Black Friday

While still an unconfirmed diagnosis, all signs point towards H1N1 as the reason for my being bed-ridden these past five days. It was the most peculiar flu I've ever had, bypassing the stomach almost entirely to attack my lungs. After days of near-delirium, abysmal body aches, and a roller coaster of sweats and chills, I felt I had just enough energy today to do something a little bit more challenging than drinking tepid water and walking to the bathroom.

So naturally I decided to go shopping.

If I didn't go shopping then I would be part of the very reason that my Roth IRA resembles the collection of change wedged between my couch cushions.

Now, don't be fooled, I didn't arise at 2am to get in line at a suburban box-store. In fact, Ariana and I didn't even bother to leave for the store until 6pm tonight so as to avoid any possibility of being trampled by raving-mad electronics bargain hunters. And the store we chose to patronize with our hard-earned cash: Goodwill.

While Goodwill might not be offering the same screaming deals as other places I'm pretty sure that giving them money also helps the economy: albeit in some leftist, bleeding-heart, capitalist-light sort of way. And at Goodwill we can be done with our Christmas shopping in one hour because it is truly one-stop shopping.

It was while at Goodwill that we fell prey to that most pitiful of Black Friday practices: buying things for ourselves. But, as happens from time to time, the donated CD selection was just too good to pass up. Check out these finds for $4.00 a pop:

Ralph Myerz and the Jack Herran Band— A Special EP
The Cinematic Orchestra— Ma Fleur
Caleb Klauder— sings out
Depeche Mode— Black Celebration
The Decemberists— The Crane Wife
Cat Stevens— Catch Bull at Four


Rip, Mix, Burn

Earlier this year, after completing my reading of Lawrence Lessig's Remix, I began to look more closely at the Creative Commons licenses, as well as some of the online creative collectives he used as case studies in Remix. In doing so, I stumbled upon a feature in Wired magazine from 2004 that investigated the idea of contemporary musical culture being absolutely complicit in the remix/file-sharing/sampling inclinations that the corporate music industry was fighting so vehemently to bury.

Like most Wired articles it was cautiously optimistic (seasoned pessimism does not tend to promote ad revenue) and more than a touch self-congratulatory. Along with the issue a CD featuring tracks from a number of formidable talents who were offering up a bit of their oeuvre was included. What made these tracks unique was that they were released under one of two Creative Commons licenses, thereby making them fair game for legal file sharing, mash-ups, and sampling into whatever prosaic Garage Band techno track you could muster in your off hours. There are some big names on this CD, and the tracks they've given over to the masses aren't just the pan drippings from a decade of better musical offerings— they are legitimate efforts.

Having said that, they aren't all good either. Below is the list of tracks that make my cut. If your cloth is cut with a similar cut as mine, then you might want to download these freebies and allow your iPod to give them a whirl:

Track 01— Beastie Boys/ Now Get Busy

Much more Hello Nasty than Paul's Boutique, but the sampled directive lends a refreshing pause to a pretty predictable back beat. Straight up middle-aged Beasties which means more fun than FRESSSHHHH.

Track 02— David Byrne/ My Fair Lady

No plains or rains or Spain, but a seriously cinematic sound to build up a modern reflection of the classic Pygmalion tale. I think that this is easily the best offering of the bunch and makes U2's similarly-themed Babyface (from Zooropa) sound simply insipid.

Track 03— Zap Mama/ Wadidyusay?

Hand claps. French. A cappella-esque world music syrup with a drum machine.

Track 04— My Morning Jacket/ One Big Holiday

Yeah indie rock! I don't own one of their albums so I can't be classified as anything like a fan, but there is something pure American rock about this in both sound (straight up drums and electric guitars) and sentiment (references to escaping dead end towns, California, and records). Serve with pick-up trucks and whatever indie brew is currently considered both hip and cheap.

Track 05— Spoon/Revenge!

This is a track by Spoon. It is catchy. It is smart. It is made in the USA but sounds like its imported from England. Extra points are awarded for painting analogies.

Track 09— Le Tigre/Fake French

"I've got. . . site specificity." I mean, come on, what is not to like about a band that has extensive bibliographies, flow disruption, and wildlife metaphors? Furthermore, their Fake French is way hotter than any real French I've heard lately.

* * * * *

And then there are the two tracks that I'm a bit torn over. Not jaw-dropping and not mediocre, but somewhere just this side of catchy, which is often all I require. And easy to rip (pun intended).

Track 10— Paul Westerberg/ Looking Up in Heaven

Feeble drug references and buoyant melancholy— two of my least favorite popular music conventions. And yet, this is one of those tracks that I would never seek out but also would never skip through if it were to pop up in the Shuffle. There's something so unapologetic about Westerberg's delivery that a touch of gravitas manages to sneak in. As far as I can tell from this one data point, if Bob Dylan were margarine he'd be Paul Westerberg.

Track 12— The Rapture/ Sister Saviour (Blackstrobe Remix)

Hhmmmm. . . I think I'll put some KMFDM, Kraftwerk, and Depeche Mode in a blender with cheap red wine and squid-ink pasta. Whoa! How did I manage this smoothie of blips, bleeps, and laughably echoey lyrics about hobo dreams?

Decide for yourself. . .


Veteran's Memorial

Veteran's Memorial — Eagle, ID
October 9, 2009


The Caravel With Four Fine Masts and Lateen Sails

Caravel Chalkboard Drawing, October 2009
Click on image for larger view.

For weeks I've been adrift in the fears, follies, and dreams of the European age of exploration (roughly 1400-1600).* After tasking my 7th/8th grade class to develop a sailing vessel that could harness the wind** from multiple directions and carry 2000 grams of cargo on stormy seas I followed up our days of damp tests in a plastic wading pool with this chalkboard illustration. The class hardly needed explanations of the intent behind the keel, rudder, or lateen sail after all of the trial-and-error work that they'd poured into their own boats, but I felt it important to illustrate a caravel as it figured so prominently in many of the biographies I was sharing with them.

* * * * *

It is odd how your mind can drift away, even when you are called upon to be most present: this little song by Joanna Newsom*** has been in my head ever since I spent an hour embedding the above illustration on the 8' expanse of darkness that dominates my room.

Bridges and Balloons (excerpt) by Joanna Newsom

We sailed away on a winter's day
with fate as malleable as clay;
but ships are fallible, I say,
and the nautical, like all things, fades

And I can recall our caravel:
a little wicker beetle shell
with four fine masts and lateen sails,
its bearings on Cair Paravel

O my love,
O it was a funny little thing
to be the ones to've seen.

*Unless, of course, you start with Marco Polo, as I do when beginning this course of study. In that case you can tack on another 150 years at the outset.

**conveniently produced with a box fan

***who I swore was a former Waldorf student after seeing this video for Sprout and the Bean

And for those of you who are up for a challenge: How many nautical puns are part of this post?