Monday, May 24, 2010

Contenders Series #37: Wolf Parade - "Yulia"

This is not a Jesus Music post, but it feeds into a lot of the same themes.  So bear with me.  Or just download this awesome Wolf Parade song.  The song is definitely worth your time.  The post ... we'll see.

I've been looking for something in all these Jesus Music posts.  In a nutshell, it is this:  Large sections of my life seem foreign to me, like they were lived by someone else and I just watched.  Thinking back on my Jesus Music times, I have a huge number of very intense memories of incredibly specific details, but no real sense of WHY anything happened.

There were no defining moments.  I don't remember something that made me embrace Christianity, or Christian rock, and likewise there was no definite break, either ... no obvious point where I started to fall away.  I never consciously thought, "As of right now, I am done with all of this."  But ... I AM done with it.  How did that happen?

I guess this makes sense, the lack of absolutes, especially when dealing with a very nebulous concept like religion.

But now I'm starting to realize that I feel this way about everything.


The story arc of the last five or six years of my life makes sense:  graduated with useless liberal arts degree, moved to California, temporarily attended graduate school, dropped out, waited tables, bartended, went to law school, moved to San Francisco, passed bar exam, started working at law firm, wrote blog while waiting for new assignments.  This is a progression.

But it certainly wasn't my plan.  I did not come to California with the intention of becoming a lawyer.  Which means there must have been a point when I decided to pursue this career path.  Right?  In any good story, there is a kind of minor revelation like this: the character's eyes are opened, what was once hazy becomes clear, the future opens up.  For the short story of my life to be made into a movie, there must be a scene where I exclaim, "Well then it's settled ... I'm going to be a lawyer!"

I most definitely never did this.


I just finished Will Leitch's book Are We Winning?*  Among the many excellent tangents in the book, he spends a lot of time thinking about new baseball stats.  Most of you know that there is a minor war going on among baseball fans where it comes to new, computer-generated stats.  Some think they allow us to see the game clearer than ever before.  Others think these stats make the game less fun.  Leitch somehow takes the position that both sides are right.

*Which is incredible, and is exactly the baseball book I would write, and I'm actually a little bit sad now, because maybe I wanted to write a baseball book, and now I can't.  Anyway ... highly recommended.

Leitch cites the brilliant website Fangraphs as an example of this phenomenon.  Fangraphs, as you could probably infer from the name, produces graphs of every baseball game, charting, for each at-bat of the game, the probability that each team would win, and how that probability changes with each play.  Here's an example from yesterday's Reds-Indians game.

These graphs are fascinating.  They are as accurate a depiction of a game as you are likely to find.

The problem with them, as described in Leitch's book, is that they often show just how mundane everything can be.  We think of sports as a collection of heroic achievements, victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, one man, one play, one flash of greatness being the difference between winning and losing.

As you can see from the Reds-Indians graph, though, there wasn't one play in the entire game that made a win or a loss even 25% more or less likely.  If you could take one life lesson from looking at the graphs of baseball games, it would be this:

Most of the time, things just get more and more likely until they become inevitable.

Is that kind of a bummer?  It sounds that way.


At what point did it become inevitable that I would end up here?  I guess there are a few possible candidates. There are some obvious ones:  passing the bar, graduating, accepting the job offer.  It probably goes back further than that.  I would say that, when I made the decision to spend hundreds of dollars on law school applications, the graph may have pushed north of 50%.

But I want to go back even further.

In my year-long progression from bartender to law student, I have one incredibly vivid memory.  It is me, driving to Santa Cruz to take the LSAT, listening to Wolf Parade's Apologies to the Queen Mary over and over.

I felt good.  I like Santa Cruz.  The town, the beach, the campus.  I had taken several LSAT practice tests, and I had performed reasonably well.  My car had not yet begun its irreversible descent into scrap metal.  I wasn't nervous.  I wasn't anything, really.  This was just some random thing that I was doing.  Maybe it would work out, maybe it wouldn't.  Life would go on.

What were the chances, at that moment, that I would end up here?

What were the chances after taking the exam?  After finding out the results?

Things just get more and more likely until they become inevitable.


I don't think it has to be a depressing thought.  Maybe it's not too late.  Maybe there is no point of no return.  Maybe things are always reversible.

It's tempting to look back and think, "Well of course I ended up here.  There was really no other way it could have gone."  But there always is.


Aplogies to the Queen Mary would probably rank in my twenty favorite albums of all time.  Follow up At Mount Zoomer didn't really do anything for me.  This new album has at least two brilliant songs, this one and "Little Golden Age."  I understand that the band has two primary songwriters, and the internet is split into camps as to which one is better, like Twilight fans fighting over Edward and Jacob.  I'm consciously choosing not to figure out which songwriter is which, and if I like one more than the other, or anything like that.  I don't need to take sides.  "Yulia" is a great, great song.  It reminds me of a time when I was a much different person.  I think I'm happier now than that person was.  I think, if that person met me on the street today, he would be impressed with how my life turned out.

But really ... I have absolutely no idea what that person was thinking.  And I'm having a hard time coming to terms with that.


Download:  Wolf Parade - "Yulia" (note:  this is just a Hype Machine link, since the album won't be out for another month, and I tend to get in trouble when I post direct links to leaked stuff)

Official Site
Hype Machine
Pre-order Expo 86


  1. I was wondering when you'd get around to WP stuff. I really enjoyed "What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way)" Hopefully the album isn't quite the letdown their last one was...

  2. "What Did My Lover Say?" is one of those Wolf Parade songs that just seems to be twice as long as it needs to be. Good ... for awhile.

    And I think the album, as a whole, is somewhere between the first two, which it would almost have to be. I like it a lot.