Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Alarm of War

My bowells, my bowells!
I am pained at my very heart
My heart maketh a noise in me
I cannot hold my peace
because thou hast heard
O my soul
the sound of the trumpet
the alarm of war.
-Jeremiah 4:19

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Blood Meridian

Or the Evening Redness in the West

Once in a great while I’ll finish a book that wrings my mind to the point of sleeplessness. It hasn’t happened, I confess, for some time, but last night I finished Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, and couldn’t rest for a half hour. Then I woke up at 4:45 A.M. thinking about it and couldn’t get back to sleep again until 5:30. The Judge will haunt me, I’m afraid, for as long as I live. We seem to be a race both obsessed with and plagued by violence, and the Judge drives this idea home with more force than any other character in any other medium I’ve ever known. I’ve never read the like with respect to intensity of prose, the snappy vernacular dialogue, certainly the violence, and, perhaps most of all, the taut philosophical veins that pulse through the novel. It was like looking through some ghastly peephole into the human condition, and being afraid, truly afraid, at what I saw. I don’t know if I should be, and I certainly don't want to be.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Least of These...

I was walking out of Smith’s on my way home, because I had to get some batteries. This was the same day that thunderstorm snuck in and soaked everything downtown. The air smelled fresh and was contrasted by broken tree branches and fallen leaves littering the parking lot. I hadn’t walked ten steps from the door when I heard to my right someone yelling, “Hey man!” I kept walking ‘cause I didn’t know he was talking to me, but sure enough he was and I stopped after the next hey man.
“Hey man, can I get ride man?”
“A ride?”
“Yeah, just a ride man. My car broke down and I just need a hitch to my place, man, it ain’t far.”

There was no hiding on my face the fact that I didn’t want to give the dude a ride. He was a pretty rough looking character, to put it nicely, but then I also noticed he was drenched from the rainstorm.
“How far?”
“Not far, 1800 South, West Temple.”
I vascilated.
“Come on man! My car got a flat and I just need a ride to my place so I can get a spare.”
“Alright, let’s do it. Come jump in.”
“Finally! Good hell!” says he as we walk to my car. “I’ve been asking people in this parking lot for twenty minutes, and no one will give me a second look even. I was gonna talk to you and one more person, then I was gonna throw my hands up and to-hell-with-it and walk. What’s wrong with people in Utah these days? It used to be that people would help people man!”
As we pulled out of the parking lot I said something dumb like I was in hurry for something and that is why I wasn’t sure if I had time to give the ride. Some bologna excuse that probably came across as fake as it was. As we drove to his house he asked about Idaho, my home state, and whether people there still helped people. I said I thought so but wasn’t sure.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I had a birthday over the weekend--the big two eight. Kindof made me feel old, but not as depressed as last year. A few days ago I recieved a great email from Colby Stead, a "steadfast" friend. I wanted to post it here, just to prove the tender nature of friends who surround me:

You have created a life, but this is a day to celebrate yours. Les, there isn't anyway I can match the elegance and grace of the Birthday Wish that you wrote for me. To some small degree it seems that I need a song structure or a rhyming scheme to emotionally express myself. Well, this is far from a song and or a poem, this is nothing more than an acknowledgment.

1. The act of admitting or owning to something.
- There are many things that I need to admit and or own up to, both in my life and in our friendship. For instance, the debacle with David. That was something that I think about often. Les, I am sorry that you (and yourreputation) was dragged into that situation. I never wanted and or meant for that to happen.

2. Recognition of another's existence, validity, authority, or right.
- So many things about you deserve recognition. Your music, your humor, your writing, your insight... I could go on & on. And as for your existence? Two nights ago I walked into the dining room and heard Makenzie singing (and watching) the video of you and Christy on the website. "I love this song Colby" is what she said. Your existence is very important to me and all of those that love (and that are entertained & enlightened by) you.

3. An answer or response in return for something done.
- Of all the things you have done for me Les, one major thing stands out. Your acceptance. Your acceptance of me and our friendship is something I will be forever grateful for. I have had many friendships come and go with time; not able to withstand the tests of it. We are very different in
many ways, but somehow someway we continue to find common ground. Constantly you compromise to meet me more than in the middle. Your willingness and your patience is something that I am continually amazed & touched by.

4. An expression of thanks or a token of appreciation.
- As stated above, I didn't want to make you a video, or write you a song; I just wanted to honestly express and acknowledge our friendship (and your birthday)!

5. A formal declaration made to authoritative witnesses to ensure legal validity.
- ....Ughhh? Does a friendship NEED legal validation? Continually you validate me and my music. Again, that is something that I am so grateful for. I appreciate your mind so much, so anytime that mine creates something that you admire, I am humbled. Songs on i-pod lists, a link to The Rifleman, a request in your living room, all of these things do not go unnoticed. You help validate me in many ways, wether you know it or not. Have a wonderful day Les. I hope that it is full of lead-free laughter, care-free chocolate, insecurity-free singing, and last but not least... Acknowledgment.

With Love

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

iPod Squad Part 10, 9:00+

Nine minutes? A song this long had better be good, or I'm checking out. Some of these are better than others, that is for sure. Meatloaf takes me back to high school and this song is completely grandiose. I love it. High school also reminds me of Tori Amos. Haven't listened to her since really, but I the first time I saw her play I couldn't look away. This Islands track is pretty good (except the first 5 minutes are white noise). This Destroyer song is amazing, and so is most of his latest album. Phish. I can say I saw them play in on New Years Eve 2000 in the Florida Everglades along with friends Kevin Holgate and Faren Eddins. A trip to remember. They played this, of course. Van Morrison is so, so, so much more than the "Brown Eyed Girl" guy. Astral Weeks is an album everyone should have. Stevie Wonder is a living legend. It is hard to overstate his contribution to the musical world. What a voice! He is still making relevant and challenging music today. This song is the title track from his latest.

This concludes the iPod Squad series. I know the lists have been pretty indie-heavy, but I'm really not all that bohemian. I like what I think sounds good and readily admit that I can get into Garth Brooks and Michael Jackson as much as I can The Starlight Mints and Sparrow House.

1. Destroyer - Rubies
2. Gillian Welch - I Dream A Highway
3. Meatloaf - Bat Out Of Hell
4. Ryan Adams - Nobody Girl
5. Islands - Untitled
6. David Gray - Say Hello, Wave Goodbye
7. Tori Amos - Yes, Anastasia
8. Broken Social Scene - It's All Gonna Break
9. Sufjan Stevens - Oh God, Where Are You Now?
10. Bruce Springsteen - Jungleland
11. Van Morrison - Madame George
12. Phish - Run Like An Antelope
13. Natalie Merchant - When They Ring The Golden Bells
14. The Polyphonic Spree - Section 19 (When The Fool Becomes A King)
15. Stevie Wonder - A Time To Love (feat. India Arie)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

iPod Squad Part 9, 8:00-8:59

When I was a freshman in high-school I was an aspiring drummer, and I would spend my afternoons laying on my bed, eyes closed, and Stairway to Heaven playing on my boom box. With drumsticks in hand, I would try and imitate every percieved move by John Bonham's immaculate playing. It is amazing how great of a drummer you can be in those closed door moments. Needless to say it didn't really translate when I ended up sitting down at the actual kit. Zeppelin is, of course, a landmark group and a pretty necessary phase for most kids in high-school. So much hype surrounds Neutral Milk Hotel's album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Rightfully so, in my opinion. It is a pretty amazing peice of work, and this selection is great, although not my favorite from the record. My friend Steven Gertsch, a fantastic cellist in his own right, introduced me to Bach's Cello Suites by Yo-Yo Ma. They get played at my house as much as anything else does. Thanks Steven! I didn't have time to upload all of the songs on this playlist, but I hit a couple (but not all) of the really cool ones.

1. Led Zeppelin - Stairway To Heaven
2. Neil Young - Like a Hurricane
3. Neutral Milk Hotel - Oh, Comely
4. Matthew Good Band - While We Were Hunting Rabbits
5. Stevie Wonder - Superman
6. Built to Spill - Broken Chairs
7. Grandaddy - He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot
8. Okkervil River - So Come Back, I Am Waiting
9. Yo Yo Ma - Bach's Cello Suite #6 in D, Allemande
10. Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds - Jimi Thing (live)
11. Bob Dylan - Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
12. The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again
13. T.V. On The Radio - Wash the Day
14. My Morning Jacket - Dondante
15. LCD Soundsystem - Beat Connection

Friday, August 04, 2006

iPod Squad Part 8, 7:00-7:59

Now these songs are getting kind of lengthy. This Mason Jennings song is a wonderful specimen of storytelling--the modus operandi fifty years ago, but something of a rarity in pop music these days. I love this Wilco tune. "I've got reservations about so many things, but not about you." Low proves that Mormon's can make cool music. This Lauryn Hill song is pretty intense. Although I don't agree with the theology framed in the song, I agree with the premise, which I see as this: Humanity will not be able to transend its current quagmire of folly, greed, and pride until we practice a brand of behavior/religion/faith that stops worshipping the self and instead surrender our wills in favor of charity and love. It is my opinion that the fall of Adam and Eve is an entirely misunderstood event, there was no sexual sin there, and if anything Eve was acting nobley, as a woman of vision, and should be praised rather than condemned. That felt like a rant. Moving on. John Cussack's charcter on "High Fidelity" says, "Now, the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do's and don'ts. First of all you're using someone else's poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing." I've include two Decemberists songs, which is generally a no-no on mixes, but in the interest of "delicacy" I think we're okay.

Lastly, I'll tell you about this Built to Spill tune. Before Christy and I were dating, and we were merely aquaintances overflowing with hormones (and trying desperately to impress each other) we lived at the same apartment complex in Provo. She was known to come over to my place during the day to hang out or use my computer. One day I was at my keyboard and had this song BLARING on the stereo. She knocked on my door, which was half open, but I couldn't hear, so she poked her head in and saw me completely jamming flambouyantly to an air guitar solo (about the 3 min. mark). By the time I eventually turned around and saw her laughing at me, I was at a loss to explain my behavior. This went beyond wasting an opportunity to impress, this was shame. Luckily I caught her doing something similar a few weeks later, so we could move on embarressed of ourselves together.

1. Built to Spill - Virginia Reel Around The Fountain
2. The Decemberists - I Was Meant For The Stage
3. Wilco - Reservations
4. Death Cab For Cutie - Transatlanticism
5. Mason Jennings - Rebecca Deville
6. The Beatles - Hey Jude
7. Low - Broadway (So Many People)
8. Beck - Ramshackle
9. Bob Marley - No Woman No Cry
10. Wolf Parade - Dinner Bells
11. The Decemberists - The Gymnast, High Above The Ground
12. Crosby, Stills, and Nash - Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
13. Lauryn Hill - Adam Lives In Theory
14. Ben Harper - Two Hands Of A Prayer
15. Paul Weller - Shadow Of The Sun

Thursday, August 03, 2006

iPod Squad Part 7, 6:00-6:59

This Sufjan track is definately one of my all time favorite songs. When it switches from the 5/4 time signature in part 1 to 4/4 in part 2 is sheer greatness. I love the imagery of Carl Sandburg visiting him in a dream asking him the crucial question, "Are you writing from the heart?" That has become a mantra of mine. I saw Nick Urata, the heart and soul of DeVotchka, open a set for Mason Jennings in Denver a few years ago. I was mesmerized by that loud, soaring voice. I discovered this song while watching the trailer to "Everything is Illuminated" (a film that redeems Frodo Baggins way more than any trip to Mount Doom could). Rufus Wainwright's "Go or Go Ahead" is one of the best songs on this list, download it now! What a great voice. I included this Greg Brown song because of this line, "I will go fishing--get with the flow. I know a river out in Idaho where I'll catch a big trout and let him go. And I'll be happy." Danielson is a weird dude, and this is a weird song, so if you're into weirdness this may be a good day for you. Christy dislikes Joanna Newsome, and its been said that she sounds like Lisa Simpson, but I think she's brilliant and unique. So many good tunes here. This may just be the greatest....mix....ever.

1. Sufjan Stevens - Come On! Feel the Illinoise!
2. DeVotchka - How it Ends
3. Rufus Wainwright - Go or Go Ahead
4. Pedro the Lion - Secret of the Easy Yolk
5. Joanna Newsome - Sadie
6. Greg Brown - Just By Myself (live)
7. Sarah Harmer - Dandelions In Bullet Holes
8. Billy Joel - New York State of Mind
9. The Wrens - 13 Months in 6 Minutes
10. Radiohead - Paranoid Android
11. Alison Krauss & Union Station - Oh, Atlanta (live)
12. Danielson - Kids Pushing Kids
13. Tracy Chapman - Smoke and Ashes
14. Denison Witmer - You Got Me Good
15. Tom Waits - Tom Traubert's Blues

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

iPod Squad Part 6, 5:00-5:59

When I can convince Christy to sing along to my guitar playing it's always to Patty Griffin's music. I get the chills when she does "Nobody's Crying," so that had to make this list. The first time I heard Joni Mitchell's music I was at a record store and I randomly put in her album Blue at a listening station. It is the one time that I've actually sat and listened to an entire album start to finish in the record store. This selection reminds me of Emma Thompson's character in the film "Love Actually." Band of Horses has released one of the very finest albums of the year, and so has The Figurines (a Danish group of indie kids). Sometimes I think that if I could have a singing voice I would make it similar to Richard Hawley's. He's got that deep crooner's tone, which really suits his style well. I'm pretty low on the hip hop, as you can tell, but I really appreciate what Blackalicious does. My friend James Crowley introduced me to German band The Notwist and they are fairly good. And Otis Redding. Wow. This is a guy we could have used around for a much longer time.

1. The Arcade Fire - Wake Up
2. Rosie Thomas - Wedding Day
3. Electric Light Orchestra - Mr. Blue Sky
4. Blackalicious - World of Vibrations
5. Joni Mitchell - Both Sides Now
6. Band of Horses - The Funeral
7. Bonnie Raitt - I Can't Make You Love Me
8. Damien Jurado - Tonight I Will Retire
9. Patty Griffin - Nobody's Crying
10. The Notwist - Consequence
11. Otis Redding - Try A Little Tenderness (live)
12. The Black Crowes - Descender
13. Richard Hawley - The Only Road
14. David Bowie - A Space Oddity
15. The Figurines - Rivalry

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

iPod Squad Part 5, 4:00-4:59

We've now broken the four minute mark! I love the end of this Andrew Bird tune, when he describes what I see as some end-of-days utopia. There will be snacks! Some may think I'm strange but I think Willie Nelson has one of the greatest voices of all time. His control is amazing, and this selection does it justice. Colby introduced me to Josh Rouse and Bonnie "Prince" Billy. "I See A Darkness" is a crushing song whose power I really didn't see until I heard the Johnny Cash cover. Take these lines for instance, "I hope that someday, buddy, we'll have peace in our lives, together or apart, alone or with our wives, then we can stop our whoring, and pull the smiles inside, and light it up forever and never go to sleep. My best unbeaten brother, this isn't all I see." Lucinda is a superb songwriter, and the Jayhawks have never received the artistic recognition they deserve. The Shins' James Mercer is one of the best pop lyricists out there in my opinion...get this, "Mercy's eyes are blue and when she places them in front of you, nothing holds a roman candle to the solemn warmth you feel. There's no measuring of it as nothing else is love." Beat that!

1. Andrew Bird - Tables and Chairs
2. Sufjan Stevens - Romulus
3. Haley Bonar - Am I Allowed
4. Willie Nelson - Angel Flying Too Close To the Ground
5. The Shins - Saint Simon
6. Bloc Party - Like Eating Glass
7. The Flaming Lips - Fight Test
8. Belle and Sebastian - The Boy Done Wrong Again
9. The Jayhawks - Trouble
10. Lucinda Williams - He Never Got Enough Love
11. Josh Rouse - Laughter
12. The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
13. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - I See A Darkness
14. Iron & Wine - Sodom, South Georgia
15. Of Montreal - The Party's Crashing Me