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When I was in high school, my mom (an English lit major) introduced me to William Herbert Carruth’s (1859-1924) “Each in His Own Tongue.” For a variety of reasons, I’ve been thinking a great deal about this poem recently. 

I’m not an atheist, but I have the utmost respect for those who consider themselves atheists. And I get it; I get why someone wouldn’t believe in God. I do wonder – and I always have – how much religious definitions of God affect people’s decisions on the matter. For example, I certainly don’t believe in the God of fundamentalist right-wingers who use religion as a way to justify bigotry, intolerance, cruelty, and in the most extreme cases, murder. I certainly don’t believe that it’s “God’s will” for people to suffer, as so many pious people like to point out. Put simply, my definition of God just simply isn’t the same as someone else’s. So it’s a hard thing to talk about, and a subject I generally steer clear of. 

One argument that I have to mention (because it’s referenced in the poem) is the theory of evolution. I believe in evolution, and I think people who use religion as a way to argue against it may as well be living in a fantasy world. But why can’t one, for the sake of argument, entertain the thought that evolution is science paired with something so miraculous, so beyond our comprehension? No one ever seems to look at it that way, which I find puzzling. Why does it have to be one or the other?

I suppose it’s human nature that very difficult life circumstances make us question the meaning of our life and, if we do have any sort of faith, the very notion of “God” itself. And that considered, I have found this poem to be very comforting recently and very beautiful. So without going into any further analysis, I thought I would just post the poem. 

Each in His Own Tongue / William Herbert Carruth
 
A fire-mist and a planet,
A crystal and a cell,
A jelly-fish and a saurian,
And caves where the cave-men dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty
And a face turned from the clod, –
Some call it Evolution,
And others call it God.

 

A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite, tender sky,
The ripe, rich tint of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high;
And all over upland and lowland
The charm of the golden-rod, –
Some of us call it Autumn,
And others call it God.

Like tides on a crescent sea-beach,
When the moon is new and thin,
Into our hearts high yearnings
Come welling and surging in:
Come from the mystic ocean,
Whose rim no foot has trod, –
Some of us call it Longing,
And others call it God.

A picket frozen on duty,
A mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humble and nameless,
The straight, hard pathway plod, –
Some call it Consecration,
And others call it God.

 

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Despite having grown up around a fair amount of Led Zeppelin (thanks to my sister), I first became acquainted with “When the Levee Breaks” while watching the amazing film, “Argo.” I’m not going to lie — I haven’t looked at the lyrics, which is a rarity for me, considering how much I value poetry. But thinking of the levee breaking as a metaphor, I suppose it’s describing the point where all control goes out the window. And the groove? Yeah, it doesn’t get any better than that. And Tori has covered it. I believe there’s a quote somewhere where Tori described Robert Plant as “the Goddess.” Goddess with a capital “G.” I found it: “Something really clicked in me when I discovered Led Zeppelin. And you have to understand what that did for me because first of all, oh my God, besides the guitar playing, which was you know, I *wanted* to be Jimmy Page. That’s what I really wanted to be. But I wanted to *be with* Robert Plant. Just the way he’d move his body and the sensuality. I mean, I just knew I had found the Goddess, that was it.”

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Thanks to my sister’s amazingly eclectic and wonderful musical tastes, I listened to the Sugarcubes in middle school; so, naturally I bought Bjork’s first couple solo records. For whatever reasons, they never really grabbed me, as much as I had loved the Sugarcubes. Maybe for the same reasons Kate Bush didn’t grab me until I was 24; too “out there”? Not really sure, but whenever one truly discovers particular artists, it’s almost always worth the wait.

For many years, I’ve been a bit contemptuous of Bjork and her fans, because as a member of the musician community, it’s seemed very trendy and cool to love Bjork. See: http://www.bjorkestra.com/, formed by a former grad-school-classmate of my husband’s. And I guess it’s in my nature to be suspicious of trendiness, but that’s my own issue.

In an attempt to get some new music going in my headphones, I pulled out a couple of my husband’s Bjork records, and I was pretty much immediately blown away. The creativity, the sounds, the lyrics, the textures and imagination. Bjork has been written and talked about ad nauseam, so I’ll just say that I think she’s an amazing role model for people in general, but especially for young women in the age of Miley Cyrus. Listen to Bjork’s music, experience her live performances – she is totally worth it.

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…I feel terrific! Terrific, having said goodbye to FB, that is. The pros and cons of FB have been written about ad nauseum, so I’ll try to provide a somewhat brief and probably not but hopefully fresh perspective. I will attempt as well not to get too narcissistic…that would be perpetuating the navel gazing, I’m-so-awesome-and-important characteristics of FB anyway, yes?

I don’t claim to be any more spiritually evolved than the next person, but I do feel like I’ve reached a point in life where I just can’t tolerate disingenuousness. Life is hard. We all know that. Life is also wonderful, and we surely know that too. And the highs and lows of life are what jolt us into reality, jolt us into perspective that helps us grow. And so many of the qualities of FB don’t seem to line up with this striving towards becoming more honest and more real; FB is, generally speaking, an avenue for people to show off about how awesome their life is. And life can indeed be totally awesome. But life can also be really, really complicated and really hard. I realize FB isn’t supposed to be an avenue for spiritual growth (at least not with anyone or any organizations I know), so I’m not promoting that sort of approach to a frankly shallow form of social media. I’m promoting getting away from it entirely…if it bothers you.

I’ve been thinking about the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah” lately. “It’s not a cry that you hear at night, it’s not someone who’s seen the light, it’s a cold and broken hallelujah…There was a time when you let me know what’s really going on below, but now you never show that to me, do you? Remember when I moved in you and the holy dove was moving too, and every breath we drew was hallelujah.” THAT’S real. It’s not about painting a facade. So FB has become hard for me, as it has for so many people.

I should start by saying that for many years I was a big fan of Facebook. I first signed up in 2007, and I found it fun, entertaining, and a great way to stay in touch with friends and family…in a very superficial way, of course, as I hope we’ve all come to realize. On my 5 year wedding anniversary in 2011, I was excited to post some wedding photos because our wedding was pre-Facebook; so, many people I knew who weren’t at the wedding, even those close to me, hadn’t seen our wedding photos. I enjoyed posting photos promoting upcoming concerts & recitals, trips I did, and so on. But there was always a dark side. My philosophically evolved husband did not care for my posting personal photos of our life, which I’ve come to understand very well. Our relationship is private and sacred – it’s not a spectacle. Understood. So that’s a big point.

Apropos that, I guess my official “beef #1” with FB is how it’s become an avenue for people to brag about their relationships/marriages. For example, you’ve got the young married couple who obnoxiously broadcast their adoration of their partners for the “world” to see. “I love you, honey, you’re the most amazing partner a gal could have.” I mean…really??? Isn’t that person, like, in the next room? Or on the other end of the phone? Isn’t it far more meaningful and powerful and REAL to say it to someone’s face? Or at the very least on their voicemail when they’re out of town? More to the point, said comment is pretty seriously private, am I right? I’m finding myself more and more thankful that Jason and I fell in love before Facebook. Even in my most active FB days, photos aside, I can’t imagine even beginning to try to portray that love over the internet for everyone to see…even though on some level I’d be dying to tell the world what I was feeling. Love is really a sacred thing, right? And should sacredness be broadcast for everyone, real “friends” or not, to see? That’s a big question that straddles various subjects way beyond FB. I have a friend who thinks that people who advertise their supposedly amazing marriages on FB are actually the ones with the most dysfunction. Definitely possible.

Beef #2: Musician friends bragging about their careers. We all have great times in our careers, we all have shitty times in our careers. If you’re making it (I mean, REALLY making it) as a musician, you deserve all the credit in the world, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a really, really tough life, and that deserves a huge amount of recognition, no doubt. But the constant broadcasting on FB, hidden behind such gems as “Feeling so blessed that I get to play with such amazing musicians…playing three gigs in one day…blessed.” I guess I’m one of those people who finds bragging to be very obvious, so it really just becomes embarrassing. All of that said, I definitely understand wanting to advertise gigs, so that’s not really the point here. When I got a full-time teaching gig, I really wanted to let people know that I was still playing, still gigging, still making creative performance a part of my life. As I get older, I’m caring less about people knowing that, but I still get it. The blatant, embarrassing bragging is harder to understand.

Beef #3: Oversharing super personal information. Like, health stuff. Super personal family drama. Not cool. It just screams “I’m attention starved and desperately need affirmation and empathy.” It’s not that I don’t empathize, but broadcasting it on FB just seems embarrassing and just way TMI.

Beef #4: Friend #1 makes passive aggressive statements about friend #2. Everyone else has no idea of the actual particulars of the situation, of course, so friend #2 naturally becomes a criminal. Not cool. And not a healthy way to address a problem. Seems pretty desperate to me.

Beef #5: FB is a time waster. Like TV. Or Pinterest (which I love). At least with Pinterest, there’s an artistic element that doesn’t give away or beg lots of personal information. (Obviously I’m feeling guilty about my pinterest obsession). 😉

There are little things I miss, but they’re purely fleeting and superficial. Like, I’d love to share that I just bought my two favorite Bill Murray movies on DVD or that I’m not consuming dairy products these days and that I’d love suggestions for substitutes…but maybe those things aren’t so important in the grand scheme of things. 😉

Lots of people love FB, stay healthy with it, and will probably be life long users. Many people have no interest in painting a facade of their life, or bragging, or being passive aggressive as a way to get at somebody. And those people will stick with it, likely. Not I. And thank goodness!

Leonard Cohen has a FB page, I think, though I suspect he’s not posting annoying, overly personal or passive aggressive comments. 😉 Below the photo, is Allison Crowe’s version of “Hallelujah”; I really like her version (KD Lang’s is actually my favorite, but she leaves out a couple of my favorite verses; this one includes one of those verses)Image:

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Robert Smith and Tori are pretty much my favorite musicians ever.  I listened to them through the nineties, through college, through graduate school, through my twenties, and I still do.  I live a life surrounded by a great many “tee-tas” (snooty classical musicians who like to sing music to friends and colleagues using “tees” and “tas”) so these days I find even greater solace in the music that speaks closest and dearest to my heart.

This is one of Tori’s most beautiful covers.  So different from the Cure’s original version, yet capturing, I think, the true essence of what the song is all about.  It’s one of the world’s greatest love songs.  And both Robert and Tori’s ability to convey melancholic, earnest, profound feeling never fails.

Gotta admire Robert’s iconic high tops…and lipstick:

Beautiful Tori photo show, to boot:

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My comfort song…

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Circa 1982 (Pornography era)

Back in 2000/2001-ish I was asked to play for a band called Asciento, based in Boston/Somerville, MA, because they wanted to cover the Cure’s “Pornography” in its entirety, and specifically for the song, “Cold,” they wanted cello.  Being a long-time (and no doubt obsessive) Cure fan, and a huge fan of black leather clothing and dark make-up, I, without hesitation, said “yes.”  And I’m really glad I did, because it led to many musical revelations & interesting relationships from which I learned a great deal.

In middle and high school, I was a huge fan of “Disintegration,” “Kiss me, Kiss me, Kiss me,” “the Head on the Door,” and “Standing on a Beach: the Singles,” plus some others.  Some of the older stuff, like “Pornography,” was a bit too…well, I don’t know…it wasn’t quite accessible enough to my teenage ears.  A bit too dark maybe (hard to believe since I love all things dark, but really….this record is going into the depths of the darkest dark), a bit too repetitive in a minimalist New-Wavey kind of way…a bit too obscure with the lyrics, at least for my brain at the time…but through that performance in 2000/2001 and through just maturing as a musician and an avid listener, well, I just love this record.  Some of the songs have a similar rhythmic/tempo feel, so it almost feels like the songs run together a bit.  But I think that’s part of what makes it interesting.  I find it sensitive, angsty, depressing, torturous, moving, and fraught with the deepest feeling.  And it’s honest.  Robert Smith has always been tremendously honest, I think.  He’s not trying to be anyone but himself, he’s not trying to be trendy or to fit in with anyone or anything…he doesn’t really sound like anyone but himself.  The Cure sounds like the Cure.  No question about it.  And I think this record is unbelievably unique.  “Siamese Twins” is probably the most depressing song I’ve ever heard…but man, what a beautiful song.  The record kind of grooves on itself; it’s not over-done, there’s not a whole lot going on except for dense sound & grooves.  Robert Smith is heartfelt as ever, in the most honest way.  I think this record is a masterpiece.

What an opener (omg, holy 80s)”

Almost danceable…”Short Term Effect”

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In light of the recent (and horrifying) image of Tori Amos for her upcoming record, “Night of Hunters,” I decided to go back to music that gives me hope, personally and artistically.  I love to write about Tori, but rather than doing just that, I’m going to post my favorite live performances from each era.  Tori reminds me what it is to be a musician and why I chose to go that path with my life.  Enjoy!  🙂

Little Earthquakes Era – 1991/1992: “Here in my Head,” a b-side (Best moment: 3 minutes, 10 seconds basically to the end).  Painfully heartfelt, honest, angst-ridden in the most beautiful way…Best line/verse (I think):

maybe i’m just the horizon you run to
when she has left
you and me here
alone on the floor
you’re counting my feathers
as the bells toll
you see the bow and the belt
and the girl from the south
all favorites of mine
you know them all well
and spring brings fresh little puddles
that makes it all clear
makes it all…
hey, do you know
hey, do you know
what this is doing to me?
oh, here…
here…
here. in my head

Under the Pink era: “Bells for Her” 1994  — sensitive, dark, moody, sad, earnest.  You kind of have to be a major fan to sit through the entire performance, but man, what an introspective ride.  This song reminds me of very lonely winters.   Best line/verse: bells and footfalls and soldiers and dolls
brothers and lovers she and i were
now she seems to be sand under his shoes
there’s nothing i can do
can’t stop what’s coming
can’t stop what’s on its way

Boys for Pele (I’m allowed 2 since this is my favorite record of all-time).  1) Marianne 2) Horses/Fool on the Hill

Best line/verse from either: tuna
rubber
a little blubber in my igloo
and i knew you pigtails and all
girl when they fall
and they say marianne killed herself
and i said not a chance
don’t you love the girls ladies babies
old bags who say she was so pretty why
why why why did she crawl down in the old
deep ravine

From the Choirgirl Hotel: Such an AWESOME record.  I’m choosing her performance of “Cruel” at Madison Square Garden in 1998.  Best line:  dance with the sufi’s celebrate your top ten in the charts of pain
lover brother bogenvilla my vine twists around your need
even the rain is sharp like today as you sh-sh-shock me sane
no cigarettes only peeled HAVANA’S for you i can be cruel

To Venus and Back: Such a special record.  I choose a live performance of “Concertina”.  Best line/verse: the soul-quake
happened here in a glass world
particle by particle
she slowly changes
she likes hanging chinese paper cuts
just another fix
can i weather this

i got my fuzz all tipped to play
i got a dub on your landscape
then there’s your policy of tracing
the sauce without the blame

Strange Little Girls – 2001 – terribly unique covers album.  I choose “Real Men,” written by Joe Jackson.  Best line/verse: what’s a man now
what’s a man mean
is he rough or is he rugged
cultural and clean
now it’s all changed
it’s got to change more
we think it’s getting better
but nobody’s really sure

Scarlet’s Walk – 2002: Such a beautiful masterpiece of a record.  I choose her live version of “Virginia.”  Best line/verse:  he will
change from her
sunwise to clockwise
to soul trading
still she’ll lay
down her Body
covering him all
the same
oh Virginia
do you remember
when the Land held
your hand
oh Virginia

The Beekeeper – 2005 – I fell in love with my husband right around when this record came out, so it’s hard for me NOT to love it.  Still, it shows a departure from the bad ass, angsty, emotional Tori we saw previously. Nonetheless, I think her live shows were incredible.  I choose “Song of Soloman,” which was basically an improv she did for a Viktor & Rolf fashion show.  Parts of it are in her tune, “Take me with You.”  this is pretty magical.  Just watch the whole clip if you can, so you wait for the models to come out.  They do so at 2:15.

American Doll Posse: I don’t have much to say here, but she blew me away at the live show in 2007 for this record.  I choose “Beauty of Speed.”  She is pretty mesmerizing in this.

Abnormally Attracted to Sin: 2009 – Strong Black Vine, live, because she does a “Tori rant” reminiscent of her rants from 1998-ish.  Interesting record, but not much to say.  Still, this live clip is pretty awesome.  I happened to be reading “the Story of O” when this record came out, and well…it proved to be a pretty amazing soundtrack.  😉  She’s pretty insane in this vid, but if you’re a Tori fan…well, I guess we get it.

I have to end on a better note, however.  So this is my favorite live performance of a b-side (other than “Here in My Head.”)  I choose “Butterfly” from the Under the Pink era.  “Butterfly” is in my top 5 favorite Tori songs of all time.  Favorite line/verse:

stinky soul get a little lost in my own
hey general, need a little love in that hole of yours
one ways, now, and saturdays and our kittens
all wrapped in cement
from cradle to gumdrops
got me running girl as fast as i can
and is it right, butterfly,
they like you better framed and dried

Tori Amos, Choirgirl era, circa 1998

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From "Hounds of Love"

I was pleased to come across a series of youtube videos, all featuring this person’s “greatest” Kate Bush selections — “greatest song,” “greatest cover version,” “greatest video,” etc.  What a discovery!  I’m fairly obsessed with Kate Bush.  She is the coolest of the cool, the most beautiful of the beautiful, the most original of the original and just super duper interesting and bad ass all around.  Such an inspiration!  Enjoy!  (Just for the record, this person’s “greatest song” is NOT what I would consider her greatest song, nor is it the best version…but it’s still super cool.)  🙂  Something to take extra note of, if you’re interested — the “greatest lyrics” was inspired by Joyce’s “Ulysses.”  🙂

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Two of my favorite runners ever: the Americans, Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher

I recently had to take 2 weeks off from running due to illness & just being seriously over-worked.  A couple weeks after having gotten back into it, I took another 6 days off for vacation.  And to be perfectly honest, the thing that was the hardest for me during those times off was…frankly, not being able to run.  I thought about it frequently, even had dreams about it!  I missed it so much.  I missed how it makes me feel physically, spiritually (that’s a biggie), and emotionally.  And so I fully realized how much running means to me in my life.

I’m not a marathoner by any stretch of the imagination, but I do consider myself a serious runner in that I pay close attention to my times, my speed, my running frequency (i.e. I write it on my calendar, document my mileage most of the time, etc).  I started running in 2004 when I went home to NC for the summer and became a regular visitor of the Cane Creek Middle School track a couple miles from my parents’ house.  Said track happens to be in one of the most spectacular valleys in western NC.  Lucky me!  Anyway, I had put on quite a few pounds during the last year of my Master’s degree, and was just feeling down about a lot of things.  Running seemed like a good way to kickstart feeling good again.  My dad was a runner all my growing up, which may have had something to do with my particular choice of exercise.  So I dabbled in running for the next couple years and then became quite serious about it around 2007-2008.  I reached my peak fitness last summer, 2010, able to run about 6.5 miles in just over an hour.  For a marathoner, that’s nothing; for me, that’s tremendous. Unfortunately, I’ve gone a bit downhill the last couple months, hence this manifesto to the importance of fitness, and more specifically, of running (if that’s your exercise of choice).

Running changed my life and continues to do so in every positive way imaginable.  If there is any space that I consider my own church or temple, it is the space I enter when I’m having a really good run.  A good running mix on the ipod is key — I have various visualizations I use depending on the song, what I need to keep myself going, etc.  My self-esteem seems to be directly correlated to how much I’ve been exercising; which really means, my self-esteem is directly related to how my body feels physically and the degree to which I’ve had a good dose of endorphins.  The mind-spirit-body connection is in its full glory with running.  I’ve had a similar experience with Bikram yoga, probably because it too is an extremely intense form of exercise…I love Bikram, but I prefer running.

A chubby kid who began dieting probably at age 9 (if not earlier), I’ve had my battles with body dysmorphic disorder and feeling unworthy physically.  As women in 2011, I think most of us have had to contend with socio-cultural expectations of how women are “supposed” to look, what is considered desirable, and so on.  And I admit, there was a time when I ran simply to “get thin,” and it is with a degree of embarrassment that I admit that.  But I say with total sincerity that my desire to be a great runner and to get my body in great physical shape goes so far beyond anything having to do with appearance.  Sure, I like to fit into my jeans without effort just as much as the next person; but running and the space that I enter when I’m running has to do with transcendence — transforming consciousness through intense physical activity, taking care of one’s body to live life to the fullest.  Running has also changed my relationship with food, because I think more about eating to fuel and nourish myself.  So I’m more diligent about considering foods’ nutritional value, rather than just how many calories or fat grams they contain.

I’m not one to get preachy (unless I’m waxing poetic about Tori Amos or something nutty like that), but I do think that exercise and taking care of oneself physically can and does change peoples’ lives.  I hope I will be one of those 75+ year-old women who you still see kicking ass at races — they are out there, no doubt.  So in the meantime, I’m going to get myself a new pair of running shoes, and continue on my goal to run a hearty half-marathon.

Enjoy these clips!  The first one is the American runner Shalane Flanagan coming in 2nd at last year’s NYC Marathon.  What an inspiration!  The second clip is from yesterday’s Boston Marathon.  Huge congrats to fellow American Desiree Davila coming in 2nd.

Some running mix ideas — these really get me through tough runs:

1. Pat Benatar’s “Invincible”

2. Y Kant Tori Read – “On the Boundary”

3. Almost anything by Nine Inch Nails

4. Bangles – Hazy Shade of Winter

5. B-52’s – Juliet of the Spirits

6. John Legend – Give me the Green Light

7. Kate Bush – Be Kind to My Mistakes

And as a cool down, try Sade’s “Smooth Operator”!  🙂  Happy running!

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