One of the high points of my year is the annual Nashville Symphony concert at Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville. I’ve been privileged to serve on the steering committee for this event for many years, but I’d attend even if I weren’t involved. It’s relaxed, family-friendly and informal (not unlike the symphony’s outdoor concerts) and features guest appearances by local and area talent, often including the Murfreesboro Youth Orchestra. Byung-Hyun Rhee, the Nashville Symphony’s talented associate conductor, leads the concert, which usually includes both popular and classical compositions.
Children and students are admitted free of charge, and adult admission is usually in the $5 range.
It hardly seems like the 2004 concert is over (it took place back in May), but here we are getting ready to start planning the 2005 event. The date of the concert will be April 26; the steering committee will meet early in December to get the ball rolling.
LEAMIS encourages mission team members to take with them games like UNO and Jenga which are relatively easy to teach and learn, even with language barriers. In Nicaragua Frank Schroer and I had fun teaching Teresa Sanchez’s family both games, even though they spoke no English and we had only pigeon Spanish to fall back on.
In Kenya, we had no such language barrier; our hosts, the Mbithis, spoke the King’s English. But one night we brought out the block-stacking game Jenga anyway and played with teenage Benjamin Mbithi. He wasn’t familiar with the game, but he and Rev. Mbithi informed us that “Jenga” was a form of the Swahili word for “build.” We discussed whether that might be a coincidence or not.
Turns out it’s not. On a whim (after seeing a TV ad for Jenga tonight) I went to the product web site. Turns out Jenga was invented in the 1970s by a young British woman who had spent time in Africa as a teenager, and she specifically chose the name because of its Swahili meaning.
Now, we just have to address U2. I’m a fan, and I’d love to hear their new album, but the I-Pod commercial based on the song “Vertigo” has been driven into the ground, at least on the shows and channels I watch regularly. Every time I hear it I hear Bono counting off, “Uno … dos … tres … catorce,” and a red flag goes up. If you have even rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, you know he’s counting “one … two … three … fourteen.” A commentator on VH1′s pop culture week-in-review show “Best Week Ever” noticed the same thing and wondered, with tongue in cheek, what was wrong with the numbers four through 13.
I am now at 33,337 words. The reason this is significant is that, by midnight tonight, I needed to be at or beyond 33,333 words in order to make 50,000 by the end of the month. I have now caught up, and for the first time this month I am at or ahead of schedule. I may write a little more tonight, and hope to make good progress tomorrow as well, which will hopefully put me ahead of pace. The reason I want to be ahead of pace is because I will lose a day or two over the weekend when we take a family trip to Pigeon Forge.
I have just finished writing a very emotional part of the novel. It is either very good or very bad, and I’m not sure which. I’m also not sure whether to go ahead and use it now or save it until later in the book. At least it’s written, and I can go ahead and add it to my word count even if I save it for later (and I obviously won’t post it to the novel blog until I get to it in the novel).
I was watching a “Saturday Night Live” rerun from the mid-90s on E! this afternoon, and I saw a quite startling skit that I’ve never seen before. It was presented in the form of a televised message from a lifelong billionaire, played by guest host Bill Pullman. The billionaire tells us that he has discovered the Bible and it changed his life. But not in the way you would think; it turns out he has foundt the passage from Matthew stating that “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Then, the billionaire tells us about his response to that passage — he creates a research foundation to develop ways to pass a camel through an eye of a needle! He shows us the various research projects (pulverizing a camel, developing dwarf camels while building extra-large needles, and so on). “Unless I’ve completely missed the Bible message, this ought to get me into heaven,” he proclaims.
For the irreverent SNL, this is a remarkably-favorable treatment of a Bible passage, and an astute assesment of the way in which all of us try to weasel out of uncomfortable scriptures. There have been a very few other, similar moments in SNL’s 30-year history; I recall a Robert Smigel “Fun With Real Audio” cartoon depicting a sad, and sometimes angry, Jesus looking at a storefront display of TV sets, dismayed by the various TV evangelists whose messages are heard in “real audio” clips. Finally, he comes across a TV playing “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” specifically the part where Linus reads the Christmas story. A tear of joy runs down Jesus’ face and he exits doing the “Charlie Brown dance.”
With no meetings or other obligations tonight, I had some good time to work on the novel. As it happened, I had a scene tonight where several of the main characters make speeches at a city council meeting, and that turned out to be productive in terms of word-count. But I’ve gone quite a way past that scene.
Anyway, I did more than 3,000 words today. I’m not certain but I think that’s the most I’ve done in a single day’s work, with the possible exception of last Saturday, when I was home all day.
Also, earlier in the day, I thought of a couple of plot twists that will allow me to take the novel past the plot arc I had originally envisioned, since that original story is not going to fill 50,000 words.
Please, as you read the thing, keep in mind that I’m shooting for quantity in this draft, not quality. Some parts of it are purple prose, and some are just silly. But I continue to be surprised by some of the twists and turns it’s taking, and I look forward to wrestling it into shape once National Novel Writing Month has ended.
As I blogged below, I interviewed Brad Abare and Kevin Hendricks of the “Church Marketing Sucks” web site earlier this week for The Door.
I’ve had to correspond with them since about artwork for the article, and Kevin e-mailed me today; he had apparently gone to my web site and noticed that I am writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month. Turns out Kevin is writing one, too! Here it is.
I’m not a big fan of competitive reality TV — but I am fascinated by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, whose companies (under the brand name “Virgin”) have included a record label, record superstores, an airline, a cell-phone provider and even a brand of cola. Branson is also an adventurer, who has achieved fame for his attempts to fly around the world in a hot air balloon.
So I tuned in a few minutes of “The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best,” the new Fox reality show which is Branson’s version of “The Apprentice.” Branson, instead of having his contestants sell lemonade on the streets of New York or promote a new brand of toothpaste, is involving them in various adventures and trust-building exercises. Last night’s team competition forced the contestants, who were on bungee cords, to jump into the arms of a spotter who was positioned over an impossibly-deep canyon. If a jumper missed, they took a bungee jump to the bottom of the canyon. Unlike “The Apprentice,” where Donald Trump appears at the beginning of the show to give marching orders and at the end of the show to fire someone, Branson participates in the activities alongside the contestants. (He missed his jump and took the plunge.)
I missed part of what followed, but a player who did badly in the bungee cord competition was apparently challenged to redeem himself by going over a waterfall with Branson in a barrel. But this was a trick — the stunt was far too dangerous, and Branson and the producers had no intention of going through with it. It was a test to see if the player would show some initiative and object to the stunt, or would blindly follow directions. (The player failed the test and was eliminated from the competition.)
I’m still not taken with the reality TV format, but I guess I’ll have to watch the show next week — beause Branson is taking the teams to Africa, where they will be involved in some sort of relief work and then will go on safari. (Gee … that sounds vaguely familiar.) Some would call that exploitative — and it may turn out to be — but if it’s handled correctly it might turn out to be educational. Anything that opens Americans’ eyes to the realities of the developing world is a good thing.
I interviewed Brad Abare and Kevin Hendricks of “Church Marketing Sucks” earlier today for The Door. (The Door is backlogged with interviews right now, so It will be mid-year 2005 before this probably sees print.)
I was extremely impressed by both of them. They are passionate about challenging the church to do a better job of communicating its message to others, and yet they are grounded enough to recognize that marketing’s job is to serve, not overwhelm. That kind of marketing does not expect the church to conform; it takes what is already true about the church and finds an effective way of directing that message towards those most in need of it.
I highly recommend their web site for anyone active in a local church. (And I highly recommend being active in a local church.)
The good news: the novel is up to more than 21,000 words. The bad news: it’s November 15, halfway through the month, so I should be at 25,000. But I’m continuing to make progress, and I may not even be through for this evening.