Archive for June, 2010


5 Albums Part 2

Well this is the second part of my post. If you haven’t read part 1, then go read it first. Not that they are in a particular order from most influential to least, its just that I wrote them this way, this is my blog, so thats how you should read it.

Finished reading part 1? Ok good. Lets move on to part2.

Ryan Adams is a phenomenal songwriter. It seems like hes putting out an album every year, and always impresses me with them (except for 27). I have to say that I have always enjoyed one of his first Solo Albums, “Heartbreaker”. What I love about it is that its a throwback to a real country/folk/bluegrass. Not to discredit most country artists, I just think that everything from the lyrics to the instrumentation has this real authentic sound. The kind of like the country you would hear played from a porch of an old man during the 1920s or 30s, you know? There are some bluesy country songs, like “To be Young” and “Shakedown on 9th Street. There are country/ bluegrass songs like “Winding Wheel” and still more downbeat songs like “Bartering Lines” and “Come Pick Me up”.

The real talent in all of this is that Ryan Adams finds a way to combine these sounds, sound unique, and still have a modern, catchy tone to it. This is the first album that turned me on to Ryan Adams, and since then my wife and I have bought about 8 or so of his albums (counting Cardinals).

My last artist I would like to name is Damien Rice. I think for a musician to rise from a country like Ireland, where there is little room for employment as an artist, you have to have an amazing talent (this statement excludes 90s girl group “B*Witched”). The songs Rice writes simply overflow with emotion. From infatuation to love, to heartbreak, to the strongest vitriol you can conjure, Damien Rice’s gruff, imperfect voice expresses them. This manic-depressive album will take you on an intense emotional rollercoaster from the first song to the last. I also have to give props to Lisa Hannigan, who does more than her part in not just backing up Damien, but in singing as his equal.

I have to thank my old friend Matt for introducing me to Damien Rice. He has a second album “9” out too, which is different in content, but still ripe with emotive lyrics and music (and maybe even more vitriol).

So those are my top 5 most influential albums. It was hard picking, so I had to make another list for honorable mention.

Counting Crows “Films About Ghosts”. I have a bad habit of only liking half of every Counting Crows album, so when “Films About Ghosts” came out, I loved having a compilation of all the songs I love.

Barcelona “Absolutes”. This is one of my favorite bands I have listened to in a long time. They are amazing. I can literally hit play, and listen to the entire album. Then I hit play again.

Death Cab for Cutie “Transatlanticism”. This is the album that made me like Death Cab. Its another album that is great from start to finish. I mean this guy knows how to write lyrics. I feel like a couple of sentences doesn’t do this album justice, it makes me want to change this post to “6 Most Influential Albums” just to include it.

DC Talk “Jesus Freak”. When I was a kid, all I listened to was Christian music. I’m pretty sure that this album rocked my world.

Ryan Adams “Love is Hell” I mean listen to Wonderwall or The Shadowlands, and you will love this album too.

The Decemberists “The Crane Wife”. Amazing band that I am pretty sure was cryogenically frozen from the 1800s and released a few years ago.

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5 Albums that changed my life

I know that There has been a trend going on since the earlier days of myspace.com of writing your top favorite albums, favorite songs, or random songs on your iPod, so I know I’m not exactly groundbreaking with today’s post.

But music has the ability to cross certain paths that conversation simply cannot traverse. Once defined for me as “organized sound”, music is found everywhere; its in every store or restaurant you enter, its playing in every car you pass, and its being played every night in the deepest parts of the rainforests by the most primitive people. Its quite inescapable.

I don’t think that we could ever accurately depict what music does to us. Its almost magic how we can be moved by a homely old Scottish woman singing in a language we don’t understand. Or how we can watch one person moved by a song that just feels silly or corny to us.

Anyways these are the first five albums that came to mind when I thought up the topic. Ask me next week and I might give you five different ones.

First up is an album by David Crowder, “A Collision”.

“Everybody wants to go to Heaven….. But nobody wants to die.”

This album is beautiful. When I listen to it, I hear a man who really believes. Its not someone who writes for a living, its someone who writes to live. Its set up like an old sermon you might hear on the side of a crowded street; first you are invited to come and listen, he tells of his own flaws, he talks about losing his best friend, and how he came back from his despair in the 7th track “A Collision”. This song was written not long after he lost his friend, and it one of the most powerful songs I have ever heard. It goes on for over 20 tracks detailing his message eloquently to anyone who would hear.

Then at the end is this strange interview in which he torments a poor radio host by trying to talk about his album in a jumbled, enigmatic way ( I have a feeling that this is what happens when he tries to express himself in speech, which explains why he writes music and not speeches). I always thought of this as an opportunity to talk with  him after its all over.

The next album is especially influential because of how I came across it. When I was in middle school, I would tape songs on the radio, so I could listen to them whenever I wanted. There was this one song, though that always eluded me. I would turn my radio on, and it would already be playing, and the DJ wouldn’t say the song name or the band when it was over. I had about the last minute of it for the longest time, and I would listen to it over and over.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school, when my buddy John starts playing it on the guitar. I immediately got chills down my back, I hadn’t heard that song in so long, and yet as soon as it started I recognized it. I found out that it was “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters, and I bought the album “The Colour and the Shape” as soon as I could.

This album really shows Dave Grohl’s ability to write.

“what have we done with innocence
it disappeared with time
it never made much sense”

“real life is so hard
we hide in the stars
that’s where our heads are
my head and your heart”

“come and I’ll take you under
this beautiful bruise’s colors
everything fades in time it’s true
wish that I had another
stab at the undercover
was it a change in mind for you”

The band does an amazing job at timing lyrics with music, and placing crescendos at the most vital parts of the songs. They are still one of my favorite bands ever.

Heres my favorite off this album “Everlong” on youtube;

Just a heads up, its a really strange video. I heard in an interview once that its based off of dreams he used to have.

I have to thank my old roommate Jon for introducing me to Stars. They are a Canadian band on Arts and Crafts Records, and I don’t even know how I would categorize their music. Want me to try anyways? ok, here goes. Going by this album alone, I would describe it as semi-electronic, jazz influenced, modern somewhat progressive indie rock. There, theres my categorization; take it or leave it.

Its the perfect music for almost anytime in your life.”Ageless Beauty” is a feel good song about being in love, “One More Night (your something something something) is about a hard breakup and letting go,  “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”  is about running into an ex, as they are getting over each other, and then “Celebration Guns” and “Soft Revolution” seem to have a political overtones (not sure I agree with them). Its not just an album about love, it really seems to hit you wherever you are in life.

Ok, I had no idea that this blog would be as long as it is. I’m going to take a break, post it, and write more later.

Up next: My other two albums, and honorable mentions!

Politics

When I was a Junior in High School I began to really pay attention to how politics have changed in this country. I would sit in my American History class, learn the Bill of Rights, the Founding Fathers, and how our government was formed. I would wonder what George Washington or Thomas Jefferson would think if they were here today. Would they recognize the country they fought for?

I left this alone for a few years. I went on with my life, only set to wonder again when elections would come up. Even then, though it would quickly fizz away as I saw whoever my Dad voted for win. Then one day, when I was 21 or so, on no more than a whim, I began to read more on our Founding Fathers and what they wanted our country to be.

I know that our founding fathers were not gods, and that they made mistakes. The Articles of Confederation are proof that they did not have all of the right answers all of the time; this nearly anarchic government was later revised and the principles of it were turned to our Constitution. What I was never taught about men like Washington, Jefferson, and John Locke was that these men were Philosophers and Scientists.

Jamestown, VA (well not VA yet obviously) was almost lost just as the Roanoke colony when Sir Thomas Dale changed their system from a state where people were ascribed positions to work to a system of property ownership. This change inspired the colonists to profit from their land and work to make the colony so successful. This was seen by Adam Smith, and inspired his book The Wealth of Nations, which in turn inspired the free market principles our Country was founded on.

It was in colonies like these that the “experiments” took place. This was when people under a tyrant had their first look at freedom, and saw their potential to flourish.

So the People who shaped our country saw what potential we had if we left people alone to prosper without their Government present to tax away their profits and dictate their god.

This is what makes our constitution so phenomenal; There was a perfect combination of men who were perfect to make this work. There were thinkers like John Locke who would read Adam Smith’s works and see how people acted in a free market economy and so far away from their King. This could almost be considered a freak accident, having so many educated, inspired, and brave people all united for a cause. It would seem that there were never a more ready people to start a new country.

Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet labeled “Common Sense” in 1776, which he used to reason with the Colonists to join in the change, and see the potential that these people could have as a unified country. He explained that “Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness”. Paine proceeds to Show the flaw in having a King, and what a greater benefit our country would have were we to be self-governed.

The beauty of it all was that in this society, there were few rules laid by the government, and the purpose of it all was that we would all be self-governed. If something immoral or dangerous, then it is our fault to fall into something that would harm us. To oversimplify, it was perfectly legal to yell “fire” in a theater, but who really wants to cause a panic when Transformers is on?

This pamphlet seemed to push the Americans sitting on the fence into supporting the soon coming revolution. Just months later Our independence was declared, and our country would know how to operate independent of a monarch.

The idea was to have as little government as possible. To let these oppressed people be free to live their lives as they pleased, and for them to be free to accept the outcome. The government was to only have as little power as possible over its own people. Besides the Post Office, the military was the only service that was offered from the federal Government.

This is what I have shaped my political ideology around. I think that having this perspective on the United States is what we need to start when shaping our political ideals.

Heres how Walt Whitman put it, and I’ll leave it like this:

To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist
much, obey little,
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever
afterward resumes its liberty.

Pet Peeves Part 2

So like I said in my previous pet peeves post, this one might hit a nerve with a few of you out there.

I want to start this off by saying that I don’t care about what people do in the privacy of their own homes. If it doesn’t hurt me, then I’m not going to try and dictate your life. This is the United States of America, and you are free to do pretty much whatever you like, but you have to know how some people will perceive you if you make certain decisions in life. I mean there is a specific group of people out there that really annoy the general public with their lifestyle.

That being said, I’m pretty sure that chewing gum should be illegal. At least in public.

Ok, let me set the scene; A woman walks up to you in a business suit. She is very well dressed, hair done, nails manicured, and a golden D&G on the side of her glasses. You think “this woman means business. I need to hear what she needs to say.”

Now before she speaks, she blows a big pink bubble and chews on her dubble bubble with amazing stamina. You have immediately judged her. She is now a bimbo who is spoiled by her Dad, and gets everything she wants.

Still not convinced?

Take Superman. Arguably the world’s biggest superhero. Man of steel, standing for truth, justice, and the American way since 1938. Just imagine him flying through the sky in his cape; ripped superhuman muscles, dark hair blowing in the wind, fighting some unnamed villian and saving the world.

Now imagine him smacking his Big League Chew as he fights the villian. Suddenly your admiration is out the window, and you feel inclined to yell “Hey the world is at stake, why don’t you spit your gum out and and try a little bit harder?!” You suddenly wish Batman was around to show him how its done, all cause he was chewing gum.

I know you agree with me. Admit it. These “chewers” infect our movie theaters and pop their winterfresh just as Amy Adams is running into Ryan Gosling’s arms. Some do it in big bubbles, as if it were some kind of unspoken competition. Others do it in little random high-pitched bursts that occur more frequently.

It happens in class; some girl or guy starts smacking away as if we are all supposed to be impressed with her/his jaw’s endurance. Just smacking and smacking and smacking away as if it were so natural the Mona Lisa was blowing a bubble  for Da Vinci too. Who are these people, and why do they think its ok?

I get it when you are in middle school; its not allowed in class, but the vending machines sell it. Its a way to show your preteen angst and rebel without having to steal cigarettes from your neighbor next time you mow her lawn. But why would anyone ever carry this habit past the age of 13?

I may have lost some friends over this one, but its who I am. I guess at the core of it, I’m just a mint kind of guy.

Poetry

So I don’t know how long I have been reading poetry, but I have always been a fan. There is just something different about it that draws on the soul’s emotions and draws us together. Even in the most shrouded of themes, you can somehow feel what the Poet is trying to say, whether or not we can even vocalize it.

Here are some quotes about poetry:

Poetry is just the evidence of life.  If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.  ~Leonard Cohen

Poetry is what gets lost in translation.  ~Robert Frost

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.  ~Plato, Ion

Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.  ~W.B. Yeats

Poetry is the art of substantiating shadows.  ~Edmund Burke

And your very flesh shall be a great poem. ~Walt Whitman
Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.  ~Edgar Allan Poe

I’ll post on poetry from time to time. I love to post quotes and powerful feelings

To the States

To the states or anyone of them, or any city of the states,
resist much, obey little
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth,
ever afterward resumes its liberty.

Walt Whitman

I love this, because I never realized what a patriot Whitman was. It is concise and effective. Whitman is definitely one of the giants in poetry, and I love reading his poems.

Here is my favorite poet, T.S. Eliot, in one of my favorite poems ever. Its excerpts from “Choruses from “The Rock.”

Endless invention, endless experiment,

Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;

Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;

Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,

All our ignorance brings us nearer to our death,

But nearness to death no nearer to God.

Where is the life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

The Cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries

Bring us father from God and nearer to Dust.

I was told: we have too mant churches,

And too few chop-houses. There I was told:

Let the vicars retire. Men do not need the Chirch

In the place where they work, but where they spend their Sundays.

The Rock: The lot of man is ceaseless labour,

Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,

Or irregular labour, which is not plesant.

I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know

That it is hard to be really useful, resigning

Oh I want to post more, but I’m not sure if anyone is really all that interested. I’ll do a post about T.S. Eliot one of these days, and maybe you can fall in love with his writings too.

Here is one last post, which is from Seamus Heaney’s “The Cure at Troy”

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

13 Virtues

I’ve been reading about the founders of the United States of America for a while now, trying to learn about who they really were and what they meant when they wrote our constitution.

Its hard to imagine what its like to rebel against your own country. I mean, think about it; you go to war against the French and Natives in the name of your country, you build your own land and pay your taxes to a King who has given it to you. Then, at some point, you decide to betray your own King and country for an idea. What courage does it take to know that you are becoming a traitor to your own homeland just by signing your name?

So I have started learning about Ben Franklin. Before I only knew that he invented Bifocals, flew a kite in a storm to study electricity, wrote for the New England Courant,  and that he had a taste for french women. Did you know that when he invented the pot belly stove, he gave the plans out for free? House fires were rampant in these days, mostly due to the current type of stoves used. Franklin saw it as a chance to save lives, not to make money, and he did it out of his own accord. He also started the fire department in order to save lives and create awareness about fire safety.

Anyways, so I heard a few weeks back that Ben Franklin used to keep a list of 13 virtues he reviewed every night and morning to keep in mind. I thought that this was a cool idea, and so I have decided to share them here.

1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.

2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.

3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.

4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.

5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.

6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8. Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.

11. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

12. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

So after reading these, I have decided to rewrite them and make them more applicable to modern times, and more specifically, to me.

1. Self Control: Too much food leads to obesity, too much TV can lead to laziness, even too much air makes you light headed.

2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation. (I couldn’t put it any better)

3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time. (same here)

4. Resolution: Don’t let quitting be an option. Finish everything you start, no matter how small the matter is.

5. Frugality: Ask yourself “Do I need this?” before you buy something: i.e. Waste nothing.

6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity: Don’t be manipulative or misleading. Be direct and honest in conversation.

8. Justice:  Wrong none, not even a vengeful punch or white lie can be acceptable .

9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Every extreme results in injury of body and mind.

10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes, workspace, or house.

11. Chastity: Ummm… be chaste.

12. Tranquility: Some things just can’t be helped. Shaping your life around every accident and unfortunate circumstance is exhausting, and overall worthless.

13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates. I don’t know much about Socrates, but as someone who has studied Christ, he can teach you a few things about humility.