Matt's blog

The story of me, an American in Edinburgh, Scotland finding my place as a musician, a husband, a father and a Christian.

Answers to Recent Queries

The "TroutMan" photo is indeed at the Spokane Fish Hatchery. Man, they've got some big fish there.

I have indeed tried New Belgium's Abbey ale, but it's enough like Chimay and yet not as good as Chimay that it's sort of ruined for me. I'm not a wine connoisseur in a beer drinker's world, I'm just a high-class beer connoisseur in a beer drinker's world.

And yes, I think Stegohorsus is dead on.

A Few Thoughts on "The Church"

Ok, I very rarely make commentary on something as amorphous and non-specific as "The Church" because I feel it is impossible to make generalizations that cover the whole of American Christianity and I've found that usually when such statements are made they are critical in nature without offering any redeeming value. I hope that in this post I can stick to relating my own personal experience and restrain myself from implying that those experiences represent universal truth. I also hope that I can be generally positive in the thoughts I set forth.

Why the time is not right for another Reformation

Ok, it's confession time. With all the talk running around about the Emergent Church, I've gotten somewhat interested. I need to apologize to Andrew for poking fun at him about Emergent stuff over the last few days I've been in L.A.. The truth of the matter is that Jeni and I have actually been starting to get involved with a church which labels itself 'Emergent' in Spokane. The Emergent ideas of a theology that encompasses more than intellectual ideals and holds artistic creativity in high regard interests me, as I am both a Christian and an artist. However, the inspiration to get involved with this particular congregation was not emergent theology, but was the desire to be a part of a church built intentionally around small groups. As everything in life from SUVs to summer blockbusters is getting bigger with many church congregations struggling to keep up in order to seem relevant, small personal house based groups might be just the kind of counter cultural idea that the church could embrace to make a difference. Couple these trends in the church with the recent technological advances that are similar in scope to the discovery of the New World which preceded the first Reformation, and one might think that we're on our way to another.

But I don't. Some of you may disagree with me, but I think the church is lacking one thing essential for a reformation: institutional corruption. I believe that for the most part, the American church today is not corrupt on the institutional level. I believe we may be making poor decisions, may be sheltering ourselves from culture, and may be nearly impotent as a transforming force in society, but I don't think we're corrupt. The American church, backed by a better educated population than the world has ever seen, for the most part has great, scriptural theology. The diverse types of American Christian faith from Fundamentalists to Presbyterians to Catholics to Charismatics show that we are in a place where people are free to, and have the ability to, interpret the scriptures in light of their own experience with God. Sure, there are points which I would argue about with a Fundamentalist or a Catholic, but when we strip away the political ideologies and even the superfluous miniscule points of theology, we will all agree on a loving God and salvation through His sacrifice on the cross. Who cares what happens when you consume the bread and the wine as long as through that sacrament the Church Universal is joined together in unity.

I know what you're thinking now, "But Matt, look how jacked up the church is, surely there must be something that needs to be fixed." I agree, but I don't think the thing that needs to be fixed should happen on the institutional level with a reformation. The institutional church could use work, could be streamlined, but I think the real change now has to happen on the individual level.

As most of you probably know, Ryan just got back from a year in Kenya. His work was primarily for social justice, with very little or even no evangelical aspect to it. He was asked yesterday if the organization he worked with had any plans to add a spiritual dimension to their work. Ryan said something very interesting. He said that Africa doesn't need missionaries. First of all, he said that even being in Kenya for a year he had not spent enough time to be an effective missionary, to learn the customs and the needs of the people there. In addition to that, Africa has already been evangelized to. Kenya has churches representing Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Anglican faiths, among others. There is a strong Christian presence in Africa, we don't need more westerners with western ideas going in to muddle up their journey to faith. Africa is still plagued by superstition and witchcraft, but the change in Africa needs to happen on the individual level supported by the local churches.

I'd say that the same thing has to happen in America. We don't need a new thing. In this country that we're so convinced is going down the drain we've still got more churches than strip clubs. Let's not spend our effort reforming the church, but let us as the people who make up the living church, the hands and feet of Christ, help our brothers and sisters along one by one to get to know Christ.

A second related but much shorter thought

Ryan said that one of the big things he learned in Africa was how to see God in all people regardless of shape, race, or even religion. (Don't bother trying to correct it Jeni, it's an Oxford comma, it's totally legit, and I like it.) Ryan was quick to point out that he had not become theologically liberal, but that he simply sees things now in a different way than before he left. I just want to say to Ryan, I stand behind you completely on this point. Of course we should see God in all people, how else would we be able to make an honest effort to bring them back to their true, loving maker?

By the way, Word spell check wants to change “Charismatics” to “Charisma tics.” I was wondering why no one seemed to like me since I stopped twitching.

I've Never Posted Before 5a.m. Before

But I guess there's a first time for everything. I'll be in L.A. in just a few hours. If you're reading this there I'll see you soon!

The Mystery!

You may have noticed that the background of my blog recently changed but thanks to the small size of the tiled image might not be able to see what it actually is. Well, I got no comments on it so no one must really be interested, but for my own satisfaction I will unveil the mystery. Here in Spokane there is a restaurant called Tomato Street where the tables are covered in paper and you get a can full of crayons to draw with. Jeni drew the head, I filled in the rest:

Don't Worry!

I'm still alive! Sorry for the lack of posts for a few days, especially the promised music posts, but they'll be coming soon. Just wanted to let you know I'm ok. I know you were all worried. New Geocache post coming tomorrow, too! Maybe even some more new recordings this week if I make any that don't suck.

Some Music

Ok, so I tried to set up a Myspace page to be able to post some classical guitar stuff I'm working on, but I think their screening process isn't allowing me to post Bach. I'll try to work out a way around it in the next day or so. In the meantime, you can hear some original rock-type music by yours truly at The Matt Show on Myspace. There are just two songs there now, but listen and enjoy. By the way, I'm still planning on following up to the music post of a few days ago, I just need a longer chunk of time to work on it than I've gotten recently.

Sexism Post Part 3

The American Kennel Club's official stance on sexism:

"Bitches are distinctly feminine, but without weakness of substance or structure."

There you have it, ladies.

Sorry, I Forgot

Here's the beer. I drank this one, and used another bottle to marinate the beef.

Here's the focaccia. Homemade whole wheat focaccia. Be nice to me and maybe I'll make you some. I hope you like olive oil!

Where's the Beef?

The Beef!

Mmmmm, Beef...

Imagine a picture of beef here. I'm going to write more about music soon, I promise, but I wanted to post a picture of some beef tonight, only to find out that pics weren't displaying how I wanted them to. So...imagine up some beef right here. And some beer. And some focaccia. Now knock it off already, you're making me hungry.

They Call Me Mr. Glass

This exchange over on Anne's livejournal prompted me to think about why I dislike music so much. It is an odd quirk to my personality that I am a music major and heading into a career in music but I don't really listen to any music. I guess I'll start by thinking back to the last time I liked music.

I last liked music in high school. Back then I was mainly listening to Smashing Pumpkins, one of the great 90's rock motherships. I sprinkled in a little Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, STP and the like. In short, I was pretty much a run of the mill post-grunge alt-rock high schooler. Ska came on the scene, as it does every 15 years or so, but I didn't really dig it. That's funny right there because I ended up fronting a ska band for a short time at this point, the only real band I've ever led. Instead I got into the first couple of Incubus albums, Fungus Amongus, Enjoy Incubus, and S.C.I.E.N.C.E. Dave Matthews' Listener Supported slipped in there too at that point.

When I look back on this period of my life I notice one main trend. As I listened to music I paid no attention to lyrics and only listened to whatever cool stuff the band was doing. Smashing Pumpkins wrote a few songs that really get me now, now that I'm paying more attention to lyrics, but for the most part Corgan's lyrics in retrospect strike me as be vapid, mindless and empty. I think they're supposed to be angsty, whatever that word is supposed to mean now, but they just seem like fluff.

There were a few bridge figures in this period of my life. Along with the popular stuff that was on the radio, in high school I started listening to the guitar giants Clapton and Hendrix. Hendrix served as a bridge figure for me from my old musical aesthetic to my new one because his songs are full of both musical fireworks and pointed, well crafted, worthwhile lyrics. Dave Matthews wrote some songs that had decent lyrics, but I didn't really like his playing style and listened to him mainly for his band. Needless to say, I haven't been interested in any of his newer records where the band has been all but phased out. It was only a stone's throw from Dave Matthews to Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Actually, it was shorter than a stone's throw since my dad already had a Flecktones cd in his collection. The music these guys put out is amazing. The level of virtuosity is through the roof, and it's backed up by deep musical sensitivity. The piece Big Country has a fretless bass tone in it that will seriously make you cry. If you don't believe me, just ask Big Dave.

So, where did these bridge figures take me? Going into college I had learned that lyrics can be meaningful and magnify the value of a piece of music, and that listening to music can be a highly emotional event. I well up or cry listening to music more than anyone knows probably. That's the main reason why music is so important to me. That's also a big reason why I stopped listening to the music. Most of it was, at least to me at the time, emotionally impotent.

So, in this state I went off to college. In college I reached into my past for my life's soundtrack. At this point The Police gained the status of greatest band of all time in my opinion. They still hold a high ranking today. At the time I dj'd a show on the college radio station KWRS and learned of two new albums released by old favorites: Into the Oh by Geggy Tah and Mink Car by They Might Be Giants. Geggy Tah is, in my opinion, the highest form of musical genius on the planet. They Might Be Giants is a close second, perhaps even greater if you factor in the sheer size of their body of work. In a later post I'll get into why these two bands in particular are so important to me. Other music at this time included Soul Coughing and White Blood Cells by the White Stripes. James Iha's Let it Come Down also entered my life at this point. At this point in my life I had ditched listening to the radio and any new music I was exposed to was on the recommendation of a friend, usually my brother.

The next big event in my musical life was my involvement with Jeni. Through Jeni I was exposed to Christian music that didn't suck. If you know me at all you know that the artists I'm thinking of here are Third Day and especially Jars of Clay. Third Day rocks like nobody's business, and Jars of Clays' lyrics and music cut so deep that I could dedicate posts every day for a month to this band without getting to the bottom of their effect on me.

Another recent musical re-addition is Cake. I loved this band the first time I heard Rock and Roll Lifestyle on KROQ way back when I was 14. Ok, I think that about sums up what has brought me to where I am in my musical life right now. Tune in in the next day or two for commentary on the limited selection of what I'm listening to now and why.

And yes, AJ, this entire post was just an excuse to use that title.

An Epic!

An epic new photo blog just went up over on our Geocache site. I'm trying to figure out a way to display the most recent posts on that site in the sidebar of this one. Ideas anyone?

Geocache Blog!

Due to overwhelming interest in the Price family's Geocaching activities (i.e., the comment from Amy), the Price Industrial Unlimited Incorporated Amalgamated Underwritten Overblown Corporation, Limited, has launched Matt and Jeni's Geocaching blog! Read it, love it, wash your dog with it!

The Coolest Thing Since Geo-Safari

Actually, two really cool things. I got to do two really cool things yesterday which now you have to hear about.

First Cool Thing:

One of Jeni's now former professors has a farm just north of Spokane. He farms entirely with draft horses. No tractors, no combines, just horses. Yesterday I went out to help him and his wife bring in hay.

Things I didn't know about hay 'til very recently:

1. Rain is not always good for farmers. Sure, it's great to have rain when the hay is growing, but once it's time to harvest rain is a real nuisance. To harvest hay you need to cut it, let it lie on the ground and dry for several days, rake it into rows, and then run over the rows with a baler scooping the hay up and making bales. If it rains anytime in this process, you're screwed. An entire crop can be ruined by an overnight downpour after the hay is cut. Wet hay rots. It's also really heavy and can damage the baler. For the past month or so we haven't gone more than about 5 days without rain. This last week was really only the second opportunity to cut and bale.

2. I appear to be pretty allergic to hay. You can fill in the blanks there.

Aside from the allergies, the work was really cool. Four horses were hitched up out front pulling the baler. A wagon was hitched behind the baler and the baler had a chute feeding bales up onto the wagon. It was my job to stand on the wagon and stack the bales as wee rolled through the hayfield. The whole rig was probably about 60 feet long from the nose of the front horses to the back of the wagon. Oh yeah, and the baler didn’t have an engine to run it or anything. Instead, the mechanism is run by a large ground drive wheel. As the horses pull the baler, the wheel, via a bunch of big chains and gears, powers the inner workings. I may have a few pics to post in a while.

Second Cool Thing:
Later on Jeni and I went back out to the farm for a 4th of July BBQ. Before we ate, Dr. Mike asked us if we wanted to go treasure hunting. Unsure of what we were getting into, we said yes. We grabbed some webpage printouts and an old GPS unit and drove off out into the middle of nowhere. We stopped at on the side of the highway and stomped off following the GPS coordinates from the printout. After a lot of wandering around in circles and clamoring up and down hillsides, we found an old dynamite shack with a container hidden inside of it. The container was full of all sorts of trinkets and a logbook of people who had found the spot before us. The most recent visitor had been earlier that day! Crazy. Anyway, we found out on the drive back that this is a sort of GPS game called Geocaching. People plant caches wherever they want to and then post the coordinates to People then find the caches, take something out and replace it with something they brought and sign the logbook. It was a whole lot of fun, and there are caches all over the place. So, as you might imagine, Jeni and I went out and bought a GPS unit today and are looking forward to lots more geocaching fun.

Oh, and now after my GPS research today I know the difference between a bearing and a heading, and why compasses have adjustable declination. That all just makes me that much cooler.

The Jump to Conclusions Game

So, part two. When I started writing these sexism posts, I didn't really have an agenda, or a point I wanted to make. I usually don't, I think, and these posts are a prime example of me thinking things through. But this time there's a twist. I'll let Tim (thanks for the comment) think things through for me:

"On the whole we are a much less sexist and racist society than we were 100 years ago. But you cannot deny that it still exists. To do so would slow that cultural evolution. I think it's equally important to recognize your own inclinations to sexual and racial sterotyping (which you will apparently do in your next post)."

My last sexism post refered to myself as a non-sexist male. Now what really does that mean? I think it's safe to say that no one can be truly without prejudices, but how is it that when freinds describe me, or I describe myself, sexist isn't a word that comes up even though I'm a thoroughly prejudiced person. Well, let's drop reason, nit-picking and even theology for a moment while I submit this explanation: I'm not that bad. I am not applied with the sexist label because I'm not as bad as 'them', whoever 'they' are. 'They' could be a jerk I work with. 'They' could be my grandfather. 'They' could be an abstraction of how bad we assume society was 100 years ago. Ultimately no one knows I'm sexist in comparison. I don't even know myself, unless something brings it to my attention.

I think the thing that brought my own sexism to my attention was getting married. For the last year I have been in closer contact with a woman than I have been in years. (For those of you who don't know, my mother got cancer when I was young and died just before my 12th birthday. Because of these events I have spent most of my life without a strong female presence, and my views of gender roles are quite skewed from traditional. In fact, my knowledge of my non-traditional views of gender roles is one of the things that has convinced me from time to time that there's no way I could be sexist.) I can't really pinpoint what about being married has raised my level of awareness, but simply having a strong female influence again was definitely part of it.

Well, that's a lot of set up for not much bang, but here's the meat of the post. Two stories:

Story number 1:
I recently ordered some guitar parts from a mail order company that caters to luthiers (guitar builders) and along with my order came a catalogue. On the front of the catalogue was a testimonial quote about a tool set from a customer. The quote was somehting along the lines of: "Thanks for making these great tools, they are a real life saver in the shop." As I read I imagined a real person, a Gepeto like older man with a leather apron in a dusty workshop, saying these words. I was then somewhat shocked when I saw the quote was attributed to someone by the name of Shannon. My assumption, which I made completely unconsciously, was completely wrong. In my defense, I would like to point out that I have met three luthiers in my life, all of which where male, and one who did indeed look exactly like Gepeto. On top of that, the guitar world is primarily male dominted. There's my defense. Don't worry, it'll fail soon.

Story number 2:
Recently I was reading again, this time in a horse magazine Jeni had borrowed from a friend. In the corner of one page there was a photograph of a trailer parked behind a garage. The quip next to the picture was all about the hassle this person had had with backing their trailer aroung an L bend into the parking spot. It went on with multiple friends who tried to help and the many different methods tried until sucess was achieved. Once again, my mind did the same free association it did before, picturing a large, red-neck man with a ball cap on leaning up against his pickup. The story ended with the person saying how good it felt when their daughter cried out, "Mommy, Mommy, you did it!" Once again my assumption, which I didn't even make consiously, was completely wrong. So what's my defense here? Well, it should be the same as above, only here the facts don't add up. The vast majority of horse people I have met have been female. Equine sports is predominantly a woman's field. I've only ever met two or three men really into horses, and even counting Dr. Mike who counts for at least 3 regular horse people (as his draft horses count for at least three regular horses a piece), the table is still stacked against the Y chromosome. For some reason with all this information I jumped to the wrong conclusion.

Well, long post, two stories, no point. I hope you don't feel upset for reading this far without any big payoff, but that's the way it works sometimes. As it stands, I think I'm not going to feel too bad about jumping to sexist conclusions in my imagination. I think what's more important that what sort of thoughts you have is what sort of actions those thoughts become. I think what I have to do now is get a bead on these sexist thoughts and keep them from coming to realization in my words and actions.

Who knows if I'll post any more on sexism or not. I've got a lot of thoughs running around on the subject, especially dealing with one on one male and female interaction, but I don't know if they're anywhere near the point where they can be committed to the page. Well see how the comments go. By the way, thanks for the comment, Tim. Any clue on who you are if I know you? Your Blogger profile was a dead end.

Who are You?

Jeni and I have been watching a lot of CSI recently. Well, Jeni’s been watching more of it than I have, but in any event that song is now thoroughly stuck in my head. So who are you? Who am I? Well, I’m trying to tell you all who I am and figure it out for myself at the same time. When the internet first bubbled to the surface of pop culture, one of its big selling points was anonymity. Still is as a matter of fact. It seems like the ability to deny who we are is just getting more and more fashionable these days. With all the Patriot Act hubbub, people on both the far left and far right are crying out about our impending complete loss of privacy. My question is, what have you got to hide?

In the blogging world, there are a few takes on it. One is to hide nothing, and to whine and moan to no end for the whole world to read (and I’m sure they’re enthralled). The other end is to completely mask your identity. The type of identity masking I’m thinking of is not a false name, but a complete personal and emotional detachment from the thoughts you put on the web. I’m not trying to do either.

When I put something up here, it’s cause it’s important to me. Ok, every now and then you’ll get the four-liner posts about trading my wife in for a new car, but other than that I view blogging as a serious means of personal communication. So, why do I bring it up?

Jeni said to me earlier, “Weird, no one commented on your sexism post.” I thought it was weird, too, since I figured it would be a thought which would inspire some sort of reaction. I even decided to put up a counter to see if people are actually visiting the site. You and I both know the answer to that, of course people are. So why the silence?

A short digression. I think the internet is nearly a bust. Yup, pretty much a waste of time. This massive information sharing system has the capability to deliver meaningful knowledge and serve as a setting for deeply personal communication, but instead it pretty much just pumps idle small talk. Using the power of this technology I can formulate my thoughts, craft a well thought out letter which is probably more coherent than my ramblings on the same subject in person, and then put that letter up in a place where all my friends can read it instantly without the hassle of postage. On top of that, my friends can respond instantly and engage in conversation with me and with each other. So why don’t we?

You may notice in this that I’m echoing sentiments expressed by both Amy and Andrew.

I’m in a time of self-discovery right now. Unfortunately, up here in Spokane I’m pretty much isolated from the world I’m familiar with. I’d rather not be here. I’d rather be in L.A. with most of you who are reading this, but I can’t be. In lieu of that face to face connection, some connection here would be handy as I work stuff out. I’ll do my best to give that back to you as well.

I left the sexism part one post up for a few days longer than I was planning to see if it’d get any comments. It’s still there if you want to take a crack at it. Part 2 is coming soon.

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