sending this out into the universe (AKA the four people who read this blog)


I'm trying to really hard to locate something from my childhood.  I don't know what it's called, or really what it even was.

I think it was a cassette tape that I listened to all the time as a very little kid.  It was a sort of audiobook/musical.  The lead protagonist is a young girl, and I think she travels to some other world.  Rainbows may or may not be involved.  Synthesizers were absolutely involved.  There were songs.  But I have no idea what it's called!  Or if it was a music CD that happened to have a narrative, or an audiobook with songs.

Either way, it would have come out in the 80s or late 90s.  Any help (does this sound familiar to you in any way) would be appreciated. I've already asked my mom and she doesn't remember anything either!

I'd just really like to track down the title and then see if I can find it on Ebay.


#225: Nick of Time by Bonnie Raitt

Nick of Time by Bonnie Raitt (1989)

Favorite Track(s): "Nick of Time" and "Thing Called Love" and "Cry on My Shoulder" and "Nobody's Girl" and "Have a Heart" and "I Will Not Be Denied"

Thoughts: Last time we saw Bonnie was waaaay back in the beginning of 2011, at #496!  She's come a long way and so have we.

This is another album that reminds me of childhood because my parents had it in such heavy rotation.  I hear this album and I think eternal summer, bare feet, stuffed animals, and back-seat car rides.

The album cover always stood out to me because of her finger on the belt buckle!  Is she a superhero activating her awesome powers?  Yes.

The opening song, "Nick of Time" was actually used in a college course I took.  It was about 'Aging and Human Development', and in the very first class to illustrate what we were going to be studying, the professor played this song and two others (Linda Ronstadt's "Blue Bayou" and I can't recall the other one this second).  (Note: if I ever became a professor, I would start first classes with songs.  Probably too many.)  The professor asked us to listen closely to the lyrics, which at the time didn't mean much to me, but WHOO BOY do they ever now:

A friend of mine, she cries at night
And she calls me on the phone
Sees babies everywhere she goes
And she wants one of her own

She's waited long enough she says
And still he can't decide
Pretty soon she'll have to choose
And it tears her up inside

She is scared,
Scared to run out of time

I see my folks are getting on
And I watch their bodies change
I know they see the same in me
And it makes us both feel strange

No matter how you tell yourself
It's what we all go through
Those lines are pretty hard to take
When they're staring back at you

Oh Oh Oh, scared you'll run out of time

When did the choices get so hard
With so much more at stake
Life gets mighty precious
When there's less of it to waste

Just when I thought I'd had enough
And all my tears were shed
No promise left unbroken
There were no painful words unsaid

You came along and showed me

I could leave it all behind
You opened up my heart again
And then much to my surprise

I found love, baby, love in the nick of time

I mean, right?  This is song-writing.  We grow old!  Our parents get old!  Should I have kids?  Will I have kids?  Life gets mighty precious when there's less of it to waste.  And that last section about finding love?  SHOOT ME IN THE FACE.  The song is so chill that if you didn't listen to the lyrics closely, you'd have no clue she was dealing with such heavy themes.  Or maybe you would.  I wouldn't.

Or take "Nobody's Girl", written by Larry John McNally.

He said, "Before I met her, I didn't love nothin'
I could take it or leave it, that was okay, but
She brings out a want in me
For things I didn't even know that I need."

Man alive!

But seriously, it's hard for me to judge any of these songs on their individual or even collective merits because they are so heavily laden with nostalgia.  But they are very good--not a stinker on here.  And you should listen to them and let them attach themselves to an era of your life.  Hopefully a good one.

Is This Better Than The River?: Yes, it is so balanced and superbly produced.  Though it is more blues-y than I generally care for, so I will still listen to The River more often.

I'm still in total disbelief.


Remember that poster I gave my friend Lucy at her bridal shower?  Well, she told me she framed it, which made me so happy, but when I walked through the doors at her wedding reception I saw this and nearly died:

I couldn't believe it!  I was so unbelievably honored and touched and just...speechless.

And what a wedding!  I only took pictures at the reception because I wanted to be totally present for the ceremony, but both were incredible.  I will treasure the day forever, for so many special reasons.

For instance, I will be re-reading this (I got to hear it's writer read it aloud at the ceremony) for days.

Adam Pascal singing Phantom and Chess in Concert with Seth Rudetsky


Yes, please, thank you.

Thursday night art.

Song of the day.


Not because it's particularly amazing (it isn't) but because it is extremely catchy and stuck in my head.  So listen at your own risk. 

You won't win.

#226: A Night at the Opera by Queen

A Night at the Opera by Queen (1975)

Favorite Track(s):  "You're My Best Friend" and "39" and "Seaside Rendezvous" and "The Prophet's Song" and "Love of My Life" and "Good Company"

Thoughts: QUEEN!  It's about time.  It's our very first Queen album--and a great one at that! Though I have to confess, the title A  Night at the Opera makes me think of Les Miserables, when Enjorlas sings in "Red and Black":

It is time for us all to decide who we are
Do we fight for the right 
to a night at the opera now?

I like to think that was a little Queen shout-out by Alan Boubil.  To the album!  Freddie Mercury, take me away.

The album opens with piano, then electric guitar.  YES.   There's so much theatricality to this band's songs (and to Freddie's voice).  But they're also varied!  I remember being shocked when I learned that the same band that sings "We Will Rock You" also wrote "Crazy Little Thing Called Love."  Or "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "You're My Best Friend."  Pure, unadulterated musical talent from these four men.

This was my first time listening to this album.  My experience of Queen has been more from their Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits II, which my dad owns on CD, and we would listen to in the car.*  So this was my first exposure to songs like "The Prophet's Song" written by Brian May, and it was mind-blowing.  Apparently it's sort of based on a dream he had while recovering from an illness.  I've had those kinds of dreams, and turning it into an amazing rock song like this is pretty amazing. 

Then there's "Bohemian Rhapsody", which is on this album.  I remember reading some stupid blog post that someone stupidly linked to on Facebook about ways women could be more attractive to men.  As if the rest of society and advertising weren't attempting to teach the exact same thing.  Because it's our whole lives, isn't it, as women?  How can I make myself more attractive for the male population?  Ok, back to the point.  This blogger had a list of things women should do to attract men, and one of them was literally, "Know All the Words to 'Bohemian Rhapsody.'"  Initially I was caught off guard, and quite pleased with myself because hey, I know all the words to "Bohemian Rhapsody"!  BRING FORTH MY MANY SUITORS.  But seconds later I realized that's a huge crock of old shit.  Knowing all the words to "Bohemian Rhapsody" or appreciating classic rock, is not a man's game.  It's a human being's game.  It's everyone's game.  And now God knows how many women are out there trying to learn the words to this EPIC song just to impress men.  It's a real shame.  Memorize "Bohemian Rhapsody" because IT BELONGS IN YOUR SOUL and for no other reason.  Well, also because it's incredible for sing-alongs/karaoke/air-guitar/head-banging.

I took this opportunity to really look into the 'behind the scenes' aspects of the song.  It was referred to as "Fred's Thing" by Brian, Roger, and John, and the recording of it took 5 studios!   Judith Peraino said that "Mercury intended... [this song] to be a 'mock opera', something outside the norm of rock songs, and it does follow a certain operatic logic: choruses of multi-tracked voices alternate with aria-like solos, the emotions are excessive, the plot confusing."  Read more about it at the wikipedia page.  Fascinating.

There's a gif/meme all over tumblr inspired by the song that I enjoy.  People tend to use it when they are very excited.

*honestly, one of the best things my parents have ever done for me is take the time to share great music with me.  I still ended up with a severe NSYNC phase, but the important stuff stayed with me.  :) 

Is This Better Than The River?:


#227: The Kink Kronikles by The Kinks

The Kink Kronikles by The Kinks (1972)

Favorite Track(s): "Victoria" and "The Village Green Preservation Society" and "This is Where I Belong" and "Waterloo Sunset" and "Dead End Street" and "Shangri-La" and "Autumn Almanac" and "Sunny Afternoon" and "Apeman" and "Lola" and "She's Got Everything"

Thoughts: Alright, this is our third, and I believe final, Kinks album.  As it is a compilation album that features songs from those two other albums, The Village Green Preservation Society and Something Else, I was nervous we would have another Byrds debacle on our hands.  But there are enough songs from other Kinks albums on here (it's two discs/a double album) that I think I can let the over-lapping slide this time. Especially since lots of the songs are unreleased (in the U.S.) songs and b-sides and such, as opposed to just greatest hits.  Plus, and I might get flack for this, The Kinks are in a whole other league than The Byrds.  They're quintessentially British, yes, but Ray Davies' song-writing skills are so impressive.  Kinks songs are so...colorful.  From "Big Black Smoke":

Well, she slept in cafes and coffee bars and bowling alleys
And every penny she had
Was spent on purple hearts and cigarettes

I listen to a Kinks song and I can visualize a whole (British) world and story from it.  Like one "Penny Lane"-esque song after another.

Is This Better Than The River?: As good to me.

And if love is really all that we need, then even all my singing is never gonna save me


Song of the day, "Substitute" by Frank Turner.

Well music, it's my substitute for love


#228: Mr. Tambourine Man by The Byrds

Mr. Tambourine Man by The Byrds (1965)

Favorite Track(s): "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "All I Really Want to Do" and "Chimes of Freedom" and "We'll Meet Again"

Thoughts: 60s Folk rock!  I approve.  However.

This is The Byrds debut album. It's not a pain to listen to at all.  It's very pleasant to listen to.  But to me, the best songs on this album are Bob Dylan covers (the rest sound like songs the Beatles left on the cutting room floor--and with good reason).  And I love Bob Dylan covers!  I love them by Sonny and Cher, I love them by The Byrds (apparently their cover of "Mr. Tambourine" man gave Dylan his one and only number one single), and I love them best of all by Peter, Paul and Mary, who don't show up ONCE on this list.  The Byrds?  They will show up here at least three, THREE! more times.  One of which, Greatest Hits, has--you guessed it--FIVE songs from Mr. Tambourine Man.  I call serious, outrageous foul.  So many other underrepresented artists and albums could have had a spot on this list without such obvious over-lapping. Like effing Peter, effing Paul, and effing Mary!

With that in mind...

Is This Better Than The River?: No.

Tuesday night art

#229: Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel (Or: I'm Habitually Feelin' Kinda Blue.)


Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel (1968)

Favorite Track(s): "Bookends Theme" and "America" and "Overs" and "Old Friends" and "Bookends" and "Fakin' It" and "Mrs. Robinson" and "A Hazy Shade of Winter"

Thoughts: Ahhhhhh.  Let's all breathe a sigh of relief.  Simon and Garfunkel are here.  And everything that hurts will GO ON HURTING because it's effing Simon and Garfunkel!  I have a friend who refuses to listen to them, due to how depressed their music makes him.

I had a really awful night last night (self-loathing coupled with the desire to never leave my house again) and I actually comforted myself with the knowledge that I could listen to Bookends the next day, and that would help.  And it does.  Except writing about it has proved more difficult than expected.  (Blah, blah, blah I'm such a drama queen.  SELF-LOATHING!)

"Bookends" ended up on most mixes I made in late 2009/early 2010.  I'd say it was a perfect song...if "America" didn't exist.  They're my favorite songs off the album, hands down.  I usually listen to albums on this list with youtube because I like to see people's comments and the view counts, etc.  This is one of the first that I've listened to on my own iPod, because I need to just replay "Bookends" and "America" over and over until I have something worth saying about them.

Posting the lyrics might help. "America":

"Let us be lovers we'll marry our fortunes together"
"I've got some real estate here in my bag"
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America

"Kathy," I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now"
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America
Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said "Be careful his bow tie is really a camera"

"Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat"
"We smoked the last one an hour ago"

So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America

This song hits so many levels: it makes me proud and mystified to be an American (I remember David Bowie singing it as the opening song of The Concert for New York City after 9/11).  It's romantic in the most hopeless way.  It's full of little details about suit fabrics and snack foods and then hits you with a massive image like "the moon rose over an open field" (and the way they sing that line feels like it's really ascending), much like one of the great American pastimes: the road-trip.  Lots of little details (what songs you listen to, your feet on the dashboard) coupled with HUGE images (rolling landscapes, canyons, a giant horizon).

It's easy to have an instant connection with anyone who loves this song.

And then there's "Bookends":

time it was and what a time it was
it was a time of innocence
a time of confidences
long ago it must be 
I have a photograph
preserve your memories
they're all that's left you

It's SO sad.  It's so, so, so sad.  So sad.  It starts with these piercing strings, that fade away to simple acoustic guitar.  And then when they sing it's so soft and quiet and nostalgic.  The lyrics are open-ended enough that you could apply them to almost any loss or grief.  Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you.  UGH.  OOF.  *SOB*

If those two songs weren't enough, we have the rest of the album!  The bastards!  "Overs"--an incredible break-up song ("there's no laughs left, 'cause we laughed them all"), which was one of the tracks that was rejected for the soundtrack of The Graduate.  The effing string arrangements in "Old Friends" that lead into "Bookends."

Side two!  Even listening to it on Mp3 you can hear how brilliant the opening of "Fakin' It" is (or would be) on vinyl.  BOOM: you're in 1968.  "Mrs. Robinson."  If you meet someone who doesn't know the lyrics to that song, they might be an alien (or just not fluent in 1960s American Popular Music).  It's a wonderful sing-along song.  You could even sing it at Christian camp!

"Hazy Shade of Winter" was another Graduate reject, which is shocking because it's fantastic.  The horns!  THE LYRICS.

Hang on to your hopes, my friend
That's an easy thing to say, 

but if your hope should pass away
It's simply pretend
That you can build them again

AHHHH! I can't begin to even.... (I also enjoy the Bangles' cover.)  Finally, the adorable, sweet "At the Zoo."

This album...timeless, gorgeous, iconic, accessible, varied, poetic.

Is This Better Than The River?:  Yes.

Happy b-day, Babs.

I don't post much about Barbra these days, and it's a pity.  I think she's the top.  Today she turns 70. 

If you're unfamiliar with why so many people are obsessed with her, introduce yourself to her like I did, in her Oscar-winning performance* as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl.  (Then check out her television specials, and THEN her other movies.)  From TCM's website:

"For the last scene in the film where Fanny sings "My Man" after she has been told goodbye by Nicky Arnstein, [director] William Wyler did something unusual. Normally, actors in musicals lip-synched to pre-recorded music for their singing scenes. Streisand had tried to do that for "My Man", as she did with the other numbers in Funny Girl, but the scene, which was supposed to be emotional and heartbreaking, wasn't working. He and Streisand decided to have her sing live in order for her to truly be in the moment. During the scene, Wyler had Omar Sharif stand behind a nearby curtain and talk to Streisand between takes. Their affair was ending as the Funny Girl shoot came to an end, and Wyler knew that Sharif's presence would have an effect on her performance. "He wanted him around to help build up her sadness," said Robert Swink. "They must've done at least ten takes. Willie shot the thing live and recorded it live. It was pretty emotional for her.""**

(Have I posted this song 88 times already?  This will not be the last time.)

*She tied with Katharine Hepburn's performance as Eleanor in The Lion in Winter.

**Apparently Tom Hooper is hoping to have all the actors 'sing live' for Les Miserables.

Monday night art

#230: The Ultimate Collection by Patsy Cline


The Ultimate Collection by Patsy Cline (2000)

Favorite Track(s): "Walkin' After Midnight" and "A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)" and "I Fall to Pieces" and "True Love" and "San Antonio Rose" and "Crazy" and "South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)" and "Foolin' Around" and "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "When I Get Through With You (You'll Love Me Too)" and "Leavin' On Your Mind" and "Faded Love" and "He Called Me Baby"

Thoughts: My parents had a CD of Patsy Cline Showcase (those fabulous gold boots!) and I used to listen to it on our old gray double-cassette boombox alone in my room, acting melancholy (like all her songs on that album seemed to be sad--even the upbeat ones).  She was like my country Joni Mitchell.

I might have preferred that album to this one if I wasn't such a Patsy fan.  This had 32 tracks instead of Showcase's 12.  Either way, her voice is so clear and strong and rarely has a hint of twang, which I appreciate.  I could never get tired of this kind of country music.  Apparently (and this is totally an 'internet fact') the number one song ever played on jukeboxes across America is "Crazy."  Which was written by Willie Nelson! 

Is This Better Than The River?: Yes.

#231: Mr. Excitement by Jackie Wilson

Mr. Excitement by Jackie Wilson (1992)

Favorite Tracks: "St. Therese of the Roses" and "Reet Petite" and "Danny Boy" and "Lonely Teardrops" and "I'll Be Satisfied" and "That's Why I Love You So" and "Sazzle Dazzle" and "The Greatest Hurt" and "Baby Workout" and "No Pity (In the Naked City)" and "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher"and "Since You Showed Me How to Be Happy" and "Chain Gang" and "I Get the Sweetest Feeling"

Thoughts: 72 tracks in this anthology.  72.  I'm getting too old (or the list is getting too long) for me to keep doing this volume of one artist.  I mean, surely there exists a Jackie Wilson 20th Century Masters kind of compilation, with a decent number of songs, like 18?  I just don't think I need to hear EVERY song he ever recorded.  It's alright to be a bit more selective!   Especially when the artist basically operates with only one genre.  Maybe I'm just ticked that more artists don't get anthologies like this, and I shouldn't take it out on poor Jackie.

That said, the man has some serious pipes.  And moves!  I listened to a few of the songs as live versions, and he can really move it.  My favorite song of all 72 was the timeless classic:

Turn it up.

Is This Better Than The River?:  By sheer volume and breadth, it's better, but I'd reach for The River to listen to before this in most instances.

for the birthday girl


My friend Kristen has a birthday this month.  And so I made her this:

We have a special bond over the NSYNC classic, "Digital Get Down." Penned by my then-beloved, JC Chasez, teenage me was heartbroken that a 'Christian' man such as Joshua Scott could write a song about 'getting it on' via the internet. And even though I no longer hold JC to the high standards I once did, now and then Kristen will remind me of my fervent disappointment, with questions like, "Guess what JC song randomly came up as my alarm the other day?"  You guessed it.  In case you've never heard the musical masterpiece, here you go:

Ugh.  Still disturbing.

I expect Kristen to hang the art somewhere in her home with a lot of foot traffic, so she has to talk to loads of people about internet sex.  (Which is probably happening a lot already.  Kidding!).  Or she could scan it and have it as her computer desktop background.

#232: The Who Sings My Generation by The Who

The Who Sings My Generation by The Who (1965)

Favorite Track(s): "Out in the Street" and "The Good's Gone" and "La-La-La-Lies" and "My Generation" and "The Kids Are Alright"

Thoughts: I love The Who, and this album was great, but I think I preferred Quadrophenia back at #263!  Is it because this album reminded me too much of the Stones?  Possibly.  But as a debut album, it's very impressive.

Is This Better Than The River?: I wouldn't have ranked it higher, but I do understand why it's so high up.

My summer anthem has already chosen me.

"Sway" by Mates of State.  (They're infectious "My Only Offer" has been an anthem of summers past.)

take you away, away from the feeling of being alone


#233: Howlin' Wolf by Howlin' Wolf

Howlin' Wolf by Howlin' Wolf (1962)

Favorite Tracks
: "You'll Be Mine" and "Wang Dang Doodle" and "Little Baby"

Thoughts: Great blues, a joy to listen to.  And I learned that two of the songs off this album have lyrics used in Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love"!

Is This Better than The River?: Not to me, but it's very important to the history of popular music.

#234: Like a Prayer by Madonna

Like a Prayer by Madonna (1989)

Favorite Tracks: "Like a Prayer" and "Cherish" and "Dear Jessie"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) I'm sorry, but I'm a little confused here.  Remember just 41 albums ago, at #275?  It was Madonna's Immaculate Collection.  It has three of the songs off Like A Prayer.  And I'm wondering if it's the best three songs off this album.  In which case I will be angry that this album made it on the list as well, and this far up.

(Post-Listening) Ok, the rest of the album was quite solid.  Still...I'm shocked at how far up it is, even with a duet with Prince!

Is This Better Than The River?:  Not to me.

I'll follow the sun


I meant to actually be IN the sun, but the short 30 minutes I spent in it were FREEZING. It's not summer yet. But it is to look at it!

But Maryann, Why Did You Stop Posting Your Art?

4.11.2012 the question I know you've all been fretting over.  Fret no more!

Since February I was working on a not-so-top-secret project for my bride-to-be friend Lucy.  It had to be PERFECT, which is why it took me 3 months to make one I felt like I could give to her.  (And even the final one wasn't perfect, but that's OK.  I need to let perfectionism go, even though it only shows up in a few parts of my life.)

The idea came to me when I was driving to my parents's house and the song "To Travels and Trunks" by Hey Marseilles came on one of my mix CDs.  It's about a couple, which has a woman named Lucy in it, and then the chorus played and it hit my like a thunder-bolt:

all I want is love eternally
with your heart facing me

It's such a beautiful song, and I will now forever relate it to Lucy & Kris and their wedding.  :)

So I knew I wanted to incorporate the lyrics, but on a large scale, which is new for me.  Here's the process, the discards, and the finished result!

First things first:

 I didn't actually use that many colors.  I had a difficult time trying to only pick a few to use for a theme.

This was the first one I made, and it's one of my favorites:

But I worried it was too busy and that the art took away from the lettering.  Also the chevron lines are waaay off.

For my second attempt I liked the idea of making the lettering bigger, especially on the words 'love' and 'heart.'

And then my 3rd attempt got bested by a runaway gold paint pen, so it became my try-a-billion-different-things-and-see-if-I-like-any-of-them!

On the coffee table you can see the awesome coasters Lucy got me for my housewarming party!  I love them.

 This was my second favorite.  But I smudged the second 'l' in 'eternally'!  So then it became 'do whatever' as well, and I liked the 'shooting star' type things, but I decided it was maybe too much color going on.

Then I decided to try a whole new font.  I didn't love it, so it also became a drawing board.

The lettering still wasn't popping like I wanted it to, so finally I made it even bigger:

 And then tried to draw with more muted colors:

And there you have the finished product, as I gave it to Lucy!

#235: Can't Buy a Thrill by Steely Dan


Can't Buy a Thrill by Steely Dan (1972)

Favorite Tracks: "Do It Again" and "Dirty Work" and "Reelin' in the Years"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) Ah, our second Steely Dan album, their debut.  We listened to Pretzel Logic waaaay back at #398.  Back then it was surrounded by albums that made it's 70s smooth rock a refreshing break.  But how will it compare to The River and other albums this close to #1? 

(Post-Listening) Ok, "Dirty Work" is a great, great song.  But the rest was just very good.

Is This Better Than The River?:

#236: Let it Be by The Replacements

Let it Be by The Replacements (1984)

Favorite Track(s): "I Will Dare" and "Favorite Thing" and "Androgynous" and "Unsatisfied" and "Sixteen Blue"

Thoughts: Isn't this a Keanu Reeves movie?  I haven't seen it, and don't plan to.  I think it's about sports.  This is my first listen to The Replacements.  I wonder how they feel about people thinking about Keanu Reeves when they think of them.  Maybe they don't mind.

Anyway, I loved this album.  The simple piano on "Androgynous", the sweet lyrics of "Favorite Thing" and the bad ass KISS cover.

Is This Better Than The River?: As good, not better to me.

"Scripture without theology is Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark."


No Language, however strong, violent, or emphatic will expunge from the mind of the average anti-Christian the picture he has formed of Christian Soteriology, viz: that Jehovah (the old man with the beard) made the world and made it so badly that it all went wrong and he wanted to burn it up in a rage; whereat the Son (who was younger and nicer, and not implicated in his Father's irresponsible experiment) said: "Oh, don't do that! If you must torment somebody, take it out of me." So Jehovah vented his sadistic spite on a victim who had nothing to do with it all, and thereafter begrudgingly allowed people to go to heaven if they provided themselves with a ticket of admission signed by the Son...This grotesque mythology is not in the least exaggerated: it is what they think we mean.

Dorothy L. Sayers, 1941

But I find hope in [James] Alison’s understanding of Christ as the one who takes over the place of shame and violence so others no longer have to—that it is not God who required sacrifice, but us. Jesus walked into the space of our hate and showed us our folly. Alison says: “My thesis is that Christianity is a priestly religion that understands that it is God’s overcoming of our violence by substituting himself for the victim of our typical sacrifices that opens up our being able to enjoy the fullness of creation as if death were not.” 
Both Christ on the cross and Vince on the cross are reminders to me of how foolishly I demand victims for my own violence and sacrifice others to cover my own shame, when ultimately, God would have me set down both violence and shame and choose instead to stand with Christ on behalf of those who’ve been forced into the place of shame and have suffered at the hands of violence. The cross should not be a symbol of sacrifice God required, but instead, a proclamation from God, saying, “No more”. Vince may remind us of those who “fit” on the cross, but it’s us, not God, who put him there. Will we say “No more”?

- Kj Swanson, 2010

(Thanks 2008 and 2010.)  Happy Easter, 2012 to you and yours!


To improve my cat-holding self portrait skills.

the organ in your chest perceives the lie


"Organ in Your Chest" by Colin Smith.

And even as you leave you are not certain 
if everything you need's not left behind.

#237: Run-D.M.C by Run-D.M.C

Run-D.M.C by Run-D.M.C (1984)

Favorite Track(s): "Rock Box" and "Jam Master Jay" and "Sucker M.C.'s" and "Wake Up"

Thoughts: Run D.M.C may do the usual rap trope of convincing listeners that they are the best rappers/M.C.'s, but they also have songs about social activism and global issues.  From "Wake Up":

There were no guns (no what)
no tanks (no what) atomic bombs
and to be frank homeboy there were no arms
just people, working hand in hand
there was a feeling of peace all across the land

it was a dream (wake up)

just a dream (get up), (wake up), (wake up)

Between all countries there were good relations

there finally was a meeting to united nations
and everybody had an occupation
'cause we all worked together to fight starvation

Everyone was treated on an equal basis

no matter what colors, religions or races
we weren't afraid to show our faces
it was cool to chill in foreign places

All cities of the world were renovated

and the people all chilled and celebrated
they were all so happy and elated
to live in the world that they created

The album was fun and fresh, even if it's old school.  Who cares?  I like old school.

Is This Better Than The River?: Not to me, but it is my kind of rap.

I refuse to become a seeker for cures.
Everything that has ever
helped me has come through what already
lay stored in me. 
 Old things, diffuse, unnamed, lie strong
across my heart.
This is from where
my strength comes, even when I miss my strength,
even when it turns on me
like a violent master. 

From "Sources" by poet Adrienne Rich, who passed away last week.

#271 - #238: Personal Favorites


I've had such a fucking love affair with this song it's unhealthy.  I think I've listened to it more than any other song since I heard it 12 days ago.  The lyrics don't have any personal meaning for me, the song is not profound.  But this's crawled inside my ribcage and won't come out.  The organ, the acoustic guitar, Little Stevie's incredible backing vocals, the piano.  I can't get enough.

Anyway.  Here's the best of the last 33 albums I listened to.

1. The River by Bruce Springsteen
2. Bryter Layter by Nick Drake
3. Crosby, Stills & Nash by Crosby, Stills & Nash
4. Tracy Chapman by Tracy Chapman
5. There Goes Rhymin' Simon by Paul Simon
6. Quadrophenia by The Who
7. Automatic for the People by R.E.M.
8. Complete and Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul by Otis Redding
9. Cosmo's Factory by Creedence Clearwater Revival
10. The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks

Honorable Mentions: Psycho Candy by The Jesus and Mary Chain, Mothership Connection by Parliament, Working Man's Dead by The Grateful Dead, Child is Father to the Man by Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Buena Vista Social Club by Buena Vista Social Club

#306 - #272
#337 - #307
#370 - #338
#401 - #371
#432 - #402
#462 - #433
#500 - #463

Happy listening!

The good news is these lists are getting much harder to make!

The Wooden Overcoat

It turns out there's a difference between a detail
and an image.  If the dandelion on the sidewalk is
mere detail, the dandelion inked on a friend's bicep
is an image because it moves when her body does,

even when a shirt covers the little thorny black sun
on a thin stalk.  The same way that the bar code
on the back of another friend's neck is just a detail,
until you hear that the row of numbers underneath

are the numbers his grandfather got on his arm
in a camp in Poland.  Then it's an image, something
activated in the reader's senses beyond mere fact.
I know the difference doesn't matter, except in poetry,

where a coffin is just another coffin until someone
at a funeral calls it a wooden overcoat, an image
so heavy and warm at the same time that you forget
it's about death.  At my uncle's funeral, the coffin

was so beautiful it was like the chandelier lighting
the room where treaties are signed.  It made me think
of how loved he was.  It made me think of Shoshone
funerals, where everything the dead person owned

was put into a bonfire, even the horse.  In that last
sentence, is the horse a detail or an image?  I don't
really know.  In my mind, a horse is never anywhere
near a fire, and a detail is as luminous as an image.

The trumpet vine on the sagging fence.  The clothes
in the fire.  And each tattoo that I touch on your back:
the three-part illustration of how to use chopsticks,
the four-leaf clover, the clock face stopped at 12:05.

- Rick Barot

Poetry, April 2012

#238: Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath (1970)

Favorite Track(s): "The Wizard" and "Behind the Wall of Sleep" and "N.I.B" and "Evil Woman" and "The Warning" and "Wicked World"

Thoughts: According to Wikipedia, in a Rolling Stone review Lester Bangs said Sabbath was "just like Cream! But worse."  He dismissed Black Sabbath as "a shuck—despite the murky song titles and some inane lyrics that sound like Vanilla Fudge paying doggerel tribute to Aleister Crowley, the album has nothing to do with spiritualism, the occult, or anything much except stiff recitations of Cream clich├ęs."  Fortunately for me, I'm not very familiar with Cream, so I should be fine.

"The Wizard" was inspired by Gandalf, and the harmonica Ozzie rocks out is great.

Evil power disappears
Demons worry when the wizard is near
He turns tears into joy
Everyone's happy when the wizard walks by

Particular parts of "N.I.B." rocked my socks off--Ozzie's vocals are just chillingly good.  Overall, a very solid album that I would listen to again.

Is This Better Than The River?: As good.  Sorry, Lester.

Sweet Taco Action

Who says I don't take requests?  You're welcome, Holly.

Though now I am STARVING.

Weekend Highlights


I had a really wonderful weekend with my mom.  We went to an old movie theater to see Pina, took a walk around downtown Vancouver, and ate lots of great food.  Plus I got in some family photo scanning, so it was productive too! 

#239: All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology by Jerry Lee Lewis

All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology by Jerry Lee Lewis (1993)

Favorite Track(s): "End of the Road" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Great Balls of Fire" and "Breathless" and "To Make Love Sweeter For You" and "Don't Let Me Cross Over" and "Chantilly Lace" and "Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee" and "Middle Age Crazy" and "Rockin' My Life Away"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) First, great name for an anthology.  Second, I only just realized that Jerry Lee Lewis is younger--by 5 years!--than my paternal grandparents.  I always pictured him being so ancient, from the dawn of Rock and Roll.  But I suppose that dawn wasn't as long ago as I imagine it being.

There are 41 songs in this compilation!  Let's hope what the title advertises is true.

(Post-Listening) Well, it's amazing how many lines he rhymes with "Jerry Lee."  But self-absorption aside, the man is very talented.  His style went a bit too country without enough rockin' piano for my personal tastes about halfway through the anthology (except for the very last track: "Rockin' My Life Away").  But no matter.  Good stuff.

Is This Better Than The River?: I'm pretty sure Bruce himself would skin me alive if I said otherwise, and he would be right to do so.

Survivor's Guilt

How I've changed may not be apparent.
I limp.  Read and write, make tea at the stove
as I practiced in rehab.  Sometimes, like fire,
a task overwhelms me.  I cry for days, shriek
when the phone rings.  Like a page pulled from flame,
I'm singed but intact: I don't burn down the house.

Later, cleared to drive, I did outpatient rehab.  Others
lost legs or clutched withered minds in their hands.
A man who can't speak recognized me
and held up his finger.  I knew he meant
One year since your surgery.  Sixteen since his.
Guadalupe wishes daily to be the one before.  Nobody
is that.  Sometimes, like love, the neurons just cross fire.
You don't get everything back.

- Patricia Kirkpatrick

Poetry, April 2012

Happy One Year Anniversary, Condo


Oz and I like you a lot.

Here's to another great year together.