Against Me! - The Ocean

Having recently read the fantastic ‘A Sideways Look at Time’ by Jay Griffiths, which also explores our society’s divorce with nature, I am more drawn to earth imagery in art. For much longer, I have nursed a somewhat-subconscious desire to experience the most visceral, connection-making, completely-engrossing music I can locate. It is when I hear these songs that my urge to share my thoughts about the music I enjoy grows stronger.

The last song on ‘New Wave’ began like most of the other songs on this short album, the unexpected duet with Tegan Quin being the exception. It’s a good album, and it gets better with more listens, but by that point in the first play, I was somewhat distracted and only half-listening. Here’s what caught my attention, and made me restart the song:

If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman
My mother once told me she would have named me Laura
I would grow up to be strong and beautiful like her
One day I’d find an honest man to make my husband

This, in my opinion and experience, is one of the bravest statements ever recorded, due mainly to the genre of hardcore punk this band is classified under. These are not the kind of lyrics male audiences sing along with, and definitely not ones that sell records.

The first half of the song deals with the ubiquity of the waters of the earth; it clearly and concisely describes how everyone, regardless of location or social status, is touched. It hopefully envisions ultimate safety and happiness as exclusive of no one. Almost subversively, it seems to want this knowledge to not be obvious, but to be discovered, to be ‘hidden’ in plain sight.

The second half gives words to the simple yet fulfilled dream life desire that I must assume most people vaguely share. The dichotomy of a man voicing the visualizations of his female alter ego forces introspection, but the details after ‘husband’ are all unisex.

I have listened to this powerful song six or seven times now, and each time I hear it, I feel as if the song, not the band, not the singer, is reaching out with both hands, gathering fistfuls of my shirt, pulling me in, staring me directly in the eyes, and saying, “You are undeniably a part of the human race, of the earth. The connections you feel and want are natural, and are necessary. Go out and find more.”


Against Me! - The Ocean (special thanks to JB for help on posting this.)

Lyrics in story form, as published by the band on their website.

If I could have chosen where god would hide his heaven, I would wish for it to be in the salt and swell of the ocean. Carried by the currents to all continent’s shores. Reaching into depths where the sun’s light has never shown. Mixed with algae and coral. Breathed in by sharks and dolphins. Sailed by tanker ships, private yachts, swam in by tourists. Working its way up through inlets, lakes, and rivers, swamps, and estuaries. Down through limestone into the aquifer. Purified by the county, pumped through pipes and out faucets. Filled into a glass to meet the thirst of our children.

If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman. My mother once told me she would have named me Laura. I would grow up to be strong and beautiful like her. One day I’d find an honest man to make my husband. We would have two children, build our home on the Gulf of Mexico. Our family would spend hot summer days at the beach together. The sun would kiss our skin as we played in the sand and water. We would know we loved each other without having to say it. At night we would sleep with the windows of our house left open. Letting the cool ocean air soothe the sunburned shoulders of our children.

There is an Ocean in my soul where the waters do not curve.


Of This World

Driving today, I saw a full rear window sticker declaring "Not of This World." I've seen these before, and my immediate gut reaction is always the petulant "Yes you are!" What was different this time was my recent reading of part of "A Sideways Look at Time" by Jay Griffiths, in which at one point he describes the differences between Western, Christian symbolism and that of other cultures. The idea was that the snake is a fundamental cosmic life-bringing element in ancient cultures around the world, but that Christianity is at distinct odds with these cultures in its view of the serpent. This brought to mind other fragments I have gathered over time, including the revisions of Christian event dates such that Christmas and Easter supplant the pagan, earth-centered 'holidays' of the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

I have witnessed t-shirts being sold at Christian youth events, emblazoned with "Forget the whales, save the PEOPLE!" I remember the pastor at an Indiana church taking strength from his interpretation of Scripture that he should hate his family if they distracted him from his relationship with God. There are bumper stickers that claim "My reward is in heaven."

I submit that the presentation of Christianity has been slowly altered, partially through the translation from its original languages and the selection of books to omit, and partially through mass-message emphasis, to alienate the people of the world from one another and from the earth itself. Christians are given no incentive to care for each other (save for the vague threat that the person they mistreat might be Christ, which is highly unlikely) or for their home; they are constantly encouraged to focus on the afterlife. In most cases, there is not even a tiered reward system; Jehovah's Witnesses are the only exception I am aware of. The whole point is to look out for number one, and make it to heaven. The earth is a proving ground, full of pain and suffering; its sole purpose is to test your worthiness to pass through the Gates.

Is it any wonder, then, that blatant disregard for the earth has become common among fundamentalist Christians? The prevailing attitude seems to be "I'll be dead (implied: and in heaven) when it really gets bad." For a group of people so ostensibly concerned with their families, it's ironic that they don't care what conditions they'll be living in.

This kind of turned into a scathing rebuke, but that wasn't really the intent. I just want people to understand that the connections between ourselves and those between us and our planet are ultimately far more important that those with a father figure in the sky, because every day, when you look at the people and places around you, you are seeing the face of God.

Well, A, it looks like my element might be earth after all.


The Softer Side of Tallahassee

I placed my meter about fifty feet from the centerline of Orange Avenue, and proceeded to measure noise levels. Roughly fifteen minutes later, I made brief eye contact with the two inmates of the Leon County Jail road work crew as they passed me. Their job was to pick up trash, and they looked beaten. I unconsciously tried to convey respect, sympathy, and appreciation, but without pity in my brief nod. I'm pretty sure the message didn't get through.

Finding people at home during a weekday is not easy, and my normal tactic of starting my work and being friendly if the residents return before I leave is not as safe in Florida as it is in California. So when I saw two people sitting in a yard, I was grateful.
Their sign along the edge of the highway read "Home Grown Tomatoes." It soon became clear that the reason these two were actually at work after all. They were very nice, trusting, and interested in what I was doing. They even offered me a chair. They said, "If you need to come back, just go ahead and do what you need to. Don't matter if we're not here." How nice.

I pulled up in the driveway of the house I wanted to conduct a measurement at, got out, and walked up to the door. When I rang the doorbell and then knocked, no one answered; this is common. As I was driving away, I glanced back at the house, and saw the owner. I quickly got out, walked over, and gave her my spiel. She was skeptical, but unlike most of the people I've encountered here, her apprehension did not fade. I tried to tell her that I did not need to be there if it made her uncomfortable, but she was internally torn between (perceived) civic duty and personal safety: "I don't want to be an uncooperative resident, but whatever you need to do, you can do it outside the gate. Too many home invasions these days." She watched me count traffic for five solid minutes, then went inside "to call the City." I feel bad, like something really crappy must have happened to her or someone in her family in the past. Not that I want her to drop her guard completely and become foolishly vulnerable again, but I hope the fact that she trusted me and nothing bad came of it will somewhat restore her faith in the common person.

Resident #1 from yesterday came through with that Xerox. Turns out, it was a pamphlet for the hearing test booth his brother designed. Less dorky, but still. He also offered to show me around Tallahassee the next time I was in town; I am pretty sure he thinks this is the best place in the world to live. He was definitely lonely, and possibly a little bit gay.

It was at this point it began raining, preventing me from completing my last two measurements. This forced me to stay in town through the weekend, and the fact that I have posted more than once in less than a week is directly traceable to this situation. Sigh.

While waiting for the rain to clear (it didn't), I happened into The Bookshelf, which was billed as a used bookstore / comic bookstore. They might want to reconsider the emphasis, because all those old books (mostly romance novels and westerns) seemed to be getting in the way of all the awesome comics & paraphernalia. Anyway, that's where I found the two coolest things ever, and was forced to pick one. I can't tell you what they are now, because the one I got is a "Sorry I went away on business" gift for A. Anyway, by the time I left, I had the gist of the guy behind the counter's life story, particularly in regards to him working at this, his dad's store, while raising his 2-year-old kid. Also, he thinks Superman rules.



I'm in Tallahassee doing field work that requires me to ask people for temporary access to their property to conduct noise measurements. Florida is a funny place. Evidential anecdotes:

1. 'Brother' Williams of the Jehovah's Witness Church glances at the official letter I have, doesn't read it, but asks me if everything I'm doing is "legal and proper."
2. Resident #1 presents a dissertation on why my ambient measurements will not be valid in the near future, based on the confluence of events in City politics he has foreseen. Same resident offers a Xerox copy of a photograph of his brother in a soundproof booth. He gives me a water.
3. Resident #2 gives me a blue Gatorade, and with a twinkle in his eye, apologizes that he doesn't have anything to smoke. Later, as he and his girlfriend are driving away, I ask if I can return the next afternoon for more readings. His girlfriend's jaw drops as he says, "Sure, but I won't be here. That's okay, though. Just leave me a joint somewhere!"
4. Resident #3 looks at me skeptically, as every resident always does. Then, for the first time since starting this gig eight years ago, he asks to see some identification. Perhaps inappropriately, I started laughing, because, as I told him, this should have happened dozens of times before this! We got on pretty well after that.
5. Resident #4 asks me hopefully, "If there's too much noise, will they have to buy me out?" His wife gives me a water.
6. Resident #5 informs me of the next-door neighbor whose door I just knocked on, "Well, she's not home because she's deceased."

I'm sure there will be more events tommorow. If you're lucky, you'll read about them this year.


The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Just read it; great book. It opens the discussion on an incredible number of contentious topics, then it (or he - the fourth wall is broken repeatedly) gives an answer/opinion without attempting to close the argument. It is such a perfect book to read as a junior in high school that they would never allow it. Favorite passage:

"True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude toward those who are at its mercy: animals."



it's no wonder so many fundamentalist christian parents are screwed up. from sunday school on, they are taught to emulate the quote-unquote perfect authority/parental figure. unfortunately, when the lessons are taught by someone without the ability to extract the proper meaning from the darker material in the bible, they are alternately shown a beatific, unconditionally loving god and a petty, vengeful god as sermons alternate from the new to old testaments. the grand lesson many people are unconsciously left with is: as long as you toe the line and don't question anything, everything will be fine; but the minute you start acting up, it is perfectly acceptable to smite the living shit out of you.


It's remarkable how some people intentionally blind themselves.


About 2/3 of the way down, "Followers of creationism..."

This bishop has already made the mental leap that the time frame of the creation story is allegory, and yet cannot seem to make the next (smaller) one to realizing that the rest of it is as well. My favorite part is that he's taken it upon himself to deduce the allegory formula...