Monday, November 18, 2013

The Front Bottoms

  You know what I like? A song you can really sing along to. One that you can shout along to. The Front Bottoms from New Jersey really nail down songs that you can shout and deliriously sing along with. Each song is filled with lyrics that are raw with emotion, like "The good thing about this cast is that I can still hold a knife/so if you ever twist my arm again I'll be sure to put up a fight!" on Funny You Should Ask. Or on their song The Feud, "You were my girl you were my baby/You were my homemade mashed potatoes, biscuits, and gravy../You were the prize my hands could never hold."

The Front Bottoms play some great mostly acoustic indie punk rock with a lot of heart. Here's a music video from their latest album replete with reptiles, enjoy!

The Front Bottoms
Funny You Should Ask

directed by Mark Jaworski

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Feelings about November

I have always had mixed feelings about November. It comes between October and December and it has Thanksgiving, but it really doesn't do much for me. The weather becomes a bit crappier than it was in October, a mix of wet and cold and dreariness. Thanksgiving is a cool holiday, but its really just a testament to eating, or that's what it seems like anyway. So I tend to get a bummed out sometimes in November, but that's okay. It has been a pretty decent November so far, apart from being sick right now.

  I have always said the best way to get through the seasons that you aren't as fond of is with good music, especially music that gets you dancing. I have just the thing right here. Its a song called "Girl" from the band Das Racist, who will always be famous in my heart for their song "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell", possibly the best song about trying to find your friend on the phone. But back to Girl, it is a song with a great beat, lyrics with tons of references including one to Infinite Jest, and an awesome music video. If you still need selling, the video features a guy who looks like a young Jerry Seinfeld.

Das Racist

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spooky Songs: Panic at the Disco

   First of all, Happy Halloween! I hope it was spooky and supernatural and safe for all of you. Second of all here is another band I really dug in high school, Panic at the Disco. Its a song with a title that makes me think of a certain Outkast song. Its a video in the Las Vegas desert. There is a fantastic use of fish-eye lens, and great camera angles to suggest a mind set of madness. Something sinister might have gone down, or has the protagonist, Brandon Urie, just gone crazy? There is a vision quest into the desert, but again, maybe its just a metaphor. I hope you enjoy, I have had a lot of fun with these this October, I'll see you in November.

Panic at the Disco
Miss Jackson

Directed by Jordan Bahat

Monday, October 28, 2013

Spooky Songs: Fall Out Boy

Here's some truth: I have always liked the music videos that Fall Out Boy comes out with for their songs. From their first video for "Sugar We're Going Down" to "A Little Less Sixteen Candles a Little More 'Touch Me'". The themes of the videos tend to verge on the supernatural and tragic, just like their music.

   For their new album, "Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy has definitely upped the ante in terms of thrills and drama. They have done 7 music videos so far for the album. Each video connects to the last with an over arching story. The video for "The Phoenix" teaches some valuable lessons, such as: getting kidnapped by beautiful girls does not suck any less than getting kidnapped by anyone else. And while sending messages by hawk is awesome, it might not be the most expedient of options. Anyhow, strap in and enjoy the ride.

Fall Out Boy
The Phoenix (part 2 of 11)

directed by DONALD/ZAEH

To watch the other parts so far see here:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spooky Songs: Arcade Fire

  I'm sure at some point you have been in a bathroom at a truck stop or mall or what have you. In such a bathroom you might encounter a series of sinks with not one set of mirrors, but two, each one facing the other because of such a high demand for hand washing. The interesting thing here is if you look at one mirror you actually get to see a reflection of the other mirror which is reflecting the first mirror at the same time. This goes on, it would seem, all the way to infinity. In some ways I believe the video for the song Reflektor by Arcade of Fire is trying to capture this idea of infinite reflection. Though I cannot defend that idea too strongly because I have almost no idea what the video is actually about.

  The video is beautiful shot in black and white. There are papier-mache heads, floating disco balls in fields, a man who seems to be made up of a suit of mirrors. I don't understand it. But I love it. It is incredibly surreal. I would also say that this music video asks us why we wear masks at times, is it to hide something? is it to bring out our true nature? are there many versions of ourselves hidden deep inside ourselves? It is a mesmerizing world of mirrors and winding roads, what is a reflection and what is not? It is a question of perception.

 This video is a ride, it is a dream, it is a reflection; I sincerely hope you enjoy.

Arcade Fire

directed by Anton Corbijn

Monday, October 21, 2013

Spooky Songs: The Mountain Goats

  Whats spookier than satanism? Devil worship tends to be associated with dark arts and evil. I'm not sure that's true in reality, I've heard satanists are actually quite pleasant. But regardless this music video goes well with the theme. Because Halloween is also about darkness and misconceptions and death. Its about dealing with fear and being afraid of the unknown.

The Mountain Goats
Cry for Judas

Carlo Mirabella-Davis

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Spooky Songs: Capital Cities

  Continuing on the October theme of being someone you are not, here is a great video from Capital Cities for their song Kangaroo Court. The video has some really cool masks and make up to change a whole array of people into animals in an alternate world. Its a good take on discrimination and the lengths we will go to fit in, have a look!

Capital Cities
Kangaroo Court

Friday, October 11, 2013

Spooky Songs: Fixers

   I think above all, October, and especially Halloween itself, are about taking on an otherness. Its about seeing the world in a guise outside of yourself. Children don't just dress up for Halloween as monsters, they also dress up as their heroes, fictional or not; they dress up as cartoon characters, as seasons, as events, as almost anything under the sun. It is a time to be something you are not in every day life. It is a time when dreams can become just a little more real. What if time travel were real? What if you were Marty McFly. What if you were a ninja or a pirate having a feud? In everyday life, you might not be, but this is what Halloween and October are about. Not just about scary things, but a general otherness, we all get to be Batman if we want.

   I made that little introduction because a) i think its important and b) this music video isn't necessarily spooky, nor scary, but it is strange. It imagines a world with a unique ailment and five brave young men who set out to find the rare cure for one ailing old man. It is a magical tale of travel through space and time, enjoy!

Iron Deer Dream

directed by Ben Reed

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Spooky Songs: Phantogram

  You have probably heard this song at some point in the last year and possibly not even known who it was by. It has been in a slew of movies, on some radio, on tv shows. The song I am referring to is called "Don't Move" by Phantogram. This video involves striking lighting, floating cubes, hooded figures, and an entranced girl. It has been described as similar to Italian horror films, and if that is a fair comparison it makes me very curious to watch more Italian horror films because this video is just so striking and strange and surreal. It feels like a dream. The visuals seem to mess with your head; there is this ethereal feeling throughout the video and this sinking feeling of dread at the same time. And just what is up with the cube?

Don't Move

Monday, October 7, 2013

Spooky Songs: Miike Snow

   This is a triple feature, so a bit of a treat. I would like to introduce you to Miike Snow. Not a man spelling his name uniquely, but rather a swedish indie pop band that brings an array of bass and synths that leave you dancing even to melancholy filled lyrics. On their second album, Happy to You, that came out last year they released a series of music videos directed by Andreas Nilsson. The videos capture a surreal blend of horror, comedy, oddity and art in such a way that the viewer is glued to the screen with eyes wide open. The three videos together create a strange story of adjusting to life all over again when everything has been changed and you have become a man named Jean Noel, or actually you can interpret it any way, because, oh man it is strange, and wonderful.

Miike Snow
Paddling Out
directed by Andreas Nilsson
(warning: brief gore)

Miike Snow
The Wave
directed by Andreas Nilssen
(the dancing cops in this one are just too great)

Miike Snow
directed by Vern Moen

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Spooky Songs: Man Man

    Hello everyone, and Happy October! It is once again my favourite month of the year and with that comes once again time for spooky themed music videos. First up is a great new song from the self-proclaimed cannibal rockers Man Man. The song is called "Head On (Hold Onto Your Heart)" and the video features a medley of clips spliced together from old black and white horror movies. The beat plunks and slinks along with percussion and strings accentuating every note. Lead singer Honus Honus croons some darkly catchy lyrics to drive the song. It is fantastic, I hope you enjoy.

Man Man
Head On (Hold Onto Your Heart)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Journey to Aytifur: After the Mountains

                                          (see here for part 1)

  The sun was just high enough in the sky to make the dew in the grass sparkle like thousands of diamonds in a sea of green. The air was still crisp and cool as it will be in early spring. Though the air in the barn was more musty than crisp and Erdwin had woken too early to see the dew sparkle.

  He sat milking one of the family's huge cows, brooding with each fresh squirt of sweet milk. He brooded about how his bed was at its softest at this hour and how he'd much rather be under the covers. He brooded about how he never got to venture out past the border of their farm; he was sure there was excitement just waiting past the forest's edge or over the crest of the hills. He brooded wondering whether any of Gran's stories were true. Could there really be giants that lived in the mountains? Twin princes in the far off thrones that ruled side by side with twin scepters? Gremples and brownies and clever wolves by turns waging war with each other and allying altogether against forest intruders. Each story, each element was more fantastic than the  last, and yet when she told the tales it was as if she had been to these places and seen these things herself.

  In the midst of all the brooding Erdwin heard a rustling. The cats liked to sneak into the barn to get a bit of cream straight from the teat. Usually the animals all got along well enough, but at this hour the cows, like Erdwin, were not pleased to be awake. He got up from his stool and shuffled his way over to the source of the rustle, doing his best to look menacing.

  "Boots? Florence?", He called out, "Whichever one you are, you had best scram on the count of three. I mean it. Three, two..."

   Before Erdwin had reached "one" he turned the corner to the next stall and saw there was no sign of a cat at all. The straw near the cow moved again, whatever was there was bigger than a stupid cat. He pondered whether he should find his father in case it was a dangerous creature. But the foxes were smart enough not to enter the barn. He took another step towards the shape and heart it emit a moan, then a mumble, "...Paulsen, I'm so lost, why do you always have to cheat when we play hide-n-seek? Illusions aren't fair..."

   Laying in the straw was a girl a few years older than Erdwin with light blue skin. She held a staff limply. Erdwin made sure she had no mortal wounds and sprinted off to fetch his father.


  Angela woke up to find herself in a straw bed in a warm room. There was a spotted cat lying near her feet.

    "Oh, you're awake, are you?"

She turned to find a young man sitting in a chair in the corner of the room reading a tome. She turned to reach for her staff, but found her body unable to obey her well.

  "No. Don't move, you're weak yet. My name is Erdwin, you're on my family's farm, you're safe. Please, relax and rest. I'll be right back, my father told me to find Gran when you awoke."

  The boy dashed out the door, upsetting the cat from the bed in his wake. Angela settled back into the bed and looked around the room. Her staff and pack were set next to the chair Erdwin had been sitting on. It looked as if the pack hadn't been opened. What trusting strangers were these? She raised her hand weakly to lift her hair from her face and noticed her hand. It was blue. Like the sky without clouds. Blue?


When she awoke again there was a weather old woman who looked as if she had seen the world be made and could tell it off if she wanted. Angela noticed this old woman had strange eyes. The pupils were slits, like those of a cat.

   "Ya can call me Gran, m'dear. I take care of the medicine and some odds and ends. Ya have a touch of mountain sickness, though you may have figured that out yourself."

  "The blue color of my skin?"

"Very good. It might fade in time, or again it might not. But I don't take a girl traveling alone with a staff to be one taken with vanity. Though if its any consolation it looks quite striking on ya."

   "I was traveling with another...I think...Some time after Paulsen's cottage..."

The old woman smiled, "You know Paulsen, do ya? I trained him when he was just a wee pup, constantly nipping at my heels, begging for a new scroll to read, or a new spell to learn. I trust he's made all the right mistakes by now.", Gran stopped for a moment lost in her memories, "Can you remember how ya came to be on our farm? What brought you over the mountains? Try telling me what you can, I'll help you fill in the gaps."

   "It was all smooth until like you said, when I got to the mountains...I think..."


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hitting the Mark- HAIM (The Wire)

  HAIM, rhymes with time, from Los Angeles, California is made up of the three Haim sisters - Este, Danielle, and Alana - along with Dash Hutton on Drums. They fill their songs up with catchy hooks, and choruses that blend their and mixing their voices over driving, rolling guitars.

  "The Wire" and its video are about one of the tougher things in life: breakups. And yet, this video manages to make light of the topic and turn it into a kind of funny topic. The lyrics of the song clearly show the emotional turmoil that comes with cutting the cord on the relationship, with lines like, "You know I'm bad at communication/that's the most important part of relationships/and I'd give it all away just to know you'll be okay" or the chorus "I fumbled/and when it came down to the wire/it felt right". There's some vulnerability and conflict here, its not an easy situation, just like in any relationship. The video though, which shows each band member breaking up with her respective boyfriend shows no such turmoil, in fact there is comedy there. Not because of some strange idea that girls are not strong enough to be the dumpers, but rather a rare depiction of each boyfriend completely falling apart emotionally. That doesn't sound funny, right? And yet, it is.

  The idea that men can be the ones to break down in very open and public ways, crying over old pictures and just for the most part not hold it together is for some reason pretty funny.

The Wire

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Scenes from 7th Period

     "--and if we take Thomas Jefferson, we can plug him into the quadratic equation here using "x" as a symbol."

   7th period always seems to drag on for an eternity. It is one or two periods after lunch and that bologna sandwich is now a brick sinking ever so slowly in the stomach. The lights are dimmed for the overhead projector and the temperature is just warm enough to drift off. No one is passing notes, but everyone seems to be trying not to pass out. I'm in the back of the room doodling in my notebook, trying to stay awake and failing with gusto. My pen trails a lazy line, making hazy geometric shapes: a triangle here, an octagon there, oblong circles in between. I glace up, Mrs. Grolf is still droning on about math or history, the teachers have been combining two or more subjects lately to make class more engaging. In reality it just means no one ever knows where they are coming from or going to.

  I glance back to my notebook, this time my hand makes the pen create a one sided arrow. I then start at the other end and zig-zag making a series of triangles to connect to the top. Nifty. I look up again...the minute hand has not moved a centimeter...and I look down....and up...the clock hands never seem to move as if defying me to call them broken...I glance down again, my page is filled to the brim with cross hatching done without care, abstract shapes and dinosaur outlines...I look up again. The room is still dim, but there's no overhead projector anymore. In its place is a row of 40 watt bulbs and a poster for a film I have never heard of. I look down to see my desk and doodles are gone. I am sitting in a plastic chair.

"--and that's why a bear would beat a lion every time, right?"

I turn to see a friend wearing glasses. I think his name's Tim or maybe Matt, no, definitely Tim, "Er, yeah, bear nine times out of ten. Um, what's going on?"

  "We're waiting for Eliza, remember?"

That's it! That girl, she's always late, but we haven't been sitting here long. We talk about the movie we're about to see. We're excited, though while I think its going to be funny, Tim insists it's a tragedy. That's what he read in the paper anyway. I don't hear the door open, but Eliza's sitting with us now. She's holding Tim's hand, with the side of her body pressed against him. She's wearing a blue shirt, like robin's egg blue, and khaki shorts. Her hair is in a pony tail starting at the very top of her head. We all talk for another moment and eventually we agree that we should probably get tickets. Tim volunteers to go buy them for everyone.

   As soon as he's gone Eliza takes my hand and leads us to the other side of the room. She pushes me against the wall, our bodies touching. "Eliza, wait!"

  She shakes her head sadly and says, "My name is Katee."Her tongue runs across my lower lip and we kiss for a long minute. Katee embraces me and I am utterly enchanted and bewildered.

She lets me go and walks back to Tim. I want to shout. To say, "Wait! Don't go!" But I don't. I do nothing. I blink and Tim and Katee/Eliza are gone. Faded away like the after image from staring at the sun. I blink again, they're still gone. I run outside to look for them.

  Outside the theater it has begun to rain. A thick fog has settled in as well. I think I see their silhouettes drifting away down the road. I run to catch up, but the fog is not safe, I feel small things almost strike me and whizz past. Bullets? I duck and spin, my feet still running. I shield my head with my arms and hope for the best.

  There is shouting up ahead. Short, clipped, barked commands. The words are not audible, but the intention is clearly angry.

I see a group through the fog. I decide to try walking towards them with my hands up. Maybe they won't shoot me? Maybe they have some decency? Maybe they can see in this fog with more clarity than I have. I approach and I can see the guns they are holding. The guns are not automatic machine guns, the shape is sleeker, smaller, rounder. The clip comes in a wide plastic bulb. I realize I made a mistake. I shout, "I was already shot! I'm out of the game!"

    "Oh yeah? I ain't see no paint on ya!", shouts a figure with a gun.

                          I pause in place.

"He's not holding a gun, Gary, let him through!", another voice shouts.

  The group makes way and I amble past, hands still up as a sign of diplomacy. I mumble a thanks for not shooting me. They weren't bullets earlier, but rather paint-balls. I laugh. Still painful, though not as deadly by far.

 I wonder where Katee is now. I wonder if she'll kiss me again. I hear a woman over a mega-phone: "Isoceles Triangle!" The fog lifts and I see students running with long lengths of rope, coming together to form geometric shapes. Its an odd and beautiful sight.

There's a loud buzzer sounding. Once, then twice. I look around, now I'm in a long room - study hall. Over the PA system the secretary says, "7th period starts in 2 minutes. Try not to be tardy."

  I wipe at my mouth in case of drool. There is none. I collect my books and make my way to Algebra.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

She's a rock climber now

She's a rock climber now
oh no!
oh man,
how ever will you
get that high?

You always seem to forget
there's a difference
between getting stoned
and altitude

The trails are all mapped
with bright florescent tape
but you just stand
mouth agape

Which will it be this time?
back to that place
that's almost
but not quite Mexico,
or will you try?

She's a rock climber now
oh no!
oh man,
how ever will you
get so high?

maybe you can fly,
maybe you could

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Yard-Stick Songs

I think one of the most wonderful things about music is that a heap of sound waves can make you feel a certain way. How when you hear a particular song after a long period of time, and now you are feeling a certain feeling related to a certain time and place when you first listened to that song. Or maybe you relate that song to an event when it was playing, or maybe you just interpret the lyrics and they mean a certain thing to you. In the film "Safety Not Guaranteed" Mark Duplass's character echoes a similar sentiment. He says, "You know when you hear your favorite song, it brings you back to that specific time and place when you heard it first." A sort of sonic time traveling if you will. There are some songs that if I hear them randomly I then immediately recall fragments of memory, not enough to put into words, but a memory of real time nonetheless.

  But then I think there's a slightly different thing regarding songs and memory. Every once in a blue moon I sit myself down and listen to certain songs; let's call them yard-stick songs. Yard-stick because I listen to them and try to measure whether I still feel that same way I used to when listening. I might sit and listen to Motion City Soundtrack's "The Future Freaks Me Out" and see if I still love it as much as I did back in middle school and subsequently high school. And I ask myself, does the future still freak me out? Some days, definitely.

Motion City Soundtrack
The Future Freaks Me Out

  "Objects of my Affection"by Peter Bjorn and John is another one. I try to gauge if at wherever I am in my life I agree with the lyrics "I laugh more often now, I cry more often now; I am more me". At this point in my life, at whichever point in my life, do I laugh more than I used to? Cry more than I used to? Am I comfortable as myself?

Peter Bjorn and John
Objects of My Affection

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Webs They Weave

Words and pictures
they paint
webs they weave

like old
forgotten memories

Oh, won't you leave me?
no, won't you leave?

Words and pictures
they paint
webs they weave

won't you leave me?
no, won't you leave?

There's been
enough bad here
no need for more

Won't you leave me?
Oh darlin' please,
don't go

Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

Today marks the 5th anniversary of this blog! I'm still here! Yay!  And you are too! Yay!

Here's a song:

Eleanor Friedberger
Stare at the Sun

directed by Scott Jacobson

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Arguing Through Friendship

"We're not going to agree on every subject, that's not what friendship is. I'm not your clone, but we're close enough to be siblings."

   "Dominique? I..."He started to respond or maybe apologize.

"No, shut your mouth. I'm not finished saying my piece. Being friends means and it always has with us, that when one of us says or does something asinine, the other calls them out. We don't blindly agree. Just, no. On the other hand if someone were to throw a punch at you, I would block it. Not only that, I would kick their ass. That's what friendship means."

  He lifted his head to make eye contact with her, "You're right, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to lash out. Thanks for calling me on my bullshit."

  She punched him amicably in the arm, "That's what friends are for."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Nocking on the Wrong Side

You're nocking
arrows on the
wrong side

With the fletch
tickling your shoulder,
you're all tangled

Straighten yourself
take a breath
close your eyes

Feel that bow
loosely held
in your left hand

You only get
one chance to let go,
to make the shot,
now everyone's watching

That bowstring
won't catch on
your leg
Let it fly, oh
nock it true,
and let it fly

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Songs 2013

  It seems to be that part of the summer once again. The part where the heat and humidity become just about unbearable and the only solution is to seek refuge with shade, air conditioning, a swim in a pool or pond, and a refreshing drink. While you wait for nightfall when it will be slightly cooled off outside, here are some summer songs to reignite your love of the season.

Capital Cities - Safe and Sound

   Indelibly catchy with a great music video featuring a dance off between black and white swing dancers and modern day break dancers, what more can you ask for?

Born Ruffians - Needle 

   This song evokes the plight of the noble water-melon, blissfully rolling down a hill. It starts slow then picks up with the Ruffians' trade mark jangle.

Frank Turner - Recovery

   The English singer Frank Turner, famous for his heartfelt raucous songs, pens a relatable stomper of an anthem about trying to get over the past and relying on the kindness of others when you need to. Its a long road, but it just might all be okay in the end.

Alt-J -Dissolve Me

 This song taps out its rhythm like dripping sweat. Like a sun beaten road trip, it bounces along.

Youth Lagoon - Montana
  A sunrise from a hilltop in the morning, this song is beautiful and delicate. 

Vampire Weekend - Diane Young

  Last, but not least is Vampire Weekend with Diane Young. A song with dizzying wordplay full of homonyms, bad luck, mortality, and seizing the day. The video is an indie last supper/party with P-Thugg and Dave1 from Chromeo, Santigold, Sky Ferreira,  members of The Walkmen, as well as a few more notables to catch. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Look at July

  Happy Fourth of July everyone! Here's a look at what I've been up to and what I'm planning for July: First off, June was crazy and packed with different kinds of madness. I took part in a scavenger hunt across Cleveland using the RTA to get to each different destination. I saw The Book of Mormon with my family, it was fantastic, filled with crude humor and heart. And there's been a few movies and books and plumbing problems and a hoist of thunder storms. Oh, my brother and I started a new blog where we review music, its called Vinyl Hermanos, you should check it out.

Onto July! This coming week I will be on vacation up in northern Wisconsin. So you will most likely not hear from me until I get back. In the meantime I plan to do some writing and reading and swimming. If all goes according to plan I will have more things to post upon my return. Such as a post with some summer music picks, and maybe a few stories, maybe a book review, more poems/songs(whatever they are), and who knows what else.

The Decemberists
July, July

I've already featured this song if you've been keeping track, but when I think "July" this is what comes to mind.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Killer Whales

Killer Whales
only come out at night
that's what they
used to tell me

Back then
before you were born
when there was still

Starlight in the static
can you see it?
Starlight in the static
can you hear it?

Killer whales
only come out
in the middle
of the night

That's what they
told me
in Marine Biology
in 2014

Before you were married
when there was still

Starlight in the static
can you see it?
Starlight in the static
Can you hear it?
Can you hear it anymore?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Summer 2013

  This summer, just like every other brings a new wave of books to read in the sun, movies to watch in dark theaters and all sorts of activities to do. Here are a few things I am excited about this summer:

Man of Steel

 When 'Superman Returns' came out a few years ago I left the theater feeling a bit disappointed. It seemed as if half the movie consisted of Superman floating in space silently staring at Earth looking stoic. I guess it was supposed to show how he felt responsible for the whole planet and how he was not quite human, but it just seemed boring. This time out it looks like the film is going to have a bit more life to it. It looks like Superman will finally have something his own size to fight rather than Lex Luther with a green rock.

Pacific Rim

This one comes from Guillermo Del Toro, the man behind Pan's Labyrinth, the Hellboy movies as well as a few horror films. He knows how to blend action with comedy and thrills with inspiring imagination. Not only that, this movie is also going to have giant robots fighting pan dimensional sea monsters. Now you might be thinking that this is going to suffer the same fate as Transformers and Real Steel, just another sloppy big budget robot flick. But I disagree, I think 'Pacific Rim' is going to have heart. Del Toro is a nerd making a nerdy movie; like an Edgar Wright film, I think its going to be a fun ride.

The World's End

  Speaking of Edgar Wright director of  'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz', the third film in his Simon Pegg/Nick Frost trilogy 'The World's End' comes out this summer. The story is about 5 friends reuniting to retry a failed pub crawl from their youth in their home town. The final bar is named The World's End, but the world ending might actually stop them from reaching it.

Joyland by Stephen King

   Joyland is Stephen King's latest book that is going to be straight to paperback from Hard Case Crime, without e-book availability. A throwback to the golden agae of paperback crime/detective novels, Joyland is about a kid in college in the 1970's taking a summer job at Joyland. There he comes across the trail of a grisly murder from the park's past. I don't think its going to be scare-filled as some King books are, rather I think it will be a fun summer crime novel. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

   Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. He is a master story teller, able to conjure up fairy tales that seem fantastic and realistic by turns. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about a man remembering a childhood summer that was otherworldly, dangerous, and heartbreaking. 

Animal Collective with Dan Deacon

My brother and I were going to see these two acts a few months ago but the show got cancelled due to the members of Animal Collective catching the flu. We saw Dan Deacon four years ago at the inaugural Cleveland Art Museum Summer Solstice Festival. Mr. Deacon got the whole crowd, consisting of a variety of age groups dancing. He had us do crowd activities, dance offs and sing alongs; it was awesome. I'm excited for round two with Dan Deacon and the dripping Psychedelic madness that will come with Animal Collective. 

Whatever Else

  Besides that I'm excited for whatever might happen. I think spontaneity is one of summer's best friends.  Maybe I'll finally get around to some night kite flying. Hopefully there will be some swing dancing in there. Perhaps I will have time to write a few stories. And surely there will be bike rides and barbecues and sunsets and swimming. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

BOY - Drive Darling

  The video for BOY's song 'Drive Darling' is a mini cinematic wonder. At first glance it is simply two women driving along a snow covered highway. But a few more seconds in the camera pans down and we notice that the woman in the passenger seat is injured. The woman driving is talking urgently, trying to take her mind off  the pain. There's a cut to them sipping coffee in a diner silently gazing at each other. At the other end of the diner is a man looking on. Is this a flashback? Is he their pursuer? A ghost from the past? It is never revealed. All we see is the endless curving, snow covered mountain roads and the two women who are running away from something.

The song itself builds piece by piece from soft guitars and a drum keeping beat to later a bit of xylophone. The lyrics are sung softly and deliberately evoking a past left behind. Even without the video, you can feel the motion in the words and in the music. The regular drum beat feels like a clacking of train tracks. The chorus of "Drive darling, drive darling, drive" come off somewhere between a command and a plea, but either way a constant urging to let go and move on.

Drive Darling

Directed by: Rafael Palacio Illingworth
Cinematography by Todd Banhazl
Editing by: Daniel Raj Koobir
Produced by: Eleonore Meier
Production Company: NORA FILMS

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tacos at Sunrise

There is something magical
about the way the sun
rises over the rolling hills
on a warm June morning

To pack a basket with tortillas
fresh from the oven,
carne asada
straight off the grill,
a thermos
full of iced horchata

Sitting above it all
watching the light
trill and pulse
over the ridge

With heartfelt
food in hand
day breaking
all around
what could be better?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Local Natives - Heavy Feet

   When you listen to music, do you ever stop and think to yourself, wow, this is so great, I wish I had written it? As if just liking it is not enough, but maybe if you were to own it, to have created it, that might be. Heavy Feet by Local Natives strikes that kind of chord with me. I'm not really sure if I feel like that because of the each way of the instruments seem to weave past each other with hand claps here and there or the lyrics which seem to evoke a specific time and place so that by the end of the song you are left with the feeling of almost remembering a dream. Its ethereal, dissolving by the time its over.

   What's more, the video for Heavy Feet is just as beautiful, strange(there are singing sandwiches), and elegant. It depicts the story of three blind men who fly remote control air planes. It is a premise seemingly improbable, and yet you can only be filled with wonder while watching.

Local Natives
Heavy Feet

directed by Ben Reed

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Talkin' Bout Mega Man

  I've been wanting to do a piece on Mega Man for awhile, and what better time than now? Last year was the 25th anniversary of the series and they have continued the celebration into this year with select merchandise and re-releases of classic games.

   For me it all started somewhere around 20 years ago, that is whenever my brother bought Mega Man 2 for our Nintendo Entertainment System. Right from the start we were entranced, we were besotted. It was a brand new, colorful world where we were a blue robot entrusted with saving the world from the eight evil robot masters Dr. Wily had designed to wreak havoc. You got to pick the order you beat them in, meaning you could do it in a different order every time. And it was hard, oh man was it challenging. That difficulty I think taught us a valuable lesson of perseverance. When the going gets tough, try, try, try again. Some people decry video games as being a waste of time and just utter distractions. I really do not think that is an unfair assessment. I believe video games can teach lasting lessons and tell stories in a meaningful and interactive method; essentially immersing the player inside the story being told.


   In Mega Man the control scheme is simple but very precise. You can run right or left, jump to a variety of heights, and shoot using a simple arm cannon dealing 1 damage per shot. Later as you defeat each Robot Master you gain their distinct weapon or power. These powers are varied, ranging from the ability to stop time for a period, to shooting circular saw blades, to making it rain. That's the short and tall of it: running jumping and shooting and for all of that it is so good. In Mega Man 3 you gain the ability to slide, giving you access to areas restricted by low hanging walls. Mega Man 4 introduced the Mega Buster which gave the player the ability to charge the buster cannon so that one shot could now have the combined power of three shots. Other than that nothing much changed formula and mechanics wise throughout the series: each game had a number (usually eight) of robot masters with weapon specialties and a mad scientist (usually Dr. Wily) behind the whole mess.

  My brother and I spent many afternoons sitting cross-legged on the floor looking up at the television, conferring about strategy and hoping that maybe this time we might beat Air Man. Through countless hours of trial and error we would conquer the Robot Masters one after the other and then take on Dr. Wily's castle with even more challenges. The most amazing part in retrospect is that we did it without high speed internet or guides to help us solve puzzles and defeat bosses. instead we did it through perseverance and cooperation. Sometimes it was frustrating and we'd give up and turn off the system, but we would never stay defeated for long. We would always come back, even years later. There's just something magical about the series, I'm not sure exactly what it is. Maybe its nostalgia, but I think there's more to it than that.

   Perhaps the soundtrack has something to do with it. Each level has Mega Man has a unique blend of 8-bit techno stylings that really evoke the robotic lands you are navigating. Plus the music of Mega Man is incredibly catchy in my opinion, every once in awhile I find myself humming a bit of it here or there.

Mega Man II
Flash Man's Stage

Years ago I would hang out with a friend who's favorite series was Final Fantasy. We would have endless inane arguments over which series had better music. Final Fantasy is famous for its sweeping, epic orchestrated background music that really does put you in the mindset of a magical foreign land and being on epic quests. But I valiantly argued that Mega Man's techno blips and bleeps were better.

  Recently I purchased a 3DS. For the 25th anniversary Capcom and Nintendo are re-releasing the original six NES games for the 3DS e-shop each month, meaning you can download them directly onto the console. So far I have purchased 2, 3, and 4; effectively turning my 3DS into a mobile Mega man device.

 At some point in the past year or two I found Magical Game Time, which is the artist Zac Gorman's Tumblr where he features artwork and comics inspired by video games. A good amount of the work comes from retro games like Mega Man, The Legend of Zelda, Earthbound, as well as many others. In his comics he captures the innocence of these games, the silliness and the heartfelt stories that are told. His comics inspired by Mega Man can be found here, here, and here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Princess and the Captain

Turn this ship around!
she cried
like a petulant child
denied of her demands

I cannot
replied the captain
no more than
I can divert the sun
upon the sky

She screamed 
in desperation
pulling her hair
at the roots

There has to be a way
she thought
oh, this simply
cannot be

But aside from the captain
the crew had 
long since
submitted themselves to slumber

The princess and the captain
the only duo
left at the helm
aware of their direction
but without control

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hitting the Mark: Carried Away

   A few months ago I wrote a piece on the video for Passion Pit's song Take a Walk. I talked about how it just was not quite as good as it could have been. This time around I'd like to take a look at the video for their song Carried Away. I think its a fantastic portrayal of the ebbs and flows of a relationship. Throughout the video there are abrupt and smooth cuts that shift the viewer's perspective from the good times to the bad to the crazy to the silly and everywhere in between. The editing combined with the special effects and typography at the end are able to illustrate the chaotic whirlwind that can be a relationship.

   I think the underlying theme in both the lyrics of the song and the video is that sometimes we say things we don't mean and sometimes we overreact when loved ones say hurtful things. At the end of the day though, you have to remember why you love each other no matter who many crazy things were said or done; in the end everything will be alright.

Passion Pit
Carried Away

directed by Ben Brewer and Alex Brewer

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pull the Thread

Pull the thread
out from the sweater
let it all unravel

its time
    to to to-
its time
    to to to-
to let go

When we were young
when we were old
oh, the world turned

Pull the thread
out from the story
let it all unravel

its time
   to to to
its time
   to to to
get free

Go see a movie
in the theater alone,
let the shadows
in the dark
be your friends tonight

Pull the thread
go ahead,
its time tonight

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Beware of Dog

   She walked determinedly through the darkened woods, the ground covered with fallen leaves. Checking her compass from time to time to make sure she was still headed North by North West. In these woods there was need to be cautious even more so than in other forests. It was said that a mad sorcerer lived out here. That the sorcerer had once been a kindly man who had his heart broken by a princess in the Eastern Kingdoms was hearsay, but it made for a good bedtime story.

 She sighed, hopefully the traps would not be too difficult to get by this time. A short while ago she had passed a large sign hammered into the ground, the sign read simply "Beware of Dog". The letters were written large with some sort of red paint that seemed to be still dripping years after the paint had dried. It looked a bit like fresh blood -- enchanted to look that way, but that would just be trying too hard for effect she thought. Why didn't the sign say "dogs" pluralized? There were roving bands of dogs, but they mostly kept to themselves if the humans entered the woods.

  Maybe one of the dogs had been driven from the pack for one reason or another. On cue a mangy dog the size of a boar burst out of the underbrush, leaping at her. With rapid movements she swung her staff, hitting the dog in mid-leap. Undeterred the dog shook itself and ran toward her, feinted right, then as she brought her guard to that side, the dog sent his whole weight into her legs from the other direction. She fell to the leaf strewn ground, staff knocked away. The monstrous dog pinioned her arms and sat himself down onto her torso; effectively immobilizing the rest of her body. He snarled with his fangs bared menacingly and without warning gave her face a great lick. He stayed there looking into her eyes, whining expectantly.

    "Fine, you win.", She said, "Are you happy? Now get off me Paulsen, you mangy, over-sized flea ridden son of a bitch."

  The dog gingerly stepped off and trotted behind a nearby tree giddily. From the other side of the tree came not a dog, but a large man with a spotty beard and patches gone from the top of his head. He looked, for want of a better word, a bit crazy. Nevertheless he approached the grumbling young woman on the ground and extended his arm to help her up. She thought about swatting his hand away, but did not, realizing she was only being a sore loser. She took his out stretched hand and let herself get pulled to her feet, lifted as if she weighed no more than a feather. The crazed, patchy man who seemed to be known as Paulsen then embraced her in a tight bear hug. "Angela! Its been far too long. I was starting to think I wasn't going to see a friendly face again. Come we should head towards my cabin, you know there are more dangerous things than you or I in these woods ... much as I like to play."

   They walked nearly in silence, the sound of their footsteps deadened by the layers of fallen, mushed leaves. Somewhere an owl was screeching and hooting intermittently as he opened his great eyes to the impending nightfall.  Ahead of the motley pair a shabby cabin appeared out of the night, looking more abandoned than not. Paulsen muttered under his breath and waved his left hand slightly as they neared. By degrees the cabin looked less shabby, there even seemed to be a trace of a path leading up to the door which looked far more substantial and welcoming than it had moments before. Inside a fire was already roaring in the hearth. Beside the hearth there were two full walls lined with scrolls and tomes and various knick-knacks. There was also a simple kitchen area with a small table, and two easy chairs and a bed tucked away in a nook.

  "So you're a shape shifter now? When did that start?", the words bursting out from Angela's lips once they were safely in the cabin, their unspoken agreement of silence lifted.

 He laughed and shrugged, "I had the idea one night. I had been up drinking Versuth wine, substituting the ershon berries with crushed snails. In my haze I recalled I had a long forgotten book of shifting charms. I thought to myself, being a dog at times out here will have to be less lonely than a man. Plus its a great way to stay in shape and scare kids who come out this way for a romantic evening. You should see them, one minute they're enthralled by their desire and locking lips, the next its terror and everyone running aimlessly."

  "And the patchiness of your beard, is that deliberate then? Or are you going bald oddly?"

"Ha! Yes, that's part of the scaring bit. I'll get us some sandwiches, I expect you haven't eaten much in the past few days.", she grumbled a thank you as he sliced meat expertly onto wheat bread. He returned to the table with sandwiches and a jug of wine. "No snails in this one, I promise. I think the patchiness goes towards making me look more feral when I'm a dog, wouldn't you say? Also it is more than a bit challenging to give oneself a decent hair cut, even aided by magic. Now what about you, I assume you didn't come here just for my sandwiches."

  Angela took a few bites of her sandwich, and sipped the wine, noticing it didn't have any slimy overtones. She unbuttoned her leather hunting jacket slightly, the room had begun to be warmed by the fire. "One of the Estinvile twin kings died a fortnight ago. His surviving brother isn't sure if he can continue along as ruler without his twin. There have always been joint rulers of that sector of the realm. Always. Through the ages each pair has brought balance, but now there is only one.", She sighed, "Its really quite troublesome. The surviving brother called me into his quarters a week ago. He was in the bed, under the covers, apparently still grieving in his strange way. He told me, didn't ask if I was busy, just told me that I was to travel South, to somewhere known as Aytifur. He was good enough to give me a detailed list of instructions of what to bring back and do while I'm there, but nothing at all on what to expect so far as the environment goes, nor precisely how to get there. I mean I know I'm a gifted ranger and all, but a bit more than a name could help.
          "So I came here first. I figured you might know something about what's out there, or at the very least have a map. Can you believe it? He didn't even give me a bloody map?"

"Drink some wine, it'll soothe your nerves. The good king didn't even elect to send traveling companions with you?"

   She blushed, "No, I requested to travel alone."

"I see.", Paulsen munched his bread thoughtfully, "Good news is I do have a map for you ... somewhere. If I remember right, Aytifur shouldn't be too much trouble, its a land of tepid swamps. The biggest threat is ice wyrms; they roost there in the spring. We should be well enough past the season for that not to be a problem. Just to be safe, I'll pack you some quick acting thermal spells, they'll render you temporarily invisible to the wyrms since they hunt by temperature. Ah here's the map, and here's where the bad news comes: it looks like it'll be a bit of a hike from here since you've come so far West. There's no straight forward way to get there really, so in the end I guess it doesn't matter. Best we can do is try to get you a route there without crossing too many mountain ranges."

  They ate in silence for a time. She was tired from traveling. He was unused to talking due to his seclusion. In his head Paulsen was planning a route for Angela that would be both fast and somewhat safe. Angela broke the silence first, asking, "If the ice wyrms are there, how big are they exactly?"

"That depends. Some are about the size of a field ox, while otheres can get as big as this cabin. They mostly keep to themselves though. Just like you and I."

  Angela tried to picture a creature that large. She tried again, but something so big just wasn't going to fit in her head. They each lapsed back into silence, like anchored ships being covered by a thick fog. They were together and that knowledge was good enough.

   When they had finished eating and Paulsen had cleared their plates away, Angela folded herself into one of the chairs by the fire and drew her coat over herself as a blanket. She asked him if he still had the book of legends and warm tales. The one with the bards of Sasafil and the whispering oak. The one that he had read to her as she lay in bed many years before, back when the castle was a different place.

 Paulsen smiled and took the book of legends and warm tales from the wall of scrolls and tomes. He read to her one of the stories about the bards of Sasafil. The bards were four men who traveled the lands from town to town playing sweet songs of love and valor and heartache. They were not rich men, but they were well loved by the towns they frequented and they had each other for company on the road. What most people did not know was that the bards were spies, observing politics of the lands, trading secrets with thieves, vagabonds, and princes. These men were not heroes, though they were witty and resourceful and knew when to run.

  By the end of the tale Angela had long since fallen asleep. Paulsen lit his pipe and tottered around the cabin comparing maps, drawing lines, and read what lore he could take to be fact. He packed her the spells he had promised and supplies he knew she would need. He shook his head, it was more than likely a foolhardy quest, but she was capable. He knew she would come out fine besides a new scar or two. And everyone knew good scars led to good tales at the taverns. On top of her rucksack he left her a note that read "Good luck, happy hunting. - yours always, Paulsen"

  In the morning he awoke to find her already gone, a slight scent of cinnamon in the air the only evidence she had been there at all. Paulsen rubbed his eyes sleepily, then shot to the door to look out. No, she was long gone. He had forgotten about the bog bears. Oh well, she'd find out soon enough. With that he trotted out into the daylight as a patchy dog, ready to chase squirrels until lunch time.

                                            (click here for part 2)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Under an Awning

Left out
in the rain
on a cold
Wednesday in May

You'd rather be home
under covers,
sipping tea
not stranded
out here solving
paranormal mysteries

Under an awning,
dripping with water
you sigh and
touch an avocado pit
hidden deep in your pocket
and blink three times

The water reverses
direction, back
into the sky

Without the rain
the air is hazy
and wet
like a damp tissue

You light a cigarette,
start walking,
thinking, well,
its a start

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hitting the Mark 2: Jim James

  You might know Jim James as the bearded poncho wearing front man of My Morning jacket, the psychedelic alt-country band hailing from Louisville, Kentucky. He has also worked with a few other bands including the awesome Monsters of Folk with Conor Oberst, M. Ward, and Mike Mogis. Last month he released his second solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God.

   A lot of the tracks start sparsely with just James's voice and piano, or just guitar, but throughout the song more instrumentation is added until you find yourself awash in a soulful soundscape as in "State of the Art (AEIOU)" or in a marimba shaking, xylophone laden dance hall on "A New Life".

   The music video for "A New Life" is great. It depicts a spiritual journey full of dancing through doorways in the desert. The video begins with Jim James sitting alone in a dark room, playing his guitar and crooning softly. He gets up, walks through a door and ends up in the middle of nowhere. There's a woman with a bison's head standing in the middle of the road that stretches endlessly. She is dancing. More doorways appear, dancers appear. The world is alive, yet mysterious. Each doorway symbolizes the choices we make that holds uncertainty on the other side. But a series of these choices can lead you to where you want and need to be. You just need to keep moving.

Jim James
A New Life

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First Day of Spring

  Today marks the first day of spring. It is currently snowing outside. I took a walk earlier and the mud and puddles were crystallized with stiff ice. While walking around you can feel a cutting wind that will send your teeth chattering if you're not wearing a scarf. Yesterday I was in a bad mood and I took a trip to the bank where I met a woman as I was walking in. Snow was falling then as well. Our exchange went like this:

Her:  Tomorrow will be the first day of spring, can you believe it?

Me: Maybe on the calender it will be.

Her: Oh come on! You have to be positive, the weather might turn around tomorrow!

Me: Its a little hard to be positive about the weather when we live in Ohio.

Her: But the best part of living in Ohio is the unpredictability! It'd be boring to live anywhere else, don't you   think?

Me: [laughing] I suppose that's true.

I tend to make her same argument myself quite a bit, its just hard to see that angle when you're in a bad mood. That's why talking with complete strangers can be great some times, you never know what they'll say. So here's to the first day of spring, even if I'm a little happy that there's still snow falling.

Noah and the Whale
Blue Skies (First Days of Spring film trailer)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Phoenix: Entertainment

  What have I been excited about recently? Many things, but one of them is that the French band Phoenix is coming out with a brand new album this year. Here's where you're all, "A French band with a weird name? What?" And this is where I say, you remember them, I swear (you should at least). First lets rewind the clock by four years to 2009. During that year you most assuredly heard either 1901, Girlfriend, Lisztomania, or one of the other songs off of Phoenix's album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Those songs were everywhere! In Superbowl commercials, in movies, on the radio nonstop, blasting from the boombox of that one guy who still carries a boombox. I mean WAP wasn't the first time that Phoenix has been in the spotlight, but they were pretty ubiquitous in 2009. Which was fine since they make fun, good music in my opinion. They even won Best Alternative album at the Grammys that year.

   The new album will be called Bankrupt! and the first single that has been released is named Entertainment. The song starts with an intro full of synths that sounds right out of a kung-fu movie. There's a pause, a musical deep breath, then boom: the guitars and drums come in. The lyrics are tinged with melancholy. I think the lyrics can be interpreted in two ways: either as a reflection of the band's explosion of success, being caught in the limelight without a way back to what they had before, or a commentary on how with nearly infinite channels and means of entertainment it has become quite difficult to separate and detach from it all. Really though, on a daily, nay, hourly, or even moment to moment basis we are bombarded by different forms of entertainment, whether music, television, computers, internet, phones, and everything that comes in between. The refrain through the song that echoes these sentiments goes, "I'd rather be alone".

   There's a full music video for the single as well and it is crazy and epic and wonderful. It seems as if its is a music video sewn together from a variety of K-Pop videos, but this is not the the case. Give it a watch.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Blind Machine

The Blind Machine,
he got himself
drunk again tonight

In the frost-bitten air
I hear
his lonesome
whirrs and clicks
coming from the factory

I try my best
not to cry,
its cold enough
for tears to freeze
in mid-air

All he wants
is to be connected,
to be part
of something bigger
to cure his loneliness

I wish I could tell him,
I wish he could know,
how un-alone
he really is

Ben Gibbard
Bigger than Love (feat. Aimee Mann)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Adventure Proposal

  I have a proposal for you dear reader. No, its not marriage, but its still pretty awesome. What I'm asking, what I'm proposing is a commitment. This proposal is also a challenge. The proposal is this: to have an adventure of some sort once a week.

   You might be asking, "What exactly constitutes an adventure?", good question, and that is completely up to you. An adventure can be as large or small as you like. Reading a book different from the genre you usually read? That's an adventure. Trying out a new type of tea or coffee? Sure, definitely. A walk through the pouring rain while pretending you're in the musical Singing in the Rain? Most assuredly an awesome adventure. Going to see a movie in the theater alone? worthwhile adventure. Climbing a tree? Heck yes. Finding a new trail and seeing where it leads? Go for it! Ghost hunting in a graveyard? A great adventure. Asking out someone you like? Nerve-racking adventure. Building a snowman? Yes, and even more so if it is made somewhere other than your lawn. Hunting for treasure or artifacts? Yes, although the chances of this one being the case are less likely if you are not Indiana Jones.

  Adventure is about imagination, fear, and spontaneity. Its about getting outside your comfort zone, even if its just putting a toe across that line. One thing a week that makes you smile(possibly mischievously), fills you with wonder and delight, lets you believe anything is possible; one thing each week that gives you a story. What do you say?   

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Eligible for Exhaustion

   It was nearing 2:30 a.m. as Jacob exited the highway and let his GPS guide him to the town of Limewurst's indoor swimming pool. The parking lot was nearly full with the exception of the two spots. Jacob made two laps around the lot before seeing them. Realizing the spot he had chosen was reserved for handicap drivers, he resigned himself to parking at the back of the lot. He grabbed his notebook from the passenger seat, locked the car, and was surprised to see a couple jogging past with headlamps on. They waved cheerily and continued on down the street. Jacob shook his head. That was weird, he thought, maybe this won't be just a standard sports piece after all.

   Earlier that week Jacob's editor for the local tri-county paper informed him that he'd be heading to Limewurst for a piece on the High School swimming relay tournament that would be taking place. Pretty standard affair for the paper: He'd need to talk to the coaches, a handful of parents, jot down the stats for each event, interview any MVP's and head home again. Nothing to it, that is until the editor told him the tournament would be starting at 3:00 a.m. Jacob blinked, "You mean three in the afternoon?"

   "No, I mean three in the morning when a.m. usually occurs. You better get some rest beforehand, it'll be a long night.", she made a motion for him to vacate her office.

   Inside the aquatic center the stands were full. A mix of families, friends, and a few teachers, all there to cheer on the swimmers. There was something else that knitted together almost every spectator in the crowd: a certain bedraggled, manic look. There were puffy bags under most eyes. Hair was pulled back from the temples, standing straight up or at odd angles; eliciting a sense that the entire seated crowd had been subjected to something dastardly and shocking. Jacob wrote off their odd countenances as par for the course  for a swim meet in the middle of the night. He set off for the top of the stands to sit with the scorekeeper. The man sitting behind the controls was wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a corduroy jacket. He shook Jacob's hand, "I'm Jim Darville. You'll be our reporter for the evening then? You can call me Darville."

  The first heat of the woman's back stroke was starting. The swimmers were in their lanes, the official raised his gun shouting, "On your marks! Get Set!" and with that he fired his gun into the air releasing smoke from the blank, sending each swimmer into a flurry of motion.

  "Is this some sort of gimmick then?"Jacob shouted over the roar of the crowd, "Late night races to get people excited about High School sports again?"

  Mr. Darville hit a few switches on the control board and jotted down figures as the first of the girls finished the heat. "Funny you should say that because increased attendance has actually been one positive outcome of moving the meets to this hour. But I'm pretty sure that was unintentional.", he paused to speak into the microphone, "Ladies and Gentlemen, heats two and three of woman's backstroke will be starting momentarily. After that we'll have men's backstroke followed by woman's freestyle just a little later. Here at the home of the Limewurst River Otters!"

   He switched the microphone off and turned his attention back to Jacob, "Right, where was I ...? Oh yeah, the late time for these meets. We're the only town in the area that hosts at this absurd time. We try to make sure we get our meets scheduled for the weekend as a courtesy to the other teams so they won't have class to wake up for the next morning."

   "Wouldn't the Limewurst students fall under that courtesy as well? You make it sound as if they're the exception here."

   Darville shrugged, "Eh, I guess you could say that. I think that more than anything else the kids are used to holding odd schedules by now. You see, the real reason we have night swim meets is due to a bit of policy that the mayor quietly slipped through city council at the beginning of the year."

  Jacob sat, notebook and pen in hand, watching the result of the current heat. He looked up, trying to process Darville's words. "Is the mayor here tonight by any chance?"

  "Any other week and I'd say yes. Tonight though she went out for a run with her husband. They're training for a marathon in May. She'll be in her office in the center of town after the meet, stop by." Daville pushed another series of buttons leaving a timer up on the board. "but right now its time for intermission to give the kids a break. Why don't you go talk to the coaches for a bit and bring back some popcorn, willya?"

   Jogging down the stairs Jacob thought how this town was only getting stranger. He also decided he was going to need some strong coffee to make it through the night. He wandered through a group of aimlessly milling parents, working his way to the coaches'area for a few quotes before hitting the concession stand. Maybe there'd be nachos he thought sleepily.

   "You there! with the notebook, are you from The Sincere Sentinel?"

                   Jacob nodded.

  "Well? Don't you have any questions?"

"Erm...uhhh, yes.", Jacob reached into his mind for the stock questions that were interchangeable for most High School Sports, he found only blanks. "Ummmm, which school do you coach for, sir?"

  "Mont Blanc. Here kid, you look exhausted  I bring a giant thermos of coffee whenever we're swimming at Limewurst. Buncha night owls, the lot of 'em."

   Jacob gratefully accepted the cup full of steaming coffee, took a sip, and almost immediately felt his heart beat speed up and the cogs in his head turn once again. "Thanks, I needed that. Mont Blanc? You guys have had a bit of a checkered record this season, what with winning the past two meets, but getting crushed early on in the season. Any thoughts as to the outcome of tonight and your chances of making it to regionals?"

"There is something rattling around in that head of yours after all!" The barrel chested coach laughed as though that had been the pinnacle of humor. "Sorry, even with the caffeine I have a hard time holding it together at this hour. As for tonight, well we've done reasonably well so far, but I'm not confident overall about tonight. I really don't believe my kids can perform at 100% at these ridiculous hours. And regionals? I'm hopeful, but who's to say? We're doing better than last year and that's something."

   They shook hands and Jacob continued to question a few more coaches before heading on to the snack bar. The coarches all seemed to chime in on the same sentiment - it was an uphill battle to win against Limewurst when they were on their home turf with strange hours. With the exception of the Limewurst coach who seemed upbeat and to be enjoying himself, though sweating profusely. When Jacob asked if the sweating was from nerves the coach smiled and said, "Nope, just doing some wind sprints outside while I was waiting for things to start up again."

  Fifteen minutes of waiting in line behind a crowd of gleefully wide-eyed Limewurstians (Limewurstonites? Limewursters?) left Jacob wondering if just maybe the whole town was really just populated by aliens. Strangely peppy, nocturnal aliens. Eventually He made it back to Darville and thrusted him a large bag full of freshly popped kettle corn. "That's all they had, hope its okay."

   "Perfect!" The grey haired man exclaimed, popping a handful of kernels into his mouth. "The kettle corn is one fo the main reasons I signed on to do the scoreboard and commentate. Help yourself, the salty, crunchy, sugary combo really sparkles in your mouth. Especially in the middle of the night."

   "How long do these night meets usually go? And thanks."Reaching for some of the popcorn.

"We'll get out around sun-rise. Settle in, we've got a couple hours to go."

    "Whoa! That is good popcorn! You wouldn't expect it to go so well with coffee either!" Jacob exclaimed, finding himself speaking with more exclamations as the night went on.


  Four coffees, two large bags of kettle- corn and countless laps swum later the meet was over. Jacob stumbled bleary-eyes into the early sunlight. He was hiccuping and laughing from lack of sleep. Driving seemed like a worrying proposition at this point. He decided why not walk to the mayor's office? Then maybe he'd feel awake enough to drive back home. In the distance he spotted a looming building with alabaster pillars and cresting eaves. It looked a bit sinister, but that could have just been the sugar and caffeine speaking. Jacob got closer only to see a small sign announcing that the sinister building was the county courthouse.

  Next door there was a small brick building that looked like it could have passed for an Orthodontist's office. That turned out to be the mayor's office. The sign on the door said "Come on in."

   Surprisingly enough, or at this point maybe not: the office was laid out just like an Orthodontist's office. There was a small waiting room with a few couches, stacks of magazines like Highlights, People, as well as other. The walls were painted an off white, with a wall paper border of pink elephants, there was a window for a receptionist, but no one was sitting behind it. The real difference  was the absence of bright lights in the waiting room. The sconces were tastefully dimmed to allow visitors to feel at home.

  Jacob poke his head into the hallway to see a light on in the room at the end of the hall. He called out, "Hello? I'm from The Sincere Sentinel. I just wanted to ask a few questions about the town's night swimming meets."

   "As the sign on the building said, come on in."

She sat behind a plain desk, cutting various pictures for the scrapbook that sat on the desk. She smiled as Jacob sat down across from her, "How can I help The Sincere Sentinel this morning?"

 "Well, Mrs. Mayor -"

                 "Madame Mayor, please."

Jacob tried his best not to roll his eyes, "Madame Mayor then, I wanted to talk to you about Limewurst's night swimming meets. I was lead to believe that some particular piece of legislation or town policy may have led to the swimming team's unique schedule."

  "When you put it like that it make the whole thing sound as if the High School is legally obligated to have night meets, which they aren't. I do see what you mean though. You see the whole town's sleeping schedule has been a tad messed up for a while now and that's partly my fault I suppose.", She sighed and set down the scissors in her hand, "The past few years the town has gotten particularly whiny. Perhaps that's not the right word, you could really say they've taken to the sport of bragging. Only about one particular topic for the most part: comparing how tired they were. I've been an insomniac most of my adult life, so lately I've had the urge to slap them all across the face and shout 'You think you're tired?! I haven't slept in 25 years!'"

   "You didn't though?", Jacob asked, drawn into the story.

"No, of course not, I wouldn't be sitting here today if I had. But I did find a way to change things. I passed city ordinance 334.  Our drinking water now has an extra chemical that works as a sleep inhibitor. Effectively turning the entire town into insomniacs as well. We have a lottery once a week, those who have made the most of their time awake are awarded sleeping pills."

  "This can't possibly be legal.", Jacob protested.

"Oh, but it is! We held a town wide meeting, explained quite clearly what was going to happen if the bill passed. It passed nearly unanimously. Now we can see who is truly eligible for exhaustion. Democracy at its finest, wouldn't you agree?"

   Jacob nodded hi head numbly, trying to process the mayor's words. It seemed nefarious, but she had set the whole thing out remarkably logically.

"Now if you'll excuse me, I have some pressing matters to attend to.", She picked up a glue-stick, "Go River Otters!"

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Doctor Said

That rash on your neck
don't look so good,
Doctor said
it would clear up soon

uh huh, yeah sure,
but you look
like you're dying

That's a nasty limp
ya got,
you say 
its just fine

Uh huh, yeah sure
but you look like
you're dying

The news reports
keep coming in
panic struck
dire threat
masses are risin' up
what to do? 
what to do?

The Doctor said
your speech problems
are from the concussion 
you got when
you fell last week...

But that rattlin' moan,
that don't sound like nothing
I ever heard

So if I leave you,
just know,
its cuz I love you
and I don't want 
to lose anymore of you

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hitting the Mark

  These posts are going to serve as a counterpoint to my "Almost Not Quite" series. What makes these videos hit the mark? What qualifies them to be considered good by me? I think there are a variety of components. An interesting concept. It doesn't have to be a wholly original concept, so long as it is interesting and the director has put a unique spin on it. An engaging visual style, or rather a visual style that is able to get across the message the director is trying to convey. Also good editing. All of these things together should then tell a story or elicit a response from the viewer. To put it another way, when its good, really good, you just know.

   The group "Angus and Julia Stone" are a brother/sister duo out of Australia that play folk-blue. Their video for their song "And the Boys", directed by Kiku Ohe, is just great. It shows the emotional turbulence that comes after a break up. We see through a series of quick cuts in the beginning of the video that the protagonist, played by Julia Stone, is in the midst of a deteriorating relationship. Eventually her significant other is gone, leaving her alone, lying on the floor. A fog settles into the room, obscuring the floor beneath Miss Stone. The fog dissipates to reveal changing landscapes below he floating form. Possibly to represent the introspective journey that accompanies a broken heart. This bit reminded me of the video for "And She Was" by the Talking Heads, but upon watching that video again, I realized they weren't as similar as I had remembered. But both do feature floating female protagonists soaring above the lands.

    In "And the Boys" her floating travels end when she lands in a field of colorfully dressed dancers. She herself seems less sad, as if the grieving is over and she has found peace in her lover's absence at last.

Angus and Julia Stone
And the Boys

directed by Kiku Ohe

Friday, February 22, 2013

Where I find My Music

    The other day I was hanging out with a friend. She had a pandora station playing. I think the song "Two Atoms in a Molecule" came on which led to me remarking, "I really like Noah and the Whale." My friend asked me then, "Eric, where do you find your music?". To which I glibly replied, "The internet." and we both laughed. And my answer was half true - as vague and as much of a cop-out as it was - I do find a good portion of the music that I listen to on a regular basis from the internet. But the thing to remember is that the internet is huge! Its like an ocean; you and I may have both been to the Atlantic or Pacific in our lives, but that might be the only part about seeing the ocean for both of us that was a shared experience. We were both at the ocean, though perhaps you saw a shark and I got salt water in my eyes. That's similar to how we're both on the internet right now, but after that our experiences are probably differing in some way.

Noah and the Whale
2 Atoms in a Molecule
     Whoa, okay, I think I"m straying a little bit from where I want to go with this. I'll try to reel it back in. Let's start off with a different question: where did my love of music come from? The answer to that question would probably be my family. I remember from an early age that there was usually some sort of cool and strange sounds coming out of either the stereo or the car speaker's on road trips. My parents introduced me and my brother to Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Van Morrison, Supertramp, Bing Crosby, The Cars, The Clash, The Talking Heads and a bunch more. Later on I learned a little about punk and ska from my brother with bands like Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, Lucky Boys Confusion, The Ergs as well as other stuff like REM, The Hold Steady, Ben Folds Five and Modest Mouse.

The Talking Heads
This Must Be the Place

    From there I began to decide which bands I, myself enjoyed. Like They Might Be Giants, years before my brother and I used to rock out to Dr. Worm, but it wasn't until around junior high when I heard their song "Prevenge" on the radio that I realized that a) I loved this strange and wacky band and b) that they were the same ones who sang Dr. Worm and also that they did the theme song for Malcolm in the Middle. Or The Decemberists, who I first heard when the local college radio station played their song "16 Military Wives". For one reason for another that song has become one of my all time favorites, along with a large portion of their discography. In the past six or eight years my family and I have seen The Decemberists play live four times. They put on a hell of a good show.

The Decemberists
16 Military Wives

    I think a big factor in where I or anyone finds music is whether you are an active or passive music listener. A passive music listener might be someone who listens to the radio every day and enjoys that experience, but for the most part takes it no farther than that. An active listener on the other hand might hear half a song played as the outro for a hotel commercial and immediately head to the internet to investigate just who might be the author or composer of said song. I realize these are gross over-simplifications and generalizations of how people feel about music and for that I apologize. That being said, I think I fall under the definition that I just gave of an active music listener. For example in High School my family and I took a weekend trip to the Detroit Auto Show. First of all, it is a really cool auto show that is definitely worth checking out, this is from someone who doesn't know that much about cars(one might say I'm a passive car driver...). The booth for Volkswagen was playing some very dancey music. More than that, it was dancey music that I had never heard before. I wrote some of the lyrics down and looked the song up when we got home. I found out the band was called Chromeo and the song I had heard was called Needy Girl. And with that I became a fan. I would still really like to see Chromeo live; I bet they'd be fun to see. 

Needy Girl

    Now back to the internet. At the end of high school I started frequenting a variety of blogs which hosted reviews and samples of singles from upcoming albums. How did I find these blogs? I'm not quite sure anymore. But one would always link to others, so discovery then led to discovery. Most of the ones I used to go to are now defunct, such is the shelf-life of most things on the internet. For awhile though I learned of bands way ahead of their actual release or rise in popularity. Such cases include Vampire Weekend and Bon Iver.

    I am also almost always on Youtube. Either to DJ songs a few at a time for myself while I'm working, or to find awesome music videos to share, or sometimes one song links to another that is just as awesome and I make a note. Back when I worked at the radio station we had to do rotation hours to go along with our specialty shows. This was a little like having to come in for a shift at a job, except for the most part this was actually fun. You got to find out what new bands had gotten added to the rotation, and which ones had left to be added to the stacks. I tried to play one artist from the stacks that I was unfamiliar with each time I came in. Which is how I found out I liked Georgie James and Hot Chip and The Fruit Bats. And if I played a song I didn't really like all too much, well, no big deal it was only one song and besides there was an average of only 1-2 people listening during rotation. Oh! The other major way I have found bands that I enjoy has been through friends making wonderful mixtrapes/CD's. If there's one thing I believe in, it is the power of a good mix. It's like a letter written in sound, full of inside jokes, winks, memories, and love.

Georgie James
Cake Parade

Those are the ways that I find music. Although I'm always looking for more music, anywhere I can.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Almost Not Quite 4: Shell Games

   Again, before I get into this, I would like to say all the artists I have featured are ones that I really enjoy listening to. Its just that I have a love for well done music videos and I get disappointed when the video doesn't live up to the song that it goes along with. This also reminds me that I've been meaning to start a segment where the video is just outstandingly wonderful.

  Connor Oberst, the man behind Bright Eyes, started as a young song writing virtuoso.  He recorded his songs himself on cassettes and toured close to home while he was still in school. through the years he has been a part of more than a handful of bands and has had a successful solo career as well. He's used his slightly nasal voice to weave melancholic lyrics through rock, blue grass, electronic, and strange avant-garde landscapes.

  I really liked the last album from Bright Eyes entitled "The People's Key". The album was released back in early 2011. It features a spoken word intro and outro by a shaman giving a few kernels of wisdom on life. Also there are songs that bounce along, some that rock, and others that just seem to strike the right chord

   The song "Shell Games", the first single off the album, is about the general futility and mystery that are experienced through life. One of the prevailing themes of both the song and the album as a whole is that this whole thing called life is too difficult to do alone. We all need help now and again, we all need companionship. There's a line in the song that goes, "My private life is an inside joke/ no one will explain it to me". I love that line, even if I can't quite articulate why. Maybe its because that line portrays how we think everyone else seems to have it more together, but really, inside we're all just as lost.

  And that's why I like both the song and the album. The video for "Shell Games" in my opinion, is a little underwhelming. Shot on 8mm film, the video is dim from lack of any real lighting. To add to the lack of clarity, there are several long cross fades, with one shot hazily running over top of another. For the most part the video consists of the band playing the song in a living room, then playing around in the snow outside.  On one hand, I'm a bit thrown off by the confusion that is created by the fact that you cannot really tell what is happening. But on the other hand, maybe , maybe that's the point: using the lack of lighting and overlaid shots to illustrate the uncertainties of navigating the waters of life. things are murky, mysterious, and constantly changing.

Bright Eyes
Shell Games

video directed by Nik Fackler

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Party to Your Abuses

Maybe I am
just a party
to your abuses

Sitting idly
on broken floorboards
near rusted pipes

I'd listen
as you spouted forth
empty rhetoric
   and shot up
   clear poison

On and on
it went
until I'd find
my fingers snapping
  trying to summon
   a stray melody
   trying to remember
      a lost thought

   Maybe I am
    just a party
to our lack of ambition

Sitting idly on broken dreams
watching the seconds
    fly away

On and on
  it'll go
until I'll find
my hands creating
shadow puppets
  trying to remember
    how to spell beauty

Monday, February 11, 2013

Oregon Trail via Trans Am

  When I woke up there was 1 new envelope on my phone, indicating a new message. It read:

                               "Meet me by the cobbled path around four"

   She meant the cobbled path that starts on campus then meanders through the park, around the lake, into the woods, then back again. Its quite scenic, especially for people-watching what with all the people out walking and biking. I got to the beginning of the path early, which meant waiting. If I can be honest here, waiting idly has to be one of my least favorite things. I'm not one of those people who bring little activities like Sudoku or Jacks or a Rubiks Cube for these moments. Plus I start thinking about how awkward and or creepy a guy standing or pacing by himself in a random place must be. I think how I could be taken for a killer planning his next mark by scouting for coeds. Do I look like that type? Lord no. But that doesn't stop stray thoughts.

     In actuality I probably look like any old shmoe waiting for a friend in the park. I try to hold onto that image and cast out the idiotic thoughts by kneeling down and fidgeting with my shoe laces. First untying and meticulously retying the right shoe, then the left. I repeat this process for a bit, trying to ignore the thought that no one over the age of six would have this much trouble with their laces.

   I looked up to see she was standing right above me. I was a little startled, but by now I should have been used to her stealth. She could walk anywhere soundlessly, even in heels. As if her feet didn't quite touch the ground. Maybe she had been a ninja in a past life. We hugged each other and to a passerby it probably looked like two friends reconnecting after years, really we had seen each other last night at O'Smokey's playing pool. This was just how we said hello.

   Soon enough we were walking and talking along the path. Though that makes it sound like an entirely shared endeavor. We were both walking, yes, but she was doing the majority of the talking. Which was fine, I didn't mind listening. She said how you'd think we'd have gotten sick of this path after walking along it so many times. But we didn't. Each season brought something different: the leaves turning beautiful oranges and reds with bicyclists zipping by in the Fall, In the Winter the lake would freeze over enough for ice skaters and along the path professors would puff by on cross country skis, Spring meant budding flowers and countless people laying out on beach towels, hoping to get tan.

  No it wasn't the path she was sick of, and it wasn't me, nevertheless there was something eating away at her. A sort of quiet worry or frustration. She said she was feeling hemmed in and it got worse every time she went home. It was like claustrophobia, she said, like the walls were closing in. As if her old room had been replaced with an industrial-sized trash compactor in her absence. More than anything else, it was an overall consuming feeling of dread.

   She said this feeling had followed her back here to school. She'd considered this crushing feeling inside and out. Her diagnosis was that she was trapped in one certain path to the future. If she kept going it would lead to graduation, then a respectable job, then a family, a mortgage, a 401k, mini-vans, on and on. When she came to this realization of her impending finality, she made a decision. Instead of riding along this preordained road to the future, she was going to surprise it. Hit the future with a sneak attack.

  I asked her if that meant she was dropping out, if this was goodbye. She shook her head. No, that would be too predictable. Her plans were far too grandiose to be predictable and yet they were so simple! I rolled my eyes. Then she began to tell me the real plan. She'd finish up the semester and walk at graduation. There were a few high profile internships she'd applied to and talked up to her parents. This was a cover, she had no intention of finding out a career just yet. The thought of finding one just made the impending feeling of dread stronger.

  She had an uncle out in Montana. He had gotten wealthy after a few very well placed investments on Wall St. He retired early and started a ranch, thinking it might be fun to be a new-age cow boy. There was speculation that his investments had come from illegal insider trading. But that was just speculation.

   He had told his niece that he could always use a few more cattle hands if she wanted to come out and work for awhile. She told me she thought it'd be a grand adventure. Or at least a it might be a good way to get away, surely one couldn't feel nearly as hemmed in out in Montana. If I wanted to come she said her uncle wouldn't be opposed to more help. I told her I'd consider it.

  I asked her how she was planning on getting out there. Her eyes lit up, she exclaimed that was the part she was most excited for. She asked me if I remembered the old Oregon Trail game we used to play back when we were kids. I nodded. After graduation her plan was to take her trusty Trans Am out and follow the real Oregon Trail out there. I objected that it led to Oregon, not Montana; this much was clear from the title. She waved her hands in the air, vaguely brushing away my objection. She said we have modern roads now! Surely it wouldn't be too difficult to make a few adjustments.