1-13-2016: Appreciating Jason Molina

My latest music binge, following Jason Isbell, has been Jason Molina, the late alt-folk-country-indie-rock-whatever-you-wanna-call-him scion behind Songs: Ohia, The Magnolia Electric Company, and countless solo and collaborative works that produced some of the best music of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Occupying a musical space far outside of the critical mainstream, Molina sang lyrics of great depth, introspection, and detail with a distinctive tenor that always seems on the verge of cracking.

Across the extended catalogue of his work, a cohesive set of themes, images, and lyrical devices is used. Molina’s beloved owls, will o’ the wisps, rust belt decay, and celestial imagery can be found in any stretch of his work, a palate of images he used to paint scenes that were bleak, haunting, and yet oddly hopeful. Take the lyrical crescendo of the Magnolia Electric Company classic “Farewell Transmission:”

The real truth about it is/ There ain’t no end to the desert I’ll cross

I really known it all along/ Mama here comes midnight with a dead moon in it’s jaws

Must be the big star about to fall

In alternating abstract poecy and heart-on-the-sleeve emotional confession, Molina evokes misery, terror, and a belying sense of whimsy. His references to wildlife, celestial objects, and the divine are framed within a scheme of metaphor and personification so vivid that these characters are addressed with gendered pronouns and given distinctly human desires and actions. In “Coxcomb Red,” the narrator recounts “You held the sun in your arms and I watched as he bled to death,” (in most if not all Molina references the the sun and moon, the formers is always addressed as male and the latter as female) while “Simple Again” laments “if heaven’s really coming back, I hope he has a heart attack.” As a lyricist, Molina did not approach imagery, metaphor, and character creation as insular tools with unique uses, but as inextricable devices.

Though seemingly defined by their abstraction, Molina’s lyricism is also underpinned by a strong sense of place and history, drawing heavily on the American folk lexicon and his life in the midwest. His songs are filled with references to cities like Chicago (Blue Chicago Moon), Cleveland (Blue Factory Flame), and Hammond, Indiana (Steve Albini’s Blues), their Rust Belt decay providing a perfect backdrop for Molina’s recurrent themes of loneliness, regret, and pain. Likewise, his intimate connection with American folkways is clear on songs like John Henry Split my Heart and Didn’t it Rain.

Molina’s music uses the natural world, American culture and geography, and a stark realism about the human condition as it’s core source materials, culminating in lyrics that span the perfect balance between the personal and the observational, and between the literal and the abstract. Tragically, the personal demons that Molina described so beautifully ultimately cost him his life when he died of organ failure in 2013 at the age of 39 following a decade of extreme alcoholism. But although he never found a wide audience, Molina’s music and lyrics remain as haunting and profoundly personal works of art. He will continue to be missed for a very long time.

1-6: Stella Lansing's Blues

One of my deepest childhood fascinations was the paranormal. It shared that distinction with storm chasing, but my interest in severe weather was defined by awe rather than scintillating terror- topics like cryptids, ghosts, and (most significantly) extraterrestrials were absolutely horrifying to me. I suspect that my lingering aversion to REM sleep started at age six, lying in bed wondering if there was a grey alien hunched outside my bedroom door. While my insomnia continues, my interest in the paranormal has been replaced with skepticism and faith in reason. It follows then that when I come across unexplained events that elicit anything more than a scoff, it really stays with me.

Stella Lansing with her dog. Shared under fair use from UFO USA.Stella Lansing was a homemaker living in Western Massachusetts when she began a series of truly baffling and well documented experiences that continue to defy researchers. A diagnosed schizophrenic, in her early adulthood Lansing began to experience the type of unsettling visual hallucinations that are common for those with the disorder, such as distorted facial features in her peers, bizarre shapes and lights in the sky, the occasional humanoid figure staring in from her visual periphery. But something alarming happened when she borrowed a camera from a friend for some recreational photography: the same features showed up on film. Beginning in the late 1960's, Lansing took thousands of photographs and films featuring darting orbs of light, eerie human figures, and most notably, a recurring "clock" formation comprised of white notches arranged in a radial pattern.

Several light anomalies from Lansing's photographs. Shared under fair use from Lisa Romanek.Anticipating reasonable scepticism from peers, she invited friends and researchers to accompany her on trips around rural Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast, where the same effects were consistently replicated with a number of different cameras. Patchy documentation leaves it unclear if any of these visual anomalies were seen directly by her companions, but some sources suggest that at on at least a few occasions, Lansing was not the only one to see the floating lights that are present in many of her photographs. Some artifacts, like the clock formations and most of the humanoid faces she captured, were only found after the film was developed, most notably the four blurry "Occupants" found in a film still of one of her UFO encounters. Film specialists have struggled to explain most of these elements, particularly the many “clock” that overlap multiple film cells. By all accounts, Lansing was a rational and kind woman who was happy to share her troubling experiences with anyone who would listen.

It's quite the shame that Lansing's story isn't more widely remembered or documented today. Out of the thousands of anomalous photographs and Super 8 reels that she shot, only a handful are available on the internet, where they are mostly the domain of half-baked conspiracy sites that take a similar shining to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and chemtrails. After her death in 2012, Lansing is no longer able to share the bizarre experiences that persisted until the end of her life, but if and when a wider archive of footage becomes available I will certainly spend at least a weekend poring over it. My rational nature tells me that the laws of nature require a reasonable, earthly explanation for this story, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out what that explanation may be. And until I do, Stella Lansing will continue to mess with my head.

A bunch of things I wrote on the home page a while ago that I generously refer to as a blog archive

1-2: Happy New Year, everyone. My 2016 has been decent so far, filled with good beer, friends, painting, and relaxation. I've worked out a couple kinks with the site's mobile layout, so on my Iphone at least, the headers and menus are now totally consistent. Tonight I'll be working on the About page content for a while tonight, and add a few recent spec ads to my Portfolio. Hope all are enjoying their first weekend of the new year, and are staying warm against seasonally appropriate temperatures (remember those?).

12-26: Well, I survived yet another happy but stressful Christmas, and it's time to throw myself back into the job search full-time. I was lucky enough to have a long and productive meeting earlier this week with an owner of a local agency, who gave me top notch advice about marketing myself and showing off my work. With this advice in mind- namely, make everything as condensed and simple as possible or people won't pay attention- I've made some more changes to this site, paring the architecture down to four pages, and keeping all of my work together on just one, rather than distributing it across two or three. I've still got some more work to do on the page, primarily fine-tuning all of the written content and O'ing for SE's (a dorky way of saying that I'm implementing SEO practices). I'm feeling a lot more confident than I have in a while about my career prospects, and I look forward to my next blog entry describing upcoming projects or employment.

12-21: Finally put together a website layout that I'm truly happy with. As always, the best layout ended up being the simplest, and I'm quite satisfied with the plain black background and two-piece menu bar.

12-16: I've spent most of the past week or so building and organizing my portfolio of spec ads and revisiting this page's design endlessly. so there are still a couple little nits in the new design to be picked out. (I won't point them out in case you are generous enough to overlook them) But by the end of today, everything should be more or less smoothed out, in time for a new round of job applications to go through. Still trying to stay in Pittsburgh, but I'm hedging my bets and applying to a few gigs in New York and DC. We'll see what happens.

12-11: I've been kicking around the contractor circuit for a couple of months, which has been hugely rewarding. Check out my portfolio page to see some copywriting I did for Dick's Sporting Goods. I must say it's hugely rewarding to write copy that will actually be used by a major company. I've also been neglecting this site a bit too much lately, so stay tune for more updates. -Dan Hanson

Daniel Hanson

Archive

1-13: Appreciating Jason Molina

My latest music binge, following Jason Isbell, has been Jason Molina, the late alt-folk-country-indie-rock-whatever-you-wanna-call-him scion behind Songs: Ohia, The Magnolia Electric Company, and countless solo and collaborative works that produced some of the best music of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Occupying a musical space far outside of the critical mainstream, Molina sang lyrics of great depth, introspection, and detail with a distinctive tenor that always seems on the verge of cracking.

Across the extended catalogue of his work, a cohesive set of themes, images, and lyrical devices is used. Molina’s beloved owls, will o’ the wisps, rust belt decay, and celestial imagery can be found in any stretch of his work, a palate of images he used to paint scenes that were bleak, haunting, and yet oddly hopeful. Take the lyrical crescendo of the Magnolia Electric Company classic “Farewell Transmission:”

The real truth about it is/ There ain’t no end to the desert I’ll cross

I really known it all along/ Mama here comes midnight with a dead moon in it’s jaws

Must be the big star about to fall

In alternating abstract poecy and heart-on-the-sleeve emotional confession, Molina evokes misery, terror, and a belying sense of whimsy. His references to wildlife, celestial objects, and the divine are framed within a scheme of metaphor and personification so vivid that these characters are addressed with gendered pronouns and given distinctly human desires and actions. In “Coxcomb Red,” the narrator recounts “You held the sun in your arms and I watched as he bled to death,” (in most if not all Molina references the the sun and moon, the formers is always addressed as male and the latter as female) while “Simple Again” laments “if heaven’s really coming back, I hope he has a heart attack.” As a lyricist, Molina did not approach imagery, metaphor, and character creation as insular tools with unique uses, but as inextricable devices.

Though seemingly defined by their abstraction, Molina’s lyricism is also underpinned by a strong sense of place and history, drawing heavily on the American folk lexicon and his life in the midwest. His songs are filled with references to cities like Chicago (Blue Chicago Moon), Cleveland (Blue Factory Flame), and Hammond, Indiana (Steve Albini’s Blues), their Rust Belt decay providing a perfect backdrop for Molina’s recurrent themes of loneliness, regret, and pain. Likewise, his intimate connection with American folkways is clear on songs like John Henry Split my Heart and Didn’t it Rain.

Molina’s music uses the natural world, American culture and geography, and a stark realism about the human condition as it’s core source materials, culminating in lyrics that span the perfect balance between the personal and the observational, and between the literal and the abstract. Tragically, the personal demons that Molina described so beautifully ultimately cost him his life when he died of organ failure in 2013 at the age of 39 following a decade of extreme alcoholism. But although he never found a wide audience, Molina’s music and lyrics remain as haunting and profoundly personal works of art. He will continue to be missed for a very long time.

1-6: Stella Lansing's Blues

One of my deepest childhood fascinations was the paranormal. It shared that distinction with storm chasing, but my interest in severe weather was defined by awe rather than scintillating terror- topics like cryptids, ghosts, and (most significantly) extraterrestrials were absolutely horrifying to me. I suspect that my lingering aversion to REM sleep started at age six, lying in bed wondering if there was a grey alien hunched outside my bedroom door. While my insomnia continues, my interest in the paranormal has been replaced with skepticism and faith in reason. It follows then that when I come across unexplained events that elicit anything more than a scoff, it really stays with me.

Stella Lansing with her dog. Shared under fair use from UFO USA.Stella Lansing was a homemaker living in Western Massachusetts when she began a series of truly baffling and well documented experiences that continue to defy researchers. A diagnosed schizophrenic, in her early adulthood Lansing began to experience the type of unsettling visual hallucinations that are common for those with the disorder, such as distorted facial features in her peers, bizarre shapes and lights in the sky, the occasional humanoid figure staring in from her visual periphery. But something alarming happened when she borrowed a camera from a friend for some recreational photography: the same features showed up on film. Beginning in the late 1960's, Lansing took thousands of photographs and films featuring darting orbs of light, eerie human figures, and most notably, a recurring "clock" formation comprised of white notches arranged in a radial pattern.

Several light anomalies from Lansing's photographs. Shared under fair use from Lisa Romanek.Anticipating reasonable scepticism from peers, she invited friends and researchers to accompany her on trips around rural Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast, where the same effects were consistently replicated with a number of different cameras. Patchy documentation leaves it unclear if any of these visual anomalies were seen directly by her companions, but some sources suggest that at on at least a few occasions, Lansing was not the only one to see the floating lights that are present in many of her photographs. Some artifacts, like the clock formations and most of the humanoid faces she captured, were only found after the film was developed, most notably the four blurry "Occupants" found in a film still of one of her UFO encounters. Film specialists have struggled to explain most of these elements, particularly the many “clock” that overlap multiple film cells. By all accounts, Lansing was a rational and kind woman who was happy to share her troubling experiences with anyone who would listen.

It's quite the shame that Lansing's story isn't more widely remembered or documented today. Out of the thousands of anomalous photographs and Super 8 reels that she shot, only a handful are available on the internet, where they are mostly the domain of half-baked conspiracy sites that take a similar shining to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and chemtrails. After her death in 2012, Lansing is no longer able to share the bizarre experiences that persisted until the end of her life, but if and when a wider archive of footage becomes available I will certainly spend at least a weekend poring over it. My rational nature tells me that the laws of nature require a reasonable, earthly explanation for this story, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out what that explanation may be. And until I do, Stella Lansing will continue to mess with my head.

1-2: Happy New Year, everyone. My 2016 has been decent so far, filled with good beer, friends, painting, and relaxation. I've worked out a couple kinks with the site's mobile layout, so on my Iphone at least, the headers and menus are now totally consistent. Tonight I'll be working on the About page content for a while tonight, and add a few recent spec ads to my Portfolio. Hope all are enjoying their first weekend of the new year, and are staying warm against seasonally appropriate temperatures (remember those?).

12-26: Well, I survived yet another happy but stressful Christmas, and it's time to throw myself back into the job search full-time. I was lucky enough to have a long and productive meeting earlier this week with an owner of a local agency, who gave me top notch advice about marketing myself and showing off my work. With this advice in mind- namely, make everything as condensed and simple as possible or people won't pay attention- I've made some more changes to this site, paring the architecture down to four pages, and keeping all of my work together on just one, rather than distributing it across two or three. I've still got some more work to do on the page, primarily fine-tuning all of the written content and O'ing for SE's (a dorky way of saying that I'm implementing SEO practices). I'm feeling a lot more confident than I have in a while about my career prospects, and I look forward to my next blog entry describing upcoming projects or employment.

12-21: Finally put together a website layout that I'm truly happy with. As always, the best layout ended up being the simplest, and I'm quite satisfied with the plain black background and two-piece menu bar.

12-16: I've spent most of the past week or so building and organizing my portfolio of spec ads and revisiting this page's design endlessly. so there are still a couple little nits in the new design to be picked out. (I won't point them out in case you are generous enough to overlook them) But by the end of today, everything should be more or less smoothed out, in time for a new round of job applications to go through. Still trying to stay in Pittsburgh, but I'm hedging my bets and applying to a few gigs in New York and DC. We'll see what happens.

12-11: I've been kicking around the contractor circuit for a couple of months, which has been hugely rewarding. Check out my portfolio page to see some copywriting I did for Dick's Sporting Goods. I must say it's hugely rewarding to write copy that will actually be used by a major company. I've also been neglecting this site a bit too much lately, so stay tune for more updates. -Dan Hanson