Friday, November 24, 2006

Soundscape #14: I Turn My Camera On

London, 2005

I bought a camera recently to replace an old one that doesn't work anymore. It cost me quite a bit, even though I got a pretty good deal with all the freebies and stuff. To make sure that I don't feel like I've wasted my money make use of the camera, I bring it along with me everyday hoping to capture some truly spontaneous moments.

It's been almost 3 months now and while I have no doubt taken some nice pictures, it's rare that I even remember I have a camera with me most of the time, much less capture the truly spontaneous or random moment. And here is the Catch-22: I realise that to be able to even compute that a particular moment is a picture-perfect moment, it is necessary to be in that moment. But, when I'm in a moment, I'm in the moment and to be able to recognise the picture-worthiness of a particular moment, you have to be slightly outside the moment itself, looking in. Odd, innit?

This is especially true when you are on holiday. You look around with fresh eyes, marvelling at all the strangeness and soaking in all the foreign-ness of the place you are in and the last thing you want to do is to dig around your bag for your camera and fumble with the settings. By the time you get everything ready, the moment is already lost. You no longer feel as engaged, as into the moment you were just a while ago. What's important are the experiences and the feelings and no camera will be able to capture that.

1. (0:00) Spoon - I Turn My Camera On (Buy Gimme Fiction)
2. (3:32) Weezer - Photograph (Buy S/T [Green])
3. (5:51) The Cure - Pictures Of You (Buy Disintegration)
4. (9:95) Editors - Camera (Buy The Back Room)
5. (14:97) Lloyd Cole - What's Wrong With This Picture? (Buy Negatives)
6. (20:28) Bishop Allen - Click Click Click Click (Buy July EP)
7. (23:28) Death Cab For Cutie - Photobooth (Buy Forbidden Love EP)
8. (26:74) Cat Power - Living Proof (Buy The Greatest)
9. (29:85) Wilco - Kamera (Buy Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
10. (33:15) Ryan Adams - Cracks In A Photograph (Suicide Handbook)

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Soundscape #13: In The Cold I'm Standing (Where Is Your Happy Place?)

Georges Seurat. Railway Tracks, 1881.

Everyone has somewhere safe and reassuring to which they can retreat from the world and be alone with themselves. The lucky ones have an actual physical place while the rest of us have to rely on our memories or imaginations.

Whenever I'm stressed or trying to fall asleep, I shut my eyes to go back to my friend's backyard in Manchester. I was staying with her last year and it was really cold, especially in the mornings. I remember my insides shaking like crazy even before I get up. I remember literally hopping around the kitchen
freezing to death, while waiting what seemed like forever for the water to boil. But with a mug of steaming hot tea and a cigarette, I would huddle outside on the step to the backyard to smoke while waiting for the tea to cool and wondering what new things and new places to check out later. One morning, as I was stoning out and watching the light blue sky, it occured to me that the telephone/cable poles along the street were positioned in such a way that they seemed to be propping up the sky. One by one in equal distance from one another, each silently braving the cold bitter wind stoically doing its job. Maybe it only seemed that way from where I was sitting, or maybe I was just delirious from the cold.

Stupid as it may sound, I love the cold. Even when my insides were freezing and the tea was taking forever to course through my body; even when my fingers were shaking as I tried to smoke the first cigarette of the day, hell, even when I couldn't feel my fingers shaking... it's invigorating. I feel more awake, more aware, more alive somehow in the cold.

Track Listing:
1. (0:00) Sigur Rós - Untitled #3 (Buy ())
2. (6:27) Explosions In The Sky - Your Hands In Mine (w/strings) (Buy Friday Night Lights OST)
3. (10:37) As The Poets Affirm - Snow White Wings In The Bottomless Blue (Buy The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That Catch)
4. (16:34) Mono - Halo (Buy One Step More And You Die)
5. (24:08) Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Hung Over As The Queen At Maida Vale (John Peel Sessions)
6. (42:31) My Dad Vs Yours - Canyons (Grand Or Otherwise) (Buy Winning Hearts And Minds)
7. (46:10) Mogwai - 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong (Buy Rock Action)
8. (55:43) When They Know You They Will Run - December (Demo)

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Soundscape #12: Time Will Have His Fancy, Tomorrow Or Today

Salvador Dali. The Persistence of Memory, 1931.

About a week ago, I got an email from myself a year back. It was one of those gimmicks where you email yourself in the future. Reading it was quite painful. Somehow I knew that the relationship I was in a year ago wasn't going to last the year. I had also known as I was writing that email a year ago that I would be exactly where I was then: slacking around, being lazy, not doing anything constructive, half-arsed etc. I don't know whether it's cos it's a self-fulfilling prophecy or just (heightened?) self-awareness.

Instead of an email that would come back a year later to bite me in the arse and mock me with its "I told you so's," I would very much prefer an email from the future me to where I am now, just so I have another chance to right the wrongs and fix them right again. Would it be too late to fix things? Maybe I should write to myself in the past instead. What should I say? What would I have myself do different? Would I tell myself to be kinder, more patient with others? Would I tell myself to be more trusting and not be frightened that I'm not in control of my life? Would I tell myself that it is better to be more forgiving or more forgetful?

More importantly, would I listen?

Track Listing:
1. (0:00) The Delgados - The Past That Suits You Best (Buy The Great Eastern)
2. (6:20) Athlete - Yesterday Threw Everything At Me (Buy Tourist)
3. (10:04) Jimmy Eat World - A Praise Chorus (Buy Bleed American)
4. (14:06) Gigolo Aunts - Half A Chance (Buy Minor Chords and Major Themes)
5. (16:59) Kevin Devine - You'll Only End Up Joining Them (Buy Put Your Ghost To Rest)
6. (20:55) Lloyd Cole - Past Imperfect (Buy The Negatives)
7. (25:39) The White Stripes - I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself (Buy Elephant)
8. (28:25) Jesse Malin - The Fine Art Of Self Destruction (Buy The Fine Art Of Self Destruction)
9. (32:20) Manic Street Preachers - From Despair To Where (Buy Gold Against The Soul)
10. (35:45) Drive-by Truckers - Hell No, I Ain't Happy (Buy Decoration Day)
11. (40:06) The Stills - Changes Are No Good (Buy Logic Will Break Your Heart)
12. (43:49) Malajube - La Monogamie (Buy Tromp-L'oeil)
13. (48:36) The National - Baby We'll Be Fine (Buy Alligator)

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Soundscape #11: "I'm A Non-Practising Jew"

Michael Hinkle, B.F.F. (Best Friends Forever), 2005.

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death." (Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine, 1930).

I can imagine how worked up some people may get when they come across Nietzsche and his "god is dead" in Thus Spake Zarathustra, but I think he is more against organised religion than religion per se when he likens worshippers to herds of mindless sheep. I have nothing against religion, mind, even though I'm an agnostic. But I think that to be religious, one has to open both mind and heart; i.e. one has to be spiritual first. It doesn't necessarily work the other way though.

Agnosticism is often confused with atheism, but if you really think about it, agnostics do not not believe that there is no god; only that one cannot know if a god exists or not; there is no such knowledge made available to us (or we are not equipped to process this knowledge, should it exist). Literally, agnostic means without (from the greek a) knowledge (greek gnosis). Most people think that agnosticism is a weak cousin of atheism (since atheism rejects or denies the existence of god outright) but as I've once pointed out to a (Christian) friend, it will be much harder to convince an agnostic of god's existence precisely because his/her basic premise is already the fact that there cannot be perceivable evidence (that god exists) or that man is not equipped with the right instruments to process this evidence, should it really exist.

Spirituality is different. Even if you don't believe in god, there is no reason to think that there isn't something magical happening around us everyday. The miracle of life, of animals, of plants, of your friends and family and everything else in between, points to something beyond and outside of ourselves.

Track Listing:
1. (0:00) DeVotchKa - Do You Think There's A Heaven (Buy Little Miss Sunshine OST)
2. (1:23) Wilco - Jesus, Etc (Buy Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)
3. (4:75) Iron And Wine - Naked As We Came (Buy Our Endless Numbered Days)
4. (7:07) David Bazan - Fewer Broken Pieces (Buy Fewer Moving Parts)
5. (10:32) Iron And Wine/Calexico - He Lays In The Reins (Buy In The Reins)
6. (13:75) Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins - Born Secular (Buy Rabbit Fur Coat)
7. (18:82) Sufjan Stevens - For The Widows In Paradise, For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti (Buy Greetings From Michigan)
8. (22:39) The New Pornographers - The Laws Have Changed (Buy Electric Version)
9. (25:65) Yo La Tengo - Demons (Buy Genius + Love = Yo La Tengo)
10. (28:83) Rilo Kiley - The Absence of God (Buy More Adventurous)
11. (32.38) Morrissey - I Have Forgiven Jesus (Buy You Are The Quarry)
12. (35:79) Beulah - Me And Jesus Don't Talk Anymore (Buy Yoko)
13. (40:30) Interpol - Evil (Buy Antics)
14. (43:65) Portishead - Wandering Star (Buy Dummy)
15. (48:21) Radiohead - Where I End And You Begin (The Sky Is Falling In) (Buy Hail To The Thief)

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