Thursday, November 10, 2005

Disappointed in Christians (not Christianity)

I learned that the state I grew up in, Texas, recently passed Propositions 2, which is a consitutional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. As my brother wrote, I am not surprised, but I am very disappointed. More than anything, I am dissappointed in the Chrisitans who champion this, as if they are doing anything to advance the Kingdom of God.

I am absolutely sick of the "religious right" taking issue a moral high ground with some issues and not with others. Where is the proposition to significantly reduce greehouse gases? Or fund the viability of alternative fuel sources? Where are the propositions to fund universal health care? Where are the propositions to fully fund higher education for inner city kids? Where are the propositions for better job training? Where are the propositions to make PEACE? (WWJB: Who would Jesus Bomb? Matthew 5:43-48 should give you an idea) Where are the propositions to HELP people??!! Those would be propositions that advance the Kingdom of God (see Mark 12:28-34).

Of all of the issues for Christians to hitch their politcial wagon to, I am disgusted, embarrassed, and disappointed that they chose something as divisive, hostile, and for the most part irrelevant as gay marriage. Whenever I hear about this issue, I am embarrassed that people lump me into the same category as them, simply because I am a Christian too.

I do not believe that the government should be in the business of defining marriage. It is a religious institution and should be defined by religious bodies, not a civil ones. It is also a clear violation of the separation of church and state, which I also believe is Biblical and Christian. Civil unions should define legal partnerships in the eyes of government; nothing more is needed.

"Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, but give to God what is God's." -- Jesus wasn't just talking about money.

Contrary to popular belief, gay marriage would not do anything to undermine or harm marriage. I don't think gay marriage would affect hetero marriage in any way. Divorce is the biggest threat to marriage. Where are the propositions to do something about divorce (and I don't mean banning it)? Where are the propositions to do something about sexism and gender stereotypes, which also undermine marriage? Where are the propositions limiting the number of hours that someone making $40,000+/year can work because they (especially men) need to spend more time with their families? Where are the propositions teaching family members how to treat each other? Those are the real threats to marriage, not gay marriage.

Don't try to tell me that gay marriage is a threat to the insitution of marriage when those issues are still out there. That's like saying Costa Rica (or Iraq...) is a bigger nuclear threat than North Korea.

Friday, October 21, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] Worlds colliding

I am a huge fan of the band Radiohead, and I recently became a fan of the Harry Potter books (the films are mediocre at best). The newest HP film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, however, unites these two fan bases. Two members of Radiohead, Jonny Greenwood and Phil Selway, are in the film as members of the fictitious band, The Wyrd Sisters. They have recorded a song that will presumably be used in the film, perhaps in the Yule Ball scene.

You can download the song from a Radiohead website,

By the way, I know I haven't commented yet on the Astros winning the NLCS and advancing to the World Series for the first time EVER. I plan to do so soon, however, hopefully before the Series begins tomorrow.

Monday, October 17, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] Listmania!!!!!!!!

OK, Kyle. I'll do this one. I generally don't like these lists, but this one's all right. (Maybe I'm just in a good mood because the Astros won.)

1. Go to and, in the search box provided, enter the year you graduated high school. (1995)
2. From the search results, click the link for the top 100 songs of that year.
3. With the resulting list:

1. Bold the songs you like
2. Italicize the ones you hate
3. Underline your favorites
4. Ignore the ones you don't remember/don't care about.

1. Gangsta's Paradise, Coolio
2. Waterfalls, TLC
3. Creep, TLC
4. Kiss From A Rose, Seal
5. On Bended Knee, Boyz II Men
6. Another Night, Real McCoy
7. Fantasy, Mariah Carey
8. Take A Bow, Madonna
9. Don't Take It Personal (Just One Of Dem Days), Monica
10. This Is How We Do It, Montell Jordan
11. I Know, Dionne Farris
12. Water Runs Dry, Boyz II Men
13. Freak Like Me, Adina Howard
14. Run-Around, Blues Traveler
15. I Can Love You Like That, All-4-One
16. Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?, Bryan Adams
17. Always, Bon Jovi
18. Boombastic / In The Summertime, Shaggy
19. Total Eclipse Of The Heart, Nicki French
20. You Gotta Be, Des'ree
21. You Are Not Alone, Michael Jackson
22. Hold My Hand, Hootie and The Blowfish
23. One More Chance-Stay With Me, Notorious B.I.G.
24. Here Comes The Hotstepper, Ini Kamoze
25. Candy Rain, Soul For Real
26. Let Her, w Hootie and The Blowfish
27. I Believe, Blessid Union Of Souls
28. Red Light Special, TLC
29. Runaway, Janet Jackson
30. Strong Enough, Sheryl Crow
31. Colors Of The Wind, Vanessa Williams
32. Someone To Love, Jon B.
33. Only Wanna Be With You, Hootie and The Blowfish
34. If You Love Me, Brownstone
35. In The House Of Stone And Light, Martin Page
36. I Got 5 On It, Luniz
37. Baby, Brandy
38. Run Away, Real McCoy
39. As I Lay Me Down, Sophie B. Hawkins
40. He's Mine, Mokenstef
41. December, Collective Soul
42. I'll Be There For You-You're All I Need To Get By, Method Man-Mary J. Blige
43. Shy Guy, Diana King
44. I'm The Only One, Melissa Etheridge
45. Every Little Thing I Do, Soul For Real
46. Before I Let You Go, BLACKstreet
47. Big Poppa / Warning, Notorious B.I.G.
48. Sukiyaki, 4 P.M.
49. I Wanna Be Down, Brandy
50. I'll Make Love To You, Boyz II Men
51. Dear Mama / Old School, 2Pac
52. Hold On, Jamie Walters
53. Keep Their Heads Ringin', Dr. Dre
54. The Rhythm Of The Night, Corona
55. Roll To Me, Del Amitri
56. Scream / Childhood, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson
57. Freek'n You, Jodeci
58. I Wish, Skee-lo
59. Believe, Elton John
60. Carnival, Natalie Merchant
61. You Don't Know How It Feels, Tom Petty
62. Back For Good, Take That
63. Tootsee Roll, 69 Boyz
64. You Want This-70's Love Groove, Janet Jackson
65. Tell Me, Groove Theory
66. Can't You See, Total
67. All I Wanna Do, Sheryl Crow (although, it didn't take long to get sick of this one)
68. This Lil' Game We Play, Subway
69. Come And Get Your Love, Real McCoy
70. This Ain't A Love Song, Bon Jovi
71. Secret, Madonna
72. Player's Anthem, Junior M.A.F.I.A.
73. Feel Me Flow, Naughty By Nature
74. Every Day Of The Week, Jade
75. The Sweetest Days, Vanessa Williams
76. Short Dick Man, 20 Fingers Featuring Gillette
77. Brokenhearted, Brandy
78. No More "I Love You's", Annie Lennox
79. You Used To Love Me, Faith Evans
80. Constantly, Immature
81. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me, U2
82. 100% Pure Love, Crystal Waters
83. Ask Of You, Raphael Saadiq
84. Sugar Hill, Az
85. Good, Better Than Ezra
86. Brown Sugar, D'angelo
87. Turn The Beat Around, Gloria Estefan
88. 'Til You Do Me Right, After 7
89. 1st Of Tha Month, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
90. Like The Way I Do If I Wanted To, Melissa Etheridge
91. I Live My Life For You, Firehouse
92. Dream About You-Funky Melody, Stevie B
93. Cotton Eye Joe, Rednex
94. Thank You, Boyz II Men
95. I'll Stand By You, Pretenders
96. I Miss You, N II U
97. Give It 2 You, Da Brat
98. Best Friend, Brandy
99. Misery, Soul Asylum
100. Can't Stop Lovin' You, Van Halen

Okay. That sucked. I didn't remember the majority of those songs. Of those I do remember, I wasn't wild about any of them (Except for the 2 songs from the Batman Forever soundtrack.) I really expected some of the Seattle Sound or other good alternative music to be there. Is it possible that the 90s were not as good musically as I remember?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Big Box Mart (who are they kidding?)

Watch "Big Box Mart" as a followup to this post.

Does sin exist?

I was on MSU’s campus yesterday to return some library books and play with Aidan at the fountain. As we were heading back to the car, I noticed an advertisement written in sidewalk chalk about a discussion/debate titled, “Does sin exist?” to be held on campus. At first I thought the question odd because the answer seems so obvious to me. Of course sin exists. By definition, sin is a violation. I can sin against God, against humanity, against nature, against another person, even against myself. To suggest that sin does not exist is to suggest that humanity has never committed a violation against anyone or anything—humanity, nature, or the self. I don’t think anyone, regardless of faith, can claim that.

Then I realized that the question may be misleading, and it actually refers solely to sins against God. In other words, a more accurate question would have been, “Is it possible to sin against God?” This question seems odd too because I think the answer turns on whether or not you believe in God: If you don’t, then how can you sin against something you don’t believe exists? If you do, how can an imperfect human race not sin against divine perfection?” In the end, I’m not sure what the question or the discussion/ debate was about. While I would like to go to the meeting, I have a family life that prevents such extracurricular activities, which is fine by me.

It did help me think about sin a little more. As a therapist, I see sin in the way family members treat each other and how they devalue and sabotage themselves, either overtly or covertly. That sin is more readily recognizable in a secular society, even if we don’t call it “sin”. What we typically call sin is more accurately sin against God. As a Christian, I understand that a particular type of sin isn’t simply an action; it can also be a state of being. I can sin against God, but that action is usually a result of being in a state of sin (i.e. state of separating me from God). When Christ took on the sin of the world, he asked God why God had forsaken him. He felt the huge chasm between himself and God. Today, when I am in a state of sin, as reflected by what I do and how I act, I have distanced myself spiritually from God. When I turn around, though, and acknowledge my distance, God closes that gap, and I am in God’s presence once more. That’s why I believe that understanding “sin” simply as an action underestimates the true power of sin and the true power of redemption.

To live a life free from sin means to live a life completely in the presence of God. Of course, we can’t be completely in God’s presence while we exist in an imperfect, human world. But with Christ (the only one to completely do so while on Earth) as our model, that is our goal.

Monday, October 10, 2005

[Passion Takes Many Forms] Unadulterated torture, with euphoric bliss sprinkled throughout

The Houston Astros did it again!

They beat the Braves in 18 INNINGS to advance to the NLCS for the second year in a row. Since I don't have cable TV, I listened to almost the entire game on XM Satellite Radio. The game began after church as my family and I were eating lunch. We then went for a drive upstate. (I wasn't wild about driving during the game, but I put the XM in the car, and we were good to go.) We drove for over 2 hours after kind of getting lost before we arrived at our destination. Throughout the trip I became more and more despairing. We were way out of our way near Midland, Michigan. The Astros were down 5-0 and then 6-1. Could this day just end, please?

Then Berkman hit the SLAM! At first, I thought he had tied it because I had forgotten about the McCann homer in the top of the inning. Once I realized that it was only 6-5, I felt good that they had come back so far, but disappointed that the Braves were still ahead. As we pulled into our destination, Uncle John's Cider Mill, the Astros were down to their final out. I figured it was over. We were literally pulling into a parking space when Ausmus hit a drive to left, probably to be caught by Andruw Jones... nope, a double... [what?]... A HOMER!!! HE TIED THE BALLGAME!! TIED GAME!! And we're here!!

I felt bad about getting us lost, so I didn't feel like I could sit in the car and listen. Plus, Aidan had really been looking forward to the cider, donuts, and pumpkin-picking. So we got out of the car, and I called my dad. I asked him to call if anything happened. So I waited... and waited... and waited. He called when the Astros threatened in the 10th, but nothing else. I couldn't believe they were still at it. I began to think my phone wasn't working or dad had forgotten.

After we had our donuts, rode the train and the wagon, and picked a pumpkin, we were ready to go home. We got in the car, and to my (and Kari's) surprise, the game was STILL ON. They were in the top of the 15th. We listened the whole way home. We got home as they were moving to the top of the 17th with Clemens still pitching. I kept thinking, "This is ridiculous. The Atlanta bullpen sucks. We should have won this a long time ago (forgetting that many of our best hitters were no longer in the game). Kari wanted to make dinner, so I stayed on the chilly driveway playing with Aidan and Regan and listening to the game on the car stereo for almost an hour when Chris Burke, mediocre hitter extrordinaire, came to the plate with one out in the bottom of the 18th.

He hit it.

I started screaming and jumping up and down with Regan in my arms (oddly, she wasn't scared; she actually looked as happy as I was, like she knew what had happened). Aidan knew exactly what had happened, as he had been following with me on the radio. We were both screaming and jumping up and down. It was a great moment.

I immediately went inside, hoping that FOX would have some instant highlights, but they still had a football game on. As we got settled into the house for the night and ate dinner, I kept the TV on, hoping that FOX would show highlights before the Yankees/Angels game. No luck. (Who knew that FOX's football postgame show was the longest, most boring excuse for a show on TV?) They went straight from football into the other game. Someone should have told them that they just missed arguably the best game in postseason history.

That was okay, though. The Astros won. They have another chance to do what they didn't do last year. The Astros and Cardinals are very different teams this time around, but it should still be a great series. GO ASTROS!!!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Overfunctioning and Underfunctioning

The defining characteristic of Bowen Family Systems Theory is the concept of differentiation. Differentiation is roughly defined as the degree to which a person is able to be there own person emotionally. Highly differentiated people do not take on the anxiety of others, they take responsibility for their own emotional well-being, and they don't rely on other's opinions for the source of self-esteem and emotional well-being. Differentiation is learned from our parents, our peers, and most importantly, our culture, but ultimately, each individual decides the level of emotional capitol he or she will put in other people. That's a simplistic definition, but I think you get the idea. (Some define differentiation as the ability to separate emotions and reason in dealing with relationships. While there are elements of this in differentiation, this is way too simplistic and in some instances completely false. Sometimes emotions are based in reason, and to separate them completely negates an essential part of the human experience.)

According to some theorists, including Murray Bowen, people can be divided into two types: overfunctioners and underfunctioners. Functioning positions operate in reciprocal relationship to one another. Someone who "overfunctions," takes greater responsibility in the relationship or in the system, relates to another who "underfunctions," takes less responsibility. They each shape the attitudes, feelings and behavior of the other. The overfunctioning person feels responsible for the emotional well-being of the other, and works (often very hard) to make up for perceived deficiency in the other's functioning. The underfunctioning person is dependent on the other. But this should not be seen as a dichotomy, but rather as a continuum. The opposite ends of the continuum (extreme overfunctioning and extreme underfunctioning) represent positions of low differentiation. The preferred position is in the middle, which represents a high level of differentiation (i.e. I neither feel the need to take care of my partner's emotions, nor do I need them to take care of mine; I take complete responsibility for my own emotional well-being. I am not emotionally reactive to the other, but I understand and moderate my emotions.) Bowen would say, and I would agree, that no one is completely differentiated, and everyone is more or less a over/underfunctioner, although some are closer to the middle of the continuum than others (i.e. more highly differentiated).

Another piece of this puzzle is that Bowen claims that we partner with a person who is similar in differentiation to ourselves but on the other end of the continuum. In other words, overfunctioners marry underfunctioners who are at similar levels of differentiation. While I generally agree, I think it may be a falacy to assume that this happens accross the board. That is why I chose to write about this. I am currently seeing a couple in co-therapy with my supervisor who seems to fit into this paradigm. Although he appears to be the strong one in the relationship, my co-therapist believes that he is the underfunctioner because he plays the role of the victim. He relies on others to take care of him emotionally by focusing on others' problems while avoiding his own. She, on the other hand, takes on much of the emotional responsibility for the two of them. She blames herself for their problems and is the emotional scapegoat. According to Bowen (and my co-therapist), he is the underfunctioner, and she is the overfunctioner, but is that really the case? Perhaps they are each overfunctioners about some things and underfunctioners about others. They are comfortable addressing her problems while avoiding his, but does that comfort necessarily mean that she is overfunctioning? She invests her emotional well-being in him just as much as he does in her. She avoids confrontation as much as he does, and despite the fact that they more readily address her problems than his, it's difficult to see that she takes responsibility for him or her. As an overfunctioner, wouldn't she feel a certain responsibility for his emotional well-being? I simply don't see that.

As I continue to address this case and this issue, I suspect that my co-therapist and I will continue to see the theoretical problem differently, but we should certainly address the nature of their over/underfunctioning relationship. Does it matter who is which one? The net effect is that they both operate out of positions of low differentiation, placing too much emotional capitol in the other. The goal of therapy should be to get them to take responsibility for their own emotional well-being, regardless of the direction from which they come.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Sweet Relief

I just got back from a meeting with my dissertation committee chair, and I feel GREAT about my dissertation. I was able to finish the first draft of my proposal last night (start picking out your tattoo design, Kari), and met with my chair to review it and talk about how I can improve it before presenting to my committee at the end of October. (By the way, I set a date for my proposal defense: October 28.)

Overall, she said that she was very impressed and did not see any major obstacles that would prevent anyone on my committee from approving my proposal. Nothing could have sounded any better to me. Of course, she suggested a few changes and wanted to read it more thoroughly before offering more advise, but overall, she believes that my purpose, theory, and structure is sound, which is the primary criteria when approving a dissertation proposal.

Even if my committee does approve it, that approval will almost certainly be contingent upon certain changes, but I can handle that. In fact, I would expect and welcome that. My greatest fear all along, based on the horror stories of some of my colleagues, was that my committee would take one look at my proposal and say, "You aren't ready to do this research. START OVER!!" I've never been through this process. I don't know about the intricate details that they expect. After today's meeting, however, I feel much better that they will see the hard work I've put into the study and the vigilance and integrity with which I've constructed the project. If my chair, who is notoriously pessimistic, says that she doesn't see any major problems, then I can't help but feel optimistic.

Now, I just need to implement the changes we discussed today (I should get that done this afternoon) and get it to my committee members. While I will still be very nervous on October 28, now I can say that I will also be completely confident in my work. Whew!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] Song tag

Thanks, Kyle. Here you are. It gave me an excuse to post on this blog, which has really been neglected lately.

Five songs I'm currently into (no particular order):

1.      "The Advantages of Floating in the Middle of the Sea" and other songs from Sondheim's Pacific Overtures (Broadway OCR, but I'm considering getting the Broadway Revival recording)

2.      Christopher O'Riley's cover of Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" (and most of the rest of the album Hold Me to This)

3.      I. "Gandalf" ("The Wizard") from the Lord of the Rings Symphony (no relation to the recent movies) by composer Johan de Meij and performed by the Dutch Royal Military Band

4.      III. "Gollum" ("Smeagol") from same as #3

5.      "Queen Bitch" by David Bowie from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou movie soundtrack

I'm also listening to a lot of Beck and Radiohead in general. I've also gotten into listening to Podcasts, but that's a whole other game of tag.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

On John Roberts and the Supreme Court

Because of the impending cases related to marriage, family, and the civil liberties inherent to each, I thought it would be appropriate to write about my thoughts on Roberts and the Supreme Court in general. Sorry it turned out so long, but I wanted to fully convey my stance.

Make no mistake. I am a liberal democrat who usually supports the liberal agenda and liberal causes, but I must respectfully disagree with many liberals who oppose the appointment of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. The reason is simple: Seats on the Supreme Court are not political positions, and they should not be addressed as political positions. We should not support or oppose nominees in the same way that we support or oppose political candidates (i.e. their stances on various issues) because judges and elected officials have two completely different charges.

Of course, I'm not naive enough to think that politics do not come into play when selecting justices or even in the justices decisions once they are on the bench. That is where the imperfections in the system lie. But that does not mean that we should usher in full-scale political involvement into the process. They are charged with the duty to remain politically neutral when hearing and deciding cases, regardless of their personal beliefs.

Maybe I should explain where I'm coming from. The Supreme Court was originally designed, and still largely exists today, as an independent moderator of law and policy. They are not elected, at least in part, because it does not matter what their personal views are. Their past writings and decisions are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is how they came to their decisions. Did they use clearly articulated legal precedent? Were their rulings appropriate given the statutes and the cases presented to them? When selecting a Supreme Court nominee, your agenda should be to choose someone who will interpret the law (specifically, the Constitution) as objectively and clearly as possible, with no regard to personal beliefs (acknowledging that this is an ideal, not real, circumstance). Ideally, the Court should not lean left or right on average, but be right in the middle, which is where the existing law is, whether the law is right or wrong.

I think Sandra Day O'Connor is an excellent example of this. She was a relatively conservative justice nominated by a conservative president who turned into a moderate judge. What changed? Did she change her beliefs? Maybe, but it's not likely. Rather, the kinds of cases she saw and the decisions she came to were guided by her attempts at objectively interpreting the Constitution, not what she may or may not have believed.

On the other hand, however, is Antonin Scalia, who seems to put his personal beliefs into every decision he writes. I sometimes wonder if he has even read parts of the Constitution. When Roberts was nominated for Chief Justice, I initially wondered why Bush hadn't nominated Scalia. He certainly would have had a "conservative activist" where he wanted him. Then I realized that Scalia would never have been confirmed. He is an obivous example of a juctice whose personal beliefs influence his decisions, and everyone knows it. (He might not have been confirmed for Associate Justice at all if the confirmation of Rehnquist for Chief Justice hadn't taken all of the national attention and scrutiny.)

What especially irritates me about the opposition to John Roberts's nomination is that many opponents are bringing up briefings and other writings from his days as an attorney as "proof" that he is unfit to serve on the Court. I don't think that should hold too much weight because the job of an attorney and the job of a judge are completely different. The attorney has an agenda to prove their case at any cost. They are allowed, even encouraged, to use their own beliefs and personal investment in cases. Judges, however, are charged with the duty to be neutral. They must interpret the law and rule on what is written, not what they believe.

As far as I can tell, Judge Roberts has done a very good job of showing that despite his conservative personal beliefs, he does his best to decide each case based on the letter of the law. I certainly have no reason to believe this would change when he is confirmed by the Senate. He will not be indebted to Bush, Delay, or any sort of constituency, although I'm sure Bush would prefer to have some sway with Roberts on the Court.

Of course, I could be completely wrong. All of us could be. In the end, you can't get a good idea of what kind of justice a particular nominee will be until he or she gets on the court. (Just look at David Souter and Anthony Kennedy as examples of justices that turned out to be very different than originally believed.) Their past decisions can only tell you how they came to their decisions, which is the most important information. The good justices try to temper their personal beliefs. Yes, John Roberts' personal beliefs are much more conservative than my own, and he isn't my first choice for a justice, but what kind of nominee did we expect with Bush as president? I just hope that he will temper his personal beliefs as he interprets the Constitution, and his confirmation hearings lead me to believe he will do so better than most. Besides, he is replacing arguably the second most conservative justice on the bench (Rehnquist-- Scalia being the most conservative). The real concern is over who will replace the moderate O'Connor. Will the Court's centrist bloc continue to grow (as it should), or will it begin to move to the right (or even the left)? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Now performing on the main stage, Aidan Martin!!!

I realized that I haven't posted anything about Aidan and Regan in a while, so I thought I would showcase Aidan's performing abilities. He has learned "Old MacDonald" and "The ABC Song" pretty well now, and the two mp3 files below really showcase his talents. He definitely acquired the performing gene. I know I'm bragging, but I'm very proud of him, and a father can brag.

  • So if you want to hear a very good rendition of "ABCs", click here.
  • And if you want to hear Aidan's special rendition of "Old MacDonald", click here. (I swear that he was not coached or directed in any way. He came up with this all on his own.)
  • As a bonus, check out this WAV to use as a Windows sound (I don't know if this one works on Macs). Guess what he did that made Kari gasp. I'll give you a hint: He was taking a bath at the time.
And because I know you want them, here are some pictures:

We got this new bike trailer so I could take the kids to child care. Is it just me, or does this remind you of old pictures of immigrants coming to America? (Despite the look on his face Aidan absolutely loves riding in this; Regan tolerates it.)

Aidan and Regan in the bike trailer

Regan with the blanket that Jackie Fuller made for her (Thanks Jackie!)

Regan and her quilt from Jackie Fuller

The whole family on the porch of our new house (after church about a week ago)

Jason, Regan, Aidan, and Kari on the front porch

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Why I don't shop at Wal-mart

ACU Optimist Online - Wal-mart not so friendly after all

As I took a short break from my dissertation to eat lunch today, I was very pleased to see this article from The Optimist, the student newspaper at my alma mater, Abilene Christian University. It seems that The Optimist, or at least one editorial writer, has become aware of the unethical business practices and local community squeeze that Wal-mart uses to make their prices so low. She very accurately and convincingly illustrates the true cost of Wal-mart's low prices. They squeeze manufactures to lower their prices, often forcing costly outsourcing. They squeeze their employees, primarily women, to accept sub-standard wages, benefits and working conditions. And they squeeze local competition, which might cost slightly more, but usually has better customer service, better products, and a greater benefit to the local economy.

As an advocate for the desperately poor and destitute, I can't blame everyone for shopping there, however. I understand that when you can barely buy milk, bread, medication, and make the monthly rent, consumer high-ground doesn't hold much weight. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs certainly comes into play. But for everyone else (and I include myself, even though my family and I are on the tightest of tight budgets), I urge you not to shop at Wal-mart or Sam's Club. Do all of the other research you need. Visit to get even more detailed information. In the end, you will see that the low prices come at a huge price, a price that affects all of us whether we realize it or not. Then, shop at Target, Meijer's, Krogers, Costco, local grocery stores and discount stores, and other businesses that know you don't have to sacrifice humanity and ethical conduct to do business the right way.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Drop a TRAIN on 'em!

I am determined to not let this dissertation beat me. I have made a commitment (a "bargain", if you will) with Kari designed to motivate me enough to finish the proposal by the end of the month. She has said that she would get a small, discreet tattoo if I can finish the proposal by September 30. I've wanted to get matching tattoos for years, but she has wanted nothing to do with it.

The joke is on her, however. I have made a strong commitment to getting this finished because it has gone on for too long. If I don't make this deadline, it will essentially create a domino effect of delays that might prevent me from graduating in May, and that CANNOT happen. So I have all of the motivation I need. Kari has agreed to give me as much time to work before the 30th as I need. The only thing to do is to get it done. So, here we go.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Politics over policy

For the last two weeks, I've spent at least some amount of time every day working on legislative issues for the Michigan Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (MAMFT). I work for the MAMFT President, and I willingly agreed to do what I could to help her advance the MFT profession in Michigan. We are attempting to clarify the scope of practice for MFTs to better reflect what we do and how we are trained. As the MFT licensure law currently stands, it does not mention anything about doing psychotherapy, working with individuals, or assessment/diagnosis/treatment of mental/emotional/behavioral disorders. We are trained and experienced in each of those, but the law does not reflect it. Therefore, we are often unable to bill for these services and in some cases, we can't even see the client. Obviously, we're doing everything we can to change this, but we have been met with more resistance than I had anticipated.

It seems that a few other mental health professional groups (mainly the psychologists and social workers) do not think that this law should pass. They have problems with this because:

  1. They do not believe we are trained to treat individuals. (We are. The title "marriage and family therapist" may be misleading, but it refers to our theoretical approach, not scope of practice."
  2. They do not think we are trained to do psychotherapy. (Frankly, if we aren't trained to do psychotherapy, then what are we trained to do? Psychotherapy in its various forms is PRIMARILY how we are trained.)
  3. They do not think we are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. (This is the big one. They are pointing to the social workers' training in psychopathology as the minimum standard for this. After thoroughly researching those requirements and comparing them to the requirements for MFTs, however, I can confidently state that we not only meet, but exceed those standards. After all, what were all of those classes on psychopathology and DSM diagnosis for?)

Essentially, we aren't trying to overstep our qualifications or get an advantage over other mental health professionals. Rather, we are simply attempting to get the State of Michigan to legally acknowledge what it is we do, which would give us legitimacy in the state in the eyes of many Michiganers.

We believe that this is good policy, but we are being met with the politics that exist in the world. The social workers and psychologists hold a lot of sway with some key state senators (for instance, the chair of the senate committee that we must go through was the sponsor of social work's recent licensure bill). Those key Senators, while very forthright and well-meaning, are faced with whether to adhere to the politics of the issue (social work and psychology have much larger constituencies) or the policy, which we believe we support with irrefutable evidence.

This has shown me a lot about the political system. I don't mean to sound like I'm blaming government or even the legislative system. I'm not. I understand that they are trying to do what is in the best interest of all the people, not just a relatively small group of MFTs. I just wish that the facts and the truth could win out over the politics and conflict. And maybe it will, but it will be a much larger struggle than it should be.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Theory and Practice

Since I began my internship at Ingham Regional, I have been met with a number of different challenges. None of these challenges are without merit; in fact, I expect that they will necessarily make me a better therapist and professional. One challenge relates to the way I use my practice. For the last three years (i.e. since I came to MSU), I haven't really been challenged to clinically apply the theoretical models that often conceptualize and direct the therapeutic process. This hasn't always been a problem, but it has given me the sense that therapy is not always as productive as it could be.

In supervision a week and a half ago, I was challenge by my supervisor to apply various theories, some of which I hadn't even thought of in years, to a particular case. This was stressful, because I couldn't always remember the various nuances of the theory. Afterwards, I made a commitment to be more theory-driven. I learned the theories, and for a time I practiced them, but I had fallen out of that practice. Of course, this makes me a better therapist by virtue of the fact that I have a road map. As a postmodern theorist, it is the collaborative nature of the therapeutic relationship that brings about change, but it is the road map that the client provides and we both interpret that gets us where we need to go. I don't change the client, and the "advice" I give (I would balk at that word anyway) doesn't change the client either. It is the co-created reality that we share in therapy that brings about change. That is an important lesson to keep in mind.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


I had never heard of Podcasts until this past July when I read an article about Christian Podcasting in our denominational magazine. Now, I hear about them everywhere. ABC News, NPR, ESPN, and every Joe Schmo now has a Podcast.

So, What is a Podcast? It is a pre-recorded radio show that you can download to your computer (or your mp3 player, such as an iPod, hence the name) and listen to at your own leisure. They are great for when you want to listen to particular genres of talk (or some music) radio, but you aren't near an internet connection or radio.

Podcasts cover every topic imaginable and can be as specialized as you want. Also, with the technology being largely free and easy to operate, anyone can create and maintain a Podcast.

I use iTunes to subscribe and manage my Podcasts (all for free), but there are plenty of other programs out there too. So what Podcasts do I listen to? Here is a sample:

  • StarStruck: A Houston Astros Podcast
  • Shrink Rap Radio: A Psychology talk and interview show
  • NPR's Sunday Puzzle
  • NPR's All Songs Considered (FYI, NPR has a ton of material available as a Podcast)
  • NOVA scienceNOW
  • MLB Radio Daily
  • Downstage Center by the American Theatre Wing (A theatre talk and interview program)

You can find out more about Podcasting here.
Learn how to create your own Podcast here.
Get some tips on how to run your Podcast here (although it's written to use with the program "GarageBand", it's helpful regardless of the program you use).
Of course, there are multitudes of other resources out there, but these can get you started.

And if anyone out there knows of other good Podcasts that I might be interested in, please let me know.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] ACU to perform "Seussical" as new Homecoming Musical

My the theatre department at my alma mater, Abilene Christian University, recently came under fire for casting a caucasian woman to play the title role in the musical Aida this fall. You can read article that seemed to spark the controversy here, President Royce Money's response here, and a 2nd ARN article describing the cancelation here. (Free Registration required to view each article)

Although I was dissappointed at the reaction and controversy that surrounded the casting decision, I cannot say I was surprised. In fact, I probably would have been one of the opponents of the casting decision if I didn't believe that I knew the hearts and reasoning of those who made the decision (Aida, more than being a story of black and white, is a story about different ethnicities and cultures. That was going to be reflected more than the traditional black/white cultures). In today's politically correct world, our social consciences are vigilantly on gaurd for anything that might be offensive. Frankly, that's a very good thing. It forces us to reconsider our assumptions and interact with people on an equal level. But sometimes our radars pick up something that isn't there. This was probably one of those times. I can't blame the people who objected to the casting. As I said, I could easily have been one of them. But I've seen the talent that they had cast (she is a fantastic actor and singer), and I know the people who made the decisions. Their hearts and minds are pure. They held no malice or prejudice in their casting. Perhaps they misjudged the reaction of the public, but that can be an easy mistake. I feel for them and everyone else connected to the ACU Theatre Department.

As a replacement, they have chosen to do Seussical - The Musical instead. They have a monumental task infront of them to pull it together in a mere two months, but if any department is up to the challenge, they are. I believe they had a similar task 13 or 14 years ago when they were preparing to do Annie Get Your Gun and had to change it to Meet Me in St. Louis because of some sort of problem with the licensing rights (that was a few years before I came). I wish them luck. I probably won't be able to see the show, but I look forward to hearing from those who will. The talent working on that show will likely make it work, and they will be able to rise from the recent controversy as strong as ever.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Staying in Lansing

As most of you know, Kari and I had been planning to leave Michigan for a while. We wanted to get closer to family in Texas while I began my internship and wrote my dissertation. Nothing in Texas worked out, so we were looking for anything that paid. (There was no way we could afford for me to have no salary.) As a last resort, I had been talking to the head of the Behavioral Science Department at Ingham Regional Medical Center here in Lansing. I say it was a last resort because it was an unpaid internship, and I really needed something that paid.

After interviewing with a number of different places, it looked like we would be moving to Lexington, KY, and I would take a job with an outpatient mental health clinic in rural Kentucky. Early last week, they called and offered the job to me. It paid decently, and the benefits were great. It was, though, working in rural Kentucky, and required a commute of an hour or so. Also, we weren’t that thrilled with living in Lexington. It’s not that Lexington is a bad town, we just weren’t that impressed when we were there for the interview. The main downside, however, was that it would not give me any kind of unique work experience. I can’t say that it would have made me that much more marketable in the future that I would have stood out among other candidates. Also, it was a full-time, permanent position, meaning that I would feel a certain amount of obligation to work there for a few years before looking for something else.

Meanwhile, I had still been talking to the Department Head at IRMC about possible funding for the internship she had available. About the same time that I was offered the job in Kentucky, she told me that she had secured a small amount of money from the MSU College of Human Medicine. It wasn’t as much as she had originally thought she might be able to get, but it was a start, and there was still other funding avenues left to pursue. So Kari and I began to look at our budget. In addition to Kari’s recent raise and the money from the College, we began to look for ways to bring down our personal expenses. From there, it appeared that things began to fit into place in such a way that I must attribute it to divine intervention. Knowing that we had to move because of the need for a bedroom for Regan we looked for other houses to rent in the area. We found a house much larger than our current house for the exact same rent. At the same time, we found out that a friend from church who provides childcare out of her house had two openings. Her rates turned out to be much less than what we had spent when Aidan was in childcare for two years. The best part about this, though, was that her house is a mere two blocks from the house we had found. Also, the house is within walking distance from the Medical Center. We soon realized that we actually could make it in Lansing. We also realized that we didn’t want to leave the area for Kentucky anyway.

So, we’re staying here. We will move to the new house in about a week, and I begin my internship in a couple of days. This internship will give me the opportunity to fulfill the internship requirement for my degree, work on my dissertation, get clinical ours towards licensure, and supervise junior therapists as I work towards Approved Supervisor status. Because of the money coming from the College of Human Medicine, I’ll also be required to help them write research grants, which will be extremely valuable experience. The experience of working with and being embedded in the medical community will also give me the kind of unique experience that should set me apart from other candidates when I begin looking for a permanent position when the internship ends next year. Most importantly, we can stay in a community and a church that we’ve grown to love for another year, and Kari can stay in a job that she enjoys and pays very well.

This means, however, that we’ll be thousands of miles away from our family for at least another year. While we wished we would be living closer to them, we understand that this is where we should be for now. Plus, that gives all of you bums who have promised to visit another year to do so. (Kyle and Amanda, we’re looking in your direction…)

So after August 15, this will be our new contact information:

Jason, Kari, Aidan, and Regan Martin
1931 Harding Ave.
Lansing, MI 48910
(517) 974-3322 (Jason’s cell)
(517) 614-0860 (Kari’s cell)

NOTE: We will no longer live in East Lansing; we’re moving to Lansing. Also, we decided not to have a home telephone, so you should use our cell phone numbers (preferably after 9 PM ET or on weekends to avoid using too many peak minutes).

[Passions Take Many Forms] Aidan & Regan

Aidan has really taken a liking to his baby sister. There hasn't been any of the resentment or hostility that I feared. I hope to help nurture that relationship so it continues to grow.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] New Planet

"My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas."

That simple mnemonics device has recently become obsolete. Astronomers at Cal Tech (click the title of this post for more info) have recently discovered a 10th planet. It has an orbit that more wacky and eliptical than Pluto's (that's saying a lot), but it is believed to be much larger than Pluto, which some claim is really just a large asteroid.

The new planet has a new name, but it won't be announced until it gains approval from the IAU. In the meantime, it's simply known as 2003UB313.

I'm guessing that the new name is either Proserpine or Juno.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

STOP!!... and start reading my other blog

Due to other important matters, I've decided that I can't take time to keep this blog up right now. I promise that I will begin posting again in September or so, but for right now, it will be dormant.

In the meantime, I will post to my other blog because that one takes less time and effort. I'll probably just post pictures, links, and brief messages, but it will be more than here.

Finally, all of you who link to me from your blog, feel free to leave this one as a link, but I would also request that you add the other one too.

Later, player

[Passions Take Many Forms] Book tag (from Kyle)

Kyle Challenged me to book tag, so I HAVE to respond.

Kyle-- Where did the blogging go? Aidan keeps taking it. He'll hide it, and it may be weeks before I find it again. Either that or Regan poops on it. (Seriously, though, the blogs have taken a backseat to childcare, finding a job, teaching, and dissertation in that order. They will definitely return on a more regular basis, but maybe not for another month or so.)

1. How many books have I owned?
I'm not sure that I can respond the way the question is worded. First of all, the question asks how many "have I owned". I have gotten rid of more book than I currently had. I would guess that the answer is around 1,000. Second of all, do I include Kari in my response? Remember that what's mine is hers and hers mine. Although she might buy a book, I might read it and vice versa. Third of all, what about library books many of the books I read (and almost all that Kari reads) come from the library, not a bookstore. If you want to know how many we currently own, I would guess around 350, but that number may be way off.

2. What was the last book you bought
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

3. What is the last book that you read?
Same as above. I just finished it last night. I think it's the best of the series and quite scarry in parts, but I agree with one review that said:

Half-Blood Prince reminds me most of Star Wars: Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back. Though the book has its own discreet plot and climax, most of it seemed like a long setup for the finale [in Book 7 of the HP series], where the real action will undoubtedly start.

I was thoroughly surprised by many of the plot twists throughout, but not by the identity of the "Half-Blood Prince" himself. Frankly, I think some of the characters should have been able to find out quite easily. What the Prince does at the end of the book did shock me, though.

4. What are FIVE books that meant a lot to you? (These are in a random order, not order of when read or favorite)
1. Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch
2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
4. God's Politics by Rev. Jim Wallis (I've only skimmed this one, and I liked what I skimmed. I plan to read it properly very soon.)
5. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I also enjoyed:
Harry Potter books 4-6 by J.K. Rowling (I found 1-3 somewhat uninteresting and tedious)
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (despite its numerous and glaring flaws)
The Alienist by Caleb Carr
Lies and the Lying Liers Who Tell Them by Al Franken
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

When I get a little further with my dissertation, the next book I plan to read is Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr (sequel to The Alienist). I then want to read the original Sherlock Holmes stories before turning to Carr's latest book, The Italian Secretary, which is a Holmes novel.

If you're reading this and haven't done it, TAG-- you're it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] Aidan the ballplayer

Aidan loves baseball & he's very good for a 2-year-old.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Where did the therapy go?

I think it is becoming clear that this blog has evolved into a place for me to write about family, both in general and my family in particular. It's not that therapy is not a part of my life anymore. I just haven't had much to say about it. For one thing, I only see clients on Mondays, and as I'm probably going to be leaving in August, my client load is beginning to dwindle anyway. Essentially, my life right now primarily involves taking care of my 2 kids four days a week. I'm still working on my dissertation and searching for a job when I can, but the say-home-dad gig has definitely moved to the forefront. I suspect that as a reengage in therapy (hopefully in a new job beginning in August), I'll have more things to write along clinical and therapeutic lines.

In the meantime, though, I think this blog might be a good place to write about my experiences as a stay-home dad. It's not terribly exciting, to say the least, but I think there are kind a few nuggets of wisdom that I am gaining that I could pass on. If nothing else, I'm sure my mom, my mother-in-law, and other family members will enjoy reading about the kids.

First, for those of you who aren't very well-acquainted with my children, this is my two-year-old son, Aidan:

And this is my two-month-old daughter, Regan:

They are both very sweet kids, even if they don't always cooperate with what I want to do. I stay home with them four days a week so that we don't have to spend the money on childcare. Kari uses a vacation day every Monday to stay home with them. I am going back to work part-time, though, in a couple of weeks. Obviously, this arrangement is not very conducive to writing a dissertation proposal, so we're going to hire a college student to stay with them from noon until 5:30 three afternoons a week. This would have been necessary in July anyway because I will be teaching a class on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and I would need the time to prepare, in addition to the Mondays when I see my clients. Also, Kari's work load will really pick up in July, so she wouldn't have been able to stay home on Mondays anyway.

So that's the situation. So far, I'm in my third week of doing this, and it's gone pretty well. We have our routine, which is absolutely necessary with kids this age, and we all know generally what to expect. All Aidan cares about is playing at the playground and swimming at the MAC. Regan, though, is eating a TON. She must be having a growth spurt. We'll see how big she's gotten tomorrow at her 2-month check-up.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] Draft Day!

Monday, June 06, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] Tony Awards

I continue to be confounded about what the Tony voters consider to be the criteria for Best New Musical. Monty Python's Spamalot won the award yesterday, but the Adam Guettel musical The Light in the Piazza won the most awards (6; original lyrics/music, orchestrations, leading actress, scenic design, costume design, and lighting design). Spamalot won only best director and best actress in a featured role, in addition to best musical. It seemed like it was Piazza's night, but Spamalot took home the top prize.

Now, I'm not saying that it didn't deserve it; nor am I suggesting that The Light in the Piazza deserved it more. I haven't seen either show, so I can't say that one is better than the other, and I know that just because you have the best designs and music that you shouldn't be a lock to win. Maybe I'm just skeptical about the award after seeing it go to an inferior show so many times. But I honestly cannot understand what the criteria for this award really is. Is there some sort of rubric that the voters use? Do they throw darts at a bulletin board? I really don't know.

In other Tony news, I have been very impressed with what I've seen/heard from the new musical, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I generally don't like movie adaptations on Broadway, but this one looks/sounds very good. (I thought The Full Monty, by the same composer, had a really fun, entertaining score, so this shouldn't surprise me.) It only won one Tony (Best Leading Actor for Norbert Leo Butz), but the song they performed on the Tony telecast was the best of the night. I hear it's planning on touring beginning next year. I'll do everything can to see that one.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

This is exactly what I mean...

It seems that a radical, right-wing organization calling themselves "Christian" are again waging war against companies who do not advocate their narrow definition of family. The American Family Association (I find the name quite ironic) is leading a boycott of Ford Motor Company after it ended its boycott of Disney. Why, you ask? They seem to believe that Ford and Disney have done much to "affirm and promote the homosexual lifestyle". They point to donations that Ford makes to gay rights organizations. My response? Good for Ford. Regardless of what someone believes about how whether the gay/lesbian lifestyle is right or wrong, I do believe that it is wrong for radical reactionaries to try to take that right away from a person, whether that be through boycotts, legislation, or especially a ridiculous and oppressive constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

I'm not trying to debate whether or not it is right or wrong, but if you believe it is wrong, then you should at least allow individuals to decide for themselves. God gave us the freedom of choice in our lives, and I don't believe that we have the right to take away those choices that God gave. The American Family Association assumes that because I am (a) an evangelical Christian and (b) a family therapist that I hold the same values that they do. Rather, BECAUSE I am a Christian and BECAUSE I am I family therapist, they could not be more wrong.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Assuming "Family Values"

I get irritated when people use the phrase "family values". I work with many families whom I would not want to emulate. To say that their values are in some way a good thing is ridiculous. Of course, I know that when people (usually politicians and the like) use the phrase, they are often referring to specific values that they assume all families have, based on either their little exposure to families or their ego that tells them that all "good" families believe as they do.

The problem is that the values they describe (usually having to do with sex or consumables of some kind) are either not values that I want or values that are inconsequential to me.

I make it my goal to not assume I know what values and beliefs others hold. (My dissertation is partially based on that belief.) I wish others would begin doing the same for me. I also consider myself a person who values my family above anything else in life. Yet, I constantly hear people spouting "family values" that I completely disagree with. Those "family values" are far from being valuable to my family.

[Passions Take Many Forms] Musical Shakespeare

Yesterday, I read in the Detroit Free Press about the Stratford Festival of Canada in Stratford, ON, about a four-hour drive from where I live. It sounds like it may have started as a simple Shakespeare festival, but then expanded to incorporate plenty of other material from other genres. This year, the festival is doing 14 shows on 4 different stages. They have everything from Marlow's Edward II to Hello Dolly. They're doing classic plays, such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Orpheus Descending, as well as modern musicals, such as Hello Dolly and Into the Woods. Of course, they have the standard Shakespeare fare with The Tempest and Measure for Measure, but the show that caught my eye was a musical version of As You Like It.

Their production reminds me a lot of a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream that I did my junior year at ACU. Like Midsummer, they are using the original text that Shakespeare wrote for the lyrics to the songs, but they have new music written by the Canadian rock band, The Barenaked Ladies (who knew they were Canadian?). Also like Midsummer, they are setting the show in a decade of turmoil, the 1960s (Midsummer was loosely set in the 1970s). From the Detroit Free Press article about the show:

"This play, like 'Romeo and Juliet,' is really about the young people getting it right. The young people have more practical sense than their parents," [director Antoni] Cimolino says. They flee (or are banished from) the corrupt court of a false duke and take refuge in the Forest of Arden. These characters, Cimolino says, ask the question: Why isn't there love instead of hatred? "When I thought about it, there's no period that more clearly shows the power of love and of youth and youthful rebellion than the late '60s."

I don't know why the thought of setting this show in the 1960s never occurred to me, and to put it to music in sort of a rock opera style makes it even more appealing. If I ever get the chance to direct this show, I might have to think about this particular setting-- very interesting. To hear a couple of clips from the show, click here. Although the cast performs the songs in the show, the clips are of the band. The music doesn't sound like anything special, but it does sound fun. I wonder if they'll license it out for other theatres to do.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] 2 new (to me) Radiohead albums

I bought two new (to me) Radiohead albums today. The first, I Might Be Wrong, is a collection of 8 songs (The National Anthem, I Might Be Wrong, Morning Bell, Like Spinning Plates, Idioteque, Everything in Its Right Place, Dollars and Cents, and True Love Waits) recorded live in concert. Although this live album was released in 2001, I had purposely avoided buying it because I do not care for live recordings. It's very annoying for me to hear the crowd yelling in the background (or foreground, on some live albums). Also, the songs often aren't very different from the studio versions, and they're never as well-polished. Plus, I generally don't go to concerts (although Radiohead is on the short list of artists I would go see), so why would I want to "recreate the experience"? That said, I had heard a few live Radiohead recordings not on this album, and I was VERY impressed.

So I decided to buy it today, and for the most part, I'm satisfied. Like all live recordings, the crowd noise bothers me. Also, a couple of the tracks do sound too much like the studio versions to really merit mention. But there are three tracks that make this album worth it. First, they do a great job with "Like Spinning Plates", transforming it into a beautiful piano song, highlighted by the fluid driving of the transcribed backwardness of the original. This isn't one of my favorite songs on Amnesiac, but I love this live version. Second, "Everything in Its Right Place", one of my favorites, has some great free-flow jamming with an electronica twist, which is what makes Kid A such a unique album. (This is largely manifested by the random mixing of Thom Yorke singing the title line.) Third, "True Love Waits" is a beautiful song of Yorke singing with acoustic guitar accompaniment that I originally heard as a piano piece on Christopher O'Riley's (first) Radiohead tribute album. I don't think it's on any of Radiohead's studio albums, which makes this song so unique on this album. The melodies and harmonies are as beautiful as I've heard in almost any song. All-in-all, I'm glad I bought it, but it does have some of the flaws that all live recordings have.

The second album I bought today is the new Christopher O'Riley album, Hold Me to This, which is a re-imagining of 14 Radiohead songs on classical piano. I have his first album of this kind (True Love Waits), which is great. This new album can really be considered an extension of the first. O'Riley has continued the same theme, technique, and even the style of cover art. But that's all fine with me because I love the first album. In fact, I might actually like this album better because it has two of my favorite Radiohead songs, "2+2=5" and the magnum opus, "Paranoid Android". O'Riley does a fabulous job with both songs. "2+2=5" maintains the basis of the original, but it has a very different feel; in a way, it feels more upbeat and optimistic than the controlling, omniscient feel of the original. I can't say that I prefer one version over the other, which is a real complement to O'Riley. They are really two different sides of the same coin: opposite, yet complementary. "Paranoid Android", however, maintains the theme and feel of the original. The wonderful main line in 7/8 time, in addition to the melodic middle section, are beautifully rendered on the audible canvas with the piano-paintbrush. The other songs are great, but I was very impressed with some of the Radiohead B-sides that he includes on the album. Specifically, I love his renditions of "Polyethylene Part II", "Cuttooth", and "Talk Show Host", which was Radiohead's contribution to the soundtrack of the Baz Luhrmann film, Romeo and Juliet.

Overall, these are two great albums that I would recommend for any Radiohead fan. Of course, I may be the last true fan to get I Might Be Wrong, but it was worth the wait. As I continuously itch for any new (to me) music, I was glad to get them both. Now, I'm considering whether or not I should get some of the singles that contain the original B-sides that O'Riley does. I've never heard the original songs, but any new (to me) Radiohead music is a welcomed to my ears.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] An "incredible thing"

Alex Rodriguez (a.k.a. A-Rod), one of the most popular, talented, and richest men in sports, said today that he has been in therapy for a while now. This is significant because of the example he is to millions of people. As a therapist, I am constantly met by resistance to therapy from some because people see it as something for people with "serious problems". Many people don't understand that therapy is a great resource for working through any of life's problems, even the normal problems of everyday life. Therapy is a safe environment and controlled environment. It's aim is not to make people feel bad about themselves or give meaningless advice, but to allow clients to develop a clearer view of the problem and potential solutions. (I've written more on this on my other blog.)

I hope that other people will be able to look at A-Rod's admission today as an indication that even the "best" and "most successful" of us can still benefit from therapy (not that A-Rod necessarily is those things, but he has that appearance to some). I hope that more people will think, "If someone as together as he seems to be can benefit from therapy, then maybe I can too."

[Passions Take Many Forms] Sondheim's Bounce

I finally bought the Cast Recording of Sondheim’s newest musical, Bounce. The show went through a lot of trials and turmoil, only to be met by audiences and critics in DC and Chicago that were respectfully cool at best. The project was essentially abandoned before plans for a Broadway run could really take flight. The problems with the show primarily centered on the lack-luster story and lack of focus. Audiences didn’t really know where the show was going or what it was trying to say. I got the impression that audiences left asking, “So, what?”

That said, Sondheim’s music and lyrics have been largely praised for its haunting melodies, remarkable themes, and wit. The liner notes compare the recording to the original cast recording of Merrily We Roll Along, another Sondheim show that was largely panned and met an early demise. The comparison isn’t to the actual music, but to the response that it will likely get by people unfamiliar with the show’s struggles:

Few people saw Merrily in that first production, and those who hadn’t, and then listened to its sparkling original cast recording, could not believe that the show had failed on Broadway. Thus began a creative odyssey of many years in which Sondheim and hiss collaborator, the playwright George Furth, would periodically retool their original text in a variety of venues until they achieved a version that has proved both as playable and popular as that original cast album. A similar journey awaits Bounce. [from Bounce liner notes]

I couldn’t agree more, and I honestly hope that this show does acquire a second life over the coming years. This is a great recording of a score that is every bit as good as many of Sondheim’s works. The title song is desperately upbeat, reminiscent of songs like “Everybody’s Got the Right” from Assassins. Songs like “Get Out of My Life” provide the depth of character that often permeates Sondheim shows until they burst through in an explosion of raw emotion, and songs like “Boca Raton” provide the organized chaos that I have come to love about many of Sondheim’s shows. While I can’t say that I absolutely love every song, the show as a whole is intriguing and melodic. The trademark Sondheim wordplays and syncopated rhythms are present, and the cohesiveness of the show, while lost on audiences, does come through on the recording.

I doubt this show will ever be a crowd favorite, but with some minor reworking and a few courageous and adventurous artistic directors, I think the show could find a home among certain playhouses, much like Merrily We Roll Along. Until then, however, this recording will serve as a wonderful reminder of what this show could be and how Stephen Sondheim is still the king of American musical theatre.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Meet the stay-home dad (NOT Mr. Mom)

Today I began a stage of my life as a stay-home dad. Tuesdays through Fridays, for the foreseeable future, I will be the primary caregiver while my wife goes back to work. I plan to see clients on Mondays and work on my dissertation on Mondays and scheduled times in the evenings and on weekends. We're doing this primarily to save on childcare, but I'm looking forward to it as a learning experience.

I also hope that I can help change perceptions about fathers. The dominant perception in our society is that if one parent stays home with the children, it should be the mother. Mothers are believed to be inherently more nurturing and, therefore, the superior parent. I don't believe that this is the case. While mothers are generally more nurturing than fathers, I believe that it is largely a socialized characteristic, not an inherent one.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I'm out with the kids (actually, this mainly happened when I would be out alone with Aidan when he was an infant), and someone says, "Oh, are you being Mr. Mom today?" My response is always, "No. I'm being a dad." It bothers me for two reasons. One, it implies that being an active parent is primarily a mother's role, and any "help" the father gives is just that: Help (i.e. voluntary and extracurricular). Two, it brings up thoughts of the Michael Keeton/Teri Garr/Martin Mull film of the early 1980's. While the film made some great statements about women in the workplace (a common theme in early 1980's films), it is not an incredibly flattering look at stay-home dads. It shows the father staying home as a last resort and basically bumbling his way through it. (Paper towels used as a diaper?! Come on.)

When people see me out with Aidan and Regan over the next couple of months, I want them to pay no more notice to me than if I was a woman. I know that won't always happen, but that's what I want. I'm a father, and I know I can care for my kids as well as a woman (well, except for the breastfeeding part).

Monday, May 23, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] Oy vey...

Getting swept by the Rangers. That's pretty low. Sure, they had a chance to win Friday and Sunday, but they couldn't pull it off And Saturday was simply embarrassing.

It's not all over yet, but this is not going to be pretty

The most important lesson my kids have taught me.

Regan's beautiful eyes

They are watching me like a hawk.

Energy in marriage

My brother got married a week ago Saturday to a great woman. I had the privilege and honor to conduct the ceremony, and I had a good time doing it. One point that I wanted to get across to in the ceremony (not that they were listening; who actually pays attention during their own wedding?) was that marriage doesn't just happen. It takes energy and effort to make a marriage work. We can't let down for a moment, because our partner will remember that moment over all others. Energy is what we say and do with our partner. It's the big things (going on dates together regularly throughout marriage), and it's the little things (apologizing for an argument even when you know you were right all along). Marriage is one of the most difficult "natural" things in life, but energy is the key to its success. As long as Amy and Ryan consciously infuse their relationship with energy by working together and avoid taking energy away by being selfish, their marriage should last a very long time.

Amy and Ryan Martin

Congratulations and good luck, guys!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Updated web page (Finally!!)

For those of you who used to check out my web page, you probably noticed that I hadn't updated it in a while. Well, it's been updated in a big way. Check out some of the new pages and pictures. I hope to update it more regularly now.

Jason Martin, MMFT: Marriage and Family Therapy/ Dynamic Family Ministry

[Passions Take Many Forms] 2005 Tony Nominations announced

I know I'm a week late on this, but I was out of town. The Tony nominations were announced, and I can't say I'm surprised by much. Monty Python's Spamalot received the most nominations (14), followed by Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Light in the Piazza with 11 each. I can't say that I've seen any of the shows that have been nominated because I haven't been to New York in 5 years, but I know which ones I'm rooting for. While I'm sure Monty Python's Spamalot and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels are fine shows, I really hope that The Light in the Piazza takes home some significant hardware. The music and lyrics are written by Adam Guetell, who also wrote one of my favorite musicals, Floyd Collins. Also, it seems to be the dark horse in the Best Musical category.

I also hope Pacific Overtures wins Best Musical Revival. I love the story and music from this show, which I consider to be one of Sondheim's least appreciated. Also, B. D. Wong is just cool as the Reciter.

On the non-musical side of things, I fully expect Billy Crystal 700 Sundays to win its category based on the unending praise I've heard for it and the mediocre responses that the other nominees have received.

I know absolutely nothing about any of the plays up for Best New Play, so I won't even mention them.

Best Revival of a Play, however, has some interesting nominees. 4 classics: Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Glengarry Glen Ross, On Golden Pond,and Twelve Angry Men. I have no idea who to root for, because I've always loved Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Glengarry Glen Ross. They're just incredible. I think it will just come down to which company pulls off the play the best. In other words, I have no idea.

Regardless of who wins, however, it does not mean that the best shows win. I learned a long time ago that the shows that win are the ones that get all of the hype. The biggest example that I always point to is The Lion King winning over Ragtime a few years ago. I saw both shows and enjoyed them both, but Ragtime was clearly the better show. The Lion King had incredible costumes, great scenery, and plenty of flash, but the Tony for Best New Musical is supposed to go to the best overall new musical. Ragtime was clearly the best show. (I still get goosebumps when I hear the Prologue.) But, I'll still enjoy the Tonys. I'll just know that the best show might not always win.

Lastly, I heard today that Little Women is closing on Broadway, but it will tour. That's too bad. I had heard the cast recording, and while it was nothing special, it was a good little show that would have been great for family viewing. That's the way it goes, I guess. Maybe it will get new life on tour the way Big did a decade or so ago.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] Astros finally score some runs

My family and I went to the Astros game tonight. It was a great game. The Astros won, 9-0, Morgan Ensberg went 4-4 with 3 HR, and Brandon Backe pitched a 4-hit shutout. We (Kari, Aidan, Regan, Dad, Kyle, Amanda, and myself) sat in the Club Level, which is really nice, but the best part was enjoying the game with my son and daughter. Of course, Regan didn't know what was going on, but Aidan had a blast. I'm finding more and more that he loves life. He loves to live and have fun. I have learned so much from him, not just about how to parent but also about how to live life: enjoy it. He enjoyed the game so much, even though he didn't understand much of it.

I'm finding that baseball is a great way to entertain and bond with my son (and maybe eventually, my daughter too). He has a blast. I have a blast. Baseball is great.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

[Passions Take Many Forms] Plunk Biggio

One of my favorite baseball players (and one of his more underappreciated accomplishments) has a blog devoted to his honor (or pain, take your pick). Check it out. If you're a fan of Biggio, you can really waste a lot of time on the blog.

Plunk Biggio

[Passions Take Many Forms] Passion is...

Passion overtakes you. Passion makes you feel that there are few things in life more important than the object of the passion. Passion exhilarates you and flattens you like a truck.

Everyone experiences passion. For some, passion is a curse; but for others, passion is a blessing that gives life that extra spark. Sure, it can hurt at times, but if you keep the proper perspective (i.e. "How much does the object of my passion really matter in the grand scheme of life?"), the passion can excite life like few other things can.

I write of this from experience, because I, like most people, have felt passion. You could say that I'm a passionate person.

Of course, I'm passionate about my wife (the way she looks, smells, "winks", etc.). I'm passionate about my children (the way my son cuddles up in my lap and hugs me, the way my daughter looks just as she's falling asleep, etc.). But they're not what I've decided to write about in this blog. They aren't the object of my passion in this context.

I've decided to write about my other passions: baseball, music, and theatre. This blog is dedicated to those three things that make my blood boil and my joys triumph. Here, I will write about how the Astros seemingly break my heart every night. I will write about the way I feel when Beck is on the stereo. I will write about what Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff? means to me. I'm passionate about these things, and I now have an outlet to share my passion. Yippee!