Saturday, December 23, 2006

Jeremy Enigk

Last night I experienced one of the most beautiful live performances I have ever attended. Jeremy Enigk(Sunny Day Real Estate, Fire Theft) played at the Trubadour in LA. It really impacted me in such a powerful way. I know I mentioned how this CD has definately fit this period in my life, but I have to say that last night took it to the next level. Why is it that hope screams so loud when the darkness is all around? As the song "Been Here Before" states:

been here before
though there's something in the air this time
now i wanna give away what i'd taken back
run away with you toward the night

a thousand names
though there's something in me cannot smile
don't wanna spend the day retracing steps
run away with you toward the light

Here's a live performance of "Damien Dreams" to give you an idea of what it was like:

Christmas Carol

He brushes the dusty grave with his hand to reveal words worn with the weathers of the seasons. The words are faded but their engraving still sits among the granite stone: "Theodore Ted Byyny 1920-1986, beloved husband and father...Faith was his Victory" He presses his fingers into the words as he carefully nudges tiny windmills, candy-canes, and Christmas presents to the edges of the headstone. A single wind-mill twists to the breeze of a brisk winter afternoon. After 10 years they still visit the grave and decorate it every year. To the sides are other graves with unheard of names. They sit vacant in a stark comparison to this grave covered with its stuffed animals, christmas stockings, and a single bottle of Knotts Berry Farm Blueberry jam. Many of the graves have been forgotten long before. Not far away stands another family decorating a fresh grave. A single mother with two little children gathers the distracted youth together to concentrate their attention on the grave in front of them. They scatter tinsel across the grave and assemble a small fake Christmas tree. As she tries to bring some element of a family together during the holidays, she puts her arms around them both and attempts to withhold a single tear as it escapes and creeps painstakingly down her face. She thinks, "If only he could be with us right now."
My top ten Christmas songs
10. Every single song on the Chipmunks Christmas album. Grandma used to play it for me...
9. Fiona Apple "Frosty the Snowman" Only Fiona could take a song about an innocent little snowman and make me feel like I've ruined her life.
8. Dave Matthews "Christmas Song" just because this one will always hold a special place in my heart.
7. Louis Armstrong "Winter Wonderland" Louis, please sing me to sleep with your frog-like voice.
6. Jimmy Eat World "12.23.95" Like wrapping yourself in Christmas lights plugging them in and then doing the dance of sugarplumb fairies in the middle of a snowfield.
5. John Lennon "Happy X-mas" because this song will always apply to wars and peace.
4. Anathallo "Celebrate" Favorite line: "Redemption Ringing in his lonely ears...Celebrate our imperfections"
3. Death Cab for Cutie "Christmas(Baby please come home)" Death Cab cover of a U2 song? Does it get any better?
2. Dean Martin and Doris Day "Baby it's cold outside" It makes us all feel elegant and slutty at the same time.
1. Sufjan Stevens "That was the worst Christmas ever" Come on, I mean the guy KNOWS Christmas. After so many Christmas albums and bells he should.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

St. Francis of Assisi

When I read the story of St.Francis, I feel like going out and buying a crucifix, attending convocation, and becoming a catholic. Today I sat with a student during their study skills class and worked with him one-on-one. He was catholic and for his convocation his priest had asked him to choose a Saint name and to write an essay on why it relates to him. He had chosen St.Francis because this past summer he had visited St.Francis grave in Assisi. We sat reading St.Francis' story together at the table. St.Francis had grown up in the richest of the rich. In a short period in life he had an encounter with his friends where a begger asked him for money. His friends completely ignored the begger and Francis' heart was clenched with hurt for the begger. Almost overnight he was overwhelmed with a transformational experience in which he gave all that he had to the poor. In one fell swoop he lost most of his friends, his parents became unaccepting of his behavior, and he became deathly ill. After a miraculous healing Francis devoted his life to the poor and desparaged of the world.
I sat down to lunch with a student who was searching through a highschool dispute that their peers had been consumed in. In an Asian dominated community, the white students sometimes feel alienated on campus. As a response to this emotion they had started to use a hand gesture between white students as a joke to ease the discomfort of their alienation. Soon a few non-white students caught on to this and felt alienated by this new race-driven group gesture. They felt awkward about talking about it and addressed the issue on a web-page because they wanted to address the issue not necessarily start a race war. When the other group caught on to this, they became defensive, angered by the websites attacks, and did not agree. Now, the two sides seem to be at odds and divided where there had not been much division before over something that neither side meant for it to be.
How do these two situations coinside. Well, in reading about Thomas' life I read this prayer and it almost adressed this situation specifically:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Power and love, how do these two concepts so often butt heads. Injustice and hatred seem to creep into every corner of life. How pleasing this world would be if we could learn to, as Ghandhi proposed, stand truthfully against a wrong without seeking vengence; and even to pardon the injuries others have incurred against us. What if we could learn to speak honest truth in love when we are oppressed and speak constructive humility when we are the oppressors. That we could bring light to the dark, and in such, bring joy to sadness.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Family Love

I just came home tonight to find my little sister sleeping in her old bed. I whispered quietly to see if she was awake. She was and so we sat and talked for awhile. My sister and I have always had a rocky relationship. We never quite seemed to get each other. I was the quirky weird kid who listened to music and she was the hard-core volleyball player. Tonight I got really excited that her and her boyfriend were back again. When they come home we have been going and working out together. It has been really fun and actually some of the best memories I have ever had with my sister have been in these past two months. If there's only one reason I am glad to be back at home, it's the chance to maybe rebuild the relationship we have destroyed over the years. I just want to be friends with my little sister and maybe reclaim some of the time we have lost...

Monday, December 18, 2006

30 Rock

I know alot of people aren't too into this show but come one, Tracy Morgan chasing Conan O'brien around with forks saying "I am killer robot" is funny stuff no matter how much of a Stiffly Stifferson you are. I love it...and I know they are going to end up cancelling it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Aliens and Gandhi

"When I look at the greatest civilizations of man, the way of truth and love has always prevailed throughout time" As I was sitting in a World History class subbing this week these words clung to my mind again as they passed through the dry cracked lips of Ben Kingsley in the roll of a hunger striking Ghandi G. What is it about that that feels so true? Why is it that I feel so much anger towards Christianity, towards my own life experiences, and towards the people in my life that have hurt me, and yet when I hear such words of truth, love, hope, justice, mercy, and kindness my heart sinks?
The meaningless of man can so often be so overwhelming. I walked down Rodeo drive yesterday with my friend from Australia who came to visit and listened to prideful no named faces speak to one another as they shopped for over-priced goods made from the sweat and toil of exploited workers. Each person was trying so hard to impress one another with their fame. One parking attendant dressed in Christmas attire proclaimed to another man, "I believe that I am the most photographed person on this street." I couldn't help to think to myself that all these people are just walking around like little monkeys sniffing one another's privates and beating their chest with their greatness. I was reading Arthur Clark's "Childhood's End" last week. It's a futuristic alien tale, and ask Casey and Tim, I am the first to make fun of Scifi Trekkie, space cylons. This book really deals with some interesting concepts, however. Without spoiling the whole thing, I will say that extraterestrial life comes to earth and man comes to realize that all the beliefs they had held to, all the things they had hoped for in the future, all the wars that had been fought, were all in vain. There was no point at all. Humanity becomes meaningless. Just another planet that believed they were something more than they really were.
Yet, when I think of the concepts of truth and love, for some reason I can move past that empty feeling. Why does my heart fill with the same overwhelming power that filled a small Indian man who lived on the other side of the world? When I think that caring for one another's needs is one of the primary responsibilities that we as human beings are entitled to fullfill, life seems less complicated. Dr.King, Jeremiah, Mother Teresa, Jesus, Bonhoffer, Isaiah, and Gandhi maybe saw something. We have so simplified these things with our labels and our acculturated rituals that we cannot see a universal perspective of the supernatural. This is a presence that passes beyond all explainable words. It fills the cosmos with an unnatural and uncomprehendable force that we can only dumb down into stupid songs with childish words. Ghandi had it right, "Truth and Love" must always prevail, for without them, humanity is meaningless.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The machine

In the Land of Monrovia the American dream is as much alive within the antique glass-eyed dolls lining the empty small stores of its 1950s modelled down-town as it is in the young boys and girls who stagger down the streets with long hair that shelters their eyes from the light of the moon. They giggle and cuddle together as the white wires from their ears non-challantly swing beneath their chins. Not far away the crunching of massive rocks can be heard from the gravel pits that spew dark brown chocolate clowds into the night air. The long conveyer belts push and pull the boulders up into monsterous looking machinery. The metal framework towers above the huge valley of decay as a prehistoric reminder of nature's process. Push and Pull...Push and Pull...create and destroy.
The humm of a small dirt-bike tinkers outside the window of a small house. Behind the curtains a few feet from a neglected bed with sheets sprawled in every direction sits a 24 year old individual, too old to be a boy, to young to be a man. He knows that the only thing loud enough to dround out the voice of nature and its harsh repetitiveness is the humm that streams from his small 6 inch computer speakers. He lets the music play...
So I decided that for my songs of the week I will choose a specific dynamic, idea, or picture that they line up with for my life in that week. This week the theme was the machine:
5. We are Scientists "It's a Hit"- "And I still don't understand understand...what this whole things about..."
For those who like: Wolf Parade, Bloc Party, The Whitest Boy Alive
4. Mason Jennings "United States Global Empire"- I love this artist and his perspective on life. Definately captures the emotion of "The Machine"
For those who like: Bob Marley, Ben Harper, Sufjan Stevens
3. Beck "Guess I'm Doing Fine"- May I just say that I am not the biggest Beck fan but "SeaChange" is by far one of the most brilliant CDs ever made.
For those who like: Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Neil Young
2. The Most Serene Republic "Content was always my favorite color" This song makes me feel like the world revolves around me.
For those who like: Broken Social Scene, Stars, Air
1. Jeremy Enigk "World Waits"- "World will wait for ever, ever, take the time, don't break my heart...been running" If I could sum up this period in my life in one song this would be it.
For those who like: pure Beauty....The Fire Theft, Mewithoutyou

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Music to my tears

I love music. I decided that I want you to love music, too. I think every week we can love music together with my top 5. Here is what got me through my week:
5. The Dears "Ticket to Immortality"
4. Neko Case "Maybe Sparrow"
3. Brand New "The Archers Bows are Broken"
2. Tom Waits "Day after Tomorrow"
1. Randy Newman "I think it's going to rain today"...I cried to this one

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dissapointment is....

...When you watch a whole episode of SNL with a great host: Matt Fox
With a great musical performance: Tenacious D
and... an opening monologue with a guy who does a terrible Bush impression
...have to see the stupid idiot from Kennan and Kel 12 times(can you not smile for once and say something of ANY comedic value?)
...wait a whole hour and a half to laugh and finally don't
...and realize that they have the worst writers of any period that SNL has ever had

And then you realize: I might as well have made good use of my time and watched Stewart and Colbert.

Reflections on Forgiveness, Duty, Choice, and Love

Looking back at my 1 month travels to Europe I remember experiencing a wilderness period. In Europe I finally learned to let go. I stopped being who I thought I was supposed to be and found myself searching for the person that I truly am at this venture in my life. One of the landmarks of that experience happened to me near Lucerne, Switzerland at a two-day stint at a conference center called L'abri. For those of you not familiar with L'abri, it was started by Francis Shaeffer as a place for spiritual journeyers to go and explore their faith. Many different people with different perspectives gather at various campuses throughout the world for sometimes as long as 6 months and some times as short as two days(which just happened to be my time there) to study, work, and dialogue in community with others who are also searching in their faith, theological, and philosophical beliefs. I came with a few different questions about faith but one of my top priorities was to explore the issue of forgiveness. I find that often times I believe forgiveness to be a submissive dismissal of the way that I feel about a situation or others rather than a healing process in which I am able to genuinly relieve a debt that another owes to me. There have been many experiences in my life in which I believe that I have forgiven someone according to MY OWN DEFINITION OF FORGIVENESS. The result of this is an unending process of pain and open-wounds that are not able to heal because of an unhealthy perspective towards what forgiveness actually is.
I was able to find a few various resources about forgiveness, however, the most helpful to me was a workshop on tape that a speaker named Dick Keyes gave(those of you from APU may remember him from numerous chapel visits). Mr. Keyes was able to very clearly not only map out a biblical perspective of forgiveness but in addition, give a much healthier emotional perspective as well. For anyone who is interested in this subject matter I would suggest listening to these messages. Today, however, I would like to focus on one specific thing that he said that impacted me.
After giving a clear definition of what forgiveness is, Mr. Keyes stated, "Many believe that forgiveness comes from a realization that because WE ARE SO BAD, and GOD HAS FORGIVEN US, we SHOULD DO THE SAME FOR OTHERS. They take this from Colossians 3 which states: 'Forgive others as God has forgiven you.' This perspective is not necessarily most true. Forgiveness comes from the realization that BECAUSE GOD IS GOOD, HE FORGAVE US, and it is NATURAL THAT WE WILL DO THE SAME FOR OTHERS. In other words, to truly forgive, you must realize the GOODNESS OF GOD."
Then it hit I believe God is good? I have been told that so many times by church, family, APU, books, the bible, other people. That phrase is so meaningless to me that I just have rattled it off as if it was a cultural cliche. In my own life, I do not see the goodness of God overwhelming me. I see pain, undending and adding on as time passes. If this is true, how can I forgive? How can I say that a GOOD God cares for me, when he seems so absent in the dark periods of my life. I greatly dislike the poem "Footprints" for this reason. The ending of the poem in which Jesus says to the man in response to such enending pain is "I was there the whole time stupid." How can I say God is good? I cannot. It is not until I reach a place where I experience that goodness that I can find forgiveness for myself and for others. Thus enters the biggest question of all which I spent a long conversation with Casey Terrazas talking about two nights ago.
The predicament that I find myself in, and one in which I believe many of our generation face, is a values clash between two very important virtues: duty and choice.
Our generation is no longer satisfied with a lifestyle in which we solely do things OUT OF DUTY. The baby-boomer generation taught us the meaning of duty through their "tough as nails" dedicated work ethic. Though a admirable quality when dedicated to a specific purpose, duty often becomes a misconstrued word that we frown upon. We want to love what we do, and do it because we DESIRE to do it, not because we HAVE to do it. Look at the response to the war in Iraq. Is duty purposeful in any situation in which there is not a foundation of virtue upon which it is acted? Duty can be a good thing, but if an action is performed ONLY out of duty, clearly it is meaningless.
On the other side of the chasm stands CHOICE. What if I have to choose for me to experience God's goodness? What if I wait for an experience to happen in which I am amazed at God's goodness when in reality I could have CHOSEN to experience His goodness long before? Many people spend their whole lives waiting for something to happen. In addition some of the worst things in life happen from an ABSENSE OF ACTION. As the great saying goes, "The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for GOOD MEN to do NOTHING."
Two of my greatest fears collide. On one side I only do things because they have been taught to me. I am a tool of evangelical Christianity useless to the world in any practical way and boxed in by fear and brainwashing. On the other side I don't do anything out of the excuse of waiting for life to happen to me. I am reckless, slothful, and again useless to the world but this time because I am wasting my time.
It is in this chasm that I stand, clawing my way out, looking for a rescue, seeking the truth. At least for now I am content with seeking perspectives rather than answers and allowing my heart to open to new alternatives to this great dilemma.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What are you waiting for? AKA "Enchiladas and God are Raging Inside me"

"Deep Thought: If God Lives inside us, like some people say, then I hope he likes enchiladas, because that's what he's getting!"
I have always had a problem with waiting. I tend to be a very impulsive person by nature. This often tends to reflect through my spending habits especially. I don't know what it is but when I see something I want my mind instantly becomes fixated. The tractor-beam of temptation sets in and my hand extends without the concent of a rational mind. Oh, the mind does fight. He says, "You shouldn't do this right now" and then the hand answers back, "I thought I told you to shut up" and then the mind answers, "Yes, master." A month later when hand is sitting in a corner curled up in a ball of empty-pocketedness mind says to him, "I tried to tell you" but hand can't hear him because he has gone into epileptic shocks yelling out "Me likey buyey." With that lame analogy, I press on to the impending dynamic of waiting and how I have faced it this week.
I have been a huge fan of a band named "Brand New" for the past few years. Sure, they started out as a predictable pop-punk band with Taking Back stlye licks and cliche multiple simultaneous singing parts on "Your Own Weapon." Then again, I have always been a music sell-out(oh yes, I did buy Chumbuwamba). Besides, they made a huge transition with their second album "Deja Entendu"; showing a dynamic ability to take elements from great bands like the Smiths and the Cure and build a completely new musical realm that balanced driving choruses, tricky lyrics, and great creative rifts. Needless to say, after a huge maturation from their first to second CD, I was enamored with the thought of where they could go on their third album:
"The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me." And so I waited...
First, the band began the anticipation with a website that laked detail but showed off cool lyrics every few months with obscure pictures. Magazines were hailing this album as being one of the biggest albums to arrive in the music world in years. Then, nothing. The band just stopped telling anything about the album, didn't update their site, and took a long time off playing. It wasn't until 1/2 a year ago, 3 years later, that they suddenly reawoke from their slumber with the announcement of a new CD on November 21st coming out. After 3 years of waiting, my time had finally come.
So I did as any ravenous fan would do and tried to download demos, checked their myspace frequently for new songs, and got myself so excited that I could barely sleep(I'm exagerrating a little...a little).
The day came: November 21st. When I got off work I headed to the store and bought it. I sat down to my glorious moment, the past three years behind me, and a week of listening ahead of me.
I listened through each track carefully. I examined words and pictures, thoughts and sounds. I came to the end of the CD and there was only one thought sitting in my mind, "Was this really what I was waiting for? Three damn years and this was it!"
All in all, the album wasn't bad. I liked some of the songs and it had its memorable moments, and parts that I really enjoyed. Yet, still, it left me with an emptiness much like Christmas night after Mom kicks Dad out of the house and kid sister is in the back vomitting egg nog(j/k). I wanted to like it so much, I even tried to convince myself that it was amazing, but it was...average.
Tonight it hit me...there have been alot of things that I have waited for in life that have let me down this past year...Sometimes I just wonder what I am really waiting for and if it's worth it. As "Christians" we put great emphasis on this waiting concept. We say phrases like "I'm waiting on God" or "Listening and waiting for God's timing" and I can't help but feel sometimes, am I really waiting for something? What if I am just wasting and not waiting? Maybe Brand New will come out with an amazing fourth album...and maybe someday life will be all that imagined it to be...or maybe it's time I start listening to a different band.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Blog Comments

Just realized that you couldn't post on my site if you didn't have a blogspot account...sorry about that...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thoughts on the revolt of society

Last night for 7 minutes I watched two naked European men wrestle in quite possibly some of the most awkward positions that even porn stars would possible blush at. Yes, my friends, I saw Borat, and not gonna lie...I laughed every minute of it. Am I recommending it as a movie, well, not exactly. I do believe, however, that Borat signifies a huge movement within our society and its critique of itself.
In the world of Hollywood where anti-semitism, gay rights, racial and gender equality are all subjects similar to that booger just barely hanging on the tip of the nose of the stranger that you are speaking with, Borat made the choice to not only point the booger out but also scrape it from the face and stick it in his mouth. My friends, Oversensivity and polical correctness is no longer cool. So has begun a new era in which taking on the weaknesses of others through mimicing has begun their downfalling critique.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wounding the Invincible

A few months ago I was talking to one of my friends about a great contrast that I have seen within the sphere of Christianity. Many of my closest friends from APU know that when I hear the words "Homecoming King" I begin to cringe and turn "super-duper" awkward. For me, this persona was always one that my heart struggled against. This does not disregard anything of my time at APU or the blessing that the memories of that place still hold in my mind. For me, this insecurity lies in being categorized in a group which I hold little relationship to. For lack of a better name, I will call this group the "Invincibles."
To me the invincibles is a group of people that I have never been able to understand. These people are real people who, many of which, I deeply respect, admire, and sometimes even envy a little. When I visit their homes the absence of conflict seems shocking. Their fathers are loving pastors or businessmen. He takes is wife out on "date night" and goes on vacation with her because he likes to do it. The Invincibles don't usually live extravagantly but have a nice family sized house with lots of happy pictures and a "footsteps" poem in their bathroom. They attend church every week as children and grow up and go to school at places like APU, not because they are forced to, but because they have been so profoundly impacted by a Godly family that they desire to build a family like that of their own. They go to APU and get a business degree. Their senior year they meet a wife/husband who grew up the same way. They have a beautiful wedding where everyone has to take communion and listen to "Come just as you are" as they walk down the aisle on a cliff above Laguna. They both get great jobs, are completely happy, are involved in their church and love everyone they come in contact with, and in the end they raise children just like themselves.

Then, there's me and my group. I call us the "wounded." Growing up in my family there were rarely happy moments. In fact, no one usually wanted to come visit my house. Sure, my parents loved me and raised me the best that they could, but we had some really hard times. In fact, those times were so hard that I was depressed and wanted to kill myself. That was why I came to know Jesus, because I needed him just to get me out of bed to go to basketball practice every morning. In fact, it wasn't untill APU that I finally was at a place where I could have an on-going state of joy from being in community. Yet, for those of us in the wounded category, we all know what it is like when we face the invincibles. They are a reminder that we have a whole life outside of school; one that we have to face every time we go home. It's funny because as a wounded, graduation almost feels like a reentry into that life. You realize that the real world is a tough place and that old habits die hard. Not only that but things don't get easier, most of the time you face even bigger issues than you did growing up. Sometimes you wonder if you are destined to a life of hardship upon hardship. This leads to a questioning of your faith and a lack of understanding as to "why God lets these things happen." You know all the right answers to that question because you took Exo/Deut and went to see Francis Chan in chapel everytime he spoke. Yet, it still doesn't add up in your gut. Still, there's that ache in your heart that believes and you don't quite give up.

I don't hate the invincibles. They were born the way they are and I'm glad I have them as my friends. They remind me that there is a right way of doing things. On the other hand, I would never lose my place as a wounded. In my last blog I talked about Elliott Smith. I think that the greatest gift of suffering is the bond it brings. Sometimes I like to think about Jesus the same way. Maybe in that Old Testament stuff he just didn't get us. He just didn't understand why we were so stupid and made all these bad mistakes. Sometimes I like to think that maybe God just wanted so bad to understand why Humanity was so hard. I feel like when He came to be one of us, He did it just as much for us as he did for himself. I look at when He saw Lazarus die and He cried. I think He cried because He understood. He understood what it was like to experience the pain that we experience; a pain that could not usually be experienced by an "Invincible" God. I hope that I never become so wounded that I can't believe anymore. I hope I never become so invincible that I don't cry with someone else.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Elliott Smith: Celebration of a hopeless beauty 3 years after his death

Every so often there comes an artist whose work seems to impact you so profoundly during a specific event in your life that it seems they are having a direct conversation with you. For some it is a glance upon a painting that brings an understanding of the magnificence of nature. For others, a poem that resounds in the thoughts of the reader. Books that take us just where we want to go. Or simply, a song that when played, connects so deeply to a situation, person, emotion, or connection, that it moves not only in our ears but through the inner depths of our souls. For me, it was Elliott Smith who reached through the speakers of my car radio on one of the most painful nights of my life this summer. I understood his songs in a new way that I had previously never before experienced them. For those of you who have been deprived the great honor of cozying up to Elliotts music on a rainy day, you may remember his song "Miss Misery" from the Goodwill Hunting Soundtrack, nominated for an academy award for best song in a motion picture. That soundtrack was just a sliver of the grandeur that was his musical career. Elliott, a man whose nature glimmered beauty and desperation symbiotically, was in my mind one of the truest forms of an artist within my lifetime. Many of our generation can so easily identify with his genuine soulish struggles: the realization that life as we know it, can be hopeless, and yet, every so often we see simple reflections of hope that profoundly move us as a contrast to the complex pains of life. Unfortunately, in Elliott's case, these reflections were not enough to tame the tragic struggles that befell him. In October, 2003, Elliott stabbed himself to death at the age of 34.
One of the greatest failures of Elliott's career partnered with this death was the dealings of his last family of songs known as "the Basement" recordings. From this material Elliott's last album "From a Basement on a hill" was composed. The tragedy lies in the fact that this album was not necessarily the album Elliott would have intended. Due to legal restraints imposed by existing family members, more than 50 tracks went unreleased due to personal matters discussed within the lyrics of the songs which supposedly cast the family members in a negative light. In other words, Elliott's last goodbye to us is locked in the vaults of a music studio somewhere in Los Angeles.
On a more positive note, however, three more of these songs were recently leaked onto the Internet; an event that hopefully will promote the future release of quite possibly his best art.
For me, Elliott's music will always serve as the letters of a friend in times of turmoil. They are reminder that nothing that beautiful should ever have to die. That it is worth going through the pains in life if only someone else should benefit from them.
Anyways, please listen to his new tracks and check out any of his CDs(Elliott Smith, Roman Candle, Either/Or, Figure 8, Basement on a Hill). I hope that you are able to appreciate his life in the way I have.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Lookin' for a leader

This past week the Clinton administration has been outraged with the surfacing of a new mini-series on ABC about the events that lead up to 9/11. The reemergence of the Clinton administration in world events was surprising to me, which led me to try and follow these events. In an interview on KCRW this morning a reporter on the subject was asked why this mini-series has sparked the amount of controversy that it has, especially if the mini-series is based on the intelligence files released by our own government. The reporter, who had just watched an edited version of the mini-series, claimed that there were aspects of the 1993 attempt on the trade center that were presented in detail that were only briefly described in the report. The reporter concluded that much of the dialogue used in the film was from a source different from the government report, a source which he declined to reveal. Concluded from his interview, the main issue that the administration seemed to have with the mini-series was the democratic party's negligent response to a problem that was obviously there beforehand. He claimed that the Bin Ladin problem, though there if they had looked clearly enough, was ignored as portrayed in the movie.
In a country in which I find myself in one of the biggest global struggles for control in the past millennium, I find myself in a predicament. I am faced with a stark contrast between two administrations that represent ideally two positions that I disagree with. The first is the existent Bush administration. I am faced with a government power and party that has taken unethical and unjust roles in world affairs and has used the hurts of this nation to impose hurt on the poverty of others. The Bush administration has made dominant oppressing decisions. The second I am faced with is the Clinton administration and their negligence and passivity towards the issues that brewed. Had some of the issues with the middle east been dealt with, we may not have seen ourselves in this struggle in the first place. We as Americans find ourselves between two negative powers. The first is a Democratic party that can do nothing but criticize actions taken by the Republican party without coming up with solutions for problems on their own. The second is a Republican party that continues to take action and make decisions which do not align with the mission and goals of our country. Though obviously I am oversimplifying a very complex issue, I think I voice the frustrations of many of us that stand in the middle of this heated debate.
I often wonder if I, as an American, will ever have a leader whose decisions I am proud of. In China my students would often ask me what I thought of Bush. I found myself tightening up and becoming uncomfortable with that question. How could I defend the leadership of an administration whose decisions I find myself very opposed too? In one unique conversation, however, they asked me, "What do you think of the founding fathers of your country?" In China if you asked this question of someone who was not half-way indoctrinated by the communist party, they would find this issue difficult because of many of the questionable actions taken by Mao during the cultural revolution. In this specific conversation, I, for the first time, almost found myself in tears describing the integrity and character of George Washington. I'm not the most patriotic person in this world, but there is something beautiful to me about the ideals upon which our country was founded by those who sought good(not the killers of Indians, not the slave traders, but those that fought oppression and held to the rights of man).
I look at the party system which has really become a monarchy structure in which money and a family name are the biggest rights of passage to presidency. Something has to change. I know that I am not the only one that hopes that in this next election we might see a movement in which the silent majority, the true voice of the people, is spoken through the values of a new form of leadership or party.
Though many of Neil Young's opinions on what's best for our country are too extreme for my tastes, I lthink the lines of "I'm looking for a leader" on "Living with War" capture the political emotion that I find myself entrenched in at this period in time:

Lookin' for a Leader
To bring our country home
Re-unite the red white and blue
Before it turns to stone

Lookin' for somebody
Young enough to take it on
Clean up the corruption
And make the country strong

Walkin' among our people
There's someone who's straight and strong
To lead us from desolation
And a broken world gone wrong

Someone walks among us
And I hope he hears the call
And maybe it's a woman
Or a black man after all

Yeah maybe it's Obama
But he thinks that he's too young
Maybe it's Colin Powell
To right what he's done wrong

America has a leader
But he's not in the house
He's waling here among us
And we've got to seek him out

Yeah we've got our election
But corruption has a chance
We got to have a clean win
To regain confidence

America is beautiful
But she has an ugly side
We're lookin' for a leader
In this country far and wide

We're lookin' for a leader
With the great spirit on his side

Someone walks among us
And I hope he hears the call
And maybe it's a woman
Or a black man after all

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Can you hear me now?

A few days ago I rode the Gold Line back from watching the Roots play live on Jimmy Kimmel in Hollywood. A number of times the company I was with was discussing cell phone etiquette and how rude it was to not call people back or dismiss an incoming call. Others argued how rude it was to pick up a cell phone call while in a person-to-person conversation. We jabbered endlessly about the subject and eventually disembarked the metro train. I drove home and was just about to get out of the car when I stood up and noticed a lack of something. All of a sudden I frantically patted down my body and realized that I had left a ligament on the train. My cell phone had pulled a Tim Lahaye. Frantic thoughts went through my mind, "How will I be able to contact anyone? How will they contact me?"
That night I stayed up until 2:00 trying to work the who situation out with my cell phone company. It was not until I knew that I would have another digital connection to the outside world within a few days that I could sleep soundly.
I've never been a drug addict but I would compare the last few days to not having a fix. I find myself wandering aimlessly around the house wondering what other people are doing. Leaving the house is leaving my comfort zone because, "What if someone calls?" I find myself putting the lamp to my ear just to remind me of how sweet the sensation of "Lupia" is (PS if you haven't named EVERY possession that you own yet, you need to get on it.)
Four years ago I got my first cell phone. Before that life wasn't that bad. Even this past year in China I had a cell phone but would rarely use it because it was culturally accepted to only send text messages. The cell phone phenomenon tells us so much more about the culture in which we live. In China I never felt the need to always talk to people on my cell phone. Rarely would anyone call. Here I feel guilty if I don't pick up the phone. In the past if someone called and missed you and you didn't get back to them for an hour or God-forbid, A DAY, it was no sweat. Now, if I missed a call and didn't respond with urgency, especially from work, I had better have a good explanation. Maybe it is because of my people-pleaser tendencies but I feel pressure to even talk to people when my cell phone is low on minutes and it costs me extra money.
Cell phones, obviously have become a status icon within our society. The nature of the status they represent is unique, however, in that they don't represent financial status. Instead, to many, they represent relational wealth. The more you are called, the more important you are, the more people need you. If you don't keep up with your calls, eventually, people might decide they don't need you. A lack of calls might as well be a lack of friends in some instances.
The danger in this is not in the fact that people correlate cell phones to relationships. The danger is the type of relationships that cell phone relationships represents. For many, they would prioritize a twenty minute cell phone call over a 5 minute interaction with a stranger who they might not talk to if they were not making the call. The idea that relationships can happen spontaneously in the moment then becomes unconventional. It's for that reason that I hate to not have my phone because now I might have to talk to people that are my actual neighbors rather than someone who is a further distance away but more agreeable to my personality.
In the end we find another fast-food, get-it-when-and-how-you-want-it solution that steals from the nutrition of natural undigitized life.
Don't get me wrong...cell phones have their place...and I can't wait to have mine back tomorrow.

The Journey