Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas To All!


25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel!"

"That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
--John 1:9

Have a great holiday, friends!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

BIG AL'S JOVIAL JUKEBOX #9: "Summer Wages" by IAN TYSON, 1986

Albie's Note:  I first heard this "modern cowboy song" on the 1967 Ian And Sylvia album SO MUCH FOR DREAMING in the early '80s.  I liked it OK, but didn't think of it as more than an interesting stab at writing a modern "working-man" type of folk song.  Later, in about 1987 when I bought Ian Tyson's now-legendary solo outing COWBOYOGRAPHY-- where he had re-recorded the song the year before with subtle lyric changes and in a much more western arrangement-- I really came to appreciate what a fine piece of poetry it is. 

Hard to believe I have now loved this song for decades... but that's what the song's about in the firstplace: passage of time.  Not only did Tyson -- a real-life Canadian cattleman and musician-- write an authentic song as far as the northern itinerant workingman's peculiar reality, but he really composed a doggone great metaphoric lyric about life in general. The message? I think it's something like this: All of life is fleeting... and it will be gone before we know it... and "dealers" and "hookers" and "beer parlors" and false friends-- of one kind or another-- well, they're just plain everywhere, partner.

The moral? Make wise decisions, my friends.  And hold fast to things that are true.

(Ian Tyson)
Never hit 17 when you play against the dealer
For you know that the odds won't ride with you
And never leave your woman alone
With your friends around to steal her
She'll be gambled and gone like summer wages.

And we'll keep rollin' on 'til we get to Vancouver
And the lady that I love she's livin' there
It's been 6 long months and more since I've seen her
Maybe she's gambled and gone like summer wages.

In all the Beer Parlors all down 'long Main Street
The dreams of the season get all spilled down on the floor
'Bove the big stands of timber, waitin' there just for fallin'
The hookers standin'-- watchful and waitin'-- by the door.
Gonna work on the towboats with my slippery city shoes
Lord, I swore I would never do that again
Through the grey fog-bound straits where the cedars stand a-waitin'
I'll be far off and gone like summer wages.
In all the Beer Parlors all down 'long Main Street
The dreams of the season get all spilled down on the floor
'Bove the big stands of timber, waitin' there just for fallin'
The hookers waitin'-- watchful and standin'-- by the door.
Never hit 17 when you're playin' against the dealer
For you know that the odds won't ride with you
And never leave your woman alone
With friends around to steal her
She'll be gambled and gone like summer wages...
And the years are gambled and lost like summer wages.

Copyright Ian Tyson, Slick Fork Music-SOCAN
Recorded by Ian and Sylvia, So Much for Dreaming, 1967, Vanguard.
Also by Ian on Coyboyography, Stony Plain 1986

Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
- Proverbs 23:5

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
--James 4:14


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I am a MAJOR fan of both Christmas and O. Henry [William Sydney Porter September 11, 1862 – June 5, 1910] so of course I love the story GIFT OF THE MAGI, first published in the Dec. 21, 1905 edition of the New York World Sunday Magazine.  It is doubtless Bill Porter's most famous, if not his best, short story, which is actually fitting, as it's twin themes of sacrificial love and loyalty are staples of the great man's legacy.

I also like the unique Big Band revival group THE SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS, and so I was delighted to find that they had set the tale to music for their Christmas album.  Gotta love songs that tell stories!

My heart is sad, my soul is weary

Though Christmas day is fast appear

I have no silver I have no gold

To buy my wife a gift this year

To see her sad on Christmas morning

Is a thing I cannot bear

I'll pawn the watch my father gave me

To buy a comb for her hair

Oh Mother, Mother what shall I do?

Though Christmas day is fast appear

I have no silver, I have no gold

To buy my love a gift this year

For I am poor and I'm a beggar

Not a cent have I, no dime I claim

I'll trade the golden hair that is our pleasure

Buy for your watch a golden chain

Darling, darling today is Christmas

What has become of your golden hair?

For I've traded our only treasure

These silver combs for you to wear

Darling, darling we've lost our treasure

My gift to you is a golden chain

Though we've pawned away our only pleasures

These gifts we give are not in vain

The wise men came on Christmas morning

Their gifts of love they came to bear

From that day on always remembered

Our own true love forever share



Sunday, December 9, 2012

HYMN TIME #12: "Life's Railway To Heaven"

Albie's Note: I love this old hymn with a railroading theme.  You don't hear it sung much congregationally these days but it remains in many if not most American Gosple Hymnals. According to The Cyber Hymnal website:

"The or­i­gin of this song is murky. Eliza R. Snow may have writ­ten the orig­in­al lyr­ics, with M. E. Ab­bey (a Bap­tist min­is­ter in Georg­ia in the 1890s) sup­ply­ing the chor­us. There is a sim­i­lar po­em/hymn by Snow, called “Truth Re­flects upon Our Sens­es,” which Charles Till­man put to this same tune in 1909. At any rate, Ab­bey and Till­man co­py­right­ed “Life’s Rai­lway to Heav­en” in 1890. It has long been a fa­vo­rite in the rail­road­ing com­mun­i­ty."
Another online writer says that Snow was a Morman poet whose original poem was modified by Abbey, whose composite poem was then set to music by Tillman, a popular Southern "Singing Evangelist" who set many poems to music and also entirely wrote the great hymn "Old Time Power."  To be fair, Snow's neat original poem, which can be read HERE, is so different from "Life's Railway" that they are essentially 2 different songs as near as I can see.   In any case, the hymn that sits in hymnbooks today is a real classic, and if the metaphor of Jesus as "the great engineer" seems trite today, it is a profoundly TRUE bit of triteness!

Many artists have recorded this timeless song-- and Johnny Cash, the notorious train buff, recorded it himself at 3 different times!-- but my favorite version is by Johnny on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's 1989 album "Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Vol 2," the original video for which I found to be wonderfully available on good ol' YOUTUBE.  As you watch, notice the presence of not just Johnny and all of the NGDB, but also three late Carter Sisters (Anita, Helen and June) on backing vocals, Mark O'Connor on fiddle, Earl Scruggs on banjo, and Jerry Douglas on Dobro. Whew, that was a quite a session!

Life is like a mountain railroad, with an engineer that’s brave;

We must make the run successful, from the cradle to the grave;

Watch the curves, the fills, the tunnels; never falter, never quail;

Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail.


Bless├Ęd Savior, Thou wilt guide us,

Till we reach that blissful shore;

Where the angels wait to join us

In Thy praise forevermore.
You will roll up grades of trial; you will cross the bridge of strife;

See that Christ is your Conductor on this lightning train of life;

Always mindful of obstruction, do your duty, never fail;

Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail.


You will often find obstructions; look for storms of wind and rain;

On a fill, or curve, or trestle, they will almost ditch your train;

Put your trust alone in Jesus; never falter, never fail;

Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail.


As you roll across the trestle, spanning Jordan’s swelling tide,

You behold the Union Depot into which your train will glide;

There you’ll meet the Superintendent, God the Father, God the Son,

With the hearty, joyous, plaudit, “Weary pilgrim, welcome home!”

"For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death."
--Psalm 48:14


Wednesday, December 5, 2012


First Publisher: Signet,
First Published February 4, 1975

I have decided I really like the late Lewis B. Patten (January 13, 1915 – May 22, 1981) as a western writer. It's actually kind of amazing that I am just now discovering his work after an adulthood full of reading western books,  but I guess I just always thought of him as one of those writers who came along after the pulp period and specialized in those slapdash written-on-the-fly paperback westerns that clutter up the bookstore shelves. I am actually not sure how I arrived at this bit of prejudice against him, but I officially repent of it now.  Lew Patten has a newfound fan in Albie!

I first encountered Patten's spare and powerful prose in a short story called "Winter Of His Life," that I found and read in an old WWA paperback anthology.   This story, a vignette about the final days of a western old-timer in a current urban setting, so impressed me that I knew I should give Patten's novels a chance once and for all.  I am now glad I decided to check him out more fully.

My first choice among his novels turned out to be a real winner:  ORPHANS OF COYOTE CREEK from 1975.

First published just 6 years before the author's death, ORPHANS was kind of like a hardcore, realistic take on the hackneyed Disney-ish idea of orphans alone on the frontier. [I am not being snobby, by the way... to this day APPLE DUMPLING GANG is one of my favorite movies.] 

In this novel, three children-- a boy of 12, a girl of 8, and another boy of 4-- are orphaned abruptly when both their parents are killed instantly in a freak wagon accident. The oldest, Jason Huntzinger,  has to suddenly make some quick decisions to keep the 3 of them alive. All of this happens literally within the first five pages of the book, and it is amazing how convincingly Patten is able to make both the circumstances, and the childrens' reactions to those circumstances,  seem real.  Making children seem like real, plausible characters is always a challenge for ANY writer of fiction, and Patten not only does this capably but even creates a memorably and complexly driven character in young Jason.   Throughout the book Jason rises to the occasions that challenge him, and evn finds his true purpose as a result, adopting it  as his supreme goal in life to keep he and his siblings alive and together.  The forces against him range from bitter cold and possible starvation,  to a vividly-drawn murderous drifter named Al Gruber and some well-meaning "bleeding heart" women encountered at a stage station, who actually-- and ironically-- cause more trouble for the kids than just about any other factor.

Just about the only adult who does the kids any good at all is a great character named Andy Tippett, the driver of the stagecoach that happens into the story.  Tippett is a likably wise and world weary character who sees through all the facades and hypocrasy  that constantly surround him.  I really liked the following exchange he has with the boy Jason mid-way through the book:

"You figure you can support the three of you?"

“I reckon so." There was a world of assurance in Jason’s voice.

“Some of them Denver busybodies get hold of you and they'll..." Tippett stopped. He didn't know what would happen to the three orphans in Denver, and there was no use scaring the boy.

Jason asked, "They'll what?"

"Nothin'. I'd just stay as far as you can away from do-goodin' women if I was you.”

"Plan to." Jason grinned.
Also, Patten gives a memorably sympathetic look at a small group of Arapaho Native Americans-- led by a well-drawn character named Walks Fast--who help the children and literally get massacred for their trouble. Only the kids and Tippett even seem to care or see the Indians' side of the whole mess, which gave the book a dark side that was appropriately handled but still kind of startling.  With regard to the Indians, here's another great piece of description from Patten:

An Indian is as curious as anybody, and a single gunshot required investigation. Walks Fast immediately turned his horse toward the sound, and the others fell in behind.  
There was no chittering back and forth between them, as ther would have been had they been white. They rode in single file, each perhaps twenty-five or thirty yards behind the one in front.  White men, by contrast, ride abreast whenever possible and keep up a steady stream of talk.
As you can see, Patten has this way with decription that often manages to be poignant, comical and profound all at once.  He won the SPUR award for western fiction twice and I can definitely see why. He also-- based on my first reading of one of his novels--  seems to have had a strong sense of location in his work [this one took place mainly on the plains of western Nebraska] and he gave his characters-- both the good and the evil ones-- strong, realistic motivation.  He was a real pro.

In short, I downright loved this old western.  It was just the kind of individualistic, nervy tale that makes the best November afternoon read.  If you like un-pretentious westerns well-told, grab you up some Lewis B. Patten! 


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

BIG AL's JOVIAL JUKEBOX #8: "Circus Mystery" by SKID ROPER, 1989

Albie's note:  I have been long been a fan of the totally unique American musicain and song-writer Skid Roper, best remembered today as the '80s era sidekick of wild-man goof-a-billy Mojo Nixon.  I like Mojo, too, of course, but the strange poetry and spotty career of the laid-back Skid [born Richard Banke, 19 October 1954 in National City, California] fascinates me more.  After he and Mojo split, Skid would record at least 3 indescribable solo albums containing songs with titles like "The Return Of Rodan,"  "Teen-age Caveman," "Lincoln Logs" and "Shack Out On 101." 

This weird and funny song/poem comes from the classic 1989 Nixon/Roper effort ROOT HOG OR DIE, where Brother Skid was credited with "vocals, bongos, washboard, harmonica and guitar."  It was the only Roper solo song on that album, but young Albie always dug it.

I should warn ya, he's probably whatcha would call... "an acquired taste."  Anyway, here's the tune:

Words and music by
The laughing clown sat down and cried
The wiry contortionist straightened out her act
The lion tamer put away his whip
"Save it for some other cat..."
And the dwarves cried giant tears...
Circus Mystery.
The strong man suddenly became weak
Nagging thoughts came from the horse's pen
The ventriloquist had to dummy up
Couldn't even say "when..."
And the dwarves cried giant tears...
Circus Mystery.
The puppet show was still and quiet
The fat lady's chances were slim
All the acro-bats looked for a new cave
Their wits had... dimmed...
And the dwarves cried giant tears...
Circus Mystery.
All those things in large jars were gone
Aligator man though it was all a "crock"
Dumb elephants can't tell their tales
Houdini Jr. just couldn't pick the lock...
And the dwarves cried giant tears...
Circus Mystery.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

FUN ON THE 'NET: Make Your Own church Sign!

Just went to a fun site today found at this URL:  

You can make your own "church signs" and post your results.  I just made a couple for grins:

Just thought I'd pass on the fun!


Sunday, November 11, 2012


Albie's Note:  I really like this song off the new Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver album.  It's a tribute to the American small-town mercantile store.  I grew up with one of those right down the highway in Sonoita, AZ and it was pretty much exactly what you hear described in the song.  In fact... pictured above is that same store as it looks today! 

Take a listen to this great new song:

The rickety front porch planks are creakin'
But the hound door by the door keeps sleepin'
Old men stare when you walk in
And behind the counter stands Big Jim
He's 5 feet tall and a little change
Telling stories with a grin on his face

It smells like country ham and cheese
Pipe tobacco and kerosene
There's a pot belly stove and checkers by the door
It's a dying breed the country store

There's homemade fudge, RC and moon pies
Fishing lures, guns and knives
Camo' gear and turkey calls
Carhartt coats and overalls
It's a whole lot different then the new Quick Stack
Cause when you leave they say y'all come back

If you're ever around these parts , stop in
Cause if you do your gonna wanna come back again

There's a radio station playin' country
And on Saturday night they listen to the Opry
Tapping to fiddles on a hard wood floor
It's a dying breed that country store
Man, I love that country store!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Some Words That Slammed Me HARD: "Am I Good And Broken?"

by Nancy Leigh deMoss

Proud people focus on the failures of others.
Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults
with a microscope but their own with a telescope.
Broken people are compassionate; they forgive much because they know how much
they have been forgiven.

Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others.

Broken people esteem all others better than themselves.

Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit.

Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.

Proud people have to prove that they are right.

Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.

Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit.

Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.

Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation.

Broken people are self-denying.

Proud people desire to be served.

Broken people are motivated to serve others.

Proud people desire to be a success.
Broken people are motivated to be faithful
and to make others a success.

Proud people desire self-advancement.
Broken people desire to promote others.

Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated.
Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness;
they are thrilled that God would use them at all.

Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked.
Broken people are eager for others to get the credit;
  they rejoice when others are lifted up.

Proud people have a subconscious feeling,
"This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts";
they think of what they can do for God.
Broken people’s heart attitude is, "I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry";
they know that they have nothing to offer God
except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.

Proud people feel confident in how much they know.
Broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.

from © Brokenness: Revive Our Hearts.
Written by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.




I just Googled the words "beatnik" and "comics" together on a lark and found some funny old images.  Just thought I'd share a few.  I actually like the guy in the "Dennis" panel.  The camaraderie with kids is endearing.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

POETRY BREAK #11: "Dream Of A Baseball Star" by Gregory Corso 1960

Poem by Gregory Corso

I dreamed Ted Williams
leaning at night
against the Eiffel Tower, weeping.

He was in uniform
and his bat lay at his feet
–knotted and twiggy.
Randall Jarrell says you’re a poet!” I cried.
“So do I! I say you’re a poet!”

He picked up his bat with blown hands;
stood there astraddle as he would in the batter’s box,
and laughed! flinging his schoolboy wrath
toward some invisible pitcher’s mound
–waiting the pitch all the way from heaven.

It came; hundreds came! all afire!
He swung and swung and swung and connected not one
sinker curve hook or right-down-the-middle.
A hundred strikes!
The umpire dressed in strange attire
thundered his judgment: YOU’RE OUT!
And the phantom crowd’s horrific boo
dispersed the gargoyles from Notre Dame.

And I screamed in my dream:
God! throw thy merciful pitch!
Herald the crack of bats!
Hooray the sharp liner to left!
Yea the double, the triple!
Hosannah the home run!
From The Happy Birthday of Death, City Lights Press, San Francisco CA (1960, poetry)
Gregory Nunzio Corso (March 26, 1930 – January 17, 2001)

"...It comes, I tell you, immense with gasolined rags and bits of wire and old bent nails, a dark arriviste, from a dark river within." — Gregory Corso, How Poetry Comes to Me (epigraph of Gasoline)


Well, it's official.  Youtube is amazing.

Just when I was sure there was some music from my past so strange and obscure it would never, EVER end up on this insane WorldWideWeb, I playfully decided today to search for "Jonathan And Leigh" and my favorite song from their single and (I assumed) long-forgotten 1967 Vanguard album THIRD AND MAIN popped up and played for me!

Yes, Youtube, you win.  You are amazing... and, Ok, you're very useful too.

I bought this one on vinyl back about '87 when-- as a college student in Northwest Arkansas-- I was somehow heavily into old folk and blues music.   At a record store in Fayetteville ARK I had struck up a friendship with the owner-- a guy named Dave-- who repeatedly sold me old Vanguard titles at reasonable prices.   Looking back, I think there must have been virtually no call for these titles in the collector's market of the time, as Dave was notoriously expensive on everything else, from current English rockabilly imports to standard oldies fare. 

As a result, I built up quite a collection of recordings by artists like Ian And Sylvia, Judy Collins, Mimi And Richard Farina, Josh White, Odetta, early Gordon Lightfoot, and even occasionally Joan Baez.   I had originally gotten into this kind of stuff because of a record store owner I had known earlier back in Tucson AZ-- Larry The Mad Hatter-- who would play strange songs by Farina and Leonard Cohen on his store's sound system while he drank beer and laughed and read Gregory Corso poems.  All of this stuff-- quite old already at the time-- was actually quite new and strange to a miner's son from Sonoita AZ who had grown up with older brothers playing awesome stuff like Buck Owens, The Ventures and Del Shannon on those old, suitcase-style record players.

I guess what I appreciated about this stuff at the time-- and still appreciate to some extent-- was that it seemed like there was a real attempt at poetry in all of it.  These artists, in their better moments, would actually compose songs that were poetic-- even on paper-- and as an impressionable young English major sitting in my loft discovering Blake and Whitman and Lew Welch I could not help but be compelled to it.  Even today, song-writers like Eric Anderson and Ian Tyson can really impress me with their imagery, but back then?-- sipping Brandy, painting in watercolors, and composing my own strange "poems" at my book-cluttered desk-- it was like I was in a garret in Paris or something! 

[Hey... I warned you in my blog header I was a Beatnik!  It is now a part of me I just can't bury... and believe me, I have tried! :) ]

Anyway... back to the album. This one was cheap even for Dave-- 2 bucks, if memory serves-- and it was so obscure I could find no reference to these artists anywhere, not even in the folk music reference books, although Osbornes' Record Guide did at least list it (nothing ever got by that guy, apparently.)

I bought it because it was on Vanguard, and nothing I had ever found on that label was entirely uninteresting. At first I though it was just OK, good songwriting and selection of covers, with decent-- if wimpy-- vocal interpretation.  But after a few plays it really grew on me.  It just had that wintery, folky feel to it.

Phil Ochs (December 19, 1940 – April 9, 1976)
My favorite cut was this one, "Changes,"  a Phil Ochs tune I had already heard in its original and  several cover versions.   What made J & L's version special to me was the female harmony on the later verses, supplied by the mysterious "Leigh."  I never had any info on her or "Jonatahan, but today, thanks to the 'net, I now know some basic things.

Apparently, according to the  Allmusic.com site, which uses information from the CD re-issue [there's a CD???!], this much we know:

"The obscure male-female folk-rock duo Jonathan and Leigh recorded one album for Vanguard, Third and Main, released in 1967. Songwriter Jonathan Alden and his partner Leigh (no last name given on the sleeve but actuall Sandy Lee Roepken) echoed contemporary folk-rock male-female acts such as Richard & Mimi Farina, Ian & Sylvia, Jim & Jean, and the We Five... Among the supporting musicians were Russ Savakus (who had played bass on several Ian & Sylvia and Farinas albums), bassist Richard Davis, and guitarist Jay Berliner (both of whom would play on Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, and the rhythm section of Warren Smith (drums) and William Salter (bass), who would play on several albums by Pearls Before Swine. Smith also played on Astral Weeks, although the presence of three sidemen who also played on that album should not be taken to mean that Jonathan & Leigh sound at all like Van Morrison... For all that, it's a rather likable if slight folk-rock album, recorded perhaps before the duo's skills had reached optimum maturation. Considering it was on the rather high-profile independent folk and folk-rock label Vanguard, it made very little impact, though it's not all that hard to find in the used bins."
Both of them are still alive, apparently, so Jon, Leigh... If you ever come across this blog, please know that I liked your record a lot. It was a big part-- of a small part-- of my crazy life.

by Phil Ochs

Sit by my side, come as close as the air,
Share in a memory of gray;
Wander in my words, dream about the pictures
That I play of changes.

Green leaves of summer turn red in the fall
To brown and to yellow they fade.
And then they have to die, trapped within
the circle time parade of changes.

Scenes of my young years were warm in my mind,
Visions of shadows that shine.
Til one day I returned and found they were the
Victims of the vines of changes.

The world's spinning madly, it drifts in the dark
Swings through a hollow of haze,
A race around the stars, a journey through
The universe ablaze with changes.

Moments of magic will glow in the night
All fears of the forest are gone
But when the morning breaks they're swept away by
golden drops of dawn, of changes.

Passions will part to a strange melody.
As fires will sometimes burn cold.
Like petals in the wind, we're puppets to the silver
strings of souls, of changes.

Your tears will be trembling, now we're somewhere else,
One last cup of wine we will pour
And I'll kiss you one more time, and leave you on
the rolling river shores of changes.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

HYMN TIME #11: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" HAPPY REFORMATION DAY!

This is one of the best known hymns in the entire world and certainly the best known of all those written by German Monk, Musician, Preacher and Reformer Martin Luther [1483-1546].  It is believed that Luther composed this hymn and it's music between 1527 and 1529.  The poem itself is a dramatic re-writing of the 46th Psalm.  Here is a picture of what is believed to be the oldest extant printing of this marvelous hymn in it's original German ["Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott"]

Where do we even begin when discussing the significance of Luther and The Great reformation?  In about 1991, early in my first marriage, I had my own weak mind good and blown by my first reading of Roland Bainton's great biography HERE I STAND, and I have been fascinated by the old "Champion Of Free Grace" ever since.  Luther had his faults, to be sure-- not the least of which were his shameful espousal of the state-church model and his (eventual) anti-semitism-- but the effect of his Gospel-based rebellion against "formalized legalism" and "sacralized statecraft" [to use Leonard Verduin's memorable labels] has influenced our "Western World" for an uncommon amount of good... no question about it!

To be honest, I will always  have my differences with not only Luther, but the entire "reformed" mindset, but still... those differences don't mean much when I look at what he got right, like his famous "five cornerstones":

Sola scriptura (by Scripture alone),
Sola fide (by faith alone),
Sola gratia (by grace alone),
Solo Christo (through Christ alone),
Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone)!

So yeah... I have to praise Almighty God for that old beer-guzzling, music-loving, German "Statist!"  And what a great hymn this is, too! Let's hear old Tennessee Ernie Ford's surprisingly reverent version [sorry he left out the third verse, but I printed it here, of course... it's a vital part of the whole poem.] :

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
"Luther and his companions, with all their bold readiness for danger and death in the cause of truth, had times when their feelings were akin to those of a divine singer, who said, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul?' But in such hours the unflinching Reformer would cheerily say to his friend Melancthon, 'Come, Philip, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm;' and they could sing it in Luther's own characteristic version."

S. W. Christophers, in "Hymn Writers and their Hymns," 1866

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea..." Psalm 46:1,2


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Feeding My Inner Geek #1: Five Old Comics That Would Make Great Movies

Comics are all the rage at the movies these days. I am amazed beyond measure when I see pretty young girls talking about the AVENGERS or CAPTAIN AMERICA on a level of actual geekiness!  In my day this was NOT a common occurrence, folks, believe me.  So apparently... the "geek culture" is now mainstream culture, for better or worse.

Well, here are my choices for the comics from my childhood that I feel would best lend themselves to a cinematic interpretation.  Even as a kid I had unusual taste in comics, so these are movies that will quite probably never be made.. but I am bored and at a computer, so here goes:


I have always been a sucker for a post-apocalypse tale, ever since I saw TEENAGE CAVEMAN on KGUN Tucson's "2 O'Clock Movies" as a kid.  Say what ya want about that old Corman flick, the surprise ending gave me chills [oops, that was a serious spoiler... good thing no one here is probably even interested... :) ]

The '70s had a proliferation of these types of stories [PLANET OF THE APES in all its manifestations, Gold Key's great and undervalued MIGHTY SAMSON, Marvel's "H. G. Wellsian" twist KILLRAVEN], but I would choose Kamandi just for the glorious Jack Kirby overkill and the joy of all those strange battles with every type of talking animal mutant [except the horses for some reason couldn't talk... go figure.]  I would love to see that hippie hair cut off, but I am a purist, so it would have to stay.  Seriously, though, what a great adventure film this could make if it fell in the right hands!


Jungle comics were always a fun-- if not very versatile-- diversion, but this title, created by the prolific Gaylord DuBois as a back-up at Dell in the '50s-- and still kickin' by the late '70s-- was a real stand-out within that admittedly, pretty tired, sub-genre.  Dan-El and Natongo. the titular "Brothers, were a racially mixed team of Jungle princes [one was adopted, o'course] who went searching for the former's origins and ended up righting wrongs in the process.   Interestingly, I think there was a real Christian under-current here, as the brothers fought pagans and witch doctors and spoke often of of the "One True God" in their many adventures.  Dubois was actually an ordained minister-- described on Wikipedia as a "devout Christian"-- who  really shared his world-view in this feature, possibly his all-time greatest creation, TUROK notwithstanding.


You knew I'd have at least one western on my list, and it pleases me that my choice was a grand creation of the recently passed Joe Kubert. 

Firehair was the red-headed toddler survivor of a wagon train massacre who ended up being raised by the Commanches.  Sounds pretty hackneyed I suppose, but Kubert really gave an old cliche some spectacular life in this fondly remembered '60s and 70's cult classic that never quite took off.  The hero encountered soldiers, miners, and even Californio Vaqueros in Kubert's uniquely researched and render story arc.  Someone could fashion a great and tear-jerking screenplay out of this one, to be sure.


This one is so perfect for a movie it practically writes itself.  A U.S. tank commander in WW2 meets the ghost of Confederate Calvary legend J.E.B. Stuart, who becomes a mentor to him.  The rest of the crew can't see the ghost, of course, and think the skipper is completely nuts.  In an amazing  bit of political un-correctness our mortal hero honors the ghost by flying a Confederate rather than a Union flag on his "haunted" tank.

For years there have been rumors of a Sgt. Rock film, but I actually think this strange little title would be a much cooler war flick.


I think I am just about the only 40-something who actually has memories-- much less fond ones-- of this obscure, short-lived Charlton Comics non-super-hero action title. [6 issues July 1975 to May 1976.]  Young Albie loved it, though, and even today I think it has a cool Stephen J. Cannell kind of vibe to it [and yes, I do say that as a compliment.]  In fact, I still think it was actually better than the still-loved noir-ish "Mike Mauser" back-up stories, which are just about the only reason anyone seeks out this title today.

The V-Squad were a trio of hard-boiled oddballs:  Eric Redd, the ex-fed leader with a chip on his shoulder because he had served prison time unjustly; Candy Orr, the beautiful jaded female cop-- a stereotypical "Brass Cupcake" character, so to speak;  and Tulsa Coyle, the rough and tumble crew-cutted Vietnam vet.  These guys were basically an international "security-for-hire" A-Team type outfit.   Again, it may sound pretty pedestrian, but even as a kid I loved the interplay between these characters, who were only beginning to like each other when the title saw its final issue.

Now... These choices all make sense to me, of course, but... from all my experience that basically just ensures this list must be absolutely anti-antithetical to any prevailing American taste.   Oh well, the blog killed a half-hour anyway.


Monday, October 22, 2012

"Courage For The Crazy Journey!" [Notes For A Sermon To Myself...]

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." 
[Isa. 41:10]

The older I get the more I see this life as a journey... a simple pilgrimage. I mean, don't get me wrong... I knew this was true all along, of course, but it's one of those truths that just gets truer all the time! Know what I mean?

There's this old Bluegrass Gospel song that begins with this couplet:

I got my hands on a Gospel plow,
And I won't take nothin' for my journey now!

And that there is just the way it is, ain't it?  For the believer, anyway.

Still... The Christian Pilgrim on his way home needs all the help he can get!  What a blessing that God did not leave us without a Helper!

Now, they say  "Courage" is that quality of mind and spirit that gives one the strength to refuse to accept defeat. I'll buy that, I reckon.  I know of it firsthand as that elusive quality we summon sometimes [not often enough in my case!] that allows us to meet danger and difficulties with a firmness not our own! It's that casting aside of fear... that head-on facing of stress and strain with determination... because we know there's a goal ahead.

Now... If that Old Book is right, and I am convinced it is, then this type of strength and character is available to any believer.  But it can still be hard to lay our hands on it, can't it?

In the beautiful scripture before us, I see a few things that surely might help us along and encourage us.
Consider FIRST that,


SECOND, consider that,

THE MASTER GIVES US STRENGTH.  ["I will strengthen thee..."]

And FINALLY, consider that,


["I will uphold thee..."]

See... I am known as a pretty happy-go-lucky feller, but I actually get discouraged by a LOT of things.  Circumstances discourage me.  Other folks can sometimes discourage me.  The world, the flesh and the Devil discourage me.

But honestly?  My own worst enemy seems to be ol' Albie "The Good" himself! 

Oh my... All the people I have wronged. 

The relentless memory of all my past sin.

Sometimes it is positively overwhelming.  And truth be told: the circumstances and relationships that have discouraged me most were my own fault to begin with!  What does a guy do then?  How does he get his joy up and running then??

Well, if I am in Christ, I have it on the word of my very best and strongest friend that I am  a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Part of that horrible “old” which has gone is the remembrance of past sins and the guilt they have produced. Sad to say, though, I am annoyingly prone to wallowing in memories of my sinful past and its deceptions, memories which, I know, should have been dead and buried when I got grace and forgiveness.  My feelings regarding these rags [actual biblical term] are pointless, I know,  and run counter to the victorious Christian life my Father God truly wants for me.  Trust me,  I know-- in my head at least-- the wisdom of these oft-repeated words:

“If God has saved you out of a sewer, don’t dive back in and swim around.”

But its just plain HARD for me sometimes, folks.  It truly is.  Sorry to whine.... But, can anyone relate?

If you think to, friends... Pray for me, would ya?

And --Thanks to anyone who has actually read this far! God bless ya :)