Thursday, January 28, 2010

Weekly Office

January 1 - "My boss is sending me abroad to do a presentation to an international client and I have always been intrigued by all things international; the women, the pancakes, the man of mystery." (Michael)

January 6 - "Holly thinks that this relationship is over. Well, you know what? I am not going to give up that easy. I'm going to make this way harder than it needs to be." (Michael)

January 7 - "Oh, I don't think it's blackmail. Angela just does what I ask her to do, so I won't tell everyone that she's cheating on Andy with Dwight. I think for it to be blackmail it would have to be a formal letter." (Phyllis)

January 8 - "I learned a while back that if I don't text 'nine-one-one,' people will not return my calls. Um, but now people always return my calls because they think that something horrible has happened." (Michael)

January 10 - Pam: "You know, when Holly gets back, everyone will tell her what a great job you did. And then she'll realize what she's missing." Michael: "And then she'll move back to Scranton and her boyfriend will die." Pam: "Yeah, maybe. Maybe. One step at a time. You can do this."

January 11 - "At least once a year I like to bring in some of my Kevin's famous chili. The trick is to undercook the onions. Everybody is going to get to know each other in the pot. I'm serious about this stuff. I'm up the night before, pressing garlic and dicing whole tomatoes. I toast my own ancho chilies. It's a recipe passed down from Malones for generations. It's probably the thing I do best." (Kevin)

January 12 - "What did I tell you about building forts in my warehouse?" (Darryl)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bono & the Psalms

The following is an introduction Bono wrote years ago for a little pocket-sized version of the Psalms in KJV language. It's quite revealing and a little quirky, and I hope you gobble it up just a tad.

Explaining belief has always been difficult. How do you explain a love and logic at the heart of the universe when the world is so out of kilter with this? Has free will got us crucified? And what about the dodgy characters who inhabit the tome known as the Bible, who hear the voice of God? Explaining faith is impossible: vision over visibility; instinct over intellect. A songwriter plays a chord with the faith that he will hear the next one in his head.

One of the writers of the psalms was a musician, a harp-player whose talents were required at "the palace" as the only medicine that would still the demons of the moody and insecure King Saul of Israel. It is a thought that still inspires: Marilyn sang for Kennedy, the Spice Girls for Prince Charles.

At the age of 12, I was a fan of David. He felt familiar, like a pop star could feel familiar. The words of the psalms were as poetic as they were religious, and he was a star. Before David could fulfil the prophecy and become the king of Israel, he had to take quite a beating. He was forced into exile and ended up in a cave in some no-name border town facing the collapse of his ego and abandonment by God. But this is where the soap opera got interesting. This is where David was said to have composed his first psalm -- a blues. That's what a lot of the psalms feel like to me, the blues. Man shouting at God -- "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me?" (Psalm 22).

I hear echoes of this holy row when un-holy bluesman Robert Johnson howls, "There's a hellhound on my trail" or Van Morrison sings, "Sometimes, I feel like a motherless child." Texas Alexander mimics the psalms in "Justice Blues": "I cried Lord my father, Lord kingdom come. Send me back my woman, then thy will be done." Humorous, sometimes blasphemous, the blues was backslidin' music but, by its very opposition, it flattered the subject of its perfect cousin, gospel.

Abandonment and displacement are the stuff of my favourite psalms. The Psalter may be a font of gospel music, but for me it's despair that the psalmist really reveals and the nature of his special relationship with God. Honesty, even to the point of anger. "How long, Lord? Wilt thou hide thyself forever?" (Psalm 89), or "Answer me when I call" (Psalm 5).

Psalms and hymns were my first taste of inspirational music. I liked the words, but I wasn't sure about the tunes -- with the exception of Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd." I remember them as droned and chanted rather than sung. But they prepared me for the honesty of John Lennon, the baroque language of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, the open throat of Al Green and Stevie Wonder. When I hear these singers, I am reconnected to a part of me I have no explanation for -- my "soul" I guess.

Words and music did for me what solid, even rigorous, religious argument could never do -- they introduced me to God, not belief in God, more an experiential sense of GOD. Over art, literature, girls, my mates, the way in to my spirit was a combination of words and music. As a result, the Book of Psalms always felt open to me and led me to the poetry of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, the book of John...My religion could not be fiction, but it had to transcend facts. It could be mystical, but not mythical.

My mother was Protestant, my father Catholic. Anywhere other than Ireland that would be unremarkable. The "Prods" at that time had the better tunes and the Catholics had the better stage-gear. My mate Gavin Friday used to say: "Roman Catholicism is the Glamrock of religion" with its candles and psychedelic colours -- cardinal blues, scarlets and purples -- smoke bombs of incense and the ring of the little bell. The Prods were better at the bigger bells, they could afford them. In Ireland, wealth and Protestantism went together. To have either was to have collaborated with the enemy -- that is, Britain. This did not fly in our house.

After going to Mass at the top of the hill, in Finglas on the north side of Dublin, my father waited outside the little Church of Ireland chapel at the bottom of the hill, where my mother had brought her two sons.

I kept myself awake thinking of the clergyman's daughter and let my eyes dive into the cinema of the stained glass. These Christian artists had invented the movies. Light projected through colour to tell their story. In the Seventies the story was "the Troubles," and the Troubles came through the stained glass, with rocks thrown more in mischief than in anger. But the message was the same: the country was to be divided along sectarian lines. I had a foot in both camps, so my Goliath became religion itself: I began to see religion as the perversion of faith. I began to see God everywhere else. In girls, fun, music, justice and still -- despite the lofty King James translation -- the Scriptures.

I loved these stories for the basest reasons. These were action movies, with some hardcore men and women, the car chases, the casualties, the blood and guts. There was very little kissing.

David was a star, the Elvis of the Bible, if we can believe the chiselling of Michelangelo. And unusually for such a "rock star," with his lust for power, lust for women, lust for life, he had the humility of one who knew his gift worked harder than he ever would. He even danced naked in front of his troops -- the biblical equivalent of the royal walkabout. David was definitely more performance artist than politician.

Anyway, I stopped going to churches and got into a different kind of religion. Don't laugh. That's what being in a rock 'n' roll band is. Showbiz is shamanism, music is worship. Whether it's worship of women or their designer, the world or its destroyer, whether it comes from that ancient place we call soul or simply the spinal cortex, whether the prayers are on fire with a dumb rage or dove-like desire, the smoke goes upwards, to God or something you replace God with -- usually yourself.

Years ago, lost for words and with 40 minutes of recording time left before the end of our studio time, we were still looking for a song to close our third album, War. We wanted to put something explicitly spiritual on the record to balance the politics and romance of it; like Bob Marley or Marvin Gaye would. We thought about the psalms -- Psalm 40. There was some squirming. We were a very "white" rock group, and such plundering of the scriptures was taboo for a white rock group unless it was in the "service of Satan." Psalm 40 is interesting in that it suggests a time in which grace will replace karma, and love will replace the very strict laws of Moses (in other words, fulfil them). I love that thought. David, who committed some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it. That the scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me. Now it is a source of great comfort.

"40" became the closing song at U2 shows, and on hundreds of occasions, literally hundreds of thousands of people of every size and shape of T-shirt have shouted back the refrain, pinched from Psalm 6: "How long (to sing this song)." I had thought of it as a nagging question, pulling at the hem of an invisible deity whose presence we glimpse only when we act in love. How long hunger? How long hatred? How long until creation grows up and the chaos of its precocious, hell-bent adolescence has been discarded? I thought it odd that the vocalising of such questions could bring such comfort -- to me, too.

But to get back to David, it is not clear how many of these psalms David or his son Solomon really wrote. Some scholars suggest that the royals never dampened their nibs and that there was a host of Holy Ghost writers. Who cares? I didn't buy Leiber and Stoller -- they were just his songwriters. I bought Elvis.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Richard Soll's Incredible List

In 1975, Five-Year-Old Richard Soll received an assignment from his kindergarten teacher. With the help of a parent, he was to write down ten goals he hoped to accomplish by his twenty-first birthday.
Young Rich Soll was determined to compile his list all by himself. Printing neatly, in pencil, and carefully checking the spelling of words he did not know in the new dictionary given to him by his grandmother, he painstakingly competed this list.
Twenty-two years later, while going through his personal papers, Dr. Richard Soll came across this kindergarten assignment. He smiled broadly. Though he had completely forgotten about the list, he was amazed to discover that he had accomplished each of the ten goals he had set for himself so long ago.
Reprinted here with the doctor's permission is five-year-old Richard's list:

1. Stay up until 10P.M.
2. Sleep with all the lights out in my room.
3. Learn to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels.
4. Don't go to school.
5. Stay home without a baby-sitter.
6. Watch any TV show I want to watch.
7. Save $25.
8. Drive a real car.
9. Don't be afraid to look under my bed.
10. Eat ten pieces of gum at the same time.

Monday, January 25, 2010

American Idol Revealed

With the new Season underway (#9, I believe, and the supposed last hurrah for Simon), I wanted to share something that my sweet wife Carly sent my way which filled in some burning questions for us.

You see, I'm sitting there in front of the TV wondering how in the world the stadium and arena crowds shrink from 12,000+ to 15-25 per city with the gold tickets. It just seemed like there's not enough time, man power, etc. SO, here's a very fascinating article which really clears up some of the myths and truths of the auditioning process, leading all the way up to Randy Jackson's, "Welcome to Hollywood, baby!" Enjoy!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

My posts in 2010

First off, I want to say many thanks to any of you out there who read my silly musings, and especially if you weigh in with comments, opinions, and perspectives. Now, for a great period of 2009, perhaps you noticed I was in rotation with my posts between some distinctive, hilarious quotes from my NBC's The Office Desk Calendar, and David Fisher's Chicken Poop for the Soul. So, many of the short stories that several of you might have assumed were true, or even created by yours truly were nothing more than parodies and straight up non-sense. But they were fun, right?

Well, here's where we headed with the blog in 2010, and certainly I plan on staying as true to this as I can. Here we go:

Culture and Entertainment: This includes my personal Movie Reviews/Recap, Book Insights/Updates, ETC.

Parodies and Satirical Nonsense: This includes more excerpts from Chicken Poop, as well as new posts from Fractured Fairy Tales by A.J. Jacobs

Bartee Personal Musings: This includes reflections on Jesus, faith perspectives, and spiritual stuff.

The Office: Yes, I was blessed again to receive a treasured desk calendar once again, and thus I'll be posting hilarious quotes to get your funny bone ready for the evening viewing.

Day Off: I try and reserve this day for my family, but I suppose that if I miss a particular posting day, then this would serve as the day to stay current.

So, how's this look to everybody? Thanks, and quite frankly I'm pledging to stay as aggressive with this as I will playing with my kids, finishing my reading lists, and honoring my Creator in prayer...all MAJOR focuses of this next year.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A LOST Sandwhich

*With the final season of one of the most compelling TV epics fast approaching, allow me the opportunity to wet your appetite with some theme-related humor. Kudos to my brother Payton for sending me this link the other day. Enjoy!

How To Make a Sandwich on the Island:

1. Gather ingredients
2. Point gun at ingredients and shout “HOW DO I MAKE A SANDWICH OUT OF YOU?!?!?”
3. Breathe heavily through your nose as though you were about to hit ingredients
4. Give up and make the sandwich yourself, and eat it bitterly

1. Make separate sandwiches, one with peanut butter and one with jelly
2. Take a bite of the peanut butter sandwich, declaring it the best
3. Take a bite of the jelly sandwich, declaring it the best
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 ad infinitum
5. Follow peanut butter or jelly sandwich into grave danger

1. Throw the jar of jelly at wall, sneering “I don’t need no sandwich”
2. Call the mascot on the jar of peanut butter lots of clever nicknames
3. Huff and puff and stomp around and grumble a lot
4. When no one’s looking, make perfect, even, symmetrical peanut butter and jelly sandwich and sit in a corner, enjoying every bite

1. Sit idly by, believing that the ingredients will find a way to make a sandwich out of themselves
2. Lose faith and make the sandwich anyway
3. Realize that you were the instrument by which the ingredients chose to make a sandwich after all
4. Run around the room and grab everyone’s knives, insisting that their sandwiches will do the same in time

1. Make sandwich
2. Eat sandwich
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 ad infinitum

1. Procure 23 milligrams of uranium-20
2. Set hadron supercollider to eight megajoules
3. Program a sandwich-making macro using Cobol or Visual Basic
4. Act all tough-like

1. Eat sandwich
2. Call the sandwich “brother”
3. Place peanut butter slice over jelly slice
4. Spread jelly on the other slice
5. Spread peanut butter on one slice
6. Take two slices of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly

1. Steal someone else’s sandwich
2. Claim you coerced them into making the sandwich for you all along
3. Say you’ll tell them everything if they make you another sandwich
4. Stare at them all creepy-like

1. Lay out plans for one of the most intricate, fascinating, and delicious sandwiches of all time
2. Just as you start making it, get shot

1. Apply peanut butter
2. Disappear for eight months
3. Apply jelly
4. Disappear for eight months
5. Eat sandwich

1. Mmmmmmm, peanut butter

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse
1. Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
2. Have someone take a bite, then tell them it’s a baloney sandwich
3. Make up a whole bunch of other kaka, then say you had planned it all along
4. Buy a few yachts

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Favorite 50

Well friends, I'm slow as usual with this, but I wanted to spark some discussion via the cinematic realm by releasing MY TOP FILMS OF THE DECADE. Now, there's a total of 50 movies, and certainly I can't include all films, much less the ones that are critically acclaimed and revered by many of you. But, I'm more than happy with this list, and can honestly give solid reasons why I feel each movie has a significant impact on my life (entertaining, perspective, laughter, etc.). I hope all that makes sense.

The movies are grouped together by year, and in order of my preference. I have no way to exhaust and rank them completely, and you'll notice that some years are stronger than others. So, take 90 seconds and scan this list, and may 2010 bring you many happy movie watching experiences!

2000 (4)
-Meet the Parents
-O Brother, Where art Thou?
-Almost Famous

2001 (6)
-Ocean's 11
-Monster's Inc.
-Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
-Moulin Rouge
-Spy Game
-A Beautiful Mind

2002 (7)
-About a Boy
-Minority Report
-Catch Me if You Can
-We Were Soldiers
-Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
-Bowling for Columbine

2003 (5)
-Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
-Finding Nemo
-Open Range
-Old School
-The Last Samurai

2004 (6)
-The Incredibles
-The Passion of the Christ
-The Village
-Supersize Me
-The Polar Express

2005 (4)
-Wedding Crashers
-Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
-Cinderella Man

2006 (3)
-The Prestige
-Children of Men

2007 (3)
-I am Legend
-Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

2008 (8)
-Gran Torino
-The Dark Knight
-Kung Fu Panda
-Horton Hears a Who

2009 (4)
-Star Trek
-District 9