Sunday, July 31, 2011

Top Bunk

© Joel Thomason
I spent the weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks. Though we weren't staying in the cabin my family frequented when I was young, I couldn't help but reminisce on childhood fun: unlimited Cokes, koozies, whiffle ball games, wasps by the shed, the spare key hidden on the tree, a tubing accident, the Zip Sled, the old fishing boat, losing hubcaps on the gravel road, the bat room, bunk beds, and family. I move to Austin this week, so I'll be soaking up family for the next four days.

Here's a new song I heard this evening. It's by Gauntlet Hair - a dumb name for a band but I like their cavernous sound.

- Joel

Friday, July 29, 2011

Photographer of the Day

© Phil Stern
I'm in the midst of my annual To Kill A Mockingbird reading. I can't help but picture Gregory Peck when I think about Atticus Finch. I love the photograph above of Peck taken by Phil Stern.

- Joel

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Strokes

It surprised me to learn that it's been ten years since The Strokes released their debut album Is This It. Maybe it should also surprise me that it's been ten years since I graduated high school. In honor of this ten year anniversary, Stereogum decided to curate a tribute album to The Strokes debut: eleven bands covering the eleven tracks on the album. I never followed The Strokes very closely and didn't pay much attention to Is This It. However, it's interesting to hear alternative takes on these tracks. One of my favorites is below. Go here to see and download the full tribute album.

- Joel

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Backpacking 2011

In spite of (or because of) getting lost, bushwhacking up a mountain, camping next to the furry remains of a bear's dinner, and hiking up and down an unnamed peak to regain our bearings, the Colorado backpacking trip was a lot of fun. If only I could have enough money one day to buy a place in the mountains for myself.

- Joel

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Photographer of the Day

© Mike Mitchell
I'm a sucker for anything and everything Beatles. Check out a slew great Beatles photographs by Mike Mitchell here.

- Joel

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Photographer of the Day

© Phil Stern
I'm off to tap into my inner cowboy, sleeping outdoors and hiking through the Rockies.

- Joel

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Sisters Brothers

With six weeks off before law school, I've had plenty of time to read. Monday I finished Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five". Yesterday I dove into a new novel released this past April, "The Sisters Brothers" by Patrick deWitt. deWitt's style reminds me of Charles Portis and his masterpiece "True Grit". Though the novel is technically a western, its wit and dark humor can be appreciated by those who don't normally indulge the western genre. I'm one third of the way through the book and can already highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. If you'd like a brief plot overview, check out the book trailer below. Since when did they start creating video trailers for books?

- Joel

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Song of the Day

This totally makes me a loser, but I love this Britney Spears song. I can't get enough.

- Joel

Britney Spears - "Till The World Ends"

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mute Math - "Odd Soul"

I'm digging the new track from Mute Math that debuted today. It has a slight Black Keys feel to it. Check it out below.

- Joel

Friday Night Lights

One of my roommates in grad school got hooked on Friday Night Lights during its inaugural season on NBC. The show recently ended its six season run, having established a small but fiercely loyal following. I sparsely watched the first season with my roommate and caught bits and pieces as my sister caught up on the entire series over the past year. However, I am now hooked, (halfway through Season 2 at the moment) streaming episodes on Netflix.

If you are a fan of the show, you'll love this retrospective article, an oral history of the show in the words of the actors/directors/producers. Casual fans beware: the article does give away a few plot turns in the later seasons. As I am only on Season 2, the article spoiled a few things that await me in future seasons. Still, I think this oral history reveals the authenticity at the heart of one of the best shows in recent television history. For those fans-to-be, FNL is more than just a show about high school football; it explores traditional values in a small town setting, the wellspring of life that marriage can be, and our American infatuation with competition and winning. You'll like it, I promise.

- Joel

"Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Couldn't Lose: An oral history of Friday Night Lights" - Robert Mays

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Vacation Reading

A week on the beach gave me plenty of time to do some reading. I actually finished three books during the week. A big thanks to Sundog Books in Seaside, Florida for their unorganized layout (have they ever heard of alphabetical order?) and exorbitantly priced selection. I'd recommend all three books I finished.

Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind The Legend by Casey Tefertiller - As someone who loves the Old West and also enjoys history, I was fascinated by this biography. The tendency to exaggerate tales of the Wild West, combined with Hollywood taking liberties in Western films, has pumped quite a bit of hot air into the legend of Wyatt Earp. However, this painstakingly researched biography shows that the actual events of Wyatt Earp's life are in many ways stranger than fiction.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett - I was the butt of a few jokes on vacation for reading this "girl's book". The Help is a powerful narrative that directly addresses the racist climate of Mississippi in the 1950's. The novel follows the lives of three women, one white and two black servants for white households, in their struggle to redefine the relationship between white homemakers and their black "help". The movie adaptation of this book will be released on August 10.

I Curse The River of Time by Per Petterson - I'd heard about this book a few months ago but could never track it down at the library. In the fading Norwegian autumn (Petterson's native land) Arvid, the main character, laments the inevitable march of time away from the days when his life had hope and purpose. Time, it seems, gets away from us when we aren't looking. It's a sad novel, but one that is beautifully written and which addresses themes common to all of us: aging, love, and our search for acceptance and approval.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Horrors

There's been a bit of buzz surrounding The Horrors and their album Skying, which drops today. Once I got used to the guy's voice, I enjoyed this album. Check it out for yourself below.

- Joel

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pioneers! Oh Pioneers!

Pioneers! O Pioneers!

Come my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready,
Have you your pistols? have you your sharp-edged axes?
Pioneers! O pioneers!

For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O you youths, Western youths,
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,
Plain I see you Western youths, see you tramping with the foremost,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Have the elder races halted?
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there beyond the seas?
We take up the task eternal, and the burden and the lesson,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the past we leave behind,
We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing as we go the unknown ways,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

We primeval forests felling,
We the rivers stemming, vexing we and piercing deep the mines within,
We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Colorado men are we,
From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the high plateaus,
From the mine and from the gully, from the hunting trail we come,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

From Nebraska, from Arkansas,
Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the continental
blood intervein’d,
All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all the Northern,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O resistless restless race!
O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender love for all!
O I mourn and yet exult, I am rapt with love for all,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Raise the mighty mother mistress,
Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry mistress,
(bend your heads all,)
Raise the fang’d and warlike mistress, stern, impassive, weapon’d mistress,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

See my children, resolute children,
By those swarms upon our rear we must never yield or falter,
Ages back in ghostly millions frowning there behind us urging,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

On and on the compact ranks,
With accessions ever waiting, with the places of the dead quickly fill’d,
Through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and never stopping,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O to die advancing on!
Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour come?
Then upon the march we fittest die, soon and sure the gap is fill’d.
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the pulses of the world,
Falling in they beat for us, with the Western movement beat,
Holding single or together, steady moving to the front, all for us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Life’s involv’d and varied pageants,
All the forms and shows, all the workmen at their work,
All the seamen and the landsmen, all the masters with their slaves,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the hapless silent lovers,
All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and the wicked,
All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

I too with my soul and body,
We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way,
Through these shores amid the shadows, with the apparitions pressing,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Lo, the darting bowling orb!
Lo, the brother orbs around, all the clustering suns and planets,
All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

These are of us, they are with us,
All for primal needed work, while the followers there in embryo wait behind,
We to-day’s procession heading, we the route for travel clearing,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O you daughters of the West!
O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives!
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Minstrels latent on the prairies!
(Shrouded bards of other lands, you may rest, you have done your work,)
Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and tramp amid us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Not for delectations sweet,
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious,
Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Do the feasters gluttonous feast?
Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they lock’d and bolted doors?
Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the ground,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Has the night descended?
Was the road of late so toilsome? did we stop discouraged nodding
on our way?
Yet a passing hour I yield you in your tracks to pause oblivious,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Till with sound of trumpet,
Far, far off the daybreak call—hark! how loud and clear I hear it wind,
Swift! to the head of the army!—swift! spring to your places,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

—Walt Whitman

Kurt Vile - "Baby's Arms"

Kurt Vile dropped his album Smoke Ring For My Halo back in March but I haven't paid much attention to it until now. I leave today for a week-long family vacation in Florida. This album will add to the trip's soundtrack. Check out my favorite song from the album so far. You can use the widget to download it yourself.

- Joel

Kurt Vile - Baby's Arms by Nialler9

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Photographer of the Day

© Ryan Tatar
Ryan Tatar. This photography is fitting considering the documentary about surfing I watched yesterday.

- Joel

© Ryan Tatar

© Ryan Tatar

A Murder Metaphor

I read this interview with Bill James, the inventor of baseball's sabremetrics who is also mildly obsessed with crime, regarding his new book Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence. In the book, James seeks to understand the criminal mind and analyzes our society's fascination with criminal activity. While the interview was about the book (one that actually sounds like something I'd enjoy reading), what stood out to me was a metaphor James used to describe how one might come to be a murderer. Though I don't know if James intended it to be interpreted this way, I see the metaphor as a profound description of how humans fall into any sin and personal moral failure. The following is the question by interviewer Chuck Klosterman and James' response:

Wait — are you suggesting the addiction to cocaine or heroin is greater than whatever internally stops us from committing murder?

Sure. But what I'm really trying to say is that this is probably how we need to think about these types of things: It is not as if we walk through one doorway and decide that murder is acceptable. You have to walk through many doorways. The first doorway leads to a party, where people are doing drugs and having fun. The second doorway leads to more partying. It's a long, long series of doorways, until you end up in a room where a terrible thing happens. So the question is, "How many doorways away are you?" It's not a question about a person's capacity to commit a murder. It's a question of how many doorways we keep between ourselves and that situation.
To fully appreciate the context of the metaphor, it would be helpful to read the full interview. Basically, James is describing how a drug addict might turn to murder to sustain his addiction. The idea is that we all possess the capacity to commit terrible acts - be it murder or some other type of personal moral failure. The likelihood of realizing our full capacity for wickedness increases as we allow certain events to take place or mindsets to be entertained. A drug addict who commits murder made many decisions (walked through many "doorways") along the way that ultimately presented murder as a viable option. This same idea could be applied to any sin and moral failure. The key is to keep as many doorways between ourselves and moral failure as possible. I find the practicality of James' metaphor to be powerful.

- Joel

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

180° South

I watched an excellent documentary today entitled 180° South. Inspired by a 1968 trip taken by outdoorsman Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins to the Patagonia region of Chile, a group of filmmakers and adventurers set out on a modern day version of the South American surfing/climbing expedition. The group encounters set backs along the way and the journey teaches them both about themselves and the world around them (standard documentary story line). I enjoyed the free-flowing spirit of the men willing to take a 6 month adventure as well as the breathtaking cinematography and Patagonia landscapes.

Yvon Chouinard, who founded the outdoor company Patagonia in the wake of his 1968 trip, had a quote in the film that I think will stick with me. He commented, "It's not an adventure until something goes wrong." As someone who doesn't like surprises and whose brain naturally forms contingency plans for every foreseeable outcome, I can learn a lot from Chouinard's take on adventure.

Check out the trailer below. The documentary is conveniently available for streaming on Netflix. I believe it came out in 2009 or 2010, but I just now got around to watching it.

- Joel

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


It's been a crazy week hence the hiatus from blogging. I ended my job in Kansas City last Thursday and spent most of the week boxing up my things. Over the weekend, with the help of my mom, sister, brother, and brother's girlfriend, I trucked my stuff 700 miles down Interstate 35 and into the Hyde Park neighborhood of Austin. Now I'll be enjoying the rest of summer floating between Kansas City, Watercolor (Florida), Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado), and Austin.

The first thing on my to-do list this week is to see Buck, a documentary about a man who in spirte of, or because of, an abusive past became a "horse-whisperer" of unparalleled genius. I'm a sucker for horse movies, however the horses in this film serve as a metaphor for something deeper and more meaningful. Check out the trailer below.

- Joel