Echoey space

I’ve got a couple of CDs in my “to write about” line, a result of a regrettable lapse in fiscal judgement which resulted in a CD-purchasing binge. But while procrastinating in the apt this afternoon, I ran across a couple of things that cannot wait.

Firstly, you already know about my unabashed love for the Fleet Foxes. So you understand how excited I was when La Blogotheque posted a session of the Fleet Foxes performing a medley of “Sun Giant” and “Blue Ridge Mountain,” filmed in an abandoned wing of the Grand Palais in Paris (pictured above). So this appeals to both the architecture and music geek inside me.

Then, I ran across (via Fuel/Friends) these Myspace Transmission sessions with Bon Iver. Including four songs (“For Emma”, “Flume”, “Lump Sum”, and “Blindsided”) and interview clips about his process, leaving the cabin, and (perhaps best) his tattoos.

And in related news, on Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands are a great collection of “Flume” covers on Youtube. It doesn’t get any better for fans of etheral harmonization than this.

LATER: Cute kid. A baby Amelie?

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Beauty is the oracle that speaks to us all (Luis Barragan)

My second project for ARCH 100 was to create a birdhouse for a wren, in the style of a famous architect (we were given a list, and I picked Luis Barragan, a Pritzger-prize winning architect from Mexico, who happens to be a major influence on my favorite architect of all time, Tadao Ando.) In conjunction with my professor, the dean of the school of architecture decided this year to pick the top five of these designs to be actualized, commissioning them for $100. My design was among the five chosen.

My design currently consists of a plan, two elevations and a SketchUp file, so I have some work to do when it comes to figuring out the way I’m going to fit it together. However, keep tuned for more updates, as well as (hopefully) photographs of the birdhouse in progress. That is, if I can afford a memory card anytime soon.

And Kadie:

Gobama.

Worth it

Who Are We?

As a transfer student to UWM, my sophomore year has been feeling like a second freshman year. None of the reasons I decided to come here panned out; with the end of a long friendship and my rejection from sophomore studio classes. So I am stuck here, questioning why I am here in the first place. In the end, being in Milwaukee turned out for the best, with my uncle’s diagnosis this summer and death this fall. But what kind of reason is that to be glad I am back here? It’s good that I was back here for my mother, but to have the only good reason I am here be my uncle’s death is somewhat more than depressing.

The upsides to things are when I can let myself get lost in images – the figure drawing we’ve been doing in my drawing class (I’m in 102 this semester), and the work we look at in ARCH 100. It’s things like this that assure me that I’m going the right direction, and that if I can just continue with these subjects I’ll get to where I want to be.

My problem is not that I don’t know where I want to go. My problem is that I wish there was some alternate way to get there. After two years of attending large state schools, I think I can say that I wasn’t made for a large university like this. If there’s something I’ve learned in my 2 months here, it’s that I’m not the type who likes to get drunk every weekend and go to parties, which seems to be a prime objective to most college kids I know. Not that I find anything wrong with that; it’s just not for me.

So I guess all I can do is trust that if I keep going in the direction that I know is the right direction for me, the path will eventually become what I want it to be – a place where I can find solace and comfort in my surroundings rather than feeling out-of-place and in transit.

In other, more immediate but by no means less depressing news: I seem to have lost my memory card for my camera! This is obviously a tragedy of the very first class, and so as soon as I get my hands on my paycheck (which should be in a week exactly) I am going to buy a new one, as well as some new batteries, and go out on a photo exposition before it gets too cold. Hopefully.

Should go to bed soon, as I have to get up early to vote tomorrow morning. Gobama!

My brother, where do you intend to go tonight?

“Penniless and tired,
With your hair grown long
I was looking at you there,
And your face looked wrong
Memory is a fickle siren song
I didn’t understand”

I bought my tickets to see the Fleet Foxes at the Pabst Theater on the strength of these lines (music video here, lyrics here). At the time (on my birthday, at the Bon Iver show at the same venue) the only song I had heard by the Fleet Foxes was “He Doesn’t Know Why,” but I took the gamble and bought the $10 tickets to go see them in October, which seemed ever-so far away at the time.

From the Sub Pop website:

Drawing influence from the traditions of folk music, pop, choral music and gospel, sacred harp singing, West Coast music, traditional music from Ireland to Japan, film scores, and their NW peers, Fleet Foxes ranges in subject matter from the natural world and familial bonds to bygone loves and stone cold graves.

Exactly two months later, the show has been over for four days and I’m still excited about it. I joked to my roommate that for me, the latest show I’ve been to is always the greatest show I’ve ever attended. However, in this case it’s absolutely true: Fleet Foxes in concert were up there, if not at the top.

Let’s start at the beginning. I took my little brother to the concert (appropriate, in hindsight, given the amount of references to brothers in the lyrics of Fleet Foxes songs), and we ended up arriving at 7:00pm, an hour before the show was scheduled to start. We got seats in the second row, left section: not too shabby, considering that the place was absolutely sold out when we got there. Yay for presale tickets!

The opener, Frank Fairfield, seemed to only play songs that ended in “Blues”. As others have noted before me, he sounds like he came straight from the thirties via time machine, instrumentally and (more uniquely) vocally as well. He had the whiny, accented, and hard-to-understand singing style that you usually hear overlaid by crackly vinyl hiss – definitely not what I expected, given the soft choral arrangements that Fleet Foxes use. However, he was absolutely fantastic, and was sad when I read Frank’s last.fm page to discover that he hasn’t been signed or even really recorded anything substantial (further support for our time-machine hypothesis?). He seemed to be making up the set on the spot. I’d be interested in seeing Frank again sometime.

Before the show started, I bought Fleet Foxes’ self-titled album on vinyl, which turned out to be a great idea on several levels. Firstly, it came with both their self-titled album but also the Sun Giant EP. Secondly, it came with download codes for all the tracks included on the two albums, so I was able to download all the tracks as mp3s and put them on my lovely and well-fed new iPod. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the album art. I bought the record pre-show, and my brother and I spent at least half an hour identifying exactly what each person on the cover was doing. Turns out it’s a painting called “Netherlandish Proverbs” done in the 1500s by a guy called Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Pretty interesting stuff, and a great painting to boot. And its combination of obvious antiquity with controversial and downright weird subject matter parallels the way that Fleet Foxes fuse together folk and postrock influences to make their unique style of music.

The main event was mindblowing. I had loved the choral arrangements on the songs I had from the album, and was bracing myself for the tiny imperfections that you inevitably get in a live set. They never came. If anything, the choral arrangments were even more flawless in concert than they were on the record. (They’ve claimed in an interview with the BBC that they get the arrangements from “witchcraft”, but then admitted that in reality it’s just practice and hard work, which is much less exciting. Download the interviews at Aquarium Drunkard! Do it!)

I realized this within the span of the first (a capella) number. After they threw themselves into their set, it was impossible not to throw yourself after them. Between the songs that I knew I would love already (“He Doesn’t Know Why”, “White Winter Hymnal”, “Blue Ridge Mountains”) and ones I had less exposure to (“Ragged Wood”, “Oliver James”, “Drops In The River”, and the heartbreaking “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song”), I basically fell in love. The music itself, vocals reverberating through amps like monks’ chants through a cathedral, has this beautiful sense of spiritual grandeur. Watching lead singer Robin Pecknold’s facial expressions throughout the set made me feel almost like a voyeur, as if by watching him sing I was somehow spying on some kind of religious experience, with Pecknold baring himself to the audience and, perhaps, to God.

Or maybe I’m over-analyzing it. OK, before I further reveal what a huge fangirl I have become: the long and short of it: great band, great set, greatly recommended. See you at their next show!

PS. Bonuses!

Backstage Sessions : Fleet Foxes – Oliver James from Hard to Find a Friend on Vimeo.

And you can stream Radio 88.9’s live recording of the show here. Enjoy!

A is for

This summer, my uncle (on my mom’s side) was diagnosed with primary amyloidosis. As far as I can understand (and I may be wrong), amyloidosis is a disease in which the body produces proteins that cannot be broken down; and over time these proteins deposit in various places around the body, eventually causing organ failure. The Mayo Clinic pamphlet I read said:

While amyloidosis has many types, the most common is a disease of the bone marrow called primary systemic amyloidosis. Bone marrow makes antibodies that protect against infection and disease. After performing their function, these antibodies are broken down and recycled by the body. In amyloidosis, cells in the bone marrow produce antibodies that cannot be broken down or recycled. These antibodies build up in the bloodstream. Ultimately, they leave the bloodstream and can deposit in tissues as amyloid.

My uncle died this morning. He was vulnerable to organ failure and to a whole host of diseases due to his weakened immune system, but ultimately he bled to death, internally.

For the last couple of weeks, I had been writing things about him in my moleskine, just jotting down lines that I was going to string together into a poem at some point. I can’t write it anymore, so I’m just going to put it out there as it is. I don’t think I can finish it, at least not now. I don’t like it, but it’s all I can do for him.

He was the most awesome uncle ever, and was just generally a great guy. His funeral is on Monday. Please pray for my mother, who has already lost a brother to cancer, and of course, for my uncle Andy.

He is in the ICU, they tell me
He’s got tired yellow eyes
Dragging his bruised voice behind him
The ragged voice of a broken prizefighter
Talking clinically about his own rebelling body
The disease inflates his yellow, jaundiced skin
Infects organs with disorganization and anarchy

Do I know this man?
Once we were the fighters, he and I
He made me the featherweight champion of the world
He let me box him into the bloody burgundy carpet
As my mother laughed from her ringside seat
On the couch that my grandmother thought was called
A davenport.

Now it’s not a tiny girl
But tiny proteins
And his own body. This disease,
Born in the USA, inside his bones
And exported to vital organs
These proteins, now unrecyclable
His body litters itself

He can’t dance away from the words they throw at him now
Words like:
Chemotherapy.
Stem cells.
Amyloid protein.
Dialysis.

I am connected to this man by blood
By bone marrow
But I don’t know him when he’s in pain
I don’t know this man without his laughter
And I can’t afford to understand the consequences

As dust settles through his veins, undissolvable
It’s won the title from me
It’s the new featherweight champion of the world
Or at the very least, of my uncle’s fragile body.

“Vivicísima de todo lo existente…”

Last night, I was privileged to be able to attend a poetry reading by one of my favorite writers alive today, the Nicaraguan poet Father Ernesto Cardenal. He read some of his Cántico Cósmico, musings on the creation of the world and the state of the world today, and finished with the poem Viaje muy jodido (“A Very Screwed Up Trip”, according to the translation I have), written upon the death of his friend and fellow guerilla Laureano. My favorite part: hearing Cardenal himself utter the words:

Poeta hijueputa decí a esos jodidos mis compañeros de Solentiname que me mataron los contrarrevolucionarios hijos de la gran puta pero que me male verga.

(“Poet, son of a bitch, tell all my fucked up compañeros from Solentiname that the sons of the great whore counterrevolutionaries killed me but I don’t give a fuck.”)

Afterwards, during the Q&A, I jotted down some paraphrases of the translation:

When asked whom he is inspired by, Cardenal said that he was most inspired by more modern North American poets, from Walt Whitman until the present day.

Another member of the audience (the father of one of my best friends, who I didn’t expect to run into that night at all!) asked whether Catholic revolutionary theology (aka Liberation Theology) was still alive in South and Central America.

Cardenal answered:

Yes, but it is wounded. When Pope John Paul II came to Nicaragua, a journalist asked him about Liberation Theory and he said that Liberation Theory is no longer dangerous because communism is dead. But a bishop in Brazil has said that as long as there are poor people there will be Liberation Theory.

When asked whether literature should primarily fulfill a social role in order to be considered “good” literature?

It’s not necessary to have a literature that is social literature. I prefer literature that treats on politics and social issues. But if it is good literature it is revolutionary literature. As Mao said – Art that is trying to be revolutionary, but is not good art, is not revolutionary.

When speaking about the state of the revolution in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, Cardenal insisted that “the revolutions that have happened in Latin America have been authentic revolutions. Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, and all other progressive and revolutionary governments have been authentic. The case in Nicaragua is different because the government isn’t revolutionary, it’s a lie.”

Nicaragua, now ruled by President Daniel Ortega, has only a shell of a revolutionary government, according to Cardenal. Instead, it’s become a “corrupt government and a dictatorship of a family,” of Ortega, his wife and his children. Along with many other revolutionaries, Cardenal says, he left the party because of corruption within it. The revolution in Nicaragua is finished, but Cardenal remains hopeful because there are still people fighting against the corruption in the government, “the false revolution.”

Cardenal concluded on a note that sums up his hopes for the Americas in the future:

I have heard Hugo Chavez say that the people of Venezuela are brothers to the people of the United States, and the people of the United States are the brothers of the peoples of Latin America … Once Bush predicted that the United States and Latin America would be one people. But this has to happen without any kind of domination, political or economic, but instead with love.

Seeing Ernesto Cardenal speak was truly a great experience. I’d encourage anyone interested in poetry, politics, human rights, or modern Christian theology to pick up some of his poetry. He is truly a revolutionary, in more ways than one.

I have conquered Muxtape!

I know I’m jumpin’ on the bandwagon just a bit later than all the cool kids, but I finally up and made a muxtape. I think it’s a cool idea, although its limitations (12 mp3s, that’s it!) made me think harder than I’m used to to decide which songs to include on it. And God knows I’ll want to change everything in about a week.

But it was fun to make. I hope you enjoy!