records acquired recently

December 31, 2005

Okay, so I generally frown upon “record score” internet bragaddocio for a number of reasons, chief among them being that it’s a facet of ridiculous consumerist collection-fetish and that I just don’t have sophisticated enough taste to really feel comfortable showing off my belongings with regard to music.

With that out of the way, I bring you a few records I’ve acquired in the past week that I am genuinely excited about:

Johnny Cash: The Legend boxed set. My mother purchased this for me for Christmas, shoving me off down the road of Boxed Set Ownership. It’s got a whole lot of (really good) songs. And HEY I liked him before the damn movie, alright? Even before he died.

Bee Gees: Rare Precious and Beautiful (this is stuff they recorded in Australia prior to being picked up by Stigwood, rereleased in 1968) and 2 Years On, the first sort-of comeback album they did after their sort-of breakup, but before they started playing embarrassingly bad music.

Elton John: Honky Chateau. I’m definitely a sucker for “Rocket Man,” and I also have a soft spot for anyone who can so seamlessly mix serious heartbreaking stuff like that with ridiculous almost-novelty songs like “I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself.” (Ben Folds Five is another that comes quickly to mind in that category.)

Steely Dan: Can’t Buy a Thrill. Their first album, aka The One with “Reelin’ in the Years” on it. I guess you could also call it The One With “Do it Again” On It, or, if your priorities are truly twisted, The One with “Dirty Work” On It, but you’d be missing the point in either case. “Reelin’ in the Years” is amazing, mostly for the content and delivery of its verses, so far as I’m concerned, and the use of the dual-guitar matched solo, years before Thin Lizzy did it.

I was honestly a bit startled that of the 4 albums that I bought myself, no less than three were from 1972. My predeliction for somewhat cheezy late-’60s and early-’70s pop is taking over my life. If you’d like to get to work early on my birthday gift for this year (it’s only nine months away!), perhaps you’d look into AM Gold?

year-end reflexive reflection

December 28, 2005

The final week of the year is when as a matter of tradition I largely sequester myself at the home of my parents, forgetting about the other people to whom I otherwise constantly compare myself, reacquainting myself with the standalone person I am and the interests I hold and desires I nourish, and engage in fantasy role play regarding the coming year. I look back at the past year and make plans for the next one in rather vague terms and encourage you to do the same for yourself and for me:

In the great football game of the eons, 2005 will, I think, go down as a big false start. For the most part, we’ve been sent back 5 yards and told to think about what we did. A number of bands and projects began, or began to really make something of themselves, only to self-destruct. I myself was definitely guilty of firing up all engines, pushing the throttle through the spring and summer months, and ultimately shooting some distance over the cliff when I finally reached it, making a dramatic impact in the fall.

It was fitting that Q’s spring comp release was called “The Long Run of Small Steps,” referring to the baby-steps progress being made by the scene, and perhaps even more appropriate that his fall release was called “Revolved Back to Failure,” which I’m sure wasn’t meant to foreshadow or even reflect the nature of what was falling apart around it, but inadvertantly did.

I got my writing degree this year, and only now am I starting to work on something that will hopefully put my training to work to some extent. I toured for the first time with my band, which was much more rewarding than I had even anticipated. I met tons of new people, many from other towns, many of whom inspired me in a lot of ways. I got a “real job” that I soon realized will barely pay my bills (goodbye, dreams of living in luxury). Toward the later months of the year, after the fall (if you’ll allow me such a ridiculous multi-layer pun, just this once), I regained my ability to really enjoy myself alone, without feeling as if I always had to be out seeing someone or something, which I had lost to an extent in the past few years while growing accustomed to the scene/community around me.

There were great new records (see: Des Ark, Navies, Lungfish) and some startlingly good shows in town (see: Des Ark, Belegost, The Mountain Goats, Navies, Bellafea).

I didn’t keep in touch with some people like I meant to. I didn’t match the creative stride I feel like I hit a few years ago. I wrote some, but not as much as I’d like, and I never ended up self-publishing what I intended to. I didn’t find a cure for recurrent insomnia or near-breakdown-level anxiety (though I did occasionally stumble upon a short-term fix). I also didn’t really finish my Christmas gifts for people, or my cards, for that matter. Some great bands broke up before their time. Some great relationships formed and more great relationships fell apart. People got sick, were mugged, burglarized, flooded.

It’s disquieting, and at points downright depressing, to look around and realize that much of what you spent so much time building and watching others put up around you is now in great part a heap of disjointed parts strewn all around. Our projects, our communities, our lives are supposed to be more than sand castles, but right now they feel as precious and as fragile. The towers we were building were supposed to permit us to see the hills and valleys for hundreds of miles, and five or six months ago I would have said they did, and now many of them are in a heap on the ground, and the best we can do is stand on tiptoes on a cinder block on end.

But it doesn’t pay to preach doom, especially since we’re here for the long run and the more time we spend in shock and/or despair, the less time we have to build something good again. My commandments for the new year, for myself and for you: Start over. Don’t worry about what we did last year or the year before; if the best you have is some cinder blocks on end, put one on top of the other and if you have to, spit on them to make them stick together. Make each other mixtapes. (More importantly, make ME a mixtape. And e-mail me if you’d like to trade.) Make each other cookbooks. (Likewise.) Don’t let the internet keep you in your house, but do let a good book do it if you get the chance. Don’t let your job eat your life, no matter how huge its maw and appetite. Take a chance on an idea or a person, even if you’re deathly afraid (I certainly am). Put your principles into action in new, small ways that you can maintain.

seasonal greetings

December 26, 2005

I was working last week on a plea for an embargo on interviews with Brian Wilson, poor man, but I was too busy to finish, and now my time on the Internet is sporadic while I chill at the parents’, which is good, because I am concentrating on reading interesting things and learning about UFOs on the History Channel. I will be full of great ideas when I return soon. In the meantime, read some of the things I link to over there on the right. I promise they’re good folk!

One of the most tender moments of the holiday season for me is when Linus shoves that blue blanket aside for a moment, asks for the spotlight, rattles off the entirety of Luke 2:8-14 in a seamless fashion, then turns and says, in the most matter-of-fact fashion possible, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” then walks away.

I’ve said more than once, and meant it every time, that this is the one moment each year when I’m most tempted to become a churchie again. Not that it’s a strong enough temptation to actually make me do it, but it’s the closest I come on a somewhat regular basis. It tugs at my memories of a youth spent in Catholic schools, not getting my knuckles rapped because most of the nuns were retired, or at least away from Wilkinsburg, by the early ’90s. Having it broken down for me, but in a caring way, by a boy who is sure in his faith but so clearly unsure of most everything else, is massively appealing to me.

Someone else who perhaps needs to have it broken down for him is David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church. Ann Rodgers wrote a piece about him and his book that ran in today’s Post-Gazette, piquing my interest.

He of course demonizes feminism and inclusive languaging as being misandrist and scaring men away from church (the argument, of course, being that that is a bad thing).

To quote Rodgers:

The typical church, he says, has soft, pretty decor and teaches comfort and compliance rather than guy stuff like boldness and mission. While he doesn’t take a stand against women’s ordination, he argues that female pastors can add to the perception that church isn’t masculine.

Now, we could talk gender roles and all that for days, but I’m not even going to take that into account for now, because we ARE talking about Christian churches here, and we don’t really expect people arguing within that paradigm to be beacons of progressive thought. Also, we could point out that only one in eight clergy members is female, which really makes that a pretty unimportant factor, all things considered, but let’s not. Let’s move on to the real meat of this argument:

One of his success stories concerns a church that changed the decor of its prayer room. It replaced lavender paint and lace curtains with a spiritual warfare theme, using swords, shields and tomahawks as art.

. . .

“We like to talk about nurturing things, about giving something care, and tending it, and making it grow as a flower would,” he says. Outside the church, he says, no one would approach a man and say, “Would you come over here and help me nurture something?”

Enter Linus.

Your church (group of churches) is based on the philosophy of an individual(/deity if you will) whose ideology was basically diametrically opposed to all the mythology of warrior cultures worldwide. He essentially refuted everything in Hebrew tradition that would have engendered swords, shields and tomahawks as imagery (excepting the line about bringing not peace but a sword, but I’m not sure how literally that’s to be interpreted . . .)

That’s what it’s all about, David! If men really just like swords and missions and crusades and tomahawks, perhaps they should find a new mythology to believe in! Otherwise, can’t you do a little better than meeting your savior halfway?

upcoming stuff

December 18, 2005

I haven’t updated the “up-and-coming” lately, as I’ve been out of commission in a lot of fields for different reasons. This evening is the Mixtape Potluck/Potlatch at our house, email me if you’re around and want to come and don’t know the address.

Looking further ahead:

January 19th at Roboto, the triumphant (perhaps) return of the sea, like lead, with sparrows, swarmandsing!, and a couple locals. Presumably at 7 or 7:30 or whatever. The split with Belegost should be put together and available by then, if all goes according to plan. The official release will most likely be in February (stay tuned for further developments).

currently on the docket

December 15, 2005

Reading the following (probably none of them cover-to-cover, just parts, as research for a potential piece of writing) (that’s right, a piece of writing; I realize it’s been a while . . .):

The Conquest of Cool, by Thomas Frank (who also co-edited Commodify Your Dissent).

No Respect and No Sweat, both by Andrew Ross.

I’ll be sure to mention anything that jumps out at me.

I realize that I’m not where you go to get your news, which is a good thing, since I’m a couple days behind on the execution of Tookie Williams. It happened nearly two days ago now, but I haven’t had much time to write, and capital punishment isn’t something that you touch base about quickly.

I’m not going to bombard you with statistics or any such thing, and I’m not going to try to make some sort of judgment on whether or not Tookie (or Mumia, or anyone else) was guilty or not. That stuff all evades the point as far as I’m concerned.

The point, dear friends, is that capital punishment is the ultimate manifestation of violent and coercive political power. It is the cornerstone of any society that puts it to use. There can never be an entity that is peaceful that utilizes the death penalty. Parents who beat their children when they misbehave beget children who beat up other children (or pets, or adults). Likewise, a state that kills its citizens when they misbehave begets citizens who kill other citizens when they transgress. The very act of state-sanctioned homicide affirms homicide as a viable act. I’m not saying that societies without the death penalty don’t ever have murders, but I am saying that societies with the death penalty will always have murders. For those of you who are into “necessary/sufficient” wording: capital punishment is not necessary to create a violent society, but it is sufficient.

So, regardless of whether the convicted is actually guilty, regardless of whether there is a racial bias and/or arbitrariness involved in the application, regardless of who’s for and who’s against, capital punishment is reprehensible, it’s unacceptable, it’s possibly the most odious of actions our government is responsible for (if we have to start ranking) from a simple philosophical standpoint, and even in the most cut-and-dried cases I refuse to accept it as an option.

Any questions?