This made my week better…

After a friend told me the news yesterday, I hunted around and found this press release:

Will Hedgecock Releases Debut Adult Contemporary Single ‘I Don’t Know’

BEAUTIFUL BALLAD FEATURES STUNNING VOCALS, STELLAR MUSIC FROM NEW ARTIST IN COLLABORATION WITH GRAMMY–WINNING PRODUCER

Nashville, TN (January 18, 2008) — Recording artist Will Hedgecock has released the single, “I Don’t Know,” on Aspirion Records. The lushly produced Adult Contemporary song is Hedgecock’s debut single from the forthcoming CD, Reflections, slated for March release.

“I Don’t Know” was produced by music industry veteran, Larry Butler, the first – and only – Nashville producer to win the coveted Grammy Award for “Producer Of The Year.” Butler has shaped the careers of superstars Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, John Denver, and many others.

Hedgecock’s soaring vocal and mature emotional delivery on “I Don’t Know” belie his age. At 22, he represents the next-generation AC artist. Hedgecock is a world traveler – articulate, quick, and brilliant. Currently a Senior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, he will graduate in the spring with honors and a degree in Computer Engineering. However – his lifelong passion is to have a successful career in music. His intellectual depth, coupled with his good looks, world-class vocals, and piano skills, set the stage for Hedgecock to accomplish that goal.

Hedgecock was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida. Both of his parents were music fans, and very early on he developed a love for the music that played in their home, including the sounds of Elton John, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, and songs from the musical theater. When Hedgecock was 9 years old, he joined the Pensacola Children’s Chorus and for 10 years, he sang and toured with the group throughout the U.S., England, Canada, France, and Mexico, performing at many prestigious venues, including the White House. Hedgecock was first discovered by Butler, a fellow Pensacolan, at a hometown performance of the children’s chorus.

“I Don’t Know” was written by Gene Cook and Peter McCann, and features some of Nashville’s top session players, including, John Jarvis on keyboards, Steve Gibson on lead guitar, David Hungate on bass, Mark Casstevens on rhythm guitar, Eddie Bayers on drums, and string arrangement by Stephen Lamb.

Link to previous post about Will

Two new favorites

My list of favorite movies of 2007 will be coming soon – I’m holding off on posting it until I’ve had more time to mull over Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood which I just saw with a friend Monday, as it is sure to secure a spot – so for now, check out Jeffrey Overstreet’s list, if you haven’t done so yet. I agree with Jeffrey about many of his picks, including his number one selection which will also be toward the top of my list.

I did want to write a little about my two favorite older movies that I saw for the first time in 2007. And I owe a word of thanks to Jeffrey for bringing these films to my attention, through his excellent book Through a Screen Darkly – Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth and Evil in the Movies. Both of these movies are now on my top 10 all-time favorite movies list.

The first is Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Blue. While I love all three films in the trilogy (Red and White being the other two, each representing colors of the French flag and also symbolizing, in turn, liberty, equality and fraternity), this one stood out to me, and not just because the main character, Julie, is a composer, as is her husband. In Through a Screen Darkly, Jeffrey points out that “When Americans make films about liberty, they usually tell stories about the glory of independence and the need to break away from the expectations of others and follow a personal dream. Kieslowski’s portrayal of one woman pursuing liberation gives us a strikingly different impression of individualism. The more Julie tries to break free, the more she imprisons herself, cutting herself off from her relationships and her calling.”

While the film’s portrayal of loneliness and suppression of emotion struck a chord and gave me space to sort through my own thoughts and feelings, what stood out to me most seemed, at first glance, to be nothing more than a passing comment. When Julie is confronted with a situation involving someone she should hate, someone who has caused her much emotional pain, she doesn’t respond as expected. And her response elicits the statement “I knew it. Patrice told me a lot about you. That you are good. That you are good and generous. That’s what you want to be.” I plan to delve deeper into this topic in future posts, but for now I’ll say that I am becoming more conscience of how many things I do, or better, try to do, not because I necessarily want to do them but because the person I want to become would do them. I’d much rather act selfishly in this moment, but I don’t want to be the type of person I’ll become if that is my default behavior in the coming years.

Wings of Desire, directed by Wim Winders, is my other treasured discovery of the year. It tells the story of two angels in post-war Berlin, watching over man, and of the desire of one of them, Damiel, to become human after falling in love. So this post doesn’t become too long, I’ll wait to go into detail about most of what I loved later. I was so captivated by the dialog that, my first time through, I had to pause it several times so I could write down certain lines.

You know how, once something is brought to your attention, you start seeing it everywhere? Like when you want to buy a new car, and you notice for the first time how many other people have the car you want? I think that is one reason this particular scene in Wings of Desire is my favorite. Not long before watching it, I had a couple conversations, one with a friend and one with my pastor, about how all of us not only need someone to love us but need someone to love. Built deep into our psyche is this desire, this passion. After our conversations, I came across a passage in Frederick Buechner’s writings where he muses about this need for love and to love, and it stood out because it was on my mind. Likewise, this scene. Marion, the woman whom Damiel falls in love with, has just returned to her trailer after a rehearsal (she’s a circus acrobat). She’s sitting on her bed, lost in thought, while Damiel (who cannot be seen by her) tenderly watches her from behind. Through Damiel, we are allowed to eavesdrop on her thoughts:

Longing.
Longing for a wave of love that would stir in me.
That’s what makes me clumsy…
the absence of pleasure.
Desire for love.
Desire to love.

And as she thinks “desire to love”, the film, which up to this point, forty-five minutes in, has been in black-and-white, suddenly, breathtakingly, is infused with color. And the world is new.

Three Colors: Blue and Wings of Desire have much in common with Into Great Silence, one of Jeffrey’s, and my, favorite films of last year. Again, writing in Through a Screen Darkly about Blue, Jeffrey notes that “every scene – in fact, almost every shot -unfolds like a poem. We are challenged to stop asking what will happen next and begin considering what is happening now. What can we learn from the moment? The more I watch the film, the more I’m learning to consider the movement of light, the color of a room, the brief hint of tension in the lines in Julie’s face… Kieslowski communicates so much with so little. If he were moving any faster, we would lose the detail and the fullness of his world”.

A couple pages later, he writes:

Images speak. Like music, they convey things that mere words cannot communicate. The power of the image is different from the power of the narrative. That’s a secret great filmmakers know…

Understanding the way that great art “speaks” is not just about interpreting the moral of a story. It takes patience and learning to do more than follow the narrative. A friend will watch a film that I have come to cherish, and he’ll come to me with an apologetic frown, saying, “I’m sorry, but it was just too slow for me. There didn’t seem to be much happening.”
I know what he means. But lately I’ve been increasingly grateful for films in which not much happens. Weary of constantly taking in information from the news, e-mail, web pages, television, movies, the telephone and radio, I find myself longing for a vacation. And that longing has led me to seek movies that satisfy in a very different way from narrative. This art is not about what happens next. It’s a style that gives me space to have my own thoughts while engaging the director’s vision. I’m not simply being led along – I’m a willing participant. It gives me pictures and sounds to consider rather than developments to anticipate.
Increasingly, I find myself preferring to see a great film again instead of a new release. I find myself drawn to slow, contemplative films than fast action movies. I take so much pleasure in discovering all that things can mean that I’m not so thrilled by the buildup to another explosion or surprise. Yoda would be proud – I’m trying to “unlearn what I have learned.” We can find new freedom when we stand still, when we stop running from one thought to the next, and give ourselves time instead to absorb each moment and explore it.

This isn’t about movies, ultimately. This kind of moviegoing is an education in how to live.

Did you catch that last sentence? “This isn’t about movies, ultimately. This kind of moviegoing is an education in how to live.” In this new year, join me in taking time to absorb more of this kind of movies, to watch movies not as a distraction or an escape, but as a helpful reminder to slow down and listen to our lives and the lives of those around us.

The Christian writer…

Jeffrey just posted a Flannery O’Conner quote on his blog that I find myself agreeing with more and more strongly the more time I spend “working out my own salvation with fear and trembling” through my writing:

“The Christian writer does not decide what would be good for the world and proceed to deliver it. Like a very doubtful Jacob, he confronts what stands in his path and wonders if he will come out of the struggle at all.”

New Discoveries / Telling Secrets

Seeing as how my first beer was a half pint of Guinness at a pub in Dublin, it should come as no great revelation that I prefer dark beers, with Guinness remaining at the top of my list. I’ve recently come across two more stouts that you should check out, if you have the same good taste in beers.

The first is Schlafly’s Coffee Stout. I mean, how could I not love it, judging solely by the name? Coffee and beer? Where do I sign up? On Schlafly’s website, they have this description: “This collaboration with Kaldi’s Coffee uses the cold toddy method of extraction for the coffee. We mix it with Oatmeal Stout for an exceptionally delicious beer.” It is hard to find, at least here in Tennessee, so when you come across it be sure to stock up. I have found, that, like the Duck Rabbit Milk Stout, I enjoy the Coffee Stout more when I space it out. So while Guinness is enjoyable night after night, you might want to put the Coffee Stout in rotation with a couple of other beers.

My second recent discovery, and the one that has been giving Guinness a run for its money, is the Highland Brewing Company’s Mocha Stout. They have this to say about it on their website: “Highland’s most robust beer, having a very malty body with a large, roasted chocolate flavor. It is black in color with a very clean finish and a moderate hop flavor.” Again, what’s not to like? Chocolate and beer? I had one of these a couple weeks ago, ice cold at the end of the day, that reminded me why I love beer.

As is frequently the case, this is an experience that is better shared. Probably one of the reasons I like the Duck Rabbit Milk Stout is because the first time I tasted it, it was over a five hour conversation with a good friend that I hadn’t talked to in a while. So turn off the TV, clear some time in your schedule, pick up a six pack of Mocha Stout or Coffee Stout, call up a friend, and share an evening engrossed in stimulating conversation and enjoying great brews. If you can’t find someone to talk to, exchange the remote for a good book. As Anne Lamott says, “If you are mesmerized by televised stupidity, and don’t get to hear or read stories about your world, you can be fooled into thinking that the world isn’t miraculous – and it is.” Take time to hear each others stories, to tell your secrets and hear a few from your friends, and in the process be reminded that you are not alone.

Frederick Buechner expresses this so eloquently in his introduction to Telling Secrets: “I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell. They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition – that what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are – even if we tell it only to ourselves – because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going. It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own, and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about and what being human is all about. Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell.”

No newness yet

by Walter Brueggemann

You are the God who makes all things new.
We gladly raise our voices and move our lips
to acknowledge, celebrate, and proclaim
your staggering newness.
As we do so, we hold in our hearts
deep awareness of all the places where your newness
is not visible, and
has not come.

Our hearts link to many places of wretchedness
short of your newness.
We picture our folks at home,
sick, in pain, disabled, paralyzed
and no newness yet.

Move our hearts closer to the passion of our lips.
Move our lips closer to your own newness.
Work your newness in hidden, cunning ways among us.
Move us closer to your bodied newness in Jesus,
newness of strength come in weakness,
newness of wisdom come in foolishness.
Draw us from the wretchedness we know
to his scarred, bloody wretchedness
that is your odd entry of newness into our life.
We pray in the name of his suffering newness.
Amen.

Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth – Prayers of Walter Brueggemann