Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Paris - Sonic Jihad
David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts
Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere - Heartbreak and Duct Tape
Starflyer 59 - Leave Here a Stranger
Mustard - Eureka Grande
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Location: Illinois, United States

The peaches, apples, plums and pears are guarded by ferocious bears.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
My Secret - Frank Warren
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

13 February 2006

What Love Isn't

Love is Tom sending poems across state with my address as the return address to avoid postage, toasting this slogan: ‘I got no money. I got no money. I got no money.’ And that is love. Love is Dagan in Africa finding a new tongue. Love is Heather in Knoxville raising her son. Love is Pat and Debbie teaching young punk kids and every shout out I left out when I thought I could stop this and every person I know who helps me stay grounded. Love is me on a curb, fuckin’ pukin’ bent over, almost sober, yeah, I know I’m 22, but I swear I’ve got a future. Under street lights, sewing my life together like a suture and I can’t name this love ‘cause I’ve not fully found it. But I’m reaching and searching and that’s what this sound is. —Daniel Roop

Most love poems are bullshit and slogans, but I’ve learned how to write yours and here’s how it opens: you are hard work. —Daniel Roop

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, which you probably know if you’ve been anywhere near a store since the day after Christmas. Valentine’s Day is one of those manufactured holidays we’ve set up to sustain the candy, floral and greeting card industries through the cold winter months. There’s nothing wrong with it, really, especially if you’re a kid, because you get to swap valentines with all the other hellions in your homeroom class (Unless you don’t have many friends, of course, in which case you’ll only get a handful, causing you unnecessary emotional trauma that will come up in therapy years from now. Don’t worry. Your insurance will cover it (Unless you’re one of the 30 million or so people in the States who don’t have insurance, in which case you’ll just lug the baggage around until you screw up all of your adult relationships and die a bitter old maid with 27 cats. You have so much to look forward to.)).

The thing with Valentine’s Day, though, is that it perpetuates the false ideas about love that we all carry with us. We’ve come to associate love with feelings and pitter-patting hearts and Peanuts specials. And while that’s certainly a part of love, it’s mostly just frosting.

The truth is that love is more than candy and roses and dinner and ballroom dancing on strategically placed calendar dates. It’s more than the tingling sensation of your heart plunging into your intestines whenever your special someone says your name. That’s all good stuff. But love is lots of not so good stuff too. It’s fighting for the 27th time about whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher. It’s grudgingly going to see your in-laws when, given the choice between the two, you’d rather have a pap smear. It’s making the bed when you get home from work because your wife didn’t have time. It’s chores and cleaning, compromise and too little sleep. It’s hard and painful and sacrificial and draining and stressful and all sorts of other things they don’t sing about in three minute pop songs. Ultimately, though, that’s what makes it so beautiful. And that's why, collectively, our culture is so bad at it.

03 February 2006

It's The Return Of The...

02 February 2006

Misstate Of The Union

Think Progress has a look at some of the untruths George Bush told during the State of the Union address. Some snippets:

SOTU: Bush Pushes Two Hijacker Myth

Bush said: “We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al-Qaeda operatives overseas. But we did not know their plans until too late.”


But Cheney did not mention that the government had compiled significant information on the two suspects before the attacks and that bureaucratic problems — not a lack of information — were primary reasons for the security breakdown, according to congressional investigators and the Sept. 11 commission. Moreover, the administration had the power to eavesdrop on their calls and e-mails, as long as it sought permission from a secret court that oversees clandestine surveillance in the United States.

The bigger problem was that the FBI and other agencies did not know where the two suspects — Cheney’s office confirmed that he was referring to Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar — were living in the United States and had missed numerous opportunities to track them down in the 20 months before the attacks, according to the Sept. 11 commission and other sources.


SOTU: Bush Wanted Renewable Energy Cuts

Bush said: “The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly 10 billion dollars to develop cleaner, cheaper, more reliable alternative energy sources – and we are on the threshold of incredible advances.”

FACT — BUSH PUSHED FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY CUTS IN LATEST BUDGET: President Bush’s FY06 budget request for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) energy efficiency and renewable energy programs envisioned “reductions totaling nearly $50 million - an overall cut of roughly four percent.” [Renewable Energy Access, 2/28/05]

FACT — BUSH REJECTED BIPARTISAN PLAN TO SET GOALS FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY: Last year, President Bush “oppose[d] efforts to include a national renewable energy requirement for utilities in Congress’ broad energy legislation.” According to the Union of Concerned Scientists it “is a cost-effective, market-based policy that requires electric utilities to gradually increase their use of renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, and bioenergy,” to between 10 and 20 percent by 2020. A 10 percent standard “would have virtually no impact on electricity prices and could save consumers as much as $13.2 billion.” [Reuters, 2/10/05; Union of Concerned Scientists; Union of Concerned Scientists]


SOTU: Dependence on Foreign Oil Has Increased Under Bush

Bush said: “Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. Here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.”

FACT — BUSH HAS INCREASED DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL: Sixty-six percent of oil consumed in the United States comes from foreign sources, up from 58 percent in 2000. Americans now spend $200,000 a minute on foreign oil and more than $25 billion annually goes to Persian Gulf states for oil imports. [Energy Information Administration, 1/06; American Progress, 2004]

FACT– BUSH ENERGY BILL WILL NOT REDUCE RELIANCE ON FOREIGN OIL: The energy bill signed and supported by President Bush “rejected a Senate provision that required reduction of oil consumption by one million barrels per day by 2015.” Under the bill, “our need for imported oil will continue to grow for as long as models are able to project.” [U.S. House Committee on Government Reform, 7/05]


SOTU: Tax Cuts Didn’t Help Economy

Bush said: “In the last five years, the tax relief you passed has left 880 billion dollars in the hands of American workers, investors, small businesses, and families – and they have used it to help produce more than four years of uninterrupted economic growth.”

FACT — DEFICITS CAUSED BY TAX CUTS NEGATE ANY POTENTIAL ECONOMIC BENEFITS: Studies by the Joint Committee on Taxation (JTC), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and Congressional Budget Office (CBO) all confirm that deficits undermine economic benefits of the cuts. In their analysis of the 2003 tax cuts, JTC found that any economic benefits of the tax cuts would “eventually likely to be outweighed by the reduction in national savings due to increasing Federal government deficits.” [American Progress, 1/26/05; CBO, October 2005]

Read the rest...

01 February 2006

Favourite Records Of 2005

So this is the sort of thing I was supposed to post a month ago. Fah! The People's Republic of Wasp Jerky bows to no such decrees. But now that I've gotten around to it, this would be the list. Better late than never, eh? Note that I haven’t ranked these from one to ten. Some of these albums are much better than others, but it would take me another month to get them sorted into a proper hierarchy of greatness. (Also visit Streak, Left Cheek and From the Salmonfour freakin’ times—for more 2005 musical madness.)

The Accident ExperimentUnited We Fear

A few years back, guitarist Marcos Curiel went through an ugly public breakup with his band P.O.D. Depending on whom you believe, Curiel either left to pursue a side project, or was kicked out of the band due to differing spiritual viewpoints. The Accident Experiment is Curiel’s new band, a side project no longer. Together with Pete Stewart, another fallen son of the Christian music industry (Grammatrain anyone?), Curiel has crafted a band that is lyrically honest and musically adventurous. Those looking for a sequel to P.O.D.’s mingling of rap, reggae and rock won’t find it. The Accident Experiment sounds more like a Disturbed or Chevelle with chunks of Pink Floyd, Rush and Led Zeppelin baked into the crust. The Accident Experiment leads listeners down dark, twisting sonic passages. Abrupt rhythm changes, moody guitars, and Stewart’s wailing vocals guide listeners across hesitant emotional footholds, where little is certain, and where doubt, depression, fear and anxiety are your only comfort.

CueBring Back My Love

Cue follows in the tradition of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai and Austin scene-mates Explosions in the Sky, blending elaborate musicianship with grandiose emotive soundscapes. The band emulates the Post-rock pattern of slow, peaceful guitars that escalate into a frenzied wall of sonic chaos. But Cue does it so well that it doesn’t really matter. Cue more than manages to put its own spin on things. The addition of piano, violin and glockenspiel to these songs, as well as varied, sometimes abrupt, tempo changes, frees the band up to be itself. The resulting dynamic produces short opuses that dive and soar. Cue sooths with its soft, guitar driven melodies, nearly lulling you to sleep with the interplay of low-key bass and melancholic violin arrangements. Then, slowly, the pressure builds, often following the lead of Jason Brister's frantic drumming. The frenzied instrumentation fans in multiple directions, yet ultimately never loses control.

John DavisJohn Davis

It’s always a bit troubling to me when respectable artists convert to Christianity. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for someone finding Jesus. But for some reason those artists often begin making art that is less like Shakespeare’s and more like Tim LaHaye’s. Fortunately ex-Superdrag frontman John Davis doesn’t make that mistake in his gospel and blues drenched solo debut. The funny thing is that when Davis does sing about Jesus. A lot. The difference, though, is that when Davis does it, it feels sincere and legitimate. When most CCMers do it, it feels like someone threw up in a hymnal.

Sage FrancisA Healthy Distrust

Sage Francis’ major label debut skirts the tightrope of contradiction. One moment he’s a slam poet, gasping for breath as he skips along the jagged rhythm in his head. The next he’s an Old School resurgent, playing in the house that Kurtis Blow and Grandmaster Flash built. One moment he’s an abrasive political insurrectionary, practically daring you to cut the system’s tightening noose. The next he’s an emotive confessionalist and you’re the priest. This is my least favorite of Francis’ official releases. But it’s still good enough to be the best rap record of the year.

Half-Handed CloudThy Is a Word and Feet Need Lamps

Thy is a Word sounds a bit like what would happen if Brian Wilson or the Sgt. Pepper’s era Beatles became obsessed with obscure stories from the Old Testament and decided to record an album. Half-Handed Cloud revisits the murder and mayhem of the Jewish scriptures, telling you the juicy nuggets your Sunday school teacher never coughed up, the ones about bread baked over human shit and gang-raped concubines. It sounds like it ought to be a record put out by some blood-drinking doom metal band. But it’s actually quite humble, happy, and, at times, downright funny. This 29-minute album is a hodgepodge of lullaby soft melodies, guitars, cellos, pianos, breathy church organs, woodwinds, trombones, non-instrument sounds, and an eight-person choir. Rarely has the Judeo-Christian story been this erratic, or this much of a LSD-trip.


Headphones’ debut finds former Pedro the Lion frontman David Bazan alongside TW Walsh (Pedro the Lion, The Soft Drugs) and Frank Lenz (Starflyer 59). Lyrically, Bazan is still crafting droning anthems of pain and misery. Loss, love, loneliness, disappointment and deceit are very much at home in the Seattle native’s dark poetry, as is a stark, almost uncanny attention to detail. Bazan’s writing is as disturbing as it is deep. What sets Headphones apart from Bazan’s previous musical output, though, is the musicianship. Headphones is shrewdly constructed entirely from synthesizers and live drums. But don’t let that keep you away; you’ll rarely miss the traditional rock instrumentation. Evocative of early Low records, Headphones orchestrates beautiful electronic melodies into a thick yet passionately simple debut.


Senryu came pretty close to breaking up before releasing this album, its crowning achievement to date. You can kind of understand why. It’s got to be hard as hell being in a band when no one gets what you’re doing. And I can’t imagine that many people get Wil Wright’s musical hodgepodge. Their loss. Blending influences like Brian Wilson, The Zombies, Smashing Pumpkins and The Pixies, Senryu is quirky Knoxville pop meets the circus, parades, magicians and sunny days.

Sufjan Stevens - Illinois

I grow a little sad when I realise that at the rate he’s going Sufjan Stevens will never finish his much-ballyhooed collection of states-themed albums (unless he’s either a vampire or in possession of the philosopher’s stone). But then I listen to Illinois and those feelings go away. Dozens of critics named this record the year’s best. It’s not hard to see why. Stevens’ weaves atypical instrumentation with meditations on serial killers, poets and state parks. Beautiful.

System of a DownMezmerize/Hypnotize

It’s hard to forgive the fact that these two albums weren’t released as a single record. A little ironic, too, given System of a Down’s anti-corporate sentiment. Nonetheless, this is System at its best: graceful, discordant, melodic, surreal, schizophrenic, often during the space of a three minute song.

Derek WebbMockingbird

Webb did his tour of duty in the CCM industry in a folk band called Caedmon’s Call. There he penned songs that made listening to a CCM band a worthwhile experience. His songs were thought-provoking reflections on the whole of life, not the theologically impotent, cliché-filled twaddle that usually emanates out of Nashville. This, Webb’s fourth solo album, could just as easily have been called How to Piss Off the Religious Right in Eleven Tracks or Less. Taking his cue from Jim Wallis, Webb, in just over 40 minutes, defies nearly every convention of AmeriRepubliChristianity. My wife and I bought this in a Christian bookstore while drunk, just to spite the system.

Other 2005 Discs I Enjoyed

Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

Coldplay – X & Y

Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams

Low – The Great Destroyer

The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema

Kanye West – Late Registration

Discs That Probably Would Have Made My Top Ten Had I Heard Them

Starflyer 59 – Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice

Over the Rhine – Drunkard’s Prayer

The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan