Archive for July 16th, 2006

16
Jul
06

More recent aquisitions

I went to the MIT Swapfest today and picked up a few pieces of computer hardware:

  • 2 Promise PCI UltraATA 133 Hard Drive Controllers (breaking the 137GB limit!): $10
  • 2 UltraATA ribbon cables: $2
  • 2 Dell 230W power supplies that could replace the power supply in the server hosting this blog: $2.

All in all, I feel like I did pretty well.

File this under desired future acquisitions:

Yesterday, I played a Nintendo DS Lite for the first time. We took a family trip to Target at like 8:30 in the morning, since my daughter had woken us up at 6am. I found myself alone in the electronics department, and was thus free to play the normally mobbed DS Lite. I enjoyed the game (Super Mario whatever) but I didn’t really enjoy holding the device, since it had clearly been gripped by an army of greasy-handed juveniles prior to my arrival. I’ve been wanting a portable gaming device for a while now and the DS Lite seems like the way to go. I can’t decide if I should buy one now or hope to get one for my birthday or Christmas or if I should save my money for the Wii. I’ve been trying to convince my wife that we should get his and hers DS Lites. She seems less than convinced at this point, but I’ll keep working on her…

16
Jul
06

Review: The Avalanche by Sufjan Stevens

Having listened to this album 10 times now, I feel that it should not be viewed as a collection of “Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois album” as the album’s subtitle indicates. Viewing the album in this way prevents the listener from enjoying it as a cohesive whole, reducing it to just a random collection of songs. While the album does contain three different versions of Chicago that prevent it from feeling fully like a “normal” album, the album consists mostly of new, unduplicated material. Furthermore, this material makes sense as a cohesive whole, since it was originally conceived to belong to a larger cohesive whole: namely, a double album incarnation of Illinois. Though not all tracks are sensational, the album contains, in my estimation, at least half a dozen gems, showcasing Stevens’ gifted sense of rhythm and orchestration, his lyrical skill and his hopeful melancholia.

What struck me most in reflecting on this album and its predecessor, Illinois, is a sense of patriotism that comes through in the music. This is not the “America, right or wrong” brand of patriotism; rather, it is a patriotism that celebrates who we are, where we have come from, and the struggles we have endured. It celebrates our victories and grieves over our failures, but doesn’t sweep them under the rug. This brand of humble patriotism can acknowledge our weaknesses and admit that they are part of who we are. The stories Stevens tells touch us because they resonate with our own experiences.

I was talking to a friend from Harvard the other day and he mentioned that when he finishes at Harvard, he would like to move to a place that is more patriotic. In Boston and Cambridge – especially at the universities – a sort of anti-patriotism seems to reign. Rather than “America, right or wrong”, the sentiment is “America: wrong”. So, coming from this environment, I find Sufjan Stevens’ music and its celebration of small-town America so refreshing. He invites us to join him in forsaking contentious debates over governmental policy (that is, the governing of America) and focus on that which is being governed: a nation of ordinary folks with stories to tell.

Continue reading ‘Review: The Avalanche by Sufjan Stevens’




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