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I know I may be jumping the gun a bit here, but I am so not ready for winter. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but the last month and a half of summer was so energizing! I felt myself break a little bit when I realized that goodness was getting swallowed up by the presence of grad school. But, as we embrace you, Rainy Monday (and a week that looks as if it is going to be similarly rainy), it is hitting me full-force, for the first time in my adult life, that I am positively dreading the change in seasons, specifically knowing that every day wintertime gets a little bit closer. The days are getting too short, the cicadas have quieted and we’re all getting ready to settle in for a winter’s nap.

I want to resist the nap this year, big time.

So what are we going to do?
I want your help friends. I want to hear what gets you through the gloom and drear of winter. What makes you look forward to winter?

wtwta1wtwta2

I want to hug him.

Added:

Maxmaxmonster

(This is, without a doubt, a completely complete example of this blog’s very namesake. And the worst kind, too.)

The Plan is as follows: In a little over two years from now, I will have attianed my Master’s Degree. 

The Plan will be executed by: A strong investment of my brain and heart into becoming a Lady Scholar of the highest degree and henceforth being able to ‘sow my brain seeds’ into the malleable minds of young college students and colleagues.

In consulting what my Plan is, the reality of the failure of even those best laid is apparent and everywhere.  If I may direct you to Antoni Gaudí, for a moment, the original architect of the unfinished masterpiece Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia, located in Barcelona, Spain.

Antoni’s opus. A massive structure that is far more impressive than you’re giving it credit for. While it is difficult to imagine the course of his life went according to plan, after the beginning of the construction of the cathedral leading up to his death in 1926, his blueprints were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War by anarchists. Hope, be lost?  Plans, be damned! Construction on the cathedral continues to this day and as it approaches its 140th birthday in 2026, it shall be finished (I am sure the residents of Barcelona have heard this one before).

But it’s beautiful, no? Aside from the fact that I highly doubt the Spanish Government really wants a gargantuan, unfinished, “witch castle” in their midst, there’s a certain romanticism about a postmortem continuation of plans, even if they stray from their original intention (Hendricks, 2009). It would be easy to allow something such as death and the burning of blueprints to get in the way of completion, but we press on, still, and follow through, ever aware of the likelihood that even this present architect may not live to see the day when steel cranes and wooden scaffolds no longer scrape the sky along side massive spires and ornate decoration.

So, what does that mean to me? Basically that I realize the importance of plans and their value, but also the value in their potentially ephemeral nature. I am noted by some (myself), as being a lover of plans, lists, ideas, future-minded thinking. While obtaining a Master’s involves slightly more planning than say, a weekly investment in my mental health by committing to a strict regimen of yoga and meditation, it is nonetheless susceptible to the same fate as other Plans.

This does not distress me, because Epicurus (who is swiftly becoming my favorite Greek) tells me it should not.

Plans are nice and have the potential to add great joy to your life, they also can create misery, pain, suffering and strife. Well, as can everything, I suppose, but these things matter not. Epicurus lived his life believing in the value of pleasure and doing what brings you pleasure, like creating cathedrals that may never be completed.  And while I am not well-read in Classics, nor Epicurus, nor Architecture, nor Gaudi (thanks, Wikipedia!), I can read well.  And I can copy and paste well, too.

For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia, peace and freedom from fear, and “aponia”, the absence of pain, and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.

At the outset, this was to be an entry about my renewed career as a student and my passion and love for all things Academic (I even researched the etymology) and it didn’t even really end up there either. How’s that for an example.

 Plans, as small or as big as they seem will fall apart. You will die with uncompleted projects, some worthy of being continued by others, mostly not. This is not cause for distress or for fear or any other negative emotion that will take away from one moment of your ataraxia.  Do what you will with whatever you will, but seek pleasure! To me, the tragedy in Gaudi’s plans are not that they were uncompleted upon his death, but that his sole-investment in their progress near the end of his life put him into seclusion, away from camaraderie and basic and simple pleasures we are able to pull from life.

When I am older, I want to have the following clarity, which is taken from a letter written by Epicurus to Idomeneus, as Epicurus lie in his death bed without child or wife, suffering from kidney stones:

“I have written this letter to you on a happy day to me, which is also the last day of my life. For I have been attacked by a painful inability to urinate, and also dysentery, so violent that nothing can be added to the violence of my sufferings. But the cheerfulness of my mind, which comes from the recollection of all my philosophical contemplation, counterbalances all these afflictions.

To live, to live with pleasure and to live well.

Let’s plan on it.

I haven’t written about music in a while.

In the age of the chelseaPod, I have realized that on most days, I have more music than I know what to do with. Two, three, four-thousand songs on one little device? I always find it amusing that iTunes is snarky enough to tell me just how much of my life I would spend if I listened to my entire catalogue, soup to nuts, in a single sitting. “You would miss 5 days, 4 hours, 23 minutes of your life if you started now and did not stop.” Well, that’s okay. While music is  important and truth on all fronts, not everything in my catalogue grabs me to the point that I would be unable to let it ride and listen to the thing straight through for those 5 and a quarter days.  In fact, I challenge most people to sit down with their iPod on shuffle and let it go for 10 songs and not find yourself feeling the need to hit skip. Fine, 15, for good measure.

The point of this ramble being that we don’t stumble across that album that you can listen to constantly and forevermore often enough. We find lots of things that we like, but to name albums that you can listen to top to bottom, over and over can become somewhat of a challenge, especially in a time when getting music is made so simple by having a boyfriend who is prolific and incredibly efficient at using music downloading software.  Suddenly, you look at the calendar and, surprise, you do not have 5 days, 4 hours and 23 minutes to sit down and pass judgment on everything and discriminate your tastes.

But, sometimes there’s an album… sometimes… there’s an album (I’m channeling Sam Elliot here, work with me) that shakes you to your core and grabs you by the ears and says “Listen! And feel! And move! And drive faster! It’s time!”

This summer, I discovered That Album and it is Wilco’s 2007 Sky Blue Sky.

My immediate association with Wilco is working at Tower Records in 2004 when A Ghost is Born was released and on a superficial level being drawn to the album for its artwork.  When my friend and co-worker began playing it on the floor constantly, I was drawn, like moth to flame, and found myself all a flutter by feeling feelings that music is supposed to make you feel, all the time. “At Least That’s What You Said” is almost too perfect of an opening track for an album. Tweedy’s voice cracks the door with a sweetness and vulnerability that’s lets you in, slow and steady, but then sneaks in that electric guitar riff and drum beat that tears it open a little bit more to the point where you’re hooked and committed for twelve tracks.  I learned quickly that I cannot read, converse, nor be productive on any front while listening to this album. It commands your attention and you’re an utter fool to ignore the call.

But anyone who has heard the album knows that and knows that’s the style of this band that packs some serious punch in all of their endeavors.

Back in the beginning of August, I was sitting at my desk and jonesing for something to listen to and walked out to the CDs, and maybe it was divine intervention, but Sky Blue Sky was sitting there, waiting to be plucked off the shelf by some unsuspecting Children’s Programmer. ‘Twas me!

I came back to my desk, fired up the old Windows Media Player and let it go to town.  The next few minutes were a blur of real life and the sharpest focus on what was coming through my headphones. “Either Way,” the opening track, holds onto that same sweetness which opens AGIB, but it’s brighter, more hopeful and seemingly complete, with the slick and easy guitar addition of Nels Cline (personal hero and favorite), only until it blends into the second track. “You Are My Face,” is a sweet and simple song that hides little deep pockets of sounds and sass, lyrically and otherwise, promoting a trend that carries on for the entire record.

There’s something almost otherworldly about the way I felt *really* hearing this album for the first time on a sunny Friday in early-August. Driving with windows down and the amp up to 11, and allowing tracks like “Shake it Off” and “Walken” completely light up my insides and made it impossible for me to want to do anything other than hear these songs on this album, right now.  The energy was paralyzing. Even when Tweedy’s lyrics turn more melancholy and soulful, like in “Hate it Here,” there’s something hopeful, not necessarily from the lyrics themselves (which are just as sad as they are sweetly awkward), but from the reminder of honest, straightforwardness that can come through in song, if you let it.

My absolute favorite track is “Walken,” which boasts lyrics of a routine hazy confusion, that is even echoed in the basic tonk of the opening chords and notes, but when the chorus breaks in, so does certainty and a howling call-and-response guitar part accompanied with clarity and truth, “The more I think about it, the more I know it’s true. The more I think about it, I’m sure it’s you. Honey, I think you’re just right. You’re just right.”

To me, this song ties together a big theme throughout the album; the exhaustion of running around your own brain, the often erratic and numbing thoughts that we can experience when trapped inside ourselves, and then, when accompanied by the right blends of lap steel guitar, that Big Wilco sound and the skill of writing near-perfect pop songs, the startling clarity and brightness can push out the heaviest of clouds. Sky Blue Sky might not be the best album you’ve ever heard, but when you realize what music is meant to be, above all things, Truth…

You’re just right, Wilco. You’re just right.

(Oh, and, did you know that you can listen to every Wilco album (except the S/T) on their website? Fo’ free? Well, you do now.)