Friday, September 30, 2005

Fear, Fear, Fear the Flu!

I was intending to post on something else, but this is on my mind right now.

I just finished watching Nightline (I don't know why) as I was reading on the couch with Karen. This episode (I say "episode" and not "edition" or "newscast" because these things are mostly fabrication--stories crafted to earn ratings and viewers) was about the ever-immanent avian flu. They brought in Senators (the majority and minority leaders were practically giving each other foot-massages), they brought in medical experts, and political experts. They all had this to say: the avian flu is coming and it will be the world's next pandemic.

I have several problems with this, even if we are on the verge of this disease breaking out. First, it is a way of ignoring the pandemic that is ALREADY GOING ON this very moment in Africa. There was a clip where "president" Bush referred to avian flu as the first pandemic of the 21st century. What happened to AIDS?! What happened to the continent we have continuously and systematically screwed from the back (if you haven't seen The Constant Gardener, you must, you will see what I mean)? And isn't it interesting that these announcements and referendums come just at the time when people might be starting to pay attention to the claims made in Constant Gardner? These scare tactics about flu have caused Americans (or helped those who wanted to anyway) to ignore the pandemic of our time, the one that is in front of us, the one that has inflicted our neighbors--or as Kierkegaard put it, the "ones whom we see." It begs the question when will people stop buying into the fear that the goverment feeds us daily? After all the scare tactics and all the false alarms (WMD's anyone?) why do we/they keep buying it?

Secondly, one of the "experts" they brought on the show talked about how the pandemic--besides killing at least 5% of the world's population--will also shut down the global economy. This is what is raising the people's ire? The global economy is threatened. It is clear to see now, why Africa has been (and is now assured to be for a long time) off the radar screen. Africa's pandemic is not only AIDS it is absolute poverty and dire starvation, but these issues pose no threat to the "global economy", these problems do not stop Joe and Jane Conservative-Christian from driving their Hummer and mini-van.

I am starting to believe in Nietzsche's "eternal return" because it was about a year ago that I was reading Julain of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love, which she wrote during the Black Death. It was also about that same time that my grandfather went in to the doctor's office to receive a flu shot (if you remember there was a big "flu shot shortage" scare last fall). He went in for the shot fully healthy, had a bad reaction and was dead two weeks later. These recent kind of scare tactics keep the people paralyzed, they keep the church subordinated to the state, and they are the kind of scare tactics that I believe contributed to the death of my grandfather. Maybe Julian has something to offer us in the midst of the pandemic we are already facing and the one we could be potentially facing. The love of Christ on the cross bathes all of us in his redemptive suffering, the church--if there is anything left--needs to go out into this suffering, not seeking to eliminate it, but to redeem it, to point all of creation to its completion in Christ. We are not doing this. I am not doing this. Or maybe this is just another really pissed off rant.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Here's your trash talk: Cleveland is done

Oh brother, welcome to the pains of caring too much about baseball. (Where's the Wahoo picture at the top of your post? Liberal guilt?)

(note: this started out serious and at some point took an obvious turn to the absurd...)

Let me lay it out for you, and I know it will hurt, but the truth often does. Cleveland is full of kids who were wearing their dad's clothes, make believing they were working at jobs, and then one day woke up realizing they were working at these jobs and should be at home playing in the closet. They're done. Grady Sizemore smiled too easily at that dropped fly ball. Something like that is devistating. SO devistating that they go home and lose two in a row to the D-Rays. The chase they've made is amazing but the first half was so ugly that they would have had to sustain an insane, world championship pace and have lost a step. I'm not saying they're not going to win 3 of 4 or 2 of 4 games left, I'm saying it won't be good enough. SO here's how the post season will end up.

This weekend:
Indians win 3 out of 4 (2 against White Sox)
White Sox win 2 out of 4
Red Sox win 3 out of 4
Yankees win 2 out of 4

So the White Sox win the Central, are the 1 seed in the AL playoffs.
Red Sox, Yankees, and Indians have the same record. According to this sweet article, this is what will happen.
The Yankees and Red Sox will play a one game playoff for the East on Monday at Yankees Stadium and the Yankees will win in a devistating blow out.
Then on Tuesday the Indians will play the Red Sox at Fenway where, a determined pissed off Red Sox team beat the Indians in 13 innings of wild baseball, on a David Ortiz walk off homerun off Bob Howry (former Red Sox).

So the playoffs set up as follows:
American League
White Sox vs. Red Sox
Yankees vs. Angels

National League
St. Louis vs. San Diego
Atlanta vs. Houston

Now, while the AL is finishing its insane one game playoffs, the NL will be under way. The Padres will shock the Cardinals and win game one with the Cards making it even heading to San Diego where the cards will win both and advance to the NLCS. They will be playing the Braves who go five against the Astros. Clemens will not win a game, making two starts, getting rocked the first time and barely losing game 5 because he's hurt. The AL first round will be exciting, both series going 5 games, White Sox over the Red Sox and Yankees over LAA, getting sweet revenge for the elimination in 2003.

So now we have St. Louis vs. Atlanta and White Sox vs. Yankees. Atlanta will beat St. Louis in 6 games, Andrew Jones will hit 6 home runs and the Cardinals pitching will be solid but their offense won't show up. In the AL, the Yankees will beat the White Sox in 6, with Contreras and Hernandez both getting rocked, leading to a post-season investigation where it is revealed that Contreras and Hernandez (former Yankees) were paid off by the Yankees to throw the series, furthering the shame and curse that is south side Chicago baseball. Ozzie Guillen will respond by eating a live chicken at a press conference and then claiming he is Jesus Christ while lowering his pants at the bar at the Sheridan Hotel downtown. Shockingly, instead of firing him, the Chicago fans elevate him to legend status, while U.S. Cellular field does become The Cell as Guillen is sentanced to never leave the ball park.

World Series will be Atlanta vs. Yankees, in the battle of the decades. The Braves win in 6. In a shocking mid-series development Bernie Williams' legs fall off as it turns out he is playing without hips, Jorge Posada's arm will fall off, and Mike Mussina will not be able to throw over 65 miles an hour. ARod and Giambi hit 45 homeruns in the series but they all come in the games the Yankees win. In a shocking development, Torre will be traded to the Cubs for Dusty Baker who (thankfully) takes Neifi Perez, Jose Macias, and Correy Patterson with him. The Cubs get Robinson Cano. The Yankees begin a stretch of 15 years without a playoff appearance while the Braves win three in a row. In this WS John Smoltz closes in all the games he doesn't start, Marcus Giles hits for .450 and the Julio Franco dies after hitting a walk off homerun in game 5. Trying to get an upper hand, Steinbrenner trades for Chipper Jones in the middle of the series but then doesn't play him because he already has ARod.

There you have it. Call me a prophet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Given the success of Sufjan Week 2005, I've decided to decare this month Baseball Month. How could I not, I mean baseball is off the chain right now, and many of us have some sort of vested interest. Hear me out.

*Brian lives in the OC and the Angel's are going to win the AL west.
*I live in Cleveland, and with any luck the Tribe's going on either the central or wildcard.
*Jake, Dan, Ryan, and Johnny live in chicago and thus are all hardcore WhiteSux fans (except maybe Johnny, see below)
*Dusty lived in Boston and has been to Fenway more than anyone I know.
*Finally, I've been in what was Johnny's boyhood bedroom and saw posters of Yankees of the past (I believe there was one of Don Mattengly's mustache)

I think there's still a National League too!

So here's what I want. Post and tell us why your team is better than mine. You know Wahoo v. Rally Monkey, WhiteSock v. RedSock and let's just hope the Yankees don't have anything to say about the matter.

I will report to you tomorrow night from Jacob's Field (or at least directly following) after a huge TRIBE win!

Suck it Rally Monkey!

Monday, September 26, 2005


Add this to the list of reasons I want to die immediately. Heavenly Images is a company that will, as the title says, make pictures of you/your loved ones and Jesus. Presumably this is for people who have died but either they have samples from doing entire dead families or they do living people too. Anyway, what is so great about these pictures is how unhappy Jesus is about the matter! Look at the stern look that Jesus is giving that guy in the picture above. Apparently Jesus either is sick of new people coming to heaven or Uncle Jim isn't getting in. I'll leave the difficult decision about which picture to put me in for those of you who survive me, because sometimes I like the one above but it is hard to surpass this one:

Saturday, September 24, 2005

One more freaking blog.

This is how Jake and I spend our awesome Saturday nights....


Friday, September 23, 2005

Dees Nuts: Why I am and will always be FAT

I just realized something. If i continue to eat a can of luxury mixed nuts (did you even know they made mixed nuts without peanuts!?!?!?) or a bag of unbelievable local tortilla chips every night I will eventually bulge to 3,000 pounds and die. Alas, is there any hope for the fat man? Will I ever know true love? I am fat by choice and yet as much as I choose I only can get so fat. It's amazing really. I've chosen fatness forever (minus 6 months my freshman year of high school) and still don't even way 450 pounds. That's funny. I'm going to go be sick now from all of these nuts that I cannot resist. One last Brazil...I swear it will be my last of the night.....................................



Three cheers for Illinois!

Joel @ used his lovely hacked CVS camera to take some fun video of a recent show with Sufjan Stevens. Being that Midwest Mindset love Sufjan to death... I thought this would be fun. enjoy! The videos are on his site.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Oh Me, Oh My....

Although Oh Me, Oh My was the name of Devendra Banhart's first CD, it would be fitting for this one even more. Cripple Crow is out, the only thing that could have possibly have shaken my focus on such a sacred week as this. It reminds me of Holy Week my junior year of high school when I still wanted to be spiritual. I was devoting myself to fasting and prayer every day until Alexa Rittichier decided she wanted to be my girlfriend and my career as a spiritualist was destroyed forever because of my new career as a fleshly earthy womanizer...what was I saying anyway?

SO, those of you who have heard me yell and scream about Devendra before have heard nothing yet. One step away from the album that will redifine/save rock and roll, Cripple Crow is the bridge album. This is Bob Dylan just before Highway '61 Revisited, when he started to play the electric guitar and began to rip everyone's chests open, then pull their brains out through their eyeballs, and then put the whole world back together even better than it was before....only better....or at least way different and more more....i don't know what to say...JUST LOOK AT THE COVER ART FOR CRYING OUTLOUD. These are real people folks, all of his friends....Why don't I have friends like this? Devendra is front and center, the guy who's face you can barely see. And I'm pretty sure that Joanna Newsome, my future wife, is featured in the front row, the woman all the way on the right.

And yes, the second to last song is apparently about a hermapherdite and the chorus does say that there are so many boys that he wants to marry but forget about that ok? Please? My brother did, and he doesn't like swears or dirty songs. Please buy this. at least do it for me. Because soon I will grow my hair past my waist line, grow a beard just as far, and disapear forever into Hippy paradise with DB and his band of heros...Did I mention that this is the happiest anti-war CD since Build an Ark? It's not just about anti-war, it's also about sweet Mamma Wolf, Trees, Waves, and has lots of songs in Spanish.

The only really good and worthy review of this amazing record is on PopMatters.

Oh and let's organize the world's greatest package for Paco since I'm a total ass for not going to visit him anymore. Ideas?

Public Service Announcement

Sorry for this brief interruption into Sufjan Stevens week, but I wanted to make you all aware of an article I ran across in the Tribune this morning. It’s regarding the finest protest song of our time; that is unless you count ‘Last Kiss’ by Pearl Jam on the No Boundaries album supporting Bosnia (which really wasn't really a protest song, or very good). Anyhow it’s called “George Bush Don’t like Black People.” It samples Kanye’s famous quote from the Katrina benefit concert, and his new single Golddigger.

Check it out at

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sufjan Week Day 3: Chicago

Instead of acting like I missed a day and am now making up for it, just accept that the Day numbers are arbitrary and are likely to end without notice. That being said, and in hopes of hearing from our friends in Cleveland who already saw the show we will be seeing on Friday and Saturday, the Chicago coalition is back, and in this case it just means more from me as Jonny, Ryan, Adam, and Dan are slacking or do not like Sufjan (I know this is not true).

While the first two posts represented the hard work of textual analysis, today's post is less about the actual meaning of the song and more about sweet emotions. (I will post on Sweet Emotion during Aerosmith week) Who's up for emoting?

To start, let us nominate this as at least the temporary theme song of Midwest Mindset:
"we had our mindest: all things know, all things know"

Here's to reading myself totally into a song:

I fell in love again
all things go, all things go
drove to Chicago
all things know, all things know
we sold our clothes to the state
I don't mind, I don't mind
I made a lot of mistakes
in my mind, in my mind

This verse, for me, is about the romance I have with the city of Chicago. I remember just about every single visit I made to this city before I moved here. The first time...I had moved from Dallas area to Nowhere, OH and was desperately missing the wasn't like we came to visit Chicago right away either. Anyway, as soon as we did, I heard this song in my head before this song existed. Anyone who has driven to Chicago from the East (which is probably everyone reading this) knows the joy that is seeing the skyline emerge as you get past the end of Gary and near the Skyway. Coming over that bridge and having the city, fronted by the Tower, head on is amazing. Then there's the drive up Lakeshore drive, the greatness of God on your right and the greatness of humanity on your left. Repeating this wonderful experience of driving into Chicago created a desire in me to live in this city that culminated in my move. For me, the last half of this stanza is about actually moving. Selling my clothes to the state was leaving most everything I knew behind for a new place in a new time but not caring a lick about it. But this itself was a mistake, as I left some things and some people behind....

you came to take us
all things go, all things go
to recreate us
all things grow, all things grow
we had our mindset
all things know, all things know
you had to find it
all things go, all things go

Alright so here, the stanza is about me and following Jesus of course. To start, I see God calling and pushing and leading me and everyone I know into places...actual places like cities, other countries, wherever. To be a follower of Jesus is to be on the go, for me this led to Chicago. Living here with who I'm around and studying and working, I have been recreated, growing throughout. Of course coming in and throughout I have, like always, assumed that I knew just about everything. But this very mindset is challenged and reformed itself as I continue to go, living here now but also knowing that this too will likely change...all things go...

I drove to New York
in the van, with my friend
we slept in parking lots
I don't mind, I don't mind
I was in love with the place
in my mind, in my mind
I made a lot of mistakes
in my mind, in my mind

Now the chronology has to shift as Sufjan decided to mention an experience Jonny and I had a few years ago. We were on a mission to 1. see NYC 2. see Jonny's brother 3. see Beth Waterman 4. see the Yankees. Now, this trip was formative for both of us, I think, in different ways. For Jonny, well, you'll have to beg him to reprint something he wrote about him and New York that he once had somewhere on the internet. But here's a brief statement that may not be correct. Jonny loved NYC in his mind from somewhere around the beginning of high school until the presentish, as in I'm not sure if he does or does not still love NYC. Anyway, I know that for him the trip was essential for life because without this trip he would have never known the city he loved. Whether or not this was a good thing, I cannot remember. I too was going with things I was in love with in my mind, however for me this was more about the people and the Yankees and driving long distances, all of which were forced into reform by the trip (still love the people but different of course, love Yankees more, don't love long drives anymore). I am being vague on purpose here because disclosure requires reflection which is often painful....

you came to take us
all things go, all things go
to recreate us
all things grow, all things grow
we had our mindset
all things know, all things know
you had to find it
all things go, all things go

if I was crying
in the van, with my friend
it was for freedom
from myself and from the land
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes
I made a lot of mistakes

See, and then you have this final verse, which, apparently, Sufjan included for the sake of explaining this very pain in reflection and disclosure....There was crying for me in moving to Chicago. There was freedom but there was the difficult in reconciling the city I loved in my mind and the city itself along with the mistakes that I brought with me and the ones I left behind. There was freedom but difficulty (I think) for Jonny in reconciling his love of NYC in his mind and in reality. There is freedom but difficulty for me in loving people (not the broad concept but actual people like Jonny, parents, Pete Smith, Beth Waterman, Paco, Tina Fox, Mike Nimtz) not as they are in my mind but as they are in reality....and I have made a lot of mistakes....

you came to take us
all things go, all things go
to recreate us
all things grow, all things grow
we had our mindset
all things know, all things know
you had to find it
all things go, all things go

I'm trying to get at how this song, but really all of life, for me is about the pursuit of God which is in the pursuit of loving, whether that is God, Stella (my cat), Lake Michigan, the color brown, or Tim Furry, is always on the go, constantly forcing me to reform my concepts of people in my mind and in reality...

Check out this article about this letter to the Kansas School Board regarding the Intelligent Design debate.

"I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him."

Go ahead and read the rest, because it is pretty funny, especially the part about global warming and pirates. While this letter is partly just making fun of creation science (and this appears to be the main focus of reports on it in the news), there is a deeper theological/philosophical/political point being made. The Intelligent Design theory that is being advanced primarily by the Evangelical Empire (and some Catholics) argues that the nature of the universe is such that by observation alone it is obvious that such a universe, including the process of "evolution" or something like it, must have been created by an Intelligent Designer. Ah yes...God of the Gaps meet the worst of modern arguments for the existence of God meet public education.

So, the best part of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) is that it forces evangelical Christians to admit that the very theory they are advocating is not Christian at all!!! Ah the fun of it. You see, even if the universe requires a designer, who knows if it was the triune God? The argument does nothing to show that the world was made by the Father through the Son in the power of the Spirit. It is just as likely that the universe is made by the FSM.

The problem with FSM, especially the proposed law suite if it is not included in the discussion of evolution, is that it is just one form of Intelligent Design. Just as the students will not learn of the creation of the world by the Father through the Son in the power of the Spirit, they will not learn about the creaiton of the world by the very angry FSM. Luckily, though, the true believers can where their FSM shirts to class and defend their believes, just like I was supposed to do with the evil evolution teachers at my public school...

More Sufjan to follow...where's our Cleveland report?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Pastor of Muppets

The lovely people that brought you "Monster Garage" & "Moster House" are doing a new series on the Learning Channel called "Pulpit Masters." read on...

There is a casting call for PULPIT MASTERS, a new television series set to air on the TLC Network in December. The 10-part series will follow a group of 10 aspiring preachers and motivational speakers as they embark upon a variety of challenges - from counseling, impromptu preaching, speaking and relating to others on a myriad of topics - where one castmate will ultimately become "America's Next Inspired Spiritual Leader." The open audition for PULPIT MASTERS welcomes EVERYONE from established preachers, new-age gurus, priests, shamans, Rabbis - come one, come all (and they have been!).

Original Productions (Biker Build-Off, Monster Garage and others) has been touring the country (Dallas, St. Louis, Atlanta) with hundreds of would-be inspired leaders impressing the casting panel with 2-3 minutes of their best preaching skills. In each city, the major daily papers and news networks have come out to capture what is sure to be a most-talked about reality show to hit the broadcast airwaves this winter!

Read even more here.

Lets just say that if the grand prize is becoming "America's Next Inspired Spiritual Leader" you preachers, motivational speakers and Rick Metzgers, better bring your "A" game.

PS: sorry to kill 'Sufjan Week 05'

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sufjan Day #2: Casimir Pulaski Day

"All the glory that the Lord has made and the complications you could do without"

I wanted to devote one day to writing about Sufjan's sad songs. I think that Michigan is, overall, a far sadder CD than Illinois and Seven Swans. No doubt this is representative of both the geographical location he is describing (there's a lot of sadness in michigan...), but it seems as though Sufjan was working toward a theme of redemption and resurrection, thus requiring a more palpable sense of suffering and sadness. This will be addressed later in the week regarding the finale of Michigan. For the time being, I wish to make note of those songs that received consideration for today, mainly Romulus and The Upper Peninsula.

So it is to Illinois that we turn, finding Casimir Pulaski Day. A bit of background for those of you who do not live in Illinois, are not revolutionary war buffs, or are not well versed in Polish history. Casimir Pulaski was a Polish hero for fighting off the Russians in 1771 but was eventually wrongfully associated with a plot to kill the king and was banished from Poland. While in France, Pulaski heard about the American revolution and wrote Ben Franklin offering his services. Pulaski was a master cavalier, and his services were received in America where he swiftly tought the arts of cavalry with success. Racism was rampent, however, and Pulaski and his men were frequently left out of significant battles. Far from home and anxious for something to validate his existence, he petitioned Congress to grant him the right to establish his own cavalry to fight the British. Eventually his request was granted, he established the first official cavalry and fought the British until he was mortally wounded by a cannon. He died on the battlefield of a foreign land, establishing the independence of a people who were reluctant to accept him, far from family and no doubt alone except for the Americans he had trained. Because there were so many Polish immigrants in and around Chicago, Casimir Pulaski day is celebrated on the first Monday of March and there is no school on this day.

Unlike many of Sufjan's Illinois tracks, this song is not about Casimir, but instead about Casimir Pulaski Day. I first heard of this day from the kids in my afterschool club when I was trying to figure out why they had a day off from school on a Monday in March. They all knew it was Pulaski day but no one knows who he is, etc. For kids in Illinois it is another day off. For Sufjan's song, it is the funeral day of an intimate friend. While not about Pulaski, perhaps the tragic nature of Pulaski's life served as some inspiration for this song.

I guess what I find so overwhelmingly beautiful in this song is the linking of the profound with the relational, specifically showing how through love, suffering, and death we come to know the deepest truths about the world. Perhaps the best word to describe this notion of the profound in this song is "glory." If you look at the stanzas where he says "all the glory" they show the links. "All the glory that the Lord has made and the complications you could do without, when I kissed you on the mouth." Here the complications of life and love are an expression of the glory of creation. Next, however, "All the glory" is associated with her running outside upset. Then, after the death, "All the glory" is, presumably, the difficulty of facing an image of Christ or maybe just a spiritual seeing of God in the window of the church at the funeral. Ultimately this is summed up on the glory of Christ giving himself over for us. Yet this is not all and only a happy story. In addition to the costly price of this glory for Christ, there is also the costly glory for those of us whom follow. Specifically, there is the demand that God puts on our life. While here Sufjan is dealing with the pop theological assumption that God "takes" people when they die, broader notions of God taking from us all is wrapped up in "all the glory" and the consequences of following the costly way of Christ.

Again the theme of the relationship between our lives, God, and the world are set out. Notice that it is a plant and a rock that is brought to the one who is sick. These are the comforts that are available, as the prayers offered for healing go unanswered. Also, the love that is shared between the two is not an abstract love but a poignantly physical love, no doubt accentuated by the cancer within the body. Finally, there is the line about the cardinal flying into the window at the hospital.

Ultimately, it is in the relationships we have with each other, in this case paternal, lover, friend, caretaker, and nature, that we discover the deepest truths that are to be known. Our relationship with God is just as trying. Filled with "all the glory," there is also the difficulty of loss, seperation, and pain. This is a lesson learned on the first Monday of March through the story of Casimir Pulaski slain in a foreign land and the one who dies too soon from cancer in this song.

Goldenrod and the 4H stone,
the things I brought you,
when I found out you had cancer of the bone

Your father cried on the telephone,
and he drove his car into the navy yard,
just to prove that he was sorry

In the morning, through the window shade,
when the light pressed up against your shoulderblade,
I could see what you were reading.

All the glory that the Lord has made,
and the complications you could do without,
when I kissed you on the mouth.

Tuesday night at the Bible study,
we lift our hands and pray over your body,
but nothing ever happens.

I remember at Michael's house,
in the living room when you kissed my neck,
and I almost touched your blouse.

In the morning at the top of the stairs,
when your father found out what we did that night,
and you told me you were scared.

All the glory when you ran outside,
with your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied,
and you told me not to follow you.

Sunday night when I cleaned the house,
I find the card where you wrote it out,
with the pictures of you mother.

On the floor at the great divide,
with my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied,
I am crying in the bathroom.

In the morning when you finally go,
and the nurse runs in with her head hung low,
and the cardinal hits the window.

In the morning in the winter shade,
on the 1st of March on the holiday,
I thought I saw you breathing.

All the glory that the Lord has made,
and the complications when I see His face,
in the morning in the window.

All the glory when he took our place,
but he took my shoulders and he shook my face,
and he takes and he takes and he takes.

Sufjan Day #1: Sister

I thought I'd start out the Sufjan reflections with what I consider to be the most "right on" of his tracks. For those of you weak on your Sufjan, his 50 states project exemplifies the importance of place and time in his music. Thus, a CD devoted to Michigan is meant to feel like Michigan. Listening to the songs should conjure up smells, sounds, and memories of the places for those who have been there and to allow others to have their own mystical encounter to a land they have yet to traverse. Since Sufjan's starting points are states I'm familiar with, I have been able to channel my Michigan/Chicago memories into these cds. One song, however, captures place for me better than the rest, and that is Sister off Seven Swans.

Perhaps a cast off from the Michigan album, Sister finds it's place in the middle of Seven Swans, serving as a guide post and centering point for an un-50 states cd that covers broader themes, often more overtly theological than his 50 states work. The song opens with an extended guitar solo, eventually doubled by a voice that is singing the guitar solo along with it. This alone works to capture the place of lake Michigan, or more broadly the Midwest. Who can endure the humid summer without a good guitar solo from time to time? Where else but lake Michigan can you get so totally immersed in your place and the song that you find yourself singing along with the guitar solo, unaware and unconcerned with a lack of vocals?

But then the words sneak in...

What the water wants is hurricanes
and sailboats to ride on its back

What the water wants is sunkiss
and land to run into and back

I have a fishstone burning my elbow
reminding me to know that I'm glad

and I have a bottle filled with my own teeth
they fell out like a terrible pack

and I have a sister somewhere in Detroit
she has black hair and small hands

and I have a kettle drum I'll hit the earth with you
and I will crochte you a hat

and I have a red kite I'll put you right in it
I'll show you the sky

What makes these lyrics so overwhelming is, to start, that somehow Sufjan has communicated with Lake Michigan. These things are exactly what the water wants. While a massive, overwhelming force, the water is in need of another force to act upon it before it really matters. A stagnant lake is dead, rotting away, filled with corruption. But as the wind blows over the surface the water comes alive, become a terrible force of nature at times (the hurricanes) but often enough the subtle life of gentle waves that fluctuate depending upon the forces at work upon the water (winds, tides, motor boats, etc.). Just gazing upon Lake Michigan confirms the insights of Sufjan here, but having spent the summer on this great body every day makes it even more real, almost indescribable in scope. The water of Lake Michigan wants to be pushed around and ridden upon in grace and majesty. It craves the days when the sun burns bright upon it, gleaming and reflecting and glaring. It drives hard into the land, crashing against the rocks or beach and back upon itself because it is in this give and take motion that Lake Michigan is alive.

While the beauty of the rest of the song is indubitable, the meaning is more nebulous. For me, having read the first two stanzas as the joyful necessity of external forces to bring life upon Lake Michigan, I read the rest as describing the way this is for me. Just as the lake requires forces greater and smaller than itself to bring it to life, so does the human. The fishstone, the bottle, the kite, the hat; these are smaller items the bring great depth and beauty to life, just as the sailboat does for the lake. The sister, the kettle drum, and what the kite becomes, these are great forces that act upon the person. Sometimes these forces are terrible and disastrous, a necessary possibility when dealing with forces of such magnitude. But like the Lake, without these forces we become stagnant and lifeless.

Because Sufjan bleeds into these lyrics from the wonderful guitar/singing of guitar part, the second half of the song confirms that the first half represents a deep synergy that comes through subtle relationships. The lake to the sail boat, the brother to the sister, and ultimately in this case the person and the lake.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Sufjan Week '05

So Sufjan Stevens week ahas officially begun. Some MWers will see him on Tuesday in Cleveland, many more will congregate in Chicago this weekend for a double dip on Friday and Saturday. In honor of this blessed week I request Andy post a thorough account of the events on Tuesday night. Anyone else seeing Sufjan this week? If so, let's have a post on the show. For everyone else, I suggest we all post a post about a particular song or Sufjan memory. Let's go crazy with this and honor one of the great men of our era before he gets beyond us all. Anyone with guest posts on the topic are more than welcome, just put them in a comment or send them to me and i'll get them on the main page. Woo hoo Sufjan!!

Boomer Must Go

I was going to write this about 2 months ago, but time passed and I got over it.

Given that this is all about the mindset of those who live in the midwest, I am hereby calling for the removal of one Chris Berman from all forms of media.

After watching the Home Run Derby in July I thought I was permanently ruined. For a week if I heard someone even say the word "back" I had to fight off a need to produce pain. It echoed in my head.... back--back--back--back--back--back--back--back--back--back--back--back--back--back--back--back--back--back--

Lucky for all of us Berman is easy enough to avoid for most of the summer, but today was the last draw. As I was sitting in my living room eating some store bought pizza and sipping on some nice cherry coke the "swami" appeared for the first time this season and my blood pressure rose above healthy levels.


And then I realized why I can't stand him. Any segment that includes one Chris Berman is nothing but self promotion. In the approximately 7 minute segment there were more clips of "Boomer" wearing silly hats, wigs, and coats as well as participating in golf outings (acting like lee trivino) and football stadiums (acting like Joe Namath). There were also about 30 other clips of the man just standing there throughout the year with various horrible hair cuts.

The worst part. Every week for the next 4 months the man will take over SportsCenter and act like the reigning emperor.

I don't know how to do this kind of thing because I normally don't believe they work, but isn't there some sort of internet petition we could start or some sort of international justice agency that would help us in the fight?

Come on... ARE YOU WITH ME?