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.