Sunday, January 30, 2011

About the blog...

I'd like to assure you that my albums posts will appear eventually. I had intended to write them before school started, but my Christmas break turned out to be enormously busy and stressful. At this point a year-end albums post is hardly relevant or timely and probably no longer of interest to anyone, really... but for my own satisfaction, I will write about 2010 albums at some point.


My hundreds of regular readers may have noticed that I only wrote one post about my graduate work all last semester. By contrast, I have in the last couple weeks posted three times on things related to graduate work. A reason exists for the lack last semester and the comparative activity now.

I try to think of my graduate work in terms of career work rather than as a delightful hobby of mine. The books I read are often dry, and sometimes I find the ideas and arguments disagreeable. If I approach such writing only with the old liberal arts love-of-learning, I find that my temptation is often not to read at all. Instead I remind myself that part of being an adult is working a job that doesn't perfectly suit one's ephemeral enthusiasms.

The bonus of a work-minded approach is that I can read and discuss these works without feeling a pressing need to assault them. I can address particular flaws and question certain assumptions professionally.

The downside is that my graduate work has been relegated firmly to a "day job" compartment in my mind. I find myself resistant to talking about it outside of classes. As most of you know, you usually can't get me to shut my mouth about my studies. So far in graduate school I've taken to changing the subject when it comes up. Similarly, I have felt very little desire to blog about my work, even when it's exciting and stimulating.

So this semester I am working to change that. While retaining a sense of vocational responsibility, I would like also to rekindle my simple enjoyment of study. Even the works I find utterly misdirected have their passages and moments, and I want to highlight those. This will not become a history-grad-work blog, but I do hope to bring in a little more from my graduate work, to highlight the things I appreciate and maybe wrestle through things I don't.

Keshab Sen

Some quotations from Keshabchandra Sen (1838-1884), a leader of Brahmo spirituality in India. These come from before his relationship with the not-yet-famous Ramakrishna, who would influence him away from his mystic, not-exactly-orthodox brand of Christianity.

"I regard every European settler in India as a missionary of Christ, and I have a right to demand that he should always remember and act up to his high responsibilities. But alas! owing to the reckless conduct of a number of pseudo-Christians, Christianity has failed to produce any wholesome moral influence on my countrymen. Yes, their muscular Christianity has led many a Native to identify the religion of Jesus with the power and privilege of inflicting blows and kicks with impunity. And thus has Jesus been dishonoured in India."

"It is true that the people of India have been satisfied in some measure with what they have read and heard of Jesus, but they have been disappointed in a far greater measure. For England has sent unto us, after all, a Western Christ. This is indeed to be regretted. Our countrymen find that in this Christ, sent by England, there is something that is not quite congenial to the native mind, not quite acceptable to the genius of the nation. It seems that the Christ that has come to us is an Englishman, with English manners and customs about him. . . . this repugnance unquestionably hinders the progress of the true spirit of Christianity in this country."

The soul "wants godly life, and this can never be had by the most rigid tension of mental discipline, or the highest effort of human will. . . . It is God's free gift, not man's acquisition. It comes not through our calculation or reasoning, not through industry or struggle, but through prayerful reliance upon God's mercy. . . . It keeps man in a state of holy excitement. . . . He is then seized with the frenzy of devotion, and is not only above sin, but also above temptation; for nothing is then attractive to him except holiness."

[Quoted in Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, Princeton UP: 1993]

Friday, January 28, 2011


Revisiting some old youtube videos. Pleased to see that Juny holds up as well as I remember them.

PS: If anyone has or knows where I can find a video of the "One Big Holiday" cover... that would be sweet.
I'm flattered. Thanks Marieke! Pleased to say I've written for three of the blogs mentioned (including this one, of course).

[link fixed]

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Language & Imagined Communities

As with many of the books I have read in graduate school, Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities leaves me unable to render a decisive verdict. Convincing arguments share space with questionable assertions. Some of my preconceived notions are challenged, a few reinforced, a number of them untouched. This, of course, has as much to do with my own non-systematic beliefs as it does with internal inconsistencies in the text.

Unlike many of the books I have read in graduate school, Imagined Communities is well-written.

"If every language is acquirable, its acquisition requires a real portion of a person's life: each new contest is measured against shortening days. What limits one's access to other languages is not their imperviousness but one's own mortality. Hence a certain privacy to all languages."

"What the eye is to the lover – that particular, ordinary eye he or she is born with – language – whatever language history has made his or her mother-tongue – is to the patriot. Through that language, encountered at mother's knee and parted with only at the grave, pasts are restored, fellowships are imagined, and futures dreamed."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"And he told them many things in parables, saying..." -Matthew 13:3

"O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest they only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." The Collect for the Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. 1928 BCP.

I wrote a term paper this past semester defending historical narrative as an answer to the question "How?" (rather than "Why?"). It is Epiphany Season. I am thinking, again, about the connection between story and truth.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2010 in Music: 2. A 2010 Playlist

Previously: Shows, An Aside About Community

The biggest difference between this list and those of the past couple years is that I did not arrange the tracks into mixes. I did not attempt to create an album-like order out of the chaos of individual tracks.

The second-biggest difference is that I have instituted a one song per artist per album rule. That’s why I am calling this a “2010 playlist” rather than a collection of my favorite songs or of the best songs of the year. Last year’s list was out of control, and I needed to cut it down. Notice that it’s per artist per album—meaning that multiple tracks from a compilation can be listed, and an album and EP from the artist can each contribute a song (you can call it the “I will have two tracks by Sufjan Stevens on here dammit” rule).

In keeping with past years they will not be ranked but simply ordered by artist name (first name, in the case of persons’ names, as you would see in your iTunes library).

The text accompanying the tracks varies. It may include memorable times listening to the song–particularly moments with friends–why I like it, why I picked it verses other tracks on the album, or thoughts about why I like this track but not the album.

You can download all of them in three parts (here, here, and here). Be forewarned: some of your mothers may not like some of the lyrics. The zip files are not arranged in any order whatsoever.

Please, you know, check out and buy the albums and go to the shows and be good patrons of the arts.

(In case you missed it above, the tracks are ordered alphabetically as you'd see them (aka as I saw them) in an iTunes playlist. The numbering below is not ranking.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 in Music: an Aside about Community

This will now be my third annual collection of posts about the year in music, and I hope that this will be the least narcissistic installment yet. I don't think that the previous two were especially narcissistic. I believed then, and I believe now, that the driving force of these was my enthusiasm to share all this really good music I've come across and maybe even to prod others into sharing their own finds or opinions with me (though the response in the comments to such posts has always been depressingly nil).

At the same time, I do have to admit that in 2008 I was spurred by a desire to establish the necessary chops to support the rather maligned list Sean and I were putting together for the Collegian back in 2008. The following year I did not feel defensive, but I was rather taken with how much music I had listened to that year.

This year, as I already said, I listened to a good bit less music than I did last year. I feel no need to establish critical chops or any such nonsense. Instead I'd rather point out that I am the happy and grateful recipient of the good taste of my friends. I generally find new music through friends and family. I don't read most of what's posted on the music blogs I follow. Instead I filter them for names that you all have mentioned to me. I have written about this recently.

Music for me has always been a communal exercise. The people I know heavily influence the music I listen to, and the music I listen to effects, deepens, and cements relationships in various ways. I can recall a grade-school classmate of mine, Ryan S., disparaging my music taste in second or third grade by saying that I probably didn't even know who Michael W. Smith was (yes, he really said that.... yes, about Michael W. Smith). I proved him wrong, and we soon became good friends.

Particularly in the last couple years, music has been a strong way of maintaining contact with friends and family across the country. I want these year-end lists to reflect and continue that. In my rush to get moving on the year-end posts I prematurely posted the first part. I meant to include just a brief note on each regarding who I saw it with. I have gone back and added that. I will do something similar, but perhaps a little more significantly, in the forthcoming posts about songs and albums from the year.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 in Music: 1. Shows

I have lots of posts hopefully in the offing if I can find time. About my semester: this post may not actually come. It's not that I wasn't fascinated with my classes. It's that it is my job. And about this past week: a beautiful wedding, a phenomenal New Year's Eve party, and an enlightening stroll through Phoenix.

But priorities... I am beginning my overdue year-end music posts. I won't be doing a videos post this year because I simply didn't watch as many. Out of curiosity I combed my iTunes library and realized I listened to about a third fewer songs this year. In Germany at the end of last year I was manically buying and stealing every album I could get my hands on, watching every music video I could. Escapism, I believe you could call it. I listened to less, but I do think I was more selective. Some albums I eliminated before downloading that I spend time listening to. So my albums list won't be shorter, really. My playlist will be organized differently this year, but I'll get into that in the second part.

For now you can run over to the Sad Bear to check out the collaborative albums extravaganza Jack put together featuring myself and some of the Sad Bears. Consider my contribution like a preview or an early version. I will probably tweak it, maybe change some things, and I will be adding a number of other albums too.

On top of these shows, I also really enjoyed seeing video?, Dead Western Plains, and the Octopus Project.

5. The New Pornographers (the Dodos) @ the Rialto, Tucson 07/20/10 - That's not a link to a show review. I thought I had written one, but I did not. It's more of a preview. I will say that the show just about met my extremely high expectations. The Dodos were great, and the New Pornographers were very good. Neko Case is amazing. Sam and I saw this show when he stayed with me this summer while finalizing his apartment contract. Much to Sam's amusement, a drunk fifty-something lady was hitting on me heavily during the Dodos opening set.

4. Thao & Mirah with the Most of All @ Club Congress, Tucson 06/08/10. Excellent show. I have a crush on Thao Nguyen. Saw this with Hannah D, her brother Jimmy, and Jimmy's girlfriend. We had fun--though Jimmy was a bigger fan of Mirah than Thao, which I find mystifying.

3. The National (Owen Pallett) @ the Rialto, Tucson 10/13/10. Saw this with my Dad, which was a blast. Blaine and Kelly B were supposed to come along but both canceled out.

2. Sufjan Stevens (DM Stith) @ Mesa Arts Center 10/22/10 - I never posted about this for a handful of reasons. Primarily my semester heated up like crazy, and I had absolutely no time. Additionally, though, I was just overwhelmed by the show. By the time Sufjan had finished three songs I was exhausted. It was a mind-blowing show. I may still post about it later--for my own sake, seeing as it's a bit late for anyone else's interest. Saw this with Sam, but there were also a billion Tucson people there: Cody and Lauren L, Bill, Katie's husband Rick, Taylor and Debbie Jo, and I think Ben Adam was somewhere too, though I didn't run into him.

1. The Walkmen (Dan Mangan + Japandroids) @ Clubhouse Music Venue, Tempe 09/17/10 - Definitively spectacular. One of the best shows I've ever attended. Sam and I sweated a lot at this show.

Still to come: A 2010 Playlist, Unranked Albums, Ranked Albums