Archive for September, 2012

My 31st Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , on September 30, 2012 by sethdellinger


“This Train” by the Indigo Girls

“This Train Revised” by the Indigo Girls is an absolute masterpiece of music, literature, and culture.  In order to fully grasp the gravity of the song, first you must become familiar with “This Train”, a traditional American spiritual song that the Indigos are “revising”.  The Girls’ version takes the spiritual song to Hitler’s Holocaust, where a train is not just a train; it is a train packed with human bodies on their way to extermination camps.  Another way of seeing this train ride, in the eyes of the Indigo Girls, is “this train is bound for glory”; Dachau may not seem like “glory” to many, but considering the very few ways that the trip could end, one can’t help but see their meaning.

The song is laden with lyrical flourishes that don’t so much excite the listener as they effectively compound the vicarious misery an empathetic observer must feel anytime we aggressively confront the Holocaust.  From the simple list of the various “types” of people who were lost in the Holocaust and the human toll their loss incurred (“here is a dancer/ who has no legs/ here is a teacher/ who has no face”) to the more complex image of how the camp “doctor” covers “our eyes with clear blue skies”, the Indigo Girls attack the Holocaust head-on, but in a fashion I’ve never seen before. 

This all comes to a thematic head when the Girls compare the countless dead bodies of the emaciated exterminated to “answers, stacked like wood”.  Finally, in the ultimate analysis, the only way for us to comprehend what happened in those places is to remove the dead from their humanity, just as their tormenters did.  That many bodies “stacked”  (here we’ll assume most of us have seen enough of the gruesome photographic evidence of the concentration camps that we have a basic, accurate picture in our minds of what the mass graves actually looked like) is incomprehensible; cords of wood, however, we can at least begin to grasp.  “Here are the questions.  Here are the answers, stacked like wood,” the Indigo Girls tell us, leaving us, essentially, where we began when contemplating the Holocaust:  it is all nonsense, and any answers are not come by easily.

(unfortunately, the only video of this song on YouTube has some political messages attached, but I’m not sure I disagree with them)

It’s a fish white belly lump in the throat razor on the wire skin and bone piss and blood in a railroad car 100 people gypsies queers and David’s star this train is bound for glory measure the bones count the face pull out the teeth do you belong to the human race doctor doctor are you unkind do you shock the monkeys cover our eyes with clear blue skies this train is bound for glory here is a dancer who has no legs here is a teacher who has no face here is a runner who has no feet here is a healer who has no hands here is a builder who has no back here is a thinker who has no head here is a writer who has no voice these are the questions these are the answers stacked like wood this train is bound for glory these are the questions stacked like wood these are the answers here is potential gone for good

My 32nd Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , , , on September 28, 2012 by sethdellinger


“Sometime Around Midnight” by The Airborne Toxic Event

Lyricist Mikel Jollett does a lot of amazing things here.  The song is a tiny story about a man who sees an ex-girlfriends of his out at a bar, and it kinda makes him lose his shit.  A very simple story that I am sure we all can relate to.  Jollett manages to make the story very intense and very emotional.  But it’s also a study in language craft.  He has precious time and few words to tell his story, so he sets the scene not by telling us we’re at a bar, but simply by saying something is “under the bar lights”.  He never feels the need to even once tell us this man has dated this woman: his story and his characters’ reactions reveal as much or more than needless exposition could have told.  And for the love of god, she is “holding her tonic like a cross.”

And the music!  Toxic Event employs a full time violinist/ keyboardist (crushworthy female Anna Bulbrook) which adds a depth of sound and emotion that typical four-piece rock bands can’t achieve.  And lead guitarist Steven Chen especially shines on this song’s burning climax.

The version I’ve embedded here is them playing the song on Letterman, backed by their frequent collaborators, the Calder Quartet.

My 33rd Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags on September 27, 2012 by sethdellinger


“Jolene” by Dolly Parton

What’s that you say?  You’re surprised to see a Dolly Parton song on here?  Well then you must have never really listened to “Jolene”.  I suggest you do so now:


Making Up Words

Posted in My Poetry with tags , on September 27, 2012 by sethdellinger


There is nothing like morning,
it’s outlook unbroken,
still ringing with dreams.
I dress quickly and go out.

Over there, five, six, seven crows
in the bluing backyard air, held by
the high breeze washing
through new dogwood leaves.
Up and down the quiet block
newspapers span kitchen tables
like vast grey wings,
headlines cawing:  today it’s this.

I walk therefore I think:
so many of these houses
make no use of their windows.
Imagine the disappointment
of the glass!  No commerce,
no communication between inside
and out.  I was once,
while walking,
on the verge of discovering
a plausible theory of light
when the memory of your breasts in dark but calm water took it away.
You were a stranger then,
but you smiled as if you needn’t be.

Sometimes I make up words
as I go:  clork, scrunch,
lunkrivate, joyal,
and contemplate
the sag in the electrical cables
and wait for definitions to arrive
like those white feather puffs
like breeze shakes from the treetops
like summer flurries.
Here’s one now:
Clork:  to fairly bounce, the enjoy the
awkwardness of one’s gait.
The momentum of these clotheslines is like a history text, the many prisms in the lawn sprinklers the raw materials
of a primitive suburban art.
Sprunch:  to collapse, on a whim, the disappointments
and misfortunes of the past into an unexpected, optimistic image of the present;
the sound of that collapse.

And the wafting porcine odors and the smell of love
so long as the neighborhood children are eating well.

Walking is free in several senses,
and if you would join me,
I think you would be pleased.
Things reveal themselves, and good thoughts come.
As it is, alone I practice breathing and seeing.

Lunkrivate:  to haul large rocks away from
a specified area in order to make a dwelling
of that place.

My life: awake,
here and now, today and today and today
Joyal:  happy in one’s moment;  also:  the feeling
of light-headedness produced by forgiving,
forgetting, being forgiven, or being forgotten.

My 34th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , on September 25, 2012 by sethdellinger

Click here to read about this list, or click here to see all previous entries.

…and my 34th favorite song of all-time is:

“Terrible Love” by The National

The National have appeared previously on the list, at number 76 with “Lemonworld”.  I don’t know what else to say about the band in general (who have really morphed over the past year into one of my absolute favorite band; top 5 for sure), but I was recently looking at the CD case for their album  High Violet, and there are some “blurbs” from music critics on it that I thought summed up my thoughts about them quite well.  So I will type some of them here:

High Violet is the sound of a band taking a mandate to be a meaningful rock band seriously.”

“That’s The National’s insidious brilliance: no other band makes dark and stormy seem like ideal weather.”

High Violet locates the sweet spot between majesty and mopery, catharsis and wallowing, soaring grace.”

“A seductive collection of subtly surging anti-anthems.”

High Violet was one of the first CDs I bought after moving to Erie.  I had never heard a National song but had read a ton about them.  I saw High Violet prominently displayed in Best Buy and decided to go for it.  The first track on the album is “Terrible Love” and I was immediately hooked.  You may remember I used it as a driving factor in this classic blog entry.  The song (and the whole album), although they really are terribly sad songs, really elicit some of the more pleasant feelings in me that I can imagine.  The version I’ve included here is the live version that I’ve probably watched on YouTube a hundred times.  Seriously, you’ve got to watch this whole video.  Especially in the live setting, this song builds from a slow, contemplative dirge into a fearsome, blistering freight train.


My 35th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , , on September 22, 2012 by sethdellinger


“East Hastings” by Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Godspeed is the premiere post rock band.  For those of us who are into the genre, they stand as kind of mystical legends, who give almost no interviews, tour very little (although I’ve seen them, once), don’t release their CDs to mainstream outlets, etc etc.  Even having seen them live and in person, I can’t picture what a single member of the band looks like.

An entire mini-industry of imitators has essentially sprung up because of Godspeed (nobody claims Godspeed originated post rock, but they absolutely defined it), but nobody comes even remotely close to doing it like they do it.  Nobody takes their time to build up a long, slow, steady head of steam the way Godspeed does, nobody selects only the most perfect samples or recordings from the real world.  Nobody else is so entirely fucking serious without seeming ridiculous.

“East Hastings” is probably the song most people hear first from Godspeed, because it most exemplifies what Godspeed does so well: a long, quiet early section with a recording the band made of someone out in the “real world” talking, followed by an even longer steady build-up section that builds to a mini-crescendo, followed by a quick pause, and then a murderous burst of final intensity, and then a very long, quiet outro.  Not all Godspeed is this tidy and mind-wracking, but you’ve just got to hear this.  It required a degree of patience, but the patience is what makes the payoff so amazing.

Yes, it’s 17 minutes.  You have time.




Posted in Rant/ Rave with tags , , , , on September 19, 2012 by sethdellinger

Chances are, you care about none or almost none of my top ten lists presented here.  But you have to live with the fact that this post exists anyway.

It’s no secret that I love making top 10, top 5, or even top 100 lists of the things I love.  Not only do I love making them, but I find having them in the public sphere (ie, my blog) handy from time-to-time, as I’m discussing my favorites of something with someone and I can say, hold on, I actually have my list made, let me link you to it.

Over the past few years, I’ve made a few big lists (bands, books, directors, etc), but I find that some of these change so fast, use of the list in any sort of real-time discussion becomes moot.  So I am here updating them, although a few of them remain relatively the same as their original lists, others have changed drastically.

I am including a list of my top ten favorite movies for the first time since I made a very controversial top-100-movie list 6 or 7 years ago on my MySpace blog (most of which has disappeared for no reason).  This movie list will no doubt cause quite a stir with Kyle; it would also doubtless cause a stir with many of my other movie-centric friends, if in fact any of them still read my blog, the bastards.

All lists are in order, and are a list of my favorites, not what I consider “the best”.

My top ten favorite poets

10.  Randall Jarrell
9.   Jane Kenyon
8.  William Carlos Williams
7.   Sylvia Plath
6.  Billy Collins
5.  Denise Levertov
4.  E.E. Cummings
3.  Robert Creeley
2.  John Updike
1.  Philip Larkin

My top 5 favorite hockey teams

5.  San Jose Sharks
4.  Phoenix Coyotes
3.  Buffalo Sabres
2.  Columbus Blue Jackets
1.  Philadelphia Flyers

My 10 favorite (non-documentary) film directors

10.  Lars von Trier
9.  Sidney Lumet
8.  Terrence Malick
7.  Christopher Nolan
6.  Darren Aronofsky
5.  Danny Boyle
4.  Stanley Kubrick
3.  Werner Herzog
2.  Paul Thomas Anderson
1.  Alfred Hitchcock

My 5 favorite sodas

5.  Coke Zero
4.  Mr. Pibb
3.  RC Cola
2.  Tab
1.  Dr. Pepper

My top five football teams

5.  Detroit Lions
4.  Seattle Seahawks
3.  Buffalo Bills
2.  Cleveland Browns
1.  Philadelphia Eagles

My four favorite seaons

4.  Winter
3.  Autumn
2.  Spring
1.  Summer

My top ten radio shows

10.  Tell Me More (NPR)
9.  Science Friday (NPR)
8.  Mike and Mike in the Morning (ESPN Radio)
7.  On the Media (NPR)
6.  MLB Roundtrip (MLB Radio)
5.  A Praire Home Companion (NPR)
4.  Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!  (NPR)
3.  Talk of the Nation (NPR)
2.  On Point (NPR)
1.  Car Talk (NPR)

My top ten bands

10.  The Beatles
9.  Pearl Jam
8.  Godspeed You! Black Emperor
7.  Seven Mary Three
6.  Death Cab For Cutie
5.  Explosions in the Sky
4.  My Morning Jacket
3.  Band of Horses
2.  The National
1.  Hey Rosetta!

My top ten favorite TV shows

10.  Firefly
9.   Mythbusters
8.  Breaking Bad
7.  Seinfeld
6.  Picket Fences
5.  Carnivale
4.  24
3.  Mad Men
2.  LOST
1.  Northern Exposure

My top 5 baseball teams

5.  Baltimore Orioles
4.  New York Mets
3.  Kansas City Royals
2.  Cleveland Indians
1.  Philadelphia Phillies

My top ten favorite movies

10.  12 Angry Men
9.   Rope
8.  Citizen Kane
7.  Fitzcarraldo
6.  Children of Men
5.  Night of the Hunter
4.  Magnolia
3.  Where the Wild Things Are
2.  I’m Still Here
1.  The Tree of Life

My five favorite novelists

5.  Orson Scott Card
4.  Mark Twain
3.  Dave Eggers
2.  John Kennedy Toole
1.  Kurt Vonnegut

My top 5 (pre-my-birth) presidents

5.  John Adams
4.  Abraham Lincoln
3.  James K. Polk
2.  George Washington
1.  Franklin D. Roosevelt

My ten favorite books

10.  “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers
9.  “Maps in a Mirror” by Orson Scott Card
8.  “Slaughterhouse-5” by Kurt Vonnegut
7.  “Dubliners” by James Joyce
6.  “Letters From the Earth” by Mark Twain
5.  “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut
4.  “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway
3.  “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
2.  “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole
1.  “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck

My ten favorite friends of all-time

Ha!  You thought I was gonna do this one???

My ten favorite albums

10.  “Plans” by Death Cab for Cutie
9.   “Infinite Arms” by Band of Horses
8.   “Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever” by Explosion in the Sky
7.   “Seeds” by Hey Rosetta!
6.  “The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw” by Pelican
5.   “Secret Samadhi” by LIVE
4.   “Abbey Road” by The Beatles
3.   “RockCrown” by Seven Mary Three
2.   “High Violet” by The National
1.  “Into Your Lungs (and Around in Your Heart and On Through Your Blood)” by Hey Rosetta!

Top women I’ve slept with

1.  Seriously, read this

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