Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lewis speaks

Its strange to have read a great deal about someone and never heard them speak. Not so strange that it's uncommon, but strange for a figure such as C.S. Lewis. Lewis was a prolific Christian writer and apologist who passed away in 1963. His writing is known by many, but his voice by relatively few.

I found a treasure trove of Lewis audio online though from the Gospel Coalition. If you enjoy his writing and want to hear the apostle to skeptics for yourself I would recommend checking it out.

His accent sounds exactly like what I think of as the prototypical British man in the 1950s. He could just as well be narrating a video clip about some scientific phenomenon or study. I like it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Goodbye again Grandma Split

I said goodbye to my Grandma Split again this weekend. Home for a wedding, I stopped by her room with my mum and sister, to visit her and Grandpa, who hadn't left her side in days. We talked with Grandpa for an hour or so, and I held her hand and stroked it while listening to her labored breathing. She never opened her eyes, and to be honest I was kind of glad, because the lifeless stare would have been through her eyes, but it wasn't her anymore. I told her I loved her, and that I was back from Pennsylvania to visit her. They said she could hear us, so we talked to her, and with Grandpa too.

Alzheimers had already robbed Grandma of her mind years ago and it had now come back to take her life. It still hasn't quite hit me that she's passed and gone now, but when it does I'll grieve again. I'll grieve for the finality and to know that all of which was her is gone, save what lingers in our memories and the pictures that captured her in time.

I can remember Sunday dinner at their home with the pot roasts, potatoes and gravy, beans and corn with pepper sprinkled over them. I can remember going to her house while mum worked and coloring with her, playing in the den with the shag carpet under her watchful eye while she sometimes played the piano. I remember the camping and the crocheting and the puzzles, crossword and 1000 piece alike. I remember impossibly good baked beans at picnics. I'm thankful for all that I can remember, and I remember grieving with her when memory became hard.

Hers was the story of a dutch girl from Iowa who moved with her family to Grand Rapids and went to Grand Rapids Christian HS when it was the only 'Christian High' in the area and so deserved the moniker. A beautiful young Maliepaard bride, she married my dashing Grandpa and started a family, raising four children and knowing the heartbreak of losing another. Not an extraordinary story, but a true story and a good story. Her story is of faithfulness, faith and family that she carried on her back in an unassuming manner. Her story is echoed and carried on in the hearts of all the honeybunches that she had and held and loved, and who loved her back, and in Grandpa's heart for over 60 years.

Grandma won't get posthumous awards or prizes (as far as I know). Her quiet story is one of many like it but that doesn't make it any less unique or powerful.

Her confusion is gone now. Grandma's not concerned about when she'll go home, or about where home is any more. She is home now. Her mind is at rest with the knowledge of her Savior and she's in his presence. Her mind isn't worn and torn anymore--it's been fixed and renewed.

We love you Grandma and we miss you. We're glad you have your mind back and that it's better than it ever was. We love you bunches and we remember you as the vibrant, creative woman of God you were always meant to be.

I was able to get the audio of her funeral service in which I read this. It was beautiful and it's still a little hard for me to listen to, but it means a lot, so I think it's worth sharing. My cousin plays the piano starting at 22:20. I try my best to read this post at 24:55 and my brother and sister play piano and viola at 28:25.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The north lawn was a letdown

I saw the President's house on Saturday for the first time in person. I was not impressed.

This is roughly what I saw (mouse-over for expectation):

I guess the north lawn is fine, but I was expecting the south lawn, and not to see a street sweeper on the driveway...It all seemed very pedestrian and not suited for a person of the presidential station. Ah well, all things considered, we put the Executive and family up pretty well.

I learned earlier today that the official residence of the South Korean head of state is called the Blue House (Cheongwadae is literally: pavilion of blue tiles). Pretty cool I guess. The grounds are hella tight (below):

Friday, July 12, 2013

Guilty pleasures on repeat

So...I have no shame, and wanted to share it.

My anthems the last couple of days have been 22 by Taylor Swift, Falling in Love by 2NE1 and Bloom by Ga-In.

I dare you to tell me these songs aren't hooky...ridiculously so. And to be honest, I've needed some upbeat music lately.

Also, who's ever heard a Kpop-Reggae-Hiphop track lately that was better than Falling in Love? Ok, it might be the first of its kind.

This strikes me as something that I shouldn't share...I'll be over there fighting a shark to prove I'm still a man, if you need me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hiphop recommendations Summer 2013 [Part 2]

My favorites don't really have a theme, don't come from one language, and aren't all that alike. But they're some of my favorites. And they're not even all hiphop. Seeed is reggae/dancehall, for example. I don't put much stake in genre designations though since bands can be described in so many different ways (and hate being pegged to whatever genre is generally agreed upon that they are anyway).

I've been compiling some of my favorite songs for years now really, but it's time to write a little post about them and why they appeal to me. I envision this as a series moving forward that I'll update when I hit 7 or 8 new songs I've discovered. Here is the second part of the first installment (Part One):
  1. Cali Swag District -- Teach Me How to Dougie (2011)

    This is a perfect dance number, dougie or not. The west coast knows how to draw the females and make the dudes jealous, that much is certain :P. The song and concept are pretty simple, but it really makes me want to dougie...
    The actual dance is an enigma to me, not really surprisingly I suppose. C-Smoove and Yung make it look so easy and effortless. I wouldn't dream of messin' with Bubba's dougie.

  2. Lupe Fiasco ft. Talib Kweli -- After All (2008)

    Lupe put this out as part of a mixtape with a ton of collaborations. For some reason this track feels a little overproduced, but it ends up working on the whole. The lyrics are pretty deep and draw on a lot of Biblical imagery. I interpret it as a foray into how people derive meaning, drawing on his own thoughts on death and "the end."

    LF is a brilliant lyricist and I particularly enjoyed his work on this track, and on his album Lasers.

  3. The Coup -- Cars & Shoes (1998)

    This seems to be a little deviant from the Coup's typical political rapping, but who cares, because it's hilarious.

    Boots expounds on the fact that though his car is a complete lemon, you can walk or you can get in...his car is still better than your shoes, since you don't have one. The jazz flute really completes the delight that I draw from listening to the hilarious lyrics of this track and its über-funky beat. You might put your foot through the floor, might have to use your shoulder to close the door, but my car is still better than your/my shoes.

  4. A Tribe Called Quest -- Can I Kick It? (1990)

    The Tribe is one of my favorite groups as mentioned before. I think the obvious answer to this song is, "Yes!"

    This track is the epitome of early 90's rap with dat funky beat. The music video has charm in spades. It just seems right that Phife Dawg and Q-Tip would just be hanging around, spittin' and asking the same question over and over...yes, yes you can kick it. Please, please, please continue kickin' it.

  5. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis -- Thrift Shop ft. Wanz (2012)

    My friend and former housemate Adam turned me on to this in December 2012 when I was back home on vacation. At that point it had already been out for a few months (August 28 debut).

    It's got mad hooks, a lively sax part, it's a tongue in cheek indictment of consumerism and the beat reminds me of the Fresh Prince theme song. What's not to love? The man can rap, teach and entertain. Haggerty even uses his music to support causes like equal marriage rights, atypical in the rap/hiphop scene.

  6. The Coup -- The Guillotine (2012)

    Boots is rapping about the power the people have to take down the ruling class, alluding heavily to the French Revolution. He's been clear about his views as a communist, and in search of those pulling the strings behind the Oz-like curtain. He goes after the puppet masters in the track and music video with some very cool imagery.

    My favorite magazine, Wired, did an interview with Riley when the video debuted, talking about how the themes of the song fit with his involvement in the Occupy movement.

  7. A Tribe Called Quest -- Bonita Applebum (1990)

    It's difficult not to include a couple songs from the Tribe on any list...so why fight it.

    Bonita is one of the Tribe's well known hits, about a very shapely and seemingly specific young woman.

    My favorite line from Q-Tip in this is, "Chairman of the board, chief of affections." The poor Tip seems so smitten that, despite his superficial pleading and desire, I just hope she puts him on.

  8. Urbanize (de) -- Glaub an Dich (2008)

    This track is ridiculously positive. It repeats that no matter what the world does to you or throws at you, you're still believed in, and you still got this! You've nothing to lose, have courage. :) Sometimes it's nice to hear folks rapping about more than just how awesome they are.

  9. Ludacris -- Get Back (2004)

    This is a guilty pleasure of mine. I can distinctly remember walking home in high school, after Science Olympiad with this running through my head. I was a pretty angsty teen, so this was probably my anthem, being applied to jocks or something like that.

    The song isn't very compelling, since Luda appears to be merely expressing annoyance at yuppies in the club, since he's soooo cool. Kudos to him for doing this ridiculous MTV video with the huge hands. At very least it's a nostalgia enabler.

Head to Part One if you're interested.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


all my troubles seemed to never leave
now it looks as though they've partly gone
Oh, I believe in each new day.

It was kind of comically hilarious how badly yesterday went. It started with a meeting in the morning, frenetic work in the afternoon, couldn't see my girlfriend, was punctuated with an awesome respite celebrating a birthday, then sunk to a super-low immediately before bed, when I realized that I had to present at group meeting in the morning, and hadn't prepared anything yet...

I fell asleep dreading the early morning prep.

The prep came, the prep went, and the presentation went better than expected.

I'm alive, no worse for the wear, and here's a delightful video you should watch.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Lazy man changes bike tube!

Last October I was riding my bike to campus, like I had finally gotten in the habit of, when my rear tube popped due to puncture, going up a hill.

Fast-forward over many months of laziness to this evening, July 7, 2013 (I finally went to the bike shop last week and picked up a couple of tubes and borrowed some tire levers from an office-mate this week). I was ready, if I wanted to actually take the time. Strangely, I had never changed my own bike tube before, despite having toured Michigan by bike on the Five UP route of the DALMAC in 2010.

It had actually been hanging over me for a while, that pesky little fact of ineptitude in bike repair. No matter though. With some extra time on a quiet Sunday evening, punctuated by the patter of rain on my back porch, I got to work. To youtube!

Inexperience and laziness had conspired to deprive me of many cycling moons...but that ended tonight thanks to the amazing and oh-so-practical video embedded below.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Lucius -- How Loud Your Heart Gets

Radiolab was at the Solid Sound Festival recently and discovered the Brooklyn based band Lucius, which they shared in a recent update to the podcast.

Give them a listen, they're fantastic and soulful and only have one mustache, to their credit, as far as I can tell.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Hiphop recommendations Summer 2013 [Part 1]

My current favorites don't really have a theme, don't come from one language, and aren't all that alike. But they're my favorites nonetheless. And they're not even all hiphop. Seeed is reggae/dancehall, for example. I don't put much stake in genre designations though since bands can be described in so many different ways (and hate being pegged to whatever genre is generally agreed upon that they are anyway).

I've been compiling some of my favorite songs for years now really, but it's time to write a little post about them and why they appeal to me. I envision this as a series moving forward that I'll update when I hit 7 or 8 new songs I've discovered. Here is part 1 of the first installment (Part Two):
  1. Rammellzee vs K-Rob -- Beat Bop (1983)

    I came across this song more recently, on an episode of Bullseye with Jesse Thorn and Andrew Noz (#8 is also from this episode). This track is seminal and has a story concerning an argument between two graffiti artists, which you can get from wikipedia if you're interested. The thing I love about it initially is the unusual syncopation and eclectic beat borrowing from disco.

    Digging into the lyrics we hear K-Rob first, rapping about life in New York city and the "moral joke" that some make out of life. He speaks in his verses about the prospects for young people and the pervasiveness of crime. Yet despite all the prostitution, violence, gang life and substance abuse Rob mentions, he concludes hopefully that "it's not too late to straighten up so give [him] a break."

    Rammellzee on the other hand plays the role of a pimp and represents the darker side of New York life. His verses are seemingly much less organized, though still strongly thematic. Ram is constantly drawing attention to his prowess as a lyricist and street cred though in a very scattered, battle-esque fashion, fitting for his rivalry with Jean-Michel Basquiat. His stream-of-consciousness style contrasts with K-Rob's verses, gives the track a twist and lets the listener decide for themselves what to make of the interplay between the two.

  2. Eric B. & Rakim -- Paid in Full (1987)

    I'm not sure where I heard this one first. My guess is from Bullseye or the Sound of Young America, but I can't find a reference to it anywhere on MaxFun, so I'm going to attribute it to a random youtube related video find.

    I really like Paid in Full because of the large variety that it samples from. It sounds like "World" music, yet has a sweet 80's beat circulating throughout and grounding the lyrics. It feels like a complete cultural experience, more than just a song. Plus, you've got Rakim spitting.

  3. A Tribe Called Quest -- Check the Rhime (1991)

    I originally got into the Tribe from listening to an interview by Jesse Thorn (again) with Michael Rapaport, who made a documentary about the group.

    This was one of the first Tribe songs I listened to over and over again. The track opens with a jazzy riff, into a discourse between Q-Tip and Phife that's not overstated, and expounds on the lyricism that sets them apart from other MCs. "So just clean out your ears and just check the word."

    [Michael Rapaport interview]

  4. The Cool Kids -- Mikey Rocks (2008)

    Mikey Rocks was my one of my first forays into rap on my own. One of my college roommates heard me listening to it one day and turned me on to Nas, B.I.G. and a host of other amazing MCs and hiphop artists.

    At the time, Mikey Rocks had one of the simplest yet most intriguing beats that I had heard, which is what drew me to it. It drips with distortion and gives Reed and Ingersoll ample shelf space to deposit some intricate rhymes.

  5. Killer Mike -- Reagan (2012)

    I got into Killer Mike when my cousin Matt (I love his taste in music, so I usually check out anything he's listening to) mentioned that he was coming, or had done a show in Grand Rapids (my hometown). He had a longer list of bands, but Killer Mike appealed to me most, based off the tracks from those artists I listened to.

    Killer Mike is often called a political or even hyper-political rapper. Mike himself says,

    "I’m a social commentator and at times people have politicized the things I say, but I don’t care too much for any political party. I care about people."
    I would tend to agree with him. His rapping in Reagan is very political, but he comes out against both sides, criticizing Reagan, the Bushes, Clinton and Obama for attacking Qaddafi and for being pawns in the hands of those that hold the real power.

    Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, this song is how I learned about the Iran-Contra affair (gulp), so it may be worth a listen on that fact alone. The lyrics punch, carried with a beat that builds in complexity and depth...and conspiracy.

  6. Seeed -- Dickes B [de] (2001)

    I first heard this song in my German 101 class in college. Peter Fox later became my favorite German musician. I love the work he does with Seeed as well.

    He sings/raps about his love of Berlin on this track--the dark, rough beauty of the concrete city. It truly is a beautiful place, in its own unique "concrete jungle" way, and this song does justice to the artists, people and culture that call it home.

  7. Talib Kweli -- Ms. Hill (2005)

    Ms. Hill has a very R&B feel. It also samples Ben Kweller pretty heavily without giving credit...oops.

    Kweli is heavily supportive of Lauryn Hill in this album, while still poking fun at some of the things she's said and done (insisting on being called Ms. Hill). He chronicles some of the important moments in her life on tour and expresses concern, wishing he could be there to help her. It was written at a pretty low point in Hill's life; the positivity is in stark contrast to the criticism she was receiving at the time from Fugees bandmates and for her erratic behavior on tour.

    The song is technically from a mixtape, though it was pretty widely distributed.

  8. DJ Quik ft. Ludacris -- Pacific Coast (remix) (2005)

    I'm not going to even try to analyze this one, because Jesse and Andrew Noz already have better than I could due to their knowledge of the scene.

    I do like the very West-coast feel of the track, and Quik's descriptive, darker version of L.A. It's very real.

  9. Urbanize (de) -- Warten auf Dich [de] (2007)

    This track has a very different sound from the rest that I've listed. It's very melancholy and about someone pining after their lover/partner. They'll always be there waiting.

    Is this track a little sappy? Yes. Do I care? Not so much. Sometimes you need a corny sappy song. This is that song.

    Also, Urbanize is pretty on point with their fan interactions. I sent their page a facebook message (below) asking who the female vocalist was in "Warten auf Dich" since they've worked with a couple of them, but nothing is said about anyone at the beginning of their career.

    Ich hab, bitte, eine Frage fuer euch ueber "Warten auf Dich."
    Wer singt mit euch? War's Candy Hammerschmidt, oder?
    Vielen, vielen Dank. Finde euch ganz toll!
    Von U.S.,
    Roman sent me a very nice response (below) within 2 hours!
    Warten auf Dich war nicht Candy, nein.
    In der Pitchversion war's ich selbst (Roman), in der Vocal Version eine Sängerin, aber nicht Candy.
    Vielen Dank für deine Mail, ist toll sowas zu lesen :)
    LG Roman
    He didn't give her identity, but confirmed that it was neither of the two well known singers, so my guess is she was a background singer that the producer Martin de Vries brought in after their original single received chart attention. Kudos to Urbanize. LG an euch alle.

Head over to Part Two for the second half.