Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I follow, skim 40 to 50 websites, blogs, news sources a day/week. One of my favorite is by this guy who writes 300 Words A Day. I like it because he makes faith flexible. Its online. I know his face, but I haven't met him. I've spoken to him but not with him. I have been relieved of some of the consequences of faith. He's pushing the limits of social media, and I would guess breaking ground in spreading the word of the Lord. He's offering this more than relaxed course called, "Bible for My Friends." I think it will become more intense as it goes on for the last four weeks.

Week Two is about listening or Lectio - I know, first I heard too, and I had 7 years of Latin. Lectio is listening and understanding in a prayerful way; my definition. Go here for an official Wiki definition. Jon Swanson, the guy that writes 300 Words, said its read, listen, contemplate, pray. He said other things that were interesting. It clicked for me when he suggested you look for it in a mundane thing you do, but one that centers you. Such as a favorite book you read on occasion and you read a new sentence and ponder why you haven't noticed it before.

The moment for me was coming home late from work, when I was thinking about the assignment, read Mark 5, 21-43. I observed that Jesus helps those that help themselves, or those that are persecuted and may not be able to help themselves. This is a generality and a quick and unfounded hypotheses. I've got four more weeks, I'll keep my eyes open.

I kept thinking about it. Then another listening moment came at work. I had just finished a pretty big assignment. I was taking a moment to catch up on a favorite website the 99 percent. I didn't read the main article, as I bypassed to read a 1954 Interview with Hemingway. I read this response from Hemingway, "I have the nightmares and know about the ones other people have. But you do not have to write them down. Anything you can omit that you know you still have in the writing and its quality will show. When a writer omits things he does not know, they show like holes in his writing."


Do you get it? Here's the best way I can explain how I understand it. YouTube Barry Sanders, the running back from the Detroit Lions. Watch a few highlights of some of his touchdowns. He didn't have a touchdown dance. He didn't tell you he just scored a touchdown, he didn't have to, you knew he did. 
Then the third listening moment was this peaceful afternoon. I left work early today, remember the big assignment? Yeah, put in a bunch of hours, took a little time. Stopped off for a gift for my wife, dinner for the family, then took the kids to karate, home again to eat, then Kelly went off to work. I packed in what usually takes me half a day into 3 hours. It wasn't rushed, I hit my marks and so did everyone else. We all did it with a smile. We clicked. It was effortless. I took it all in. I was listening, and I applied what I heard.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Matty's Top Forty - For Today

My new favorite blog is Social Media, Marketing, & Musings by Margie Clayman. I think Margie could convince me of anything. Maybe its infatuation, maybe its teenage love, maybe it will wear out, but I hope she stays in my life, because I like her point of view. Overstated, sure, it’s my blog, if you haven't noticed, and most of it is, but I believe every word I say.

As, I'm trolling my twitter feed this morning, I come across a tweet from Margie about her top 40 favorite songs - for today - of all time. What someone listens to can tell you a lot about a person. Are they focused? Are they willing to try new things? Do they like variety? Are they stuck in a rut? Do I want to listen too? My take away is music is a soundtrack. I think many could agree on that point. I think music reminds us of particular points in our life.

Margie made her list, she says, stream of conscious. I can't do that, my memory doesn't allow me to remember names of songs. I remember how they sound. I don't know the words to any of these songs from start to finish, but I know them within three bars or so. Here they are:

Bands that are my favorite, and if I have to pick one song, I'd feel like I was choosing one of my children over the other. In order of preference:
1. The Rolling Stones. Keith Richards is my hero. "We all have it. We're just antennas - pickup the signal and transmit."
2. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. As a kid, we had an 8 hour drive to our summer vacation in Avalon, NJ. When I was old enough to drive, I subjected my brother to every cassette in order of release. It filled up the time.
3. The Black Crowes. Something about this band is authentic. I just wish the brothers could get over themselves to write more often.
4. U2. Like most, Joshua Tree hooked me, but it was Boy and War that are my favorites. Newly added to that is Achtung Baby.
5. Jimi Hendrix. The more I heard Band of Gypsies the more I wanted.
6. The Clash. Rock the Casbah moved me to buy Combat Rock, then London Calling. These guys could do anything.
7. The Black Keys. Whoa. Where did these guys come from? Newest to the list. Can't get enough. Tip of the hat to you, Margie. Akron is where it’s at these days.

I'm a sucker for a pop song:
8. Fuck You, Cee Lo Green. I think we have a new Marvin Gaye on our hands.
9. Crazy in Love, Beyonce. Really, I just love it. It’s the pace, and maybe her butt in the video too, but just a little.
10. No One, Alicia Keys. A powerful range of emotions in her voice.
11. 99 Problems, Jay-Z. Listen to the a capella some time, but the driving beat otherwise is unstoppable.
12. Today Was a Good Day, Ice Cube. Loved this whole album, The Predator. It told a story I could never understand.
13. Life is a Movie, GZA. Never had radio play, but it should have.
14. You’re All I Need to Get By, Mary J. Blige/Method Man. I would always caution someone wanting to cover such a great singer/songwriter. It’s an awesome tribute to the duet by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

Trips in the car had a country swing peppered with a little pop:
15. Devil Went Down to Georgia, Charlie Daniels Band. My dad bought this cassette when I was 6 or seven, and I quickly wore out that track.
16. Y’all Come Back Saloon or Elvira, Oak Ridge Boys. I don’t know. Catchy I guess.
17. Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott, Statler Brothers. See above. They also sing How Great Thou Art – I cry every time I sing it.
18. You May be Right, Billy Joel. The album Glass Houses is great.
19. Super Trooper, ABBA. Why this one over the other awesomeness that is Gold? It’s the one I heard over the others...

My mother:
20. Rockin Robin, Bobby Day. It’s a great sing-a-long. My brother wore out this one.
21. I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor. I remember a trip home from the dentist, and she turned up the radio to this song. I only ever remember listening to that song with her once. Funny how it burns an unforgettable memory.
22. Classical music. Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi, and Tchaikovsky.

If it weren’t for my mother:
23. Bach’s Organ Music, Virgil Fox. The louder the better.
24. The Planets, Gustav Holst. Great musical representation of the planets.
25. Rite of Spring, Igor Stravinsky. Reminds me of Bambi, I guess, a movie I only recently watched for the first time.
26. Rachmaninoff, Liszt and the other piano pounders. Classical music can make you feel alive.
27. Any interpretation by Claudio Arrau. I wrote a poem about him almost twenty years ago. I’ve lost it, but I referred to his hands as spiders.

Songs I turn up or hit the repeat button:
28. Panama, Van Halen. I think its one of their greatest. Music in the ‘80s was as much about the video as it was the song and the video captured my attention.
29. The Story, Brandi Carlisle. I’m a sucker for a love song, and even though my wife would make the “I just threw up in my mouth a little" motion, she knows my story.
30. Magic, The Cars. Similar to Panama, I just loved this video. The Cars were 80’s music and just about the best band out of Boston ever.
31. Since You’re Gone, The Cars. I love the synthesizer, esp. the opening. You can see her walking away.

Songs I love for no particular reason:
32. Kick Out the Jams, MC5/Jeff Buckley/Black Flag. Really just changes the mood. Other than Eddie Murphy, the best use of the greatest twelve letter word: “Kick out the Jams, Motherfucker.”
33. Not Fade Away, Buddy Holly. Such a simple, complex song.
34. Lucille, Little Richard. Please come back where you belong.
35. (I’d Go) The Whole Wide World. Wreckless Eric. Fortunately I didn’t have to, but I think is the definition of one hit wonder.
36. A Prayer, Madeleine Peyroux. It’s a march. The lyrics are amazingly depressing, but the plodding is hypnotic for me.
37. Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, The Cure. I almost started wearing eyeliner.
38. Smokin’ from Shootin’, My Morning Jacket. This song builds and builds. This whole album is where it’s at. There’s a story.
39. I Go Crazy, Flesh for Lulu. I grew up in the eighties, what can I say. Guilty pleasure.
40. Angela Surf City, The Walkmen. I love the Beach Boys, Pet Sounds, but they didn’t make the list today, so this represents for them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chasing Crazy

Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengruben.

Right now there are three specific things that are making faces at me in the window of the car in front of me as I sit in traffic on the Southeast Expressway. One: the debt crisis. Two: Congressman David Wu. Three: an article by Julien Smith, "How to tell if you're doing your life's work." The first two get under my skin because my mom would have slapped my face, and I bet their mother's would too, if I behaved that way in public. The last is the one I could be my own on an island, I just didn't agree with the point of view.

Let's get the first two out of the way, they're linked. The debt crisis has not been about the constituents for several weeks now, its been political. That is wrong and sends a bad message to voters and our creditors. Compromise doesn't occur by telling the other side to compromise. Compromise occurs when you sit down at the table with your list and their list and compare notes. Compromise takes care of both sides, not your side. Here is a nice little four point plan by Tim Sanders if you'd like to read more on compromise.

Congressman David Wu will resign because he made an unwanted advance on a woman. However, he won't until the debt crisis is squared away. He isn't staying on because he's on the debt crisis management team. As Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News stated, "He will stay on because the Democrats need every vote possible." I feel like our representatives have made fools of us. I think they can fix it, but it will take time and perseverance and leadership and compromise. When and where will it come from?

The last bit of crazy. I plum didn't like the article by Julien Smith. His POV was in the opposite direction of mine, that's OK, but what put me over the edge was the folks that gushed about its truth and awesomeness. They must be mad. Read the article, leave a comment. I'm not going to go into it. I'll tell you my favorite anecdote instead. An assistant coach of mine from Nigeria told me this after I perpetrated crazy one day. I try to use this to keep me out of trouble. It didn't work today.

"My brother was away for a long time and finally came home to the village. We had a celebration. While everyone was dancing and eating, my brother notices one of the villagers chasing a chicken. Over the next days and weeks, my brother saw this man chasing the chicken from sun up to sun down. Finally he started asking around. He always got the same answer, 'I don't know, it's what he does all day, chases that chicken.' The answer didn't satisfy my brother, so he started to chase the man that was chasing the chicken to find out why.

Let me ask you. Who would you rather be? The man chasing the chicken, or the man chasing the man chasing the chicken?"

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Trip to the Aquarium

We have a membership to the New England Aquarium, and had the opportunity to go to a member-exclusive event for the now open Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank last night (April 20, 2011). Prior to heading in, the kids learned that we’d be going; they needed encouragement to complete their chores. If this remained a surprise, I wouldn’t have tweeted about it.

As we are walking up to the entrance, we are instructed to wait in the tent and check-in, but as we do so, someone is calling out a name. It sounded like a name I knew. I heard it again and it was mine.

“Yes, that’s me.”
“We got your tweet today, and I think it’s the first time we had one about an event. Have you checked in yet?” asked Jason as I learned later.
“Well, check in then come up to the lobby.”

Neat. My family was getting special treatment. Before I could check in, I heard my name again and was escorted to the front of the line. We were the first family in, nothing more. We touched cownose rays (top) and saw bonnethead sharks (left), and a few other rays and sharks too. Then we had full access to the rest of the Aquarium.

On the drive home, my wife asked if we would have been so impressed if we had not received special treatment. I think the answer is yes. I always learn something new at the NEAQ because the staff and volunteers go out of their way to enhance your visit, but since the crowd was so small we had near exclusive access to them. We learned that Hogfish travel in a harem with a dominant male and female, and should the male die, the female will assume the role and change its sex. We learned from Andrew that a goose fish’s egg veil is about 60ft long and is related to the angler fish species.

On our second trip through the shark and ray tank we walked by the Amazing Jellies (right). We also made two trips to the always crowded Edge of the Sea Touch Tank. Since it was evening/night, the fishes were on their nocturnal schedule, so sometimes hidden, sleeping, quiet fish were moving about; we saw a Moray Eel lumber from one hideout to another atop the Giant Ocean Tank.

Thank you to the New England Aquarium for offering this free member-exclusive event. Thank you to Jason for pulling us out of line and making us feel special. Thank you to Andrew and the rest of the staff and volunteers that offered what they know.

Links are to the NEAQ Web site and affiliated NEAQ Web sites.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Penitent Man

Joseph of Thebes described three types of worshipful men.

1. One’s thankful when ill or tempted.
2. One’s thankful in pleasing God openly.
3. One’s thankful for the subjection of God’s will before their own desires.

A mere seventy words of reflection, and I paraphrased. I know all three of these people. I am them, and so are you. I’m number one on Saturday night and number two Sunday morning. Number three is transcendent. Is it attainable? That’s the hard part, because who can know God?

Number three is attainable when applying one’s trade. A teacher, a doctor, a businessman, and a person with good in their heart at all times may be described as such. Grace. Number two is a safe and good place. Leave God out it. Live life openly, won’t that keep you honest?

What is God’s subjection, especially if we haven’t met him? I would like to please God. As a child my gods included my parents. They told me that my actions were a reflection of them. Heavy for a five year old.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Think One and Think Two (a la Suess)

Think One:
It is my contention that with out Good or Evil, you do not have the other. If evil is vanquished, or otherwise disappears everything else is good and there for Is. I am Good, there for I am, or Evil for that matter.

Think Two:
Living perfect, sustainable, green, conscious of the environment is great and something to put effort in, but there is a cost. It may be inconvenient. It may be expensive. It may be good. I recommend doing it to the limit of your abilities. I think this is a search for perfection, therefore a futile and destructive effort on an individual, community or personal level. There is always a better or new way, and when it is discovered, it makes previous efforts detrimental or lacking in worth.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

High Point Low Point

What was your high point for the day? What was your low point? It's a nice exercise. It commemorates a day. It creates a moment of reflection. The kids and I have a bedtime routine that continues to evolve. We no longer pray - regularly. After we do our readings I ask them a series of questions.

Do you want to say a prayer? No. No.

Do you want to be thankful? Yes. No. Then my daughter says she is thankful for her family.

Do you want me to say a prayer? No. No. On occasion one or both may say yes, then I ask them if they would like me to pray for anything particular, then I do or pray generally for each of us.

When they were younger we prayed more. Now we don't. The exercise for prayer, to me, was creating a reflective moment for each of them, and me. I was disappointed they didn't engage in it. Prayer is personal, and may also be private. I began to move on.

Then I asked them one night, out of the blue, to share their high point and low point of the day. They share the mundane aspects of their day with me, but sometimes their reflection speaks volumes. At first, I asked them to share, but I did not. Then I began to share since it didn't seem right to withhold.

The exercise has created moments of lightness. It has relieved stress. It has made me feel connected to my family and my life in a new and better way. I don't think I discovered anything new, but it helped me, so I am sharing. Today is too new, so my high point yesterday was seeing my kids awake before I left for work and my low point was having fits and starts engaging in work.

What was your high point? Low point?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

I made four resolutions:
1. Be deliberate with my family and my self (patience)
2. Make a monthly goal (January: write a personal blog post each week (how silly of me))
3. Be self-conscious about weight and health
4. Read 12 books

I make them because they work. I have successes in reaching them. Each year, I make four resolutions, two new and two that build upon the last year. Goals three and four build upon last year. Why did I make these goals? I will explain, vaguely.

Resolution number one. This will be the hardest and the one I struggle with long after 2011 is over, so check in, I'll update you.

RN2. I'll explain more in a later post. In addition, I have already failed to meet RN2, but the overarching resolution I am excited about and look forward to making February's resolution.

RN3. I failed 2010's goal of losing twenty pounds. So this one is flexible because of that fact.

RN4. I did not meet my 2010 resolution of reading 12 books but was close, so I decided to try again.

I have a number of excuses and reasons I can share for not making two of last year's and discussing the futility of trying to meet some of this year's, but it isn't worth your time. I do want to spend some time on RN2, because I outwitted myself.

I read the following and it may have ruined me. "Abbot Pambo questioned Abbot Anthony saying: What ought I to do? And the elder replied, Have no confidence in your own virtuousness. Do not worry about a thing once it has been done. Control your tongue and belly." This is from The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers translated by Thomas Merton.

I have to come clean and I’m not sure how to do it. This blog was started because of a specific reason I haven’t shared. The problem is sometimes when I write this reason crops up and deters me from my general goal of writing for my own sense of whatever: gratification, catharsis, wants, desire… I thought my first of four posts this January would be a meditation from the translation because it neatly summarized my resolutions. It still does, but it is illuminating of my own “virtuousness” keeping this thing to myself.

After a particular point, you’ll say I’m being coy. If I share I can get on with it and write with abandon. If I don’t, I can maintain the dignity of the thing insofar as I’m not moving on and that is bad too. In the end it’s me, not the issue. Sharing it on the blog somehow is bigger than a conversation. I’ll lose control, and that is what I don’t want the most.

For now, ask me, I’ll tell you, maybe you already know and I’m just being me.