Tuesday, December 19, 2006

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More wisdom for you from The Arcade Fire, this time coming from "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnel)."

"And since there's no one else around,
We let our hair grow long
And forget all we used to know,
Then our skin gets thicker
From living out in the snow."

If there are more appropriate words to describe how you ought to spend your winter break, I can't think of them.

Happy finals week, everyone.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

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If you only buy one CD this year (even though all my sources say you should buy at least five), you'd better make it Thom Yorke's The Eraser. In my opinion, this was hands-down the best album of the year. Yorke stays with his increasingly electronic theme with this album, only taking it a step further. This album was really creepy the first time I listened to it, if only because the disc burned improperly and skipped all the time. (It was also 1.30 AM when I first heard it.) Now, several months later, I can still listen to this album over and over again. Songs like "Black Swan" and "It Rained All Night" just never get old. It's such a clever sound that I can't help but recommend it to everyone I know. You can listen to snippets of it through iTunes or NPR's "All Songs Considered."

If you decide to buy two new CDs this year, though, you should consider picking up Beck's The Information. I was skeptical of this release, since I'd heard less than favorable reviews of it, but a friend of mine let me listen to it about a month ago and I was hooked. Beck uses really clever and innovative sounds in his music (like a dial tone in the opening "Elevator Music"), which makes it really intriguing in my mind. The album is really solid the whole way through. No problems here putting this as my number two album of the year. It's no Eraser, of course, but honestly, there aren't any musicians out there that can hold a candle to Thom Yorke (unless it's Radiohead, of course, but that's hardly any different).

If you decide to go out on a limb and buy three CDs this year, you might want to look into the Decemberists' new release, The Crane Wife. A lot of people found this release less accessible than their earlier albums (especially Picaresque), but I think it's very nearly their best. (Castaways and Cutouts still reigns supreme in my mind. Man, it's good.) The trick is that you can't listen to just one song at a time. For starters, some of the best songs on the album are over ten minutes each; "The Island," a three-part epic that conjures images of Led Zeppelin, is nearly twelve minutes long. Even better, the first and penultimate tracks are parts of the same song ("The Crane Wife 3" and "The Crane Wife 1 & 2," in that order). You have to listen to the album as a whole to really get the sense of it. It's been a long time since I've found an album that demands to be listened to as an album. It's worth the time. Don't be afraid to sit down for forty minutes and really appreciate it.

If you're willing to buy a fourth CD this year, you'd do well to make it Joanna Newsom's Ys. Nearly everyone I've introduced Joanna to has thought her music was creepy and strange. (Tolkien Boy, in particular, had a strong, bodily reaction to it.) That said, you really ought to give her a chance. You just aren't going to find a more innovative sound out there. What other recording artists play the harp? To make things better, she wrote an orchestral accompaniment to her music for this album - it's absolutely beautiful. This is another album that asks you to invest some time, however. There are only five tracks, despite it being a full-length album. (They average about twelve minutes in length. They're worth it.) This is easily the most original new release of the year. Do yourself a favor and try it out.

You're looking for more? If you're buying five CDs this year, you should take a look at Sufjan Stevens' Songs for Christmas. We all know that Sufjan makes beautiful music; one only need look to his magnum opus, Come On Feel the Illinoise! from last year for proof. With this collection, though, he outdoes himself. Over the last five years, he has quietly been recording Christmas music, finally releasing an enormous five-album compilation this year. Don't be alarmed by the amount of music, however; he only released enough music to make an EP each year, so despite it being a five-disc set, the cost is still comparable to that of a regular LP. His penchant for amusing titles continues with songs like "Get Behind Me, Santa!" and "Did I Make You Cry on Christmast Day? (Well, You Deserved It)." His track record of making amazingly beautiful music continues as well, most notably with the ballad "Sister Winter," found on the fifth disc. It's not often that you find a Christmas song featuring the singer apologizing for his cold indifference, but it does the trick. Stevens has the album available for streaming at his label's website, so those who aren't sure they want to buy the album can listen to it before deciding that they really ought to buy it, after all.

There are plenty of other albums that you should probably look into purchasing this year, too. Sufjan Stevens' The Avalanche comes to mind, as well as Christopher O'Riley's Hold Me to This, both of which are beautiful. If you can only buy five CDs, though, this is a solid bunch. As one who has all five, though, you should buy them (or borrow them, or whatever) in the order I've listed. I didn't go to all the trouble of ordering them so you could just ignore it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

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Just a note to all of you loyal readers that Theodore t-shirts are going to be available starting now. I need to have your contact information, shirt size, and design so I can make a shirt for you to wear around, proudly proclaiming your affiliation with Theodore if you want one. They'll be ready for pickup starting January 4, 2007. I'd like to have all orders in by December 31 so I can create them all without too much rush on my part. All shirts will be sold at cost, so you're just reimbursing me for buying shirts for you.

Orders can be left at my email address (theboardoptimistic at gmail.com).

Sunday, December 03, 2006

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I realize that a lot of you read my blog via RSS feed, so you don't actually visit the site. This is a shame, because I have a lot of really cool sites linked to my blog that you should be checking out. I've added a few recently, but since they're really easy to overlook, I'm going to sum them up for you. Add these to your list of places to check out when you need something to do.

  • The 100 Hour Board. Your questions, our answers. 100 hours to the answer to any question you can think of. Most of you probably arrived at this blog from there, actually.
  • Stuff on my cat. Picture of people putting stuff on their cats. I find this to be immensely entertaining.
  • Create a snowflake. This is a page run by Popularfront that lets you create a Flash snowflake with just a few cuts here and there. It's really cool - I managed to spend nearly an hour playing with it a couple of days ago. As more and more snowflakes are made, the site managers donate increasingly more money to the Salvation Army.
  • KEXP. 90.3 FM, Seattle. The best indie rock station out there. Love it.
  • last.fm. Another really solid Internet radio station, though I must confess I haven't touched this one in months. I used to love it, though.
  • Pandora Internet radio. I love this one. Pandora lets you enter bands and artists you like to listen to, then creates a radio station out of those and similar artists. It's fantastic, and all free. Enjoy.
  • Pitchfork Media. News outlet for indie rock and the like. I like it, at least.
  • 3hive. Same thing, but with music sharing.
  • Subpop Records. One of the indie rock standards, featuring bands like Band of Horses, Wolf Parade, and the Postal Service.
  • Uncyclopedia. Like Wikipedia, but full of humorous lies.
  • Book-a-minute. Amusing and extremely brief summaries of famous books and films, usually to about a sentence or two.
  • Theodore - friend to all. My webcomic. Love it.
  • The encyclopedia of manliness. What could be more manly than a lumberjack punching Santa?
  • Jews for bacon. This explains itself, I think.
  • Look Around You. This is a BBC educational spoof that I find absolutely hysterical. They're a bunch of programs that purport to be factual, but are clearly full of lies. You'd be remiss if you didn't at least watch one.
  • Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency. An overeducated online humor magazine. Just witty articles such as "Short, Imagined Monologues" and "Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond." I love them.
  • Paint like Jackson Pollock. Drag a cursor around the page and splatter paint everywhere. It's a surprising amount of fun.
  • Kingdom of Loathing. An online role-playing game that makes fun of real role-playing games. If I didn't have a near-constant amount of work to do, I'd play this game every day.
  • Toothpaste for Dinner. The most addictive comic on the web (at least, until Theodore gets off the ground).
  • Web sudoku. America's fastest-growing puzzle game. Great if you need to kill a few minutes.
  • Samurai sudoku. For those of you who feel regular sudoku are too easy, why not try five grids at once?
Seriously, if you aren't paying attention to the sites I link on the sidebar, you're missing out.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

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Since it looks unlikely McSweeney's will publish it, I'll go ahead and post this list I wrote for them here. Enjoy.

Increasingly Improbable Names for a Small British Village
  • Chussex
  • Scriveningdale
  • Dumblingshire
  • Slatherington
  • Swarmingborough
  • Gagglington
  • Bickeringshire
  • Chimpingmouth
  • Crampingwood
  • Porkham

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

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I think this speaks for itself.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

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This semester has been really stressful for me, but for the first time in a while, the clouds of business opened up and let in a ray of freedom today.

Forgive the lame metaphors. There will probably be more as I go on.

Last night, I finished a draft of my senior capstone paper at about 11.00. It's not an especially solid paper yet, but it's only a draft, so I have time to revise it and make it solid. I was worried when I headed into class with it this morning, but after reading some other students' papers, I felt pretty good about what I'd put together. The day just kept getting better, too. I had a good time helping out at the high school today. I did a killer job on my unit presentation for my education class today. Walking out of class, I felt like I was on top of the world. I know I have a lot to do in the last month of the semester, but for today, everything's going my way.

Uffish Thought told me I had to celebrate having these two big projects done, so we headed to Taco Bell to get lunch. I stayed there through the first 20 minutes of class, so I decided it just wasn't in the cards. I walked home, feeling great.

For whatever reason, everything's going my way today. Man, life is good. And to think I was going to write a complaintive post as of this morning.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

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Just a short announcement to apprise you all about the launch of the Theodore webcomic.

Tell your friends.

(untitled 115)

And now, the requisite review of the concert.

We were going to go to the Guster concert last Friday, but one of the members of the band took ill at the last moment, so it ended up being cancelled. I was disappointed; I usually attend a concert a month to keep me sane, so I felt a little cheated at not being able to attend this one. I took a look at local concert listings to see if they had posted a reason for not coming, when I noticed that Joanna Newsom was coming to town only one week later.

Those of you not familiar with the music of Ms. Newsom are encouraged to view the video for "Sprout and the Bean," from her Milk-Eyed Mender LP. Those of you familiar with her will know that she's a bit...eccentric, to put it politely. (She has a publicity shot of her wearing a wolf skin on her head.) I was really excited for this concert - not only because of her music, which I adore, but to see what she was like in person. I expected some sort of bizarre antics from her.

None were forthcoming, and that was a really good thing, as it turns out.

To start, I need to provide you with a sense of the layout of the Depot. It's a converted railroad station; there's a stage in the front with tables and chairs scattered in front of it. Sitting down changes the whole dynamic of the concert. While previous concerts I've been to have been high-energy, this one was really calm and relaxed. Everyone sat down and listened politely to the opening act. (His name was Mark Fosson, and despite playing a fairly long set, he was pretty good.) What was interesting, though, was that despite the fact that most people were talking (albeit quietly) during the opening act, an almost reverential hush fell over the crowd when Joanna took the stage. I overheard two guys talking during her first song ("Bridges and Balloons"), and not ten seconds passed before two other guys yelled "shut the hell up!" at them. Nobody talks over Joanna Newsom.

What's interesting is that she wasn't an imposing stage presence at all. There was no reason at all these two guys should have been silencing rabblerousers. (In all honesty, there was no reason these guys should have been there at all, let alone the rabblerousers.) She's still a young woman, starry-eyed and genuinely pleased and surprised that people are paying money to see her play. She just looked cute on stage. She prefaced the show by telling us that this was the first time playing with a band. She then paused for a moment, adding, "Well, it's basically the first time I'm playing with a band." Who says "basically?" Who says that at age 25? Between that and her cuddling up against her harp, she was absolutely adorable. It was wonderful.

The music was tremendous. I love her CD, but I didn't realize one could rock that hard with a harp until I saw her play it live. "The Book of Right-On" had some serious energy live. Watching her hands fly across the strings was spectacular. I've only seen one other person play a harp, and it's a real treat to see if you haven't. (Petra plays a mean harp.) Her band was no less disappointing. They had a wide array of clever and unusual instruments. One man played a mandolin; another played the accordion, and occasionally the saw. Few things sound cooler than a saw. Gathering a band around her changed the sound of the music; it almost felt like I was sitting in a Renaissance festival. (The cover of her new album, Ys, certainly reflects that mood.)

After playing only eight songs, she and her band stood up and left. We clapped and cheered, hoping she'd come back and play more from her first record, but she didn't. I was surprised that she was done. Apparently the event staff were just as surprised - they probably thought she was playing an encore, too. Everyone stood up, unsure whether to stay or go. Even with a set of only eight songs, though, it was the best concert I've seen in a long time. Who would have thought it from a harpist with a bizarre, high-pitched voice?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

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Uh-oh. They're on to me.

Monday, October 23, 2006

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I'm sure Wikipedia is going to see through this almost immediately, so I'm going to save it to the blog. Enjoy, friends.

Acceleration point

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An acceleration point, uncommon in English typography, is used to indicate an increase in the speed at which the reader reads text. The typographical character derives from the tailed script m (Mercury sign) from the Wingdings font.


Although rarely used in standard English, the acceleration point appears commonly in the Valley girl dialect found in southern California. In addition to commonly heard variations of words (such as "like," "duh," and "totally), speech will occasionally speed up, apropos of nothing. While the acceleration point is most commonly found in the Valley girl dialect, it has uses in standard English, as well. Speakers who are nervous tend to speak at a faster pace than normal, requiring an acceleration point in written text. Other speakers, such as auctioneers, who are known for speaking quickly, sometimes also require acceleration points.


The acceleration point was first conceived of by linguist Benjamin H. Chatterton, working out of Brigham Young University. Supervising a team of undergraduates, he isolated the times in which the acceleration point appears in common speech and devised the appearance of the mark. While it has yet to be approved by any linguistic governing body, a paper on the subject is forthcoming.

edit: wikipedia seems to have bought it, for the time being. the permanent link can be found here. please, tell your friends. see if you can find more articles to link to this one. the more publicity we can get for the acceleration point, the better.

Friday, October 20, 2006

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I go through fascinations with different bands, albums, artists, and the like. Lately, it's been Sigur Rós that has commanded my attention, even to the point of inspiring me to change the style in which I title my posts. They have this tremendously ethereal sound that washes over me whenever I listen to their music. My latest crush has been on their song "Sæglópur," from their latest album, Takk... . I listen to it whenever I have it on me and hum it to myself whenever I don't. Mostly, it's just the first minute and a half that gets me. It has a soft piano and bell intro to it, combined with Jon Thor Birgisson's beautiful falsetto in Icelandic. It makes me feel that wherever I am when I listen to it, it's snowing.

I have a lot of images that I associate strongly with various songs. Sarah Slean's marvelous LP Blue Parade immediately conjures up an image of a rainy winter in Portland to me. Sufjan Stevens' "Come on! Feel the Illinoise!" (from the eponymous album) makes me feel that I'm in love every time I hear it. Okkervil River's entire Black Sheep Boy Appendix EP brings to mind an image of a dark room with a misshapen creature huddled in it. At one point in high school, I tried to illustrate every song from Radiohead's Amnesiac LP. Really good music does this to me. The only trouble with this is that when I hear music that has an image attached to it, I tend to close my eyes in an effort to shut everything else out. I just want to enjoy my music and the image I've chosen to associate with it. This isn't such a bad thing when I'm at home or at the library listening to my music. The problem comes from the back that I just got an iPod (and I need to take the time here to mention how awesome dimmi is for getting it for me at zero cost), so I'm frequently listening to music as I walk around. Songs like "
Sæglópur," then, cause me to shut my eyes as I'm walking through concourses of people on campus. I generally only make it a couple of seconds before I realize what I'm doing and open my eyes, sometimes microns away from running into someone.

Sigur R
ós ought to put some sort of warning on their CDs cautioning people like myself against listening to their music while walking anywhere.

Monday, October 16, 2006

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I decided to be a rabid, anti-war bleeding heart liberal today.

Allow me to explain.

In my Japanese literature class, we started a unit on WWII era Japan today. We were discussing a story titled "Blind Chinese Soldiers" (a short excerpt of which you can read here) by renowned author Hirabayashi Taiko and how it related to the politics and society of 1940s Japan. It's a terribly interesting story - I highly recommend reading it if you get the chance. In the course of the discussion, however, we got on the topic of the atomic bomb and Hiroshima. My professor, having anticipated this coming up, brought a film titled Hadashi no Gen (Barefoot Gen) on that very subject. It portrays the bombing of Hiroshima in an anime format, which has a more powerful effect than you might think. Similar to Art Spiegelman's Maus, the abstraction of the characters involved provides the reader a window into their lives. A photorealistic depiction of a character means that only one person in the world can be that character. An abstract portrayal of a character opens the doors; any one of thousands of people could realistically be represented. (I'm trying to succinctly summarize Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art and not doing such a great job. Read the book - you'll enjoy it.)

The point I'm making here is that despite the cartoonish quality of the film, the depiction of the effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was horrifying. Absolutely horrifying. The class was absolutely silent for a while afterward. It was intense. I didn't talk to anyone until I'd sat in the library, calmed down, and listened to Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Under the Sea. I just felt so strongly against war. I actually thought to myself as I watched the film, "How on earth could we have dropped two bombs on Japan?"

That said, I feel a strong need in my life to be an anti-war nut. Feel free to respond as you will.

(my apologies for the slew of links. it's like i'm channeling bawb or something.)

Friday, October 13, 2006

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No plot spoilers for you here (as I haven't read the book myself). I'm just writing to tell you all that if you haven't read the Lemony Snicket series yet, you really should. I've had Book the Thirteenth, titled The End, in my clutches for the past few hours, and the fact that I've only been able to read a few short chapters so far has been killing me.

Interestingly enough, this is the only book in the series to have fourteen chapters. The fourteenth chapter actually comprises its own book, titled, curiously enough, Chapter Fourteen. (The subtitle of the book is "Book the Last," which I find amusing.) I'm really excited.

Seriously, friends, you should read this. Reading Lemony Snicket will give you insights into my writing style that might not make sense otherwise. For instance, if you ever wondered why I title (or, rather, used to title) all of my posts in the format of "post the ______th", you needn't wonder any further.

I'm not even kidding. Go find the book. Go find the series. Read them. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, October 06, 2006

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For years, autumn has been my favorite season. While walking on campus today, I looked up from the damp, worm-ridden sidewalk to see two rows of golden trees, their leaves flopping - not fluttering - to the ground, soaked with the rain from the night before. It was absolutely beautiful, and in keeping with recent tradition, I wanted to know what made it so.

So I explored.

I grabbed the first piece of paper I could find (the Business Day section of today's New York Times, as pictured above) and started scrawling down any thoughts and feelings that came into my head. After a few minutes of writing, I found that it was the evanescent feeling that I enjoyed so particularly. Everything feels as though it's slowly falling apart. I love the feeling of disshevelment that pervades the outdoors. The trees are in a state of decollatage - not quite undressed for the winter, but still not quite fully clothed. Discarded leaves are strewn on the grass and sidewalk. There's no sense in cleaning them up; tomorrow, a fresh blanket of red and gold will be laid on the ground. Prints of fallen leaves graffiti the sidewalk. Footprints and tire tracks do the same to the manicured lawns. Even the sky looks untidy, as though a five year-old in the heavens were fingerpainting in gray.

People look untidy, too. The falling rain makes one want to bundle up, but not in anything pretty. Who wants to have their beautiful winter coat soaked and ruined in the rain and mud? Instead, everyone wears a nondescript hoodie, content to be warm, dry, and blend in. Beautiful, trim fashion is sacrificed for function. The drizzle of rain has its way with perfectly parted and set hair, giving everyone an equally frumpy appearance. Hair dissheveled, clothes baggy, faces wet, we all look exactly the same. Winter is on its way, planning to restore order with snowfall. Sidewalks will be delineated from lawns with straight, white edges. Everything will be a perfectly orderly white.

Me, I'm going to revel in transience while I can.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

post the hundred and eighth

(As a preface, I need to remind all of you gentle readers that I do, believe it or not, experience happiness and joy in my life. I just don't write about it. Melancholy and gloom lend themselves much better to exploration than cheerfulness does. This happens to be a period in my life where I've been given many more opportunities to really experience melancholy, and I'm doing my best to understand it so you can get a real sense of it. You'll have a better idea of it when you can see what it's like through my senses; at least, that's how I am. Hopefully you're the same.)

Feel your chest until you find the spot where your rib cage meets your sternum. I'm serious here. You're not going to understand exactly what I'm feeling - which is my goal here - unless you take an active role in reading this essay. Go on, don't be bashful. There should be a small soft spot just below the bone. I'm feeling a near-constant pressure there of late - it abates temporarily, but vestiges of it still cling to me, refusing to leave me alone. It's an internal pressure, mind you; it feels as though something is squeezing me from within rather than pressing from without, where it could easily be brushed away.

I feel it in my throat, too. I find myself taking deep breaths a lot (they sound like wistful sighs; in fact, they are neither) in an effort to sate the discomfort in both my throat and chest. Breathing deeply briefly sooths the chest pressure while the air reaches high enough that my throat doesn't have the lump in it for a bit.

Yes, the grim spectre of melancholy has raised its hoary head in my life again. Don't just blow past that phrase, either. I spent a good twenty minutes making sure that was exactly what I wanted to say. I looked up melancholy in the thesaurus, scoured all of its synonyms, and finally looked it up in the OED until I settled on it. (I also intentionally spelled "spectre" in its British form.) Word choice is important to me. Please take note.


I had a really fun time last night, in case brooklyn is reading this. I really did. I've been busy, sure, but I was productive and even got a chance to relax, which doesn't happen terrifically often anymore. I was even having a good morning, listening to the Decemberists' The Crane Wife (especially "The Island," which hasn't left my head since I bought it yesterday morning). Around 1.30, however, I started to feel restless. I couldn't focus on anything. I just had a tremendous rush of energy and felt frustrated that I couldn't do anything with it. Curiously, the rush failed me some 45 minutes later when I completely crashed during one of my classes. I made it through the next few hours in an exhausted torpor, wishing only for a nap. (Instead, I watched the NL playoffs. Man, the Mets lok good.)

This lasted until about 6.30, when it all broke loose. While I wasn't quite happy, I was cheerful enough up until then. Almost instantly, melancholy swept over me like a morose tidal wave. (This is another case where my word choice is important. Take note.) I was surprised at how sudden and complete it was; Pepto-Bismol has nothing on emotion. Boy howdy. I just stood there, a bag of used paper towels and fast-food wrappers in hand, feeling like I wanted to cry (which I never do, no joke) for hours - and nothing had even happened. It was amazing.

(deep breaths.)

It's at times like these where I wish I had someone to love. And before some of you reading this get up in arms saying you love me and worry about me, I want you to understand that I'm not talking about you. I know you love me. I appreciate it. I really do. That's just not what I'm talking about. I need someone in love with me - someone who can come and hold me when life gets impossibly hard. I need someone who can come and rub my still-aching back and wipe away my non-existent tears. I need someone who will be there for me and only me, as selfish as that sounds.

The problem with this is that I'm in love with everyone at the same time, which only adds to my frustration. (How can you not be frustrated like that? It's bad enough when only one object of your fancy doesn't return your affection; try a thousand of them at once.) I know I want someone to love, but I don't know who, or even that it's such a good idea for me at the moment, still having been freshly wounded. To make matters worse, I know exactly the woman I'd like to have comfort me and hold me, but she only exists as a construct of my mind. I've met 90% of her. (The lacking 10% turned out to be a critical difference.)


"go to sleep now, little ugly. go to sleep now, you little fool."

P.S.: I promise I'll start writing about cheerful things soon. This was such a startling insight into the world of melancholy that I couldn't resist writing about it. My apologies.

Monday, October 02, 2006

post the hundred and seventh

While looking through the library this morning for some sources on the early years of the Soviet Union, I came across The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, edited by Joseph L. Wieczynski. There are sixty volumes.

Sixty volumes.

If you know me personally, you can imagine the reaction this evoked in me, but in case you don't, I'll go ahead and describe it to you. I looked down from the row of books I was previously scanning to see two shelves of thin, forest green books, slightly tattered from use, but otherwise in good condition. My initial excitement upon realizing the books were all about Soviet Russia grew steadily as my eyes travelled from the first volume to the the sixtieth. My mouth fell open as I saw the five volumes of indices at the end of the second shelf. I felt a flutter in my heart - not unlike the flutter I feel when I see an attractive woman. These were sexy books, and I was completely enrapt. The feeling only intensified when I saw a bibliography of Lenin's speeches from 1905-1924. Oh man. It was incredible.

I'm going to quit blogging and get to work reading the whole thing right now. Oh boy oh boy.

Friday, September 29, 2006

post the hundred and sixth

Now that the ringing in my ears has died down, I can sit down and write about this concert. I've also calmed myself down by playing Sigur Rós, so you won't have to worry about me raving about the concert and throwing in unnecessary superlatives.

That said, the concert was tremendous. It started a little rocky, but it was really good on the whole. The opening act (Simon Lart, or something like that) played a couple of solid songs at the beginning of their set, but I was done with them after about five songs. That worked really well for us, since they only played the five. After twenty minutes of waiting for Band of Horses to come on, though, another opening act walked on the stage. This was a guy (who neglected to introduce himself, incidentally; we'll call him "Chad") who played most of his instruments by himself. Anything he couldn't play was provided for him via a backup track. His music was pretty solid, too, but I was ready to be done with him pretty quickly, if only because I wasn't expecting to have to wade through two opening acts. He made my wait almost worth my while, however, by describing a fight that he'd had with a friend of his who had joined him on tour. The two of them had just been traveling for long enough and got in a fight about bananas or something. I forget exactly. At any rate, this friend (we'll call him "Eric") was supposed to join Chad on stage to play drums for him, but due to this fight, he refused to come up on stage. Chad couldn't well play the songs by himself, so he ended up playing the first half of a lot of his songs and describing how they would have ended if Eric had been on stage with him. He described one song as having a "proto-homosexual" ending. I don't know what that means, but it seemed intriguing enough. Another song would have involved trumpeters muting their instruments with balloons and showering confetti all over the place. I was under the impression that Eric only played the drums, but apparently he does it all. It would have been amazing. Alas.

Finally, Band of Horses made their appearance. They didn't actually take the stage until about 9.15, which was interesting because the concert was scheduled to start at 7.00. (I later realized that the doors opened at 7.00. We were there at 6.00, only to find that the bands were only just arriving then.) Another band, the Kings of Leon, was supposed to play at 8.00 in the same place. I have no idea if or when they started playing. As it was, we were offered tickets to their show for free by one of the members of the band. It turned out that the Stills were opening for them, which would have been exciting to see. We seriously considered it; we probably would have stayed had the concert not ended at 10.15. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of waiting until 11.00 to start a show an hour away from home.

I digress.

Band of Horses was fantastic. They're from Canada, and they looked the part. They were dressed in neat flannel and had fairly impressive beards. It felt like a bevy of lumberjacks were performing for us. It was pretty cool. What made the experience even more fun was that the band seemed to feel that performing live was still a novelty for them. They were really excited. They brought up a painting of what turned out to be a dog smoking a pipe with a shotgun behind it and placed it on the drum set. "This is Mr. Awesome," they informed us. We were all duly impressed.

I was most excited for them to play "The Funeral," and I wasn't disappointed when they played it. It had all of the driving energy that I was hoping it would live. (Even seemingly innocuous songs like "Wicked Gil" were impressive live, though. It was a solid show.) You should really be clicking on the link that I provided for you here. You'll appreciate this post more if you're listening to Band of Horses while you read about them.

The reason everyone was there, of course, was to hear "The Great Salt Lake." They were just as excited to play it as we were to hear it. Few things in my life to this point can compare to hearing Band of Horses play "The Great Salt Lake" while in downtown Salt Lake City. It was fantastic. Everyone in the 200-person crowd knew the words to the song and sang along. (Now if you find yourself falling apart, I'm sure I can steer on the Great Salt Lake. mmmmmm.) We gave them such a tremendous response to that song that they told us that we were cooler than Mr. Awesome. I was so proud.

All told, it was a fantastic show. Alyssa even got touched by the drummer on the small of her back. If that doesn't make it an experience to be remembered, I don't know what will. Anyone for the Guster show next month?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

post the hundred and fifth

Sufjan Stevens will be in Portland on October 13.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah will be in Portland on October 7, along with Architecture in Helsinki and Takka Takka.

The Decemberists will be in Portland on October 17 and 18.

At least Band of Horses will be here on Thursday. I wish I was in Portland this month.

Monday, September 25, 2006

post the hundred and fourth

For those of you that have trouble with sudoku (the sport of kings), I present the following:

(thanks to Robert Poste for the graphic design. the concept, however, is all mine.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

post the hundred and third

This semester is going to be a busy one for me, I can already tell. I mentioned this earlier, but I have a lot of things going on in my life right now, and they're already starting to pile up on me. It's still September, for crying out loud. I can't imagine what December is going to feel like.

I felt optimistic (for lack of a better word) about this semester's prospects at first. I knew I was going to be busy, but that's not such a bad thing. I'm much better at organizing my time when I have a lot of things to do. This last summer drove that point home for me. I never felt any sense of urgency when the most pressing demands on my time were going to work and playing Kingdom of Loathing. I looked forward to a time in my life where I would be vastly more productive. It was going to be good.

In fact, it was good for the first day or so. I had three classes to attend and a lot of homework to do (mostly essays and reading - nothing too heavy), so I was planning on spending most of the day in the library. I spent the day bustling (I chose that word carefully, friends; "bustling" is the best word to describe what I was doing) from place to place, hurrying to get everything done. I felt a sense of fulfillment during the first part of the day, satisfied that I was being incredibly productive. As the day wore on, however, the feeling of fulfillment started to fade, gradually being replaced by a hollow, gnawing feeling in my chest. This wasn't something I was prepared for. I knew I was going to be busy, yes, but it was supposed to be a satisfying busy. I was supposed to feel gratified at the end of the day when I looked back and saw everything that I'd accomplished. No longer was I feeling good about what I was doing, but, just the opposite, I was feeling stressed. Harried. Frazzled (and that's another word that I chose carefully, dear readers). What was going on? What happened to my beautiful sense of accomplishment?

Within a few minutes, the gnawing feeling descended from my chest to my stomach, however, and I quickly figured out that it's difficult to feel a sense of accomplishment or self-worth when you're really hungry. I hadn't eaten hardly anything the whole day. No wonder I felt miserable. I think I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich or something and watched SportsCenter. Now there's fulfillment.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

post the hundred and second

Fall started at about 4:12 PM MST, Friday, September 15, but I didn't notice it until about ten minutes later.

I know there are more than a few of you out there who are looking at your screens with a dumbfounded look on your face saying something to the effect of, "Why, Optimistic., fall doesn't technically start until the 21st of the month. Haven't you heard of the autumnal equinox?" Yes, dear readers, I am aware of the equinox. I know fall hasn't started yet according to the calendar. However, when I went outside yesterday, it felt like fall, and I'm far more inclined to trust my feelings than a calendar when it comes to my perception of the seasons. As of about 4:12 yesterday, it's officially fall for me.

Describing what I mean when I say it "felt like fall" is something far more difficult than just proclaiming it to be fall, though. Something fells very different than summer when it switches to fall. Part of it, I think is triggered by the change in temperature. It was cooler and breezy yesterday when I realized that it had become fall, but somehow, the cooler and breezy feeling was inside me as well as on the outside. I felt crisp and brisk. I felt like autumn.

I felt, now that I think of it, the combined force of the memories of twenty-three autumns all at once. While walking toward work, I was suddenly struck by a vision of myself going to a Halloween performance at night in first grade. I don't remember any of the particulars of the performance (although a video tape documents me wearing a bunny rabbit costume), I do remember walking to my elementary school in the cool dark of a late October night in California with the smell of candy corn and musty construction paper wet with glue on the air. I didn't smell that on my way to work yesterday, but the crisp feel of an autumn breeze triggers that memory (and thus that smell) in my mind. To me, fall is an orange construction paper pumpkin soaked with a little too much Elmer's Glue.

Unfortunately, fall only lasted until about 6:45, when winter took over with the onset of a persistent drizzling rain. That was fast.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

post the hundred and first

Do you want to know what it feels like to be me?

Of course you do. Everyone does. Don't lie to yourself.

Find a hula hoop and a friend. Have the friend light the hula hoop on fire. Jump through the hoop several times, being sure that your friend kicks you each time. It might even help if your friend throws some clever insults in there, too.

I'm scheduled to graduate next April, and I've had to jump through an inordinate amount of hoops lately to get clearance to do so. (I'm still not all the way there, and I've been working on this for the better part of the last week.) I found out yesterday that I need the signature of my academic advisor from my college to graduate, so I headed up to his office at 9.15 this morning to get that taken care of. It was pretty clear that he really didn't want to be there, which had me a bit mystified. How hard can it be to look up a few things and sign my paper? Furthermore, how bad can it be if you're being paid to do so? Fortunately, I had enough cheer for the both of us, and I headed out with a signed form in my hand. Since I'm in the education program, however, I also needed the signature of my education advisor. I headed over to the education building to pick up that signature, confident that I was almost done with my work.

When I handed the form to my advisor, though, she looked a bit confused. She told me that I needed a similar form for my minor, which my history advisor should have given me. I've had problems with the history department before, so this was nothing out of the ordinary. I headed back to the history department, slightly irritated, but still glad that I was almost done. As you can imagine, though, I was far from it. The two secretaries at the desk seemed confused as to why they were even holding my minor form. They talked back and forth to each other about it for a while before they even realized that I was there to pick it up. Predictably, it was missing a signature that should have been on there months ago. Guess who got to go collect that?

So now I'm heading over to the Japanese department, more than a little irritated at the incompetence of the history department. Once there, I found out that I actually have one more class to take than I thought I did. I get to pile that on top of the classes I'm already taking, my licensure exam, preparations for student teaching, my senior thesis, and everything else I have to do right now. It's insane. I knew this year was going to be rough, but I had no idea just how nasty it was going to be. Assuming everything continues at the current pace (and I see no reason why it won't), I should finally get to breathe a little easy around December.


Monday, September 11, 2006

post the hundredth

I was going to post a picture in celebration of the event, but since I'm having some difficulty with Blogger (we're not on speaking terms right now), I'll just describe what I've found to you.

For those of you that are fans of sudoku as I am, this will be a special treat. I found something called a samurai sudoku, which is comprised of not just one 9x9 grid, but five of them. (Just imagine the beauty this implies. Or, if you don't want to imagine, just click here.) It's probably the coolest thing I've ever seen, and I've seen some pretty cool things.

Happy hundredth to me.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

post the ninety-ninth

Have I mentioned how much I like this new apartment? It's a wonderful place to live. The location is excellent, too - campus is literally a three minute walk from my front door. Work is about the same distance. It's wonderful. Simply wonderful.

The only problem is that I feel really melancholy when I'm in my room, and I don't have the slightest idea why.

Before I get too far here, I want to remind all of my gentle readers that I'm really not as sad as you might think from reading my blog over the past week or so. Those not acquainted with me would probably think that I'm just a complete emotional wreck. Those who know me in real life know better. I'm still far from being chipper and smiley-happy, but I'm doing alright. (The eye twitch, shooting pains in my hips, and aching back might provide evidence to the contrary, however.) Seriously, though, I'm doing fine, and I appreciate all of the concern and comfort I've received from you. You're wonderful.

That said, my room does instill a sense of melancholy in me. I think this has to do with the positioning of my window. My window faces west, which allows for plenty of light to enter the room - especially when the sun is setting; it looks beautiful - which you'd think would provide a cheerful feeling. The problem, however, is that due to some factor beyond my control, almost no natural light come directly into my window. Maybe it's the tree slightly to the south of the window. Maybe I live in some sort of refractive vortex that prevents natural light from coming into my room. Whatever it is, though, the room always feels very dimly lit. There's light, of course, but it's dim enough that it reminds me of walking on an Oregon beach at about 6:30 in the morning. The sun is just coming up, yes, but it's from the east - away from the sea. The whole landscape has a cold, grey feel to it. The cold is literal - there's nothing warm about a beach that far north, and especially on the Pacific coast - but also figurative. Something about the grey gets inside you. You just feel chilly until the sun is properly up.

Now that I think about it, this makes an awful lot of sense. Of course I'm feeling melancholy if my room reminds me of the Oregon coast. I spent one year in Oregon before I came to school here, and I spent it miserably. While I made the best of it (I am an optimist, after all), it still wasn't pleasant. I was glad to have made it out of there when the time rolled around for me to come to school. Most of my Oregon memories involve me walking to school in the drizzly, misty rain, staring up into the cold, grey sky and listening to the Radiohead album that convinced me that I had something to keep me going, after all. (The song I most frequently listened to from that album? Why, "Optimistic," of course.) That year in Oregon felt - and still feels, to me - morose and downtrodden.

Wow, maybe I should just spend my time in the library instead. I'd just turn on a light, but I hate turning on the lights this early in the day. It's barely after 3:00 right now. Who turns on the lights at 3:00?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

post the ninety-eighth

You're not going to get the full effect I want you to get out of this blog post unless you read it in the dark. I'm serious. Turn off the lights wherever you are. Get somewhere dark. Close the windowshades. Block out the light with something solid if you have to. It needs to be dark when you read this, or you're not going to fully appreciate what I have to say.

Is it dark yet? I'm not even kidding about this. Turn off the lights.

It's 1:15 on a Saturday night. It's been a good day for me. I've moved into my new apartment about a week ago, and now that all of my roommates are finally here, we've been able to start putting things away. At long last, the apartment is starting to come together. Robert Poste and I have been working on our room particuarly, and it finally looks like an actual room. We also attended a friend's birthday/housewarming party tonight. I got to see some people that I haven't seen for a long time. Some of them lived right near me for the last several months, but I rarely saw them because I was purposefully shutting myself away from society. (In retrospect, this was a poor idea. I really shouldn't have sacrificed other social connections in favor of a relationship. Lesson learned.) I got to enjoy the company of others and the experience of flirting again, which I haven't done in a long time. Fear not, gentle readers who were at this particular party. Although I was probably flirting with you if you were female and at this party, rest assured that it wasn't necessarily because I feel particularly romantically attracted to you. It's just been a while. I needed the practice. (If you happen to feel a particular romantic attraction to me, though, feel free to shoot me an email and we can discuss particulars.) We all got home at about 10:30, at which point we went back to unpacking things. All told, it was a successful evening for me. I felt good about how I'd spent my day. After watching an epsiode of The Simpsons with Robert Poste, I reached for the light switch from the top of our bunk beds and we both settled down to go to sleep.

Suddenly - and I mean this very literally, since most people use "suddenly" as a generic transition - a wave of terror swept over me. This is something that doesn't happen very regularly to me, as I'm not given to panic attacks, so I took particular note of this.

My room is neatly tidied and organized, with a few exceptions. I have most of my books that I need for my classes (which start on Tuesday). My roommates are all back in town. From that standpoint, you'd think that I'm completely prepared for the new school year. You'd be correct to think so. What you're not considering, though, and what I didn't consider, is that I'm completely unprepared for this new shift in my social life. While the new room is nicely organized, it's still new, and that's what scares me. I've made a huge transition in my life - one that I didn't think I was going to make until next year, when I graduate and head off to take a teaching job somewhere. (That scares me too. More on that later, perhaps.) I think the neat new room nicely symbolizes what the prospects of this year feel like for me. Everything's ready to go, but it's not familiar to me at all. I'm in a new social situation with new people I'm not familiar with (nor am I particularly excited to become familiar with, but that's just my prejudices running away with me). All of the people that I got to know so well this last summer are, for the most part, out of my life, and perhaps to stay. I've recognized that they're all leaving me over the last few months, but it's really been driven home for me lately. Everything's starting anew for me.

I have a hard time believing that there are people out there who actually like change. I hate it. I really don't like jumping into new situations. I've been a lot better about it lately, at least on the surface, but to be perfectly honest, I'd much prefer it if things stayed the same for me. I know that's not the way to grow, but it's the easy way, and I would prefer things to be easy rather than to be growing opportunities. (What human being wouldn't?) I'm sure this will help me develop into a better person, and, perhaps more importantly, help prepare me for what my life will be like in a year when I move somewhere else (regrettably, likely alone) and jump into a whole new phase of my life.

The fact of the matter, though, is that it's intimidating and more than a little scary to me. The dark does that. Everything is scarier in the dark, no matter what anyone else tells you. It might be childish to say that I'm afraid of the dark, but I am. I'm always the least emotionally stable when it's dark out. That's why I insisted on writing (and you reading) this post in the dark, so it would feel the same to me. I won't feel like this in the morning. No one ever does. Worries and anxieties like this disappear with the rising of the sun. The lack of familiarity that I feel, though, won't. It's going to take time to adjust to this, and until I do, nights in my perfectly organized room are going to be scary.

Feel free to turn the lights back on now.

Friday, September 01, 2006

post the ninety-seventh

Last night at about 1:00 I managed to inadvertently delete everything in my iTunes library from K on. Everything.

Fortunately, I have those 90 data discs that I mistakenly burned, so I should be able to get most of it back, but still, wow. I can't believe I did something that amazingly stupid. I may be contacting some of you to get back some of the music that I lost forever.

That, and my back is still killing me. When it rains, it pours.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

post the ninety-sixth

I chose the online name "Optimistic." not because it especially reflected my personality (although it certainly does, to some extent), but because it was a Radiohead song that seemed to lend itself well to becoming an online alias. Few things irritate me more than people who say they like my online persona because I'm "so optimistic and upbeat." Do you people even read the things I write? Honestly. I go out of my way to be sacrastic and even biting at times so people don't confuse the two Optimistics.

In this post, however, I'm actually going to display the optimism that I'm inaccurately known for.

Yesterday was, without question, the most painful day of my life in recent memory. I'm including the time I got appendicitis in there, too. That hurt unbelievably - it was probably the most intense physical pain I've ever felt in my life. Looking back, I can't think of anything that hurt me more, physically, and likewise, I can't think of anything that hurt me more emotionally than yesterday. I'm including in this list things like my grandmother's death when I was 17. I haven't had a particularly traumatizing life, so I suppose there aren't too many things to compare this to.

Still, it hurt like you wouldn't believe. I remember having a conversation with Petra once where we talked about the problem of allowing people to get close to you. I, predictably, was in favor of it, since someone really close to you has the ability to make you extremely happy.
She argued against it, saying that the closer someone gets to you, the more they can hurt you. We were both right. Someone really close to you can make you feel on top of the world, as Petra showed me over the last several months (and as I like to think I showed her). Likewise, only someone extremely close to you can inflict the sort of damage inflicted on me yesterday, as Petra also showed me.

Words can't really accurately describe what I was feeling yesterday (and I know that sounds really trite and cheesy, but as one not given to hyperbole, i refuse to apologize for it), but I'm going to give it a shot, anyway. I currently live alone in a new apartment, waiting for the rest of my roommates to arrive later this week. Receiving news like this by myself in unfamiliar surroundings was traumatic. What's worse is that it came right on the heels of a period of tremendous optimism on my part, as though fate was playing a cruel joke on me. I spent hours trying to wrap my mind around this new development in my life. How could Petra be completely out of my life, never to come back? She'd been a part of it for so long that I couldn't even begin to imagine what it would be like without her. (To be honest, I still can't. That's going to take some time.) Nearly everything in my life reminds me of her in some way, from the Arrested Development DVDs on my coffee table to the Badly Drawn Boy CD I'm listening to even to the shirt I'm currently wearing. Spending that much time with someone allows them to spread into every facet of your life. Having them suddenly draw away leaves a tremendous void behind.

I think that emptiness was what bothered me the most yesterday, and is what will continue to bother me over the next few days and weeks. I genuinely feel as though a part of me is missing. I had a lot of friends offer me support and condolences (not least of whom are Uffish Thought and Novel Concept, who gave me the hugs I needed when I was about to completely come apart at about 12:30 last night), but for now, they're not going to be able to completely compensate for the space that's been left behind. That space was gnawing at me all day yesterday, reminding me what I'd lost. (Thanks a lot, empty space. I don't need to be reminded, thank you.)

I'm feeling better today, but I think the pain is still going to come in waves. I just got another shot of it right now thinking about her. It's only just been 24 hours, though. Healing takes time. Healing, for me at least, also takes people who love you willing to help you out, and that's where my promised optimism comes in. I've had so many people who, of their own accord, have come to help me out and make sure that I'm doing okay. These are genuinely good people, and I'm really glad that they're here. Tolkien Boy says that I'm just reaping the seeds I sowed of good friendship and kindness. I think I've just been blessed with incredibly kind friends. I would that everyone had friends as good as these; friends willing to drop everything at a moment's notice and give you a hug, or even just sit around and talk to make sure you're okay.

To be perfectly clear here, I intend in no way for this post to villify Petra. I really don't think that I have here, but for friends and family (and her), I want to emphasize that I bear her no ill will. This post is more for personal catharsis than for any sort of vengeance.

And with that, I go to the shower to start a new phase of my life remarkably similar to my old one, just without one very important person to me in it. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

post the ninety-fifth

In speaking with my mom a couple of days ago, I found out that the Decemberists are coming to Portland to play a concert next week. Admission will be a paltry five dollars. I was beside myself when I heard this and briefly considered going home just so I could see the show. Granted, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense - were I to do so, I'd be foregoing at least three days' worth of work and about a hundred dollars' worth of gas to see them.

Still, though, it's the Decemberists. Sigh.

On the plus side, though, they're releasing a new album on October 3 that I plan on purchasing. It promises to be good. I really like those Decemberists.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

post the ninety-fourth

For those of you not up on the latest news, the International Astronomical Union is strongly considering changing the definition of "planet" to include three more planets in our solar system. (I read the article on NPR, if you're interested at all.) By the end of this week, we could be looking at twelve planets in our solar system.

After reading the article, I imagined a scenario in which I told my children about the days when there were only nine planets in the solar system, although I quickly realized that sounded like the human race created some new planets and launched them into space.

Anyhow, keep Pluto in mind this week. There's a possibility that they will demote it from planet status and leave us with only eight planets. I think I'd prefer ten planets to eight, myself. Just so long as we don't end up with 53, another number they're considering. (ick.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

post the ninety-third

I spent most of today burning CDs so I could have a hard copy of my music. Most of it is just on my computer, and I'd hate to lose it all should something happen to it. I finished burning my CDs at around 11:00, at which point I found that I had burned about 90 data discs rather than actual usual CDs.

That does a pretty good job of summing up today, actually.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

post the ninety-second

Death Cab for Cutie was in town last night, and I had a tremendous time at the concert last night. I hadn't been to a concert in over a year, so this was a nice way to get back into the swing of things.

I got there about twenty minutes before the doors opened with dimmi and a friend who has no online appellation (we'll call her "Alyssa"). Our position in line was decent in terms of proximity to the door, but we ended up getting stuck in front of a van from a local radio station that insists on calling itself independent. (I'll leave it to you to discern the irony of a radio station that loudly proclaims its freedom from the corruption of major labels that then plays Jimmy Eat World and Coldplay at you.) This radio van ended up being typical of most of the attendees, though. The arena was full of young people wearing expensive and preppy clothes and talking about how much they just love indie rock like Death Cab. I was secretly pleased when the band would play something that wasn't from Transatlanticism or Plans and notice that no one there knew the songs.

We made it inside and took our seats, which actually weren't too bad, considering I got the tickets just a couple of weeks before the concert. Alyssa was supposed to sit a little way from us, but we convinced her to sit next to us and that whomever was supposed to sit where she was would either switch seats with her or just not show up. She sat in terror for about an hour or so, mortified that someone would come and make her move, but it turned out that that person just didn't come.

At 8:00, the lights went out and Mates of State, the opening act, began to play. I actually hadn't heard them play before, but lanada insisted that I would like them, so I paid studious attention. I thought they were pretty good, as did dimmi and Alyssa, but the 16 year-old next to me clearly did not. He sat and sent a steady stream of text messages for their entire set. "I did not pay to see Mates of State," he seemed to say, although the message probably looked more like "this sux dont u think" or "wheres deaf cab???"

Possibly the best part of the already solid opening act, though, was seeing one young woman stand up and dance. She was sitting in the front row of the bleachers, yet she felt a very real need to stand up and dance in what she clearly felt was a hip and trendy fashion. (She was wrong.) Her boyfriend, in a touching show of solidarity, also stood up and made some attempts at swaying with her with the occasional arm motion. I thought it was pretty funny from where I was sitting, but I imagine it would have been really irritating had I been sitting right behind them.

After a short break between sets, the lights went out. Everyone got really excited - Death Cab was going to come out! Suddenly, one very bright purplish light came on and the music started up. I couldn't actually make out anything on the stage other than this purple light. Apparently I'd been decieved - Death Cab for Cutie, rather than being a group of four humans, was in reality only one bright light. Who knew? The bright light then launched into "The New Year," which was the song that I'd guessed was going to be first. (We had a discussion about which song we thought was going to be first. I won, followed by Alyssa's guess of "Marching Bands of Manhattan.") After a couple more songs, the light went down to reveal...four human beings! Huzzah! They do exist!

All told, it was a pretty sturdy concert. I was pleased with the choice of songs as well as the company I had. I was especially amused to see several young couples around us all dancing by rubbing against each other as much as possible. The couple a few rows down from us seemed especially guilty of this - they would be all over each other even on really slow songs. I thought it was pretty funny and inwardly cursed myself for not having thought of it on my own. The best part of the show - for me, at least - came at the very end when they closed with "Transatlanticism." They invited Mates of State to come on stage and join them for the last song. It had a ton of energy at the end and seemed to me to be a perfect way to close out the evening.

Fittingly enough, the last song was played by the same bright light that opened the show.

Monday, August 07, 2006

post the ninety-first

An actual note that I found on someone's desk while at work today:

For: Glenl
From: Laurel

Message: Have you received all of your pants?

The only way that could have been any better would be if it were marked "urgent."

Friday, August 04, 2006

post the ninetieth

I decided last spring that I wasn't going to go home any more often than I needed to in the future. I stayed at home for eight weeks and was going crazy by the time I headed back to Provo for school. While I love my family dearly, eight weeks of them after being used to living on my own was too much for me. I needed to be independent. Back to Provo I went.

With that in mind, you can understand why it's a big deal for me when my family is around. I was really excited to see everyone when they came into town yesterday. They live far enough away from Utah that coming here on a regular basis really just isn't practical. Visits are a treat. The family came here to celebrate what I assumed was my great-grandmother's billionth birthday. (After a certain age, the actual number really doesn't matter all that much anymore. When I turn 90, I may as well be a billion, I think.) As it turned out, they were here to celebrate what would have been my great-grandfather's 100th birthday, were he still alive. Family came from near and far in a huge family reunion. Everyone was really excited.

I exaggerate a little when I say that everyone was really excited, because I don't think that I really was. I was excited to see my immediate family, as I always am, but the prospect of seeing relatives who I haven't seen in a decade or two and thus really don't know was not especially appealing to me. I was there to see my family and the aunts and cousins that I usually see around here. While I wasn't planning on actively socializing with anyone else, I would be there in case they wanted to see me. That said, I brought the latest book I wanted to read (John Updike's Rabbit Redux) with me so I would have something to occupy me.

It was a good thing that I brought a book. The activity we had planned was taking a ride on the Heber Creeper. For those of you either not local or familiar with said Creeper, I offer a short explanation. Heber is a small town around here. The Creeper is an old train that takes people around and shows them scenic views of the area. It's fun to ride, but the snag is that the train moves at about fifteen miles an hour the whole way. Our particular trip was going to take three hours from start to finish. Already not being enthralled with the prospect of sitting with relatives I didn't really know, I dreaded boarding the train.

I sat down and immediately opened my book. So strong was the sense of my being on a train waiting to go that I transposed that feeling on the characters - in my mind, they too were all waiting on a train about to depart for some unknown destination. (Those few of you familiar with Rabbit Redux will know that trains don't even play a minor role in the book. Pity, really.) Various relatives and my parents tried to get me to talk so I wouldn't just shut myself out from everyone, but I persisted. Besides, the book was just starting to get interesting.

We rode out by the reservoir and through a brisk breeze. The weather was lovely - it was warm enough that we didn't have to worry about bundling up at all (it's August, for crying out loud), but the breeze kept us cool. I sat in an open-air car and continued to enjoy my book. I was conscious of relatives coming and going, some sitting next to me, some standing near me, others keeping toddlers from leaping to a gruesome fifteen mile per hour death, but didn't really pay much attention to them.

Apparently I became somewhat of a spectacle for everyone else on the train. My book was just over 400 pages long, and it was looking like I was going to finish it before the train ride was over. This came as no surprise to me - I brought the book fully intending to have it finished by the end of the ride. I've been reading a lot this summer, and I've been going at the pace of about one decent-sized book a day. This one certainly wasn't going to be an exception. Apparently these plans of mine thoroughly boggled everyone else on the train. People would come up to me while I was reading and ask me things like, "Are you really going to finish that?" Of course, I would reply, a bit nonplussed that such a thing should be so surprising. Do these people not know me at all? Clearly, they didn't. The pestering continued unabated.

By about 4:30, I was coming toward the end of my book. Unbeknownst to me, enrapt in my novel, people were actually gathering around me and marvelling at the fact that I was going to finish it. I recognized that there were more people around me, but didn't make the connection that I had anything to do with it. As I turned to the final page, one cousin tried to take the book from me so she could hurl it into the reservoir. Everyone just seemed astounded that I could finish a book so quickly.

I feel like I was the smart one for thinking ahead to bring a book, although, in retrospect, I wish that I'd brought a slightly longer one. I finished about half an hour before the end of the train ride.

Oh, did I mention that the ride was really pleasant? The breeze was lovely and the weather was beautiful. I was completely exhausted by the time it was over, but I really enjoyed myself. All that, and I got to check another book off my list. Today was a full day.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

post the eighty-ninth

One of the houses I clean at work isn't air-conditioned. (Actually, several houses are like that, but I've chosen to focus on one in particular.) The house has a swamp cooler, which does a tremendous job at cooling the building, so long as you're standing directly underneath the swamp cooler. Since most places in the house can't be accurately described as "directly underneath the swamp cooler" (except for a certain chair that I make a point of sitting in when I'm winding up the cord to my vacuum), being in that house is generally a less than pleasant experience.

I'm not quite sure how swamp coolers work, but I know that they manage to make the inside of the building they are trying to cool very humid, a feat which is especially impressive in Utah. Forget buying a humidifier. Just install a swamp cooler in your building and you're set. It has the benefit of also making your house slightly cooler (but only in the same sense that cerulean is slightly bluer than teal).

While vacuuming the aforementioned house, I walked into a room with a particular smell in it. My memory is particularly sensitive to smells - certain smells are associated powerfully with various events in my life. Sometimes it works the other way - I was sitting on my couch this morning while waiting for dimmi to come and visit me, and I could have sworn that I smelled Petra. (It's a good smell, Petra. Don't worry.) This immediately invoked a whole series of tender memories that I had to quickly turn to my book to suppress, lest I get caught up in half an hour of reminiscing. At any rate, this particular smell recalled memories, but it wasn't a strong or recognizable enough scent that I could place the memories. I just had vague recollections of something pleasant in my past. For a fleeting moment, I saw myself in front of a TV with my family while watching a movie, but I couldn't get any more than that.

I left the room and tended to other things in the house for a few minutes. In time, I came back to the room, only to smell the same odor. This time, however, I noticed a few broken-down cardboard boxes leaning against a desk. Immediately, the smell made sense. I was smelling slightly wet cardboard (from the swamp cooler, which was making everything humid). The memory made sense, too. The missing element from my memory was pizza, which we were all eating out of the delivery box. The pizza, containing moisture, had made the cardboard in the boxes damp, creating a similar smell to the one I was currently experiencing.

Apparently I associate the smell of slightly damp cardboard with memories of eating pizza as a child. I just keep learning interesting things at this job.

Friday, July 28, 2006

post the eighty-eighth

She left this morning. 6:40. I drove her up to her grandparents' house and left her there last night so they could take her up to the airport. She's gone, and for a whole year.

Stick with me here. I have a point to this besides the whining you might expect from me.

I'm finding myself in a period of major change in my life, and it's coming a year earlier than I thought it would. It's come as a big surprise to me. I didn't think all of my friends would be disappearing and the like until I actually left town and went out to seek my fortune in the lone and dreary world. It turns out this process has started this summer, albeit slowly. I have to admit that I should have seen this coming. I knew my friends would slowly disappear on me when the summer started. One of my roommates left for Washington, D.C. after fall semester. Another left for Chicago after winter term. Robert Poste left for an internship after spring term. And now Petra's gone off to Indonesia. Looking into the future, I see that a lot of the people I associate with now are going to be leaving within a month.

Here's why this is such a worrisome thing for me. I came back to Provo last summer because the girl I was dating at the time was coming back from a program in Nauvoo and I preferred being with her to working at home. Unforseen to me, though, we broke up about a week before I left to come back to Provo. My reason for coming back now gone, I set about creating a new reason for me to be in Provo in the summer. A friend of mine had introduced me to the 100 Hour Board in March, and so I decided to take another look at it. I enjoyed it so much (it being one of the few things that I did at the time) that I decided to read the entire archives until I found how to become a writer. I did, and I succeeded. Once accepted as a writer, I decided that this coming year would be the Year of the Board for me.

It has been the Year of the Board. Most of the people I closely associate with are people that I met through the Board (or its cousin, Blue Beta). I don't spend all of my spare time answering questions like I used to, but I do spend a great deal of my spare time with the people. There were a lot of new people to deal with at first, which worried me. I have a hard time with new people, since I'm terrified of making a poor first impression. (In my defense, I'm startlingly good at making a poor first impression. I'm amazed people stick with me sometimes.) However, slowly but surely, I found a crowd of people that I fit in well with. Strangely enough, a lot of them belong to what I had dubbed the "poetry crowd," whom I thought I would never have anything to do with. Go figure.

The group I really like spending time with are mostly what you might call intellectuals. I can make jokes about John Updike with them and not have to provide background explanation. It's really nice, and I really like being with them. The only snag is that nearly all of them are graduating or have already graduated and are going back to grad school in the fall. That's a drag for me, since I've worked so hard to build up this new corps of friends, most of whom will be abandoning me within a month, have they not left already.

Mind you, I don't have all that much to complain about. My roommates are coming back in September. I still have people here in Provo that I like being with. Perhaps most of all, I'm still living in a country where people speak my language and share my culture (sorry, dear Petra). Still, I wasn't expecting this paradigm shift to come for another year. If this year is like this, I can't even begin to imagine what next year is going to be like.

Life is change, though. Pity I didn't know that when I signed up. I hate change, good for me though it may be.

Friday, July 21, 2006

post the eighty-seventh

Lately it seems like most of my posts have been stories from work related to poor English usage. In that tradition, I present this post.

An actual and not made up conversation I overheard from two guys at work:

GUY 1: I would describe that with a word like "luscious" or "voluptuous."
GUY 2: "Voluptuous?"
GUY 1: Yeah, "voluptuous."
GUY 2: Don't you mean "volumptuous?"
GUY 1: Um...maybe.
GUY 2: I'm pretty sure you mean "volumptuous."
GUY 1: Oh, okay. I always mess up words like that.

In case you were curious, a Google search for "volumptuous" turns up 21,000 hits, although it asks you first if you were meant "voluptuous," which turns up 5,170,000 hits.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

post the eighty-sixth

From an actual sign that I saw while eating at Panda Express yesterday:

Panda Values
  • Proactive
  • Respect/Win-Win
  • Growth
  • Great Operations
  • Giving
I had to take a couple of looks at this sign to make sure I was reading it correctly. Almost every item on this list is phrased differently. Do the powers that be at Panda Express have no respect for stylistic conformity? It still confuses me looking at this. Did they not have an editor, or even just a regular person, read this first?

That said, the food was really good. I really like their orange chicken.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

post the eighty-fifth

I just recently came into two new albums that are both fantastic. It's very rare that I end up getting two new albums at the same time that are both so incredible. (The last time this happened was probably when I bought Radiohead's OK Computer and Beck's Odelay on the same day, although I might be making that memory up.) On Saturday, I bought Sufjan Stevens' The Avalanche, while Petra bought Thom Yorke's The Eraser. We made a trade, and I think both of us came off better for it.

I don't know how familiar you are with these two artists, so I'll just sum them up a bit for you. Thom Yorke is the lead singer of Radiohead. This is his first solo album. It's a piece of electronic genius, in my opinion. I've been listening to it nearly nonstop for the last 24 hours. It's marvelous. I highly recommend it if you like electronica at all. For that matter, if you like Radiohead at all, you really ought to listen to this album. You won't be disappointed, trust me.

On the other hand, we have Sufjan Stevens. His is a sort of folksy sound that is a bit trickier to describe. It has elements of country in it, but also of alt-rock. It's also extremely good. He jokingly started a project a few years ago of writing an album about every one of the fifty states. He's written two so far - one about Michigan, and one about Illinois. This album is a series of outtakes and extras from his Illinois album. I was hesitant about buying an album of songs that he made the decision to cut already, but it turns out that they're all very good. I've been very impressed with it. It's not just anywhere you can turn to hear a song all about two-time presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. I've been very pleased about it.

I only rarely bother to post music reviews on this blog, but these two CDs have been in my head so much recently that I couldn't help myself. Enjoy them, please.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

post the eighty-fourth

I had the chance to go to a funeral yesterday morning. A woman my family knows back at home died this last week of a prolonged battle with leukemia. She was only 26. I didn't know her at all, really, but since my family couldn't come out here (this woman died in Utah, where I'm at, and my family is in Oregon), they sent me as an envoy.

I've only been to two other funerals in my life, and both came when I was much younger, so I didn't really understand much of what was going on in either of them. My great-grandfather died when I was about ten. I remember going to that funeral, but mostly remembering that the service took a really long time. I also remember there being cookies afterward and eating them while talking to my cousin. I went to another funeral when I was about fourteen. Strangely enough, this person had also died of leukemia, although he died at the age of ten. I remember this boy's uncle giving a really nice eulogy and crying a lot at the end, but not much else.

This funeral turned out to be a very different experience for me. The LDS perspective on funerals is unlike what you'll find in most other places. Clearly it's a time to grieve and to mourn the passing of a friend, but there's an eternal perspective that you don't really find anywhere else. The back of the program for the service had the words from the song "Families Can Be Together Forever," which, if you're not familiar with it, go like this:

I have a family here on earth
They are so good to me
I want to share my life with them through all eternity
Families can be together forever
Through Heavenly Father's plan
I always want to be with my own family
And the Lord has shown me how I can
The Lord has shown me how I can.

They're really nice words, and I thought they were appropriate for such an occasion. I think that most people believe that death, while an unpleasant thing, is merely another step we have to take in life. We'll meet up with the departed later. The perspective was nice.

The thing that most struck me, though, was seeing a bunch of little kids running around during the service. My sister and I showed up a bit late for the service, since we got confused with the no directions that we received. (Even in Utah, where the addresses are listed with a coordinate system, one can get lost. Trust me.) Being late, we sat in the overflow section of the chapel, which opened up into a large gym. Several young children, all of whom were under the age of two, were running around in this gym entertaining themselves. Various people were speaking about the woman who had died and were tearing up, but I couldn't help but watch these little kids innocently amuse themselves. One boy in particular was crawling enthusiastically around some chairs, smiling and waving at people as he passed by. He eventually got up and started running, still waving and smiling periodically. I thought it was really neat to see life come full circle. On the one hand, there was a woman who had just left this mortal coil and was finished with her journey here. On the other hand, there was this little boy who was still relatively new here and was really enthusiastic about life.

The whole experience gave me a nice perspective on life. We're all at different stages, of course, and it was nice to see that all at once. I don't know if I'm doing a good job communicating exactly what I felt, but I can say that I felt pretty good walking out of that chapel. Who would have imagined that a funeral service would give me a boost like that?