Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Writing Wednesday's: The American Dreamer 1

I read that the world is going to end with a bang. One day the tractor will run again. My left wrist is hurting, but that’s not unusual. Most of these sentences have been relatively simple; I should complex it up a bit. I’m already stalling. My mind wants to focus on something—anything—but it can’t. I want this stuff to stop. I think I’m losing myself. Where did I put that vase? Mother’s going to kill me. I keep hearing this ringing, but I don’t know what it is. And I’m so tired…

The first time Ella saw Hank, she didn’t think he was anything special. Sure, he looked different, with his skin that milky brown color and his eyes so black, but mostly he just looked normal. Not like the person she was going to fall in love with and marry. But first impressions are often so wrong. Hank proved to be unlike anything she’d ever imagined. Sometimes she thought his brilliance was too much, that he really was “off his rocker,” like her Mama would say, like when he would ramble and say things that made no true sense to anyone, not even the dogs. Other times he would just stare and say nothing at all. Always, though, he was sweet and loving, especially to Ella.

Sometimes I get the distinct impression that I’m more than just Hank Tasla, that I’m really more than one person, living more than just one life. This is the main one, the most important one, the one that I’m pretty sure is the real one, but sometimes I have my doubts. When I lay down at night, my dreams are so surreal and vivid that I’m sure they are actually happening. I dreamt last night that I was a little boy of five or six, playing on the floor with colorful, soft things and small, plastic men, beneath the glow of a wide moving picture-box. The box was mesmerizing, but so were the toys. I don’t even know how to describe the things I was seeing or doing, but it felt just like I was really there, doing it. Of course, when I woke up this morning I was here again, in my own bed. This is the way it always happens, but sometimes I wonder if I’ll stop waking up here and stay where I’m dreaming.

Ella and Hank walked to school together every morning. She was a head-and-a-half taller than him, but that is not unusual among adolescent children. They would go off down the dirt road toward the little one room school in Mt. Easter, always side by side. The walk would take their little legs about half an hour to make, all the while picking up other students on their trip. I’d sit here on this porch and watch ‘em make that trip almost every morning, curious to see how the situation would turn out. The Tasla’s were the first colored family to move to this region, so I had an interest in seeing how the young boy would be treated by his peers. Ella seemed to take to him all right.

I did well on my spelling words Mrs. Epperson assigned to us, but I’ve always thought that I had a good grasp on vocabulary. Perhaps it’s from the dreams. Sometimes I am an older man, with a job and a family, a house and a car, a large television and a small cell phone. I’m experienced and educated, so I already know these words. But whenever I bring up these strange things to anybody around here, nobody knows what I’m talking about. ‘Hank,’ they say, ‘you’ve got such a wild imagination.’ Maybe I do. And some days I can’t even remember what these devices are called. It’s all so confusing. That’s why I’ve started writing all of my waking thoughts down.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The air is crisp and cool today, and it finally feels like Fall outside. Fall is my favorite season. I love watching the leaves transform from their lively greens to a dark auburn and ultimately to dead brown. I love how the day can start out warm and you decide to wear a tee-shirt and shorts, only to find yourself shivering and cold later on, not realizing how quickly the Autumnal air can change. I love the decor of Fall, seeing yards with scarecrows, pumpkins, gourds, and straw bales. And I love the nights of the Fall season, where we can sit under the giant bowl of stars and see millions of miles away, occasionally glimpsing a falling star. Yes, I love Fall.

A week into the new season and I've found a new blog that I've subscribed to. It's called Stuff Christians Like. It takes a humorous look at some serious things Christian's find themselves involved in, and it seems aimed at those that lead (be it worship, class, pastor, etc.) The blog definitely can get your mind turning. My favorite post that I read was actually a guest post, but it's hilarious nonetheless, and available here. Even if you're not a Christian, I'd recommend reading it, as it's too funny to pass up.

Another thing I'm really enjoying is Layers of Thought's recommendation of Pandora. I used Pandora (or something like it) back in my early years of college, but somewhere along the lines I forgot about it. The concept is pretty clever. Essentially, Pandora is an online radio, but it's tailored to suit individual tastes, based on whether or not you like a song. You customize your own radio station by inputting an artist, song, or album you like, and Pandora takes it from there. Plus, there are only a few advertisements, which is great, as the current iTunes radio station I listen to plays so many ads that I typically abandon listening in a short period. So, if you're looking to try some new music, check out Pandora. (Thanks, Shellie and JD...)

I'm currently about a third of the way into A Circle of Souls, a book that I was asked to review for the author. It's not the type of book that I usually read, but so far it's been worth the read, especially from a first-time author. To me, the book is like reading an episode of House, M.D. mixed with CSI and Law & Order. Again, not my typical genre, but I like branching out, and feel that it's good to do so. I'll have the review up here when I finish.

I think tomorrow I will start a new type of post. I'll (potentially) designate Wednesday's as "Writing Wednesdays," where I'll post up some new writing. This will typically be prose, often in the short story style, but occasionally verse will creep its way up, too. And I think that by designating a day for this type of post will force me to meet the personal deadline.

That's it for now. If it's cool and feels like Fall wherever you are, make sure you enjoy the day. Relish the season every day you can, as the next season is not as pleasant. Remember the Stark's mantra, "Winter is Coming."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Called to Worship, by Vernon M. Whaley

Called to Worship, by Vernon Whaley, is a book that offers a biblical basis for worship. The book is formatted into three parts: Old Testament Worship, New Testament, and Worship in Heaven. From these, Whaley dives into giving thoughtful examples of worship, frequently siting Scripture and other published works. (The cited works are enough to warrant an Appendix of sorts, including a bibliography and a section of Notes.)

I found this book easy to read, but challenging to apply. To me, the book felt like I was reading a summary of the Bible with worship-tinted glasses on, which is definitely not a bad thing. Whaley starts off the book with a picture of what Eden was like, when life was perfect and worship of God was complete. Sadly, this did not last, and soon the "Worship Wars" began. The rest of the book deals with the aftermath of the Fall and how Man must fight to worship Yahweh. From Genesis to Revelation, familiar Scripture is analyzed and worship is encouraged.

I can easily recommend this book if you are looking to set your heart on worshiping God. Finishing the book left me desiring to serve Christ better, to live a life full of worship and glory to God. Whaley encourages us to read, pray, sing, and give glory to God in all that we do. While Called to Worship is not a substitute for the Bible, it is a great companion to read to get a feel of what worship could be like.

You can find this book on Amazon. I'll end with two of my favorite quotes from the book.

"The worship battles we face today are often driven by self-interest. Unwilling to accept new, exciting venues for the expression of worship, many folks just stir up conflict....Such personal preferences result in disagreement between brothers and sisters, pastor and parishioners, and their differences of opinion prohibit their worship of God."

"Authentic worship requires a regular worship routine. Abraham was a builder of altars...You need to meet with God at a special time in a previously appointed place that is free of distractions from the world around you, him your undivided attention. He deserves no less."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Oh The Times They Aren't A-Changin' (On Hate & Bigotry)

I'm a ponderer. I like it. Critical thinking and introspection are great tools to use, on self and society. For the most part, I think I'm immune to society's stupidity, but sometimes I see the world and it reminds me that I'm not inoculated.

I believe in respect. While I may not agree with certain choices and actions people take, I still believe that they are deserving of love and respect. When I see people displaying hate and bigotry it feels like a stab to the heart, especially if it's coming from a follower of Jesus Christ. Where is the love? Christ walked with the grime of Jerusalem and he loved them. He went on to command that "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV) Jesus' love was so great for us that he died a horrible death for everyone. Everyone is not an excluding term. It means that every person, regardless of their circumstances and sin, has a way to the Father, as long as they profess that "Jesus is Lord" (Romans 10:9 ESV).

If Christ is the model we emulate, then bigotry and hate do not fit into that model. There is no love in tearing down your fellow man. How was/is slavery tolerated? Why do drug addicts have a bad stigma? Why are we uncomfortable around homosexuals? Why do we walk past the homeless man standing outside of Walgreens instead of giving him some cash?

Our society is largely Christian, with almost 80% proclaiming that tag. (The article, found here, is actually pretty interesting to look at.) While the other 20% doesn't try to follow Christ, I'm sure they don't believe in hate and bigotry. In fact, I believe it's universally accepted as a good gesture to treat everyone equal. Sadly, this does not happen around the world. Inequality still exists, people are still beaten down, and love is nowhere to be found.

My mind got to turning and spinning on this topic a day or two ago. I was driving home from work and got behind a car with a rude bumper sticker. It read, simply, "AIDS cures FAGS." At first I was shocked. Then I was hollowed out. Then I felt a mixture of anger and sorrow. Why?! I wondered.

The problem was in the wording. To my knowledge, AIDS doesn't cure anything. It kills. And death is not a cure. And fags is just a horrible sounding word. It's just like using ethnic slurs on other people. It is demeaning. While I can appreciate some level of political incorrectness (as long as it's within the realm of respect), for the most part, it's better to be politically correct than stupid and rude. In addition, there are millions of AIDS stricken people who've done nothing wrong (see Africa) and are bearing the burdens of earlier generations. This disease is no joking matter.

The disease is twofold. AIDS is serious, and if progress could be made in curing those sick and dying children of Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, etc., then I'm all for it. The bigger disease is Man's Uncaring Heart. Until we learn to love and respect one another, we'll always be inflicted with hate. And as long as people cling to their hate, we'll have bigotry. Just because someone is different than you, or doesn't meet your standards, does not mean that they're not a person and that they don't deserve as much respect as you. In my opinion, if you want to have respect, you have to give respect. Until then, our world will never change.

FlashForward Thoughts

Last night, ABC premiered the new series FlashForward. The show is about dealing with the aftereffects of a global blackout. Every person in the world blacked out for 137 seconds, and during this time they had visions of the future. Due to the blackouts, millions of people perished. This series is based on the novel of the same name by Robert Sawyer.

I find the idea behind this show fascinating and full of potential. An underlying theme to the show deals with can the characters change the future they see or are they destined to act the part they saw? While this idea is not original, the mechanics certainly are. What caused the blackouts? Why did everyone have these visions? Will it happen again?

The pilot episode was well done, and the characters were well written and cast. If each episode is as intriguing and exciting as this episode, then I think this series will be fantastic. If you missed the premier, ABC is airing it again tonight at 8:00pm EST, or you can watch it at

I'm not sure how the series will progress, but I have faith that it will be great. Plus, it gives me something to do while waiting for Lost to come back on next Spring.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Writing for Writing's Sake

The problem, as I've mentioned before, is the fact that I have too many ideas, too many stories to share, too many tales to tell, and I don't have enough time to actually write them down. I can't say "pen them down," because I don't use pens when writing, and I can't say "pin them down," because that does not really make sense in an electronic word-processing formatting sense. But, in my moments of free time, or in the moments when the writing is calling me, or in the moments when I think of something that I should add to one of my numerous stories, I pull up the document and let the creativity flow.

Sadly, this seems to happen when I have no desire to write, and then the words dry up and refuse to appear on my screen. I have the idea and I know what I want to say, but I can't figure out how to write it. Blinded by the light, do ya kennit? Soon I find myself just writing for writing's sake, putting words down that I know I'll delete, possibly even before I finish the sentence. Can a series of random sentences correlate and work together? I feel myself slipping into the random...

A glass of tea sits on a folded white napkin on my desk, exerting a sweat ring on the figure that's drawn on the face of the napkin. It's been dark and overcast for a while now, making me really want a hot cup of coffee. My friend came over last night. We worked three crossword puzzles, and they were all ridiculously tough. I worked a total of six crosswords yesterday, but I didn't solve them all. I made a homemade pizza last night, using the stoneware my wife got from Pampered Chef, and it was superb. There is a tree, blowing in the gales, wishing it could fly away. To uproot and experience the joys of flight. Wouldn't the birds and squirrels be surprised, to find their home flying around in the sky. I hate it when I take a drink (of the tea on the napkin) and constrict my throat too early, coughing and spilling some. Bah! There is no sanctuary, and there can be only one, and I bet it's not Mega-Man, Cloud Strife, or Link. Yes. But if it could be, then it'd definitely be Link. Alas, there can be only one...

Eventually I feel that if I've written a paragraph of substantial stuff, then I'm satisfied. But only on the days when the right juices refuse to flow. On some days I can crank out a few thousand words with no problem, but I think it depends on the Logan's Writing Ratio, a number that is defined as

LWR=(Cloud Cover + Hours of Sleep + Mood)/(Music Playing on iPod).

If this ratio equals one (LWR=1), then productivity is high, whereas a low LWR results in pointless sentences and obscure wording. Of course, it's pretty tough to quantify some of the variables of the ratio, especially the ones that are constantly changing, but once you get the hang of it it's not too bad.

With all of this, I currently am sitting at a LWR=0.2, which is okay for the moment. I have other things I need to do. I'm going to try to get a large chunk of the project I'm working on at work done. I still have a fresh apple to eat and around 16oz of home-brew tea to drink. I have a new day of crosswords. I have the FlashForward pilot to watch tonight, and a new episode of The Office and Community (but no 30 Rock yet). Aye, today should be productive. And enough productivity helps take the thoughts away from the troubling news I've recently heard, which I'll ask you to pray about, though you don't know what it is. I'll say thankee-sai, may it do ya fine.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My iPod Journey: Recap, Conclusions, and Where To Next?

The journey through the many albums on my iPod has now reached its conclusion. I hope that I've introduced you to some new music, or music that you'd like to explore more. I'm sure that if I re-listened to my music I would probably classify the albums differently, but that's part of the beauty that is music. One day you may feel like soft and melancholic music is what you need, and you'll shun the loud rock. The same is true for all other emotions.

I believe that music and emotions/psyche/vibe are strongly linked together. When Summer begins to thaw the ice of Spring and the sun rears its head up, I can't help but feel like I should be listening to the Beach Boys. When it's pouring down rain and gloomy outside, my body feels hardwired to play songs to fit this mood. That said, the human mood is one of the factors that skews the data collected through this journey, but I'm mostly satisfied with the results.

Furthermore, because one album ranks higher than another, that does not necessarily mean that I prefer the higher ranked to the lower ranked. I like most of the songs that are on my iPod, which only makes sense. Otherwise I'd just delete the space they're consuming to make room for other things.

Once again, thanks for following me on this journey, for taking my recommendations (if you did), and for keeping up with this blog. I hope it was as enjoyable for you as it was for me.

Next up on Rememorandom? In terms of statistics, it's stochastic. Probably more reviews, musings, art, and other purposed nonsense. Until then, remember, be kind to the rhino and when you get gored you'll at least have a clean conscious.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, Ranks #7 & #9

Bob Dylan is one of the most iconic folk artists of all time. He's hailed as one of the greatest and most influential artists, and has inspired countless up-and-coming musicians. I believe the core of Dylan's genius is his uncanny talent at writing songs.
Highway 61 Revisited is a fantastic Dylan album. Released in 1965, it is his sixth album, runs for 52 minutes, and has 9 tracks. Blonde on Blonde (1966) is Dylan's seventh album, runs for 72 minutes, and has 14 tracks. Together, these two albums showcase some of Bob Dylan's best songs in his enormous catalog.

Bob Dylan is an artist that people either love or hate. Some can't stand his voice. Others think his guitar playing is horrid. Personally, I think his voice is unique and captivating, and that it comes from his heart. There are many singers that aren't great singers, but they have a huge following because of the passion they put into what they do.

Highway 61 Revisited features some of Dylan's best work, including "Like A Rolling Stone," "Tombstone Blues," "Ballad of a Thin Man," "Queen Jane Approximately," and "Desolation Row." "Like A Rolling Stone" ranked as the greatest song of all time according to Rolling Stone magazine. Blonde on Blonde is another great collection of Dylan tunes, and features songs like "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," "Visions of Johanna," "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again," "Just Like a Woman," and "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands."

The brilliance of these albums is evident when listening to them. Dylan's poetry is perfect, and his rhythms are simple and easy to listen to. Throw in a frequent harmonica, add some slight electric sounds and a whole lot of acoustic guitar, and you've got Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde.

If you're a fan of folk music, folk-rock, or rock-and-roll, then Bob Dylan is a common ancestor. His music stands the test of time, and he's still inspiring people today. If you've never listened to a Dylan album, I definitely recommend starting with Highway 61 Revisited, and then Blonde on Blonde. If you're still looking for more, I recommend Bob Dylan, Desire, Blood on the Tracks, or Another Side of Bob Dylan.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Shepherd's Dog, Rank #6

(You may have noticed that I skipped Rank #5, which happened to fall to the Beatles Abbey Road album. While I love this album, especially "Something," "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," "Octopus's Garden," "Here Comes the Sun," and the long medley at the end of the album, I cannot fully give it the attention it deserves. Instead, I can heartily recommend the album, and if you need more than that, just re-read this post about the White Album and supplement the aforementioned songs into the linked post. The Beatles are great. Long live the Beatles.)

Iron & Wine has been in the professional music industry since 2002. Iron & Wine is mostly a one-man band, featuring the vast and many talents of Sam Beam as wordsmith and singer, guitarist, banjo player, and any other instruments that may be used. The Shepherd's Dog is Iron & Wine's third studio album, was released in 2007, runs for fifty minutes, and has twelve songs.
Listening to this album is a delight. The opening track, "Boy With A Coin," is nothing short of amazing. The hypnotizing slidings and hammer-ons on the guitar is enough to lure even the strongest-willed man in, and the lyrics are hauntingly beautiful. This song was the first single released off the album, and it remains one of my favorite to play and listen to. Others may recognize "Flightless Bird, American Mouth," as it was the song featured in the prom scene of Twilight. The song is beautiful. One of my favorite tracks is "House By the Sea," which has an exotic rhythm with a captivating story. Truly each song is unique and slightly mysterious, and all are catchy and well performed.

Part of the joy of listening to an Iron & Wine album is the wonderful blend of voice, guitar, and lyric. Sam Beam writes with such poetry that it's hard to understand what he's really talking about, but at the same time you feel what he's talking about. His guitar playing is pleasing to the ears, and his voice is soft and precise enough that it demands attention.

The Shepherd's Dog is my favorite album in the Iron & Wine catalog. It offers a fuller sound than the previous albums, and shows a different portrait of the wonderful band. If you like this album, I recommend checking out some of the EP's that are out (I really like Woman King and The Sea & The Rhythm), as well as the other studio albums. In fact, a new album was just released on iTunes called Around the Well, which sells for $9.99 and contains some of the Iron & Wine contains B-sides and other classics, like my favorite I&W song "The Trapeze Swinger" and "Such Great Heights."

Iron & Wine is a great band to listen to when life needs to slow down, when things are going fast and you want to listen to something easy and soothing. While The Shepherd's Dog is not as soft as other Iron & Wine albums, it is a wonderful album worthy to be listened to.

Friday, September 18, 2009

9, A Review

A few days ago I went and watched the movie 9. You may remember me mentioning something about it a few weeks ago. I particularly wanted to watch it in theatres, as the big-screen sounds and animation for such a movie is something that a home theatre cannot hope to compare to. The movie is directed by Shane Acker, produced by Tim Burton, and features the voices of Elijah Wood (9), John C. Reilly (5), and Jennifer Connelly (7).

The film begins with 9, a stitchpunk doll, waking up to a desolate world, ruined from war and devoid of life. A scattering of machines walk the harsh landscape, all the time looking for any signs of life (presumably that's what they're doing). 9 spies a group of other stitchpunks walking on the horizon, and he makes his way out of the destroyed building, grabbing a mysterious looking object before he leaves.

This starts a journey that is epic in scale, as the fate of all life is put on the battlefield. There are 9 total stitchpunks, and each one is unique and special. Together they must overcome difficulties and restore life to the ravaged world.

To me, watching 9 was like watching a movie version of a video game. The characters can rummage through the piles of junk and customize their weapons or apparel, there's a archetypal antagonist, and the quest to save life fits in there perfectly.

I had two major problems with 9. First, I felt that the characters were all mostly flat and stereotyped. The hero is 9, a young idealist. The other stitchpunks fall neatly in line. There's an untrusting one. There's a mean brute. There's a few kind and trusting ones. There's a wizened pair that have the answers to questions. There's a love interest for 9. There's a crazy one, who somehow has the answer to the mysterious object 9 took from the beginning. And the machines are all just wanting to wipe out all traces of life. The characterization for this film fell short, and I didn't feel any connection to any of them.

The second problem I had was that the movie didn't seem to have much of a plot, or a backstory, either. Sure, the characters did things, but the things they did were mostly dull and not too exciting. And when they did important things, they were predictable and expected. Even the ending was predictable. And the backstory, which had potential, was typical and lacking sufficient explanation.

Despite the flat characters and the less-than-stellar plot, the movie wasn't all in shambles. The film was an absolute joy to watch. The CGI is amazing. The unique post-apocalyptic art style the designers were shooting for worked superbly, and I enjoyed seeing the art in action. The stitchpunks each have their own individual design, and every one of them were cool to look at. Some of the inventions they come up with are also pretty impressive.

Overall, I paid $6 for a matinee ticket to an okay movie. Was it worth it? Yes. Did I learn anything or feel anything special from watching it? No. Nothing new, anyway. Terminator, The Matrix, and WALL-E have already taught us not to put too much stock in machines, and that they'll eventually turn against us. Would I recommend this to you? Yes, and no. If you want to see some pretty cool artistic ideas in a bleak world and you don't care to spend money on that, go for it. If you're looking for an epiphany, you may have to try something else.

On a side note, doesn't that Fantastic Mr. Fox look awesome?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You Can Tell Georgia, Rank #4

I first heard Joe Purdy when many other Americans first heard of him, back at the end of the Third Episode of Season One of Lost. It's the scene where Hurley picks up a cd player and starts listening to music, then he's walking around on the beach with a smile on his face and an amazing song playing over the air. That song is called "Wash Away (Reprise)." From that single song I searched out the artist and found a new favorite.
Joe is a truly independent artist. He writes his own songs, produces them himself, and is not signed to a label. Being free from the label gives him the ability to do whatever he likes, whenever he likes. And he's one of the most successful independent artists out there. Not only has he been featured on Lost, but he also had several songs played on Grey's Anatomy, House M.D., a Kia commercial, and the new Dawn commercial. Again, all of this is from being a successful and talented independent artist.

Joe's style is all over the place, but mostly falls in the range of acoustic-folk-Americana, with the occasional dose of electric guitars. This album, You Can Tell Georgia, is not as melancholic as some of the other albums, but still has traces of sadness and longing to some of the songs. The music is of such superb quality and solid that you can't help but tap your feet and sing along.

You Can Tell Georgia has the quality of a seasoned artist who's found his niche, but at the same time it feels exploratory. The album has 11 tracks and runs for almost 50 minutes. None of that time is wasted, and every song is a true joy to listen to. "You Can Tell Georgia" has a rebellious, fun feel to it. "Secret" is all about hidden love. "Can't Get It Right Today" is amazing. "Ode to Sad Clown" is one of my favorite Joe Purdy songs, and I find it beautiful.

The best part about Joe Purdy is that all of his albums are available on his website, linked here. You can listen to them in full, test out the waters. Joe has ten studio albums out now, all penned and completed from 2001 to now. I feel like telling everyone I know about Joe Purdy, recommending him to everyone that has a heart and a set of ears. He's appreciated around the world as a fine artist, and yet he maintains anonymity and small crowds, eschewing popularity and record labels. He's a brilliant, young artist, and I look forward to following his career for a long time. I could laud Joe Purdy for a long time, but really I recommend going to his website and listening to some of his albums, starting with You Can Tell Georgia, Paris in the Morning, or Only Four Seasons.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Beatles (White Album), Rank #3

In 1968 the Beatles released their eponymous album The Beatles, but it is commonly known as the White Album. It's a double album, contains 30 tracks, and has a running time of 93:35.
For many years I have been a fan of the Beatles. Their songs are everywhere, and everybody knows them. The impact they had on culture and music is unfathomable, and their expansive catalog is truly magnificent. Out of all of the Beatles albums, my favorite is without a doubt the White Album.

One of the joys from the White Album is the large mix and range of song styles available. You have a classic Beatles sound opening the album with "Back in the USSR," but most of the other songs do not resemble the earlier music of the Four. In fact, it seems that each song is in itself its own entity, expressing something independent and surreal. But, somehow, there exists a residue of cohesion. All of these seemingly random songs join together and form a unified album with eclectic tastes and styles.

It's impossible to pick a favorite song from the album, and it seems to vary with mood and season. "Happiness is a Warm Gun" has always been one of my favorite tracks, due to the many changes in tempo and unusual lyrics. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La Da" is a super fun and brilliant song. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is an instant classic. "Blackbird" is soothing and gentle. "Rocky Racoon" is dark but brilliant. "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" and "Helter Skelter" are both loud, raunchy, and fun. "Mother Nature's Son" and "Good Night" can both be lullaby's. There are so many wonderful songs from this album, it's just too tough to pick any one out to recommend.

The only bad song on this album is the penultimate track, "Revolution 9." If it wasn't so long, it wouldn't be so bad. Essentially it's a collage of sounds, blending together for unexplained reasons. I find it atrocious to listen to, and suffering through the eight minutes is almost unbearable. It's too avant-garde, too abstract, for me to like or appreciate, and I can heartily recommend skipping this one.

My wife bought me the newly remastered Beatles White Album three days ago. Since then, I've listened to it three or four times. I think the traditional cd releases of the Beatles catalog are fine to listen to, but once you hear the remastered stuff, your ears start to glow and you get this grin for some reason. All I can say is that if the remastered White Album is indicative of the rest of the remastered catalog, I will be buying me the set over time. Truly amazing.

Whether you're a Beatles fan or not, the White Album is brilliant. The song writing is compelling and thought-provoking, slightly humorous, and well written. The music ranges from extremely simple to mega-complex. This album really showcases the individual band member's talents and offers a treat to anyone who cares to listen. Odds are, you've probably heard some of these songs, and if you're contemplating buying one of the new remastered albums, I recommend this one.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hail to the Thief, Rank #2

There's something buried within Radiohead's Hail to the Thief on every level. On the surface, you get a collection of strangely titled songs, like "Backdrifts (Honeymoon is Over)" or "2+2=5 (The Lukewarm)". As you go deeper into the album you discover unimaginably catchy beats and a wide range of instruments. And, perhaps at the deepest layer of all there is some semblance of meaning and understanding.
Hail to the Thief is Radiohead's sixth studio album. It has 14 tracks and runs for almost an hour in length. Radiohead is a British alternative rock band consisting of Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Colin Greenwood, and Phil Selway.

Part of the curse with this album, and part of the reason it ranks so highly, is that it contains so many songs that easily wedge their way into your brain and stay there, forcing your mind to run the segment over and over and over again and again. On almost any given day I can have "Myxomatosis" in my head or "We Suck Young Blood." The words run on repeat in my head, and yet I can't fathom them.

That is the beautiful problem with Hail to the Thief, or practically any other Radiohead album. In general, I don't know what they're talking about. Obviously Yorke doesn't literally mean what he says all the time, but the metaphors are too deep, too complex, too good, too smart. Combining deep-thought with a slightly difficult ear to actually understand the words themselves yields only a slightly confused, albeit happy, listener.

The album flows well together, with an appropriate mix of varied tempos and instruments. And, being Radiohead, the rock is definitely not traditional rock-n-roll, but much more alternative, contemporary, borderline-electronica rock. All this makes for an interesting, delightful album.

Some people really like Radiohead, while others can't stand the group. Personally, I love every album they've produced. They're unique in the rock world, and they definitely have found their niche. That said, if you've never heard a full Radiohead album, I would recommend starting with Hail to the Thief, OK Computer, or In Rainbows. These are all similar in style, but each has its own life, too.

Here are a few links to videos of some of the songs from the album. One of my favorite songs on the album is "Myxomatosis", which does not have an authentic music video. "2+2=5" is another great song, and the video is amazing (but a little cartoonish-risque), especially if you like Orwell's 1984. You can listen to every song from the album on YouTube, though there may not be an official video.

All in all, I really like this album because of the way it pulls you back to listening to it. Catchy music and clever songwriting makes Hail to the Thief an excellent Radiohead album. (And discussing what the heck the songs mean should also provide some fun time, too.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

August and Everything After, Rank #1

August and Everything After is the first album released by the California rock band Counting Crows. Released in 1993, the album runs for almost 52 minutes across 11 tracks. The band features Adam Duritz as lead vocals, piano, and harmonica playing, with the rest of the band (Matt Malley, Charlie Gillingham, Steve Bowman, and David Bryson) completing and filling the group. While taking notes for my ipod journey, this album had only one word to describe it: perfect.
The first time I heard this complete album I was in tenth grade. Sure, I knew the main single released off the cd, "Mr. Jones," but that was it. I was a Teachers Aide for one of my art classes, and I had a break where I sat in the teacher's office and played Minesweeper. The teacher had a stack of cds, and I decided to pop one into the computer and give it a listen. I chose August...

I sat there, entranced, amazed at what I was hearing. From the opening arpeggio chords of "Round Here" to the last hammered sounds of "A Murder of One," I was enthralled. Every day I had free time I would go back to the room and listen to that album, picking up something different, something previously unheard. I was hypnotized, and my ears were in love.

Soon I bought the album for myself, and I quickly fell in love with the Counting Crows, gobbling up all their other albums that were released at the time. But there was something special, something secret about August and Everything After. Somehow something in the beautiful singing, wonderful harmonies, captivating rhythms, and compelling lyrics was connecting with me. I could feel the emotions Duritz was singing about. I could understand a bit of what life was like for him through his songs.

So I suppose the first reason August and Everything After ranks as No. 1 on my list is due to the fact that it helped connect me to the soul of what music is all about: emotion.

In addition to the sentimental, special memories I have for this wonderful album, it has more to offer up. The songwriting is beautiful. I always had this fantasy in school that a teacher would ask us to bring in our favorite poem, and I would print the lyrics to "Round Here" and bring in those for mine. This never happened, but it was fun in my own mind.

The main song from this album has to be "Mr. Jones." (Warning, the video is a little silly, but I didn't rank videos, just songs.) Most likely you've heard this song on the radio. You've probably tapped your feet to its wonderful beat. You may have even sang along with it. Whatever the case is, this song launched the Counting Crows into stardom. Every time this song comes on I love it again, and I'm never disappointed to hear it.

Every song on this album is a perfect joy to listen to. The way the band comes together is rich and full. The album has an overall feel of sadness and mistakes, but many of these songs come across as anything but tragedy through the brilliance of the Crows.

I can't explain to you truly how wonderful this August and Everything After is. The best thing to do would be to buy an old, used copy from a local used store, or go to a flea market and pick one up for a few bucks. I've came across used copies many times, and they're always pretty cheap. Take the risk. Listen to it through and fall in love the way I did.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Memories of 9/11

Yesterday marked the 8th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks here in America. I thought it would be cool to have a post collecting memories of where you were when the Towers fell, or your memories of that day. If you lost any loved ones that were in NYC, PN, or DC, then you have my deepest condolences, and I pray that God blesses and strengthens you.

I just walked into school when I heard the news. It was all pretty surreal. I wasn't exactly sure what the Towers were, but I recognized the panic, chaos, and fear that was on the tiny TV screen. That day was pretty hectic. No teachers wanted to teach. There was something bigger going on.

I got home from school and my mamaw was at my house, standing out in the yard and talking with my mom. Mom was distraught and panicky. I rushed into my house and put a VHS tape in the VCR, hitting RECORD and changing the channel to CNN. I let the tape record until the end. I took it out and put it in a box. I haven't taken it out of that box. I bought a newspaper the next morning and put it with that box. It was all very eye opening and sobering.

It still is.

I thank God that I had no friends or family at any of the sites, but I know people that did. I won't forget that day as long as I live.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The 25 Best Albums on My iPod

Ages and eras ago (7/1/09) I started a personal journey, my own trip to music's Mecca. Armed with only my earbuds and an Excel sheet, I set out to conquer the mysterious lands of my iPod and discover the best (and worst) albums contained therein. It was a long road and I listened to an average of 7-8 hours of music weekdaily, excluding the two weeks I was in Frankfort. Finally, I have emerged, enlightened and victorious.

The iPod
My iPod is around four years old. It's sleek, black, and has my name on the back of it. I bought it as a gift to myself. It rests inside of a beautiful STAR WARS hard case. At the time, I thought 30 Gigs of music and videos would never be filled. Over time, my music catalog began to grow and my tastes began to expand, and the 30 Gig limit drew closer and closer with time. Currently, I have only 825.3 MB of memory left, but I have intentions of deleting some stuff soon.

The Rules
I knew that going through my iPod was going to be a tangled web of different things, and that if I was going to rank and score my albums then I would have to set up some personal restrictions. First off, I did not count any live albums. Second, I didn't count instrumental/soundtrack albums. Third, and most painfully, I did not count cover albums, or albums that were largely made up of covered songs, thereby eliminating the Johnny Cash American Series, which contains beautiful and simple music from the Man in Black. The last rule dealt with Greatest Hits, Compilation Albums, etc. If I had any individual albums released by an artist and also a Greatest Hits, then I did not listen to the Greatest Hits. However, if I had only a Greatest Hits album for an artist, then the album was included in my quest.

The Numbers
There was a lot of processing to do once I finished my journey. Below is how it all played out.
3416, the number of songs listened to
282, the number of albums listened to
92, the number of different artists represented
16.17 Gigs of music traveled through
220.8 hours of music
9.2 days of music
7/1/2009, the start date of the journey
9/10/2009, the end date of the journey

The Scoring
I created a massive Excel sheet for my notes and scoring as I worked through each album. I tried to be as unbiased as I could, but it's only fair to say that my ears' preferences will be different than yours. I considered lyrics (where I could understand them), music, and the combination of the two for my scoring, as well as the feeling and impression I got from the overall album. You can find this monstrous list available as an open Google Document by following this link. The list contains every album I've listened to, the artist, the score, the rank, a key track from the album, and any notes I may have made.

The 25 Best Albums
The list below begins with the rank, then the album title, then the artist, then a key track.

1. August and Everything After, Counting Crows, "Mr. Jones"
2. Hail to the Thief, Radiohead, "Myxomatosis"
3. The Beatles (White Album), The Beatles, Happiness is a Warm Gun"
4. You Can Tell Georgia, Joe Purdy, "Ode to a Sad Clown"
5. Abbey Road, The Beatles, "Here Comes the Sun"
6. The Shepherd's Dog, Iron & Wine, "Boy With A Coin"
7. Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan, "Like A Rolling Stone"
8. In Rainbows, Radiohead, "Jigsaw Falling Into Place"
9. Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan, "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again"
10. Only Four Seasons, Joe Purdy, "Meteor City"
11. OK Computer, Radiohead, "Karma Police"
12. We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, Bruce Springsteen, "Old Dan Tucker"
13. Paris in the Morning, Joe Purdy, "Paris in the Morning"
14. Take My Blanket And Go, Joe Purdy, "Take My Blanket And Go"
15. Astral Weeks, Van Morrison, "Astral Weeks"
16. Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, "House of the Risin' Sun"
17. Canyon Joe, Joe Purdy, "John Henry and the Old North Wind"
18. El Corazon, Steve Earle, "Christmas In Washington"
19. Jars of Clay, Jars of Clay, "Liquid"
20. Evil Urges, My Morning Jacket, "Sec Walkin"
21. Viva La Vida, Coldplay, "Lost?"
22. The River, Bruce Springsteen, "The River"
23. Stomping Grounds, Joe Purdy, "woman go"
24. Recovering the Satellites, Counting Crows, "A Long December"
25. Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin, "When The Levee Breaks"

The End?
There you have it. My favorite, and the best, 25 albums on my iPod. The journey was long, and sometimes even frightening, but in the end it was fun and informative. It was very tough to pick key tracks from some of these albums, as there are so many great ones, but I gave it my best. I feel like I know what's on my iPod better, and there are some things that I will be deleting.

I hope you've enjoyed this quest. I hope you take a look at the Google document mentioned above (and linked again here). I hope you comment liberally on the results. I hope the results have been revealing to you, and that maybe you'll take my word and try a new artist. Starting next week, I'll individually discuss the top albums, reviewing them and explaining myself a bit on why I chose them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

End Results and Other Things

For those of you who follow and read this at the Blogger site, I have a question to pose. Does the new header to the blog look okay? Should I change the font color? I kind of like it, where it looks like the words are blending with the background, but I don't know for certain. For this, I would like your input.

Any of you that read yesterday's post know that I attempted an experiment last night. The Great Cheesecake Experiment, I'm happy to say, was a success. The journey was more time consuming than I had anticipated, taking around three hours from Start Time to Oven Removal Time. This means that the cheesecake came out of the oven around 8:20pm, and then it had to cool to room temperature, so another hour-and-a-half. Then it needed to be cooled in the fridge, so I didn't even get to eat any cheesecake last night. I did, however, lick the spoons, and I knew my cheesecake would be tasty.

This morning for breakfast I cut me a slice. The knife slid into something of a density that I was expecting, so that was my first sign that I succeeded. Pulling out the piece, everything looked rich and perfect. Really, I'm not bragging, but it was probably the most beautiful cheesecake I've ever seen, and perhaps one of the best tasting ones, too, and I've had many pieces of cheesecake in my life. Perhaps there was something about having made one myself that made me like it so much.

If you like cheesecake, you have a springform pan, and you can follow directions, you should definitely make one. (The recipe can be found in yesterday's post as a link. I followed the directions exactly, with the addition of wax paper on the bottom of the springform pan.) It's a dark chocolate cheesecake, rich and full, strong and sweet in flavor, smooth and gentle to the tongue. My patience of waiting until today to have a piece paid off, and I was rewarded with an explosion of flavor beyond my expectation. I was stunned to have made such a succulent desert.

So, without further ado, I present to you some pictures, created as a slideshow. Sorry for the poor quality of the photos. I couldn't find the camera, so I had to snap pictures using the video camera, which definitely doesn't have as good quality at picture taking. (If this slideshow doesn't work on Facebook, click here for a direct link to the album.)

Since I don't intend eating an entire cheesecake, I brought more than half of it in to work today. I guess it shall be weighed and judged.

Now, for another paragraph of character rambling, from Before They Are Hanged. Again, skip the paragraph if you've not read the book.

Jezal: Jezal has been an interesting character from the get-go. Starting out as a pompous noble son, there was little to like in him. Now, after going through all he has, there are traits that I really like seeing in the young lad. I think Jezal will return to try and woo Ardee, and I think that she'll admire Jezal and want him, too. I think that there is a possibility of Jezal becoming a leader, possibly even a seat on the Closed Council (or the King of the Union?), once he returns. This mostly stems from all the talks Bayaz gives on the importance of leadership thinking. Maybe the Magus was training Jezal for something important.

Well, friends, I hope you enjoyed looking at that cake. I assure you, it tastes much better than it looks, though it doesn't look too shabby, if I say so myself. Also, for those of you that don't read Dave's blog, you should go there and watch the video he's posted in his latest entry. Suffice it to say that you'll laugh very, very hard.

Song Lyric: "Broke into the old apartment. This is where we used to live."--Barenaked Ladies, The Old Apartment

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Great Cheesecake Experiment

It's Wednesday, and that means that Keisha's going to be at UofL until tomorrow night, leaving me alone with my long list of things to accomplish. Tonight, I've decided to watch some more Avatar and try my hand at baking a cheesecake.

I consider myself competent at cooking, though I have to admit that my wife is far superior to my feeble skills. However, I got it in my head that I wanted to make a cheesecake, so I looked for a recipe and found the perfect one: the Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Layered Cheesecake. I'm making it all from scratch, so it should be an eventful night for me and Stella.

Chocolate is perhaps one of Man's greatest inventions, especially dark chocolate. Sure, milk chocolate is great when mixed with nuts or peanut butter or something, but given the choice, dark chocolate is better in every way. The soothing-sweet-and-bitter creaminess of the dark is pure ecstasy to the tongue and addicting to the psyche.

I should acknowledge the significance of the day. Nine-nine-oh nine. It's been a year, a month, and a day since the last time something like this happened, but Nines are so much cooler than Eights. Today the entire remastered Beatles catalog is released, giving fans a chance to hear the albums how they were meant to be heard. Unfortunately, these cds are rather pricey, so I'll probably pass on them. Rock Band: The Beatles also comes out today, but I don't want to shell out money for Rock Band (I've grown rather tired of Guitar Hero as it is), so I'll pass. 9 comes out today, but I think I'll wait until the weekend and take Keisha to see it with me.

I'm currently trying to figure out the distance to use for my overland flow calculations. I understand the channel length parameter, but the overland flow is rather ambiguous here.

Now for a character discussion point from Before They Are Hanged. (This should be SPOILER-free, but the discourse in itself could be revealing, thus actually making it a SPOILER. If you've not read BTAH, I'd skip it.)

Quai: At first, I thought Quai was like the weak side-kick character, frail and untried. However, after many different descriptions of him throughout the journey in BTAH, I feel that there is something more to him. He looks with beady and mistrusting eyes, and is often silent and reclusive. I suspect he has doubts about his master and he wonders how much of what Bayaz is telling him is true. It will be exciting to read The Last Argument of Kings and see how he fares.

In case you're interested and unaware, you can sign up for an Amazon mailing list where they mail you their current music promotions, often titled 50 MP3 Albums for $5 Each. If you're okay with MP3s, then I recommend you check it out. The previous link will take you to the current offerings.

Wish me luck on the Great Cheesecake Experiment. I may have to take a picture and show it off, if I find it satisfactory. Remember, the US Open is on, and professional tennis is amazing.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Long Holiday Weekend Disc Golf Travelling Porkchop Consuming Crossword Working Movie Watching Swine-Flu Flirting Show

What a weekend. What a weekend. As the title may suggest, my weekend was filled and completed with BBQs, a trip to the movies, disc golf, an excellent movie on the couch with my wife, two sick cousins and a sick brother-in-law (all around the same age: 7-10), goodbyes, a short-story, and a nearly completed LA Times Sunday crossword puzzle. If the weekend bag were to be any fuller, I probably would've strained my back trying to carry it all.

Saturday I spent most of the day indoors, cleaning up around the house, watching Avatar: The Last Air Bender season one. Keisha had boat loads of homework to do, and that's just after being in class for the second week. I called various family members to see if they'd like to come over to our house for some BBQ, but everyone was sick, sore, and/or tired. So I grilled some porkchops, made some scalloped potatoes, and boiled some corn-on-the-cob. To end the day we watched Little Miss Sunshine, one of my favorite films, as Keisha had never seen it. All in all, a great day with Keisha and Stella.

Sunday we went to Sunday School and church, where the pastor (who's name is James Dean) asked for a volunteer from the congregation. Then he proceeded to open a box of Hostess Ding Dongs. He unwrapped two, and asked the volunteer to unwrap two. Then they had a Ding Dong eating contest in front of everybody, and we all laughed and wondered what the heck was going on. After it was over he held up a mirror for them to inspect themselves, cleaning their faces, etc. Sermon resuming, he talked about a "man looking in the mirror and immediately forgetting what he looks like" (see James 1). A bit unorthodox, but fun and useful. After church we went home to see our family, especially my brother and sister-in-law and their newborn baby Ian. Stopped by the homestead and picked up a few things, then to see the baby, then off to the In-laws, whereupon a BBQ grill was fired up and hamburgers and chicken were cooking. Next stop was to mamaw's to pick up our puppy and head back home. It was a long day, but good seeing nearly everybody.

Monday, Labor Day, we were going to go to some yard sales, but it was stormy in the early hours, so we slept in a bit. My friend that's moving to Chattanooga came over and we went and played disc golf around lunch. Afterwards we went and watched Extract (a so-so movie, that's funny but stupid and probably not worth the $6 matinee ticket, but probably $4) and then back home, where Keisha was making supper. Then I get a call that one of my first cousins, who I did not get to see when we were home, was being treated for swine flu, although she tested negative she was showing all the signs. After supper William left and me and Keisha watched State of Play (a great movie that I'll possibly review for my next post) and went to bed.

Back to work today, and for some reason I'm pretty tired. One cup of coffee, one Golden Delicious, and one Mountain Dew Code Red later and I'm here, typing away, yawning, staring at my workstation and thinking about the next step for the project I'm working on.

The ipod journey is nearing 96% on albums completed, so brace yourself for an onslaught of music posts coming up in the next week or so. I may be able to reveal the Top Ten on Friday, let them sink in over the weekend, and expound on everything next week.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning (A Review)

Sunshine Cleaning stars Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, and Alan Arkin. The movie is, on the surface, about two sisters that start a crime scene clean-up business titled Sunshine Cleaning. Rose (Adams) is a single mom, struggling to come to grips with being a has-been and not marrying the love of her life. Norah (Blunt), the younger sibling, lives at home, stays out late partying, and makes a very small impact on society.

Both sisters are in need of money, and, through a series of pulling strings, they start up the crime scene clean-up job. While they work and travel, Rose leaves her son in care of his grandfather, Joe (Arkin).

There are many themes operating throughout Sunshine Cleaning, with family being at the top. How much responsibility does an older sibling have in raising a younger sibling, especially in a single parent home? This question runs along with the movie, and the viewer can feel the love Rose has for Norah and the responsibility she feels for her.

One thing I enjoyed about Sunshine Cleaning is the realistic setting of the movie. I can easily picture this tragi-comic movie taking place down the road, happening to a family or a friend. Realism is often sobering, and should induce social-introspection, and such is the case of this film.

Another plus for the movie is the superb acting of Adams, Blunt, and Arkin. The trio performs brilliantly. You can laugh with them, sympathize for them, and probably cry, too, if you're into that sort of thing. The cast was great, even the minor roles.

Overall, I can recommend watching Sunshine Cleaning. It's a heart-warming tale about family, relationships, and perseverance, filled with humor and love, even when dealing with a bloody crime-scene. The movie is MPAA Rated R for language, disturbing images, some sexuality, and drug use, so I wouldn't recommend it for the wee folk. However, I didn't feel that any of the aforementioned was overly used and abused.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The First Law: Before They Are Hanged

Before They Are Hanged is the second book in The First Law trilogy. Picking up on the heels of The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged is a fast-paced adventure taking place all across the Circle of the World. The book is split into three different factions: Bayaz, Logen, Ferro, Jezal, Longfoot, and Quai are journeying to the Edge of the World to obtain a dangerous relic; Gokta is dispatched south to investigate the disappearance of a Superior in a city filled with folks of questionable loyalties; West is deployed to the North, to fight and engage with Bethod's men; and Dogman, Threetrees, Grim, Dow, and Tul, the North's most bloody men (save, maybe, Ninefingers), are looking for ways to upset Bethod.

Yes, there are a lot of characters, but Abercrombie writes in such a way that you can feel each one's personality leaping off the page. You can feel West's regrets, his confusion. You can understand the animosity behind Ferro, the cock-sure noble attitude inside Jezal, and the compassionate ruthlessness that belongs to Logen.

Other than the breathtaking action scenes, the permeating mystery hanging on every page, and the magnitude of the quest, one of the best parts about Before They Are Hanged is the character development. As the rag-tag group with Bayaz makes their way Westward, Logen sets it in his mind to get everyone on the same side, namely instilling respect in Jezal and trust in Ferro. This process was immensely enjoyable and satisfying.

Like with The Blade Itself, by the end of the book I was left scratching my head, much like Glokta. The answers we get from Before They Are Hanged only lead to more questions. I have no idea where The Last Argument of Kings will take me. I feel like there are loose ends, like there are wrongs that need to be righted, like there is truth that needs to be revealed, but I don't have the slightest idea of how it's going to happen. That's part of the fun of this series. Abercrombie can throw a wrench in his characters, having them do something completely unexpected, and leaving the reader scratching his head from not seeing it coming.

Before They Are Hanged is filled with battles, bloodshed, treachery, and magic, with more than enough mystery to keep you reading well into the night. Hopefully with the end of the series more will be revealed and loyalties will be shown.

I can highly recommend this series if you want to read something with realistic characters that have realistic expectations, set in a world where there is more than a hint of supernatural activity and intrigue. Of course you wouldn't want to start with this book, as it is Book Two. Overall, Before They Are Hanged was a great and fun read, leaving me eager to see where things are headed and how it's all going to end with the characters that I've grown quite fond of.

And now, two of my favorite quotes from the book. (Don't worry, they're not revealing.)

"What? You got a crowd of friends back in the Badlands, all asking after you? Where did Ferro get to? The laughs all dried up since she went away."--Logen, to Ferro

"No one enjoys an elbow in the face while they sleep."

There will probably be a follow up post on this book, where I muse a bit on some of the characters. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A New Story, A New Song, A Bad Post

As many of you are aware, I have been working on a new story, which is currently and tentatively titled 21 Deaths and Grim, A Portrait of Life. I'm not sure how much I like the working title, but that's where I'm at now. The story is really many different brief tales, all interwoven and connected with the protagonist, Grim. Grim, essentially, is a deity that we know as Death. I'm writing Grim's part as journal entries (or at least that's what it is now) for what he's done through the day, and interjecting prose on the Task itself.

Now let me take a minute and say yuck. It seems so much easier to write a synopsis or blurb about someone else's work. Possibly because I'm not finished, but probably because it's my own self describing my own work. How do I sound objective and self-pleasing both without coming off as proud and cocky? Blah. Let's move on.

I'm writing because the story came to me and I enjoy writing (especially short story fiction). If you like it, then I am twice pleased. If you don't, then I still am pleased, as the process alone is fun and entertaining, even if I'm writing about death.

This sentence serves as a transition, conditional upon you convincing yourself that there is a nice transition here.

Some of you are aware that I am an engineer, and a few of you may know that I also am an artist. (Well, sort of.) I truly think that I'm a Jack of All Trades but Master of None. I can draw and paint, but not with amazing beauty like many others. I can play guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, harmonica, and the piano, but again not with the amazing talents like others. I can do some Differential Equations or solve a triple integral if you'd like me to, but I'm not a genius astrophysicist mad scientist. Heck, I can solve crossword puzzles from time to time, but I'm nothing compared to all those other crazy crossword solvers out there. I think my problem is that I enjoy doing so many things that I don't take time to hone in on one skill. Sure, I could devote all my time to painting, improving my artistic skill in that area, but I think I would miss the other things I do with my time.

I've been teaching myself to play the piano for the past year or so off-and-on, basically the same way I taught myself guitar and mandolin. Learn the chords, learn how to put your fingers there, throw in whatever you can and hope it sounds okay. So I'm going to now put this video here. You don't have to like it. It's okay. But doing this helps me get over some sort of mental-block. It's like throwing myself out there in hopes that I'll callous.

This was another post in a string of pointless and mundane posts, brought to you by logankstewart. I should have a book review for you tomorrow, if all goes according to plan. Take care folks.

Song Lyric: "Well there's a punk in the alley and he's looking for a fight, there's an Arab on the corner buying everything in sight, there's a mother in the ghetto with another mouth to feed, it seems that everyway we look today there's misery and greed. I guess you know the earth is gonna crash into the sun, but that's no reason why we shouldn't have a little fun, so if you think it's scary, if it's more than you can take, just blow out the candles and have a piece of cake. Happy Birthday!"--Weird Al Yankovic, Happy Birthday

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

1927: Steven Gray

He came out wailing, his barren gums bared for all the world to see. “Mr. and Mrs. Gray, you’ve got a beautiful son,” the doctor said. The woman’s face beamed bright enough to light the hospital room, and her husband’s face matched.

“His name is Steven,” said Mrs. Gray. The father nodded his approval.

In the corner of the room, where the shadows were darkest, two figures stood and watched the scene before them. One was tall, pale, robed in dark grays and blacks. He had a set of magnificent silver eyes. The other, a woman, was beautiful in every way, from her shining white hair to the complexion of her skin. Her eyes shone a brilliant blue, like the sky on a warm Autumn day. “It’s always so wonderful,” the woman said.

Hmm,” responded her dark companion.

“Come on, Grim, lighten up a little. You of all people should appreciate this.”

“I do appreciate it, Eose, but I have work to do here.”

The woman paled suddenly, all the light of her eyes going out and darkening. “You have work to do here? Which one is it?”

The man pointed at the elated mother. “I wanted to give her a moment with the child before I take her. I—”

“How dare you! Why didn’t you tell me?”

The baby’s crying was coming to an end, his mother’s soft voice comforting the child. “There, there, Steven. Don’t cry. Listen to mommy…”

“Don’t get mad at me, Eose.” His eyes were shining bright and silvery white, and he barely kept the full fury of his voice under control. “It is written and it must be followed. I cannot disobey.”

“You dare not disobey, brother.” She glared at him with a dark expression. He stared back. Finally, she broke the silence. “I’ve done my Task, you do yours. I’m leaving.” With that, she vanished into the shadows, leaving Grim alone with his Task in a room overflowing with joy. His shoulders sagged, as if he was pressed upon by a terrible burden.

He stepped out of the shadow and next to the woman on the bed. Her eyes looked into his silver eyes and realization dawned across her face. “No…please. Don’t.” The woman cried out suddenly in pain and the doctor rushed up to her. Her eyes were staring blankly off beside her bed. She began convulsing.

“What’s happening?” demanded Mr. Gray.

“I’m not sure. She didn’t appear to have any problems from the delivery.”

The baby began crying again, his eyes wide with fear. A nurse patted him gently.

“Don’t worry, child. I am not here for you,” Grim said reassuringly.

“Don’t. No. Please.”

“Get me the paddles now. She’s going into cardiac arrest.”

“Helen! Helen!”

Steven continued to cry as the doctor worked fruitlessly on the lifeless body of his mother.
This is a work of fiction tentatively titled 21 Deaths and Grim, A Portrait of Life. The first post is available here, and the follow up is here, if you're interested.

It's a Long John Silvers Day

I think the title says it all. Verily, fast food doesn't get much better than greasy batter-dipped fish and high-calorie fries. And, if the situation couldn't get any more perfect, the post man delivered a fistful of coupons yesterday, one page of which was devoted to Long John Silvers. That means that my lunch plans today, since Keisha is away and off to class, will involve me, Joe Abercrombie, and Captain Long John Silver.

I came across this really cool software yesterday, called TablEdit. It basically will transcribe tunes and put them in a tab version for guitar players. However, the software can also give tabs for many other instruments, like the mandolin (yay!) and dulcimer (yay!). The real beauty of it, though, is that I'm trying to learn some of these Old Time and Traditional songs, but I don't know how they go. TablEdit has a built in MIDI player that will play the songs, too. Pretty cool stuff, all in all.

My best friend (other than Keisha) has got a job in Chattanooga, TN, which is about 4-5 hours from my house. He's going to be moving down there this week, but he'll be back for Labor Day weekend. Hopefully we'll get to hang out for a bit before he goes off to work. It's kind of bittersweet, as the job will be great, but the convenience of hanging out will be not-so-great. But, we'll always have Gmail Chat and our phones.

I've been staying up late reading Before They Are Hanged. I haven't done that with a book in a while, but this series is just so captivating. Hopefully I'll have a review up tomorrow or Friday.

I think I'll cut this post short and post up the next part of the story I've been toying around with. Owls go HOOT and Eagles go KEER!
Song Lyric: "It's always the same but it just a shame, that's all."--Genesis, That's All

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

First September Morning

Happy September One, everybody. Today is the International Planetary Convetical on Sar-al-Hai, the National Internal Convention on Ahl-sai-Hay, and Labor Day's Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve here in His Majesty's Empire, the great and famous United States of America. Odd's are, you just thought it was another day, albeit the first one in September, unless you don't celebrate September One and instead live in your own universe where there is an August Thirty-Two. If that's the case, I'm not sure how to proceed.

Have you all seen the previews to the movie 9? I would embed it here, but YouTube prohibits it, telling me that I can't do that for some strange reason. I don't know why that is. To my understanding, YouTube and Google are thick-as-thieves and owned by the same folks, so everything should be intermixable. Well, I'll just have to link it again, here. The movie looks awesome. It's produced by Tim Burton, the mastermind behind so many awesome films that I won't even mention a single one of them. The film is insanely animated, and the CGI is mind blowing. The story is quite epic, too, involving some strange mommet named 9, looking to survive after the fall of humanity in a ruined and deadly earth. It encounters death at every turn and it's quest seems bleak, thus it is truly epic in scale. I recommend watching the trailer just to see how beautiful the film looks. 9 comes to theaters on 9/9/09.

Last night I joined the Yellowbanks Dulcimer Society. I'm probably 30-40 years younger than every other member, and to my knowledge, there are only 3 other males in the group of fifteen or so. But I had fun, even if it was a tad slow at first. Eventually we got to the music part, whereupon I was blown away by the speed and skill of the dulcimer players in the room. I can play my dulcimer very slowly, but I want to get better, so I joined with hopes of improving my skill and learning these old songs. (I also brought my guitar and played a little rhythm on a few songs, adding a bit of diversity to the dulcimer-filled room.)

By the end of the day I should be at around 90% on my ipod journey.

I got a new book in the mail yesterday. It's my second book that I'll be reviewing for Thomas Nelson Books, a Christian publishing company. This book is called Called To Worship, and it explores worship throughout the Bible. I'm looking forward to jumping on this as soon as I finish Before They Are Hanged. (Thanks to Shellie for sending me the link on how to become a Book Review Blogger for Thomas Nelson. You can check her blog out here. She churns out book reviews left and right.) If you're interested in getting free books and reviewing for Thomas Nelson Books, there's a HTML box at the bottom of my blog you can follow.

How about we end this post with a poem, celebrating the day?

It's September One today.
What else is there to say?
Should I investigate the way
that I can keep up in this fray?
How much should I really weigh
on September One's day?
The sky is blue, not grey,
heartburn and reflux is not OK
and I hope it's not here to stay.
So now I leave you, If I may,
And bid you all a pleasant, fond, and strange September One Day.