Monthly Archives: August 2011

Re-Creating Communication

Have you ever wished communication was easier? I have.

This morning on my ride from the dealership in the courtesy shuttle I spoke with my driver (gasp! – people actually talk to their driver in NOVA?). He was from Bulgaria, and his english was very broken. And my Vitas-english is hard for everyone to understand, including Americans. Yet we still managed to have a good conversation about his Wife and their 35 years of marriage, his son and his struggle to find a wife at age 28. (He said I’m still young when I told him I was unmarried at age 29, so that was nice.) However, this conversation took a lot of energy on both our parts. Communication was not easy for the two of us. I wish I had Rosetta Stone at my disposal to learn his language, like those in the armed services do. Check out the Rosetta Stone US Army offering here.

Now, in this age of great technological advance where 48% of American adults have accounts on Facebook – 48% of adults, that’s shocking – one would think I could effectively communicate w/the guy who lives in South Arlington, has been in the states for a decade or so, and is competent enough to drive NOVA people to the airport, metro, etc.  Not so.  Again… why did I not study more Eastern European languages when I was a photography producer for Rosetta Stone? I didn’t see the value inherent in the product until I started moving and shaking in NOVA.  This melting pot requires foreign language skills in order to effectively communicate w/your neighbors! Well, I’ve learned my lesson.  Enjoy this photo of my career as a Rosetta Stone Model – yes, I did model in my coworker’s photos. It was a lot of fun.

Now, moving on to a great way technology has helped me stay connected to friends from Uganda to Kansas… I bet I’ve got you scratching your head now… don’t I?

This Sunday morning at 9am EST I caught up on life, and received encouragement from 8 friends spread across the country and the world.  Wanna know how I did it?

Skype.

Yes, through the glories of technology used well a group of friends – some of which only see each other once a year at a Beach retreat – were able to share about the joys and sorrows of our lives, pray together, and generally have a lot of fun seeing each other on video chat.  Wanna know how you can set up a Skype group video chat? Click the link here.

After a simple premium fee I was able to tether my sprint phone to my computer from my mountainside condo at the always beautiful Wintergreen Four Season Resort.  Technology abounds! We fought the fight of feedback… adjusting our volume, muting ourselves when others were talking, getting on headsets instead of using speakers, and eventually I was able to host the call w/out video of myself, and 8 others were able to get on and mostly video chat w/one another.  I facilitated the call, keeping those who like to rattle on in check, and eventually our friend from Africa signed on.  His connection wasn’t great, but he was able to hear everyone, and we were all able to hear him.  It was unbelievable! Literally.  I use that word far too much, but it is very appropriate to describe this incredible achievement of technological prowess.

Now, before you get to thinking, “Hey Kyle, quit bragging about yourself,” think through it with me.  Anyone can do this. Have a friend who’s on a boat on the other side of the world, sailing from dock to dock on the adventure of their young adult life? Wish you could be along for the ride with them? Well, now you can.  When they check into port, hop into an internet cafe, and boot up their system with skype on board, the two of you can chat as if you were across the table from them.

So give it a a try sometime.  I know technology is annoying, but it is also extremely powerful.  We can all benefit from learning to use technology effectively to accomplish our goals.

Another of my goals is to build an international network of inspiring individuals who push one another to higher levels of production by tweet, Facebook Page(be sure to like it, and that helps me get a custom URL for the page), and other new technology methods.  Please click on the links above and Follow me or Like my page, if you will be so kind.  It’s a great way to keep the channels of communication humming between people who can’t get face to face time.  (In fact, I posted this from Starbucks in Arlington, thanks to their Wi-Fi!)

I hope you’ve found this post helpful.  Please comment or share the link if you like it.  Thanks for reading!

Re-Creating Rap

Can Rap be food for the soul? Or is it simply discord that tears down the essence of what it means to be a whole human being? This was the heart of a recent debate between a friend and I where I earnestly blurted out, “C’mon brother, you’re arguing from a position of ignorance, have you ever listened to…” artists like LeCrae, Tedashii, and D-M.A.U.B?

My great thanks to Ryan Manion for co-authoring this blog with me. It would not be nearly as educational without you, my friend. Let’s do this more often.

Now, before you tune this blog out, take a minute to understand the culture brewing around us! Hip-hop/Rap Culture is a powerful force in today’s American society.  And if we foolishly believe it’s secluded to the ‘hood’, we’re missing what’s going on around us with the youth in suburbia.  And we’re certainly not speaking the same language of those living in the darkness that is overcoming our public schools.  We need to educate ourselves on this, so we can know how to speak to the youth about it.  Thanks to my friend for challenging me on it!  So, I’m going to ask you a favor.  Listen closely to the lyrics of this song, even if you can’t handle the “beats.”  I’ll explain later why this is important.

Some may dismiss this music as amateurish, but if we are willing to think beyond what we have been conditioned to think about rap through the constant inundation of our wider “superculture” – a term coined by ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin in his book Micromusics of the West – we might be able to actually hear what is being said to the audience.  To dismiss this music on the grounds that you simply cannot connect or that it doesn’t appeal is to willingly disconnect ourselves from a powerful voice to many of today’s youth and general population.  As people whose faith informs our living and our care for our community, isn’t this irresponsible?

Different genres of music are crafted meticulously by talented artists to evoke different emotions in people. Whether your heart enjoys the soothing or majestic nature of “Western” classical music or the intensity of metal, the message your mind is exposed to matters.  Artists such as T.I. or 50 cent do not provoke positive and edifying messages in the wider populace, but is this the case for artists who use rap for more uplifting purposes?  Should we disregard them because they fall into a similar genre as these artists?  Dismissing an entire genre is to disregard the complexities not only of music, but also of human emotion and deduction.  From this angle, my previous point about the discord of rap music dishonoring the human condition would seem to be moot.  The discord actually heightens our understanding of the human condition.  Heavy metal was – and in some circles still is – considered to be demonic music, but there are many examples of it being used for positive social change – ie: Freemuse Report by Mark Levine on the subversive use of the heavy metal genre to give voice to oppressed brethren in the Middle East and China.  This also can be the case for other music genres, including rap.

So, next time your friend asks you to take a listen to a rap song w/them.  Ask them if the message is positive or thought-provoking.  If they can honestly say yes, it might be worth a listen.  I can guarantee you it will help you communicate more effectively with today’s youth.  So please do watch and especially listen to the following track by Bobby Ray set to a Kobe highlight reel and look up more of his work.  He is a champion… as am I. And I want to teach the youth how to be champions, not losers.  Most rappers are teaching them to be losers, but the only way we can deprogram the losing mentality and replace it with the heart of a champion is to learn the art form, and be able to speak about it fluently.  Otherwise we’re not speaking the language of today’s youth!  It’s a scary proposition to lose a generation.  Let’s not let that happen!

Re-Creating Football

Ever wondered what it is about football that makes us love it so much? It rivals baseball for our national affections. We spend hours a week in the fall either throwing a football, watching the TV, or getting out under those Friday Night Lights to watch those we love grind it out. Why?

Brian Grazer and the crew who developed the TV series Friday Night Lights have given us a new lens into the phenomenon.  I cannot recommend this series highly enough.  In fact, the season finale was nominated for an Emmy!  I don’t recommend you watch all of it, because that is a lot of time, unless you do it in community and talk about each show w/your friends.  Stories are equipment for living, not a replacement for real life.  They are meant to inform action, not replace it.

Now, if you are planning on watching the entire series, I’ll be showing some scenes from the ending of the show… but it’s worth the spoiler.  The last few scenes of the entire show give us a clue as to why football is so important to us.  Take a look at the denouement here (after the last commercial break), and keep an eye out for what seems to be important to the show creators.

What in the world? Why didn’t they show the catch on the final hail mary? Could it be that Grazer thinks some part of these people’s stories is more important than what happens on the field, or at least equally important?

In a word, yes. Coach Taylor is constantly teaching character. And the ultimate tests of character take place when no one is watching, not on the field where many are watching. Behind closed doors, Coach Taylor has been arguing with his wife Tammy about moving above the Mason-Dixon line to follow her professional dreams. And in private, he decides that his moral fiber requires that he sacrifice his ambitions as a coach to serve his wife, and help her achieve her dreams. The other story-lines take similar tacks with dynamic (versus static) characters realizing that to do great things in life they must risk greatly, and sacrifice greatly for their families and communities. In the end, the character that is developed on the field is the point… NOT winning or losing, or the glory of a State Championship ring.

I love the understated way Grazer lets us know that they won. Focusing in on the rings as we see each character in his or her new setting. I particularly love Jess’s turn of story, and that of Tim Riggins. Remember, Riggins fell from glory. His highest achievement in life was his state championship, yet he seems to be recognizing after returning from prison that there is more to life than football, and glory, and fame. He wants a simple life, working hard on the land that was purchased at such a dear price by him and his brother, raising a family, and hopefully marrying Tara… if their dreams cross some day.

Kudos to the writers, and Mr. Grazer for re-telling a classic story in a new way that gives us better “equipment for living”. I hope you all find this story as inspirational as I do.

And take a moment to check out my “music video” with scenes from the show’s last season as well as music by The National featured in the episode “Keep Looking”. Texas Forever! Clear eyes. Full hearts. Never lose!  Walk Away Music Video (plays in YouTube)

Re-Creating Law-Making

Anybody tired of career politicians? Wish partisanship could be dropped so that we could come to an agreement and move forward as a country with a balanced budget and decreased debt burden? Well, when looking where to point the finger, remember that three are pointing back at us because we elected and re-elected a lot of career politicians who care more about their next press avail than they do actually doing their job, which is legislating… NOT POLITICKING! If they make a career out of anything, let it be law-making, and not politicking. But then again, would we be better off with citizen legislators? Maybe… Let’s take a look at one such career lawyer and farmer who happened to step up and serve when his country needed him.

May I introduce to you – from the man who brought us Band of Brothers, The Pacific, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Charlie Wilson’s War, and many moreJohn Adams.

Tom Hanks is re-creating the art of the mini-series. Many stories, such as the one you will see if you RedBox John Adams, can only be told in a visual form that is longer than the 90 minutes we usually give to feature films. Think if Harry Potter were told to us in episodic form… The storylines and the character development would sit more heavily with us since we would likely see the entire 7 movie story in the span of 2-3 weeks instead of years.

While the craft of David McCollough – author of the singular John Adams biography – and Hanks is spellbinding, the story of the man John Adams is very apropo as our country teeters on the precipice of fiscal insolvency. If a country cannot pay it’s debts, or the payment of it’s debts becomes the primary focus of the government, it ceases to be free. In this sense, I ask us to look to Adams as a model for financial liberty.

In the clip above he speaks of national, political, legislative liberty. The freedom to pursue life, liberty, and the ownership of property. Yet in our time, none of these pursuits is possible if we are indebted to other countries for our very existence. Think of the stress and lack of freedom you have as an individual if your credit card is maxed out. You can’t make the choices you were formerly able to make. You ARE NOT FREE!

Now, in the midst of the bickering on the hill there are some folks who are taking a stand against the pay-for-play, career politician model that is so prevalent among our national and state legislatures today. These citizens would have members of congress, state houses, and the executive branch look at their public service as a part-time job, not their vocation for the rest of their God-given days. (See my friend MacMillin Slobodien’s commentary on Congressional compensation, and consider how this leads to a complacency with regards to returning to the private sector to procure a legislator’s primary source of income. Macmillin is Executive Director of Our Generation)

And I think Adams is a great example of the citizen public servant. In that sense, he is a re-creationist extraordinaire. If you watch the series, you will find that he frequently returned to his home to practice law, or till the land and raise his children. And the portrayal of these competing desires to secure liberty for his children versus enjoy the limited degree of liberty that had already been accomplished by the efforts of him and his fellows is nothing short of Giamatti’s best on-screen performance.  Laura Linney also gives Oscar-worthy performances throughout, showing that the woman behind the man is often the reason he has the strength to continue on in the face of extraordinary circumstances.

Let’s all take a moment and think about whether we like the results we’re getting from our politicians, and ask ourselves if we are willing to change the system, by re-creating what it means to be a public servant.  It won’t be easy.  It will require action.  But if we are to remain free, and set the tone of what it means to be free on this planet as our Forefathers did, then we will have to fight our inclination to complain and instead become servants.  But let’s do it differently. Let’s first serve in our homes, then in our places of worship, then in our communities, and then, if necessary, in the government.  And when we do serve in the government, let us always return to the “real world” so that we might not forget how our politicking affects our neighbors.

Stay engaged… don’t let the inaction of our current representatives wear you out.  Let’s continue re-creating the legislative process, so that we may continue to refresh the tree of liberty.  It will possibly require blood, but I think it might be the blood, sweat, and tears of hard work by the citizens, not the blood of tyrants.