Tuesday, July 22, 2008

real estate

If you regularly read my blog you know that we've been on the quest to purchase property somewhere in the Santa Barbara area. We are moving along in our journey and have a contract on a condominium in Buellton in a new development called Juliette Walk. We're excited about the possibilities and more than a little nervous about the size of the mortgage plus commuting costs. Closing is scheduled for August 22 - two weeks after the wedding. We were trying to make this summer as low stress as possible.

We've been more sensitive to the market since we began looking and have been very aware of the craziness of the entire issue of housing in California since we moved here. In Santa Barbara it is not at all unusual to find 15 people living in a 2 bedroom apartment. People rent out garages as living space. Renters often pay by the bed and that fee could be a mortgage payment in much of the country. We know of at least one family of 5 that is renting an open porch... and many people live in their cars. We have an incredible shortage of housing and the affordability index is probably the worst in the nation. At the same time, our county planners recently OK'd the construction of a 13,000 square foot home on the mountainside just west of Goleta.

Today's LA Times has an article that caught my eye. Candy Spelling - the widow of Aaron Spelling - purchased a new condo for $47 million which is a record for the US at $2,848 a square foot. The new condo is only 16,500 square feet (yes, that is the correct number of zeros) which is a huge drop from the 56,500 square foot home she currently lives in which is affectionately called - The Manor. Her lawyer observed that her current home is "awfully big for one person." Well, duh. I guess 16,500 square feet is more reasonable. It is unclear what the asking price for Manor will be when it goes up for sale. After all, it does include 11 bedrooms, 16 baths, a bowling alley, a gift wrapping room, and sits on 6 acres. It is the largest house in LA county. The condo will be ready to move in next year so Candy will have time to downsize.

In the meantime, there are three other houses in the LA area in the same ballpark price wise as Candy's new condo - a 10 bedroom, 12 bath, 18,000 square foot beachfront in Newport Beach for $38.5 million. An 8 bedroom, 11 bath, on 1.2 acres in Holmby Hills (the same neighborhood as Candy's current home) for $45 million. And a 3 story on 4.2 acres in Beverly hills with 9 bedrooms, 18 bathrooms, pool, tennis court, etc... at $49 million.

They were all a little out of our price range plus the commute to work would have been too far.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I always wondered...

There seems to be an entire school of popular singers who so garble their words that nobody has any idea what they're really saying. Think of Bob Dylan. Remember that classic from the 60's "Louie, Louie."

Well, Joe Cocker was one of those singers. I could never figure out what he was saying although, I knew it was full of emotions. Someone was helpful enough to add captions to this video from Woodstock so we could understand what he was actually saying. And thanks Mike for finding it.

Isn't Youtube a wonderful thing?

Friday, July 18, 2008


I was looking for some videos of an udu a Nigerian pottery drum on youtube and came across this video of a guy named Dante Bucci playing a hang... I did a little searching after that and found they are nearly impossible to find and when you find one, they are very expensive. If I come into money, I'll begin a serious search for one. There is a similar sounding but very differently designed instrument called a Hapi drum that might be an interesting substitute that is a lot easier to get and much less expensive. Anyway, here is the hang (pronounced hung)

I do have an udu - the drum that started the search - and it is a lot of fun. It is the drum I'm playing in the song on the player at the right called heartbeat.

here's a video of a guy from the Albany NY area named Brian Melick who is a wonderful percussionist who plays a lot of udu. He is playing 4 different sized udus at once. Normally, you'd only play 1.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

More Hooters

I wonder how many people have googled "hooters" and found these blog entries?

Here they are again... this video is the original line-up of the Hooters from '82 before they incorporated the mandolins and were still pretty much a ska band. The tempo gets away from them a bit but what energy! You can see how much fun their shows were... everyone danced. The name "The Hooters" came from the use of the melodica, the little mouth blown keyboard that Rob Hyman is playing the solo on. Evidently that instrument was really popular in Jamaica back during the day.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Hooters

I've been feeling nostalgic a bit these days and was going through videos of some of my old favorite bands from Philly on Youtube... The Hooters was our favorite band back from about 1980-84 or so. We were HUGE fans of the earliest incarnation of the band and still really liked them as they became more commercial. You may or may not remember them, but the main songwriters - Eric Bazilian (Cheryl had a crush on him back in the day) and Rob Hymen - wrote songs that you certainly do remember - True Colors and One of Us come immediately to mind.

Well, I ended up looking at some old Hooters videos, followed a link to Eric Bazilian's myspace page and discovered that they have toured some recently and even released a new CD in '07.

This is a video from that CD... I love it and will likely use the song at some time as "special music" in church.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Big Church #2

A few weeks ago I blogged about The Big Church in town. Well, it has pushed itself into my consciousness again. It seems they're starting a satalite church about 4 blocks from my church - Cambridge Drive Community Church.

I have to say that I have really mixed feelings.

I know all of the arguments that the only significant growth takes place in new churches... I have also seen the stats that show that the vast majority of folk who attend these mega-churches are just transfers from other churches. I know that folk who would be attracted there would never come to my congregation and that folk who attend my church are very unlikely to find that place attractive. At the same time, I do see them siphoning off our teens to be a part of their youth group - it is the biggest one around - and as often as not, their parents follow them even though they say they find the church and its theology distasteful. I also know there are lots and lots of people in Goleta who are unchurched and that one more congregation brings another opportunity for them to encounter the Living God. And you know my thoughts on the kind of experience they offer so I wonder whether in the end it really impedes an experience of the Holy rather than bringing people into the Kindom of God. And there is no question that I feel turf issues.

What do you think? Should I be upset? Worried? Concerned? Rejoicing?

redefining the American Dream

interesting question isn't it?


As I listen to the bluster and watch the posturing between Iran and Israel I can't help but think about the elementary school playground. Here are two guys with too much testosterone, each trying to mark out his territory. Both are threatening the other and both are reacting from fear. Either one could become the aggressor if the threat from the other seems imminent. After all, if you're really afraid of what the other can do, a preemptive strike makes sense (just ask W about that). So if you're afraid that Bully A might have a good right hook, sucker punch him before he has a chance and make sure that he can't get up. Of course, if he does get up, there might be serious consequences.

Israel practices air strikes, Iran shoots off missiles. Plans seem to be in place and everyone everywhere is talking about a war sometime around the US election with ether Israel of the US bombing Iran. All of the parties are afraid and fear blocks out rational thinking. The problem is that we aren't talking about children in the schoolyard. We're talking about nations. We have already seen the results of an ill-planned war in the middle east and the results would be disastrous if another is added to the mix. Just as with the current war, more aggression would just add to Iran's influence and power. Leaders who sing "bomb, bomb, Iran" only make things more unstable and more dangerous.

So what are the options. Someone needs to talk. Someone needs to tone down the rhetoric. Someone needs to bring reason to the table and diffuse the testosterone. The US needs to use all of its influence to calm Israel down. The world community needs to work together to stop Iran's nuclear program while at the same time giving them something so they don't feel as if they've "lost."

Sunday, July 06, 2008

update on the Gap fire

The fire fighters have done an amazing job and have saved 100's of homes. Our house was within about 4 blocks of the mandatory evacuation area and the flames came within less than a mile of our house. scary.

at this point the fire has burned just under 10,000 acres but is controlled for the most part along the populated areas in Goleta. The smoke and ash comes and goes with the winds. We can't see active flames on the mountain any more but there are numerous plumes of smoke rising from the mountains.

The mandatory evacuation areas are much smaller and most of the folk who had to leave their homes have been allowed back. Life is feeling closer to normal.

here's a video news report from an LA television station about the evacuations. Don and Judy are members of our church as is Elaine who you see shaking hands with the governator. They were all back in their homes on Saturday.

The best coverage of the fire is being provided by the local alternative newspaper
The Independent. They have done an outstanding job, so if you are interested in learning more about the fire, follow the link.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Mind the Gap

When we visited England, if you rode the subway in London, you were familiar with the little saying "Mind the gap..." That has taken on new meaning with the Gap Fire which is burning within 2 or 3 miles of our house. 1700 homes have been evacuated, some within about 4 blocks of our house. It is frightening to watch as the fires burn down the mountain near us and very anxiety producing as we wonder what might happen next. Things seem relatively normal and then the power goes off or the winds shift and we just don't know what might happen. We're afraid to go anywhere for fear the winds would shift and we wouldn't be able to get home to get important papers, our cat, my guitars, photographs, computer backups, whatever. Even the normal activities of trying to write a sermon seem almost impossible. The frustrations and fears are almost paralyzing.

Some of our church members have been evacuated from their homes. Others have left to escape the terrible air quality and the frustration of not knowing what will happen next. I have no idea what to do with worship on Sunday.

If I think about things... many people around the world live with this kind of uncertainty and insecurity every day. I don't know how they do it. And on the other hand, I think of those who fight these fires and the stamina and commitment that requires.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Faith in Politics

If a political candidate is able to exclude his or her faith from their policy decisions, that faith is worthless. At the same time, it is a tightrope walk to keep one's faith at the forefront without imposing it upon others, especially when you are making policy. I hope Obama is able to do that. Time will tell.

FWIW, I don't know anything about The Matthew 25 Network beyond this.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Kenny Hill New World

Well... the Kenny Hill New World guitar is here. I love it. It has not been played a lot so it will open up considerably as it gets played but already the bass notes are rich and full and the trebles are sweet and warm.

It has a nice spruce top and Indian rosewood sides and back. The fingerboard is wider than a typical steel string but still more narrow than a classical plus it feels as if it has a slight radius - typical of steel strings and not found on classicals.

The next steps are to get a pickup for it so I can amplify it and use it to play out and to get the finish fixed. The previous owner had an unfortunate accident with the finish and a bit of it pulled off by the endgraft. I think the finish is French polish, an old method of applying shellac that is only used these days on high end classical guitars and in restoring antiques. The finish is extremely labor intensive and fragile but it sounds great on a guitar. The other upside is that it is relatively easy to repair. I'm waiting to hear back from the company before I move ahead with getting anything worked on.

In the meantime, I've started through a book on Brazilian guitar called Guitar Atlas: Brazil from Alfred Publishing. I'm learning all of these wonderful chord voicings that were previously completely outside of my guitar vocabulary. They sound great but boy is my hand getting tired. And the rhythms are a little different from anything I've done before too. Once I have a sense that I've got much of this under my belt, I'll try their book on African guitar and they even have a book of Japanese style guitar... I'm hoping it is reflective of koto playing. That would be fun too.