On the Radio: This Lorde chick is crazy

I heard this on the radio. She’s from New Zealand and is like 17.  Keep reading.

I am back landscaping and using my little FM radio which is still plugging away after two solid seasons of use.  From years of part time landscaping/glorified gardening, I can say this is a rare thing and I commend the folks at Sony for making a durable radio that I am probably the last person to use (at least in the developed world). But I digress. The normal alternative station is pumping out a lot of Linkin’ Park and Passion Pit lately, two bands I really can’t stand. Thus, I have been switching to the adult alternative station which is often long on hippie talk and short on music, but I heard the above song today and was blown away.

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Re-post for the Death of DOMA — The Proposition, A Letter to Mainers

In honor of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling (unlikely, I feared, in light of recent decisions on Voting Rights and Affirmative Action), we are reposting one of my favorite and most passionate posts. Here’s some ancient Greek to get you in the mood:

“Love is the name for the desire and pursuit of that oneness, that ancient nature we shared when we were whole.”

τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι τὸ αἴτιον, ὅτι ἡ ἀρχαία φύσις ἡμῶν ἦν αὕτη καὶ ἦμεν ὅλοι: τοῦ ὅλου οὖν τῇ ἐπιθυμίᾳ καὶ διώξει ἔρως ὄνομα (Plato, Symposium 192e-193a)

Note: This post is politically oriented and strongly felt. If you think it might help change minds, share it wherever you may–pseudonymity be damned!

(And for the politically disinclined, tune back in this weekend for our regularly scheduled programming)

In the final episode of the first season of Showtime’s series Homeland, Sgt. Brody (Damien Lewis) takes his family to Gettysburg as he prepares to turn himself into a suicide bomber.  Before the battlefield, he tells them the story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain to justify his actions (in his own mind) before they even know what he’s talking about.

Chamberlain taught himself Ancient Greek, became a Professor at Bowdoin College and led the defense of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg with an insane bayonet charge against superior numbers. (He was later awarded the Medal of Honor.)

Sickly (and meaningfully for the show), Sgt. Brody tries to claim Chamberlain’s bravery, resourcefulness and patriotism for his planned act of domestic terrorism. (Equipment failure and a change of heart alter his plans.) But his repeated praise of the bravery of a teacher from Maine stuck with me well after the end of the show

Schooner Fare “Portland Town”

Schooner Fare is a Downeast band that I heard so many times growing up I can’t count it. They put sea shanties in my blood and dreams.

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The Table: Moving Out and (Not Quite) Moving On

“Circle of Life”, The Lion King. My daughter doesn’t really like to eat. In order to entice her, I show her videos on youtube. She loves this song. It takes me back to my freshman year of high school when my girlfriend at the time was obsessed with Disney. We went to see this movie on opening weekend and I secretly loathed her for it. But now, every time I see Simba raised up in front of his father, I come near to tears. That I start this post with this song and memory will make sense, I promise

As my brother may have mentioned in an earlier post, I haven’t been posting as much for a few reasons. One is that I have gotten steadily busier with work; the other is that, after living in an apartment for a year (only after giving up a house we lived in for four years to move downtown in our adopted home city), we realized that even the spacious 1500 square feet was too little room for two toddlers and two organizationally challenged adults.

So, we house-shopped, made some offers, lost some houses and finally closed a few weeks ago. After some horrors, we moved last Friday. I took the kids to daycare, cleaned out the old apartment and took them home to our new house.

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They Fly Solo with Wiz

My students played this song a lot, especially while we played basketball. It was one of the few I really liked that they played and I can’t stop thinking about how they will turn out next year. Lastly, when the one student refused to jump out of a tree while we were at a ropes course the second to last week of school, I totally yelled up “Fly solo Dude!” Ultimately, I also had to jump out of the tree to set an example and the video displayed me looking like a fish on a hook, but I got my point across.

School is out and I am back in the city landscaping. I keep cruising the channels of my FM radio to find this song but it is never on. I finally Googled the lyrics and really saw how much the kids actually identified with this song because of them. It seems to be mostly about a failed relationships but, like any good song, it could mean whatever you want. Wiz is one of the few rappers who has a truly unique voice in today’s hip hop and seems to be a generally good guy beyond the whole constant references to his rampant marijuana use. He was an Army Rat kid who moved a lot so didn’t have a lot of friends, like my students, and then really made his way in the city of Pittsburgh. I digress. The song above hits me.

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25 Years of Boy Band Love

In the movie Fever Pitch, during an argument following the only Red Sox game he did not attend in 23 years, Jimmy Fallon’s character said to Drew Barrymore’s character: “Do you still care about anything you cared about 23 years ago? How about ten? How about five? Name me a single thing that you’ve cared about for 23 years.”

This quote came to mind after I recently attended my 4th New Kids on the Block concert in 4 years. I never was lucky enough to see them in concert as a child, so the fact that I’ve seen them so much in such a short period of time suggests I’m trying to make up for lost time. Or maybe I’m hanging onto my childhood by a thread—the same way I honestly think the majority of my fellow concertgoers were.

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Summertime, Brain Surgery and Mocking Mumford

I was going to write a response to my brother’s summertime post today–I love the way that he combines gratitude for the coming of summer with wistful nostalgia for the summertimes of youth that we can never regain (and that were sweeter than first kisses and first fruits). But, as is our custom now as brothers, I am more over-extended than ever. I have taken an editorial position at an academic journal; we are moving into a new house; oh, I still have two beautiful but insane children.

I used to listen to this album over and over again while mowing the lawn as a sixth grader. Then I would ride my bike around town just in case I might see one of (several girls) I had a crush on. How did I stay so chubby with so much activity?

I wanted to write a short post because I keep thinking about Mumford & Sons. Following my brother, I fear, my appreciation for the band has decreased with each listening of the last album. Yet, I cannot get away from the fact that my 3-year old daughter keeps asking for me to play “I Will Wait”. The song has grown old for me, but she asks for it by name and it breaks my heart to see the bliss in her face when she hears it.

So, I was thinking about Mumford & Sons this morning, then I saw that the bassist needed brain surgery. The evil part of me wanted to make some snide comment about this connected to the band’s music, but I thought the better of it. Life is too short as it is; it would be worse than churlish to delight in someone else’s pain and danger.

But I was also thinking about Mumford & Sons over the weekend after my good friend from college, Another J, let me know about this humorous video mocking the band:

Now, as I actually mentioned on twitter, I felt gratified because this video mentions some of the same themes I mentioned in an earlier post (especially regarding the lack of drummer and the movie O Brother Where Art Thou).  Humor, even though we often take it for granted, can often be so much more insightful and critical than the sharpest critique because it approaches a subject obliquely. This piece is especially good because it also creates a “Mumford Band”.

Now, this might be a little painful or annoying for the band–but one thing is universally true: if people are making fun of you, you’re doing something right.

What do you think, brother?

School’s Out

Summer vacation is nearly upon us so this is an obvious choice from an obviously awesome movie. Alice Cooper must have gotten as much a second wind with the young folks from this as he did with Wayne’s World.  I can only imagine the brawls that would ensure if any high schools tried to do this to my students. This is easily one of my favorite movies ever. If you haven’t seen this gem, it’d be a lot cooler if you did.

Since my brother and I are both educators, his time of teaching is done and mine is right at the doorstep. It has been an incredibly stressful few months with the new job keeping me on point all of the time and gigs for the band racking up for the summer. My hard work will hopefully pay off with a full time time job for next year as I wait for call backs on interviews and budgets to be passed. I look forward to finally being able to slow down and enjoy the beauty of my home state in the late spring.  I will have a long three day weekend before I hop back into landscaping which will probably be a welcome change after spending so much time in a small classroom with a bunch of overstimulated 14 year olds. I’ll be outside cruising the old beat and crossing my fingers for quality radio. Do you remember the last days of school?

This perfectly describes the level of  activity my brother and I have been experiencing the last weeks. It does in fact feel like I’m going faster than a roller coaster but I am becoming strangely calm about it. I need to write more for this blog and I’m still waiting for that love to come my way, however,  everything else is becoming easier to handle. This is a cool track and it sounds like someone is clapping to keep time. Buddy couldn’t read music and didn’t know chords  yet still came up with some of the cooler pop songs of the century. What a cool dude.

I really wish I could feel some of the euphoria of a looming summer vacation that you felt as a teenager and maybe even in the early years of college when you didn’t have to get a serious job for the summer. I can almost grasp it in my nearly 28 year-old self-conscious, from seeing and talking to different middle school kids on a daily basis, that feeling that you have a seemingly endless amount of time to do whatever you want until the cruel fall when you are herded back to the dreaded temples of public education.

A very small minority of the students plan to get jobs while most intend to ride their bikes, go swimming, dub around wherever they are tolerated and even not leave their air conditioned rooms at all summer to overdose on video games or Netflix. The complete absence of responsibility and an enforced schedule with periodic sunshine. A whole summer to be lazy.

Im still listening to a lot of progressive rock, especially this band who I never really got into until the last two years. They seriously rock. Jon Lord’s non-traditional Hammond B-3 work coupled with Ritchie Blackmore’s ridiculous guitar picking just straight up melt my face. Teamed with one of the top rhythm sections in the rock world in the form of Roger Glover on bass and Ian Paice in the second incantation of this band, they dominated the live shows of the early 7o’s when giants like Led Zeppelin were also roaming the earth. I have the Made in Japan vinyl and I often play it so loud that it spooks my golden retriever Remy into running upstairs to retreat the aural onslaught.

But I cannot fully imagine the feeling of planning to do nothing at all for three months. I know I have a predilection for procrastination and I definitely wasted a lot of time in my adolescence playing Nintendo 64 and watching hours of stupid horror movies, but as an older man with numerous hobbies and responsibilities, I truly can’t fathom the notion. As much as I enjoy being productive at this point, I’m kind of jealous. I had one student tell me that he was just going to ride his scooter around the trailer park he lived in and “be a gangsta”.  He’s a student from another classroom that has some special  needs and is generally a very nice young man. I’m not sure what this exactly means in reference to what he will actually be doing but I instantly thought of this song.

The best use of this jam was clearly in Office Space and I wish it wasn’t such a profanity laden song with such angry lyrics because the kid would love the beats. He and I have occasionally had little dance offs to school when my students play rap and he always gets a big kick out of seeing me dance like a fool. 

I do remember one summer, probably after junior year when I was a houseman at a hotel 30 minutes from my house, when I had just gotten the Zep record In Through the Outdoor. This album was the one where the bassist John Paul Johns really took the reins because Jimmy Page was pretty bad into heroin and not contributing much. Thus, it sounds far different from any other Zeppelin album and after listening to the first six albums an infinite amount of times, I went through a brief period where I thought this album rocked. It’s not my favorite now but I always associate it with this girl I thought I was in love with who drove Subaru Justy with a cd player and the end of the school year. Specifically, this song.

They don’t make Justys anymore and for good reason. It was like an oversized clown car with go-kart tires and a completely floppy frame that would surely crunch into a square if it ever got into an accident. I do love Subarus though and drive a multi-colored 1999 Impreza currently. Oh yeah, “In the Evening” is still a great jam.

Things never worked out with the Justy chick and I think this was the last summer I really got the feeling I described above of just having this huge block of time where nothing was expected of you. I do really like playing bass with the band, growing my own vegetables, and writing this blog. I need to be constantly busy to keep my  mind occupied. Maybe it’s the fact that I am now within two years of being thirty that makes wistful for the irrevocable feeling of c0mplete freedom to do whatever for two and half months. I don’t want to go back to those days but I’d like to experience that emotion even just for a moment.

This was the end of the sophomore year of college exit song, one we listened to endlessly. This was the semester I hooked up with the girl I’d end up living with for two years and dating for the rest of college and all of grad school. Again, I don’t want to go back to these days and the song brings a positive memory of a wide future open before me. I still have that now, it’s just a different view than it was then. I just found this version and it has my favorite guitar player Derek Trucks tearing it up along the legit Warren Haynes. This song almost gives me the freedom feeling….for six minutes and five seconds.

Heat, Heat and New Music

So, my brother recently talked about the heat (and not that basketball team from Miami). Our northern homeland has hit the 90s for the first time this year and he is undone by it. He asked me in the post how I, a scandinavian by birth and a Mainer by upbringing, survive the deadly temperatures of my permanent exile.

My last few weeks have been dominated by this and the sun

My last few weeks have been dominated by this and the sun

The answer? I don’t. I reverse hibernate. We stay inside. We have air-conditioned cars. We avoid direct sunlight like vampires. You never really get used to 110 degrees. You learn to avoid 110 degrees. So, I keep the lights off, drink lots of water, and wait for the fall to return.

Yet, the trade-off is that I have not only failed to gain any real capacity to manage the heat; I also have lost any ability to cope with the cold. So, now, I am a man without a place.

As my brother has intimated, the past few weeks have been busier than I planned, but it is not all work. I recently took up basketball again and have been wasting an embarrassing amount of time being very bad at a sport. And hurting. Oh, and drinking a lot of water.

So, here’s a delayed response to the Only D’s New Music:

The Neighbourhood

I am not quite sure why they use the –our spelling, but that besides, they remind me a bit of a blend between the Walkmen and Dishwalla, except if the members grew up listening to a lot more hip-hop. I don’t know if any band after Weezer can have a song about sweaters. So, there you go. This song made me think of two other songs I would rather hear. But, as the Only D puts it, there is some interesting blend of genres here. I don’t know about soul-revival, but I do think that as more and more future-artists grow up listening to all music genres, there will be more unquantifiable blends like this.


Weezer, “Sweater Song”

My college band covered this song.  I don’t know if we did a good job of it. I am sure, however, that you didn’t need to do a good job to get the crowd to like it. This is a great sing-along-song. Weezer sensed their talent for this and went from pretty harmonies to straight up yelling the chorus with their next album’s single “El Scorcho”.


The Walkmen, “We’ve Been Had”

Members of this band were in the short-lived but hard-rocking Jonathan Firestarter. I was so excited for this album. I love the old-timey yet slightly trippy feel of the combination of the piano rote and the vocals. I still think that the music business was way too 1990s radio and MTV focused for this band to be successful. Just a few years later, Arcade Fire was tearing up the world; five years after that, Vampire Weekend was huge. Listen to this song, you can hear some sonic influence for those bands. Maybe I need to listen to this album again.


The Dear Hunter, “Dear Ms. Leading”

I both love and do not love puns. I think that the name of this band is a little lame. That’s beside the point.  The music of this band reminds me of Incubus or some of the lesser tracks of A Perfect Circle. I wanted to turn the track off after 60 seconds, but I listened to the whole thing. But hey, if you make it to the third minute or so, you get treated to two very different guitar solos—different styles with some interesting production. My brother, I think you will like that part. The vocals? Uninspired and uninspiring.


Porcupine Tree, “The Start of Something Beautiful”

Since I have been obsessing about band names lately, I have to say that I like this name. I like the proggy feel (even though it slightly seems like the band is stuck in the 80s). I think my brother will like the bass player. I have to say that I actually like the vocalist more than I like Rush’s. I can’t say that this band really reminded me too much of anything. The combination of adventurous and sometimes gimmicky yet complicated instrumentals with hyper-clear vocals seems to be a dead end from the early 1990s, but hey, as a creature of the period it is not surprising that I like it.

(This is the first track on the list that made me think about buying the album…)


Trampled by Turtles, “Wait So Long”

I should probably just leave the band’s name alone. I should probably also try to ignore the fact that The Only  is trying to get me to cop to liking the Mumford Sons again. Unlike my brother, I don’t love the fiddle so much; I also feel like this singer misses his dip when he’s singing and is one trucker hat short of an ensemble.

The banjo player can really play; the fiddle player can’t take Charlie Daniels or the Devil, but he might give either of them a gun for his money. A serious run for his money. I think that this song is probably pretty good, but there is a little too much going on—I don’t think that the mandolin adds too much; the vocalist is a little overwhelmed by the instrumentals—the melody just gets lost.

Yet, I will probably listen to another track or two. There is something about the band’s sense that seems intriguing.


Phoenix, “Entertainment”

I am actually quite happy that The Only D included this song and I think that this is a really good harbinger for the whole album (which I will already have bought by the time anyone reads this post). The last album was really good but it was missing a lower gear, if that makes any sense. On the last album, every song is fast and harder—the band too often makes up for melody with tempo and urgency. This song seems a lot more melodic.

Heat Wave

This song is far cheerier than my own demeanor during this heat wave. More on that later, but dig on how cool the production is on this jam, from the staccato piano riffs to the vocal harmonies and the splashes of horns. Every piece is doing something relatively simple but as a unit, it really tears it. Remembering this song is the only positive out come of this heatwave.

I hate the heat. I would rather it be 20 below and a full on noreasta’ than anything above 80 degrees and humid. I am a larger mammal and the heat just saps me of the will to do anything at all. Granted, I do have a history of procrastination and I am sure my beloved brother the Elder J is not giving me crap about not posting for a bit because he also is incredibly busy with two young ones and a  move, but the heat just kills me.

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