18 July 2010

win a yuengling lager hat, help the children.

My Big Brother got me into bikes.  He sent me the link to Copenhagen Cycle Chic, has done his fair share of in-person and over the phone maintenance on my bikes, and every month we report our miles to each other.  Bikes: they are what we do.

I'm pretty proud of BB-- not only is he a strong advocate for cycling in our hometown of Tacoma, Washington, but he set some pretty big goals for himself this summer to bike for charity.  So far he's completed the Puyallup Valley Wheels to Meals ride (75 miles in one day!) and the Seattle Livestrong challenge (100 miles in one day!).  He's now coming upon the last leg of his quest for velo-powered do-goodery-- the Courage Classic.  3 mountain passes in 3 days. 174 miles.  Why? FOR THE CHILDREN.  Or, as BB put it:

The Courage Classic Bicycle Tour is a fundraising ride that benefits the Rotary Endowment for the Intervention and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.  This endowment is the largest single source of funding for the Child Abuse Intervention Department at Mary Bridge Children's Hospitalin Tacoma.  For the third consecutive year, I will be riding my tiny bicycle over three large mountain passes in an effort to raise money for this cause and to Stop the Cycle of Abuse.
BB knows that by a lot of small contributions, great things can be done FOR THE CHILDREN.  

What does this mean for you?

If you donate just 5 bucks FOR THE CHILDREN (just the cost of a decent beer!!) you get entered in a drawing to win this fat / phat swag package:

Which includes also this sweet Tacoma Rainiers jersey:

and a handmade Rainier Beer hat:


If you donate more than $5, you get entered in the drawing for every $5 you donate.  And if you-- the winner-- are from the mid-Atlantic (holla!), BB has made a special offer-- he will replace the Rainier hat with a custom made YUENGLING LAGER HAT.  As you may recall, only ballers get to wear them:

So what are you waiting for? Click here to win-- and to donate to a great cycling event that does a lot for a community in need.  Do it FOR THE CHILDREN.

Raffle ends August 9th at 4pm Pacific time.  Don't wait! Rules and raffle info are available here.

17 July 2010

great melanies in popular culture.

It's funny-- I've been thinking about this post for a couple of days, and then a very successful filmmaker friend of mine emails me today to tell me he's naming a character after me in a script he's writing-- not because the character and I are all that much alike, but because the name sounds right.  Let us review some of the great Melanies of popular culture, real and fictional, who often bear little resemblance to the name's meaning-- "dark."

Melanie Hamilton, Gone With the Wind, 1939
Good... pure...... helpless...self-abnegating... one of literature's biggest doormats, really.  Miss Mellie serves as a foil to the evil Scarlet.  I can't think of any good quotes for her because she is totally spineless.

Melanie, Rabbit is Rich, 1981
I've been working my way through Updike's Rabbit tetraology this summer.  Updike is far and away my favorite author, so you can imagine my pleasure at finding a character called Melanie in the series' third book.  Melanie comes home with Rabbit's son Nelson from college at Kent State.  A Californian unfamiliar with small-town Pennsylvania, she throws the family for a loop with her happy embrace of 70s trends-- she gets the whole Angstrom family eating wheat germ and studies various yogis in between rides on her 12 speed Fuji bicycle, her curly red hair flying in the wind.  

My favorite quote about Melanie occurs as the family discusses her impending arrival--
"We don't know the girl is a slut," Harry apologizes.  "All we know is her name is Melanie instead of Susan." 

"Melanie" by Wierd Al Yankovic, 1988

Well, he's stalking her... so that's not creepy at all. But you can't help but like the song.
(true confession: I once went to a Weird Al concert with my filmmaker friend. Everything comes full circle!)

UPDATE: Photo evidence of Weird Al singing to me:

Melanie Griffeth, film actress

I haven't really seen anything she was in other than Now and Then but  Antonio Banderas wasn't such a bad catch in the 1990s.

Melanie Chisholm and Melanie Brown, members of Spice Girls, mid-90s
Not one but two Spice Girls were named Melanie.  Sporty Spice and Scary Spice never really appealed to my middle-school sensibilities (I was Team Baby Spice all the way, as my blonde loyalty knows no bounds).  Nonetheless, a good excuse to post a Spice Girls video on my blog.

Melanie Ralston, Jackie Brown, 1997
Nobody talks about this Tarantino flick very much, but Bridget Fonda's beachy surfer-stoner Melanie is endearing.  As is Samuel L. Jackson's line:
"You can always trust Melanie to be Melanie." 

Melanie Smooter, Sweet Home Alabama, 2002
I like this Melanie.  I mean, what's not to like?  A sassy fashion designer with tons of gumption played by turn-of-the-century star Reese Witherspoon.  Sure, she's kind of a liar, but she comes around, right?  And she can't help but keep snagging good looking guys.  Unfortunately, this movie coined the term "Melanie taco," a practice I've been in the middle of on more than one occasion (by guys; guys would never admit to watching this movie).

Ok, that was all of the Melanies I could muster. Did I forget any?

13 July 2010

admiral fell promises.

Ok, I promise, this is the last of the Sun Kil Moon fangirl posts.  You can expect no objectivity from me-- I think you should buy this album.  I think you should play it all the time-- in your car, as you lay on your couch, as you put your children to sleep.  While you weed, on your towel at the beach, with a cocktail on the plane, while you smoke cigarettes on your porch.  You should shut your eyes when you listen to it.

So how do I really feel?

I've been listening to Admiral Fell Promises all weekend. We moved into our new place in South Philly on Friday afternoon and woke up to pounding rain, a dripping ceiling, and flooded patio space on Saturday morning.  Not that I really noticed the chaos-- with this album on I felt completely tranquil, drifting, dreamy, placid.  

This album is not like other Mark Kozelek albums.  I had a hard time getting used to April (Kozelek's previous album)-- I would listen to "Lost Verses" (my favorite song oƒ all time) but couldn't get into the dark sadness of many of the songs until winter hit. Admiral Fell Promises is more neutral.  I wouldn't go as far as saying it's more lyrically hopeful, but the music is brighter, more summer-y.  This has a lot to do with the minimalism of the production-- the entire album is just Kozelek and a guitar.  His strumming is lighter than on previous albums.  After listening to all of that clunky Red House Painters stuff, this album is absolutely elegant.  There is nothing rock and roll about Admiral Fell Promises-- the tone on much of the album is minstrel-like as the long songs sometimes fade into each other, almost indistinguishable from each other.  If you're looking for something quiet, something relaxing, something low-key but still stimulatingly complex, this album will fit the bill.  

You can stream the whole album here.

Probably my favorite tracks from the album:

From the more articulate peanut gallery:
"Regardless of how it's credited, Admiral Fell Promises treats music as a retreat, allowing Kozelek to stand apart form the world and nurse his own disappointments. That safe haven, even more than his descriptive songwriting or eloquently downcast vocals, is crucial to his appeal, allowing the listener to slip into his perspectives, to see these vistas through his eyes, and to feel the ache of his regrets. For an artist who's notoriously difficult to pin down, that sense of refuge is remarkable, as is the fact that two decades into his career, Kozelek is still finding new inspirations."

"...Not only do his lyrics sound like the words of a man pondering his darker moments, but his solitary guitar further underscores that loneliness. That guitar work, though, is where Kozelek truly shines; his subtle plucking ripples beneath the vocals, flirting with his melodies as they create trancelike seances that stretch for the length of his compositions.
Even as Koz himself sounds bleak, his guitar work carries an entrancing energy. "Third and Seneca" finds Kozelek reminiscing about his travels — Oregon, Seattle, Denver and so on — his voice capturing hazy snippets of his journey. He conveys a roadweariness and homesickness that's universally felt and understood. At the same time, his lilting guitar melodies don't sound nearly so desperate; their cascading repetition evokes the feeling of daydreaming while looking out the window at passing landscapes. It's an unusual — and unspoken — juxtaposition, as he blends the buoyancy of his instrumentation with the isolation of his lyrics."

08 July 2010

san geronimo.

My new Sun Kil Moon album has shipped! I'm am still so excited!  I am especially thrilled that the album comes with an additional 4 song LP (indeed, the deal was why I bought the actual CD, something I haven't done in years). Mark Kozelek is very good to his fans.  While Sun Kil Moon puts out studio albums as the mood dictates, Kozelek puts out live albums pretty regularly.

My favorite of these is 7 Songs Belfast.  Its offerings are a good representation of what I have in my embarrassingly large library of the man's music- a lot of covers and rearranged versions of songs from Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters' studio albums.  The song "Michigan" is heartbreakingly beautiful-- lyrically, it may be one of his best songs.  

I love that you can listen to songs you know from earlier albums- like "San Geronimo" fron RHP's Ocean Beach- and get something completely different.  Then you can go back and forth over which one you like better.  Geeky, I know.

I can't find anything from 7 Songs Belfast up on youtube (is it enough just to talk about how good it is?), so indulge me with this cut from Ocean Beach that I can't stop diggin' on:

04 July 2010

america, america.

I love America.  I love that the Fourth of July is the day I get to wave my nationalist freak flag, let my patriotic cup overflow with stars and stripes and eagles, and permit tears come right to the surface when I hear "America, The Beautiful."

I love that I've lived in so many parts of this great nation.  From my earliest years in the heartland of Oklahoma to growing up amidst Washington's evergreens, to my collegiate journey amongst the arid mountain vistas of Utah to the gritty urbanity of Philadelphia.  These places and the people I've known in them have made me who I am--O beautiful for spacious skies / For amber waves of grain / For purple mountain majesties /Above the fruited plain!
America! America! / God shed His grace on thee / And crown thy good with brotherhood /From sea to shining sea!

I love that America was a place my ancestors wanted to come to- from the minister who came to Virginia's red soil in the 1740s from Ireland to my great-grandfather who came from Denmark as a young man, working in dairies as he made his way west-- O beautiful for pilgrim feet / whose stern impassion'd stress / thoroughfare for freedom beat / Across the wilderness.

I love that the history of America is my life's work.  I love it for all its flaws and missteps, in spite of its shameful inequalities and slow progress towards change.  I love getting a sense of what mattered to Americans, understanding how their dreams and vision shaped the world we live in today.  I love that our Constitution provides us with freedom of expression, equal protection, and the opportunity to vote and elect representatives-- America! America! / God mend thine ev'ry flaw / Confirm thy soul in self-control / Thy liberty in law.

I love that America is a country that people in my family have fought for.  From the Revolutionary War to the right and wrong sides of the Civil War to Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, my people have been there, giving all.  I am so proud of my mom, a courageous servicewoman who sacrifices every single day to contribute to the cause of freedom-- O beautiful for heroes prov'd in liberating strife / who more than self their country loved / and mercy more than life.  

I love that this country gives me hope.  I love the sense that things are going to get better and brighter, that opportunity is just around the corner.  I love coming home after trips abroad.  I love our past, our present, our future, is proud, persistant, and promising because we are Americans.  I love that my dad put a seventeen foot flagpole in our front yard, I love seeing the flag hanging in my window, I love to see it waving from the back of my brother's bike. I love everything that America is to me-- America! America! / May God thy gold refine / Till all success be nobleness / And ev'ry gain divine.
O beautiful for patriot dream/ That sees beyond the years / Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!

(lyrics from here)

01 July 2010


Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow, 
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sun on ripened grain, 
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

The day we buried my grandfather last spring, I thought my grief was complete.  

As a family we had borne each blow within the short span of a season. Illness, diagnosis, acceptance, decline, passing, viewing, and burial, bookended by the hope of spring and its fruition in bright bursts of rhododendron.  After all of the processing, planning, and tears, the three poignant blasts of the honor guard's guns signaled with intensity of the completion of the old man's journey.  I could feel no greater sorrow, no deeper sense of loss.  In that moment, I thought I was to walk ahead without him.


I don't know that I really accept what religion tells us about dying.  The content, to a degree, satisfies me.  The notion that families can be together forever, true or untrue, seems to speak to the continuity that I feel.  Memory is persistant, and while a day may be the difference between having a grandfather and not, the feeling of being a grandchild is everlasting.  

Yet religion doesn't speak to the second life my grandfather has taken in the material.  It's surprised me, the way I see him daily as I pass the small veteran's memorial by my house.  Eating a hot dog, his favorite food, is an act of tribute.  Some days I feel he pulls me to my favorite spot, the one facing west.  The one where I went to hide out and smoke cigarettes (his token subversive act) as the leaves returned to the trees and I contemplated his passing.  The presence he assumes throughout the homes of my family members, in park benches and coffee mug stands and balls of Christmas lights surrounded by plastic cups, is solid, sturdy, shining.


During these encounters I wonder: When did my world become a shrine?  Connected, I know that it has always been one.  Ancestor worship is my religion.  My sacrament takes familial forms.  My blood is represented by wine served in everyday chalices called "Papa Tony glasses" for the tiny serving our great-grandfather was known to take.  The bread comes in seemingly infinite forms-- little cookies offered at the homes of great-grannies and banana cakes made by pioneering women symbolize my body.  In prayer, I fold hands identical to my grandmother's.  Clouds of cigarette smoke are my incense, evoking gatherings on porches, at domino games, fishing.  I worship in churches of hand-me-down furniture wearing amulets of vintage necklaces and brooches, channeling centuries of grit and tenacity and strength.  My people are my divine, and my grief, hardly complete, becomes my faith.