19 November 2006

new in my top 25

Most played songs in my iPod, that is.

mid-november : johnathan rice
click here or on the image below to listen

A fitting post given that we have just crossed that part of the month. There seems to be so much Johnathan Rice is trying to say in this song, but I can't get through the lyrics. What's the story behind it? While it speaks of war, I can't make out if it's literal. The mention of death and coins on the eyes – a reference to the ancient practice of placing copper coins on the eyes of soldiers who died at war, according to the movie Troy – made me think it is. I have an outrageous theory. The narrator is the spirit of a soldier in a war, wounded and fighting for his life. He visits his loved one, finds her restless in her bed, and wonders if she somehow knows of his condition. This is probably nowhere near what Rice had in mind, but nonetheless I find Mid-November gravely sentimental, especially with that voice that seems to have just been squeezed out of clinical depression. Feel free to share your ideas.

please don't send me away : matthew jay
click here or on the image below to listen

Here's another song that breathes with trouble and secrecy. Following the lyrics, one might immediately look at it as a paternal discourse. But Matthew Jay was not even 24 when he wrote the song – that was his age when he died from falling from the seventh floor of a building – so it might be that it was his conscience, personified by his father, speaking to him. Torment, after all, comes in many voices. I'm not familiar with Jay's life story, but it looks like suicide was never ruled out as a cause of his fall, and I think his family even volunteered the information that he left no note. It's probably just me, but the words, especially the last three lines of the song, read like a self-addressed farewell from someone who expected way too much from himself and failed to meet his own expectations. Ah, but I think I'm being too morbid.

way of the sun : archer prewitt
click here or on the image below to listen

I don't normally like the sound of everyday objects or even nature being used in a song, and the chime or music box effect at the intro of Way Of The Sun is no exception. But the rest of this clever and striking post-apocalyptic song makes it a worthwhile listen. Think of a massive disaster that cost lives and property and imagine people huddled on rooftops waiting for evacuation. That's the image I get from the third and fourth verses of this song. And as if the lyrics aren't enough to hint at salvation, "Ave Maria" is invoked. I thought it was an unnecessary turn, but here I am talking about it, which means it did its job of calling attention to itself. But what follows after that – a series of claps – is a charming melodic transition to the gradual, restrained ending of the song.

Anyway. I'll try to post newer songs next. I'm off to get Teitur's latest album. I can't wait.

15 November 2006

grumpy old men

click on either title to listen

Off to Singapore for a business trip; I will be back this weekend. Here are a couple of old anti-war records, which are as much as I can say about the war in Iraq right now. The Democratic Party's midterm election victory pleases me; I would love to see a reduction of troops there, along with a decisive strategy as far as the government of the country is concerned – one that takes into consideration the differences of the domestic political forces there, and that will preserve lives and prevent Iraq from spiralling further down the hell hole the Bush administration has buried it in. I am now especially eager to find out what happens about Iran. As far as I know, an attack on the Islamic Republic had been a done deal even before the midterms. I count on the Democrat-led Congress to change that. Iran and more importantly the Iranian people do not deserve any form of military hostility regardless of the government's claim that its nuclear program would be completed by March. To be sure, Iran does seem to want to annihilate Israel – I've seen the propaganda posters all over Tehran myself, having visited Iran last July. But my feeling is, the intent is nothing more than that: a propaganda perpetrated by the mullahs for whatever purpose they are trying to achieve. To preempt this empty threat by attacking Iran on the back of the failure in Iraq is neither morally nor politically astute.

12 November 2006

introducing alternative tales

Alright, as some of you may know, I write for a living, and that what I write in my daily grind is nowhere near what I want to be writing about. I used to write a lot fiction and poetry, but I've stopped. I plan to change that, and just to make it more fun to do, since music is also my foremost interest, I've decided to combine both music and fiction.

And so I'm going to try to run this series: alternative tales : stories from my ipod. Essentially, this is my self-imposed mental exercise, and it will only work with your help.

Here's what you do: Give me a song, pick a line from that song, and then give me a name, place, or object.

And here's what I'll do: I'll write a flash fiction – a very short story of 250 to 1,000 words – about or inspired by that song, throwing in the line and name, place, or object you picked. Anything but rap, metal, country and bubblegum pop.

To start, I give you Rudie Can't Fail – from the song of the same title by The Clash. A member of a forum I often visit suggested it, and he chose the line "How you get a rude and a reckless, don't you be so crude and a feckless, you been drinking brew for breakfast, Rudie can't fail." His person is Mother Teresa.

And so it is. Let me know what you think, and don't forget to make your own suggestions.

rudie can't fail : the clash
click here or on the image below to listen

Rudie took one final drag of his cigarette as he walked from the side of his car to the green-gray gate of the old house. "Today's the day," he said to himself. He rang the bell and craned his neck to look through the glass window that let the orange mid-afternoon sun wash over the musty living room inside. He could hear muffled voices and the clacking of shoes against the creaking wooden floor on his approach.

It had only been two weeks since his last visit, yet his father seemed to have aged a decade. Whatever it was that was eating his brain was also doing a good job at tearing his body apart. Rudie felt a tinge of pity for the man, whose once-proud military build now lay slouched on a tattered couch, head bowed down, left hand limply resting on the handle of his cane, right hand gripping a rolled-up newspaper – the same newspaper he had been holding for five years now, the one that had a picture of the crash that killed his wife. He had been driving and had fallen asleep, and in his guilt, Rudie believed, almost willfully drove himself to senility.

Rudie hunkered down to greet his father, yet again failed to look straight into his eyes for even a second. The dark spots that ringed his neck had formed a map, while the surface of his skin, nearly transparent in its whiteness, seemed to peel away from the flesh of his face. Rudie was taken aback when his father turned his eyes to grab his – a brief, fiery look of recognition that quickly melted into an empty, hopeless gaze. "How are you, Papa?" he asked, and when there was no answer, Rudie wrapped his hand over his father’s papery wrist, surprised both by its warmth and strong pulse. He eased down to his fist and tried to gently pry the newspaper from his fingers so he could hold his hand, but it only provoked a blow to the side of his head.

"How you get a-rude and a-reckless? Don't you be so crude and a-feckless!" his father howled, his voice mechanical, his eyes unmoved. From the vault of phrases he had uttered in the past that now sprung randomly from his mouth, that was a new yet familiar rebuke. Rudie's V-shaped scar at the tip of his eyebrow reminded him when his father had said it. He was fifteen, stumbling into the kitchen one morning, sneaking from the back door after a night of drunken disappearance. Rudie didn’t expect to find his father waiting. He grabbed Rudie by the collar, smelled his breath, and demanded in a guttural hush, "You been drinking brew for breakfast?" Before Rudie could say a word, he found himself thrown to the floor, his temple hitting the sharp corner of a chair. "Oh, so you care about me all of a sudden?" he shouted back as he wiped the stream of blood from his cheek. That was when his father said the line – humorous in its unintentional rhyme, callous in its unequivocal threat.

"Rudie can’t fail," came a crumpled voice from a woman sitting next to his father. "Did you bring me those vegetables from the market, Rudie?" She called herself Mother Teresa, although she looked nowhere near the late saint of the gutter. Tall and overbuilt, she one day mysteriously appeared at the doorstep of the house with blood running down her legs, carrying a single bag of clothes and a stack of post-dated checks that went on to the next seven years. No more aware, she had been his father’s companion since. Rudie squeezed her hand, stood up, and brought his father to his feet. Mother Teresa stiffened, turned to face Rudie, and asked weakly, "It’s time, isn’t it, Rudie?" He smiled and nodded. "Goodbye, George," she said.

Rudie guided his father to his room and gave him a glass of water before laying him down in his bed. There were pictures of his mother on the bedside table, on the wall next to the crucifix, on the mirror in the cabinet. "Happy birthday, Papa," he said, remembering the last time his father had been in his senses. He had gone to see Rudie in his house, but refused to come inside in spite of the rain. "I don’t have much to say, son," he had said. "Just take this and don’t fail me." And that was it – an envelope in his hand, an obligation to fulfill. Rudie took the will out of his pocket. He knew he needed to read the last line when this moment came, even though he'd had it memorized for five years. He whispered a prayer and wiped the tear that fell from his eye. He kissed his father on his forehead, and pressed a needle in his arm. George brought the newspaper to his chest, and pulled his final breath.

05 November 2006

holiday pics anyone?

I'm taking care of a backlog project here. Apart from the songs, below are links to picture galleries from my last two summer holidays. The first is from the Cyclades Islands in Greece where the significant other and I spent about a couple of weeks this July; the second is from Oaxaca, part of my three-week Mexico trip in July last year. Oaxaca isn't actually in good shape right now, and I sure hope they sort things out pronto.

Listen to the songs I'm posting while you, it is my hope, enjoy the pictures. The songs and the pictures don't exactly go together, but these are the bands I've been listening to lately, having just bought their latest Best Of compilations. The Tragically Hip and Gomez are underrated bands I like. TTH live up to the tragic in their name. These talented Canadians, who pre-date the recent wave of bands north of the US border such as The Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade and even The New Pornographers, should be bigger than they are. In fact, they've been around since 1983. Gomez, likewise, came before the Brit wave that we are still seeing. And even though they have a Mercury Prize to prove their worth, admittedly, I think they were never as exciting as the fresher lot are. They're finding new popularity, however, after Grey's Anatomy used one of their new songs, a boost they could certainly use.

So. Click on the titles to listen to the songs, which will pop up in a new window as usual, then click on the pictures to go to the galleries. They will open in this same page, but there's a link back if you want to return.

click on the title to listen
click on the picture to see greece

click on the title to listen
click on the picture to see oaxaca