Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My last list from 2008 (I think)

A while ago I posted my favorite daily calendar quotes from the first six months of 2008. These are from my office calendar made by Stephen Covey's company (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Here are my faves from the last six months of the year. I won't be posting again until next week, as this weekend is my 10-year anniversary trip to California!

Note: I've updated the music playlist, so if you scroll allllll the way to the bottom of the page, you'll see an entire list of gravelly-sounding rock songs that you can play. Enjoy!

Is it logical that two people can disagree and that both can be right? It's not logical: it's psychological. And it's very real. And unless we value the differences in our perceptions, unless we value each other and give credence to the possibility that we're both right, that life is not always a dichotomous either/or, that there are almost always third alternatives, we will never be able to transcend the limits of conditioning.

It simply makes no difference how good the rhetoric is or even how good the intentions are; if there is little or no trust, there is no foundation for permanent success. Only basic goodness gives life to technique.

Communication is the most important skill in life. We spend most of our waking hours communicating. But consider this: you've spent years learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training or education have you had that enables you to listen so that you really, deeply understand another human being from that individual's own frame of reference?

Habits can be learned and unlearned. But it isn't a quick fix. It involves a process and a tremendous commitment. Those of us who watched the first men walk on the moon were transfixed and superlatives such as "fantastic" and "incredible" were somehow inadequate. But to get there, those astronauts literally had to break out of the tremendous gravity pull of the earth. More energy was spent in the first few minutes of lift-off than was used to travel half a million miles.

Habits, too, have tremendous gravity pull. And breaking them involves more than a little willpower and a few minor changes in our lives. But once we break out of the gravity pull, our freedom takes on a whole new dimension.


We are not our feelings. We are not our moods. We are not even our thoughts. The very fact that we can think about these things separates us from them and from the animal world. Self-awareness enables us to stand apart and examine even the way we "see" ourselves. It affects not only our attitudes and behaviors, but also how we see other people. It becomes our map of the basic nature of mankind.


Empathic listening is a tremendous deposit in the Emotional Bank Account. It's deeply therapeutic and healing because it gives a person "psychological air". If all the air were suddenly sucked out of the room you're in right now, what would happen to your interest in [reading this blog]? You wouldn't care about anything except getting air. Survival would be your only motivation. But now that you have air, it doesn't motivate you. This is one of the greatest insights in the field of human motivation: Satisfied needs do not motivate.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Favorite DVDs I watched in 2008

As promised, here is a list of my favorite DVD viewings from 2008. Note that these are my "favorite viewings" from the year. So this doesn't mean that all those movies came out in 2008. And it doesn't even mean I think they're the "best". Here we go!

The Lives of Others -- A state agent in 1980s East Germany is ordered to do 24/7 surveillance on a man suspected of treason. As the agent watches and learns more about the suspect's life, he realizes that he has doubts of his own about the system he works for. I got hooked by the characters and moved by the story of grace and of doing the right thing, even when it's small, and even when it's dwarfed by an environment of wrong things.

After Innocence -- A documentary about the American legal/justice/prison system, and how many death row inmates have since been proven innocent through DNA evidence that wasn't available at the time of the original trial. This story was haunting, frustrating and at times beautiful. But after watching it I'm now far less sure about capital punishment, and that's saying something since I live in Texas.

Stardust -- A simple and timeless love story/fantasy tale. Something about it just worked for me. And Robert DeNiro absolutely cracked me up in a way he's never done in his great career, and in a way he'll almost certainly never attempt again!

49 Up -- The latest episode in a running documentary following about a dozen British citizens. It started in the sixties when they were 7 years old, and every 7 years they go back on camera to provide an update about their lives and their dreams. I'm a people-watcher, and this was a mega-dose of it. I could identify with every person in at least some small way, and appreciated their openness in sharing their first five decades with the public.

3:10 to Yuma -- Fairly simple Western film, but I loved the way Russell Crowe and Christian Bale played it. The good guys aren't always good, and the bad guys aren't always bad. Bale had one of the gut-wrenching lines of the year, talking to his wife about their two sons, and why he's risking his life to play the hero:

"I'm tired of the way they look at me. And I'm tired of the way you don't."

Dead Man's Shoes -- On the surface this is just a revenge tale, but the intensity and rawness of the story and cinematography stayed with me for weeks. It may not quite follow the Hollywood formula for endings (and why would it, it wasn't made in the US), but it worked for me. Be aware that this film is quite violent and full of tough language.

God Grew Tired of Us -- A documentary following refugees from Darfur (a.k.a. The Lost Boys) who get the chance to be part of a relocation and job program in America. The story of their childhood and lives in a UN refugee camp is tragic, shocking and enlightening. The story of their new lives in the US is honest, complex and sheds new light on the things our culture cites as vital to the American dream. Nothing can shock us out of our ruts like an outside perspective, and these brave men are about as "outside" as human beings can be.

Other notables: What Would Jesus Buy; No Country for Old Men; Lars and the Real Girl; Mr. Brooks; Black Snake Moan

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My favorite gravelly-voiced rock vocalists

I'm betting that no other blog post in internet history has the same title as this post. Rock on -- I'm original!

My uncle mentioned that he and my dad have been into Nickelback lately and both really like Chad Kroeger's marble-throated singing. He then asked what other similar-sounding guys are out there, and if I'd do a post on it.

You betcha.

I'm breaking this list down into two categories:

1) Pure gravel sound.
2) Smooth, melodic voices when singing softly, but with an ability to sing-scream with scratchy goodness. There are quite a few of these vocalists out there, so I've noted a few of my favorites.

Category 1 -- Pure Gravel

1) Wes Scantlin of Puddle of Mudd -- the band is from Kansas City so I'm already biased in their favor, but Wes has a great voice. Here's one of their hits from 2008 (for listening only; ignore the visual part of the video as the record label doesn't allow me to post the actual music video here on the blog).

2) Jakob Dylan of Wallflowers and solo work -- yep, it's Bob Dylan's son. He's a great songwriter and singer in his own right. Here's a live performance from when he was still with the Wallflowers:

3) Rob Zombie of White Zombie -- this dude and his band have a lot heavier sound than some of you may appreciate. But his voice is undeniably gravelly. Here's another audio-only clip for you (the images are from some unrelated movie, and that's good, because you don't want to see what Rob Zombie actually looks like):

Category 2 -- Smooth/Gravel contrast, all in one voice

1) Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters -- what an amazing talent this guy is. Formerly the drummer for Nirvana, and for all we knew he was just a drummer. Then after Kurt Cobain's death, Dave went into the studio and started writing and recording great songs, playing all the instruments himself. And yes, he sings too. Not bad for a drummer. Here's their latest hit -- the first two minutes are pure smoothness and then the intensity begins:

2) Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Audioslave and solo work -- probably my favorite rock voice of all time. He can sing with a sweet, beautiful tenor when he wants to. And he can wail like a banshee when he wants to. He often does both in the same song. Here's a live studio performance of one of his old Soundgarden songs:

3) Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace -- not quite as gutteral and strong as most the other guys I've posted here, but his voice has a kinda breathy and smoky quality that is fun for me to listen to. Here's another audio-only clip for you. Seriously. I don't know what the heck the visual part is about, but this is what we get when record labels protect their real music videos so closely.

Hope you enjoyed! And if not, just hang around as my next list is my favorite DVD viewings from 2008.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Whew! Hello 2009.

The day after Christmas we took off for Arkansas to visit family for five days (half of it spent driving, but it was worth it). Then we got home and everybody promptly got sick.

Samantha got a stomach bug. Then Jack. Then Jamie. I never got that but I lost my voice and had a sinus thing going on. I think we're just about well now!

The main purpose of the trip was to visit my grandparents as they were having a double-celebration -- their 60th anniversary (!) and his 80th birthday (!).

All four of my grandparents are still alive and healthy, which is a huge blessing. And of course, we have nicknames for all four. Birthday boy is known humbly as "Great" since he's one of the great-grandfathers.

He is the one I get my sense of humor from, which was mentioned here when I wrote short profiles of all four grandparents. His wit was on display again this summer during our summer vacation. Here was one of our short conversations on the deck of the lakehouse:

Great: Well Buck (his nickname for me), you've got two kids, are you stopping there? Can't you have more?
Me: We can, sure... but we're just not there yet.
Great: Hmm...
Me: We haven't closed the door on it or anything, at least not biologically. So we'll just see.
Great: Your grandmother and I are the same. We haven't ruled it out yet for us either.

Hey, he was only 79 at the time. It could've happened.

We also visited with my parents, my aunt and uncle and cousins, and even got to spend two days with my brother's family before coming home. The link has pics from that trip, including my shredding session on Guitar Hero with my brother. We could play that for hours!

My uncle specifically asked me to blog something lighter and funnier once in a while, so I'm gonna post some lists later this week:

1) My favorite gravelly-voiced rockers (broken down into two sub-categories... I'm white and nerdy like that)
2) My favorite DVD viewings from 2008

See ya!