Friday, June 24, 2005

Fun with New Music

Thanks to my launch radio subscription, I've lately been hearing a lot of music that I'd never been exposed to before. A lot of it, IMHO, is crap and I'm very thankful for that skip button. But then there have been those gems of discovery where I have to sit back for a second in my little cubicle and go "WOW, why have I never heard this before?"

It get's even more frustrating when I find out that some of this great music has been around for ten years or more. But then I guess no matter how many CDs you have or how "in the know" you are, there's always going to be something that seemed to miss you the first time through. Tangentially, Aaron and I were just last night discussing how great it is when you discover the greatness of an album you own that you disliked the first time through and then put away for two years. That feeling you get when you pull it out again, thinking to yourself "Let's give this another go", and then you love it... it's priceless; Falling in love always is.

So with that, here is a partial list of my recent discoveries:

Uncle Tupelo/ Sun Volt/ Wilco: As a genre (Neo-country, Alt Country, Americana), I've always really wanted for there to be something out there like this. I'd heard of Wilco, even bought one of their albums a while back, but it wasn't quite the brand of country I was looking for. I like the album a lot actually, just not what I expected. But then I heard me some Uncle Tupelo, and I said "Yes!!!! THIS is what I wanted!" and the world was good. Withe the demise of Uncle Tupelo, for those of you who don't know, came Jay Farrar's Sun Volt, and Jeff Tweedy's Wilco. All are worth exploring.

Mogwai: I used to hear about these guys from time to time at a coffee shop i used to frequent. I would keep hearing people talk about how great they were, but no one ever seemed to be listening to them at the time, so I never heard them. Very few lyrics, and LOTS of guitar. Mood music. Don't know what else to say, 'cept they rock my sock off in a beautiful and melodic kind of way.

Kyuss: Holy Moly...This is a band from the early to mid-late nineties, hailing from the Palm Springs area. But don't let Palm Springs fool you... it's still the Inland Empire, and deep IE at that. But musically, I don't even know how to describe these guys. The only label that keeps coming to mind is heavy dirt rock. Yeah, I know some of them later became Queens of the Stone Age, and you could try to draw that comparison, but they really are two different bands IMO (I don't actually care much for QOTSA). But my friend Kevan and I always used to say "We should check them out sometime, they could be interesting." Now I'm sorry I never did...cuz these guys bring the rock in a serious way.

Grant Lee Buffalo/Phillips: Ok, what duffel bag was I raised in that I missed this? Good honest songwriting, honest lyrics, without all the pretense, and without much of the sonic noise that obscures many honest artists. Aaron loaned me Copperopolis a few months ago, and i've been lovin everything I've heard since. Good stripped down music.

Godspeed You Black Emporer: Their name owes to a motorcycle gang from a japanese anime movie. Stylistically, somewhat similar in genre to Mogwai, though here you have NO lyrics, but rather opting to let others do the speaking for them, relying heavily on sampled material from various sources. Lot's of good guitar, with incredible dynamics that range from the barely audible to the gorgeously loud, harkening back to the days when record labels would let music tell an audible story, rather than force every last note to be blisteringly loud so it'll stand out on radio (a pet peeve of mine regarding modern music).

Red House Painters: I've only heard a limited amount of these guys so far, mostly from their Songs for a Blue Guitar album. I would say many of the same things for RHP that I did of Grant Lee Phillips. Just good, solid songwriting wizardry.

Loretta Lynn (yes, the Coal Miner's Daughter): Ok, this one I've known about for a long time, having grown up with her, but I just can't say enough about her album Van Lear Rose. Forget everything you think you may know about Loretta Lynn, everything you think you know about country music, (if you know me at all, you know how much I deplore modern pop-country music, nothing good has come out of Nashville since...well since I was a kid). This album...well I don't even know how to say how true to life it is. You feel like she's sitting down and playing to you, and the only reason she has a guitar while she tells you about her life, is 'cuz it makes the story more believable. There is so much truth and beauty in this album, it really is a shame if you let it pass you by, like the country music industry did. It won a grammy, in spite of the fact that Nashville wouldn't touch it, and it got no radio play on country stations. And yes, there is a reason she got the longer write up here.

Ok... so if my tastes and descriptions mean anything to you... go hear some new music.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Blah Blah BLah...Yeah I know it's been a year since my last post. It might be a year before my next. Since then my wife got pregnant, we had a baby girl, we moved next door, we vacationed in Oregon, I got a new job, and life has generally been very good. Don't really know what else to say without writing twenty pages on the significance of these events. If you read this, you must be a glutton for disappointment, and so consider this post the reward for your tenacity.

Aaron made me fill out this piece of crap survey thing. But I gave it an honest effort anyway. Enjoy!

[edit] Ok, this survey is not a piece of crap. I just don't usually like doing them, especially in the internet age where everyone passes everything on, and you get inundated with things, and sometimes feel compelled to do things you really don't want to do. This survey was an OK one, sent to me by my good friend Aaron, who I knew would really enjoy and appreciate my answers, so I did it anyway for him.

1. Total number of books I’ve owned: I honestly have no idea. I do have most of the books I’ve owned, and they fill up about 15 large sized boxes. Not sure how many each box holds, but I know they could fill up approximately 5-6 large sized book shelves.

2. Last book I bought: If you know me, you know I get a little fuzzy with timelines. By the time I’m 80, me entire life will have happened the same week. So it was either John Christopher’s Tripod Trilogy (which now has a fourth prequel book in a nice boxed set), or it was the books I purchased with my wife at a used book store in Cambria while taking a trip to Hearst Castle in San Simeon. There I bought Peace Breaks Out, a follow up to John Knowles’ classic A Separate Peace. I also picked up a first edition of Orson Scott Card’s and Katherine Kidd’s (they co-wrote the book together) Lovelock, and last I bought a beautiful old (1940s I believe) hardcover edition of The Way of a Pilgrim, complete with dustcover, with a different translator than the paperback version I already had.

3. Last book I read: The last book I finished was Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale of betrayal, revenge, a proud fall and redemption, The Count of Monte Cristo, which is my all time favorite work of fiction. I read a translation I hadn’t read before, which I liked very much. It was a bit more readable than the previous one I’d read. Please note that there are many editions of this book out, but that the many abridged versions available do not do this book justice. Get one of the unabridged versions, which weigh in at over a 1000 pages.

4. Five books that mean a lot me: I will self-qualify this question this way. I have a hard time defining a book as “means a lot to me” if I haven’t read it more than once. A book that means a lot to me will have transcended different periods of my life and still have meaning and value. That being said, here they are in no particular order:

1) The afore-mentioned The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas. A masterfully crafted tale that hits on so many levels that one cannot walk away unchanged. The recent movie, while fun, and even good, does the book a discredit. They are not the same.

2)The Worthing Saga, Orson Scott Card. A tale within a tale within a tale that spans a period of many thousands of years. A very human story, which is Card’s strength. It deals with mankind’s strengths, as well as our sicknesses, while, via analogy, dealing with the question of pain (quite masterfully I think).

3) Ender’s Game, Orsom Scott Card. Yeah, I know I run the risk of not looking diverse by including two books by the same author, but his tales are really that good (generally) because they really are that human. This is the first book of two different series of books, and it is so full of moral questions and implications, all thrown upon a child. This book literally made me weep, and I’m not a weepy kinda guy. Whatever though…it’s that good.

4) Man’s Search For Meaning, Victory Frankl. I read this book as part of my coursework while working on my bachelor’s. It changed my entire perspective on modern psychology, it’s approach and purpose. While written by a Jewish man, I believe it sits quite well within an Orthodox Christian paradigm. It is the fleshing out of his theories as a burgeoning theoretical phychologist, filtered through his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. This book could change the world (in many ways it already has).

5) Father Arseny: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father, Vera Bouteneff (editor). Some stories are so good, so powerful, so moving at the core of your being, that you (almost) don’t notice a poor translation. This is one of them. A must read for anyone desiring to see the life of a modern saint, anyone desiring to witness the heights of humanity, while living in it’s depths. This book may not change the world, but it will change your life.

5: People I will infect w/ this meme: Because I resent being infected myself by Aaron, I will not infect anyone. If you read this and WANT to do it, copy and paste the questions, and put a note in the comments letting me know you did.

Friday, June 25, 2004

How 180 Became Something Other Than Half a Circle...Part 2

So when I started noticing myself changing shape, I didn't really think much of for a while. In fact, at first I thought, "Wow, I really can gain weight." But in the last few weeks, I pondered it anew. But my thoughts were not specifically revolving around how large I am (most might say I am still small, with the exception of my wife and Matt).

I was more contemplating something Karl mentioned in the comments of my last post. You see, there is this mistaken notion that Orthodox fasting will in and of itself arrest this kind of transmogrification. But in fact, as Dr. Atkins would point out to us, it does quite the opposite. Erich makes this point here. No protein from meat plus lots of carbs from bread, pasta, and other fasting staples, produces a larger man.

But then I realized something in all this mental chicanery. What I eat isn't the whole problem, in fact it may be a very small part of it. What is infinitely more indicative is the amount I eat. You see, a glutton is a glutton, regardless of what he eats. Even as I'm writing this, I'm gorging myself on vegie chili and cornbread. I know I should stop (I halted a measly three bites shy of finishing my trough of a bowl out of sheer guilt), but I just keep going because it tastes soooooooo good, and as the saying goes in my case, "If it tastes good, eat it."

My body's needs were met twenty ladles ago, but I just keep right on trucking, because "hey, it's Lenten, so it must be ok.....right?" I have yet to enter in to real self-denial. My asceticism is more like aestheticism...I just change the scenery. True war against the passions...not me.

But I'm not just that way with food. I pretty much have always lived by the, "If it's not forbidden, it's good" rule. And of course, if something is good, then lots of it must be better, and too much of it is the best. Obviously I jest, but just a little. I never really realized that I really do eat until I am full, and not just full, but stuffed...EVERY time. Sleeping in...when I had the chance, I would stay in bed until I had a reason to get up. Long shower?....pretty much always until the hot water ran out.

Pretty much everything in my life fills some sort of gluttonous desire. Now if only I could somehow redirect that gluttony to desire holiness. Maybe I'd be too busy praying to care about stepping on the scale, too busy serving my neighbor to stare at my receding hairline, too involved in real self-denial to notice I wasn't gorging myself.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

How 180 Became Something Other Than Half a Circle...Part 1

It happened today. I'm a strange one sometimes. My wife used to think me vain, because she would see me looking into the mirror, almost anytime there was one nearby. I still do. But now she knows it's not vanity I am pursuing in these adventures in reflection. Rather, it is curiosity and awe.

You see, the human body is a strange and wonderful thing to me. It does really weird things if you observe it enough, and since most people would get freaked out if I stared at them for long, usually I am the only test-subject comfortable enough for such an intense observation. So yeah, I look at myself a lot.

Naturally, this has lead to stepping on a scale whenever I see one. I've never owned one myself, but in the past have never shied from stepping on someone else's when using their lavatory. My wife owned one when we got married.

Keeping in mind that from the seventh grade (a loooooong time ago), when I was only about 5'2", until about three years ago (after I had settled into 5'11"), I weighed only 143 pounds. That's right, I never wavered more than a pound either direction. I would think to myself, "How can this be? How strange!" I was the freakish anomaly in the group of friends I grew up with. Then I started a sit down office job, and things changed.....

In six months, I put on 25 pounds. I didn't really think much of it other than, "Huh...so this is how it happens." It would have been wonderful if it had distributed evenly across my rakish frame, but that was not to be. It all settled in my gut. But even this doesn't really bother me. That I now have a more ahem.....manly physique (if one defines manly as no longer looking like a twelve year old) doesn't concern me in the least. And so I went another two year putting on another twelve pounds, to my current (as of today) 180.

But during this most recent fast prescribed by the Church, I noticed something tied to my weight that does concern me, something much more sinister than the motorcycle tire I now carry around with me.

to be continued....

Friday, May 28, 2004

What Would That Look Like...Part 2

In my last entry, I asked the question, "What would the life of a "saint unknown look like?" It is in looking around at the people I know that the question began to form in my mind. I'll explain.

I've noticed, in my experience, many children in the Orthodox Church, that were raised in the Church, and are...let see how shall I put this...a little different than other kids. Not in a bad way (though the world might tell us otherwise), just different. They are children who instinctively ask forgiveness, who cry when they perceive that harm has come to another, who hurt when someone doesn't say "I'm sorry" when they should (adults are particularly adept at not asking children for forgiveness), in short, they are very perceptive of the needs of others, and of their own shortocomings.

Now certainly these are not a trait only found in Orthodox children, but it is one I find much more frequently in these environs. But they are the kind of kids, that at the average elementary school would be spoken of as weird or sissies or some other similar trait. But they are, in my mind, beautiful children. They are different, very different, but holy in a great many ways.

So how much more might these children be different from the rest of us if they continued in living the life of the Church? Would they even resemble us at all? Or would they be just like us, except that they pray more, and give of their possessions. I'm not trying to pigeonhole saints into a defined place. Certainly all of the children I mentioned are very much their own person, and different from each other in their own ways. But they are also collectively different from the rest of the worlds children.

So maybe I'm asking, what would we look like, had we the same opportunities that many of our children, who've been raised in the Church. How different would we be? Would we recognize ourselves?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

What Would That Look Like?

Been thinking lately about the saints. In pondering their saintliness, I've noticed the abundance of what in my mind are akin to "Super-saints". By my definition these would be the clergy and monastic Saints.

Now granted, my knowledge of the panacea of Orthodox Saints is extremely limited, and I am sure there are some that would fall into my other category of "regular saints", and by regular and super, I do not mean to imply that one or the other is greater in saintliness. I'm just wondering, what exactly would the life of the "saint-unknown" look like?

Suppose for a minute that there was a living saint that lived next door to you, or that stood on the other side of the church from you. And suppose that you had prophetic knowledge to know that this "regular" person would someday be recognized as a saint for the way they lived their life. What might that person live like now? What things would we notice about such a person that would mark their holiness as exceedingly great. How might this persons everyday life, attitudes, and activities be different than our own. Is it likely that a person living everyday in the world will become a saint?

I am so far away from this kind of saintliness, that I can't even begin to understand what this kind of life looks like. I'm not sure I have any categories of consideration to put that kind of life in, being that that kind of life is so different from my own. Maybe my thinking on this is all screwed up, and I really think it might be, so I'm wondering if anyone else has any thoughts on this.

Or perhaps you know someone like this. Tell me about them if you like. I'm looking for role models....

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Please Excuse the Mess, Under Construction

If things look funny or don't load the way you're used to, please be aware that I am attempting to work on my template and I know absolutely nothing about HTML. I'm just tinkering, trying to make this all a little easier on the eye ( White backgrounds are painful on my eyes).

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