Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Best Albums of 2007

I should just call it what it is -- a list of my favorite albums that I actually made time to listen to in their entirety. I wish I had the time and energy to listen to all of the great music that is released each year, but it seems I am limited to truly digest about 50 to 60 albums each year, so I'm listing my favorite 20. If there is an album about which you would like to talk that isn't listed here please mention it. Though there are many critically well-received records that I really didn't like (Of Montreal, Panda Bear, the National), and there are many I simply didn't get to. I would love to get your recommendations.

20. Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
This one was a slow grower on me this year, along with several other albums that didn't quite make this list. It is a multi-personality album - somehow managing to seem Greek, Balkan, Southwest, French, and Broadway. Headed by the young and talented Zach Condon, who has a Morrissey-esque crooner vibe, breathes life into instruments that don't spend nearly enough time in the studio (accordion & glockenspiel).

19. Patty Griffin - Children Running Through
Christy & I love, love, love Patty Griffin. She was born to bless us with her voice. Several of her records are absolute gold from start to finish. The problem as a listener lies when you expect to be emotionally taken to those same places by each succeeding record. While this was a fine record, it really didn't touch me like those first ones did. But Patty is still the singer and songwriter doing things that most of us only wish we could do.

18. The Tough Alliance - A New Chance
There is something in the water up in Sweden. Consistently great music just keeps coming from our Scandinavian friends. In my secluded corner of Idaho I grew up listening to 80's hair bands, which is what my environment seemed to require. It wasn't until much later in life that I realized there was a lot of electronic/pop music produced in that decade. I missed out on a lot. The Tough Alliance is giving me a new chance though, by taking up building blocks left behind in those, let's face it, strange years and molding them into something fresh. Try out "Something Special."

17. Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
Perhaps not the best reviewed album this year and its easy to see why, because clearly Connor Oberst has all of the potential to create absolute masterpieces. He is polarizing for me. Half of this album I listened to a lot this year, and the other half I skipped the track almost every time. "Lime Tree", "Classic Cars," and "Four Winds" are all amazing songs.

16. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
You've gotta love "Underdog," the first single and poppiest, juciest track from the album. If you bought the record wanting ten songs like that you would have been disappointed. But Spoon is consistent in its instantly recognizable brand of indie rock. "Don't Make Me a Target" and "Finer Feelings" are great tunes, and although for me they have still yet to rise to the level of amazingness that they had on "Kill the Moonlight," I enjoyed this release.

15. Low - Drums and Guns
I wouldn't consider myself a huge Low fan, but almost everything I've heard or read from Alan Sparhawk has really impressed me. While I don't think his Mormon faith defines his music, it is wonderful to see members of the LDS faith approach the art that lives within them with the unapologetic commitment that he has. Drums & Guns is both light & heavy hearted. One song is a smiling head bopper, referencing the Stones & the Beatles burying the hatchet. The next he's singing about how willing Christians tend to be in offering themselves as murderers for the cause.

14. Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
Not nearly as rocking as last year's "Everything All The Time", which I loved too, but still nice in its own way. This is a band that makes good use of repetition, classic song structure, and rock hooks. Ben Bridwell's voice carries it all beautifully. I can understand how this might be a little too flannel shirt and belt buckle for some, but I've worn too many flannel shirts and belt buckles in my day to not like this album.

13. Okkervil River - The Stage Names
The thing that I had to overcome in my initial encounter with Okkervil River was Will Sheff's voice (which is beautiful to me now). It may have been something about his pronunciation or intonation or some other -ation, but I thought he was a punk rocker trying to sing nice acoustic songs. I realized my mistake before long. Despite the simple sounding chord progressions and simple sounding melodies, there is actually quite brainy, complicated stuff going on here. He is a spinner of lyrics that constantly make me smile.

12. Luke Temple - Snowbeast
How strange do you like your music? You Bjork and Deerhoof lovers are raising your hands, the rest of you are still thinking. I grow so tired of indie weirdness sometimes that I just have to crank some Kenny Chesney to clear my head. But Luke Temple, strange as he is, balances that line between odd and delightful in a way that suits me just right. His voice was a little too androgynous for me at first, but it has grown on me. I really think this album is fantastic and he is an artist you'll be hearing great things from in years to come.

11. Elliott Smith - New Moon
Enough will never be said about the late great Elliott Smith. For me he is a touchstone and clearly one of the greatest songwriters of the last quarter century. New Moon contains two CDs of what was essentially B-side material that never made it off the cutting room floor as well as a few covers and alternate versions. But the truth is Elliott's B-material is better than most people's best. In "New Disaster" he sings, "Ghost of your smile is always looking for new bodies to haunt and it's been here, it is up here...gradually gone it's pleasing and freezing." We wish for Elliott's smile back, if for nothing else because we want to believe he's wearing one, to believe he's found peace.

10. Menomena - Friend and Foe
This album provided one of my most listened to tracks this year. I've consistently thrown on "Muscle'n Flo" whenever I wanted to get pumped on my way into the office for a grueling day at the keyboard. "Oh in the evening I stumble my way towards another daily struggle. It's dark out. Its time that I pick up my hustle." Truthfully there are several parts of this album that are take it or leave it for me, but the highs are so high ("Wet and Rusting", "Rotten Hell" etc.) that they will carry the weight of the album through the end of the year and beyond.

9. The New Pornographers - Challengers
The ones who really shine on this album are Dan Bejar and Neko Case. A.C.'s the leader, and his tracks are pretty good, but his stuff doesn't seem to have the punch that TNP's previous releases have had. I listen to this and partly long for the guitar crunch of Twin Cinema, but "The Spirit of Giving" and "Myriad Harbor" are terrific, as are "Go Places" and "Challengers". Ultimately it was refreshing to hear a slightly softer album from the group.

8. Colby Stead - No
Colby's music has always been a brutally honest rendering of emotional realism. He is unapologetically confrontational in that he is always willing to address any aspect of the human condition, whether it be a car crash deterioration of a family ("Malice & Mud"), or the mental/physical gaps that we perpetuate within our culture ("Segregation"). His voice continues to grow. Among the record's strongest moments are "Invisible" "Malice & Mud" and "Motherly Love."

7. Essie Jain - We Made This Ourselves
Essie has a voice that belongs to a different era, and thus doesn't seem a natural denizen of the current pop landscape. It is confessional and raw and beautiful. It's like listening to some incarnation of Joni Mitchell singing the poetry of Sylvia Plath. On the very first line on the record she sings, "I'll rise up from the waters where I've drowned. You will know me, you will see. Your face will light up from the glory that is found. I am listening. You are hearing me." It isn't a petition, it is a statement. And if you listen you can hear a slow moving art full of heartache and misery weaved gracefully alongside hope and resolution.

6. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Winn Butler has an awesome voice that is perfect for their bombastic songs. "Keep the Car Running" channels Bruce Springsteen, which seems to be the popular thing nowadays, except they seem to be the only ones who are good enough to actually perform their song with the Boss himself. There are some fantastic tracks on this album. Funeral was still better by a good ways in my opinion, but that doesn't discount great songs like "The Well and the Lighthouse", "No Cars Go", "Intervention", and the title track. My only problem with Arcade Fire is that I would like them to be epic without trying so hard to be epic.

5. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
Nothing really surprising on this Andrew Bird release. It is a pretty natural evolution from 2005's The Mysterious Production of Eggs (which was a better album). Andrew Bird is amazing at crafting beautiful an unique pop songs. He looks a bit like a bird, actually, and when you combine that with the gorgeous whistle and the pluckety-pluck of his violin it is clear he is functioning on some aviary wavelength unknown to the rest of us ground-dwellers.

4. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
"Sleeping Lessons" is one of my favorite songs of the year. I'm a sucker for the old slow-start-building-into-fist-pumping-chorus formula. Most of this album is great, and a few songs are not, otherwise this would have been higher. There seems to be a bit less innovation in their songwriting and delivery than we saw in their previous two releases, but the fact remains: this is a stellar album.

3. John Vanderslice -- Emerald City

I really liked 2005's Pixel Revolt, but Emerald City surpasses it by a good stretch. The album seems to be the post 9/11 experience of the individual, rather than an overarching commentary on the politics of the Bush administration. The narrator in "The Parade" is carrying around in a vial steel dust from Tower Two. He proclaims over and over, "Not sure what really happened on that day." Most of us aren't either, and it's easy to empathize with the music here. Vanderslice's solid, pared down songwriting is almost perfect.

2. Radiohead -- In Rainbows
If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that I would have a Radiohead album towards the top of my year end list I would have said you were dreaming. That is how much of a surprise this release was to me. I love it. From track two through the end of the album it is glorious. For me it is a return to melody and structure. It isn't afraid to be a pop album. I don't know how the financial experiment coupled with the album's release fared, but the music itself fulfilled all its promises.

1. Feist - The Reminder
Leslie Feist was everywhere this year. The iPod Nano commercial seemed to propel her from “emerging artist” in the eyes of the general populace to ubiquitous blue sequined beauty. I think it is precisely her ever presence that merits her this spot on the list. The Reminder may go a long way in burying so many of the worthless radio darlings and manufactured hits, and in turn elevating the public conscious back to the songwriter (they should be in the public conscious, shouldn't they?). She is so talented and a born performer. Fellas, that makes two years in a row that a beautiful estrogen filled female has topped my list. What do you say for yourselves?

click the links below for:
Best Albums of 2006
Best Albums of 2005

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Too Little Too Late

Admit it. We all love a good cover now and then. Especially an unexpected one. I love pop music, and I love indie music. When I find a good mix of the two it is like biting into a delicious Reeses Peanut Butter Cup.

This is how I felt when poking around on the internets today and discovering Daniel Rossen's (of Grizzly Bear fame) cover of Jo-Jo's (of teenie bopper radio fame) "Too Little Too Late".

Listen to Jo-Jo's first. If you can.

Listen to Daniel Rossen second.

I suppose this is why indie music won't be dying anytime soon. Check out the fun story behind the cover on Grizzly Bear's blog. Also there is a cool alternate version of a Feist tune and a very hipster best albums of the year list.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Grizzly Years

My dad was the son of a sheepherder, which made him a sheepherder by default until he went to college. He spent his summers in the mountains of south eastern Idaho, and life revolved around the next opportunity to shoot his gun. With sheep being the trade and lifeblood of the family it was necessary to ward off predators, the largest of which were bears. I don't think my dad ever shot a bear dead, but he, his brother, and my grandfather poisoned plenty of them (over twenty if my memory serves). In all those years growing up they killed only one grizzly bear, and he was massive.

Our photo slides are replete with him posing next to dead bears, or actually posing the bears themselves like awkward fly swarmed mannequins in human positions. One photo, we title "the Laughing Bear" shows a dead bear sitting with his back against a large tree trunk looking very relaxed and wearing a large goofy grin on its face. He cradles a rifle in his paws and perched obediently next to him is the old sheepdog.

Now the thought of shooting animals for sport (or food for that matter) holds no appeal to him. At some point that switch turned off. He hasn't killed game in decades. And that's the way it goes.

My friend Nick, uber outdoorsman and literary mind, gave me a book for my birthday called Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness by Doug Peacock. The book is a mix of war story, alienated humanity, and conservationism. I know very little about "the American wilderness", or the ecological and environmental issues that so many hold dear. But I'd like to think I can appreciate what would make it such a passionate cause for some. Peacock was a friend of Ed Abbey and for over 20 years his life revolved around the Grizzly Bear. After coming back from Vietnam a wrecked and empty person he developed an almost codependent symbiosis with the Grizzly bears of Yellowstone & Glacier National Park, among others. It is a detailed account only a fanatic journalist with an all consuming passion could write. For Peacock, the passion for Grizzlies is truly a love that comes out in the detailed description of his encounters. Naturally so, for his relationship with them saved him to a large degree from the horrors of Vietnam.

I couldn't relate to much of the book though I absolutely loved it in parts (particularly his war stories). Peacock quotes Luther Standing Bear of the Ogalala Sioux, who said "Only to the white man was nature a wilderness and only to him was the land infested with wild animals and savage people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery." This is true. We look around us and see the unusual, the foreign, the unknown and we flee or try to change it to fit our notions, rather than trying to look at things with fresh eyes. For Peacock it came through his experiences with bears. For someone else it may come through a bassoon or a rifle or a surfboard or a garden. But we should all be looking for the Great Mystery, and willingly acknowledge its manifestation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hit it Rockapella!

By my calculations, my Sufjan post counts have been a bit low lately, so I'll remedy that. When visiting the Asthmatic Kitty website today I discovered that Indie Blockedappella, voice only cover artists, have created a cappella versions of songs from each of the artists on the label. See the background behind the recordings here.

You can't deny that a lot of work went into these, and though I really doubt I'll be putting them on my iPod, it was fun to see what strangely ambitious individuals can do with a microphone and plenty of time on their hands. My favorites are:

In other indie a cappella news, check out what looks to be some young & dapper choir boys doing a rendition of Grizzly Bear's "Knife"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Are We Not All Beggars?

Last week, I was walking over to the grocery store near my office and was approached by a beggar, late 30's or early 40's, who asked if I could buy him some food. I said "of course" and we promptly walked over to Wendy's, where he ordered a Biggie sized chicken sandwich combo to go. He smelled like a bucket of urine, poor guy, and he had a story ready to go when I asked about his hard times. Who am I to judge its validity? I was really trying not to in my head, and failing miserably because it sounded like a bit of a stretcher. Either way I wished him well and tried to be encouraging.

As I was walking out of Wendy's, I hadn't gone a hundred yards around the corner before being approached by another homeless man who asked what I was reading. I had been walking with an open book--Gilead (the latest book team selection, and a beautiful reread for me). We talked the basics of literature for a moment before he turned the conversation to God, the LDS faith, substance abuse, etc. This man liked to talk and though very quirky, a pleasant enough man to be around.

I always find myself in that situation wanting to speak to that person as a 17 year old kid, and talk of hopes, aspirations, and dreams. I am so eaten with curiosity over the chain of events that has led them to that moment. As I didn't have any cash on me to satisfy his petition, we said our goodbyes and he stopped me, turning around and said, "You are you, and I am me. But we are the same person, you know?"

I suppose there is some truth in that.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Radiohead: In Rainbows

A two-part post...

The Experiment: Radiohead, the band commonly considered to be the greatest to ever grace the sweet grass of planet earth (according to most music junkies I know anyways), made a landmark move today within the music business. They decided to take their new record and release it themselves (since they are free of label contracts) and make it available for download via their website only, and allow you to pay as much or a little as you want for it. Free? Sure, if you want to. I doubt they're the first band to come up with this idea, but they're the first on their level of popularity and artistry to do it. I heard on the radio this morning that their last few records sold upwards of 200K copies during the first week. Who knows how this record will fare in comparison without the push of a major label, but I must admit that the marketing appeals to me deeply, and is a demonstration of real faith in their fans, some of whom may pay 50 dollars but many of whom will take it for free I'd imagine. I love it. I hope that the band decides to release the sales revenue data, because this is an experiment that could really change how music is bought and sold for big artists at the end of their contracts.

The Music: A few of you who know my taste in music know that Radiohead completely lost me after OK Computer. That was a great album, without a doubt, certainly one of that decade's finest, but I was left to just raise my eyebrows and mutter, "I just don't get it" during all of the Kid A and Amnesiac hoopla. I still follow what they do with mild curiosity, but am not one of their devout disciples who feels they can do no wrong. So when I downloaded In Rainbows today (for 2.5 pounds = $6.00 USD including debit card fee) I wasn't sure what I was in for. Maybe I'm just having a good day, but I've listened to it twice, and I actually really like the album. Some songs I would even say I love (Nude, Reckoner, House of Cards). Sheesh. What's a proud indifferent-to-Radiohead guy to do? There's a track or two I don't care for (Bodysnatchers), and I still wish I could tell what Thom was singing, but other that this is an extremely strong record.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Playlist IV: Octoburn

1. Peter and the Wolf - The Highway: This is from one of my favorite albums of 2006. I think I may have a weakness for songs about roads.

2. Johnny Cash - I See a Darkness: Cash's rendition of this Bonnie "Prince" Billy masterpeice is better than the original. Probably the greatest "buddy" song ever written. "...and light it up forever, and never go to sleep. My best unbeaten brother, this isn't all I see."

3. Beach House - Apple Orchard: Lots of indie praise for this one. Minimal and beautiful. I nice way to slip into our Fall clothing.

4. Randy Newman - Sail Away: From Newman's album of the same name, which becomes more relevent as time goes by. Gus likes to bop his head to Randy's music.

5. Jens Lekman - At the Dept. of Forgotten Songs: What is really going on up there in Sweden, can anybody tell me? All these crazy amazing musicians coming down from the north. Ya' suspect.

6. Ron Sexsmith - These Days: Love him. I bought "Blue Boy" the day it came out not knowing anything about him, just because I loved the cover art and saw it was produced by Steve Earle. I heard NPR describe him as the musician all other musicians admire, but who no one wants to be (due to lack of comercial success).

7. Low - Breaker: I wasn't coverted to Low until this year when I saw Alan Sparhawk's Take Away Show. He is the real deal.

8. Jaymay - What Happened: Not John Mayer, btw. I came across her about 5 years ago I think. Still haven't heard much from her, but her stuff is nice.

9. Elvis Perkins - While You Were Sleeping: I'm gonna be mad if this was inspired by the movie. His album Ash Wednesday has been a real slow grower on me this year. This is one of the better tracks.

10. Patty Griffin - Moon River: Petite redhead with sharp features and a voice that breaks the earth. She is capable of anything. Love this cover.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The War

On Sunday PBS began airing the new Ken Burns documentary entitled "The War". It is a fourteen hour epic that looks at World War II through the experiences of townspeople in four different U.S. cities. Christy and I have been fascinated at the experiences of these soldiers and citizens and it has been humbling to see the love, community, and humanity stacked alongside the violence, death, and inhumanity. I'm not a student of the war, so I've learned a lot through this birds eye view presentation. The Bataan Death March, The Battle of Guadalcanal, and the sacrifices at home by Rosie the Riveter to produce the equipment necessary to win the war.

Go to PBS.org to see read more about the documentary. Go to NPR.org to hear Ken Burns talk about the making of the film.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Believing and Following

I'm a bit of a late-comer to these two absolutely incredible books by Stephen E. Robinson. I'm genuinely surprised at how consistently amazing Robinson is at condensing a gospel principle into understandable terms. Though unfortunately and consistently, "the good news" seems to be misunderstood and misapplied by people around the world who should know better (me included). These books have really helped me look at mankind's spiritual journey with fresh eyes (or to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, to look along the beam of light rather than looking at it.)

Believing Christ is particularly great at showing how there is hope for the imperfect individual within the gospel covenant, and how Christ's grace functions to save mankind. Our best efforts (whatever that may mean depending on the individual), coupled with the atonement of Christ will make us whole in God's kingdom. I love the many illustrations and analogies he draws that helped me grasp the concepts in the book, particularly the weight room analogy (because it is easy to get caught up in feelings of embarrassment or inadequacy when you are unable to lift the barbell that last time, but it is so important to realize that the real strength is gained when we are working at the limits of our abilities).

Following Christ aided me in understanding that principle based living helps us continue in the good news after having entered into our covenant relationship with Christ. If only all Christians within and without the LDS faith (certainly me included) would invest more energy into what Robinson calls the Prime Directive. Quoting Paul,

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I
am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the
gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though
I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I
am nothing...Charity never faileth...And now abideth faith, hope and
charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." (1 Cor. 13)

That is amazing to really think about. Even if I pay all my tithing, and go to the temple every week, and serve in three church callings, and have 2 Doctorate degrees, and understand the scriptures forwards and back, and have faith to do about anything...if I'm not filled with love towards God and my neighbors (difficult ones included) I am nothing. Robinson says "the heart and soul of the gospel is love, and all the rest is commentary."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

White Noise

Don DeLillo is considered one of the greatest living American authors. I'd read portions of his work in college and I thought it about time to properly tackle one of his novels. White Noise was published in 1985 and won the National Book Award. The main character, Jack Gladney, teaches "Hitler Studies" at a midwestern arts college, but is shamed by his dirty little secret - that he can't speak German. There is plenty of satire in this book, especially on educational institutions. There are three main themes that I was able to see, death, technology, and belief vs. unbelief.

The term "white noise" is applied in the book to these concepts and you see them dominating the thoughts of the Gladney parents. "The deepest regret is death," says Jack, "The only thing to face is death. This is all I think about. There is only one issue here. I want to live." An advisor says to him, "You could put your faith in technology. It got you here, it can get you out. This is the whole point of technology. It creates an appetite for immortality on the one hand. It threatens universal extinction on the other. Technology is lust removed from nature."

This is a masterfully thought out work. The plot is amazing, and despite the heavy themes it is actually quite amusing. Like most great books it asks more great questions than it answers. Since finishing it I've thought a lot about the fear of death and how it not only effects me as an individual, but as a nation at war in a world at war. I've though about my beleif system and why I beleive it is beautiful and real and necessary and not just an illusion pretended for the sake of those around me. I like to think about these things.

Wet & Rusting

I didn't think I would ever use the word "cute" to describe a Menomena performance, but this Take Away Show changed that.

Monday, September 10, 2007

King of Kong

On its opening weekend we decided to go and check out what we thought might be a fun and quirky documentary called "King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters." It turned out to be the most enjoyable movie-going experience I've had this year (although granted, we don't see a lot of movies). The trailer is okay, but doesn't really do the movie justice. I was prepared to be amused, but I wasn't prepared for the bizzare personas, the drama, the conspiracy, and the humanity that we saw. This is a true good guy versus bad guy story that my wife and I talked about many times in the days following. Go see this film. What is on the line? World Records. Kill screens. The livelihood of a family. Gaming history. Your own chumpatization.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Playlist III: September Eleven

1. Andrew Bird - Don't Be Scared: This is from the Weather Systems album. I love the way the song builds with the harmony and the line "Don't be scared, don't believe that you're alone." That is a good reason not to be afraid, I think.

2. Coconut Records - West Coast: This is very Weezeresque stuff. Fun and poppy. Jason Schwartzman is an interesting guy to follow just because of his movie roles alone, but I'm impressed by his record.

3. The Decemberists - I Was Meant For the Stage: I've always envied people who seemed to know from a very early age their callings in life. I've never been that way. This song is about bravery as much as anything.

4. Okkervil River - Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe: I've noticed that my life hasn't often played out like a movie. But sometimes it does, so I can appreciate the "maybe" on the end of the song title.

5. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Raining in Darling: "And I will make mistakes alright, 'cause the body asks so much." Story of all our lives, right? I'm a fan of this album. He can use words like "rerendered" in songs.

6. Bright Eyes - Classic Cars: I don't know anything about cars, much less classic cars. But I can appreciate a song about finding faith, or the search for life's meaning. Love the line, "I made a new cast, of the death mask, thats gonna cover my face." People can change!

7. Denison Witmer - Stations: Finding Dension years ago felt like a gift. He is a real songwriter. His "Safe Away" album is absolute gold. One I return to time and time again.

8. The New Pornographers - Challengers: This one features Neko (whose tracks are the best on the album). Isn't this a pretty example of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus?

9. Hayden - Trees Lounge: Two Canadians back to back. I was introduced to Hayden by my maple-leafed-loving brother in law. Steve Buscemi wrote and directed the movie by the same name, and this song was written specifically for it.

10. Pavement - Stereo: This album (Brighten the Corners) is top ten of the 90's for me. No one's lyrics are quite like Malkmus's, "A redder shade of neck on a whiter shade of trash" (Shady Lane). Or from this song, "And what about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy? (I know him and he does)" Geddy Lee is the singer of Rush. Good stuff.

11. Neutral Milk Hotel - Two Headed Boy: This one is an absolute masterpiece and probably in my top ten songs of all time. How do you write a song? This is how you write a song. Of course there are other ways too, but they just aren't as good.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

1, 2, 3, 4

Feist's 2007 album "The Reminder" is still, in my opinion, one of the best releases of the year, and here is a YouTube clip of her performing "1,2,3,4" on David Letterman, supported by an infectious chorus comprised of A.C. Newman, members of the Broken Social Scene, Mates of State, and the National.

Oh, Canada.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Data Freak

I've had my iPod for 603 days and the stats say that I've listened, on average, to 1 hour and 19 minutes per day.

Total Minutes Listened: 47,816.39
Total Plays: 12,652
Songs on my iPod: 7,542
Songs never listened to: 3,139 (that's kinda sad)
Number of songs with double digit listens: 206
Song with the Most Listens: Sufjan Stevens: Come on Feel the Illinoise (43)

The numbers are a bit skewed because it doesn't count as a play if you listen to 90% of a song and then skip to the next one.

A lot of the songs that I haven't listened to are really great, but for whatever reason don't get a lot of playing time. Artists like Cat Stevens, Gillian Welch, Led Zeppelin, Beck, etc. You really get an idea for what you gravitate to most. There's no hiding what I've liked most over the past two years. For example Yo Yo Ma gets more P.T. than Wilco. Who knew?

Maybe this is kind of creepy, but I wish I had stats like this for my entire life. That way I would know how many times I've listened to AC/DC's "Back in Black" or Bryan Adams sing "(Everything I Do) I Do it For You".

Monday, August 20, 2007

All The Nonsense of Suffering

Before Sufjan Stevens hit the big time with his music career he was a lowly student getting his Masters of Fine Art in Creative Writing from the prestigious New School. Just as his musical compositions are unique, his fiction is voiced by off beat narrators, like Bethany Peters (who is dreadfully specific about what she will and won't tell you) and an unnamed Oboist (who dearly needs someone to be more specific than bad).

I love these two short stories and hope they bring a smile and a little joy to you.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Birthday Discount

My Dad turns 65 today. Isn't that the magic number that gets you into buffets for discounted rates? I gave him a birthday post a few years ago, but its time to reiterate (in a few short reasons) why he is the GOAT (greatest of all time).

When I was 14 my Dad took me to Cedar Point. Just me and him. We waited for well over an hour to get on each ride. The Demon Drop, Mean Streak, the Magnum, and on and on. Looking around at everyone else in line it became obvious no one else was as nearly as old as he. I'm positive he was turning green by mid day but he grinded it out like a champ and smiled the whole time.

When I was young and obsessed with the sport of wrestling, my Dad would dedicate all sorts of Saturdays to drive hour upon hour to little league freestyle tournaments all around the state, sometimes to only watch me wrestle a few minutes, sometimes for an all day affair. He never required more of me than what I wasn't already willing to give.

Dad took me on several trips across the country to participate in the National Matches of Highpower Rifle Shooting. We saw fabulous lightening storms, the ghettos of Chicago, endless corn fields, and no insides of a hotel. Although I must have been an absolute dead beat traveling companion, and of no utility when our timing belt went out, he was happy with me.

In my latter high-school years I helped Dad in the construction of an impressive addition to the family house. I didn't really know which end of a hammer was which, but he taught me what he knew. Without this experience I wouldn't have had the courage to tackle my own home remodeling project that took three solid months out of the early part of this year. Dad made the 4 hour drive down from Idaho week after week to lend his "expertise" to the job.

In my younger, more vulnerable, days I dabbled in shoplifting just long enough to get caught. I sat at the police station all day convinced I was going to hell and would be forever alienated by my family. When my mom finally came to pick me up we took the long and silent ride home. Upon arrival I was compelled to confess my misdeeds to my dad. I expected anger, lecture, and punishment (all of which would have been justified). What I got instead was a smile, a story, and a hug. The love and understanding he showed me turned out to be, for me, the defining moment in my feelings towards my dad.

I've learned more about what it means to be a good human being from watching my father than from anything else in life. I dislike watching him age more than I dislike aging myself, only because he needs to be around to help me give my children what he has so lovingly given me.

Dad, this is your senior citizen birthday. I can't get you anything that will put a bigger smile on your face than the one you'll have from many years of discounts that are now coming your way.

Much Love,


Friday, August 10, 2007

James E. Faust

President James E. Faust passed away today. He was a man of God. He was an inspirational and inspired leader. He was good.

In his last talk in General Conference he gave a message on forgiveness. Fitting words to leave us with:

All of us suffer some injuries from experiences that seem to have no rhyme or reason. We cannot understand or explain them. We may never know why some things happen in this life. The reason for some of our suffering is known only to the Lord. But because it happens, it must be endured...We need to recognize and acknowledge angry feelings. It will take humility to do this, but if we will get on our knees and ask Heavenly Father for a feeling of forgiveness, He will help us. The Lord requires us “to forgive all men” for our own good because “hatred retards spiritual growth.” Only as we rid ourselves of hatred and bitterness can the Lord put comfort into our hearts.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Deep Heart's Core

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
-William Butler Yeats

I saw my cousin Danny the other day and he tells me this story. You won’t believe it cause I didn’t either and told him so, but he held up three fingers and said, “Hell yeah believe it, Scouts honor!” so that was that. He and two buddies, Dingo and Fish, are in the Sawtooth’s on vacation. Well, not vacation really, just out hiking like madmen for the hell of it he says. He doesn’t even like hiking, but those two are real hoots, so why not? Well for two days they go up and down the hills for about a thousand miles until they come to a lake where they decide to pit stop. Danny is soaking his feet while Dingo and Fish are peeing in a squirrel hole, just farting around, that sort of thing, right? Beautiful place, really, and smack dab in the middle of nowhere. We’re talking off the maps.
They haven’t been stopped ten minutes when a weedy figure comes out of the woods limping like he’s been batted in the knee. Just a hobbling. He’s a lanky bugger with a jagged beard, and not just cause he loves facial hair neither. He might not have seen a bathroom in a year. The beard and the limp make him look like an old man, but up close they can see that he aint. Well the guy makes a bee line for them and pipes in with an awful accent none of ‘em can place and says “What do you make of this heat boys?” No kidding. Just like he was one of them. Not ‘Hello’, not ‘What you fellas doing way up here’, just “What do you make of this heat boys?”
So Dingo says, “I make that the sun aint made of cheese, old timer.” I got a crack out of that. I know old Dingo and he’s a class A smart ass, so it’s just like him to call some dude “old timer.”
The guy says, “Son you should be a weatherman.” and then just smiles and shines a row of about fifty white teeth through his greasy beard. He was creepier than a spider, my cousin says.
The guy pulls out a dirty plastic container and scoops a drink of lake water, moving quite gracefully for a gimp, if you can imagine such a thing. Then he plunks down on a rock and asks if they’d spare him a bite to eat. Danny gives him half a sandwich and of course Fish, the last great Christian, gives him their only candy bar. The stranger gabbles as all their bodies rest in the sun, and the guy’s a real stretcher. I mean one after another. He’s had a million ladies, the ole bum Don Juan. And he’s worked a hundred jobs in a hundred countries, he says, though his working days are done. You name the war, I bet this guy says he was front and center. So what’s he doing up here, they ask, and he says he abandoned the public life for more human planes. He starts sounding like a real wacko.
So Dingo, graceful as always, says, “What the hell happened to your leg?”
The guy turns his leg to them. “The little brother sliced my knee in half with a cattle prick” he says, like it’s the most normal thing in the world. His pant leg was black and stitched up, all zig-zaggy like the neck of Frankenstein.
“Was it an accident?”
“He cut you on purpose?”
“Why would he do a thing like that?”
“Well, son, I reckon I made him mad.”
“You never said your name,” said Fish.
“I know it,” he said.
Old Dingo was silent a few seconds. Studying the leg. “You’d have to be more than mad to cut up your own brother.”
“You’re lucid, son.”
“You ever make peace with him?” says Fish.
“In a manner of speaking,” he says. “I killed him dead as winter.”
They all get stone quiet. Of course what do you say?
Then he starts whistling.
Danny said you knew at that moment the dude was a few screws shy. And it’d be one thing if it was your rolling down the road with the top down whistling. But it wasn’t. Instead it was a trilling, vibrato whistle that shot through the air and echoed off the lake and the trees, like he’d swallowed a flock of songbirds gone berserk. And the notes he was whistling wasn’t any notes they’d heard before, and Fish said that listening to him felt like bowing to a false God. That’s a churchy way of putting it, but neither could think of any other description.

You can imagine what’s going through their heads now. They’re sitting at some unidentified lake that’s off the charts and run plumb into a murderer who whistles like some inhuman flute. Unlucky bastards, but stranger things have happened right? My cousin has his shoes on by this time and Dingo, who’s usually a solid cucumber, starts to get all fidgety.
“So what are you doing up in these parts?” Dingo says.
“I live here.”
“Nobody lives here.”
“You must not be counting me. In fact this is my lake, and these are my trees, and the dirt you’re standing on is my patio.”
Well Fish being Fish takes mild offense to that and says, “This lake aint nobody’s lake but God’s.”
The man rises off the rock and shuffles a few steps closer and grins his pearlies again. “You’re wrong fish. I know God and he’s an owner of very little that isn’t a stolen heart pumping stolen blood.”
Fish’s eyes sink a bit, because to this point they aint said his name, so they’re wondering whether the stranger knew him somehow or not. It could have been an honest enough coincidence, but something seemed off.
“You been following us?” Dingo says.
The stranger chuckles, “Why do you ask?”
“If you don’t mind me sayin’, you don’t add up.”
“I might say the same about you three.”
“Yeah, how’s that?”
“Take it for what it’s worth. Take it from a man whose home is the woods you’re in. Take it from an old grizzly with a bum leg. Take it from someone who sees nothing but three scared and lost sheep.”
One thing is that old Dingo is a hothead, you know? Couldn’t keep his temper with a leash and a lock. So he stands and says “You know what I think mister? I think you aint never killed anybody. I think its time you turned around and took tail before I knock it off. I’ve kicked plenty of healthy ass and I aint afraid to kick cripple ass neither.”
The stranger just chuckles again. He’s still standing awkwardly over Fish when slick as silk his arm flashes and in a blink he’s holding a shiny black hand scythe right under Fish’s Adam’s apple.
“You might want to rethink that.” he says.
All was quiet, Danny said, even in the trees, like nature itself was taken aback. The lake spread out behind them clear as a sheet of mirror glass reflecting perfect blue and white. Fish doesn’t have a clue what happened, just that the sharp blade on his neck doesn’t feel so hot. As they’re all stunned at the quickness of those oily hands, the man lays into Fish’s ribs sending him off his own rock and onto his knees,
At this point Dingo is just as scared as he is angry and says, “Look mister, I don’t know what kind of kicks you’re getting, but we’re not looking for anything. We’re just minding our own business.”
“That is an impossible task son,” he says, that full toothed grin still cracking his beard. “You’re not capable of minding a thing. Owning a thing, yes. Taking a thing and putting it to work, yes. But minding something? Come on. Don’t patronize me with your mysticism.” At this nobody says anything. Dingo & Danny are shaking a bit, and Fish just kneels there with his eyes fixated and unblinking on his friends.
“My home is peaceful isn’t it? A man is lucky to have such possessions. I wake up in the morning and my birds sing to me. I wade in the lake and my fish swim about me. Lording as it was meant to be, wouldn’t you say?”
The guy goes on like that, blathering like a certified looney, you know? Danny admits he was a few steps beyond afraid. He’s got numb legs and sweaty hands and the beginnings of an upset stomach. I guess old Dingo hears about as much as he can stand and says, “Okay mister. You’ve made your point. We’re splits, okay. You’ll never see us again.”
“Son, what makes you think I’m letting you go? You know the law against trespassers?”
“Yes, I believe we do.”
“And what kind of a lord would I be to just ignore that?”
“A merciful one, I reckon.”
Just then Fish, if you can believe it, blade at his throat, pipes up and says, “To hell with all that talk Dingo. Don’t listen to this blowhard.”
The stranger looks down at Fish with the eyes of Cain and gives him another knee, and Fish looses his breath and straightens again, as composed as Mozart himself. It’s the nuttiest thing, Danny says, but he almost looks content.
“Look man,” said Dingo, “There’s three of us one of you. You think you’re fast enough to gut us all before we jump you?”
“It’s never a matter of thinking” he said, face straight as ruler. Then with a greasy flutter of the hand he spins the blade like an acrobat and sends the tip delicately in and out of the bottom of Fish’s neck, then back to the its parking spot under the Adam’s apple. Fish winces, and a purple gout of blood lets down onto his shirt collar.
Danny gets real embarrassed about this part too, but I’ll tell it anyways ‘cause I don’t blame the guy. He starts crying. It aint like him, I’ll be the first to say. Hell, I been with him when he dumped head first off his motor bike into gravel with no helmet and he didn’t so much as peep. And I seen his step-dad sock him in the eye twice when we was maybe eight or nine and even then he only cussed. He told me out loud, and he aint proud of it, but he starts to cry.
Dingo sits stock still drilling holes into this nut job with his eyes. The guy is still standing behind Fish, who’s kneeling on the ground, his collar getting redder by the second.
“Now’s when you plead for you life son,” he says.
Fish was silent. He only looked up and shook his head. Danny says he admires Fish as much for that gesture as just about anything.
“Go on. Take a page out of your buddy’s book. I don’t even need tears, just a little recognition.”
Fish’s eyes were clear, but he was silent as a mime with broke hands. He’s is a real rock anyways. The stranger couldn’t have got a word out of him with a chainsaw. That’s when the dude tells both Dingo and Danny to turn around and kneel down too. Of course Dingo tells him to go to hell.
“Unless I underestimate your skills” he says, “you’re going have a difficult time sewing your friend together. Just turn around and kneel.”
Danny was trying his best to regain himself and asks, “Why are you doing this? We aint nothing to you.”
“Do I need a reason?” the stranger says. “The earth is full and more of good fortune and bad. Often times one person’s bad is another’s good. The ebb and flow of life.”
They were all silent.
“Danny?” he said.
Danny was just looking at him. Helpless as a newborn.
“There is no why, and that is the best reason of all.”
“Who are you?” Dingo says.
“Turn around and don’t look back.”
“Who are you?”
“One more word and I de-neck this here fish.”
Danny gets down on his knees and turns around, and Dingo reluctantly follows. Behind them a few feet is Fish, cool as an ice cube, the blade still at his throat. That’s when they heard it again, that insane whistle, bouncing off the lake and filtering through the pines and leaves. Danny says it was driving him batty and that he couldn’t hardly keep his eyes in one spot, if that aint the craziest idea. Dingo is at his side and starts to shrug his shoulders and cup his ears, but the notes keep coming, vibrating like the stranger’s lips are wrapped around their brains. All they felt like doing, Danny said, was laying down into the dust on their bellies. Hell, I’ve never heard of such a thing, but word for word, that’s what he told me.
Dingo yells back, “You okay there Fish?” but he doesn’t hear anything except that whistle.
Now this goes on for who knows how long. Maybe one of those moments people talk about that seem like an hour, but never are. Then they hear something else. Fish, being Fish, starts to sing. Only God knows why, and it isn’t just any old song as you might imagine, but a hymn. Mark my words, he’s no singer, but his voice is coming out of that white outstretched throat like nobody’s you’ve ever heard. Danny said it’s like someone had stomped on the bellows of some profound fire in his chest. No one knew if it was a real song or if it was being made new as it came out, but it was a hymn alright, in holiest sense and it grew louder. The two noises scrape together in the mountain air while Dingo and Danny are bent over in exhaustion looking at the dirt. It isn’t long and moments later the song stops.
It’s a fuzz, Danny says. He doesn’t even know what happened. One second Fish is an untimely pee shiver away from a new air hole, and the next he is standing right next to them helping Dingo to his feet. Maybe Fish don’t know what happened either. To hear him tell it he just suddenly feels no blade on his neck. No more, no less. Who knows, but when Danny looks sideways they’re hollering run, which they do. They ran and ran, like deer with the trotskies, and still rising above the trees is the sound of the stranger’s slipshod whistle jerking at their ears. They hightail it to the edge of the clearing, Fish yelling all the time to keep going and to not look back. Their lungs catch fire in their chests, and their hearts beat like the kitchen made drum kits of youth, and above the beat still chasing them down paths of fallen trees is the lunatic noise. It’s ringing in the air and all about them the whole time it takes them to get back, which was about three hours. Not long considering. None of them said a word until they got to their truck. Either they was running or they was sucking air, but they sure as hell weren’t chatting.
You know me. No reason to blow smoke up anybody. Danny told me that although Fish was yelling to not look back when they were there in the clearing, he did. Fear and curiosity, right? Well you know what he saw? Nothing. Not a man, not a blade, not a ripple in the water. Nothing. He glanced back every minute or so at first, his skin just crawling at the sound, but never saw a thing. I don’t know what he expected, the guy was gimp. Danny ain’t a liar. He just aint. And I asked him if they’d been drinking, but he swears they was stone sober. But he also told me that when they got back to their outfit they still heard the whistle, and it didn’t go away until they got off the mountain.
The mind is a crazy gizmo. Way beyond what I’ll ever understand, so who’s to say what’s possible and what aint. But I don’t believe they just made it up. I know there’s some real nutso stuff out there. Ignore it as much as you can, I always say. But some things you can’t. What’s a man to make of it? You just have to build a new place in your brain to put it, I guess.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I Need a Biggie

Daytrotter, the coolest music site on the planet, has been dabbling in a relatively new feature they call Bookery. This is where artist types read passages from some of their favorite books or stories. The most recent two bookeries have been really good, particularly John Vanderslice reading from Letters to Wendy's by Joe Wenderoth.

Listen to it here. I especially liked the letter from Sept. 20th. If you do not laugh at that, your funny bone is broken.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Playlist II: A Dollop of August

Patrick Wolf - The Marriage: He's got that late 80's British crooner thing down. I don't know much about him, but supposedly his most recent album "The Magic Position" is good.

Jennifer O'Connor - Today: Her latest was released via Matador. Acoustic goodness.

The Tough Alliance - Silly Crimes: I also don't know much about this group, but I dig this song.

Cat Power - I Found A Reason: What more can be said about the beautiful Chan Marshall? This is from her covers album.

Marissa Nadler - Dying Breed: She has a great album out and covers Radiohead on the tenth anniversary tribute for OK Computer.

Rachel Cantu - Your Hips Are Bad: I don't even know how I stumbled across this little ditty, but it's nice.

Dolorean - You Can't Win: The entire song's lyrics are in the pessimistic title. Be patient with this one and turn up the headphones. It will deliver when its all said and done.

Aimee Mann - Wise Up: Love, love, love Aimee Mann. I sometimes think of a distraught Jerry Macguire when I hear this one. It was a mission statement!

John Vanderslice - Kookaburra: This from John's fantastic new album Emerald City. He is very politically aware so be prepared for post 9/11 allusion.

Lucinda Williams - Which Will: This is the infamous Nick Drake cover. So Good.

Voxtrot - Soft & Warm: Yo quiero Voxtrot. "You are so young, so feel alive!"

Jose Gonzalez - Down the Line: I wish I could have found a non-live version of this, but I'm really excited for Jose's new album to come out this fall.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Relay Ridge

On our last day of the Idaho trip we drove out to Relay Ridge, between Rexburg and Driggs, looking down on the Teton Basin. The drive was a little tiresome with a screaming child (1.5 hours one way), but I got to see a view I'd never seen before.

(Click on the photos to see full versions)
Gus & Me

Christy + Gus Eating a Starburst

The Family

Gus with Cousins Keith & Michael

Tetons and the Basin

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cave Falls

We spent the last week in Idaho for a Blake Family reunion. Here are some photos of us up at Cave Falls, it is about 25 miles northeast of Ashton, just along the border of West Yellowstone. It is the widest of all the falls located in the park, and just one of many in the area formed due to fault lines and lava ledges.

Mesa Falls is also nearby and is a must-see if you are in the area.

Gus & the Falls

Beautiful Christy

The Family

Tristan (niece) wades the river

Gus & me perched on a rock

Gus cools his boots

The Gus always looks concerned

The Family

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Heart It Races

The folks over at La Blogotheque are consitently amazing with their output of unique live music. This one is Architecture in Helsinki playing somewhere in Paris, having organized an impromptu choir through the help of MySpace (which is good for nothing other than gathering impromptu choirs). Looks terrifically boring.

If Not a Country, then What?

During the course of the last year I've devoured six Cormac McCarthy novels...and it seems he is all I ever talk about on the blog. He is a master, without question. Earlier this year I created this post about the book that the Coen Brothers have now adapted into film. My friend Nick didn't like this book as much as I did (and granted it isn't one of McCarthy's masterpieces--yes, he has more than one) but it is a story that is perfectly adaptable to the Coen's film noir. The bad guy in this story is played by Javier Bardem, who also did the Sea Inside, and critics are raving about his performance in the film. And Tommy Lee Jones? You can't go wrong with him, unless you're making a really bad Batman film.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

To The Artists

"The artist must be a prophet, not in the sense that he foretells things to come, but that he tells the audience, at the risk of their displeasure, the secrets of their own hearts." -Saul Bellow

Thank you to the artists: You who stroke peace with the brush. You who kill millions with a leap or the unfolding of a dĂ©veloppĂ©. Thank you. You who with stout lungs and sweaty fingers wring out the voices of brassy instruments. You, there, with your clay filled fingernails and your hair tied back, I know what you are doing. Thank you. And you, young one, with your boondoggle lanyards and your sash of merit badges, there is hope for you yet. You flower bandits, grassy sculptors of yards and beds. I know when you are most comfortable and it isn’t in Winter or Fall or Summer. No, I have not forgotten you with your bevels, sandpaper, and your half fingers. You are beautiful. Thank you, you sons of Nature, letting out your filigreed lines, fine as flax and so enticing to the fish whose own rainbow of art comes leaking out the scales. Thanks to you voices, escaping like angels from the dark throat of the devil. He’s swallowed most of us already. Thanks to you confectioners of fine food. My belly is speaking loudly and with a smile this evening. And you needlers, yes you, stitching away our nakedness with such poise. I cannot bear to be naked most of the time. Thanks to you prophets, one and all, propheteering with and without profit, you know who you are. I have the secret you’ve known all along: I’m thanking all somehow.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Into the Wild

It's been a few years since I read Jon Krakauer's account of the misadventures of Chris McCandless (Alex Supertramp). It was one of those books that occupied my thoughts for days after I'd finished it. There was romance in the journey of this young man. His quest for enlightenment went beyond simplification, beyond masochism. However misguided and extreme, I really sympathized with some of the ideals that consumed him.

Now we will be able to watch Into the Wild play out on the silver screen. Screenplay written and directed by Sean Penn and the soundtrack by Eddie Vedder. It will be interesting to see if the film will be able to dredge up the humanity the same way the book seemed to balance so well.

Release Date: September 21, 2007

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

From the Mouth of Zorba

I've finished reading Zorba the Greek. While I was frustrated a bit at the lack of plot-driven storyline, I loved reading the snapshots of life and the bouncy creativity that burst from the language on each page. Zorba is an extreme character, and when dealing with extremeties you deal with flaws. However, he is a joy to read, and to be appreciated this book must be read with Zorba-like eyes—which are fresh and blooming. When he steps outside his front door one morning and casts his 65 year old gaze upon the landscape before him he calls to his friend, “What is that? That miracle over there, boss, that moving blue, what do they call it? Sea? Sea? And what’s that wearing a flowered green apron? Earth? Who was the artist who did it? It’s the first time I’ve seen that, boss, I swear!” Joyous prose. This may be the first time I’ve read a book with a relatively lackluster ending that hasn’t cast a ruining shadow over the rest.

In his own words here a few lessons from Zorba 101:

A Lesson on Relationships: “A real woman—now listen to this and I hope it helps you—gets more out of the pleasure she gives than the pleasure she takes from a man.”

A Lesson on Performance: “It’s all because of doing things by halves, saying things by halves, being good by halves, that the world is in the mess it’s in today. Do things properly by God! One good knock for each nail and you’ll win through! God hates a half-devil ten times more than an archdevil!”

A Lesson on Politics: “So long as there are countries, man will stay like an animal, a ferocious animal.”

A Lesson on Masculinity: “I’m not ashamed to cry, if it’s in front of men. Between men there is some unity, isn’t there? It’s no disgrace. But in front of women a man always has to prove that he’s courageous. Because if we started crying our eyes out, too, what’d happen to these poor creatures? It would be the end!”

A Lesson on Not Writing: “I haven’t the time to write. Sometimes it’s war, sometimes women, sometimes wine, sometimes the santuri: where would I find time to drive a miserable pen? That’s how the business falls into the hands of the pen-pushers! All those who actually live the mysteries of life haven’t the time to write, an all those who have the time don’t live them!”

A Lesson on Seeing God: “God changes his appearance every second. Blessed is the man who can recognize him in all his disguises. At one moment he is a glass of fresh water, the next your son bouncing on your knees or an enchanting woman, or perhaps merely a morning walk.”

A Lesson on Becoming as a Child: “When I was a kid and my grandma told me tales, I didn’t believe a word of them. And yet I trembled with emotion, I laughed and I cried, just as if I did believe them. When I grew a beard on my chin, I just dropped them, and I even used to laugh at them; but now, in my old age—I suppose I’m getting soft, eh, boss?—in a kind of way I believe in them again…Man’s a mystery!”

A Lesson on Nourishing and Strengthening Your Body: “Tell me what you do with what you eat and I will tell you who you are!”

A Lesson on Playing Your Musical Instrument: “Come over here you fiend. What the hell are you doing hanging on the wall without saying a word? Let’s hear you sing!”

A Lesson on Humanity: “Men, animals trees, stars, they are all hieroglyphics; woe to anyone who begins to decipher them and guess what they mean…When you see them, you do not understand them. You think they are really men, animals trees, stars. It is only years later, too late, that you understand.”

Monday, July 09, 2007

Mixing it up in July

I've added a delicious little tid-bit to the sidebar as you can plainly see. I've had the idea for quite a while now, but wasn't sure on what my approach would be. Regardless, now you'll be able to listen to songs from a playlist I'll be updating about once a month or so. Feel free to comment on what you like or don't like, or other music I may be interested in!

No themes this month. Just a few tunes that have been getting PT lately.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Opening the Eyes

I snapped the stem
turned the dark weighty fruit
aloft in the sun then looked forward
The skin gave with mild pop
its puncture oozing over gum and teeth
the flesh of it coming apart
along my tongue in juice and string
a loose body's deceptive flavor
sweetening with each successive bite
until in moments, a minute perhaps,
nothing remained
save hunger - newborn and empty

I held the cold and purple pit in my palm
a small wrinkled brain that held the knowledge of
all things evil
all things good

Thursday, June 28, 2007

One Year

A few days ago Gus hit the year mark. He received some fantastic gifts from friends and both sides of the family (thank you!). He has added a ridiculously large measure of joy to our existence and we feel very blessed, very fortunate to be the keepers of his rambunctious spirit. Here is a video of him methodically demolishing his cake.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Eat your heart out Whitney Houston! Someone can do it better than you, even with her tongue in her cheek. Shara Worden, when not singing opera or creating music as My Brightest Diamond, aparently sings a mean karaoke. I've met Shara before, as an Illinoisemaker in Sufjan's traveling band. She is nice.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Interview

I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me to see a shy Cormac McCarthy, but it did. It wasn’t clear whether he was shy in general or just shy of the cameras and Oprah Winfrey. The interview was very short, and turned out to be one of three segments on Oprah’s hour long program yesterday. They did about the same amount of talking about The Road as they did about his life and the writing process in general. And that was fine with me, because since we have so few windows into McCarthy’s life and methodology any dialogue whatsoever is interesting. He just seems so ordinary. He could have been one of many neighbors of mine growing up in small town Idaho, or some guy you stand next to in line at the supermarket.

I particularly liked his description of the impetus for the book—his standing in an El Paso hotel room in the middle of the night while his four year old son sleeps on the bed, and him looking out the window wondering what kind of future they may be slouching towards. The Road seemed more hopeful than his other works, and that was very satisfying. The concept of “enduring” in the book is approached with a sense of urgency and reverence.

I turned to Christy at one point of the interview and said, “I hope that she asks him if he believes in God.” It matters to me to know. I was happy to hear Oprah ask whether he had “worked out the God thing or not yet.” His answer seemed very human to me, “It would depend on what day you ask me” he said as he lauged. I believe that God plays a role in all of his works, and seems to be constantly on trial, or at the very least tested in relation to the heinous situations his characters are in.

I liked what little interview we received, and only wanted more. It isn’t on YouTube yet, from what I can tell, but you can watch it by registering for the Oprah Book Club on her website.

In other McCarthy news, the Coen Brothers premiered their adaptation of Cormac’s novel No Country For Old Men at the Cannes Film Festival to good reviews, especially for Javier Bardem as lead bad guy Chigurh. Click the link below to view 5 clips of the film.

No Country For Old Men