a modest attempt to crystallize a feeling

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

a new beginning

To the four of you who still pass by this site from time to time, BIG NEWS! I have officially ditched the blogger site here and have migrated to another new and improved site...my own! I am now located at grahamkervin.net where I have expanded the channels of content and hope to exercise a lot more diversity in the types of stuff I post about and highlight. I apologize for the havoc this wreaks with your bookmarks, but I think it'll be for the best. Thanks for your support.

Monday, February 06, 2006

laughed til i cried

the award for the funniest commercial from the superbowl this year has to go to the fedex "prehistoric mail service". for my money it doesn't get any better than seeing a caveman punt a dinosaur.... however, ameriquest's "that killed him" almost cost me a mouthful of food to the back of the person's head sitting in front of me. ahhh, humor:)

Friday, January 20, 2006

a letter to John Steinbeck

dear mr. steinbeck,

it is with much humility and much objectless gazing that i sit down to right this epistle of sorts. i have been a respecter of your writings for many years now, ever since i first opened the cover of the grapes of wrath, and having now finished my sojourn though your east of eden i must try to sift my thoughts, feeling the grit of their sand between my fingers. you have struck some thick chords within me, and i will try to capture only a few of their harmonies for the moment, for i think i will have to wait some time for the vibrations to reach the deeper and more recessed areas, and by that point i may have amended these reflections several times over.

with a certain measure of prophecy you write that the story is true that we can feel in ourselves and that we can feel is true of us; only then does it have power. only then may we call it truth. now you imbed this claim within the epic reliving of the cain-abel story, for your novel's characters find in the spare details of this story the raw stuff of timeless appeal, a kind of fulcrum for the ceaseless pendulum of the human event. i think that 'appeal' is the right word for it, too, because like job's elemental consternation we want in full what we cannot have. (we have a difficult enough time with even the few fragments we receive.) certain parts of the telling never quite add up and we find ourselves continually coming back to dig a little bit more, to survey the crime scene one more time, seeking out the kernels of truth that will--against all hope--make sense this time.

i lately find myself repeating the words of pilate, what is truth? i know what i think it to mean--or at least am told what it means, but i wonder about such simple answers. like adam trask, i suppose that i, too, fear those kinds of simple things, for Truth is too elusive a quarry, too jealously guarded a wage to be lightly nailed down and dissected. i suppose it's a bit like cupping water in our hands: no matter how tightly we clench our muscles and bunch the folds of our palms, the water always manages to seep through, leaving us only with wet hands and trace amounts of something once satisfying. we never really find truth, we just hold onto it for a moment before it escapes and entices us to begin again the chase. but the pursuit is by no means futile; it merely changes the nature of its content. as we progress, so does it. and it leaves us little markers along the way so that we may identify the path and not lose hope, if only to stop and to rest and to take it in for a moment.

this is not to say that truth is different for every person, for if this were the case Truth would merely be an exercise in self-fulfillment and, at worst, become the self-love of idolatry. if i read you correctly, sir, Truth draws us outward from ourselves and into something infintely greater than ourselves. this seems to make sense, for what good would a story be if it captured nothing of common human wisdom and experience? for instance, we can imagine ourselves in salinas, california, because we have some reference of what the west is like. we can empathize with the members of the trask and hamilton families because we know what it is like to have fathers and mothers and siblings and children. and like cain and abel, we can understand the magnitude a single choice because we know firsthand the processes of rejection, revenge, and guilt that may accompany that choice. these are familiar stories to us, and on a grander scale the story of the israelites is our story because we can take part in its agonies and its joys, its victories and its defeats between every inhale and exhale of our lungs. it is the human story. it is about one person and includes all persons. and the pursuit of Truth is about taking hold of our place in that story and making a claim upon it--finding our little footnote in the human story and stamping our will upon it. it taps into the currents of human existence and acknowledges that something powerful is at stake in the unfolding of events in a life. we may assume that some sort of supernatural scaffolding lies just under the surface, but we have to earn a peek at it by feeling our way and understanding that everything comes down to one single choice, which will be succeeded by another single choice, and another until we have forged a destiny for ourselves that either respects or ignores that shared accumulation of wisdom.

herein lies the importance of the naming scene for adam trask's sons. a name is an intervention into life that invokes a person's destiny with a fixed point of origin. it is not a prescriptive act, but is one that demands possession, and with this sense of personal ownership comes the casting of identity. everyone needs a peg on which to hang their hat, but we may decide what kind of hat to hang. it is not the name that consigns us to a fate, but it is up to us to determine how that name will be employed and how people will remember its taste long after we have passed on. it may inspire nobility but it does not require it, just as it may carry the hint of evil but does not supply it the means. after all, cain is perhaps the most notorious name in human history (and worn by only one individual), but the reason for this is perhaps because no one has had the courage to reforge it, to invest it with a new identity. the name does not create, we create the name. what we do with that name is what drives the great machine. how we live, the decisions that we make, and the legacy that we leave behind earn us the right to become great, and it earns us the right to be damned.

and so i come back to the question, sir, what is truth? i can't with any certainty say that it is something hard and fast, at least not in conventional terms. we can affirm all day long and into the night that jesus is the christ, but that only declares the name, uttering 'christness' into existence. and this of course leads us to the next question, what is christness? (this, too, is only a word, which will only lead to another question, and another). but the christ story only rings true because it feels true; it taps into our story, the one filled wth gaps and rough spots. deep within ourselves we feel, we know, that it is true, and so we seek it out, attempting to dress with our own flesh the essence of the basic human story that has been redeemed and rewritten by jesus. and we govern the telling of that story with heightened sincerity, for we possess the power to create and destroy, to build up and to tear down; we possess the power to choose. and this, i believe, is how the winding path of Truth reveals itself to us, one choice at a time, giving us the option to rule over sin or to be ruled by it. it is our choice. it is what makes us human and carves out our identity as individuals from the sediment of apathy. and it won't be the final solution for Truth, of course, but it least it's something.

timshel, mr. steinbeck. timshel.

graham kervin

Monday, October 10, 2005

the religious 4-letter word (give or take)

okay, try this on for size. raise your hand if you like the term 'evangelism'. go on, don't be afraid. hmm, not too many takers, i see (even my hand is down). i think the problem is that in so much of our 'churching' of the idea of evangelism we have truncated this 10-letter word into somewhat of a 4-letter word. it has become something dirty and bitter in our mouths, for poor and ridiculous efforts by Christians to seek and save the lost throughout history have befouled its main purpose. evangelism is not about a method. it is not about knocking on doors and hurling propositions at a person until they succumb to belief in God, nor does it involve mugging someone at the mall with threats of damnation and sinfulness. it doesn't require any kind of flipping on of the 'evangelism' switch whenever we are apart from other Christians. it is simply the bringing of good news. that's it.

in my ethics class the other day we got off onto the topic of evangelism and my professor made a rather profound point. in our relationships with non-Christian people we often feel the need to bracket out our Christianity so as not to offend them or (heaven forbid) be labeled as a Jesus freak. we want to create friendships that exist on a kind of neutral moral plane, where neither person ever has to stand for anything or bring up uncomfortable and awkward topics. (if we can just relegate our evangelism to being "lights in the world," with our Christian music posters and the occasional verse scribbled on a bulletin board, then we can all peacefully coexist. but my professor put the question to us, "what kind of relationship is this?" if Christianity is as much a part of our identities as we say it is, then there should be no way to avoid our Christianity emanating out of who we are. does the commitment we make to Christ from the moment of our conversion suffuse everything that we do, think, and say?

there should be no question of whether or not we are a Christian when we meet people and get to know them. and again, this doesn't mean oozing sappy Christian epithets into conversation every chance we get; it just means being real and authentic about the life decision we have made. are we being honest in our friendships with the world if we can't be honest about who we are and allow them to be as honest as they are? no one grows if people merely swap catch phrases and trite definitions. people grow because they are willing to think about and discuss the true essences of things, and it would seem that, as Christians and having spiritual access to the undercurrent of the created order, we have something meaningful and valuable to offer. we have salvation and a new story to lead us forward; we have faith in the one who has conquered death and the tentacles it has wrapped around everything the world sees and believes. we have peace that nothing can touch, and that's good news.

Friday, October 07, 2005

tune in, tokyo

after a long and, well, not so much needed sabbatical from the blogworld i will make the moment of my resurfacing a momentous one with some well-thought through and hardly spontaneous music reviews. i know, it's been a while and couldn't i have posted something more meaningful and erudite than discussing music of all things? well, considering that, for me at least, musicness is next to godliness (who really voted for cleanliness, anyway?), by reading a little bit about what floats my auditory boat, you might as well be tapping into the fibers of my soul and peering into my inner depths. and who knows, maybe you'll pick up on a little something extra for your drive home.

as suzy mentioned in a previous post, death cab for cutie released their long-awaited follow-up album 'plans' a few weeks ago to a hungry audience with outstretched hands. since their last album 'transatlanticism' they have signed to a major label and while this move toward notoriety can be detrimental to many bands, dcfc does not seem to have skipped a beat in making fine music. for those of you who are and those of you who aren't familiar with them, 'plans' is a definite step toward an even greater maturity, and this album's sound and production quality finds a place right between the postal service's 'give up' and coldplay's new 'x&y'. and it's amazing. from the opening track to the last, the listener buys a ticket aboard an ephemeral rollercoaster, chasing after emotional indulgence and impassioned expectancy. this album (along with 'transatlanticism') is a must have for anyone who has ever found themselves on the quietr side of mellow.

two weeks ago coheed and cambria dropped their heavily anticipated 'good apollo i'm burning star IV: volume I' and, well.... to be honest i haven't made up my mind. the two main tracks they have released are really solid and fun to turn the volume up for. but the rest of the album is an incredibly musically complex assortment of tunes that just don't have the wider appeal like 'in keeping secrets' did. i'm still trying to keep an open mind about it, and i'm sure i will eventually come to the point where i ever questioned its brilliance. but they have really stepped up the music aspect of this album. their classical influences ring clearly throughout, showcasing guitar and bass solos from time to time, and i really have no idea how you would even begin to tab their songs. the overall tone of the album is darker than previous albums (heart of darkness, anyone?), but there are moments of sheer optimism, including the last part of the last song, which breaks into an unexpected bluegrass jam session at the end - complete with barking dog. so anywho, do i recommend it? okay, maybe so, but don't take my word for it.

jimmy eat world released a new ep this week called 'stay on my side tonight,' which whet my appetite immensely. for those of you who might have heard their remake of prodigy's 'firestarter' imagine 5 songs pumping the same blood. it's certainly more mellow that 'futures' and definitely tinged with cynicism toward, well, what else?, relationships, but this little gem proves that their is life after mtv and that they can return to doing what they do best, putting into musical terms the definitions of things we have a hard time putting into words. for the jimmy die-hards like myself, do not pass this ep by.

also, straylight run composed an ep named 'prepare to be wrong' that adds a beautiful complement to their self-titled full length. this latest project actually seems a bit more cohesive than the former, though, keeping the musical unity a little tighter than some of the mood swings we heard before. if they can keep up the momentum heard here, i think we can expect incredible things from these guys (and girl).

well, i think that'll do for now. of course this is but the tip of the iceberg for my latest musical acquisitions, but if i commented on every cd i laid my ears to, i suppose the whole blog would not have room for the reviews that would be written. it was good talking at you again, and i promise that future posts will come more regularly and with more accessible or provocative material. so peace out, i'm eating breakfast.

Friday, August 12, 2005

warped and loving it


i think i have now finally recovered from the greatest circus on earth, the vans' warped tour. for those of you not quite familiar with the warped tour (and thinking to yourself, "weren't vans' a kind of shoe back in the 90s?"), this is a traveling concert that showcases only the choicest punk/indie/emo bands, along with their merchandise tents, record label booths, and other random vendors of music-related paraphernalia. and, oh my goodness, it rocked my face off. seriously, over 60 bands play on the main stages, and dozens more local bands come and play to get themselves heard and attract fan bases, and these bands are synchronized in perfect sequential harmony as every band gets a 30-minute show before rotating off so another band can get their moment in the sun. it's amazing. among many other bands, i stood in slack-jawed amazement before the likes of hawthorne heights, mae, avenged 7X, thrice, acceptance, this day and age, funeral for a friend, over it, fall out boy, the offspring, and reggie and the full effect. just going through the line-up again brings a tear to the eye...and a drop of blood to the ear. sheesh, i think i seriously shortened the life expectancy of my hearing, but it was worth it to leave my eardrums in a gravelly field in northern VA to seize the opportunity to shout along to 'ohio is for lovers' or 'come out and play.'

and on a side note, though i should have expected it i was still blown away by the thosands upon thousands of body piercings that paraded around. now, speaking as an ex-facial piercer (twice actually), i feel i can comment in my own right, but with some of these kids i just have to ask not 'why?' but 'how?' i would hate to see the piercing gun that could bore that into your head. and the whole ear-widener disc things? what? i must have missed the memo declaring that permanent hula hoops in your earlobes was a 'good thing'. and the completely random tattoo assortment was mind-boggling. skulls, mythical creatures, barbed wire, band names, and butterflies occurred most frequently, and, amusingly enough, i even saw a couple misspellings. i have no problem with tats, but honestly people, these things are permanent - make them worth the ink.

so, leaving with a fistful of cds, posters, and stickers and a little more discretion concerning body adornment, warped tour '05 rocked my socks off and i should be well-satiated on the concert scene for quite some time (until funeral for a friend and anberlin hit dallas in october, that is). until then i'll just keep praying that my auditory canal can find the fluid to forgive me.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

play that funky music, whitebread

inspired by sammie's call for new music and realizing my own oversight in turning the world on to, as hannah would call them, 'under the radar' audio nuggets, i believe it's time to yet again to throw out some unsolicited music reviews. you ready for this? cuz, hooboy, i sure am:)

without a doubt, the best cd i have purchased this summer is tegan and sara's "so jealous." this is a two sister outfit (a white stripes kinda thing, though i think they have friends come and contribute to different songs where needed), and while one might not label their singing ability as "beautiful" by amerian idol standards, their vocal skills are wonderful in their own right, and the harmonies they create are immaculate. their homegrown though polished indie/emo blend is probably not for all listeners, but great lyrics, great variety, and hooks that latch into the recesses of your brain all combine into the single greatest - and rather unexpected - cd i have discovered in months.

the all-american rejects finally released their sophomore album "move along" a few weeks ago, and it lives up to every bit of hype it could have received. very user friendly songs and a matured band integration have pushed the band beyond the reach of any sophomore jynx that might have threatened to eclipse their 15 minutes of stardom. in a similar musical vein, houston calls put out their first full-length disc "a collection of short stories" after a highly-praised and very sucessful debut ep. a little more punk than pop (but ALL fun), great vocal flexibility and a standout drummer carry these guys a long way.

for those of you who have seen 'garden state' or at least heard its stunning soundtrack you might recall the delicate and calming strains of 'let go' by frou frou. on an almost whim i picked up her cd "details" at my neighborhood best buy and was completely blown away. the album is a masterpiece from start to finish. now it's true that i'm a sucker for chick rock, but this transcends anything alanis or kelly clarkson might attempt. closer to sarah mclaughlin than anything else, her songs are wispy, ephemeral, and wholly grounded at the same time. it's the perfect mellow, chillin' out during the tail end of sunset kind of disc and i urge you to check it out.

and though i try to resist mainstream whenever i can, i broke down and bought (you see where my paycheck goes, sheesh) coldplay's "x&y". and i was satisfied. i had heard their other cds via mitch, so i knew what to expect, but this album felt altogether more mature and experimental than its predecessors. there are several standout tracks, and for the right mood coldplay hits the spot like lemonade on a hot day, but like jack johnson i can't see it in too constant a rotation.

my surprise purchase for the summer goes to the cure. after hearing their song 'so close to me' in my head for a week i picked up the "greatest hits" cd and was really amazed. it's chock full of the oldies but goodies, along with some more recent songs sprinkled in for good measure, and you never know when you need to fill a prescription with, no, not more cowbell, but with the right cure.

well, that's it for now, but if any of you check out just one of these cds i will feel like i have accomplished something great. but don't take my word for it.

also, i have pasted a music video player at the bottom of my blog - no, you're not just hearing things - with songs by jimmy eat world ('work'), coheed and cambria ('a favor house atlantic'), and taking back sunday ('a decade under the influence'). enjoy.