Friday, February 27, 2009

Best of 2008 - #7

Lift Me Up/Where You End – Moby

It has become very vogue since the mid-90’s to meld the realms of soul and body, and Moby has always been at the front of this crusade. His pulsing beats combined with soulful voices invite cognitive emotionalism. And in recent years he has tried to produce this sound more independently – using his own voice rather than old spiritual covers. I think critics knocked him for unoriginality. Well, his album Hotel suffers for the lack of voices that can go deeper and further than little Moby, but his beats have not diminished. In fact, Lift Me Up/Where You End cuts its own path as a blues song.

The song begins with a lament. Drab words are killing him; he is confined to a cerebral cell and is forced to plead: “Lift me up, lift me up!” over and over – rising to a shout. It’s a prayer of release and a cry from quicksand – aided here by electric guitar and background singers to add a little more gusto.

The agony like Dante’s lost souls howling from a well end the prayer just as it began it, but Where You End starts in mid-form – moving us back to the physical. There was no voice from heaven. Rather, Moby comes to a sobering recognition: “Some things fall apart.” So what can we fix ourselves to that is “real” and invigorating? Sensuality, which scares us to no end, is Moby’s grace. His yearning for touch is more than carnality. Sure, when he says, “Where you end is where I begin,” he’s is definitely speaking sexually. But, there’s something else here. There’s incarnation and the sacramental grace of divine touch, like a divine finger touching the index finger of Adam. Soul meets body. Bodies are gateways to souls. Moby’s been on to that for years.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Best of 2008 - #8

Death and All of His Friends/The Escapist – Coldplay

People either love Coldplay or think they are crap. I’ve witnessed both sides argued passionately. True: Coldplay does sing like the crazy man at the library who keeps spouting everything so urgently that you feel he must be on to and on something. Some people hate that. Other people hate them because their tunes tend to plant themselves onerously into your skull. But, lunacy and redundancy aside, Coldplay also creates some truly haunting, beautiful music.

Their recent release, Viva La Vida or Death and All of His Friends, was made famous by – surprise, surprise – an iTunes commercial and the title track (which is like Beethoven stuffed into a British club with futbol fans … btw, didn’t this happen in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure). But, beneath the pomp and strain of international music demi-gods, the album is also laced with Asian minimalism. Those are the songs I enjoy, and the acoustic version of Lovers easily triumphs over the amped-up version like it was Bruce Lee against Chuck Norris.

I’m particularly smitten with Death and All of His Friends/The Escapist, which begins with the type of nonsensical poetry that is evidence “A” for the half who disdain Coldplay. But, they soon leave that behind and begin working into mantras: be patient, don’t worry. That’s a message I don’t mind having stick in my head.

The other thing about Coldplay is that they like to build into crescendos of emotion – aided by precise strumming, drumming and pounding of the piano. That would be where this song goes, and the bohemian chanting emerges as a solid protest: “No I don’t want to battle from beginning to end. No I don’t want to cycle, recycle revenge. I don’t want to follow death and all of his friends .” It is a fight for life. And you do have to fight for it.

But, then it ceases and reverses course one more time. Back to the Asian-minimalism, this time with a haunting electo-mix of wind and pulsing beats. This is close-of-the-day stuff here, the twilight of life. “And, in the end, we lie awake, and we dream of making our escape.” The Oriental winds are moving across a fertile steppe, and the pulsing of a digital parade, like the UFO’s from Close Encounters were singing. Then fading, then giving up. But a peaceful submission. The resignation of Buddhism leads to life. Digital dreams. The end.

Perfect really. Three movements, the three cycles of life: the whimsy of youth, the struggle of adulthood, the relinquishment of old age.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Best of 2008 - #9

Society – Eddie Vedder

Eddie Vedder laid out one of the most solid albums in recent years when he did the soundtrack for Into the Wild, which was in itself the best movie I saw in 2008. If you’re familiar with the movie, you know the story of Chris McCandless, the young man who takes leave of his white-collar, white-washed suburban existence and heads due west on an existential journey. This song serves as the protest that fuels Chris:

“It’s a mystery to me. We have a greed with which we have agreed. And you think you have to want more than you need. Until you have it all you won’t be free. Society, you are a crazy breed. I hope you aren’t lonely without me.”

Two motifs strike me within this song. One is the intimate sound of Vedder’s voice – brilliantly communicated throughout the whole album – that speaks Chris’ mind in the scenes where he travels further into himself. The second is the loneliness of this song, the sadness. It holds both the melancholy of a person who has to say goodbye to someone very dear to him, even if that person has caused a great deal of pain. But, as it ends with the line “I hope you’re not lonely without me”, what is really being said through Vedder is that Chris himself is bound for loneliness – a loneliness that will develop from severed ties to the outside world. For when he seeks to be loosed from the ills of society, he also becomes unbound from others and the connections that make him human.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Best of 2008 - #10

If I Had Eyes – Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson’s Sleep Through the Static album may have been the best release of 2008. The opening track of the album seems like it’s a little late on the anti-Bush bandwagon (the opening two songs are ripe with themes of war-mongering and loss), but it appropriately subdues the whole album with the reminder that there were too many things “we got too proud of” and – like Icarus – “we went beyond where we should have gone”. Johnson aims to heal us by bringing us to earth, and his humble yet hopeful voice is able to do just that.

But to do that, he has to make us realize that some battles can only be won when we cease trying to fight them. If I Had Eyes is just such a song. Thematically, I guess it’s best to call it a “break-up” song, like Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. And like Gaynor’s Survive, this song goes beyond romance to self-differentiation. This is a song of new beginnings, and when the song swells like a tide I catch surf on one line and one alone: “Sometimes time doesn’t heal, no not at all.”

It would take too much to explain the significance or meaning behind that lyric to me, but let this suffice: in 2008, I had reached a breaking point and I needed to have someone say clearly and loudly, “Sometimes time doesn’t heal”. Sometimes the only thing that can renew us is change and a break from the old.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Best of 2008 - #11

Why I Sing the Blues – B. B. King

B. B. King is the king of the blues, and I finally entered the king’s court. He’s known for “Lucille”, that sweet little six-string that sings its way through B. B.’s fingers, but he’s also famous for the way he puts the struggles of African-Americans into lyrical story. Well, this song has ‘em both.

It starts out with Lucille and a little rhythm drums, and then B. B. comes in with a defense, “Everybody want to know why I sing the blues …” Then he takes you through the harsh history of slavery to slum-life, and in between these remembered miseries, Lucille testifies – raising a cry of desperation and hope. And just when you might start to think B. B. is beginning to exaggerate his miseries, in typical blues fashion, he keeps comin’ at you with more and more reason to sing the blues. The tempo picks up – moving fluidly into Rock n’ Roll – and B. B. starts asking for “one more fellas” like James Brown, like some Pentecostal preacher. That’s when I really start diggin’ it.

Number eleven on this year’s Best of 2008 is a blues song. Fitting as it is. It won’t be the last of the blues either.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Moving Out and Moving In

This past Thursday movers arrived in Owensboro to pack up our earthly belongings, and the next day they arrived in Greencastle to unload them at the farmhouse. It took a great deal of work in the final week to prepare five of the rooms in the farmhouse - including finishing the painting and laying down carpet.

The drywallers finished their work in the dining room and in the bathroom this past week as well. So, we now have a house with many unpacked boxes and furniture stuffed into five rooms with some painting left to do in the dining room, the kitchen and the bathroom.

But, all in all, things are coming along and we are much nearer to moving in to the farm house. There have been many hands working on this place, and that - thanks be to God - is the only reason we've come as far and as fast as we have.

Here are some pictures ... a look at the ceiling fans we've chosen, some before and after shots, a shot of the moving van stuffing itself into our driveway, and a shot of the carpet (the "farmhouse" album on the right of the blog is also updated with more pictures):


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We've made some more progress over at the farm house in the last week. In fact, with the ongoing help from my in-laws, some full days there myself, and - thanks be to God - a full work day with a number of helpers from the church, we were able to paint out the rest of the trim and to put paint on the walls in the living room, our bedroom and Wyatt's bedroom. We also now have paint on Anna's would-be art room and Elise's bedroom.

In the picture below, you can see the kilz prime-coat that we put on the walls, and (if you look very closely) you can see a strip of the paint on the walls just to the right of the door.

For a closer look at the trim work - including a good reference to the original color of the wood, take a look at this picture.

The plan is for me to go to Owensboro tomorrow where the moving company will be packing our belongings and shipping them up here to Greencastle on Friday. Last night, today and tomorrow, someone has been at the house laying carpet in the three rooms we have finished painting, and we will place as much of our furniture in those rooms.

It's coming along. I'll try to post some pictures of the carpet in the near future.


my real hair

So I'm coming up on seven months with my real hair. That is, my hair sans any chemical who-knows-what. That is, my hair minus shampoo or conditioner. I included the above photo just so you would know that I'm not some grease pit these days...

About six and a half months ago I read about Angry Chicken's experience with this and decided to give it a whirl. I mean, what is all that stuff on the ingredient label of shampoo, anyway? I didn't tell Wes until about a month or so into it. I finally told him in response to his comment that my hair looked healthier than it had in a long time. When he found out I hadn't "washed" it in a month, all he said was, "Wow."

So here are the details, in case anyone out there is interested:

I keep a freebie, plastic, DePauw cup in the shower. When I need to "wash" my hair, I dump in one tablespoon of baking soda and fill the cup the rest of the way with warm water, dissoving the soda. I pour it over and work it into my dry hair, leave it on for a bit, and rinse. Then, to restore the ph balance and to detangle (that part is awesome), I pour two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into the cup and again, dilute with warm water. Pour over and rinse out.

I've read that you should never use more than a tablespoon of baking soda; if you have longer hair, you just dilute it in more water. And I also read and know from my own experience that your hair will go through an adjustment period...up to two weeks, where you might feel a little icky. It will pass; just break out a great hat.

My hair really does feel healthier, and has a lot more body. The latter is actually not one of my favorite parts...but I do like knowing that the hair on my head is the real stuff...the way it was created to be.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

getting out

I (Anna) was able to get out on Monday night and exercise my brain a little. A very good thing, considering the outdoor temps here have me holed up with the little ones every hour of the day. I trekked in to DePauw to hear David Plouffe, Barack Obama's campaign manager. It proved to be another confirmation for me of the man we elected president. I was struck by a number of things, including his discussion of the healthy work environment that Barack facilitated, examples of the candidate's calm and consistent nature, the reasoning behind their choice for campaign funding (so that they could actually control the message being sent to the American people), and Barack's lack of a "pathological desire to be President" -- something that freed him to be a real person...rather than a cog in a machine run-amok. You can read the follow up article here, which includes video and audio clips.

On an unrelated note, I'm finally listening to music again for the first time in...years. Right now I'm enjoying Moby's Hotel album, and Snow Patrol's A Hundred Million Suns, although I don't know if either of those -- or music in general -- will hold my interest for the long haul.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Another first

Wyatt attended his first professional basketball game last night.  Dad had received tickets from work and Uncle Drew, myself and Wes took wee Wyatt to see the Pacers play the Knicks at Conseco Fieldhouse. 

He announced to us that day that he would be having popcorn at the game with his dad...he was so excited, I couldn't say no.

It's great fun to see your kid's first reaction to things...I think all three of the adults spent more time watching Wyatt than the game.