Digby says it so much better than I could...
I can't believe those pandering sacks of shit could flush their souls down the toilet with such ease by hiring a child molester like Andrew Breitbart to cover the elections.
Then again, I can't think of ANY reason I'd watch ANYTHING on ABC, anyway.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Goddamn it was cold.
We have been lucky this year, weather-wise. Last season, storms came up daily every game during the last two weeks of the season as winter edged its way over summer remainders of the season, as a test of parental endurance, hoods pulled tight, backs to the wind, stomping on decaying turf to our keep limbs alive, each of us wishing the ref would just call the game and let us get back into our warm vehicles. While children practiced their practiced chaos, chasing and kicking the parquet ball and sideliners showered each other with blades of grass, oblivious to the mayhem on the field.
Until today, the weather held and we've been blessed with frabjous skies, a blessing for the parent out on the soccer fields four days a week.
Three kids, three different age groups -- you do the math. Between conflicting games and gratuitous practices, I got much more fresh air than I require to pass the centurion mark. My curse, I suppose.
After we move into the house (the "special surprise" Jonboy asked about), we can return to some semblance of normality, even if I'm moving some 10 miles out of town. I'll get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour, we'll have time to interact before bed and everything will return to a regular schedule.
Until basketball season starts.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Only one day left of soccer -- thank God. With three kids, three different age groups, games four days a week and often not getting back to the house until well after 7... and then making dinner, organizing homework, doing dishes, coordinating baths and bedtimes...Christ, I'm exhausted.
Maybe I'll finally get some time to write now that the season is almost over.
Maybe I'll finally get some time to write now that the season is almost over.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Actually, working on this week's column (about The Yardbirds) and "nothing to say" actually means, "no time to say it here," since I'm busy buttering my bread. But, to give you an idea of where that's going, I give you this...
I'm sure that fine video gives you an idea of where my column will go -- certainly, you'll read it here, in due time.
I'm sure that fine video gives you an idea of where my column will go -- certainly, you'll read it here, in due time.
Saturday, October 09, 2010
No need to travel over the river and through the woods to get your obligatory Thanksgiving column, my friends; your heaping plateful of turkey is right here. No room for seconds, for which we’re all thankful, I assure you.
There’s scant music for a Thanksgiving mix, barely a handful of tunes even remotely associated with the holiday. In fact, I can think of only three songs directly related to Thanksgiving, only two of which are worth a serious listen. Adam Sandler’s “The Thanksgiving Song,” doesn’t warrant discussion here: The lyrics are infantile (much like Sandler) and his singing is cloying, annoying and mind-destroying. Not that I’d give Sandler the benefit of the doubt — I’d rather inhale a bucket of candied yams than sit through any of his movies. Adam Sandler has all the appeal of a head cold, massive amounts of mucus and the rest.
Much more appealing is Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” an 18-minute plus monologue”telling the story of Guthrie’s arrest — for littering — on a Thanksgiving Day in 1965, a song that became a classic of anti-war protest songs. “Alice’s Restaurant” is a Thanksgiving Day tradition in my household (and really, the only time I listen to the song). But the song is hilarious, almost a Guthrie stand-up routine.
Not associated with Thanksgiving in any way, I usually follow up the song with Jamie Brockett’s “The Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic” only because it is folky, long and very funny (and likewise gets heard but once a year).
It is the last song of the three that is the most powerful in its evocation of the holiday — and, by far, the most beautiful.
The final movement of “A Symphony: New England Holidays” by American composer Charles Ives, “Thanksgiving” captures not only the Puritan roots of the holiday but the sweetness arising from Thanksgiving’s place as a quasi-family reunion, its power residing in the ability to capture the emotional and psychological contradictions of the holiday — why bringing a family together for a feast can be joyous ... or tragic.
Not so much a symphony as a song cycle, the “Holiday Symphony” is probably Ives’s best known work (though, arguably, not his best work); it also shows Ives to be one of the most original and most challenging composers of the 20th century (at least, to my untutored ears). “Thanksgiving” is more conservative than the previous three movements of the symphony, more subdued, less dissonant. While the movement begins ominously, portentously suggesting the anxiety of being thrust into a situation where scabs are torn from old wounds, it eventually softens its tone, taking bits of inspirational and traditional music (Ives quotes liberally from American standards and hymns) in most of his music to weave in moments of joy and tenderness.
Like most music that matters to me, I recall the exact moment when “Thanksgiving” made it into my holiday repertoire. At the time, I was working towards an honors distinction in an undergraduate neuropsychology program, spending several hours every day administering stress hormones in rats and running them through several behavioral tasks. Since research doesn’t take the day off, I was in the lab on Thanksgiving, focused on the task while resentful that I had to be there.
I’d tuned the radio to the local classical music station for background noise, when Ives came on. I stopped everything that I was doing. Sitting down and listening, it occurred to me that it was like nothing I’d heard before. More than that, when the announcer said that the song was “Thanksgiving” from the “Holiday Symphony” by Charles Ives, it was as if the entire piece was perfect for that moment in time.
Those of you who have read this column from time-to-time will know that the ability of music to lock a moment in time is a common theme with me. Indeed, it is how I define most great music. Furthermore, I’ve written about how some music stands outside space and time, actually evokes a moment, through creating a tableau, one that ineffably brings to mind an atmosphere or feeling by its very essence. “Thanksgiving” manages, for me, to accomplish both.
Believe me, it’s probably not a piece you want to slap on to create the festive spirit you need for your Thanksgiving gathering: It’s far too disconcerting and there are moments in the movement that are far too reminiscent of drunk relatives releasing some long-held animus while unfortunate spouses huddle in the kitchen and weep. Nor is it something to play after the wine and tryptophan have kicked in for the inevitable post-gorge nap. You. Do. Not. Want. To go to sleep to it (bad dreams, I assure you).
However, after the guests have retired to their rooms or have driven off into the night, the symphony (or at least that movement) is something I highly recommend for your personal enjoyment, to see how it jibes with the gathering you’ve held, or attended.
As I said, this obligatory holiday column was not meant to build a mix; the options are far too thin to build a cohesive whole for the holiday. If you’ve insistent on creating some kind of themed collection for the party, you’re out of luck. Fix your food and don’t bother with Thanksgiving songs. Be thankful you have just enough time to plug in your shuffle or stack some CDs into the carousel.
However, if you’re driven, Sam and Dave’s “I Thank You” is about as good as it gets, Thanksgiving-wise. It has “Thank” in the title and, while it speaks to gratitude for something bigger than themselves (“You didn’t have to love me, but you did, but you did … and I thank you!”), there’s no mention of turkey or mashed potatoes or the Bears vs. Lions game. And a great companion piece to Sam and Dave would be “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca (with Dooley Wilson singing, as he did in the movie). Although it has nothing to do with Thanksgiving and nominally dealing with thanks, it speaks to memories which is, I think, a huge component of the season.
If indeed, “the fundamental things apply,” Dido’s wonderful one-hit wonder “Thank You” seems to capture the season’s zeitgeist: As things build up and everything appears hopeless, there’s someone to catch us, preparing us for the next time we’re overwhelmed (probably why Eminem sampled it for his scary-stalker cut “Stan”). At the end of the night, if the relatives are being far too judgmental, Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” is a perfect side to let the chinless, soulless examiners of our lives know that we’re snubbing every snippet of gossip they’re holding onto like a slab of gut built with their own indulgence.
Really, that’s all I’ve got. You’re on your own as far as Turkey Day music. I assure you, you can’t go wrong with Arlo Guthrie (and the accompanying Jamie Brockett — it’s a good follow-up, really) as a Thanksgiving tradition. Sam and Dave, Dooley Wilson, Dido and Sly and the Family Stone (maybe toss in Led Zeppelin “Thank You” from II, Ben Folds’ “You to Thank” and Earth, Wind and Fire “Gratitude” (for, um, just something) and maybe you’ll have a mix.
For myself, I’m popping a turkey in the oven, putting on “The Wizard of Oz” and “Singing in the Rain” (a couple of traditions, hereabouts) and during dinner, probably listening to Phoenix, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” (my favorite, recently) while my kids ask, “Do I have to finish the asparagus?” with an eye on the pecan pie and whipped cream.
Then, after they’ve been overwhelmed by tryptophan and too much fun, I’ll put on Charles Ives, pour myself a couple fingers of port and allow the music to transport me because, despite the inevitable battle over asparagus. There’s much to be thankful for and, in this economy, that says so much.
I sincerely hope that you likewise find a reason to be grateful. We’re a close community in Pagosa Country and there’s no reason anyone should go for want. There are many who have plenty and, in my experience, they’re willing to share. All one needs to do is ask.
Ask me, though, and you’ll eventually be subjected to Charles Ives.
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
This was published here a couple weeks back and I'm just now getting around to posting it. Sue me.
While the calendar claims that summer has crawled off into memory, I’m not convinced nor am I letting go gladly, clawing desperately to warm, long days and frost-free mornings.
I can be stubborn that way.
The ostensible change of season brought a busy week for me: six soccer games, preparation for parent-teacher conferences and, two days after the autumnal equinox, the twelfth birthday of Eldest Daughter. And like my refusal to let go of summer, I cling to my daughter’s childhood like a dear plushy, cradling that idealized vision of her nine years ago, bare feet beneath her nightgown and tussled, golden hair falling over her eyes, her soft hands holding a stuffed Simba close to her chin.
There are a few things I own and cherish but their value is meaningless compared to the significance of those memories. Although all I have is today, ultimately, the here and now is never a clean slate and possessing the memories of my children makes my being in the moment all the more sweeter. It is the treasure of those memories that remind me how important it is to hold fast to present.
Eldest Daughter is my Golden Child, the one consumed with doing the right thing, devastated when she disappoints daddy. She’s been like that ever since she was born. Whereas her siblings cavil and cry at the injustice of me telling them there’s something they can’t do, willful and obstinate imps they are, Eldest Daughter cries because her deep, inbred sense of shame tortures her with the idea that she has not done the right thing. It troubles her to the core, knowing she has displeased me in some way.
Although twelve and at the threshold of adolescence, she retains the innocence of her earlier years as she explores (treading lightly) more adult themes and concerns. Last year, she replaced her tween obsessions (Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers, High School Musical, etc.) with everything “Twilight” — books, movies, soundtracks and merchandise.
I confess I haven’t read the books nor have I seen the movies. I’ve heard the books are innocuous, if inferior to the “Harry Potter” series and that the movies are definitely geared to specific, inchoate tastes. Nonetheless, she adores “Twilight” and I have no inclination to subvert her affection.
After all, my parents had no compunction against dropping me off in front of McNichols Arena, when I was about Eldest Daughter’s age, to watch Alice Cooper (my own preteen obsession) cause my ears to ring with his brand of nascent heavy metal and entertain his audience with mock executions and buckets of blood.
Indeed, if there is anything about the “Twilight Saga” that excites me, it’s the quality of the movie soundtracks. Populated with big names of the Indie Rock scene, it is not without undue alacrity that I’ve greeted her own pre-teen obsession given that she has been exposed to, and embraced, an entirely new brand of music in her preteen world.
To the credit of the movie’s producers, the soundtracks have included terrific cuts by some really exciting bands: Muse (providing songs on all three soundtracks), Perry Farrell, Iron & Wine, Death Cab for Cutie, Thom Yorke (wow), The Killers, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Sea Wolf, OK Go, Grizzly Bear, The Black Keys, Vampire Weekend (but, of course!), Unkle, The Dead Weather, Band of Horses — a veritable Who’s Who of College/Indie Rock.
Despite my desire to keep Eldest Daughter locked into the precious years of her childhood, I’ve learned to embrace the fact that she slowly, steadily marches towards adulthood, with baby steps (thankfully). Rocking all the way with a new found sophistication.
Thinking ahead to Eldest Daughter’s birthday and considering her new found affection for Indie Rock, I spent a few hours last week creating a new folder for her in iTunes. Somewhat inspired by the “Twilight” soundtracks but also filled with songs meant to say, “If you liked that, you might really like this!”
Boldly, I included a great deal of ’60s Motown, Soul, R&B, and Girl Groups in her folder, my rationale being that the pop tradition informing the type of Indie Rock that Eldest Daughter has grown to love. There would be no Death Cab for Cutie had there been no “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, “Baby Love” by The Supremes or “The Way You Do the Things You Do” by The Temptations.
Unabashedly romantic and celebratory, the Soul Music of the ’60s perfectly captured the urgency of the teenage heart, that desperation of adolescent longing and unrequited love. While The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Jefferson Airplane, et al edged more and more towards adult themes and psychedelic excess, African-American music of the era remained firmly entrenched in matters of the heart — the redemption of a first kiss, the security of intertwined fingers and the exhilaration of a love note.
Yet, that music was anything but formulaic: the performances alone made the music transcendent while some of the finest writers and composers endowed the songs with an emotional power and timelessness that endures today. I would have been tragically remiss had I failed to include Otis Redding, The Four Tops or Martha and The Vandellas in Eldest Daughter’s iTunes folder.
Naturally, I included some new music as well. Ratting myself out here — if I’m putting these artists into Eldest Daughter’s folder, it means that I necessarily have those songs on my iPod — Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Cee Lo Green, Aaliyah and Missy Elliot, artists that get her and her sister rocking and singing aloud as we blaze down the road, “Turn it up, daddy!” they shout over music that’s already overly loud.
A guilty pleasure of mine from this summer was Robyn, playing Swedish pop at its best. Probably a little too twisted for American radio, Robyn’s music combines techno/electro beats with pop rhythms that could only come from Sweden.
During the summer, Robyn released two EPs from her “Body Talk” trilogy, a cycle of songs so infinitely danceable and incredibly entertaining, I would have been a bad dad to exclude them from the Eldest Daughter folder. Songs such as “Dancing on My Own,” “Fembot,” “Hang With Me” and “U Should Know Better” (with Snoop Dog), I knew I couldn’t go wrong introducing Eldest Daughter and her sister to the most fun I had this past summer.
However, it was Robyn’s song, “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do” that was the essential inclusion into the folder. Full of bravado, attitude and adolescent snottiness, I may have stepped into something that I will regret somewhere down the road (although I somehow doubt that, given Eldest Daughter’s investment in being good). However, it is Robyn’s message that the pressure of society — and the expectations of being a woman in that society — that is both hilarious and compelling. Hoping to raise strong, self-sufficient women, ultimately, I hope both my girls carry that steel with them well into adulthood.
Robyn demanded a certain amount of Hip-hop in the mix and I was not shy including songs that will surely get Eldest Daughter censored if she’s blasting 50 Cent (“In Da Club,” of course) or Jay-Z (“99 Problems”) on the team bus.
Black-Eyed Peas and Outkast were easy selections to make — “Hey Ya” or “Pump It” are chaste enough to hear during an Aerobics session at the Senior Center — but I’ll confess to a brief pause (and sustained cringe) with songs such as Kenye West’s “Gold Digger” or Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop.”
Not one to censor what my kids listen to — if they don’t hear it from me, they’ll hear it somewhere else and with that will come a certain amount of subversive energy — I’ll nonetheless ask that the iPod stay home during sleepovers; not many parents understand my libertarian approach to music.
With well over 200 songs in the folder, Eldest Daughter has not had the chance to hear everything. And while the Hip-hop and old soul have been with some enthusiasm (“I love this song!” she cried when Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry Bout’ a Thing,” came on), most of those cuts were met with the resignation of, “Well, that’s just Daddy, he listens to all kinds of stuff!”
However, with the folder designated for her, she took new interest in the Indie Rock I had included, associating them with the music on her “Twilight” soundtracks. Thus, while “Beat Your Heartbeat,” by The Kissaway Trail or “Yellow Dress,” by Sore Eros might have slipped into the background of my pod set on random shuffle with Eldest Daughter’s attention turned elsewhere, the tunes took on a new significance as she listened intently to her special folder. Although “Actor Out of Work,” by St. Vincent, “Rill, Rill,” by Sleigh Bells and “Mexico,” by The Soft Pack had previously passed without her notice, suddenly she heard those songs anew, as if hearing them for the first time, placing them in proximity to everything she’d heard on her “Twilight” disks and suddenly deciding that she really, really liked those songs.
For the rest of my life, I will repay a debt (and never fully repay that gift) owed from the moment the delivery nurse pushed a bundle toward me, “Here’s your daughter, dad,” the nurse said as took Eldest daughter in my arms for the first time with a tremulous and uncertain embrace.
It was as if I had been touched by an alien and the knowledge of another universe had been telepathically transmitted to me. In that moment I became immediately aware that my own life had no significance in relation to the tiny life I held in my arms, that my own safety and well-being, my own aspirations and desires, were all secondary to the needs and security of the tiny person in my arms.
It was at that moment that I became aware of authentic love was — unconditional and nurturing and compassionate and dedicated to a higher purpose, serving something else beyond my own selfish appetites. In that moment, I realized that my own life held a purpose that would light my way forever.
That way continues to unfold in tandem with the evolution of Eldest Daughter as she glides seamlessly from her infancy into adulthood, a process that has occurred in the blink of an eye, faster than I had anticipated and could have ever wanted.
My debt continues to grow, gifted as I am watching her evolve and become the person she is supposed to become. If I can provide that process with my own soundtrack, bringing her the gift of music, I am ecstatic that my own gift is well-received.
As summer eases its way into fall and Eldest Daughter grows from toddler to teenager, I can only cling to the memories of what she was and these present moments of what she’s becoming. There is nothing I would trade to pass up those transitions.