Saturday, December 04, 2010

"the gift of memory is an awful curse..."

"...with age it just gets much worse." -Death Cab for Cutie

I have a love/hate relationship with memory. It rivals the one I have for poetry. There are times when memories can make a moment a million times better, and there are other times when they can make life considerably worse. I could be engaged in the most mundane task, such as driving in my car or sitting in a boring lecture and out of nowhere, a random memory will enter my head. It could be a good one or a bad one; I don’t usually get to decide for some reason. If it’s a good one, a smile will burst across my face and my whole body will feel lighter. The world will appear conquerable. If it’s a bad one, my heart will sink and everything will go dark. The universe will be filled with despair. Certainly, the good memories help to prop me up when I don’t seem to have anything else that will do the trick. I can think about where I was a year ago, five years ago, or even ten or fifteen, and I can see how far I’ve come while simultaneously longing for a more innocent age and time. The good times help put life in perspective, like things aren’t so bad after all. My life hasn’t been so terrible. A plethora of great memories help confirm that. But then there are the bad memories, the ones that are filled with regret and sorrow. The woulda-coulda-shouldas and the if-onlys, like if only I could have known then what I know now I would have done things completely differently. But obviously there’s nothing I can do about anything that happened in the past be it good or bad, so why does the past have to stay with me? Haunting me. Lifting me up and then stomping me back down. I don’t want to have to get rid of the good memories, but I sure wouldn’t mind forgetting the bad stuff. However, I realize that if I got rid of all memory, I wouldn’t get to have those random and spontaneous moments of elation however fleeting and unpredictable they may be. Also, bad memories often come with a lesson learned, and so they serve as a reminder never to do that again or not to be such an idiot next time or whatever the case may be. Every memory has its value and purpose, even if it’s just to distract me from the tediousness of life and help remind me either that things aren’t always as bad as they seem or that they could be demonstrably worse. There’s beauty in forgetting, but remembering can be pretty great, too. I don’t want to lose my memory completely; I just can’t decide whether to love it or hate it sometimes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Sufjan, Follow Your Heart"

A Review of Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

Ever since Sufjan Stevens’ release of Illinois in 2005, I have been greatly anticipating future Sufjan releases. Originally, I expected them to be continuations of his so-called 50 States Project, but looking back I think we all knew that that was just a big joke. Last year, Sufjan released The BQE, which is actually the score of a film that Sufjan wrote and directed. However, seeing how it’s just an instrumental album, I haven’t made it a priority to check it out even though I probably should. And now finally, five years after Illinois, Sufjan comes through with some new songs, first by releasing the All Delighted People EP in August and then the full-length, The Age of Adz, in October.
The Age of Adz does not disappoint. Spanning genres and layering sounds in true Sufjan style, this album is loaded with passionate storytelling, sentimental fervor, and deep emotion. This is an album I think any grown up or anyone growing up can relate to. It tells the tales of pain, regret, heartache, and sorrow; stories that seem to get harder and harder to tell sincerely in an increasingly detached and distant electronic age. In “Get Real, Get Right,” Sufjan confesses that some his struggles may be the result of straying from his God: “I know I’ve caused you trouble / I know I’ve caused you pain / But I must do the right thing / I must do myself a favor / And get real, get right with the Lord.”
“I Walked” is a quintessential break-up song, replete with lyrics like, “For when you went away / I went crazy … I ran through the night / With the knife in my chest.” “Now That I’m Older” is a song that anyone who is advancing in their adult years can relate to as they look back on the stupid things they did in their youth and how they squandered away their time: “I wasn’t older yet / I wasn’t wise I guess.” In “I Want to Be Well,” Sufjan acknowledges that “illness likes to prey upon the lonely,” and with that asserts that he would “rather be fine” and he “wants to be well.” Towards the end of the song there won’t be any question about whether or not he is serious. I think he makes it pretty clear that he is.
Musically this album is pure Sufjan Stevens with its soft to loud to soft again and its layered instrumentation and intricate orchestration. And what Sufjan album would be complete without choirs pitching in on a few of the tracks? The musical element that stands out the most though is the heavy use of electronica. Those familiar mostly with Michigan, Illinois, and Seven Swans may find the synthesizers, drum samples, and noise freakouts a bit odd or unsettling, but Sufjan masters electronic music and could easily stand side by side with any of the giants of that genre. If you need proof, just listen to “Too Much,” “The Age of Adz,” “I Walked,” “Get Real, Get Right,” “All for Myself,” and “I Want to be Well.”
Finally, The Age of Adz culminates in a 25 minute track which is a medley of five songs all lumped under the title, “Impossible Soul.” The first song features a guitar solo that could easily be found in a Wilco song. In another song, Sufjan uses Auto-Tune on his vocals, which although quite popular in mainstream rap music these days is really just gimmicky and was probably a mistake. The next song is a dance party. Finally, the track wraps up with a quiet number that seems to sum up the feeling of the entire album: Despite our countless flaws, life is better when it’s spent with those we love.

“I’m sorry if I seem self-effacing
Consumed by selfish thoughts
It’s only that I still love you deeply
It’s all the love I’ve got.”
-Sufjan Stevens “The Age of Adz”

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

"they think that they get it but they always get it wrong"

A few random things for you to waste your time on:

I made a mix CD of pop punk songs for the (unofficial) Summer of Pop Punk which is over now but the songs live on. If you are at all interested, I will send you one. Some people are getting one whether they like it or not. It's my desperate attempt to get more people to listen to pop punk, and yes you should listen to it because it's great. Also, if nobody listens to it then it might go away. Some musical genres wouldn't be missed and we are happy to see them go. Pop punk isn't one of them. I assure you. Anyway, send a buck or something to the address listed in previous posts, or just send me a message by fast mail (

Have you heard? The Obamination is putting solar energy on the roof of the White House. That's good news. It's funny though because Jimmy Carter had solar energy installed on the White House roof in the 1970's, then Ole Reagan had it taken down. Also, I hesitate to admit it, but George Dubya did have some solar energy installed during his term as well. He used it to heat the water in the Presidential pool.

So, MLB playoffs start tomorrow. Last year at the end of the season I made a list of teams that I'd like to see in the playoffs this year. Only two of the teams made it, the Giants and the Reds, but that's mostly because I chose three options for the wild card. Anyway, I guess I'll go ahead and make my prediction for the World Series and see how badly I fail this time. Twins vs. Phillies. I think the Phillies will win it, but I'm rooting for the Twins.

Friday, September 03, 2010

"love like ours is terrible news"

This may come as terrible news to some, but I finished the fourth issue of The Family Geek a couple weeks or so ago, and it's about time I got around to telling you about it. "Issue four?"you ask, "What happened to the first three issues?" Well, I assure you that they did in fact exist all those years ago. Probably before your time. It's okay, though. They are not important. The past is the past. I have moved on to issue four, and I'm not looking back. Oddly enough, however, much of what I wrote for this issue is heavily steeped in nostalgia, complete with a large dose of longing for the things of the past, so go figure. I wrote about my discovery of punk rock and how it ruined my life for the better, my inability to play the guitar despite the fact that I insist on establishing myself as a musician, and my love of skateboarding and what it has really meant to me all these years. There's more than that, but I don't want to spoil it for you, otherwise you probably won't feel the need to shell out the dollar to order one. I'll also take trades or a nice letter. Write to me about your grandma, and I'll send you a pin as well. Send all that stuff to the following address, okay?

Dan Murphy
PO Box 363
Edwardsville IL 62025

In other news, it's September, and that's when baseball really gets exciting. It's the race to the post-season. Who will come out on top? The most exciting races right now, in my opinion, are the National League Wild Card race and, of course, the Eastern Division in the American League. Please let the Rays take out the Damn Yankees! This is the only time when I would urge people to stay glued to their TV's and computer screens. Unless, of course, you don't like baseball, then I guess September is probably just another month for you, and that's okay, too.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

"sometimes a party takes you places that you didn't really plan on going"

As of right now, I have been in Edwardsville, IL for one whole year. It's always amazing to me how time flies. This time last year my brother and I were unpacking the moving truck, and I was settling into the apartment that would be my home for at least the next two years. Now, one year into my stay here, it seems appropriate to do some reflecting and a bit of forward-looking as well. While most days I feel like I made the right decision leaving family and friends behind and moving more than 1,600 miles across the country to go to graduate school in southern Illinois, I realize that I have spent a good deal of my time here complaining about how much I don't really like this place and how much I am looking forward to the day I get to leave. True, I am not a big fan of this place, but I have to admit that it's mostly because I miss my family and friends and because I had it so good in Idaho before I came here - it's hard to beat what I had in Moscow, and it isn't really fair to compare Edwardsville to the awesome situation I was in prior to arriving here. So with that in mind, I decided to make a list of at least 5 things that I like about being in Edwardsville, just to assure myself and others that it's really not as bad as I make it out to be sometimes.

1. St. Louis, MO. Edwardsville is about a 20-30 minute drive away from St. Louis. My visits to St. Louis have been major highlights of my time here. I love being close to a major city where there is so much to do and see and so many things going on all the time. I don't make it over there very often, but I like having it nearby. (As a side note, Edwardsville is only about 4 hours away from several other major cities including Kansas City, Chicago, Memphis, and Indianapolis. I have only made it over to Kansas City once, but it's cool to think that there are so many potentially awesome places within driving distance.)

2. Madison County Bike Trails. There are dozens of miles of bike trails that extend throughout the Edwarsdville area. While it is a bit frustrating at times that they are not more conveniently placed for commuting and running errands, they are still a lot of fun to ride on and one could easily spend several days exploring them all.

3. The Farmer's Market. Not nearly as awesome as the farmer's market in Moscow, but it's still great that they have one here. It's only a few blocks from my house, so that's nice as well.

4. The Watershed Nature Center. It's a small nature preserve in close proximity to my house. I love going there and just being around nature. In fact, I was just there earlier today for an hour and a half identifying wildflowers. I've also volunteered there several times, and the people that work there are really cool.

5. My Graduate Studies and Research. The whole reason why I came here. I like doing research, and I am excited to be working with green roofs. I've also really enjoyed all my classes and I've been learning a ton. So, if nothing else, the fact that I like graduate school makes it all worth it.


On another note, have you seen the movie, Creation, yet? It's the story of Charles Darwin leading up to the publication of his ridiculously important book, On the Origin of Species, and how difficult it was for him to make the decision to publish it due to his devoutly Christian wife and the death of his firstborn daughter. The movie is really well done, and the story is pretty amazing and touching. I highly advise that everyone see this. Here's a Darwin quote from the movie:
"I am a scientist, and I dare not study for the fear of seeing more clearly what is already as plain as day to me."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"alone and lonely aren't the same thing"

Today I discovered that, embarrassingly enough, when I collated the latest issue of The Juniper (#13), I had one of the pages backwards. I'm not sure how many of them went out this way, but by my estimation it was a few dozen. Sorry about that. I'm sure that anyone who read it figured it out and if nothing else found it humorous, but it's an embarrassment nonetheless. I usually try very hard to make certain that there are no mistakes. I'm kind of anal-retentive in that way. Oh well, I guess it just proves my human-ness. However, this isn't nearly as embarrassing as when I locked myself out of my apartment wearing nothing but a towel (a story for another time), so at least there's that.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

"is this your celebrated summer?"

I hope that your summer is going well. Mine is going okay so far. It has had its ups and downs, but I am generally a positive guy, so despite the unseen forces that insist on being in opposition to my happiness, I don't have any intention of letting them win. I'm scrappy and resilient if nothing else.
Have you been watching the soccer games? Admittedly I have only watched bits and pieces here and there, but I have enjoyed what I have seen. In fact, the excitement of soccer on the world stage spawned a noise track called "Soccer Match" which I have posted on my Hot Virus page. You should check it out if you are the least bit interested. It's replete with vuvuzelas, apparently the bane of World Cup viewers and spectators. I, for whatever reason, have found them to be quite soothing. Either way, stay in touch, becasue if you don't like this track, I will be posting several others in the coming weeks and months that will hopefully be more to your liking. (
Furthermore, I have about a dozen new Mildews songs written. I just need to find the time and the guts to record them. I would also like to acquire a bass guitar at some point so that I can flesh them out a bit, but whatever.
Happy Summer!
"Do you get tired of the stupid little boys
who do not think for themselves?
'Cause I got tired of the stupid little girls
Who wear their body weight in make up.

Do you get tired of the stupid little boys?
'Cause I was never one of them
I got tired of the stupid little girls
Who spend their whole lives planning their weddings"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"I cannot help but want to solder all the parts..."

"...solder back together all the shattered hearts." -Laura Veirs

Last summer I got to visit Florida and swim in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a major highlight of my life. It's a memory that will stick with me forever. The white sand beaches, the clear blue water, and the beautiful blue sky that seemed endless. It was some kind of paradise. I wanted to stay there forever - set up camp and never leave.

Now that the oil from BP's ruptured pipeline has reached the Florida coast, I feel a great sense of loss. The whole thing is an enormous catastrophe, but it's a little more personal now that I feel somewhat connected to the place. It will be decades, perhaps centuries, before things return to normal. Or maybe they never will. It is all so heartbreaking and wrong.

Today I was at a bird sanctuary on the banks of the Mississippi River. It's called the Riverlands Bird Sanctuary, and it's right across the river from Alton, IL. I learned that they were working with Least Teals. Their population along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers is endangered, but Riverlands has been having success lately in getting them to nest and lay eggs on a small, makeshift, floating island. We saw between 20 and 30 of them flying around, and the biologist there said that there were at least 8 nests full of eggs on the island. However, these birds spend part of their life cycle on the gulf coast. Will efforts to improve their population numbers be thwarted by this devastating oil spill? It's quite likely.

The Least Tern is only one of many animal and plant species that will be adversely affected by this catastrophe. Along with that, there are all the negative effects on humans, both economical and cultural. Certainly I don't need to be the one to tell you that this is a devastating situation. I also don't necessarily have any answers, I would just be remiss if I didn't express my remorse.

To learn more about this and other issues, visit or some other reputable site or source. If nothing else, be informed.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

"blood thins at this war within"

The Juniper 13
Originally uploaded by juniperbug
Out Now! The Juniper #13! Free in person or stamp by mail! Or trade!

This issue features info on green roofs, storing vegetable seeds, the health benefits of dandelions, as well as a short essay about sharing. Also included are some letters to the editor and food quotes by Michael Pollan. If any of this sounds like your cup of tea, inquire at:

Dan Murphy
PO Box 363
Edwardsville IL 62025

By the way, have you seen The 11th Hour? Not the TV show, but the documentary about planet earth's environmental crisis. I was hesitant to check it out because it's produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. I've got nothing personal against the guy; I just questioned his credibility and motive. However, most of the dialogue in the film is by environmental experts and frontline activists and the result is a very inspirational, educational, and foward-thinking viewing experience. It's a deep dive into ecology, biology, environmental science, sustainability, psychology, and philosophy as they relate to the impact that humans have had on the planet over the centuries and what the future might look like depending on the choices we make from here on out. I highly recommend it. It's quite dense, so watch it a few times or take it slowly.

That's all.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"love, love, kiss, kiss ... you're making me sick"

Folks interested in experimental noise music and/or my personal experimental noise project, Hot Virus, may also be interested in my Hot Virus myspace page, now unveiled. Currently there is only one track uploaded, but certainly there will be many more to come as time marches on (and on) indefinitely.

Additionally, I would direct you to an important link which certainly you have been directed to multiple times already, but I would be remiss if I didn't do the same here: From the makers of The Story of Stuff comes the The Story of Bottled Water (Annie Leanord is your hero). Watch it and quit refreshing yourself with plastic water bottles which will inevitably end up in the stomachs and intestines of ocean critters and will likely never disappear from the face of this living planet, etc. Your children's children's lives depend on this.

I will write more later when I am feeling more loquacious; until then, rock 'n roll (and baseball).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"dead folks in the clouds, for crying out loud"

I meant to post something on the first day of spring, but life got away from me. Either way, spring has sprung, and it's time to come out of hibernation. The hellebores, crocus, and narcissus are blooming (the snowdrops bloomed weeks ago). Baseball players are training. And the weather is warming. I hope you are taking full advantage of these sunny days. No regrets.

A couple of things:
Microcosm Publishing is now distributing copies of The Juniper. They are still basically free (one penny), but now you will have the added convenience of getting your copy of The Juniper along with your Microcosm order. Incredible.

Last Monday (3/15) on the David Letterman show, Captain Charles Moore came on to talk about the plastic waste accumulating in the ocean. It's an important topic, and the interview was both informative and entertaining, so you should definitely check it out if you find a moment. Captian Moore founded Algalita Marine Research Foundation, so check that out, too.

And now for some words by the great, punk rock poet, Kepi Ghoulie:

I can't stop thinking about you
I've got to put an end to this madness
There ain't know living without you
I've got to flush away this sadness

I've gotta drain-o my brain-o
'Til no residue remains
I've gotta drain-o my brain-o
I've gotta get rid of this pain

My head is so polluted
In one big giant clot
It's all so convoluted
My cranium's begun to rot

I've gotta drain-o my brain-o
'Til no residue remains
I've gotta drain-o my brain-o
I've gotta get rid of this pain

Thursday, March 04, 2010

"these are the nights that make us feel we belong"

I made a noise album. It's something I've been wanting to do since I was a youngster delivering newspapers and day- dreaming of a brighter future. I don't know what took me so long. I guess I figured that I needed lots of fancy, expensive equipment; but no, you can make noise with anything really. This is experimental music that I made with my guitar, amplifiers, distortion pedals, tape recorders, typewriter, mouth and various other things. Some of it has a melodic, song-like quality to it, other parts are just chaotic. I call my noise project Hot Virus, and my first release is called Science, part 1. It's 8 tracks (22.5 minutes) on a mini-disc. You can purchase one if you'd like to (or just send some kind of trade). The cost is $2 or whatever. Send orders/requests to:
Dan Murphy, PO Box 363, Edwardsville IL, 62025, USA
Also, music by my one-man pop punk band, The Mildews, was recently featured in a short film made by No Fun Films called Bike Tunnels. You should check it out. The film discusses a pretty interesting concept.
Make music and stuff.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

"all my blood will spring and spill"

sudden death semantics
Originally uploaded by juniperbug
My friend, Maaike, and I made a zine. We've been talking about it for more than a year now. The delay was my fault. I blame it on a very intensive publishing schedule that I set for myself last year. The important thing is that we got it done, and now it's yours for the taking. It's called Sudden Death Semantics. It's a one-shot zine of random words, collage art, cutting and pasting, and most importantly a short story by Maaike called Seedling, which alone makes this zine worth getting your hands on. We're only asking for a buck or trade or a few stamps. If interested, order directly from me as I have most of the stock and Maaike and I are seperated by about 2,000 miles. But do check out Maaike's blog regardless:

Dan Murphy
PO Box 363
Edwardsville IL 62025

So, the other day I was going through some old stuff and I came across an entry that I wrote in my "Personal Daily Writing" journal for my high school English class. I thought maybe you'd enjoy reading it as much as I did.

March 16, 1995
"Create a Magical Scene in your head. Create a fantasy world where all dreams come true and whatever you want you can have. Then change it. Change it to a crappy world where everything is dirty, old, run down. You don't get what you want. Die."

I guess that's how I viewed life back then. It's funny because my view really hasn't changed much in 15 years. I've just grown to accept it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"goodnight cruel world, my indifferent friend"

Certainly you are aware of the passing away of one of literature’s greats, J.D. Salinger. A recluse for most of his adult life, he finally gave up the ghost at the age of 91. Watch for the floodgates to open as piles of notebooks full of his writing are certain to surface now that he’s not around to keep them under lock and key. Perhaps we should respect his wishes for complete, albeit extreme, privacy, but alas capitalism and curiosity will combine forces, and nothing will remain sacred.

However, I can’t say that I blame the nosey. When I find something that moves me, I want to know all there is to know. And Salinger’s words move me.

I’ll be honest. I’ve only read “The Catcher in the Rye,” but Holden’s story left a profound impression on me, and to this day I consider the weekend in which I read those 277 pages for the first time to be a pivotal moment in my life. If you want to know more, I can tell you all about it sometime. In person.

I realize I’m not alone in my fascination and appreciation of Salinger’s work. Millions have read his words and were transformed. Millions more will read his words and will likewise be transformed. I wonder what has triggered this transformation for others, and what will trigger it for those in the future. Undoubtedly it’s a bit ironical (as Holden would say) that one of the things that draws us to the work of Salinger is our feeling of being out of place, like we just weren’t meant for these times or this world, that we are perpetually surrounded by phonies, and we just want to be left alone for once. Yet, how can thousands or millions of people be feeling this same way at the same time. Shouldn’t we be able to recognize this in each other and then stop and do something to remedy this sentiment?

Do you want to know something else ironical or coincidental or whatever you want to call it? I finished reading “The Catcher in the Rye” for the third time on the same day that Salinger died. Maybe even the same moment. I’m not saying there is any supernatural connection there or anything, I’m just stating the facts. The third time’s the charm, right? Perhaps there’s some truth to that statement.

Here’s the thing though, while I could still relate to Holden and all his hang-ups this time through, I found his cynicism to be a bit of a turn off. I still understood why he had such a bad attitude, and I continue to applaud his balls, his boldness, and his rebellious heart, but I can now see why letting go of some of that bitterness could be good for one’s mental health, and I appreciated his acquiescence in the penultimate chapter when to appease his younger sister he decided not to run away from his family. In my mind, Holden was growing up, just like me. The difference is, it took me reading the book three times over the course of a decade to smarten up. It took Holden a weekend.

I wonder if J.D. Salinger never learned that lesson. I wonder if maybe that’s why he remained in hiding for so long. I wonder if he was happy at all. Did cynicism finally kill him? Or was he above it all? Was he really in this world but not of it, or is that just some lousy cop out? I guess that’s not for me to decide. Either way, his spirit will live on in his published works, and like it or not, more of his spirit will surely trickle out as moneyed interests and curious hearts and minds demand it. I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind browsing through his notebooks, with all due respect.

J.D. Salinger, may you rest in peace.

“So, goodnight cruel world
I will see you tomorrow
I will follow my heart
You will cause me no sorrow.”
-Kepi Ghoulie

Friday, January 01, 2010

"list the endless reasons why it's good to be alive..."

"...and then just smile for a while about them." -Paul Baribeau

It's a new year and a new decade, so I guess I better say something about it. 2009 was a totally awesome year for a lot of reasons, and I can only hope that 2010 is either equally as awesome or even more so. I doubt that I could give you a thorough enough recap of last year that would justify me claiming it as the best year ever, but one thing that I can say is that in 2009, I conquered my demons. There's really no need to elaborate on that, all I can say is that really is the number one reason why last year was so great. I'm sure that you'll understand what I mean when you are older and have demons of your own conquer.

Anyway, I guess I better make a list for the new year, so here is some cheesy advice that will hopefully make 2010 a stellar and spectacular year for you:

1. Laugh out loud every day (preferably multiple times a day).
2. Find time each week to do something creative.
3. Sing out loud once in a while (even if you don't have a good singing voice and regardless if anyone is listening or not).
4. Dance like a maniac every now and then.
5. Go places that you've never been before.
6. Play/recreate as much as possible.
7. Learn lots of new things on a regular basis.

Now, to borrow from the movie Nacho Libre: You are the gatekeeper of your own destiny and you will have your glory day in the hot sun.

Happy New Year.

And as a bonus, here are more Paul Baribeau lyrics:

"think of all the things that are wrong with your life and then fix them
think of all the things that you love about your life, be thankful you are blessed with them
think of all the things that hold you back and realize that you don't need them
think of all the mistakes you have made in your life, make sure that you never repeat them

"because right now all you have is time time time
yeah but someday that time will run out
that's the only thing you can be absolutely certain about."