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Sunday, May 21st, 2006 - 4:46 PM

"Google Bats a Thousand"

It seems Google can't miss. I am constantly astonished at the quality, imagination and range of software that comes out of their labs. Whoever thinks Google is just a search engine had better get with the program(s)! Look here too. I discovered yet another of their innovations a couple nights ago. I was attempting to write about this in my last blog entry, but got sidetracked on Microsoft explosions. Oops, not going to go there!

I have no doubt Google is cooking up a software application for every dreamable purpose - plus a few. They even have a 3D program! Wow! How did I miss that? Google SketchUp is a super lean, blast simple 3D modeling program. It is not an overly robust, feature packed application and serves a very limited purpose in its current free state. But, boy is it cool to play with just the same!

Google Sketchup experiment Here is a random structure I built in a few minutes using Google SketchUp.

In SketchUp, start out by drawing a rectangle on a plane and magically drag it up in the 3rd dimension. It is lightning fast, and incredibly intuitive. Just playing around, I made a weird piece of architecture. I have always enjoyed building things (used to make structures with blocks to no end), so this is a blast from the past, so to speak. I could fool around making abstract shapes for hours, simply because it fascinates me how easy it is.

Despite its coolness, I see virtually no purpose for the program. Infinite simple models can be produced and saved, but that is the end of the line. The projects cannot be exported to any 3D file format, so the models remain only in SketchUp with its severely limited (though refreshing) rendering and modeling features. The view window can be rendered to a bitmap, but there is no configuration involved. The resulting image is essentially a screenshot - no higher resolution than what is seen in the application.

I believe the 3D models found in Google Earth - mostly buildings - are created using SketchUp, one redeeming use. However, I have no intention on helping Google create a 3D map of the world right now, so I have little use for SketchUp. The Pro version of SketchUp offers more useful functionality, including common file 3D export, but I don't see any reason to buy it. In the end, SketchUp is just fun to play with, a pointless but fun toy.

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Sunday, May 21st, 2006 - 3:52 PM

"Rotating Technological Empires"

It seems more and more that Google is becoming the hip, new Microsoft. No, the goals, directions and tactics of the two companies are far from identical. Their commonality is found in their apparent quest to take over the technological world. The biggest difference I see is Google's fresh, intelligent angles, while Microsoft has developed a detached, careless approach. Detached not only from future-thinking technologies, but from lean well-coded software and from the demands and concerns of an increasingly technologically enlightened public. There seems to be a rest-secure and lazy cancer spreading through the giant company from the top down. Rather than improvements just for the sake of innovation and advancement, Microsoft hopes that most computer users won't know any better so they can sit back and enjoy supremacy. There's a fat, sleeping giant in our midst. So I guess that makes Google and Mozilla our heroes, Mickey and Donald, trying to find the golden harp in the sleeping Microsoft's pocket. I say go for it! If nothing else, perhaps it will wake the giant and cause some movement for good. Otherwise, let the giant be replaced by another for a spell. Google will eventually stagnate and be replaced by another, and so goes the cycles of the hi-tech world.

Ever since I learned of Microsoft's vastly careless treatment of the web arena, I am convinced they are stuck in the doldrums of success due to a lack of viable competition. Why improve or invent when there are no challengers? A severe shake-up is in order much to the thanks of threats like Google's incredibly endless queue of wide-ranging brainchildren. Not to mention Mozilla's Firefox blowing Microsoft's web browser out of the water. Please, see the light, people! Microsoft Internet Exploder is not a good product. It has dozens of unaddressed bugs in a number of categories, all affecting usability and all stifling progress, compliance and innovation worldwide (a good list). Some of these bugs have existed for several years without any attention! Oooh, don't get me started!

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Friday, May 19th, 2006 - 1:38 PM

"So Why Do I Juggle?"

I just received a comment from a curious visitor. Great! I love new comments. I was asked how long I have been juggling. That's an interesting question I haven't really thought much about... but I'll bore my readers with the long version of the answer.

It could be said that I have been juggling for over 10 years - though that is a bit deceptive and misleading. To clarify, I'll give a summary of my soccer background. I played soccer on a city league for 2 or 3 years when I was a youngster. It was a fun experience, and one of my best friends at the time was also on the team (his mom was the coach). Even way back then, I remember at least one lesson: Balance is key. I was shown that it is easier to maintain balance when focusing the eyes on a single point, rather than looking around. I might have attempted to juggle a soccer ball when I was a kid, but I'm sure I never got more than 8 or 10 hits.

In junior high and high school I played soccer on and off. I sprained my toe several times, so I was never able to take the sport very seriously. I also wasn't very good. I never made the varsity team at a very small school!

It was near the end of this season in life when I witnessed a "local soccer legend". Aaron Lewis was on the varsity team at our school and was nothing less than a soccer genius. He wasn't just good for our school, he was good good. He ended up doing some semi-pro and coaching later on. Anyway, one day I saw Aaron juggling. Several of the other players were gathered around him, cheering him on. He was going for his personal juggling record, I guess. To my recollection, he achieved something like 800 hits! I probably was getting about 20 or 30 hits at the time and this 800 seemed a physical impossibility. Nevertheless, I started practicing more regularly.

Looking back, I realize now that I started juggling because it is not competitive. It is simply a skill to hone, a focus enhancer. I am absolutely horrible at confrontation and competition, yet I am a perfectionist at most tasks involving my own abilities. This activity allowed me to avoid confrontation while developing a fun skill and hobby.

The next phase of my soccer life started at a church I attended for about my first 3 or 4 years after high school. It was my good friend's church. Each Wednesday there was a youth activity night in the church's game room. There were video games, pool, ping pong, foosball, volleyball, skaters, and more. It was intended as a ministry to the surrounding neighborhood, giving the kids a place to hang out without feeling the discomfort of a formal church environment. It was good. Oh man... such good memories. Anyway, occasionally I was able to round up a circle of people to juggle. My friend and I especially liked to juggle together. A couple times we even juggled in contained areas, like a cramped supply room. That really enhances the reflexes and balance, let me tell ya!

Near the second half of this time I moved out on my own, and juggling was one of the few exercises I enjoyed doing. I would regularly find a park nearby to juggle. This was really where my skill began to develop. Before I was just messing around. Now I made it a goal to start recording my numbers and improve my technique and control. I remember for the longest time a couple hundred hits was all I could ever do. Then, all-of-a-sudden, I gained more control, and I finally bested the unattainable 800.

I should also mention that there is a direct connection between my juggling skill and involvement with martial arts. In junior high and early high school I took karate. As I mentioned, balance is key to juggling. If you can't keep on your feet after throwing your legs up in the air continuously and while standing in contorted positions, you won't be able to juggle for long periods. I remember noticing that my ability to focus on one point (in this case, the soccer ball) also increased along with my martial arts practice. Even today I often equate my juggling with martial arts kicks and balance. Martial arts are unique in that they are more than just a physical activity. Purely practiced, they are more of a perspective, a way of living (Martial Arts in Everything). Flexibility and focus afforded by martial arts are amazingly beneficial for the sport of soccer. In fact, I think any athlete in any sport could greatly benefit by practicing something like martial arts or dance. It was certainly key in my development.

Another soccer landmark in my life was when my pastor asked the congregation, "Why not?". He was referring to a missions trip to Brazil he and former missionaries had arranged for the summer. "Why not go?". For some reason these words stuck with me, and I gravitated toward the idea of going even though I was fairly new to this church. As it turns out, I not only went on the missions trip and had a great time, but I met my then future wife, who is Brazilian. This was the most important phase of my life so far. I have been back to Brazil a couple times, and will never be far away from this soccer-fanatical culture!

After all that, it could said I have been juggling nearly all my life. But in reality, I have only given it specific attention in the last 6 years or so. Even during this last six years, there have been huge lapses (more than a year at a time) of no practice. I would say that someone could easily accelerate the ability to juggle if they set their mind to that end. An average person could probably gain the same skill that I have or better in a year if they focused on just that and practiced regularly. I didn't really set out to become a great soccer ball juggler. I don't consider myself an expert by any means. I just do it for fun, exercise, and coordination. In all these years, I have only found a few people who are interested in juggling. I would love to find more. It is always more fun to juggle together (Shoey So).

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Thursday, May 11th, 2006 - 10:16 AM

"Jugglisk V"

Last night was my best juggling session of the season so far. In fact, it was probably one of the best bouts I've ever had. I frequently get over 1000 hits, but it is not every day I come close to 2000. I'm not exactly sure the number of hits I achieved yesterday, but I'm pretty certain it was over 1700.

Fortunately I have started video-recording my jugglisk sessions. On May 4th, I got something like 957 hits - my best of the season until last night. I also recorded yesterday, so I can go back and count the number of hits from the video. I did take note of the length of the volley: 17 minutes. My record is 3085 hits, so I guess that would be about a half hour of jugglisk. That's kinda cool to know because I never timed myself on a long bout.

My digital camcorder's DV tapes only record one hour of video, so I guess if I start going crazy, and break my record significantly, I'd have to figure out a different way to record it. I realize that most people probably don't care about watching such a thing - especially all the way through. It's not that exciting. It's more of a fun thing for me to do since video production is a hobby of mine. Here is a link to Google Video, showing the full 17-minute jugglisk.

Backtrack to Jugglisk IV or skip forward to Jugglisk VI

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Wednesday, May 10th, 2006 - 6:08 PM

"Art Rage 2 and Natural Media Graphics"

Since I bought my Wacom graphics tablet, I have been considerably more interested in pressure sensitive applications. Every once in a while I happen upon a gem. Art Rage 2, by Ambient Design was one such discovery. I had been aware for quite a long time of the possibility of realistic natural art media simulation on the computer. I came across Fractal Design Painter several years ago, before it was bought out by Corel (now Corel Painter). I was astounded at the vast tool set and the concept of the then novel idea of brush variants (especially rotating/scaling nibs with movement).

I currently own Corel Painter Essentials, as it came with my Graphire 4 tablet. It is a fairly interesting program, but obviously it has a limited feature set compared to the full version. When I saw Art Rage 2, I was enthused, especially after seeing it in action on a very cool personal blog, Chad Essley's Tablet PC SketchBlog, where a talented blogger creates an original sketch every couple days. Oh, did I mention Art Rage is free?! By the way, all graphics programs should take a lesson from Ambient Design's ability to produce an ultra smooth interface. It is breathtaking to see how smooth everything is. You can rotate the canvas to any angle without changing the data (image pixels), and you can smoothly zoom in and out with incredible ease and immediate response. Very cool indeed! There is no other program that has this sort of functionality to my knowledge.

I don't have any profound technique or tutorial offerings at this point, but I did dabble with Art Rage 2.

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Tuesday, May 9th, 2006 - 10:14 PM

"Shoey So II"

Shoey So A junk animation I made in Flash and exported to .gif

Tuesdays have recently become regular hang-out opportunities with my friend Dave. We used to play video games on "my" X-Box, especially X-Men 2. When one of my controllers died, we switched to spending most of our time working on our respective web pages (Mine and His) and other various computer projects.

We also like to juggle a soccer ball together - passing it back and forth with our feet, not letting it hit the ground. In my blog, I had been using two terms related to this activity, "Jugglisk" and "Shoey So". These are fabricated words - a common habit of me and my friends. We decided tonight that Jugglisk refers to one person juggling a soccer ball, and Shoey So refers to group juggling (two or more people). So Dave and I did Shoey So tonight. Generally when I am interested in recording numbers, I count Jugglisk by individual hits (with feet, knees, head, etc.), and Shoey So is counted by the number of completed passes between participants. Dave and I got a measly 21 passes today. Our current record stands at 51.

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Tuesday, May 9th, 2006 - 8:57 PM

"Serif MoviePlus 5 Release"

Movie Plus 5 Serif released MoviePlus 5 this Monday.

I continue do my part to promote my currently favorite video editing application: Serif MoviePlus. By "favorite", I of course don't believe it to be the best for every purpose, but it is certainly one of the best if not top in its field. In my humble opinion, it even competes the with big name software in several key areas.

Yesterday Serif (Europe) Ltd released version 5 of its acclaimed video editing software, MoviePlus. I could have reported about it on the spot, since I'm on their mailing list, but I'm not that dedicated of a reporter! It's funny though, I did a search on Google and couldn't find any review or even mentioning of the release other than on Serif's site. Don't be deceived by Serif's lack of publicity - it doesn' translate into bad or weak products. I often compare Serif with Corel in the early years (good ole days), before Corel became the almost heartless giant they are today. I am an honest user with many detailed requirements and good taste derived from years of experience, trial and error. I conclude that most late version Serif products are extremely robust for the price. There are certainly quirks and shortcomings, but even the most expensive applications have quirks.

I haven't bought the upgrade to MoviePlus 5 yet. I'm hoping Serif will notice that I'm a big fan and possibly the only one in the world regularly mentioning their software and give me free stuff ;) Ha! In my dreams! Besides, no one can buy my loyalty. If their products are junk, I won't buy them or recommend them (ie. IE).

I wouldn't call the MoviePlus 5 upgrade the most significant enhancement in graphics software history, but it's significant enough to be worth buying. If I had extra, allocated cash, I would certainly purchase it immediately. Some of the improvements are adding convenience rather than new functionality, but every experienced designer knows that sometimes such changes are practically heavensent. For example, MoviePlus 4 ships with external 3rd party DVD writing software. In 5, DVD writing is built in... not bad.

Text, or titling is a new feature to MoviePlus 5. I think most users expect to be able to add titles to their flicks, so this is an important addition. I'm pretty excited about this enhancement, but it is not 100% necessary. MovieSerif supports infinite, yeah that's infinite video and sound layers! Because of this it is possible to create any type of complicated text layer(s) in a graphics program of choice and import it into a video layer. If the text object is placed on a common colored background, it can be isolated in MoviePlus by using a Chroma-key filter to rid yourself of the monotone background. Voila, instant fancy title layers! MoviePlus' keyframing functionality allows moving, stretching, distorting, bluring, and fading of these text layers (or any other layer). Oh, and of course each text image must be very high resolution to avoid pixelization when scaling them to large proportions. For a simple example of this technique see my Good Friday 2006 Project. All the text was created using this method - not perfect or a great demonstration of the infinite possibilities, but an example nonetheless. Having the text built in and editable will be extremely awesome and a definite time saver. It can be a nuisance to keep a folder of many high resolution text images and place them in the composition. I would still create image text layers when exacting text effects are needed (like this example which cannot be achieved using simple effects inside MoviePlus).

Other additions include Curves and Channel Mixer Effects (cool); Emboss (yawn); Glow, 3D Bump Map, 3D Lighting and Bevel Effects (all cool); Gradient Fills (not bad); and Quick Shapes (sweet!). New preset keyframing envelopes are a nice time saver as well.

Several more scene transitions have been added, most notably of the 3D persuasion. To tell the truth, I rarely make use of any more than 2 or 3 different transitions - ever. I think they are mostly cheesy/busy. Simple crossfades are usually the most attractive and not distracting. If a video's content is so boring that there needs to be 100 different transitions throughout to make it interesting, why bother editing the video? Most real video artists (I don't put myself in that category yet) would also find the new HD support exciting. Since I don't have HD source to work from (the cameras are too expensive still), I don't care much right now. The new Quicktime import and export will be nice for my web purposes.

I guess I'd say the text and quick shapes are among the greatest additions. Before, I'd have to make shapes, text and other "objects" in a graphics program. Having real vector, keyframed objects inside a video editing program is extremely significant!

I don't want to blah blah too much about this new release because I don't actually have it in hand. I can't say whether these new features mean anything or not, whether the new release is stable, and how it all comes together as a whole. If and when I get it, I'll reassess what I have said and add any new observations.

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Thursday, May 4th, 2006 - 4:01 PM

"Jugglisk Season Has Begun"

Makes me tired just looking at her! This particular juggling move is not possible; he must be a Tai Chi master in disguise. One of my juggling inspirations, Aaron Lewis, got 800 hits mostly using his knees. Mickey has also mastered the non-energy using miraculous technique

The last several days have brought pretty nice weather. Our new duplex has a great cement patio in the back, and it makes a perfect place to juggle my soccer ball. I'm not in the greatest shape, but I was pleased with my ability to keep the ball under control, especially in a somewhat confined area. No records were broken, but I was happy with my 632 hits.

Backtrack to Jugglisk III or skip forward to Jugglisk V

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Monday, May 1st, 2006 - 1:01 AM

"Good Friday 2006"

It is time to write about what happened in my life this Good Friday. I am realizing more and more that I am Forgetful Jones incarnate, and if I don't write things down, they will be forgotten to oblivion. Unfortunately many of my spiritual highlights happen late at night, and I am too tired to take the time to record my initial thoughts. Sometimes I say to myself or pray, "If it is important enough, or if I am to do something as the result of this experience, I will remember with the same passion in the morning." Sometimes I remember, sometimes it passes. I think I remember enough from the Good Friday service to write a report. It is a story of God's goodness, what Pastor would call "A God sighting".

About a week and a half before Good Friday, Pastor asked me to come up with some slides and accompanying music with an appropriate tone for the evening. It was to be used during a time of reflection. Being the forgetful person that I am, I ended up losing the memory of this task for several days until I reread the email request on the Wednesday prior to the service. At this point I had very little in mind and little time, so I tried to pull something together. Fortunately God was in on it, and He took advantage of my lack of time to prove that He can work in the most unlikely circumstances.

I decided on the spot to create a video composition using Serif Movie Plus. Since I had recently learned how to create particle effects using Blender, I also set out to create a light ray effect for use in the video.

Jesus at Gethsemane

My first task was to collect some images. This is always a struggle for me. I don't like using trite Christian art. I always see the same images every time I search on the internet. For me, once an image has been used once, it is enough. They lose their power and poignancy through repeated use. Not only that, but there is no continuity when random web images are keyed one after another. There is no unifying style or concept. Plus most of these images are copyrighted, and I don't like to exploit or belittle the work of other artists - a concern I understand well, being an artist myself. Ideally I would create several original images, but that would be an enormous undertaking, and I certainly didn't have time for that. Fortunately I came across a beautiful and poignant series of images by Gustave Dore (1832 - 1883). Gustave DoreThough the images were created well over 100 years ago and exhibit some of the austerity of neoclassic times, a close investigation of the images reveals what I deem a thoughtful reality and portrayal of emotion. The images are timeless. In four years, Dore created 250 magnificent plates to illustrate the Bible. I happened upon them on the internet and was immediately enraptured. The simple fact that there were enough images from Jesus' life to easily fill the length of a song was good enough for me. This finding ridded me of the dreaded gathering of discordant web images!

Before working with the Dore images, I set out to create the beaming light particle effect. This was the most time consuming step of the video production, but I think it was worthwhile - to give the images that extra little realism and gravity. Next I put the Christ images in order and considered thoughtful pans and zooms (movement) for each. I don't know exactly when it occurred, but I was impressed with the concept of hands almost from the beginning. If I was to give the project an unofficial title, it would be simply "Hands". As the result, I chose to emphasize what Jesus' hands were doing throughout His ministry. I tried to come up with a single word for each of Dore's images to represent Christ's actions on earth: to Teach, Reach, Bless, Heal, Restore, Fulfill, Unite, Submit and Endure. I found out later that this theme must have been inspiration.

Due to my keeping up with the Jones (Forgetful), I ended up staying up very late both Wednesday and Thursday nights in order to prepare for Good Friday. In fact, I think it pretty much came down to the wire, since I had to work Friday morning. If my computer would have crashed through the night while I was doing the final rendering of the video project file, I would have been dead in the water. Fortunately it didn't, and I was ready to go - all except for the fact that I hadn't chosen an accompanying song!

Now, you might think it would make more sense to have a song picked out first and to base the slides on the words of the music, possibly even synchronizing various movements, text and transitions with the lyrics. Perhaps you'd be right, but that's not at all what I did. Here's what my presentation ended up being: many slides evenly spaced apart, with transitions to the next every seven or eight seconds. There was absolutely no consideration to music whatsoever. This is where God came in to do His part ;)

Because of my ridiculously late night (late morning) finish, I didn't have any time to consider music other than to form a list of several possibilities from my personal song library. I tried to think of songs that related to Good Friday, like You Are My King, Above All, etc. Then, all of a sudden, the thought occurred to me to use a CD by our former Associate/College Pastor, Terry McGlasson. I remembered that the CD, Vestiges was full of rich music - all hymns - that had somewhat of a melancholy and contemplative tone (perhaps my favorite style). Unfortunately, however, I couldn't find my copy of his CD, so I was forced to simply keep the thought in mind. I called Pastor's wife and asked her if she could perhaps bring her copy to church for me to look at, and I threw in several of my other CDs containing possible tracks.

I arrived at church later than I had hoped due to traffic and other circumstances - such as burning a DVD and various different formats of video files in the case that my original movie didn't work (necessary precautions on an imperfect computer system) - only to be met by an occupied computer. There was a great deal of typing that needed to be entered for the service that I was not provided in advance, so one of our high school guys was filling in for that duty. Though this was a necessary chore, the crazy thing is that it was not completed until literally five minutes before the service started! So, while I had many things to prepare and a couple videos to cue and test, I pretty much had to wing it and prepare things in spare dead seconds throughout the service. In reality, it was an impending disaster, but God pulled His weight around, and the service worked almost without a hitch - I'm generally a perfectionist, so I noticed little glitches and delays here and there, but probably not anything most people noticed.

Interestingly enough, I was so stressed and caught up in the moment, that I pretty much skimmed the track titles of Terry's CD that Pastor's wife brought and chose one of them on a whim - without actually listening to the words. One word of one track was enough to help me make my decision... "Precious Lord, Take My Hand". By the way, I can't even begin to adequately recommend Terry McGlasson's CD, Vestiges. He didn't ask for PR, nor did he know of his song's involvement until I emailed him after the fact. We had a couple good back-and-forths about it, and he was pleased that his song was used in such a way. But if you want to be richly blessed, get ahold of his CD... I can make the connection for you, if you are interested in purchasing one. His voice and song choice are so rich and the arrangements so beautiful, I am certain you will enjoy it.

If that little song "coincidence" (I don't believe in luck - never have) wasn't enough, it was only the beginning. The cool thing about all that follows is that none of the lucky happenings were planned by me, so I can only assume God was at work. I prefer it that way. When attempting have a meaningful, tangible relationship with an invisible God, such things are virtually necessary every once in a while so I don't get depressed and think, "God, show yourself!", "Please, I miss you!", "I can't handle this distance", etc.

During my last-second panic mode, I took a glance at the track time on the CD and noticed that the song was approximately 20 seconds longer than my movie. This also influenced my choosing that song because most of the other songs I brought along were considerably longer, and I'd have to just cut them off. So I thought, "I'll just divide the 20 extra seconds by 2 and start my video 10 seconds into the song. That way there won't be a huge empty, non-visual gap at the beginning or end". So that's exactly what I did. I asked our sound tech to play the song, I randomly guessed about 10 seconds and started the video. To my surprise and absolute awe and astonishment, words in the music not only fit in with my video, but several times, exact words correlated with precision timing to scene changes. It was as if I had chosen the song first and synched the video with the music! I was amazed and speechless.

Pastor instructed me beforehand to play the video twice over, so I had the music started and chose a random second to start my video, and sure enough - the same synchronization! Freak-Wow Awesome, to say the least! Hey, and guess what, here's a little technical detail that I can't leave out... When I got home and determined to affix (embed) Terry's track to the video file - convinced it was meant for "something" - I had yet another surprise. It is good practice to leave a gap of time at the beginning of any video or animation project. The reason being, not all video programs allow you to select tons of sequenced clips across multiple layers and drag them out to a further time along the timeline. In other words, once you start a video production, it's not always easy to add content to the beginning (like blank black space or other clips) unless you leave an open space to work with. So I did. Just for curiosity sake, I thought, "I wonder...". And yes, that space I left at the beginning was exactly the same time I randomly cued our sound guy to put at the beginning of the video. So I put Terry's song at the very beginning of the video project, and all the timing worked out to magnificence. Don't even try to write that off as coincidence! You won't have me fooled!

I want to cite for my readers some of the examples of unplanned synchronization I noticed, without exaggeration or contriving weak or nonexistent matches:

  1. The opening harmonica notes match the entrance and focus of the first words, "He came".
  2. As Jesus is healing, restoring and reaching the rejected, sick and lame, the song goes, "I am tired, I am weak, I am worn", as if the downtrodden are a direct illustration.
  3. This and the following two were the kickers for me: the song says, "When the darkness appears" at the exact moment when the screen goes to black, morbid light surrounds, and the word "sin" fades in. WOW!
  4. The next slide cues and fits the next words, "The night draws near". The scene shows Jesus in his last moments on the cross. The sky is almost dark - almost night!
  5. The next slide coincides with the next phrase, "and the day is past". Here, once again, the day is gone from the landscape, and Jesus life has ebbed away.
  6. "and gone" - fades to Jesus dead body taken from the cross. Jesus Himself is gone. The light that came into this world has faded.
  7. Second to last slide shows Jesus body being carried away, and the camera zooms up on his hand while the song sings, "take my hand", and the very next fade goes to an image of nail-pierced hands, once again alive and with an offering gesture, as if we could grab them right then and now!
  8. Finally the song calls, "Lead me home" At this moment, Jesus' hands zoom in, and a fuzzy light appears, as if the hands are leading us, offering us the way to our real home, in God's presence.

I'm sorry, but if that's not something to get excited about, I don't know what is!? Most of the time I struggle to come up with anything overly meaningful, and I just sit in contemplation for a long time. Other times stuff just flows, and I don't even come up with an outline. It just bursts, non-stop, faster than I can create or record. And God uses these times to work amazing things. I have inklings of the thought, "Hmmm... feels like something is happening", but don't really see why I feel that way until it all comes together. Such was the case with "Hands", a short Good Friday presentation for reflection and sharing with all. I am pleased to offer, with the artists' permission, an unrevised web version of the video here for the purpose of spreading the blessing I have received this Easter season. If you are equally blessed, or have your own story to share, please leave your comments. I'd love to hear your own "God sightings", even if you think it is too quaint or insignificant to share. God sometimes speaks in a whisper instead of a storm, you know. I think we need to train our senses to be in tune with His work around us. If you know someone who needs some encouragement or glimmer of hope, and think this video might be a blessing to them, pass it along. Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed. Now THAT means something for us today! Hope. God bless.

Hands - a Good Friday Presentation
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