Anywhere but here

June 26, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Posted in Life, Music | Leave a comment
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It is late on a Friday evening, and here I sit in my office doing homework for a particularly dubious cost accounting class.

I sit, also, upon a bit of a metaphysical precipice.

There is a song playing in the background in my little gray room, reverberating off the stark walls amidst the outside patter of rain and the inside roar of the cleaning crew, and it goes like this:

Have you seen me lately?

I was out on the radio, starting to change, somewhere out in America

It’s raining

Could you tell me, one thing you remember about me?

Just one thing you remember about me?

I remember me

All the little things that make up a memory

She said, she loved to watch me sleep

And she said, it’s the breathing, it’s the breathing in and out and in,

Have you seen me lately?

I can name at least three significant events of my life during which this song has been playing, quite randomly. This song, rather maudlin, always plays for me at times just like this.

I’m not quite sure what that means.




The song remains the same

June 23, 2009 at 8:43 am | Posted in Life, Music | 1 Comment
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These have been gray days here in New England, a seemingly never-ending onslaught of rain, clouds, and temperate temperatures not entirely befitting the month of June.

It weakens the soul, it does.

I have chosen, amidst the bleakness, to focus on something I encountered a few weeks ago when I need encouragement. At the beginning of the month, I found myself, rather last minute, attending a Dave Matthews concert here in Hartford on a Friday night. It was rainy and muddy and crowded, brimming with an uneasy energy that you encounter at these outdoor shows that mark the beginning of the summer season.

And it was absolutely teeming with youth.Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King

The setlist began, old standards intertwined with songs from their latest CD, and I noticed something rather remarkable. While yes, the ants marched on as always and everybody sang along, these folks, these kids, were also singing along with all of the new songs.

Songs from the album that had come out three days ago.

My heart soared.

I remember these days. These days when a new album coming out was a big deal, an actual event in your life, and you and everyone you knew were consumed with getting it, playing it, and memorizing the lyrics to it. It played at the parties you went to, it rang out from small radios behind the counters of summer jobs, and the beat up cars of college compatriots blared it from their open windows as they drove by you on the street.

Before These Crowded StreetsI, obviously, not only recall these days, but do so with great fondness. For me, the album wasn’t about a Groogrux King but rather the precedence of Crowded Streets, but I suspect that the experience largely remains the same.

And this, for some reason, fills me with great happiness and hope. For in a time of unquestionable turmoil, crushing economic conditions, and immense uncertainty, young people are still memorizing the words of an album within three days of its release, if only to be able to stand in a field on a Friday night and sing it out loud with their friends.

It really does lift you up.

Music and Lyrics

May 5, 2009 at 7:54 am | Posted in Music | Leave a comment
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For a blog titled Lyrical Uncertainty, I don’t actually spend much time discussing music here, as was, I think, part of this blog’s original charter. Or, at least, the charter in my head.

I wish that I believed in fate

I wish I didn’t sleep so late

Part of it comes from the fact that by the time I usually feel like I’ve digested an album enough to write something about it, I get some new album that excites me even more but that I recognize, thankfully, I am not yet prepared to write something coherently about. Seriously, if I put up a post within the first week of purchasing most albums, I would end up recommending to you some very, very mediocre music.

I tremble

They’re gonna eat me alive

If I stumble

They’re gonna eat me alive

One might wonder why I would willingly listen to the mediocre music in the first place. I think that in reality, while I am a lover of music, I am actually more of a lover of lyrics (maybe that was this blog’s charter, I don’t know, it’s all a haze at this point). Which is why, I posit, I am sometimes able to listen to sub-par music if the singer in question says something smart or insightful or funny. And also why I always want to sleep at the symphony. I don’t know. Maybe I should try poetry.

And the wanting comes in waves

What I do know is that if I come across one of these lyrics, a lyric that tickles my metaphorical mental-bone in some way, that song is going on repeat for a long, long time. And if you are around me, in my office, or my car, or my home – you will be made to listen to this new song a lot. And for that, I do not apologize, because these lyrics are good and special and rare.

I don’t even know what I’m in the game for

I don’t even get your T-shirt’s pun

So, I think that what I’m going to do here, the new outlet I am choosing for this lyrical obsession, is to start including random song lyrics that I’ve recently heard into my blog posts. Yes, what I’m saying is that I am extending my lyrical obsession beyond the auditory, and will now present them to you textually. Which, I suppose, is better than sexually.

Because I don’t know you all that well.


The (entire name) is silent

March 31, 2009 at 8:07 am | Posted in Music, School, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Not Rio

We arrived at our next destination, Salvador, and were, admittedly, a bit let down after the splendor and the beauty of Rio De Janeiro. There were no towering mountains, no majestic beaches. There were, though, malfunctioning air conditioners, little buggies in the beds, and the Brazilian equivalent of The Fast and The Furious taking place right outside our hotel window that night.

Such was our disappointment in this new venue, that for one full day we refused to speak its name, referring to it instead only as Not-rio. Take heart, though, and note the full usage of the name above, and here again – Salvador. For we ultimately came around, were wooed, won over and convinced that this was a fine city indeed. The initial impression, and our lodgings in particular, just left us a bit…down.

Ooba Gooba

Our business visit in Salvador was with the Brazilian construction giant turned conglomerate, Odebrecht Group. It’s name – odebrecht5b15dnative to Brazil, appearing German, pronounced…well, full disclosure, I’m still not quite sure. As a group, we mis-pronounced, misspoke, and mismanaged this proud company’s name in so many new and different ways that it was a wee bit embarrassing.

Nevertheless, I found them to be an impressive company indeed, possessing, in their history, a story that would make any American MBA student salivate upon hearing. Founded in 1944 by Norberto Oderbrecht, one of these titans of the mid-century that fabricated entire industries out of whole cloth with nothing but their bare hands and a good idea, the pride of the employees telling the tale was practically seeping from their very pores. As it should.

Existing primarily as a construction company for forty years before transforming into a holding company and embarking on a domestic spending spree, it is easy to admire the patience and planning of a company that was content with doing one thing, and one thing only, very well for almost half a century before making the leap into aggressive expansion.

dsc04762The presentation advanced and the slide moved on to an overall chronology of the company, and I found myself speechless. For this slide was not a mere time line of a company, but rather a portrait of a man’s will, spread across seven decades, dozens of countries, and millions of affected lives. To have done this thing, to have created this multi-billion dollar empire on your back– the satisfaction this man, Norberto Oderbrecht, must have, the ease with which his head must hit the pillow, and the excitement that must come when each day starts. Remarkable. Breathtaking.

Responsible now for the building of power plants, bridges, subways and stadiums, this is a company that is producing, on a daily basis, the cornerstones of the world. $18.3 Billion in 2009, from nothing in 1944, and still privately held. Epic.

The business-speak soon gave way to the requisite social-speak that was so prevalent among each of the companies that we visited. Talks of re-forestation, green processes and a walking tour through an actual nature sanctuary behind the company offices followed, with an almost unstoppable determination to prove to us that, yes, they cared about the environment.dsc04769

We found this type of thing at each company; I’m not sure if it’s a Brazilian cultural thing or a reaction to a bunch of MBA students thing, but there was a much more significant, and consistent, focus on cultural projects than I’ve ever seen at American companies (or Chinese ones, for that matter). It was a bit odd. Maybe because they’re on top of a rain forest and surrounded by poverty, two of the three holy trinity issues for American social wack-a-doos, they’ve developed an almost Pavlovian response to the arrival of pale skin. Yes we care about the earth and the poor! Let us show you.

One final observation, from the Q&A session when asked about the declining global economy. The high comedy of companies, both in person and every day at home in the WSJ, saying that they were “growing too fast” and that they’re “happy for the slowdown,” is getting to be a bit much. I mean, really? Really?

Overall, though, one of the best business visits that we’ve had. Inspiring.

Squawk!

A stop at the hotel, a quick drink, and back into the brink once more. A cab, cabs, actually, were summoned, a recommendation was obtained, and we were off. A snippet from the actual conversation with the Salvadorian (?) cab driver:

Cab Driver: I will drop you there. But if you go left down that hill, be careful, you will lose your pen-is. (said just like that, like pen is.)

Us: Uhhhhh. (silence)

Cab Driver: And you need your pen-is if you are going to stay in Salvador.

Us: Uhhhhh.

dsc04794

The restaurant. Goodness. Pronounced universally to be the best meal that we all had in Brazil, it was at this point that we finally cast off the shame of Not-rio and fully embraced the name of our new, temporary, home. It was here that I ate, for the first time in my life, an ostrich steak. Delicious, more like red meat than a poultry, and a fine complement to a Brazilian Jameson, which, by the by, bears a striking similarity to American Jameson. Thank heavens for small consistencies.

Dinner finished, the evening mayhaps over, we left the restaurant, turned the corner and found, to our astonishment, a reggae band. In an alley. With chairs and table sat up haphazardly around them and available for the resting of the feet, the soul, and the heart.

The crown jewel of Brazil, this fine evening. A letting loose. Good friends, great music, moderately acceptable beer. The cobblestones, the churches, the people. All of it right, none of it planned, reproducible or available, I think, once more. A unique lifetime experience, one of those rare moments that you recognize, while still in the actual moment, will never happen again.

dsc04825

Perfect.

Never the Bride

December 7, 2008 at 10:39 pm | Posted in Music | Leave a comment
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The Decemberists new singles series, Always the Bridesmaid, has wrapped itself up. Three nice little volumes of two songs a piece, ranging from the powerfully poppy to the massively maudlin. 

always-the-bridesmaid

Methinks, if one had access to a device capable of arranging groups of songs into a continual, say, playlist, that this might make for a decent little pseudo-album.

If only such a device existed.

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