Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sanitation and the Great Swine Flu

Did you know that almost 80 percent of American casualties in the First World War came not from enemy fire, but from flu? Swine Flu arose as a normal, non-lethal flu in the spring of 1918, but somehow mutated into something much more severe. Between 1918 and 1919 over a half a million people in America died of the flu. Some estimates have put the global total at that time between 50 and 100 million people. To this day the Great Swine Flu is considered the worst epidemic in history. I don't think this new outbreak will be able to do that much damage, but it is frightening nonetheless.

Doctors in 1918, in an attempt to develop antidotes for the Great Swine Flu, conducted tests on military prisoner volunteers in exchange for pardons. The prisoners were injected with infected lung tissue taken from the dead and then sprayed in the eyes, nose, and mouth with infectious aerosols. If they still failed to succumb to the virus, they had their throats swabbed with discharges taken from the sick and dying. When all else failed, they were required to sit open-mouthed while an extremely ill victim was helped to cough into their faces. Shockingly, out of the sixty-two men who volunteered for the tests, none became infected with the disease. The only probable explanation was that perhaps the flu had passed through the prison weeks prior and the volunteers, all of whom had survived, had developed a natural immunity. This gives me hope.

After all of the years of being in a band on the road one thing is certain; we have been introduced to many different people and with them many different viruses. Living and sleeping in such close quarters tends to lend itself to the sharing of every virus that is introduced. I say this is a good thing, because my immune system is well-versed in beating viruses. I never get the flu, and I rarely have cold symptoms. I rarely use sanitizer or wash my hands (and when I do its without much rigor), so my body relies on its learned white blood cells and local bacteria to fight alien agents. Being so cramped together on the road, coupled with being in contact with thousands of people from all over, has taught my immune system to develop defenses against all types of viruses from around the country. So the idea that normal, clean people were getting sick and dying from this Swine Flu and the filthy, cramped together prisoners were not is somewhat comforting. Its a similar concept to the ones that say a slightly thirsty vine bears a better grape, or by slightly limiting ones calories actually makes ones cells more efficient. These prisoners, when limited with sanitation, developed very active immune systems in order to survive.

The crazy thing about viruses is that they only last a few hours outside of a host. They need to be passed to other hosts in order to survive. What is surprising is that outbreaks have been known to come back years later. Scientists can only guess that the strains might hide out unnoticed in populations of wild animals before trying their hand at a new generation of human beings. After the 1918 outbreak, Swine Flu (or H1N1) had another outbreak in 1933, then again in the 1950's, and yet again in the 1970's. Up until a few years ago, scientists could only speculate that the Great Swine Flu could quite possibly once again rear its ugly head. As we all know, it finally has.

The good news is that with todays medicine it stands little chance of doing the type of damage it did in 1918. The bad news is all your efforts at sanitation won't do you any good. Viruses are airborne, and your best defense is a well qualified immune system (coupled with a flu vaccine when needed). When you keep viruses and bacteria outside of your body, you develop a weak, underworked immune system that simply isn't prepared to handle a skillfully mutated virus. This is why young people are most at risk, because they have had less time to gain exposure to earlier strands of influenza. In 1918, the Great Swine Flu had its worse effect on those in their twenties and thirties. Older people may have benefited from resistance gained from an earlier exposure to the same strain, but why the very young were similarly spared is unknown. That is the scary thing about viruses, you never know where they're coming from, when they'll mutate, and who they'll target. 

There is not much you can do to prepare for a viral outbreak, but in my opinion a safe thing to do is to develop as much immunity as you can by staying healthy and getting dirty, in equal amounts.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Surprised By Love

I don't mean to  brag or sound fatalistic but I know what true love feels like, at least in the capacity that one person can feel it for another. It's this feeling I have in my chest when I watch Kristie sleep next to me. It's a sudden rush of emotions, a longing to protect her, to do right by her. There is no hesitation when I think of dying for her, however painful or humiliating, if it is to spare her any suffering then sign me up. The connection that we have runs deep, and we've been working on it for a decade. It is scary to think where I would be without her.

I used to think that after you marry someone you truly love the honeymoon eventually fades and you develop a sort of "family love," or some sort of deep mutual respect for each other that is for the most part unromantic. I was willing to accept that type of love, I just wanted to spend my life with Kristie. To my pleasant surprise (and by the grace of God) I was wrong. The thing about this feeling is that it has grown stronger every year of our marriage. In fact, this feeling has grown stronger every year since we met in the summer of 2000.

Well, technically we met in the summer of 1998, but we didn't fall in love then. I was fifteen and I'd made my annual trek to summer camp that year with my friend BJ. Summer camp, also called Daybreak Point Bible Camp, was located on Anvil Island; a small island off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. I'd been going since I was nine years old, first to an all-boys camp, and then later to the co-ed camps. It's an incredibly beautiful and isolated place that is only accessible by boat, so for myself and the rest of the campers it was like a week-long escape from reality. The campground was equipped with a boat dock, a swim dock, a water trampoline and a huge slide, a dozen or so cabins, a big dining hall, a semi-indoor gymnasium, a soccer-sized upper field and a very nice state-of-the-art chapel. For an entire week it's just the campers and staff for twenty-four hours a day, so you get to know people pretty well. BJ and I were the only "Americans" there that year, I say "Americans" because I think technically I was still a Canadian (I'd been going to the camp there ever since I'd lived in Canada). Anyhow, we were both fifteen and probably a touch on the older side as we were only a year younger than some of the counsellors. 

For that week BJ and I were very popular. That's the thing about camp, you can reinvent yourself. However unpopular you are back at home, you are given the rare opportunity to convince a new set of people that you are incredibly cool. We did this by playing up how foreign we were to the locals, and by being extremely competitive in all the events. We also had the ideal American bleach-blond hair to boot (it was hot back then). We were instant hits. Our age and maturity entitled us to hang out with some of the staff at times, and they were equally intrigued by our supposed awesomeness. One of the staff members (a sports crew girl named Kristie) took a liking to us. I can remember Kristie, BJ and I hanging out on the front porch of our cabin during free time. Like with any other girl, BJ and I would sort of passive-aggressively compete for attention, but for the most part we just viewed her as a friend. She was a year older and fun to hang out with, but that was all. So the fairy-tale goes that Kristie and I did not fall in love at first sight.

I went back to camp the next year and entered the LIT (Leader In Training) program. I made some incredible friends during this time, some of which I am still in contact with. I had a lot of fun that year, and I felt like I was close to God. I felt like I was really experiencing some spiritual growth. Kristie was a counsellor that year, and was apparently in a relationship with somebody. As I recall we only exchanged a few words the entire week, and I remember thinking she looked sad. I didn't dwell on it though, because I was busy having crushes on some other girls in the LIT program.

The next year came along and my friends from the LIT program and I became full on staff. We took on the dish pit after meals like a bunch of animals, singing old U2 songs at the top of our lungs as we cleaned the campers dishes. I remember what it was like to serve and serve joyfully. We laughed, sang and sprayed each other with water as we worked. We loved cleaning dishes. We also led the music that year as all of us were musicians as well. It was a great combo, to serve the kids practically and then to serve them spiritually. I remember being struck with how important service was, especially for my soul. It left me with a very calming sense of peace in my heart.

That year nobody could stay away from our group. Our joy was infectious, and we we're bent on distributing it. Kristie, a counsellor again, was one of the other staffers who appreciated our work and so she started hanging out with us. 

As work crew we were a part of helping the program staff and the sports crew set up games. We were the utility men, so as fate would have it one day I was up in the gym watching kids frantically sort through a giant pile of footwear for the missing half to their individual pairs. I say fate, because I was sitting about ten feet from Kristie. In the midst of all the hullabaloo, I glanced over and noticed she was visibly upset. So, in some adolescent attempt to cheer her up, I took my Nike sandal off and tossed it at her (don't ask why, I was emotionally stunted at the time). It very lightly bounced off her shoulder and tears started to well up in her eyes. I don't know what came over me, but I quickly I went up to her and said, "Lets walk." I knew that something was wrong and that she should probably talk about it. I also knew that in front of the campers was probably not the best place to talk. So we walked down the path away from the gym, and as we walked she explained that some other staffer had told her she wasn't doing a good job at counseling. Kristie had taken it quite personally as she cared very much for her campers that year. We talked about that for a bit, and then the conversation led to other things. I remember sitting in the empty rifle range talking about life, family, struggles and dreams. We were shocked to find that we were both from a family of ten, and that our families were similar in so many ways. We found a lot in common as we shared our lives with each other, and I think we ended up on a cabin porch a few hours later with our friends suspiciously asking, "Where have you two been?"

As much as we liked hanging out with each other, she apparently had a boyfriend waiting for her at home. On the last day as we boarded the boat everyone got each others contact info. Not wanting the week to end, we decided our group should hang out for the weekend in Vancouver before we went our separate ways. Over the weekend, Kristie inadvertently left her bible in my car. When I found it I wrote this in it (unedited):

Is that how you spell it? I'm sitting in my car an Cosmos is driving. Thats the reason why my writing is so messy. I just wanted to let you know that I think you're the raddest person, even rugged, if I may say so. I may be younger, but I'm still madly in love with you. Honestly, would I lie to you? Oh, I just realized it's spelt Kristie... Oh welp. I want you to know that when I am a millionaire (thats in American dollars) I will hunt you down and marry you.
(heart) YANKEE
P.S. Don't let yer boyfriend see this. I prefer my limbs not broken...
posse out!

"Rugged" was a term that had been recently coined at camp. It meant "Cool." And "Posse out" was how we said goodbye that year. Yankee was my nickname, and Cosmos was the nickname of my friend Steve.

However funny I attempted to make the letter, I remember secretly hoping she would find it and initiate something with me (I was a wimp). When we were hanging out at a friends house the next night, she found it (with the help of said friend) and she asked me about it. On the front porch she was very forward with me, "Were you serious about how you feel about me?" I remember being very shy, and after a few hours and beating around the bush I finally told her I liked her and I'm not sure what that means but I think it'd be cool to talk once in awhile. She went home and broke up with her boyfriend, and the rest is history (a lot of history, too much to divulge at this juncture). My friend Mike recalls me coming home from camp and saying, "I found a girl, and I think I could marry her." I was seventeen years old. Everyone laughed at us, but here we are, almost ten years later. We're married and our love is stronger than ever.

Again, I don't mean to sound fatalistic, but I believe the stars aligned for me. The feeling was there from the beginning, and it was almost like it was destined. I had prayed nightly for someone exactly like her, someone who could understand me and love me as she did. What's also noteworthy is that Kristie's mom and dad met at the exact same camp (fate maybe?). I honestly think God placed her specifically in my life at that exact time, because He knew I needed someone specifically like her. Since then I've made a ton of mistakes and without the influence of Kristie in my life I wouldn't most definitely not be here right now. I was quite rebellious in my teenage years, and she loved me through many of my faults. I am by nature a pretty unstable person, but for some reason Kristie causes me to well up with a sense of responsibility. Even in her own instability, she causes me to be stable. More than that I've been blessed with an incredible feeling of deep and often unexplainable love. It's tremendously fulfilling.

Everyone wants to be understood and respected... everyone wants to be known. There is nothing more valuable to receive from another human being than true love; the unadulterated sense of being fully known and fully admired. True human love is the experience of every flaw being completely known and completely overlooked at the same time. Who doesn't want that?

Love doesn't grow on trees, it doesn't happen overnight. It slowly and steadily grows when two hearts are committed to serving each other and working through the issues that inevitably arise. The result is an incredible reward; the complete fulfillment of a few very powerful human desires. God designed it this way so that sacrifice would reap the most gain. A successful relationship is a picture of Jesus. Jesus, who sacrificed himself for us, fully knows us, fully forgives us, and fully accepts us. The bible is clear that we are to love each other like this.

John 15: 12-13 says,

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

And 1 John 3:16 says,

This is how we have come to know love: the Messiah gave his life for us. We, too, ought to give our lives for our brothers.

As I have fallen more and more in love with Kristie I have been more enlightened to just how much God must love us. I would die for Kristie because she loves me and gives me so much, and I love her and would do anything to spare her from suffering. The feeling I have for her is very strong, but this feeling is presumably nothing compared to a God who would lay down his own perfect human life for ungrateful, unloving people. My glimpse of true human love is just a tiny inkling of the Love that God is capable of, and to experience that tiny fraction is extremely inspiring.

The power of love continually surprises me. As I downplay it, it upstages me. They say you can't live on love, but I have proof that in a sense you can. We've been living on love for four years, many times not knowing where the money for bills will come from, but God in his love takes care of us. So we continue to try to love each other in the way He displays His love for us, and we continue to live blessed lives. There are always ups and downs, but we always get through because our love for each other remains constant.

It might sound cheesy, but I wish this type of love on everyone.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Jet City Filter on Twitter

Hey readers, this post is to let you know that The Jet City Filter has launched on Twitter @jetcityfilter .

I spent the afternoon learning how to use and the result is that links to new blog posts are automatically posted as updates on the blogs own Twitter account @jetcityfilter now!

Hooray, technology.

It Comes In Waves

January and February were good months for song writing. I wrote about twenty songs during that time. At one point I wrote and recorded one song each day for a week, which is a lot for me since I am generally not a very prolific writer. I'm often paranoid about losing song ideas, and because of my paranoia I have yet to completely finish a writing journal. I get about halfway through one and then I have to store it somewhere safe for fear of losing it. I think my fear stems from the reality that my inspiration comes in waves. Sometimes my life is filled with songs, and then other times it is painfully empty and devoid of inspiration. During the empty times everything I write seems cliche and I tend to wonder if the good songs will ever come back. I tend to doubt my ability to write anything substantial. This is the ultimate ego-shrinker.

For The Classic Crime's first record, Albatross, we wrote fourteen songs and kept twelve. For our acoustic EP we wrote and kept seven songs. For our last full length, The Silver Cord, we wrote fifteen tracks and put all fifteen tracks on the record. For many bands and producers, the idea of showing up to record an album with such a limited amount of material is ludicrous, but thats just the way we do things.

When inspiration hit in January, I felt like we could do things differently. I was writing daily and coming up with some fresh and exciting ideas. I had visions of writing forty-plus songs, and then picking the best songs of that bunch to record for our next release. I rode the wave until it crashed, as it always does. 

Through March and April I think I've written a total of five songs, two of which are full on acoustic, and one of which I can't even get motivated to record a demo for. I find myself sitting in front of my MacBook, which is sitting in front of my Digi002 console, which is sitting between my studio monitors, and I'm surfing Craigslist or Facebook or Twitter doing God-knows-what-else-is-meaningless. All the audio hardware stays off, just like my brain.

With any luck this lull is just the "wave" sucking itself out back to sea to form another breaker. I was blessed with one albums-worth of material out of the last wave, all of which sounds very cohesive and different. If I could get four complete waves, all sounding somewhat different, I think we could have a very interesting record ahead of us.

I'm just standing on the beach, waiting for the next wave to break. 

Meanwhile I'll sift through a few songs that the other guys have come up with and see if we can't build a nice sand-castle out of them.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Conscience and Conviction

Conviction is the quality of showing what you believe to be right. Sometimes that means doing things you don't want to do. Generally speaking, when you do whatever you want, people get hurt. If you live a life without conviction, you will probably eventually be convicted in court. If you can't govern yourself, the law steps in and you eventually have face the penalty for your actions. It's true that some criminals are fortunate enough to escape conviction their entire lives, but depending on what you believe about the afterlife they might not be as fortunate on judgement day.

The truth is that every decent person has some level of conviction. Humanities greatest heros also had the deepest convictions (i.e. Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr), but everyone has some ruling or conscience or voice that tells them to do the right thing. Buddhists call it the wisdom of the "Buddha that lays dormant in every creature," Jews and Christians call it God, atheists very practically call it evolution or conditioning. Whatever the voice is, it's beyond our understanding. Right and wrong seem to be innate. They need not be taught. Very good people have come from very wicked situations and vice versa. There is no apparent rhythm to how conviction will influence people, it seems to be left up to the individual whether they will "do the right thing" or not. We are all naturally defiant, for many of us our first word was "no," but even at that age we know right from wrong. There's a pit in your stomach when you disobey your parents, but then there's the profound feeling you get when you do something unquestionably right.

Atheists would say that we, like animals, are conditioned to believe what is right and what is wrong. I think some conditioning is undeniable; culturally we differ from other humans, but at the core we all tend to follow the same laws which have nothing to do with culture. In no culture is it okay to steal from your family, rape your mother and kill your brother. Sure some people have done it, but even those people would tell you it's wrong. The reason I don't kill someone when I'm mad at them isn't because somebody told me it was wrong, it's because it makes me sick to think about it. It's because something feels terribly wrong about killing someone. 

This feeling has nothing to do with nature either. Your cute black lab could snap a chihuahuas neck and never think twice about it. He'd look up at you with the chihuahua at his feet, panting happily as if to say "Look what I brought you." Thats nature, there is no heart or logic. It often seems cruel and absurd, but only to us because we are cognizant, rational beings who have been ingrained with this innate sense of conviction. I've seen people cry when they watch a lion take down a gazelle on the Discovery Channel. That's perfectly normal in nature, a lion has got to eat. Do the vultures come down to mourn the gazelles carcass? Do they shed tears over the injustice? No, they tear it to pieces. Not another living creature cares. But something deep down our humanity cries out against bloodshed... it cries out against the ending of any life. We are at odds with nature in that way. We are at odds with nature in a lot of ways, which is why I tend to believe we are not merely an advanced byproduct of it.

Of course some people think killing animals is a fun sport, and some people think shedding the blood of people is fun too. I think we can all agree that there is something attractive about being bad. There is something enchanting about doing the wrong thing. It can get addicting. Even the greatest offenders would agree that unnecessary blood shed is wrong, however pleasing it is to them. The serial killers know, the poachers know... Whether or not they adhere to their conscience, they know what they do is instinctually wrong.

Some might want to pass this off as perception, that since I perceived the value of life at a young age I have been embedded with a desire to see things live. Maybe, but I believe desire is different than conviction. It's different than the feeling in your gut or the voice in your head. I believe that you will hear your parents and mentors in your head, but there is another voice, one that's been there all along and it's undeniable. It's a gut feeling, its a nagging thought. It's your conscience. It's the human ability to discern right from wrong. Christians believe that God is the ultimate discerner of right from wrong, and that humans were made in His image. The idea is that your conscience is a piece of God's image in you, the thing that makes you God-like and sacred, different from the rest of the animals. If you can't tell already, I like this explanation.

For a period in my life I ignored my conscience. I lived without conviction, and not only did I hurt myself I ended up hurting others. I think conviction is attractive to me because I am so naturally defiant. I really love being able to do whatever I want whenever I want. "Doing the right thing" never seems attractive to me at first glance. My conscience has to pick away at my heart to get me to do anything good. I love conviction, because it has changed my life. Every time I've responded to my conscience with action, something positive has happened. 

Living out what I believe has changed me for the better. The growing of conviction within me has grown my personality. It has grown me into a more goal-oriented responsible person, but it hasn't come natural to me. I still have to listen long and hard for my conscience to speak to me sometimes. It is fascinating, however, when it does and I am blessed by the end result.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Reacting With Maturity

Maturity is not so much about how you address a situation, but rather how you react to one. Is a mature person assertive? I would assume so, and I would expect them to be assertive when addressing a situation. But how a person reacts, especially to extreme situations, says a lot about who they are as a person.

In our society people are always trying to one up each other. When faced with an extreme opinion they counterbalance it with another extreme opinion, which leads to polarization, isolation, and a major disconnect between political and cultural groups.

For a few weeks there I couldn't turn on a media outlet without hearing about Rihanna getting beat up by her boyfriend Chris Brown. Talk about two spoiled individuals' sense of entitlement getting them into trouble; she does whatever she wants, he does whatever he wants, and inevitably things get ugly. She reacts immaturely, he reacts even more immaturely and much more cowardly, and everyone loses. Where are the cool headed celebrities? The mature ones? The ones like Bill Cosby who can laugh at the camera guy and crack jokes?

Sadly, maturity and class have gone completely unrewarded in our society... everyone wants to see grown people act like children. Everyone wants to witness a train wreck.

And how about the medias implications of that Rihanna vs. Chris Brown thing? After it happened I kept hearing that "it's never okay to hit a woman." I agree, but I also think its never okay to hit a man. Frankly, I don't think two people should hit each other. But what are we saying to our kids when we say, "it's never okay to hit a woman." Well, we're saying a few things. First, we're saying women are exempt from any physical consequences for their actions. Secondly, we're saying that men aren't. I agree, nobody should hit a woman, I think it takes a coward of a man to do so. A childish coward. I also think woman shouldn't have a license to around punching these childish cowards and provoking their insecurities. What a disaster that would be.

Everyone is just reacting. Every time something extreme happens, the opposite extreme seems to come out of the woodwork. Last year everyone hated Bush's capitalism, this year they hate Obama's socialism. We complain like children. We are weak and fickle. The majority of us have no examples of maturity to look up to. We have authority, we have leaders, but they are for the most part deeply narcissistic and immature at heart. So what are we left with, celebrities?

If you want to know what maturity is, read the Gospels of Jesus. Jesus' responses to the extreme accusations and entrapments of the "religious right" of the time were well thought out. He reacted with calmly stated pieces of wisdom. So much so, that many times his accusers went away with no rebuttal. He didn't escalate the fight. He didn't trade extreme for extreme. He reacted to their slander with logic, peaceful confidence and humility.

He reacted with maturity.

John 8: 3-11

he teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

"No one, sir," she said.

"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

May we learn to mimic some of that.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I apologize for the recent lull in activity on this blog. Life is funny that way; one moment you have all the time in the world to think and be creative, and the next you're distracted by mundane tasks that are tedious and time-consuming. Not that I have been doing anything spectacular lately, but in efforts to expand my life I fear I've spread myself a touch too thin.

The thing about being in a band our size is that it can at points consume my life. We have to make business decisions about publishing, touring, booking, management, merchandise, record label and our future. And then on the creative side there is practice, writing, jamming, vision, demoing and recording. On top of all of this we have to make efforts to maintain our social networking websites like Myspace, Facebook, YouTube, etc. One minute I'll be completely relaxed, and the next I'll be wrapped up in the mechanics of it all, promoting our merchandise store and working on other projects (which if you haven't heard, you can get 22% off of our online store through tomorrow by typing TCC22,

Lately our band has been floating. We think we're floating downstream, to somewhere, but it's definitely not a rise to the top of any chart. People aren't excited, people aren't blowing smoke... I actually appreciate it, for once we get an honest taste of reality. We've got all this down time, time to think and grow and refocus. Time to wonder.

I've started to think about what I want to be when I grow up. This band thing may or may not really work out. Believe it or not, but we haven't really 'made it' in any sense of the word. I wonder if we stay too long from the public eye will people still want to buy our next record? Will anyone care? Are we just like all those bands who flash and fizzle and have no legs to stand on?
I'd like to think our fans are life-long, but who knows, there are bands I loved when I was twenty that I never listen to now. People grow out of certain styles of music. I get this way between records... I get to thinking that our best music is behind us and that it's probably all down hill from here. But then we make a record we all deem better than our last... it always happens that way.

I'm taking on a few production projects, helping write songs for some friends and some side projects. I love it, but I've never been a guy that could do a ton of things at once and do them all well... or at least I'm hard enough on myself to expect excellence, which is impossible to accomplish if I am spread too thin. It'd be easier if one aspect of my life just took off and took my attention with it. Right now everything is just kind of scattered, hovering in limbo, not currently heading anywhere too quickly. I suppose I just have to keep stirring.

So those are my excuses for not updating this blog more frequently. I am glad that I have this blog to journal in. Thanks for reading.