Friday, November 21, 2014

Tweeting Music Critic

"Do you think you were put on God's green earth to listen to music?" something my dearly departed grandmother said to my dad when he was kid, frustrated that he was glued to his phonograph rather than doing yard work or some such household chore. I've always loved that quote as I can imagine my teenage father taking in every glorious note of a favorite record, just like I've been doing since I was a similar age. And yes, often to the point of neglecting other tasks. It's in my blood I suppose; the excitement I get from listening to and/or discovering good music is an indescribable high. And to quote master music critic Tom Moon, "The more you love music, the more music you love." 

This desire to share the music that I think deserves to be shared is nothing new for me. During college at PLU, I created this very blog as way to publish my thoughts about music, often through album reviews. Around the same time, I spent a year as a music critic for Seattle-based music website SSG Music, while simultaneously hosting a weekly radio show on campus and writing a music column for the school newspaper. To top it all off, my final university capstone was a paper and presentation on two contrasting rock critics: Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs. 

Three and a half years removed from college, I'm as obsessed with music as ever (good thing I'm a music teacher now) but I'm still searching for the perfect web avenue to share the music I've been listening to. I've done my "Song of the Week" on Facebook from time to time, but I'm not sure if that's the right place as people don't usually go on Facebook with the intention of discovering new music. And anyone can randomly post a link from YouTube on their Facebook page. I'm looking to be more thoughtful and careful with my sharing. This website has been my place for best-of-the-year lists and such, but it's more about longer pieces than short daily or semi-daily posts that keep up with the faster pace of today's Internet. Can you see where this is going?

Inspired by a recent conference where the presenter coined the corny but clever phrase "meaty tweets", I've decided to take my musical recommendations to Twitter. Facebook is mostly for keeping up with friends, near and far, but Twitter seems best for succinctly sharing the music that I think needs to be heard. I think I have an unusual obsession with searching high and low for good music, so my goal here is to turn all that time and energy into something others can gain from. 

So if you're reading this and you're interested in getting tips from this young, but not inexperienced music critic, follow @bentully31! Also, stay tuned for another announcement regarding changes in my Internet presence. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Alphabetical Poem

I was bored in my university class the other day so I decided to find something more interesting to do. Here's a metered poem that's completely in alphabetical order.

Monday, September 15, 2014


As some of you may know, I'm about a month in to my new job as a music teacher here in HK, for 160 kids, aged four to fifteen. So far, I'm having an absolute blast. One of my favorite aspects is the variety of every day, as would be expected with such a wide age range. For the older kids, we've started using GarageBand in our once a week Music Tech class. My co-teacher Aaron is the expert in all things tech so I've pretty much sat back and become a student for many of these classes, rediscovering the wonders of GarageBand. I still remember when my family got the new iMac in 2005 and playing around with that recording software for the first time. It was magical.

But even after ten years, this is the first song I've made entirely of loops. No original parts in this song, but an original result, just like the kids' assignment. In my three years of teaching, one invaluable thing I've discovered is that the teacher can learn tons when s/he takes the time to do the students' activities. It's one thing to teach through instruction but another to test out and model!

Another thing the middle school students did was set up their own SoundCloud account, as did I. So here it is, the first song on my newly created SoundCloud account, created in a classroom of young kids navigating music composition for the first time. Follow me, yo!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fake Plastic Trees

This week's post is a cover of a song I've loved for a long time. I tried my best to do it justice. Radiohead is my favorite band of the last twenty years. No question about it. Thanks for listening :)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Twelve Views of Shun Yung Street

My home for the last two months has been on Shun Yung Street, in the Hung Hom area of Hong Kong. The street itself appears about as ordinary as streets get, but that's part of why I decided to do make this photo essay. Shun Yung (信用) means trustworthy or promise-keeping in Chinese and there is something quite straightforward about the street. It takes two minutes to walk from one end to the other and is home to exactly six residential buildings, including Lederle Garden where I live. But in the tradition of Andy Warhol or Pablo Neruda, I am here to present beauty in the mundane. Inspiration for the title comes from Katsushika Hokusai

Sunday, August 31, 2014

View from Lederle Garden, 17th Floor

This week's post is a photo taken today from my home. Just an elevator ride away from my flat, but getting it involved a fair amount of struggle. I went to the top of my building just to see the view, ignored a sign written in Chinese at the door to the rooftop, set off an extraordinarily loud alarm, ran back down to my flat on a much lower floor, went back up once the coast appeared clear, and got this photo from the SECOND highest floor. I hope there was no CCTV as I'm possibly the only foreigner in the building. It's not a crime to be illiterate, right?

Click to make bigger

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ode to Beastmaster

I never thought that I would write two tributes to departed legends in two consecutive weeks. It is a most unfortunate truth. But both Robin Williams and my high school teacher Bob McAllister deserve all the accolades they receive in the days following their respective deaths.

Since Mr. McAllister was a poet, I’ve decided to write a poem for him. I’ll always treasure the book of poetry he signed for me after my college graduation (for which he also wrote my recommendation letter).

Ode to Beastmaster

I first met Mr. McAllister in a class with no windows
But he put two posters of windows on the wall, looking out onto a splendid ocean view.
I signed up for ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in that room,
Second trumpet in the pit.
Just one of many players on Team Mac
'West Side Story', 'Once on This Island' and 'Ivanha.'
It’s the worst high school play in the world.
His words, not mine!

He wanted us to think outside the box
But hated clichés like ‘outside the box’
“How about outside the cantaloupe?
Or outside the socks?”
“What words CAN’T you rhyme with burrito?”

He coached us as we wrestled with Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Hardy, McCarthy
He showed us videos of street artists and Paul Simon concerts
A good friend came out as gay in McAllister’s class
Upon which Bob turned into a sage cheerleader, proud as a teacher could be.

A storyteller of the highest order, transforming athletic teenagers into quivering white knuckled children during 'The River Boys.'
A sensitive carpenter, decorating his classroom with photos of feminists taking to the street and a popped collar James Dean.
Never seen without a pair of Converse sneakers, always wondered how did he store them all at home.

Thanks Mr. M for memories, mayhem and Mercutio.
For humor, heart and heavenly literature.
For that laugh, that smile and that voice.
Thanks for putting your spirit into every lesson and every rehearsal.
The world is your moisture, tomorrow is another sway, life’s not square.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thank You Robin

I can safely say that I’ve never been so devastated by a stranger’s death as I have by Robin Williams passing (a sentiment echoed on Twitter by…uggh…Miley Cyrus). Obviously, in recent years, I’ve been shocked and saddened by the unexpected deaths of people like Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Dave Niehaus and several others. But for some reason, after watching and reading a handful of tributes from celebrities, my friends and even President Obama, it was just too much to handle. Obviously, I never met Robin Williams but the amount of powerful experiences I’ve had with him on a screen cascaded into one giant avalanche of sadness.

I learned the news from my mom this morning, which is somehow appropriate because of something that happened twenty odd years ago, when I was three or four. My mom tells this story frequently, so I know it well despite being too young to really remember it. According to her, the biggest temper tantrum I ever threw as a kid was due to her not letting me rent the movie “Hook” from our local grocery store. She thought I wasn’t yet mature enough for some of its scarier moments, but I wanted nothing more in the world than to see that film, creating something of an embarrassing scene, to say the least. I'm not sure why I wanted the film so desperately, but I imagine it had something to do with Peter Pan's charm on the cover or in the movie trailer.

But “Hook” is just one of the dozens of Robin’s movies that hit me in one way or another—I did finally get to see it, in case you were wondering. “Mrs. Doubtfire” was one of the staples of my childhood along with “Aladdin” and “Aladdin: Prince of Thieves.” “Patch Adams” and “Dead Poets Society” inspired me to fight for what is right. “Jumanji” and “What Dreams May Come” made my head explode with their imagination and complexity in alternative worlds. “Good Morning Vietnam” and “Good Will Hunting” left a deep imprint on my young brain with their darker themes. Even films “Bicentennial Man” and “One Hour Photo” that I didn’t particularly love were memorable in their strangeness. “The World According to Garp”, “Awakenings”, “Flubber”, “Fern Gully”, “The Birdcage”, I had to consult Wikipedia to even compile all the films I’ve seen with Robin.

But a lot of actors have been in a lot of movies. What made Robin special was that he WAS the movies he performed in. Every film listed above was defined by his contribution, no matter the size of the part. I cannot think of another animated film with as memorable a character as Genie from “Aladdin”, with Batty Koda from “Fern Gully” coming close. Mrs. Doubtfire was one of the best, most original comedic performances anyone could possibly conceive of. Even his Oscar speech for “Good Will Hunting” was one for the ages.

Yet saying Robin was legendary doesn’t necessarily explain why my heart is so heavy. His comedic roles brought tears of laughter and side-aches, his serious roles were thought-provoking and unique. Losing him is like losing a great teacher. I've spent hours and hours watching him personify the power of his craft, a craft that has been ever present in my life, performing. And in a way, even his death taught me the massive effect cinema has had on me. I never knew that I could possibly care so much about the death of a movie star.

This post is just one of thousands coming in every minute from around the world. I’m writing this because my brief sentences on Facebook didn’t seem to be enough to convey Robin’s enormous positive impact on my life, whether or not I realized it before now. Thank you and Rest In Peace.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Roy G. Biv

Fourteen days in Japan, seven photos. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014


This week's post comes from the good fortune of having my old friend Peter here in HK for the past few days. We met in middle school band over ten years ago and have stayed in touch since, now briefly together again on the opposite side of the world. After Peter joined me on my monthly gig at Cafe Ancient, we followed up with this video recording of the Avett Brothers song "Shame." Spontaneity. Harmony. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


I'm in a ryokan in Kanazawa at the moment. Soon, my girlfriend Sharman and I will head to the famous Kenroku-en and a variety of other sights in this lovely town. But before we do, I wanted to post this acrostic poem. I sort of regret not writing a Haiku, but the simplicity of this is similar. Here it is, the creative offering of the week.


Joined together by shared history, identity and Shinkansen

Awe-inspiring, from skyscrapers to gardens to train maps

Polite and patient, even when the language barrier presents a great challenge

Artistic, with extraordinary care put into the tiniest of details

Never-ending possibilities of exploration and enlightenment

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Hello family, friends and strangers. Thanks for visiting Page 43. When I was in university, I updated this blog frequently—writing essays on musical thoughts and dozens of album reviews. But since moving to Hong Kong in 2011, there hasn't been very much activity here. This mostly has had to do with me being busy working, but also because I haven't really been motivated to post anything here. I've posted on my other blog, A Mariners' Fan in Hong Kong, regularly for these three years. But though my love of music remains as strong as ever, I just haven't had the desire to use my precious free time writing about it.

Well, as you may have guessed, I'm trying to resurrect the ol' 43. Staring now, my plan is to post one small piece of art here on a weekly basis. This art may be anything, absolutely anything that can be loosely defined as art. Limitations are for losers! For me, nothing is as fulfilling as the process of creation, so I'm hoping to use this site as a platform for my creativity. It doesn't hurt that in August, I'll be starting a new job as an elementary and middle school music teacher :)

For the week of July 14th, I present, my cover of "Mother Nature's Son." I've played this song a few times at my monthly restaurant gig here in Hong Kong. The accompaniment is from my tenor ukulele, an instrument I dearly love due to its harp-like timbre. 

This song appeals to me for so many reasons, and really hits home in its connection between nature and music. Thanks Sir Paul McCartney.