Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My favorite records, 2007

That was a quick year. I hope 2008 takes its time. Here's the music that I dug the most this year.


1. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, The Doldrums

Okay, not really released in 2007, but this list, as I have said, is for music that I first heard this year. Of all the things I turned onto this year, this is the one that, even after a bobillion listens, still completely baffles me with delight every time I hear it. I have no idea what I'm listening to half the time it's playing, but when I try to describe him to myself, I say that he sounds like the kind of music Bob Pollard would make in the creepy basement if he were the serial killer guy in Silence of the Lambs.

And the coolest thing is that all the retro influences he corrupts and spits and beat boxes into his microphone made out of walkman headphones are completely sincere--he's not winking at us; he's just rocking out and not caring how ridiculous his falsetto is.

2. Animal Collective--Strawberry Jam

I dunno--everything they do is awesome and either you agree or you don't. I'm not judging you if you don't. I mean, I'm sure there are lots of people who don't like Animal Collective and manage to live completely normal, fulfilling lives. I guess it's possible in theory, at least.

3. M.I.A.--Kala

This is not at all like anything I usually listen to and therefore I didn't for a couple of months after I borrowed it from the school radio station. And then I watched her in-studio performance on Morning Becomes Eclectic, which probably wasn't all that amazing, but somehow it clicked for me and now it's my number one sitting in traffic album. For the past month, chances are good that if I am not driving in silence, listening to the fan on my car heater and that sound the air makes, I am listening to this.

4. Justice--Cross

Deep in my heart, or maybe not that deep, what I really want to be is a deejay like the guys in Justice. You watch their videos on Youtube and they're just totally stone-faced but the beat is in them, you can tell. DJ's are so business-like these days. I don't think they're allowed to smile at all, even. What a paradox: being a DJ is at the height of the cool hierarchy, just below architect, but you cannot smile or show the world how much fun you are having being so cool. I believe architects can smile, but it is hard to tell behind their glasses.

I just remembered a time in high school when I went to a job interview to be a DJ for a local outfit here in town and the guy started it by putting me by a deck or whatever and he said "okay, now let's hear you give your rowdiest 'get this party going' hello to the audience." I said "I don't think so" and walked out. Yes, it was all about the music to me then. Still is.

But seriously. This album is one of the few electronic--or whatever--records that just killed me over and over this year. There must be more out there that isn't boring; I should look for it.

5. Panda Bear--Person Pitch

Hey, this one is kinda electronic, too. I might have listened to the first track on this album more than any other song this year, other than, of course, "Only Shallow" from Loveless, which I usually hum to myself about 12 times a day. Not sure if that counts. But on this record, even the tracks that don't get mentioned in the press much are beautiful, and they are long but they all meander and change into a couple different beautiful tunes with great "beats" before they're done.

And that's all I'm going to list this year. I listened to a lot, but these are the things that I liked so much they just all stand above the rest. If I were to go to 10, these might be there, though: 6. Radiohead--In Rainbows--I still think they are indie poseurs like U2 and sound like U2, but this new one is pretty; 7. Grizzly Bear--Friend ep--after the P4k Festival especially, I think I have to like everything they do from now on; 8. Califone--Roots & Crowns; 9. Band of Horses--Cease the Begin--not nearly as lame as people are saying. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it is not lame; 10. Jose Gonzalez--In Our Nature--maybe this is because I just started listening to him, but this record is on my mind a lot lately. For some reason, I am embarrassed about this because I think he is supposed to considered cheesey.

So, that's it for 2007. If anyone knows of good freeware that will let me start mixing my own samples and beats here at home, let me know.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Real Snow

Finally, some serious snow. They'd been getting our hopes up all week, and even this one wasn't quite what they thought it could be, but it was enough to slow the town down for a day. People couldn't drive up the hill in front of our house. The mall parking lot was only half full. Neighbor Herb snow-blew our walk, demonstrating again why I have neither snow blower nor cell phone: when you really need one, there is bound to be someone near by who will loan you theirs.
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Check this cookie

My AP Lit class has been in the middle of independent novel presentations this past week, and a crack team presented Cormac McCarthy's The Road. They made these cookies to go along with their presentation--how awesome is that? They took the time to mix a food coloring to make "ash" colored icing. Pretty great. Couldn't bring myself to eat one.

Another group is reading Blood Meridian, and just talking to them about their project has me reading the darn thing again. It's just unstoppable, that book. Maybe Suttree isn't my favorite.
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Friday, November 30, 2007

Lost

The interweb sure seems to get more funner to play in whenever you have serious work to do. And I just remembered I've been meaning to look up Daft Punk videos on YouTube. The new Readymade has the names tons of fun shoppes that have gifts you want to get people or want them to get for you. And it might snow tomorrow. Just too many distractions for me to sit still and write about the influence of painting on Mark Strand or maybe Frank O'Hara or why not both or maybe that's just a dumb thesis entirely.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Speaking of killing animals . .

as of 4:15 this morning, my total kills for 2007 are as follows:

Moles: 4

Bats: 2

Fish: 2

I am starting to think that this might be my deadliest year yet. When I was seven, I killed thousands of ants with magnifying glasses, but if you go by weight, I think it has to be 2007.

I am not proud of this.

The moles felt good at first--I had a lot of mole rage at the time built up from a few years of losing large swaths of creeping phlox and sweet woodruff to them--but I'm almost ready to call a truce there. This new trap I got from the back of Farm Show magazine works almost too well, though.

The fish were mercy kills, so having their souls on my conscience don't keep me up late at night. They both had terminal cases of "ick" and I could tell they were suffering. The only sad thing there is that I was very bad at killing them and it took a lot of whacks before they finally went to the light.

But the bats, I really do feel badly for them. In the summer, I just open a window and they fly out. Sure, I know they're going to crawl back into my attic, but they're cute, and I love to watch them swoop around my yard. But in the winter, it's a conundrum. If I let them out, they're just going to freeze to death, slowly. What am I supposed to do--catch them in my bedroom and set them free in the living room? No, I opt for a tennis racket, usually. This morning, I couldn't find the racket, so I used a cookie sheet. I think it was quick, if startling. I know I was startled at least--the adrenalin rush of the kill kept me from getting back to sleep, so for my penance, I lay in bed watching the time of my alarm tick closer, minute by minute, for the next hour and a half.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Buck Pole


The town where I spent my Thanksgiving boasts Michigan's "Largest Buck Pole." We were a few days late to see it this year, but caught this one instead at a club where my father in law hunts. What a horrifying picture. Why did I put this up here? Is it a protest picture? Am I just intrigued by the frozen blood dribble? Do I like the way the afternoon sun plays for the last time on the white fur under their chins? It could be all of these things. I just don't know.

It was a swell long weekend for me, mainly because I (a) did nothing, and (b) got to drive around northern Michigan back roads while a heavy snow was falling and accumulatin' and making everyone slow down. I've been ready for snow for a few weeks, so it was nice. It almost took my mind off of IU losing to Xavier and looking awful doing it.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Way, Jose

Man, this Jose Gonzalez record "In Our Nature" is really good. I had no idea. Anyone know if his first album is anything like it? AMG seems to prefer it, even.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

TV

I really liked the first episode of Flight of the Conchords back when I watched it online a few months ago, but I never really expected the series itself to be as good as it is. It's just so dry and deadpan. When I watched the first disc of season one over the last couple of nights, I was laughing out loud pretty much the whole way through. I must be genetically predisposed for that kind of humour.

I think part of why it works is that Bret and Jermaine are completely deadpan during the "dramatic" scenes, but in the musical interludes they transform into whatever the opposite of deadpan is. Some of those songs are just hilarious. Most of them, even. Like this one, "Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros." I can't understand what Bret is saying at the beginning, but Jermaine's lines are ridiculous:


In other news, we bit the bullet and signed up for Dish network this week. Cheapest way to watch IU basketball. No choice, really. I'm a little worried, because I watched so little tv this last year, and now I'm going to get hooked on watching South Park reruns or something silly like that.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Library Coup

I don't know how I did it, but I was somehow able to check out the library's copy of the 2007 Best Non-Required Reading before Sarah Jane got to it. She must have been asleep at the switch or something, or maybe she's re-reading Twilight for the third time.

I want to like this collection so much, but those durn teeny-weeny McSweeney's wanna-beeny's who edit it just turn you off with their smugness in the opening pages. It's a group of high school kids who are plenty bright, but just too, too convinced of their own cleverness. From the Q & A they wrote about themselves and put at the front of the book:

Are they touched by some kind of divine light?
The question is a good one. There is rampant speculation on the subject.

Are they all great looking and charming and well dressed?
Yes. All of them, and especially Felicia Wong, who can even make her own clothes.

They even put their own photographs and bios at the back of the book. So, when they come to this blog after Felicia Wong Googles her name to see what people think about their collection, they will read the above excerpt and think "c'mon, man, it was a joke" and I will respond here in advance: yes, but not the kind that is funny.

And even Sufjan's essay was useless as an introduction--I think they just wanted to get his name on the cover.

Man, I didn't intend for this to be so hatin'. I better go rake some leaves for a little bit.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Leia, still got it.


Here it is, opened only seventeen years too late: the time capsule I stuffed, sealed with a few pieces of duct tape, and forgot about for 27 years. It was one of those things where, when my mom told me on the phone she had found it, I had no idea what she was talking about--but when I saw it, the whole thing came back to me. I can remember 10 year old me, the kid in the photo above, thinking "I can't open this for ten years? That'll never happen," like the future was impossible or something. It was, kind of, because we all forgot about it and it didn't get rediscovered until, like I said, seventeen years after I was supposed to crack it.

We saved the opening for my boy's 3rd birthday because my folks all wanted to see it, so that was kind of fun. Here is the last line of the letter I wrote to myself: "Time is of the Essance remember." So true.

That Leia figure is from the very first "pressing" or whatever of Star Wars figures ever. You had to mail away for them. No, I lost her blaster, so she's probably not worth too much. But to me, she's priceless. Obviously. If I really played with her much, I would never have put her in the time capsule. Han Solo and the stormtroopers had important business on my bedroom floor and couldn't sign up for time capsule duty. But Leia did, and now she has survived the years looking fabulous.

The letters from my parents to me were pretty priceless, too. They were only two or more years older than I am now when they wrote them, and it's, I don't know, impossible to describe what it feels like to read their speculations about my future.

One cute excerpt from my mom's letter: "Last night at our second baseball game, and our second loss (she was my team's coach--she knew nothing about baseball except how to make everyone play equally), you threw a picture book throw from way past second base to Mitchell (my best friend) to get a guy out at home plate. I will forever remember that throw. Your coach screamed and jumped up and down hysterically. I'm afraid I did show my prejudice at that point."

Ahhhhhhh, Time. It's a funny thing.
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Saturday, October 20, 2007

And now for something completely different

Saw a good, funny video by a band named Ola Podrida on the great music blog Gorilla vs. Bear the other day and had to go find their songs. Now I can't listen to anything else. This is not that video, but another'n that I like.

They're pretty mellow, so I'll probably get an email from my friend Travis asking me why I'm "so gay for them" (not that there's anything wrong with that). But I am--I am so gay for them right now. For those keeping score, it's Em, G, D, A.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Favorite Dan Deacon Vid

The sound is so awful here you can't hear a thing, but that's not the point at his shows, really--it's more about the energy of the crowd. I do like his songs, tho. This video comes the closest of any I've seen to conveying what it was like seeing Deacon this summer, except the dancing wasn't as funny as it is here. I just keep watching this over and over.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Breakfast, the most important meal of the day.

That faint smile on my face is a fake--it's me trying to put on a good show though I'd just completely bonked on the first day of the Hilly Hundred this past weekend down in Bloomington. For some reason, they stopped breakfast early on Saturday so all C and I had was a small banana each, and that wasn't enough. It was too bad, because I love riding my bike up and down hills, but all day my legs just had nothing.

The next morning, we erred on the side of eating too much by going to the Runcible Spoon, which, along with the Trojan Horse and the Book Corner comprise the remaining unchanged parts of Bloomington--the parts that still look the same as they did when I went to school there. As usual, I ordered two of the huge Runcible Spoon pancakes and only ate one, and that was just the fuel I needed for a nice day of hill climbing. Totally different experience. The best part was drafting up a hill behind two farmers in this jeep/atv kind of thing full of firewood. They kept looking back and laughing at me as I pedaled along, passing all the punters who couldn't hitch on.

And the low of the weekend was passing the dude lying on his face in the middle of the road groaning. We'd been riding with his group earlier in the day but C and I could tell that they clearly didn't know anything about riding as a pack, so we stopped for a bit and let them get away. Sure enough, not more than an hour later, we pass them all huddled around their comrade asking if he was okay. There but for the grace etc.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Down with Waiting

Man, what's up with the In Rainbows download site being down? Did they not anticipate demand or something? I like their plan to bypass the majors, but this looks amateurish to me. Maybe it's just that, since the advent of broadband internet access, I hate waiting for anything. What's weirder is that I'm not even that much of a Radiohead fan--but I listened to Nathan's copy a few times today and was getting into it, so now I'm bummed.

UPDATE: I think it sounds like U2.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Too late to see this.

Took the family to the Mississinewa 1812 reenactment today, but because I was both too late and without a memory card for my camera, I was unable to see, let alone document, the scene here. I borrowed this from their web site just because I thought it looked cool. No names of the photographers are credited on the site, so I can only direct you to the link.

The last of the guns were firing as we made the long walk from the grassy parking lots down to the river banks where, I'd wager, there were almost a thousand tents scattered. Totally different scene from the Johnny Appleseed Festival, which I am more familiar with. More hard core, or hard corps.

I thought it was fun. Very pretty part of the river. Lots of folk dressed as Miami, though I don't think I saw any true Miami. The reenactors actually paint themselves to darken their skin, and that sounds like it might be too much like the old days of people going in black face, but, to me at least, it came across as dignified rather than cartoonish. Actual Native Americans might disagree, though.

On our way in, I tell B "we're going to see some Indians!" and he says "I like Indian food! Rice!" So I say, "no, it's a different kind of Indians" and he goes "Oh--hey I see some different-Indian food!" I thought it was funny.

My favorite part might have been this old-timey entertainment couple called Clockwork and Clown Co., led by a self-deprecating guy who eats fire and a sidekick who plays a mime-ish clown who shows him up a bunch. She was totally cute. That's right, today I developed a crush on a clown, face-paint and all. Somehow, she disappears right in the middle of the act--not like it's a disappearing act; you just get distracted somehow. And then the next thing you know she's literally packed inside the tiny crate you see in the background here. I love stuff like that. The guy opens it up and she's stuffed inside and he winds her up so she can start juggling. She juggled four at once, something that's a lot more difficult than just three, which really isn't all that tough. I was impressed. Good times.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

YoutubeyoU

I've been caught in some kind of endless Youtube loop tonight, bouncing between random Michael Cera videos and live Grizzly Bear. Man, they were so Best--do people still say that? Did they ever?--at Pitchfork this summer. This song, "Deep Blue Sea," is some traditional sea shanty or the like that they adapted and it's on "repeat" in my head right now. I wish I had a Grizzly Bear t-shirt. I would feel closer to them.

Wes, I need tab for this, too. Capo 3 with a weird tuning. Thanks in advance.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Big Winner

More Songs About Buildings and Food
What band has a higher percentage of awesome album covers?
And don't say "Pink Floyd."

Big boys' night out last night for me and little b. We went to Coney Island and I paid for $1.25 for a little Coke in a bottle and it was so worth it. B spun around on his counter seat as he ate his bunless hot dog, holding it like a microphone. The dishwashers in the back were just then discovering the first Strokes album--how old is that now? I forget.

And then we stopped by Borders to look for a new collection by Mark Strand which of course they don't carry because it doesn't have "Heartsongs" in the title. But it was "Educators' Weekend," where they get teachers to sign up for junk mail. Usually, I resist, but a raffle was coming up and I felt lucky for some reason. I tell the Borders guy at the sign up table that didn't have any I.D. to prove I was a teacher, and he says "that's okay--people generally don't lie about being teachers." Was that offensive? Probably just funny but true, I guess.

And then I won. The secret is to stick around. The first teacher who won must have moved on to World Market or something because they drew again, called my name, and awarded me with a bag filled with five pounds of red tissue paper, a bag of SBC coffee beans, and a travel mug. It doesn't even bother me that the cosmic list tallying how many more I'm allowed to Win in this life has been reduced by one for such a silly reward--it's just nice to be Chosen every once in awhile. Me. Chosen.

And in another strange twist, last evening the Talking Heads' More Songs About Buildings and Food passed '77 for my favorite Talking Heads album. Their positions had been reversed for the last eighteen years at least, and now this. Pretty shocking.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Justice at Last

Sometimes I get an album and only give it 1/2 a listen before forgetting about it, only to rediscover it much later its awesomeness, leaving myself to wonder how my judgment could have been so poor the first time around.

This time, it's with Justice's album "cross" or whatever you call it--it's just a symbol of the cross, like on the one guy's chest here. I don't know anything about the group, but from the picture, they look like they've got that French grime-hip look totally dialed in. Sometimes I wish I could pull that off. Grimey is easy. Hip eludes me.

Usually don't dig much electronica, which is what Justice is, I guess. But then I hear Boards of Canada or Air or LCD Sound System or now Justice and I think "dang, there must be a whole world of cool electronic music out there just wondering what's taking me so long." And perhaps there is.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The War: Episode I

Okay, I'll be watching all of this, I think. What an amazing show that was.

It's odd--I think that I have carried this feeling in the past that Burns's projects were sometimes too apolitical, scrubbed somewhat so as not to offend anyone and to reach as wide an audience as possible. I wanted more of a stand, one way or the other, and I think in this episode we saw something of that. To my eyes at least there seemed to be a deliberate attempt to confront the mythic status of WWII as the last great "noble" war, in which good and evil was clearly separated and in which we (good) were were all united in pursuing the higher goal.

Tonight, Burns's subjects kept emphasizing the ignoble, like the admissions from a couple different men on Guadalcanal that they "never took a prisoner." MacArthur was portrayed as a bumbler and a coward. The guy from Minnesota emphasized that he and his friends didn't sign up out of patriotism, but to get out of the boring Midwest. Lots of time spent on the internment camps for Japanese Americans, too. And then look at how Burns ends this episode: with the guy recounting his night spent wishing a guy would hurry up and die so that he could get some sleep, only to find out the next day that it was his now dead best friend. It was more than just a "war is Hell" kind of statement.

I think Burns is trying to counter the WWII hagiography of movies like Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor, or at least add some complexity to the popular image. That's what I saw, anyway.

I had no idea how unprepared for war we were in 1941--the idea that we didn't even raise a gun in combat until August of 1942 is staggering to me. But then, most of what I knew about WWII I learned from a stack of old war comic books called The Haunted Tank that I came across once as a kid. Man, those were good. I think the ghost of Gen. Robert E. Lee looked over the tank for some reason. It made sense at the time.

What to do.

Somehow, don't ask me how, I've watched less television in 2007 than almost any other year in my life. I think it's in part because I improved the feng shui in our living room, where there is no tv, so that it's a nicer place to hang than it used to be. But it has been nice, and quiet-like, and now PBS has to run that durn Ken Burns's fifteen hour WWII documentary. Fifteen hours?! It's ridiculous. My station will be able to fit two or three pledge drives in that span of time.

So yeah, am having a tough time figuring out how much time to devote to this. I think it's necessary, but a pain, too, like cleaning out your gutters.

I wonder if Ken Burns is rich or not. Can you get rich doing documentaries for PBS? I might have to have my friend Bob, who once got me J.D. Salinger's address and phone number, to dig up Burns's too so I can scope his crib on Google Earth.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Band of Horses!

The school radio station got the new Band of Horses so I borrowed it and I'm currently trying to break a record for number of plays in a single day. They/He are one of those groups where you just wanted them not to change too much on their next record and thank goodness but they didn't. It was playing kind of loud in the kitchen while little b was eating supper and he goes "It's a sound museum! This is the sound museum!" and he was right.

Just in time for this record, too, because I was close to getting obsessed with MIA--but not quite. I can still only take Kala for about three songs in a row.

In other news, karma got me in the form of the Akron/Family review in Pitchfork, where they not only describe the best song on the new record as "Phishy" (ouch!) and then only give it a 7.3 or something. That hurt.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Request for AP, or other students

I don't know if any of y'all AP students will be reading this in time, but I just saw that Kid Nation is premiering tonight. If you could see a way to tape the episode for me, that'd be great; I don't have a working vcr these days. I'm curious to see what parallels, or outright allusions, there might be to Lord of the Flies. There'll be some extra credit in there for you, unless you're a past student, in which case I promise to write a better recommendation letter for you than I would have otherwise.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cover

Maybe you go along knowing that the White Album/ Let it Be period may have provided us with the coolest era of Beatles haircuts. You know that. But sometimes you think secretly that the White Album is too long, and you know you don't know these records as well as you should. But then one day you hear St. Vincent cover "Dig a Pony" in the back of a London taxi, and it finally dawns on you just how negligent you have been. It makes you think that you could cover that song, or should, as soon as you can teach yourself how to play more than G C and D--oh, and Bm.

I don't know what it is about this version. Just really dig it. Sounds kind of like the old PJ Harvey 4 Track Demos record.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Thanks

Nothing says "class" like a manila folder.
Thanks to everyone who came out last night to support Dana and me at the big readin'. What a great crowd that was, and they weren't even drunk or anything. I'm already trying to think about how to do this more often.
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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Reading

As part of the "First Fridays" poetry series, my friend Dana Barret and I will be reading this Friday, September 7, at the Three Rivers Co-op . 7:30 sharp or so.

It will be totally fun--if you come.

Super-Secret after-party TBA, but I bet I don't get invited to it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Okay, I like The Golden Compass

I have a fair bit of the old fantasy and occasional sci-fi vein in me, stretching back to the days when Dungeons & Dragons came in a box with a thin blue rule book, and including books like Lloyd Alexander's series and the Michael Moorcock Elric novels, and of course Tolkien. But this is not a part of me that I like to acknowledge too often any more because I like to think that I have grown up or something, whatever that means. In fact, when I read Jonathan Strange & Dr. Norrell last year, I felt embarrassed to talk about it some times. I need to loosen up more.

However, so many folks have talked up the Phillip Pullman His Dark Materials series that I've always been curious, and in a hammock at the lake this weekend, I gave the first volume, The Golden Compass, a try. I have to say: it is a ripping good yarn. It has some of the problems that most books in this genre have, but it's hard to notice them as I get pulled along by the adventure of it all. I love the "daemons" and the "armored bears" and the intrigue. It's a great change of pace.

There's a movie trailer online for the film version that's coming out this fall, and though it has some big names and some money behind it, it looks, like everything has to look now, I suppose, like something trying to ride the Harry Potter coat tails. I sure hope it's better than that, though.

Who knows. Maybe I'd like Harry Potter. Maybe I should just get it all over with at once--turn on some Phish and read the HP books straight through.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

MTB Season

Lake Winona
Either it gets cooler this time of year or you just get tired of letting the humidity keep you from going outside. Regardless, I find myself outside more--we made it out for two mtb rides in three days this week! Unheard of since the law school days! And, I killed the two main moles that had been killing my stuff this summer! Good things come in twos! I am not in favor of killing moles for sport, but when they give you just cause, like killing all your creeping phlox or sweet woodruff, that's a different thing. I swear, there is nothing softer than the fur of a mole . . . that you have killed (with just cause).

Man, I love the Winona trails. Like usual here, I hit trees and ended up in the dirt at least four times this day. It was kinda like the start of the William Carlos Williams poem "The Trees":

The trees--being trees
thrash and scream
guffaw and curse--
wholly abandoned
damning the race of men--

Still, it was so nice to be out this day, I don't think I even felt their bite much. Big thanks to Heidi and Stuart for watching the kids for us so we could make it out there.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Akron/Family

So, I can't stop listening to Akron/Family. From Brooklyn. Brooklyn! What a place that must be. I guess they'd be considered "freak folk" with some XTC or Beatles and some I dunno almost tribal chanting and beats or something. Can't figure it out, but it's quite beautiful. I can see myself going through a period of immersion with them like what happened with Ariel Pink earlier this year.

Sometimes when I start liking bands like this I get afraid that it's too close to what Phish sounds like, a band that always leaves so little of an impression on me that my body, as a defensive mechanism, causes tiny black-outs, wipes out my memory for at least the day, and sometimes weeks thereafter, every time I hear their music.

My fear is that someday I will like a band that might allow someone to tell me "oh, if you like them, you'd definitely like Phish." By this point, see, my pride is too invested in not liking that band to ever let me get into them, I'm afraid. Getting even in their neighborhood would be too much for me to admit. But since I can't remember what they sound like, it's difficult for me to avoid their sound. As a general rule, I try to avoid bands where the members have non-ironic beards (except for Will Oldham) or wear knit hats like the guy in the lower left corner up above, because that's how I imagine most Phish fans to look. It's not a great system, though. You can imagine the stress I'm under. It's quite a pickle.

Yesssssss!

The trailer for No Country for Old Men! Not my favorite McCarthy, but it's the Coen brothers. How can you not be excited?!! I might camp out for this one while wearing a cowboy hat and sitting beside a rented horse.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

In session

J in the wildflars

I always forget how busy I get when the school year starts back up. I mean, look:

6:00 wake up
6:15 cereal and magazine because you can't eat breakfast while holding a book open with one hand.
6:40 to school
8:00-2:35 teaching or whatever
3:00 to my poetry class that I am always ten minutes late for but my great prof has said it's okay, we'll work something out.
4:15 thinking about class and whether I talked too much or not enough and whether other students hate me or not.
5:00 to day care
5:30 Curious George
6:00 make dinner kids don't eat.
6:30 eat while standing because I think that's what chefs do.
7:00 make stuffed animals talk to children
8:00 make children go to sleep or at least stay in room.
8:15 try not to waste night on teh interweb
9:00 read, no, fix something kids broke.
9:30 read
10:00 try not to waste night on internet.
10:30 bed.

Actually, looking at that, it's all fun stuff, so I'm not complaining.
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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Talk about the "decisive moment" . . .

These pictures have me looking around the house for things I can break. Gorgeous.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A neat summer shot


Sarah P. on a Burt Lake evening

My good friend Mike Johnston, who runs, or is, The Online Photographer, recently expressed something that I have long felt: digital sucks for black and white. He says this partly because in the part of an image where you should have highlight detail, digital usually gives you just, um, light.

A part of me always thought that my spectacular ignorance about digital workflow was the real thing to blame, so it was somewhat reassuring, I guess to hear someone whose skills I respect say this. But this issue does bug me. At this point, I'm not going back to film. I could; I still have the stuff. The darkroom could be up and running in five minutes. But I've become addicted to the immediate feedback of digital. I just shoot more of it, so even though it can't, yet, replace the feel of Tri-X, I get so much more in the way of images that it's a compromise I can live with. I just hope my current camera lasts me a few more years before I have to shell out for the next gen.

This cute girl above is one of Mike's cousins, actually, and I took this picture during a family gathering up in Michigan. If I were shooting film that night, I probably would have totally blown the exposure and had nothing to show for it--she walked away before I would have had time to bracket it. Because it was digital, I got it "right" (enough for me) the first time.
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Friday, August 10, 2007

Some More Hiking Pics


Pictured Rocks, some waterfall I forget which one.

So, for most of the fifteen miles of true "pictured rocks," the tall sandstone cliffs that give this place its name, we had fog. It was okay because we'd been there before and knew what it looked like. That's what we told ourselves, anyway. It was kind of an end of the world feeling, though, where you couldn't see the horizon on Lake Superior at all, but could just barely make out the waves hitting the base of the cliff that was up to 200 ft. below you. The picture above got took later in the day when the fog finally lifted. Waves have carved these hollows at the base of the cliffs so that, when they hit them now, it is loud, like bomb go off, all the time. Really cool soundz.

Neat mossy lane, probably leads to Hobbiton.

Waiting for the sunset, day three.

We had this entire beach, a couple miles of it, to ourselves this night. Nothing but sand and, like most days, the water was shallow enough that the sun had warmed it over the day. I swear, after swimming in Lake Superior, you feel like you've been forgiven for things you don't even remember doing.

You can see the six day old swimmers itch sores on my legs here, which I got before the trip. First time ever. When I got it, I looked it up on Wikipedia, which said that it was "not to be confused with Seafarer's Eruption." Yikes. Catching something that had the slightest chance of being confused for something called Seafarer's Eruption did not make me feel good at all. So far, I have resisted doing a Google image search for that malady.

Prospector and his mule Lucky taking in a sunset.

I thought this was such a sweet scene that I had to shoot it. Prospector was mad as hell at me when he heard the camera shutter, but it was worth listening to him spew his antique profanities for a few minutes in exchange for capturing the moment.

Such an awesome trip, though. We usually prefer hiking in some Canadian parks on the other side of Lake Superior because they have fewer people and are a little more difficult. Lots of times up there, the "trail" is merely a faint system of rock cairns that you have to look for while scrambling on wave-covered rocks. Very cool, but the scenery here is hard to beat, and we decided it was kind of nice to have an easier trail for once.
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Monday, August 06, 2007

Prospector's Big Trip, Part I

Prospector's last cup of coffee before hitting the trail. Mackinac City.

I first got Prospector and his pack mule, Lucky, for my two year old. He was meant to be a present before we left the kid and his sister for four days of hiking the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore up in the U.P. But then Prospector wanted to come with us, so he did. He was a real crotchety companion at times, but he had a lot of good folk wisdom to share with us and also plenty of stories to tell around the campfire. Sure, most of his stories involved snakebites and claim jumping, but you'd be surprised how much variety there is in that genre. Most nights, we were riveted to his tales about the Badlands and the Yukon. He's a wise old S.O.B., that Prospector.
Prospector's first big find

Above is a picture of Prospector with a bucket-full of blueberries, which he called "Blue Gold." Here is an excerpt from his diary entry for the day:

"In the mornin', when I told the young'ns that we'd be findin' blue-berries as big as your head this day, they got all excited-like. Especially the tall, gangly one. But later, when I showed them this great haul, they were, well, I reckon you'd say they was disappointed. There's just no figurin' youngsters today."

I feel bad for disappointing Prospector now. I guess I did misunderstand him a little. And them berries were pretty great. Blueberry bushes lined probably 20 of the 37 miles we covered. And raspberries, too:One part Grape-Nuts, One part Granola, Raspberries, and dried milk.

This is breakfast on the first morning, the only rain we had the whole trip. Lake Superior was kind of angry just next to us but didn't rush our coffee and cereal. I swear, you could eat nothing but sand on a hiking trip and you'd think it's the best meal you ever had. Something about being outside and tired. Maybe it's the flavor of bugs in your food. Anyway, an hour after this, we came across two kayakers who'd given up on the lake and were actually dragging their kayaks down the trail because the waves were too big. They looked, well, miserable. We were a little wet, but our MSR Hubba Hubba tent had kept us pretty clean that night.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Back home again in Indiana.

Pictured Rocks, day two
Well that felt like a long trip. A little over two weeks away with four days of backpacking without kids in the middle of it. In woods with barely any internets for 14 days or so, you don't miss internets. And you don't miss tv, though staying somewhere that had cable during the big Tour de France stages was nice.

It's weird coming home after two weeks away. The house feels like it has been up to something, but it won't say what.

The last thing I read last night was Kenneth Koch's poem "The Boiling Water," which starts: "A serious moment for the water is when it boils." It's just the craziest thing and I can't stop thinking about it.

Lots of pictures coming soon.
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Monday, July 16, 2007

Pitchfork

Just had a great weekend at the Pitchfork festival. Just for Saturday, but what a bargain that was, like $29 for a day of great sets. It was also the first time I've taken the train to Chicago, which was quite a pleasure for not having to deal with parking and being able to sit and read the whole trip there.

Picture above is the crowd for Mastodon. Joseph and I hadn't planned on trying to see them, but ran into some former students who'd been waiting in the front row for Cat Power's set, which wasn't planned to start for another three hours, and after talking to them a few minutes Mastodon was ready to go, so we stayed. I stuffed a large wad of paper napkin into each ear and began trying not to laugh whenever the metal hair-gods of Mastodon looked my way. God, they're so serious. I really did feel like the lead singer was looking at me and could tell that I was not one of them.

The picture below is the crowd at Dan Deacon, the highlight "experience" of Saturday, I think. See, instead of fists, his crowd did things like wield a squirt gun that is color-coordinated with your purple fingernails. Deacon didn't even set up on stage, but nobody really cared that much because he was so funny , talking through his whole set, telling the sound guy to turn up the volume "about 400 dragons" and, I dunno, just not shutting up, like some holy goof with a drum machine.

The people watching was kind of fun, too. I took this picture because the guy's pose reminded me exactly of a reversed version of Edouard Manet's Olympia:
Edouard Manet, Olympia 1863-1865
Do you see it? It's so obvious, I think the guy must have been doing it on purpose, thinking to himself "I am Manet's Olympia" over and over. He must be a little strange, if you ask me.And here is Joseph showing off his Obama t-shirt, his very first stop inside the gates that day. Joseph knows his stuff and predicts Obama will be the man, while I am reserving judgment. You should have seen Joseph shut down a volunteer for Libertarian candidate Ron Paul who accosted us while we were on the way to the Old Town School of Folk Music's summer festival on Sunday.

Walking by a shoe store in the Wicker Park area on Sunday, he told me a story about a time when he passed the store when it was closed and dark, but in the store window was its guard dog in the act of eating the display shoes. When Joseph told me this I first thought "no, life is not that funny; things this good cannot happen," but then I thought again on this sunny day with a light breeze surrounded by Chicago's version of beautiful people and thought "yes, it's true; life is this good. The dog ate the shoes."

So, for the record, my favorites from the day at Pitchfork:

1. Grizzly Bear. Much more dynamic and raucous than on their records, and they pulled off their harmonizing, too. One of those shows where you find yourself liking songs live that you sometimes skip through on the cd.

2. Califone. I'd never listened to Califone before because, seriously, their name reminded me of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Californication and I can't stand the RHCP. But I gave them a try knowing they'd be playing this weekend and it's great. If their set were longer, it might have supplanted Grizzly Bear as my favorite of the weekend, too.

3. Dan Deacon. His album Spiderman of the Rings is pretty fun, and live he doesn't sound much different--I think he almost just presses play on his ipod, because at the beginning of the set he kept muttering "c'mon ipod, work" and he wasn't kidding. But his show is great. The crowd was so ready for him and into him and just positive all around.

My only real disappointments were Iron & Wine, who were bland as heck I think because he tried to electrify things instead of stay acoustic and intimate and stuff. Also Cat Power was only okay, but she was sober, at least, I think. It was a lot of sun--a nice brief shower would have been nice--but an awesome day. I might have to seriously consider going at least two days next summer and bringing more of the family.