"I don't even understand why people like live music," Merritt says.

People probably wonder why I like Stephin Merritt so much. There is not an easy answer. Hmmm... His sense of humor reminds me of House. He is always saying things that debunk my desire for clarity in music ( "It's not like there's one production style at the center of the universe," he says. "I think there is no arrangement or production style that you would accurately call 'clear' that just presents the songs. It doesn't exist in the world of audio - it's called sheet music."). He does interviews despite hating doing interviews, and produces awesome reactions from his interviewers. Read the interview in the San Francisco Gate here .

Another sign that it is a good day: You can now buy The Charm of the Highway Strip on LP here.


today everything feels slow

kind of like this...

Yo La Tengo: Our Way to Fall

we'll try and try even if it lasts an hour
with all our might we'll try and make it ours


that's why the arm came for you

Writing just seems like such a chore these days (no offense to anyone who actually reads this thing). If all of my other jobs and hobbies were not so text-intensive, I would probably enjoy it more, but right now it seems like homework. Really boring homework. And it occurs to me that I am transitioning to a greater interest in visual culture than music media, though I am also trying to keep my academic life out of my hobby-writing life.

You know what? Screw that. Here is something you should listen to, because the band is awesome and the songs are epic.

Shiller is the new Ratatat 7". It feels kind of like the way everything slows down in the morning when you are headed out the door and there is dew on the grass that gets your flip flops wet. Maybe you slip and stumble a little bit, but you keep going. This is a recurring problem for me, as is the problem of waking from disturbing dreams at 3:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., and so on. Never 3:01 or 10:02. It is some kind of strange synchronicity, the universe teaching me some strange lesson, as it has been for years, but in a very different way lately.

It is as if there is a different puppet-master up there, with a distinct style. Everything is slowwwww, like a waltz, but more chaotic and disjointed. That is how Shiller feels to me, too, which is why happening upon it in a time of great coincidences makes it feel like more of a Soundtrack to My Life than a great discovery.

This sounds like madness, to you, does it not? It probably is. I'm very groggy these days, with unforeseen consequences for the future.

What else have I been listening to these days...

Just about half of the new Islands album, "Arm's Way." It feels wrong for some reason, for its lack of quirkiness and for its overabundance of dark, slow, deep moments. I don't know how I feel about it at all, except that I can't stop thinking about Tim Kasher when I listen to it.

Same with the new Submarines album, Honeysuckle Weeks. I agree with pretty much everything Charles said about it. No focus, nothing interesting to really latch onto, but at least it sounds kinda sorta nice, in a way that makes me want to listen to it again, and I have, many times, but, you know, eh. I wish there were stronger emotions and real human moments, neither of which I'm really sure the album delivers.

Traffic has been terrible lately. I spend a lot of time driving and listening to music, and right now the rotation is a bunch of albums from a few summers ago. Regina Spektor's 'Begin to Hope,' if for no other reason than for "Summer in the City," the Bouncing Souls' 'Gold Record,' and a few others make me miss the summer of 2006 majorly. Who knows what this summer will bring. So far, not a whole lot of exciting things musically. Wow, I should really go to bed before I say anything else that will jynx the prospects of a good summer.



I apologize for the length of this post. This is an email I got from my friend Matt tonight. I hope you will read all of it and carry out some of the suggestions to help the survivors of the cyclone in Burma.

Hey all -
Sorry for this mass email, I don't tend to do this. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess.

As I'm sure you've all seen, there was recently a cyclone in Burma.

The most recent estimates from the regime say that 22,000 are dead and 41,000 are missing. In a country where the regime is likely to say it's sunny outside when it's raining, it's fairly certain that those numbers are an understatement. The US government estimate, for instance, is closer to 100,000 dead.

I don't know how things are going in the states, what the news coverage is, etc, but I imagine (hope) it's similar to the outpouring of support that followed the large tsunami that hit SE Asia in 2004.

Unfortunately, this situation is quite a bit different than in 2004 - getting aid into Burma isn't like getting it into places like, say, Thailand. And, while some aid may reach Burma, it's more likely to be distributed by regime officials. Or not distributed at all.

This all means that if you're going to donate - and please, please do - it's very important that the place you donate to can actually get the aid you're contributing to inside the country, and do it quickly.

I think this is a good organization: http://www.avaaz.org/en/

They can get the money into the country, right now. They do this by distributing it to monasteries in the areas hit worst. Monks have played leading roles in important moments in Burma's past - as they did in the Saffron Protests in August/September - and they're stepping up big now, when the government and it's civilian paramilitary organizations aren't. Please lend them a hand.

Here's a direct link to where you can donate:

Also, below is an email from the school I was meant to work at in Burma before visa issues sent me to W. Thailand. Jyotish has some photos from after the storm, plus a description of what things are like and what they're trying to do. They don't have any fancy online donation system like Avaaz or other aid orgs because they're a very, very small organization. But they're there, now, and literally every dollar you send will help. You can email gt.camp@gmail.com if you'd like to donate. I'll vouch for their reliability.

Relatedly, if you're looking for a good place to get Burma related news, check out http://www.irrawaddy.org" , an independent news agency based in Thailand that covers Burma. I think it's the best one around.

Lastly, if you'd mention Avaaz or Jyotish to other friends, that would be fantastic.


On Fri, May 9, 2008 at 11:33 PM, Growing Together wrote:

Dear friends,

Internet wasn't working for a couple of days and electricity isn't available nor will it be for a good while. There is lack of water for drinking, bathing etc, in the case of the school we are fortunate to have a water filter and a diesel engine with enough fuel to supply for cooking and drinking. Also we have a treadle pump by the dug well which enables people to take bath and wash clothes. Many people carry water from afar and boiling water is increasingly difficult with the rain soaking the environment and the markets short of supplies, and of course no electricity is available.

In Thanlyin our daycare school which was opened in January this year was completely demolished and our kitchen was also thoroughly blown apart. The only building which remains is our wooden preschool. I was staying in the school on the night of the cyclone. The howling went on all night and the force increased around break of dawn. I could barely make my way out, but realized the need for securing cooking possibilities and rescued the stove and gas cylinder to cook in the preschool which now also house our daycare children. Five families sleep in the school since their houses have been destroyed and we provide food to them as well as all children in daycare. Other village children from families in extreme need come twice a day for a meal.

Ayawaddy division and Yangon are among the hardest hit areas and these are also the areas that produce most of the rice in Myanmar. The crops in the paddy fields have gone lost and prices already soaring in the markets might continue to be shockingly high creating need for further feeding initiatives. The price of rice has risen drastically, reportedly up to 3 times the normal price and the local markets are running out of stock. The first thing I did after the winds had calmed down was to pull a trolley to the local market two bus stops down the road in order to bring some emergency provisions back to school. Every 50 meters fallen trees blocked the road and no transport could use the roads for several days, still transport is comparatively limited in many parts of the suburbs of Yangon, fuel is costly and supplies are scarce. Thick trees, traffic lights, roofing materials, broken walls and fallen signboards still obstructed the way when I made it in to Yangon several days after the cyclone passed. And people still lack water and electricity. Without electricity they cannot pump water. Some diesel engines are pulled around on carts to be used for pumping water by households paying for the service. From ground level people hand buckets up the stairways to their apartments. Prices on roofing, nails and other construction materials have gone up considerably.

Incidentally I was in the school at the time of the cyclone; otherwise it wouldn't have been possible for me to reach there by any means of transport. Nobody here was prepared since information on the caliber of the approaching winds hadn't been available. The destruction has been massive. Enormous trees of 200 years or more are witnesses that this was an incident without a second in the recent history of Myanmar. Lacking any good source of information it is difficult to get an overview of the disaster but in the villages around Thanlyin about 80% of the houses have been damaged and 50% severely broken or completely demolished.

Walking in the debris of the villages 4 days ago we took another 7 children below 2.5 years into immediate care in our school, providing medicines, food and a safe space while their parents try to patch together something of a home to shelter them from the rains. And naturally there are more children to respond to, we look to the youngest first and those without enough parental support or those in ill health. We will make efforts to continue to keep these children in our daycare since we understand that their families had a hard time making a living already before the cyclone struck and now conditions are even worse. We hope to receive enough support to reconstruct the daycare school and to help the most needy families in our area to rebuild their homes. To send support, please contact gt.camp@gmail.com for further information.

With many thanks for your interest and support,

Jyotish Nordstrom

Growing Together Myanmar