All time top 20 albums

I  saw an article on Yahoo music today about the top 20 albums of all time.  The criteria was pretty inclusive–critical acclaim, sales, time on the charts, etc.  Certain types of albums were excluded, namely compilations and live albums. I actually agreed with many of the album choices, and even owned several of them myself.

But I thought it would be fun to see what my top 20 albums of all time would be, based solely upon my own criteria, which is my opinion of their awesomeness.  I’ll start at 20, and count down to 1:

20.  Van Halen–Van Halen .  It introduced to world to Eddie Van Halen, and “shredding.”  And it’s awesome.  Just listen to “Eruption.”

19.  Rush–2112.  The first concept album I ever heard.  Rush in their heyday, while Geddy Lee could still shriek like a banshee.  Listen to side 1, or better yet, play the entire thing.

18.  The Who–Tommy.  Come on.  Pinball Wizard?  Tommy was the first real “rock opera,” and kicked ass before “Rent” was even a twinkle in anyone’s eye.  Listen to Pinball Wizard.

17.  Bruce Springsteen–The River.  Epic double album–and before Bruce began his liberal soapboxing in earnest.  Listen to the title track.

16.  System of a Down–Toxicity.  Brought hardcore weirdness to the masses.  Maybe one of the most ass-kicking albums of the past decade.  Listen to Prison Song or Chop Suey!

15.  Iron Maiden–Live After Death.  Recorded in Long Beach, back when I still had hair.  Maybe my favorite live album of all time.  Bruce Dickinson sounds like an opera singer.  Listen to Running Free, or Hallowed be thy Name.

14. Barren Cross–Rock for the King.  Horrible cover, without a doubt.  Probably the first legit Christian Heavy Metal band I ever heard.  Got me thinking a little, too.  Listen to Give your Life.

13.  Jeff Healey Band–See the Light.  So good.  Blues rock, heavy on the blues.  Jeff is blind as the proverbial bat, and plays with the guitar on his lap.  I think I listened to this album at least once a week back in the early 90’s.  Listen to See the Light, or Confidence Man.

12. Beastie Boys–Licensed to Ill.  I didn’t listen to it much in the 80’s, but have since grown quite fond of it.  It makes me want to drink beer, for some reason.  Maybe it’s good I haven’t listened to it in a little while.  Anyway, the Beastie’s mixed rock and rap way before Limp Bizkit were defiling eardrums.  Listen to “No Sleep ’til Brooklyn.”  Guitar by Kerry King from Slayer.

11.  Judas Priest– Screaming for Vengeance.  I remember listening to this for the first time when I was in high school and feeling like someone set my hair on fire.  These guys really gave metal its image, and signature look, what with enough leather and spikes to have their own S & M convention.  Who knew Rob Halford wasn’t all about the ladies?  Listen to the title track.

10. Petra–Captured in time and Space.  This was literally the first Christian band I ever heard, even before Stryper.  Prior to that, I thought Christian music was all played on the organ, and sung by people in robes.  I was surprised by two things:  Petra was really good live, and they actually rocked.  Not that hard, but they could both play and sing.  Listen to God Pleaser.

9.  Dio- Last in Line.  I sort of had to ignore the psuedo-satanic imagery, and just listen to the music, which, well, really kicked ass.  Dio is a cartoon, almost, but I love his voice. Listen to the title track.

8.  Todd Agnew– Grace Like Rain.  I had no idea this guy existed until 2007.  But this CD (oops, album) gave me so much to think about, I might even have to bump it up a notch or two next time.  Listen to This Fragile Breath

7.  My Chemical Romance– The Black Parade.  I make a lousy emo guy (I hate tight pants), but I love this album.  I love stories, and this tells an awesome one–great concept album.  Listen to the entire thing.

6.  Matisyahu– Live at Stubbs.  Hasidic reggae.  Chew on that for a while.  Listen to Warrior, or King without a Crown.

5.  Aaron Shust- Anything Worth Saying.  Discovered him the same day as Todd Agnew.  Equally awesome.  Listen to My Savior, My God

4.  Todd Agnew– Reflection of Something.  Blues/rock.  And Jesus.  Listen to New Name.

3. Metallica– Master of Puppets.  I hardly play this at all anymore, but if you do, and you turn it up loud enough, your head will literally explode.  Listen to Battery, or the title trackClassic Metal.

2.  Todd Agnew–Better Questions.  Have you guessed yet I’m a Todd Agnew Fan?  Listen to Our Great God, or War Inside.

1.  Bruce Springsteen–Born in the USA.  Not because it has a flag on the cover (though I love my county), and not because Bruce Springsteen is unequivocally number one in my book (he isn’t).  This is just simply a great album, and a perfect snapshot of the country’s social and political working class climate during the time it was released.  And it got me through one of the most trying times of my adolescence (my dad’s death).  Listen to No Surrender.

Shining up Our Scars

This is from “Stuff Christians Like.”  I hadn’t read it before, but it floored me.  So awesome:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

#349. Shining up our scars.

I don’t remember what it felt like when the steel bar tore through my face. The moment it happened my body was flooded with adrenaline and I got drunk on survival. I hit the ground running, streaming blood from a wound that would require plastic surgery and hope. But I probably need to back this story up.

In the seventh grade I was in love with my Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp skateboard. It was my whole world and one day I thought it would be fun to jump off a concrete loading dock at a factory. The plan was to grab what I thought was a stable bar and swing from it while my skateboard sailed off the four foot drop.

Unfortunately, they load and unload things on loading docks and the bar was unattached for convenience. When I grabbed it, the bar fell immediately, catching me squarely on a nose that would never be the same. I could have been killed, the force of the blow sandwiching my head between the loading dock and the steel bar. The doctor said I could have lost all my teeth but they were anchored in from the braces I had received a week earlier.

So for a few crazy seconds I ran through the streets, my face in my hands, my blood on my arms, while cars streamed around me angrily reacting to what they thought was a teenage prank. Finally, a red pickup truck stopped and gave me a ride.

Some of that day has begun to blur, the edges becoming fuzzy under the weight of so many years. But one thing I will never forget is the look on the driver’s face when I gave him my assessment of the accident. I clearly remember his expression, when I turned to him and said, “I hope it’s just a bloody nose.”

That was foolish. It ended up taking dozens of stitches to keep my nose on my face. My cheekbones were fractured. Years later I had to get plastic surgery to stay pretty. It was a serious accident.

And yet I told a stranger it was perhaps a bloody nose.

I think we do is exactly the same thing sometimes in Christianity. We take the blood and gore of our lives, the sin and the failure and the hurt and the horror and we tell everyone that everything is OK. We use the Christian F word, “fine,” and keep moving on with our lives. We hide the bad stuff and highlight the good stuff until no one can tell that things aren’t perfect. We shine up our scars until they look good enough to not be considered scars.

I don’t know where this temptation comes from. It might start the minute you become a Christian. It can be such a powerful, life transforming experience. Things feel different, you feel alive sometimes like you’ve never felt before. And when the gross creeps back in, when the high of a retreat wears off, when reality comes back and we realize we can’t be perfect for the rest of our lives, we get afraid. We fear that our initial moment of faith was fake or not good enough. It didn’t “count.” Christianity “didn’t take” to us. And so instead of telling people we know that things are bad, that we are still doing things that are opposite of what God calls us to, we sweep it under the rug. We take our first hit of the very dangerous drug called “Hide.”

Or maybe it happens when we go to a small group and people confess “safe sins.” Those deserve their own post but this is when someone shares, “I have to confess something. I have not been reading the Bible enough or praying enough or nursing enough baby birds back to health. I’m so ashamed.” Meanwhile, you’re thinking about that time you had sex before you got married or why in the depths of your heart you hate your parents and suddenly those things feel really bad. For although reading the Bible more and praying more are to be highly desired, when they’re presented in the form of a confession they often silence the real in the room.

I intended to make this chapter 3 of the book but felt like more people than the mailing list might want to read it. And there are some posts that are heavier to carry than others. I did not run in from mowing the lawn when I thought about writing about side hugs for instance. But last night, while out in the yard trying to think of a Bible verse to illustrate this post with, I felt like God threw a not tiny grenade in my head.

Even though I wanted to wow you with lots of Bible verses, the idea I came in, covered with grass and dirt, to scribble down was a lot simpler than that. And it’s really just a question.

Have you ever thought about what type of party the father threw the prodigal son in Luke 15?

I didn’t until last night. I didn’t see the implications for you and me until I thought about shining my own scars. But you know what the prodigal son gets when he comes home? A welcome home party. The father doesn’t throw him a “you never left” party. He doesn’t call the servants excitedly to get things ready for the “everything is fine” party. Not at all, he makes a point of saying, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

He says that twice. Once to the servants and once to the older brother. The father got it. The reason to celebrate was not that things were perfect. It was that the son had been lost, voluntarily so, and was now found. He had been willingly dead by leaving but was now alive. The fact that he had blown it, the fact that the son had broken his life was not a source of shame, it was a cause to celebrate. The gross of being lost and dead was part of what made the reality of being found and alive so bright and true and undeniable.

This is longer than I intended and I don’t want it to sound like I’m saying, “you’re smart enough, you’re good enough and dog gone it, people like you.” The truth is that I don’t know your story. And I’m not telling you to get into a “look how bad my past was” contest with other people. I don’t know what kind of baggage you’re carrying right now or what kind of scars you’re shining. I don’t know if you hate God or left the church years ago for some really valid reasons. Maybe you’re supposed to send this to a friend. I don’t know your story, but I do know mine. I used to write church prayer devotionals during the day and take ecstasy at night. I mortgaged years of my life to things that wrecked me. I’ve been a sucky husband, a bad dad and an embarrassing son. But you know what? God loves me.

Stop shining your scars. It’s OK for them to be painful. The things you did and the things you had done to you hurt and admitting that out loud doesn’t add more failure to your heart. If anything, it creates a lighthouse of sickness in you for the doctor that came looking for the sick, Jesus.

We’re having a welcome home party. And it won’t be nearly as fun or as sarcastic or as interesting without you.

Ridiculous Cinema


The 50 Most Ridiculous Moments in Cinematic History
By Michelle Collins
JOHNNY M 1123.jpg…All taken from the same movie. The movie known as Johnny Mnemonic.

On a hunch, I rented this 1995 film starring Keanu Reeves, the inimitable Ice-T, some random woman who was never in anything else, Henry Rollins, and, most importantly, star of He-Man Dolph Lundgren. But it wasn’t the stellar cast that drew me into renting this film. Rather, the thrilling plot. Johnny M is a guy with an internal memory of, wait for it, 80 whole gigabytes, who somehow uploads something insane, like 300 gigs of data, into his brain. And — you guessed it — the added memory could make his brain explode. Anywho, the Yakuza wants what’s in his head, and they hire a goon — Dolph Lundren — to find our beloved Johnny, kill him, and steal his brain. But if only Johnny had the password to download the memory himself! That’s where Ice-T comes in. He’s the head of the “Lo-Teks”, or “The Goth Gang.” He tells Johnny that he knows just the guy who can untangle all that “information” he’s got bottled up inside, a guy by the name of Jones.

That’s about all you need to know to enjoy the following presentation: The 50 Most Ridiculous Moments in Cinematic History. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THIS IS WHAT THE FUTURE LOOKS LIKE.


JOHNNY M 13.JPGHere’s Johnny


JOHNNY M 331.JPG And, of course, Dolph Lundgren as Jesus

After the cut, the emotional rollercoaster of 1995’s best worst movie continues.


JOHNNY M 5.JPGHere’s the scene where they went to The Viper Room.  


JOHNNY M 25.JPG Ice-T, with hair that is anything but “Lo-Tek”  


JOHNNY M 38.JPG Some sad news: Apparently, in 2021, the “Internet” is going to look like a Dire Straits video. 


JOHNNY M 24.JPG The future’s resident fierce tranny. 


JOHNNY M 9.JPG Here’s Keanu trying to escape the Yakuza by dressing up like Yoko Ono. 


JOHNNY M 32.JPG Remember Jones? The guy that could crack all the codes? HE’S A F**KING DOLPHIN. Or, to quote Keanu, “He’s a fish?” 


JOHNNY M 21.JPG Overacting Goons. 


JOHNNY M 26.JPG OMFG. This guy is the BEST. You might remember him as the mansion owner in Ace Ventura. Whatever happened to Udo Kier?  


JOHNNY M 7.JPG The props, courtesy of your “Broken Atari Game Console” 


JOHNNY M 27.JPG Again, these are not stills from Passion of the Christ. THIS IS DOLPH LUNDGREN. 


JOHNNY M 40.JPG Oh Hai Henry Rollins! 


JOHNNY M 30.JPG Moving along… 


JOHNNY M 28.JPG SPOILER ALERT: In 2021, humans have this horrible disease, evidenced by this woman passing out. Of course, the cure is bottled up inside Johnny’s brain. 


JOHNNY M 8.JPG A little light bondage with your breakfast, sir? 


JOHNNY M 50.JPG This guy again… 


JOHNNY M 29.JPG The very same face he makes when Coco breaks wind. 


JOHNNY M 17.JPG Get it? He’s a genius. Ice-T is skeptical: 






JOHNNY M 10.JPG And other futurey things. 


JOHNNY M 23.JPG Angelina Jolie, this could have been you. 


JOHNNY M 471.JPG Never Forget. 




JOHNNY M 49.JPG Now would be a good time to point out that Jones, the code-breaking dolphin, was played by the same animatronic puppet the entire film. And he basically had only one expression: Super Psyched. Didn’t matter what was happening, this dolphin was grinning ear to ear. Above, an example. 


JOHNNY M 11.JPG Seriously, you kill Udo, you kill the best actor in this movie. 


JOHNNY M 37.JPG Tuckin Frenzy! 


JOHNNY M 42.JPG Oh dear God no, the laser lassos!! 


JOHNNY M 43.JPG They’ve cut Udo in half. Literal :”( 


JOHNNY M 6.JPG Nothing unusual here…. 


JOHNNY M 521.JPG My new wallpaper 


JOHNNY M 351.jpg 


JOHNNY M 531.JPG My new wallpaper, part 2. My laptop actually started sparking when this scene happened, that is how electric it is. 




JOHNNY M 15.JPG And it hurts 


JOHNNY M 16.JPG Cigarette? 


JOHNNY M 48.JPG Loving Life. 


JOHNNY M 13.JPG Busting a capillary in his ass. 


JOHNNY M 22.JPG A proud graduate of Token Asian University. 


JOHNNY M 461.JPG Now, round 2 of our favorite gameshow “What’s Dolph Smashing?”!!! 


JOHNNY M 45.JPG Answer: A cryogenically frozen hand. 


JOHNNY M 41.JPG R.I.P. Udo Kier: Minute 00:16 – 00:58 


JOHNNY M 12.JPG Someone’s feeling ~emotional~ 


JOHNNY M 36.JPG At least 18 of you are really turned on right now. 


JOHNNY M 511.JPG No no no, don’t speak. Don’t speak! 


JOHNNY M 55.JPG Bad News: You will still be using AT&T calling cards in 13 years. 


JOHNNY M 20.JPG The pre-reach. 


JOHNNY M 54.JPG Too… many… screenshots…. 


JOHNNY M 441.JPG Goodnight everyone.

The Nail Man

Which one was it
that held the nails
and then hammered them
into place?

Did he hit them
out of anger,
or a simple
sense of duty?

Was it a job
that had to be done,
or a good day’s work
in the open air?

And when they
clawed past bone
and bit into wood,
was it like all the others,
or did history
shudder a little
beneath the head
of that hammer?

Was he still there,
packing away his tools,
when ‘It is finished’
was uttered to the throng,
or was he at home
washing his hands
and getting ready
for the night?

Will he be
among the forgiven
on that Day of Days,
his sin having been slain
by his own savage spike?

-Steve Turner


Record Box

One of the first things I remember is my sister’s first husband shipping out to Viet Nam when I was four or five–this would have been either 1972 or 73.  I’m not sure.  Jerry got off fairly easy, in that he didn’t have to fight.  If I remember correctly, he was a clerk of some kind, or a driver, much like Radar on M*A*S*H.  The only reason I remember it, I think, is that before he left, he gave my older brother Tim a box of 45rpm singles in a battered cardboard box that was secured by a chrome clip.  I remember how shiny the clip was, and it seemed not to fit with the box, which had a black top, and some random pattern of colored squiggles on the sides.

The singles were all oldies, ranging from 50’s artists like Ricky Nelson, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry (I used to know all the words to his masterwork of innuendo, “My ding-a-ling”), and many others, to early 60’s music, like Dion and the Belmonts, and Tommy James and the Shondells.  The original version of the song “Last Kiss,” by the Cavaliers that Pearl Jam would later cover was in there, too, along with another car crash anthem “Tell Laura I love her.”

My brother would play them for hours on end, in the room we shared, with the door closed (I was only allowed to enter when it was time for bed) and I grew up with the sound of oldies in my ears, along with the country my mom would play (it wasn’t until much later I would be introduced to rock by my older sisters).   Yet while I heard these types of music it would be pretty fair to say they went in one ear, and out the other, without making much of an impact.  At least at first.  They were just pleasant noise.

I’ve mentioned on several occasions the difficulties I’ve had over the course of my childhood with my brother, but in all fairness, he’s pretty much responsible for helping me through one of the toughest times of my life, as well, and I’m fairly certain he doesn’t even know he did it.  What happened was that I was always a scared kid, jumping at shadows, and almost anything else.  I would watch the tamest cartoons you could imagine–mostly because they were funny, but also because they weren’t scary.  I knew there were darker, more adult forms on intertainment out there, but I was most definately not interested, at least not until a little before my ninth birthday.

Sometimes my sister’s would spend the night at my house–mostly for holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving.  One time they were there, and watching a movie on TV in the living room–a rebroadcast of The Exorcist. I remember walking into the room just as the camera zoomed in on Linda Blair’s dessicated-looking face and yellow, demonic eyes. 

It scared the crap out of me, but it was also somehow fascinating.  I think that was my first look at anything in the horror genre, which to this day both repels and excites me.  It was maybe a few months after that I read a Stephen King short story called “The Boogeyman,”  which terrified me to the extent that I could no longer go to sleep at night without first inspecting my closet for demonic, child-killing monsters.  And then I couldn’t close my door.  Like the people in the story, I had to leave it open–just a crack.

I began to read other stories along the same vein, and they were all scary, but it was The Boogeyman that stuck with me the most, and very soon I began to develop a very serious case of insomnia.  What happened was that every time I would begin to fall asleep, I would see (or think I saw), my closet door begin to swing open, and a slimy, clawed hand scratch its talons along the surface.  The first couple nights, I just lay there, too afraid to sleep.

The third night, I crept into the kitchen, figuring that I could find something with which I would be able to defend myself from the claws–somehow, a kitchen knife seemed like just the thing–hey, I was a kid!

So while I stood in the kitchen, searching the silverware drawer for a weapon, I heard my brother’s voice curse softly from the garage (his main hobby when I was little was buying junk cars, fixing them up, and selling them. He did this from when I was 8, until I turned 18).  Then another curse, and silence.  A few seconds after that, Del Shannon’s Runaway began playing on the record player’s single, battered speaker. 

I found a chef’s knife that looked reasonably well-edged, and sat in the chair by the door to the garage.  I listened to Runaway, and then Chuck Berry came on after a couple seconds more cursing (those little adapters for the 45’s were a bitch) by Tim.  I ended up sitting there listening to music, and my brother’s swearing at various car parts for the better part of an hour, and eventually went back to bed, falling asleep softly humming Ricky Nelson’s Garden Party to myself.

The next night, I crept into the kitchen again, and took up my position in the chair, listening for about an hour, and eventually going back to bed, singing softly to myself, and once again falling asleep.  And again the next night.  And the next.

After about a little less than a week, I was able to procure a small transistor radio from my dad’s collection of junk that I would play quietly next to my bed when I hit the sack, and after only a night or two, I didn’t even look at the closet anymore.

But it all started with those old records in the garage, and listening to my brother’s cornucopia of profanity.  I didn’t even know I liked music before that.   And while I will always have some degree of difficulty with my brother, I will also always be grateful to him for helping me find music, and stop worrying about the boogeyman.

It took another 20 years or so for me to stop reading horror novels.  And I still have to remind myself I don’t really enjoy them anymore…sigh….

Verse of the day

Actually, psalm of the day would probably be more accurate.  From The Message:

Psalm 51

 1-3Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
   Scrub away my guilt,
      soak out my sins in your laundry.
   I know how bad I’ve been;
      my sins are staring me down.

 4-6 You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
      it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
   You have all the facts before you;
      whatever you decide about me is fair.
   I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
      in the wrong since before I was born.
   What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
      Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

 7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
      scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
   Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
      set these once-broken bones to dancing.
   Don’t look too close for blemishes,
      give me a clean bill of health.
   God, make a fresh start in me,
      shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
   Don’t throw me out with the trash,
      or fail to breathe holiness in me.
   Bring me back from gray exile,
      put a fresh wind in my sails!
   Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
      so the lost can find their way home.
   Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
      and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
   Unbutton my lips, dear God;
      I’ll let loose with your praise.

 16-17 Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
      a flawless performance is nothing to you.
   I learned God-worship
      when my pride was shattered.
   Heart-shattered lives ready for love
      don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

 18-19 Make Zion the place you delight in,
      repair Jerusalem’s broken-down walls.
   Then you’ll get real worship from us,
      acts of worship small and large,
   Including all the bulls
      they can heave onto your altar!

Articulation is…..

So I noticed another problem I have on Saturday night.  In the grand scheme of things, held up to my other quirks and idiosyncracies, this one is probably not as glaring as some, but it was nonetheless something important, I think.  Something I needed to know about myself.

It’s difficult for me to articulate my needs.  Very difficult.  Maybe not so much when it’s something like a pepper shaker, or a glass of water.  But otherwise?  Very difficult, indeed.

There was this meeting for a ministry I’m involved in, and when it came time to talk directly to the leaders about not only their “performance,” but what we’d like to see from the ministry and them, and how we could possibly improve on our own areas that needed improvement, I clammed up for a few minutes.

One of the other team members had spoken shortly before that about asking God for help in improving the ability to deal with conflict in a workplace situation.  That was like a light going on in my giant head.  I tried to do that while I was sitting there, and the thought just sort of came to me to “just say it,” as in just say my need.

So I did.  And it was awkward, and it came out a little rough, but it came out.  Whether or not that need is fulfilled by the leaders remains to be seen.  It just made me wonder, though, why it was so tough to tell them (and anyone, for that matter) what I needed, or wanted, or even hoped for.  I don’t know.

Is it because I feel like they weren’t listening, and wouldn’t help me even if they were?  Possibly.  Prior experience with this couple had not left me feeling particularly heard, and being heard is one of my “things.”

But that didn’t feel like all of it.  Is it also because deep down somewhere, I still feel like when I ask someone for something I really, really need, I don’t deserve help?  Maybe some of that, too.

And in that way of thinking, is that something I believe of God as well?  That I don’t deserve his help?  Well, it’s hard to argue the truth of that one–I don’t.  Nobody does.  But isn’t the truth that you don’t help those you love because they deserve to be helped–you help them because you love them.  And if I believe in my heart that I am loved, whether it be by God, or my friends, it should not be so difficult to ask for their prayers, or to tell them what I need from them as friends, or leaders.  It should not be so difficult to articulate me needs to the Lord.

Anyway, I guess it’s a lot of things.  It gives me plenty to pray about, for sure.  And it lets me know where a few more places are I need God’s light shed on, places that are in need of healing.  So I guess it’s good I went to that meeting–I didn’t want to.  My first instinct was to say “screw it,” and walk away….