Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Top Albums of 2009

Ok, this is hard for me to do, since 2009 was actually a pretty darn good year for music. Still, here goes nothing.

10. Alice In Chains- Black Gives Way To Blue

What else can I say really? I already blogged about this album. AIC are back, baby.

9. Porcupine Tree- The Incident

Fell short of their normal standard a bit for me, but it is still a darn amazing album. There's a blog on this one to, so go read that for more.

8. Nile- Those Whom The Gods Detest

Pure, crazy, unbelievable Egyptian-themed death metal from SC. I have no idea how these guys play like they do, but this is one of the most technical records of the year. One thing is for sure; Ancient Egypt is brutal.

7. Mastodon- Crack The Skye

Concept album about a paraplegic who experiments with astral projection, only to fly too close to the sun and burn the golden umbilical cord that connects him to his body, sending him on a wormhole adventure that somehow ends up having Rasputin battling Satan to bring him back to his body. Enough said.

6. Pelican- What We All Come To Need

The Chicago-based instru-metallers have outdone themselves with this album. Some of their fiercest and most beautiful material. Choice cuts include "Specks of Light," "Strung Up From The Sky," and "Final Breath," which features the first sung vocals in the band's history.

5. The Swell Season- Strict Joy

There's a blog on this one as well. I'm not saying anything more than I need to, although I'll add to what I said before by saying that "High Horses" is an awesome song.

4. Russian Circles- Geneva

This instrumental trio, similar to Pelican in style and geographical origin, have also created the best album of their career. Good year for instrumental music.

3. Isis- Wavering Radiant

Isis have once again blown me away with this album that, according to Aaron Turner, is based on his dreams. I had the chance to see them live this year as well, and the new material translates wonderfully. Isis can do no wrong in my book.

2. Between the Buried and Me- The Great Misdirect

If Colors was BTBAM's Dark Side of the Moon, then this is their Wish You Were Here. An amazing follow-up and possibly better than its predecessor. Technical insanity at it's finest. "Disease, Injury, Madness," "Fossil Genera- A Feed From Cloud Mountain," and "Desert of Song" are personal favorites.

1. a) Thrice- Beggars
b) The Avett Brothers- I and Love and You

Yes, it's a tie. I honestly couldn't decide. The experimental punkish energy of Thrice and the newgrass tinged Avett's have dominated my stereo this year. Probably more to come on both of those albums.

Thanksgiving "break"

To preface, I put "break" in quotes because I got little to no sleep, and still had a lot of work to do. It was interesting, to say the least. I spent it with the extended family on my mother's side, in a cottage at the Outer Banks. I'm gonna put this pretty bluntly: They are all a cross between redneck and hippie, and they like to drink. ALOT. I mean, there was an entire table devoted to liquor. This is aggravating for me, being someone who was against drinking even before I grew to better know God. After Thanksgiving dinner, one of my distant uncles shouted something along the lines of "Time for the good stuff!" and proceeded to unveil, rather theatrically, a large pickle jar with "666" written on the side filled with homemade strawberry moonshine. I had to laugh at this. Overall, it was strange for me. The last time I hung out with them all was last October, before I grew in my faith, and all the same stuff was going down, pretty much. Almost everyone was drunk, it was loud, I heard stories of family on drugs and in prison, as well as in custody battles, and I jammed with my uncles on a few songs, including a few my uncle wrote, which sang about anything from his grandmother working in a brothel to his affection for breasts and alcohol. He even had one dedicated to the family, called "I'll never smoke weed with the Roughtons again." The same stuff happened, but it all felt different. Instead of it being like it was before, after I had grown up around it and gotten used to it, I was able to really grasp how sad it was. At one point, around 3 AM, I left the room in the middle of my uncles having a racist rant, only to hear "Of course he leaves when we start talking bad about the n*****s." It was a depressing experience for me in a way. Men and women in and above their 60's drinking like college kids, the stories, the loud music. It all seemed so superficial. I loved seeing the family, don't get me wrong. I just hated seeing how bad off they were. It hurts because I want to help them. I don't like to see people I care about destroying themselves. I know God has put this on my heart for a reason, and He wants me to reach them, and I want to reach them as well. I left and came back to Wilmington early. It became too much. I hope I will be able to reach and help them somehow in the future, but it was all too much at the time. Didn't get to see the family on my dad's side, save for a few minutes of visiting on my way out of town. Hopefully I'll get to see more of everyone around Christmas. And, of course, that rest will be headed my way soon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christian "Art" (specifically, music)

This picture makes me laugh. It comes courtesy of my friend Sara, and it is of a memorial in Romania. "Cristian Pop" is the man's name, but add an "H" into his first name and it begins to relate to this blog post. Segue time!

Basically, Christian music, for the most part, is not a force to be reckoned with in an artistic sense. This, of course, is not to devalue worship music; The worship experience is extremely important. However, Psalm 96 says "Sing to the Lord a new song!" Not the same one with a different tune. Here's a little something to consider: Contemporary Christian music is the only genre of music that is categorized entirely by lyrical content. And it really goes nowhere from there. Christian music is written by Christians (obviously), about Christianity, for mostly Christians. While worship is an important part of music, we are also called to "go and make disciples." Oftentimes, non-Christians will tend to avoid over-Jesusy music, since it is based around a faith they do not know. We create a Christian bubble, and it is hard for others to get in. If, however, we sing about our Christian worldview, new possibilities can crop up. We are, of course, called to be "in the world, but not of the world." Our faith should affect everything in our lives, and we should acknowledge that in lyrics. It changes your thoughts on everything. You begin to see the world how God sees the world, and that should show in your lyrics. If a non-Christian person begins to see the world how you present it, they are beginning to adopt God's perspective, which could be an important step in bringing them closer to God.

My next gripe with the lack of artistic merit in Christian music is the music itself. Oftentimes, it is.......well, boring. Most Contemporary Christian music features a very simple melody with about 4 chords repeated over and over for 3 to 5 minutes. (Trust me, I'm a worship leader; I know, although I try to play more interesting songs while maintaining an attitude of worship.) These songs are not bad, and they are great for a worship environment, but in every other way they are boring. We are told to play our instruments "skillfully," not repetitively. Change it up a bit! This is why kids associate church with boredom! We write our music for God, so we should try our darnedest to do it well! Music is a language all it's own. Music can say a heck of a lot more than words sometimes. Our music shouldn't say "G, D, A minor, C," it should say " I love God and I wanna show it!" Instrumental music can often say a lot more to me than any lyrics; We need to make use of music's power!

My passions are art and God. I want to live my life for God, while reflecting that in my art. God can't be contained in 4 chords. We want to show people our hearts for God, as well as God's heart for the world, both lyrically and musically. I will close this blog with some lyrics by Thrice. Their music is experimental and artistic and just plain amazing, and their lyricist, Dustin Kensrue, presents his ideas on God subtly and beautifully.

Wood and Wire
14 years behind these bars,
In 12-foot square of cold cement.
I’ve lost nearly everything,
For a crime of which I’m innocent.

But all my suffering’s a light and momentary pain,
While the weight of an endless glory still remains to me.

A dead man walking down the hall,
To meet a mess of wood and wire.
They lead me where men fear to tread-
But towards the thing I most desire.

For all my suffering’s a light and momentary pain,
While the weight of an endless glory still remains.
Throw the switch son; I know you ain’t got a choice.
The dawn is coming; all is well, I will rejoice.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Setting stones

"Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I've come."
-Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

So, to give credit where credit is due, this entry is greatly inspired by last night's service at Lifepoint. To start, here is a bit of a contextual preface from 1 Samuel 7:1-17. Here, Israel is in mourning, as they have once again turned away from God. (This happens quite often; I'd be frustrated with the Israelites if their lives didn't mirror my own so much.) Here, Samuel says "If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and He will deliver you out of the hands of the Philistines." While it is generally well-known, it is important to note that it is pretty common for the Israelites to create manmade idols and worship foreign gods instead of the one true God. (Who, I can only imagine, must perform an epic facepalm every time His chosen people stray.) The Israelites then gathered at a place called Mizpah and fasted, poured water out before the Lord, and confessed, so that Samuel may intercede with God. Those darn Philistines heard about this and, seeing it as a moment of weakness, decided to be total jerks and launch an attack. When the Israelites found out about the attack, they prayed even more fervently, and made a burnt offering to God. Here's the crazy part; When the Philistines drew near, "The Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites." The Israelites then proceeded to chase them down and own them.
So here we have an incredible story of repentance on behalf of the Israelites, and of God's mercy shining through, as well as His awesome provision. But here comes the crux of the story. (Well, at least for the purposes of this blog.) After the Philistines were defeated, Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen. "He named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far has the Lord helped us.'" This may seem insignificant, but it's pretty crucial. Samuel is setting up a monument, a reminder of sorts, to always show how the Lord has provided. And it makes me think; I go through life with a cycle of crises, always praying for God's help with one thing, then switching to another once He's taken care of it. In the midst of all my asking of God, it is a rare occasion that I actually stop to just thank and praise Him for the amazing things He's done. I look back at some hard times in my life, which at the time seemed hopeless, and seemed so desperate. Often, I could never see God working; I'd scream at Him to show up, but He was already taking care of things, a realization that only comes with hindsight. Sometimes, you have to get some distance from your problems before you realize how puny they are compared to God. This past January, I was pretty bad off. I was close to a level of clinical depression, due to many things that would take too long to type up, and I really didn't know where God was, nor could I see Him working. Looking back, I see some of the amazing things He was doing in me that were right in front of me. I see how the situations I was put into and the people I've been around have molded my life into what it is, and I am thankful for that. God isn't always immediate; He can be pretty sneaky/subtle sometimes in the ways He works in people.

So onto the big thing, which is giving Him thanks for this. What can I do to place Ebenezer stones in my own life? Well, there's the hope that God will work in others through me, and that me helping them along the path to God is a tribute in itself. And isn't that the core desire of a follower of Christ? To experience His love, and to bring others to experience it? There are other stones I think I leave. As a musician, my songs are worship to Him, and in that aspect are very much commemorative pieces to Him, much like the stones. They illustrate ways that He has spoken to me, and how that has changed me.

There isn't a whole lot of deep extrapolation here. Mainly, I just wrote this as a way of recognizing just how far God has carried me, even in the short span of a year. It is incredibly encouraging to look back and see just how easily God has dealt with some of the hardest parts of my life. It gives me a lot of hope for Him working in current and future struggles. After all, there isn't really any problem too big for Him too handle, and He's proved that time and time again.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Trust, grace, and other meditations/realizations

This past week or so has been one where God has alternated between complete silence and practically shouting things at me that I've been ignoring to a lesser or greater extent. I've been noticing lately that He often has to frustrate me to the point of breakdown until I realize something, which certainly says something about my stubbornness. He's shown me a lot of ways that I've been guarding myself, a lot of ways that I have not been accepting His grace, and even some places in my life where I still haven't fully learned to trust Him.
The hardest thing to face that God has shown me recently is that I still haven't learned to trust him in my interpersonal relationships. (This, of course, extends all the way from interactions with strangers to friends and more than such.) As someone who strives to follow Christ in all aspects of my life, it was terrifying for me to realize that I was letting things get in the way of that. Relatively insignificant things, at that. I guess, to outline this, I'll just start small and end with the heavier stuff. Being a leader in a Christian organization, and just a general follower of Christ, I am called to be evangelical, to "go and make disciples," to quote the man himself. Problem is, I lack the social graces for speaking with strangers about anything, especially my faith. I naturally avoid conflict, and have this innate fear of rejection, and this somehow results in the paranoid ideation that everyone I talk to about God who doesn't already know Him is gonna want to get in an argument with me, or that I'll say something that just hits them wrong, and they'll end up shutting me, or worse, God out completely. While these fears seem rational to my introverted mind, they simply aren't. Not to say that I won't ever face conflict in this; there are some people who simply do not want God, which I should be prepared for. Still, I am called to reach out to people, because that is how people come to know God. And as for my fear of speaking, Romans says that God fills us with His Holy Spirit, which speaks through us and gives us wisdom. He has it under control; why do I need to worry?
The second tier of my interpersonal distresses comes from my inability to say hard things to people I'm close to. Again, this is a simple case of conflict-avoidance. I am terrified of burning bridges, and it's this fear that shuts me up even when I'm on the verge of exploding. It's this fear that has kept me from telling some friends how they have really hurt me or aggravated me, in ways they may not even realize or intend. It's this fear that has kept me from screaming at certain friends and family who are destroying their lives with drugs and alcohol, who have completely disregarded the care of their friends and family for the comfort of the substance. I have always been able to show them grace, however frustrating, but I have never been able to break down and say the hard things, because my mind tells me that it is better to live with a problem than it is to risk making it worse to fix it. But then, expressing my concerns or problems out of the same love for these people that keeps me from rocking the boat may sometimes be the only way to make them realize the weight of the situation. These situations desperately need to be addressed, because silence only exacerbates the problem. You think it will go away if you ignore it, but it really just stews, maybe going dormant for a bit, and it just keeps getting worse. And it's only recently that I've realized that I don't fully trust God to remedy these situations, or to rebuild these bridges. Which, of course, is ridiculous. God is a healer and restorer of relationships, and we are called to address conflict or sin in a godly manner with the individual. Heck, there are even specific guidelines to confronting a person about conflicts. It's pretty clear, judging both from scripture and from God speaking directly to me, that He wants me to address these issues, and that he's gonna have my back when I get the guts to say what needs to be said.
Lastly, a good deal of the part of my life where I still have not learned to fully trust God results from things that have happened in my romantic life. I know stuff like that is silly, and we often either overdramaticize or downplay the power of romantic hurts, but the effects are always there, to a lesser or greater extent, and can cause significant distress. My walling up in this area is explained pretty simply: I have dated 3 people in my life, all of whom cheated on me and severed all contact. I certainly don't condone emo-ranting, but at the same time, the psychological impact of something like this cannot be ignored, and there was a lot of hurt wrapped up in that. After all of that, I've just started avoiding those connections. That isn't to say I don't desire that kind of close relationship with somebody, but that there's just this ingrained fear that leads to me not fully trusting God in leading me to healthy relationships. I've realized that I've had a lot of bitterness from this, and have detached myself from a lot of things.
So what's the basic overview? What have I sussed out in the course of this little mental dialogue? Basically, sometimes all you can really do is take a plunge and trust God to keep you safe. Yeah it can have varying degrees of fear associated with it, but God is a protector; He loves us, and he is with us in EVERY situation, even those that make us most antsy. He has a plan for us to prosper and to have a future. It is my nature to avoid all forms of conflict, all situations that my worst-case-scenario mindset can take hold, even to the point of detaching myself from the situation. I have to trust God in everything, no matter how nervous it makes me. He is the God of my whole life, not just parts. I want to surrender completely to Him, and to trust him enough to make the necessary leaps, knowing that He is going to catch me. Also, God didn't just throw these convictions in my face without encouragement; in the midst of my worrying, I found 2 Corinthians 7:10, which says "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." It was God saying, "Well Matt, you aren't perfect (gasp), but at least you are worrying about the right things, and I love you regardless." I will close this rather lengthy post with Psalm 62, and the prayer that I would trust God in every aspect of my life, and that He would be the God of my whole life, not just the parts I feel safe enough in.

My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

How long will you assault a man?
Would all of you throw him down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?

They fully intend to topple him
from his lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Lowborn men are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie;
if weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.

Do not trust in extortion
or take pride in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.

One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,

and that you, O Lord, are loving.

Surely you will reward each person

according to what he has done.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My own language

So in paying close attention to my own speech, it was difficult for me to notice words that I say particularly often, since I don't really say much. I did notice that I say "man" at the end of many statements, which could be one reason that people often take me (mistakenly) for a stoner. I've also noticed, to an extent, that I will occasionally use musical terminology to describe certain aspects of everyday things. For example, the other day, I commented on a persons voice having a particularly strange timbre. I've also noticed that I will reply to various statements with a muttered "meh."Apart from quoting the movies Friday and Anchorman on an almost daily basis, I can't really think of many more phrases or words that I use regularly. Well, at least none that are worth commenting on.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Strict Joy

When I saw the title of The Swell Season's new album, "Strict Joy," I'll admit that I was a little concerned. They had come to be one of my favorite bands with their self-titled debut, which was characterized by soft, melancholic, mid-tempo acoustic guitar and piano songs with some strings here and there for added oomph. While it was some of the most beautiful music around, I certainly would not have referred to it as "joyful." Therein lay my worry for the new album. Upon listening to it a few times and digesting it, I have found that, while the title is apt, and the group has expanded their sound significantly, the group loses none of their power, nor any of their ability to tug at the heartstrings.
The album opens with "Low Rising," an upbeat, jazzy little number, complete with a horn section and solos from a slide guitar and a trumpet. "I want to sit you down and talk. I wanna pull back the veils and find out what it is I've done wrong," Glen Hansard sings. It is immediately clear that while the band's subject matter remains the same, they seem much more cheerful about things. The third track, "In These Arms," finds the band back doing what they do best: creating beautiful, tear-jerking ballads. The combination of the light piano in the background and the harmony created by Hansard and Irglova singing "Maybe I was born to hold you in these arms" makes this one a standout, and a definite favorite for fans of their older material. Next is "The Rain," an upbeat acoustic number that seems to keep a good balance between the new and old styles, followed by "Fantasy Man," the first song on the album led by Czech singer Marketa Irglova. This track has an interesting folky feel to it, from the plucked guitar to Irglova's subdued, almost childishly innocent vocals. My personal favorite on the album is the Irglova-led track "I Have Loved You Wrong," written from the POV of a lover who expresses great regret for the mistakes they have made in a relationship. Not an original concept by any means, but they do it SO well. If there is a single moment on the album that will make you tear up, it will be the beautiful vocal harmony at the end of this track. Easily a personal favorite of their songs.
While these are the tracks that stand out to me, there really isn't a sour moment on this new release. Lyrically, the group is as melancholic as ever. Sonically, they have branched out significantly, adding horns, electric instrumentation, and even spanish guitar courtesy of Javier Mas. You could certainly say that, instrumentally, they sound much more "joyful" than on their debut. The album is a clear evolution of their sound, and I love to see artists evolve, so I say keep it comin'.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Just go

Ah, the omnipotent identity crisis. It seems like everyone, no matter how sure they are of what they want in life, experiences this, and I have recently gone through it as well. I, of course, have been going through the Christian identity crisis, which asks "Where does God want me?" Christians sometimes seem to think that every decision we make holds the potential to screw up God's plan for us, that God can only use us in a particular situation. As a part of my little identity crisis, I wasn't feeling particularly "called" to my major. In fact, I haven't felt particularly "called" to much of anything. This has created a great deal of stress for me, especially worrying about life and debt after college. I have, over the past few weeks, questioned whether I really even was supposed to be in college.
With all of these little worries in mind last thursday, I went to my weekly discipleship with Matt. Upon my voicing of these concerns, Matt used his weird Matt-powers to point out something frickin' crazy. He said to turn to the Great Commission and to read it. Aloud, I read "Therefore, go and make disciples...." and so on. "Where does Jesus tell you to go?," he asked. Reviewing to make sure I had not missed anything and that I wasn't embarrassing myself, I replied "He doesn't." Matt's reply: "Exactly." God does not always tell us exactly where we are supposed to go, only that we make disciples and praise Him wherever we are. It seems a trend in Christian thought that if you are not precisely where God wants you, then God can't use you. This idea is fundamentally flawed by the fact that it places limits on God. As a Christian, it is perfectly plausible that you may not end up where you have felt called by God, or that you may not feel called to anything specific at all. But God can use you wherever you end up. We aren't told where to go, only what to do wherever we happen to be. I'm becoming more and more comfortable with the fact that God doesn't always explicitly tell you to "Go here." Oftentimes, God simply says "Just go, and I'll take care of the rest."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My faith

So, for the sake of clarity, here is a brief overview of my beliefs. I am a proud follower of Jesus Christ. I believe that God sent Jesus to die so that I could be redeemed and cleansed of the sin of this world. I would not, however, refer to my beliefs as a religion. The modern church as a religious organization was largely devised by man, and the ritual and routine, as well as the propensity for desensitization, was never what God intended His church to be. God's church is merely his unified body of followers and believers, living in community and striving to live for Him. Much of what would be considered "religion" today is more of a country-club-ish thing where the high and mighty can gather to separate themselves from the lesser, more sinful beings of society. This is simply not right on so many levels. First of all, it is written that there is NOT ONE without sin. We, therefore, have no right to place judgement on anyone, because we are equally guilty. Secondly, Jesus was not sent for the perfect people, but to redeem the sinful and deliver God's grace. Obviously, I have a few issues with how the church as an organization has become in today's culture, although this is certainly not a blanket fact. I also believe that, as a Christian, I am called to "go and make disciples of the nations," as stated in the Great Commission. I am called to bring the Lord everywhere I go, and to bring people to His salvation. This all, of course, is a VERY sparse overview of my beliefs. I would be able to write a whole book on everything I believe, and will certainly follow up this blog with more specific ones.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How to Disappear Completely

So I feel like ranting about this song. It is written by Radiohead, and is probably my favorite by them. For reference, here are the lyrics and a video.
That there
That's not me
I go
Where I please
I walk through walls
I float down the Liffey
I'm not here
This isn't happening
I'm not here
I'm not here

In a little while
I'll be gone
The moment's already passed
Yeah it's gone
And I'm not here
This isn't happening
I'm not here
I'm not here

Strobe lights and blown speakers
Fireworks and hurricanes
I'm not here
This isn't happening
I'm not here
I'm not here

The power in this song lies in the line "I'm not here." That is a powerful frickin' line. While I can only speculate as to what Thom Yorke intended when he penned it (unintended rhyme FTW!), it makes me think of someone who has emotionally detached themselves after a particularly bad occurrence. A death, an argument, a bad breakup. It makes me think of that mostly because that's what I have tended to do a lot. When things go sour, I tend to just remove myself from the situation. And while Thom explains the chaos surrounding the situation, the "strobe lights and blown speakers, fireworks and hurricanes," he continues to stress his distance from the situation. Not to mention his amazing delivery of the vocals. Nevertheless, this mammoth of a ballad is almost completely made by those 3 beastly words, "I'm not there." Apply meaning as you wish. Peace!

Black Gives Way to Blue

Alice In Chains, the renowned grunge-metal band from the 90's, just released their first full-length in 17 years, Black Gives Way to Blue, a week ago, and it is a giant success story. In addition to it being their first album in 17 years, it is their first since their vocalist Layne Staley died of a heroin overdose. Staley had a very unique voice, and many people were concerned about a new guy taking his place. Fear not, though. Newcomer William DuVall nails the Staley wail, snarling the songs he leads when he isn't creating that eerie, AIC-unique vocal harmony with Jerry Cantrell. Stacy and I were trying to figure out what interval the harmony created, and we decided it was either a 4th or a 6th. Either way, it is dissonant, creepy, and only Alice In Chains have ever pulled it off. In regards to the individual songs, they are some of the strongest in AIC's catalogue. "A Looking In View" is one of the darkest, heaviest songs they have ever done, and other songs such as "Your Decision" and "When the Sun Rose Again" capture well their subdued, Jar of Flies-era sound. Still, the biggest standout to me is the final track, which shares its title with the album. This track is led by piano played by none other than Sir Elton John, and is written about and dedicated to the late Layne Staley. This album is not only a great success story for Cantrell and company, but a moving eulogy to a unique voice that helped shape the group.


...was frickin' amazing. I had a feeling it would be, but when I heard "For Whom the Bell Tolls" in the opening credits, I was sold. Even besides Metallica, the movie was darn good. Jesse Eisenberg was as awkward and funny as ever, but I absolutely loved Woody Harrelson. Just the fact that Mickey from Natural Born Killers was running around in a drunken rage, butchering zombies and searching in vain for Twinkies, made the entire movie. I love when a serious actor can jump into a funny role. Bill Murray's inclusion in the movie was pretty darn good too, but that's all I'll say about that. Bottom line: just go see it. Tons of violent, gory, awkward fun.

The Incident

Ok, so if you know me, you know how much I love Steven Wilson, frontman for Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, Bass Communion, and now a solo project, among other things. Well Porcupine Tree have just released their newest effort, The Incident, and it is just plain ridiculous. The album is two discs: disc 1 is "The Incident," a 14 chapter, 55 minute song. Disc 2 is comprised of four songs that were to be considered separate from the 55 minute song cycle.
I know what you're thinking: A 55 minute song?! Well, yes and no. It is more of a song cycle, a collection of songs meant to be listened to in a single sitting and all thematically linked, but also listenable as individual pieces. In regards to the theme, well, I'll just let Mr. Wilson explain that. "There was a sign saying ‘POLICE – INCIDENT’ and everyone was slowing down to rubberneck to see what had happened... Afterwards, it struck me that ‘incident’ is a very detached word for something so destructive and traumatic for the people involved. And then I had the sensation that the spirit of someone that had died in the accident entered into my car and was sitting next to me. “The irony of such a cold expression for such seismic events appealed to me, and I began to pick out other ‘incidents’ reported in the media and news,” continues Wilson. “I wrote about the evacuation of teenage girls from a religious cult in Texas, a family terrorizing its neighbors, a body found floating in a river by some people on a fishing trip, and more. Each song is written in the first person and tries to humanize the detached media reportage.”
The song cycle begins with "Occam's Razor," a heavy, ominous piece that leads perfectly into "The Blind House," which may contain some of PT's heaviest music. From here, the cycle carries through the epic transitional piece "Great Expectations" and the reserved "Kneel and Disconnect." Then the album throws you a curveball. "Drawing the Line" begins with some rather ominous vibraphone and an eerie vocal line, leading up to one of the most strangely happy sounding, pop-punky choruses I've ever heard PT do. And just when I think nothing can surprise me after that, the cycle continues with the title track, which is easily one of the creepiest sounding, most industrial songs the band has done. It reminds me a lot of Nine Inch Nails. From here we move through the oddly cheerful "Your Unpleasant Family" and the electro-choral "The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train," and onto the 11 minute centerpiece, "Time Flies." One of the more autobiographical songs Wilson has done lyrically, it begins with a staccato guitar rhythm that vaguely reminds me of "Trains." "I was born in '67, the year of Sgt. Pepper and Are You Experienced?," Wilson sings. "After a while, you realize time flies." This leads into an interesting little proggy instrumental tangent before returning to the beginning rhythm and concluding. Next is "Degree Zero of Liberty," which is eerily similar to the first track. Then "Octane Twisted" comes along, once again showing off Wilson's talents for layering vocals, beginning softly, but growing into a heavy riff-o-rama. "The Seance" is next, a mostly acoustic, uneasy piece, which repeats the lyrics of "Octane Twisted" at the end before leading into the heavy instrumental "Circle of Manias." Finally, the piece concludes with one of my favorite PT moments, the mostly acoustic "I Drive the Hearse." "Silence is another way of saying what I want to say," Wilson sings, again proving that amongst his talents as a prog musician, he can still write a darn good ballad.
Well holy crap. That's disc 1 and I'm tired. Disc 2 is still exceptional though, for those who worried it would pale in comparison to the first. "Flicker" is a great softer song, and "Bonnie the Cat" is probably one of the weirdest things they've done. I don't even know how to describe it. But yeah, holy crap. Steven Wilson continues to blow me away.

The Alchemy Index/ another one of my artsy-fartsy music rants

I have recently been delving more and more into the music of Thrice. I had been listening to music from their third album, The Artist in the Ambulance, for years, and I had heard some of Vheissu, but I hadn't dug into them until recently. The first thing I really noticed is that every one of their albums is notably different from the last. I love being able to observe evolution in an artist, and it has certainly happened with Thrice. They recently released their new full-length album, Beggars, which I have been enjoying immensely, but this blog will be focusing more on the immense artistic achievement that they are coming out of. I am, of course, speaking of their 4 EP conceptual masterpiece, The Alchemy Index.
Thrice have done a lot of amazing things with The Alchemy Index. The set is 4 EP length discs, each lyrically and sonically focused on 1 of the 4 elements: fire, water, air, and earth, in that order. Guitarist and producer Teppei Teranishi altered the recording techniques for each disc, so it literally sounds like you are listening to the corresponding element. Frontman Dustin Kensrue also ends each disc with a song written in the style of an English sonnet, written from the perspective of the element to mankind.
First, let's begin with the Fire disc: it is frickin' heavy. That disc consists of some of the loudest, angriest, dirtiest sounding songs Thrice have ever done, and I dig it. "We will burn it down and build it again, what was buried in flame. Burn it down and build it again from the bricks that remain," Kensrue belts on "The Arsonist."This disc is the only real heavy one of the bunch, and it doesn't relent. The closing sonnet, "The Flame Deluge," sonically resembles a world at its end, as Kensrue, through the perspective of fire, laments its "curse, this awful power to unmake."
Next up is the Water disc. Thrice add layers of keyboard textures, as well as some industrial, electronic percussion, making the listener feel as if they are floating amongst the waves. They keep the guitars very smooth, with an almost icy timbre, to contrast with the warm, wavering keyboard textures. A personal favorite from this disc is "Open Water" where Kensrue seems to compare the seas to God. "I'm starting to believe the ocean's much like you, cause it gives and it takes away." The closing sonnet for this disc is the subdued "Kings Upon the Main," and is another personal favorite both musically and lyrically. "When kings upon the main have clung to pride, and held themselves as masters of the sea, I've held them down beneath the crushing tide till they have learned that no one masters me. But grace can still be found within the gale.
With fear and reverence, raise your ragged sail."
While the Water disc felt confined in a floaty sense, the Air disc feels very spacious in production terms. A highlight from this disc is the epic "Daedalus," which is the second song Thrice has written about the Icarus myth, this time from the perspective of Icarus' father. The first was "The Melting Point of Wax" from The Artist in the Ambulance, which was written from Icarus' perspective. Kensrue claims he did this because he felt there was something to learn from both points of view. The disc closes with "Silver Wings," as Kensrue lyrically personifies Air. "I've danced 'tween sunlit strands of lover's hair; Helped form the final words before your death. I've pitied you and plied your sails with air; Gave blessing when you rose upon my breath."
The final disc in the set is Earth, and "earthy" is the best way I can think of to describe the sound. The disc is mostly acoustic, and ranges from the folky guitar arrangements of "Moving Mountains" to the jazz piano balladry of "Digging My Own Grave." My personal favorite on this disc is "Come All You Weary," in which Kensrue writes from the perspective of Jesus. "Come all you weary with your heavy loads. Lay down your burdens find rest for your souls. Cause my yoke is easy and my burden is kind. I’ll take yours upon me and you can take mine." From a Christian perspective, this is the most powerful song of the set for me. The disc closes with the piano led "Child of Dust," where Kensrue, through the perspective of earth, sings "Dear prodigal you are my son and I supplied you not your spirit, but your shape. All Eden's wealth arrayed before your eyes; I fathomed not you wanted to escape." For the final two lines of this song, Teranishi once again shows his prowess as a producer. To give the listener the sensation of being buried, he buried the microphone in a box to record the lines, creating a muffled, coffin-like effect. The final words that reach the listener in this stifled atmosphere are these: "Now safe beneath their wisdom and their feet, here I will teach you truly how to sleep."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Safety vs. Significance

One of the most dangerous ideas about modern Christianity is that it is supposed to be "safe." Many Christians are deluded and, to some degree, enticed by the idea of God having their back, and being able to pray away any problem, to lay back and reap the benefits of siding with the Almighty. I feel that simply as a result of my more withdrawn personality, I have fallen into that trap all too often. I have rarely taken bold steps in faith, and it seems sometimes that I am living WITH God instead of FOR God. I've prayed about this a lot, and I am getting better; I stepped into the role of worship leader at Intervarsity this year, originally not even planning to sing, and now I lead and sing several songs per week. This past week, I took what I would consider my boldest step of faith in performing with the IV worship band at Concert on the Commons, which I was actually having nightmares of in the weeks leading up to it. I think that it went very well, certainly much better than it could have, and the sort of spiritual momentum that I gained from it has kept me dreading the idea of falling back into a typical, lazy relationship with Christ.
With this stuff having been on my mind for a few days, I went to Lifepoint tonight, and guess what Pastor Jeff was preaching about? The myth that the safest place to be is the center of God's will. Wonderfully coincidental, no? According to him, and of course, the scripture he cited, quite the opposite is true. (As a side note, much of what I say will be echoing what Jeff said, so I'm just gonna throw down a blanket citation here.) Jesus himself attests to the fact that in using us for his glory, God will put us in some darn uncomfortable situations. In John 16, Jesus explains some of the hardships his disciples will face for merely following him. In verses 1-4, Jesus says 1"All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you." He goes on to say in verse 33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Now if you are anything like myself, the first time you read over that, you didn't exactly get a lot of peace from it. I'm not to keen on the idea of people wanting me dead, you know? I don't like to rock the boat. The problem is that oftentimes, Jesus doesn't just want us to rock the boat, but to get the heck out and walk. God doesn't put us in safe places, but he keeps us safe amidst danger, and makes us dangerous.
Now, does living in the center of God's will, and living outside of our safety bubble, mean going about in the most dangerous places, being persecuted and killed like the disciples? Not necessarily. Living dangerously for God does not necessitate martyrdom. In the case of more simple people (and I'm pretty simple), it can merely mean trusting God and taking bold steps of faith outside of your safety bubble. It can mean stepping up to a leadership role, or playing worship music on campus, or simply overcoming my social awkwardness for a minute and speaking to somebody new, and over time possibly helping them get to know God. So as my little unorganized spewing of thoughts here comes to a close, here are my summarizing thoughts: God is our parachute. He will keep us safe in the most dangerous situations, so it is not our responsibility to live safely. We don't need the cushy job, or the "nice" house in the "nice" neighborhood. He will provide; he will catch us. We are just called to take that bold step of faith right out of the plane. And then, there's always Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

In my Criminal Justice class today, we were discussing various theories on why people commit crime, and we came across something called the Labeling Theory. The basic statement that this theory makes is that no action is inherently criminal or deviant, and are only deemed "criminal" because we say they are. The focus of this theory is not on the person committing the crime, but on the response of the general public, or audience, and the perceived consequences of said response. In layman's terms, the audience labels the actor, and this label influences their behavior for the rest of their lives. It is a case of self-fulfilling prophecy. A person does something or acts a certain way so that they are deemed "criminal" or likely to commit crime. We then label them as criminal, and they then go on to lead criminal lifestyles as a direct result of our labeling them. Their crimes and adherence to the labels that they are fitted with are referred to as "secondary deviance." These crimes are considered a direct result of us calling the criminal a criminal.
In the words of Senator Joe Wilson (teehee), "YOU LIE!" Sorry, but the biggest problem I have with this theory is that it switches the blame from the individual committing the crime to the ones labeling him as a criminal. You cannot just erase personal accountability like that, because no matter how often someone is told that they will do something, it is still their decision to do it. If anything, I would think that they would strive to meet the opposite of a negative label. Being someone who looks like a hippie, I have had many people label me as a druggie. Obviously, many of these people did not know me very well, and I have always had fairly strong convictions on drugs, mostly coming from seeing how they have affected the lives of people I know. Oftentimes, I just laugh off the label, because I understand that it comes with my appearance and choice of music. A label does not cause an action. I could tell a man that he is going to go and kill a man, but in the end, he is the one who chooses whether or not to pull the trigger. Apart from individuals with certain psychological ailments, everyone is capable of rational thought, and knows the difference between right and wrong, and that there are consequences to every action. Therefore, while being declared "likely to commit crime" may hurt someone's feelings, it certainly doesn't make them do anything. The person who makes the decision, and who has the choice, is the one with whom the blame lies.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Blogs I've read, part deux

The two blogs I read were from and The first is a more professional music blog set up for an online periodical. One entry that caught my attention here reported on the fact that several car companies were in the talks with Bob Dylan to make him the voice of their GPS navigation systems. The article and following comments then proceeded to make several jokes about the GPS being indecisive, speaking in riddles, having "One More Cup of Coffee" before you go, taking you to "Desolation Row," etc. Another entry here that caught my attention talked about "Albums You Love from Genres You Hate." The various albums covered included ACDC's "Back In Black," Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway," and The Zombies' "Odessey and Oracle." And no, "Odessey" is not a typo, at least not on my part.
Homercat's blog was much less professional, and more along the lines of the writer talking about various albums he enjoyed. He would give a brief history of each album he covered, and then explain why he enjoyed it. Albums he covered that stuck out to me were Cheap Trick's "One On One," "Stormwatch" by Jethro Tull, and Billy Idol's often discounted "Cyberpunk" album. It actually made me want to check some of the albums covered out.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beauty in Simplicity

So this has been a particularly interesting year for me. I've gone through quite a bit of changing, and have been under what seems like a mountain of stress, which until recently I have found almost no way to escape. The stress has come from all of the usual places; responsibilities, job searching, home searching, my nearly year-long writer's block, etc. I guess my neuroticism has felt a bit more real this year, with not quite so much attributed to paranoia. 

I suppose, to get on track, the key thing I have realized lately is that the most beautiful things in life are the simplest. I recently visited UNCW's nature walk for the first time. As I was walking between the trees, staring out onto the small lake and not seeing a spark of human influence (apart from the park benches), I realized that nothing could be more beautiful, that in all of humanity's grand and complex efforts to create beauty, we could never outdo the simplest things that God himself has put here. Here, my mind introduces a bit of a tangent. It baffles me to think that anyone could say that there is no God, when the evidence of His work surrounds us. To reduce the universe, in all of it's beauty and mystery, to the simple explanation that all of this is due to chance is simply asinine. To say that the natural world, which has existed long before us and will far outlive us, is a matter of dumb luck is the pinnacle of our human arrogance. People ask for proof of God's existence; the proof is all around us. We can burn it down, or pave over it, or simply ignore it, but the proof has always been there. 

Okay, now it's time to get my train of thought back on track. As an "artist" (a debatable point, to be sure), I see creation as an escape. I feel this unfathomable urge to create beauty, to make something indescribable with the power to connect with the heart and mind, and to move them. Prior to this year, I listened to and wrote mostly progressive metal. I sought out the most complex music out there. Every song was a testament to the artists' skills, and they were certainly talented. But something was missing. There was no emotion, no feel. This year has seen me develop a greater interest in less complicated music and the formula certainly applies (in most cases); the simplest things are often the most beautiful. An artist can create a masterpiece, a maddeningly complex song with dizzying guitar solos, constant time changes, and new, creative uses for instruments, but it can never be as moving or as powerful as one man pouring his heart out over 4 or 5 chords in 4/4 time. In fact, I have discovered exactly how difficult it is to make something so simple. I wrote progressive metal prior to this year, and made some fairly complex songs (at least I think so). Switching over to acoustic this year, attempting to channel my thoughts into simple, emotional songs, I found it nearly impossible. We can do the most complex of tasks with ease, yet we can hardly ever replicate the beauty of the simplest things.

I am not an organized thinker, nor do I have any particular skill in organizing my thoughts into carefully ordered words. But I got the thoughts down, and that's what counts. So here's the bottom line; do not take the simple things for granted. They may not be as shiny or alluring as the many complexities of our lives, but they are infinitely more powerful. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Essay outline

I. Thesis/intro: "In  'The Tell-Tale Heart' and 'The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,' the narrators attempt to convince their audience of something. In 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' the narrator strives to convince the audience that he is not crazy, while in 'The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,' the narrator tries to convince the reader that the city of Omelas really is perfect, despite the extreme suffering of a single individual. All of this is evident in the persuasive language that the narrators use and the contexts and subjects of this persuasive language."

II. Evidence from the text for "The Tell-Tale Heart"
A. Persuasive language/ pleas to the reader; "You fancy me mad," et cetera
B. References to what he is trying to prove: "How then, am I mad?," "And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but overacuteness of the senses?," et cetera

III. Evidence from the text for "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"
A. Persuasive Language: "I wish I could convince you."
B. Descriptions of the perfection of Omelas
C. Significance of the suffering child

IV. Conclusion

Friday, February 27, 2009


For those who are well acquainted with the music of Steven Wilson, you know that he never does anything halfway. Whether it be with Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, IEM, No-Man, Bass Communion, or one of his many collaborations, Mr. Wilson is not one to disappoint. You know you are in for a poignant and awe-inspiring monolith of an experience whenever you listen to something with his name on it, and these were my expectations for his first solo album, Insurgentes. Incredibly, he has topped himself again and exceeded all expectations.
Insurgentes received an official release February 24th, but a very limited special edition (which I happened to get my hands on) came out this past November. This edition comes packaged in a hardback book with 120 pages of high-quality photos taken during the recording of Insurgentes and the filming of the accompanying documentary, set for release later this year. The majority of the photos were taken by Danish photographer Lasse Hoile, with other contributions by Carl Glover and Susana Moyaho. The package itself is beautiful. The album was recorded all over the world, with major portions recorded in Mexico and Israel, and the documentary follows Mr. Wilson as he records the album and explores these foreign countries. As he wanders about the globe, he meets with important figures in music, such as producer Trevor Horn, and discusses how music has fallen in the MP3 generation. In this he discusses the issues of album artwork, quality of sound in MP3's versus vinyl, and how much attention is given to music when downloaded for free versus when it is carefully chosen and invested in. Wilson explains how when he was young, he had only enough money for one record a month. This record had to be carefully chosen, and was listened to over and over to pull any sort of inspiration possible from this record in which his time was invested. "Nowadays," Wilson says "if a kid hears about Pink Floyd or the Beatles and wants to check them out, he can go online and download all their albums, doesn't cost him a penny, he can listen to a few tracks and, if it doesn't jump out at him immediately, delete it." He explains how this instant access allows us to dismiss something just as easily as we obtain it. 
Now for the music itself, which is some of Wilson's best and most diverse. The opening track, "Harmony Korine," begins with a melancholic verse leading to a soaring chorus showcasing Mr. Wilson's flawless falsetto and bringing to mind the music of Sigur Ros. The next, "Abandoner," has an electronic feel straight out of a Nine Inch Nails album. "No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun" brings the prog fashions of King Crimson to mind, and the album closes with a simple piano ballad featuring Steven Wilson on piano and vocals and Michiyo Yagi playing an 18 string bass koto. Other guest musicians on this illustrious release include Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess, King Crimson bassist Tony Levin, vocalist Clodagh Simonds, and Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison. This album is more than just another cd; it has a legacy, and is easily one of the greatest accomplishments in music in the last few decades. For those who are more curious, visit .

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Short Fiction Essay Topic

I have chosen to do option 3 for my short fiction essay. This topic has to do with the narrators of "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas," and what each narrator is trying to convince the reader of. In "The Tell-Tale Heart," the narrator is apparently trying to convince the reader that he is not insane. Obviously, the ending of the story proves exactly the opposite. In "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas," the narrator seems to want to convince the reader that Omelas really is a perfect place, that it is not made worse because one person must suffer greatly, and that if this person could be free, they are so debilitated that they would actually gain little. However, the way the story is written seems to try and convince the reader that the treatment is wrong as well. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

3rd Person

Things were peaceful for a very short time; then the alarm rang. Matt stared at it with a sort of contempt. He hated the thing for disturbing the most peaceful part of his sleep every morning, but deep down he knew that it was a necessary evil. He heaved a pained sigh and tossed the covers to the side, stumbling to the shower. The cold water woke him up. (The price of having a roommate.) He stepped out of the door and walked toward his car to get his MP3 player. He locked the door and shut it, yet something glinted in the sunlight and caught his eye. His keys were comfortably locked in the front seat. He swore silently and, seeing the futility, began the long walk to class. 
Class was about as interesting as ever; the Biology teacher kissed the feet of Darwin at every second, and Matt felt completely emasculated at having to perform step aerobics in PE. Stepping onto and off of a slightly elevated platform while God-awful dance music blasted in the background wasn't exactly his idea of a workout. Lunch held no surprises either; Matt ate with the same people that he always ate with, talked about the same things, and ate the same food. He got there at the same time as always, and he left at the same time as always; you could have set a clock to him. It was impressive. It was sad.
When he returned home, he decided that he had better phone the locksmith. 10 seconds and forty-five dollars later, he climbed into the car, staring spitefully at the lock and keeping his newly retrieved keys carefully wrapped in his fingers. He proceeded to Bible Study; the only real interesting this that happens on his tuesdays. At the call of his pained stomach, he returned home. After checking the refrigerator several times and discovering nothing new, he fixed up yet another bowl of ramen noodles. He sat at the computer, eating his ramen and listening to Jeff Buckley. He lay down in bed and tried his best to fall asleep. The neighbors were stomping around above him again. 
Things were peaceful for a very short time; then the alarm rang.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stream of Consciousness

I hate wednesdays, but I love thursdays. I hope Biology lab doesn't hold me up too long tomorrow. 3 hours is too long to be stuck in that room. I need to sleep soon, but I'm not tired. 
That washing machine makes the most annoying sound. 
I'm in the middle of 4 different books right now. I should really choose one to finish. ITunes doesn't shuffle very well with over 5000 songs. Ooh, King Crimson. I wonder what kind of guitar Robert Fripp plays? My guess is Gibson, maybe a Les Paul or SG. I swear, saxophone is the sexiest instrument known to man. Bass is at a close second, followed by mostly clean guitar with a little wah-wah effect. Wetton is a good vocalist, but I prefer Greg Lake by far. Man, they got weird when Tony Levin joined. I should really work on my fingerpicking on guitar. Man, Andy McKee is a beast. 
"Get to the Choppa!"
This carpet is making my feet itchy. 
It sure would be funny if they had a dead soldier on CSI, and the title was "GI John Doe." More along the line of black humor, but funny. Wow, I haven't seen "Eraserhead" in a long time. That movie is screwed up. There are too many lights on in here. I should clean my apartment soon. 
Why is my roommate groaning pleasurably from cinnamon?
Thank God that washing machine finally shut up. 
I take that back. Crap.
Let's see, I need to do homework for Math and PE, and I need to get to the gym at some point, and....
Wow, how much acid did it take for the Beatles to write all of "The White Album?"
Nile is a pretty weird band. A death metal band from South Carolina that sings about Egypt. 
Skip. Skip. Skip. 
Godflesh is a terrifying band. 
Wow, spell check sure is being cocky tonight. 
Uh. I really feel sorry for whoever reads this. My stream of consciousness is about as interesting as a leaky faucet. 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wislawa Szymborska

Here is a brief bit of info on the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, writer of the poem "True Love," which we read in class.
Wislawa Szymborska was born in the town of Kornik in Poland, and made her first appearance as a poet with "I Am Looking for a Word" (or in her native language, "Szukam Slowa"). From 1953 to 1981 she worked as a poetry editor for a literary publishing in Krakow, Poland. She has published a total of 16 collections of poetry. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. Her other awards and honors include the Goethe Prize and the Herder Prize. 
The biography I found was very simplistic to say the least. However, I enjoyed her poem in class, so I will take it upon myself to look for a bit more information concerning her background. Any new information I find will be posted here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Robert Frost

Here is a bit of information on the classic American poet Robert Frost, whose poems we read in class and I quite enjoyed.
Robert Frost was born in San Francisco (a little contrary to his homey descriptions of nature...) in 1874. We can see his roots in literature early on, as his father was a journalist. When his father died, he moved with his mother to Massachusetts, where he attended Lawrence High School and met his future wife, Elinor White. In 1892 he enrolled in Dartmouth College, and dropped out shortly thereafter. In 1894, he sold his first poem to a New York magazine, and he married Elinor in 1895. He enrolled in Harvard in 1897, stayed for two years, then dropped out and moved onto a farm in Massachusetts. He met with hard times as a farmer, and subsequently began teaching. During this time, he had six children, two of whom died at an early age. In 1913, after moving to Beaconsfield, England a year before, he published his first book of poems, A Boy's Will. In 1915, because of World War I, he was forced to move back to America, and took up residence in New York City. He then proceeded to purchase a farm in New Hampshire. In 1924, he wrote his first of four Pulitzer prize winning books, New Hampshire. After a few more successful books, tragedy struck; his daughter Marjorie died of puerperal fever in 1934, and his wife Elinor died of a heart attack in 1938. He himself died of a series of embolisms coupled with a heart attack while receiving surgery on his prostate in 1963. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Earworms (Songs stuck in your head, not anything gross.)

Okay, for the record, I am terrible at writing about whatever is on my mind, because no matter how far my mind wanders, it usually doesn't approach any subject of interests. 
Recently I've been reading the book Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks. Sacks is a psychologist, and the book recounts the many strange cases of music and the mind that he has experienced throughout his career. One chapter in the book was about earworms, the little songs that get stuck in your head. While for most people they can merely be annoyances, to some with certain conditions they are unbearable. Occasionally, mine are unbearable, because occasionally, like today, I will get several songs stuck in my head at once that do not go together at all. Throughout the course of my day, more songs got stuck in my head until it felt like someone had left several stereos blaring somewhere out of sight. While walking to class this morning, Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue" was steadily going in my head. Around lunch, "Yesterday", a short acoustic ballad by the Beatles, and the theme song from The Office joined in. You can imagine how badly these things mixed. Occasionally, during my final class, Opeth or Porcupine Tree would make a brief appearance. When I got home, I added 3 David Bowie songs to my internal playlist; "Space Oddity," "Life on Mars?," and "Ziggy Stardust." Even as I write this, "Happiness is a Warm Gun" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by the Beatles are joining in. So let's just count the genres here; we have 60's rock, folk, space rock, death metal, 70's glam, and whatever the theme from The Office is, all rolled into one. Makes my head hurt a bit. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blogs I've read.

As part of my assignment, I looked up two blogs online, hoping that they would be interesting enough to write on. To some degree they were. The first was located at, and was just a general blog about music. It's purpose was not really to attack any kind, but just to generally talk about interesting music, mostly within the Indie genre. Opinion was present, but that's to be expected when dealing with music.
The second blog I read was a Myspace blog of my friend's which I unfortunately cannot link to since it is a private profile. The title is "The 'Reset' Button", and it describes a method of regaining control over oneself during times of great stress and turmoil, basically involving dropping everything remotely stressful for a couple of days and doing whatever feels right to you within rational bounds, while of course being fully prepared to face the consequences of shirking one's responsibilities for a couple of days. Despite that small flaw, I have full faith in the practice, having done it before. The purpose of this blog was merely to suggest an idea. But yeah, that's it for post number 1.