More Magic Movie Moments from the 80’s

I finally got around to this 80’s classic. It only took 30 years, but I found this little gem on Netflix and decided to take a break from Sons of Anarchy for a trip down Nostalgia Lane.

The movie features a young Patrick Dempsey, better known to most people these days from his role on Grey’s Anatomy, and Amanda Peterson, who sadly passed away in 2015. It also stars the red-headed kid from The Burbs, but in a much less creepy role.

What I expected was a bit of light romantic comedy fluff done 80’s style. What I got was a lot deeper and more meaningful treatise about the price of popularity versus the ultimate freedom in being true to yourself.

The movies I like and tend to gravitate toward are movies I can relate to, and I could certainly relate to this one. Patrick’s character starts off as a bit of a nerd, buys his way into popularity, loses himself, and eventually . . . well, I’m not big on spoiler alerts, so you’ll have to find it on Netflix to find out what happens.

There’s something magical about a good 80’s movie. I can’t put my finger on it, but I know that it’s missing from most of the newer movies I’ve seen. Maybe it’s that 80’s movies have a kind of fantastical quality that, if not completely realistic and believable, is fun to visit for a while.

I just may be forced to break down and buy this one on blu ray to add to my already ridiculous movie collection.


Taking a Break from Reality

I had some quality old-school music playing on my trek home this afternoon. I have the smooth, velvety baritone voice of Johnny Hartman singing me home.

I confess I know next to nothing about this artist. I know that he made a fantastic album with John Coltrane and apparently had a lengthy recording career that started around 1947 and lasted until his death in 1983.

I’m all for staying current with world events and being informed when it comes to issues and politics, but I firmly believe that occasionally we all need a break from reality. As in a good fantasy novel or a fun movie or, in my case, old school jazz crooner music.

I suppose if I had to pick between music, books, and movies, I’d go with music. Nothing seems to calm and quiet my soul quite like the right song at the right time. Especially when driving on a warm summer night with the windows rolled down and the volume cranked up. It’s magical.

There’s also the therapeutic effect of having a cat (or a dog) camp out on your lap. If you don’t have one, you should definitely look into it. They’re great for lowering blood pressure and reducing stress and generally helping you to find peace.

My advice is to limit your news intake. First of all, I’m not convinced that what you’re seeing is accurately represented of what’s actually happening out there in the real world. Second, a steady dose of it can only serve to stress you out and make you angry.

Find your medium that relaxes you. Set aside time for to read or Netflix and chill or to put on the headphones and let the music carry you away, even if it’s only for when you’re driving to and from work.

You won’t regret it.


My Report for August (Borrowed from TCM)

I’ve done this type of post before where I write about what I am listening to, reading, and watching in hopes that it might inspire you to share what you’re absorbing these days. Plus, if you’re stuck on ideas, these might be worth checking out at some point in the future.

Musicwise, I am obsessed with the songwriting of Lori McKenna. I’ve trekked home for two days successively with her albums Massachusetts and The Bird & The Rifle. Both are worth picking up if you happen to run across them in a record store. Both are filled with songs that remind me of why I fell in love with music in the first place.

Bookwise, I am about to embark on the latest in the Harry Potter universe with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’m curious to see how this entry matches the tone and feel of the other books in the series (seeing as how it’s actually a stage play authored by someone other than J. K. Rowling).  I’m also extremely stoked to finally have my hands on a little devotional book entitled Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr (which I am fully expecting to rock my world).

I’m revisiting the strange and wonderful world of Twin Peaks, the short-lived, quirky, sometimes bizarre series that is slated to finally get around to its third season 26 years after the last episode aired way back in 1991. Maybe this means that Firefly will have a much-belated second season at some point in the near future? A brown-coat can dream.

Moviewise, I seem to be stuck on a Ingmar Bergman kick. Lately, I’ve watched both Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Light, two out of a trilogy based on Bergman’s struggle with God and faith. I don’t necessarily agree with some of his conclusions, but I have to admire that he was a brilliant filmmaker who was much more interested in creating art with a message than mass-producing eye candy that sells a lot of movie tickets.

That wraps up my report for August. Stay tuned for the next time I get around to writing about all the media I’m consuming. As always, I’d love to hear what you’re listening to/reading/watching these days. I just may add it to my ever-growing list.


Farewell to Lorien (and to Another Golden Age Actress)

“Crying farewell, the Elves of Lórien with long grey poles thrust them out into the flowing stream, and the rippling waters bore them slowly away. The travellers sat still without moving or speaking. On the green bank near to the very point of the Tongue the Lady Galadriel stood alone and silent. As they passed her they turned and their eyes watched her slowly floating away from them. For so it seemed to them: Lórien was slipping backward, like a bright ship masted with enchanted trees, sailing on to forgotten shores, while they sat helpless upon the margin of the grey and leafless world” (J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings).

Few are probably aware of it, but the world lost another star recently in the passing of Gloria DeHaven. She was another from the golden age of Hollywood who has slipped away from us.

I love watching Turner Classic Movies because I feel as though I’m stepping back into a simpler, less complicated world where it was easier to tell the good guys from the bad, where love was something worth fighting for, and where the cause of the just prevailed.

The world portrayed in these old movies is more and more a relic of the past with so many of the virtues and values seemingly going extinct in a world where more is better and where everything needs to happen NOW.

Seeing the old black-and-white does something good for my heart. The same goes for Technicolor. A lot of the newer movies may look and sound better, but they ain’t got the same soul (to appropriate a line from a Bob Seger song).

The old movies were about telling stories about real people who laughed and cried, loved and lost,  lived and died. There weren’t any CGI effects– just witty dialogue and fleshed-out characters.

I’ll have to look up one of Gloria’s movies and watch it in her memory. RIP to another from a golden age gone forever.

The Artsy Fartsy vs. The Eye and Ear Candy

I don’t go to movies much these days and I don’t listen to very much top-40 radio. I don’t watch all that much network television. It feels a lot like cotton candy to me– fun and exciting but not for long period of time. If that’s your thing, more power to you. It’s not mine.

I rented a documentary from the public library entitled Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie. And I watched it. On purpose.

The documentary is in Swedish with English subtitles (for which I am eternally grateful) and is about the legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman (not to be confused with the actress Ingrid Bergman) in the process of making his film Winter Light from writing the script all the way up to the premiere. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in creating art and beauty more than selling records and making lots of cash.

I actually felt my brain growing. I didn’t feel like anything was dumbed down for me. I actually had to put in a little intellectual effort. It’s always worth it. I believe once you expand your horizons, they can never go back to their original shapes (and you can never go back to who you were before).

I suddenly feel the need to watch more movies with subtitles that aren’t all about CGI and stuff blowing up and endless car chases. I want to see character development and plots thickening and hear dialogue that doesn’t make my brain ooze out my ears. Anything released by the Criterion Collection usually fits that bill. Just FYI.

Basically I want to experience art that doesn’t feel mass-produced in a factory but is lovingly crafted by people who are telling their stories in a way that I can relate to. I especially want that from Christian media (because who better to tell a compelling story, right?)

Keeping It Old School

I decided to favor you with an update of what I’m listening to these days. As usual, I’m keeping it old-school.

These days, when I say old-school, I really mean old-school, as in music going back as far as the 1920’s.

Here is a sampling of the artists I’ve listened to lately: Gene Autry (1929-1931), Frank Sinatra, Kris Kristopherson, Marty Robbins, Curtis Mayfield, Miles Davis, Prince, and Bill Withers.

I’m not opposed to new music. I really like a lot of what I’m hearing (though most of what I like that’s modern is probably not in the top 40).

I’m drawn to old music because I feel like it’s a kind of a time machine to a past that mystifies and fascinates me, a simpler (though not always better) time that for the most part no longer exists.

Plus, I feel like that the music from bygone days that has survived and thrived this long is considered classic for a reason. It has a timeless appeal and message that still speaks to these ears, even after many of the artists have passed away.

You can make the same argument for movies and books. Sometimes, it pays to go to an old-school that’s older than you.



Rinse and Repeat

“Make the things I’m commanding you today part of who you are. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re sitting together in your home and when you’re walking together down the road. Make them the last thing you talk about before you go to bed and the first thing you talk about the next morning” (Deuteronomy 6: 6-7VOICE).

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s not always easy to come up with something creative and original when you write these blogs on a daily basis. And yes, I do write all of these myself. I’m the only writer for the Ragamuffin Gospel Fan blogs.

I find lately that I do tend to repeat myself quite a bit. Sometimes, it’s intentional. Sometimes, it’s just me being forgetful that I’ve already written on a particular topic.

I believe that a lot of faith is returning again and again to the basics until they change who you are fundamentally. It’s going back to the Gospel for the rest of your life, because that’s where your hope lies.

So, it’s 10:05 pm on a Saturday and I am at home and not out painting the town red or hitting up the clubs. I’m writing this on the fly, per usual. What you see is generally what I write on the first-take, with very little revisions or editing. That’s just the way I write these days.

I’ve heard that taking up photography changes the way you see things. You begin to look at people and scenes as if you’re composing a shot or looking through a lens.

I also think that writing changes the way you look at life. You start hearing conversations differently. Phrases will jump out at you. Lines from movies or TV shows will capture your attention. You see your world differently.

So what’s the theme of this blog? I guess if there is one, it’s this: the best kind of faith isn’t one where you know a little in a lot of areas about God and Jesus and the Church and other such matters. It’s where you keep going back to the well of the basics over and over until you’re absolutely sated with it and you know the Gospel backward and forward.

That’s it.


More Musings About Music

So, I hear there was some kind of awards ceremony tonight for the music industry. Something called the Grannies? The Grammys? Something like that.

Anyway, I skipped it like I’ve skipped the last few. To my ears, the music that gets played on the radio sounds like a lot of ear candy– sorta like cotton candy set to a beat. If you like current top-40 music, more power to you. It just isn’t for me.

I like my music more off the beaten path. One of my favorite singer-songwriters is Lori McKenna, whose album Lorraine is (in my opinion) a clinic in what good songwriting sounds like. I highly recommend it. Now if I can only find it in my considerable collection of music.

I also like to go back and revisit music that I listened to in the past. I find that I hear it with a different set of ears and that I appreciate it in a new way.

I still think that nothing is more powerful than a song that tells my story and that speaks my thoughts. It’s sometimes almost like having my diary set to music. Sometimes it’s a little scary how close they get.

That’s why I think if I had to choose between movies, books, and music, I’d probably go with music. Music is the only media that affects every area of the brain. Or so I’ve read on the internet, so it must be true.

PS I found that Lori McKenna album. It will probably find its way into the rotation on my homeward commute at some point in the very near future.

More to come later on what I’m discovering and listening to in the wonderful world of music.


Good Stories

I’m drawn to a good story, whether it be in the form of a song or poem or novel or movie. I believe a good story is one in which I can identify myself and see part of my own story in the unfolding drama.

I’m reading through the Bible again, and I recognize myself all over the place. I can identify with the Israelites who are chosen as God’s people but often act as anything but God’s own possession.

I know what it’s like to want to go back to what’s comfortable and safe, even if that also happens to be bad for you and going backward rather than going forward.

I know what it’s like to be constantly tempted by idols and the surrounding culture bombarding you with images and messages that flatly contradict the message that God keeps trying to tell you.

I can fully relate to the many characters in the Bible whom God uses in spite of themselves, their weaknesses, their fears, their hang-ups. I had always been led to believe that people like Abraham and Isaac and Moses and Noah were the heroes in the stories.

That’s not true. God is always the hero of the biblical story. These are people who are only famous because God chose to use them. If God had never spoken to Moses from a burning bush, I doubt he’d be anything more than a very small footnote in the book of Exodus.

The Bible reminds me that what I need most is not to discover the inner warrior within me but rather to rely daily on the Warrior Savior who cherishes me and fights for me and never quits on me.

I’m beginning to understand the point of all the rules of the Old Testament. The point is that I’m supposed to look and act different as one of God’s people. I’m set apart. I’m not like everybody else and my story won’t play out like everybody else’s. That’s the point.

It’s not even really my story anymore. It’s God’s story that I get to be a part of.

I love that.

The end.


Once Again, Happy Birth-Month to Me

I’ve taken it upon myself to celebrate the whole month of February as my birth-month. Why not? I was born in the shortest month of the year (even counting the extra leap year day that comes once every four years), so I might as well milk the month for all it’s worth.

I will be 44 on February 28. I’m not ashamed of that. A lot of people didn’t get to see 44 because they died way too young. These days, anything shy of 80 is too young.

I’m thankful for my 44 years. I’m thankful for every day that I wake up and see the sun and feel the wind in my face. I don’t take these things for granted any more.

I hope to celebrate this birthday well. I’d love to have a birthday dinner at Mafiaoza’s, either at the Factory in Franklin (if it’s open by then) or at the original location on 12th Avenue South.

As usual, I accept all major credit cards, checks, cash, and gold doubloons. I love gift certificates, especially to places like Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, Target, Amazon, McKay’s, Frothy Monkey, McCreary’s Irish Pub, and any other places where they sell music, books, movies, or food. FYI.

I hope to see you during this month of festivities. I hope to have some good face-to-face conversations and catch up with as many of you as possible, especially in places where they serve coffee-based beverages. Which reminds me. I also like gift cards to Starbucks, The Well, and The Edgehill Cafe.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I see now more than ever how truly blessed I am to know the people I know and to have seen and felt the love from all of you, and especially from my Abba Father.

It’s been a very good ride so far.