Monday, August 30, 2010

Way-Too-Early College Football Predictions

Just to give you an idea of what a complete nerd I am and how much free time I have on my hands, I went through every single game this year involving a top 25 team and attempted to predict who would win each one. It wasn't easy (some games were nearly impossible to decide, such as Texas/Oklahoma, Miami/Ohio State, and Georgia/Florida) and with that many games to pick, I didn't exactly examine each one closely...but dammit, I'm just so excited that college football season begins THIS WEEK that I had to do something fun (yes, this is FUN for me) in anticipation. It may be a little biased (yeah, I have Miami running the table and playing for a national title, but I'm also not the only one)

Miami (undefeated) def. Florida State

Big 12
Oklahoma (undefeated) def. Nebraska

Big East

Big Ten
Ohio State (1-loss)

Pac 10
Oregon (undefeated)

Alabama (undefeated) def. Georgia

Final BCS Standinds

1. Alabama 13-0
2. Miami 13-0
3. Oklahoma 13-0
4. Oregon 12-0
5. Georgia 12-1
6. Boise State 12-0
7. Texas 11-1
8. TCU 12-0
9. Ohio State 11-1
10. Pittsburgh 11-1

BCS Championship
Alabama def. Miami

Saturday, August 28, 2010

2010 Rose Bowl Running Diary

I was just looking through past tweets on my twitter and I noticed that I did something of a "running diary" for the Rose Bowl and I thought it would be fun to collect those tweets into a blog entry:

-gonna be doing some semblance of a running diary for the Rose Bowl...let's see if anyone pays attention :)
-my prediction about Terrell Pryor having a Vince Young moment took a hit when they mentioned his knee was tweaked...but we'll see...
-the only two times I've seen Oregon (this game and v. USC) the defense has come FLYING out of the gate but could be burned in over-pursuit
-as I say that Pryor busts a 24 yarder...
-a couple very good short throws pick up another first comes Pryor
-Ohio State putting the ball all over the place to take advantage of this over-pursuing over-energetic Oregon D
-absolutely BEAUTIFUL throw by Pryor goes RIGHT through the receiver's hands
-Pryor is getting ALL DAY to throw and Brandon Sane makes an absolutely brilliant tip toe run up the sidelines after the catch for a TD, 7-0
-every time Pryor scores a TD, i'm reposting this:
-the refs just missed a hold AND a block in the back on whoever the first man down for OSU was on that kickoff
-two very smart offensive gameplans giving their QBs short passes and well-called running plays to get some rhythm
-as soon as I say that Cam Heyward steamrolls Masoli
-there are MAYBE two or three other players in the country that can extend a play like Jeremiah Masoli...but great defensive possession 4 OSU
-If Pryor takes the Bucks 98 yards for another touchdown then roll out the red carpet and book him a flight to NY this coming December
-wow Oregon's overzealous D just MAJORLY bailed the Bucks out
-Bucks manhandling the Ducks up front and gashing the middle with their RBs...that'll be there all night and will really open things up
-Pryor with a gutsy run, knowing exactly how much he needs for the first down
-the Bucks are gonna take a shot downfield on this drive...and it's coming soon...maybe right after this offsides penalty
-it should have been, Oregon was looking run (on first and 5 no less...hello Jim Tressel?)
-that might have been the play they were gonna take a shot on but the O-Line breaks down
-well it's not gonna work on 3rd and 16...
-if the Bucks had taken a shot downfield on 1st and 5 they'd be in the red zone right now guaranteed
-man OSU sniffing out the read option like wolves moreso than bucks
-Masoli just received divine intervention to avoid a pick 6 on that throw...
-Pryor gets to start at midfield now...maybe time for a shot downfield on first down? does Tressel have it in him?
-sometimes I get tired of being right all the time...not often though...
-Brandon Sane has an INsane ability to tip toe the beyond human...
-I have a feeling that mishandled snap on first down was gonna be a QB run all the way...and I bet it would have scored
-Oregon reads the option beautifully and flies to the ball...the option isn't what you wanna run on an over-pursuing defense, Tress...
-special teams are going to be so huge in this game...the return games and punting games...field position field position field position
-Oregon becomes a steamroller when their offense gets in rhythm
-great red zone stand by OSU's defense to prevent a big momentum swing...great, gutsy call to dial up the pressure on 3rd and goal
-wow how bout that the option STILL doesn't work...what a shock...
-Pryor is spending too much time in the pocket against a hyped up Oregon D...short passes and fast developing runs, Tress
-Oregon's offense is consistently faster to the edge than OSU's defense
-Masoli is gonna break a big one up the middle soon
-the OSU middle softening up now that they've seen that they can't beat the Oregon backfield to the edge
-that's a touchdown...his knees were on a defender
-a rare instance this season of the instant replay booth getting a call right
-I feel like this one will stay 10-10 until halftime and then develop into a shootout in the second half
-Tress said pregame that Pryor's ability to throw downfield will be key...they've only thrown downfield once and it led to their only TD
-that defender looked like he got there early...pass interference isn't called nearly enough when the ball gets caught
-OSU's D is playing the run and the big play...the short passing game has been and will be there all day
-Pryor is having to make all kinds of throws because his OL is breaking down
-wow Tressel just went for it on 4th down in the red zone...what dimension am I in?
-if that guy from the Oregon D doesn't switch to the other side of the formation at the last second, that pass could have been cut inside
-the chess match between both offenses and both defenses that's going on right now in the Rose Bowl is really fun to watch
-that pass to stop the clock by Pryor just now didn't pass the line of scrimmage...should have been grounding
-does it have to LAND past the line of scrimmage? is that the rule? cuz if it is, that's retarded
-I miss the days when TV stations would broadcast the halftime shows of bowl games :(
-Oregon should try some counter plays to get those OSU LBs confused and really maximize the advantage of being able to beat them to the edge
-Masoli needs to keep some of those option reads or they're just gonna key in on the RB every time
-FINALLY the Bucks go downfield again and are now inside the Oregon 30
-man Pryor had Sanzenbacher WIIIDE open and missed him...that was six...
-1st and 5...Pryor in rhythm...take a shot downfield
-you can't roll Pryor out without moving the pocket with him...Oregon's D is too fast
-tough, TOUGH running by is he a big dude...
-that wasn't a bad read by Pryor that was just not enough arm strength...if he puts that ball out in front of the WR, it might be six
-it looks like it's getting close to time for me to post my link again...
-Pryor with unmistakable shades of Vince Young on that first down run
-THAT was almost IDENTICAL to the throw Vince Young made against #4 Ohio State in 2005 in the closing seconds to win the game
-holy crap that was a brilliant special teams call...if the Ducks come back and win it, that call will have been the reason why
-as I say that, LaMichael James gets swallowed by the OSU D
-Pryor finally showing some rhythm in the option
-Herby and Brent just had the perfect segue to compare Pryor to Vince Young and neither said a am I the only one noticing this?

If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise

Bayou Pollution
British Parasites
Blood Petroleum
Bad People
Burying People
Blowout Purgatory
Beach Pissing
Breaking Point
Blind Power
Broken Promises
Beyond Poison
Bandit Policy
Better Pay
Better Pray
Bring Pain
Be Patient
Bottom-feeding Pimps
Blow Pop
Billionaire Pirates
Backroom Payoffs
Belligerent Plunderers
Big Problem
Bleak Picture
Breed Poverty
Butt Plugs
Biological Perverts
Bubonic Plague
Brokered Pillaging
Blooper Prison
Bungee Pumping
Beyond Principles
Bullshit Propaganda
Bush People
Bitch Please

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Good Fight

"I know you might roll your eyes at this but I'm so glad that you exist"

-The Weakerthans - The Reasons

Jon Stewart
Stephen Colbert
Keith Olbermann
Rachel Maddow
Dylan Ratigan
Brian Williams
David Gregory
Anderson Cooper
Anthony Weiner
Dennis Kucinich
Russ Feingold
Matt Stone and Trey Parker
Seth MacFarlane
Lewis Black
Patton Oswalt
Michael Moore
System of a Down
Strike Anywhere
Harvest of Hope
Billy Bragg

In a world where everyone seems to be solely out for themselves, it's comforting to know there are people like them. Out there fighting the good fight and standing up for what's right. Calling out greedy, deceitful scumbags and shining a bright light of comedy or music or just plain outrage on the dark corners of shameless exploitation--the shameful, unspeakable places whose perpetrators bend over backwards to hide from the narrow, lazy, out-of-focus gaze of the general public. A world dominated by a dizzying, dastardly, Russian doll situation where everyone is in someone's pocket who's in someone else's pocket who's in someone else's. The media is bought and paid for and their scripts are written by people like Rupert Murdoch. Politicians are bought and paid for and their scripts are written by people like Karl Rove. They all just recite the lies they're told to incite the fear and loathing that fuel the fires of the few, the fat, the affluent, the influential, the fanciest fascist regime of movers, shakers, and money makers--no, money takers (no, undertakers). The last thing they want is an informed public--such a thing would stand firmly in the path of their agenda. So instead of inform, they coach, they condition, they incite, they excuse, and they pander. They use every trick in the bible. They make martyrs out of greedy corporate fatcats and demons out of oppressed minorities screaming for justice over the white noise of oppression. "Why are you screaming?" they insist, "Why are you so angry? America is free and America is just. If you can't make it here, it's your own damned fault. The scales of justice are level and balanced," they say with a thumb pressed down on one side. Republicans keep talking about a "sense of entitlement" created by government intervention on behalf of the less fortunate. What about the sense of entitlement that less government regulation creates for the rich--or, specifically, for the morally bankrupt who will do anything and exploit anyone to get to the top. Conservative economic policy seems to be built on two naive--or, more likely, dishonest--assertions: 1. The richest 2% got where they are because they worked the hardest, 2. massive corporations and Wall Street investment bankers don't need to be regulated because they would NEVER do anything dishonest and, therefore, government regulation does more harm than good (if it even does any good at all). Both of these are huge fallacies perpetuated by dishonest conservatives of influence (politicians, pundits, and anyone else people listen to) to the naive masses that listen to them and distrust all others--probably because others tell them things they don't want to hear. The truth of the matter is that government intervention and regulation does only good and no harm to everyone but that richest 2%, who still make a very healthy profit and will still be exceedingly rich but are unable to maximize that profit to its fullest, most outrageous extent--which is why it's in their best interest to spread the lies to the rest of us that can help them push back against all the government regulation that would have the audacity to transform them from the super-duper-ultra-mega-obscenely-gratuitously rich to merely the super-duper rich. Medicare. Medicaid. Universal Health Care. Unemployment Insurance. Welfare. Food Stamps. Labor Laws. Repeal of the Bush Tax Cuts. Cap and Trade. Conservatives call it entitlement. We call it social justice.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Candidates for the Top 10 of 2010 (and, for good measure, 2009)

The National - High Violet
Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Beach House - Teen Dream
The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
The Tallest Man On Earth - Wild Hunt
The Black Keys - Brothers
Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
Blind Guardian - At the Edge of Time
The Fall - Your Future, Our Clutter
The White Stripes - Under the Great White Northern Lights
Anathema - We're Here Because We're Here
The Roots - How I Got Over
Laurie Anderson - Homeland
Deftones - Diamond Eyes
Johnny Cash - American VI: Ain't No Grave
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Nas & Damian Marley - Distant Relatives
Drive-By Truckers - The Big To-Do
She & Him - Volume Two
Kayo Dot - Coyote
The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever
Matt Skiba - Demos
Torche - Songs for Singles
Jimmy Eat World - Invented
Envy - Recitation
Kylesa - Spiral Shadow

and since I never made a top 10 of 2009:

Mastodon - Crack the Skye
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Converge - Axe to Fall
The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt. II
Natural Snow Buildings - Shadow Kingdom
Kylesa - Static Tensions
Ghost Brigade - Isolation Songs
Riverside - Anno Domini High Definition
maudlin of the Well - Part the Second
Transatlantic - The Whirlwind
Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
Mos Def - The Ecstatic
Alice In Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue
Isis - Wavering Radiant
Between the Buried and Me - The Great Misdirect
Ancestors - Of Sound Mind
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Thrice - Beggars
Mono - Hymn to the Immortal Wind
Dredg - The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion
Baroness - Blue Record
Porcupine Tree - The Incident
Russian Circles - Geneva
Buried Inside - Spoils of Failure
Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
Propagandhi - Supporting Caste
Lucero - 1372 Overton Park

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Unitarian Universalism

A little over a month ago my mom coerced me into going to a service at my grandfather's church because the theme of the service was "poetry" and my grandpa was planning to read a couple poems to the congregation--also because it was the day after his birthday and they were gonna do a cake for him. I had not been raised without a certain degree of familiarity with this congregation up to this point in my life. Indeed, I've been dragged there many a Christmas Eve for one of a very small handful of family traditions--the attending of the special Christmas Eve service at the Unitarian Universalist church followed by the yearly family picture on the steps of the stage. As I grew older, my mom had to try desperately to keep this tradition alive as my dad and I grew restless with the idea of having to sit through this thing every year. A couple years we even got our wish but eventually my mom lassoed us back in, saying "it's one of the only traditions we have as a family and I want to keep it alive as long as I can." So we went to make her and my grandparents happy. I can also remember having discussions with my grandparents (well, mostly my grandpa) in my rebellious, anti-religion high school years about how Unitarian Universalism is all about acceptance and that everyone is welcome including atheists and agnostics. I remember appreciating the concept but also thinking that the idea of going to church to be an atheist or an agnostic was counterintuitive.

So there I am listening to Raquel, a member of the UU congregation who was temporarily filling in during a transitional period between interim ministers tout the spiritual and emotional values of poetry. At one point, different members of the congregation (my grandpa included) went up to read different poems of different poets with Unitarian background (many of them are documented as being members of the Unitarian church but some weren't but were, I suppose, "close enough"...these include Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sylvia Plath, Beatrix Potter, Carl Sandburg, May Sarton, and even e.e. cummings, who was one of the poets my grandpa chose...yeah, my grandpa's awesome) and it was really moving to me. I can't think of another "church" or "religion" (and UU is hardly either of those things so I use the terms loosely and in quotations) that would dedicate and entire service to poetry. The lovely and warm Raquel closed out the service with a call to all in attendance to try to make poetry a part of their lives, whether through writing or reading, because poetry is the purest, most honest form of personal expression and is good for the soul. I think it was somewhere around that part of the service where I decided I was going to start coming to service every Sunday and becoming more involved in the congregation.

When I first made the decision it seemed a bit odd and somewhat reactionary. I had just gone through a pretty rough period and I was in sort of a period of...not really mourning but certainly depression and anxiety. However, the more I rationalized it the more rational it became (imagine that). For one thing, I'm always complaining that there's nowhere to meet new people (especially girls) that I can relate to or who share my vision for what I'd like the world to be. And Unitarians are indisputably some of the most beautiful, warm, good-hearted, open-minded people you will ever come across on this planet. There aren't a whole ton of them that are my age--most are my grandpa's age--but they are certainly a joy to interact with and unite with. I also appealed to my recently-discovered meaning behind my name--from "The boy's name Derrick \d(e)-rri-ck\ is a variant of Derek (English, Old German) and Theodoric (Old German), and the meaning of Derrick is 'power of the tribe'"--in my rationalization of the decision. In my quest to make the world what I want it to be ("True progress means matching the world to the vision in our heads; we always change the vision instead." -Thrice - Circles), I feel it's important to find strength--of voice AND action--in numbers--or "tribes." Those reasons would likely have been enough but what really pushed it over the edge was the great joy this decision brought to my grandpa as well as the opportunities it would afford me to get better acquainted and closer with one of the most fascinating, smartest, wisest, funniest, most open-minded, and most passionate people I'll ever know. God knows I have precious few years left with him--and ONLY god knows how many--and it would be in my best interest to make the most of them. So, it was settled.

It's coming up on the sixth consecutive Sunday I will have been attending UU services regularly and I can honestly say it's been quite some time since I've been so thoroughly satisfied with any single significant decision I've made in my life. All of the services I've been to so far have been lovely and several have been absolutely wonderful and moving. I've also become privy to a certain degree of friction and negative energy existing within the congregation--this invokes in me a sense that I've recently started getting (mostly in relation to the women I become heavily attracted to but also in friendships and other aspects of my life) that the universe often tends to take me to places where I'm needed. I've also become involved in a couple of groups within the church that meet regularly: the Buddhist Reflections group (a weekly group discussion of Buddhist ideas and concepts bookended by an opening and closing fifteen minute meditation) as well as the Young Adults group (basically a monthly social gathering of the few people in the congregation who are in their 20s or 30s, usually in the form of a movie night or a game night), which have both been very fruitful in terms of meeting new people and feeding and nurturing my spirituality. I'm very interested in getting more involved with the Young Adult group and trying to get us more proactive and diverse in our activities. I've also been mulling over the idea of starting a new group dedicated to any and all of the artists within the congregation--basically just a weekly or monthly group where any and all who enjoy the act of creation come together to share their art (whatever form that art may take, be it painting, drawing, sculpting, writing, dancing, acting, film-making, playing/writing music, singing, doing stand-up comedy or anything else that squeezes into the amorphous realm of what is art). I really need to talk to my grandpa and/or Rev. Drew about that.

Ah, yes. Drew.

Drew is the new interim minister at the church. Drew is transgender (imporant note: "transgender" is an adjective--not a noun--and reducing someone to just one aspect of who they are is deleterious). He hasn't had surgery or anything like that. He was born a man but he takes hormones because he didn't feel that he necessarily fit in with the constraints of the binary model of gender. Recently, the congregation held a potluck at the church to welcome him. After everyone ate, he gave a short address followed by a Q&A session. The first question asked was which gender pronoun he prefers. His response was very interesting to me. He said it's not really that big of a deal to him but that he does appreciate it when people pepper in the female pronoun from time to time because it makes her feel "more visible." It got me thinking a lot about the spectrum-based nature of our gender--as well as our sexual orientation. But that's another issue for another entry. The main point here is that A. I was incredibly moved by all the things Drew had to say and B. I think it's phenomenal to see a congregation embracing diversity with such a staunch commitment as to have a transgender person.

In conclusion, I feel very much at home now...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Well I guess I'll start by saying I don't really know what to expect from this blog or what it's actually going to be. It might be kind of counterproductive to start a new blog without any real purpose or focus but then again maybe it's better that way; maybe it will free me to open up in a way that the constraints of focus and purpose don't allow. I've always done this sort of thing on my typewriter as more of an exercise in writing simply to write (and also because I love the feeling of writing on my typewriter and the sound and motion of it) but it occurs to me that that's kind of a waste of paper (although there aren't very many uses I have for my typewriter that aren't a waste of paper) so I decided to start a blog to serve as sort of a mental, spiritual, and emotional trash compactor--although not so much a compactor considering the aim is to feed it every day, sort of like a house pet, so more of a house pet meets trash compactor; although pets can often make useful trash compactors as well. As you can see, my brain twists and loops and dives and pivots and jukes and banks quite effortlessly so for those who can keep up (and I mean that to patronize myself, not you) then you should be in for an interesting ride.

I'm not exactly sure how to begin our time together, there are a few things I could go into and I'm not sure which is most fitting to open with...I guess I'll open with a parable I wrote the other day after attending my Buddhist Reflections group at my "church" (which is a Unitarian Universalist congregation, hence the quotes around "church"...more on that in the coming days). It was my first attempt at parable so bear with me...

The Book

A man sat beside me, reading from a book. He finished the book and handed it to me. "When you finish," he said, "give it to the person next to you and tell them what I tell you now." I opened the book and found that the first page was blank. I turned the page and the second page was also blank. And the third and the fourth, fifth, sixth, and so on. I said to the man: "Sir, there are no words in this book." He smiled. "When you finish, give it to the person next to you and tell them what I tell you now." He walked off. I looked at each page of that book from every angle and under every light over the following seven days. No words appeared. Finally I closed the book for the last time and declared (silently) that it had taught me absolutely nothing. Then, as a young woman approached and sat down next to me, I realized that I was done and handed it to her. "When you finish," I said, "give it to the person next to you and tell them what I tell you now." She flipped through the pages and said: "Sir, there are no words in this book." I smiled. "When you finish, give it to the person next to you and tell them what I tell you now." I walked off.

Now I feel like it might be detrimental to the piece itself to explain the idea behind it so I guess I'll just warn those who don't want to know the meaning and would rather figure it out (or assign their own meaning) for themselves to not read the following paragraph...

[SPOILERS]What this refers or at least alludes to is some of the views of Siddhartha (the Buddha) I read in Herman Hesse's "Siddhartha" that resonated deeply with me. I also happened to have read this quote in the Buddhist Reflection group earlier in the evening in which I wrote this piece and so I'll share it with you now...this is Siddhartha speaking to Gotama, the Illustrious One, the Buddha (different Buddha but still Buddha):

"Not for one moment did I doubt that you were the Buddha, that you have reached the highest goal which so many thousands of Brahmins and Brahmins' sons are striving to reach. You have done so by your own seeking, in your own way, through thought, through meditation, through knowledge, through enlightenment. You have learned nothing through teachings, and so I think, O Illustrious One, that nobody finds salvation through teachings. To nobody, O Illustrious One, can you communicate in words and teachings what happened to you in the hour of your enlightenment. The teachings of the enlightened Buddha embrace much, they teach much--how to live righteously, how to avoid evil. But there is one thing that this clear, worthy instruction does not contain; it does not contain the secret of what the Illustrious One himself experienced--he alone among hundreds of thousands."

Kinda says it all doesn't it? What a perfect metaphor or mantra for life itself! I've come to realize this truth more than ever in the last year or so of my life, in the midst of my quarter life crisis and my time with my wonderful therapist, Dr. David Valiente, to whom I owe so VERY much. No one can tell you what to do, how to live, who you are. You have to figure it out all on your own or not at all. Sure, people can lead you to water but no one can make you drink. If you want to do well in school, no one can make you focus and apply yourself, you have to want to for reasons that are entirely your own. If you want to figure out what you should do with your life, don't ask your parents or your high school guidance counselor or your college advisor, ask your heart and your mind (I mean that rhetorically, of course, you certainly should ask these people for input but more as a means of having a discussion on the topic that will force you to dig the answers out from inside you).

And by the way, if I might digress for a second, I'd like to mention how utterly insane I think it is that the majority of human beings are made to decide on a major (and essentially a career path) at the tender age of 18-20. Maybe I'm just weird (ok, I am) but, in my experience, the choosing of a major is a massively complex thing with many factors and variables to consider. I myself have jumped (mostly in my mind rather than in the university computers) from English to Creative Writing to Philosophy to Psychology to Computer Science to Mathematics to Political Science and then back around the circle again, making numerous stops at each track of study but never for very long (and also a short stop at culinary school). I still don't know for sure which one I'm going to settle on (and I'm 25 years old...25 and haven't even finished my Associate's degree yet!); writing is my passion and mastering the English language is one of my main aspirations along with teaching English or Creative Writing; Philosophy is something I'm hugely interested in and I've taken a pretty good number of courses that would count toward a B.A. in Philosophy and while it does get tedious at times, I'd love to finish that degree (Philosophy degrees are vastly underrated in terms of their usefulness); I've been told by several people that I would make a terrific Psychiatrist because I'm compassionate, a great listener, and very astute; I've always been really good with computers, they're something that I thoroughly enjoy working with, and there's buttloads of money to be made in the Integrated Technologies field; I've always been really good at Math too and I'm pretty sure there are a lot of opportunities in that field as well though I don't know exactly what they are; and of course politics is a big passion of mine and it's a dream of mine to try to make progressive changes to the system and the world we live in. But anyway, you see my point. Look at all that stuff! You're telling me an 18-20 year old is prepared to consider all those things and make an educated decision about what he/she wants to do with her/his life?

But I digress. I guess if I were to bring this whole clusterfuck in for a landing, my conclusion would come in the form of a quote from a Bright Eyes song called "Don't Know When But a Day Is Gonna Come":

"And now I've read some books and have grown quite brave.
If I could just speak up I think I would say
that there is no truth.
There is only you
and what you make the truth."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Derrick's Top Albums of All Time (#20-11)

I know, I know, it's been over three months since the last installment in this series. I'm really slacking on this thing lately. But I FINALLY have gotten back on track and have prepared the next in this wonderful series for all two of you that read this blog (and that's being generous). I swear, honest to god, I'm gonna really try to start making a habit of updating this blog every week. Seriously. Anyway, on with the show...

20. Kayo Dot - Choirs of the Eye

I'd like to think that the small handful of people who actually read this would know enough to take me seriously when I say that Choirs of the Eye is the most musically diverse, eclectic, dynamic mindfuck of an album I've ever heard. There is no possible genre I could assign to this and describing it would be almost as impossible. The songs rollercoaster from classical music to folk to sludge, almost black metal to spacey post-rock, often within the same "song" (I use the term loosely because there are five tracks on the album, one is five minutes and the rest hover around the 11-15 minute they're really more like movements of a symphony than "songs"). I never thought I'd hear a beautiful trombone solo or brilliant clarinet solo in the same song as heavy metal guitars but the musicianship here is just on such a high level that the grace and flow with which the band bends and contorts between and across genre lines is truly astounding.

19. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada and Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

Now we get into a few albums of what I consider to be my generation's classical music (although my generation has actual classical music too but whatever just go with me on this): instrumental post-rock. This is more of a classical-styled band in the genre in that they do employ the use of strings very often. Their times is like the soundtrack to the end of the world. In fact their albums often come off as though they could be movie soundtracks and that whatever movie they were the soundtracks to would probably be really fucking good (for the record, post-rock band Explosions In the Sky literally did go that route, doing the soundtrack to Friday Night Lights, which was pretty decent). Slow Riot has a much more melancholy eastern music influence to it which is why I had to put it in a tie with Skinny Fists despite only having 2 "movements" and roughly 27 minutes of music. "Moya" is one of the great buildups of all time and "BBF3" really does literally sound like the soundtrack to the end of the world at times along with featuring a fascinating interview clip with Blaise Bailey Finnegan III (hence "BBF3"). Skinny Fists on the other hand is just full of so much music that I can't really even begin to describe it recommendation I would give is to see if you can find a version that's broken up into movements--the original release of the album has four tracks, each in the 20 minute range, named "Storm", "Static", "Sleep", and "Antennas to Heaven"...however, in the liner notes each of these tracks is divided into "movements" denoted with beginning and ending times in each track for each of its movements..."Storm" is divided into four movements, "Static" into five, "Sleep" into three, and "Antennas to Heaven" contains seven movements. I say get this version because I just find it interesting to see where each movement begins and ends but I guess you could just buy the CD or look up the beginning and ending times online...but whatever it's cool to have.

18. Mono - Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined

Mono is a band that tends to catch a considerable amount of criticism among the more discerning fans of instrumental/post-rock music (along with Explosions In the Sky) for the lack of imagination, innovation, and creativity in their music. As a musician, I can see where they're coming from--Mono tends to rely on a lot of melodic cliches in their chord progressions and often uses and reuses many of the same effects and songwriting methods in many of their songs. All those things aside, however, this band makes some of the most achingly beautiful music you're likely to ever hear and that fact is no more evident than on Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined. Unlike Godspeed You! Black Emperor, this band (and Explosions In the Sky, for that matter) mostly employ the basic rock music instrumental nucleus of two guitars, a bass guitar, and drums--with the occasional sprinkle of strings or piano for ambiance or effect. However, their music is no less powerful for it. "16.12" and "Halcyon (Beautiful Days)" are two of the most inspiring pieces of music on my iPod and I constantly use the latter in mix CDs/tapes and playlists--to me, this song is literally the musical incarnation of falling in love, complete with an epically climactic first kiss toward the end.

17. Converge - Petitioning the Empty Sky

It's kind of amazing to think that this album came out nearly fifteen years ago, in 1996. Talk about being ahead of your time. Many still consider this Converge's best work and while I'm not sure I'd go that far, I can certainly understand the sentiment. It's much more raw and unfettered than anything else they released and you could also make the argument that it's significantly more unorthodox--specifically in terms of Jacob Bannon's tortured vocal delivery. It also has a lot more of the hardcore punk and thrash metal influences of Converge's late 90s output, which, along with the rawness of it, as much as I love all these elements, knocks it down a few pegs for me on my list of this band's best stuff. However, I can't write a synopsis of this album without talking about "The Saddest Day"--in my opinion, one of the greatest songs ever written, not just in hardcore but in all rock music. An epic journey through all corners of the hardcore spectrum, it features at least three of the most undeniably classic moments of hardcore songwriting ever put to tape--the riotous breakdown near the midpoint of the song, the haunting sing-along of "how we get older, how we forget about each other", and finally the irresistibly powerful chant of "EVERY TIME YOU JUSTIFY, ANOTHER GOOD IN YOU DIES."

16. The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

I'm not much for sugary sweet pop music at all but this right here is an absolute pop masterpiece. If there were a Mount Rushmore of pop records, it would undoubtedly be three Beatles records and this one. We're all familiar with the megahits "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "God Only Knows", two of the greatest songs of all time. But this record is so, so much more than those songs. The harmonies are achingly beautiful, the hooks are undeniably infectious, and the songwriting is simply masterful. There isn't much I can say about this album that hasn't been said already so I'll just say that if you don't own this album or if you've never heard the whole thing from start to finish then your life simply won't ever be complete until you do.

15. Envy - A Dead Sinking Story

Epic. EPIC. I'm going to attempt to describe this album without using the word "epic" more than ten times--or just typing "EPIC EPIC EPIC EPIC EPIC" over and over until it forms a paragraph. This is the music of the towering, the majestic, the sublime. It stretches so high over your head that your neck may become sore after extended listens--and most listens to this album are extended with no song (besides the interlude) being less than five minutes, four songs reaching over the seven minute mark, and one (the final song) eclipsing the twelve minute mark. The power and majesty of Envy's melodies are likely to make your hair stand on end and, at times, your jaw drop. No metaphor I could conjure would adequately capture it. No description I could give would be good enough. You have to hear it to believe it.

14. Cave In - Until Your Heart Stops

Keeping with the theme of beautifully complex hardcore records, I give you one that, in my opinion, is one of the best, and quite possibly THE most underrated hardcore record of all time. When you look at it in the context of the album that precedes it (Beyond Hypothermia, a decidedly heavier and more metal-influenced record) and the album that follows it (Jupiter, Cave In's Radiohead-esque left-field turn into the realm of spacey post-rock), it's clear that this album is the stepping stone between the two, combining elements of both of these sounds into one beautifully textured melting pot of awesomeness. The one-two punch of "Moral Eclipse" and "Terminal Deity" kick off the album with perfect attention paid to pacing--in fact, the beginning of this album is consistent with the unwritten rules of mixtape-making which are to start off with a bang, then kick it up a notch, and then pull it back...I think they originally come from High Fidelity though I'm not sure if they originally appear in the movie or the book. The next track does somewhat pull it back, but only in terms of sheer speed and ferocity. "Juggernaut" is another song that I feel belongs on the pantheon of great all time hardcore songs--brilliant riffing, clockwork-perfect time changes, beautifully spacey melodies...just an incredibly well-written song in every aspect. Following that is "The End of Our Rope Is a Noose", an eight-minute odyssey plunging even deeper into the spacey post-rock elements that would dominate the following album. From there, well, it really goes all over the place. The production is perfect, phasing out a lot of treble with very effective results and enhancing the atmosphere with some delicious little experimental loops and studio tricks. I can honestly say I will be listening to this album until MY heart stops! (rimshot)

13. Deftones - White Pony

Here's another very Radiohead-esque left-field turn by a band that, for several years, seemed to evolve into a new and different band with each album they released (see: Adrenaline -> Around the Fur -> White Pony). This band's turn, to me, is probably the most impressive of any, simply because, when they released this starkly experimental album, they were right at the forefront of the "nu metal" movement along with Korn and Rage Against the Machine. To take such a bold artistic risk after developing what was, frankly, a notoriously closed-minded following (by which I mean nu metal fans in general, not Deftones fans, who, to their credit, were always a little more open than the rest, as evidenced by the success of this album) is a truly commendable move to make. Of course, the main reason it was so effective and successful is because it's just that damn good. While it was a very experimental, spacey album, there was certainly no shortage of heavy down-tuned guitars. For every "Digital Bath" or "Rx Queen" or "Teenager" there was a "Feiticeira", an "Elite", and a "Street Carp"--interestingly enough, I just listed tracks 2, 4, and 6 followed by tracks 1, 3, and 5 of White Pony, so that just gives you an idea how much variation there is here. The highlight of the album, for me, is definitely "Passenger" which features guest vocals by Maynard James Keenan of Tool and A Perfect Circle--vocals which, to the untrained ear, are famously all but indecipherable from those of Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno. Another highlight is "Knife Prty", also featuring guest vocals, but these are lent by someone far less famous--a girl working next door to the studio.

12. Dredg - El Cielo

In years past, I used to completely dismiss the idea that this album was better than what I consider to be this bands magnum opus, Leitmotif. As time has gone by, I've softened more and more on that stance until now I'm starting to doubt whether or not I really still think Leitmotif is the better album. I'm not quite ready to relent on my stance that Leitmotif is the band's crowning achievement but I'm starting to see the scales tip that way in my mind. Either way, this album is certainly as brilliantly crafted as its predecessor, if not more so. It definitely is more diverse in its influences and its instrumentation, which I absolutely adore about it. Employing everything from a flute to a trumpet to a saxophone, this album sees the band stretching its creative wings much further out. Singer Gavin Hayes's vocals are also much less raw than they are on the previous album, much more developed and almost operatic, one might say. There are a number of very interesting interludes that lead into the songs that follow them perfectly and there are some very brightly shining moments on here as far as the actual songs. The ones that shine brightest for me are "Triangle" (one of my Top 50 Songs of the 2000s), "Of the Room", "Whoa Is Me", and the epic, aptly-titled album closer, "The Canyon Behind Her."

11. Tool - 10,000 Days

I feel like a lot of the things I'm saying in this series are things I've said a million times before and that people who might have read them before are getting plain sick and tired of. This is one that I actually already said earlier in the series but I have to repeat it to talk about this album also (and considering how long it's been since the entry in which I first said it, I doubt you'll remember it): As much as I loved and still do love Lateralus, [copypaste]I couldn't help thinking it left something to be desired five years removed from the masterpiece of ├ćnima. I felt like Tool was capable of doing so much better which speaks more to the otherworldly expectations created by ├ćnima then it does to the actual mediocrity of Lateralus[/copypaste]. As such, when 10,000 Days was released, I absolutely adored it immediately because, to me, this was more like the album I was expecting to hear when I bought Lateralus. This is what Tool is truly capable of--far more focused and scathing and considerably less indulgent than Lateralus. "Vicarious", "Jambi", and "The Pot" rank right up there with the best of Tool's "hits", as powerful and dynamic as anything they've written but also just catchy and accessible enough for rock radio. Meanwhile, "Rosetta Stoned" and "Right In Two" easily belong in the top ten songs Tool has ever written, towering tall alongside fellow epics such as "Third Eye" and "Pushit." "Right In Two" is quite possibly my favorite Tool song lyrically and the tabla solo is so amazing, the only thing better is seeing Danny do it live. It's wonderful to see how far along he's come on the tabla. "Rosetta Stoned", on the other hand, is certainly a fitting title for that song. It's really only something that obsessive Tool fans--read: most real Tool fans--are consciously aware of but this song has pieces of other Tool songs scattered all over the place. That's not to say they sampled other songs or ripped riffs straight out of old songs and pasted them into this one. However there are certainly very distinct homages to many of Tool's songs hidden within the song. Comparisons can be drawn between parts in "Rosetta Stoned" and parts in songs such as "H." and "Third Eye" that are a frequent topic of discussion on Tool message boards--and I would know. In many ways this song really is kind of a "rosetta stone" for Tool's music and a very interesting microcosm of their catalog. Tool has almost become known for these sort of 10+ minute epics that rollercoaster up and down and side to side and upside down countless times and while this is no "Third Eye" it certainly earns its place on the pantheon of Tool epics and helps earn 10,000 Days a spot on this countdown.

Well there you have it. Tune in next week (SERIOUSLY!) for the TOP TEN--very exciting stuff. Until then, enjoy!