I’m A Fan, Fridays!

IMG_1318On the heels of the death of Pete Seeger this week, this I’m A Fan, Fridays! focuses on a couple of musicians who continue to carry high the torch Seeger carried for so many years in the folk music tradition.

Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch blew me away with a mash-up of sorts of a new song by Rawlings and a great Woody Guthrie song.

I first saw their performance of this piece as part of the Inside Llewyn Davis musical concert, Another Day, Another Time on Showtime.  The concert was a celebration of the folk music scene in the early 1960s in New York City, the time period during which the film takes place.

The concert featured a number of fantastic artists and is well worth checking out if you can get to the Showtime network.  All of the acts were terrific in the show, but I really became a fan of these two.  I hope you will as well.  Enjoy!

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Follow Scott on Twitter– @scotylang

Where Have All The Flowers Gone? A Pete Seeger Tribute

Pete Seeger died today, and it affected me more deeply than I had been prepared for.  I cried.  I searched YouTube for performances and watched a bunch, posting one I particularly loved on Facebook and Twitter.

At the end of the day, though, I decided that I wanted to do more.  So, I recorded my favorite song in Pete’s catalog (if I’m forced to choose from the many I love so much!) and posted it to YouTube as my little tribute to someone I aspire to be like as I live out my days.

I hope you enjoy it!  Cheers!

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Follow me on Twitter: @scotylang

I’m A Fan Fridays! (Sunday Edition)

200-desertI promise I don’t mean to be lazy!  When I get to this stage on a job (Last 2 weeks of rehearsal before opening), things get so crazy I barely have time to think straight, let alone post.

But, I wanted to at least put out an, I’m A Fan Fridays! post, even if it is two days late!

This week, I want to take you to the theater stage and tell you about an absolutely fantastic play.  This past Wednesday night, I attended the Opening Night performance of a play called, Other Desert Cities at The Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, PA.

The cast was superb, the direction spot on, and the set and lighting extraordinary!  If you happen to find yourself in the Philadelphia area any time between now and March 2nd, I highly recommend you catch this wonderful work.  You can thank me later!

Here’s a sneak peak…Enjoy!

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Follow me on Twitter: @scotylang

I’m A Fan Fridays!

chris_thileHappy Friday, my dears!

For today’s edition of I’m A Fan Fridays!, I’m incredibly excited to share the mandolin genius of Chris Thile with you.

This is a terrific introduction-type video you can use as a jumping off point to enjoying his marvelous work.

WARNING…

You’d better make sure that when you play this video you have a bit of time in your schedule, because you will most definitely get lost down the YouTube rabbit hole, listening to performance after performance after performance.   It will be just too hard to stop!

Enjoy!!

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People say I’m a dreamer… I hope I’m not the only one.

lovehateI think it’s an amazing time to be alive; I really do.  The ability we have to be connected to one another is unprecedented in our history.  We can tweet and text and facebook all over the globe, catching each other up on our kids’ activities and growth, or simply share news articles about information.

We can send funny videos of cats playing the piano to our friends, or pictures with witty captions to our contacts.  We even have the ability to share pictures of the tossed salad we’re currently enjoying in New York with someone special in Nebraska or Dublin.

As it happens with everything in life, with all of the good comes some not so good, even some down right bad.  Looking at social media, lately, it’s hard not to notice just how mean we can be to each other, and I wonder why that is.

I’ve read articles, seen news stories and heard people offer explanations as to why:  We want to be right about things; we have the time and ability on these various platforms to craft just the right zinger so that we can feel superior; we can hide behind our computer screen and not fully have to deal with confrontation. These reasons, and others, make sense to me, but leave me feeling somewhat deflated.

Not long ago, I heard on the radio that 72% of Americans believe in God these days, which is down from 84%.  Now, 72% isn’t such a bad percentage, politicians would kill for such approval ratings, but the fact that the numbers are dropping says something about what we’re going through as a society.  What exactly does it say?  Well, I’m not exactly sure, but for me, when I look around, I see people of all races and beliefs who desperately desire deeds over words; they are seeking meaning in what is done and not so much in what is said.

In 1992, Bishop Desmond Tutu said, “God without you will not, as you without God cannot.”

When I think about the teachings of Jesus, I am intrigued and constantly challenged by the message that the Kingdom Of God is upon us, and we are called to participate with God in bringing it in.  To me, that means that we cannot simply wait around for God to magically take away the troubles and injustice.  It will never happen that way.  The days of wandering in the wilderness are over! There is a path before us, and we must take it!

We have, everyone of us, been made in the image and likeness of God.  That means that we have intimate access to what God is centrally about, to what God is–

LOVE

We are called, by whatever tradition of faith you subscribe to, (and, even if you subscribe to no faith tradition at all, we know it in our very makeup) to love one another.  To love and to be loved is what we all seek.

I, myself, am a Christian.  For me, when I want to know what God is like, what a life filled with God is like, I see that in Jesus.  For Christians as a whole, Jesus is the divine revelation of God.  When we look at Jesus, we see love in action; we see God in action.

Maybe you’re not a Christian.  Maybe you think “religion” is the root of all that’s wrong with our country right now.  To be honest, I believe you could make a very strong argument for that case, and, based on religion’s sketchy at best track record, I don’t blame you for a second.

But, what if, in this second chance moment, we put all that aside.

What if we were to put aside all of our present conceptions of what it means to “get it right” and concentrated solely on being “God-like”?–On being “Love-like.”

What would happen if we poured all of our energies, all of our purpose and all of our day to day efforts into being love in action?

What if we were God in action?  What would this world be like?

I have an idea of how it would be, and so do you, when you take the time to think about it; when you take the time to dream about it.

I don’t need you to be like me.  I don’t need you to think the way I think.  In fact, that would bore me to tears.  But, I do need you to dream.  I need you to hope, and I need you to remind me how to love.  We can remind each other, if you’re game to try.

I believe, despite everything, that we’re close.  We’re closer than we’ve ever been! Can you imagine?

“People say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us.  And the world will be as one.”

These words from the great John Lennon resonate with me, still. They lift me up and shake me, as great art can.  I hope I can muster up the courage to keep on dreaming so that some day, we’ll all be able to see the dream become reality.

I’m A Fan Fridays!

the-milk-carton-kids-38f5e5a030a125ac03ff856c9f59fff3e3a30728-s6-c30I just love discovering new artists.  And by discovering I mean finally finding out what a lot of people already knew before I jumped on the train.  So, even though I’m certainly late to this party, I want to share with you a duo I’ve come across that I absolutely love to listen to.

Ladies and gentlemen…The Milk Carton Kids!

Enjoy!

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Why this Liberal is willing to accept Chris Christie’s apology, and a few words on bullying.

Education Task ForceTo quote a favorite phrase of politicians, “Let me be clear.”

Let me be clear: I am not a supporter of Governor Chris Christie.  I grew up in New Jersey and live there still.  My wife is a public school teacher, and her salary has gone down over the past few years, not up, directly as a result of his policies.  I, myself, was a teacher in the public schools for seven years and was let go because of budget cuts in 2011.

I believe he’s wrong on a number of things, but I’m willing to put political differences aside and applaud him for the way he stepped up and handled this, so called, “Bridgegate” controversy.  He stood up there at the podium at this morning’s press conference and took responsibility for what happened.  I say, well done for that.

Is he a “bully”?  Some say yes, some say no.  Either way, I think he could help himself a great deal by at least considering why he’s gotten this label to begin with.

The term “bullying” is getting thrown around a lot, lately.  First, let’s define the term.

To use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.

When I was  a teacher, I encountered several bullies in the classroom, in the hallways and often on the playground.  What it comes down to is how one goes about getting what one wants.  We all want things in life, whether it’s a toy someone else is playing with, a certain job or relationship with someone we feel will make our lives better, or a set of political policies we want enacted.  There’s a difference, though, between being assertive and strong and standing up for what you believe in, and acting like bully.  This difference can and should be seen in our leaders.

There are many ways to go about being a great leader.  Surely there have been many great leaders in history who haven’t been kind, and you might ask, What does kindness matter if the job gets done?  I might answer by asking, What kind of a job is getting done, exactly?

I want my leaders to be firm and have strong opinions about policy, laying out their ideas and plans for what they believe to be the most effective governing policies.  At the same time, though, any leader, however beneficial their policies and strategies might be for the people being governed, could give him or herself a huge shot in the arm by doing four things and doing them over and over again.

1. Listen and hear

There’s a difference between going around, politely allowing people the opportunity to have their say, and actually hearing what it is they’re trying to tell you. Everyone has a story, and it’s hard to hear everyone, but the best kind of listening involves a kind of attention to things underneath the surface that we don’t always make the time to dig for.  Nobody is what they seem at your first impression.  Listening is a wonderful trait.  Listening and hearing is taking that trait to the next level.

2.  Try your best to make sure people feel they’ve been heard.

You don’t have to agree with everyone, and I’m not saying that the goal is to bring everyone to the same side.  Difference is brilliant.  What I am saying is that people need to feel that they’ve been heard.  We’ve been taught that this is true in personal relationships, and the same is true for our leaders and those being led.  If you’re going to disagree with me on a position, allowing me to feel like I’ve actually been heard will make your policy change pill just a little easier to swallow.  Making me feel like I’m an idiot will certainly not be as effective.

3. Consider that “how” you say what you say is just as important (and I’d argue more so) as “what” you are saying, then choose your words carefully.

Very few things hurt leaders more than being perceived as those who don’t care how their language lands with the hearer.  In America, we seem to respect the “no nonsense” approach to things.  I appreciate that.  I do.  What I’m talking about is finesse in communication.   Kennedy and Reagan had it, especially Reagan.  They were both no nonsense type of guys, but their messages were delivered much differently than those being delivered today.  The goal isn’t to get everyone to like you, but wouldn’t it be more effective for you if they respected you?  More flies with honey than vinegar?  It’s worth considering.

4. Act compassionately

Showing compassion is not the same thing as showing weakness.  I think that idea has crept into our politics as well as into our religion in this country over the past several years.  You can make a stand for what you believe in and still act with a compassionate and loving heart.  Everyone has their own story.  Taking the time to consider that story and what has lead a person to their current viewpoint can only make for a more productive and beneficial future for all sides of a disagreement.  When you act, act decisively, but do so with compassion.

I don’t expect that Governor Christie is going to become Nelson Mandela now.  I expect him to go on being pretty much the same, truth be told.  But with all of the political bickering that goes on back and forth between the Ds and the Rs, it was a refreshing change of pace for me to see the governor get up and handle this controversy with what I thought was a nice bit of class.

So, well done, Guv’nor! I accept your apology.

How Phil Robertson and Carrie Underwood gave me my best Christmas present of 2013

1phil-robertsonI love the giving and receiving of Christmas gifts.  This year was no exception.  My wife and I have been married long enough to know it’s probably best to ask each other what we want, so there’s not a whole lot of surprise there. But occasionally we surprise each other in the way we give the gifts.

Maybe I’ll put a small gift in a big box as a disguise.  Sometimes, my wife will leave me a couple of notes on a short scavenger hunt to shake things up.  We try to make it fun.

Most years, in addition to giving each other what we’ve asked for, we try to surprise each other with something small that we don’t see coming.  I like those types of gifts.  I like small, surprising gifts.  They can mean a great deal, especially when you don’t see them coming.

This Christmas, I got a couple of those gifts and neither one of them were from my wife.  They were from Phil Robertson and Carrie Underwood.

Okay, I’ll explain.

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If you’ve just returned from a two month trip to Mars, you may not be aware that country singer Carrie Underwood played the lead role of Maria in The Sound Of Music in a live production on NBC.  A few people had opinions.

If you’ve just landed, you also may not know that the Mike Brady of the new millennium, Phil Robertson, the patriarch of A&E’s Duck Dynasty, said a few things that caused some controversy.  A few people had opinions.

Anyone who saw The Sound Of Music or heard about the Robertson GQ interview had a reaction; some kept it to themselves, but many people went to Facebook and Twitter to put in their two cents, using either Carrie’s performance or Phil’s opinions as an English Comp-type writing prompt.  I did the same, posting a couple of things on my own social media platforms, commenting on others, and sharing posts of other writers with those who come to my feeds.  I also read a whole lot from other people, and between writing my own posts and reading dozens of other people’s thoughts, I realized how important it is for me to respond to everything in love.

It surprised me how quickly I can forget that.

Some folks were just downright mean and nasty, and neither side can claim total innocence on that point.  When I saw how one side or the other was reacting on the web, I, too, got riled up.  What I learned, though, is that I don’t like myself when I don’t consider what I say or write before I say or write it.  If I say or write something before doing my best to check in with how it’s going to land, not only will my words not have the effect of persuasion or real change that I might have intended, they could really do some damage.

The gift I received was a reminder that relationships and my character are far more important than getting in a jab at someone so that I can feel like I’ve gotten one up one them; that really does no good, in the end.

I want to be clear.  I want to make my points.  I want my voice to be heard.  But, I also want to resolve to do those things without feeling the need to be so hurtful.

This doesn’t mean that I’m expecting us all to hop into Michael’s rowboat and sing “Kum Ba Ya” any time soon.  I just think we could all be a bit nicer to one another, that’s all. Here’s hoping!

Oh, and by the way, my wife surprised me this Christmas with a brilliant new wallet.  I love it!

Goodbye, Christmas. Hello, New Year! I’m glad you made it!

EpiphanyGoodbye, Christmas 2013!  I’m going to miss you, but I’m glad I had you while I did.  Yesterday, on the last day of the Christmas season, Epiphany, I got to reflecting on all the joys of this season and why this year, in particular, was so special.

For one thing, we got to see the whole family, and that doesn’t happen often anymore.  Our daughter, back from her first semester in college, loaded up in the van with my freshman-in-high-school son, my Bringer-Of-Christmas wife, and me, and we all took the trek down to Oklahoma City and Arkansas.  It was a quick trip.  We left Princeton on December 23rd and pulled into Christmas Eve in OKC by early evening, and the time in the car together was everything I’d hoped it would be.  We talked and teased and laughed and got bored and listened to This American Life podcasts and watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special and ate way too much at McDonalds and were exhausted when we finally got home on January 1st.   It was perfect.

If your work has to do with Christmas, as mine did with my production of A Christmas Carol at The Media Theatre, the whole thing can get to be a bit much.  It never does for me, though .  Sure, I can sometimes get tired of the commercialism and the Lexus commercials where, apparently, there’s some world in which people live where they can afford to buy their spouse a brand new Lexus SUV, drive them to the magical, family Christmas tree farm, put the star on top of the already lighted tree and give them something from “Jared.”  But, in all these years, I’ve never lost my passion for what I know Christmas is most centrally about–The power of transformation in response to love and the promise that all things are continually being made new by the one who came.

This year was no exception and was made even more wonderful for me by having the opportunity to tell my favorite story for a living, take a wonderful road trip with the ones I love the most, hug all of my family members around the neck and look forward to all of the amazing possibilities for 2014.

So, thanks Christmas 2013.  You were pretty great!