Wednesday, February 27, 2008

David Archuleta

I know reality TV is sick and twisted and sometimes evil, but I just can't help but indulge my guilty pleasure. I will NOT miss American Idol. And I've got to give it up to our Utah Boy, David Archuleta. Last night's performance of John Lennon's "Imagine" was possibly the most amazing performance I've seen on the show since season 1. Win, lose, or draw, this kid will be a star. He needs to curb the shyguy naivite just a tad because it's already getting tired, but beyond that he's brilliant. This video clip is a bit long, but it's the best quality I could find.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Proud Cynic

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a complex personality. I don’t think I have anything that is clinically diagnosable. I mean, I’m no Sybil. I’m just….quirky. In my family sarcasm is a way of life. If you don’t have the ability to A) identify sarcasm, and B) respond with similar sarcasm in a fairly expeditious manner, then you’d better get comfy in “the barrel” because you will be directly inside it frequently and at length. Luckily, we all have the sarcastic gene. Some are quicker than others, i.e. Melissa is Billy the Freaking Kid of sarcasm. But we’ve all got it. And we use it often.

One of the negative side effects of sarcasm/cynicism is that I often use it as a shield. A cover to hide true emotion or feeling. My sister recently posted on her blog a story with regards to her training for a marathon. I started to type a comment and instantly went to the sarcasm card. Something about calisthenics during The Oscars and my being in training for the chicken wing eating contest at the nearest KFC. I decided to place the sarcasm card back in the deck and go to another card. The Ace of Pride.

I am a very proud brother. My sisters and my younger brother are exceptional people doing exceptional things right now with their lives. Parents often live vicariously through their children…I know I totally plan to, but I never thought I would find similar joy in seeing my siblings rock the world with their accomplishments and gifts.

As previously stated, Ashley is training for a marathon. I’ve heard people talk about marathons being life-changing experiences. They are character builders and tune the soul. I look at Ashley now and there is definitely something different about her. Some of the reasons for the difference are obvious. First, she’s rail thin. And strong. Of course I always knew she was strong. She and I had a legendary wrestling match to confirm that…broken couch and all. But there are also some subtle differences. I see a genuine confidence in her eyes. She has an aura of inner strength. I have no doubt that strength has always been present, but now it is being showcased instead of unintentionally hidden. She is the living example of what constant drive and determination can do for a human soul. It is evident in her family life as a wife and mother as well as her own personal interests and accomplishments. I am intensely proud of her.

Melissa is on the brink of making it big. She has sacrificed more than I can comprehend and has lived as I never could have for the past two years, distanced from family, in a foreign community that does NOT share her value system and moral structure. She has placed complete faith in her husband to study smart and work hard. She had a confidence in him that I, admittedly, did not. But now, as if a Jimmy Swaggart palm collided with my forehead, “I Believe!!!” There is not a more focused, involved, concerned mother anywhere on the planet. I mean anywhere. Her mind is the fastest I’ve ever encountered, followed closely by Talmage’s. She is genuinely happy and I hear it when I talk to her on the phone. She has overcome tremendous adversity and is fast becoming the ideal for success and contentment regardless of physical circumstance and environment. I am fiercely proud of her.

Sheldon is one of a kind. He is Dodo. The man. The myth. The legend. He juggles fire and creates art with a mouse. He builds trebuchets and can see the curvature of the earth. He can conquer two full teams of Britons with 6 cannoneers in less than 8 minutes. He is rapidly acquiring an almost flawless taste in music. He is a strapping lad with shoulders that occupy an entire doorway, a mug that melts hearts, and dimples that can envelop my thumbs. And he is a good friend. I find myself inventing excuses to call him just to see how he’s doing. He is making intelligent choices now that will forever be to his benefit. Not only is he incredibly smart, but he’s proving to be studious as well. He has been pulling 4.0s at BYU with tough classes and is working as an RA taboot. He has secured a full scholarship for the next two semesters as reward for his efforts. I am insanely proud of him.

Our parents are amazing people with amazing lives and amazing accomplishments. However, if they are entertaining the idea of living vicariously through their children, they clearly have a few prospects.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Five Sexiest Voices of All Time

This is my list of what I believe to be the five sexiest female voices in the history of music. This is entirely my opinion and I will give reasons to substantiate each choice.

#1 - Dusty Springfield was one of the best selling British singers in the 1960s and brought the female touch to the "British Invasion" of America. She earned the nicknames "White Negress" and "White Queen of Soul" because she sang as if born with black soul. She had a sultry, often raspy, effortless voice. She scored over two dozen American hits, but my absolute favorite is Son of a Preacher Man. Click here to download.

#2 - Stevie Nicks. Fleetwood Mac was all about sexual tension in the Stevie Nicks era. The song "You Can Go Your Own Way" is essentially the musical commentary of an in-band relationship going south. Another sultry voice that I just love. My favorite Fleetwood song, Dreams, was actually written by Stevie. Click here to download.

#3 - I do not like country music. However, I find myself making excuses for liking particular songs or artists. In most every case I find a way to identify bluegrass or even jazz themes in the song. As is the case with Alison Krauss. The first Krauss song I heard was "When You Say Nothing At All" on a movie soundtrack. I instantly loved her voice. Lucky for me, she was part of an amazing bluegrass band called Union Station, so I didn't have to admit that I liked a country music singer. I absolutely love this woman's voice. Entirely unique. And sexy. I'll go ahead and cite Oh, Atlanta as the best Krauss song to showcase her voice. You can also download the song here.

#4 - I'm a sucker for female jazz singers. There are classics like Etta James and Billie Holiday, and contemporaries like Norah Jones and my favorite...Diana Krall. Her low, almost husky voice brilliantly represents jazz standards and love songs alike. She has a variety of albums that have received widespread critical acclaim for renditions of jazz standards. The song The Girl in the Other Room however is from her first album that deviated to more contemporary music. She is an amazingly gifted piano player as well. Unfortunately she's married to Elvis Costello, but not everyone's perfect. Download her song here.

#5 - I had a mild teenage love affair in my mind with this girl's voice, and I have no clue who it even is. I don't really even know what she's saying. Principles of Lust was a song by the experimental electronic music project "Enigma" from 1992. My only guess is that the voice belongs to "Sandra", the wife of Enigma's creator Michael Cretu since she is credited for vocals on a number of Enigma tracks. However, Sandra is German, and The Voice is clearly French. So perhaps the voice is simply a mystery, which I prefer. Enigma's music generally incorporates groove-thick beats with gregorian chants and other ethereal sounds/voices. I could very easily put this voice at #1 because of its overall effect on my young mind, but due to its ENIGMATIC (pun) nature, I can't justify putting it above legitimate vocalists. You can download the 11 minute marathon version here.

With the exception of Principles of Lust, you'll notice a common thread with all of these singers. The voice does NOT fit the face. I can't say that I find any of these women irresistably physically attractive. However, their voices just ooze sexiness.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Partisan Politics

Why do politics have to be so partisan and so…bundled? I wish voting were more like candy store shopping. “Let’s see, I’ll have one strawberry anti-abortion, two get-out-of-Iraqs, a handful of chocolate-dipped stem cell researchers, the biggest and fruitiest gay marriage hater you have, seven animal rights activists with a side of beef jerky, and a large glass of chilled cheap gasoline prices. Now wrap them all in a huge healthy economy and ring me up! And throw in a Twix.”

The other great thing about candy-store politics would be that you see what you get and you can verify it instantly with your tongue. If “Bush the First” had been a lollipop, we could have found out immediately if his “read my lips…no more taxes” vow was really the promised cotton candy flavor or more representative of llama urine. Clearly the llama urine won.

But instead of candy-store politics we are forced to purchase surprise goodie bags from the Armenian hotdog cart parked outside the downtown Blue Boutique. “Leetle boy, I promees you thees bag have much goodies for you!” The much goodies are never visible and come from a container that strangely resembles a metal garbage can spewing green steam. We have to read the label on the bag and hope that its contents don’t involve liquefied lips and sphincters.

I don’t want to be forced to partisan platforms anymore. I find myself so liberal on many issues such as health care reform and public education, but I am quite conservative on moral issues. Why can’t someone come out and extend the middle finger to the elephants and donkeys? Build me a platform that I can throw myself at. Tragically, there have to be people out there that agree with me and have the desire and resources to put such a platform together, but without the support of the communist bat-blind liberals or the zealot fascist rightists, our heroes would be doomed to fail. Thus I have to go on not voting.

And complaining.

Dan Fogelberg - RIP

Music appeals to different people in different ways. I personally value music on three different levels. First, musicianship. Second, poetic value. Third, clarity of voice. The vast majority of music I listen to focuses heavily on musicianship, although lately I've been keenly interested in poetic writing. But every once in a while I hear an artist that touches my soul with nothing more than a beautiful voice.

When I was 13 years old I was at a "party" at a girl's house. I didn't really fit in well at that particular party. Everyone was swimming in the back and I didn't have the body that some of the other guys there had. It's amazing now to think that a 13 year old would be concerned about MUSCLES, but nevertheless I found myself in the kitchen with a few other self-conscious kids talking to Sara's mom. The radio was playing in the background and Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band" came on the radio. "Ooooh, I love this song" I said. Sara's mom looked at me with a cocked head and a sly smirk and said "you don't have a clue who this even is." "Of course I know who this is....doesn't everybody?" She laughed. "I'll give you 5 bucks if you can tell me who sings this song." Still bewildered, "Leader of the band. Dan Fogelberg. The Innocent Age, 1981." Her jaw hit the floor as she started to laugh, and laughed until she cried. She went to her purse, got my 5 bucks, and we talked Dan Fogelberg and classic music for the rest of the party. Just Debbie and me. I ended up liking Debbie more than Sara.

Fogelberg is one of the few musicians I've loved based entirely on vocal ability. His tone was so pure, especially in his upper register. He was also an extremely gifted writer. Leader of the Band is a story of the love between a father and a son and the common bond between them was music. The song touches on regret, hope, admiration, and ultimately gratitude. Same Old Lang Syne tells the tale of two past lovers that have a chance encounter in the frozen foods section of a grocery store after many years of not seeing each other. This story paints a vivid picture of emptiness AND fulfillment. Contentment in the life chosen, but a hint of regret for the life unpursued.

I know it has been almost two months since Dan Fogelberg died of prostate cancer, but his music has been on my mind the entire time. His greatest hits haven't left the Stratus' CD player in a month and my kids are now asking to listen to him. Talmage's favorites are Longer and Heart Hotels. I get a little choked up when I watch my son's reaction to Fogelberg as childhood memories wash over me. He listens intently and feels the music. He asks questions like, "Dad, what's a 'thundering velvet hand?'" Sometimes I look at him and see myself. Maybe one day he'll also have a chance to relieve some girl's mother of $5 and will have Dan Fogelberg to thank for it.

Thanks Dan.

Rant - Auto Mechanics

What do auto mechanics and politicians have in common? Grease.

It astounds me how one can take an automobile in for a routine “free” tire rotation and leave $600 lighter having purchased a plethora of “emergency” services that are required to keep one’s car from spontaneous combustion. Is there anyone more crooked than an auto mechanic? I say nay. It all boils down to the fact that any professional, unless honest, can drill you in the rear-end quicker and stealthier than an army ranger in an oil slick.

My father once explained to me that people are compensated based on how unique their skills are. For instance, anyone can dig a ditch. Some might do it more quickly than others, but a ditch can be dug by any scrub. You could give me two chopsticks, an intravenous drip of Mt. Dew, and Phish’s epic 1997 tours on CD and I could dig a ditch to Uzbekistan given enough time. Therefore, ditch diggers are paid on the low-end of the salary spectrum.

Inversely, there is only one human on the face of the planet that can speak to an auditorium full of astrophysicists regarding the future of faster-than-light travel and still manage to leave them drooling in incomprehension. There is only one Stephen Hawking. As such, Mr. Hawking makes more money than a ditch digger. Surgeons make more money than doctors, attorneys make more money than paralegals, and Roy makes more money than Sigfried. Dude survived a freaking tiger maul. THAT, sir, is unique.

There is, however, an unfortunate byproduct to this phenomenon, kind of like what happens to “Splenda” after it digests. Stephen Hawking could at any time tell us that in 36 hours an enormous undetectable Red Dwarf will collide with a supernova, travel through a wormhole, and push a fleet of ill-tempered aliens off course toward our lush earthen oasis, resulting in invasion and complete destruction of our planet. No one could second guess the only human in existence that could know such a thing, therefore we would all panic and lock ourselves in churches, synagogues, and mosques.

A neuro-surgeon could accidentally nick my occipital lobe with his scalpel causing me to forever believe I am Joan of Arc and blame it on a degenerative heretofore unnamed disease that was unpreventable. My family would have no choice but to nod their heads and take me home to my divine mission of reclaiming my homeland from the English.

While a tad more detailed, these examples are not unlike the nonsense an auto mechanic is capable of conjuring. Since I can barely locate my gas cap, I am forced to believe what they say and fork up the cash. They shall burn in hell. Along with the tiger that mauled poor Roy.

The Best of Michael Scott

Please excuse the varying audio levels. It's a work in progress.