"Life is strange: things only happen once."

Paul Zahl

SQF Radio #6

Why so serious, blog?   What we need around here is some music.   Here's the long-overdue edition number six of SQF Radio.  (As always, the big playlist is here.)

  1. Blitzen Trapper - Jericho.   I'm still on the Trapper Train.   On this one, they trade in referencing the Bible in a roundabout fashion for telling an actual Bible story.   "It went down as a rout / we razed those walls with nothing but a shout...":

  2. Danielson - Did I Step On Your Trumpet?.   If anything, Danielson has gotten a bit more normal over the years.  This is probably the least insane song they've produced.   If you haven't heard, they've got a movie, too.   The interviews in the movie are instructive.   No matter how nutty Danielson gets, people seem to come out of the show talking about Jesus instead of the band.   "Be just who you're made to be / Papa is so mighty pleased with thee."

  3. David Francey - Borderline.   If you've ever seen the sunrise while driving, this song will feel familiar.   I first heard Dave Francey somewhat accidentally (or as accidental as things ever are).  He was doing a live show in-studio on the radio in Cleveland.   The batteries in my MP3-CD player (remember those?) had died, so I had to see what was on.   I've been a fan ever since.   Did I mention I was driving from Alabama to DC, through Cleveland?   (I know, right?)

  4. Kimya Dawson - Tire Swing.    The Juno soundtrack is excellent all-around.   This song shines with simplicity.   Its subject matter (not finding love, always being on the road, etc.) usually gives birth to very, very sad songs, but this song insists on a joyful kind of warmth.  Once you listen to it a few times, you'll be hard-pressed not to sing along.  [Note:  whoever transcribed the lyrics is 98% accurate, but they murder one of the best lines toward the end of the song.   See if you can spot it.]

"I fought the Law, and..."

Paul Walker delivers an excellent talk on Law and Grace:
"The theological name for scorekeeping is justification by works.  It's the way of life governed by the Law.  It's the way of living life as if life were a contest to be won.  It's the way of living life as if life were a battle out of which one must emerge the victor.  It is a way of life which sees life as an accusation against which one must justify oneself.  [...]  Frankly, it is the way of death:  we always lose when we keep score."
Audio from mbird.com:

Download MP3 from mbird.com...

What about Chinese phonebooks?

David Moser, in Mark-Twain-like fashion, takes out his frustration on the Chinese language:
Someone once said that learning Chinese is "a five-year lesson in humility". I used to think this meant that at the end of five years you will have mastered Chinese and learned humility along the way. However, now having studied Chinese for over six years, I have concluded that actually the phrase means that after five years your Chinese will still be abysmal, but at least you will have thoroughly learned humility.
I was once at a luncheon with three Ph.D. students in the Chinese Department at Peking University, all native Chinese (one from Hong Kong). I happened to have a cold that day, and was trying to write a brief note to a friend canceling an appointment that day. I found that I couldn't remember how to write the character [for] "to sneeze". I asked my three friends how to write the character, and to my surprise, all three of them simply shrugged in sheepish embarrassment. Not one of them could correctly produce the character.  Now, Peking University is usually considered the "Harvard of China". Can you imagine three Ph.D. students in English at Harvard forgetting how to write the English word "sneeze"??
The entire essay...


"Just as the automobile abbreviated physical distances, the cell phone is abbreviating emotional distances."

— some poster on technologyreview.com

"Perchance to Dream"

Jonathan Franzen writes (quite a long while back) about the novel as a literary form.   He manages to touch on a number of different things in the process.   There's really a lot here.  Here's a taste:
"Panic grows in the gap between the increasing length of the project and the shrinking time-increments of cultural change:  how to design a craft that can float on history for as long as it takes to build it?  The novelist has more and more to say to readers who have less and less time to read: where to find the energy to engage with a culture in crisis when the crisis consists in the impossibility of engaging with the culture?"
"We live under a tyranny of the literal.  The daily unfolding stories of Steve Forbes, Magic Johnson, Timothy McVeigh, and Hillary Clinton have an intense, iconic presence that relegates to a subordinate shadow-world our own untelevised lives."
"Imagine that human existence is defined by an Ache:  the Ache of our not being, each of us, the center of the universe;  of our desires forever outnumbering our means of satisfying them.   If we see religion and art as the historically preferred methods of coming to terms with this Ache, then what happens to art when our technological and economic systems and even our commercialized religions become sufficiently sophisticated to make each of us the center of our own universe of choices and gratifications?"
 "There's no bubble that can stay unburst."
Full text here...