be history at Notre Dame. We’ve never been too fond of Notre Dame coaches, Charlie among them. Though we did enjoy taking it to Ara Parseghian year after year, save the 51-0 beating he oversaw in 1966. That was a low point in my young and naive life. . . .

Going to a memorial service on Tuesday for Kathi Dunham Svarc. Way too soon. It’s hard to believe, though the suffering she experienced over the last three-and-one-half years as she bravely and faithfully fought ovarian cancer and it’s spread was nothing short of remarkable. It doesn’t really seem all that long ago that we were carefree teenagers at Huntington Beach. . . . A year or two into her battle I shared with Kathi C.S. Lewis‘s words near the close of The Last Battle, the final book in The Chronicles of Narnia: “‘There was a real railway accident,’ said Aslan softly.  ‘Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands—dead.  The term is over:  the holidays have begun.  The dream has ended:  this is the morning.’ “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 is
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 forever:  in which every chapter is better than the one before.” . . .

I am struck by the power of one’s work culture to feed or starve the spirit. And to promote or punish creativity. The reality of it all is so much more powerful than the intellectual pondering of it. . . . . Saul Bass, in his iconic short film, Why Man Creates, comes to this conclusion: “Why does man create? and determines that man creates to simply state, ‘I Am.'” Where the value of people is diminished, where I am recedes into bureaucracy and control, the spirit is crushed and “I am” degenerates into “I once was.” . . .

Meanwhile, we settle for less. We blame our diminished hopes on the economy or health or age. C.S. Lewis says enough of that in The Weight of Glory: “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that
Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

And then there was the waddle of penguins that was always accused of being overdressed.

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Living among possible gods . . .

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is inCS Lewis lighting pipe 2 the light of
these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations ­– these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner – no mere tolerance or
indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.

– C. S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory

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Signs of Entropy

Max De Pree, in one of the bestselling business books of the 1990s, Leadership Is an Art, lists signs of entropy in an organization:

» When there is a tendency towards superficiality.

» When dark tension exists among key people.

» When we no longer have time for celebration, reflection and ritual.

» When there is a growing feeling that rewards and goals are the same thing.

» When problem makers outnumber problem solvers.

» When leaders seek to control rather than liberate.

» When the pressures of day-to-day operations push aside our concern for vision and risk.

» When people speak of customers as impositions on their time rather than as opportunities for service.

I have observed – on more occasions and in more settings than I would ever wish – that De Pree is right.

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