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*Today is my 37th birthday.

A week ago I found myself at the kitchen sink crying. A confused, emotional pain had hit me in the chest. I could hear my daughter in her bedroom singing some mundane pop song in that saccharine voice only a father could love. She had, shortly before this, kicked me out. Don’t get me wrong. She was polite about it and would have willingly suffered my presence. But a man who pays attention can tell when a woman doesn’t want him around, even when that woman is his nine-year-old daughter, or rather, especiallyMy son, almost 12, was at his grandma’s house when this occurred. I hadn’t seen him and had hardly talked to him in five days. 

My children, it seems, are drifting away. But ‘drifting’ isn’t the right word, is it? They are flying away as though they’re sprouting leathery bat wings and hankering for the blood of life. Which, in a way, they are.

Hold on now. This isn’t going to be one of those sappy posts about how my kids are growing up and I am growing old. Stay with me.  

What made me cry as I rinsed a small cup that used to hold more juice than either child could drink, but now, overflowing, could hold little more than one gulp each, was knowing what’s in store for them. 

My tears were of happiness and sorrow. For a few moments I was stuck realizing the beautiful paradox that is life and it overwhelmed me. Living is a grand mix of sufferings and joys. It is a tailor made bloodbath of love and hate. It is a struggle. It is a perpetual awakening (for those with wide eyes, a wide heart, and a brain like a sponge–for others, maybe not so much). 

As they move down their paths toward 37 they will see and do things that will make them proud and ashamed. They will live lives quite different from mine in many specific ways. However, in many general ways, they will live the same life. They will have ups and downs. They will have gains and losses.

In short, they will live.

In that, they are miracles. As am I. As are you. As are we all. Trying to process the profundity is almost too big a task for a mortal brain. But it is also a gift.

At 37, loping toward middle age, that’s enough birthday present for me.



*In case you are wondering about the blog’s new/old look, for various reasons probably unimportant to you, I have moved my blog back to wordpress. Even more unimportant to you, I will be moving all of my presence here in the near future. You’ve been warned.


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Starting tomorrow my blog will move. I am going over to my new website:, of course, specifically, the blog will be at I’ve been told I have to ‘centralize my Internet presence” and this is a step toward that. If you are one of my faithful followers, feel free to follow my posts some other way. You can go through twitter @aestueve and facebook and whatever else I decide to link to the site. This move has nothing to do with the quality of service I have received from wordpress, it is simply the easiest way for me to maintain that aforementioned ‘centralized presence.’ Wish me luck and come along with me! 

2012 Project 366: Stueve Music Day #312

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Wednesday November 7

Tom Petty – “You Don’t Know How it Feels” from Wildflowers, 1994

Here is a list of what I don’t like in a song:

  • Unartistic literalism
  • Unartistic realism
  • Stupidity (when it is not accompanied by fun)
  • Songs that try 
  • Songs that don’t try
  • Songs that lie
  • Vapid songs (which probably fall under the banner of “Songs that lie”
  • Hateful songs

Well, the list is longer and it makes me sad to think of, so let me explain why I did it. “You Don’t Know How it Feels” is a writer’s song. The lyrics tell the world–and a woman–the teller is strange. No one will ever understand him. But the singer isn’t bitter. No. He’s fine with it.

The world would be a much better place if more people just understood what Tom Petty was getting at with this song. It isn’t a bad thing that no one will understand him. It isn’t a bad thing. It’s in this huge misunderstanding that we all understand each other.

And there we are, right back at the paradox of great art.

2012 Project 366: Stueve Music Day #311

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Tuesday November 6

Tom Petty – “Wildflowers” from Wildflowers, 1994

Do you ever really like a song and you’re not really sure why? “Wildflowers” is that song for me. It isn’t that it is a bad song. It’s Tom Petty, after all, and I like pretty much everything he does. But this one has a certain something to it that I like. I’m not sure what it’s about exactly . . . the lyrics are . . . fluid.

I approve.

It is at once a lullaby and a love song, a jilted lover’s lament and new lover’s hope. It’s complex in its simplicity (I know I’ve used this phrase before but that’s only because it’s a commonality in all good art).

It’s much more than it is.

2012 Project 366: Stueve Music Day #310

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Monday November 5

Dee-Lite – “Groove is in the Heart” from World Clique, 1990

How many of us who grew up in the 90s didn’t either purchase this tape, CD, or single? I know I did. Hell, I bought the whole album. I still have it, more out of sentimentality than anything else though . . . except for when it comes to this song. This song’s success and lasting power is well-deserved.

With the likes of Bootsy Collins and Q-Tip providing musical assistance in the form of bass guitar playing and rapping respectively, this song can’t help but be awesome.

What does it mean? What do the lyrics mean?

I don’t know.

I don’t care.

It’s a disco, funk, hip hop hodgepodge of awesome. It samples Herbie Hancock’s work (among others), It encompasses what a club song should be. It’s fun to listen to. It’s happy. It’s got an infectious rhythm.

And did I mention Bootsy Collins?

2012 Project 366: Stueve Music Day #309

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Sunday November 4

A Tribe Called Quest – “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” from People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, 1990

This is storyteller rap at its finest. Q-Tip tells the tale of his misadventures. He’s not sure how he arrives in El Segundo, but in El Segundo he does indeed arrive (along with the rest of A Tribe Called Quest). While he’s in this strange, magical little town, Q-Tip pays for lunch and a pretty girl gets his attention, then . . . you guessed it . . . he leaves his wallet there.

And they have to go back.

I’ll let you listen to the song to see what happens after that . . . .

You know what I like most about A Tribe Called Quest? They have fun. You can tell by watching this video and listening to the silly lyrics. These guys aren’t trying to prove anything. This is partly because they don’t have to. They’re good, like, really good. They just write and perform fun hip hop songs and do it right. Sometimes they get political, which is cool, by the way, but they always balance it out with a little bit of the party. As if to emphasize the point, “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” samples the song “Funky” from The Chambers Brothers. If you know anything about “Funky” you know it’s a song whose main purpose is to make you dance like you’re at a party.

Good times, A Tribe Called Quest, good times.

2012 Project 366: Stueve Music Day #308

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Saturday November 3

Metallica – “Nothing Else Matters” from Metallica (The Black Album), 1992

I’m normally not one to go for the whole power ballad formula. That being said, there is something about “Nothing Else Matters” that works. The lyrics, sang with an R&B or pop beat, could be far more uplifting. But with Metallica’s strong metal guitars, James Hetfield’s growling, rumbling voice, and the overall power that is Metallica, it ends up being something sad, somber, and even scary.

It’s my favorite song from “The Black Album” as Metallica is sometimes called. In fact, that entire album has been unduly vilified by critics and fans alike. There are a lot of good numbers on it. Sure, it doesn’t have the raw power of some of their earlier works, but there is something to be said for the maturity, control, and skill these guys showed with this album, in particular, with this song.

“Nothing Else Matters” is simultaneously a lament on society’s wickedness and a love song to that one person who understands.

Wow, Metallica. Just wow.


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