News for November 2008

in and out

I returned Sunday night from a great and busy weekend playing bass and mandolin for Jonathan Rundman down in OK.  More on that soon.  Monday and today have been very full days, and tomorrow the family heads to UT of all places for Thanksgiving.  Thankfully Jodi’s on top of the laundry so I’ve got clean socks.  Now I just need to repack my bag – which isn’t quite unpacked yet – and get ready for tomorrow’s flight and drive.  Something tells me traveling with Elsa on my lap will be a little more challenging than flying with a mandolin on my lap…  I’m sure I’ll have something to say about this when we get back next week.  In the meantime don’t forget to say thanks!

You’re Welcome.

Posted: November 25th, 2008
Categories: family, travel
Comments: No Comments.

For what it's worth.

At some point Lydia got ‘worthless’ and ‘worth it’ confused.  So now on the rare occasion that she gets frusrated (that’s me writing sarcastically) she puts her hands against her temples and utters, “It’s worth it.”  Our laughter generally doesn’t help the situation and she’s too much like her dad to admit that she wrong no matter how gently we mock/correct her.

Please don’t read too much into my crappy parenting, that’s not what this blog is about.

Last night I had a chance to hang out with my buddies Justin and Jonathan to get a little music business done.  Justin has been exercising.  I’m proud of Justin.  Jodi has known this for days because she gets up to the second updates on all sorts of ephemera via spacebook, the chain letter of the future.  Super valuable.  Hearing that Justin is exercising is wonderful, not because I was in the least bit worried about his not exercising, but because it benefits me, and I look for that in all things.  How does it benefit me?  Inspiration, my friend, inspiration. 

So I went running today.  With new silver running shoes.  A blog unto itself. 

Then I rode my bike to get stamps and coffee.  I ride my bike just about every day, but usually on short rides so I take out my Schwinn Suburban that my friend Deanna gave me.  It’s an old beautiful bike, not really made for speed, though it has 5 of them.  Jodi has a matching one with a basket.  I really love these bikes and they’re great for going to music classes and church and the post office.  Fun old bikes.  But today I thought I’d take my road bike out.  It’s nothing fancy, but it’s nice and I love it and I usually only take it out if I’m going more than 5 miles or up hills.  Or both. 

So I put on my pro riding gear (good will pants, socks that don’t stay up, flannel shirt, yellow jacket of inspiration, stocking cap that’s all stretched out, and 4 dollar safety goggles from Menards) and took off looking every bit the part of tour de zaster.  I haven’t had time to go for a real ride in about a month or so and holy cow, I forgot how much I love this bike!  And how fast and smooth it is.  Someday I’ll live up to this bike’s potential.

I also forgot how freakin’ cold it was outside.  By the time I got to the Post Office I was starting to wonder about the next leg of the journey, but as I pulled up to the bike rack I noticed a bit of graffiti on the side of the post office wall that read, “It’s worth it.”

Sentimental ending:  Maybe this time I was the one that had gotten worthless and worth it confused.

Actual ending: Heck yeah!

Posted: November 18th, 2008
Categories: bike, family, friendship
Comments: No Comments.

Onward Regression!

There’s a lot to be said for regression.  Moving back.  Getting slower.  Turning stuff off.

The Houge house has been busy.  Jodi’s a full time student for another 5 weeks.  On top of her course work she started a church.  Starting a church takes a bit of work.  Some would call it a full time job.  Jodi’s busy.

Lydia…. Well Lydia’s Lydia and that has and I imagine always will be an all consuming job.  This morning she tried to boot me off the computer because she insisted part of her homework was writing a script for the school play.  Kindergarden’s not what it used to be.

Elsa is 18 months old and acts every bit like an 18 month old child should be acting.  Uber-exploratory.  Fiesty.  Opinionated.  Testing boundaries.

And I’m just trying to keep my head screwed on straight and remember what day it is, what deadline is approaching, what instrument to grab, and who to send manuscripts off too.  My to do list for the past week included:  Finishing fixing my neighbor’s bike, meeting two different writing deadlines for this Monday, handing over my kid’s CD for layout and duplication at Noiseland, doing a near final mix of the band Floating Bridge’s upcoming E.P., being less and less of a stay at home dad, moving the porter from primary to secondary fermentation, teaching two different preschool music classes, getting an antique hutch delivered to my parent’s town home, and going on a date with my wife.  I saved the best for last. 

So what does this have to do with being regressive? Well, I’ve learned a few things this week.  One, I don’t handle stress well.  Instead of dealing with stress I tend to get rid of it.  If a messy house stresses me I handle it by getting rid of things.  If jobs drive me nuts I quit.  If seminary is sucking up my wifes time, I complain about the system. 

What it comes down to is that while the rest of the world is multitasking and wading through the work flow, I’m moving toward monotasking as hard as I can.  I don’t want to be a stay at home parent and a freelance artist.  As a freelance artist I don’t want to think about writing and music on the same day.  As a musician I don’t want to think about CD design and a preschool set list on the same afternoon.  I want to move slower.  I want to do less.  I want to be more deliberate about these choices. 

I’ve also learned (once again) that I hate writing and editing on the computer.  For some of the writing I’m doing right now I’ve been trying very hard not to print things off, but rather to become more agile with my thumb and jump between documents all the time when referencing and double checking information.  What a headache.  So today I printed off about 50 pages of material.  Instantly I was working faster, more efficiently, and with greater satisfaction.  I’m moving back to paper and pencil.  I regress.

 I want less stuff, fewer obligations, and minimal technology. 

Posted: November 15th, 2008
Categories: family, health, music, technology
Comments: No Comments.

Evolution Debunked.

Last night I was reading Kathleen Norris’s book on acedia and my wandered off.   It’s a great book and the fact that I was having trouble caring about a few of the passages may be evidence of my need to read such a work.

So my minds wandering off and my hand touches that place at the base of your neck where they stick tubes for tracheotomies and I thought to myself, “If evolution is so cool why didn’t it cover this up with something?  I could totally poke myself here and potentially die.  I’ve seen Bruce Lee do it.”  Then I thought, “Again if evolution is so great why do our bones still break?  Why do we stop evolving?”  And then I carried the thought into more practical matters.  Who hasn’t dreamed of flying?  Wouldn’t it be great to fly?  Why haven’t we evolved into flying creatures?  Don’t you want to fly?

When posing these questions to my wife she pointed out that humans used to be smaller, hairier, and unable to talk.

Really?  That’s what we’re so jazzed about?  Over the course of the last billion years we’ve grown bigger, less hairy, and can communicate with words?  Us and dolphins. 

I’m so unimpressed with evolution at this point.  Give me creation any day.  Now that’s freakin’ cool.  And way more believable.  Seriously, I’m so much more likely to believe that God created the world in 7 days than us growing less hairy over a billion years. 

Somedays I’m so regressive it hurts.  Hurts so good.

Posted: November 12th, 2008
Categories: Uncategorized
Comments: No Comments.

Bread for the best journey ever.

This is the most beautiful loaf of bread I have yet to bake.  It’s a sour dough from a wild yeast starter.  A starter that is by my own fault no more.  But this is what came out of the oven after a month of nurturing and 2 days of kneading and rising.  The crust was all crackly and crisp, the crumb exactly what you’d expect of a sourdough, and the texture all chewy and brilliant. 

big bread


Posted: November 11th, 2008
Categories: bread
Comments: No Comments.


Last night I went to see Lucinda Williams with my buddy Marty.  Rather than do a concert review I’ll post an insight I came out of First Avenue with.

There are three things that get better with age:

1.  My love for Jodi (I miss going to concerts with her.)

2. Buddy Miller’s yelp.  (No he wasn’t there, but I was thinking about his work on Car Wheels and thought man, that guys got a heck of a yelp.)

3. Lucinda William’s growl.  (no parenthetical necessary)

Posted: November 6th, 2008
Categories: family, friendship, music
Comments: No Comments.

One Last Word For/From Nader

Well folks, in 42 minutes the polls close in St. Paul.  I know the majority of my friends voted for Obama and like most Democrats were a bit bemused and slightly irritated with my ongoing choice to vote for Ralph Nader.  Luckily I have a habit of amusing and annoying my friends so this is nothing new and no friendships are in jeopardy over these choices.  Thank God.

I’m not apologetic for my Ralph vote.  If McCain wins I’ll feel no shame or remorse.  My vote was not wasted.  I have not been overly vocal about my Nader support and I have no regrets over that.  It would’ve been good of me to spend an afternoon handing out fliers for the cause, but lately it’s been more important to hang out with my neighbors and try to get enough work to pay the mortgage.

I get a lot of e-mails from the Nader/Gonzalez campaign headquarters.  And I rarely pass them on, but today Nader sent an open letter to Obama and I’m posting it below.  He hits on a number of the reasons I’m uncomfortable with Obama and how his campaign was run.  It was a disgusting amount of money thrown at all of us in hopes of buying our allegiance.  He talked plenty about the middle class and little about the poor.  And as much as he talks of taking troops out of Iraq his approach to foreign policy doesn’t come off as being all that different than McCain’s.

If Obama wins, I wish him all the best.  But I hope he doesn’t assume every educated progressive change wanting american is going to blindly follow him.  Tomorrow isn’t the day to stop camaigning for what we beleive in, it’s just a day to refocus and raise our voices all the louder.  With that in mind here’s a copy of Nader’s letter. 

November 3, 2008

Open letter to Senator Barack Obama

Dear Senator Obama:

In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words “hope and change,” “change and hope” have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not “hope and change” but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.

Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?

To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity– not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism. Take, for example, your transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Eric Alterman summarized numerous polls in a December 2007 issue of The Nation magazine showing that AIPAC policies are opposed by a majority of Jewish-Americans.

You know quite well that only when the U.S. Government supports the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, that years ago worked out a detailed two-state solution (which is supported by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians), will there be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict. Yet you align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an “undivided Jerusalem,” and opposed negotiations with Hamas– the elected government in Gaza. Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored “direct negotiations with Hamas.” Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote “Anti-semitism today is the persecution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state.”

During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference, and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance of international law and the United Nations charter. You focused on southern Israeli casualties which during the past year have totaled one civilian casualty to every 400 Palestinian casualties on the Gaza side. Instead of a statesmanship that decried all violence and its replacement with acceptance of the Arab League’s 2002 proposal to permit a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for full economic and diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, you played the role of a cheap politician, leaving the area and Palestinians with the feeling of much shock and little awe.

David Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, described your trip succinctly: “There was almost a willful display of indifference to the fact that there are two narratives here. This could serve him well as a candidate, but not as a President.”

Palestinian American commentator, Ali Abunimah, noted that Obama did not utter a single criticism of Israel, “of its relentless settlement and wall construction, of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians. …Even the Bush administration recently criticized Israeli’s use of cluster bombs against Lebanese civilians [see for elaboration]. But Obama defended Israeli’s assault on Lebanon as an exercise of its ‘legitimate right to defend itself.'”

In numerous columns Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, strongly criticized the Israeli government’s assault on civilians in Gaza, including attacks on “the heart of a crowded refugee camp… with horrible bloodshed” in early 2008.

Israeli writer and peace advocate– Uri Avnery– described Obama’s appearance before AIPAC as one that “broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning, adding that Obama “is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future– if and when he is elected president.,” he said, adding, “Of one thing I am certain: Obama’s declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for the world and bad for the Palestinian people.”

A further illustration of your deficiency of character is the way you turned your back on the Muslim-Americans in this country. You refused to send surrogates to speak to voters at their events. Having visited numerous churches and synagogues, you refused to visit a single Mosque in America. Even George W. Bush visited the Grand Mosque in Washington D.C. after 9/11 to express proper sentiments of tolerance before a frightened major religious group of innocents.

Although the New York Times published a major article on June 24, 2008 titled “Muslim Voters Detect a Snub from Obama” (by Andrea Elliott), citing examples of your aversion to these Americans who come from all walks of life, who serve in the armed forces and who work to live the American dream. Three days earlier the International Herald Tribune published an article by Roger Cohen titled “Why Obama Should Visit a Mosque.” None of these comments and reports change your political bigotry against Muslim-Americans– even though your father was a Muslim from Kenya.

Perhaps nothing illustrated your utter lack of political courage or even the mildest version of this trait than your surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. This is a tradition for former presidents and one accorded in prime time to Bill Clinton this year.

Here was a President who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt, but his recent book pressing the dominant Israeli superpower to avoid Apartheid of the Palestinians and make peace was all that it took to sideline him. Instead of an important address to the nation by Jimmy Carter on this critical international problem, he was relegated to a stroll across the stage to “tumultuous applause,” following a showing of a film about the Carter Center’s post-Katrina work. Shame on you, Barack Obama!

But then your shameful behavior has extended to many other areas of American life. (See the factual analysis by my running mate, Matt Gonzalez, on You have turned your back on the 100-million poor Americans composed of poor whites, African-Americans, and Latinos. You always mention helping the “middle class” but you omit, repeatedly, mention of the “poor” in America.

Should you be elected President, it must be more than an unprecedented upward career move following a brilliantly unprincipled campaign that spoke “change” yet demonstrated actual obeisance to the concentration power of the “corporate supremacists.” It must be about shifting the power from the few to the many. It must be a White House presided over by a black man who does not turn his back on the downtrodden here and abroad but challenges the forces of greed, dictatorial control of labor, consumers and taxpayers, and the militarization of foreign policy. It must be a White House that is transforming of American politics– opening it up to the public funding of elections (through voluntary approaches)– and allowing smaller candidates to have a chance to be heard on debates and in the fullness of their now restricted civil liberties. Call it a competitive democracy.

Your presidential campaign again and again has demonstrated cowardly stands. “Hope” some say springs eternal.” But not when “reality” consumes it daily.

Ralph Nader

Posted: November 4th, 2008
Categories: politics, third party
Comments: No Comments.

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