Sunday, May 31, 2009

Potential guilty pleasure band?

About a year ago I attended my 12th Jimmy Eat World concert in San Jose while I was in the Bay Area doing my internship. Paramore was opening; I remember feeling indifferent to that fact. With my minimal radio/TV consumption I hadn't really heard them or if I had, their music didn't really stick out. I just knew they were a punk-pop band with a female lead singer and that they were popular with the teen crowd, more so among girls, or so I supposed.

Paramore played and I was pleasantly surprised. I was still apathetic toward their music but they at least put on a tight show. And having an attractive singer didn't hurt either.

A week or two went by and I was browsing the Internet looking for Sunny Day Real Estate videos on YouTube when something strange happened: When I typed in the song title "Faces in Disguise" I began seeing more videos for Paramore than Sunny Day Real Estate. I remember clicking this one in particular:

(Fast forward to 0:44 to get past some of the useless banter.)

Instantly my opinion of the band skyrocketed. It's great to see a mainstream band like this recognize the impact Sunny Day Real Estate has on their music. If I wasn't really into their music I could at least (and I do) respect them as a band for their love and reverence for SDRE.

Here's a good video of them covering the song:

(Listen to Hayley belt it out at 3:17 -- holy crap, she's got some pipes!)

The original SDRE version of the song is worth checking too -- one of my favorite songs by them.

Anyway, I guess what I'm getting at is that I might check out Paramore, and not just the songs they cover. And I guess it wouldn't be such a bad thing if I ended up liking them. Sure, they're not the hippest band, but when did being hip dictate what I should and shouldn't like?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

born in the summer of his twenty-seventh year

Most of my blog posts as of late have been about how I feel about something -- these somethings usually being books or music. So hopefully you'll humor me and forgive my selfishness if I dedicate this particular blogging to an update on my life.

I suppose it's OK to get a little personal every now and then.

As I'm sure most of you already know, I moved to Colorado about two weeks ago. Colorado Springs to be exact. And I won't lie, it hasn't been as great as I thought it would be. Nevertheless, I'm still optimistic about it; obviously you can't base a move on its first two weeks.

Reasons why I should love Colorado Springs:

I like my job. This is, after all, the reason I'm here. I'm working for a company called GVNW, Inc., a consulting firm that works exclusively with telecommunications companies (i.e., telephone, Internet). Technically, this is only a temporary position for the summer; if they like me enough they'll most likely hire me. I'm not necessarily counting on that but I am hoping it happens. Currently they have me working on an audit project. Any details beyond that will probably confuse/bore you. So far, I enjoy the work, and the people I work with are great.

A hike in the mountains? Nope. My very own backyard! (Notice the wood pile in the bottom right-hand corner.) These fellas were kind enough to pause for photo before darting into the neighbor's yard.

I grew up here. My family moved from SLC to Colorado Springs when I was but an infant and we stayed there till I had aged six years. In other words, I was just young enough to not really remember the city itself. However, some of my fondest memories of Colorado Springs do include: eating poisonous berries when I was only two because my brother told me I would turn into a robot and see Jesus if I did (he got the see Jesus part right -- thank goodness for stomach pumps); going to the mall almost every Saturday as a family to buy Star Wars action figures; and having naked mud fights with my brothers in the family garden.

That blur of lights in the background is my 'hood.

Necessities. Two record stores and a multitude of thrift shops. OK, these aren't necessities but they are nice. Colorado Springs is just big enough to have all the things I like in a city but not so big that it's overrun and crowded. And for that big city feel, and hopefully a plentitude of great concerts, Denver is only an hour away.

Kind of an odd spot for a fire hydrant, but what do I know about firefighting?

A basketball team that's still in the playoffs. Here's hoping the Nuggets win tonight. When I was a kid my favorite basketball player was Dikembe Mutumbo, who started out with Nuggets. I even have his jersey from those days, and I sport it occasionally when I go running.

A ghost? No! Just me, too lazy to sit through a ten second exposure!

The Rockies. The mountains, not the baseball team. When you look at Colorado Springs from atop a hill you instantly think the city is much smaller than it really is because instead of buildings you see trees. The high elevation makes the temperature perfect for summertime running. Awesome parks, hiking, and other outdoor amusements are just minutes away.

I have a friend. Yes, a friend. I look forward to making more of these. Thankfully, there are two singles wards here and they're both pretty good-sized.

See, there are plenty of reasons why I should love Colorado Springs. But, having reasons to love something is very sadly not the same thing as actually loving it.

In reality, Colorado Springs has been quite good to me and I'm doing my best to not take it for granted. Sometimes I just forget how great I have it; maybe being here is an opportunity for me to not let that happen again.

P.S. Colorado Springs is 11 hours from Mesa and 10.5 hours from Rexburg. And we do have an airport. In case you were wondering.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I've given up hope on the afternoon soaps

I've got a lot of time on my hands these days (too much?). Anyway, the other day my buddy Trev invited me to check out It's like Facebook but with books. Any type of social networking that revolves around literature is OK in my book. Pun very much intended.

Check it out; if you like it add me as a friend or whatever.

While you're at it, enjoy this:

Monday, May 18, 2009


I have a confession to make. The year was 2007 and the month was February (I think; it could've been late January). On a Saturday night Fat Cat and I ended up the a Border's book store at Superstition Mall. I was in the literature section looking for a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's swashbuckling classic Treasure Island (while this post is about another book, T.I. is also very much worth a read). I pulled a copy of T.I. off the shelf along with volume of Stevenson's short stories. As I lingered among the "Ste" authors in literature section, evaluating my potential purchases, a red sticker on a hefty paperback novel caught my attention. I placed the two Stevenson books under my arm and lifted the book with the red sticker in order to examine it more closely. The sticker read, "THE BOOK THAT BROUGHT OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB BACK." (Of course after two years I couldn't recall the sticker's exact wording but I was able to find it, thanks to google.) I didn't even know that Oprah had had a book club, that it had disbanded, and that it had been called back into existence by this book. I was intrigued.

I set the book down and picked up another copy of the same book with a different cover. The cover spoke to me. Maybe it was the two trees silhouetted against the dusty yellow sky; or perhaps it was the man painted underneath the tree in the foreground, whose body language conveyed a feeling of despair and anguish and regret; but probably it was the fact that the stupid Oprah sticker was missing. I read title in small italicized print at the bottom of the book: East of Eden. The author's name was printed in capital letters in orange ink: John Steinbeck.

I flipped the book over. The back cover described it as "a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis." Who doesn't love the Old Testament? I was sold. I sandwiched it between the two Stevenson tomes and marched to the cash register.

A (very) brief summary of this multi-generational sprawling historical epic: Cal and Aron were born in the Salinas valley in Monterey County, California (incidentally where Steinbeck grew up). The fraternal twins were raised by their father Adam Trask and Lee, the family's intellectual Chinese servant. The boys grew up being told by their father that their mother, Cathy, died when they were young and was in heaven. Quite the opposite was true: after attempting to kill Adam shortly after the birth of the twins, Cathy ran away and became a prostitute in the nearby town of Salinas.

Sang's Cafe, Salinas, CA. Apparently Steinbeck himself ate here. Apparently.

Rather than wasting your time with my thoughts on the book, I'll let it speak for itself. As a teenager, Cal, the more clever and sinister of the twins, learns the truth about his mother:

Cal drifted toward the door, slowly, softly. He shoved his fists deep in his pockets. "It's like you said about knowing people. I hate her because I know why she went away. I know--because I've got her in me." His head was down and his voice was heartbroken.

Lee jumped up. "You stop that!" he said sharply. "You hear me? Don't let me catch you doing that. Of course you may have that in you. Everybody has. But you've got the other too. Here--look up! Look at me!"

Cal raised his head and said wearily, "What do you want?"

"You've got the other too. Listen to me! You wouldn't be wondering if you didn't have it. Don't you dare take the lazy way. It's too easy to excuse yourself because of your ancestry. Don't let me catch you doing it! Now--look close at me so you will remember. Whatever you do, it will be you who do it--not your mother."

"Do you believe that, Lee?"

"Yes, I believe it, and you'd better believe it or I'll break every bone in your body."

How would you like to be immortalized by a novel and a liquor store?! This is down the street from Steinbeck's boyhood home, also in Salinas, CA.

This book has several themes: identity and destiny, as illustrated by the previous passage; and good versus evil, according to the following:

I believe there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught--in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too--in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was is evil? Have I done well--or ill?
= = = = =

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.

I suppose I could keep going with passages. But, if you've made it this far you might as well read the book.

Oh yeah, I had a confession to get to, of which I'm slightly ashamed: I owe my discovery of this book to Oprah, her book club, and a tacky red sticker.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Fidelity

The first time I went to Stinkweeds I was 16. Despite being of age, I had yet to experience that teenage rite of passage that is obtaining a driver's license. So, a few of us convinced our otherwise ignored friend Dustin to drive us down there in his mom's Chevy Astro van. To a group of sheltered teens from Mesa, Arizona, an afternoon excursion to neighboring Tempe was more like a trip to a underdeveloped foreign land; and this trip in particular was fraught with third-world danger when Dustin decided to drive in the wrong lane of traffic through the eternal construction zone known as Apache Boulevard. Ironically the goods we sought were a product of four Mesa boys who had grown in suburbs not unlike, and not far from, our very own.

Really, for me this trip was a series of firsts: my first independent record store experience, my first outing to Tempe sans parents, and the first time I heard mention of the term "EP". The EP in question was an obscure self-titled release from Mesa's own Jimmy Eat World -- a sort of sonic appetizer, released to simultaneously tide us over and whet our appetites for their upcoming full-length album, Clarity. I can't remember who all came; most likely Jeff and Devyn (we no doubt had forgone band practice that day) and probably Erich since Dustin drove us.

Our first Stinkweeds experience was apparently a pleasant one, as we made a habit of going back frequently -- when we could find someone to drive us, that is. My second or third time there I bought How It Feels to Be Something On by Sunny Day Real Estate at the suggestion of Jeff's brother Randy. I hated it.* When finally we were able drive to Tempe on our own, we often combined our outings to Stinkweeds with a stop at Sub Factory, maybe the best bread on a sub you've tasted.

== == == == ==

It took a while before I understood the term "music snob" -- a person who has no desire to share music, be it by means of suggesting bands or albums, through loaning of CDs, or through the swapping of electronic media. However, it's not one's actions that make a music snob, but the motives behind the actions. This person refuses to share simply because knowing more hip bands than you will make him or her cooler than you. In other words, a music snob is a person who hoards music, to the extent that such a thing is possible.

Let me throw this out there: I am not a music snob. At least not in the general sense. Or in any sense for that matter, but I'll let you be the judge of that after you read what I have to say.

== == == == ==

Stinkweeds in Tempe was sandwiched between a bartending academy and Pita Jungle, one of the finest restaurants in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. In April 2006 I heard a rumor that the Tempe location would be closing and the owner would be selling Tempe's inventory to an unrelated party in Salt Lake City, Utah, where a new record store would be opening. By this time, Stinkweeds had opened a second location in Phoenix, so when I heard about the liquidation of the Tempe store I wasn't as distraught as I should have been.

== == == == ==

I have a hard time downloading music. Of course I am technologically savvy, and I know how to download music. Maybe it's because during the years wherein I formed my musical tastes downloading music, whether legally or illegally, wasn't really an option; cable modems and the hard drive-friendly mp3 format were technological breakthroughs and therefore rare, instead of the norm. In sum, maybe I'm a simple creature of habit when it comes to procuring new tunes.

Or maybe I like the feel a of CD spanning my middle finger and thumb, and perhaps I enjoy browsing the liner notes, deciphering unintelligible lyrics and perusing the thank you list. Better yet, maybe I enjoy delicately placing the needle on a new vinyl, and maybe I love the subtly accentuated and unparalleled sound quality of wax.

Similarly, I don't seem to appreciate music when I don't purchase it. Maybe there's something to be said for giving something up and getting something in return. Is money not our recompense when we give up a portion of our time and talents -- a piece of ourselves -- to a person or organization? When we make a monetary sacrifice, we're somewhat akin to the musicians who give up a piece of themselves in the songs they craft. If sacrifice gives meaning and appreciation to life, it certainly does to music as well.

== == == == ==

When I was in Salt Lake City at the beginning of April I made a point of visiting Slowtrain Records at the suggestion of Zach. I found their CD selection to be somewhat lacking but their impressive array of vinyl made up for that. We didn't have much time to spend for record shopping, so after a quick scan of the LP section I began flipping through 7 inches. It didn't take long for me to notice a round, green handwritten price tag on several of the more obscure, older-looking 7 inches. Its familiarity called for further inspection. Removing a 7 inch from the bin, I read the single word that spanned the top half of the circular price tag: "Stinkweeds." I had suspected that Slowtrain was the reincarnation of the old Tempe location of Stinkweeds, and now I had proof.

This discovery caused a subtle tearing in my heart**: at first, it was a feeling of superiority -- as if I belonged to an exclusive group. Next I felt annoyed -- annoyed that something so holy could be paraded in front those who had not experienced nor could appreciate the glory that was Stinkweeds Tempe -- my pearls thrown before the veritable swine.***

== == == == ==

I've since repented of my snobbish feelings. But I won't repent of my love for record stores and their produce. Music plays an important role in my life and -- for better or worse -- it helps define it. My fidelity -- it's worth the sacrifice.

* Present day, this might be my favorite of their four albums.
** Sunny Day Real Estate pun not intended.
*** The coalescence of these feelings must be how a music snob feels when he hears his favorite band on the radio (not that a music snob would be listening to the radio, but still). Oh, and I
do not think Slowtrain customers are swine, I just felt the metaphor fit my initial feelings; I love Slowtrain and I always make an effort to shop there whenever I'm in SLC.