Day 298-- favorite songs, the list

Now, this--this is hard. A friend and I challenged each other last night to make mix CDs for each other with our five favorite songs. I expanded my end to fill up the mix with as many songs fit.

This is hard for me. I tried the same thing three years ago and--I realize in hindsight--that it turned into a timeline of my musical growth more than anything else. (That mix had lots of favorites, sure, but it some ways.)

Now I get to try again. I need to seriously consider what it takes to be a favorite. Here's my list of criteria:

-I have to love it a lot.

Not a bad list. I think my favorite songs are all songs that just thinking about them makes me want to walk, run, drive to my CDs and find it and listen to it.

Let's see if I can build a list so far.

In no order:

-Matthew Sweet, "Sick of Myself"
-Matthew Sweet, "Girlfriend"
-Archers of Loaf, "Harnessed in Slums"
-Crooked Fingers, "Call to Love"
-Teenage Fanclub, "Alcoholiday"
-Hum, "Stars"
-Built to Spill, "Car"
-Pixies, "Letter to Memphis"
-Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, "Born to Run"
-Neil Young, "Like a Hurricane"
-the Bad Plus, "Lost of Love"
-John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things"
-the Beatles, "And Your Bird Can Sing"
-Big Star, "September Gurls"

There are a few '60s pop tunes that I know I must put on here, but I have to think long and hard about which ones. One of the biggest difficulties is confusing current favorites with songs that will last a long long time.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/30/2007 10:35:00 AM, ,

Day 297-- Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0 in Europe) is the second-best Die Hard movie. Though it may sound like a back-handed compliment, it isn't; I consider the original Die Hard the Action Movie By Which All Others Are Judged. The second movie in the franchise was a frustrating failure, and the third was a confused spectacle that teetered between entertaining and wretched.

Based off of an article from Wired magazine called "A Farewell to Arms," Live Free or Die Hard follows detective an older John McClane (Bruce Willis) as he gets stuck trying to foil a terrorist plot disrupt all telecommunication and power in the United States. He's called to pick up a 20-something techno-wiz Matt Farrell (Justin Long, who was amazing in the TV show "Ed" and this) for questioning. After saving the young man's life during a tense apartment shoot-out with some of the terrorist's henchmen, McClane ends up being 'that guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.'

The film is a rollercoaster from this point on, stringing white-knuckle sequences together with brief scenes that expand the plot. And you know what? It's wildly entertaining. There are a few overboard set pieces (the tractor trailer vs. Harriet jet bit was just ridiculous), but like in the original Die Hard, McClane is just an everyman who succeeds only because of his wit (and the fact that he's willing to get hurt to get the job done). The main theme is directed at McClane as an insult by the main villain: "you're a Timex in a digital world." McClane notices all of the high-tech gobbly-gok around him, but always opts for the old fashion route. And it works.

Aside from some of the forced dialogue and the previously-mentioned over-the-top action bits, I was disappointed by the rating: it's a PG-13 movie. This is sketchy--it's an R movie if I've ever seen one, and I think the MPAA pulled a fast one the studio muffled a few vulgarities. The rating doesn't bother me, necessarily; I'm just frustrated with the film studio's choice to try to tweak the rating like that to reach an audience they shouldn't be reaching.

But the movie is a great summer blockbuster, something more fresh than any superhero movie or CGI spectacle. McClane has snappy one-liners and banters well with Farrell, the bad guys are menacing (especially the few that employ parkour), and there's quite a lot of tension and excitement. This movie can wear its "second best" badge with pride.


posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/29/2007 10:15:00 AM, ,

Day 296-- low-brow vs. high art

I read an article posted online the other day, a look back at the first Die Hard film and why it matters in film history (and why the second and third ones in the franchise don't). The article's author brought up an interesting point: among other things, the film could be seen as America's wave of pop culture (John McClane, awash in vulgarized western lingo) vs. European high art (sleazy Hans Gruber, eurotrash sophisticate).

As much as I've studied culture and the arts, I still am not sure how to approach the "high vs. low" argument. I think I dismiss both of those terms; art is art, I say, be it classical music or graffiti. But I can't help but wonder if the terms may have a place. Maybe I don't want to think more on it because it would force me to re-think certain stances I hold that've taken, well, years to arrive at.

What say you?

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/28/2007 07:37:00 PM, ,

Day 295-- closing tracks

Music aficionados are pretty much agreed on the importance of the opening track on an album, but it seems closing tracks often go unnoticed. I think closing tracks can make an album, and--in a year of strong albums--2007 has been graced with an abundance of great closing tracks.

Off the top of my head:
-Wilco, "On and On and On" (Sky Blue Sky)
-Arcade Fire, "My Body is a Cage" (Neon Bible)
-the National, "Gospel" (Boxer)
-Dolorean, "My Still Life" (You Can't Win)
-Andrew Bird, "Yawny at the Apocalypse" (Armchair Apocrypha)

And these are just just the closing tracks I've HEARD this year that I think are great; there are still some that are pretty darn good (Ted Leo's "C.I.A."). And 2007 is barely half over.

I think three of those above (the first three) would end up on my all-time favorite closer list (it's still unfinished, but Weezer's "Only in Dreams," Vigilantes of Love's "Solar System," Built to Spill's "Stab" and the Jayhawks' "Ten Little Kids" all have a home on it).

To wrap up this rambling post, here's a request: help me make a list of great closing tracks. And for that matter, what counts in a closing track? What makes the final song on an album special?

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/27/2007 10:44:00 AM, ,

Day 294-- I change

--I used to love winter and hate summer. I really like summer now.

--I was a beer snob. (I am still a beer snob.) But as of tonight, I sort of dig eating cold pizza, drinking lite beer and watching westerns.

--I said I'd never shave my beard off. I shaved my beard off.

--I used to say country music was terrible. I listen to country music now.

--I was always scared to travel outside of Beaver County (though I wanted to move away from it). Now I want to travel everywhere but live in Beaver County.

--I used to hate dogs. I love dogs now.

--I used to want to talk all of the time. No longer.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/26/2007 11:22:00 PM, ,

Day 293

In all of my music archiving, I've often been drawn to the songs sung by musicians who normally aren't lead vocalists. Best example: when Ringo sang for the Beatles.

So I started digging through my music collection and recalling everything I've ever heard to find a collection of songs--good songs--that have a usually-not-singing-ever band member singing. The results are definitely good so far. Here are a few I want to highlight:

-"Bottomless Cup," by the Jayhawks (drummer Tim O'Reagan--a solo artist in his spare time--does a fantastic's a pretty, subdued tune with a funky backbeat.)

-"Promises Broken," by Soul Asylum (lead guitarist Dan Murphy sings occasionally, but I think the few songs he's contributed to the band's huge song catalog are among the best. In fact, I'd say "Promises Broken" is the best song the band has ever done, a shuffling country pop rock song that's a nice departure from the scronky pseudo-Replacements mush that frontman Dave Pirner sometimes gets into.)

-"Saint Behind the Glass," by Los Lobos (though drummer/songwriter-turned-guitarist/songwriter Louie Perez has co-written most of the band's songs, he rarely sings. Still, "Saint Behind the Glass" is one of the band's best songs, somehow fragile and playful at the same time. Perez has a nasally voice, but it still works in the context.)

I'm still trying to think of some other ones. Have any input, readers?

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/25/2007 09:31:00 AM, ,

Day 292-- Greetings from Bruceville

This is simply amazing.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/24/2007 08:16:00 PM, ,

Day 291

Hey, I have a sister now. That's pretty amazing.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/24/2007 01:04:00 AM, ,

Day 290-- the many faces of Wilco

In the decade plus since they formed, Wilco has only had two consistent members: Jeff Tweedy (vocals/guitar) and John Stirratt (bass/vocals). I found videos featuring each of the many line-ups.

Wilco Mk I (Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Jay Bennett, Ken Coomer, Max Johnston)

Wilco Mk II (Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Jay Bennett, Ken Coomer; minus Max Johnston)

Wilco Mk III (Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Jay Bennett, Ken Coomer; plus Leroy Bach)

Wilco Mk III (Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Leroy Bach, Jay Bennett; minus Ken Coomer, plus Glen Kotche)

Wilco Mk IV (Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Leroy Bach, Glenn Kotche; minus Jay Bennett)

Wilco Mk V (Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Leroy Bach, Glenn Kotche; plus Mikael Jorgenson)

Wilco Mk VI (Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche, Mikael Jorgenson; minus Leroy Bach, plus Nels Cline, plus Pat Sansone)

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/22/2007 04:31:00 PM, ,

Day 289-- on the drive home

On the way home from my brother's wedding rehearsal dinner, I saw something beautiful. I edged around the slow bend of PA-60 N that precedes the Brighton exit, a few hundred feet from cresting the lazy hill; the sky just exploded in color, the twilight shading the clouds with faint gray etchings. The cloud formation trembled, turned; it was like the horizon was the center of a pinwheel and I was driving along the thin pole at the center. And the faint light hit it just so, illuminating the highway in the process, wisps of fog reaching from the valley to tickle chins of the clouds before they went to bed. It was beautiful.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/21/2007 10:39:00 PM, ,

Day 288-- Hot Fuzz (2007)

Shaun of the Dead was a weird little film; while a parody of many of the zombie films of the '70s and '80s, it also was a great zombie film on its own. It was scary, well-acted, and insanely funny. And a romantic comedy.

And as an English filmed saturated with English humor, it did surprisingly well with box office returns in the United States.

Hot Fuzz does for buddy-cop movies what Shaun did for zombie flicks, and--surprise!--both were by the same creative team. It rests in the odd little nook between mockery and homage, and ends up being more entertaining and better-made than the action films that inspired it.

Nicholas Angel (played by Simon Pegg, who also co-wrote Shaun in addition to this film) is a veteran London sergeant that is so good at what he does that his superiors ship him to the quaint English village of Sandford--there he won't make anyone 'look bad.' There's not violent crime here, and the most pressing emergency is kicking under-aged drinkers out of the pub.

He and his cohorts--including the bumbling son of the police captain (Nick Frost, another Shaun alum)--start investigating a string of accidents that, well, might not be accidents. Or they may actually be accidents, and Nicholas is just too much of a busybody to turn his over-analytical mind off.

As a comedy, Hot Fuzz pulls off a difficult task: it has a great number of 'immediate' jokes (all I have to say is "brain freeze"), but the movie is soaked in complex and intelligent jokes that take take a while to unravel. Some of little visual cues, others running gags (there are many little subtle jokes revolving around the phrase "just desserts" for about a quarter of the movie). And Wright goes bonkers with the Jerry Bruckheimer-ish over-editing, adding unnecessary fast cuts and sound effects to scenes where people are doing paperwork or waiting for trains. In some ways it's very postmodern, begging for deconstruction and multiple viewings, but it's a lot of fun any way you examine it.

The final third of the movie is over-the-top action, but it both fits into the plot and doesn't (which is sort of the point). And--like Shaun of the Dead--there are a few instances of seriousness that are almost out of place, but end up making the movie that much better.

Hot Fuzz is great. I want to see it again, and I'd love to buy it so I can watch it over and over and pick up things I missed before. I love company for these sorts of things.

Trailers for the movie.


posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/20/2007 11:05:00 PM, ,

Day 287-- water-only Tuesdays

Yesterday, my friend Megan told me how she had started "water-only Mondays;" she and a friend would not eat the entire day, nor would they drink anything but water. "It's a way to detox," she said. Purge the system.

So I thought I would give water-only Tuesdays a try.

It went surprisingly well. While the hunger pangs passed around 2 p.m., I had a small piece of watermelon ("water"--get it? tee hee) and a pastry later in the evening. This was to ward off the dizziness that had set in. It wasn't too bad of a start, though, and I did drink the eight cups of water that I'm told you're supposed to drink daily.

I might try to make a habit of this, but at the very least I want to drink more water more often. I feel refreshed and clean.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/19/2007 09:44:00 PM, ,

Day 286-- why eMusic is cooler than iTunes

1) While iTunes has a great selection, eMusic has a better selection. And eMusic has exclusive concerts from bands, out-of-print material and a huge roster of mainstream and independent artists. iTunes sometimes has exclusives, but eMusic still wins with their selection.

2) eMusic doesn't have creepy copy-protected file issues. If you buy an MP3 off of iTunes, you can initially only listen to it on an iPod. ONLY. You can rip the song from iTunes to a CD and then rip it again as an MP3...but that's a lot of work. If I download songs from eMusic, I can listen to it any way I like.

3) eMusic is inexpensive. While you pay per song with iTunes ($0.99 per track), eMusic has a flat fee. I signed on initially to do a free trial offer: it was free for a month and I got 30 downloads. I downloaded the songs and then canceled the service. They made another offer--sign up for a paid program and get 50 more songs free. So I signed up for the basic program--30 songs a month for $9.95--and got 50 more tunes. That's 110 songs for $9.95. For a few cents more you can get one album on iTunes. Do the math.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/18/2007 09:50:00 PM, ,

Day 285-- my own medicine

One of my flaws is that I mistake brevity for irritation or avoidance. Say someone is not as chatty as they could be--I read this as, "Oh, well, I'm just being a pain, I guess." Rest assured, I'm aware that I do this and I've been getting better at not doing it. And someday soon I won't do it at all (Lord willing)!

But in the meantime, I will be as brief as I can. I have a number of reasons for this, most of them not related to whatever neurotic tic I have. It will still help me, I believe; the less that comes from my mouth means I can listen and think more, and hopefully show me that not talking doesn't necessarily mean anything other than less words are being used.

So if you want to see me as something other than a motormouth, here's your opportunity.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/17/2007 10:42:00 PM, ,

Day 284-- three things


2). Literally.

3). Trailer for the new P.T. Anderson (Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love) movie There Will Be Blood! It's based off of the Upton Sinclair novel Oil! Gosh, all of these trailers are being released at once.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/16/2007 07:49:00 PM, ,

Day 283-- No Country for Old Men trailer released

The Coen brothers. Cormac McCarthy. A list of great actors. After waiting for several years, the official trailer for No Country for Old Men has been released.

It looks like the film will stick close to the book. Good; the novel is great exploration of how people deal with evil. And it's both chilling and exciting.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/15/2007 06:05:00 PM, ,

Day 282-- covers that are better than the original

As some charming, suave guy I know (I think his name is Keith?) once said, some musical artists I know seem to exist solely so better bands can cover their material. (The main example we agreed on was the Rolling Stones, but I digress.)

But occasionally, a great artists will have their great song redone by someone else and it's even better. You may think I'm nuts, but Dolorean's version of the late Elliott Smith's "the Biggest Lie" is amazing.

While the hushed paranoia and lo-fi jittering of the original was captivating, the fact that Dolorean turns this into a whispery, almost bouncy late-night jaunt blows my mind. And I can't deny it--I love the band, and I love Al James' voice (especially since both and and I have very similar singing styles).

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/14/2007 03:22:00 PM, ,

Day 281

Do you ever associate one sense with another? Example: "Golly, Sue--this popsicle tastes like an old library book smells." While that's a fairly weird--maybe extreme--example, I'd also include associating, say, a photograph with a very different sound (thinking of lapping waves when you see a black-and-white photo of an old train car).

I do this often; maybe not as often as when I was a child, but still often enough. Is this normal?

PS--I realize that asking a question might get people to respond. I remember when people read my 'blog, back in the day.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/13/2007 10:58:00 PM, ,

Day 280-- VGA

My parents kept me far from video games when I was a child. This was a wise move. My friends all had Nintendo Entertainment Systems, and the times I had played them while visiting resulted in adults physically pulling me away from a sweat-smeared controller.

Their error was in purchasing a computer. The first one we had was a Texas Instrument Somethingoranothermodel in the mid-'80s, and when I was a wee child I would spend hours playing Hangman or typing games. This seems innocent, maybe, but I think I was in it for the digital adrenaline rush and not-so-much the educational aspect. My folks eventually got new computers when I was in middle school. These computers sometimes came with video games. My mom also got shareware magazines, and mom and dad eventually caved and let me get a few. Mistake.

Wolfenstein 3D started it; I spent hours playing that game, days thinking about it. Then came Doom, which rightly worried my folks (they then un-installed it and forbid me to play it). Then other video games, some fairly innocent in their content. The moral of the story is that I had become a full-fledged Video Game Player. I was a Gamer.

This isn't a tirade against violent video games, or anything; rather, it's more of a weird reflection from a former addict. My floor in college--basement Pearce--was known as the "video game floor" during my time at Geneva. My group of friends played games ALL DAY, ALL YEAR LONG. We talked about it at dinner and lunch and in the bathroom; friends dumped girlfriends over them (exaggeration, but not by much).

While I still own a few games, I haven't put serious effort into a video game in over four months. And I have a feeling that this trend will continue for a while. Sure, there are a few games that I think would be fun to re-install and play. Fallout is one, Thief another, maybe Deus Ex or Half-Life 2...or System Shock 2, my pick for 'best video game ever.' But--interestingly--the most attractive aspect about all of these games are their deep, rewarding well-written STORIES. And regarding that, I'd be fine with just thinking about how interesting the storyline was for those games without every playing them again.

I feel like I've pushed away the game fanaticism, buried it in the back yard and lost track of where the fresh dirt was. It's a great feeling, like I've kicked a costly habit and can now engage it with a casualness of which I would've never dreamt.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/12/2007 11:47:00 PM, ,

Day 279

Flight of the Conchords, a New Zealand comedy-folk duo (they label themselves as digi-folk) got signed on to HBO for their own half-hour comedy show. They have the first episode online here. Watch it for free. While not to crass, the humor is probably R-rated (or hard PG-13).

Still, I laughed a lot. Maybe you will too.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/11/2007 09:30:00 PM, ,

Day 278

A lesson-learned this weekend: sun is kind of cool. Never one to "soak up the rays," I've avoided lots of sunlight--intentionally or not--by swinging around excuses about how I burn easily.

But the life-long farmer's tan needs to go. I managed to get the white to recede a half inch or so on my biceps last year; time to go all of the way! The problem is that, though I want to get rid of it, wearing sleeveless shirts is A) a criminal fashion statement, and B) counterproductive--I'd want to hide in the house all day because of the shocking pale white of my upper arms.

Possible solution: make sure to dry my laundry more than needed. That way, when the sleeves shrink on my t-shirts, I'll be able to cut through the ivory skin with thick swathes of Sol.

Wait. Bad idea.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/10/2007 10:45:00 PM, ,

Day 277


But I like New York. A lot.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/10/2007 10:31:00 PM, ,

Day 276-- Garden State

I hate New Jersey.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/08/2007 10:39:00 PM, ,

Day 275-- I'm in middle school again

The Lemonheads are back together, recorded an album not too long ago.

Buffalo Tom are back from their decade-long hiatus, are recording a new album and are touring.

Smashing Pumpkins are back together, are releasing a new album and are touring.

Pixies are back together, are recording a new album and have toured a bunch.

Dinosaur Jr. are back together, have recorded a new album and are touring.

I feel like I am 12 again.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/07/2007 11:01:00 PM, ,

Day 274

Cormac McCarthy--the now-Pulitzer winner that I spent too much time 'blogging about--gave his first television interview this past Tuesday. To Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey picked McCarthy's most recent novel the Road as a recent Oprah's Book Club selection. Which is good, since now tons of people are buying it. It's a book people should buy, and love and cherish.

I didn't catch McCarthy's interview, but reading the blurbs in the article linked above...I'm not surprised. The man is infamously reclusive, though, so it's good he came out of his shell. (He's 73 and--if my memory serves me well--he's only give two print interviews ever too in his 40-some year writing career.)

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/06/2007 11:38:00 PM, ,

Day 273

How much can you change yourself? What can you change and what can you not change? What should you change and what should you understand is vital brickwork to your personality?

Why do these questions haunt me? Mold me so that I may glorify you, LORD.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/06/2007 12:08:00 AM, ,

Day 272-- Internet Down!

Posting this on borrowed time...I guess when things like this happen (rain messing with 'net access) I realize how dependant I am on it. I wish I weren't.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/05/2007 02:21:00 PM, ,

Day 271-- two things I want to do this summer

Go to Kennywood.

Go to Cedar Point.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/03/2007 05:06:00 PM, ,

Day 270-- it's been close to a year and a half...

...but I finally tied the last loose ends of a short story idea off. It came from a song title; the basic premise wrote itself, in a way, as did the characters, climax, resolution and so on. But there were several plot points that I never resolved, and they were ones that were vital to the plot.

The story didn't really get anywhere because of this, so I tucked it away in the back of my mind. Every time I thought about submitting a story for a publication or something of the ilk, I'd pull the story idea out for a moment, remember why I tucked it in that neglected bookshelf in my skull, and put it back.

But no longer. I think I'm going to submit it to Luke's wonderful project. The working title--still unchanged since Sept. '05--is "Aria Largo."

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/03/2007 01:50:00 AM, ,

Day 269-- how I came up with an idea to write an essay

All of the following thoughts are connected, I promise.

In my quest to get some free stuff, I signed up for a month-long trial of Blockbuster's online rental service. And I thought, "Hey, I have this for a month. I should use it."

So I started browsing through the DVDs listed on the site; like the more well-known NetFlix, you can have your rentals sent to your door in a matter of days, with little turn-around time 'til the next one comes. I'm canceling soon, I thought. Might as well make the most of it.

I ended up looking at John Ford films. Noticing a few that I've not seen (Sergeant Rutledge and Cheyenne Autumn, to be precise), it occurred to me that Ford's films--while incredibly entertaining--have a heavy streak of social justice and compassion to them. Even some of his more well-known and well-regarded movies, like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, the Searchers, the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and the adaptation of Steinbeck's the Grapes of Wrath all have elements that question the status quo, seek redemption and forgiveness. And when I was little I just thought Ford did cool westerns.

That said, I might take advantage of this DVD-renting for a month and write an essay on the Ford/social justice thing. Maybe Comment will take it? Who knows--it'll be fun regardless.

posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 6/01/2007 06:59:00 PM, ,