Day 117-- on 2006, reflections, et cetera

The twilight of 2006 will fall away in a few hours, flaking into the unseasonably warm night as 2007 stirs and takes its first breath. (Unseasonably warm in western PA; sorry Colorado.) Some--most, I'm guessing--treat the transition from 11:59 p.m. to 12 a.m. as a different sort of animal than the other 364 throughout the year, like the new year is a tangible thing, or that a glass partition seals each off from each other.

Just from poking around the Internet, 'blogs and message boards are filled with people eager to start again, brush aside the past and think about today (and celebrate in the process!). I'm not against this--I'm getting ready to visit some friends and have a small party, and I've been thinking about the past 12 months a good deal over the past few days. And 'starting fresh' is often a good thing, a way to put aside what needs to be put aside and strive for what needs to be strived.

But as 1 January wades into view, we make goals for the long term and are tripped up by the tugs and pulls of the day-to-day: New Year's resolutions are usually abandoned within a month; 2006 is elevated into a banner year and people 'can't wait for' 2008; and we fall back into the cycle whatever it is we shouldn't be doing. I say 'we' because I'm part of this as well.

I'm not articulating myself as well as I'd like, so I'll just recommend Os Guinness's Prophetic Untimeliness; Guinness lays it out quite well, how modern western culture worships the current and thinks to the future based on current trends. The past, Guinness suggests, is the best barometer for the climate of the future, though the focus should always, always be on the eternal.

So I'm going to try to reflect a good deal, think to the future a good deal based off of those reflections, and go from there. And instead of making a funky resolution ("make sure to eat Chicken in a Biskit weekly"), I'm going with this: I pray that I may be more faithful to God the father, that everything I do may be honoring to Christ's name and kingdom. This isn't a resolution for 2007; this is a desire for eternity.

A few postscripts:
-Read Evie's latest post; it's a great summation of a lot I've been thinking about, and her comments on writing have been running through my head all day.
-Favorite albums of the year! Offshore, by Early Day Miners, the Town and the City, by Los Lobos, Boys and Girls in America, by the Hold Steady, 'Rather Ripped', by Sonic Youth, and Mr. Beast, by Mogwai

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/31/2006 07:25:00 PM, ,

Day 116-- on hearing loss

I have it. I don't think about it much, but every so often the topic comes to mind. I first experienced hearing loss when I was in 6th grade. I had an ear infection that winter. Then I had another. And then another. And then another. Three of them were in the same ear. I went to the doctor a year later, after another ear infection--he said I had permanant damage to my ear drums. (When I was in middle school, I seemed to collect ear infections like a kid might collect bottle caps or Buffalo nickels his grandfather gave him.)

All of those ear infections gave me a slight hearing condition (at least, I think--it's a self-diagnosis that really fits, but I've never really felt like spending money to get it confirmed when that won't do anything to help it). This is a story for another day.

I was walking to the coffee shop with my earphones in, watching traffic flicker by to the hum of Bedhead, and I started thinking about this. I've also been around a lot of loud music over the years, be it at rock shows (or playing IN rock shows), long exposure to construction sites, and a few youthful trips to Civil War re-enactments and firing guns without hearing protection. I made sure the music wasn't too loud, but it dawned on me that it was close to being maximum volume and it wasn't too loud to my ears. That sort of scared me. Maybe this is why I've been listening to less and less music these days? I don't know.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/31/2006 12:40:00 AM, ,

Day 115-- The Good German, scattered thoughts

I have a tendency to read books before their film adaptations come out and never actually go see the movie; I might do that in this case, since I've read the film changes a ton of things I liked from the book and since it, like, is supposed to be crap too.

But the Good German surprised me in several ways: 1) it wasn't as good a novel as I was led to believe, 2) it was surprisingly realistic and worthwhile in a few key areas that are rarely, rarely done well in novels. The book takes place after the fall of Berlin in 1945. With the second World War finished in Europe, the ravaged city is split amongst the Allied countries. The Russians start to rub the rest of the victors the wrong way, and thousands of now poor and homeless German citizens watch their lives crumble amidst peace treaties and restructuring programs.

The protagonist is Jake Geismar, an American journalist who used to live in Berlin prior to Germany's invasion of Poland. He returns to the city with scores of other reporters and writers, his magazine assignment a nice excuse for his real motivation: to find the married German woman with whom he had an affair before the war.

Jake stumbles onto the murder of an American soldier that no one seems to want to investigate, which ends up complicating things. Not to mention the fact that his lover's husband--an infantile, cold mathematician--may still be alive, and the target of multiple secret service communities. Intrigue!

The book sets the scene very, very well. Kanon paints a ruined Berlin with delicate, fine details, adding believable emotions and intrigue in the pre-Cold War mix. The initial momentum is even maintained despite an uncomfortably graphic sex scene that feels more like a medical research essay than sensual sidestep. But the book falters when it keeps going, going, going, even when the plot should've wrapped up pages ago. And the mystery at the core becomes unnecessarily convoluted at the end.

But the good points are amazing: the dialogue (for the most) part is superb and sounds like it's coming from real people, not existing just to move the plot along; the details and minor characters are so well fleshed out that it's a joy seeing them appear, regardless of their moral fiber; and the moral quandaries and questions at the core of the novel are so complex and, well, real that it was hard to believe that this was fiction. The two main characters are in love, for instance, but there's an unvoiced opinion that they're both selfish, flawed people in many ways that can and probably will eventually ruin their relationship. Questions are also raised about moral responsibility, especially referencing the title: is knowing about evil and feeling helpless to stop it the same as committing evil yourself? This is definitely a book that can lead to tons of discussion. The complexities of the issues and themes really took me by surprise, in a good way.

Overall, it was very flawed, but I did enjoy reading the Good German. I'd like to check out some of Kanon's other stuff, since he's definitely gifted in writing deep WWII-era spy/thriller material. He may not actually be the next Graham Greene, as some of the promotional material seems to suggest, but he's still someone I want to check out again.


This beer is so bad that it's even worse.


My parents visited me today and brought me a wonderful gift (besides a big hug): a bag of romaine and lollo rosso lettuce. Eating a big bowl of lush, non-iceberg salad has been one of the best experiences of living on my own! (I'm a big salad fan, if you couldn't tell.)


Dutch Blitz is easily one of the most fun games ever. Come by the coffee shop sometime and join in a round or two (provided that I'm not working, of course--or if, OK, nevermind).


And speaking of board games, I really want to get these two. I never played many board games growing up, since my family never really gave much thought or time to it. I am a very board game-oriented person, though, so I've had this desire to play awesome board games welled up inside of me for over a decade. I'm ready to burst, people. We don't want that. Not all of us at least.


"Wherever you're from, one of the least attractive traits a person can have is disavowing where they come from."
-Craig Finn (singer/guitarist/songwriter, the Hold Steady)

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/30/2006 12:00:00 AM, ,

Day 114-- favorite albums of all time, part 2

Death Cab for Cutie-- Something About Airplanes

Let's get this straight. This is how I feel about Death Cab for Cutie--they're a good band overall, but their newer, popular stuff really pales in comparison to their earliest material, especially this album. I don't care what defense you come up with or how grouchy I sound; Something About Airplanes is a rolling juggernaught of musicality, and everything afterward by the band consecutively downgrades to Eagle Talon territory.

Something About Airplanes was spawned from the cassette tape frontman Ben Gibbard recorded on his own. He recruited three more musicians to form the first incarnation of the band. The album is definitely these things--indie rock (it was released as a joint effort by two small labels); lo-fi (the finished recording is very raw, very authentic); and it has some musical qualities the band shed over the course of their next few albums: shoegazer (shimmering dense guitars), dream pop (hypnotic melodic passages), and slowcore (meandering, slower tempos, minimalism).

I think Something About Airplanes *sounds* unlike any other CD I own. The two guitars chatter and bob and dip and tremble and sound like tin foil caught in the breeze. When they're distorted, it's the only sound you want stuck in your head--the single coil pick-ups garble the speaker tones into an indistinct haze that falls like snow. But I also love Nathan Good's drumming; I wish he would've stayed with the band for more than one album. He's very simple, but I take in his cymbal washes and snare/bass drum combos with relish. Ben Gibbard's lyrics are great too, not overly sentimental or cloyingly poetic like he's wont to do now; very skillfully navigating emotionally cracked terrain, dipping behind metaphor and wordplay when needed. The best track on the album is probably "Amputations," which slowly builds up from a clacky drum part, then layering the guitars, adding the spidery bass, and finally voice. And it's way catchy, to the point of it being creepy.

But it's a great album, every track. This is one of the few albums I can listen to over and over and not get bored, and closer "Line of Best Fit" is the perfect way to finish an album. I still can't understand why DCFC fans--mostly newer ones--ignore this album. Go figure.

There are three great MP3s on Epitonic's site for free.

"Champagne from a Paper Cup"

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/28/2006 09:52:00 PM, ,

Day 113-- miscellanea on shopping, etc.

Today after work, I went shopping. I generally enjoy shopping, an odd thing--at least according to many I've asked--for a heterosexual man.

I was excited to go shopping. Moving to Beaver Falls has not only put me within walking distance to my main workplace and church, but also within reasonable driving distance to some major shopping action. Let's chronicle it all, since I'm sure everyone wants to know about this. Comments will be interjected when needed.

STOP ONE-- The Book Tree in New Brighton. Purchases--several books for the coffee shop, including an older copy of a Graham Greene novel and "I Capture the Castle," a book I want to read someday (yesIamaheterosexual). I told the owner: "You look just like your dad!" His father owns the other Book Tree location in Center Twp. The son frowned at me. I shifted awkwardly. Awkwardly. Approx. time 3:25 p.m.

STOP TWO-- College Hill Pharmacy/Beaver Falls Coffee & Tea Co. Purchases--stamps. I like stamps. Approx time 3:40 p.m.

STOP THREE-- Borders Books and Music, Northway Mall. Purchases--"the Death of Adam" by Marilynne Robinson, "Crime & Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoevsky, "Forty Stories" by Anton Chekov, and "the English Patient" by Michael Ondaatje. This Borders just blows my mind. I found around nine books I wanted, but made sure to stay within my Borders Group discount/gift card limit. The man who wrung me up, a near-cyborg of a worker, looked at my books and said, "Hooooly, you got some literature." I mouthed a shy Garth half-grin. "I like to read." Approx. time 4:45 p.m.

STOP FOUR-- Half Price Books, McKnight Rd. Purchases-- "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes (new translation!), "All the Pretty Horses" by Cormac McCarthy, and "the Alienist" by Caleb Carr. Everything was 20% off this week at HPB, so I decided to hit the one close to the big Borders. I'd never been to this one. It was impressive. I saw an old friend from high school and his wife (who also decided to venture far from the bowels of Beaver County for 20% off books). I also decided that to work at HPB you need not own a razor (if you're a man...or, well, nevermind), or you need to be a burly or socially robotic woman. Approx. time 6:00 p.m.

INTERMISSION-- Traffic! McKnight Rd.! Blargh! I was surprisingly less stressed than usual. I think this was because I seriously stopped caring. I also learned the names of some of the routes and highways, because I was chanting them out to myself. Not having a radio doesn't mean you can't have fun.

STOP FIVE-- Ross Park Mall, McKnight Rd. Purchases-- longsleeved brown shirt (Banana Republic), blue sweaterish pullover (the GAB GAP). Ross Park Mall had lots of people shopping, none of them aware of the people walking behind them. I was making little steamroller noises in my head. I was so totally excited to go to the Ross Park Mall, and then I realized there wasn't much there that interested me. Especially since they took out the little indie music store a few years ago. But still, the pullover I found at the GAP was a steal...I mean, not literally. I also spent way too much time looking through Banana Republic for something awesome that wasn't also more than $60. It's my favorite clothing store, mind you, and I usually dive into their clearance rack with glee, but their "sale" was a crock of lies. A pool of mistruth! $90 SHIRTS NOW ONLY $80 AWESOME AMAZING WOW! I did find a few awesomeamazingwow shirts that were within gift card limit, but they were Men's Smalls--the Banana Republic equivalent to leaving your shirt in the dryer for a month. They did have a few really nice scarves (scarfs? scarfi?), but as Kailey once told me (well, this is a bad paraphrase) "you can get them cheaper elsewhere." Yeah, $50 for a scarf. Um no. Approx. time 6:30 p.m.

STOP SIX-- 3 Sons Dogs and Suds, Wexford. Purchases-- hot dog, 10 bottles of of microbrew/import beers. I stopped here mainly to A) get a killer hot dog B) see if they had a bottle of Hebrews I could buy for Russ. I got A in spades, didn't get B (though I got a beer for Brett, but he's cooler than Russ anyway. What?), but got C. What is C? Some nice beers to store for later. This place is cool! Approx. time 7:10 p.m.

STOP SEVEN-- Chick-fil-A, Cranberry Twp. Purchases-- two pieces of cheesecake, vanilla milk shake. Keep in mind that I'm lactose intolerant. Approx. time 7:40 p.m.

STOP EIGHT-- Beaver Falls Coffee & Tea Co. Brett, Russ and I in the same room for longer than 20 minutes should be illegal. Hmm. Let's make it so!

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/27/2006 10:48:00 PM, ,

Day 112-- favorite albums of all time, part 1

In a concentrated effort to avoid making an ass of myself for a few days more (incrimination! confidentiality! vulnerability!), I'm going to make a list of some of my favorite CDs of all time. What's more reliable than falling back on music things? I think this is a fun little juxtaposition to the standard "year end" lists that pop up. I'm not even sure I'll number these--I'll just toss in one or two for the next few days, build up a list of albums that I know that I can A) listen to repeatedly--in their entirety--without getting bored, B) I'd be sad if someone told me that I'd never get to listen to that album again.

Here's one:

Eels-- Electro-Shock Blues

Eels--one man, the band, whichever--tend to release albums filled with highs and lows, but one album--this one--was his/their masterpiece. Released after a string of deaths in Mark "E" Everett's family, it's a sad album. And that's an understatement. As much as I tend to get into sad periods, I don't think I'll ever be as sad as E on this album. But much of the brilliance comes from the joy and gallows humor that breaks through the bleak cracks. It's an addictive album musically, too. "My Descent Into Madness" steadies orchestra pop with trip-hop beats, and the Munsters creepiness of "Cancer for the Cure" is somewhere between kitstch pop and brilliant songwriting.

But there are a few songs which literally vault this album into the statosphere: "3 Speed" is very touching; I've been listening to this album for years and I still tear up over this track. The lyrics are almost 'forced defeatist,' filled with aching and heartrending questions and observations ("life is funny, but not 'ha-ha' funny"), and the music is a simple rhythm electric guitar blanketed with sampled strings. Two other songs really stick out: Electro-Shock Blues is punctuated with detours into alt. country territory, but "Climbing to the Moon" is the most twangy, the words a first-person account of a mental ward patient dreaming of getting to the roof and staring at the stars. There is an allstar guest musician list (T-Bone Burnett, Jon Brion, Grant Lee Phillips), and the lackadaisical, almost backpedalling feel is calming and warm. The last very noteworthy track is the closer, "P.S. You Rock My World." It's a great closer to an album mired in grief and gloom, a celebration of all of the blessings that persist even with the pain and brokenness. It's a very simple song, a beautiful use of less than five chords, and two lines always ring out in my head: "I was at a funeral the day I realized I wanted to spend my life with you;" and "...and I was thinkin' 'bout how everyone is dying, and maybe it's time to live." I don't understand E's pain, but it's great album because not only do all of the songs stick in your head (in that everything but the kitchen sink sorta way), but it makes me smile through the gloom at the end.

A good critical look at the album.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/26/2006 09:43:00 PM, ,

Day 111

In addition to the celebration of Christ Jesus' birth, Christmas has always had a set pattern to it. I always did things a certain way, had weird little habits (watching Home Alone 2 on Christmas eve, fall asleep to the last three songs from the second Manheim Steamroller Christmas album, etc.), always counted on the same things to happen.

This year was different. I was at my parents' home for a total of 24 hours, much of which I slept. I relaxed way more than I have in the past; there was very little Christmas music; barely any ballyhoo over presents; I acted more shy around people than I usually do.

Happy Christmas, all.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/26/2006 12:44:00 AM, ,

Day 110

Tonight, as in years past, my family celebrated Christmas Eve with a modified version of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. If you don't like clicking links or reading articles or being smart, I'll give you the short of it--it's an Italian tradition that commemorates the wait for midnight, marking the birth of the Christ child.

The seven types of fish normally used are anchovies, sardines, dried salt cod, eels, squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels, oysters, and clams. We normally eat the follow--shrimp, anchovies (with white dish ever), cod, a fish-stew with clam. We had oysters last year, and I almost did a return-to-sender with it...blah. We didn't repeat that one this year. We did have tilapia tonight instead of cod, and it tasted fantastic.

We have also done the traditional oplatki exchange in prior years, but since the number of Poles was greatly reduced this year (my brother directing the choir at church, my grandmother recouperating at home...leaving my mom and me, the half-breed) we didn't. Also surprisingly absent (I just noticed this) was the amount of Polish food absent from the dinner--did my dad pull a coup d'etat?

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/24/2006 08:30:00 PM, ,

Day 109

Is it really only...what, 14 hours 'til Christmas day? I did all of my shopping today, since it was the first time I had a chance. I didn't have a lot, mind you, but it still took me quite some time.

I was hoping to support both Book Tree locations in Beaver County (Center Twp., New Brighton), but both were closed. Drat. I was initially frustrated, but then thought, "Wait, I'm happy that BFC&TCo. is closed today, so...why should I be sad that another store chose to do the same?" In fact, more power to the Book Tree for giving their employees more time to spend with their families. If only the retail world--one filled with extended hours and mega-super-holiday sales--did this. I guess making a few extra (or few extra hundred thousand) bucks has priority, as to pandering to people that for one reason or another wait until the last minute. Like me.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/23/2006 10:04:00 PM, ,

Day 108-- on being underwhelmed

The title of the final Harry Potter book was announced yesterday:

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"

That's...uh, not was I was expecting. That's on par with "Harry Potter and the Damp Pants" or "Harry Potter and the Paper Cut" or "Harry Potter and the Malfunctioning Stovetop."

Or going with "Star Wars: the Empire Takes a Lunch Break" or "Home Alone 2: Lost in Cul de Sac" or "the Fellowship of the Childhood Friends" or "Rocky VI: Rocky Balboa" "Rocky VI: Retirement" or "Terminator: the Naptime of the Machines" or "Alien: Resuscitation."

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/22/2006 03:07:00 PM, ,

Day 107

Lord God of all creation, help me.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/22/2006 01:00:00 AM, ,

Day 106

How do you like your Christmas tree decorated (Russ, you're exempt from this question)? What type of lights, ornaments, live tree/fake tree, and so on? That might seem like a random question, but I think it's an interesting one. Says a lot about a person.

My choice: plain tree (live if possible--love the evergreen smell), white lights, no ornaments--though a few with meaning are excellent. How about you?

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/20/2006 10:03:00 PM, ,

Day 105

Something I've been thinking about: there are a lot of bands that I think I like but probably wouldn't like if I hadn't been following them since early in their careers. Best example is Death Cab for Cutie. I remember hearing a few songs via Napster in 2000, and really liking them. So I bought their first two LPs (all that had been released at the time) and really got into them.

And the band has changed a fair amount in the past six, almost seven years. Compare their debut Something About Airplanes with their latest (Plans), you'd notice some similarities but probably think they were two totally different bands. I think if I hadn't fallen in love with the dreamy, lo-fi pop of Something... and only discovered the band now, I'd hate them. OK, not hate them, but find them occasionally interesting, slickly overproduced, and catering toward people in the 19 to 21 demographic. Maybe that's why I sound like a cranky old man and say, "back before you heard of these guys..."

The same goes for some other bands: Built to Spill, Weezer (Weezer is probably the best example), Wilco, Modest Mouse, and on and on. I guess the last two examples are a little different because their latest releases are as good or even better than their earlier stuff, but their back catalog holds a place in my heart that newer fans might not understand.

Maybe that's why I can't get the Decemberists. I like them in theory (literate, eclectic pop, et cetera), but when I hear their new album, I'm like eeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. So I'm going to forget that I heard the Crane Wife (their newest), and start from the beginning. Maybe it'll work.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/19/2006 07:22:00 PM, ,

Day 104-- my third place

I have a third place, a place away from home and work to relax, feel good and kick back. Oddly, it's the same place as my second place. My work place. Beaver Falls Coffee and Tea Company. I've worked there every morning since we've opened, and man--I want to hang out there at night. I went there Saturday night for a bit and hung out with Russ and Brett. It was awesome. A few nights prior, I hung out with Buddy, Bethany and Evie. It was amazing, easily one of the most fun nights I had ever had in my life.

I don't want to be "that guy" but man--I just want to hang out at my coffee shop when I'm not working, shoot the fat with the gang and playfully talk to everyone I know. It's like "Cheers," minus chubby mailmen and Danson's toupee.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/19/2006 12:07:00 AM, ,

Day 103

Christmas is nearly a week away. I have yet to finish (start) any gift-buying, decoration, and so on. Times flies, I hear, and I'm recalling some things that happened this past summer with clarity. This is an improvement, considering my fuzzy memory.

Russ and Bethany asked me to be part of their coffee shop venture on the ride back from the Reformed Presbyterian international conference at Calvin College. That was in--what--the summer of 2004? It's been two and half years since then. While I always maintained faith in their vision, I sometimes questioned my involvement. Now it's here. We've been open for over a week. It is still not really hitting me.

I'm also looking forward to playing house over the next few weeks. Fred, one of the two guys I live with, went home with his family today. Barney, the other guy (one of Fred's older brothers) is leaving on Wednesday. I'll be by myself for some time, and I'm going to have fun finding drapes/blinds for some of the windows, picture frames, cleaning things, straightening the whole house. And so on. Plus, I'm going to cook. A lot. At least in theory I am.

So, I'm even think about New Year's Eve. At this point, I'm mostly likely going to be hanging out by myself, the glow of the Christmas tree creeping up the wall and me reading or listening to soft music. And in all honestly, this sounds like a lot of fun to me.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/17/2006 08:45:00 PM, ,

Day 102-- a few thoughts

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/16/2006 10:49:00 PM, ,

Day 101-- on the joys of socializing

Tonight was great. Last night wasn't, but I shan't dwell on that. My great friend Buddy is visiting (he's in the Army and heading over to Iraq after the holidays), I got to hang out at my work place, talking to my wonderful friend Evie, and just have a good time with some friends I wish I saw more often (Nick, Jess and Amanda).

After a string of non-stop work (it's been close to 60 hours this week, and I have yet to work tomorrow), little sleep and almost no eating (lost 10 lbs.!), this was one of the best things that could happen to me. It was fantastic! I'm blessed with some great friends.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/15/2006 11:51:00 PM, ,

Day 100

Into the three digits. Go me.

(Is this a filler post? Yes. I'm in a rare very, very bad mood, so don't ask questions.)

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/14/2006 11:57:00 PM, ,

Day 99-- favorite songs, part 2

Here's the wrap-up of my top ten favorite songs.

5. "Try," Michael Penn. This just came out of the blue. I had almost forgotten how much I love this song! A perfect slab of power pop. Penn's voice is great, the hint of resignation in the lyrics is haunting, and P.T. Anderson's video does nothing to hinder the track (Penn and Anderson are friends, and the musician not only acted in Boogie Nights, but scored Hard Eight). And yes, that is Phillip Seymour Hoffman running around. This is my song of choice for my headphones when running.
4. "The Break," Urge Overkill. Christmas 1995. I got Urge Overkill's swan song Exit the Dragon and Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend, along with the Star Wars computer game Dark Forces. I played that game a lot and listened to those CDs a lot too. "The Break" failed as a single, and the band eventually deep-sixed. But the track is smart, unconventional, and heavily in debt to '70s AM radio. It's catchy in that weird way that doesn't really hit you until weeks later, when you find yourself humming it as you pump gas or layer butter on a bagel. Blackie O's jazzy, minimalistic drumming compliments the dead spaces between the crackling, lurking guitars and King Roeser's howl. I'll take these guys over Jet or any other "real rock" bands any day of the week.
3. "September Gurls," Big Star. The perfect pop rock song. Big Star were the most important cult band of all time. "September Gurls" is one of their best songs. It's always stuck with me because Alex Chilton sounds so weary as he sings, tidal waves of romanticism lapping toward the shore. And the tinny, almost hollow sound of the rhythm guitar is hypnotic, not the mention the trebley pop of the bass (listen closely and you can hear the strings rattling off the pick guard). "December boys got it bad." I love Big Star. Long live Big Star.
2. "Girlfriend," Matthew Sweet. If you listen the lyrics, you'll get how dark they are. I won't talk this song up. Just listen to the breakdown at the end.
1. "Car," Built to Spill. I'm thankful that I never had a hard time finding the answers to big questions. But for three minutes I've can understand the teens that did, the ones that didn't understand love or God or themselves, and I could do so with one of the most beautiful songs written.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/13/2006 09:42:00 PM, ,

Day 98-- favorite songs, part 1

I'm splitting it up into two parts because I'm tired! Sorry! I need to get to bed ASAP, so I'll be quick.

I'm listing five of my top ten favorite tunes. I encourage you to do the same. I'll post links to them when/where I can.

These are in no order, mind you, but I am counting down to give it some goofy dramatic effect:

10. "God Only Knows," the Beach Boys. Possibly the best pop song written? Some say it is, regardless, the best song off of one of the best albums of all time is a winner regardless. Carl Wilson's voice, the flugelhorn, the Phil Spector-aping's all untouchable. This sends shivers up my spine.
9. "And Your Bird Can Sing," the Beatles. John said this was a waste of a song. I think it's the band's most infectious rocker, and a blueprint for what most of my favorite bands would do in 20 or 30 years. The harmonized guitar lines are unbelievably cool. Even if you hate the Beatles (and I pity you if you do), you have to acknowledge those harmony vocals. (the video linked is pretty silly, but the song is still there).
8. "Stars," Hum. I can credit this song as one of the ones that got me into underground rock. I heard it once on the radio and it blew my face off. I still can't find my face. The cryptic chemistry-geek-in-love lyrics, the hyperdynamic verse/chorus dynamics, the overlapping layered guitars. Foooooosh. Hum took the best elements of shoegazer, math rock and space rock and splashed it together. Here's a live version from MTV in the mid-'90s. Note the (not) cool shorts. They also got away with blatantly making fun of Howard Stern to his face, which is a big thumbs up in their direction.
7. "Blue," the Jayhawks. Probably the song I sing along to the most. My dream is to cover this in BFC&TCo. with Charlie some day. The dual lead vocals and soft country rock instrumentation just makes my heart pound. I love it so much. The best part (and it's easily one of the greatest moments in music of the past 30 years) is the split vocal part that starts at 2:11. Hold me, someone, hold me.
6. "Sick of Myself," Matthew Sweet. Sweet's lyrics sometimes drive me nuts now, but they made a lot of sense to a self-loathing seventh grader. But maybe it's all tongue-in-cheek? That's my guess. Loud power pop anthems like this are my favorite type of music: huge slabs of chunky electric guitars during the chorus (and it's a HUGE chorus), the harmonized Sweets, ear-flaying guitar solos....solos! Richard Lloyd's guitar freakout is great, but the harmonics he peels over the final chorus at 2:24 (it's so slight and fast you might miss it) is the best moment of the song. And you can't forget the fake-outs! I've listened to this song easily--easily--400 times or more, and it still never gets old.

Most to come tomorrow!

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/12/2006 11:33:00 PM, ,

Day 97-- music update

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/11/2006 08:56:00 PM, ,

Day 96--on ailments, and me complaining about them

I have a few. My back hurts--I have minor scoliosis, and that plus working on my feet constantly for the past four years equals a lot of pain. It hurts 24/7. It hurts no matter how many painkillers I take. Have you ever done a ton of physical work and strained your back so that you go "Owwwww" when you lie down? I feel that way every night of every week of every month.

It's especially hurting. I also almost blacked out in church tonight, and I'm not sure why, so paint me officially worried. I'm feeling better now, but I'm just too hesitant to see a doctor. I'm scared of doctors, and there really isn't any close that take the insurance I'm under (hey, it's inexpensive!). What to do, what to do--some day, I will go visit my friend and local master chiropractor Rick Mason. At least that'll help the back a bit.

On a lighter note, I got to pet a doggie today!

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/10/2006 09:42:00 PM, ,

Day 95-- meaningful songs

I think I've talked about something similar in the past, but not this exactly: what are the songs that mean a lot to you? They can be for personal reasons, lyrical content, a musical hook that sticks with you for decades and never leaves. Here are a few of mine:

-"Twin Falls/Some" by Built to Spill. I could've picked another BTS song, but these tandem songs won out. I'm a fan of the two tracks on the studio album There's Nothing Wrong With Love. But in a live setting, the band always segues from one into the other, and's chilling. "Twin Falls" is fragile piece, awash in nostalgia and wistful thinking about a nearly forgotten childhood sweetheart. The lines are intertwined snapshots of games of 7-Up, playing underneath parachutes, and escaping small towns. The last part always gets me--"Last I heard she had twins, or maybe it was three. 'Though I've never seen, except for in my dreams" (the last line sentimental twist over the studio version's cynical "and that don't bother me"). And then the band launches into a screeching, instrumental version of "Some" with only a breath to seperate them. I sometimes think about the girls I liked growing up, wondering where they are, what they're doing. And I always have this song playing in the back of my mind when it happens.

-"I Am the Cosmos" by Chris Bell. The former Big Star founder recorded this single after he left the band, and died not too long after in an automobile accident. Someone famous (and I can't find the reference) called "I am the Cosmos" the most emotional pop song ever written. Bell was clinically depressed; I'm not, but the song always makes me tear up and relate in a few ways. The romantic longing and doubt and low self-esteem is wrong-headed without a doubt ("Every night I tell myself 'I am the cosmos, I am the wind,' but that don't get you back again"), but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. What makes it even more moving is that Bell's lyrics (which are undoubtedly autobiographical) make it seem like the narrator knows he's fooling himself and having even a hard time coming to grips with that. But hey, it's a messy, deceptively catchy song, and is one of those pop rock Holy Grails that record collecting nerds whisper about when everyone elses' backs are turned.

Yeah, I guess I picked two downers. Do you have any songs that fit this bill? What are they and why?

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/09/2006 11:55:00 PM, ,

Day 94-- Lowest Part is Free

I kind of just want to watch this video over and over. If you aren't up for hearing a few cuss words, don't watch it. Eric Bachmann is a tall, tall man.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/08/2006 08:04:00 PM, ,

Day 93-- on the first snow

It snowed this morning. It was beautiful, lazily walking down to the ground. The neon light from our "OPEN" sign cut through white-plumped darkness like a lighthouse. But our "soft" opening is another story, one I won't tell.

I will say, however, that with the first snow comes some other things. Like folks driving overly cautious (not in a "being safe" way, but in a "I'm going so slow that the speedometer isn't registering this" kind of way). Like an empty mall (save for the pack of unaffliated, creepy, rail-thin white guys that had nasty stubble, tucked-in black tees, tons of gaudy jewelry and loping was like a Jerry Springer convention). Like a heightened rumor mill ("I heard there was a 5 car accident on 60," "I hear 30 cars wrecked on the expressway," "Did you hear? Like, 79 cars blew up on the way to Chippewa").

But there is snow, and for that I'm am happy!

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/07/2006 11:10:00 PM, ,

Day 92

How is that an endless barrage of good things and tidings be derailed so easily?

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/06/2006 11:09:00 PM, ,

Day 91

"In the cross, Jesus acts to accomplish his purposes for all of history--to save the creation. Too often we reduce the significance of the cross to the fact that 'Jesus died for me.' Believers do share in the accomplishments of his death, and so we can say this with joy and confidence. Yet God's purposes move beyond the salvation of individuals. In the death of Jesus, God acts to accomplish the salvation of the entire creation: Jesus dies for the world."

-The Drama of Scripture (pg. 164), Craig Bartholomew & Michael Goheen

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/05/2006 11:54:00 PM, ,

Day 90-- on cold weather

Whoa, yes, I'm late because I forgot about the 'blog. Whoops!

On topic--I love cold weather. Do you love cold weather? If so, why? If not, why? For the record, I love cold weather in an appreciatory, child-like kinda way. Not in a warped way. I do get cold often. But I don't mind it. Why is hot weather considered preferable to cold? I can't figure this out.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/05/2006 12:36:00 AM, ,

Day 89

I just got my computer working. The new phone I got isn't working. The new house is totally working. My ability to adjust to new dust atmospheres isn't working. My new housemates are totally working. My ability to find inexpensive picture frames/curtains isn't working. The coffee shop open house totally worked. Staying awake in church didn't work (thanks sinus medication!). Walking to and fro is totally working.

Beaver Falls is totally working.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/03/2006 11:32:00 PM, ,

Day 88-- robots

Since today (Sat.) is going to be the greatest day I've ever known a long day, I'm posting really early. And it's a cop-out post of sorts--I'm just going to link to something I didn't write.

But it's not just any something--no, it's a superb rant from the esteemed James Catullo. And it's on robots. This is easily one of my favorite things written. Ever.

Hope you enjoy it. If you don't, well...there will be repercussions.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/02/2006 12:36:00 AM, ,

Day 87-- on DVD overlaps / a conversation / a poem

Something I always laughed about: in college, you could go to various students' rooms and--if they owned DVDs--you were bound to find at least three of the following:
-Dumb and Dumber
-the Incredibles
-any of the Lord of the Rings films
-Top Gun
-Remember the Titans
-Miss Congeniality
-Knight's Tale
-Ever After
-Donnie Darko (if they're edgy students...edgy!)
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (if they're hipster students)
-the Matrix
-something with either Chris Farley or Adam Sandler (except for Punch-Drunk Love)

What you have is basically 75% of Geneva's campus owning the same DVD collection. Awesome. Most of them are in Full-Frame, too. This is most certainly one of my exaggerations, but there isn't just a kernel of truth--it's more like a lodestone.

Why is this?


At the calendar kiosk:

"Day by Day Calendar, this is Jason."
"Is this the man of the house?"
"I'm selling calendars."
"Oh, sorry."


A poem, written by me at the calendar kiosk

"Ham (a love story)"
by Jason Panella


posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 12/01/2006 11:09:00 PM, ,