Friday, July 22, 2011

Great Beginnings

This is going to be tough to write, just because there are so many good songs to think about. You'll see what I mean. I hope that after reading it, you'll share your opinions with me.

We all love different things about different songs. But while talking recently about song beginnings, I tried to think of the bands who have written songs that when you hear the first few notes, you're like YESSSS. I realized that there really isn't another band I can think of that has as many awesome song beginnings as AC/DC. The beginnings of many of their songs are just so classic; they're instantly recognizable and immediately set a certain tone. Of course there are a bunch of bands with songs with great beginnings, but AC/DC sticks out to me because it seems like they've accumulated such a large number of them. Plus, when you hear the beginning of an AC/DC song, there's really no question who the band is; they are great at writing song intros that are not only catchy, but also communicate the philosophy and attitude of the band. As I said, feel free to share your feelings about this.

AC/DC is well-known for their bare bones, old-school hard rock sound, as well as the voices of the band's two singers, Bon Scott (1974-1980) and Brian Johnson (1980-present). But central to the band's unique sound are the power chords and guitar riffs generated by guitarists Malcolm and Angus Young. The guitars are most often what people remember and love about the band, especially songs that feature great guitar riffs before the lyrics start (which is most of them).

For me, it's really tough to beat the beginning of AC/DC's For Those About to Rock. When I hear those first tentative notes, I immediately get a sense of anticipation; it just feels like something big is about to happen. It makes sense that this song is played at sporting events before the start of overtime; it's effective. It gets you amped up and excited. I find it fascinating and amazing how music is able to achieve such strong reactions in people. Anyway, I'm just saying, the beginning of this song is killer. The worst is when you find it playing on the radio but you realize you missed the beginning of the song (because it's the best!). There are no words for that feeling. Well, there are, but they're jumbled strings of curse words. In fact, I'd bet brand new curse words have been created by people who just missed the beginning of that song on the radio. Like this one: muthasshitcockhat. What? If you don't like it, you'll have to make up your own.

AC/DC has a catalog of songs with great beginnings. I mean, I feel like most people would recognize the beginnings to Thunderstruck, You Shook Me All Night Long, Back in Black, and Highway to Hell. And they're just great songs with a great rock n' roll feel.

OK, here's your assignment (I bet you didn't realize I'd give you homework, eh? You're probably thinking Thanks a lot for tricking me into reading your stupid blog and then AMBUSHING ME WITH A FREAKING HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT, JACKWAD). Anyway, here's the deal: I'd love to know which songs you think have the best beginnings. Here are a few songs I (and a couple people I asked) came up with after only thinking about it for a few minutes. I know there are tons more out there, so let me know which songs you think have great-beginning status.

Rush - The Spirit of Radio
Led Zeppelin - When the Levee Breaks (love the drums)
The Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter
U2 - Where the Streets Have No Name
Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child o' Mine (A friend of mine argued that Welcome to the Jungle should also be included, but I totally disagree, and therefore it is not on this list. Except for just then when I mentioned it.)
Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Child
Dropkick Murphys - I'm Shipping Up to Boston
The Who - Baba O'Riley


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mumford and Sons?

Yes, I'm going to write briefly about Mumford and Sons, a band from England who I am not overly familiar with. I've heard several of their songs, and I've liked them just fine, but I haven't heard anything that particularly struck a chord with me (pun intended, sorry). But one of the nice things about having a Tivo is that I can look at upcoming music performances on tv and set them to record, even if they're performances by bands of which I'm not an especially big fan. That way I can sort of "skim" through them and see if anything catches my ear. You never know what you'll find that you weren't expecting. So recently I fast-forwarded my way through the Mumford and Sons episode of Unplugged, and I came across their cover of a song called England by a band called The National. And I loved it. It's an extremely simple song, but it caught my attention and I've had it in my head for days. Give it a listen and see what you think. Also, see if you agree that lead singer Marcus Mumford would be doing us all a favor if he shaved that ridiculous mustache. I swear it's like he's waggling it at me on purpose.


Saturday, March 20, 2010


Well, the countertops are in, and we're really happy with them. It's difficult to visualize how a particular shade of granite will look in your kitchen. Will it go with the cabinets, the floor, the wall color? When thinking of various colors, we weren't sure whether a lighter, beige color would look good, or if a darker color would be better. As we looked at the samples, though, it was very clear we preferred the dark color over the light. I don't have any photos yet that adequately show the pattern of the granite, but at least the photos below can give you an idea of what they look like. We're still waiting on the refrigerator and the microwave, which will be delivered on Wednesday, and then we can get the dishwasher and microwave installed. Then we'll be ready to move things in and start using our kitchen!


Sunday, March 14, 2010

More progress...

This will have to be short and sweet. It has been an extremely busy time at work for me, so I haven't had time to post anything lately. But here are some photos to show what has been going on around here.

First of all, the cabinets are all in! And our new floor was installed a couple weeks ago. We are currently finishing up the painting that needed to be done. Our countertops will be installed on Tuesday. The new stove is sitting in our living room, and our dishwasher should be delivered by Friday.

Be sure to note the old floor in these photos.

Here are some shots of the new floor:

And a few random photos, showing the new soffits above the wall cabinets and the finished pass-through hole!

Aside from getting the painting finished (we still need to paint the ceiling), the next project is putting all the pulls on the cabinet doors and drawers. I'll post again soon, once our new countertops are in.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

And Then There Was Snow

In my last post, I shared my excitement that some progress was being made on my kitchen renovation. Don't get me wrong, I'm still excited and all, but since the snow came, progress has once again come to a screeching halt. I'm not exactly sure what the snow totals were, but I do know that there are 3-6 foot drifts and piles of snow out there right now. Luckily the sun is starting to melt some of it away, but it has been a heck of a snowy week. I'm told we're supposed to get more snow on Monday, so I have no idea when my contractors will be able to make it back over to work on the kitchen again. The upside to the snow is that since I work for a college, I got to stay home all week! Hooray for snow days!

One thing I am excited about in the kitchen is the new opening in the wall between the kitchen and dining room. It opens things up a lot, and since the kitchen is so tiny and the kitchen doorway is so narrow, I think adding the opening in the wall really helped make things seem less closed off.

Remember the beginning stage of the hole?

Well, now it is a nice square opening; it might just be my favorite square opening in the whole world right now. The paint on the left wall is the color we'll be painting the kitchen. It's beige. Yep, just beige. There is still some drywall work and sanding to be done, and that's why all the walls aren't painted.

Here's the view from the dining room side.

My house was built in 1958. In the process of tearing apart the kitchen, a small treasure was found: an Everywoman's Family Circle magazine from November, 1960. I don't know how it managed to stick around for so long (it probably just fell behind a cabinet) but it's interesting that it had not been seen in nearly 50 years. It is chock full of homemaking tips, recipes, sewing projects, and fashion news. Here are a few photos.

My favorite page in the magazine, though, was this one; it advertises "Fat Girls' Diet" - a list of diets which you could purchase for 25 cents each. They weren't concerned with being sensitive back then, were they?

Snow permitting, the cabinets should start going in this week. I'm on my way to having a kitchen again!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sorry, Kitchen's Closed

Just a quick update:

It has been a long time since I've posted any updates about the new house. Again, that's because there hasn't been anything to report. But while the past few months have offered little in the way of progress, today ushered in a tiny bit of hope. I've gotten used to living without a kitchen, though it's not easy. In fact, it's pretty annoying. If I didn't have a refrigerator in the basement, it would've been much more difficult. At first I just ate a lot of fast food (silly me, I didn't think it would take so long to get the kitchen renovation started), but then I grew out of almost all of my clothes. It's not funny. The only skirt that fits me is the one with the elastic waistband, which is totally unacceptable, and also really depressing. In fact I can't believe I just told you that. Can I hold Chick-Fil-A responsible for the whole thing? Anyway, I'm not eating all that junk anymore so I hope that sometime in the next month or two I'll be able to reunite with my old wardrobe.

My living room is looking pretty special these days. It is full of kitchen cabinets, as well as the boxes in which the cabinets were shipped, which you'll see I have carefully stacked in an artistic ode to the leaning tower of Pisa. I also have cabinets stashed away in a spare bedroom. See?

OK, onto the progress. First, let me remind you how the kitchen looked when I bought the house:

Today when I got home from work, this is what it looked like.

Fancy, eh? Admit it, you've never seen a more handsome hole in the wall. Hey, it's a start. I'm just glad to have things rolling. I'll have another update as soon as it's warranted, which I hope is soon.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Spark - Music Series, part two

Some of my earliest memories are of lying in my room at night, and hearing the sounds of my father playing the piano in the living room. I fell in love with music from listening to him play. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t necessarily typical to have someone playing an instrument in the house all the time. I guess I figured everybody had a family member who played often. But I was lucky in that regard. My dad had a brown Kimball baby grand, and I loved that piano and all the memories it created for me. If my father hadn’t constantly provided me exposure to his playing, I know I still would’ve come to love music, but it probably wouldn’t have happened as early as it did. My dad would sit down at the piano nearly every night to practice, and he played a variety of music. I heard countless church hymns (he was the pianist at our church), some classical pieces, and a bit of ragtime also. My dad loves George Gershwin music, and I’m glad for that because when he played Gershwin, I was exposed to very different rhythms than with the classical or religious pieces.

When my parents began sending me to piano lessons, I learned that while I was very interested and excited to learn how to play, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about learning to read music. All I wanted to do was play the piano, and at first all my piano teacher wanted me to do was read music out of a book and do sight-reading exercises. Talk about all work and no play. I wanted to hear myself playing songs, but that takes a little more time to achieve than I had originally assumed. I figured I would have one lesson and be able to play anything I wanted, perfectly. I was, as they say, ready to jam. Surprisingly, that’s not what happened. Learning to read music wasn’t especially difficult, but it took more patience than I typically kept on hand at the time, so my parents had to begin forcing me to do some serious foraging within myself to find an extra stash of patience and focus I wasn’t even sure existed (turns out it was down near my toes, and I didn’t have nearly as much stashed away as my parents claimed I did). I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only child in history who has had this problem. In fact, as time went on, I tried to find ways to avoid reading music. I knew I was supposed to learn a song by reading the music, but if I could hear it played once or twice, I could usually figure it out from there without having to do the dirty work of sight-reading. It was just easier to play by ear. Granted, I could read music, but when I was still learning, it took longer to figure out the notes from the page than from hearing someone else play them. Essentially I was being lazy, and looking for the easy way out.

It was also in my early years that I developed a distinct fondness for music that sounded melancholy. Pieces written in a minor key were favorites because they created a feeling of sorrow that I identified with. They inspired me and made me love music even more. I began to comprehend the power of music, and the magic it makes possible. Those somber pieces made me feel understood; they created an atmosphere that represented how I felt, and they expressed emotions I wouldn’t fully understand for years. I could relate to the music in a way I was unable to relate to another person. I absorbed it as a means of communication and expression. I feel like music taught me that every emotion I possess is allowed to be acknowledged and expressed. As I got older, I felt that it was alright to convey the sadness I carried most of the time; it was a safe and even healthy outlet for the emotions that are difficult to put into words and share with other people. With music, whether listening, playing, or composing, my ever-present depression is allowed to be recognized; I am not expected or told to cheer up, and I am not made to apologize for it.

Music is a precious art that can be at once empowering and humbling, and it is a gift to create as well as to hear. Obviously some people are more musically talented than others, but I think some people also have an innate attraction to music, where music is not just something that drones on in the background, but is a priceless and integral component of life. It nurtures the soul in a way that little else can, and it allows for a stunning expression of life's emotions, from the worst sorrow to the greatest joy. I plan to write about my experiences with composing, playing, and listening to music, and I am hopeful that I’ll be able to convey the love and respect I have for it.


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