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20th December 2007

3:20pm: best of 2007 #03: beirut - the flying club cup

#03: Beirut - The Flying Club Cup


The music is sort of like Romanian carnival music. There's fiddles, accordians, an elaborate, moody party going on. And then Zach weaves his effortless spell over it all, twisting his voice into songs that make you want to put your arm around your best friends and drink deeply from a dark and musty bottle of booze. It's music to lay in bed to. It's music to howl at the moon to. It's Beirut.

The very young and lovely voiced Zach Condon said about the band name:

One of the reasons I named the band after that city was the fact that it’s seen a lot of conflict. It’s not a political position. I worried about that from the beginning. But it was such a catchy name. I mean, if things go down that are truly horrible, I’ll change it. But not now. It’s still a good analogy for my music. I haven’t been to Beirut, but I imagine it as this chic urban city surrounded by the ancient Muslim world. The place where things collide.

Zach is a really young guy, and you can feel him still finding his footing as a songmaster, but he's getting there. It's almost like he has the passion and showmanship of a young Tom Waits, back when he used to sing, and not just growl. (Have it be noted, I love Tom, growly or otherwise.)

As for the meaning of The Flying Club Cup, I'll leave that to Zach to explain as well:

Back in the early 1900s...there used to be this hot air balloon festival in Paris--[the album's] titled after that and after this very bizarre 1910 photo I found [by Leon Gimpel]. It's one of the first color photos ever made, at the World's Fair, and it...shows all these ancient hot air balloons about to take off in the middle of Paris. I just thought it was the most surreal image I'd seen in a long time.

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10:30am: best of 2007 #04: panda bear - person pitch

#04: Panda Bear - Person Pitch


I tried to explain Person Pitch to someone for the first time like this: Imagine some gentle percussion and train sounds, with an echoey Beach Boys' Brian Wilson voice in the background.

Then I played it for the person and they nodded, "That was a pretty good description."

Well, it's a pretty good description so you have some point of reference, but it doesn't really describe the cornucopia of sounds you're going to get when you decide to dig into this one.

There isn't another album musically like it released this year. There's albums lower on the top ten that I've listened to far more, but I don't think listenability is the highest order. I think there's some kind of (beauty invention) equation that's important.

My favorite song is probably still "Take Pills". He says, "I don't want for us to take pills anymore (not that it's bad)." over and over again. Then, there's a watery rush and he explains why:

Take one day at a time
Anything more really hurts your mind
Only one thing at a time
Everything else you can leave behind
I don't want for us to
Take pills
Not that its bad
I don't want for us to take pills
Because we're stronger
And we don't need them

Imagine that with a bunch of harmonies and elevator dings, hand claps, hoots and maybe some tambourine and you get the general idea.

It sounds weird, and it is. Panda Bear is kind of a side project of people in Animal Collective, another band in the 'freak folk' realm, but where I find Animal Collective goes over the line of what's coherent and friendly, Panda Bear seems to make it all one unified whole. It teeters to the edge of noise sometimes, but mostly succeeds in being a both exciting and experimental album AND being a tender and real expression you can listen to with other people and not alienate them. It's a strange little jewel of an album, and it's my friend.

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19th December 2007

1:26pm: best of 2007 #05: radiohead - in rainbows

#05: Radiohead - In Rainbows


I hardly even feel qualified to review this album. It's been done elsewhere much better. The stylus review, the pitchfork review (where they joke about choosing your own rating), everyone's weighed in, and I'm just not a big enough Radiohead fan to place it so confidently in their pantheon. Most of the people reviewing it thing it's a great, humble return to form for the band that make OK Computer, but then lost their way with Kid A and Thom Yorke's solo album and their electronic noise noodling.

They say it's a vital, passionate, assured album by the band at the top of their powers. I agree. No one would be foolish enough to keep this off a top ten list for the year. I've probably listened to it more times than all of their other albums before. As an outsider, I'll say it... it sounds like they quit whining long enough to make the lovely music they're capable of.

Most of the way through the first song on the album, 15 Steps, some kids shout "YAY!" in the background, and I totally knew how they felt. It's a rousing start, and the first time I heard the third song, Nude, I knew I was in for something good. Suddenly I see what all the rabid fans were talking about all along.

Plus, they made the record industry quake in their boots, and that can't be bad.

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11:14am: best of 2007 #06: iron and wine - the shepherd's dog

#06: Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog


If folk music has a future, this is it. Here's a guy pulling together the history of country music, indie music, rock music and folk music. What he makes doesn't sound futuristic, it sounds like American music at it's best. I could still be listening to this album when I'm sixty.

Sam Beam has a beautiful voice, I'll give him that. I was never so impressed by him before, as it sounded like just another pretty voiced folk music guy. It really takes more than that to impress me. M. Ward did it last year with Post-War, winning me over with his sheer brilliant songwriting and explosively pretty guitar interludes. This year Sam Beam is the man to win me over, but for different reasons.

First of all, this is not just a guy with a guitar. This is an incredibly rich and harmonious instramentation: organs, steel guitars, an amazing mix of different percussion elements, and even a few electronic sounds thrown in there. But, it doesn't jar, and the whole album has a rich, unified sound. When I close my eyes and listen to this album it's like a golden grahams commercial, with pouring streams of honey colliding mid-air with tiny crunchy graham crackers. This is not a gimmick, this is a serious album. Whatever he was going for sonically, he nailed it on every track.

Next, this is some real, mature songwriting. You want to impress me? Write a song called Resurrection Fern and don't make it painfully obvious.

If you like your music straight-up beautiful and that's your highest ethic, then this album would have been #1 for you this year.

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18th December 2007

12:53pm: best of 2007 #07: the national - boxer

#07: The National - Boxer


Okay, I'm always going to be tempted to call them The Nationals, or American Mary, which they almost called themselves back in 2001.When I first heard this album I thought it was pretty boring. I thought their 2003 album, Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers was way more inspiring.

It has grown on me, though. I'll admit, my top 4 songs carry the whole album, but those songs are great! This guy reminds me vocally of The Magnetic Fields, but without so much of the debauch sexual brokenness. The National is so much more Springsteenlike: political, a little defeated, pretty damn rockin'. By the time they shout, accusingly: "You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends!", I'm hooked.

One of the songs I love is "Racing Like a Pro" and I just read the great Seattle music blog "Sound on the Sound" where I read that she and many of her readers made the same mistake I did. For days I had this in my head: "Your mind is racing like a pronoun." I thought for days about what such a lyric might mean, so impressed by it. Like, which pronoun? Did pronouns race? But no, that's not The National's style. The girl in the song's mind is racing like a pro, now. Oh god, that was a million years ago.

Note: Just found out Abbey at Sound on the Sound is a girl. Who knew?!

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8:53am: best of 2007 #08: amy winehouse - back to black

#08: Amy Winehouse - Back to Black


There is just no doubt that Amy Winehouse is a tremendous talent. I think that her bizarre life and substance abuse have somehow sullied her musical legacy in some people's eyes, but that's like saying Billie Holliday's musical legacy is somehow sullied because of her personal problems, and that's absurd. And yes, I think they approach being in the same league.

Amy is a songwriter and vocalist of the highest order. Her dark vision of the world matches her life, and it's as if a motown great of the 60's was transported to the present. If Amy survives her vices and personal problems and keeps making music like this, she will undoubtedly be considered one of the greatest pop female vocalists of all times. I tend to like Neko Case's less universal, more symbolic style of songwriting, but they are both very similar to me in terms of being the female vocalists that I'll chastise kids for not knowing about when I'm 60.

I did like Rehab and You Know I'm No Good when they came out, but the songs that I just find amazing these days are Me and Mr. Jones and Tears Dry on Their Own.

She shares a band with the similarly spectacular Sharon Jones (the Dap-Kings) and their new albums are remarkably comparable. I didn't hear Sharon's new album until pretty recently so it hasn't had as much time to grow on me, but to me, Sharon Jones fell short of the almost explosive brilliance of the best of Amy Winehouse. Maybe another dozen listens will change my mind. I don't care, I'm glad music like this is getting made today. This is a dirty, dirty, beautiful album.

If you already love this album, she just finally released her first album, Frank, in the US. It's no Back to Black, but it's still awesome

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17th December 2007

2:45pm: best of 2007 #09: minus the bear - planet of ice

#09: Minus the Bear - Planet of Ice


The only person I know who was into Minus the Bear before this album doesn't like this album. She says it sounds like "something you'd hear on the END", basically generic alterna-rock. I listened to one of their older albums and it sounds just as much like it would fit in there.

In spite of that, I love this album and can't get enough of it. I have to admit, part of that is because it's so blandly listenable. The lyrics are poetic and evoke some sort of strange medieval journey. They've been compared to older prog rock like Rush or Yes, but I like how much less cheesy it is. There's some amazing guitar work, and the whole thing has a bit of an epic feel, but they don't do any 13 minute solos or anything. It just keeps moving and I feel a little twinge of regret when the journey is over and have to decide if I just want to play it again or not.

The vocalist, Jake Snyder, has a damn fine voice, and just keeps it easygoing and a little mysterious. I don't know what these songs are about exactly and he seems to like it that way.

They're local boys, and when this album was released, they did the record release party at the laserama here in Seattle with a little custom laser show. I remember thinking that was cool when it came out, but now that I'm into the album I'm kicking myself that I didn't get to see it. The Planet of Ice Laser Show would have been awesome.

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10:11am: best of 2007 #10: mos def - tru3 magic

#10: Mos Def - Tru3 Magic


Normally I hate songs like There is a Way, for just the reason Mos Def says at the beginning of the song, "This song only has four lyrics," but then he says why he would make such a song, "but this is what we really need to be singing right now." The lyrics, in case you were curious are:

There is a way, no matter what they say
Don't give up, don't give in.

He sings it like he means it. Just like the Beatles Let It Be where they sing those words probably 50 times. They make every time count. I tried to sing it in karaoke one time and let me tell you, it's harder than it sounds.

I had given up on Mos Def a little, although I always loved his voice, probably one of the straight-up loveliest in hip-hop. But Mos Def is a smart guy and I shouldn't have written him off. Almost everyone I gave music to this year (who likes hip hop) came back to me later and said: hey, I really liked the Mos Def.

It's not too hard to see why, because this album MOVES. His rhymes are good, his singing is amazing, and he zigs where a lot of hip hop zags. Not too much hip hop is so pretty and still makes you think. He stumbles a little in songs like Thug is a Drug, but makes up for it in great songs like Sun, Moon & Stars, and his Liquid Swords tribute Crime and Medicine. It's hilarious to hear him crooning softly GZA's impaired slogan, "To snort cocaine, and act insane" so sweet and regretfully.

Oh, and the 3 is because it's his 3rd album. I like the minimal packaging too... a soft plastic case with no paper, just the CD. Pretty damn good album, but it's at #10 for a reason. On the whole it's not a masterpiece, the whole album doesn't quite rise above the sum of its parts. Still, Undeniable and Sun, Moon and Stars is going in my permanent party rocking list.

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14th December 2007

12:38pm: 10 Albums For the Ages: 2007

I know how to navigate the sea of technology and download just about any newly released album I want to hear, sometimes even before the official release date of the album. And I do. I download and listen to almost any album I'm interested in, probably 50 or 60 albums in any given year.

There's no way I would ever purchase all these albums. If there were no other way to get them, I would listen to probably 1/10th of the new music I do listen to. Instead, I listen to many things I would otherwise never hear. I think about who would like the albums, and I tell people about them. The people I love, I go see live. I have a hard time believing that these artists would have it some other way, but I could be wrong.

I consider myself a kind of music journalist, and these copies of music to be advance copies. I go out of my way to promote the music I really believe in, and consider it my payment for the music.

This year in particular I listened to a tremendous number of albums, and as I started to look around at some emerging top ten lists for the year, and I saw that I had listened to at least half the albums on most people's lists, and I started to think maybe I should assemble and do write-ups on my own top ten albums of the year list.

My list is finally ready, and I'm going to post a countdown of my top ten and do a small (pretty much glowing) review of each album. Then you can feel the incredible tension as you begin to stay up wondering what albums made THE CUT and which albums didn't.

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9th December 2007

9:15pm: the sauce


Considering there has to be some kind of incredible reason for me to buy a wine over $20, I would not consider myself a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination. To me it's just something nice to drink by itself and I've never been good at noticing a wine pairs particularly well with food. I don't even like to drink alcohol with food. I like coke. I know, I'm a philistine. If I order a beer before I eat at a restaurant I'll usually stop drinking it when my food comes.

So, as simplistic as this wine probably is, goddamn it's about as tasty a wine as I've had. I mean, I've had some pretty good wine but I can just sip or slam this stuff. It tastes like blueberry deliciousness and it's not Boone's Farm simple or anything. Yum. It's Layer Cake 2006 Shiraz. Lots of people love it, but this guy about had an apoplexy over the marketing campaign (note he hadn't tried the wine).

I'm more of a beer lover usually, but this fall it's been all about the wines. Mostly because I don't like those sweetsy winter style ales. I prefer the clean, crisp spring beers. The one that's out right now that I'm loving, I've only seen in 22oz. bottles but it was a pleasant surprise. I love Descutes Brewery but still was stunned at how much of a beer I like this Hop Trip IPA. It's clean and hoppy and just oh so drinkable. It comes close to being as perfect as the Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA in pure yumminess. On their website they call it "the session beer for beer geeks" and I think both Hop Trip and the 60 minute fall into that category.

I did discover the amazing taps of Seattle's Brouwer's this week where they oh my god have Rasputin Imperial Stout on nitro (basically that means "like guinness", only this beer is a lot more hard core than Guinness).

I did also have the Corsendock X-Mas 2007 beer. Belgians and winter seasonals aren't really my thing, but I have to admit I was impressed. The Corsendock Abbey Pale was a little more to my liking.

Whoo. Who knew I was such a lush! I could have written about beer for another page or so. Here's to the sauce!

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6:50pm: the garden is closed

Without the expert guidance of my ex, Zan, my garden was not as productive or pleasing as last year. I love her garden help, but it always ends in tears, so I'm on my own, right?

I started potatoes too late and barely got any yield. I didn't start garlic at all and so I won't have any next year. It's hard for me to put garden tasks in my life workflow. It's just hard!

But, I finally pulled everything out, and as soon as I mulch, it will be closed for the year. I wish I had a garden consultant to help me make a schedule for times of year and garden planning, because I love to keep a garden and it keeps me sane. I have a feeling next year I'm really gonna need it.

When I dug out my paltry crop of potatoes, I also dug out my experiment: garnet yams. To me there are few foods more delicious than roasted garnet yams. Some I had on my counter this year sprouted so I planted them. They made very pretty plants, but the roots they produced were tiny. I heard they really grow best in more tropical climes.

I like to just grow greens and potatoes, because that's what I most like to eat. Radishes are so easy to grow but I don't like them in much. They are great in simple taco-truck tacos though with a little lime and mild radish. I have to think of some other stuff to grow. Cherry tomatoes are cool and easier to grow than big tomatoes. Green beans and such don't seem to yield enough. I started some blueberries and that's awesome but they're permanent. If I had my own house I would probably line one whole side of my yard with blueberry bushes. Carrots didn't seem to do too well. What do people grow anyway?

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3rd December 2007

8:56am: a small, foggy update

I wanted to wait and post photos of my hood but there's so many little projects on my home computer I thought I'd at least post a small update. The question of the hour is really, "how's the job". I wish I had something more interesting to talk about honestly, but there it is. If I tell people when they ask, then they start to snore.

I don't blame them. I write software for librarians. It's cool for people who really care about how data is organized, but not to anyone else.

There's things that don't have anything to do with coding though. Today, on the rainiest day in Seattle in awhile, I can look out my window on this early morning and see the fog over queen anne hill in my little perch. I'm getting paid well to work at a company that makes money, and I have a nice computer and some pretty sweet workmates.

There's some frustrations with working this way, and slogging through all the red tape to get anything done, but I can learn how to work on such a slow-moving ship. It's not too bad.

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25th September 2007

1:27am: beerspective
This is my favorite photo I've taken in a while:

A Little Perspective at the Red Door

And: self portrait with bricks:

brickwall 005

23rd August 2007

4:11am: sweet tooth

lik-m-aid was like a stick of semi hard sugar with packets of pixie stick dust to eat them in. It was like a top tier candy for me and my sister.

The caramel candy bars we sold in our middle school. Vicious, addictive. I think I bought my whole box. Caramello is okay, but those things were pure bliss, I had a whole system for eating them.

Mainly now it's just chocolate and chocolate ice cream. And chocolate gelato. I don't hate green tea tiramisu, or regular tiramisu either.

I also love spumoni. Spumoni is the weird bright three layer ice cream they only serve at down home Italian restaurants. Chocolate, cherry and... the green is pistachio supposedly. Neopolitan sucks though as far as I'm concerned. Vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. There's a Simpson's episode where Homer eats out all the chocolate from a quart box of Neopolitan and says, "Marge, we need more chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream!"

If I had to choose though, probably sushi over all of it.

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25th July 2007

2:28am: i can rap

I want a band called AAA Aardvark. It would be like the phone book entry of band names. Someone would always buy our album because it would be the first item in the stack and more people would notice it.

Or, my rapper name is Anvil Esquire. That would still be in the A's for sure. Maybe my band could be called AAA AArdvark presents Anvil Esquire.

I can rap.

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23rd July 2007

11:55pm: what is to be done with the tinyblog

Poor old girl, limping along, hardly anything to say except a photo now and then.

DrinkyCrow 004

This one's an old one from not that long after burning man. My man Todd right here made The Crow Bar on the internet. He is the O.G. Drinky Crow. When this motherfucker says The Abyss is Calling..., he means it. I'd take this opportunity to call him a fucking goth, but he might respond by calling me a fucking hippie, and I don't know if I can take that anymore.

july2007 027

It's been a nice, hot summer.

july2007 042

Punk rock ferry worker.

I suppose I should redo the categories so people can find the coolest of the old posts. It's on my list. And damn lucky to be there.

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12th July 2007

5:17pm: dream warrior

Wow. Writing down my last dream worked.

I took a nap this morning after getting up and watering the garden, and slipped into one of the most amazing lucid dreams I have ever had. I have had lucid dreams occasionally my whole life, and when I hit lucidity, the first thing I think to do is often to fly. I love lucidity in dreams but I often try so hard to change the fabric of the dream that I wake up. This time I was able to keep it on the downlow and play in the dream and basically see it to its conclusion.

So, who knows how dreams really begin, but I became aware of it when I was traveling with my friend Vicki (name changed to protect the not-so-innocent). We were traveling through some kind of modern airport or travel station. We were just waiting around idly talking, and at some point we pulled out our bags and repacked them a little.

When my sister was here and we went to Portland I packed a bunch of her stuff in my bag, and there was a sleeping bag of hers in my bag as I repacked it. I don't remember exactly how we got to our destination but it turned out to be Burning Man! Vicki had never been before and she was going for her first time with me. Next thing I remember we were picking out a site for her tent. It was near some railroad tracks and totally was in a more temperate setting with grass, but it was totally Burning Man anyway.

Vicki left for a little while once we got the tent set up and I realized I hadn't really planned on coming to Burning Man. I knew I'd be fine, but I just had brought plain clothing and didn't have ANY costumes or even food. I was like, "What was I thinking?! Now I'm going to have to take the bus into Empire and buy all of my food there." There really is a store in Empire, and it's more than a convenience store but a little less than a grocery store. I was a little dismayed but I knew I'd work it out.

I also realized our tent location wasn't the greatest. It was right on a major thoroughfare and lots of people were walking by. It was a very screeny tent with some kind of cupola at the top. It started raining a little and it was starting to drip right into the tent. Vicki came back and we started to get comfortable and I set aside my concerns for a moment. After a little nap, however, I told her about the impending trip we were going to need to take and my sudden bout of practical thinking.

That was pretty much the end of the Burning Man portion of the event, however, and I don't remember any transportation, but we ended up in some kind of very pretty, very modern city like Vancouver or Dubai or something. It had lovely glass skyscrapers mixed with some other kinds of modern, well-built buildings. We were basically just here to enjoy ourselves and, I think, to find a coffee shop.

While we were in the cement stairwell of some building it suddenly occurred to me that I was dreaming. I felt happy and excited at the opportunity to have a lucid dream. I was curious how my dream version of Vicki would respond, and was pretty sure now that I knew she was kind of an automaton that she would not be able to really acknowledge her unreality.

I told Vicki and thought she'd be interested (like she would in real life) or give some kind of witty comeback. I teased her about being a construct of my mind, but she was already clearly an Automaton and not able to respond meaningfully about her own lack of independent existence.
I wanted to stay asleep so I didn't do anything too tricky, just went along with her, looking around at the vivid and complex surroundings... noticing only some faint spots of blurriness, but basically just as real as real life.

Eventually we got to our destination: some kind of strange café. The café was located in the bottom floor of a large business-like office building. Basically in a kind of jutting-out portion of the building and it had its own high raised ceiling with a huge skylight. It was pretty, and was set up as just 3 or 4 huge long tables and huge long couches. Lots of people were sitting at the tables, but no one had coffee. They were just sort of discussing and hanging out.

Right as we got there, there was some big restructuring of chairs and couches, and two massive couches were laid out facing each other with a small coffee table in between. A few people sat at them, including me, and one end. There were a few people on the long couch and I thought about socializing with them, but the atmosphere really was sort of stolid and boring, and the effort of doing something so mundane finally struck me as silly and I knew I needed to go.

"Fuck this," I said, "I'm gonna go fly now. You'll see me as I pass over the the ceiling."

I ran outside and thought, "am I going to be able to do this?"

I reached for the sky and sort of leapt like I do, and up I went. I could sense that my control wasn't totally pixel perfect, but it was enough to fly straight over the building like I'd said once I gained altitude. I thought I'd be able to see them and the skylight, but the building had a bunch of different skylights, and although I flew right over the center of the building I wasn't able to see for sure that I'd flown over that skylight.

The city was very detailed and shiny and movie/videogame like in its interestingness and vivid colors and shapes. It was like a Spiderman movie set in Portland or Vancouver or something. I was so glad it didn't stop the dream to go ahead and flaunt the rules of reality and be totally aware of myself and my actions like this. I felt the tremendous freedom, joy and privilege of being able to fly like this and experience it.

I flew over rooftops and did some experimentation, but the flying seemed to take more and more effort as time went on. It first I just was able to control my direction less and less well, and finally really wasn't able to maintain altitude. I remember I tried a little exercise where I looked up above me and saw a mass of electrical or telephone wires and tried leaping off one roof and having enough control to weave my way in between them and land on a higher roof. I did get up to the higher roof but totally blew the tightly controlled movements. So, I contented myself to just explore by walking on the roof.

It was some kind of terra cotta tiled roof, several stories up. It had round thick clean tiles. It was a fairly sharp angle like a house roof, but with some additional little cupolas and spires. I had a very good view of the rest of the city from here and saw it stretching out before me.
I marveled then at this world before me, that I had created somehow, but that I never would have imagined consciously. It didn't SEEM like it came from me and here I was exploring it just like if I was doing it with my real body. I looked around at the colors and shapes, feeling all the similarities with differences between it and my normal waking experience.
I don't recall any smells or sounds or other senses really, but a vivid visual sense for sure. I noticed that there was a little bit of glitchiness to it, however. If I looked right at things they had visual consistency but anything I wasn't looking directly at could easily shift and change. Also, I saw sort of shimmering blurry spots in my vision. I could tell my brain just couldn't make as consistent a reality as waking life could. I was so delighted and amazed, and I thought, "Can I really doubt that the waking work is any less of a dream than this?" and I felt a great sureness that it was so.

It seemed like people did come up here, for some kind of utility maintenance and maybe for other reasons as well. There were some kinds of signs up on walls and such. One was some kind of sign with a portrait of a person… a cartoonish individual who looked like some kind of bearded samurai pirate with a big curly white wig. It was very strange and looked like some video game character. Like… I don't know, Dr. Robotnik or something. I didn't really give it too terribly much thought, but did notice that he looked a little ominous.

There were a few other signs. One was some kind of chrome utility plaque with black writing engraved on it. I had heard that if you're not sure you're in a dream to read a sign, then turn away for a moment and read it again. If it remains static then you're probably not in a dream.
So, I read the sign sort of, and tried to read it again. I realized I hadn't really got what it said the first time, so I tried several more times to read it. It seemed like it was changing subtly every time but I never looked at it long enough to comprehend its real message. Finally when I looked at it the fourth or fifth time I recognized its message. I can't remember it exactly but its gist was:

"Message #5: You have exhausted the entertainment value of this sign for today. Please move along."

"Ok, ha ha ha, Daniel's brain, I get it," I thought, and I did indeed move on and start to think about my next move.

Before I could really start to explore further, something happened that I was SO NOT EXPECTING. I started to walk over the crest of the roof when someone appeared at the bottom of the roof. I immediately recognized him as the villainous person in the poster. It occurred to me that it was probably some kind of wanted poster or something and I was surprised that it didn't recognize the importance of him in the dream when I saw the sign. It was just another sign.

And now here he was trying to kill me. His deadly intent was immediately apparent and I realized he was some kind of master assassin and was going to waste absolutely no time in trying to kill me as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

Even though he was clearly armed to the teeth, I felt very prepared and a great deal of confidence in engaging him in mortal combat. I had a moment where I wondered how hard I should try to avoid killing him in order to keep my vow of non-killing. But, some kind of instinct took over. Even though I had almost no fear, since I knew my life was not really at stake, I knew I should fight confidently and that it was okay in terms of my vow. This person was an aspect of me, or just part of some drama that needed to be played out.

When he saw me, he immediately ran towards me at full speed, only pausing to level his gun at me. It was some kind of arrow or harpoon gun that didn't seem to involve combustion. He fired at me and I ducked around the other side of the rooftop and got low, waiting to spring upon him when he crested it.

I did defend myself as cunningly and cool headedly as I could imagine. As soon as he came in sight I grabbed hold of his gun or one of its projectiles and shoved it smoothly into his body, probably the shoulder. He barely registered the damage. He pulled out a katana from its scabbard and pulled back for his strike. However, before he could even pull back, I grabbed his hand and without hesitation used it to plunge the entire length of the katana into his chest, wounding him mortally.

I stepped back a bit and he made his final move, again immediately. He pulled some large dagger from his coat and whipped it at me with great precision. It spun end over end perfectly towards me in sort of matrixy time.

Some part in me wanted to see what was going to happen and did not stop the dagger, was just waiting to see what happened. I was of slightly mixed feeling and moved half-heartedly out of the way, but I just had the feeling that I should be at the mercy of the internal logic of my dream. Nowhere in any of this did I feel any fear or hesitation, only a feeling of joy that I was getting to experience this.

What happened next is not totally clear. I was not 100% sure of the outcome, and I did feel the scene blank out a little. I did not experience getting struck and I sort of felt like I might have been able to dodge the dagger and I might not have.

Then I saw what I can only describe as a "game over" screen from a video game. I saw a black background, and lying in some kind of spotlight was what appeared to be a kind of cartoon-like chunk of a part of someone's head, in a pool of blood, and the ornate dagger lying beside it. I realized that indicated I had probably not dodged the dagger, even though it still seemed like I might have.

I was so excited at the dream, and didn't feel like it had anything to offer me. "I guess it's time to wake up now," I thought, and I did immediately. I sleepily ran over to the computer and sketched out as many notes as I could about the experience. What could such a dream mean? It felt so hopeful and fearless and auspicious the whole time.

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24th June 2007

1:05am: i had a dream...

Anyone who knows me knows I don't remember dreams very often. Like, almost never. So when I do, it's very notable. This is probably the first dream I've remembered in over six months. Many people have said to write them down, but we'll see how well that works.

I was sleeping on the couch yesterday morning when my sister woke me up, "Daniel," she said calmly, "I'm pregnant." I'm like, "whaaat? you should take a pregnancy test."

She reaches behind her and shows me the pregnancy test... the blue line is vivid and visible.

I wake up on the couch. She's several feet away in her nun's robes, practicing dharma.

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19th June 2007

12:09am: chöpa nadun

ChopaNadun 015

After my sister and I went downtown, I went to a business meeting, and then we had a wicked Italian lunch at the Pink Door.

Then, when we got home, our retreat started. We are not leaving the hood until Thursday.

She said it would be nice to clean the shrine and do a nice offering, so we did a traditional offering called a chöpa nadun. It's a symbolic offering you do in the bowls normally used for water offering. They represent the eight offerings you'd make to an honored guest in ancient India: drinking water, water for washing the feet, flowers, incense, light, perfume, elegant food, and music.

ChopaNadun 002

So, I meticulously cleaned the shrine table, infused the water with saffron and made a little flower arrangement in one of the tiny bowls. While I was doing this, she made this traditional food offering sculpture made out of outmeal, food coloring, toothpicks, and mostly butter. It was pretty cool to watch her sculpt the butter and mix all these colors in ice water. It was a great effort and it came out looking so pretty.

ChopaNadun 008

Now my shrine looks so authentic and we can have a little retreat.

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17th June 2007

2:45am: the prodigal sister

Wangmo n Me

It's very late, and I am doing my normal computery thing and Wangmo / Elisabeth my sister / lama is doing the practices she needs to do before she goes to bed. She read to me for almost an hour from a cool book, and we ate mini-raviolis and also a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was very drippy. She's here until the 4th of July and she will be staying at my house.

Starting Monday, we're going to do a three day retreat here at the house. I still will be having work periods, but the rest of the time we'll be practicing and watching a teaching she has on DVD. I won't be available by IM or phone, just email. Then, on Thursday we'll end the retreat and be out and about.

We've made plans with several people to have dinner in the evenings and such. I had thought to organize some kind of little public talk but didn't have a fantastic time coming up with a venue... there are a lot of people I know that wanted to meet her so I'm thinking about having a little BYOB BBQ at my house on a weeknight... probably on July 2nd or 3rd. Anyone have any preference?

I'm glad she's here. I've been pretty lonely in the house and it's nice to have family here. There's certain cultural contexts that just me and her really understand. Even before she got into buddhism she was a sweetheart. Now she's a tough sweetheart

Anyone not see the photos of her coming out of retreat? Or didn't read my article about her going into retreat? I didn't think so.

Wangmo n Me

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14th June 2007

12:03am: yep, I'm a Chicago boy
I'm impressed.  They had me nailed dead to rights.

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)Northern
You have a Northern accent. That could either be the Chicago/Detroit/Cleveland/Buffalo accent (easily recognizable) or the Western New England accent that news networks go for.
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17th May 2007

12:32am: goo, pickle!

behold my teenage friend:

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23rd April 2007

12:15am: that's a blast from the past

I just read the Stranger's four star review of Amy Winehouse's black to black, where it mentions a youtube video of her singing a duet of Beat It.

Anyway, of course I immediately listen to it. My mom is sleeping in the other room but I turn it low.

It's crazy... she sings it in this really wacky experimental way... perhaps just to piss off her incredibly well-groomed co-duet singer. As the stranger reviewer points out, even though she seems a little wacky about it, I think it's on purpose, and she's pitch perfect.

I listen to it quietly, but I hear her stir as the song ends. "Sorry mom," I say.

"That's a blast from the past," she says, mostly asleep.

A pause, then, "I was dreaming about Robin."

"Old Robin or new Robin?"

"Old Robin." (Then something about why it's silly I'd think she'd be dreaming of new Robin).

I thought about it for a second, "What did she say?"

"She didn't say anything," my mom said, with a DUH tone in her voice, "she was listening to Beat It."

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19th April 2007

11:49pm: this is so amazing to me

I'm tremendously appreciative to whoever did TheBudgetGraph.com. They publish a visual poster illustrating in a very simple way how the vast monster that is the US. federal discretionary budget is chopped up this year.

Sound exciting? Oh I thought it would. But it really is amazing. I seriously would love to see this put up in every classroom wall in the United States. Let's face it, that's not going to happen.

But, while you have a chance: take a look at what you're paying for. This is what you voted for (I speak to ye as something close anyway to a majority).

From the site:

"The poster provides a uniquely revealing look at our national priorities, that fluctuate yearly, according to the wishes of the President, the power of Congress, and the will of the people. If you pay taxes, then you have paid for a small part of everything in the poster."

The online version of the poster itself also lets you zoom in on it like a fractal, or google maps of a distant land.

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