Singing U2 for Spare Change in Berlin*

November 27, 2006

By Leah Wyner
2006.11

The single most valuable skill a traveler can have is the ability to make the best of any and every situation, no matter how awful, annoying, unexpected, and inconvenient. If nothing else, Berlin taught me this. Berlin, a city so enveloped in chaos through the years, proved to be no different for this lonely traveler.

In November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Around the same time, the Irish band U2 finished its "Joshua Tree" tour and flew to Berlin to begin recording a new album. The group was on the last commercial flight to Berlin before the unification of East and West Germany. At this extraordinary time in history, these four Irishmen ended up in the U-Bahn station called Zoo Bahnhof that had been the gateway to the East when everything was divided by war. The track, "Zoo Station," off the band’s "Achtung Baby" album, was inspired by their hectic experience at the Zoo Bahnhof station.

Zoo Bahnhof is aptly named, not because it’s near a zoo but, rather, because it is a zoo. Imagine a mall, train station, subway station, food court and video arcade in one building and you have Zoo Bahnhof. The lady at the service desk didn’t understand me when I asked in German if she spoke English, but that’s probably because I learned that particular phrase 30 seconds earlier from the woman next to me in line. She gave me a U-Bahn map and sent me on my way. Subways, regardless of how confusing and often illogical they are, are systems that I understand, so I found my way to the Mocken Bruke stop on the U1 and walked to my hostel.

Berlin is more than anything else an overwhelmingly honest city. It’s like everything and nothing I’d ever seen before. It’s beautiful in its own classic, unafraid, rough-around-the-edges way. It works to keep its streets clean, but when Coke bottles find their way to the sidewalks, it isn’t ashamed. It says, matter-of-factly, "I am what I am." Berlin, not perfect, but with a reality that is very appealing. The sidewalk was warm beneath my feet.

Two hours later I sat down to dinner at Potsdamer Platz. A good friend of mine went to Germany for a year and told me that she survived entirely on cheese and chocolate, and until my dinner plate arrived, I didn’t believe her. An hour and more cheese than an entire army could eat later, I understood first-hand what she was talking about.

There was a keg in the middle of the sidewalk. The head of the pub-crawl, a British transplant named Tom, was probably the loudest person I’d ever met. Everything about him was loud, from his voice to his clothes to the way he walked, confidently, pounding the cobblestones with his scuffed Timberland boots.

"We’re going to another pub," yelled Tom over the voices, "but before we go another meter we need to consume at least two liters of vodka." Out came the plastic shot glasses. We looked around at each other for a split second, then the crowd erupted in cheers. At the end of the pub-crawl, I go back to find my friend who drunkenly wandered off and, now that I’m alone, it looks more like a dungeon. The walls are uneven, the edges are jagged and the floors are dusty. The air glows an eerie blue as a result of dust and blacklight, and I shiver for reasons completely unrelated to the temperature. My nose itches from the scent of stale smoke and sweat.

I sit down on a bench, put my bag beside me and start looking for my friend on the dance floor. Reaching for my cell phone in the pocket of my bag, my hand hits the cool leather of the bench instead. Alarmed, I look over and stare in shock at the empty space where my bag used to be.

Tearing through piles of coats and knocking over mountains of purses, I become more hysterical by the second. A man with a cigar walked up to me and offered me a smoke and I stared at him in disbelief. A girl in a hot-pink cropped top offered me some tissue and the rest of her martini. I took the tissue but not the martini.

The owner of the club emerged from a dimly lit back room and looked at me disapprovingly. "You dumb, drunk American kid," he said in a thick, almost indiscernible German accent, and I nearly choked on my tears. "I’m not dumb," I said meekly, "I’m not drunk and I’m not a kid. I just need to find my stuff." I could barely get the words out.

"Go home, it is not here," he snarled. I feel the brick wall behind me and slowly sink to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably for the first time in years. A new song comes on that’s 10 times louder than the last and my thoughts struggle to find their way through the jungle of sounds. I make a mental list of my losses: camera, memory card, shirt, money, cards, IDs, passport, eurail pass, U-Bahn pass, bag, U2 patch sewn on bag. Then I have a thought—I hadn’t checked the men’s bathroom yet. With a renewed sense of hope, I walk toward it.

He intercepts me three feet from the door. Huge and broad, he’s clearly inebriated but that doesn’t stop him from pushing me up against a wall and knocking my head on the bricks.

"Oh sweetie, why you goin’ in there? You want some of this, huh?" He presses his forearm against my neck and points at his crotch, and from a combination of airway obstruction and sheer horror, I gag. I try to wiggle out of his grip but he stands firm, braced in his sick, drunken glory against the adjacent wall. Looking frantically around, I see no one with any semblance of authority and the club-goers don’t seem to notice.

I try to wiggle a leg free to kick him in the obvious destination, but one foot is jammed underneath his shoe and the other is stuck between a table and a wall. Pinned up against the wall, I frantically try to figure out how I’m going to get out of this situation, when he jams his other hand down my pants. Simultaneously, I see a navy blue billfold on the floor of the men’s bathroom and I switch into survival mode. I stop struggling, and he looks at me curiously. "You like that, huh?" I throw my arms around his waist and pull him towards me. He’s too surprised to react and too drunk to guess my next move as I kick him so hard that he flips over backwards and my thigh hurts on impact.

Limping into the men’s bathroom I snatch the billfold off the floor. It’s empty except for the innermost pocket, and by this point I’m too tired to pray. I reach in and find my passport and red emergency card and in a moment of sheer bliss sink to the filthy bathroom floor.

At night, the streets of Berlin are nasty, not as in dirty, but as in mean. They’re angry and regardless of what you did to piss them off, you better pray they forgive you long enough to get home. Since my coat was stolen, too, I rub my arms and run through East Berlin, humming random melodies in my head in attempt to block out the evil growls of the streets. I have no idea where I am, but I’m too petrified to ask for directions, so I wander around for an hour before I find a U-Bahn station buried in a mass of angular concrete. I’m so cold that I actually throw up outside the entrance, my cheese dinner glowing an uneasy off-white color on the frozen dirt. Dizzy, I lie down next to my regurgitated 10-euro meal and think things over.

My sweater gets thinner and thinner until there’s barely anything between my bruised body and the cold dirt. I pull myself to my feet and walk slowly to the U-Bahn station, a shell of a human being in a torn black top and ripped jeans. An old man working at a little shop inside the station puts his arm on my shoulder and leads me into the tiny store. He doesn’t speak a word of English and I don’t speak a word of German, but somehow he knows. He sits me down on a metal chair, takes off his coat, puts it around my shoulders and disappears only to return with hot cocoa and a tomato mozzarella baguette. I cry. Not the tears of fear I cried in the club, but the slow, rhythmic tears that you cry when the reality of the situation sets in. For some reason I tell him the entire story, even though I know he doesn’t understand me, and he knows that I know, but it helps, somehow. He hugs me and whispers, "It OK, it OK," and at first I’m more hysterical than I was to begin with because after being so violated, sometimes compassion is harder to handle.

"Where are you going?" he asks, six feet tall with a face I can’t remember but a voice I can’t forget—smooth and kind, unassuming and clear. "Can I help you at all, are you OK?" I’m so tired. The subway roars into the station and I hear Zoo Station in my head, "I’m ready, ready for the crush," coursing through my barely-conscious mind. He shakes me awake when it’s my stop and as I walk away from the train I realize he stayed on 10 stops too long to make sure I got off OK. And I will be OK because for every awful person I encounter in Berlin, there are at least three people who show me such kindness, for nothing in return, just because they see that I am in need.

Six hours later the Australians in my room comfort me. They call the police and bring me to the front desk, where the hotel staff arranges a makeshift meal for me. The cops won’t give me a copy of the police report, despite my hiccupping sobs and Chester’s fierce-sounding German over the phone.

I’ve lost everything but my passport and apparently to get the money my father wired me, I have to journey to a remote airport at 7 the next morning, because the next day’s Sunday and nothing else is opened. I can’t shower, change clothes, take out my contacts or even read because my stuff is padlocked in a locker next to my bed and the key was stolen, too. It’s the last straw.

Sometimes you laugh at yourself. Sometimes you laugh at the situation. Sometimes you laugh so hard you cry. And sometimes you laugh because you can’t cry anymore. Because you refuse to. And I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard. I thanked whoever, wherever for the fact that I was OK, laughed some more and went to sleep. Because when you think about it, it really is pretty funny. I may have lost almost everything, but I’ll always have the image of my three Australian bunkmates singing up a storm in the middle of the night trying to break my lock open with a crowbar.

The airport money gram isn’t the right place to go of course, because this is just my weekend of course. I go to board the S-Bahn back to Zoo Bahnhof when the Berlin police decide to check me of all people at all times for a valid ticket. Minutes later I’m in handcuffs and no one understands my protests that I filed a police report and that I was robbed. One says, "No policeman named Rob" and growls at me. I end up on the sidewalk. They won’t let me get back on the S-Bahn. I have not one cent to my name and I can’t get to Zoo to pick up the money my Dad wired me to get home.

A woman glares at me and I wonder why but I look around and it’s clear enough. I’m slouched on a dirty sidewalk outside Schonefeld Airport, and the tattered buildings are nothing compared to my haggard appearance. She thinks I’m homeless. And right before I hit rock bottom, I smile at the cigarette butts next to me on the sidewalk.

A man tosses an empty coffee cup on the street and I grab it. I sit for 10 minutes and nothing happens so I lean back and zone out. I wonder, what skills do I have that could help me in this situation? And in a daze of exhaustion, frustration, hysteria, depression, and confusion, it comes to me. I remember all the years of voice coaching, choral groups and musicals. And I sing.

I sang U2 songs at first, "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For," among others. Anything I could remember the words to. I thought about my parents, so I sang "Les Miserables" and I thought about home, so I sang a cappella. I sang and sang and somewhere in all the songs I started to feel better. I called out in a clear, hopeful alto. And halfway through U2′s greatest hits, I had enough money for my S-Bahn fare. But I sang a little bit more, on my street corner in Berlin. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to.

It’s odd the clarity of mind that comes from a moment like singing for change on a street corner in Berlin. But if you can get through that, you can get through anything.

Review: Tenacious D’s Pick of Destiny Tour Brings the Rock in Denver*

November 27, 2006


By Matthew Anderson
2006.11

Tenacious D, the nearly infamous duo with dreams of becoming the greatest rock band of all time, blazed into Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium Wednesday night brandishing a boatload of tenassity, and the city will never be the same.

Like Spinal Tap, their music is a mix of comic lyrics and a genuine hard-rockin’ attitude. As with their long-haired brethren, the D’s genre leans toward a heavy metal mentality. But this dynamic duo plays their metal on jumbo acoustic guitars.

For the record, Tenacious D is Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Yes, that Jack Black; the hyper-maniacal star of “Nacho Libre” and Peter Jackson’s overblown “King Kong.”

Together, Black and Gass provided one highly entertaining evening at the sold out gig. “Highly entertaining” merely scrapes the surface, however. While the onstage shenanigans mixed comedy and theatrical rock, the general admission crowd provided its own antics, creating the ultimate in rock synergy.

To set the stage, the Fillmore posted a list of rules and warnings, most of them pretty standard these days: no weapons, no moshing, no body surfing, no large backpacks, no video cameras, and no professional cameras (more explicitly, those with detachable lenses). Each of these rules would be broken or misconstrued in one way or another, thanks in large part to a lazy security crew from Staff Pro that failed to send a consistent message.

There’ll be more about this point later.

The audience-participatory synergy started with the “warm up” act, Neil Hamburger. Simply awful, the character (created and staged by stand-up comedian Gregg Turkington) was supposed to be some kind of aged, hacking stand up comic, but he redefined lame. And he succeeded immensely in riling up the crowd, with insults and finger-flipping in constant trade between Hamburger and the impatient audience. It’s stunning this character actually had a DVD and CD on sale at the swag stand. Not surprisingly, they weren’t moving. At all.

After Hamburger finally, mercifully left, leading into an uneventful 30-minute intermission, Tenacious D took the stage in classic form. The setting: Kyle’s apartment. The dynamic duo of rock is caught napping under a Spider-Man blanket and the crowd’s roars of excitement jolts them out of peaceful slumber.

From there, the evening would go on to feature a potpourri of all things D, including a dancing mushroom, Colonel Sanders on drums, guitar riffs from Charlie Chaplin and the Anti-Christ, and a not-too-terribly spectacular rock-off between those intrepid soldiers of rock (uh, I mean the D) and Satan.

Like something out of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” Tenacious D found themselves in Hell after they messed with a sketchy electric guitar. Made from a toilet seat and sporting a heavy-duty orange extension chord, the boys were to be doomed to hellfire after getting electrocuted from plugging the sucker in while standing in a puddle of spilled beer.

It’s high-concept rock opera material, but not quite at the level of the Who’s “Tommy,” despite Tenacious D providing a smashing cover of “Pinball Wizard” toward the show’s end.

The set list was a pleasant mix of old and new, with the new material plucked from the D’s soundtrack for their new movie, “The Pick of Destiny.”


(Photo courtesy of Matthew Anderson)

The classic tracks featured many D standards, including their cover of Queen’s “Flash Gordon” theme song, “Wonderboy,” “The Road,” “Friendship,” and “Tribute.” Other ditties included “Kickapoo,” “Master Exploder,” “Dude (I Totally Miss You),” “Break In-City,” and “The Government Totally Sucks.”

Even with the crowded itinerary and a whole good-versus-evil saga to tell, the pair managed to squeeze in plenty of their usual shtick, including Kyle ever-so-briefly quitting the band. For like, 30 seconds.

The crowd came prepared to rock to Tenacious D’s devilish lyrics and, in the very spirit of true rock ‘n’ roll, rules were broken.

Was there a token stoner boy who was far too cool for his own good? Yep.

Moshing? Check.

Body surfing? Oh yeah.

Dude with huge backpack laden with textbooks and complete with a dangling water bottle? Double check.

Was this same dude also moshing and body surfing? Yes to the former and yes to the latter—until he was brought down to his knees and almost kicked to the curb.

Did tragically hip stoner boy pass out? Oh yeah. And he wasn’t looking so cool when he was unceremoniously hauled over the security railing and taken away.

Throw in some beer splashing and one particularly overzealous security dude (well, maybe cut him a break; he was short) and the evening grew from being merely a concert event to the very fleshly existence of True Rock.

Then there were those guitar picks thrown out to the crowd with greater-than-usual frequency by Gass and Black. The frenzy those picks created was almost otherworldly. Not even The Edge or David Bowie witnessed such mayhem spurred on by a tiny piece of plastic. People were on their hands and knees, scrounging for the tossed picks—in the thick of the standing-room-only crowd pressing up to the stage—using their cell phones as flashlights.

It was like a pile of football players jumping on a fumbled football, but not nearly as athletic.

It was also amusing to see younger kids pushing and shoving their way up to the front, only to put their fingers in their ears to protect them from the noise. Niiiice. Some advise: go home, grow up, and when you’re ready to really rock, come back.

One more diss must be shouted out to that short security officer: next time do not forget the following from the D’s official website: “The Official Tenacious D Policy on the Filming and Photographing of our Shows: Have fun, go ahead tape our shows, but be cool and don’t sell our stuff.”

Surely the D, those guys who embody the very grassroots elements that put the rock in roll, would understand the deep felt irritation behind this fan’s request.

Remember: Rust never sleeps, hard rock will never die, and tomorrow will always be another day.

For more information on Tenacious D, visit the official website. The feature film, “Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny,” (New Line Cinema) is in theaters now.

‘U218’ a Window in the Skies and to the Past*

November 21, 2006


By Jake Olsen
2006.11

Released today, “U218 Singles” is a collection of 18 blockbuster hits from U2’s 11 studio albums, plus two newly-recorded tracks. Retailers will be selling the standalone disc of 18 tracks, or the Limited Deluxe Edition, which includes a bonus DVD featuring U2’s performance in Milan, Italy during the Vertigo tour. As the name of the album implies, the disc features an assortment of hit singles from their nearly 30-year history. To entice fans who purchased U2’s previous “Best Of” compilations, the album also features two new tracks: “The Saints Are Coming,” a compelling and effective collaboration with Green Day, and “Window in the Skies.” The remaining tracks, as recent as “Vertigo” to as vintage as “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” provide the listener with the musical version of U2 History 101.

The First Decade: Birth of a Band

“U218” contains three songs from the band’s first decade: “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” These selections showcase a band in its early youth: idealistic, revolutionary, completely unselfconscious. Said All Music Guide’s Steve Erlewine, “there rarely was a band that believed so deeply in rock’s potential for revolution as U2, and there rarely was a band that didn’t care if they appeared foolish in the process.” In fact, all three songs deal directly with revolutions or revolutionaries: “Pride” is an homage to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr; “New Years Day” is a tribute to Lech Walesa and anti-communist Solidarity movement in Poland, and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” remembers Sunday, Jan. 30, 1972, when British paratroopers opened fire on Irish Civil Rights protestors, killing 13. An excerpt from Tristam Lozaw’s “Love, Devotion and Surrender” (reprinted in U2 Magazine, Jun. 1, 1984), provides a glimpse into a baby band’s ideals and hopes and ties the three tracks together:

“About a year ago, Bono started getting interested in Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and the idea of idea of passive resistance. ‘I realized that you can’t be a passive pacifist, you must be an aggressive pacifist. I had to make a strong statement about what was happening, and ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ is that statement. War is not all conflict and violence. Love is still a central theme. ‘New Year’s Day’ is really schizophrenic. It was sparked off by Lech Walesa and Solidarity, yet at the same time it’s a love song. Love is always strongest when it’s set against a struggle. And even in ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ there’s a line ‘Tonight we can be as one.’ Rock ‘n’ roll can do in some practical ways what politicians can only do in theory. I really do believe that music has the power to break down barriers.’”

At the time of this quote, 10 years had passed since drummer Larry Mullen Jr.’s seminal “Band Wanted” posting on the Mount Temple Comprehensive School bulletin board. By 1978, the members of the band had already passed through two name changes (first Feedback, then The Hype), a member departure (Dick Evans, The Edge’s brother, decided to leave the band) and their first gig at a school talent show. They were now known as U2. Within two years, this fledgling band had gotten a manager (Paul McGuinness), a deal with Island Records and a new album, "Boy." Three more studio albums were released in this period: "October" (1981), "War" (1983), and "The Unforgettable Fire" (1984) each more popular than the last. "The Unforgettable Fire" brought U2 its first Top 10 hit, "Pride (In the Name of Love)," and the album peaked at No. 12 (versus No. 107 achieved by "Boy" in 1980) on the Billboard charts.

The band’s youthful vitality and idealism—apparent in both the studio and during live performances—began to captivate audiences. "Under a Blood Red Sky," recorded in June 1983 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver, became its breakthrough live performance in the United States. (Bono later admitted to Denver audiences during the Vertigo tour that, "things went off for us then.") U2′s historic and career-making 10-minute rendition of "Bad" during LiveAid in July 1985 exhibited an impassioned Bono entering the audience, grabbing a fan and embracing her for several minutes as the band played on. U2 fever had begun.

The Second Decade: Birth of a Legend, Burnout and Reinvention

Ten years is a long time for any band to exist, let alone show a consistent ability to create hits. U2′s first album of its second decade, 1987′s "The Joshua Tree," made the first 10 years look like a warm-up. The album was a phenomenal success commercially, selling over seven million copies in two months, and earned the band Grammy recognition for Best Vocal of the Year and Album of the Year. But, hope and rebellion no longer took center stage. With huge commercial and critical success, U2 found it harder to rebel against the ‘Institution’—suddenly they were the institution, musically anyway. Just reaching pubescence, the band began to ask tougher questions in its lyrics. The "youthful self-belief" the critics found in "Boy" was replaced by "seeds of doubt" as the band tried to "find a sense of hope in desperation," according to Erlewine. In the midst of self-doubt, U2 found itself catapulted to stardom. U2 became the third rock band featured on the cover of TIME (issue date April 27, 1987, “Rock’s Hottest Ticket”), its tour was a huge hit and, within one year, has a successful follow-up album and concert movie, "Rattle and Hum." The 1988 release chronicled the Joshua Tree tour, and added new songs to the U2 canon, such as “Desire” and a duet with Bob Dylan, “Love Rescue Me.” But, by 1989, some fans exited the U2 rollercoaster, claiming weariness with Bono’s on-stage soapboxing and a general feeling of U2 overdose. The band, too, paid the price of fame. Bassist Adam Clayton, for instance, was arrested in 1989 for minor drug possession charges. In a Dublin appearance on New Year’s Eve, 1989, an exhausted Bono tells the world U2 is going away to "dream it all up again."

The new dream was a new U2, reinvented in 1991′s "Achtung Baby." Gone are the politically-charged lyrics and references to Martin Luther King, Jr., replaced by lines permeated with both religious and sexual images set to dark, electronic music. “Achtung Baby” instead, was "introspective" and "emotionally naked," and "replaces political for the personal" (again, Erlewine). Within a month of release, the album ranked number one on the Billboard charts.

U2 capped its second decade with 1993′s "Zooropa" and 1995′s "The Passengers, Vol. I". Written largely during the Zoo TV tour, "Zooropa" continued to explore territory discovered in "Achtung Baby" and earned the band a Grammy for Best Alternative Album. In the height of experimentation, U2 recorded "The Passengers" with producer Brian Eno. The album was such a departure from the typical U2 sound it was released under a pseudonym. As if to further confuse fans, it was billed as a soundtrack for movies that didn’t exist. Needless to say, it failed to please fans (it peaked at No. 52) and some members of the band, namely Mullen. Here was a U2 in its late teens, pushing boundaries, experimenting and even rebelling against the labels it previously enjoyed.

Such a momentous decade deserves ample representation on a retrospective album, and “U218” doesn’t disappoint. Six tracks are reserved from this era: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “With or Without You,” “Mysterious Ways,” “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “One” and “Desire.” These six tracks contain the elements of an adolescent U2’s diary entry: doubt (“Still Haven’t Found”), exposure (“With or Without You”), bitterness and disharmony (“One”), even addiction and ambition (“Desire”).Yes, you read correctly. The haunting melodies and seemingly romantic themes of “One” belie an underlying feeling of disharmony. According to a GQ Magazine article, “Gold In the House,” Bono tapped emotions that run contrary to what the title would suggest. “This much he knows: the Dalai Lama had asked U2 to participate in a festival called ‘Oneness.’ Having sensed the unsavoury whiff of hippiedom, Bono sent back a note saying, ‘One — but not the same.’ Unconsciously, this became his hook. As the melody flowed, he was thinking about untouchable sadness, disharmony and disease and relationships that end too soon. Within half an hour, they had recorded the bare bones of what Noel Gallagher now calls "the greatest song ever written."

The Third Decade: Reality Check and Rebirth

In 1997 U2 released its ninth studio album, "Pop." Seemingly a culmination of the experimentation and reinvention of "Achtung Baby" and "Zooropa," "Pop" leaned heavily on techno-inspired dance tunes and electronic loops. The follow-up tour, Popmart, was the second-highest grossing tour in the United States that year, earning the band $79.9 million. It was a glamorous, glitzy stadium tour, filled with costumes, massive sets and a giant, lemon-shaped mirrorball. In spite of its massive numbers, Popmart nearly bankrupted the band. Since its release, "Pop" has become the band’s most heavily criticized album, and Popmart seems to be the whipping boy for later tours–a lesson in what not to do. U2 felt its audience slipping away, and Bono noted in a later interview his frustration at seeing so many getting up for popcorn in the middle of a song.

As if to capitalize on the unexpressed yearn for the U2 of yore, Island Records released "The Best of 1980–1990/B-Sides" in 1998. This compilation gathered U2 hits from its first recorded decade and, for a limited time, coupled it with hard-to-find B-sides. It seemed to hit a vein with retro-starved U2 fans and peaked at a reasonable No. 2 on the Billboard charts. With fans frustrated by the new and hungry for the old, it was time to rediscover classic U2.

Enter "All That You Can’t Leave Behind," U2′s first album in the new millennium. Paired once again with longtime producers Steve Lillywhite (from "Boy" and "War") and Daniel Lanois ("The Unforgettable Fire," "The Joshua Tree" and "Achtung Baby"), "All That You Can’t Leave Behind" blended classic U2 with tricks it learned during the experimentation of the 90s. According to Erlewine, the album was "an effort to construct a classicist U2 album … [but is] a rock record from a band that absorbed all the elastic experimentation, studio trickery, dance flirtations, and genre bending of ‘Achtung,’ ‘Zooropa,’ and ‘Pop’—all they’ve shed is the irony." The follow-up tour, Elevation, struck a poignant chord with a world reeling from the 9/11 attacks on the United States. The tour grossed nearly $110 million, making it the second-most successful tour in history, right behind the Rolling Stones’ 1994 Voodoo Lounge Tour. U2 raised its head from a decade of doubt and cynicism and found a "Beautiful Day." U2 (Bono especially) found itself even more active in the political arena, raising money and awareness for AIDS and poverty in Africa.

2005 marked the end of U2′s third decade as a band. Since 2000, it has released another "Best of" compilation and a full studio album, the Grammy award-winning powerhouse "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.” This album can be described as the portrait of U2 as an adult band. It’s seen a rapid rise to fame, struggled through growing pains, experimented with its own craft and seems to have married its youthful days with its experience. The lyrics are intensely personal—"Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own" was sung by Bono at his father’s funeral—and family minded—"Miracle Drug" compares the scent of freedom to that of a newborn baby’s head, and “Original Of the Species” was inspired by the daughters of the band members. At the same time, Bono has said that this is "their first album," an attempt to turn back the clock. Like many people do when they hit 30, U2 was looking back over its life with nostalgia and maybe a little regret. And arguably, even a wish to be young again.

This third decade finds representation on “U218” with seven songs: “Beautiful Day,” “Vertigo,” “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” “Walk On,” “Elevation,” “Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own,” and “Sweetest Thing.” The inclusion of “Sweetest Thing” best represents a reminiscent U2. “Sweetest Thing,” originally released as a B-side to “Where the Streets Have No Name” in 1987, was re-recorded by the band for the “Best Of 1980 – 1990” compilation album and released as a single that same year. “Beautiful Day” and “Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own” seem to best reflect a band that has experienced victory and defeat—great gain and great loss. As exhilarating as it is, “Beautiful Day,” when explained by Bono, sounds most like a man who has survived a mid-life crisis—someone who has lost it all, and awakes to find a “Beautiful Day.” In an interview with MTV news in January 2001, Bono quipped, “It’s just an up idea, that you can lose everything, and somehow find yourself, you know. And, you know, you can lose your girlfriend, your house; everything’s going wrong. And the character in the song is just, he never felt better (laughs).” Bono reflects on his great loss with “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own,” which he first sang at the funeral of his father, Bob Hewson. Adulthood is no more evident than for a person at his own parent’s funeral, and Bono chose the song as a way to express his loneliness, remember his father and a relationship that didn’t always see eye to eye. As he explained in a June 2005 radio interview with Dave Fanning, “But I thought, that’s why I’m in a band, is that sense of abandonment, and I thought, aloneness, which is what the song’s about, ‘Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own.’ I thought, that’s why I’m in a band. And I turned around and I sang it to the band last night and I thought about my father. ”

The Fourth Decade: Uncharted Territory

The four members of U2 have been collaborating and making music now for 32 years, its fourth decade of creating music together. It’s impossible to say what the future holds but we can try and guess based on what we know about “U218” and the two new tracks produced by Rick Rubin at London’s famed Abbey Road studios, “The Saints Are Coming” and “Window in the Skies.” Firstly, “U218” is U2’s final release under the Island label. Future U2 albums will be released under Universal Music Group’s Mercury label. This switch is likely what prompted Island/Interscope to produce “U218” as an attempt to further tap U2’s works commercially. Also, we know that U2 is going strong and still crusading. “The Saints are Coming,” a collaboration with Green Day, will help pay for Music Rising, an organization committed to replacing musical instruments lost to Hurricane Katrina. As mainstream as they are, Green Day still represents a punk/alternative element—much like an early U2. The collaboration with Green Day not only gives a nod to U2’s post-punk roots, it also shows a sincere desire to make inroads with different audiences. This collaboration also continues U2’s trend of unlikely partnerships, much like its recent work with Mary J. Blige and her cover of “One.” These collaborations seem to indicate U2’s desire to expand its already massive fan base, while at the same time experimenting with new sounds and genres. “Window in the Skies” shows how the band will continue to experiment within its music, and sounds unlike anything they’ve released before—with strings supporting The Edge’s guitar and an almost disco sound. Still, with a title as exalted as “Window in the Skies,” there’s every reason to set our hopes high and get ready for the best the band has to offer in the decade to come.

Tracklisting for “U218 Singles”:

1. Beautiful Day
2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
3. Pride
4. With Or Without You
5. Vertigo
6. New Years Day
7. Mysterious Ways
8. Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
9. Where The Streets Have No Name
10. Sweetest Thing
11. Sunday Bloody Sunday
12. One
13. Desire
14. Walk On
15. Elevation
16. Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
17. The Saints Are Coming
18. Window In The Skies

Interview: Paul Meany of Mute Math Talks Spirituality, the Keytar and Atari

November 20, 2006


By Kevin Selders
2006.11

Fresh off a 40-city headlining tour with Shiny Toy Guns, Jonezetta and The Whigs, Paul Meany, lead singer/keytar player/magician of the alt-rock band Mute Math, took time to share with Interference where he found the band’s hyper drummer, how the keytar has always been cool and details about the mysterious home-made instrument, the Atari.

Mute Math, a four-piece from New Orleans, also features Greg Hill (guitars), Roy Mitchell-Cardenas (bass) and Darren King (drums/samples/programming). The band’s sound includes hints of everything from DJ Shadow and Bjork to U2 and The Police. The band recently played Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, the Warped Tour, England’s V Festival and the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City.

Mute Math’s self-titled debut is available on Warner Bros. The band will play Jimmy Kimmel Live Dec. 1. on ABC, tour with “How to Save a Life” hit makers The Fray through January, and visit Europe in February.

So, tell us, how was the CMJ Music Festival? What was the experience like for you guys?
There’s nothing more addicting for our band than playing shows in New York. I actually forgot that it was CMJ. We were in Times Square at BB Kings. It was splendid.

Your shows are so energetic – how do you keep the energy level up every night, as well as the spontaneity?
How do you get bulls to buck at a rodeo? And you should know it works on humans too.

Some of you have even suffered a few injuries during the tour because of your live show. Darren’s hand was all bloody toward the end of the show in Lawrence, Kan., yet he still managed to play the beat-heavy “Reset” with one hand. Explain how this is humanly possible.
It’s not. Darren was genetically engineered in an underground lab just outside of a small Siberian town called Fruscher. I found him on eBay.

How did the idea of MuteMath form? I know some of you were together in Earthsuit, which was very different sonically.
Well as soon as Darren arrived in the mail, we got to work. We wrote some songs, played some shows, found some more musicians, and before we knew it we had a band. I think in the beginning, Mute Math was just a side project for us, as we were spending more of our time trying to launch another band called Macrosick.

Some of your lyrics seem to have a spiritual side to them, Paul. It seems like a lot of bands – i.e. U2, Moby, Doves, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – are drawn to exploring that aspect of life, lyrically. Where does your inspiration come from for your lyrics?
I grew up in a very strict religious home. Had the do’s and don’ts of the Bible drilled into my head. I think, the older I got, the more suspicious I became of what all of that stuff was about, but was still strangely drawn to it. I have to assume everyone at some point in their life has had some tie in with religion whether they’ve embraced it or not. I think it’s a valid subject matter that intrigues us all on some level. As much bullshit that inherently gets attached to that topic, it’s still a part of me somehow, and when I sit down to write songs those ideas inevitably surface.

Musically, who are you influenced by as a band? There’s definitely a hint of the Police on songs like “Chaos,” and “Noticed.”
Well it’s no secret that we love the Police. They are in my opinion one of the classic bands who could write simple great songs and take it to new heights live. Other artists like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, U2, etc., all have written the text book on how to construct a complete musical experience.

Many people – fans and critics – are touting Mute Math as the “next big thing.” What’s it like hearing that, even before your debut album hit stores?
I think that phrase is way overused and doesn’t really mean anything anymore. I’m more concerned with just etching out a little nook in the music world where Mute Math can live and make music for a long time.

Your life on the road has been well-documented in your MySpace videos/iTunes podcast. You even rotate photos you receive from fans quite regularly on your site (many of which are quite good). How important is technology to the development of the Mute Math community you’ve created?
Actually, we owe a lot to electricity if you want to break it down. Forget about Tom [founder of MySpace] . . . what about Thomas Edison and Benji Franklin?

How was “Plan B” selected as the first single? There’s so many possible first singles on this album.
We didn’t select Plan B as the single, iTunes did. From the way I understand it, iTunes picks their favorite song, and you either go with it or you don’t get a single of the week. I like Plan B. It probably won’t end up as one of the officially released singles though.

You each play multiple instruments during your shows. Who plays the most instruments?
Out of necessity – Darren [King]
Effortlessly – Roy [Mitchell-Cardenas]
While wearing other instruments – Greg [Hill]
The wrong way – Me

Explain the keytar. How did you make it cool again? (If it ever was.)
I didn’t make it “cool again” . . . I just simply recognized an already existing phenomenon. I can’t take credit for the beauty in the flowers and trees just because I opened my eyes to see it.

Now explain the Atari.
I want you to imagine for a moment, if you will, a world where Atari games walk the streets of a red light district pimped by Radio Shack. The noises, the smells, the sights . . . That’s the Atari.

Your latest tour with The Whigs and Jonezetta winds up Nov. 19 at the Culture Room in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. What’s Mute Math’s next step toward world domination?
Getting our hands on a nuclear bomb.

For more information on Mute Math’s self-titled debut album and headlining tour, visit its official website or MySpace page.

Interview: Christian Scharen, Author of ‘One Step Closer’*

November 20, 2006

By Jennifer B. Kaufman
2006.11

Fans have always seen U2 as much more than a noisy rock ‘n’ roll band. Christian Scharen, a professor of divinity at Yale University, is no different. Scharen has examined the spiritual side of U2 in his book "One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God" where he takes a complex and thorough look on how U2’s songs relate to scripture, U2’s theological development as they have reached the apex of stardom, and what the modern church can learn from U2 to gain interest from young Christians.

Scharen spoke to Interference.com about his lifelong love of U2, his work as a professor and theologian, and five U2 songs that mean so much to him.

When did you first get into U2 and what about the band and its music made you a lifelong fan?

I first heard U2 in a friend’s college dorm room in the fall of 1985. Until then, my faith and youth culture—including the music I liked—were totally separate. But ironically U2 was introduced to me as a Christian band—something they’ve steered away from despite their spiritually deep songs.

Why do I love the band’s work so much? Obvious answers first. They make great music. They have for three decades and so lots of people just love U2 songs.

But as important as their great music is the fact that their songs are also about something larger. U2 turn their music towards the big questions of life: love and betrayal, hope and despair, war and peace, faith and doubt, and so on. They are a band that wants to change the world, and many of their fans are working for that vision right along with them. This spiritual vision, if you want to call it that, leads fans to speak of seeing a U2 show as "going to church." The band really helped me connect the dots between the music groove I love and a spiritual vision that is so needed today.

On top of their convictions, U2 are fantastic, dynamic performers. They’ve put on creative live shows since they played the Dandelion Market in Dublin in the late 1970s. They’ve literally broken ground in the use of technology for touring. But their tours are not simply rock shows. A U2 show is about taking the audience to another place. They are always about changing the audience, offering a way to transcend one’s individual circumstances and fit into “something more.” That something more has been present in concerts in different ways, usually intertwining religious and political themes. U2 have a vision that holds together fervent belief and openness to the nonbeliever’s doubts. It is a faith that loves the world, but loves God more and so can’t stand to see the world stay the same: full of injustice, violence, and hate.

What inspired you to write “One Step Closer?”

U2’s songs witness to a coherent understanding of the Christian faith that has developed over time. This consistent spiritual message connects with large numbers of spiritually hungry people, myself included. This coherent faith perspective is neither shallow nor blind. It is real. It is willing to seek God through deep engagement with the world. The book both shows what I’ve found in U2’s way of singing and living faith fully engaged in the life of this world and invites others to try out this way of connecting faith and life.

How does U2 influence you as a theologian and a pastor?

They helped me think much more deeply about the divide today between Christians—those U2 have called “squeakers” who are really concerned with profanity and those who worry more about the profanity of 30,000 children dying each day for lack of a dollar a day. It is something I talk about on radio and TV interviews, trying to get the message out to Christians today.

In the book, I compare the theology of glory to the theology of the cross. Bono calls these two orientations to God “karma” and “grace”. I’d say that “squeakers” believe in karma, not Grace. They think the job of Christians is to earn our way into heaven by “getting it right” on earth. That orientation means lots of things including clarity about right and wrong, who is in and who is out, what you should say and not say. It unfortunately ends up looking a lot like the religious leaders Jesus was in conflict with. I think Bono, U2, and Philip Yancey (in "What’s So Amazing About Grace?") are on just the same page here in saying, as I say in my book, that too many Christians think their “good” behavior will earn them passage through the pearly gates of Heaven (U2’s song “Playboy Mansion” is about this, among others). And notice where this view leads: as we mature in faith, we spend more time with other Christians, make up rules about what “Christian behavior is like,” and judge others by how well they follow these rules.

Bono might say that as we mature in faith, we should spend less time with other Christians. Why? So that we can communicate the love of God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, that’s why! If we truly are given the gift of God’s love and forgiveness while we are yet sinners, as St. Paul says in Romans 5:8, then the issue is not how do I behave so that I earn God’s love, but how do I participate in what God is doing in the world because God’s love found me? Well, God has promised a new heaven and a new earth, a place where there is no longer suffering and tears (Isaiah 65, Revelation 21). We experience that “other place” in worship, and then we’re sent out into the world to meet God who is already in the world working to bring this “new” reality to birth. The “religious” people of Jesus’ day, after all, accused him of eating with drunkards and sinners. He did because he knew they were the ones who needed his love. What if we Christians, instead of worrying about who is pure and who is not, worried more about loving regardless? Perhaps this is happening more; the story of Bono’s relationship with Jesse Helms is testimony supporting that conclusion.

How does U2 influence you in a more secular fashion?

OK—true confessions of a theologian. There is no secular if you believe that God is creator of heaven and earth, the seas and all that is in them (Psalm 146:6; Acts 14:15). And so I think there is something very important that is said in relation to popular culture when Jesus says that God makes it rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5). The other night I watched “Walk the Line” with my wife Sonja. It is a movie about Johnny Cash and June Carter. It is a complex story, including deep suffering, drug addiction, divorce and also great love, repentance, and an experience of healing. Was God only present in Cash’s “gospel songs” or was God somehow present also when Cash sang “Folsom Prison Blues” to a room full of prisoners?

U2 presents us with this challenge. Bono, while meeting with religion reporters after his “homily” at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year, said, “I’m asked, ‘Why doesn’t your music proclaim Christ?’ and my answer is that it does.” He went on say that “creation has its own proclamation of God and I’d like to think our music has the same qualities to it.” Can the Church find a profound enough view of sin to see its own faults, and a profound enough view of grace to see God’s presence working in the world? That is a major question posed by the work of U2. Do they proclaim God only when they sing “Gloria” or “Grace” or do they proclaim God also when they sing, “Desire” and “Discotheque”? If we split it like this, sacred on one side and secular on the other, we risk missing the very human presence in "Gloria" and "Grace", and miss the heavenly resonances in “Desire” and “Discotheque.” U2 has always been about holding the tensions together—earth and heaven, spirituality and sexuality, faith and doubt.

What do your fellow theologians think of you being a fan of U2?

The younger ones all love U2 and are really glad I wrote the book. Older scholars mostly think it is a bit weird—especially at Yale where more “serious” topics are usually the norm. Bono’s star has risen so high on the political side of things that everyone is at least generally curious. But when they do read the book—as my friend Miroslav Volf did, who is one of the world’s most prominent theologians—they discover a band with very sophisticated ideas about theology, faith, art, and culture. Miroslav called Bono “an extraordinary theologian of grace.” Now that’s a great endorsement.

Name one U2 song and how you feel it relates to scripture.

In the week after my daughter Grace was born on Halloween 2000, three friends gave us copies of U2’s recently released album, "All That You Can’t Leave Behind." The last track, a tune entitled “Grace,” both imagines grace as an idea and as “a name for a girl.” It turns out that “Amazing Grace” is Bono’s favorite hymn.

The song takes up a favorite theme of the band, placing grace over against the idea of karma. Karma, as I said earlier, is the age-old idea that a person gets what they deserve. That would leave us all in a bad way. Grace, the core idea at the heart of Jesus and the Christian faith, is the idea that we don’t get what we deserve—we don’t deserve it but we get love, mercy, forgiveness, and a new chance at living. The song ends poetically, even hopefully, without being at all saccharine about it. “What once was hurt / What once was friction / What left a mark / No longer stains / Because Grace makes beauty / Out of ugly things.”

Such a claim does not erase the ugly; rather it claims the promise that because of Christ, God sees differently, and where there is hurt, a mark, a stain, God covers and heals and makes whole. A great embodiment of this idea can be found in the parable of the prodigal son, Luke 15:11-32, which was influential for Philip Yancey’s 1998 book "What’s So Amazing About Grace?"—a book Bono was so excited about he gave it to friends including Noel Gallagher of Oasis.

What could the church learn from U2 and how could they use U2 to get more people through their doors?

I’m nervous about any direct effort of churches to “use” U2 to get people in the door. To start conversations about God and the life of faith, perhaps, would be a good goal. But first of all, U2 could teach the church how to get over “religion.” Nothing has been more harmful to the church’s life than preoccupation with its own purity and self-perpetuation. U2’s ambivalence about traditional Christianity has roots in their experience growing up in a land torn apart by factions defined by religion. The Protestant-Catholic divide cast a long shadow over “religion” in Ireland in a complicated set of ways, and not only in terms of political power (the Church of Ireland, a protestant church tied to the Anglican Communion, is the church of the upper class, as well). So when Bono wonders aloud if “religion is the enemy of God” and suggests “religion is what happens when the Spirit has left the building,” the roots of such sentiments are fairly understandable!

The church has to get over its religious bias, in so far as religious identity exists as much to judge and exclude as anything. The absence of that kind of religion in the band is part of why many fans, and the band itself at times, refer to U2 concerts as “going to church.” So much of the church’s energy goes into its own self-perpetuation (check a budget sometime), its buildings, clergy and trappings of holiness. They act as if they’ve got God or the Spirit in a box, and the purpose of Church is to provide people a God-fix. U2 are saying, “No, God is active in the world—in creation, in the work of artists, activists, and everyday people doing as God desires.” The task at church is to learn, be inspired, be forgiven and renewed for our in the world, joining in what God is already doing there. The question is a simple one, and an old one: What if instead of being known for tall steeples and judgmental people, the church was known, as Jesus wanted, by its willingness to love, forgive and do justice?

What are your future plans now that "One Step Closer" is published?

Just now I’m writing a book that will be called something like "Leading Faith as a Way of Life: A Challenge for Pastoral Leadership." It comes out of a project I’ve lead over the past few years at Yale. The main point is to describe the problem with seeing faith as only a “church” thing, disconnected from how we live the rest of the week. In response to this widespread problem, the book shows how their leaders can help churches become busy intersections, empowering people to live faith in all the various spheres of their lives (family, work, school, the arts and so on). This book will be out next spring from Eerdmans Publishing Co.

I am also exploring a follow-up from my work on U2 that I have tentatively called, taking a page from one of my favorite Irish theologians, "Grace Over Karma: Living On Earth, as in Heaven." This book will take the subtext of my book on U2—the difference between what I’ve called the “theology of glory” and “the theology of the cross”—and show how huge a difference it makes to the honesty and spiritual depth of our faith-life and as a direct consequence, the difference it makes for the good of the world God loves.

How many U2 concerts have you been to and what stands out about them?

I don’t have much street cred here. Some fans have literally seen the band fifty times or even more. When I started this book, I hadn’t ever seen the band live. My editor read an early draft where I recounted the story of how in 1987, my now wife and then girlfriend, Sonja, and I decided to sell our Joshua Tree tour tickets and give the money to the poor. We were inspired by U2’s commitment to justice and couldn’t justify spending the money for the show! After my editor read that story, he said, “Chris, you’ve got to see a U2 show if you are going to do this book.” So I saw them in Boston twice on the Vertigo Tour, once on the first leg and once on the third leg. The second show was especially sweet because Sonja and I took my eight-year-old son Isaiah. He totally loved it and is now taking guitar lessons. A future Edge, perhaps?

If you could listen to only five U2 songs for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

You’ve got to be kidding. Only five? I just discovered “Are You Going to Wait Forever?” tonight and it rocks, a really positive vibe. It was a B-side for “Vertigo.” I’ve never been much of a single junkie—I buy albums and box sets. So I of course bought the iTunes digital boxset and they had AYGTWF. Lovely. And so many of U2’s songs are amazing. How could I ever choose only five? OK, you asked for it. I’ll do it. I’ve seen some recent lists of top 10 U2 songs. Here’s my top 5, in order.

5. “I Will Follow”/ “Mofo”—Wait, I’ve got two songs here. I love them both and they are deeply connected. These two, perhaps as much as any U2 songs, deal with the death of Bono’s mother, Iris, who died when he was only 14. Also, they both are driving songs musically, even if their styles are not that similar. As well, each has deep spiritual resonance. “I Will Follow” includes snippets from the hymn “Amazing Grace” and Bono has even inserted the phrase “Amazing Grace” into the song live on several occasions. “Mofo” starts with a spiritual search ("looking for to save my soul") and never lets go (have they ever let go of spiritual searching?). Check out the "Hasta la Vista, Baby! Live from Mexico City" recording or video with “Mofo” as the opener and “I Will Follow” directly afterward. Awesome.

4. “Miss Sarajavo”—Well, the story behind this song is just so incredible. I often cry when I listen to it, really. If you don’t know the story, read Bill Flanagan’s version in "Until the End of the World" or watch the documentary on the "Best of 1990-2000" DVD. The depression and yet almost miraculous hope deeply connects to how frustrating it is to see the continued killing between religious faiths, especially the children of Abraham mentioned in this song. The line is, “is there a time for first communion, is there a time for East 17, is there a time to turn to Mecca, is there a time to be a beauty queen.” While the song has almost never been played live, on their Vertigo tour, second leg and on after the terror bombings in London, the band started playing Miss Sarajevo just before the running of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. Here, they changed the line about the 1990s pop band East 17 so that Bono now sings “is there a time for first communion, is there a time for synagogue, is there a time to turn to Mecca, beauty queen before God.” Like so many of their songs, this song is a sort of rock ‘n’ roll prayer.

3. “Wake Up, Dead Man”—I can’t listen to this song very often, and not ever if I’m not free to give myself over to full attention to its intensity. But exactly because it is so profoundly right about our real experience in this broken and messed up world, I could never live without it. It is a lament psalm, and without song songs of lament, I don’t know how we could make it through this life with our eyes and hearts open.

2. “Running to Stand Still”—“This is a Dublin story,” Bono says leading into the song on "Live from the Point Depot." And I love it because it is not their story in the sense that it is not about their own experience with drugs, but shows their incredible capacity to portray the story of others. Bono once said in an interview with the New York Times: “They’re not my stories, but I feel them very deeply.” This story, about inner-city desperation and drug addiction, is just one example among so many that shows their willingness to see and sing about the troubles of this world. And one of my all-time favorite lines is here: “you’ve got to cry without weeping, talk with out speaking, scream without raising your voice.”

1. “Where the Streets Have No Name”—This song is great on the album from 1987, "The Joshua Tree" but it goes beyond great to something else when they play it live. It has many layers, like so many U2 songs. But at its deepest level, I think, it is about communion. U2 say their music is a sacrament, and if that is true, I feel the sacrament most deeply when they play Streets live, with thousands of fans singing at the top of their lungs, and the lights flooding the crowd as brightly as mid-day, and we’re in that moment taken someplace else. Spine-tingling.

To learn more about Christian Scharen and "One Step Closer," please check out his blog.

Many thanks to Scharen and everyone at Brazos Press for their help with this article.

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