Archive for December, 2016

If My Feet Were Spears

Posted in My Poetry, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 29, 2016 by sethdellinger

The urge is strong to be a tiny bird
upon a tiny limb, maybe
a LeConte’s Sparrow
standing on its spidery feet,
instead of a rotund guy who falls
with a resounding thump,
who bruises, who scrapes on sidewalks
and car doors,
who sinks in river mud
to the waist.
If my feet were spears
I’d sink all the way through the mud
into one of the tumultuous underground rivers
that are everywhere,
earthborn by the black current.
When a child I thought I’d die in my twenties
like some of the greatest poets
but now at thirty-eight I see this hasn’t happened.
Still, I am gentle with my poems and birds.
Birds are poems I haven’t caught yet.

Have Yourself a Melancholy Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 24, 2016 by sethdellinger

For many years, I have posted the below clip of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to social media around the holidays.  It is far and away my favorite Christmas song.  For the decade-plus that I spent living and mostly being alone, the melancholy twinned with optimism in the song struck a special chord within me.  The song seemed to harken to a nostalgia of lovely, warm, joyous holidays, while acknowledging the fundamental hardship of life–of being alone, of losing track of people, or long, dark, cold winter days and memories that slide through your fingers (please note I refer here solely to the original lyrics made famous in this Judy Garland version, not the bastardized, senselessly happy remakes to come after it).  Today, I played it in the background while passing a lovely lazy day with Karla and I immediately began to choke up; the song was a companion in melancholy with me for so many years, the tears came like a Pavlovian response.  Of course, life is happy beyond my wildest dreams, exquisitely so–but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of melancholy.  My love, the boy, and our dog make life glorious–but there are still long, dark, cold winter days, and friends I’ve lost touch with, and memories that slide through our fingers like the water in the swimming pool on Parsonage Street when my sister saved me from drowning when I was six years old.  Someday soon, we all will be together–if the fates allow.  Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.

Merry Christmas everybody!  Life truly is grand–melancholy is the proof of it!

And to think I spent twenty years thinking art films and shoegaze rock were the meaning of life.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 19, 2016 by sethdellinger

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Sea of Ice

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2016 by sethdellinger

Famous people I know I would be good friends with if we ever got to know each other:

–Werner Herzog
–Kiefer Sutherland
–Anderson Cooper
–Emily Wells
–Dave Eggers
–Joaquin Phoenix
–Rachel Maddow
–Adam Savage

Oh hey, Karla and I were in line at a store last week.  We were next to be rung out.  We were standing kind of arm-in-arm.   We looked at each other and gave each other two or three quick, successive peck kisses.  The man behind the register threw his arms up in the air and bellowed, “FOLKS!  There’s other people here,” at which point he motioned to the other people in line behind us.  Then he said something along the lines of “Stop that” although I can’t remember his exact wording there.  We were flabbergasted!!  We hadn’t even been close to making out or kissing in any excessive way–whatever that would be!  It’s fair to say my anger was intense.  Karla pointedly asked the man behind us, “Were you offended?” and he said “I’m too tired to be offended.”  We were silent while he rang up our items.  As we walked out I said a very mean thing to him, which I do not feel bad about.

Oh hey, watch this video of Kay Ryan reading her poem “The Turtle”.  I mean wow.  “Her only levity is patience,/ the sport of truly chastened things.”

 

It’s not something you really wanna think about very much, but what songs would you want played at your funeral?  I actually used to think about this a lot, back when I was much more sad all the time, but even now the topic will cross my mind every few months.  Naturally my selections have varied wildly as time goes on and my tastes changed.  For many years I held tightly onto “Light Years” by Pearl Jam being one of the songs played, but that finally slid off the list a few years ago.  And thank goodness–in retrospect I can see that would have been gratuitously sad.  Just way TOO SAD.  Currently I am going with “A Three-Legged Workhorse” by This Will Destroy You, “I’ve Been Asleep For a Long, Long Time” by Hey Rosetta!,  and “Brian and Robert” by Phish.  I recommend trying this exercise yourself.  I think you’ll find it is quite revealing, not just about your musical tastes, but about the entirety of your life.

Here is a (partial) list of things I would try to get good at if I had unlimited time on this Earth:

–playing the guitar
–hiking/camping/climbing
–painting
–the yo yo
–acting
–ice skating

Oh hey, I’m reading a book about the earliest art to depict the polar regions after human exploration had begun there.  It’s a truly intriguing topic and some of this art is just spectacular.  Somewhat realistic based off the descriptions of the men who’d been there but also rather exaggerated and mystical as the place was still one of imagination and perceived danger and death.  Check out “Sea of Ice” by Caspar David Friedrich:

309fried

 

 

Harrisburg, December

Posted in Photography with tags , , , on December 13, 2016 by sethdellinger

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From Wikipedia:

Harrisburg’s site along the Susquehanna River is thought to have been inhabited by Native Americans as early as 3000 BC. Known to the Native Americans as “Peixtin”, or “Paxtang“, the area was an important resting place and crossroads for Native American traders, as the trails leading from the Delaware to the Ohio rivers, and from the Potomac to the Upper Susquehanna intersected there. The first European contact with Native Americans in Pennsylvania was made by the Englishman, Captain John Smith, who journeyed from Virginia up the Susquehanna River in 1608 and visited with the Susquehanna tribe. In 1719, John Harris, Sr., an English trader, settled here and 14 years later secured grants of 800 acres (3.2 km2) in this vicinity. In 1785, John Harris, Jr. made plans to lay out a town on his father’s land, which he named Harrisburg. In the spring of 1785, the town was formally surveyed by William Maclay, who was a son-in-law of John Harris, Sr. In 1791, Harrisburg became incorporated, and in October 1812 it was named the Pennsylvania state capital, which it has remained ever since. The assembling here of the highly sectional Harrisburg Convention in 1827 (signaling what may have been the birth of lobbying on a national scale) led to the passage of the high protective-tariff bill of 1828.[12] In 1839, Harrison and Tyler were nominated for President of the United States at the first national convention of the Whig Party of the United States, which was held in Harrisburg.

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You Vanish

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2016 by sethdellinger

Grandma was a short, stout woman who made puddings and hoarded swaths of uncut fabric in an upstairs walk-in closet.  Earlier, she had been a farmer’s wife, raising four children and taking on city “Fresh Air” kids in the Sixties.  Her husband came down with Parkinson’s disease and eventually she had to wheel him around the house in a big wheelchair, help him swallow enormous pills.  She tended a garden out back and taught me how to pick peas.  She watched professional wrestling and baseball with the television on mute.  Then one day she vanished.  She’s no longer here.

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Jenny was a girl I met in college–or so I’m told.  I was a very heavy drinker in those days, and I literally do not remember knowing her in college.  She found me on Myspace about ten years later.  She had stories about me from college that I didn’t remember but we knew all the same people.  Her father had been my philosophy professor, and I vaguely remembered that.  We texted a lot for a while; we were toying with the idea of romance but after getting together in person, it just wasn’t there.  She liked horror movies and had lots of tattoos.  She was a fairly big woman but something happened at some point to make her lose a remarkable amount of weight–suddenly she was tiny.  I never asked what was wrong with her and she didn’t seem to want to tell me.  She’s gone now.  She’s not anywhere you might look for her.

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I went to high school with Nate.  We weren’t really friends, but we knew each other.  We ran in mostly different circles.  But we both went on the class trip to England.  We got somewhat close over the two-week trip, even though he thought he was a little cooler than I was, and I didn’t disagree.  We bonded over being heavy smokers and enjoying a good adult beverage.  When we got back home we mostly went our separate ways, aside from a minor power struggle we had over a female, and one time I accidentally set off the alarm in his lowrider truck.  He was a moody guy who liked the bass in his truck and wore backwards baseball caps.  He was really, really funny.  He disappeared in his mid-twenties.

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My first real girlfriend’s father was a nut about World War II aviation.  He’d sit in his chair in the living room and watch History Channel aviation shows all day long.  He was balding in a very adorable way, he didn’t try to hide it but a combover look came to him naturally.  He’d worked most of his prime years for a shoe company that went out of business at just the wrong time.  There was always a dog or a cat in his house that everyone else was mad at but he seemed content to ignore.  He enjoyed “black powder shooting”, which is the hobby of shooting antique firearms.  He never really said much to me–maybe “hi” and “bye” at the appropriate times.  The past seemed to weigh on him.  He has vanished.

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What is it, this business we have of ending?  It’s tempting to say we go somewhere–even if it’s just energy, even if it’s another life, anything, anywhere.  Of course, that’s just the rub of it–there is literally no way of knowing.  There is only the ever-present mystery. Although when you confront the thing head-on, there isn’t really much mystery at all.  We all know, at our core, exactly what it is (or better yet, exactly what it isn’t).

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Someday I, too, will vanish from these daily comings-and-goings, in a poof, like mist, like a lantern you thought you saw in a window.

My Favorite Music of 2016

Posted in Rant/ Rave with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2016 by sethdellinger

It’s that time of year again, oh friendy friends!  Time for my favorite music of the year blog!  For those who haven’t slogged through these before, allow me to get these perfunctories out of the way:

  1. All music on this list is NEW music that was released in calendar year 2016.
  2. A mix CD of songs from my list can be easily obtained by messaging me and asking.  Those on my “mailing list” will receive one without asking.
  3. I am not saying this was the “best” music of 2016.  I used to say that but people got their undies in a bunch.  I’m just saying it’s my “favorite”.
  4. If you’re interested in lists from years past, they can be found here:
    My Favorite Music of 2009My Favorite Music of 2010My Favorite Music of 2011

    My Favorite Music of 2012

    My Favorite Music of 2013

    My Favorite Music of 2014

My Favorite Music of 2015

And before I proceed with this year’s list, I’d like to address what was probably my biggest disappointment of my music listening life: this year’s Band of Horses release.  When I heard of the album, and learned it’s title, and saw the artwork and read the tracklist, I was perhaps the most excited I’d been for a new release since the height of my Pearl Jam fandom.  I fully anticipated making it the number one album on my list this year.  Instead, it does not even appear.  The reviews were very mixed–some were ecstatic whereas others reacted quite like I did, and many were very neutral.  So obviously it can be heard many ways.  I personally, after listening about ten time during it’s first month of release, may never listen to it again.

I’d also be remiss if I did not mention Prophets of Rage, a supergroup combination of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill.  Again, many detested it and many loved it; I loved it and thought it was beyond the bee’s knees.  However, for the most part, it was not new music, and it does not make the list, but it formed a very important part of 2016 for me.  In addition, Neil Young+Promise of the Real released a live album, Earth, that felt as fresh and vibrant as a new studio album and I listened to that thing like crazy, but again: not really new.  Now: my list!

15.  Explosions in the Sky, “The Wilderness”

14.  Ray LaMontagne, “Ouroboros”

13.  Public Enemy, “Man Plans God Laughs”

12.  Kiefer Sutherland, “Down in a Hole”

11.  DJ Shadow, “The Mountain Will Fall”

10.  A Tribe Called Quest, “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service”

The Tribe’s triumphant return was well worth the wait, with lyrics poignantly reflecting the temper of the times and thankfully light on misogyny.  And the beats are dope.

9.  M83, “Junk”

thqjx379jnM83’s new album is a kind of throwback space funk jam-off, like a ride in a technicolor elevator, with purple felt walls.  Impossible to dislike.

 

 

 

 

 

8.  Warpaint, “Heads Up”

Warpaint have now built upon the dark, groovy introspection they created in their first two albums with more intricate jams and a subtle pop sensibility; their musical landscape is now a universe all their own.

7.  Mexico City, “When the Day Goes Dark”

This powerful Australian band hadn’t released any new music for six years.  Their return when-the-day-goes-dark-1-600x600was worth waiting for, as they morphed from terrific bar band into a piledriver of country and blues rock.  A potential classic.

 

 

 

 

 

6.  Jim James, “Eternally Even”

The mastermind behind My Morning Jacket didn’t connect with me on his first solo album a few years back, but this year’s “Eternally Even” tickles my Jacket bone.

5.  Paul Simon, “Stranger to Stranger”

Simon is never bad.  But as he ages, I seem to keep thinking he is getting better and better; his lyrics become more adventurous (from The Werewolf: “The fact is, most obits are mixed paulsimon_strangertostranger_rgb-640x640-e1460038643460reviews./ Life is a lottery, a lotta people lose./ And the winners, the grinners, with money-colored eyes/ they eat all the nuggets, and they order extra fries./  But the werewolf is coming.”), his music more modern, playful, daring.  “Stranger to Stranger” is a delight from start to finish, but especially for those familiar with his full body of work; his evolution is a bewildering achievement.

 

 

4.  Emily Wells, “Promise”

Wells is an astonishing talent, and “Promise” proves she’s an artist worthy of canonization.  Eschewing her previous catchy violin hooks and hip hop undertones, here she digs deep–the level of introspection at times becomes hard to watch.  But ultimately, while not an album of happy, singalong songs, “Promise” proves instead to be a key addition to any music library concerned with–frankly–the meaning of life.

3.  Radiohead, “A Moon Shaped Pool”

What’s still to be said about Radiohead?  They are as good as everyone says, as is this album.  Including a studio version of “True Love Waits” (re-worked for piano) nearly broke me in half.

2.  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Skeleton Tree”

Cave’s son died tragically while the band was recording the album, and it can be heard in every sound.  It’s a quiet, low-tempo, mostly spoken-word collection of songs, and it is not for the faint of heart.  It is brave, and it is terrifying, but it does not wallow.

1.  Bon Iver, “22, A Million”

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I haven’t said much about this album online, as I grew into it slowly, and it came out shortly after a few albums I’d been talking about at length, so I figured I’d stop clogging up everybody’s feed with my music stuff.  But as I kept listening, and listening, and listening, it became clear this album was not going to go away. It is an album of absolutely confounding elements–it incorporates so many genres, styles, and influences, it’s amazing it is coherent.  And it sometimes approaches unlistenable, as vocalist Justin Vernon simply sings through a synthesizer without any music for long lengths of time.  But ultimately it’s not about being catchy, or easy, or even “artsy”.  The album is a true experience, and one that is deeply felt.

 

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