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Archive for August, 2012

My Favorite Albums

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 31, 2012

My favorite albums of all time

Greatest hits-type collections don’t count, and I know I missed some good albums, but here are my top 90.

1 Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
2 Boston – Boston
3 Queen – The Game
4 The Cars – The Cars
5 Depeche Mode – Violator
6 Type O Negative – October Rust
7 Jeff Beck – Wired
8 The Cure – Pornography
9 REM – Document
10 Rush – Moving Pictures
11 David Bowie – Let’s Dance
12 The Cult – Love
13 Dead Can Dance – Into The Labyrinth
14 Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
15 Queen – A Night At The Opera
16 Queen – News of the World
17 Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine
18 Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth
19 Ministry – The Land Of Rape And Honey
20 Jethro Tull – Aqualung
21 Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking
22 Lovespirals – Windblown Kiss
23 Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
24 My Dying Bride – The Angel And The Dark River
25 Manufacture – Terrorvision
26 AC/DC – Back in Black
27 Asia – Asia
28 Faith & the Muse – Elyria
29 Evanescence – Fallen
30 The Sisters Of Mercy – Floodland
31 Dead Can Dance – Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
32 Love Spirals Downwards – Ardor
33 Lovespirals – Free & Easy
34 Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
35 REM – Life’s Rich Pageant
36 Single Gun Theory – Like Stars In My Hands
37 Styx – The Grand Illusion
38 Journey – Infinity
39 Journey – Escape
40 Disturbed – The Sickness
41 Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
42 Queen – Sheer Heart Attack
43 The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet
44 Nine Inch Nails – Broken
45 Meat Beat Manifesto – Armed Audio Warfare
46 Deee-Lite – World Clique
47 INXS – Kick
48 Front 242 – Front By Front
49 Chick Corea – Light As a Feather
50 Moev – Yeah, Whatever
51 The Cure – Disintegration
52 Bauhaus – In The Flat Field
53 My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult – Confessions of A Knife
54 Marilyn Manson – The Golden Age Of Grotesque
55 Skinny Puppy – Rabies
56 Manufacture – Voice of World Control
57 Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth
58 London After Midnight – Psycho Magnet
59 Red Hot Chili Peppers – Mother’s Milk
60 Love And Rockets – Love & Rockets
61 The Cult – Beyond Good And Evil
62 Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin
63 Dead Can Dance – Aion
64 Peter Murphy – Deep
65 The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead
66 Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair
67 U2 – How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
68 The Church – Starfish
69 Pink Floyd – A Momentary Lapse Of Reason
70 Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik
71 Sinead O’Connor – The Lion And The Cobra
72 Shinedown – The Sound of Madness
73 Rush – Clockwork Angels
74 Magic Sound Fabric – Uplift Drift
75 Love Spirals Downwards – Ever
76 Tom Petty – Damn the Torpedoes
77 The Go-Go’s – Beauty and the Beat
78 The Cars – Heartbeat City
79 Van Halen – 1984
80 U2 – The Joshua Tree
81 The Cult – Sonic Temple
82 Jeff Beck – Blow By Blow
83 ZZ Top – Eliminator
84 Zero One – Prototype 2
85 Styx – Paradise Theater
86 Linkin Park – Meteora
87 Rush – Hemispheres
88 Zero One – Psy-Fi
89 Staind – Break The Cycle
90 3 Doors Down – Away From the Sun

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Digging Psybient Tunes

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 29, 2012

Lately, I (and my fiance as well) have been getting into a new-to-me/us form of music commonly called “psybient,” or psychedelic ambient. It’s basically a form of electronica also often called “chill out” music. Maybe you’re already familiar with it. I wasn’t.

I don’t know how I discovered psybient music. I was wandering around iTunes looking for some good ambient music to relax and go to sleep to when I came across several bands, and some of them sounded pretty good! Among these were Magic Sound Fabric, Zero One, Daksha, and Blue Stone. According to Wikipedia, “psybient is far more focused on creating a vast soundscape that can be experienced over the length of an album, focusing less on beatmatching and allowing for a myriad of tempo changes.” It’s almost completely instrumental, and it’s typically comprised of gentle grooves, although sometimes you get a song that’s nearly techno. Also, these groups are usually the project of just one person, although sometimes there are apparently some collaborations.

While still searching around using these groups as launching boards, I discovered another cool group — Carbon Based Lifeforms. CBL is a great psybient band produced on a French label called Ultimae Records. This label produces nothing but psybient music, some really good stuff. Some of the bands from this label that I’ve gotten into lately include Solar Fields, Cell, Aes Dana, Asura (really good!), Jaia, and my favorite, H.U.V.A. Network, a collaboration between Solar Fields and Aes Dana. It’s got a trance-like quality, a solid base beat, an ethereal sense to it, and it’s wonderful to relax to. Some non-Ultimae bands I’ve been listening to include Ott, Pitch Black, and Phutureprimitive.

Psybient music, or music that formed it, started back in the 1990s. One of the originators of this type of music was The Orb, known for their song, “Little Fluffy Clouds.” Other bands started creating similar music, and soon there was chillout, psydub, trance, ambient electronica, and now psybient. I’ve really enjoyed my foray into this musical world. If you want to kick back and relax to some mellow tunes, consider checking some of the bands I’ve mentioned out. You might be surprised with what you find!

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Future In-Laws Visit

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 28, 2012

This past weekend, my fiance and I hosted her parents who were visiting from Maryland for the first time since she moved down to Chattanooga one year ago. It was an exciting time, especially for her. I get along well with her parents, and they seem to like me too, so it was good to see them also.

They flew into Atlanta and drove up from there. They stayed at the Mayor’s Mansion Inn Bed & Breakfast near the UTC campus. It was quite plush. I was pretty impressed with the place. Nice B&B. As Gretchen worked all day Friday, and I was busy too, and as her parents had had a long travel day, we decided just to have dinner out Friday night. We went to the Terminal Brewhouse, where we had sandwiches and microbrews. I had a nice dark oatmeal stout. It was quite good. Afterwards, we walked next door to the Chattanooga Choo Choo and wandered around before returning to the B&B for an early bedtime.

Saturday morning, we brought them to our house so they can see where we live. They seemed to like our house and our neighborhood pretty well. They also got along with their new “grandcats,” Henry and Toby. We ate lunch at our house and then we headed out. Our first stop was the Georgia Winery. They give you eight free tastings, so Gretchen and I loaded up. Unfortunately, her parents didn’t seem too impressed. They use a muscadine grape to make their wines and it’s quite sweet, so it really wasn’t to their liking. Pity. Thus, we didn’t stay too long. We bought a bottle of wine and took off. Our next stop was Chattanooga’s famous Rock City, where you can see seven states at one time from the top of Lookout Mountain. We all had a good time there and the sights were good. We even got to see a birds of prey show complete with falcons, hawks, and an eagle. After that, it was late in the afternoon, so we took them back to their B&B and headed home to change. Why? My parents were on their way over because Saturday night, it was time for both sets of parents to meet for the first time. Xanax time. Seriously, I was pretty nervous. My parents are very religious and don’t drink, while Gretchen’s parents are not at all religious and do enjoy a beverage with their meals. I was nervous. We decided to go to a new place we’d never been before — Niko’s Southside Grille — a Greek place with a Southern flair. It was pretty nice. I had Greek fish and chips. It was so so. The cod was too dry. The Greek yogurt-based sauce was fairly decent though. Everyone got along well and both sets of parents complemented Gretchen and me as a couple, which was nice. After it was all over, we parted ways, and Gretchen and I went home and had a glass of wine.

Sunday morning, Gretchen’s parents came over to our place and we left shortly after to go visit Chester Frost Park to show them the beach Gretchen enjoys so much. We didn’t stay there too long, and soon after, we made it to Panera Bread for a light lunch. Man, was that place packed! I had a turkey and swiss sandwich. The others didn’t eat too much. After we left Panera, we stopped by Gretchen’s office to show them where she worked, and we then headed over to McKay Books, a huge used bookstore (along with CDs, DVDs, games, and more). We shopped for awhile, but I was the one who bought the most. I got eight books for $17, including two Philip K. Dick novels. It was a massive bargain! When we were done there, we parted ways to take a nap because none of us had slept well. Later that night, Gretchen and I picked her parents up and we went to The Blue Plate for dinner. Gretchen and I love that place because it’s so eclectic, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s on the Tennessee River downtown. Nice area. I had a margarita with Patron with dinner, while her parents had microbrews. When we were done, we went back to the B&B and sat on the veranda, talking. It was quite relaxing and we had a good time. That is, until the mosquitoes started swarming. We then said hasty goodbyes and we went home, thankful for a good weekend. Yesterday morning, her parents drove back down to Atlanta and flew back to Baltimore. A good time was had by all. We probably won’t see them again until the wedding, which we’re hoping will be next April. It was nice for them to see Gretchen in her new life, her new environment, what she does and where she does it. Now we’re all on the same page when we’re talking. It’s a good thing.

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A Review of Crossing Myself

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 21, 2012

Crossing Myself: A Story of Spiritual RebirthCrossing Myself: A Story of Spiritual Rebirth by Greg Garrett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book came strongly recommended to me by my fiance and after finishing it last night, we briefly discussed it. It’s not a bad book, but I also can’t say I was too impressed. The book centers around a crisis in the author’s life — he tried to commit suicide five years prior to writing this book. He focuses a lot on that and everything that comes out of it. My problem is simple. His suicide “attempt” wasn’t really an attempt. He stood in a traffic median in the middle of the night and contemplated stepping in front of an imagined oncoming truck for some two to 10 minutes before walking away. That, to me, is not a suicide “attempt.” It’s merely a thought and it doesn’t merit a book. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I’ve had my own demons to wrestle with and I know people who have actually gone through with suicide attempts and I’ve had people in my life who succeeded in their suicide attempts. THEIR stories need to be told, not some wannabe suicider who doesn’t even try.

I also found the author, Greg Garrett, to be fairly unlikeable as a person. At least he’s honest about himself though. He went through several failed marriages, drank, had a vicious temper, was allegedly battling depression, yet was somehow holding down a tenured teaching gig at Baylor University. I never figured out how he landed that job. He had kids, but I don’t think he was a great father, and he essentially admits to traumatizing his youngest by his nasty fights with an ex.

The kicker is, this guy is in seminary (although since this book was written a few years ago, I assume he’s out by now). He is in training to become an Episcopalian priest. While working at a Baptist school.

Here’s where I did identify with the author and why I’m raising my rating to three stars instead of two — he grew up a fundie with the fear of hell drilled into him on a near-daily basis, with regular alter calls, revivals, and the like. Huh, sounds like my childhood. And like me, he left the church and gave it up. I can identify a lot. What frustrated me a great deal about this book, though, was he never explains how he came to go to an Episcopalian church and how it “saved” him and turned his life around. Nowhere is that found. I, too, have had a bit of a spiritual rebirth and am active in an Episcopalian church of my own, something that would have been unthinkable in my upbringing. After all, those people weren’t “real” Christians and were going to hell. How did Garrett come to this point in his life?

Another problem I had with this book was that he comes across as somewhat of a spiritual advisor — or so it seems to me — but his life is royally messed up, even after he is re-“saved.” He’s forever calling his minister telling him he thinks he’s going to do something bad to himself to hurt himself. What a pansy! Geez, just swallow those pills and be done with it. OK, I say that somewhat frivolously, or I mean to at least, but it’s hard for me to take Garrett and this book too seriously when at his worst, he’s not that bad, and at his best, he’s not that great. He’s rather mediocre; why does he merit a book? My fiance will probably be disappointed with this review, because his alternative ways of viewing Christianity jive with hers (and with me too, to a degree), but I just can’t help feeling like this book ultimately fails in its mission, and that’s an unfortunate thing indeed.

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A Review of Everything Must Change

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 16, 2012

Everything Must ChangeEverything Must Change by Brian D. McLaren

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I tend to like Brian McLaren books and this one had potential. Unfortunately, I think it ultimately falls short of its goal, which is to educate us to an alternative way of acting with and within the world, in a God-centered fashion according to the principles of Jesus — his radical teachings being given as framework from which to start from.

McLaren does an interesting comparison between the conventional church and the emerging church early on. In asking why Jesus was important, he writes of the conventional view:

“Jesus came to solve the problem of ‘original sin,’ meaning that he helps qualified individuals not to be sent to hell for their sin or imperfection. In a sense, Jesus saves these people from God, or more specifically, from the righteous wrath of God, which sinful human beings deserve because they have not perfectly fulfilled God’s just expectations, expressed in God’s moral laws.”

He contrasts this with the emerging view:

“Through his life and teaching, through his suffering, death, and resurrection, he inserted into human history a seed of grace, truth, and hope that can never be defeated.” This liberation from the fear of death is “a free gift they receive as an expression of God’s grace and love.”

Again, a conventional view contrast:

“The conventional view is very familiar to many of us; it is frequently defined as ‘orthodoxy’ and any departure from it as ‘heresy.’ … the purpose of Jesus was to provide a way for at least a few individuals to escape the eternal conscious torment of everlasting damnation.”

Wow. I’ve read McLaren before, so I know his views on the subject, but his view of the emerging church still resonates with me: “God’s concern is more holistic or integral, seeing individual and society, soul and body, life and afterlife, humanity and the rest of creation as being inseparably related…. God cares about ALL [my emphasis] people.”

McLaren writes that we in the world are trapped in a “suicide machine” devised by and of nearly everything in the world, even seeming polar opposites, such as liberals/conservatives, Democrats/Republicans, etc. He gives an interesting example of how one can compare and contrast the right’s obsession with abortion to the left’s obsession with global warming, in terms of how such things are sought, presented, dealt with, etc. That was an interesting component of the book.

Where the book fails me, though, is in its solutions to the problems outlined. McLaren asks us to believe 1) we live in a societal system or machine; 2) the system goes suicidal when driven by a destructive framing; 3) Jesus saw these dynamics at work in his day and proposed in word and deed a new alternative; and 4) Jesus’ creative and transforming framing story invited people to change the world by disbelieving old framing stories and believing a new one.

OK. I get the part about destructive framings. We’re all duped, manipulated, serving the wrong overseers, etc. I get it. What I don’t get are McLaren’s solutions. He doesn’t seem to offer any, at least anything tangible. He writes of a vague personal action, followed by a vague community action, followed by a vague public action, followed by a vague global action. Apparently, if we all act in a manner Jesus taught us to act, big things will change in a big way. Forgive my cynicism, but that sort of hippie idealism isn’t “new” or emerging — it’s unrealistic and unlikely. The world just isn’t going to change simply because some people start donating more of their time and money to worthy causes. Yin and yang. For every good, there is evil. I don’t see a way out. Of course, as an emerging Christian author, McLaren argues for heaven on earth, here and now, as opposed to some obscure future afterlife. That always sounds good to me, but how it’s actually accomplished is always a little vague for me at the same time. If we’re to experience heaven now, here on earth, what happens to our souls — assuming they exist — when we die? I’ve never had that adequately explained to me by an emerging Christian author, even Rob Bell.

So, pretty decent book, but mid-level material. Not overly thought provoking. Not a huge call to action, in my mind. Good read, stuff to contemplate, maybe some material that’s quite valid, but overall, perhaps a futile effort, and that’s sad.

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It’s Been a Year!

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 15, 2012

Today is the one year anniversary of when my then-girlfriend (now fiance) and I moved into our house to start our new life together. We had been dating long distance for some time, but I started looking for a place for us to live last June, with the intention of Gretchen moving down from Baltimore to join me when I found a place. Fortunately, my parents helped me locate our house. It’s a one story, ranch style house that’s got about 2,000 square feet, hardwood floors through most of the house, a huge kitchen with the longest island I’ve ever seen, and an even bigger den. Monstrously huge. Three beds, two baths, and a backyard patio to boot. All for a nice financial arrangement. So, we signed up and my parents and I went up to Maryland to rescue Gretchen and move her down to Tennessee.

On move in day, we unloaded Gretchen’s truck with the help of a friend. It wasn’t too hard; she didn’t bring too much with her. It was a bit of a tiring day though, so when everyone had left, we got some Arby’s to go, came back to our new home, opened a bottle of wine and dug in. That empty bottle of wine (a Biltmore Riesling) is still on the mantel over the fireplace in the den.

Two days later, we moved my stuff out of storage and into the house with the help of a moving company. I had a lot more stuff, and the house started filling up. We had to put some 80 boxes of my stuff in the garage. Over the course of the fall and winter, I’d gradually go through the boxes, keeping some, throwing much away, repacking some so that now there are about 20 boxes left stored in the garage and room to park.

Gretchen and I slept pretty well that first night — we were tired. I woke with a pain in my back though from her bed — a new bed for me, one I wasn’t used to. A hard mattress. It took a long time for me to get used to that mattress.

We started unpacking right away and got most of the house unpacked rather quickly. Fortunately, we had just enough storage for most things, so it went well. We set up our new 46″ HDTV in our huge den and it looked great there. I know, I know — we could have gotten a 60″ or bigger. Didn’t want one. Surely 46″ is big enough, don’t you think? My last TV was a 42″ one. I like the one we bought.

I’ve always lived with nice and interesting neighbors around me, so I waited for new neighbors to drop by to welcome us to the neighborhood — a large residential neighborhood. I waited a long time. No one ever came by. I’m still shocked by that. To this day, I’ve spoken twice to the crazy woman to our left, not at all to the couple on our right, and a few times with the people across the street when I’ve gone over to be friendly. The other disappointing part of living here is the noise. We hear trains, planes, and lots of noisy cars cutting through the neighborhood, stereos blaring. It’s truly annoying, but I try not to let it get to me.

This time last year, I had just undergone a surgery just like the one I had this past Monday, and I was in considerable pain for another affliction. My dad had to come over to mow our yard; I couldn’t do it. Gretchen also had to shoulder a large part of the load. I couldn’t bend over at all. I finally had surgery for that last December.

During our year here, we’ve celebrated Halloween and Christmas together, with my parents coming over to join us, and we’ve enjoyed watching sports on TV, going for walks in the neighborhood, riding our bikes on a trail nearby, going shopping together, reading together, eating our meals together — with our two cats, Henry and Toby, we’re a little happy family.

I’m so grateful for this last year. The preceding year had been hellish for me for several reasons, and for Gretchen too. We have spent the last year helping one another heal. We’ve enjoyed this year, we enjoy our time together, and we look forward to a lifetime spent together. We’re quite fortunate. I love my fiance.

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