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The raving thoughts of a misanthropic academic

December 8, 2009

Song of the Week: Jingle Bells

With finals beginning tomorrow morning, now seems the perfect time to resurrect the Pax Plena Song of the Week! 

The tune this week will be a familiar one to most.  Written in 1857 by Boston's own James Lord Pierpont, the tune was featured prominently atop Diana Krall's creatively titled Christmas album, "Christmas Songs" in 2005.

But do not let such a blasé album title fool you.  This Jingle Bells track boasts an up-tempo rendition of the popular holiday song as sung by one of Jazz's most popular and sultry vocalists. It's enough to make one wish for a sleigh and snow - even in the middle of the desert.

Besides some pretty sweet accompaniment from the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Krall's version also features the elusive last verse of the song, imploring youngsters to give life a go. Not bad advice this finals week.

As always, lyrics follow after the jump, and a video of Krall's performance appears below. Enjoy!





"Jingle Bells"
by Diana Krall

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh,
Over the fields we go,
Laughing all the way;
Bells on bob-tail ring,
making spirits bright,
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight,

O Jingle bells, jingle bells,
jingle all the way!
O what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh

[repeat]


Now the ground is white
Go it while you're young,
Take the girls tonight
And sing this sleighing song;
Just get a bob-tailed bay
two-forty as his speed
Hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack! You'll take the lead.

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Jingle all the way!
O what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.


[repeat]

[Vocal Improv]

Hey, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Jingle jingle all the way!
O what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.


Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Jingle jingle all the way!
O what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.


Jingle bells, jingle all the way!
O what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.


Jingle bells, jingle all the way!
O what fun it is to ride


In a one-horse open sleigh.

I'm just crazy about horses!
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September 23, 2009

Lolcat of the Week

We are slowly resurrecting the lolcat of the week feature around these parts - even while the song of the week is pretty well defunct.

Burning the midnight oils here in Tucson, I cannot help but think that the lolcat of the week accurately sums up my love affair with coffee (and now tea). Enjoy!

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
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August 15, 2009

Thoughts on My Wedding Day

In roughly 1.25hrs, I will stand at the alter of Avoca Baptist church and pledge my love, and life to Gwyn Hamrick (soon to be Fodder).

My vantage from the small window in the alcove of the church shows an absolutely perfect day with only wisps of clouds in the sky. A crane of the neck looks out at a field of green behind the church. The warmth of the sun feels a lot like the Father smiling down, and feeling pleased. It's the kind of day made for beginning life anew.

It might seem strange to some, adding my thoughts on marriage, and life here in this space normally devoted to political wranglings, and snarky remarks.Yet in other ways writing here could not be more appropriate. This peculiar hobby of mine has been one of the few things that I have continued throughout my formative years- from college, through my time in Boston, to my days of law school down in Tucson, until now. Why not share some thoughts with an old friend?

The single thought that occupies my mind in these waning hours of my single, adult life is the notion of loyalty, and its implications. I remain convinced, now as much as ever, that love is fundamentally a commitment. We choose whom to love. And love is something borne out in life's great struggles as the commitment to another is tested, time and time again.

I am under no delusions that love, and marriage will be an easy commitment to keep. Any commitment given proper consideration requires some quid pro quo from both parties. But in marriage, the agreement should never terminate. Given this depth and breadth of commitment, deciding whether to marry or not is among the most profound decisions one can make.

And so marriage, in many ways, is not unlike any other major decision that life brings our way. We simply make the best decision we can with the information available to us, and proceed accordingly. I am confident in my decision. I am appreciative of my betrothed for her agreement. And I am joyed at our mutual decision to love each other.

And on this we can build a life.

In sum, I love my bride to be with all of the commitment a life time can afford. My feelings on this auspicious occasion are quite serene. The wedding itself, the reception, the entire production is ancillary to the actual commitment between the two of us that this day is set to commemorate.

But, 'to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3.1). Today is our day to love, and to laugh.

And this is good.
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August 12, 2009

Weight and Marriage

With the big day looming on Saturday, it was unsettling to read today's Daily Beast article on marriage and weight gain.

According to a recent study conducted by the University of North Carolina's School of Public Health, adults entering a long-term cohabiting relationship, particularly those who get married, are prone to higher rates of weight gain and obesity than those who remain single.

The author's solution endorses a heavy-handed government intervention in America's obesity problem:

So where does this leave us? Ultimately, the Obama administration should fully embrace weight control as a societal issue, and realize it is not something that can be left to individual responsibility. There are so many useful things the government could do that would make it easier, from subsidizing the right types of farming to reining in the food industry and funding health-maintenance programs at worksites.

[Link]

The prescription does not square with the ailment. Later in the article, the author notes several tips for keeping the pounds under control even after tying the knot - chief among them eating less, and exercising more. One might be tempted to call such suggestions commonsense, and personal responsibility. Although, in the age of Obama, such notions are quaint.

Even so, the warning is a good wake up call for all Americans as health care reform dominates the Nation's political landscape. In many ways, the health problems we face are ones of our own creation. The choices we make in life, and in marriage have real, long-term consequences.

Here's hoping the future missus and I can learn to adopt healthy habits - lest Big Brother 'make sure' that we do. Ja?
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June 26, 2009

Song of the Week: Beat It

In honor of the King of Pop, the resurrected Pax Plena Song of the week goes out to the newly late Michael Jackson.

From a child of the 80s, to the man who defined the decade, RIP.



Beat It
by Michael Jackson

They told him don't you ever come around here
Don't wanna see your face, you better disappear
The fire's in their eyes and their words are really clear
So beat it, just beat it

You better run, you better do what you can
Don't wanna see no blood, don't be a macho man
You wanna be tough, better do what you can
So beat it, but you wanna be bad

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right
Just beat it, beat it
Just beat it, beat it
Just beat it, beat it
Just beat it, beat it

They're out to get you, better leave while you can
Don't wanna be a boy, you wanna be a man
You wanna stay alive, better do what you can
So beat it, just beat it

You have to show them that you're really not scared
You're playin' with your life, this ain't no truth or dare
They'll kick you, then they beat you,
Then they'll tell you it's fair
So beat it, but you wanna be bad

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right
Just beat it, beat it
Beat it, beat it, beat it

Beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or who's right

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right
Just beat it, beat it
Beat it, beat it, beat it

Beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or who's right

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky and strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Just beat it, beat it
Beat it, beat it, beat it
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April 19, 2009

A Cynic's View of Susan Boyle

Britain's Got Talent (does it?) star, and internet sensation Susan Boyle took the masses by storm last week with her performance of Les Misérables's "I Dreamed a Dream."

The performance is notable for its exercise in contrast. Ms. Boyle is the 47-year-old virgin singer who had never been kissed; who lived alone with her cat; who though homely in appearance sings with the voice of an angel.  In the youtube clip of the performance, one can nigh feel the Lord Himself urging us on toward our better persons through song.

Naturally, such viral interest heightens my skepticism. For once, I am not alone. Saturday's New York Post easily published the most cynical response to the Susan Boyle phenomenon of any major publication in the world. The Post op-ed appears in relevant part below:
Most disturbing of all, perhaps, is that not since Saturday has Susan Boyle been Susan Boyle. It's a permutation of the Heisenberg principle: That 30 million people have heard her, seen her, embraced her has already changed who she is. The shy churchgoer who said that her recently deceased mother encouraged her to "take the risk," who admitted in her audition that she has never been kissed, who has forever lived as something of an accidental outcast - she now seems too much of this world. "I've been for a meeting with Sony BMG, but I can't say much about it," she said this week. "It's early days." Susan Boyle is now one of us. And that is really a shame.

[Link]
Aside from being a bit self-flagellating, writer Maureen Callahan utterly nails the cynic's response. Aside from the substantive change in Ms. Boyle's life, Ms. Callahan's larger point is that the performance would be eminently forgettable were it not for the contradictions. In other words, if Ms. Boyle were more attractive, might not we be less entranced? And, by extension, isn't Ms. Boyle a bit overrated?

Perhaps.

Regardless, I leave you to decide. The video clip of Ms. Boyle's performance is below. Enjoy! (Or not).



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April 3, 2009

Song of the Week: Sleepy Tigers

The Pax Plena song of the week took a bit of a hiatus due to the onset of our law school's Moot Court Competition. With round one in the books, and one more round to go, I'm proud that it is back with a vengance.

The Pax Plena song of the week comes to you courtesy of the Cox Cable commercial below. While watching TV this past Monday, the Cox commercial came on and it had the catchiest little background song that I had ever heard on a Cox commercial. This really doesn't say much for Cox, but, even so, I couldn't get the jingle out of my head.



For those of you who clicked the video above, you have to admit that the little robots dancing to the music are quite fetching. Not long after seeing the spot, I found myself errantly half-whistling the tune. Finally, the haunting became too much. This afternoon, I scoured the internet using the only lyrics I could recall ("I love you so very much" & "Wake you up") looking for the title of the song, and a music video. The song is called Sleepy Tigers from the band/recording moniker Her Space Holiday.

The band is really no band at all. As best I can gather, all recordings are done by artist Marc Bianchi who imports a 'folk and jam' sound to his songs while placing an emphasis on lyrics and song writing. The focus pays off. The lyrics of Sleepy Tigers are easily the best part of the song. The track provides a clear instance where lyrics dictate music, and some how the perfect balance is struck.

The tenor of the song is largely up beat. Cox's dancing robots would have it no other way. Neither would yours truly. Anyone in need of a new 'happy' song for your play list will be well served. I will not expand on lyrics that can easily say much more for themselves. But the biography discussing the musician's underlying philosophy is a good read in narrative form. The suppressed existentialist in me is actually quite sympathetic.

Per usual, a video of the song appears below. (It's actually a surprisingly interesting fan piece). Lyrics follow after the jump. Enjoy!



Sleepy Tigers
By Her Space Holiday

Oh I like you so very much so much in fact I gotta wake you up
It’s not that I have words to speak
I just wanna see you looking at me
In a way, that states

In an hour when the sun comes up
We’re gonna put on our shoes we’re gonna shake the dust
Open the door with your brand new key
We won’t be afraid of being sweet
to ourselves
Or anybody! anybody else!

Oh I miss you so very much so much in fact i gotta call you up
It’s not that I have news to bring
I just wanna make your telephone ring
So it shows and you know

In a week when I fly back home
We’re gonna jump in bed and be all alone
you’ll make biscuits and I’ll make tea
We’ll curl up close and then fall asleep
To the sound… of no one else, no else around

And if Ive learned anything at all
In this short life of mine,
If you hear that joy has come to town
Track it down, take a picture and tape it to your eyes

Oh I love you so very much so much in fact I'm gonna switch it up
I'm gonna take this room that I built for fun
And burn down the walls in front of everyone
So they see, you and me

Dancing in our sleepy clothes
With two big smiles and a bowl of hope
That we’ll drink down like ginger tea
The heat will help us forget everything
That you and I, that you and I have seen

And if Ive learned anything at all
In this short life of mine (it’s this)…
If you hear that joy has come to town
Track it down, take a picture and tape it to your eyes...

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March 8, 2009

Song of the Week: Nearer Blessed Lord

The Pax Plena Song of the Week comes to you courtesy of my latest cinematic foray- the acclaimed 2007 movie Bella. Aside from being critically acclaimed, Bella also earned the endorsement of many pro-life groups for its pro-adoption message.

I'll take care not to give away the plot for those who care to see the movie.  But, in brief, Bella is the story of an odd pairing of two down-on-their-luck people, working dead end jobs at a Manhattan restaurant. The theme of the movie is one of redemption, and grace despite some of life's toughest obstacles. In a word, the movie is about overcoming.  Unsurprisingly, Nina Simone's Nearer Blessed Lord strikes the perfect chord.

The tenor of the song is a balanced mix - delivering high moments of optimism, combined with the mournful cries of realism.  In all, the music of the song itself is reminiscent of some of the best negro spirituals of the 1940s.

The piece opens with the airy medley of a blues piano, joined quickly by Simone's vocals.  The ultimate theme of the song is one of crying out to God, and the longing all humans feel to be close (viz., nearer) to a loved one when life becomes a bit too real. It is this feeling that Simone's vocals capture so well. She is at times mournful, and at other points ebullient. Only the blues piano remains constant. The syncopation of the piano adds an interesting, consistent foil to Simone's emotional, and ranging performance. 

But the real power of the song comes from Simone's ability to transcend the genre of gospel music, and re-making the song as a work of jazz.  Along the way, Simone manages to capture some of life's most intense emotions, and present a vocal lesson in contrast to even the most skilled singer.

The song can be accessed through the YouTube video below.  Lyrics follow after the jump.  For those interested in the movie or some of the other songs from the film, the website "You Crazy Dreamers" has an interesting write up of the soundtrack.  It also contains links so that you can hear a few of the tracks.  The site can be accessed here.  Enjoy!




Nearer Blessed Lord
by Nina Simone

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith,
And be closer drawn to Thee.
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service,
By the power of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side

My soul look up with a steadfast hope,
My will be lost in Thine
So draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

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February 22, 2009

Song of the Week: I'll Say I'm Sorry Now

The Pax Plena Song of the Week, unfortunately, has become as anachronistic around these parts as bipartisanship has become in Washington. But a song I heard last night at the end of a movie left me absolutely stunned - to the point of dropping my malaise. Consider the Song of the Week officially resurrected thanks to Shawn Colvin's I'll Say I'm Sorry Now.

Shawn Colvin is a new artist to yours truly. I would never have heard of her had I not seen the movie. While I am a bit embarrassed at seeing the movie that featured her song, her performance on the piece is riveting. Colvin's voice communicates a certain breezy, melancholy that is innate to the song. Her performance is genuine, and her voice sings in a manner that bespeaks a profound familiarity with the song's content. It is a difficult balance to pull off in any circumstance, but Colvin does so effortlessly.

As with most songs, I appreciate the song's realness. It presents life as an uncertain 'mystery mile', and talks about its inevitable disappointments ('I'm gonna let you down'). But the message of the song is that while the disappointments are inevitable, a simple apology can be used to preempt some of the pain. While the apology is no substitute for the harm, it is sufficient for both singer and listener to know that the apology was said.

In truth, I think this is a lot of what life is about. There are no guarantees. The best we can do is call situations 'like we see em,' press ahead, and offer plenty of apologies for the ineluctable mistakes that we will make. Somehow, Colvin takes these emotions, and makes them make sense.

Please enjoy the Pax Plena Song of the Week, I'll Say I'm Sorry Now.



I'll Say I'm Sorry Now
by Shawn Colvin

I'm gonna let you down
I know that now
Make you cry, I know I will
Why should you believe
I would never leave
Or that I love you still
For all the by and by
Hard as we try
The bough breaks and the cradle falls
For everything I do
That will tear at you
Let me say I'm sorry now
So you can sing your song
You can get it wrong
You can kiss the rock of ages
In your wildest dreams
You might see between
The liars and the sages
You can walk awhile
Down the mystery mile
You can beat the drums of freedom
And in love and war
Through the rush and roar
You just call 'em like you see 'em

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Organic, free-range thought courtesy of your average, coffee-addicted, American Indian, academic. Program Manager @IGPatUA.


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