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The following was taken from the blogjam.  Hopefully new stuff will follow soon.


Saturday, 11:00a, November 19, 2005

Okay, just ot prove that this isn't a Dash-only blog: Kate Bush.  

But first some general ramblings about music.

There's nothing quite like a song you just love.  Mood lifting, perhaps inspiring.  Nothing quite like being in love with a song.  Wait: being in love with an album or an artist.  You can appreciate the talent in a great song, but I can think of a single song where I'm inspired to think: genius!  It takes more than a single song or even a pair.  

Even a nine minute song like Jane's Addiction's "Three Days", which I consider a great, complex song, doesn't get me thinking that Perry Ferrell's a genius (like Ozzy Osbourne, is he even functional anymore).

I do, however, appreciate a song that deviates from the 3-minute verse-verse-refrain-verse-refrain-bridge-verse-refrain pattern.  

There are few things catchier than that great 3-minute pop song.  A great melody played out.  There are some Pop albums that are great fun, but essentially meaningless (off the top of my head: Elastica's  self-titled, That Petrol Emotion's "Chemicrazy").

I appreciate yearning and earnestness in my favorite songs (and albums and movies and in how people live their lives) (I appreciate sheer emotional angst in music much more so than in movies and life (in the latter I prefer transcendence and redemption).  And who says you can have your fun and boppiness while scathing political criminals (perhaps still holding office)? "It's been a while / since you said 'Heil!' / you CIA-bred necrophile" croons the Fatima Mansions.

An album as a piece of work, like a musical play, is more than just a group of songs purchased in bulk.  A song can be like a great date, but the album is the relationship.  A series of great dates can get you thinking that you're on to something pretty deep.  

A great album has to have very good songs.  They don't all need to be great songs, but they need to fit together in a great whole and contribute to that whole.  A great album can build up like a great song.

On the other hand, some of my favorite albums have songs that fit together well without actually contributing to each other.  The albums still delivers an intense cohesive emotional and acoustic wallop.  Take Joy Division's legendary "Unknown Pleasures."  It's dark and throbbing and oh so urgent, though after twenty years I still couldn't tell you specifically what it's about.  And it doesn't matter.

A great album doesn't have to have a specific ARTISTIC theme to transcend the "conglomeration of songs" label.  The Cure's "Wish" somehow seems like a story, perhaps merely by the sequencing and titling  (the opening track is called "Open" and the ending track is called "End.").  Midnight Oil's "10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1" doesn't have an explicit artistic thread between songs but is in my five albums of all time, because of its consistent call to political awareness and responsibility and the way the songs build blend and supplement each other musically.

Which leaves the type of album I have a soft spot for: the Concept album.  Where the 50- or 70-minute work builds to a single statement.  Take early Rush as the premier example (neglect their "By-Tor and the Snow Dog," though, as this might have been a parody).  Two albums in my top five are clearly concept albums: Poe's "Haunted" and Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love."

Back to Kate Bush

Kate Bush has three albums that I consider completely excellent.  Kate's 1977 debut "The Kick Inside" gorgeously showcases the raw talents of a deeply emotional and insightful young girl with a powerful wild voice and a vocal style from somewhere out of the blue sky. An extremely sensitive and moving album.  A true classic, carried by her voice and the nakedness of her emotions.

Kate then put out a series of albums that were experimental and bold, but don't quite stand the test of time.  

"The Dreaming," which may or may not be a concept album is definitely a conceptual album.  High-energy wildly creative songs that work and do stand the test of time.  This is a great, fun, album, but I'm not sure if meets the "Classic" standard.

1985(+/-) "The Hounds of Love."  Genius.  Her masterpiece. Creative on all levels.  The second half, called "The Ninth Wave."  Call it 30 minutes of tightly connected concept, perhaps my favorite 30-minute block of music I've ever heard.  An example of her poetry/imagery:  "Hello, Earth. / Hello, Earth! / With just one hand held out high / I can blot you, blot you out of sight / Peekaboo, Peekaboo.  Little Earth, Little Earth.  " I can't help but picturing myself somewhere past lunar orbit, stopping what I'm doing and playing Peekaboo with our planet.  

I had often thought that if aliens came up to me and said "Jeff, we would like you give us a musician's work that can help us understand the soul and the hope of your species" I would give them Kate's "Kick Inside," "The Dreaming," and "The Hounds of Love" as they convey a beautiful voice, wild creativity in music (while still having danceable structure), and the emotional sensitivity we humans can possess.   Several reviewers have said "It is a privilege to share this planet with Kate Bush" and I agree wholeheartedly.

Kate puts out "The Sensual World" in 1989.  Pretty much standard 4-minute songs, three of which are really good, the rest reminding me of, dare I say it, filler.  "Rocket's Tail" transcends and is great powerful poetry (look up the lyrics) and musically a blast.

1993's "The Red Shoes" is a bunch of catchy tunes making up a decent no-filler album of catchy tunes.  But not brilliant and not genius.

Which brings us to...

Kate Bush's new album "Aerial"

I often listen to music while working.  I've been listening to "Aerial" every day for about a week now.  So a few days back I was fully into that rare joy of an album that is genius.  It's truly one of the best feelings I know, being immersed in music you love, connecting emotionally (even the skewedly intellectual urgings of Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett is passionately emotional) with a vocalist you love, when the new music is familiar enough that you can follow along, participate and anticipate, but where it's still new enough that new subtleties, nuances, and insights continually show themselves to your delight.  

The discovering-that-new-genius-album joy was multiplied by the fact that it created by a beloved hero who last moved us so deeply 20 years ago.  While it doesn't surpass "Hounds of Love" the second CD is essentially a standalone concept album with long free-ranging songs that work as one.  Brilliant.  Genius.  It lacks the harsh energetic edginess of her younger stuff.  It is more mature, how can it not be?  With maturity we lose some things and gain others.  We can fight the change or embrace it but it's not going away.  



After Dash woke up after I got home from work yesterday, I did my normal walking around the bottom floor with him.  He was quite and content for a change and stayed that way for a long time.  He actually makes eye contact with you now (as opposed to looking in the direction of your head like he did for the first week and at your head like he did for two weeks after that).  He'll look at one eye and then the other.  Pretty cool.  Like he's REALLY checking you out (and hopefully not judging too harshly).  

I like to hold him on my chest rather upright and let him look around.  I'll turn my body towards where he's looking.  Often he keeps looking to the left or right out of view, which results in long spins.  He also likes when I walk near the ceiling lights and windows.

I put in the Kate Bush album and turned it up.  Baby's first Kate Bush.  Important parenting, right there.  The staples.  We waltzed around for a while.

Leigh had some of our pregnant friends over for dinner, Dash was hungry and I fed him a bottle.  I like feeding him because I feel like I'm doing something tangibly beneficial.

So he was a good boy for a long time.  A good day.

Having a baby to take care of is a lot like surfing in some ways.  I've never really been able to surf although I have been able to stand on a surfboard (there is a big gulf between doing that and actually SURFing).  Most of the time, like 99% of the time it can be exhausting and punishing as wave pummel and batter you.  But the punishment is good punishment, by nature itself; a kind of holy beating.  Worth it in and of itself.  And then after two hours of pummeling you catch a wave and it's magic.

Keeping the kid happy when he's fussy or when its 3am can be a kind of pummeling, and it's not as intrinsically fun as the surf pummeling.  And it lasts long.  But you get these periods when the boy seems happy and content and safe and like he's going to be just fine.  And it's MAGIC!

This morning he awoke in a good mood and he was in that Quiet Observer mode, seeming very wise and at peace with all things.  I've known joy before.  But the moments of joy with the baby is so profound and deep it overwhelms the moment and pierces hope and joy decades into the future.  There's nothing like it.

So I'm standing there with my son staring at my tear-streamed face and Kate Bush is in the background singing to her son:

"You bring so much joy.

And then you bring me...

...more Joy!"



Thursday, 5:45p, November 17, 2005

Mom and Dad Stokes just arrived home from helping us out for two weeks.  After about two days home from the hospital with no help, I said to Leigh that we had to get some help immediately.  They were a tremendous help.  Lifted a burden, knowing they were there.

I went back to work a while back after a week and a half off.  Forgot to bring a picture, felt bad.  But there were a bunch of pictures posted all over the CalTrans trailer thanks to Debbie and Sara.  Quite heartwarming.

Looked at first-days video a couple of nights ago.  Dash didn't seem all that different, but Leigh and I laughed as I was narrating "Uh oh, he's getting fussy, I have to put the camera down."  "That's fussy?  That ain't nothing."  We reminisced with longing those half-hearted cries.  The boy can belt it out now.  There was a period where he had a very reasonable moderated cry that indicated that he was hungry or uncomfortable.  Very low stress.  Now he puts everything into it.  A bit too much.  Not like he's in severe pain or anything, but like it's the end of the world nonetheless.

The hardest part of it all is the uncertainty.  A clear pattern has emerged that will undoubtedly continue for, oh, four or five decades:  we'll master one skill and Dash will say "oh yeah, but can you handle THIS?"

A while ago I didn't understand the inconvenience of insomnia.  "If I can't sleep I'll read.  No problem."  Then after suffering some insomnia I realized that choosing to get up and read requires a clear decision and a threshold of effort that in effect abandons the possibility of immediate sleep.  The result is that one spends hours on the very edge of sleep, hoping to doze off but neither sleeping nor reading.

The nightly feedings, which Dash likes every two hours (Bad Boy!) is similar.  While they may take twenty minutes, there might be a thirty minute evaluation period preceding it.  "He's fussing.  Will he sleep through it?  Will he go back to sleep?  It's been three hours.  He never goes two long.  Should I wake him up now and get it over with?"  The 5am to 6:00am period is especially dubious as he if very fussy and noisy while sleeping.

The other confusing thing, and it has been true since birth, is that all the elements of the feeding/diaper/burping/falling-asleep relationship is contradictory.  The goal is to fully feed him and then get him back to sleep (guilt:  I love him, but want him unconscious).  Contradiction one: slackerboy finds the breast very relaxing and tends to nod off well before he's full.  Contradiction two:  burping must occur after feeding, which is usually signaled by Dash sleeping; burping wakes him up (plus finds any burping strong enough to be effective quite annoying).  Contradiction three: stripping the boy naked keeps him awake for longer feeding but putting clothes back on wakes him up and keeps him awake.

The uncertainty is the thing.

In other "developments"  when he is in his Active Alert state, he now focuses well and finds my face almost as interesting as a blank wall or a ceiling.  He definitely looks around at a lot of things.  He also now likes to make noises while doing anything.  Maybe 'cuz he knows I'll fill in any silence with my babbling.

BTW I will NOT circumcise another child.  The mother of that baby in the park was NOT happy with me.


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