Archive for July, 2007

Music as memory

Posted in Expat life, Music, Personal, Travel, USA on July 27, 2007 by Elephant Talk

For music to become ingrained in memory it requires repetition. You have to continually open the door and allow it to live alongside those same visual/tactile experiences you will remember for years to come.

I knew this would be the case before I left Korea, so I Amazoned a bunch of CDs to arrive at my parents once I got in town. I know that at least three of these will become memory because they’re the three I’ve listened to almost nonstop since I’ve been here:

1. Iron & Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days
This has been the surprise of the bunch. What an awesome road CD — the perfect slice of lyrical and musical Americana that I needed. For the uninitiated, imagine a more introverted Simon & Garfunkel with the addition of banjos, mandolins, and some slide. Great landscape music, perfect for high Sierra drives.

2. Ryan Adams: Easy Tiger
This guy continues to amaze me with his prodigious songwriting output. I still prefer the heart-wrenching genius of Love is Hell, but this is the more upbeat flipside of that great album. It’s also one of the best-engineered and mixed albums I’ve heard in ages. It just sounds incredible. One thought I had on first listen was wow, how come no one else thought of such a simple and brilliant melodic hook as the one the band pulled off with “Goodnight Rose”? But then, a few days later, I listened to the third of my trio below and realized they lifted it directly from Neil. At least Ryan gives him a nod by pulling off a great vocal impersonation in that song.

3. Neil Young: After the Goldrush
Why did it take me so long to buy this album? Maybe because I’m in a minority when it comes to him. My favorite album by far is Harvest Moon (yes, the one with the word “moon” added), and nothing else I’ve bought has lived up. But After the Goldrush has the same kind of vibe. Great melodies, intimate songwriting, just awesome from start to finish.

Incidentally, listen to Neil’s “Only Love Will Break Your Heart” back to back with Adam’s “Goodnight Rose” and you’ll hear what I was talking about up there.

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For spacious skies

Posted in Culture, Expat life, Korea, Outdoors, Personal, Travel, USA on July 26, 2007 by Elephant Talk

Well, my month-long trip home to America is almost finished. It seems like it went by in a flash, and yet at the same time it feels like months ago when I first arrived and my parents met me at the airport.

I haven’t had the time to write much here, but maybe that’s as it should be. I’ve been too busy playing music, seeing friends, and crashing out exhausted to do much blogging. There’s a lot to say on many fronts: work, school, impressions of California, personal relationship stuff, future opportunities, current endeavors. Hopefully I’ll get to at least some of it soon.

I’ll just say this for now: Compared to Korea, the US is a big fucking country. I drove from Merced to San Jose last night, zipping down HWY 59, then turning West into a blazing sunset along 152. I felt like I could see forever. One of the prevailing impressions of being back is that with all the doomsday bullshit vibe that seems to be happening politically in this country, the real saving grace is the continued ingenuity of many of the citizens here and, well, the land. The land is why this country came into being and gave people the opportunity to thrive as they did. While it’s hard to see much greatness in the US right now, and while it may seem that its institutional integrity is showing signs of wear, the land and its people remain strong. I feel a lot of hope in that.

California, by the way, is just goddamned beautiful. I’m going to miss it all over again.

This sporting life

Posted in Culture, Personal, Sports, USA on July 25, 2007 by Elephant Talk

This whole Michael Vick thing disgusts me. It’s gotten to the point where the NFL is so crime-ridden and corrupt that it’s not worth my time anymore. I think I’ve reached my limit, no more football for me.

Basketball’s my new sport now. The NBA has a certain competitive purity that I admire. … Wait, shit, I there’s that ref game-fixing scandal. It’s starting to look he might have influenced the outcome of the Suns-Spurs playoff series last year. Okay, so basketball’s out.

Thank god we’ve still got baseball, America’s game. Here we are on the cusp of the most treasured record in baseball, the home run record, about to be broken by the greatest hitter of our generation, Barry Bonds. … Wait, Barry Bonds… Right steroids.

Tennis anyone?

Beckham fever

Posted in Film & TV, Sports, USA on July 22, 2007 by Elephant Talk

I’m here to report that there have been many powerful, riveting shots of David Beckham on the bench, scowling, game face fully on. Lots of talk about his ankle. He recently took off his shoe.

I’ve seen interviews with Drew Cary and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Katie Holmes has been sighted in the booth with Posh, and the Governator is watching the game with tremendous focus.

Woah, hold on a minute… Beckham just stood up and raised his arm when one of his teammates was fouled. The TV commentator called the standing up action “exciting.” Who knows what might happen next?

My 4 fav new toys

Posted in Academics, Expat life, Korea, Personal, Sound, Technology on July 14, 2007 by Elephant Talk

I’m really not into the idea of loading up my Apple with new software. In fact, software doesn’t excite me at all. Give me my five or six apps to master — office stuff, a couple of creative tools, and maybe an app or two for fun — and I’m fine.

But my colleague in Korea is way into Mac wares. He’s also a very persuasive personality. So I’ve integrated about half of his suggestions into my life and I’m happy to have done it. So I might as well evangelize them. They’re all, of course, free:

1. Pando is the perfect collaborative tool. I work with a lot of large files (audio mixes, video files, etc.) and I work collaboratively with people in Korea and the US. Pando is a very clean app for sending and receiving media files.

2. I think most people know about Quicksilver. It’s so much a part of my workflow that I find when I go to a Mac without it, life feels incomplete.

3. Most people also probably know about Skype — an expatriot’s best friend. I can’t imagine anyone with a MacBook not having this as a regular part of their lives. Sometimes technology really is a wonderful thing.

4. Handbrake. This is one I actually found on my own, after trying others that didn’t work. It’s the best thing I’ve found for ripping DVDs to video files. I have to show a lot of video examples in my classes, and with the region code stuff it’s a nightmare. This is a lifesaver.

Attack of the parasites

Posted in Outdoors, Personal, USA on July 12, 2007 by Elephant Talk

It’s been too long since I’ve gone hiking in California. I thought I could just revert back naturally to Grizzly Adams. Mountain lions, yeah; poison oak, got that covered. I’m cool. I’m nature boy.

Then, with the hike almost finished and the sunlight fading away, I looked down and saw it: a tick. Fuck. Forgot about ticks. So I dusted myself and saw that they were crawling all over me. Stubborn little bastards, I flicked off as many as I could, but one had already attached itself to my upper inner thigh. Time to go home and break out the tweezers.

Actually, my friend took it out, with some coaching from me. And it was two ticks instead of just one.

I put ’em in a glass with some alcohol to send them to IgeneX for testing. When I put them together they immediately went at it, attacking each other. Last I checked they had attached to one another, sucking each other’s innards. I guess it’s too much to expect parasites to play nice.

Green Fashion

Posted in Culture, Politics, USA on July 11, 2007 by Elephant Talk

A post like this would have been better served on 7/7/07, but these thoughts didn’t come to me until after I’d absorbed all the media that came from Al Gore’s “Live Earth” concerts.

2007 feels suspiciously like 1990. That year was the 20th Anniversary of Earth Day. I was in my first semester at state college and the environment was a huge issue for me. Like today, we had a Bush in office who ignored our feelings about the fragile state of our planet. We felt motivated by this and the 20th Anniversary was a perfect spark plug. That Earth Day, and the summer that followed, felt like a sea change. It seemed that we were finally getting wise to the bigger picture of our responsibility as a species.

This summer, back now in the US, I see the word “Green” everywhere. It’s something I didn’t see even four months ago when I left for Korea, at least not like this. Global warming, An Inconvenient Truth and the “Live Earth” concerts are the spark plugs this time. I applaud Al Gore’s efforts, and I know that this is a critical time for change.

But it’s also history repeating itself. I’d like to be hopeful, but I know what happened 17 years ago. Time passed and people moved on to other things. There was some moderate change in the Clinton administration, but systemically we didn’t evolve much, and things reverted back once a new Bush came to power. Why? Because in the end, Earth Day 1990 was a fashion statement. Some of us believed, but most of us were along for the fun of it.

Cynicism expands with age, but I do believe that we’re misguided in our approaches to spurring significant, lasting change. We have to stop turning it into a party. I’m disturbed by rock concerts that preach to the converted and alienate the ignorant. In 1990 we had Sting and Peter Gabriel. In 2007 we have Sheryl Crow. Conservatives and energy executives don’t give a rat’s ass about Sheryl Crow.

I’d like to see an movement where everyone’s invited to the party, not just the popular kids.