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