I sat in McDonald's today drinking a Dr. Pepper, doing homework for school, and watching two girls make out in the corner. While I'm unashamed of my moral convictions that run contrary to what I witnessed, I'm embarrassed by some of the condescending thoughts that ran through my head. I want to be someone whose first instinct is love and grace. My struggle reminded me of this quote I read in East of Eden last night:
"You are one of those rare people who can separate your observation from your preconception. You see what is, where most people see what they expect."
I had a great time last night chatting with my friend Steve Miller about everything from the 2006 NBA Finals to the latest and greatest music. He clued me in on a new-to-me band First Aid Kit. They sounds surprisingly twangy considering they are two sisters from Sweden. But I like their sound.
Lonesome Dove begins with this epigraph from T.K. Whipple. It seems to sum up my heart for the West, the wilderness, and traveling back in time.
"All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream."
I came across this animated short film yesterday and really enjoyed it. The film has been nominated for an academy award. According to it's production studio, "'Morris Lessmore' is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor." As a book lover myself, I enjoyed this creative take on the value of books.
I first heard about Pitchfork.com from my friend Daniel back in 2005. My musical tastes had begun to expand in 2002 when my brother Kyle compelled me to listen to Radiohead's "Amenesiac" and Beck's "Sea Change." By 2005, a large part of my identity came from the music I listed to and, more importantly, the fact that not a lot of other people listened to the same music. Thus, Pitchfork was the perfect website for someone like me who used music to feel cooler than other people. It told me what to listen to. It told me what was cool. And the music it recommended was not what everyone else was listening to.
I still read Pitchfork on a daily basis, but these days it makes me tired. I'm disenchanted with the idea of using music, or books, or clothes to be cool - because you aren't really cool unless you are cooler than someone else, are you? I struggle with the pride that I see at the core of a lot of self-expression. I don't know if I feel that way because I'm growing older and more mature. Or maybe I feel that way because I'm growing older and more out of touch; maybe it's a self-serving perspective for someone out of touch to discount as immature and vain those who live on the pulse of popular culture. Either way, I'm growing tired of the effort it takes to be cool, and Pitchfork reminds me of my fatigue.
I say all this because this afternoon I read an insightful, yet extremely long, article on the history of Pitchfork.com. Buried within the article is a subtle, and at times not-so-subtle, critique of a website that prides itself, though not openly, on establishing "cultural capital" - aka what is/isn't cool. Richard Beck writes, "Pitchfork and indie rock are currently run by people who behave as though the endless effort to perfect the habits of cultural consumption is the whole experience of life." Maybe I'm old and mature, or maybe I'm just not cool anymore, but "perfecting [my] habits of cultural consumption" just doesn't seem worth it anymore. I'm tired of being what I should be, when it comes to culture/art/fashion. I am what I am.
Tonight I went to see The Civil Wars in concert, but it was the opening act, The Staves, that blew me away. These three sisters from England have yet to release a full length album (one is due this year), but their EPs are strong. Check out a few songs below and jump on the bandwagon before everyone else.
Jim Richardson. Richardson is a photographer for National Geographic and has taken many photographs of his (and mine!) home state, Kansas. I've had the debate about Kansas and its beauty with many skeptical friends. Most people only see the state as they drive across I-70 on the way to and from Colorado. However, the I-70 corridor amounts less than 1% of Kansas' square milage. There is so much else to see, and, as you might notice from the photographs, so much of it is beautiful. Forgive my indulgence in posting so many of his photographs.
As a Christian, I'm inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr's radical devotion to Jesus. Yet no matter one's religious belief/disbelief, King's message of love and sacrifice are admirable. In honor of MLK Day, here are a few quotes from Dr. King.
"Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.”
“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
"Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness."
A friend tweeted a link to this letter written by author John Steinbeck (Of Mice And Men, East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath) to his son Thom on the topic of love. I found it to be delicately insightful, especially the last line: "Don't worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away."
New York November 10, 1958
We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.
First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.
Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.
You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.
But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.
Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.
The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.
If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.
Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.
It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.
Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.
We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.
And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
I haven't found much new music to my liking lately. I'm sure part of the reason is I don't have as much time to devote to musical exploration. Here's an interesting song I heard last week. The female vocals are from Scout LaRue, the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore.
Also, I took the picture above on a trip to Fredericksburg, Texas this weekend - a fun hill-country destination in Texas.
I resonate with this video on curiosity though I find myself lacking in that department far too often. Maybe I need to be less concerned with having all the answers. Or I need to be more concerned with having all the answers - aka curiously exploring the answers to many questions. If you're curious, the video was created by Garrett Johnson.
I've been meaning to post this quote for awhile. It comes from Chuck Klosterman's book "The Visible Man." What an interesting take on technological advances.
“Everything science gives us immediately becomes normative. To an eighty-year-old man, a computer is this amazing device that creates instantaneous access to limitless information. He can’t get his head around it. But to a twenty-year-old man, the computer is a limited machine that costs too much and always needs to be faster. Because human live finite lives, all technological advances immediately feel banal to whatever generation inherits their benefits. Any advance can be appreciated only by the handful of people who happen to exist within the same time period of that specific technology’s introduction. You follow my meaning? Those are the only people who notice the difference. To a seven-year-old, a computer doesn’t even qualify as technology. It’s like a crowbar. Everything magical is temporary. So the idea that science makes our life ‘better’ is kind of an ephemeral illusion. Take vulcanization, for example. That’s a manifestation of science that seems to improve everything about modernity. Right? Of course it is. We wouldn’t drive without it, or at least not the way we drive now. But if vulcanization wasn’t possible, would we miss it? No. Of course not. We wouldn’t miss it at all. We’d find a way around it, or we’d effortlessly live without it. We wouldn’t even have the capacity to miss it. Vulcanization seems to make life better only because we already know it exists. We wouldn’t miss rubber tires if they had never been invented, in the same way we don’t miss cows that taste like lobster or shoes made out of glass or sexual time machines or anything else that science can’t create. Over time, the net benefit of technology is always going to be zero. Children born into Amish communities don’t miss TV until they discover such contraptions exist, right? There’s just no real evidence that proves people in the fifteenth century were less happy than people are now, just as there’s no reason to think people in the twenty-fifth century will have happier, better lives than you or me. This is a strange notion to accept, but it’s true. And once I accepted that truth, it forced me to reevaluate everything I did as an intellectual.”
Joe Tomcho. I've been vigorously reading Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove in an attempt to finish it before the new semester begins next Tuesday. With horses on the brain, the photograph above jumped out at me.
Here's a pretty cool cover by a Canadian band called Walk Off The Earth. The original version is by Gotye, whose album containing the song just dropped last month. You can listen to/download both versions below. Be sure to watch the video - all five members of the band play on one guitar. Impressive.
This article from the New York Times scratches me where I itch. The author, Pico Iyer, explores our need for quiet and rest and the difficult task it is to find that in today's world. I have been contemplating quiet time lately, craving time away from the hustle and bustle of every day life. I'm not even busy, but this break from school makes me realize how much I need to make time to rest.