Friday, December 29, 2006

Albums that I Love #5: Joyspring


Is it Friday again already?

Given the recent Christmas holiday, I decided that today would be a good week to talk about my favorite album of spiritual music. Joyspring is an instrumental album of piano arrangements of hymns by Kurt Bestor. A companion of mine had this tape when I was on my mission, and I was able to trade him for "The Messiah" by the Tabernacle Choir. When I got home, I asked for the CD for Christmas and its definitely an album that stands the test of time. I just really enjoy these piano arrangements.

Given that the songs are all instrumental, I'm not sure I can think of things to say about each track, but here's whats on the album.

1. Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning
2. Nearer, My God, to Thee
3. Love One Another
4. A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief
5. I Need Thee Every Hour
6. Sweet is the Work
7. Abide with Me; 'Tis Eventide
8. I Know That My Redeemer Lives
9. The Lord's Prayer

Friday, December 22, 2006

Albums that I Love #4: Ocean Avenue

Ocean Avenue

Yellowcard is a band that I first heard about from a punk rock chick I knew. I thought it was funny that there was a band named after a soccer penalty, and I didn't think much of it past that. Then I heard a song of theirs on a snowboarding game I was playing and thought, "Hmmm, not bad", and then 2005 rolled around and they blew up. They had some big hits ("Ocean Aveune", "Only One") and most people have heard of them by now. However, they are more than just a big hits kind of band. Ocean Avenue is strong from start to finish. With songs ranging from upbeat and loud to pensive I can't think of a single song I don't like.

1. Way Away
This was the first Yellowcard song I ever really heard and its pretty indicative of what you're going to get on the album -- High energy, emotion, rock laced with electric violin.

2. Breathing
Similar to "Way Away".

3. Ocean Avenue
Probably Yellowcard's biggest hit to date, the title track on the album talks about rememebering growing up and wondering if it would be possible to recapture that feeling if you could find the person you spent a lot of time with.

4. Empty Apartment
The first slower track on the album, "Empty Apartment" has kind of a sad sound. Sounds like a breakup song. Or a post-breakup song.

5. Life Of A Salesman
This song is one of my favorites. Its an ode to fathers. You'd think that punk rockers would fall neatly into the "I hate my dad" crowd, but this song is about looking up to your dad and wanting to be like him when you grow up.

6. Only One
A love song that was another big hit for Yellowcard. Sung in true belt your lungs out emo fashion.

7. Miles Apart
I think this song is about being in a band and hitting the road, but remembering and loving people who are far away, even though you're "Miles Apart".

8. Twentythree
A song about trying to move past grudges.

9. View From Heaven
Another more mellow song, this is a song sung to someone who's passed on. "I'm sure the view from heaven beats the [heck] out of mine down here."

10. Inside Out
Another slower song about a relationship ending and how when its over, its over.

11. Believe
A song written in reference to 9/11 about the firemen who risked/gave their lives and their families. "Be Strong. Believe."

12. One Year, Six Months
An acoustic song looking back at memories of the times when a relationship was good.

13. Back Home
The last track on the album continues the melancholy mellowness thats been showing up on the 2nd half of the album. This song is about having success and getting what you think you wanted, but being away from the people you love and not being able to share it with them. "Another sunny day in Cal-i-forn-i-a, I'm sure back home they'd love to see it."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My 2006 Christmas Card

Lately I've gotten a few Christmas cards from friends detailing the doings of the year 2006 and what all they've accomplished and where they've been and the like. Rather than spend a lot of money on postage, I've decided to just type on up here and then it will be assured of arriving pre-Christmas regardless of bad weather.

Where to begin...2006 was a year without anything I'd consider as huge milestones -- 28 doesn't seem like an age when anything extra special happens --, but did have a few noticeable steps of progress and/or change.

With regard to my schooling, I started the year with a brand new advisor, as my old one had just told me he'd be leaving the U to take a position at Columbia in NYC. Luckily, my new advisor is one of the head honchos at the place I'm doing my research and being able to drop his name in my emails asking for help comes in handy. I did a lot of preliminary data collection for my project and got IRB approval for my project from both the place I'm doing it, and from the U. I sat in on meeting with the Referring Physician IT Task Group, which basically meant I was getting up really early to sit in a 2 hour meeting and try to not fall asleep. I traveled to conferences in San Diego, Nashville, and Washington DC. I had my first official presentation (a poster on Academic Podcasting at Fall AMIA), actually started doing some programming (albeit not on the right module) and just this month completed the coursework requirements for my degree. So while most of those things felt like givens, things I expected to do without too much trouble, its still very nice to have them done and taken care of.

Exhibit Madness
HIMSS in San Diego

Foosball Mania
NLM in Nashville

AMIA 2006 017
My poster at AMIA

Looking ahead to this next year, I really hope to get my project up and running, get my qualifying exams done with, and start working on my first paper, all within the first 4-6 months of the year.

Aside from school, I think that my responsibilities with my church callings were probably the second most time-consuming aspect of the year. I started the year as 1st counselor in the Elder's Quorum presidency of my singles ward, and then in May on the same day our presidency was released, I was sustained as the new Executive Secretary. Since then I've spent a lot of long hours at the church, especially on Sundays, but also a night or two during the week. Don't get me wrong I enjoy getting to know all the great people in our ward and being able to work closely with the bishopric has been very educational.

In July, we moved from the University down to a building in Murray that's much closer to our ward boundaries and in August we got a new bishop and a few weeks later our boundaries were expanded. As a result of the above (not counting the new bishop) our ward membership has grown about 50% in the last quarter and we are starting to test the limits of our building. Our Relief Society meets in the chapel and the Elders meet in the Relief Society room. If we continue to grow I would foresee a boundary change coming in the next 6 months or so, which will be sad because there are so many great people in our ward.

Aside from church and school, some highlights of the year included a family road trip (minus dad) to California, attending University of Utah football games, camping with friends, blogging (this is approximately my 88th post this year), and even some dating thrown in.

Enjoying the fruits of our labors
Camping in Spanish Fork Canyon - April 2006 (Before all the rain)

Shotgun Formation
Utah's Red and White Scrimmage - April 2006

Logan Demo Derby May 2006 004
Logan Demolition Derby - May 2006

Family Picture at the San Diego temple
Family Trip to San Diego - June 2006

Huh? What?
Barbecue at the Spruces - June 2006

Yes its true, my records indicate that I've been on 14 dates this year, and if you consider the fact that not one of them occurred during the months from June to August (not sure what happened there, too many BBQ parties, I guess) That's better than 1.5 per month. I know I'm stretching here, but I'd have to go back and compare to see if this year was any better than previous ones. I can say that there were a couple different girls that I was genuinely interested in that allowed me to take them out and while they've decided to not continue allowing me to take them out, its a good reminder that there are still other girls out there.

I don't have tons of pictures from the 2nd half of the year, but I just picked out my new camera yesterday (thanks mom and dad!) so hopefully 2007 will be accompanied with more images.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Albums that I Love #3: Donde Estan Los Ladrones?

Donde Estan Los Ladrones? is an album that will forever and always remind me of my LDS mission to Argentina from 98-2000 during which I heard songs from this album nearly continually, and deservedly so. Its jam-packed with Latin rock goodness. It helped me to know that not all music sung in Spanish is played by mariachi bands. Sadly, ever since Shakira came to the states, almost at the same time that I returned, she's turned in dyed-blonde bimbo who pretty much just shakes her hips or lurches like a zombie while singing whatever it is her manager has arranged for her to sing -- at least thats my take on her English career. I'm sure she's made truckloads of cash that she wouldn't have otherwise, but her pre-peroxide albums are definitely much better.

As an example of how great this album is, I went to YouTube in search of videos from songs on this album and found 5 of them for an album that only has 11 tracks.

1. Ciega, Sordomuda

My love for you makes me a "blind, deaf-mute". One of the things I like best about Shakira's music is the rapid-fire delivery of lyrics. Reminiscent of a good rapper, or "The End of the World as We Know It".

2. Si Te Vas
A great angry song for a cheating lover. "If you go" don't come back cuz I'll be gone.

3. Moscas En La Casa
A song about being in the house alone after said lover leaves, with "flies in the house".

4. No Creo

"I don't believe" in me and a bunch of other stuff. But no one knows me like you do.

5. Inevitable

To continue loving you is "Inevitable"

6. Octavo Día
What happened after God created the world on the "8th Day". Humans screwed it up.

7. Que Vuelvas
I want you to "come back." A great song.

8. Tú

I'll give "you" everything. Just don't go.

9. Dónde Están Los Ladrones?
"Where are the Thieves?" A song saying that there are thieves in high places too, you know?

10. Sombra De Ti
This song about "your shadow" is the only song on the album that I just don't especially care for. I always think, "it can't be that bad, maybe its just not as good as the rest." And then I listen and think, "maybe it really is that bad."

11. Ojos Así

I've been around the world and haven't found "eyes like" yours.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Discontinued Fast Food Favorites Hall of Fame

Some of you who've been reading for quite a while now will remember how I used to do a weekly feature on Fridays about some of my favorite fast foods. Eventually that, like all good things, came to an end. However, the other day I stopped by the last Arby's that I knew of that served Onion Petals still (the one closest to my home having discontinued them a couple years ago), and found that, sadly, they too had stopped serving this delectable side dish. It got me started thinking about other discontinued fast food favorites and so, I present to you the Discontinued Fast Food Favorites Hall of Fame. Just to clarify some of these were only limited time availablity, but really is that any better?

1. Arby's Onion Petals
The aforementioned side dish from Arby's was different than your typical onion ring, as it wasn't deep fried until it was black and was actually more onion than batter instead of the reverse.

2. Taco Bell's Club Chalupa
Probably most famous for the commercials it spawned that talked about going "clubbin", this take on the classic chalupa featured ranch sauce and bacon.

3. Panda Express's Beef and Potato
I'm still waiting for them to come out with something that would deter me from getting a double portion of Orange Chicken in my 2-entree plate. The Beef and Potato was a good one. I always want to ask why they have sweet 'n sour pork, but not sweet 'n sour chicken.

4. Wendy's Bacon n' Cheese Baked Potato
The other day I decided I wanted one of these, only to find out that this dish, essential a potato bowl filled with bacon and cheese soup is no longer available. Apparently only healthy eaters want a baked potato and they don't want it with tons of bacon and cheese.

5. Taco Bell's BLT Soft Taco
This taco still holds a place in my heart. Growing up we never went to Taco Bell. One day in high school I went there with some friends and ordered one of these and found it to be delelectable. Sadly, I then found out it was available for a limited time only. Ah, where have you gone BLT Soft Taco.

6. McDonald's Arch Deluxe
"The Burger with the Grown Up Taste" This burger made the list for two reasons. 1) It was actually a pretty decent burger. 2) It came on the scene while I was in the midst of my 2 years of working at McDonalds. And the PR push on this one was something to behold. We got new hats, buttons, etc. Everything was about the Arch Deluxe. They changed some of the other sandwiches as well to look similar with similar buns, packaging, etc. For fun we used to welcome people to the drive-thru by saying, "Welcome to McDonalds, Home of the Arch Deluxe, the Burger with the Grown up Taste". Anyway it was a decent burger. Too bad it didn't last.

7. Arby's Western Chicken Club
I may be messing up the name on this one, but there's no messing up its worthiness of a spot in the Hall of Fame. This Arby's creation was a sliced chicken sandwich (remember when they had sliced chicken there, instead of just Crispy or Grilled chicken fillets) with lettuce, tomato, and bacon. I remember I was always amazed that it would fill me up and I wouldn't even need to order fries to go with it. Very tasty as well.

8. Wendy's Monterrey Ranch Chicken
This one is the granddaddy of them all. During my freshman year of college, I lived just down the street from a Wendys and this special menu item made its debut. Chicken breast fillet with Monterrey Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, and Ranch sauce. I know it doesn't sound much different than anything else, but there's just something about this sandwich that has to be tasted to comprehend. It made a brief reappearance a few years ago, when Wendy's was cycling through a whole variety of specialty chicken sandwiches (Jazzy Blue, Wild Mountain, Parmesean Supreme), and I was able to show others why I had always remembered the Monterrey Ranch Chicken Sandwich. Sadly it is gone again now. I guess its possible that you could have ordered this sandwich during the period when Wendy's required you to build your own sandwich each time you wanted to order something, but I was always afraid I'd screw that up and get something terrible.

Feel free to leave your discontinued favorites in the comments.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Albums that I Love #2: The Carnival

The Carnival

My freshman year of college, I lived just down the street from a Fred Meyer and fairly often I'd stop in there and listen to CDs in their music department. This was before you could listen to a whole CD on a machine, before .mp3's really. I'd seen the Guantanamera video on MTV, and when I'd stop in, I'd check out Wyclef Jean's inaugural solo effort, "The Carnival", just to listen to the first 30 seconds of the song.

Finally, I broke down and bought the album, and let me tell you its definitely not your typical hip-hop album. There is a broad range of music here, from the aforementioned "Guantanamera" and other more stereotypical raps like "We Trying to Stay Alive", you also get 'Clef playing the guitar, singing with R&B singers The Neville Brothers, and even throwing in some songs that aren't in English or Spanish at the end of the album (I think they're in French or Haitian or something). The skits are all pretty dumb, and oddly enough, iTunes still wants to charge you .99 for something that's only 20 seconds long. I guess it continues a tradition founded on previous Fugees albums, but frankly they don't add anything to the album. Speaking of the Fugees, it is nice to see the former Fugees showing up and playing nice, as later on there was some serious feuding going on.

Please be aware, this album does contain some explicit lyrics although not excessively so, so you may want to look for an edited version of any songs you are interested in checking out.

1. Intro/Court/Clef/Intro [Skit/Interlude]
2. Apocalypse
Despite recently getting bogged down in not really saying anything (see Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" for example), Wyclef actually can lay down some pretty good rhymes when he cares enough to try. This is a good example.

3. Guantanamera (ft. Celia Cruz & Jenni Fujita)
When I was growing up, my parents had a tape of folks songs from the 60s and Guanatanamera was on that tape. It was one of the first songs I knew that was primarily Spanish (not counting La Bamba and Feliz Navidad). I think that's what drew me to the song in the first place, but its got a lot of the classic Fugee rhymin' that I like. I had no idea who Celia Cruz was when I bought the album, but she had a huge Carnival-themed hit when I was in Argentina. Apparently she's kind of a big deal in the Latin world and has been around for a very long time.

4. Pablo Diablo (Interlude) (ft. Talent, Crazy Sam & Da Verbal Assassins)
5. Bubblegoose (ft. Melky Sedeck)
Not my favorite song, but I really love the last bit of the song where the guitar comes in. Funny how this change really makes the song sound better. Should have used that for more of the song.

6. Prelude to "To All the Girls"
7. To All the Girls
Again, a song that gets good right near the end. Not sure why they don't remix these a little better.
8. Down Lo Ho (Interlude)

9. Anything Can Happen

10. Gone Till November (ft. New York Philharmonic Orchestra)
One of the best songs on the album. Strangely the album version wasn't the same as the video version for reasons that I could never figure out.

11. Words of Wisdom (Interlude)
12. Year of the Dragon (ft. Lauryn Hill)
13. Sang Fézi
First of the non-English tracks. Funny that I like to sing along using nonsense words that I'm sure are nothing like the real songs.

14. Fresh Interlude
15. Mona Lisa (ft. The Neville Brothers)
This is a classic R&B song, and generally I'm not a fan of the whole R&B Slow Jam, but this one works for me.

16. Street Jeopardy
17. Killer MC (Interlude) (ft. Pras)
18. We Trying to Stay Alive (ft. John Forte & Pras)
Great rap song that heavily samples the BeeGees "Stayin' Alive"

19. Gunpowder
Another great song. "Do good things come to those who wait?"

20. Closing Arguments [Interlude/skit]
21. Enter the Carnival (Interlude)
At this point the album totally changes. The skits are over and apparently Wyclef just wants to put some more Caribbean-themed, non-English tracks on the album.

22. Jaspora
That said, Jaspora has a great beat and despite not understanding a word of it, its one of my favorite songs.

23. Yele
24. Carnival (ft. Jacob Desvavieux, Jocelyn Berourard & Sweet Mickey)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Guilty Pleasures

I always check the Apple Movie Trailers website to see if any new trailers are up. Today there was a new one for a movie called "Stomp the Yard" about southern black college fraternity stomping. I can tell already that I'll enjoy the dance scenes, but if my experience with "You Got Served" is any indicator, the plot will be pretty painful to endure. Why can't they just make a movie about breakdancing w/o there having to be a plot? I'd still go see it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Albums that I Love #1: August and Everything After

August and Everything After

In the intro to this topic that I gave on Wednesday, I mentioned Columbia House and their 12 for a penny introductory offer. Well in that first 12, came a CD that was destined to become perhaps my favorite of all-time: August and Everything After by The Counting Crows.

I picked being only really familiar with the song Mr. Jones and perhaps vaguely familiar with Round Here. But as I listened to the CD something in the melancholy sound struck a chord with me. To be honest, its kind of a sad album to listen to. But something in the sadness is cathartic for me. At times when I'm feeling down, I like to listen to this album and sing along and let some of the down-ness out. I've owned it for over 10 years and the songs never get old for me.

Here's some quick thoughts on each of the tracks:

1. Round Here
This song is perhaps the epitome of who the Counting Crows are and what their music is about. When they play it live it sometimes goes as long as 12 minutes with bits of other songs mixed in. Not my favorite song, but definitely a CC classic.

2. Omaha
This song was probably my favorite when I first bought the album. I like the resonating hum of the organ. When my brother and his wife moved to Omaha, they bought the album for that reason alone. No idea how they feel about the album as a whole.

3. Mr. Jones
This song, while upbeat still exudes a melancholy acceptance of not being all that you'd like to be. Subsequent versions of the song tend to slow the tempo and the underlying wanting for something more comes through even clearer.

4. Perfect Blue Buildings
Not sure what this song is about, but you have to love the line "try to keep myself away from me".

5. Anna Begins
A song that addresses the topic of love and how it can move a person from just wanting a fling to wanting something more and not being ready for that.

6. Time and Time Again
Again, love the organ, and the singing.

7. Rain King
Another rare upbeat track. Again, I've never been able to really figure out what this is about.

8. Sullivan Street
This song, to me, sounds the saddest of all the songs on the album. Kind of a quiet song, resigned.

9. Ghost Train
My least favorite song on the album. Nothing against it, it just doesn't reach me at the same level as the rest of the songs.

10. Raining in Baltimore
I love this piano-solo song about being away from home, alone, and wanting to have someone to connect with. "I need a phone call." Also has a line that I love, "Three Thousand, Five Hundred Miles Away". Like how the songs builds and then fades out again at the end.

11. Murder of One
The title of this song comes from the fact that a group of crows is called a 'murder'. Another upbeat song with the whole band chipping in. Contains the familiar rhyme about "One for Sorrow, Two for Joy..." Good song to finish the album. I'm always amazed at how just repeating the same line over and over again can work. "I walk along these hillsides in the summer 'neath the sunshine, I am feathered by the moonlight falling down on me."

Interesting note: The 'title' track of the album didn't make it on to the album, but behind the words on the album cover, you can see the lyrics. There's no album version of "August and Everything After", but Adam Duritz, the lead singer, was able to get the lyrics put back together and sang the song live in December of 2003. As the Crows encourage their fans to record their shows, the track can be found in various places online if you know where to look.