Wendell August Forge in Grove City burns down

This isn’t the sort of thing I usually post about, being that it’s legitimate news and all, but this afternoon (around 3 or so?) at Grove City college we looked out our dorm room windows to see a startling amount of thick black smoke drifting up from somewhere in town.

The Wendell August Forge has been in Grove City since sometime in the 1930s and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It caught fire today. I haven’t heard what the cause was yet but the associated press released that it’s “thought to have started in the workshop, where lacquer was sprayed on bronze pieces.”

A few of us walked down and they let us get fairly close to the scene. The fire was under control but still going pretty strong when we got there. Jonathan Durfee got some pictures.

Adorable Darkness — The Art of Lawrence Yang

I’m trying to remember how I first came across Lawrence Yang’s artwork. I actually think it may have been from stumble upon. I hardly use the app anymore, but I still get the e-mails. It may have been from one of those.

But whatever first led me to his site, I was immediately hooked on the style and quality of the pieces I found there. Whimsical and surreal with a touch of the dark, some of the pieces send a shiver down your spine even as you’re smiling at how cute they are. I love this kind of stuff.

What really caught me though was the quality, and that’s why I keep going back to see more. If you browse around deviantArt you’ll find an abundance of artists “going for” this style, but it’s rare to see it done so well. Yang’s work is impressively clean and reveals a great amount of skill.

I definitely need to get some of this on my walls one day.

You can check out Yang’s website suckatlife.com (because we all suck at life… well, sometimes) for his online store, gallery and blog.

I also enjoy following it’s counterpart blow at life where he posts a photo a day of whatever he’s working on at the moment.

So go check it out already. It’s good stuff. You’ll be glad you did.

Aevory Nash — An Evolving Sound

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of opening for Aevory Nash and it was, as is usually the case with these guys, a blast. I’ve been meaning to give them a write-up for some time but, well what can I say? I’m lazy.

First, I have to say that this band is always fun to play with. The night previous to the show we managed to get three guitars, three percussionists rotating around a kit, bongos, and a tambourine, and even a saxophone. So much fun, even if it was cut short by a noise complaint or two…

Aevory Nash has gone through several changes in line-up, but the two constants are singer/songwriter Brian Campbell who also plays rhythm guitar and occasionally piano, and Dan Van Matre, a young lead guitarist who’s one of the most gifted individuals I’ve had the fortune of sharing a stage with.

Dan had told me before the show that Aevory Nash’s sound had changed drastically since the last time I had heard them. It had, and I was thrilled.

The old sound was good, but it wasn’t the sort of thing I’d play night after night. It was light, “chill,” and had that sort of sound that felt acoustic despite being a full band.

Dan described the new sound (a little tongue in cheek) as “passionate eclectic indie alternative rock.” I’d describe it as “full.” That was the key for me. Brian’s lyrics were just as creative and engaging, but here was a band that felt more mature, that was doing a better job at taking advantage of it’s member’s talent. They new sound was stronger, and bigger. What had entertained before now felt like it hit you. What had been “well done” and “creative” was now “compelling” and “exciting.”

I’m a person who loves stories. I love knowing about the people behind the music I enjoy and few things give me more joy than seeing a band evolve, grow and really “come into it’s own.” Aevory Nash has certainly been in that place lately, and I look forward to the next time I can catch them live.

To pre-order Aevory Nashes upcoming EP “We Could Be Lovers… Or Friends” check them out at http://aevorynash.bigcartel.com/

Freelance Whales — If you love music, read this.

whalez1If you only discover one new band this year, hell this decade, make it Freelance Whales. I found these guys yesterday thanks to The Album Project (a site you should be subscribing to if you love good music.)

Now I love most music, and can usually appreciate and enjoy most music even if I’m not exactly crazy about it. But every once in a while I run into a band that absolutely floors me and I can’t stop listening. Freelance Whales has done that.

These guys have a sound that is truly unique and just plain fun. And good. I understand the tendency to equate “creative, fun, unknown band” with “had a cool idea but not much talent.” Trust me, this is quality music that will have you catching yourself closing your eyes and bobbing your head in public places. Add some of the best writing, lyrically, that I’ve heard from a new band in a while, and you’ve got a great album.

How to describe their sound… Imagine if you could combine Modest Mouse (okay, that’s pretty vague I know, think songs like Float On and Missed the Boat) with Death Cab. Yeah, that good.

So go to their MySpace. Do it now. Every song on it is a hit. I mean that. My personal favorite is “Hannah,” and I was tempted to tell you to start there. Don’t do it. “Generator” is one of the best “track 1″s out there, and when you get to the end and finish up with “Great Estates…” Don’t be shocked if you feel a burning need to play it again.

Recession – Keep an Eye Out

Recession is a band I’ve been following for a few years now. Most of the members go or have gone to my college, so I was introduced to them just by simple proximity. The music was good so I started popping down for their shows around Pittsburgh, even got a chance to play with them in a couple fundraiser’s and coffee houses on campus.

R1Since then I’ve kept up with the band and their sound has really grown into something excellent. It’s original and very rich musically while still being accessible. I’m listening to a demo CD of some of the tracks they’ve newly recorded right now and it’s great, just great. You can hear a few of them on there myspace here:


I especially love that “Lose Your Head” is finally among the songs available online. It’s one of their older songs now, but it’s always been a favorite of mine at their shows. And the next online track, “Contagious” well… let’s just say you’ll be hitting repeat the second it’s done.

Anyway, I had meant to write a review of the band for an older site that’s no longer really living. Shamefully, it never went up, and now seems like a great time to remedy that, because there’s every indication that the band will be making some major moves soon.

Guitarist Brian Schultz told me recently that they had sent off a few tracks to LA to be mixed and promoted by Bernd Bergdorf, who’s worked with Green Day, Pink, Spearhead, Tom Waits, The Bangles, and even my personal hero’s the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

The name’s they’ve been sharing stage with have gotten increasingly impressive as of late as well. Among the one’s that have stood out to me are Love Drug, Mae, Plain White Ts, and Augustana. (I was lucky enough to make the night with Augustana. That was a hell of a show.)

Also, at the very moment I write this, several major labels are browsing through recessions online catalog and presence. This is a band with a great sound that’s really starting to catch some attention… I can’t help but anticipate big things in the near future. Keep an eye out for these guys.

(Oh, and while you’re on their myspace, feel free to post and tell them that they ought to get a recording of “Meant To Shine” up already. That song kicks.)

This Is Really Wild — The McGurk Effect

So a little while ago I discovered ThinkGeek this has been a wonderful terrible thing.  Wonderful because there are more than enough incredibly awesome useless gadgets to keep me entertained for a few lifetimes.  Terrible because within minutes of checking out the site I had already purchased a universal remote for my key-chain, a packet of miracle berries for some friends and I to play with, an old school usb cell phone attachment for my brother (x-mas gift) and a book on cognitive neuroscience called Mind Hacks.  As fun as all of the above have been, it’s the book that has inspired this argument.

It’s basically a primer on cognitive neuroscience.  Trust me, that kind of thing is actually fun to read if it’s well written.  Most chapters actually include some easy try-at-home experiments that demonstrate interesting little things about how your mind works.  One of the coolest ones I’ve come across so far is the McGurk effect.

To experience the McGurk effect, scroll down and watch the video of the dirty looking white guy at the bottom of this post.  Listen to what he’s saying.  Make sure you watch him as you do this.  What sound is he making?

Most people hear “Da Da” when they watch this video.  A couple times I’ve also heard people tell me it sounds like “La Da.”

Now close your eyes or look away and listen without being able to see the video.  You can now hear him very clearly saying “Ba Ba.”  What’s going on?

In reality, our dirty white guy here was filmed saying “Ga Ga” but the audio that goes along with the video is of him saying “Ba Ba.”  Your eyes and your ears are giving you conflicting signals so your mind interprets them as a sound that can make sense of (for the most part) both sources of input.  The wild thing is that now, even though you know he’s saying “Ba Ba” you can still only hear “Da Da” when you’re watching his mouth, no matter how hard you try to hear the correct sound!

It’s a really cool reminder that the “sounds” we hear are not actually floating around out there.  It’s just the way that our mind interprets vibrations picked up by our ear drums, and obviously it takes more than one sense into account.

Pretty cool.

Now I’m off to go buy a Titanium Spork.  What in the world could I ever need a Titanium Spork for?

…quit asking stupid questions.

Beauty and that Infamous Eye

beautiful2Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder?

We’ve all most likely heard this phrase at some point.  It’s a proverbial sounding way to say that beauty is a subjective quality.  That the only true standard for beauty is that the observer finds the object to be beautiful.  Something might be beautiful to me but not to you.

Because there are always differing opinions on things, it’s natural to assume that something like beauty is a subjective quality.  This is especially true in our modern “everyone is right” society in which it’s taboo to say that any opinion can be wrong.  But is beauty really solely in the eye of the beholder?  If you and I look at the same thing, and one of us finds it beautiful and the other doesn’t, are we both right?  Or is one of us missing out.

I’ve thrown this question around on a few forums and discussed it with some friends.  It seems that most people want to answer that yes, beauty is subjective.  They usually then wind up siting something that they find beautiful that other people may not.  When the question is phrased differently though, opinions tend to change.

Think of something specific that you find incredibly beautiful.  A person, a work of art, something in nature, an emotion, a past experience, anything that is, in your opinion, one of the most beautiful things in the world.  Got it?  Good.

beautiful1Now tell me this.  If you were the only one on earth who thought that was beautiful, would it still be beautiful?  Most people answet that question with “of course.”  But how about this one.  What if no one, including you, thought it was beautiful?  Nothing has changed about the object or experience, it still has all those same qualities that have made you choose it as something beautiful.  The only thing that’s different is that no one, not even you, holds the opinion that it is beautiful.  Now, at this point, is it still beautiful?  Does it retain that beauty that you’ve ascribed to it even if no one believes it?

Interestingly, most people, the same people who at first thought beauty was subjective, will answer yes to that last question.  Something inside us is not willing to believe that the things we find beautiful would lose their beauty if they went unrecognized.  Now, if we believe that, then we have to believe that beauty comes from somewhere other than our own opinions.  Something about that beautiful object must make it beautiful.  This means that beauty must be a concrete objective quality which has standards.  Otherwise, if beauty is simply rooted in opinion, then an object cannot be beautiful without some person there to think it’s beautiful.  It has no actual beauty, nothing does.

So logic takes me to a point where I have to believe that beauty is either an objective quality… or it simply doesn’t exist.  It’s just an illusion of perception.  I have a hard time believing that an idea that has played a major role in society since before written history isn’t based in some sort of truth.  That, and as someone with a passion for art I’m rather obligated to believe in beauty. ; )

So I’ve arrived at this idea that there are concrete standards for beauty.  What are they?  I’m not sure to be honest.  I’ve got some ideas, but not a workable definition that hasn’t fallen apart yet.  I think I’ll throw a few more posts on this topic if I come across any interesting in my little quest for a standard.  I’d also love to see your comments.  And while I feel pretty convinced about the whole objective/subjective thing, I won’t stick to my guns without reason.  I want to hear if you agree or not.