end of semester, beginning of…

Lots of things coming to a good end lately:

The 2007 Frankford renovation.

The college semester (one more assignment and final).

Lots of good things beginning:

Wed night baseball

Shalom House Festival (May 13, 6:30pm at 2007 Frankford)

The Discerning Team has met twice about the next church plant.

Composting in the backyard, getting ready for our little garden (Japanese cukes, cilantro, some flowers already going)

I also managed to sprain my ankle during the first inning of the first game of the year.  I go to a specialist tomorrow to see how bad the damage is.  Today was the first day that the swelling went down, that’s encouraging.

Schoolly

When my teacher told me that Schoolly D was going to be coming into class, I thought it was pretty awesome and funny.  I had only heard of him because of PSK and by the word on the street that Ice T had stolen his whole deal.

Last Tuesday, Schoolly and some friends (including Umar from Street Fatigues) visited our class.  Schoolly grew up at 52nd & Parkside, and started playing guitar in a family band before he was 10yrs old.  He’s talented, personable, and hilarious.  Top moment of the day…

Nate:  “How would you describe your relation to so-called Gangsta Rap?”

Schoolly:  “I’m the father.”

Modesty may not be in the top 4 words to describe him.  Among other things lately, he’s been busy working on a new album.  You may know him also from Aqua Teen Hunger Force as he wrote the theme, most of the score, and the character Shake was loosely based on him.

Hearing him talk about hip hop was a privilege.  He still tries to do it “the old way.”  Recording, writing, and producing in-house as well as putting things out first on his own label.  It’s not made for mass consumption.   He told the kids in class about how important it was to be yourself artistically-don’t try to fit into a box that people (even you) think will sell before what you really care about.

I got to talk to him for a couple minutes after class.  I honestly wish I had brought my camera.  He’s a legend.

Writtenhouse

My Hip Hop & Black Culture class has been pretty great throughout the year, but the past week or so has been particularly cool.  Last week Chris Conway & Charlie K from the Germantown-based hip hop trio Writtenhouse were our guests.

Last tues, Chris gave the lecture about “finding the perfect” beat.  He taught on the progression of DJing and producing beats and development over time.  He pulled out some obscure clips to show how producers built up parts of songs.  I never realized Kweli’s Get By was built by Kanye using Sinnerman by Nina Simone-at 5:19ish, 8:29 in particular.  Both songs are amazing.

On Thurs, Chris & Charlie K talked about their creative process and Chris brought in the MPC to show us how he makes beats. The two of them and their 3rd member Kush have a lot of talent.  Chris & Kush do their beats and keys live-building songs and beats out of broken down elements of other songs and adding their own flavor…Charlie K is the emcee.

These dudes were really cool, and are playing on May 2 at Studio 34 in West Philly, or if you are rich you can catch them at The Roots Picnic this summer.  They are tentatively up for doing a show at circle of hope with psalters at some point!  We’ll see.

psalters spring 09 update

this is a cross post with the new handsome Circle Venture blog.

For psalters Jay Beck & Scotty Krueger, creating a working Philadelphia headquarters has been a challenge.  They spent the better part of the last five years living on a converted veggie oil-powered school bus with the rest of psalters travelling around, leading worship, leading seminars, and experimenting with Exodus.   Some of those travels were international, most recently Jay & Scotty attended the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous People in Israel & Palestine.   Christians from around the world gathered to worship in their traditional cultural styles of music, dance, and dress…it was a great time to learn and network and visit friends and various sites in the Jerusalem area.

Inspired not only to compose new psalms that bring together both worship and social justice, psalters are in the process of developing the Croatan Training Center & Studio located at 2007 Frankford Ave, the same building as our Frankford & Norris congregation meets.  Jay has already taught a series of West African Drumming classes so dozens of people got a taste of how transforming and fun it can be to learn.  The studio will not only be a place for psalters to practice and record, but also a resource to make connections with other musicians and friends.  The Training Center aspect will feature a library of cultural and theological books and videos as well as various classes and workshops by our team as well as other musicians from Philadelphia and around the world.  More from Jay on Croatan Training Center & Studio here.

The team has also been commissioned to compose and perform the music for a new play by Director Lear Debessonet and Playwright Lucy Thuber called Quixote.  “A site-specific performance based on Cervantes’ classic tale ‘Don Quixote’…this production re-imagines the intersection of art and its community” (from stillpointproductions.org).  It will run in Philadelphia this Spring, and perhaps NYC this fall.

The team continues to participate in local worship teams for Circle of Hope (including a special 9pm worship time at 1125 S. Broad St on March 22), as well as other local performances, seminars, and worship times.   This summer may feature a short tour in mid June that includes the Ichthus Festival in KY.

Circle of hope, croatan,  croatan training center,  ichthus festival,  israel,  lear debessonet,  lucy thuber,  palestine,  philadelphia,  psalters,  quixote, stillpointproductions,  wcgip world christian gathering of indegenous people

Law & Disorder in where?

Jenni got me watching this BBC special hosted by Louis Theroux called Law & Disorder in Philadelphia.  Below is the first of 6 parts that you can view on youtube, or on Jenni’s blog (link above).

I can’t help but feel a lot of things while watching.  It’s pretty good in the sense that I wanted to continue once I started.  Pretty brutal in that it portrays a dangerous and seemingly unsolvable cycle of poverty in violence.

If you live around here you might recognize some of the sights (maybe even people).   People around the neighborhood do act like this sometimes (and so do the cops), but the sensationalization bugs me.  People are going to look even crazier when they have such a narrow-viewed interrogater looking at violence in the city at one level.  It’s almost to say “this is why our city sucks” or “be afraid to live here because these people are on the loose.”

Well, our city does kind of suck sometimes.  I’d like to dig a bit further at some causes of poverty, Louis.  I’d like to explore why we’re not working together to keep illegal guns off the street.   I’d like to consider the American way of life that leads the “haves” to run to a place of relative safety, sometimes at the expense of the “have nots”.  I’d like some more options for people who get stuck in the ruts of their surroundings.

I guess it would be a boring movie to explore corporate profit on the street drug industry, sale of illegal handguns, letting neighborhoods languish before buying them up, etc.  At least boring in the sense that you don’t have a person with a crack addiction yelling into the camera to reinforce a lot of stereotypes.

The culture of violence or the cycle of poverty are not easily explained or solved.  We really do need Jesus in Philadelphia.