June 17, 2007

Good Post, Bad Post

Good music is good for a reason, but what's infinitely important is that "good" is a completely subjective and ultimately relative word. As long as people have freedom of speech and thought, good music will forever be obscure and open for interpretation. This of course leads me to the obvious implication that "good" and "evil" may possibly be all in the eye of the beholder. In order to keep good and evil from intertwining and interchanging with each other, we have to attach some set of guidelines to each term to give them meaning and purpose apart from each other. Of course, much of this meaning is interpreted intuitively, meaning that men and women have a certain idea of what is good and evil, right and wrong. We know the good from the bad; we teach our children what it is to be well-behaved as opposed to deserving of a beating.
So, I guess what I am really getting at in all of this word soup is that good or bad music is only open for interpretation to a certain point. Any collection of sounds with some form or version of rhythm, pattern or structure can be given the label "good", "bad, "right" or "wrong", whereas no one really enjoys a bunch of earsplitting noise. No one calls general ambience, the day-to-day sounds of our houses settling, or of cars driving along the streets "music".
So, there is a basic, generally accepted understanding of what good, or bad, music is, but only because we also know what it is for something not to be music at all. It must be the same with most anything else that we've labeled "good" or "bad".
I think I'm up way too early. This post lacks the punch I was intending to pack.

June 14, 2007

Vacation/Zoo

It was a good day. We took Brayden on his first trip to the zoo today. I took off today and Friday to get a little time with the family before Erika returns from maternity leave. We had a good time; Brayden slept through the whole thing, of course, but Erika and I had fun. Lions and tigers and bears...and...dragonflies? One of the highlights of the trip was the Red Panda and the Kangaroos...I've lived in this town for ten years and never even gave it a thought that we had endangered species living amongst us. Yeah, well, I'm tired, so here's a couple pics.

June 13, 2007

My Guidance Counselor Says, "Music Is About Proving That Emo Isn't Music."

Get motivated.
I'm like my own guidance counselor sometimes.
What's worse is that I am completely underqualified for such a lofty role in my own life. So I continually feed myself bad advice, and then the smarter, more intuitive side of me with the larger helping of morality has to be the one to sift through it all and separate out the truth from the bullshit. Welcome to my life. Duality is not always a good thing, or even a conscious decision, for that matter. Ah, forget it. I'm tired of trying to make sense of everything in this life that just doesn't.
I guess I just need to take a walk.
I've been into The Shalabi Effect for a few months now, and I'm still awe-struck by the group's originality and deftly obscure beauty. Take a listen to "Kinder Surprise" in my playlist. Another current favorite these days is the incredibly quirky Animal Collective. Their newest album, Feels, has got to be one of the strangest, tightest, purposeful (yet still having to be "dug up"), and downright coolest albums I've ever heard. One thing I find refreshing about Animal Collective's musical ideology is their commitment to producing albums that are genuinely different than the one before it, and at the same time, different than anything else in the indie/experimental/avant-rock scene. Every artist likes to say it, but few can actually do it. Listening to Sung Tongs generates an altogether different aural experience than listening to Feels. I won't explain in detail, because I feel it totally robs the artists of their ability to set a particular mood, predetermined not by me or any other reviewer, but by the music itself, and the emotions and collective thoughts that went into it. Just take a listen to some of their music in my playlist. I'll be putting up a couple more AC songs before the end of the day.

Here's a great video and song by Animal Collective. I can't seem to find this song on any of their albums.

June 12, 2007

Drive

I don't want to rant and rave tonight. I don't want to write about the meaning of life, like so many cliche thinkers before me. I will not delve into the intensity or mystery of the Bible, and all its heavenly and glorious paradoxes. Tonight, I sit here wth nothing to say. Yes, it's happened. I am the antagonist in contemplation's autobiography. I am the arch nemesis to Augustine's philosophical conundrum, or Einstein's jarred brain, containing, quite possibly, the secret connection between quantum mechanics and general relativity. My socratic dialectic has been abandoned for tootsie rolls and cheap hamburgers. I am finally here, just a guy behind a computer screen, in desperate need of a shave and a bigger thesaurus. It's strange that I have to often times tell myself to stop thinking, to just slow down and take a breath. Life is the most annoying back seat driver I have ever known. This guy won't lay off. So here I am, having pulled over for you-know-who, cuz "man, I gotta' take a leak," wondering if now is my chance. I should just take off. I should leave him here, with his tool in hand and future orders stacked and ready to deal. I should be thirty miles away at this point; but I'm not. I'm still here. I think it's because I need someone to tell me where I should be. I need life barking orders in my ear all day long, just to know I am alive. Just to know I matter. Just to know I have somewhere to go if I can't figure it out on my own. Yet at the same time, this is about the laziest thing a person can do; just sit back, super-glue your foot to the accelerator, and try to keep up with just exactly where life is taking you. No stops. No restroom breaks. Plenty of chances to throw it all away with a sharp turn of the wheel.
So, as I said, I'm just the driver tonight. I'm not going anywhere I've predetermined, at least for the moment. It's a dangerous move, yes; but every once in a while it's fun to take a couple wrong turns. Hell, it's damn near the only way to know where you've been anymore.

June 11, 2007

Breathing, From The Middle Stall

I read an article yesterday as I sat with my wife and kid at our window seat, in one of our favorite local cafes. It was all about following your passion, your childhood dream, your gift in this life, and doing it without guilt. I then realized the man writing it had no idea what it was like to be me, sitting here in a local cafe in South Bend, Indiana, with a 3-week-old son and wife of two and a half years on maternity leave. I could not possibly walk away from my job and follow my passion, even though that desire has burned inside of me for countless years, as repressed then as it is now. I find myself wondering exactly why some things are made to be kept to one's self, to be locked away and released only in secret, or in my spare time, or once the baby is asleep and fed and the house is clean. If we only have one life to live, why are we all working it away, in professions we never chose for ourselves, but somehow fell in and liked the pay or the benefits of? Why am I not writing? Why am I not creating anything? What could be more worthwhile than creation, than art? God himself is an artist. He created you and me. He created the heavens and the earth, and yet here I am pigeon-holing myself away in a niche I never saw fit for me. What would this world be like if God had become a CPA instead of an artist? Would there even be a world at all? Would He be happy? What would God have to say about this? I'm going to have to look that up. I'm sure that it doesn't please God to see us down here dragging our feet each day to a job we were not made to do, just to make a "decent", meager living.
I already regret publishing this post, for some reason.
While I'm at it, allow me to interject a few biased thoughts of mine on life and living, in general. What the hell is the point anyway? Of all we boast about as humans, of all the knowledge and skill we have acquired over time, why is it that this question can still go unanswered? Why can't I figure out exactly what it is that I am doing here. I'm not asking for a cheap one-liner either. I want to know the answer. I want to know why I feel so often like I am just walking around with nothing better to do than work, or drive my car, or write songs and poems and blog posts about what I think the purpose of life is when it's all bullshit anyway - I have no idea why I am here. Don't get me wrong...I love my family; my wife, my son, and my parents and sister. I love my dog and my house and the "great opportunity" I have here at the office. I love that, if I work just an eeeensy-weeeensy bit harder, I can get a "substantial" raise, and then I can afford a bigger house, a bigger car, and a bigger brick on each shoulder to carry around with me to and from here and there. I wish that people would stop being so phony. I wish I knew more people who were real, living-and-breathing humans with hearts and souls and brains that are huge, of course, yet don't understand or even claim to understand everything there is to know about this life we all live. I wish that sometimes, when I asked these questions, I would get a "gee...I'm not really sure; I always kinda' wondered that myself", instead of the usual, "well the purpose of life is simple; live according to the word of God, and seek wisdom and truth". Seek wisdom and truth? I understand what the scriptures mean, but what makes me cringe about those words is when they come out of the mouth of someone alive and breathing, just like me, that somehow seems to have no problem understanding the paradox inherent in such a statement. Is this blasphemy, what I have said, or is it just pure, honest humanity? Is a question evil? Here is why I refer to that statement as paradoxical: if I were to ask the bright young (or old) individual, who opened their mouths a little too soon and let these wonderfully-Christiany, chocolate-coated words pour out, what they mean by "seek wisdom and truth", here is the response I would probably get: "By wisdom and truth I am of course referring to the word of God." But what is the word of God then? "Wisdom and truth, of course." See the paradox here? Read through any chapter in the Bible and count the paradoxes you come up with. Why doesn't anyone question this? Too many people are afraid of what they might come up with. Too many people are afraid to think for themselves, and you know what? That is because too many people are deceiving the masses into believing that they don't need to think if they are saved by God's grace. How outrageous!! How often do we see Jesus emotionally wrought, spiritually and physically tempted, angered and violent, or doubtful of God even? If Jesus was human, why do so many Christians pretend to be not a follower of Christ, but Christ himself? What a joke. I am so fed up with the righteous front I see in most Christians I know. Being a Christian is not about being Christian-looking or sounding. It's about identifying yourself with a real and very human savior. Where along the line did things get so mixed up? Why am I going to be attacked by an onslaught of angered Christians for thinking about the Bible in my own context? Don't we all personalize the scriptures to our own understanding, to a point? It's not like I am cutting out words from random pages of the Bible and pasting them all together on a piece of paper, then xeroxing and distributing them around town. I've got a brain inside this circular thing on top of my shoulders, and I will use it whether my pastor wants me to or not. Wake up people. Trust yourselves a little more. Jesus died for you. You don't die for people you don't love and trust.

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