Monday, February 28, 2011

To all the snow that's fallen this year

years of anger following
hours that float idly down —
the blizzard
drifts its weight
deeper and deeper for three days
or sixty years, eh? Then
the sun! a clutter of
yellow and blue flakes —
Hairy looking trees stand out
in long alleys
over a wild solitude.
The man turns and there —
his solitary track stretched out
upon the world.

"Blizzard" by William Carlos Williams. H/t the Daily Dish.

Quote of the Day

He drums impatient fingers on the chrome and on the leather
Running through the reasons in the corners of his mind
Sifting tiny diamonds on his shaky mental islands
Where he often claims asylum from the structures left behind...
All that I ever wanted to see
Was just invisible to me
- Steve Kilbey, from "Invisible" off of After Everything Now This

Friday, February 25, 2011

Just Play More Shows

One theory floating around out there as a solution to absurdly high ticket prices for popular bands is that these bands should just play more shows in each location. That's what LCD Soundsystem did recently in New York City (not sure if it worked or not). It's probably only a solution for larger bands, but I find the idea intriguing, although I'm sure bands with obsessive followers would be psyched to try and catch multiple nights of, say, U2, which would defeat the purpose.

How dogs smell

I never would have thought of this, but having read Radley Balko's article, it makes complete sense.
It took me several years to figure out that my dog wasn't a good judge of character; she was just good at reading me. She liked the people I liked and disliked the people who rubbed me the wrong way. For dogs descended from lines bred for protection and companionship, this talent makes sense. A dog adept at distinguishing friend from foe was likely to be kept around and bred, and one very good way to tell friend from foe is to read your master's body language.
My confusion about what was going on in Harper's head reflects a common misconception that is also apparent in the ways dogs are used in criminal investigations.
When we think dogs are using their well-honed noses to sniff out drugs or criminal suspects, they may actually be displaying a more recently evolved trait: an urgent desire to please their masters, coupled with the ability to read their cues. Several studies and tests have shown that drug-sniffing dogs, scent hounds, and even explosive-detecting dogs are not nearly as accurate as they have been portrayed in court.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Atmosphere and Genre

At the church show last Friday (write up coming!), I picked up an album of the Refo:mation (i.e., the church-minus-marty) and – bonus! – was given a free download of four songs from Hammock's Chasing After Shadows...Living with the Ghosts LP. Holy crap. Not sure what this type of music is called, but it’s absolutely beautiful atmospheric “rock”, feedback a-buzzing in the background, chiming guitars soaring above it all, the backbeat driving it all home. You know – like the best church music! But while the church have really foarged their own unique path – combining elements of glam, Pink Floyd, Byrds jangle rock, and aching 80’s sensitivity into one thick, hearty stew – Hammock appears to be in a different tradition. The first thing that came to mind was Kevin Shields’ solo work, but I suppose that you could call it emo (the tinny vocals on "You Lost the Starlight in Your Eyes" do not help their case).

I’m really not sure what to call this music. The genre listed in iTunes genre is "indie", which is so vague as to be meaningless. I’ve changed it to "Ambient Rock". If you have a chance, give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Anyways, listening to this album got me to thinking about how much I value atmosphere in my music. To me, the sound of a song is everything. It’s why I like Sonic Youth, Suzanne Vega, the various electronic artists I listen to from Boards of Canada to Aphex Twin to Innerfuze, and it’s absolutely what draws me to the church. So it was only natural that I’d be drawn to Steve Kilbey’s work with Martin Kennedy. Kelly gave me their first album – Unseen Music Unheard Words – for Christmas, and unfortunately we tried to listen to it in the car on the way home and the ambient car noise and kid distractions did not do the album justice. But once I got the headphones on: oh my. Silky sweet and oh. So. Chill. Kennedy is a member of All India Radio a band that Wired has touted as a mashup of “DJ Shadow, Tortoise, and Thievery Corporation with the instantly recognizable guitar soundtracking of Ennio Morricone and Angelo Badalameni.” Sign me up!

While the album is infused with SK’s personality and obsessions – death, the cosmos, alternate realities, etc. – the music gives the tunes a keyboard ambience that the guitar-based church just doesn’t aim for. It’s just different: the church, as mellow as it might get, has an edge that’s an inevitable result of the tensions of the personalities involved. But SK and MK’s stuff searches out the grooves and rides them home. Occasionally, this lack of edge is to the toons detriment, but most of the time SK’s master of melody pulls you in, and the music’s subtleties – and those grooves! – keep you listening. Listen to the muted drum machine in the background of some tunes (like “”Uh I Donno”) or the subtle electonica touches on others. All these details build up a tapestry that really does reward close listening. And it’s not all couch music either: SK has a way of adding a really subtle edge to the stuff. For instance, “Sumer” (off their 2011 release White Magic is still very chill, but the small details give an incredible energy: the drum fills that pick up intensity as the song continues, SK’s angry vocals, the echoes of the chorus as the song continues, and that one verse where the entire thing is run through some sort of electric treatment so that it sounds like Tron’s singing for one short glorious moment. (To get a sense of what it’s like, you can download a free track from their website here. Limited time only!)

So, in short: ambience rules. Note the title of this blog. I’ll close with an antidote about how much this type of music means to me. I know that now that I’m a father twice over I’ve become much more sentimental then I ever was, but I never expected that I’d spend a Sunday running unfortunately necessary errands in the corporate wastelands of the Natick Mall (er, “Collection” that is) while softly singing SK & MK’s “All Is One” to Mr. Trey as I navigated my way through SUV strollers and people searching out Presidents day sales. If you ever doubted my SK obsession, let your fears be laid to rest!

Quote of the Day

To those that would see the Maine wilderness, tramp day by day through a succession of ever delightful forest, past lake and stream, and over mountains, we would say: Follow the Appalachian Trail across Maine. It cannot be followed on horse or awheel. Remote for detachment, narrow for chosen company, winding for leisure, lonely for contemplation, it beckons not merely north and south but upward to the body, mind, and soul of man.
- Myron Avery, In the Maine Woods, 1934

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Putting the Gas Tax in Perspective

Pithy as usual, from Atrios:
3 cent increase in the gas tax, at 10,000 miles driven annually in 20MPG car = $15/year.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Quote of the Day

Coates reminded me of the brilliance of Emerson's Self Reliance:
These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.
Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.
To this I say: yes. And note that this was written before any of the modern media; if one's inner voice became "faint and inaudible as we enter into the world" then, just imagine the problem now, when it's hard just to know if what you desire is because you actually desire it or because it's something you saw on TV, or online, or wherever.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Quote of the Day

Say goodbye
There can never be an ending
We are endless like the sky...
But why can't I feel it
Is it just a lie?
- steve kilbey, from "Feel", of the church's Priest=Aura

Sunday Pondering

The Dish pointed me toward two great observations on this lazy Sunday road trip. The first is when Alice Gregory contrasts the drama of nature on the US west coast with the east coast:
...what the East Coast lacks in menacing spectacle it makes up for in a sort of scaled-down obedience. East Coast nature yields to us. With its lapping, Amagansett waves and sweet sugar maples, the wild here, such as it is, seems to be ours for the sculpting. Perceiving nature’s rhythms feels less daunting, and our observations can be quieter, more microscopic. There are no incisor-like mountains or blazing forest fires to blast your sense of self. It’s a place where a poetic feeling can be maintained in relative peace, where the flora, fauna, and mild geology make space for introspective rumination and a notion of society. You can nurture a private sense of romance. The East Coast does not demand that you bow down before it in awe, nor does it require constant, humble apology for being tiny and human. You can be surrounded by the quaint prettiness of nature, not terrorized by its beauty as you are in California.
The second is Frank Wilson's thoughts on magical thinking:
I have certain stones that I feel especially attached to and have from the moment I first laid eyes on them. I feel similarly attached to my house plants. I think of them as persons. I feel certain they have a sense of who I am. ... Unfortunately, we tend to run from our own mythologies, or to bury them away, afraid that if others learn of them they will think us eccentric at best or else flat-out nuts. But such a personal mythology is actually the record of our profoundest self’s encounter with the world. My own, of course, is grounded in my Catholic faith. But one’s faith needs to be lived as a musical score is played — not with metronomic monotony, but with a generous dash of rubato.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Deep Thought

Feedback's better in person.

Corporate Buzzwords

My Corporate Bingo words for the week were "snippets" and "level set." A month ago it was "cycles" as in "Do you have a free cycle to help out on this project?" Sometimes it's like learning a completely different language.

Dated Orbital

I used to listen to Orbital all of the time. Now, whenever an Orbital song plays, a almost always fast forward past it. Why has Orbital dated more poorly than The Orb or some of the other Trance Atlantic artists that I still listen to? The only thing I can think of off the top of my head is that Orbital often relies on a heavier drum then a lot of the other early trance artists on my iPod. Still, it's a mystery - In Sides used to be a long-time favorite, but it just does nothing for me now.

Deep Thought

How do my kids know the days that I could potentially sleep in, and why do they wake up so early on those days?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

February Tab Dump

I've been extra busy lately, and this is what i've read about but haven't had the time to write about:
- What we talk about when we talk about overbearing parents: Step away from your children
- A defense of psychoanalysis
- Looking for enlightenment? Perhaps you just need a Zen Slap!
- Coates points us to a movie all about Bad Writing. There's a lot of it out there. I myself have produced more than my fair share. So how do you become a good writer? By spending the time writing every day? Or is it like music - you just need the talent?
- The New Yorker writes about Scientology and how the "religion" treats those that try to leave it.
- Via Ezra Klein, Oliver Sacks details what hallucination teaches us about our minds
- Literary Sluts takes on Pynchon's Mason & Dixon. Someday, i'll take the time to write up the essay that I have embedded me on this amazing book.
- Thoughts on Animism, and what's lost when we disregard this tradition in favor of atheism, no matter how much sense it makes

Monday, February 14, 2011

Four Times the Size of Juipiter!

If true, how amazing would this be?
There's a giant planet right here, hiding in our Solar System. One that nobody has ever seen, even while it is four times larger than Jupiter and has rings and moons orbiting it. ... 5,000 times farther from the Sun than Earth, Tyche would be made mostly of hydrogen and helium. The titanic planet would orbit the Sun with moons and rings around it, bubbling with clouds and storm systems similar to Jupiter.
The scientists that claim to have found it - there's no proof yet that it exists - say that it's located in the Oort Cloud, a range of asteroids and comets at the gravitational boundary of our solar system, which is why it's been able to remain undiscovered for so long.

Quote of the Day

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could, some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Best Run Ever

I'm admitably a lover of wide, fast ski trails where you can choose to widely swoop in large arcs down the hill or tightly carve yourself some helixes in the looser snow a the side of the trail. Given this, the best trail I've found for this type of skiing is on Sugarbush's Mount Ellen. Take the Northridge Express Quad, which practically drops you off at the top of the mountain, and then take Elbow to either Which Way or Cruiser. They typically have excellent snow - groomed, but not too packed - and the lines are usually much shorter than at Lincoln Peak, Sugarbush's main base. I'm on my way home from two days of skiing that trail combination and couldn't have had a better time. (Well, I could have had stronger ski legs underneath me, but I'm a flatlander now, so I have to make allowances.)
I also have to say that the trip to the mountain is a lot of fun too. Drivin from Burlington, you travel down portions of Route 100, which contains some of the most scenic parts of Vermont. And you pass a lot of neat, eclectic stores. As I type this, i'm sipping on an excellent coffee and digesting a yummy chicken fajita from The Three Mountain Cafe, my favorite après-ski stop for the ride home's fuel. Ah. I miss Vermont winters. I can't wait to go back!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

At Sugarbush

Excellent skiing at Mt. Ellen today. Cold at first, and flurries occasionally ripped through with strong winds, but the snow was fantastic - it was solid but forgiving, and covered by a layer of soft powder at the end of the day. I was shocked to find that the crowds were nonexistent - I think we waited longer for a beer après ski than we did in any lift line. A highly enjoyable day on the slopes - my best in some time - marred only by a slight calf strain I gave myself catching an edge on a tight turn. But that won't stop me: I'm back for more tomorrow!

Friday, February 11, 2011

To the Hills!

I'm off to Vermont for a skiing weekend at Sugarbush. If I knew any good inspirational skiing poems, I'd post one here, but alas I'm ignorant. If you know of any, let me know!

Quote of the Day

"It's not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change."
- Charles Darwin

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Quote of the Day

Lost myself a picture book
Best you've never seen
Slowed half down I take a hook
Hang it on the ring
Got my head
Got my red
Got my violet-green
Just give back my old stranger
Wherever you have been

And it's all in the photographs
And it's all in the past
It's at home in the memory
It's the least and the most
- Steve Kilbey, from Pantechnicon

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

TRP & Tinasky

A fun timeline & synopsis of the literary musings - since disproved - that Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, and Mendocino County letter-writing crank Wanda Tinasky were one and the same person. I'm not afraid to admit that I was obsessed enough with TRP in my Pynchon Notes days to have bought "The Letters of Wanda Tinasky" collection; if nothing else, it was a very entertaining look into a subculture that's almost completely foreign to me. Plus, I love me a good paranoia infused mystery!

Sports Hope

The Goose's Roost has a great post up about James Starks, a Packer and Buffalo native, and what having someone from a depressed area make it big means to the area:
When I started my job at the Gazette in September, James Starks was an unfortunate footnote in the NFL season. He was hurt and unsure about a roster spot and going on almost two years of inactivity. Anyone who saw him play knew he had potential, but much like the city he grew up in, the difference between potential and reality is immense.

It is difficult to put into words the crushing impact living in a place like this can have on you. Verbs like “demoralizing” and “depressing” don’t do the feeling justice. What it comes down to is the fear of being stuck, an inability to escape the black hole caused by land speculation and decades of failure.

You see it every day and can’t shake it no matter where you go. I can see it in the eyes of the people I meet when I tell them I’m from the Cataract City or that I graduated from Niagara Falls High School. I feel it when I see friends give up on themselves decades too soon or classmates work their mug shots into the police blotter.

Where you come from isn’t written on your face, but it’s something that stays with you no matter how much you may want to forget it. Thing is, I don’t want to forget it. I’m proud of where I came from and what it has made me as a person. I know how bad things are but I know people who have what it takes to be successful in spite of the air they breathe and the zip code on their mail.
More here.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Best Man Cave Ever

The New Yorker visits Guillermo del Toro's collection of monsters. It's an interesting examination of what goes into making these fantastic creations, even if you have to get past the piles and piles of New Yorker smug. Oh, and I'd totally see this:
The movie that he most longs to make is an adaptation of a grandly ridiculous H. P. Lovecraft novella, “At the Mountains of Madness,” in which explorers, venturing into Antarctica, discover malevolent aliens in a frozen, ruined city. Some of the aliens mutate wildly, which would allow del Toro to create dozens of extreme incarnations. He said, “If I get to do it, those monsters will be so terrifying.”

Friday, February 4, 2011

Coming Soon

Getting excited for the church show in Foxborough in two weeks. They'll be playing three albums in their entirety: 2009's Untitled #23, 1991's Priest=Aura, and 1988's Starfish. I'd go even if they were only playing P=A. Damned good music.
A review of the tour's first show is here. I believe tix are still available...

I'd Want to Know

If you had the opportunity to know if you had a genetic disorder with no cure that would eventually kill you - would you want to know?
As Boston University bioethicist George Annas explained, "Since there is no way to prevent this disease, what good is knowing you will probably get it in the future?"
I'd want to know just because it would help you frame your life. There are some other good reasons here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Quote of the Day

In America we love roads. To be "on the road" is to be happy and alive and free. Whatever lonesomeness the road implies is also a blankness that soon will be filled with possibility. A road leading to the horizon almost always signifies a hopeful vista for Americans. "Riding off into the sunset" has always been our happy ending.
But I could find no happy-ending vista [on the Sibirskii Trakt], only the opposite. This had also been called the Convicts' Road or the Exiles Road. Not only was it long and lonesome, but it ran permanently in the wrong direction, from the exiles point of view. Longing and melancholy seemed to have worked themselves into the very soil; the old road and the land around it seemed downcast, as if they'd had their feelings hurt by how much the people passing by did not want to be here.
Using a place for punishment may or may not be fair to the people who are punished there, but it always demeans and does a disservice to the place.
- Ian Frazier, Travels in Siberia, p. 220.

Snow Day!

So. Much. Cheese.

Nearly every ounce of Kraft cheese product—from Velveeta to Kraft Singles—spends part of its life in a 680-pound container inside this 400,000-square-foot subterranean fridge.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It was 20 years ago today

Wide right.

Deep Thought

After ~73" of snow this season, i'm finally into shoveling shape. The trick is to use your legs as much as possible, a tactic that, while always a good idea, becomes more of a necessity as the snowbanks over which you're trying to throw snow become higher than you are.

Quote of the Day

Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve. - Benjamin Franklin.
Easier said than done.